Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Week of Good Things

(courtesy of carman photography)

The red-striped flag, curling in the warm air, brushes against the square pillar of the porch. Magnolia tree, full blooms like teacups on their saucers, reaches up towards the windows of the upper story, stretching its thick old silvery branches way out over the grass, raining down fragrant petals around the man and woman sitting side-by-side on the front step and the two small children tumbling over each other in the grass.

“You look like America!” (because this is a picture I get to enter) – and they do look just like the Beautiful from sea to shining sea - that dream we have of a place in Golden Mountain, abundance and peace in a quilt of small towns - where everyone has their plot of earth and their sheltering tree and a front porch to enjoy it from. That place we dream and dream of - sometimes fearing it is lost behind us, sometimes hoping it is still ahead, sometimes despairing that it never was nor will be.

But this is not a dream. And they have been sitting out in the sweetness of their own front yard waiting for us to push open the white picket fence, to come walk in their garden, come sit out on their back balcony in the middle-of-June loveliness of this unseasonably warm April and eat a fine dinner and listen to music (eclectic old-timey street-dance jazz) and talk and play silly games with the children. Inside there is a ceramic tile fireplace and built-in alcoves and thick windows that look over a sea of blossoming trees away towards the river. And there is the smell of bread and cleanliness.

And that was Monday.

Every day this week there was some good thing. It helped, of course, that every day:
  • the bleeding heart kept blooming outside the glass door by my desk

  • blue camas suddenly spread its splendor over the basalt cliffs north of town

  • the sun shone

  • I biked

Tuesday I got to lie in the sun in a field of camas wearing my favorite blue shirt while my photographer friend took pictures. And then I biked with my elegant friend (who treats me like a favorite daughter though she is by far too young to be my mother).  We biked over to visit a young woman who is coming back from cancer, her hair growing back, her laugh back already as she shows us her picture album.

“You were always a doll,” says my elegant friend looking at the part of her history when her hair was long and her eyelashes thick.

“Exactly, a doll,” and our friend, who is a young mother of three young daughters, runs a hand over the soft velvet sprouting all over the curve of her head.  She is bare-faced and vibrant, “A Barbie doll. It used to take me an hour to get ready. He,” gesturing to her young husband, “never even knew I had freckles. But it’s true, you know, what they say - what actually a couple told me, two women out to dinner we met one night at the beginning of chemo - the one woman said you only know who you really are when everything has been taken away – eyebrows, eyelashes, any desire for sex. But look, it’s all coming back. And I know now who I am.”

She squares her jaw and her eyes twinkle. Her husband leans over the back of the couch, nearly resting his chin on her shoulder. The tenderness between them is almost a fragrance and it is a small blessing just to sit there and breathe in.

On the way home I meet YoungSon at his carpool and we make our way home in the sunshine - I coasting on my bike, he running full-throttle a quarter of a mile at a time. This is one of the ancient joys: to see your own child running for the joy of it and in a strong body.

When we came to our corner he says, "Can we stop and see Nora?" who is 95 or thereabouts and whose stories about this street we live on (told in a cadence tinged still with a trace of Swedish) - stories about walking to the tiny little schoolhouse back in the days when everyone was Swedish farmers, back before TV or electricity or cars - have rooted our hearts here.

Nora comes to the door in her walker, laughing at herself, "You've caught me knee-deep in a good book!"

YoungSon is the one who usually initiates coming here, though he never says a word once we’re there. Just sits on the couch next to me in her tiny front room with Nora across from us beneath her lamp, the light from the window on her face. It’s such a good face - nearly a hundred years of laugh-lines and white hair in a wispy nimbus.

YoungSon sits and listens while she tells us, “Anyways – ” about how she and her niece went up to the $1 book sale at the PUD and she's come back with a whole bag of books – she pats the full bag next to her chair.

"Anyways, we'll have to go back. Like I say, I've already read five of them,” and she laughs softly at her own prodigality. A Walk to Remember is her favorite so far, but this book she’s started today, it’s a good one, and she tries to keep from glancing at it.

