Archive for life

A Quick Word

Posted in real life with tags , , on May 14, 2017 by sethdellinger

Hey folks!  It’s been a long time since I posted an entry, and this coming right after I had a bit of a blog revival going on.  I just wanted to pop on real quick and let you know the blog revival is most assuredly still happening!  I currently have about a dozen entries percolating in me ol’ cranium–from the highbrow to the simple life-update variety–but, as many of you may know, it’s been a hectic time the past month, with lots of changes and whatnot (all good) in many facets of my life.  While I am adjusting (to new house, new commute, new town, new job) writing/ artistic time has taken a back seat to simply existing and figuring things out.  Again, these changes are all good (or at the very least, neutral), but I wanted to explain my silence.  I’ll be back very soon!

Days of Everything

Posted in Memoir, real life, Uncategorized with tags , , , , , , , , , , on March 16, 2017 by sethdellinger

It was a cold night, but not too cold, which was fortunate, because we had to park very far away from the arena. I unbuckled Boy from his car seat and heaved him into the air, bringing him next to my cheek to give him a kiss in the crisp evening air. “This soccer game?” He asked. “Yes,” I told him. “This is the big building I told you about.” I sat him down and stuck out my hand for him to grab, as we strolled quickly through the immense parking lot together. He had lots of questions. He kept calling it football, which was interesting, I thought, since most of the world referred to soccer as football, but he couldn’t possibly know that, could he? Most of his questions weren’t really about the sport we were about to go watch, but the building it was in. How could a building be so big that you could play soccer inside of it? How tall was it, was it taller than the telephone poles? Taller than our house? Will there be snacks? Soft pretzels? I’ve become accustomed to the constant barrage of questions at this point, pulling from deep within me a patience I honestly did not think I possessed.  Not that this patience is without limits—but at any rate, I seem to have more than I thought.  I suspect a toddler will prove this to be true of most anyone.
I was surprised by the patience he displayed as we waited in a long line to buy tickets. It seems every day, he is making leaps and bounds, growing in things like patience, understanding, and empathy. Which is not to say he’s still not a little ball of emotions that doesn’t know how to act, just maybe a little less so than a few months ago or a year ago. He’s becoming much more of a companion as opposed to a force of nature to wrangle and watch. While for the most part, time with Boy is still all about teaching, there are moments now of truly just being.  And “just being” with a little guy like boy is more magic than I’m accustomed to.

Finally, tickets procured, we entered the concourse, looking for our section. I hadn’t studied the arena map extensively, and had chosen seats in the section on the complete opposite side of the concourse, so we had to walk past countless souvenir stands and snack bars, him wanting desperately to stop at each, and also wanting to enter into each section as we passed, with me constantly trying to tell him that it wasn’t much farther, not much farther. But through it all, he didn’t freak out or melt down or cry, just implored me strongly. Finally we came upon our entrance to the arena, and I picked him up because I knew the stairs were going to be steep and he was probably going to be shocked by the sight of walking into the big room. Carrying him on my side, we entered the arena proper, and although an indoor soccer field lacks the nebulous breathtaking quality of a baseball field, the sudden shock of green and the expanse of a sudden cavernous room had its desired effect on the countencance of Boy, which is to say, it produced a certain amount of awe. After pausing to allow him to soak it in, we climbed up the steep steps, to find our seats. We were all alone in our section, something I had to ask the ticket man to do, in case it did not go very well. Boy was beyond excited to sit here. He was very into his seat, enamored with the idea that the number on it matched  the number on his ticket, and in this enormous room, this seat was his and his alone. He was not restless as I had feared, his eyes trained on the action on the field. I would steal sidelong glances at him, see his eyes glued to the action, his head swiveling as the ball bounced back and forth, his complete concentration and immersion something only possible in the earliest years of life, and during a first exposure to things; the sights and sounds meshing with dawning understanding, realization writ large across his face. He would sometimes stop his concentration to ask questions about the goalies, which he called The Goal Guys, their different colored jerseys causing him no end of confusion. Later, as he was able to again float back into our world, he would watch me for cues whenever the arena sound system would play the tropes of modern sporting events: the “Charge!” song, the “De-Fense!” chant, and on and on. He saw and understood there was an audience participation element and he wanted to learn.  I would raise my fist and yell “Charge!”, glancing over to see him mimic it, his tiny voice bursting forth its own “Charge!”  This moment, especially, nearly crippled me with emotion.

