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Six Steps.

1. I am listening to The Stable Song by Gregory Alan Isokov over and over and over again. I can’t dissect all the lyrics in my mind, but somewhere beyond that, I feel exactly what he is trying to say.

2. Today Emily took me to playgroup at the pool so I could hang out with the Moms and their kids. I am not a Mom. Does that mean I am more a kid to them? I’m not sure, but I hope they want to be friends with me anyway. I watched them all try to discipline their kids quietly but effectively, while juggling the fragile feelings of other kids:

One tells Jill, “We need to ask Benny if it’s okay before we splash him. Do you understand?” Benny’s Mom pipes in “It’s okay Benny, Jill didn’t mean it. Did you find a new toy? Does that belong to Alison?” Alison’s Mom is next: “Alison, no yelling. We need to share. We are sharing with Benny now.”

3. I would really love to be a Mom, but I’m not ready to write to you about that yet. For now, I stand waist-deep in the water. I watch the other Moms.

4. Last night Ken walked to the paper store with me. Ken is my husband. I like to take him with me. I wanted to pick out an amazing piece of paper so I could make an amazing envelope for a letter I am sending soon. I am nervous about this letter and I must have been hoping that if I encased it in something beautiful and made with my own hands, the words inside would read just right. As soon as we got to the big glass door, the lady locked it and put up a CLOSED sign. I made a very sad face at her by accident. Ken said we could go get gelato instead. He even paid the way-too-much-price for a teeny cup of fancypants gelato. Thanks Ken.

5. We are sitting by the big glass wall with our gelato. I am in the middle of a chocolate cream bite when Ken tells me he will soon be gone underwater in an undisclosed part of the ocean. For a week. With The United States Navy. To all of my follow-up questions about the possibility of blowing-up or imminent death, he responds, “I can’t tell you.” It’s just testing…engineering…secret stuff, he says. No big deal. I shouldn’t worry. “This is not NBD.” I tell him. I stop tasting my gelato. I keep eating it, but I stop tasting it because my mouth is busy articulating a million hypotheticals. Ken smiles. He thinks it’s funny when I get worked up and worried and talk this fast. I think: How is this funny? Just then we see bunch of hip people with tattoos and neon clothing posing for a picture on the other side of the glass wall. We are in the background, so we make a photo-bomb face.

6. I feel like this a lot lately: there is me, there is glass, and there is something on the other side. I can make a sad face. I can make a photo bomb face. I can eat my gelato or I can keep walking, but I can’t quite be on the other side of that glass. All these transparent barriers, like water in the pool.

I sent the letter in a plain, white envelope.

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Someone Must Be Stretched Out…

Update: Our stuff is in Texas. The lease is signed. Now we’re here in Reston, VA with Emily and Barry for the rest of the summer. Ken has an internship with the Navy in DC, and I’m hanging out with Emily and little Colin, searching like mad for jobs in Austin.

My first full day here, I asked Emily about the little path that runs next to their place. She told me it goes all the way to the capital. That’s right, she meant DC, the District of Columbia, the capital of AMERICA. Of course my very next question was “Can you ride a bike on it?” You can, which means I have not ceased to dream of it since. A few days later we borrowed one of Uncle Jeff’s sweet old bikes, which is surely from the early 90’s and very purple, along with a white helmet–complete with rainbow squiggle across the side. So vintage. He helped me pump-up the tires and adjust the seat and today: I was out that door and on the path.

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This isn’t your typical city path: each tree planted neatly in a row, supported by a mechanically timed sprinkler system. No way. This place is wild. These trees and vines have been tangling and growing and reaching for sunlight since long before I was born. They are vivid in the thick Virginia air, and they are not alone. There are butterflies, bees, red robins and all sorts of other things I heard but didn’t see. In other words, nothing here is depending on human life or machine to water and sustain it. It’s nice to know that this was home to them before it was to me. It exists all on it’s own. This is another world. Even the breeze is alive with some humid language that seems to tell me I am only a piece in its history. As I raced down the first big hill, I stood up tall on my pedals and let the rush of air explain that to me.

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It reminded me of a poem called “The End and The Beginning,” which describes how every war zone eventually becomes a tranquil place again. I was the person in the very last stanza, who comes to look at the clouds, separate and ignorant from all that happened on that very ground before.

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This path was built over civil war ground.
America divided in half, and fought against itself here.

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If you’re more into learning from Signs written in English than Rushes of air speaking in humid tree language, then good news for you: they have signs and cites along the way to explain history to you. That’s how I learned that this path is called the Old Dominion Trail. It used to be railroad tracks. It used to be stuff underfoot of Army Generals like Joseph “Fighting Joe” Hooker, who passed through here exactly 150 years (and 2 days) ago on his way to Gettysburg. Turns out he had to resign the next day because of an ongoing feud with Army headquarters, so watch out, Fighting Joe was a pretty feisty guy.

Herman Melville, author of “Moby Dick,” once went through here on foot as well. While I ride along humming to myself, a free woman in the middle of the day, he passed through at night, warily searching out the infamous, most hated Confederate in the North, Lieutenant Colonel Mosby. Afterwards, he wrote “The Scout Toward Aldie,” which describes these very  trees in the night as “a globe of leaves,” and “moon-tinged—with crook’d boughs.”

So even though I know this path will become a home to me here, it also belongs to another time. To other people. To older moons. And I love that really, it can never be all mine.

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The End and the Beginning
Written by Wislawa Szymborska
(translated from the Polish by Joanna Trzeciak)