What Would You Have Said

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We were four. Perhaps you could say we were three against one. (It may be clearer in a moment how we came to be divided in our perspectives.  Before they shifted, again.) Two of us knew the sunset would occur at 6:12, because we had Googled it. A third one joined us. He was no wheel. He was more than welcome on this pilgrimage.

Moments matter. Minutes count. And when you are chasing descending beauty in the sky, and especially when you are chasing the sun as it tucks itself into bed, seconds count. If you blink or turn, the sky performs without you. Nature has no pause button. No rewind.

We didn’t have to go far to watch the sun set, bleed blazing reds and break-open spilling blood orange hues onto the salty creek. Like a dropped and broken egg from my bantam hen, we expected a color explosion to be poured out. A history of admiring the day’s often dramatic curtain closing gave us something we thought we could “count on.” Who among us doesn’t love a sunset.

Three of us walked quickly down the black asphalt road to attend the performance of our favorite star, planet sun. February had just turned brisk again, after she had casually flirted with the air of spring, turning her back on warmer nights. Our speed was due in part to the fact that we were cold and in part because we love the sky when it is drenched in drama. We didn’t want to miss the spectacle.

The sky was a dull and muted mauve this night. Drama had failed to show. As there are truly no bad days when one is walking, breathing, living fully alive, there are no bad sunsets. This one was simply restrained. The sky held nothing head-turning. The beauty was to be seen only by the ones who have eyes for wonder. Who truly know how to look beyond the obvious.

What would you have said? How would you respond to the wisest man among us? The fourth one. The one who just happened to join us, as we huddled up around the chill and swarming South Carolina gnats. The man who had pedaled by us moments earlier on his bike, racing to see the sunset. A sunset that was void of flash and blinding beauty. A close of day performance which was in fact, lovely in its simple majesty.

Our collective response was just short of shame. For we had not seen what he had so clearly seen. We compared the sky to the “night before’s sky.” And concluded it was less than fabulous.

But  he had seen the unique way the light spills before dark. He had witnessed residual pale pinks and royal grays colliding in a 6:18 sky. He saw the shadows and shades and reflections that we did not see. At first. Blind us needed artist him to guide us into the beauty.

At the edge of the creek that night, he delighted in the light. Savored real beauty. And shared his perspective with the three blind us.

I reset my lens. And I silently gave thanks for the man who saw the wonder of a muted sunset; one that came and left its mark on me. One that came as Google said. At precisely 6:12 in all its quiet glory.

And taught me again how to really see. What would you have said? I am still whispering a silent “thank you.” To both of them.

 

Hitting Close To Home: Finding Lovely In The Places Nearby

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I am looking for a passport which bears the name of someone other than myself. I think it’s tucked away among old stained t-shirts and outgrown boy things. I stop to imagine the uncovering. Of both the semi-lost passport and of the waiting wonder and beauty on this trans-Atlantic journey. The hunt for this documentation, necessary for going away, is taking me places I never imagined I’d go. A circuitous journey of coming back around to my staying home.

It is enough, this vicariousness. There is profound joy and deep satisfaction in mental wandering. I wonder about the topography of Wales, the weather and whether it will rain or not. And if it does, what does a post-rain village smell like in the springtime there. Old brick and ancient soil co-mingle to tell stories, an aromatic telling. (I can read of Wales from here and I can see a hundred photographs. But the smells, I must net them in my wildest dreams. Capture them in my imagination. That is the sense that takes me travelling in place.)

Wet or damp, dry and cool, how do the fields smell. Sweet like wildflowers or pungent like arugula and rosemary, whose powerful scents explode in their breaking. The pastures, splaying out from ancient castles like oceans of green grasses, blade on blade of lovely; how do they wave in the wind? A green that only May may know, that is the green of my imagining. Green, a favorite smell is the green that shouts new birth.

Each dream, each splinter of my imagination is rooted in love. This season, the one in which I find myself, is one of staying. Of anchoring. Of tethering. I am harbored close to home. All of my travels are in the soil of nearby.

I both remember London fondly and recall my dormant desire for returning. I grieve for what I missed, victim of a younger me wasting time in a city I long to experience her again as an older version of myself.

So I may ask them to visit a bookstore for me, to bring me a something I can hold of that place. Go in my stead. Yet, I do not want my influence to attend their journeys. I want this trip to be wholly theirs in every way. I imagine the places the soles of their shoes will mark. I close my eyes and dream about the planes and trains and automobiles that will whisk them along from town to town. They will soar and fly and rumble, while I will remain in place.

