Sunday, September 8, 2013

Stepping in Time.

“Mom … I GOT ONE!”

More than a little frustration passes across my son’s face as my daughter, his younger sister, claims victory. But as his eyes connect with mine I see it is in eyes.

Thank god.

I’ve been late for work, turning around to pick up forgotten laptops and stacks of carefully edited papers. Yesterday I got as far as the freeway only to turn around for my purse. I’ve had to race home to track down left-behind lunch bags and close doors left open. Like a wax museum antiquity, my carefully applied makeup has melted into my pores and my carefully polished peep toes have sunk between the crushed quartz into the red clay beneath.

I’ve sacrificed my favorite lace skirt.

My childhood is filled with wild and wonderful memories. Tiny warblers and plovers that wandered into my oven-grill-and-stick-and-string trap. Catching Arctic lemmings that burrowed perfectly rounded tunnels in long yellowed grass and snow drifts. Bottle-fed porcupines and horses named Lightning. Skunks named Florabelle and great-horned owls that returned when daylight vanished to land silently and beautifully on my father’s outstretched arm.

Rows of sled dogs and hamsters underneath my mother’s sink. Lizards and salamanders and garden snakes and budgies and angel fish. A hamster in the freezer in constipated petrification. Goldfish on the window sill like the Arctic char hung on wooden racks to dry in the midnight sun. Herds of muskox and caribou thundering across the tundra and nets filled with outsized Arctic char and rainbow trout, their fleshy meat our winter harvest. Racing to the top of the bluffs to watch milky white belugas play in the frigid ocean below. Snowy white owls and ptarmigan blanketing the hills while Arctic hare sit motionless against the snowy rocks. Polar bear paw prints in the snow outside.

Live maggots as carry-on luggage.

My father is like having your own personal science and social studies lab. He knows six languages, has traveled the world and his gun fed our family for my entire childhood while the rest of our food arrived in cans via barge once a year when the ice broke. His ability to tell tales is single handedly the reason that I am not able to put a body in the ground for eternal rest. Hours after school spent with words ensured that I was able to pull off an obscene reading, vocabulary and comprehension benchmark in high school that paved my path forward and the fruits of his hunts were hands-on lessons in anatomy and the razor thin line between life and death. He took us up the Golden Highway and down Pacific Coast and his love of history and the world and wildlife around him transferred to his children.

For three solid weeks, we have started our mornings with a sweaty and uncomfortable hunt in our front yard. All because my father, the man that introduced a little girl to the wonders of nature, decided that his grandchildren should have their own “out of the box” experience. Except that it was a much more manageable and enjoyable experience when I didn’t have to fit ant hunting into our daily routine. And unlike the ants in my parents’ yard, the ants in Stepford apparently do not like jam. 

Or honey. Or chocolate. Or cookies. 

They do, however, like Burt’s Bees Peppermint Foot Lotion.

Monday, September 2, 2013

Reading the Leaves.

There’s something in the air this morning.

Like a stain in my memory, the sunlight streams through the windows to soak the stillness of the house. The steam of my tea rises soundlessly, my breathing a wordless collision with the silence.

This is what life used to be like. What it could be again.

Summer is fading and a hint of fall has returned to the mornings, bringing with it the stressors of a busy life. While thoughts return to ice rinks and football fields, pumpkin spice lattes and falling leaves, goblins and ghouls, the familiar pain that lingers within is resurfacing. Our nerves are fraying and the angry words and the tears that we fight to keep in check come quicker. And months of frustration over the unbridled mess of broken dreams and unfulfilled wishes and unmet promises have spilled over on this long and lonely long weekend.

For years fall has swirled around me, the leaves of decay and grief and regret and loneliness and frustration piling one upon another until defiance breaks through to scatter them again.

Each year has dulled the pain, but on the eve of our fifth the edges have sharpened.

Perhaps it is the accumulation of things no longer needed and wanted that set me on edge when I open the garage door. Perhaps it is the cyclical breakage – irrigation system, refrigerator filters, water heaters, air conditioners, irrigation system, pool motor, floor cleaner, garbage disposal, car battery, floodlights, electrical outlets, broken tiles, unpinned carpet, shower heads, picture frames, dryer hose, leaking toilets, broken faucets, television, phone, computer, backpacks, shoes, glasses – that has plagued my existence ever since. Perhaps it is the knowledge that I am trapped in this life with no freedom to think or to be unless I pay for an hour’s reprieve. Perhaps it is the women who believe that their singleness is equivalent to my widowed singleness without recognizing that it is not the same and never will be, just as my widowed singleness is not heirs. Perhaps it is that my biological clock is ticking because I am alone in the prime of my life.

Perhaps it is that I have had 19 days of solitude in the past 4 years, 10 months and 9 days.

My mind races through all the things unfinished and unspoken and fall looms like a suffocating blanket as much for its untimely milestones as for its unfinished business, and the long weekend has only served to make my anger simmer longer and deeper before life rushes back to distract me from what death has left behind. But for a few moments all of the anger is washed away in the quiet morning light.

Just long enough to watch the tea leaves stain the water.