The Only Number I Still Remember

873-8480 you were an awful lot of eights on a rotary phone.  873-8480 I recite you over and over as if you were a chant, a mantra, a line from the movie Rain Man.

873-8480 I dialed you my whole boyhood to talk to Grandma Ruth.  I loved to talk to Grandma Ruth.  873-8480 restore my heart, deliver me, heal me, save me.

873-8480 you are the only number I still remember in this strange new world of the mind handing over information to technology.  If the global server crashed tomorrow, would we know who we are anymore?  Would our minds begin to strengthen again?  Photo albums, cameras, address books – sales would skyrocket.

873-8480 you lived on the truck route corner, the clatter and grind of jake-brakes vibrating the roof of the double-wide trailer home, moving the blades of the Dutch windmill pumphouse half a degree clockwise.  

873-8480 the covered porch where she taught me how to shoot pool, played the old 45’s, had a martini and talked about Paul Newman.  873-8480 the carport with her little yellow Porsche near her garden with the climbing string beans, the crystal bowl with peanut M and M’s beneath the lid, the little animal figurines along a ledge near the front-room ceiling: duck, whale, llama.  “Isn’t he the darndest thing?”

873-8480 the carved wood shapes of naked girls set into cupboard doors in the bathroom, made for her by a retired Army man, an ex-boyfriend who lived in an RV, Carl I think his name was.

873-8480 do you remember how she always kept Neapolitan ice cream in the freezer?  It explains her way of being in the world, how she lived: “a little bit of everything, kiddo”.    

873-8480 she called the couch a Davenport.  She called bratwurst Oktoberfest Sausage.  She read me Dr. Seuss.  She loved braunschweiger sandwiches with mustard and sliced raw red onion.  She called Richard Dawson the kissing bandit, wished bankruptcy on Wheel of Fortune contestants when they got greedy, went skydiving at age 72, called me on my birthday to tell me she had decided to commit assisted suicide through the Death With Dignity Act.

873-8480 hand me that box of tissue I can’t take it I’m vulnerable my heart might give out.  You’re a seven-number combination key on the lock-box in my memory bank.

 

 

Let It Break

Quiet the questions in your mind long enough, and you might hear the answers your heart knows to be true.  Trust your heart, listen to it carefully, wear your heart on your sleeve and let it break open.

Above Taughannock Falls

Viewed from the sky, the circle in which you expedite your daily life is a speck on the surface of the planet. But that doesn’t mean you’re any less the center of the universe than anything else. We are all whiling away the What Has Been, the What Is, and the What Is To Be, hurtling forward through our small lives with all their small details.

Maybe that’s why I was so relieved when, the other day, you coaxed me out of the car to walk through a tropical downpour, the defibrillator of thunder charging my arrhythmia back to life. How does apprehension unfold into exhilaration so seamlessly?

If given the chance, it can, and it will.

I followed you to the rain-ripened creek and we sank in, the seam of the water rising to meet our throats. You sang a lullaby, siren-like, and I – half drunk sailor – was caught by it. We held each other beneath the soft water and the rain left us. The sun returned, its dazzle commanding our attention as steam rose from stones. A billowing thunderhead shifted against the blue, reminding you of New Mexico’s big sky.

Emerging, we drip-dried below whispering treetops. A rustling wind made friends with us then, a wind whose kind voice suggested I view all things with sleepy eyes. Standing there with you, I thought I might be riding some sort of stationary current, aware of external motion from the vantage point of perfect stillness.

Standing there with you, I leapt from the fire of doing into the cradle of not-doing, the two places rubbing together and making sparks.

 

The Illusionist

From the piercing eye of the hurricane of despair, we are picked up from rock-bottom by screeching winds and thrown back onto the path of the Long Slow Climb.  We pray not to lose our footing again, but sooner or later we will.  How terribly sad that most of our days are spent slaving for a cruel master:  Control, the illusionist of our day, demanding we turn our attention toward it while the World all around us constantly rings out the music of its simple beauty in the peripheral vision of our stolen moments.  A music so breathtaking that the wonder and terror of it turns our hearts into hymns, our voices to supplication, our tears to snowflakes falling featherlike.

 

Good Grief

One way to help heal depression is to let yourself feel your grief, really allow it to sink in.  If you don’t settle down into your center all will be lost, and eventually you’ll grow numb to everything.  The world will turn to useless plastic jibberish before your very eyes.  Don’t be resigned to that – break your heart all the way open and keep going.

Don’t bother trying to sleep it off, because the fatigue brought on by depression is not one that can be remedied with physical rest.  A symptom is not a cure.  You’ve got to drag yourself, kicking and screaming, out into life, with grief or without it.  And at the same time, you’ve got to accept that you’re not immune to it, that you’re only human.  Make no mistake, it will burden the sturdiest shoulders, weigh down the highest-held head.  A kind and fortunate king surrounded with opulence and feast-laden tables will slouch down on his throne beneath its stifling mantle, one hand shielding his eyes from golden lights – while a friendless beggar who has accepted his own heart’s sadness dances a lively jig outside in the rain and snow.