Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Toward the River

What is it that we can become
Allowing ourselves the long hours
Of the years?...

How small and sweet I was. At 10, a true maple leaf with feet and a tousle of blonde curls. Going to school was just a stayover. I would soon begin to shake my head at the madness of the world, but for now things made sense, and everything you needed to know could be found in a long walk in the woods toward the river.

My imagination could not have been legally separated from the fantastic, simple universe of nature. In private I always wondered why such a big deal was made out of leaving one to enter the other. To me each was merely an extension into a complimentary realm. Inside my most shadowed scenarios and personal fairy tales lay a dimension green with gold, where trees were to be felled or climbed, and bodies of water were sensual without being sexy. That was enough for the man inside waiting to be born. In turn -- a trek down familiar paths, past charmed stones initialed with secrets and following a small brook that emptied its fill daily into the mighty Mississippi. This pilgrimage was a regular one, but by no means common. It was an active meditation of movement within the cloister of the wood. With a grin I would navigate my thoughts, my distant and strange dreams, with a respect the forest deserved, a joy-filled reverence for the infrastructure of Eden. Looking back I realize that here the young heart was as it is modeled in Heaven. Love here is the kind that does not fade. Hope is made of something for which we have not yet created a word. This place is a takeoff ramp. It is a wondrous world in which to mold the things that sustain you for the rest of your life. It is unnatural anywhere to remain in the womb. If we are fortunate, we receive here the vitamins needed, absorbing the deep, invisible love of the mother, vital to our emergence into the harsher air as man and woman.

At 41 I have come so far from that dreamtime, only to feel the road begin to wend and the air start to arc back while still emptying out in the future. The path of life is not circular, as the adage goes, but spiral, placing us regularly on the same axis but on another plane. I have come to believe this is so we may repeatedly regard the pivotal moments in our lives from multiple perspectives.

Should we succeed in this, we may just piece together enough to understand the whole of our journeys and laugh as we each make our own way toward the river.

Monday, August 3, 2009

Flesh Out

Her hips navigated the crowded formica deftly, banking high at the turn and counter-balanced by three or more bowls of the vicious-looking stew they served. Rare brisket floating face down in the deep end of something eternally referred to as "the special." The rest he could handle, double-barreled egg rolls steaming atop rice noodles, green onions and cilantro.

His eyes held her a little longer than usual in his sleepy gaze, giving anyone watching a hint as to his next pleasant dream. A regular who ate everything on the menu with a fork, he'd awkwardly strike up conversation with Gina whenever possible. She'd learned his preference for S151 over S150 and why. She'd heard bits of his life story between the holy basil and the fortune cookie. The fact was she felt she had probably gleaned more about him in the last six months than his own mother knew about her boy now. She feels him watching her even when she is preparing the Cafe Sua Da behind the counter, her ego waffling between flattered and disturbed.

He'd spend countless meals downing Asian Fusion and working out why her lower back hides behind what will eventually turn out to be a Rohrschak dragon. At $7.25 a pop he gleans everything he can about her. He'll use up all the rules he ever learned in bars from Frogtown to Uptown, from the failed parties that never stood a chance; and not once will he see that here a whole different set were in play. It's like war. Each side throwing down not the best card, but the next one, either to be taken prisoner or to prove that the value of what you have is wrapped up somewhere between chance and timing.

With her it wasn't so linear. With Gina it was a complex network of connections, visible and opaque, which branch out and double over like the family tree hand-drawn in her uncle's room. Rules of clan and color-schemed bloodlines. Infinite walls to keep the in in and deviations of body logic outside, out in the world better left to its own.