Uncategorized

Special Effects

He races through the small patch of green at the edge of the cul de sac. Under his feet, the grass grows wild. The knot of stalks reaches his shins. Suddenly, a blur of motion bursts out around him like an electron cloud. His feet meet earth, setting off one explosion after another. A whisper of wings and rain catches the air, following him through the brush. He neither sees nor hears, swimming just below the surface of this quiet cacophony of sound and motion.
 
“What is that?” I ask, pointing. He stops, and as he does, the grass falls silent. He looks sideways at me through the stillness. Then he is off running again, bursts of confetti meeting his footfalls.
 
“Look!” I call. He stops again. All is still, all is silent.
 
“What?” These interruptions are seriously inhibiting his pleasure. And anyway, there is nothing to see. Controlling a phenomenon enough to observe it renders it unobservable, as Heisenberg tried to explain.
 
“Watch,” I say. I stride up next to Bug and stomp my foot. The weeds send up an inverted shower of tiny, living things. Bug’s eyes pop open. Then a grin spreads lights him up from within. He lifts his foot and stomps. Another shower, followed by the tinkling of tinsel rain on a forest canopy. For an instant, I wonder if these airborne, pinging things are midget grasshoppers or buff-winged moths.
 
I crouch for a better look. The weeds are slender, dark green stems with tresses of gold radiating out in all directions. Because of the yellow dusting atop the bending plants, the clearing appears as an infant wheat field. The tendrils are thin, cleaved nests. Each is a floral ovary clutching an egg in a loose grip, readying itself to take a shot at starting next season’s crop.
 
Next to me, Bug is stomping, giggling hard at each detonation. I bite my tongue and keep my observations to myself. Does knowing what things are really teach us what they are?
 
Then he is off and running, his face pink and his arms wide. His gaze is back, down, up, everywhere. His voice cries out the high notes. He is the bandleader now of this moving parade, and all around him, one explosion after another announces to the world the arrival of this force of nature, this human animal.  His weight is enough to set loose a surge of animate fireworks right here on earth. The simple presence of him sends life skyward to seek a brand new start in an unturned corner of the world.

Uncategorized

Here, Now

When there is no desire,
all things are at peace.

-Tao Te Ching

Where is the snow?
 
Those of us who grew up with seasons rely on winter’s calibration. Without it, a melancholy itch infects the mood. Even though we cursed our frost-nipped fingers after a morning walk, the thin leather gloves with their 20 years of wear unfit for the job, the sting was welcome. The hand needs to curl, seeking of warmth in the compressed fist, drawing weak steam. Winter is for burrowing. It is for drawing in. The constriction, the stiff lean of pedestrians trying to compress into the shell of their insufficient layers, is a necessary discomfort. It is the chrysalis of winter. Without it, how can any of us crack open into spring’s new light? How can we become?
 
I watch my son bound down the dry cul-de-sac in nothing but a t-shirt, and I ache for him. This warming planet, his home? Out on the streets just beyond the cocoon of our neighborhood, swollen vehicles flash and roar as they barrel down. They crowd out the shoulders. Their velocity increases unchecked in the absence of winter’s forced caution.  Bug has no snow day. No crunch or silvery hush, no red nose, no vast and untamed place. My heart contracts under the weight of what is lost. The bending trail to the ice-crusted mountaintop no longer waits just outside his door. He cannot skate across the frozen expanse of a freshwater lake and immerse himself in the blue beyond.
 
And yet, he bounds. He lives in the Is Is Is. With no basis for comparison, his heart continues to surge, unburdened. The dog leaps alongside him at the end of her lead, and then the two are clambering up a heap of logs cut from a fallen tree in the neighbor’s yard. We count 59 rings before he charges off to press himself into the massive root ball that has released its grip on the thin soil.
 
What is my nostalgia to him? Nothing at all. His pleasure and his rage are his own. They are not what I believe them to be, and they are not for the things I love. Nothing remains as it was. Only when I clutch at the before do I feel its clawing absence in the now. Bug rarely shows interest in the photo albums or the stories of an old camp life he does not know as his. My sorrow is my own private indulgence. I lick the wounds and secretly savor the taste. I do not wish to share this compulsion with my boy. His world belongs to him. It is exactly as it should be.
 
I breathe the sunlit air into the torn place in my chest and lift my eyes. At the same instant, my son pauses, glancing skyward. Up in the branches, the exultant song of a cardinal welcomes the February spring.
 

Be content with what you have;
rejoice in the way things are.
When you realize there is nothing lacking,
the whole world belongs to you.

 
– Tao Te Ching

Adventure, Outdoors

Face Lift

The quince shrub thinks it is spring. Pink blossoms unfurl from its branches, dusting the blacktop with pollen. The birds are similarly confused. One calls from the high, bare limbs, tuh-wee tuh-wee tuh-wee tuh-wee tuh-wee. Across the street, a second returns the song. They toss their ten notes back and forth, bridging the short distance between them. Soon, a third gets in on the action. At odd intervals, a chickadee scratches his beat behind the rhythm.
 
This warmth has been hanging around for longer than expected. On Sunday, Bug and I went to skip stones on a duck pond near the apartment of the man I have been seeing. He is a Don Juan with thick arms and a love affair with the open road. He knows water, mud, mountains. He made the flat rocks bounce six, seven, eight times, almost to the opposite shore. The ducks kept to the sides. My tosses managed maybe three piddly skips before plopping near the bank. The man laughed, telling me I throw like a girl. I shot back that Venus Williams turned that insult into a compliment ages ago.
 
Bug stripped off his shoes and socks. In his red plaid flannel and rolled up jeans, he was Huck Finn, tramping through the creek as it carried winter runoff and tiny minnows to the pond. The sun was easy on our skin. My friend settled down on a large stone at the edge of the creek and turned his face to the light. Bug wound around and around him, toes reddening in the chilly trickle, catching his balance against the man’s solid frame.
 
We collected pieces of mica and sandstone and scratched our names into the walkway above the bank. This man believes in talismans and magic. He drew a narrow, long eye inside the rectangle of brick. This is the first part of a converged symbol he penned on a napkin for me on one of the early dates. I do not see what he sees, but that does not stop him from showing me. In the adjacent brick, I drew a mate. The pair of eyes stared up at us, blank and cutting. I could not resist embellishment. Big eyelashes sullied the sleek edges. The swipe of nose, a swirl of hair, a smirking mouth. Don Juan lay back on the warm walkway. I traced his body in flaking, yellow rock. Bug called, “Mommy, look! A bug!” He had colored in the first of the eyes, turning its lashes into legs. He went to work on the second.
 
Bug rode the barrel of the man’s shoulders back through the woods. We made our way home, the sun beginning to fade. It grew colder again, but only by a few degrees.
 
It will not last, this strange reprieve. Already this morning, the clouds have gathered. Rain is beating against the windows.  But my arms are looser, and there is a pink burn in my cheeks. It could take a while to fade. By then, who knows? The sun may have come around again.  I have no shame. I keep the door cracked and take what I can get.