In a moment’s time, the burning tangerine sun rises above the horizon, sits below the pink clouds shuffling south, then disappears. Playing peek-a-boo; its rays streaming through the silhouetted oak tree with vibrating leaves. Through our window decorated with Harvey’s fingerprints. Through the scratched lenses of my glasses. And on to me. Painting me in the warmth of morning. Compelling me to smile and be grateful for the view. And for the people I share it with.
Go to sleep, Harvey. Drift away. Settle your kicking legs and your searching arms. Let your heavy eyelids close. Stop grabbing your ears. (I promise that they will be there when you wake-up.) Relax your shoulders and let the tension of the ache of your cutting teeth fade. I know how hard it is to let go of this world, even for an hour. There is so much to explore – to inventory – to do. I feel the same way sometimes. There are toys waiting, food to eat, new sounds to hear, fresh smells to smell. And there is also the familiar, which we fear forgetting. The sweet tones of mother’s voice. Bouncing in your play chair. Smiling at each other. And yet, there is a time, when we must close our eyes and let our imagination flourish and our memory take stock of the bright, beautiful moments that fill our lives. So go to sleep, Harvey, and I promise that what dreams you don’t remember I will tell you about someday, as I hope to dream as you do.
Written from 8:30 am to 9:11 am on Saturday, October 26, 2013 in our office/Harvey’s toy room at the Double Dogleg in Traverse City, Michigan. He fell asleep on my shoulder just before writing this. Lindsey was sleeping in, and Yogi was snoring on the couch. I was up, putzing around, drinking coffee, listening to the rain fall on the metal dog bowls outside as early dawn lightened to day. I am appreciative of the soft sounds of this morning and of being surrounded by my sleeping family.
It is that time of morning when the wood around and the road ahead are different shades of brown and grey. And the trees of the wood are taught toward the pre-dawn sky. I am sifting salt onto our cracked asphalt driveway from my blue, plastic, Maxwell House coffee container. The older kind that had a handle instead of mere indentations. It would be appropriate, here and now, to say that “they don’t make ’em like they used to.” And that can be said often and in many ways, but not right now because this pre-dawn is exceptional like all before it and all that will come after.
I am melting off the rest of Monday’s frozen rain and Tuesday’s sleet. I’ve not had to shovel this morning – to wake the reverend or the doctor – caused their dogs to bark. And it’s the bark of the dogs that is the catalyst of morning’s forward progress. In their absence, our fraction of a finger of the world holds its breath a moment longer, pulls the covers up a little higher, and lets the hues of brown and grey hang around while I drink my coffee and ascend the driveway.
Written in red ink on a white legal pad from 6:40 am to 7:00 am on Wednesday, February 13th, 2013 in our kitchen at the Double Dogleg in Traverse City, Michigan.
Sure: I was so sure, that I set the cup down. And I walked to her and said,”Hello, beautiful. Can I have this dance.” She looked at me with her blazing brown eyes and nodded. Just a little. And so I took her hand and walked with her to the edge of the hardwood that was the dancers’ floor. Like the boxers’ ring. And I had made it that far. And I was holding her hand. And my heart was racing. Pounding from my chest trying to reach hers to see if it, too, wanted the same kind of freedom. And all I could do was take that next step. The leather of my shoe skidding to a start on the dusty wood. I reached my arm around her thin little waist and pulled her warm body to mine so that I could lead her away to the rest of her life. For there was no turning back on this little leap of love. She was my wallflower. Me, her punch-bowl-mixer. And together we were everything at once. The disco ball above stopped to watch as we spun faster and slower around everyone who didn’t matter in that moment. And then I stopped us. The music stopped. And I dipped her ’til her hair was in the dust of that worn out floor. And I looked at those brown eyes of hers and I said, “Goodnight, Beautiful. I’m sure we’ll meet again.”
His eyes focused, for a moment, on the contrast of her otherwise pale skin with the flush of her cheeks as she walked towards the spot where he was leaning on a fire hydrant.
