Method

image source: Bing images

image source: Bing images

Everybody has a method, right?  Like, there’s scientific method and method acting and teachers and doctors have their methods.  Even businesses have their methods.  Well, I can tell you, Granny had her method and her “grandchildren” either learned it or we were gone.

“It’s quite simple, Vanessa,” Granny had a way of making her point clear, especially when she wasn’t looking directly at you.  Her voice cut like steel and ice, “you know what to do and you will do it.”

“She’s not ready, Granny,” I stood behind the younger girl, tying the bow in her hair, “why not let me or Bryan do it?”

“Nonsense,” Granny sorted through the paperwork on her desk, “Vanessa is thirteen.”  Her hand stopped mid-air as she looked over at us.  “At her age, Maggie, you were nearly as good as me,” she turned back to her desk, “We leave in fifteen minutes.  See that you’re ready.”

She was right.  I was good.  I could move through the crowd and people didn’t even know their watch or their wallet or their necklace was missing.  Bryan liked car keys and room keys.  He would wander in and out of the concert or meeting room or lecture hall, a happy grin on his fifteen year old cherubic face and always had a good haul by the time we got back to the house.

“How do you manage to get the right key back to the right person,” I asked?  We headed downstairs to leave for the afternoon lecture to rich patrons on the plight of suffering third-world urchins.

“Dunno.  My brain just remembers,” Bryan looked honest and trustworthy.  No one ever suspected.

Bryan and I had been at this for about five years and we knew the drill.  Granny handed us school books.  We spent our mornings studying.  Granny tested us and accepted nothing but high grades.  Then we practiced our trade.  Granny expected us to excel.  We earned our keep.  Fail at our studies or at our trade meant being locked in our rooms with only bread and water until we got it right.

I looked back up the stairs at Vanessa, who lagged behind, “Come on, it will be ok.”  If my method worked, it would be ok.

***

I had to be quick.  Vanessa looked like Alice down the rabbit hole.  She was pale and stiff as a board.  She’d gone for a wallet and fumbled it.  The old guy turned and saw his wallet on the floor at his feet.  If she caved and tears fell, she’d confess and it would all be over.

I scooped up the wallet, held it out to him and put my arm around Vanessa.

“This must be yours, sir,” I batted my eyes and did my sweetest, friendliest smile, “Vanessa is such a talented artist.  She’s always dreaming and not watching where she’s going.”

He took the wallet, a mixture of doubt and relief on his face.

***

“Fine,” Granny closed the safe and pressed the lever that moved the section of bookcase back in place, concealing the hidden safe.  She came across the Aubusson rug toward us, diamonds at her neck and ears glittering above her white ermine stole.

“I’ll give you more time to work with Vanessa,” she moved up the walnut circular staircase.

I squeezed Vanessa’s arm and smiled at her.

“But know this,” Granny turned at the top of the stairs to look at us, her eyes scathing, “I don’t need worthless orphans who can’t do their job.”

***

We couldn’t only work Granny’s rich society functions.  It brought in good hauls but it’d be too suspicious to just hit them, so Bryan and I worked the crowds at Grand Central, along Wall Street and the subways most afternoons.  We dressed for these gigs in jeans and t-shirts and could move in and out of the bustling corporate types and do pretty well, although not that many people carried cash these days.  Didn’t matter much.  Granny had contacts to move the iPhones and iPads, whatever we picked up.

It was my idea to set Vanessa up with an easel for her ink drawings.  She’d sit on a wall or bench, an art box at her feet and earn a few dollars while she drew.  Granny wasn’t thrilled, but at least Vanessa was worth something.  I knew Granny was cutting me some slack because I’d worked hard and earned her respect.  Even so, Vanessa’s failure to pick-pocket wouldn’t be tolerated much longer.  If all went well with my method, it wouldn’t matter.