We don't stay long (understanding the call of a good book) and when we rise to go, YoungSon gives her his usual hug and, as always, she chuckles and pats his back, "What a good boy. Like I say, you never forget my hug."

And that was Tuesday.

Wednesday I wrote and was only a little bit miserable. And the sun shone. And when I got back on my bike again to come home after errands in town my legs began to sing their little song of returning strength (something like what the backup singers might sing in a soundtrack to . . . say . . . Strong Man Rejoicing). And the piano teacher cancelled lessons.

And Thursday the sun shone (again!) and the dentist was able to smooth over the broken edge of my tooth that my tongue has been worrying over and over and there were blossoming cherries on one of the trees outside his office window and bright-red holly berries on the other tree.

And Friday we were able to hold our planning meeting outside, which made it a good meeting. Then later YoungSon and I threw rocks in the creek and walked back up our hill together.

And Saturday I used my new hula-hoe.

And Sunday I read Gilead with wet eyes and incredible gratitude for Marilynne Robinson whose two novels have given me more pleasure than many other authors with ten or twelve novels apiece.

(And now putting in the link to Robinson's book I see that she has three novels now and I have a library card . . . oh the joy!)

Now I can't wait for next week.

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

something you may be curious to know . . .

When you are in Edit Posts and have selected all of one page of past posts and then under Label Action click Delete, it does not delete all the labels in those selected posts. It deletes all the posts.

Just thought you might like to know that.

Monday, April 27, 2009

Finding It

Walking down the hill, after a week living at my desk, a week trying to fight my way through, now in the first light of morning, I keep feeling that chill-and-warmth that we call “walking over your grave.”

The road is still gravel somewhere beneath the blacktop – and so crowded now with past selves - that woman with hands thrust deep in the pockets of her windbreaker grinning up at the rain - that one with a baby strapped to her chest in a blue-denim sling and singing – that one with bouncing daughters on either side squabbling over who gets the “ring hand” - that one hauling up another wheelbarrow mounded over with icy-cold golden-white grapes to steam down into juice - all those were bodies I once lived in and I have to fight an urge to turn sideways in order to pass through.

I have never lived anywhere so long as I have lived here, walking over and over the same path.

Here two bare-legged little girls are still gathering blackberries in that hot dry summer before the new houses were built in what was (and somehow still is) the wild patch across the street.

Here is the shade and long grass where Vicky and I used to tell our stories stretched out along her well-groomed and never-to-be-walked-on path of thyme, watching our first-graders running across the yard with sun in their hair, before divorce and its dislocations, childbirth and a bout of homeschooling took us separately and deposited us in other places. I almost hear the cadence of her voice and almost through the closed door see that immaculate sunny place like the inside of a well-cared-for instrument – moon charts on the walls and exuberant potted plants. Someone else lives there now who keeps the gate always locked and has a barking dog, someone who nods rather grimly from the darkened windows of an SUV when we wave on the road.

Here, where the trees open up and you can catch glimpses of the river, is the spot the girls and I always began to run to catch the bus (and where more recently Young Son shouts and runs ahead of me just for the joy of it) and here the place my sunny-faced fourth-grader tripped and as quickly bobbed up again, her face creased into patient suffering, her small and golden cupped palm filling with blood.

Here, still and always, at the crest of the hill above the creekbed, it is one of the first days of summer: some sub-sound, like a throbbing of fear, drumming in our chests, is actually outside us – a swarm of bees, like one of God’s thoughts, waiting, resting on the air.

Here is the downhill slide where my laughing preschooler fed Andy-the-dog her piece of breakfast bread one icy autumn morning and here the spot at the bottom of the gully where Andy herded us into spring’s horsetails - that strange prehistoric plant that grows along the roadsides here - whenever a car zoomed past.

Climbing back up onto the flat here is the Christmas tree field (from which we at different ages and sizes come with different half-grown trees on wagon or sled, or loaded on our shoulders).

And here the work glove we fixed to the top of a fencepost so its owner would find it again. Both gloves are there for me - the first jaunty waving I remember so clearly and now the sad hand, beaten down by rain these long ten years and collapsed in on itself.