“Hello, handsome,” she said.
“Hello, gorgeous,” he said as he extended his hand, palm up, and revealed a bright yellow lemon. “I snuck this from the corner tree for you.” She looked over her shoulder, checking to see if the lonesome housewife that planted the tree last spring had seen, or was seeing, their exchange, and then she took the lemon from him and clutched it in her small hand. It was firm and cooler than the muggy Foggy Bottom air that choked the city this time of year.
“Thank you,” she said. Then she kissed him, and kept kissing him until it felt, again, like the lonely housewife was watching. There was more love in her lips than he could hold in his heart. He broke away and smiled at her – at the old row houses – at the poorly parked cars and the cracked cement sidewalks.
Written from 1:10 pm to 1:32 pm on Tuesday, February 21st, 2012 in my office in Traverse City, Michigan.
“Look,” he said as he pointed at the distant lake shore where the early-morning mist lingered, depressing the plump tangerine lines of sunlight on the placid surface water. She turned and looked as they walked through the dew-covered bluegrass. “Indistinguishable,” she said. “Which would you choose?” He stopped them from going further and placed his arm on her shoulder so that his finger tips could caress her collarbone. And he pulled her slight frame closer to his, and leaned his head against hers. “I will always choose you, and then, while both will remain indistinguishable, it will not be from one another, but from life without you.” His eyes welled with tears because his eyes often welled with tears when he let his mind wander to the future – to what he would or would not receive from her – to dreams of dreams coming true – to the moments he’d never choose to miss, but sometimes would because that’s what happens when life is folded in two or multiplied by half. “We are, and forever will be, standing on a fine horizon underfoot.”
Written from 7:30 pm to 8:00 pm on Wednesday, February 15th, 2012 in my office in Traverse City, Michigan.
He was sitting on the porch near the shadow of the gazebo, rocking on the coiled-wire hinge of his deck chair. The August sun was waning as evening – and with it dinner – approached. He allowed himself to let his focus blur as he took a long pull that finished the bottle of Summer Shandy he’d been nursing for the past half-hour. The waves of Lake Michigan and the sandy shores had called it a truce for the day, and were in the process of retreating to their front lines. And then the baritone grate of the sliding door jostled him upright in his chair, and as he slowed the pulse of his rocker she said, “dinner’s ready.”
Written from 6:40 am to 7:00 am on Thursday, February 9th, 2012 at home in Traverse City, Michigan.
Then again he went down to the frozen waters of Big Moose Lake to see if he could be seen. And when he determined that he could not see or be seen, he returned to the lean-to of branches he built against the uprooted base of a fallen pine tree. He knelt, in the shelter, and placed his hands on the mesh of smooth stone, tangled roots and dry dirt. He looked up, listening, and heard only a pair of aging hardwoods, aroused by the breeze, necking in the distance. It was a polka-dot Heaven through a thatch-work quilted evergreen ceiling. And he breathed deep, as if to pull the stars a millimeter closer. For the companionship of the reflection of a friend’s face that might be found in a faraway moon. For the warmth of a stranger’s hug that might reach for him on a meteoric thundershower of a little bit of love.
Then he lay down on the earth, cleared of snow, his head resting on a pile of fir branches he had gathered many hours ago. His nostrils stung of pine and his ribs pressed hard through his flesh against the frozen ground below. There was little he could do now, but look up, keep his eyes open, and dream of being found.
Forever, he thought of escaping, and now – here in this wilderness that was so brutally foreign – all he wanted was the familiar, generic, daily routine he had left behind. He started to softly sing:
It’s a world of laughter, a world or tears
It’s a world of hope, and a world of fears
There’s so much that we share
That it’s time we’re aware
It’s a small world after all
It’s a small world after all
It’s a small world after all
It’s a small world after all
It’s a small, small world
There is just one moon and one golden sun
And a smile means friendship to everyone.
