I pack my groceries on my bike. The four heads of Romaine fit neatly into the remaining gap in the basket, their leaves upright and waving as I pull away. I ride behind Ralph’s, the air almost blue-ish, only a hint of the smell of smoke. I coast, rounding the curve, and I hear my first mockingbird of fall. I go still inside, listening with all of me, this marker of the turning of our desert world. Earlier in the day things are easier sometimes, maybe not the joy that used to come, not the lifting of the heart again and again, for the ridge of the mountains against the sky, the lizard I watch for and protect when I open the door to the shed who looks down on me with his clear, tiny eyes from the ledge, the hummingbird who like to sit in the open louver. And not the easy lifting of my heart for no reason at all. But lighter, still, at the beginning of the day.
I rest my palm against my belly and take a deep breath. I am tired of the smog but grateful to my lungs and glad I am relaxed enough to feel like I can fill them. I have always felt like I am in some smaller section of humanity, on the edge, maybe, living on the fringe, but in moments like this I am in the center of it all.
[Editor’s note: Another snippet from our writing group, one of our “Two Words, Two Minutes.” The words were “fringe” and “belly.”]
Pucker up and kiss me. Delight me. I laugh at myself in the mirror. No demon on my shoulder today telling me what is wrong with me, why I don’t fit. Only the better angels who wonder if maybe I have just found myself in the wrong places with people who are so poised I feel less than, alien. I am so not poised, I think, laughing again at my reflection, loving this familiar face I see. “You have other strengths,” the not-demon whispers in my ear, and my face softens. Yes, I think. Yes. I have other strengths.
[Another piece from our spontaneous writing group. The words drawn for us to use were: alien, demon and pucker.]