Thursday, August 28, 2008

FIELD NOTES: The pineapple sage is closed down like an umbrella...

“Sick” Day, through the window

...due to my unintentional neglect. I called in sick to work because I feel similarly. I rinse the breakfast dishes in the sink and wonder, what now, has blown into the backyard. Sometimes it feels as if I am deliberately placed downwind from the debris of others. But not today, it is not a bright pink candy wrapper, but a lone impatiens blooming in the middle of the lawn! Last summer the deer availed themselves of my hanging baskets as if they were salad bowls and now perhaps they have brought back one of the flowers (albeit with less than delicate means) as a peace offering. I am reminded of my father's wit in the story he liked to curb my wishing moods with, the one about the little girl who wanted a pony and all she got was manure, but her optimism was so great that she declared "Oh goody, goody! I almost got a horse!" How lucky I am today to have gotten a flower. Thanks, Dad.

Monday, August 18, 2008

FIELD NOTES: There are dolls on the side of the road...

Through the window, 84 West to New York City

...little plastic arms and legs, some with pieces of dolly clothing. The happy yellow-pink-teal of playthings streaming past my driver’s side window refresh my anxiety. I wonder if traveling before me there is a sad small face or a large angry one on the road ahead. How do significant belongings ever get to the side of the road: accident, carelessness, over-indulgence, domestic violence, anger, reaction, revenge, crime, punishment? I am a country-road girl and it does not seem real, this driving to the City to see my 23-year-old son in the ICU after emergency open-heart surgery. The strange image of dollies on the side of the road comes along like a random poke in the stomach and I can't explain why I feel sympathy for the child who lost a suitcase of toys except for the idea that perhaps my own child's anxiety has a great deal of company in the universe...both big and small.

Friday, August 8, 2008

FIELD NOTES: Death came with humor...

Through the (car) window

...when I drove out of the neighborhood this morning. Transporting my oldest son to yet another doctor’s appointment, the inside of our car was filled with an air of concern, yet a hint of resolution with the sun shining and the radio tuned to NPR for edification. We were interrupted by a coffee klatch of mourning doves congregating on the road. As the flock reluctantly dispersed in slow motion, one bird still sat in the middle of the pavement as if he assumed that no one would have the audacity to run him over. I assumed that no creature capable of flying would procrastinate himself to death. Continuing to talk while automatically glancing in the rear view mirror, I saw feathers pouf up into the air like a pillow bursting open...and a laugh came out like a cannon ball...its black humor surprising me.

Sunday, August 3, 2008

FIELD NOTES: Freedom came not from learning to ride my bike, but from leaving...

August afternoon yard and driving on the mother-forbidden street! At Harrybrooke today there are lucky children, lucky because they have parents who brought them here. A toddler boy jogs alongside his stroller. The preschool teacher in me smiles when I hear the dad ask his boy to count the Canada geese. Although liberated from his stroller, he was not liberated from his parents’ fears: “Don’t go so fast, that’s how you fell last time. Slow down, slow down! That’s how you fell! Don’t go near the geese. Geese are very, very mean. They will bite you!” A helmeted elementary-aged boy learning to ride a two-wheeler is cheered on by his parents until he tumbles in the pathway. As I approach from behind in my power walk, I prepare to root for the boy myself and tell him to keep it up, but Dad is sputtering next to Mom: “Don’t stop pedaling! Come on, pedal, pedal…aw, not again! Don’t stop pedaling! (sigh) He KNOWS how to do it!” I close my mouth not wanting to go into the fray of family frustration. Instead, I notice how the cattails have evolved into their coveted state, brown and velvety and oblong, the frankfurters-on-a-stick of nature and how the voice of Harrybrooke has deepened from the soprano of spring peepers to the bass of bullfrogs. So will the voices of the young boys I notice today. It’s true that geese can bite and boys often don’t learn their lessons as fast as we’d like, but the streets of nature have often taught me to stand back and watch with my hands behind my back. Some things...water, wind, storms, weeds...will take their own courses anyway. And it is I that needs to find freedom in this loss of control. (Sigh)

FIELD NOTES: Ill-will came upon me like a sneeze...

First weekend of August, 2008 rite of ownership reacting to a perceived irritation and briefly closing my eyes to the rite of nature. The mower rolled up the bank by the side of the driveway and I let it roll back over a small gray movement. I had once seen my father stomp on a mole that had percolated up from the earth where we were extracting some woody overgrown yews. My mother and I had winced and screamed while my father asked if I liked the mole tunnels heaving up my lawn. Well, no, but I didn’t have the World War II navy training that conditioned my dad to weigh in a split-second the future consequences of his current actions. So with that in the back of my mind, I now let the mower roll back over the small gray movement. I had once accidentally mowed over a garter snake with bad timing, the result being instantly fatal and not at all pretty, so it surprised me that I would now seek out such an act. In horror I saw the small gray movement was not a mole at all, but a good little toad, eater of garden insects and the sign of a healthy habitat. I peered over the side of the mower as I saw him hopping away and tried to count his little limbs and fingers and toes. He appeared to have them all! I was grateful that I keep the mower blades high because I don’t believe in stressing the lawn with buzz cuts and I was relieved that the most damage I had done that day was to scare the heck out of a toad…and probably make him a little deaf.