From the kitchen window I watched the darkness swallow the evening, damp grey-green trees fading to glistening black silhouettes against the clouds that tumbled about the sky. There is something about summer rain...that sultry humidity that builds for hours like a lover's flirtation and then the rush of pounding release infused with the scent of freshly mowed grass, distant bonfires, and hot pavement. The drunken flight of brave fireflies as they attempt to dance despite the deluge, the sway of branches filling the night with the sound of wind and leaves and thrashing.
I hesitated in the doorway to the back porch, the storm louder than the house behind me and everything inside of me. I stepped out till the rain was just skimming my arms, softly...another step and then one more and I slowly sank down to sit on the top step. Closing my eyes, I let the day slip away and focused just on the rain. It was heavy - not a sprinkle or shower - but that drenching wetness that ran thick fingers through my hair and traced paths across my scalp; slipping over my cheekbones, under my jaw and then down my neck to slide along my sundress. The sky cracked and I could feel the thunder inside my bones.
I remember playing endlessly in the rain as a girl. Now? Now I keep an umbrella in the car and plan ahead and shorten errands when the clouds gather...I skirt around the edges and watch through glass as the world rinses the dust away. But not that night. That night I let the rain pull the worries from my mind, wash the doubts and the fog and the uncertainty from my soul. It scoured the shadows from the corners and left me soaked and somehow...clearer.
I stood. I was astonished at the weight of my dress - so easy and loose, now it clung like an unwieldy second skin; wrapping about my ankles, the thin straps digging into the flesh of my shoulders. I left wet footprints and entire puddles behind me as I climbed the stairs. Suddenly chilled, the shower's heat permeated the room while the storm still raged in the night and I slipped silk over my head, braided my hair... I felt lighter. Rather than launder it, I hung the dress to dry in the shower and the next morning it smelled of rain.
Sleeping, for me, is an attempt to dive into an ocean...made of Jell-O. Rather than the swan-like move one envisions, there is much awkward thrusting and some jabbing elbows. A franticness that is alien and undesirable in such a moment...bruising. I've watched my husband and sons drift off casually, so easily as if sleep were the natural conclusion of an offhand breath or finished sentence. For me, it is a battle; sometimes edging closer to a war complete with bloody casualties - a war against the clutches of my waking mind. That vast indigo sea of rest and rejuvenation eludes me for wretched hours.
Often, rather than sinking into its silky depths, I seem to drift mere inches beneath the surface, watching the memories and fears and faces of my conscious mind ripple before me as if I'm lying on my back viewing the world through a translucent aqueous lens mere centimeters thick. The images have lost their crisp edges and begin to blur...I can feel the vacuum beneath me and attempt to plunge away from the surface only to feel tethered by invisible threads that tangle in my hair and flesh.
Sometimes I wonder after day three or four of sleepless unrest, if my judgement, my temperament, my ability to write and cope and paint and cook-more-than-noodles is in permanent peril. For it is within our dreams, our hours of unconsciousness, that our souls are reborn. Our humanity is solidified against the robotic tendencies of routine and repetition. This is what sets us apart....
Midnight has flown. The shadows that live only before the dawn are draped about my room, arguing with each other. Yesterday is merely a memory and tomorrow barely a wisp of a dream. Today I spent hours investing in things that perhaps I need to reconsider. One of the joys/gifts/freedoms of the young is an abundance....of everything. Of laughter and time and energy. The very things that seem more difficult to find later on when life complicates like some mad scientific experiment that has reasons and factors and elements - and still exponentially explodes beyond rationalization. While the crowds applaud philanthropy and sacrifice - they are crowds. In real life where hours matter and exhaustion is palatable, one must do the math.
Have I mentioned....I'm not good at math?
One plus one should always equal two. But when it's time + the past + memories + hope + maybe + investment.....but the = is missing? When the explanation is always up for the task, to immediately squash any question, but the answer feels dreadfully hollow...
I find myself at a place of introspection. Please....how do you shuffle or recalculate? How does one rearrange or prune or merely adjust the friendships that are changing, sliding sideways...pausing? I'm an idiot. I will be the one still standing there when everyone has left the room....I know this.
6:40am and I've pulled furniture from the wall and crawled through 4+ years of dust. I can feel it sticking to my palms, my arms, the back of my neck. My left hand is completely coated in the drab grey wonderfluff that is Hazel's hair, unvacuumed corner crud, and spider waste. I'm fumbling through the power cords, flashlight clenched in the crook between my neck and shoulder, swearing like a sailor in my favorite black nightgown - the one with the lace about the edges...which is now furry. *shudder*
There it is. I snag the cord and pull it from its socket. I count...28, 29, 30. Pushing the shiny silver prong back in, I wiggle out from where dust bunnies go to perish and sit disheveled and disgruntled on the floor watching the cable box whir back to life. Perhaps it was over-heated or over-worked or over-everything. Scrambled. Debilitated. Like some long forgotten magician's trick, there was a flash of light and the flicker of two-dimensional company joined me in the duskiness of dawn, rattling on about predicted weather and expected rainfall.
