Scraping the Windshield

I’d better leave these northeast winters before my sullen brooding turns to a measure of joy, as I grow content that the edges of the road are caulked with mud, frozen slush, listening to the clatter of another semi’s jake-brake as it breaks open the shell of another midnight highway whose sound could easily be mistaken for the ocean in the morning, another eighteen-wheeler coming down the salt-bleached pavement into our little town, probably hauling something that I will purchase tomorrow from one of the local stores: a bag of cat food, a new pair of socks, an avocado.

I’d better leave these winters before I begin to love them, my back breaking beautifully as I shovel the driveway and wrestle with the trash barrel, the woods across the narrow gorge glowing in a cold compress of sunlight, straining to push through snow-clouds as if it wishes to open the way for an angel or two who have checked their schedules and found the need to descend into this world, do a job, maybe get a cup of coffee.

 

Song Lines

Listen. A voice inside you is singing. You are following your song lines, you are singing the world and the land into being as you walk upon it.

We are surrounded by teachers: the path we take, the wind, the people on the street, the people in our lives, the one who makes us crazy, the one we admire, the one we envy, the one we pity, our peaceful feeling, our desperation, the goldenrod, the baby’s breath.

There are times when the sky is so blue and the clouds so soft at their frayed edges, that it all hardly seems real. Sometimes the magic of the sun shining on water makes us wonder how we’ll ever leave this place. Sometimes it’s “how will I do this, how will this work, this can’t be happening, I can’t do this anymore, I’m so tired, this is my life”. Meanwhile the sun rises, incredibly, and moves across the sky. The wind blows, incredibly. A bird sings, incredibly.

If your eyes shift to the rearview mirror for too long, you risk crashing into what’s in front of you. Time to go on walkabout again. Time to return to the song lines. Time to just be, time to remember every step is taken on a frail sheet of glass. Everything we do, we do while standing on a falling snowflake. Every time we give up is a new beginning.

So you arrive, from your long and arduous climb, at the platform where your voice has been waiting for you, and you know the sound of it. You know the lines of the song you are following. You are an instrument, the music of the land moving through you as you sing it into being. Alone as you are, you shall be with all the world.

 

These Rising Rivers

My heart moves so fast that it almost has me scrambling after it.  But no, we are connected – it can only run so far before it’s left with no choice but to wait for me, jerked to a halt, a dog reaching the end of its leash.

That said, once I’d seen you off safely and on time, I went back to the bed you slept in, still warm with the aliveness of your body, and I wept and wept.

The whole history of my life stood before me: a spiral, a cathedral, dirt road, river.  A sacred calendar, its entirety known only to me, only thought of as sacred by me.

I can withstand the sun and wind, I thought to myself.  I can withstand the intangible, the horror, the splendor.  But not this rain, these rising rivers – Oh Transcendent Energy, haven’t I seen enough rain?

 

Listless

Every day I make a list of things that need to be done, things that might slip through the fine mesh net of short-term memory.

Today, the list contained more items than I could possibly accomplish.  So I did what you might expect – I pushed it down into the folds of my left-hand pocket, tightened up my shoes and went walking instead, to space out and observe a planet that happens to be a perfect distance from this particular sun in order for life to exist and thrive.  I took along a pen and paper, because when you’re panning for gold, you never know what you might find.

Later, when I empty my pockets for the day, I’ll look over the list again, to see what must be transferred to tomorrow’s list.  Some items might no longer ring with such importance, and will simply be discarded.  And of course I’ll need to consider what standing I’m in with the relatives I failed to call, friends I didn’t message, professional contacts I never emailed, bills I didn’t pay, appointments I missed.

Then I’ll go outside and watch the last strands of milky light recede beyond the treetops, revealing steadfast Jupiter like a celestial anchor.  And a little ways over in the sky, the ember of Mars rocking in a luminous cradle.

And then, as if that isn’t enough, the fireflies will come out with their earthbound constellation of flashing lamps, and I’ll hear the neighbor cooking dinner through her open kitchen window.

 

Three Heartbreaks

The tigers kept to the shade, turned away from the onlookers and fascination-creatures on two legs.  They looked out through tiger eyes, thinking tiger thoughts.  Swish went their tails, occasionally, swish.  Primal dignity.

The elephant knew what I was feeling.  Her mind was lucid, comprehending.  With a heart greater and stronger than my own, she understood why I kept looking away, yet accepted her life with a gentle patience that, in itself, elevated the woes of humanity to something transcendent of shimmering grace.

As for the lion, he locked eyes with me.  “Why did you come here today?” he seemed to ask.  “I don’t come to watch you sleep, to watch you clean meat from the bones given you.  Go on now, do what I cannot.  Go back.  Go home.”

Wondering Aloud

Think of the way clouds roll across a big sky.  Think of the embroidery of a spider, how hard it works to put food on the table.  Think how familiar you are with the contents of your wallet, purse, kitchen cabinets, the scent of your own pillows.

I wonder if this is how birds feel about their nests, the lake-shore, that meadow there, this hillside over here.  What would it feel like to make your bed on a riverbank, to have a stone as a nightstand?  Your lamp is the moon.  The stillness, your book collection.

In this very moment, however, walking the dividing path between meadow and woods, I feel so much better just knowing there’s a fox who lives around here, in the company of his own nose and tail, and whatever family he might have.

His fur is not the red of all the cliches, not the red of the slushy I had in Rhode Island on a 90 degree day, not the red of the cherry-lime rickey I ordered at Tom’s Diner in Brooklyn containing a lifetime’s worth of grenadine, but the red produced by things of the earth.

I wish him luck.

 

Ceramics

You never know when you might see yourself in the mirror – not glance, not look, but see – and what once seemed solid appears translucent.  What once looked like perfect strength, by common definition, now strikes you as fragile.

The cup you are drinking from slips out of your hand, deconstructing at your feet.  Not bothering to collect the broom and dustpan, you pack the car.  You pack the car lightly and go.

You take everything they thought they knew about you, and you take every last little scrap of how they think you should be, of who they think you should be, and you just burn it.

Holding the gray-white tresses of ash in the cradle of your upturned palm, you blow.

Window down, foot on the pedal.