Sometimes I park on the street behind my office. The ancient church that spans the block beside us clangs the hours as they pass, stained glass vibrating with the resonance of time. There is a sidewalk there that I traverse; concrete and nature collide beneath oak and maple boughs.
Today was filled with rain. Skies grey and damp sluiced the world with autumn's wet embrace. Have you seen the shadows yet? Ghosted leaves along the cement, the tannins of life leached out as decay breaks down the cellular walls that gave summer its emerald hue. The essence of fall bleeds for a time, leaf stains that paint the world in shades of bronze and rust.
I wonder, as life is both light and simultaneously dark...am I the same?
The glow of youth glimmers in jade and sage that slowly burns into amber scarlet flames. Months pass and summer wans and ochre shadows now lay along the stony walk. Eventually they will be washed away by the heavens, sifting to soil and sand...the remnant becoming the seed of next year.
Morning light burns the lingering mist from the trees as my
company van trundles over rickety brick streets, thumping to a stop at the
light. The red disk glows with a thin
damp halo, summer’s humidity already dragging hazy fingers across the cobalt
sky.Spinning tires hum over grey
pavement, weaving through the meandering pulse of the radio and my mind wanders…
I’m headed to a client’s apartment. In her 50’s, she has
curly grey hair, twinkling childlike eyes, and no one. Her family abandoned her
to an institution decades ago and there is a staggering story of her mother
throwing her down the stairs when she was six, resulting in the brain damage
that altered the course of her everything.Years on the street, raped, transient, she has lived through a hurricane
life I shudder to think about.But
now?Now she has a small one bedroom
apartment in a building that used to be an elementary school.Wide hardwood doors and long hallways still
seem to echo with the voices of children when I’m there.She loves Elvis, he’s all over her walls.Every Monday I come; she waits for the
electric buzz of my finger on the button marked 104. I watch while she methodically fills her pillbox
and I double check, counting the pastel colored marbles that equal stability to
As I drive, I can see her smile in my mind and my lips curve
in response.We’ll make a list of fresh
veges and fruit and I will run her to the corner market and help carry her
cherished mushrooms and sweet tea inside.I will wish her a lovely afternoon and she’ll thank me and hold the door
open heartbeats longer than necessary to watch me leave.I will wave and promise to come back
Wednesday.Then more pavement and
another buzzer and another pill box.
All of this quite seriously changes the fabric, the weave of
another life.It is good.Right and strong and…good.
As I drive my eyes trace the telephone poles connected by
waves of black wire, a strange aerial sea that swoops and dips up over the
hill.There is a sense of wrong so thick
within my car I nearly choke.My throat
closes, muscles spasm and my hands clench the wheel, white knuckles rigid knobs
of bone and flesh.
In a world that spills out entirely too many movies that
have themes of “she felt out of place, like she was missing her calling, until….”Am I caught up in such a delusion, such
selfishness?That while in the very
midst of doing so much right – it feels
so wrong?I feel out of place, like I’ve
crammed a literal square peg into a round hole, shaving off the corners; a pulp
of sinew and mangled skin left behind.
My co-workers are wonderful, my boss is funny and
compassionate. And I am writing nothing.I have oceans inside…instead I drive and smile and help and hug and
drive and count and smile and drive…
I am doing such good.But sometimes the weight, the palpable taste of what I am not doing is
thick and heavy inside my mouth.It
coats my hair and drips into my dreams at night, reeking like tar and
sadness.This wrongness…how can it
be so dense in the midst of such right?
It's strange to become a creature of steel and glass. I've spent months inside windows and siding, panels of wood or plastic or stone. I guide. I encourage and help and persuade. At the end of the day I plainly ache for the feel of sun on my skin as a man thirsts for water itself. I return home - love and welcome and it's worth it....
But after the boys shower, I step in. Above the sluice of the water, I can hear their teenage prattle and laughter down the hall as I wash the day away. The dust and depression of lives lived entirely too alone; it saddens me, chagrins me. The soap slides down the drain....and the sky outside the window splinters.
I've never been able to resist the siren call of a thunder storm. I've now tucked the boys in and find myself sitting, wet hair and nightgown, on the back porch in the dark. I sit at the very edge, warm rain soaks my calves and drips off my toes. The scent of spring redolent in the saturated air. The wind surges and I can almost feel the caress of the rain sliding down the blackened bark of the huge tree in the rear of the yard. Undulating and curving over the knobs and divots like a lover's wet touch...
The house is still behind me. The trees have become fingers of ink against a charcoal sky. Dawn will arrive all too early and yet still I linger. Spring is a lover supreme, is she not? She seduces with promise and teases with the fragrance of lilacs and loam...
It's been so long I'm sure I've fallen off many reading lists, but this is not entirely by chance....you see, I've begun to lose myself. The coherence of my voice has faded, my selfhood feels unraveled, my identity threadbare and fraying about the edges.
The delusion of youth is that life is a quest that leads to some grand epiphany of self-discovery. A moment of clarity, long sought after when the "aha" of recognition floods the senses. Limbs tingle, tiny hairs stand on end, and a river of peace surrounds your soul. "This is who I am."
And then life fucks with you.
You see, there is no constant. The you looking back from the mirror when you're 22 is such a different creature than the you holding the 8lb wonder of breath in your arms a decade and a half later. You, the heart and soul, the collection of scars and stars that sails the ocean of experiences, weathering the storms, beaching for a moonlit bonfire to dance and sing--and then off again only too find oneself on the edge of the Bermuda Triangle. This you is a thing of reaction and response and flux. The dancing construct of you no longer applies when the hurricane hits. After divorce. After terror and loss. The waves of the world change you. Whittle and shape and mold you....the joys that paint the universe with sunlight. The agony that dims the shadows beyond black.
Defining ourselves, learning ourselves....distilling? We all know a guy who claims to be an athlete but hasn't touched a ball since college. The musician who doesn't even own a guitar. Is there an expiration date to delineation? A margin of error for a resume? If paint is required to be a painter...
I'm a social worker now. I spend my days helping disadvantaged, sometimes damaged souls learn to live independently in an often hostile world. This is good. This is right and what is needed and I'm rather good at it......
...and I am missing me.
Shit, so selfish that sounds. I drive between clients, the virgin rain of spring dragging lazy fingers across the windshield, my mind a tumult of canvas and pigment and brush strokes that will never occur. I haven't touched a paintbrush in months. My studio is cold and dark and my days are filled with the frantic exhaustion of forty hours of caregiving, on top of three teenage boys and a husband who needs understanding and love now more than ever. I'm wiping tears as I type this, smearing them away with the back of my hand as I take deep breaths and pray the boys wont come upstairs until I can spill this out and pull myself back together again.
Rather ironic that just when my website was finished, the number of completed works froze; an unmeltable block in the midst of season's change. You can see my work here and should you be interested in one, call me quick as they may be the last. How morbid I sound. I know there is no absolute, the future is unwritten--dear Lord, I know that better than most, but I cannot seem to find the strength to balance these me's. I fear one is replacing the other.