He paid close attention to the game and stayed quite interested for well over an hour and a half when he started to fall asleep on my shoulder. I told him I thought it was time to go, and he protested quite strongly, saying he didn’t want to miss anything. And I kept giving in, saying we could stay, and then he kept falling asleep again, until eventually I picked him up, went up the stairs to the upper concourse, and told him he should get down and walk around and look at all the empty chairs, all the sections without anybody in them. The arena was quite empty, in fact, especially once one got up to the upper reaches. We got to a very high section, a corner section so high up you could almost touch the roof in a few of the spots, and as we emerged into it, it became clear that it had not even been cleaned out or looked at after the preceding weekend’s Motocross event in the arena. Everywhere there was trash, even half-eaten food and some beer cans on their sides. It was an astonishing array of trash and smells to walk into amid what appeared to be an otherwise normal arena. It was immediately too late for me to backtrack and take him out of this section, he was much too interested in the hows or whys this could have happened. I explained as best I could that they assumed they would not sell any tickets in this section for the soccer game, so they must be waiting to clean up from the Motocross. He did not want to walk around the section, but he also didn’t want to leave. I picked him up and we watched the soccer from way high up near the ceiling, looking down on all that old trash and beer cans, until he looked at me and told me he was ready to go home. I felt that I had a companion here, a little guy who I could teach and learn from, who was now going to be interested in things, who was present with me.

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My love and I put on our light spring jackets and walked into the crisp evening. Just the two of us, we interlocked our hands, and headed down the street toward Midtown. It is one of the benefits of living where we do, that usually, given the right weather and the right child care situation, we can walk to some of the places that we like to spend time together. This night it was simple: we were going out to eat. It was one of the last walkable nights of the year, and we knew it. The cold was setting in, soon we would be driving everywhere and stuck inside like prisoners.  So tonight, we knew, was a walking night.  There was a very popular and artsy restaurant in the middle of Midtown, which somehow we still had not made it to. Recently they had started serving a very popular veggie burger, that all of our friends were talking about, and we still hadn’t tried. It had been on our list for weeks.

The thing about taking a somewhat lengthy walk with the person that you love is that it forces conversation you don’t normally have inside the house or perhaps in a moving car. You see things that you don’t normally see, are reminded of things you might only see or think of by yourself, you’re moving at an interesting pace, a different speed. I love holding hands and walking with my love. I love the way her hand feels, I love being connected to her physically in that way, I love being able to look at her face from the side so often. I love being able to point out things, and have her point out things to me, elements of our neighborhood that we only see when we are walking the dog by ourselves.  I love kissing her outside. Many people spend most of their lives in relationships and begin to take things like this for granted, maybe even very early on in life, they assume they will have a companion in this form. Having spent so long single, small things like holding hands, walking down the street, these things never seem anything other than magical to me. My love thrills me.  Literally every single thing about her. It’s electric.

Twenty minutes later we found ourselves the only customers in the artsy eating establishment, it being only five o’clock. We were talking about the art on the wall, the interesting sculptures, the funny man who kept looking at us askance from inside the kitchen. We talked about the interesting ordering system the restaurant used, the haphazard way salt was placed on some of the tables but not others, we talked about our days, we held hands and looked at each other. Sometimes we didn’t say anything and that was lovely in its own way. When you know someone is your true partner, being in their presence is a constant salve.

The food came and it was delicious, just as delicious as everyone says it is was, and it was fantastic to share a meal with someone who shares so many of my worldviews, who has the compassion in the same places I do, love and freedom in the same proportions, to share a meal with a woman who has taught me so much. As I was finishing off my Diet Pepsi, stealing glances at this woman, I kept thinking some of the same thoughts I come back to all the time.  How I waited so long to find her.  How, when I did find her, I couldn’t and still can’t believe how perfect she is.  How my journey to find her wasn’t about me, or even the journey, but it was about her, about us.  How I still learn about her every day and she’s such a delicious mystery.  How she fits so well.  I looked at her as I sat there, finishing my Diet Pepsi, and I said to her the only thing one can say, given the unbearable weight of the world:  I can’t believe you’re finally here.

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The days, good or bad, really do just stretch out like deserts, uncountable deserts, again and again and again.  Some, you find, contain nothing: plodding marches under a bored sun.  But sometimes, they are filled up, filled with everything you ever dreamed, brazen neon signs of days, confetti and love love love.  I don’t know about you, but I’m trying to figure out how to keep them filled up.  I want the days of everything, forever.

Days of Something

Posted in Uncategorized with tags , , , , , , , , on March 7, 2017 by sethdellinger

