body, Living in the Moment, Love, Outdoors

Desire Path

MacDonald Frances Desire Path

Then and this. Now and here.

A pause.

Cool air shivers skin. The bus engine grumbles below plastic seats molded to cup a human’s soft places. Thighs of meat padding bone. Outside, women in a pack bustle down the sidewalk in jeans stretched taut.

The days grow shorter.

Even so, I forget. Forget to stop and touch the zinnia with its five shades of orange tethered to a center like chocolate. Forget to let the crepe myrtle dip across my cheek. Barely notice a fat bee chugging past me towards what bursts from the hedges. A body that should be too weighty for the tissue of wings somehow stays airborne.

I forget that eventually, everything falls. I forget to catch drift.

Continue reading “Desire Path”

Adventure, Choices, Living in the Moment

Thunder Roll

US - MILITARY - MEMORIAL DAY - ROLLING THUNDER

Blue-white needles frosted with summer rain squat fat and still over the roar.  Every passing growl is a Doppler crescendo lifting away another earthling.   One, maybe two.   Each made the choice to ride.  Every roar for days, hours into night, dawn into searing noon.  The rumble approaches and retreats, again, approaches and retreats, again.  Each one another one.  Each one new.  Each one here, each already gone.

 This freeway usually crouches behind its soft noise, a wash becoming nothing.  Surf without storm, wind over low dunes scoured clean of all breaks.  It fades into air itself, hiding passage in the press of blank white.  Ears become deaf by necessity or maybe laziness here on the other side of the sound wall, deaf to each human pressing on towards the singular objective of a fragment of day.

Now, here, these motorcycles demand attention.  They are designed for notice.  Each growl is a call to the hairs to rise, the jaw to stiffen, voice ready.  Who’s that? What’s there? When is this?

Now, it is now, it grumbles, it rumbles.  Another now, here it comes! There it goes. . .  A neighbor, a choice, a journey, a calling.

 What now?

A pleasure.  A burn.  A rebirth.

Coursing over the tarmac and weaving through white gashes, each in a pair, a pack, a battalion, or one lone rider.  Glove and leather, denim and chrome.  Each thunder roll is a choice to grip between thighs that saddled machine.  To clutch at gears, to stay upright, to cling to blacktop while soaring up, past, through and away.

Who’s that? What’s there?  Time, one moment. 

When is this?  Choice, forward motion, action, revolution.

Drive in, charge in, bite in and swallow the same air that churns out from belly, esophagus, throat, motor, rubber, grease, grit, sky.  The growl is gulp and belch.  It is breath and howl.  This is another man’s life here, passing, gone.  This is another woman’s ascent, crest, recede.  Each a doppelganger in flag starred ink and road scarred steel.

Claim it.

The rumble barks.

Claim you. 

Each single ticking humming second, each imperceptible sweep of the minute hand is one that only goes forward no matter how hard you press against the brakes and crank into reverse the resistant gears.  You can’t erase the odometer, can’t fly backwards down the on-ramp and start again with open road.

You only have this stretch here, the one outside your window behind a spill of ivy and shattered glass, this low sun bleeding over the sound wall and carrying your stunted roar up to smash like shell, yolk, skull, and cry against the day’s vanishing light.


Image: Vladen Antonov, AFP/Getty in Huffington Post from the Memorial Day 2014 Rolling Thunder ride in Washington DC

body, Fitness

Lapping at Edges

Triathlon

In the neighboring lanes, retirees walk the slow churn. Sinew writhes under mottled hips, hearts chug in their loose cages of hollowing bone.  We turn the creaking millstones of our musculature and send low ripples along the surface.

Mid-afternoon is a world apart from evening here.  During the late rush, fierce middle-aged racers tear a wake between ropes.  Teen divers knife skyward before the plunge.

Now, the most animated bodies in the water are a half-dozen preschoolers gripping swim bars and kicking with all their might.  The rest of us sway.  We are seaweed, we are prey.    Continue reading “Lapping at Edges”

Change, Poetry, Relationships

Tesselation and Return

Do you remember when we cracked our saddles against the flared skyline?

Morning is a container of lists now.
You rail in tight packets
and wear the fallen prism.
Swimming sidelong, the ring
in miniature
slides in next to the scratches
you squint into my waterlogged
furrow.

Your paddle, my web.
Your vigil, my birth.