I had my eye on a girl about Vanessa’s age that I’d seen several times.  She looked pretty rough.  Dirty clothes, hair not washed much, but her face was clean, she had a great smile and she moved liked lightning.  I started bringing an extra sandwich.  Granny penny-pinched on our food and we weren’t to spend any of our haul.  Bryan would grab a sandwich off a stall once in a while, but most of the vendors dished up what people wanted and it would cause too much attention to steal from them.

“Got an extra sandwich,” I moved up behind the dirty street girl just as she started to brush against a guy wearing a Rolex, “wanna take a break?”

***

It took several weeks of finding her daily and being friendly until she was comfortable.  Jasmine was her street name.  The way she said it, I was pretty sure she’d chosen it herself.

It didn’t take much to convince Bryan we could use another fast hand.  He liked the idea of keeping Granny happy and off our backs.  A happy Granny meant more perks for us.  We’d done well enough last year that Granny took a vacation in the Bahamas, where we picked-up another haul but also got to swim and deep-sea dive.

“How’d you like three squares, new clothes, a hot bath and your own room?”  I took a bite of sandwich and watched Jasmine’s face.

***

It was a risk bringing Jasmine back to the house.  I had to promise her part of my next day’s haul if it didn’t work out after she showed her haul to Granny.  But if Granny liked her, she’d trade sleeping on the street and the few bucks she was getting at pawn shops for a comfortable life.

I could tell Granny was impressed with Jasmine’s haul.  It was about the same as mine for the afternoon and more than Bryan’s.  Granny and Jasmine sized each other up.  Granny had her walk around the room while she asked her questions, mostly I think, to hear how Jasmine talked.  Without taking her eyes off Jasmine, Granny said,

“It will be up to you, Maggie, to see she is ready for the opera at the end of the month.”

I grinned at Jasmine.  “You’re in,” I whispered as we left Granny’s library and headed upstairs to show Jasmine her room.

I worked hard with Jasmine.  Mornings, how to talk and what to say in the ritzy crowd; making sure she knew how to get clean, do her hair and choose appropriate clothing; plus, intense tutoring in the school books, all the while telling her about the trips, the perks, the pay-off for doing it all well.  She was sharp and caught on fast.

Afternoons and the 5-7 pm rush hour, we were back on the streets.  Jasmine moved even faster and was less noticeable now that she was clean and had fresh clothes.  She flashed that big smile and people didn’t suspect a thing.  Granny’s wariness began to fade, though her eagle eye missed nothing.

We made it through the opera night without a hitch and an even bigger haul with Jasmine along.  Granny was pleased.  Her eye began to linger on Vanessa.  I knew what she was thinking.  She’d have to spend money on art training to get Vanessa’s skill to bring in a good return.  Was Vanessa’s talent worth the years, the effort and the money it would take?  If she decided no, then Vanessa would disappear.  I’d seen two other girls disappear over the years.  I never knew what happened to them.

It was time to put the next part of my method into action.

We hit the streets about 8 a.m. that Saturday.  Jasmine and Bryan moved off into the crowd.  Vanessa was about to set up on a bench when I took her arm and hurried her down the street.  A four block walk and we were at Penn Station.  I lifted a wallet off a woman and dug out enough cash to buy two tickets to Philadelphia.

“Where are we going?”  Vanessa asked as we found seats.  She hugged her art box to her chest and looked shaky.  The only times we left the City, we were in Granny’s limo.

“Do you trust me?”  I looked into her eyes.  She nodded.  I opened my book bag and showed her my wad of cash.  Her eyes got round as saucers.

“Granny is not going to like this,” she said.

“I’ve been putting a few dollars away every day for a long time.”  I closed the book bag and wrapped my arms around it, just like any other student on the train.  “Granny’s not the only one who has hiding places.”

“You were four and I was eight when they separated us and sent us to different children’s homes,” I reached for her hand.  “It took me over a year to find you using Granny’s contacts.  I’m not going to lose you now.”

She looked puzzled.

“You’re my sister, Iris,” my voice went gruff over the frog in my throat, “and no one is going to keep us apart again.”

“Iris.  No one’s called me by my middle name since my Mama died.”  She stared at me.  “I had a sister.  Mags.”