Philadelphia is a great city, but there’s nothing special about it in the winter. It becomes winter just like every place else becomes the winter: slowly, and then all at once. My first winter in the city was also the first winter I’d spent anywhere without a car. During the summer I had learned to get around by riding my bike and walking, and was just getting pretty good at it when the gradual winter hit all of a sudden. It was cold and it was windy, but didn’t snow for the first few months, and then one day, a day that I also happened to have off work, the sky opened up and dumped down about eight inches. It was a very different experience than my previous winters elsewhere, where you might go outside and walk around, do some shoveling, maybe go see a few of the local landmarks covered in the fluffy cliches. In a densely packed urban area that stretches out for miles and miles in any direction, and where local landmarks are a dime a dozen but breathtaking beauty might be a little scarce, I wasn’t sure exactly what to do with myself, other than sit on my couch and watch Netflix. Eventually I decided to just bundle up, put on some heavy shoes (since I never really am in the habit of keeping boots around) and venture out into the snow and see what happened. I started walking through the streets of my South Philly neighborhood, unplowed, unshoveled, the houses squished up against each other like sandwich bread, snow building up in the trashy pedestrian alleys between them, choking the tops of open the trash cans, pawprints sometimes the only sign anyone had been down a sidewalk.  And I kept walking and walking, taking note how it was different than my previous experience, and also ways in which it was similar, compare and contrast, compare and contrast, that is essentially how I Live every moment of my life. One experience must always be similar or different from previous ones; otherwise, how do you measure anything?  Eventually the neighborhood started to change as I kept walking, buildings got farther apart, the roads got wider, the streets were starting to be plowed, cars started moving around, the city seemed to wake up. I started passing people on the 1975051_10203223839982559_754980658_nstreet and there was an air of conviviality, of shared experience. Everyone was saying hello, commenting on the snow, and it wasn’t just what people were saying, but the attitude, the feeling, like we were all finally together, not that we were undergoing any major hardship, but just that the presence of something so different, something so sudden, almost held us together like a web. Connection.  Eventually I realized I was closer to Independence Mall, which is the cluster of extremely significant historical sites in the city, than I was to home, so I just kept on walking. I arrived behind Independence Hall probably an hour and a half after leaving my house, still trudging through almost a foot of snow, surprised to see that there were a few people milling around, but only a few, much less than the hundreds and hundreds that crammed into this park in the summer months. I circled the building, taking note of what the roof looked like covered in snow, imagining it would have looked the same to George Washington or Thomas Jefferson when it snowed in the late 1700s. I crossed Chestnut Street, which is directly in front of Independence Hall, my feet not quite hitting the cobblestones, but still feeling the unevenness of the walk, as the snow impacted into the cracks around the cobblestones, as it surely has done to other foot travelers for centuries. I trudged across the open space in front of Independence Hall, the Liberty Bell to my left, taking note that it was still open, the Park Service still there and operating, but I didn’t see a soul in line to see the famed bell. I kept on going, heading towards the visitor center, with its bright glass interiors, newly built restrooms, shiny gift shop and concession stand. I often used to stop at the visitor center in the summer, as I was riding my bike around the city, for its quick and easy access to a restroom and bottled water.  As I swung open the heavy glass and stainless steel doors, it was clear to me that everyone inside the visitor center was surprised to see me, not because of anything about me, but simply because I was a human being. I was literally the only non-employee in this entire visitor center. It’s amazing what snow does to history tourism. Despite the fact that it was winter and snowing, I was sweating greatly, and was glad of the opportunity to take my coat off, breathe a little bit, stomp the snow out of every crease and crevice. I was thirsty and hungry, as I didn’t leave the house with the intention to walk halfway across the city, so I went straight to the concession stand, got me a bottle of water, a hot coffee, and some sort of breakfast sandwich.  I sat alone in the bright, metal cafeteria, my belly growing content as I fed it.  I took note that outside, it had begun snowing again, and heavier this time.  It was quiet in the visitor center.  I was far from home.