Though the mountains divide
And the oceans are wide
It’s a small small world
This is a 20 minute story, which means I wrote it in roughly 20 minutes. I’ve done this before, and you can read those entries here. This entry was originally written from 10:15 am to 10:45 am on Sunday, January 15, 2012 in the clubhouse at Stokely Creek Lodge in Canada. I revised it on January 17, 2012. It was inspired by nordic skiing in the Canadian wood, where there were many lakes and fallen-over pine trees. The lyrics to “It’s a Small World” were added at the last minute, probably from a subconscious need to lighten the tone of the vignette. At play here is a desire to escape the routine, yet the fear that if or when that is accomplished that there will be nothing there. That it will be for naught. And in realizing that, to recognize the fullness of the present.
Sam sat on the ledge of building 400 on his college campus. He had kept a key after being a physics TA during his junior year and made his way to the roof when he needed mental space. Sam felt like he was on top of a great pinnacle. An old fashioned modern marvel of plate tectonics, steel beams and brick thrust up from the center of something much larger and much older than he could ever dream of being in any one of his many lives to come. The rough edge of the red brick corner cut into his leg as he leaned back and gazed up, over campus, and at the bright stars and blacked-out moon.
The exposed night was what the little town on a ledge had to offer. And it seemed that the harder he tried to look further into space at the stars, the more he was overcome with memories of the past four years. His first physics class in an auditorium below. Mooning that same class, somewhat inadvertently, as his demonstration of centrifugal force went horribly wrong. Playing poker all night and the incredibly solid feeling of a futon mattress at 9am. The laundromat and gravy omelets.
For awhile, he tried to think of a memory for each star he could see. He sat there on the edge and carefully wrote them down in a notebook. He dragged the blue ink of the ballpoint pen across the smooth white paper – between the light blue lines – and he thought that so much of life had to do with staying close to the lines. That he could wander a little. And he did by writing a page of memories on the lines.
He had done so much, and had so many dreams to come, that there was no way it would all fit between, on or around the lines in the rectangle on his lap. He stopped remembering for a moment. He looked down past his flip-flopped feet at the silhouette of a graduate still wearing her cap and gown. She was laughing into her cellphone and waving her arms sporadically. It was a welcome disruption.
This is a 20 minute story, which means I wrote it in roughly 20 minutes. I’ve done this before, and you can read those entries here. This entry was written from 10:13 pm to 10:45 pm on Wednesday, January 10, 2012 in my home office in Traverse City, Michigan. It was inspired by a the sticker on a Cutie clementine that I ate this morning. The sticker read, “Win a college education” and I thought it would be interesting to write a story about a young man that went to college thanks to citrus. However, as is often the case when I start writing, where I think I will end is not where I actually do end. Thank you for reading.
The average annual snowfall for a small village just north of a long forgotten two-track in western Canada is just over 346 inches. This past summer, the road crew for the village went to the trouble of installing fans 20 feet in diameter along its three-block long main street. The intended effect of the fans was to blow the snow up and away from the village’s main city blocks and onto the rooftops and back alleys. That way, for the six-month-long winter, the residents of the village could walk or snowmobile their way to and from the local market, pharmacy or saloon. However, the fans quickly became overwhelmed by the snow, created two heaping mounds of snow – one covering each of the two rows of buildings – and froze in place. The result, as was discovered by the local stunt helicopter pilot on his bi-weekly trip south for emergency medical provisions for the village’s residents, was the transformation of its main street into a gluteal-like cleft between two enormous pale cheek-like heaps of snow. The pilot snapped a blurry photograph with his iPhone and sent it to his ex-girlfriend Lola, the head anchor for the not-so-local TV 17 & 4 studio. The village main street was featured on that evening’s news and shared throughout Canada for the rest of the week. What many Canadians had long believed to be a fleck of pepper from the national cartographer’s pastrami sandwich was now dubbed “Applebottom, Alberta.”