I meet, as usual, my walking friend somewhere between our two houses. We will walk, as we usually do, one of three routes. It doesn’t matter which – they have all become a progress through the stations – at this corner we’ll be talking about education, along this stretch we always mention our brothers for some reason, here we always seem to remember our mothers.

But it feels good to move legs that have been folded beneath a desk five days steady.  To breathe the wind and feel the blood rising through all my veins.

And when we turn our steps to keep rhythm together, it is a great freedom to speak in safety, out loud, and without considering. Especially because of writing all week – which does bad things to me, leaves me blinking and shaky and irritable – “thin-skinned” - like I’ve blistered off layers of protective epidermis and am all over new skin too pinkly painful.

The night before I had had to speak in public – part of an ongoing project that is having some kind of agricultural effect on my soul (harrowing, winnowing, I can’t decide quite what) – and I had done that speaking limpingly, boringly, distractedly, and woke this morning still feeling burnt and blistered with embarrassment (on top of the thin-skinnèdness) and sick of myself.

But the walk does me good. I say as much, “Oh, it feels so good to be out here this morning.”

“It’s me,” says my friend.

“I was about to say that,” I laugh back at her, fondness filling that laugh with sweetness.

This Saturday morning friendship has become a place guarded by many mornings, past and (God willing) future. The economic downturn (for the time being) has stopped talk of expansions and transfers out-of-state. Which would not stop our walks we’ve sworn – we’ll just have to get head sets, she imagines, and become dotty old women gesturing into the empty air. But I imagine it will be more like the morning recently that I forgot she’d gone to the coast for a conference and walked all the way over in the gray morning to look at her weathered-silver farmhouse (I’d remembered by then) and then walked home to the sound of my own footsteps.

“I feel so much better,” I announce as I come in the door. Middlest, YoungSon and Fritz look up from the breakfast table. But back inside, the very repeatedness of my life begins to assail me again – my inability to ever get beyond my shrinking limits – my need to find a way through or a way out of myself. I begin to drive Fritz to distraction, rehashing each stupidity and staleness of the night before, coming in every other minute:

“OK. The thing is . . . ”
“OK. You know what I did wrong? . . .”
“OK. Here’s what I hate . . .”

Finally I announce I can’t stand living inside myself. I’m abdicating for the rest of the day. Fritz has given up trying to reason me out of my funk. Now he takes me on a bike ride down to the river, stopping to visit an older friend. “We’ll go around by the fairground,” he directs as we climb back up toward home and then ignores my complaints about my squeaky bikeseat, “If I can stand listening to you, you can stand listening to that seat.”

“We’ll do the Dipsy Doodles,” he nods when we get to the fairgrounds.

“Whatever,” I groan for effect. “I am entirely in your hands today.”

“Mnh-mmh-mmh!” Fritz laughs his wicked French laugh and waggles his eyebrows at me, “Too bad I didn’t know that earlier!”

The Dipsy Doodles are really the Stone Road Loop, ridden the other way around. This way, with a long, more gradual rise and faster downhills it’s an entirely more light-hearted experience.

I have work to do at home, paperwork, housework, a deadline, but instead Fritz declares that we have More Places to Go. So we load Young Son into the car with Middlest to take her over to her meet.

“I know where they’re all going tonight,” I tell Fritz as we climb into the car (meaning everyone who witnessed my fumbling feebleness the night before). “They’re having a big party and purposely not inviting me and they’re going to sit around over snacks and chortle and tell stories about every stupid thing I said!”

Fritz lets out a huge shout of laughter, plainly relieved that the paranoia is finally working itself out into the open, “No doubt!”

It feels so good to laugh, to finally be the fool instead of trying to defend myself to myself from the charge of foolishness. “And instead of charades they’re going to act out things I’ve done and try to guess,” I mime it, between gasps of laughter, “ – oh wasn’t that the time . . . ? And don’t forget that one time she . . . !”

“They’ll call it Were You There?!” he squeaks, trying to catch his breath. We’re both gasping with laughter and tears are beginning to roll down my cheeks.

“Who’s doing this?” demands YoungSon from the backseat. “Who’s having that kind of a party?”

We are wheezing and almost crying and can hardly explain.

