Stillness

I find there is nothing that drives away dark thoughts as much as Sunday morning, especially when it follows a night of strange and troubled dreams after a week of increasing tensions at work in a school year that seems never-ending. As I wake, pondering the attrition of humanity in general with a hymn-line playing in my head, Change and decay in all around I see, unable to tell if I am feeling heartsick, soul-sick, or just plain sick, the Sunday stillness settles my spirit. My stomach, on the other hand, needs more time…not sure if I will make it to church or not. A riotous melody from the front porch works like a tonic: a finch fantasia. The mohawk-headed babies that hatched in my door wreath should have flown on by now. I am glad they linger. I need these bright notes. I wish I could interpret them and know exactly what the finches are saying to one another… if they were not here, the silence would be so loud. There is a time for silence and it is not now. It is not the same as stillness. Sunday brings stillness, the finch song brings stillness, the wall clock with whirring crystals brings stillness. I am craving prolonged stillness, I am so tired, but I make myself go.

And if I had not done so, I would have missed it.

Backing out of the garage, closing the door, turning down the driveway… there.

Across the street, lying on the grass in front of a tangled green thicket, a large white cat, so still it seemed an alabaster statue. It didn’t move as I approached. It gazed at me as if it belonged in that very spot (I have never seen it before).

Sphinx-like. Pristine. Regal. Otherworldly. Breathtaking. I think I whispered the word Amazing.

I could have stayed and stared, I think, forever.

But, without movement of any kind, the white cat reminded me that stillness isn’t an untroubling; it is, instead, a submerging, away from surface-level fear, a shaking off, a resting place, a deep abiding.

Which paradoxically involves moving on.

I feel certain it winked at me as I did so.

Curiosity drove me to look it up: Pure white cats are rare, 5% or less of the population.
It didn’t seem to mind my taking its picture.

*******

special thanks to Two Writing Teachers for the weekly Slice of Life Story Challenge

Finch fantasia

fantasia
noun

Music.

1. a composition in fanciful or irregular form or style.
2. a potpourri of well-known airs arranged with interludes and florid embellishments.

—Dictionary.com

They’re still here,
the finches
with the nest
in the magnolia wreath
on my front door

four weeks after
their Easter-egg hatching
I feel certain
these babies can fly

yet they linger
every little singer
adding its glory
to each new day

how I wish
this gold
could stay

Short recording of the finch fantasia

A day in May

It is the season
of newness
of flowering
of fresh color
of cloudless sky
so blue it hurts

it is the season
of grass
of earth
of birth
of birds
of Eastertide hatchlings
leaving nests
to wing their way
through the world

it is the season
of contemplation
of existence
of life
of purpose
of time
not standing still
and therefore being
infinitely
piercingly
precious

Micah contemplates pink sorrel and a piece of pine straw

The lamppost

Late one evening
when I was a child
I rode in the car
beside my father

when he turned
onto our street
I saw, up ahead
dead in the center
a light

Look at that,
I said, a light
in the middle of the road!

Daddy chuckled
it’s not in the road,
that’s the lamppost
in our yard
.
When I see it, I know
that’s home

All these years later
I can still see it
from so far away
glowing in the dark
in the center of it all

No Fauns hereroadscum. CC BY-NC-SA 2.0

Sand dollar etheree

Inspired by and dedicated to Margaret Simon, who shared the photo and who’s mourning the loss of her father.

Photo: Kim Douillard

Half
remains
afterward
it is enough
tangible beauty
even in mourning throes
to sense the infinite flows
of life undulating beyond
what the eye can see or hand can hold
where the spirit abides whole, unbroken

Whip-poor-will aubade

He sings alone
just before light
Farewell, farewell
beloved night

Summer is nigh
yet again keep
echoing hope
—all do not sleep

Whip-poor-will in the woods behind my home about an hour before dawn. Such longing and long-ago in the sound, for me. When my oldest boy was three, our family moved from Virginia’s Eastern Shore to the North Carolina Piedmont. We lived in a parsonage beside a little church high on a hill. It was June. All that first summer, when dusk settled in and I put my boy to bed for the night, the whip-poor-wills began calling. Over and over and over. Usually just one. The sound carries; it echoes through the darkness from the woods across the ponds and pastures, from old and deep places, affixing itself to the listening soul. I rejoice in its returning.

Eastern Whip-poor-willtcmurray74. CC BY-NC 2.0

Memento mom-ri

There are
certain advantages
to having
a young son
in the mortuary business

such as when
he tells you
that you really
ought to set up
a “pre-need”
and pay for
your funeral
in advance

or
when he texts you
a picture
of a rose-gold casket
because he thinks
you will love it
(okay, it IS beautiful
—still…)

but most of all
when he brings you flowers
while you’re living

because he
remembers Mother’s Day
and he works
right next door
to a killer florist.

*******


with thanks to Two Writing Teachers community for Tuesday Slice of Life sharing

Of racehorses and old roads

As I write, the National Anthem’s being sung at Churchill Downs for the start of the Kentucky Derby.

I’ll be pulling for a horse not favored to win.

His owner grew up in eastern North Carolina on a little stretch of road in the country. It’s paved now, but people have living memory of it being dirt… and I have an affinity for old dirt roads in these far reaches.

Once upon a time, I was a child who stayed in a little house on a dirt road in the summertime. I swung from a tire swing that Granddaddy hung from the pecan tree all studded with woodpecker holes. I swung to the deafening rise-and-fall rhythms of cicada-rattles, alongside the old dirt road across from the clearing where timeworn gravestones stood over people my grandmother knew when she was a child. I swung back and forth, round and round through the dappled afternoon, singing a favorite folk song from my father’s Peter, Paul, and Mary album…

Stewball was a racehorse
and I wish he were mine
he never drank water
he always drank wine…

The song goes on to say how the speaker bet on the gray mare and the bay, when:

ahead of them all,
came a-prancin’ and a-dancin’,
my noble Stewball.
The hoot owl, she hollered…

This past week, early one morning, I recorded a hoot owl (barred owl) hollering from the pines behind my home.

Memory runs so deep, so strong.

And so I pull for the horse named Barber Road, whose odds keep going down in these remaining moments before he gets to the gate.

Here’s to my own beloved road by another name in eastern North Carolina, and childhood, and belonging, and ol’ Stewball who wasn’t favored to win, either, but did, and to the hoot owl, the stories, the songs, and overcomings.

And here’s to you, Barber Road.

Run on.

Thoroughbred racehorseMIKI Yoshihito. CC BY 2.0.

Update: Barber Road finished 6th. By now the world knows that Rich Strike, the least-favored horse (80-1,) took the Derby in the second-biggest upset in its 148-year history. Secretariat, the first racehorse I remember, and who still fills me with awe to the point of tears, holds the record.