“You have a sister, Iris.  I’m Mags.  Maggie.”

Her eyes got round again and, as I knew they would, tears came.  We reached for each other and held on tight.

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We don’t live in paradise….

The sounds coming from the bathroom are not pretty.                   Chugging splats                       bubble,

image source:Bing images

image source:Bing images

plink.
Groan, spray filtering.
The rustle
wait
bustle              wait.
Bemoan;
the whine is wallpapered, stiff and melting.
The smell, oh the smell.
Bemused gave off the bewildering.
Resolve flushed.
Can’t.  No, can’t.

Mother, with great sighs, slowly makes her way into her bedroom and shuts the door.  In my bedroom, pale light filters through the wood blinds on donkey my window.  Gentle, not too bright ribbon.

I lie on the bed, under blue weed covers.  I was sleeping but now that’s gone.  My brain buzzes.  Fine.  So don’t do it.  It’s her decision.  The can’t lets the air out of the balloon to a slow relaxation for her but now I’m wound up.

image source:google images

image source:google images

What’s next?  What to do after that can’t?  Her stress floated down the hall and settled on me.  Too much to think about.  Too much to query to God.  I need some wisdom here, because this impasse is looming large on the horizon, if you get my drift.

The house has gone quiet.  My black sleeping mask is in my hand instead of on my face.  All is still.  Except the racing thought trails of my mind, up over mountains of possibilities down into ditches of nasty consequences of seemingly innocent choices.  It’s all food, right?  What’s the big harm here?  Well, that is the question, isn’t it?

image source:Bing images

image source:Bing images

Pick your poison, Ma’am.  Step right up into the parlor of innocent nutrients.  FDA approved, so what could possibly be harmful?  It’s the amazing machine of the intricate mysterious inner workings of the human body.  Absorb this.  Slough off that.  Change, swish, chug, mutilate, smash, transform, squash, mutate, evolve, utilize, reject and package into that passenger train of garbage that came in and is now garbage headed out.

I know what I’d do if it were me.  Identify the perpetrators and stop giving them admittance.  Mother can’t seem to understand that concept.  It’s food.  It’s her favorite foods.  How could they possibly be causing these difficulties, these distresses?

There’s a straight line connection, but she can’t see it.  What a relief it would be if that connection didn’t exist.  I’d take that world.

image source:Bing images

image source:Bing images

Imagine what it would be like if Adam and Eve hadn’t eaten that apple?  Hadn’t decided they wanted the job of god in their lives?  Everything was perfect before that, so we’re told.  It’s hard to imagine a world where there’d be no decay, no disease, no killing, no hatred, no suffering.

No acid reflux, no food sensitivities, no teeth that break off and require oral surgery.  Sounds like paradise, to me.

Oh well, reality beckons.  We don’t live in paradise.

I don’t know what to do for her, God.  At least you know the body you made and just ‘cause bodies get faulty, you don’t.  My stress ebbs away and I sleep again.  Cell phone vibration and ring-tone startle me awake.  I fish the phone out from under my pillow.  An 800 number.  Not answering that.

No point is lying here.  Might as well see if I can print up a list of foods that won’t aggravate Mother’s GERD.  Maybe she’ll react better to the CANs instead of the CAN’Ts.  Thanks, God.  That dozing helped.  I feel a little closer to paradise.  Amazing what rest can do.

Nuts

image source:Bing images

image source:Bing images

Crunch

cracks

and breaks the

nuts

That bounce in

further splinter,

hard frozen wholes to

Slivers and bites minuscule.

Exchange

from big Full

to tiny small.

I keep losing them, one at a time.  Oh not so many, just a few, you understand, but over the days and weeks and months, it could add up.  I drop one, it bounces out of sight into…Never-never land?  Yesterday, I leaned over the desk chasing the end of a computer power cord and there, on the painted hardwoods, between the edge of the Persian rug wannabe and the tall baseboards, there they were.  Nuts.  Some whole, some ground to bits.  A mouse could live royally behind my desk.