“If anyone is doing that to my mom, I’m going to BELCH them!” says YoungSon, which sets us off in a  paroxysm that cleanses the soul.

We drop Middlest off at the high school track (who – adorably and regardless of what I made of the opportunity - had volunteered herself to provide childcare last night and had made refreshments – because, she says, she knows I’m trying to find my way to something new). Meanwhile, Fritz, YoungSon and I swarm through the hardware store to get parts to fix the laundry room sink and a new handle for the rake and parts for crimping the wire on the monumental garden fence Fritz is building. I examine pruning knives. Young Son and I admire brass elbows and couplers and try them on our fingers. We heft mallets and hatchets and describe what destruction would be possible with the biggest ones. Then remind the lady behind the counter about the free popcorn.

We get to the meet before Middlest begins to run – the 3000? or is it the 1500? I can never remember – We sit on the bleachers in the sunny weather, reading our nerdy reads: The Economist (me) and Analyzing Meterological Systems (Fritz). Young Son finds Eldest who is cheering on a friend from another high school who's throwing discus today. She takes YoungSon on a run to Taco Bell with her friends and then we all shout and cheer when Middlest lopes past, easily and unconcerned, contained within herself, near the back of the pack. Placement doesn't matter to Middlest, who loves to run regardless and beats her personal record (we say, “She PRs”) – which is a thing I love about track, that it’s all about doing just a little bit better every time.

When we get back home it is coming on to dark, our arms full of groceries - fruit and milk and makings for guacamole, not to mention a pink bakery box of apple fritters and maple bars. Life is good – though it would be healthier without the fritters.

When I go to put away my laundry I find a little clay guy holding flowers on my dresser. Young Son had told me: “Mom, I made something for you. See if you can find it!”

And I do believe – at least today - I have.

Thursday, April 16, 2009

The Stone Road Loop

Write your book. Do it.


-- thus spake my friend the Breadmaking Fool.

So I write.

And then erase everything I write.

Like Penelope unweaving. Which makes me wonder what horrible suitors I think I'm keeping at bay? And what shroud it is I think I'm making and for whom?

I hate my book.

Because I love the little valley they live in and their silly tiny lives. I want nothing to happen to them. And if I don't write, nothing will. They'll stay right where they are. Worrying.

But still. Whole.


According to my own ridiculous vow, this month again I can read anything I want. But when I pick up a book at the library, as I did yesterday while in the City, I only leaf through it, put it back. Pick up another, glance through the flyleaf blurb, put it back. Walking out of the stacks, a rising desperation to find something, I snatch a single book which I read last night already: World Made by Hand about a town in the near future - you know, that near future where all the rest of the world collapses into horror and chaos, but not us, please God, not us.

And here is one reason I seize up when I open my story and try to move it forward into a Future I don't quite dare imagine. I want to find Peace.

That sunny hillside.

But every time I open the file, a child dies, a marriage crumbles, someone rails at God, and friends and neighbors turn on each other with the gleeful vehemence of long-nursed spite. I shouldn't write about people who matter so much to me. People I want to keep safe. And if I insist they behave more nicely, my characters turn glum and unresponsive. They flop their arms around woodenly and speak in flat monotones about things that matter to no one. Fine, I want to shake them, be that way. See if I stand in the way of Looming Disaster any longer.

"Are you writing your book today?" Young Son leans over my shoulder. But he means a different book - the one I work at when I must write but can't stomach the sick panic that THE BOOK fills me with.

He means a book called Keeping Traditions I began at my daughters' request (such good daughters - at least that day - two, three years ago) full of recipes and routines. Yearly, monthly, weekly, daily holidays - the ways and means that keep us together in body and mind. It's a cozy book to write on, but I've hit a snag because I'm at the morning traditions section which have all gone to Mt. St. Helens lately with too many scattered schedules and until I can figure out a way for us all to stand or sit or kneel, together, at one and at peace, for a significant moment in the morning, I can't in good conscience go on prattling about the importance of Starting the Day out Right.

