Counting Saints

Commonplace reminders on being.

Golden yarrow, fledgling web, congregations of clover refusing to quit. These dishes again, and the pot left soaking overnight. Pan, too. Basket of laundry, ever renewing, and this list. This ache in my temples to remind me what I took for granted just last week, like the fluttering chest and sore neck. Sleeping cat in the chair, beside a small collection of beach rocks, at least one of which is concrete, gathered how many years ago? By still-dimpled hands, with calm assurance reaching up, saying Here. Hawk on streetlight, coyote in yard, dog panting on rug, legs splayed forward and back, trail of pawprints between the door and where she is now, looking up. This trio of men at the park in boxing gloves and sweatpants and the youngest must be at least sixty-eight. They run in circles, punch pads and one another’s gloves, punch trees and the trees hold still. One among them is the coach and when he’s not cussing a blue streak he’s shouting, C’mon, that don’t matter! Whaddya doin?! No, look! Up, up, up!

For All Times

Considering the movement in these moments.

You’ve been a cane-wielding cartoon old man, white beard down to your knees; a bloody tyrant, horned and masked, coming to ravage every beloved. Then, in the next scene, a healer: white linen, salves, and herbs, sometimes in the costume of a nurse of the first influenza, the first world war. The bard posed you with a scythe, the dark reaper poised, and had his lovers profess refusal to be your fool.

Then you’re a river. We build our settlements near you, travel over washing, reviving, bathing, and blessing one another by your body. Then, when the great storms come, you rinse us away––and yet, when we come to, there we are, still within and among your waters, carrying their currents in our cells. Someone suggests you are an illusion, maybe they meant elusive, but the idea adds much to our sense of the scope and reach of what we touch and then create, our tools one part memory and another part dream, and the last must be need. But for what? Is this nourishment you bring, or is it more like shelter against what we are not ready for––yet?

If you are long like a ribbon or a road, why can’t we know this about you in a moment? There’s no duration in the present, but we’ll measure rest as well as motion, our now both a beginning and an end, and in your holy geography we continue to meet, dancing in the second line with the saints, and we the once and future ancients, spinning the rhythms of your forever reception. 

How We Hold

On the ties that bind us.

Our long infancies make for long bonds, as with elephants, primates, and crows. Herodotus had a mind to study family ties, but he couldn’t find a set given when it came to what lines they might follow or what shapes they could take.  

The sheer helplessness of the infant explains a few things about the biological necessity for the strength of such long bonds, and yet. Isn’t it also true that most of us are walking around with at least one infant inside us, however carefully swaddled, who is bound unpredictably and for no reason––but their own––to cry out, Help! Hold.

Consider the etymology of family: one part property, one part servant, one part friendship. A prayer for the body collective: you are mine and I am for you; friend, take my hand––the original need, made and remade.

Consider the wide-ranging implications of the phrase to be heldholding. A hand is not a cell. A tie is not a cage. A friend knows that the hand may be stretched in any direction, across a table, Here; down into a dark recess, Pull! and up from another deep hole, Help! A body among friends will naturally do all of these again and again, unless prevented by some opposing force.

I love the way that in some contexts, almost every exchange is followed by an, I gotchou. How often, in these same places, you might rarely hear proclamations mentioning love or devotion specifically. But watch the hands of the men as they pass: fingertips, then palms, then full grip, knuckles, wrists, sometimes all the way up the arm to a full embrace, as if the point is to practice different ways to hold. To say with the body, I got you.

Enough

An interview with the curators of “Enough: an Exhibit of Curiosities.”

When did you first know you had it?

Had what?

Enough.

Enough what?

You know.

I’m in the dark.

The life, you know. Like that Scandinavian word that got big a few years ago, about warm socks and cocoa by a fire.

But I am in the dark when it happens. There wasn’t a fire. No light, no socks, no cocoa.

And then what?

I breathed anyway.

Notes for the Missing

Inspired by messages to elusive someones that came and went.

This post is part of an ongoing series I can’t seem to resist, inspired by posts on online message boards.

***

You were at Home Depot, wanting to talk. You were turning around at the marina, and I was passing toward the end of the dock.

You were helping at a thrift store near the train station. You were seen later, camping near a picnic table at the Park ‘N Ride, and then you were gone. Where are you staying now?

You were at the bakery, the swap meet, at Major Market on Broadway.

You were my friend, my lunch partner, my gym buddy. You made me smile. I have missed you.

We miss so much, don’t we? Going about these daily tasks, getting dog food, gas, and BAM! A sighting, and it’s you again, isn’t it? Peeling back the veil of the world I think I know, when you arrive, and just as quickly, go. 