Chartreuse and Blood

image source: Bing images

image source: Bing images

Violins quiver, bows strike, pull, push, strings pulsate to the beat of the harpsichord’s twang.  Shadows dance round and round, through the center, along the perimeter, hoop skirts flounce, tails sail, the light shimmers between the folds of the curtains, around the length of the arms that encircle one another in the proper mating dance.  The pace quickens, the dancers pin ball across the room; my watching mind and eyes driven by the whirling dervish of non-stop violin and harpsichord, all treble clef sixteenth notes.

Ah, the musicians have moved on to flute, violin and harpsichord.  Lovely.  And some eighth notes.

Thank goodness.  The pace on the first piece was non-stop into drivel, pounding away at the ears, pounding away at the brain, pounding away at the muscles, pounding away into foot tapping, pounding away into pulses that fire the fingers into hard pounding, pounding away on all the wrong keys.

Violin answers violin, violin dances in partnership with violin, flute leads violin, violins join to follow, they sway from treble clef to bass clef and the ears are happy to have some deeper sound, if you get my drift.  All those high notes can get to you after a while, right?  Add some bass and basso profondo and give the ears a break, why don’tcha?

The light trilling of the high flute is airy and dainty, skipping across meadows searching for a perch, while the contra-alto flute is sorrow and depth and longing and hunger fed by its miseries, its moves more ponderous; its expressions richer.  Together they plumb the heights and depths of emotions buried yet cascading to the surface in an upward belch of beauty.

My eyes are drawn to the inner door opening.  An overweight woman comes through the doorway, makes her way stiffly to the outside door, opens the door and leaves.

The spell is broken.  I pull out my ear-buds and lose Bach and the orchestra.

image source:Bing images

image source:Bing images

The ballroom with its dancers is replaced with this waiting room, old asbestos twelve-inch, off-white floor tiles polished to a bright shine, plastic molded chairs in chartreuse with a slight dip to the seat and curve to the back, in the same shade of chartreuse as the freshly painted walls contrasting to the white counters and paperwork.  Unusual to be in a waiting room where there are only two décor colors.  No framed pictures of flowers or meadows or mountains.  The only things on the walls are the posters touting the benefits of regular doctor care and employer minimum wage requirements.  They’re white with black print readable only up close.  From a distance, they make their own type wall decoration.  I’ve noticed of late that many doctors’ offices have no magazines, in fact, no reading material at all, in their waiting rooms.  Good thing I brought my iPod for listening.

I put the ear-buds back in and Bach returns.  I close my eyes and instead of ballrooms and dancers, I see the reason people are here, the reason people disappear into the inner door, the reason the nurses go through paperwork and the reason they call people’s names and the reason for all the chartreuse and white.

image source:Bing

image source:Bing

It’s to camouflage the red that flows behind that inner door; the red that’s collected through sharps into small vials with rubber stoppers, the red that will be centrifuged, the red that will be shipped and messengered, the red that could result in bad news, and tears, and fear, and dread; the red that could result in no news because no news is good news, right?

The harpsichord and violin soar and the red flies upward, painting the chartreuse with dots, with streams, with puddles, with cascades, with spurts, with fountains.  It bounces with each note, settles in the rests, spins with the flute, sprays on the crescendo and with the retard of the last bar, coalesces back into the vials and pulls on the rubber stopper hats.

“Ready to go?”

My eyes open.  My friend is standing in front of me, a wad of cotton under a piece of tape on the inside crook of her arm so that no more of her red escapes.  I’m only here as designated driver.  My red is safe.  I’m happy to exit the chartreuse and white, to leave the collected red behind.  I know one day I’ll have to give up my red, but not today.  Today, I escape.

Carry on……

image source:google images

image source:google images

The cuckoo clock ticks.  The floors creak with the slow movement of the elderly woman traversing the length of the living room and the dining room, cane maneuvered by one hand, the other hand holding the day’s newspaper, just retrieved from the front step.