The inverse of collapse is an empty rescue.

(Your collar
my attempt to soar)

body, Creativity, Living in the Moment

This Dance

Simone Forti

Only after the herd thunders past, then the chewing snapping locust swarm, then the boulder storm, only after all of these have carried themselves off into the collapsing distance does the gesture peek out from its hushed cave.

The ribbon unfurls from my wrist. A glass staircase bears the weight of fear. A feral pup  in its winter wool climbs to the cliff edge and readies its throat.

The wing, first opening, closes.

Opens again.  Continue reading “This Dance”

Art, Family, Poetry

The Age We Are

standing on shoulders

“Toss the word rain to her,” he says.
I do and she catches it
on the chin. Drenched, she climbs aboard
his shoulders and returns six drops
to the sky. A boy cheers
as his dog digs in the sand
for a smell long severed
from its host. Wild-eyed,
the two wear matching
grins on faces bright
enough to kill
or ignite
or like us
both. We try on hats
now that we see
we could have worn them
all along. Felt
and ribbon and feather, like the grandfathers
of other people whose everyday
days are like our holidays.
Our patriarchs wiped sweat
from their wrists with stained handkerchiefs
before their fingers slipped.
Some had one arm
from forgetting this. Some left our mothers
orphans even after returning intact
from war. We never hear the ones still here
say, It comes to this?
That’s some sick joke

because they only whisper such things
to a sagging ceiling, the most sympathetic ear
for miles. I toss the word blindness
next time
but no one sees it land.


Image: Justin Brown Durand, “careful now, don’t let me fall”

Brain, Choices, Growing Up, Learning

Border Guard

Stone Eye

Suddenly frightened by her hatred, she said to herself: the world is at some sort of border; if it is crossed, everything will turn to madness: people will walk the streets holding forget-me-nots or kill one another on sight. And it will take very little for the glass to overflow, perhaps just one drop: perhaps just one car too many, or one person, or one decibel. There is a certain quantitative border that must not be crossed, yet no one stands guard over it and perhaps no one even realizes that it exists.


 – Milan Kundera, Immortality

Here we must trust ourselves that the weight we feel is real.

Yes, it is only one milligram at a time. The increase is almost imperceptible. Those who want our resource will claim there is no change. They will suggest we are just anxious or imagining things.

When a true accounting gives evidence of the creeping escalation of our burden (and depletion of our stores), they will change course. They will try to convince us that we can handle the accumulation. They will flatter us that we are strong and our capacity is limitless.

Nevertheless, like any vessel, like any ecosystem, we do indeed have a threshold. If demands on our time and attention swell unchecked, the increase will become unbearable. We will have to pay the cost of the load, every pound of it.

So we must stand guard over that quantitative border and measure choice in terms of consequence. We must prepare ourselves for cunning maneuvers and seductive story lines. When we enumerate potential gains and losses, they’ll say that life is random, that we never know how events unfold. Things will change in ways we can’t predict or even imagine, hasn’t it always been so?

This argument is compelling. We’ll rethink history and wonder if perhaps complex forces beyond our control actually got us here. It will start to seem more true than our limited experience, more bearable than our uncomfortable insight. We might let that reasoning turn our focus away from what sits heavy on us.

The idea of unforeseen outcomes is a relief, really, and it will nudge us towards acting on whims and allowing brighter lights to guide us. We want to give ourselves permission to let things “just happen.” It would be unnecessary to identify the source of our unease. We’d be justified in skipping the difficult questions. We’d be free to dispense with complicated endeavors like seeking truth and living with integrity.

We could take a break from sowing discord. We could be agreeable and well-liked.

For these reasons, we are wise to be wary of any implication that our perception is misperception. We have to be suspicious of those who claim our attempts at setting limits are misguided and likely fruitless. We have to ask, How do they benefit when I ignore my instincts?

When I surrender to “fate,” who wins?

Only when we are able to articulate the choices in front of us can we make explicit trade-offs. This requires courage. It needs us to give voice to our intuition even as it is taking shape. With the careful inventory we’ve taken, we can decide what resource to tap and where to yield. We can consider how to fortify our depleted areas before we give over or take on.

But if we let the delusion of unlimited capacity carry us headlong into more, we will find that what we believe to be permanent is actually far from guaranteed. The repo man will come to collect something much more precious than we would have ever parted with by choice. It is up to us to claim the choice at the moment of the exchange or — better yet — well ahead of it.