***

Others in this series:

Second Looks: Einstein Edition

Even after these phenomenal scientific breakthroughs, he’s still a guy: music, hair, misunderstandings.

You know what I love about Einstein?

Relativity?

Of course, but it’s hard to love something you don’t know well, and I can’t say that my understanding of any of his theories goes very far beyond the basics of dinner party repartee.

That’s still happening?

Relativity? I assume, I mean, no one’s exactly––

No, dinner parties and such.

Well, I don’t know. I haven’t exactly been to too many since––

Just wondering. Anyway, what do you love about him, then?

The other things. Like how he played the violin and wrote all these letters back and forth with his wife, even when they weren’t getting along. Plus, of course his hair. I love that he makes this phenomenal scientific breakthrough, but he’s still a guy. With his music and his hair and his misunderstandings. It makes him even better somehow, knowing that.

You know, he spent a number of years working on refrigerators, too?

Huh. Well, everybody’s gotta start somewhere. I didn’t know he was a repairman, though.

No, I mean inventing a better one. And this was after he was the famous Einstein.

So, he just got it in his craw to start tinkering on home appliances? Did he do toasters, too, because this one I’ve got is a real––

He read a story about a family that got killed overnight from a leak. Back in the day, they were using chemicals like ammonia and sulfur dioxides as coolants. So, you can imagine. 

I am trying. So, you mean to tell me, my fridge is an Einstein invention?

Well, no. He got his patent for an induction cooling system right around the time that the great depression hit. Also, freon came around, and that took the issue of poison out of the equation. So, his invention wound up being applied to nuclear breeder reactors. 

I see. What about the rest? Did he keep on with the letters, the violin, the hair?

I like to assume so. We never actually met.

Me too. I like it when something or someone looks like one thing up close, and then when you zoom out and take them in––

They are so much more?

Exactly.

Cheers.

Have you had dinner yet?

Let’s go. Call it a party.

Notes:

Inspired by Steve Silverman’s Einstein’s Refrigerator and other Stories from the Flip Side of History (Andrews McMeel Publishing, 2002), which I found at a library used book sale some years ago, and opened for the first time today. You just never know when you will have your day brightened by a a book like this, which is why I love used book sales.

Misplaced News

There is a turquoise parakeet out there somewhere, and a young girl missing him. He goes by Morris.

Today’s news comes from the lost and found pages on my favorite online message board.

The white cockatiel is still missing; the wedding ring, too.

But found are the kayak paddle, swim fins, and the Madonna with child.

Someone is specializing in the finding of white furry pets. It is unclear whether this particular focus has to do with the white ones being easier or harder to find, or if some deliberate effort is made to ignore pets of other colors in order to preserve some measure of brand identity in a niche market. 

A male husky in the southeast once was lost, but now is found.

Today’s top story involves the finding of money. Or rather, that whoever found seems to be a large sum is now trying to give it back. Please respond, the message says, with exact details of what you lost.

In related news, someone else wants it known that the couple that saved them when their kayak capsized has restored their faith in the ability of people to do right by one another.

Meanwhile, there is a turquoise parakeet out there somewhere, and a young girl missing him. He goes by Morris, also Moe Moe, and the absence of his ongoing conversation is felt in a now-quiet household of three. There is an open cage in the front yard, waiting for his return. 

There is hope and a plea: Cash reward, please call––

and a child at the window, waiting, repeating a familiar refrain: Please, come back.

More Craigslist-inspired dispatches:

News of the World

Today’s briefing is culled from assorted anonymous postings.

Messages regarding the state of the world tend to vary widely depending on the source, and since variety is what I was looking for this morning, I decided to get today’s early briefing from craigslist. Among top stories, a man known only as “shameless robber” has abducted wax apples from the garden of an ailing old woman. He claims he was just drinking water, but this reporter isn’t buying it. Which is nothing compared to the tall guy who had a custom sectional made and delivered before he wiggled his way (comfortably, we assume; it seems like he’s done this before) out of paying for it.

Who says that nothing good comes free? There are free pallets in Alisa Viejo, free notary services for active military, a yard sale this Saturday, and money being raised right now to cover medical bills. There is new music, a new bike shop, personal body sculpting (who can resist?) and, above all, this urgent reminder, all caps: HANG ON. KEEP CALM.

In other news, a woman without transportation would appreciate very much if someone would bring over a case of beer. IPA preferred, and rest assured: payment will be rendered upon payday next week.

There is no need to feel alone in this city. A mobile detailing car service can come over at any hour with amazing prices and reliable service, and there is a group meeting tonight in East County for individuals seeking an avant-garde interpretation of the Bible. If you’d like to spice up your daily commute with fresh company, there is no shortage of people ready to join you.