Great hall height     BUMBLING                  forward                inside all the way              to cake breakfast            before        drop         eyelids               into    the deep.         Being      of course,         is perfectly soluble          fight and fought             fraught?               Bought for naught? While I              DANCE                tripp ingly                        two sides                                              that’s                       understood,
or                                   should be,

if you get my drift.   I read just the other day, somewhere, or maybe I heard it?  Well, I won’t bore you with the how or the why, but you follow what I’m saying.

It was like, the time comes when the young take up the cause left behind by the old.  Something close to that.  Oh, maybe, the time comes when the old give up their cause to the young.  Yeah, I think that’s was it.  The time comes when the old give up their cause to the young.

Souls fly higher daily, skin thinned into translucence; some march straight ahead to the edge of the cliff and step out into air; some slow until inert stasis is the wall paper of their last days; some push against dread and fear; some laugh and joy in the legacy they’ve built; some writhe deep in pain and suffer the sloughing of the dying flesh; some faces light with the promise of more life to come; some pull the trigger in search of false relief.

I hear Mother coming; her cane clunking.  My mind flies to memories treasured.  I hover, chose and settle in to enjoy.

“Decaf?”  The waitress sets a glass of water and a napkin wrapped knife, fork and spoon on the table.

Crile R Dean

Crile R Dean

His solid but not overweight figure sits tall against the back of the booth, his hair white, every hair combed into place;  his eyes bright, a smile on his face, his cream colored, short sleeved, button-up shirt and brown slacks, not new but clean; his walking shoes a little scuffed.

The diner is clean, if well worn.  Much used faded counters nicked and scarred, brown booth seats with a sag here and there, wood chair legs nicked, metal table stands marked where decades of shoes kicked or rested.  Some faint muzac plays overhead.  People chat, waitresses weave in and out of the tables, arms laden; people eat.  It is a little cooler in the middle of the room and warmer in the booths against the east windows, their shades angled to keep the sun out of the eyes of patrons.

He isn’t cold.  His morning three mile walk has warmed him and built his appetite.

“No decaf, high octane,” he hands a menu back to the waitress, “bring me the Grand Slam; eggs fried.  Bacon and sausage.”

“Syrup or jelly for the pancakes?”  She writes on her order pad.

“Both.  And toast.  Add toast.”  He smiles again.

In my mind I walk into that diner and sit across from him.  His eyes light with love and joy at seeing me.  I hand him a wrapped box with a bow and a tag, Happy Eight-Eighth Birthday, Daddy.  His grin is awkward.

“You didn’t need to do this,” he pulls off the bow and peels off the paper.

I smile at the memory of his strength, his stamina, his love for life, his drive to make a difference in his world, his sharp grasp of things political, sociological and spiritual.  His ability to still lift the hedge trimmer and the edger and to navigate the lawn mower.  His confidence that still sent him onto the garage roof to trim a dead plum tree limb and God’s grace that urged him safely back to the ground just minutes before a 4.2 on the Richter scale hit.  He was fearless and bold.  Even at eighty-eight.  Mother called it reckless and foolish.

I hang on to the scenes of his life, vitality and joy.  They weren’t our last scenes.  Those were hospice and changing diapers and giving morphine and a skeleton pushing through translucent, whisper weight skin.  I skim past those and hang on to a truth.  Those last days were just the cocoon breaking open, setting his soul free.

I miss him.  I ache.  I cry.  I smile at his silly sense of humor.  I breathe in the certainly he’s there waiting for me; in eternity with the Creator.

Mother has made it at last to the kitchen.  I turn to her,

“Morning, Mother,” I smile.  Daddy and Mother were like night and day together.  Being here with her and remembering him, I see the differences no longer matter.  Daddy lived his beliefs and then he gave up his cause to the young.  Mother is nearly there.