But I have my own rumblings to lean into. And I have my own soaring to do. I ride on the wings of words. And I go faraway in the nearby. I am discovering the shards of lovely in the places nearby.

When they return, when they all return, I am the receptacle of experiences not my own. They dig deep into the well of experience and I am there, far from here. Removed from my present place. I receive their experiences and stories, soak them in and hold on to a re-living. They take me with them in their telling.

The squeak in the eighth stair down, is my siren call to stay. It reminds me as I travel up and down this staircase, built circa 1904, that I am going back and forth through time. I live in a time capsule, a concrete paradox of staying and leaving.

Yesterday the dirt was dark and thick. Each fingernail held the soil-turning of the day, by hand. I placed the pansies into the containers, chosen by design for their size and significance. I dug into the contentment of staying put.

Staying calls me to dig deep in the narrow fields. It forces my hand to root out the nuanced beauty that lies in wait. If I am to discover anything, I must know how to discover the nearby first before I go out in search of more. I must rejoice here, celebrate here, if I am to be practiced at perfecting discovery anywhere else.

The squeak in the eighth and ninth stair combine to play a duet. And I am content to strike the chords of staying.

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The Backside

 

 

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The Backside

A hundred stories blew right by
Unseen by the naked eye, a hundred and one
If you count the one so wind-soaked, water-logged and beat down
There is nothing left to tell
Shreds of truth washed out to sea
Particles of memory swept up in the counter-current backside of the beast

A hundred years from now

Someone will dredge it up, tell it to a crowd of hungry men, women and children
Hovered on the edge of their seats to know about the day the wind raged
Again
History, a fan of repeating herself

At the hair salon
She said the waiting was the hardest part of all
Tell me your story
I’m beginning to try to listen again

Forgetting doesn’t help remembering
Warnings came from somewhere down the coast, farther south
Watch out for the backside,
The tail end
Every cliche, metaphor
You’ve heard them all
Listen up, for once, to talk of eyes and calm

While we wept for Haiti
I wept over Vascular Dementia, ALS and Cholera, hunger and disease
And Haiti some more
The Shirley May, The Mary Margaret and God’s Grace
They made it through, tethered to a wide and weary oak
Simple solutions mock me

Anticipating, we know too much of what we do not know
Wringing our hands over unknown outcomes
And then the shaming began
For the stayers and the ride-it-outers
Who know the nuances of wind and tide
But are certain of not one thing

The quiet dark of the blind preparation
Is a quiet we never knew

Run a bunch of models
Focus on the European One
Fine lines  wear the well-honed edge of a butcher’s knife
Lord have mercy plays on rewind and repeat
In sharp contrast
The Weather Channel, bless its heart
I thought I’d die if I heard one more warning of how bleak my future looked

When the wind blows
Echoes from my childhood
We are slowly prepared by  nursery rhymes
For what’s ahead

When the wind blew
At hurricane force
I sat on my backside

Resting up
No one named the raging storm in my mother’s brain
After one of the gospel writers

There is still a storm that’s raging
Though not at sea
For me
Waiting is the hardest part

 

 

What Will You Always Remember

What Will You Always Remember

There are no mahogany framed sepia photographs
Laced in chipped gold gilt, hanging by a thread of rust
Lining a narrow hallway by the newel post worn down
By palm and fist

No black and white, grey and tan or faded Kodak prints
With the look of Nashville filters on Instagram
We are not shown together much

Paired, twinning, con-joined or wrapped arm in arm
Serpentine limbs like Cherry Willow tree’s
Threaded through each other
In an overtly visible way

Not after those early years when
Nascent you
Held
Nascent me

But I will always remember
Tracing your blue-green bulging veins, pumping  crimson blood to the beat of  Onward Christian Soldier
(Or was it some other one penned by Wesley for the choir)
Running like rivulets down your pale underarm
The color of the underbelly of a flounder
Yours was smooth as the red velvet church pew in that
Methodist church
Where I did the tracing
You may have smelled of Jergens
And I may have smelled of intrigue

I closed my pre-mascara-heavy eyes
While your fingers played the piano up my arm
When your dangling digits like participles
Reached the bend
I was to tell you

Whisper that you were in the valley of the arm
While the preacher preached
And I wriggled in my seat

You may not recall at all
Perhaps you only remember the smell of Methodism
And the lingering scent of my wanting to know you more

 

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