Tuesday, June 10, 2014

tree planted by rivers : collaboration #1

august 14, 2013

1 Blessed is the man that walketh not in the counsel of the ungodly, 
nor standeth in the way of sinners, 
nor sitteth in the seat of the scornful. 
2 But his delight is in the law of the LORD; 
and in his law doth he meditate day and night. 
3 And he shall be like a tree planted by the rivers of water, 
that bringeth forth his fruit in his season; 
his leaf also shall not wither; 
and whatsoever he doeth shall prosper. 
4 The ungodly are not so: 
but are like the chaff which the wind driveth away. 
5 Therefore the ungodly shall not stand in the judgment, 
nor sinners in the congregation of the righteous. 
6 For the LORD knoweth the way of the righteous: 
but the way of the ungodly shall perish.

The day I start this three-ring cycle of broken praise it is halfway through August.  I'm standing halfway up the hill, halfway up the grassy track between the houses of two old ladies, neighbors of mine.  I'm probably halfway through my life.

These neighbors are sisters, one widowed – both widowed, one remarried.  They are both old women, though not seriously old, still able-bodied, still the caretakers of others which keeps them among the young.  Between the women's houses, a track runs up from the woods through a green-gold swell of hay meadow on a long slope.  At the bottom, beyond the trees, is Carol’s house, a perfect Northwest white clapboard farmhouse.  Carol is the younger sister, loves clothes with good lines, feeds deer and raccoons on special pellets and shows pictures of their four-legged babies to her friends. Her second husband is older than she, more seriously old, and much nicer than her first husband.  I assume this.  I don't know why.  Stray comments.  Her leaping into life since his passing.  There were no children.  In her breakfast nook, she has orchids growing so rampantly there is no room for breakfast there. 

From here, on the track cutting through the cut hayfield, I can see the peaked roof of Barbara’s house still steeply up ahead, jutting out of the hill. An experimental passive solar. Inside: sky lights, tiny kitchen open to everything, bookshelves upon bookshelves, rows of old blue bottles, Venetian masks, photographs of Hawaii, clutters of glass barometers and ham radio wires.  Built around a handmade organ, with a hot tub attached, dug into the southern flank near the top of the hill.  Barabara always has a book she's in the middle of -- underwater exploration most lately -- and keeps the NASA station on in the background like Muzak.

I'm not stuck here.  Just gathering for the push to the top.  But I'm in no hurry.  For once, there's nowhere I have to be. I should be writing. The boys and Fritz are gone camping.  Middlest is still at the attorney's office where she's working this summer. I hang my head down over the handlebars and the colors burst more bright as the blood rushes back into my brain.  The small songs of insects suddenly louder. The wind so loves this grassy hillside, stroking its soft flank day after day.  Silky skirt (an abstract of seashells on a mid-blue sea) brushes my thighs and knees in the same tender air.  

I love this riding bare-legged, in sandals and skirt, in the soft balminess of August, though I feel a need to explain, to assert this skirt is not the symbol or statement of anything.  Just chosen for comfort, for reasons of air and weightlessness and the nostalgia of late summer.  Before I ever say so, though, I'm already arguing with myself--  isn’t there a statement of intent attaches itself the moment I button it at the waist and ride out to visit my old ladies, hem of my skirt waving softly in the wind of my passing?  A skirt like a headscarf like a tie like a lab coat is never just made of fabric, but also of wish and argument and power.  Like everything else in this material world.

The sun warms the whole hillside.  I assume this.  Though I know it only on my neck and shoulders, the back of my head, my forearms and the top of my calves.  I need a collaborator, I say to the wind, to the grassy track, to the front tire of my bike, thinking of Ray and Charles Eames, that legendary design couple, married lovers, who keep floating into my ken these days, offering themselves as signposts to somewhere.  From where I stand on this grassy path, there is no other road visible, though I know there is a road, named and paved, running parallel to the track I’m climbing, or now not climbing, a real road that cuts up through the middle of this soft expanse of waving resurgent grass and dandelion-yellow cat’s-ear and purple clover, a road sunk for now, from here, beneath the low mown waves of meadow. 

I know the pavement is there, not far away, but I almost believe my eyes when they witness only the sweep of short nodding grasses and stubborn flatweeds re-growing in the last weeks of summer.  I believe with almost all my heart in this long southern slope.  A continent to mice, a table to the plunging hawk.  Bounded all around by dark Douglas fir.  Bordered by two not quite subliminal creeks.  I can nearly believe there is this track only as long as I stay here, breathing the wind and hearing the whining music of the insects, as long as no red truck, no white car comes laboring up the hill on the invisible though publicly mappable road. 

And nothing does.  No vehicle arrives: no car, no truck, neither up nor down.  Just my own black bicycle on a grassy track and the fragrant sigh of late summer.  Nothing breaks the illusion for me until I do. With a sigh and a pushing trudge I climb up and out onto the known road. 

Later, when it's evening, I'll return to climb this hill again, by the public road this time.  Cycling home in the afterglow of sunset from some other meeting, my dynamo-powered headlamp casts faint light on my front wheel.  I will dip down into the sudden twilight of the creek gully and something—some winged thing, agile and lithe, a bat probably, it moves so well, so nimbly, so harmonious with the purpose it was made by, flits through the space between my arms and my moving legs.

This flying doesn’t touch me.  It makes no sound.  But I see it for an instant like a shadow, out of the corner of my eye, and the light hairs on my skin sense it passing.

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