There is a new litter on Elm Street, an avid stargazer seeking company, a cornhole fall league, and a Dungeons and Dragons campaign looking for adventurers. Also, free dental hygiene services available from students, for anyone willing to wait.

You may not be aware of this, but you are leaving money on the table the longer you wait to join this quadrillion-dollar industry. Fortunately, there is a number you can call. Act now.

We can: build a yoga community, a film noir appreciation club, a craps club, these support groups, adult baseball, a sparring group, or just meet for a beer on Spring Street. So, what are you waiting for?

There are angels and no need to stay stuck. There is a nerdy outlet, a coffee shop friend, a focus group, and a well-muscled man available for private modeling gigs. Do you play drums, have too much stuff, need to get in shape? Do you need a washer/dryer, a group of paranormal enthusiasts, some fishing equipment? You can find it. It is here. Join us. 

I continue to appreciate the depth, breadth, and scope of coverage provided by the collective reporting of anonymous individuals and will return regularly for updates and breaking news. 

***

Also inspired by craigslist:

Seeking Anon

Considering the message board as installation piece––or as altar to a mysterious deity.

From time to time, when I am looking for material, I look for anonymous inspiration on various message boards. It feels like being at a museum installation where a thousand notes are penned on backs of cardboard boxes and gas station receipts: some in pen, some in green marker, others in something that could be ketchup. I like to imagine that I am a time traveler from the Bronze Age, puzzling over this strange shrine, with these messages from the mysterious god, Anon. 

Today, it seems that Anon is concerned about the people who do not follow through when they inquire about the availability of motorcycles, and is also very disappointed with this heat pump. They want certain things known, these are enthusiastic points, and want it known that they are praying.

They would like whoever was driving the busted black four-door to stay off the freeway, especially in early morning hours, and wants you to be forewarned that if you have your baby at St. Mary’s, you may be waiting awhile to take it home.

Anon is happy to help, but not if it enables those who take advantage, like a co-worker who never– Not once!– offers gas money. Anon would like an explanation, if not for themselves then for the children, as to some recent decisions. Plus, they would very much like the woman who wore a red dress into Hobby Lobby to know that an encounter by the check stand was much appreciated.

Also, it is written: they are still looking for a few things: an old flame, old classmates, Mr. Thursday, surf girl, the guy in the sidecar in Hillcrest, some help, a missing Siamese, a new home for this bearded dragon, and a phone call from whomever is awake, also looking.

***

More in this series:

Angling

Writers keep tackle boxes of images, memories, metaphors. Bait the hook. Cast into the dim light of early morning, over the blank page. This loud hunger, shhhh. Try the next metaphor. Vary the retrieve. Look and wait.

I recently came upon a  character who is fishing. I don’t do this, so this means it’s time to research some. What test for what catch, what lure, what line, what basic knots? What bait for bonito, how to prepare guitarfish, how to vary the retrieve when catching halibut. Sometimes you want to move slow and steady. Other times it’s crank, crank, twitch. What I find is supposed to be for these characters, but I can’t help sampling some. I’ve always had it, this waiting pose, looking out. 

“Oceanside Pier 4” by Dmitry Lyakhov on flickr under a Creative Commons Attribution Non-Commercial 2.0 Generic license. 

Anglers have their rods and their lines; their lures and their five gallon buckets. Writers keep tackle boxes of images, memories, metaphors. Bait the hook. Cast into the dim light of early morning, over the blank page. This loud hunger, shhhh. Try the next metaphor. Vary the retrieve. Look and wait.

Now I have an excuse to go to the pier, just looking, waiting like the others, but without a line. To watch the angler in the blue jacket, and hold a silent one-way conversation.

What are you bringing up now? Is that mackerel? Maybe you will filet it yourself when you get home. Maybe there’s someone waiting to add it to a bowl with jalapeños, lime, cilantro, oil, as her mother did when she was a girl. And who taught you what line, and what taught you how to wait, and what longings are behind the eyes you cast over the surface now, reflecting back the deep? And who meets you in the silence of your sunset reverie, and what other shores do you remember, and what aches would you rather forget? What makes you limp when you move now, back to the folding chair? Is it simply stiffness of hard work over time, or something else? There are no grays visible beneath your ball cap, and yet your face is etched with deep lines, like a bronze sculpture. Angler, where are the young promises of new life you once held on your knee, raised up, up! — above your head, just to admire? Who laughed back, cooing, and what is it like to remember them at a distance, and what makes them laugh now, do you know? And who holds them now, and are they gentle, and can you bear to ask?