Young Son, who nags me to put up the Christmas tree or hang the Valentine ring for weeks before time, has fretted over this tradition book since its first page and will come at me out of the blue, "When are you going to finish writing it? Are you going to get it done in time?" He will remind me of "things we do" -

"Have you put that in?" It seems to matter immensely to him that nothing be lost.
Before our family explodes into the future.

And we are all scattered.

I have done this to him. Raised him in an atmosphere of brevity and ephemerality - the terrible delicacy of anything we love and our necessary vigilance in guarding and gathering up all the pieces.

Enough! There's another reason right there never to write anything. Never to archive, record, get it down on paper. Ever again. I mean it.

So I got the bike out of cold storage instead. "Come on," I said to my dear Fritz, "I need to do the Stone Road Loop."

It being the Saturday of Waiting, the Saturday of the Tomb, the Saturday between Past and Future, between the Friday we remember the Crucifixion and the Sunday we celebrate the Resurrection, this ride has become a kind of quasi-tradition. It's name satisfactorily metaphorical. A reason to get out on the bike no matter how dismal the weather or how paltry my previous winter training.

I may even put it in that Keeping book that I plan to never finish, this almost-annual ride the day before Easter around the Stone Road Loop.

It's a good ride. Hills hard enough but nothing fatal. And psychologically important, as it's the first big toe of our annual Memorial Day ride over the mountain range to the coast. Fritz trains all winter. Usually I tootle around town for errands, as road conditions permit, but this year I'm in terrible form. From sitting on my Great Beyond.

Trying. To. Write.

I also hate this bike ride this morning. "I'm going home," I declare when I stop to take off another layer.

Fritz just laughs, "No you're not." He called my bluff years ago, when in the midst of labor with our Middlest I suddenly sat up and announced I was done and was leaving. He just looked at me, "And where exactly do you plan to go?"

He laughs again when I try to flag down a passing helicopter overhead, hollering and waving, "Save me! Save me!" and I realize I'm just clowning now and not hating anything anymore. The morning is what mornings are - fresh and dewy. The hills are green and the trees with that first glorious golden-green blush along their tiniest branches. Dear God, Who made this World so beautiful in all its less-than-lastingness, You keep making mornings like this one, I'll keep trying to climb Your hills . . .

When we get home, my Eldest suddenly starts in on me out of the blue while I'm washing glasses at the kitchen sink, "I think you ought to finish writing that one book," she says, though she means yet a different book - a past-future fantasy of escape from villainous forces and in particular an attempt to evade THE BOOK which even now makes me so anxious I want to crawl out of my skin.

Okay, I got the message!

I think . . .

Tuesday, April 7, 2009

Do You Recognize the Song?

April 7, 2009

What? Two posts in one week?
(Yes, I am also a mindreader.)

Today at the food bank I remembered why coming here feeds me.

Lately I've come home weighed down by the stories, infected with discouragement, and oppressed even by the smells of hard-luck living. I sit sometimes with my felllow volunteers while we're waiting for our "customers," chatting, listening to their struggles with government agencies, stints in the state hospital, repairing motorcycles, trying to find work, horrific car accidents, medical marijuana, failing drug tests, going to the zoo every Tuesday, firefighting, cars they've loved, traveling by boat down the coast from Alaska, living on a boat, living in the woods, camping, fishing, sharing recipes, stories about families, memories of their mothers, our mothers, our childhoods, the people we love. And everything I've read and every college degree I've won fall away from me as the nothing they really are.

This is a freeing realization. But a frightening one.

Anything that has happened to them, could happen to me, and would I know how to respond as well as they have? Because we are hardly different from one another, any of us, though we walk around thinking what we have and what we've done is what we are, thinking we are more than frightened children dangling our legs over the bank with bravado and tossing small rocks into the dark water.

Today a woman came in, the powder blue of her sleeveless sweater pefectly setting off the dark-blue undertones in her skin. Her voice is loud and sure, sweet as molasses, her wide-set brown eyes very beautiful - beauty is confidence and confidence beauty for her, "Bleach! Bless you!," she lifts a jug from the free shelf. "Can I really have this? Really! You are all working for Jesus - you know that don't you? You are working for Jesus. I can see your haloes!"

