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Posts Tagged ‘vignettes’

I could say that, as she entered the drawing room, all skirts and leg-o-mutton sleeves of emerald silk over petticoats of crinoline and stiff cotton, the dark skin of her pearl-draped throat rising above her off-the-shoulder neckline, hair piled up in thick black plaits, dark eyes meeting each guest with a warm and welcoming glance, that she moved with the sound of rustling leaves, but such simplicity would be unfair, for the truth was more specific, more evocative, as with her smallest step we heard—all of us—the memory of an afternoon’s respite in the shade of a chestnut’s overarching boughs on a bone-dry summer day when rain was but a fond wish and the tree’s huge, canoe-like leaves, jostled by the gardenia-scented breeze, caressed one another with a dry and papery sweetness that was at once both gentle and substantial; such was her effect upon her parlor of admirers.

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Today I am thankful for:
Two brothers, all bundled up in matching navy blue hoodie jackets, out on the cul-de-sac in the bright drizzle, playing a game.

The game is:
Proceed in stages from a starting point (the truck at the near end) to a goal (the far end of the block), by one player tossing a Frisbee ™ as far as they can but not so far (or wide) that the other cannot catch it. It must be caught, or the disc goes back for a rethrow.

Eminently scalable, simple and elegant in rules, it’s a beautifully cooperative game. They win together, full stop. There is no losing. There are only gradients of victory.

Looks like they’re going for a team best, now.

Happy Thanksgiving.

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There are, in my home, many watches. But for five years, I’ve carried only one.

My watches date from the Age of Steam to the Age of Jets, bearing the marks of craftsmen from Victorian, Edwardian, Nouveau, Deco, and Mid-Century eras.

I have watches that were used to keep trains running on time, mark a valued employee’s retirement, chime the quarter hour, and show the time in the dark with radium-lit dials. Some glister with ruby bearings and gears of gold, their plates tooled with filigree, their enameled dials bright, while others are of stamped brass, paper faces, encased in cheap tin.

They are the watches of men both rich and poor, bespoke or mass-produced, but all came to me in somnolent neglect and the silence of disrepair. For each of them, I cracked their cases, disassembled their movements, cleaned and repaired and replaced the parts that were begrimed, bent, or broken, bringing them back to life, allowing their spring-loaded hearts to beat once again.

I used to swap them out, carry a different one every week, its chain hooked onto my denim belt loop, the watch itself tucked into the tiny right-hand pocket designed solely for the purpose.

But no longer.

Waltham, Elgin, Hampden, Ingersoll, and the others, high-end or base-born, all now lie stored in cushioned darkness, their mainsprings having ticked down to quiet rest.

Now, my watch pocket is empty, for my wrist carries my watch.

It’s a scuffed and scarred thing, with a crystal that’s a bit scratched, a bit chipped. It isn’t very old—a score of years at most—and it is decidedly plain, with square hands and numbers on a simple white face. It doesn’t even have a mainspring, the coiled powerhouse of nearly every other watch I own, but runs on a battery.

It’s a run-of-the-mill Timex Indiglo wristwatch. And it is my father’s watch.

When my father died, five years ago, and I was cleaning out his last abode, his watch was included in his effects. It is the watch he wore every day, whether he was out fishing for steelhead, sneaking a smoke out back, or painting a landscape, and it is—as was he—basic, uncomplicated, quiet, easy to read, dependable, sturdy, and consistent.

For five years, it’s been on my wrist doing yeoman’s work, ticking away, showing me the wee hours with its cyan glow, keeping perfect time. I’ve never changed the battery, not once in those five years. It is, as I said, dependable, sturdy, and consistent.

Someday, it too will run down, its battery spent, and that day, I suppose, when the new battery clicks into place, that will be when the watch will stop being his, and will then be mine.

k

 

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It’s been a week of retrospection, and I mean that in the most literal sense.

We spent most of our week going through old papers—letters, receipts, documents, and such—searching for the most important ones to put a fireproof box. This was our way of jump-starting the Big Adulting task of writing wills, issuing powers of attorney, and all the other things attendant to, well, to our inevitable death.

Naturally, as happens when rummaging through one’s past in this way, we come across a lot that was not what we were looking for, and I mean a shit-ton of it. But for every time I found a manual for an appliance we no longer have, purchased with a now-defunct credit card, issued by a bank that collapsed a decade ago, I also found a photo of my brother in Mali, a 1946 letter from my great-aunt, a receipt for baguettes from the boulangerie around the corner from our Paris walk-up, a love note from my dad to my mom, or a ticket stub from the night I took my girlfriend to the movies in Jerusalem. None of it will mean anything to my heirs (presuming I have any), but for me, each item carries incredible weight.

As I hold that old Oyster Card, I hear my panting breath as I climb the stairs to hear Big Ben strike the noon hour. Picking up that acorn, rattling in the bottom of the cardboard box, I’m hit with the unseasonable heat of Gettysburg in October, surrounded by the humid scent of wild onions as I walk beneath the oaks of Devil’s Den.

It was a long journey, this week, due to the many, many side trips we took while digging through banker’s boxes filled with, okay, filled with a lot of junk, but also a lot of our collective past. I found things I’d merely forgotten about, but I also found things I’d never seen, items turned over en masse by my folks or accreted from their estates; like my 3rd grade school photo, the one with me making a Calvinesque goofball face, the one that pissed off my mother something fierce, the one on the back of which my dad jotted a hidden note: “This is Kurt. He’s smart as a whip, and I have trouble keeping up with him.” When had he written this? And to whom? And why had he kept it so long? And why had he never expressed this thought to me?

These boxes seem filled only with musty paper, small trinkets, and fading photos, but in truth, they’re filled with love, joy, grief, anger, wonder, and history. Should the tragedy of fire strike our home, they’ll not survive—only birth certificates, marriage licenses, wills, deeds, titles, and passports will have that honor—but even if I had a fireproof box the size of a two-car garage, I don’t know that I’d protect them there.

They are my history, sure, but like me, they are transitory, incapable of permanence beyond the time circumscribed by my birth and my death.

And perhaps, this is the way it should be.

we are
ephemeral
mayfly deities
standing at the verge
in sight of the distant shore
ready to leap

k

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Fingers deep in waking earth
  clearing ferns from wintry somnolence

Their feathered, spiked, serrate fronds
  release spores in ochre clouds

Raindrops drum my hat brim
  enthusiastic paradiddles of spring

Hands set blade to swordleaf
  trimming old stems and rusted detritus

From the center I lift accreted duff
  revealing curls, verdant and sleepy

Nestled in that fiddlehead crown
  is the confidence of rebirth

Hope is spring’s eternal gift
  a promise of life
    and all it contains

 

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Today
I celebrate an age
I never thought I’d see
and reflect on those moments
when my river’s course
was shifted from its banks
by

arrivals
departures
separations
reunions

by decisions

to love
to hate
to forgive
to survive

Today,
I am the sum of

every decision
every event
every question
every answer

But that sum is fluid
affected by even 
the smallest breeze
the least drop of rain

For even now
as these words pass
before your eyes
you join me
in my story
and change
the tally
of my life

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  • Always stretch after rising. Legs, too.
  • There’s never a bad time for a nap.
  • You can eat the same thing every day and be just fine.
  • Catch and release is fun, but sometimes catch is what’s required.
  • Dawn is one of the best times of the day.
  • Staring out the window is a perfectly good use of your time.
  • Sometimes you just have to put up with other people.
  • Don’t be afraid to ask for what you really want.

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