Sunday, August 9, 2015

alongside the road: kindness

Sometimes I just want to see what’s alongside the road, not what’s ahead or behind, just alongside, sit and stare out the passenger window as it all passes by. But I am the driver. I must look straight ahead. Josie gets the passenger window. He looks out, lets it all drift by, though sometimes he puts his front paws on the dashboard, looks straight ahead. One day, looking out the side, Josie saw a crowd of people where usually there is no one. It was just down the road from home, and it was the county fair. Josie leaned out the window, threw back his head and barked.

Josie takes a peek beyond the road.

Sometimes I just want to see what’s alongside the road, watch as it all passes by, maybe hoot and crow, then have it all be gone. I don’t want to feel anything, but perhaps for the wind. I want for no memory, no anticipation, just this, this passing by, and an idle wondering of what is that there, alongside the road?

I don’t want to be cranky just because there are ants in the crawlspace that are now, I hope, dead. I sprayed them with poison. And neither do I want to be joyous just because I woke up today and hey, the sun rose, too. And I don’t want to think ad nauseam about how to insulate that crawlspace. We’ve gone from full-blown ideas to … well, what can I say, I got distracted by those ants, carpenter ants, I think they are called, or should be called, as they all had, slung low on their slippery little hips, tool belts with chisels and drills and bits, all the tools necessary, I guess, for the work to be done.

All I want, really, is to see just what there is, alongside the road.

Josie and I walk alongside the road most every morning. We see this dead turtle, the one which one morning I picked up to move, thinking it alive, possibly heading for a spill over the bridge, into the river. But then, holding it in my hands, I saw that the turtle’s bottom shell was cracked and the turtle was dead. I moved it to the end of the bridge, tucked it into the weeds, didn’t know, really, what to do with it, but there it is now, every morning since, alongside the road.

It was a good-looking turtle. Still is.

Back home we throw open the windows to let in the light and air and still a darkness descends.

At night—last night, one night, some night—a wolf howled so close to the cabin I woke up and we lay in our nest, Josie and I, alert but not moving. It was a strange howling, like talking, and at one point I thought others were going to join in, but it was just one. And then it stopped. Quiet. Dark. Elliott is out all night now, he must take care of himself, and he does. Often I look out and there he is, eating a mouse. Perhaps I should take a picture of that, but I don’t.

One evening the wolf was in the yard—Josie alerted me to that—and I was so stunned and flustered and Josie was so wild and loud and of course I wanted to find the camera, and then the wolf was gone. It trotted down the trail—our trail—to the river. We had seen him through the kitchen window. I went up to the loft, the upper deck, camera now in hand, but the wolf was already far down the trail. He veered off, heading west, and a pack of three or four others joined him.

Were they wolves or coyotes? The one in the yard seemed too big not to be a wolf, but of course I am obsessed with the ability of everything to be not what it seems.

It gets hard—I don’t know why—and it gets dark—I don’t know why—and all I want is to see what’s alongside the road, to let it pass by, neither capture it nor hold it, leaving no need, then, to let go of it, and sometimes it is that way, but sometimes it is not.

One morning, from the opposite side of the road, I watched
a porcupine chisel this sign. Luckily, Josie was busy with other matters.

One morning I think of how walking alongside the road on a drizzly morning is a pleasure, and I am reminded of a young woman I once knew, she was from Turkey, and one day we discovered a shared passion for rainy days. After that she would stop by my office once in a while, on a rainy day, and we would smile. Josie certainly does not mind a drizzle, so we walk and our spirits lift, we say hello to the turtle, and back home we close some windows, write a letter or two, put a pot of beeswax on the stove, start a fire, turn on a ball game.

Yesterday we drove to the farmers market looking straight ahead. Josie slept. Remnants of fog from the day before’s rain obscured the sun. At the market my Jabber Machine turned on, and I reined in the first guy in a Cubs cap to tell the story of the first night game at Wrigley Field, the unofficial one, where the weather played its hand. I was in the center field bleachers that night of 8/8/88, and I am compelled to explain how the sky looked, how the orange infield dust swirled up into the lights as storm clouds took aim from the west. Oh, the oppressive heat! And, oh my gosh, I must be an old person. Do I remember correctly that the guy in the Cubs cap said he was five that year? Fortunately, the Jabber Machine never goes non-stop—I must make a sale!—and there are times I just sit back and watch. About three hours into the market, I realize something: there is kindness. I am seeing so many acts of kindness. Small, perhaps even ordinary, common, common acts of kindness. Alongside the road.