If so, we are the saddest, seediest group of angels you'll ever see. And she is a bit of an operator, asking me if she can take some of the polished glass pebbles that support the pens to decorate her fishbowl. I shrug, "Sure." Because really, why not?

While we're filling her order, another woman comes in, long shiny brown hair and tall - the age of my sister, with the same name as my sister - her very movements likable and competent. When I come back with her order, her voice is excited, "I was reading this," she points to the poster on the wall Share your Harvest - Plant a Row. "Can I do this? We're planting a big garden this year. I know we'll have extras. Can I bring in whatever?"

"Yes! Of course. That's where all this in the free area comes from," gesturing to the beautiful, beautiful potatoes that everyone has been cooing over and filling up their bags with.

She beams, reaching for her monthly box of cereals and canned soup, "We wouldn't be here without you guys. You have no idea," she nods, swallows, turns away, then grins back over her shoulder, "Pay it forward, right? It's all you can do."

Later a man comes in, sandyhaired, with Renaissance whiskers and flyaway mustachios. He shows me his i.d. - I attempt a pronunciation - almost correct.

"Dutch?" I ask, looking up his paperwork in the files.

"Yep," this pleases him. "In fact there are only two of us in the whole U.S. - my cousin back east. But I looked in a phone book in Amsterdam once and there were over a hundred with [same first and last name as himself]. And my cousin has tracked down our family on the Internet and found the name going back to the 1700s!"

"Great-great grandpa, huh?" I hand him the pen to sign for this month's box.

He purses his lips, "She," he says with appreciation, "had five children without ever being married and was apparently a rich rich lady, millions when she died . . . from her side job - not that that's the sort of thing that anyone ever really wants to know!" He appears torn between half-proud shame and bashful admiration at his successfully enterprising foremother - who, however she earned a living, saw to it that her children lived and reproduced on beyond her.

An hour before it's time to go. One of the other volunteers - a sweet-tempered guy the age of my younger brother - announces that when he gets home he's going to make his brother "a birthday cake. Because today it is his birthday!"

What kind of cake? "German chocolate!"

"Oo, you'll be the favorite brother."

"I better be. I'm his only brother." And he tells us how amazing his brother is, who still works even with a degenerating disease that affects his motor skills. It's the same thing their father had before he died, he tells us with his own half-controlled wavings of the arms and constant fidget that I had til now assumed was from one too many -

All four of us restock the shelves for tomorrow's crew. The birthday-brother volunteer tells us how he used to live across the street from Free Willy. "Right across the street," his arms wave, his head twitches. "And then they moved him to Antarctica and you know that Free Willy he goes out and visits with the other whales that come but then goes back to his cave. He hasn't joined any pod. But if his family came, if his mother came, then he'd join their pod."

"How would he know?" I wonder. "Would he recognize their smell?"

Everyone jumps in. They all know, "Oh, he'd know them. He would know. Probably by their song. Definitely, he'd recognize their song."

In the last half hour an older woman comes in. "A blessing," she pronounces, "More than you can know. A blessing." Her voice has a soft, south-of-the-border lilt. She grasps the pen with especially graceful fingers, long nails with silvery hot pink polish and many fine silver & turquoise rings. She mentions in passing that she lives in her van.

"Would you like a can opener?"

"Yes! Oh, yes. We've been hacking the top off, like with a knife - " her graceful hands show me the action.

She is clean, but we offer always (whenever donations allow) to those with no address - "Grooming supplies? Soap? Dishwashing soap?"

"Yes. Yes. Oh, yes. Something to wash my clothes," her eyes fill.

When we bring her the box, she tries to call her daughter - asking for "Space Two" when someone comes on the line - to see if the friend who borrowed her van today to get to a job interview is back yet.

He's not, so she's going to walk back, "It's not far." We repack her box into doubled-up grocery bags. "How far are you going again?" It's almost closing time and the birthday-cake-making volunteer offers to carry the box home for her.

"I was going to do this on my own," she says, a little quaver in her voice. "I told myself this morning I could do this on my own and I was going to do it on my own." She casts a conspiratorial glance my way, "But we're never on our own, are we? He never leaves us all alone."

