Sunday, November 17, 2013

the big two-parted week

Part One (earlier in the week)
Up early on a morning that is darker than night. The waxing moon has set; its light no longer reflects off the snow, no longer lightens the windows. Like an old Kleenex, I nestle into this pocket of time that seems to be neither day nor night, just somewhere between where I take refuge. It is cold, frightfully cold for November, and a fire struggles to find its warmth.

Boxes stacked by the door, packages destined for thither and yon. “Thither and yon” reminding me of a Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers movie, but which one? “Thither and yon.” Was it Fred’s funny little valet who said it? Perhaps. I should watch all those movies again, see if that valet says “thither and yon.”  Maybe watch the movies this winter as the cold settles in.

Prior to being boxed up for thither and yon.

All day the thermometer hovers just above 20 degrees. An occasional blast from the west wind. A bit of snow, but not much. Once in a while drifting clouds break apart. A startling sun. An eagle hunkered down in the snowy branches over the bend in the river, by the island.

Thither the eagle.

Elliott had thought he was going to spend the night out but in the middle of the night I got up and called him in. In the morning I see his pawprints making a straight line through the snow from garage to front door.

Part Two (later in the week)
I am in Nevada at the Red Rock Canyon National Conservation Area on the outskirts of Las Vegas. I am walking through a canyon with Louis. Sun fills the whole huge sky and a light, dusty wind blows cool in the shadows. Underfoot a rocky trail and rocks all around. Loose rock, jutting rock, soaring rock. Rocks that fold and rocks that jag. Rocks that form crevasses and caves with mysterious hidden interiors. Bold, bald-faced rocks streaked with earthy colors that shift with each movement of the sun. When my foot slips across loose rock my attention is drawn down, but with each new step new vistas appear and rocks also draw my attention up.

Thither and yon, another new vista.

Along the jagged outline of a ridge to our south, two desert bighorn sheep. They stand still, posing. We stand still, take pictures. We walk on, looking up occasionally, keeping track of the sheep, and eventually they move down the face of a boulder, disappear.

Over yon stood bighorn sheep.

Saturday I walk into a casino. Overhead a pale blue sky smudged with thin white clouds seems to go on forever. It takes me a moment to realize that the sky is actually a ceiling. I am enclosed in a mock rendering of the streets of Paris. I am enclosed in a Las Vegas casino. I see a bronze (or bronze-like) statue of a frumpily jacketed man caught in mid-stride as he stoops slightly over a push broom collecting ahead of him a pile of dust and debris. Is this the first thing I see? Even before the pale blue painted sky? I am not sure. Surely it is unimportant, but it is the only thing in the whole immense, cacophonous enclosure designed and built to look like Paris that I do remember clearly. That statue and the blue painted sky and the bathroom. (There was a ladies room so big I walked through two broad rooms of sinks before getting to more rooms lined with hundreds of stalls. I was the only one there. The only person in this immense bathroom. An oasis echoing with emptiness. Everyone else outside, on the streets of Paris.) I keep thinking about that statue, cannot figure out why one bronze, life-size sculpture of a street sweeper. On the streets of Paris.

Sometimes, high levels of noise and visual sensation freeze my brain, scoop the life right out of me, and such was the effect of the Paris casino. Later, still somewhat numb, I felt sure that no time soon would I find that pocket I always seem to need in order to clear my head and make sense of things. That no time soon would I find space in which to sift through it all and pick out the few words that could maybe wrap my week up into a neat little package, no matter how clumsily tied.

Is where I find peace so immalleable? Must these pockets I take refuge in be of such specific time and space? Can they not happen in a desert?

But I know nothing is immalleable.

I was listening to Louis talk about Vegas and Nevada and canyons and casinos, about his story and some of the steps and stumbles that have moved him through his life and to this place. It was somewhat of a ramble, but maybe more pointed, but my listening did ramble, and I came to a place I did not expect. I came to a comfortable pocket where I found one sentence. Sometimes, I thought, it simply helps to listen to another person’s story.