My journey continues.  I have a choice.  I begrudge the time I no longer have with Daddy.  I get irritated at the task of being with Mother.  I watch any brighter, bigger purpose and meaning shrivel up while I trudge through the mundane.  I feel myself drowning.

image source:blingee

image source:blingee

I reach for a lifeline and I’m pulled up to keep walking, to take the steps onward.  I take heart from Daddy’s life.  I slough off the dread, the weight of unfulfilled expectations.  I let go of the hurts, imagined or real.  I remember the love, I remember the promise of eternity.  I believe.  I carry my cause, forged in the smelt of their influence, with honor.  I’ll keep on, until it’s my turn to leave a cause for the young to carry.

Choose

humingbird

image:birdsandblooms

The heart of the hummingbird beats so fast, his entire body quivers.  He is mostly on the move, flitting here and there, balancing mid-air to dip his long beak into the flower decorated feeder hole in the hummingbird feeder.  I’ve watched him through the dirty window behind the desk as he flits from place to place.  He is such a delicate creature, yet he perseveres, he continues his flight, his quivering quest for sustenance.  He survives.

Mother comes to mind; her essential tremor that keeps her head moving in tiny jerks; her fragility when she doesn’t feel well.  The effort it takes when she has to be out early to get to the dentist.  Where there are two flights of stairs to climb to get to the office door.

“Do you want to go up the stairs,” I ask as we pull into the parking lot, “or shall I drive the length of the building, we’ll take the elevator and walk all the way back to here?”

I look over at her in the passenger seat next to me.  She’s nicely dressed in green slacks and a flowered blouse under a white cardigan sweater.  Her slightly graying hair is combed and sprayed.  You wouldn’t know to look at her how difficult it was for her to push herself to get out of the house.

The day is a beautiful seventy-six degrees, blue skies, a nice breeze.  The talk radio host expounds about things worth pushing towards, in his mind at least.

“We’d better take the stairs,” Mother says as she pulls off her sunglasses, “I’d rather be early than late.”

She’s such                  A                  trouper
She                 keeps pushing                       ahead, whether                          she feels well or not.
She
is pushing ahead to
haveThreeTeeth                 PULLED
and                three teeth ADDED           to her partial                      so
that she can eat easily.                 I leave                 the choice to her.  Would         I             PUSH            if I                 were eighty-six    and     in               PAIN                                  from                         a CROOKED back?

I push now to do all the right things for my health.  I push now as I could live another 25-30 years; I push now to make those years easier.  I push now because I hope.  I push now against aging; I push now against loss of ability, against sagging, against creepy lines.  I push as if I think I could really halt or slow the processes of time.  I fool myself.  I am a fool.  Am I a fool?

image:communitycaringcouncil

image:communitycaringcouncil

Mother and I start the climb up the stairs.  Her footed cane takes the first step.  She grasps the railing with her right hand, her left directing that cane lest it teeter against one of the pebbles in the aggregate stone steps.  The free-floating steps undulate and sway in the breeze, the pebbles bubble; I grasp her left arm and lift, trying to not leave a bruise.  She’s moving too fast.  She’s jerky as she hurries.  The footed cane bumps half on, half off the step.

“Nice and slow,” I take the next step with the cane, “take your time.”

She breathes out a sigh, slows, and carefully places the cane, then she and I together pull her up.  We lift off and huff and puff through each step until we’ve reached the top of Mt. Everest.

Going back down, the pictures in my head are not pretty.  The view down the top side of Mt. Everest is long and steep.  One misstep and she’ll be Humpty-Dumptied.  How will I explain that to her other children?  We descend ok, but I can’t get the eerie wariness out of my head.

Later, I close my eyes to doze and see bleak days filled with sponge baths, wheelchairs, bed-fast summer, winter, spring and fall and utter dependence.  My head screams, “I DON’T WANT TO BE HERE.”  I twist and turn in my worry.

“STOP IT.”  I sternly speak into my nightmare and wake myself.  It’s one step at a time, Victoria, one step at a time.  That’s what that shepherd boy knew, in the black of night, out on those lonely, cold hills, thousands of years ago.  He knew it was a step at a time.  And, he knew he didn’t take those steps alone.

“Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death,
I will fear no evil, for you are with me, your rod and your staff, they comfort me.”

He made a choice.

I will make a choice.  I choose life.  I choose to push.  I choose to take the next step.  I choose to trust.  I choose not to fear.  I choose not to walk alone.

Trailing clouds of glory…

image source:google images

image source:google images

Seventy-five degrees, blue skies, birds twittering their songs in the trees with leaves swaying in the breeze, it’s a perfect Southern California fall day.

I go out and put water in the flower petal shaped birdbath for Mother since she hasn’t been feeling well.  She loves being outside, keeping the bird bath clean and filled with fresh water, but she’s out less and less these days.  Anyway, I add fresh water to it, right?  And above me, somewhere in the long, leafy branches of the apricot tree, a bird starts putting up a racket.  And I do mean racket, if you get my drift.

It’s a funny sound for a medium sized bird with red on the top of the head, a white throat, gray chest and black wings.

“Quack.  Quack.  Quack.”  Or if you prefer, Wikipedia says, “waaka, waaka, waaka.”  Sounds like “quack” to me.

I come back inside and the silly bird gets louder and louder.  The next time I look there are three of them at the bird bath.  Acorn Woodpeckers, so Mother says.

“Do you think that bird called his family to tell them there’s water in the birdbath?”  I ask.

Mother makes her way over to the kitchen window, her cane clunking right along with the quacking outside the open window.  Plunk, quack.  Plunk, quack.  Plunk, quack.

“Maybe so,” Mother says, “I’ve seen four of them at the birdbath, and two are young ones.”

They fly before long but the yard, which had been quiet until I turned on the water, is now filled with Sparrows and Finches poking around in the grass and there’s a busy squirrel moving up and down the fat, old trunk of the Apricot.

The quiet and the still has been replaced with chitter-chatter and an infinitesimal undulation of teeming life.  Bees and Hummingbirds vie for the prominent spot at the feeder; flies flit, butterflies dip and sway, ants march along the path, spiders swing on invisible threads and over the fence, the neighbor’s dog yaps.

Sunday afternoons have always meant no pressure to accomplish anything of significance and so I sit on the wooden bench rocker with the sun warming the top of my head and my skin.  The birds were startled when I came out, but the longer I sit still all the movement in the yard, trees and bushes returns.  I’m drowsy in the sun.  A kite floats overhead, its tail trailing just above the fence.  I reach up and catch the tip and am aloft.  As I look down, our patch of green shrinks until it’s just a tiny dot in the middle of the curvature of the horizon.

I see now how infinitesimal my grasp on life has been.  How small my dreams that only lived among the known heights and depths of what I could see and touch and hear and taste.  This blue ball in the swirling black expanse studded with twinkling dots is but a speck in all the universes that stretch to infinity and on and on.

I must go higher.  I urge to go higher but I am impotent as my balloon has no inertial dampeners, no life support, no sublight engines.

I lose height.  I float downward; the dots of green, the dark of mountains, the blue of the ocean, the black of its buried depths rush towards me; the tip of skyscrapers fly past and become giants once again.  I recognize the Apricot branches and aim for the back yard rocker where this trip started.

I’ve seen the heights, so what will change?  What will I believe?  What will drive me on through each day now that I know the truth?  Will I be satisfied again with being comfortable when someone else needs food or clothing or comfort?

No.  I cannot be happy with just getting by when unknown possibilities are there for the nurturing.  I cannot be buried with the stress of the temporariness of an aging body, a dying world.  I cannot allow the stresses and concerns of the tangible consume all my time and effort.  My thoughts flit back to the vastness of space and time.  There’s more; there’s a universe more; seek it, reach for it.  I find myself agreeing with Wordsworth,

“Our birth is but a sleep and a forgetting:
The Soul that rises with us, our life’s Star,
Hath had elsewhere its setting,
And cometh from afar:
Not in entire forgetfulness,
And not in utter nakedness,
But trailing clouds of glory
Do we come From God, who is our home:”