And it occurred to me (not a crash of thunder occurrence, more like a dribbling faucet of realization), that I am that cable box. I feel a bit scrambled, off-center, slightly broken. The electronic universe we are surrounded by - when something goes amiss, it needs a reboot. Not for just a moment, this will require time, some counting, and possibly a little breath-holding. A pause to let the circuits reset and the wiring cool down.
I need to unplug. So if you notice I'm missing, trust me - it's not you, it's me. I'm going to clear my calendar for bit. Make room to read something other than a list, sit in the sun and think a while. Just for think's sake.
The world is sleeping. A side effect of my husband traveling so much is the loosening of my grip upon time. My fingers are unlaced, detached. Reflexive clock watching has been replaced with distraction and sudden paranoid moments when I fear I've forgotten something immensely important. The days bleed into evening and I've lost track of their passing. Often I climb into bed after the boys do, exhaustion giving in to the call of soft sheets and a novel; but I'm also becoming rather familiar with this 3am discussion held beneath the blackened sky - wind and clouds and night murmurs.
My hair tangles about my shoulders as thunder stumbles across the heavens and the cat claws at the door behind me. I ignore him. Sitting on the top step of the back porch, I lean into the storm - huge and dark and somehow bigger than the one in my mind, dwarfing my fears and insecurities until they are the pebbles beneath the deluge. Washed clean of detritus and debris, the rain rinses away the clamor of the day. How is it that mere drops of water can be so deafening, so all-encompassing?
I'm painting now. More than I have in years. I agreed to fill in for a canceled slot in a local museum's line-up and then realized I was committing to nearly a new, completely finished painting every week. Sheer madness. Last night I dreamt I was painting trees that fell off the canvas and sprouted at my feet, their roots tangling about my legs until I couldn't move. I've done the shopping with paint in my hair, picked up the children with paint on my face. I smell of paint.
I miss writing. Like air. Like cheese. The night thoughts are scribbles in legal pads stacked beside my bed, waiting to be decoded, untangled into complete sentences with punctuation and capital letters. They whisper to me sometimes, echoes behind the music while my brush smears pigment into visions.
Just a few weeks now. Wiring and naming (seriously, naming a painting is a calamity of my dreams where it was born - a thing of feelings and emotions that is quite difficult to distil into a word or two) and stacking them on the landing outside of my bedroom until they will be driven to the gallery and strung up for all to see....and judge.
The storm has moved on now. I can see lightening etching new patterns over another sky, another life off in the distance. Perhaps God is laundering the world leaving night thoughts everywhere damp and shiny and clean.
It's 12:27am January 1st, 2017. I stood outside for 20 minutes listening to the firework thunder and echoes of enthusiastic lungs laughing as they shouted into the night. A new year...what exactly does that mean beyond the turning of the calendar, the passing of a date? The air was crisp and pure and smelled of Spring four months away, snow and ice guaranteed to coat the world until then. My heart longs for warmth but is astounded at how quickly this season seems to be passing.
I'm now curled in bed with feet tucked beneath the down comforter, Hazel on the floor at my side, and the boys left gaming in the basement with a 2am curfew - even now their laughter ricochets up through the ancient ductwork and faintly ripples in the air. Jase slumbers beneath the covers (he's fighting an early winter head cold I am fervently hoping he does not share) and the Twilight Zone classic marathon paints my bedroom with wavering black and white shadows.
This year had a different list. Older birthdays and boys learning to drive. A position that has massive promise but that took my husband away for weeks at a time on a regular basis. A book published. Paintings finished. I resigned. These notes on a list look different but the year felt...hard. How does life feel? Does your year spill across your mind in a list like mine does? A series of triumphs and failures, laughter and sorrow? The boys are nearly men and the dog no longer a puppy and I find the lines about my eyes are faintly deeper. I sleep less (who knew three hours could be enough?) and dream vivid dreams that make my husband laugh out loud with their absurdity.
A new year. A human year. Right now, my bedroom draped in flickers of grey, I am promising myself to feel it. To taste and laugh and cry and rage. The wind rattled my window just now, promising a storm before dawn. I turn off the light and watch the branches dance beneath the stars.