Written from 11:23 pm to 11:43 pm on Thursday, September 15, 2011 at home in Traverse City, Michigan.
Chris teed off from the blue tees on the first hole of the TCGCC. He plucked his tee from the soft turf, stepped down the grass that his two iron brushed up, and then slid his club back into his PING carry bag. His shot was still in the air while he completed this tasks, but it had felt solid and left on the right trajectory and line. His Titleist ProV1x would be in the fairway and he would have a good shot to the green. Just as he was about to shoulder his bag, he heard a crack behind and to his right. It sounded as if a full grown hardwood tree had been snapped in an instant.
Most nights, on my walk back to the front door of our condominium after letting the dog out, I turn left around the eastern edge of our building. As I do so, I usually look up at the dark sky. Tonight is no different. The big dipper hangs in God’s kitchen, it’s Pole Star shines down on the earthly heavens around me. The other constellations – those Greek gods and goddesses – the names of which I don’t know nor have ever cared to learn – follow my careful steps along the rough sidewalk. They know of my ignorance, yet they keep their distance. I know of there distance, yet I keep my ignorance.
During each return walk, I recognize that I’ve made the short trip before. That I’ve fallen asleep and been jolted awake before. That I have dreamed before. That I’ve lived life before under these very stars that outline my existence with their outdated explosions.
Written from 10:45 pm to 11:05 pm on Thursday, August 25, 2011 at home in Traverse City, Michigan.
The root of my happiness can be found in the wrinkles at the edges of her smile. I stare at her as if I’m staring at the sun – squinting for the details I’ve overlooked – the faded freckles of childhood – the adolescent scars – the collegiate wounds. These individualities are the roots to her past. And each one of them tells a story that she might not remember, but that I can imagine. Some day I’ll let her fill the gaps of my make believe memories with her stories of truth, but for now I’m in love with what I know.
Written from 9:15 pm to 9:35 pm on Monday, August 1, 2011 at home in Traverse City, Michigan.
Bottle caps in the asphalt like buttons on the earth. Coke, Sprite, and Dr. Pepper lining the driveway all the way down to where the mail comes. To the mailbox. To the mailman. To the curb where the garbage sits on Friday mornings for an hour or two after dad’s gone to work and mom’s gone to work and I’ve gone to school. And then down the road a little boy plays. Kept home for no good reason except that there’s more time to play in this world because life’s too short and he’s got all day. I wish I was that boy, so free to do whatever. Whatever, I don’t care. I’m a teenager now. I’m too cool for school. I don’t care what you say. Mom. Dad. Sister. Family – that stuff’s for punks. I’ve got to prove myself to the world. And do my own thing. I’m going to dye my hair. (But I never did.) I’m going to dress some other way. (But I never did.) I stayed the same.
It seems that each time I return to use the platform on which this website is built (i.e., WordPress), it is in need of an update. Although the update should be automated, that has never worked, and still does not. The reason for this is lost on me, and I don’t care to take the time to find out. Instead, I’d prefer to write and to think about what I am writing.
I am contented to say in this post that, at least for the time being, I am more interested in writing to write than to share with you. When I started blogging in 2004, and in each of my restarts since then, I have felt the need to reach out to an audience – even if that audience was a limited few. Writing publicly allowed me to share many thoughts and visions that I otherwise wouldn’t have had occasion to share. And I received feedback from some folks that they liked what I write, or they found it sad. Most often, people wonder if what I write is true. They usually wonder this about those entries that blend what is left of the truth when it’s pecked by my fingertips with the thoughts dangling about in my head like cured meet in a butchers meat locker.
I want to write short stories now because I have many ideas to write about. They’re bigger than blogs, and will take more time. They’re bigger than me, and that I don’t mind. They are what they are, and they’ve been sitting around like pickled eggs in a jar. It’s time to go down, go ’round, go back before I forget what I’m good at.