I am on the phone with my good friend. She mentions in passing, on her way to another story, that she once did a documentary with Julia Roberts. I am standing in the back yard, and I watch my mother walk down the hallway inside the house, obedient with her oxygen, so the tension in my shoulders lessens. Two red-tailed hawks appear against the blue and fly slow circles above me while I listen to my friend’s voice. And all at once it is one of those moments, when everything aligns, and for several seconds I am not understanding words, only standing there, taking in the sounds. The hawks feathers brush against my cheeks, and I am at the center of it all.
I have a hundred things sitting on my shoulders, turning them to bricks, dangling off my head like snakes or like the orange cat sitting on the teenage boy’s head in the funnies the other day. Harmony escapes me most of the time, except moments like this, with all of us writing together, and the house finch singing outside the open window.
I heard my favorite raven calls yesterday morning, those round sounds that seem like love talk, like overhearing the quiet morning murmur of two people in bed, their own little bubble, lovers who have been together for a long time talking about the day to come, about last night, people who know how to rest together, how to share peace.
[Spontaneous writing prompt, revised. Words were round and rest.]
I spend a lot of time being angry right now. In between bits of grace are wedged, brief moments when I feel like myself, foreign to me for decades in this childhood home. Quick, unlooked for seconds in an afternoon when joy arises, five minutes before we have to leave for the vet when I stand beside the kitchen sink sipping my first hot tea of the day, and I am fully me as the hot spearmint goes down my throat. I sidestep three times, cup cradled at my chest, to stop and drink in the view, as well, the western sprawl of valley and foothills. Or awake in the middle of the night after checking to be sure my mom has not removed her splint, when I lie in bed and hear the owls talking outside the open window. Or right now, typing standing at the kitchen counter to ease my sore hip, while Frank Sinatra sings Christmas songs. “It’s that time of year when the world falls in love,” he sings, and I want to believe it, this year more than ever. Maybe tonight we’ll watch Love Actually. And may all our new year’s dreams come true.
This morning I coast on my bike again in that arc behind Ralph’s. I hear the mockingbird again, see the big waning moon hanging above the San Jacintos, then that surprising scent of fresh mint in the air. And it comes to me that this odd back way that passes by their dumpster has become an unexpected highlight for me, one of those repetitions akin to that freeway overpass in Oakland that also makes that lovely arc when the Oakland hills and north Oakland lie beyond and below and you move with the long curve of it, suspended in time. Or the bend on Tilton Road in Sebastopol when you walk downhill and round Scary Corner and if you are lucky you find turkey vultures perched in the oak trees with their wings spread wide, seeking the sun.
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.
The noxious air from the fires takes its toll. I am so looking forward to the possibility of our desert having both clean air and cooler temperatures, to be able to walk fast, take big gulps of air, pleasure in full lungs. I can’t wait for rain to return to us, wash the leaves of the desert orchid trees, fill the creek bed, lick our wounds clean. I can hear it now, hard rain on my umbrella, hundreds of frogs singing, mockingbirds alive again, the cacophony a happy jazz, slap of shoes on pavement, deep breaths of clean, wet air. Like marmalade on gingerbread, like the scent of garlic cooking in butter, like nothing can compare to being able to move in our outdoor world with ease. Oh, and no virus, too, while I am dreaming up our future, no wet masks in this rain, only cool air on warm, wet lips, fogged up glasses, singing myself now as I swing my hips, lengthen my stride, move boldly beyond where life has let me go in recent times, a big grin on my face.
[This piece came from our spontaneous writing session on September 14th. The words pulled from the magic pouch were: marmalade, lick, noxious, gingerbread, jazz.)