Sunday, July 5, 2015

i is for independence, or, eleven years gone

Ground fog as we head south on Pelkie Road, a straight cut through hay fields and slumbering cows, past the old one-room schoolhouse and on through town, the blip of houses and the auto repair shop and the post office where the flag lies in folds flat against a steel pole, and then more fields until I stop, turn left onto 38, notice a deer standing on the south side of the road, just off the shoulder, stock-still, looking down the road, seemingly straight at this behemoth vehicle I drive, and I drive slow watching the deer and the deer watches me and the deer turns and leaps into the forest, Josie now noticing, so Josie stands up in his seat, looks out the window now back out the window and he wants to chase the deer but we hold a steady course, on our way to the farmers market.

6:23 a.m.

I listen to Disc One of “H is for Hawk,” a book by Helen Macdonald and, in this case, read by Helen Macdonald. I do not usually listen to audiobooks, but I have this one on loan from the library because I finally just got a library card for this neck of the woods and I was so excited I just grabbed various things and had been wanting to read this book and there it was, in audio form, on display, so now here I am, listening to it as dawn cracks behind a fog.

7:02 a.m.

Quickly I realize how much I would rather be reading this book, at night, with lamplight, holding it in my hands, but listening to it? OK, I’m liking that too, but I yearn for the other and am doubting my ability to stay attentive, to continue listening for very long, and during the hour and a half drive my mind does wander a bit, including wondering if my mind wanders when I am reading, too, and I think perhaps it does, but overall, I find I am settling into the rhythm of Macdonald’s voice and her British accent. Her inflections become part of the book, part of the story, her story, and I am caught up in it.

Disc One ends just outside Marquette. For the last little while Macdonald is telling about this fellow White who wrote the books that became “Camelot” and the like, but first he wrote “The Goshawk,” a book she read when quite young, and she explains about that while drawing in a lot more and somehow a line from a poem by a poet whose name I can’t remember becomes part of it and the best I can do right now is to paraphrase, to tell you the line is something like the cure for loneliness is solitude, and this makes me think how maybe we really don’t listen to poets quite often enough or maybe as well as we should.

Or maybe the point was that poets are crazy.

But, before then, way back when rounding the Keweenaw Bay, I stopped for this picture.

6:38 a.m.

At the farmers market streams of people, ebbs and flows, and a customer with a turkey feather in her cap offers me a sprig of lilac. She has to tell me what it is. I know what it is, but I cannot think of the word, the word “lilac.” I know the scent, I know the flower—but what’s it called? “Lilac.” And I’m thinking I can’t think of the word “lilac” because of the book I am reading, the one I am actually holding in my hands at night and reading, because in that book there is a character who is having trouble remembering common words like “lilac.” This book, too, came from the library that exciting day this week when I got my library card.

After the market a number of girls, three or maybe four, young but not too young, help me pack up the candles, I don’t know why, I don’t know who they are, they just seem to want to do this, and I use the word “help” pretty loosely but their help does make it interesting, and then Josie and I walk a block or two down a bike and walking path and then over a block to Washington Street, the parade route for the day, and its curb is lined with lawn chairs and blankets and flags and tables and coolers and balloons and people and barbecue and people and beer and dogs and people and pizza and so on and so forth and red white and blue, and the sidewalk is, at points, impassable with people and barbecue and pizza and beer and people with dogs on leashes. Josie and I plow on through. Every once in a while he looks up at me as if to make sure I am still there, and his tongue is flopping out the side of his mouth, a usual state of affairs. It is about time for the parade to start, but for now the street is empty.

Driving home, I listen to Disc Two of “H is for Hawk,” but my mind wanders, feels sleepy.

In Baraga, I stop at the restaurant at the casino to pick up dinner: a half slab of ribs, mashed potatos, cole slaw. An hour later, at home, I am surprised to find I have eaten all the ribs, every last one, down to the bone.

Earlier in the week, I saw a deer hoof in the river.

Earlier in the week.

Eleven years later and still sometimes I think I should never have left Chicago, for here, for this, left the streets and the alleys and the parks and the sidewalks and the stores and the libraries and the restaurants and conveniences and the arts and the culture and the people all the people and the family and the ball games and the everything, the life I knew, the life I was raised for, the life I was steeped in, and then I think of the fireworks and the firecrackers and then more fireworks and more firecrackers that go on for days and days and the mounds of garbage always left behind, the chicken bones the soiled diapers the beer cans mounded in the park every morning after and the people and the traffic and the noise, and I think sometimes I never should have left my job, what I had, for something I knew so very little about, so very, very little, almost nothing, I knew nothing, but surely I wanted to know: something.

And now there are these times, these other times, when it just doesn’t matter because I am here, this is where I am, this is what I do, this is what the world is, and right here, right now, this is fine, absolutely fine, each moment hard or soft coming back to this, coming back to this.

7:23 a.m. (Hay trucks move slow, smell sweet.)

Tonight I hear a bird singing, the one that sounds like glass, and Elliott snores at the other end of the sofa. I feel a cool breeze. The scent of lilac is strong, coming from the sprig now in a green glass jar on the woodstove. I have piles of books to read (and listen to), and candles to make, and who knows what to discover in the river, and perhaps a deer or two to chase (but I’ll let Josie chase them), and a lot of stuff that boy, I know nothing about yet, and all I want to do tonight, this Fourth of July night, is to write something, anything, it does not matter what. Not at all. And maybe, there’s the beauty of it.