We have the power to bargain with intention. We can be effective in planting and cultivating what we value most. This is true as long as we retain agency over our body, our time, and our determination of what’s worth saving in this beloved world.


Image credit: Horoshi Ito, I Know You

 

 

Choices, Things I Can

58. Things I Can Hold: The Unanswered Question

Collected from the public library as well as my personal one, this is the current assortment. Each asks for my attention. Each wants to be the number one choice.

  • The Outsourced Self: Intimate Life in Market Times by Arlie Russell Hochschild
  • Stepmonster: A New Look at Why Real Stepmothers Think, Feel, and Act the Way We Do by Wednesday Martin
  • 77 Creative Ways Kids can Serve by Sondra Clark
  • Murdering Mr. Monti: A Merry Little Tale of Sex and Violence by Judith Viorst (yeah, I didn’t know she wrote murder mysteries either)
  • Galileo’s Daughter: A Historical Memoir of Science, Faith, and Love by Dava Sobel (already started 3 times)
  • And of course, my very own spiral-bound journal

What is a girl to read? With so few hours — make that minutes — to spare for this most delicious of hobbies, how do I choose?

To whom should I commit?

I suspect this question may hint at a decision more pressing than which book to open first.

 

Living in the Moment, Things I Can

26. Things I Can Ignore: Contrails

Way up there, a tiny plane skates across the early spring blue. Here, the bus wheezes up to a stop sign, waits its turn, then groans on. The sun has hours yet to make its languid descent into rooftops and half-clothed branches.

Scuffs streak the plexiglass. The eyes are trained to peer right through.

What would it be like to see only this in here? Only what’s behind? I still have hopes of Corsica. Each year another scar cuts across the frame. The edges blur. It’s clear enough, though, for today: Maybe almond trees, maybe the Pillars of Hercules. Or Galapagos. The Badlands at the very least.

It was just now, or near enough to now, that I pressed through a scouring wind to summit Mt. Snowdon in Wales and cooled my blistered feet in Llyn Ffynnon-y-gwas. Such a thing could happen again. Those engines up there could carry me to the source of the next pool where my toes touch bottom as fish nibble down to live skin.

Another renewal.

It’s not impossible.

Or if I choose to walk lightly, I could use my own traction. Starting on this very bus, I could cast off on a winding route to the borderlands where the last of the wildcats hush their flanks against night.

The sky is a door. I am 41 and just came from the gym where I pulled 70 pounds and crunched 100 times on an incline bench.

Now my pooch who narrowly missed her date with a Chinese abbatoir flies like a formula one race car across the dog park that backs against the freeway. She turns fast enough to send mulch and dirt blasting into the sound wall. I shed my jacket and hurl the ball, my arm getting looser now with each lengthening day.

Now I sit in solitude at a dim table at the Indian restaurant. I taste it all: the whang of the cilantro leaf, the spring of my jaw against cubes of cheese, the smoke that lingers in papered boils on the flatbread. Tabla music patters against the sizzle and clank of the kitchen.

Now I bend to this page and rub the dull lamp until it glows.

Everything here is here. Everything here is forward.

What luxury, this illusion.

How fleeting.

The texts ping in, one, then six or seven more. All day in bursts, each sounding a claxon. She is in the ER. She is prepping for surgery. She’s in the OR. She’s in recovery. Her hip is fractured. Her hip is mending.

If she makes it through the next three months, she’ll turn 95 in July.

What must it be to come up out of the fog of anesthesia into the even more stifling smog of dementia? To see only through scuffed glass, to see only the scars? No forward. Not even a here, really. The machines that didn’t exist in your lifetime then did, now they buzz across a silent blue you can’t see. Now they carry other people away into pockets of the world you’ll never know.

If you’ve even lost the comfort of memory, what then? Where do your eyes alight?

I am 41 and grip hard to delusion. This blank page is an open window. That sunlit frame holds no pane. I can step right through and cast my line up against gravity, snag that jet and let it ferry me into another fable, one waiting just for me.

I ignore the microscopic particles, the wind and all it carries, strafing the body of this vehicle. I pretend the light falls through unimpeded. Against the mounting evidence, I claim this day and this endless tomorrow.