She turns at the door, her hand on the doorknob, "God bless. Bless you all. More than you can know."

The three of us left count up our business for the day, turn the sign to Closed, but wait at the door until our fourth comes back.

"That was a good thing to do," we tell him.

He just grins, as we lock up and turn out the light. He's in a hurry to get home.

He's got a cake to bake.

Monday, April 6, 2009

What My Great-grandchildren Would Want to Know about Today

April 6, 2009

Today Fritz worked from home. He's got deadlines looming and his boss called this morning to say he's committed Fritz to produce certain data by Thursday. Working here saves him almost two hours on the commute. And I'm learning to work around him. He's learning not to talk when I'm giving myself carpal tunnel at the keyboard.

"We have a rare opportunity to have lunch together," he tells me, when I come up for air mid-morning. "Where should we go?"

I groan inwardly. I love my schedule to roll along unimpeded. I love my productive morning solitude.

But I also love my Fritz.

"How about a picnic here? It's warm. And we still have curry from the other night." Not quite what he'd had in mind - but the thriftiness of the counter-plan (not to mention time-effectiveness, and no need to pay a tip) wins him over.

"But I can't eat before 12," he says.

"Groovy," and I dive back under.

At 5 'til 12 he comes to find me, now domestically folding laundry, "So I guess we're not having a picnic. I'll just get some bread and milk."

"I thought you said you couldn't eat before 12?"

"But I also can't eat after 1."

I shake my head at him, beckon him kitchen-wards, hand him plate and fork and disgorge the riches of the fridge (we are so blessedly fortunate to have this abundance - a magically cool cabinet full of food - whenever we open it.)

Noon finds us settling onto the rock wall above our gravel path (months of doing and redoing years back, but now looking as-if-ever-there with beach-strawberry twining around the base.) I settle back against the spicy, glossy scalloped leaves of the wild geranium.

"That's snakes' paradise," and he settles himself more gingerly on the rocks at a distance from the fragrant herbs.

"Ah, little baby garters. They don't hurt anybody," and I nestle back deeper, releasing clouds of the clean pungent perfume of their crushed leaves.

"What's that sound?" he swivels around, scanning the sky.

"Sandhill cranes."

It's the first time I've heard them this spring - the guardian spirits of this part of the world. They have such a strange ridiculous call - so much the aah-ooo-GAH! clown-horns of the bird-world that I expect to see them rolling over each other and faking pratfalls and headbutts in the sky when they finally appear up over the edge of our roof.

"They're not flying in formation," notes Fritz. It's true. They circle like a skein unloosening above us, rising slowly, spiralling.

"Maybe they're scouting out a feeding place," I suggest.

"Not a very efficient way to fly," he says.

"Maybe they're flying for the joy of it."

"Rotissering around to get the sun on all sides? Maybe," but he keeps watching them. "I think it's thermals."

"Maybe," and I start to tell him about the time I first learned the name of these birds (that I've never seen except as a changing hieroglyph across the sky) from our dear old neighbor who died last year and how much I stil miss his friendly old face --

Fritz says, "I think it's definitely thermals. They're probably using them to lift themselves up over the hill here."

We watch the circling birds. Their wings flutter only as needed - no wasted movement.

And when they rise at last up over the top of the hill, they glide as one, honking and gargling like a troupe of comedians, away toward the river.

And that, my dear distant ones, who may never read these words (but who may) is what your progenitors did today.

Wednesday, April 1, 2009

suppose Life . . .

"Spring" by Lee Bennion

by e.e. cummings

Life is an old man carrying flowers on his head.

young death sits in a café
smiling, a piece of money held between
his thumb and first finger

(i say “will he buy flowers” to you
and “Death is young
life wears velour trousers
life totters, life has a beard” i

say to you who are silent.—“Do you see
Life? he is there and here,
or that, or this
or nothing or an old man 3 thirds
asleep, on his head
flowers, always crying
to nobody something about les
roses les bluets
will He buy?
Les belles bottes—oh hear
, pas chères”)

and my love slowly answered I think so. But
I think I see someone else

there is a lady, whose name is Afterwards
she is sitting beside young death, is slender;
likes flowers
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