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This day started very early. I woke up around 4am not knowing what I was going to do with the day, but knowing that I wanted to wake up early enough to have a really thorough day, if you know what I mean. I was living by myself in Erie Pennsylvania, in an apartment, one bedroom, on the second level of an old house that was nearing dilapidation, but still teetering on the edge of respectability. It was smack-dab in the middle of summer, and waking up at 4am, the whole apartment was already laden with a heat, an oppressive second floor apartment kind of heat; a thin layer of sweat somehow on everything you looked at. I rolled out of bed, made myself a latte on my proudly-acquired home espresso machine, and set about pondering what to do with such a lengthy, summery kind of day all to myself.  I took a long, overly hot shower while the local morning news played on the television which I had crammed into my tiny bathroom. I stayed in the shower for the whole newscast, mind mostly blank. After the shower, while air drying mostly to cool off, I randomly selected a DVD from my bloated collection, and came up with “The 40 Year Old Virgin”, a movie that I don’t know how it ended up in my collection and no longer resides there, but at the time, a mindless comedy seemed just the ticket. I laid on my couch and let the Steve Carell comedy wash over me. Having gotten up so early that an immense amount of day still laid stretched out before me, even after my lengthy ablutions. What to do? Living by one’s self for so long, and so far from everyone you know, turns days and 31316_1458245861882_8379455_nmornings into quiet studies of one’s inner mechanics, and if you linger too long without plans, your cogs and belts begin to make a lot of noise. Suddenly it hit me: Niagara Falls. I’d been living relatively close to Niagara Falls for almost a year at this point, and it was always something bouncing around the periphery of what I wanted to do, but I never quite made it there, never quite made that my actual plan. Almost the moment that it struck me, I bounded off the couch, went to my computer to MapQuest the directions, threw on some clothes and some essentials into a backpack, and I was out the door.  I don’t remember much about the drive, although certainly there had to be a drive. It was close but not incredibly close, probably something like an hour and 15 minutes. A decent trip, but then again, much closer than almost anyone else in the world lives to such landmark. I remember having trouble figuring out where to park when I got close to it, the town itself surrounding it not exactly being incredibly helpful with instructions.  Finally I did get my car parked, and walked across a large grassy mall, the sound of the falls quite distinct, just like you expect the sound of Niagara Falls to be: thunderous, droning, like a white noise that comes from within.  I remember hearing the falls, I remember a large grassy area you had to walk across to get to it, but I don’t remember actually arriving at the falls.  In fact, the order of what I did that day and the specifics of how I did it, are lost in the labyrinth of my brain. I did the touristy things, I rode the boat, I walked up and down the path alongside the falls, I wore the poncho they provide you. I took selfies on the boat, all by myself, surrounded by revelers and families and church groups. After doing the requisite attractions, I found myself walking around the grounds, reading the historical markers, interpreting the interpretive maps. I noticed that there was a small landmass called Goat Island, out of the middle of the river, one of the features that gives the Falls that look, where it is divided occasionally, not one big solid Falls. It was accessible quite easily via a pedestrian bridge across the river, so I went out there, reading the Wikipedia entry on my phone as I went, the long and somewhat interesting history of the island, its ownership and various names. I arrived on the island to find a sweltering patch of grass, the heat dense with liquid, the roar of the falls now like a white noise outside myself, like a curtain descending. The island itself was no larger than a small park, and trees lined the northern edge, so that one couldn’t actually see the land fall away at the end.  I had the island entirely to myself. Of course the only thing to do on an island like that is to walk toward the edge. Walking through the grass I was assaulted by bugs everywhere, insects nipping at my legs, bouncing off my knees like miniature Kamikazes. The closer and closer I got to the river, the more amazed I was that there were no protections of any kind in place. One expects to find some sort of railing here, some warning signs, maybe even Park Rangers or something. But no, the island just walks right up to the river, and right up to the falls, anyone with dark designs would be in no way dissuaded.  The design of the island makes it

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A photo I took from Goat Island that day.

challenging to walk right up to the falls, but instead it is very easy to sit at a clearing about twenty yards away from the actual precipice. I took my backpack off and sat in the grass, and looked out across the Niagara River, just beginning to get a real good head of steam up, just beginning to get its little whitecaps and wavelets, the water not knowing it was about to fly.  The heat washed over me, the insect buzzing began to mesh with the white noise of the falls, it all became a hot buzzing constant, I laid my head on the grass and sunk in, sunk down into the dirt, I was so far from home, and for a moment, I had no idea where I was, or maybe even who I was.

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“Ticking away the moments that make up a dull day
Fritter and waste the hours in an offhand way.
Kicking around on a piece of ground in your hometown
Waiting for something or someone to show you the way.

Tired of lying in the sunshine, staying home to watch the rain.
You are young and life is long and there is time to kill today.
And then one day you find, ten years have got behind you.
No one told you when to run. You missed the starting gun!”

‘Time’, by Pink Floyd

If My Feet Were Spears

Posted in My Poetry, Uncategorized with tags , , , on December 29, 2016 by sethdellinger

The urge is strong to be a tiny bird
upon a tiny limb, maybe
a LeConte’s Sparrow
standing on its spidery feet,
instead of a rotund guy who falls
with a resounding thump,
who bruises, who scrapes on sidewalks
and car doors,
who sinks in river mud
to the waist.
If my feet were spears
I’d sink all the way through the mud
into one of the tumultuous underground rivers
that are everywhere,
earthborn by the black current.
When a child I thought I’d die in my twenties
like some of the greatest poets
but now at thirty-eight I see this hasn’t happened.
Still, I am gentle with my poems and birds.
Birds are poems I haven’t caught yet.

The One About the Cup, and the Runnething Over

Posted in real life with tags , , , on August 16, 2016 by sethdellinger

As an adult, I spent much more time single than most people.  It can be easy to forget that, now that I have met my darling and been with her so long, but I was single (with just a few brief  flings) for well over a decade in my 20s and 30s.  Over that long stretch of time, obviously I developed a method of living by myself that I found quite comfortable and rewarding.  I had a lot of fun and tons of experiences.  I did things people in committed relationships simply can’t do—like relocate and/or start new careers with very little forethought.  It was an incredibly interesting and fascinating way to live.  Some blocks of time, I spent living not just single but far away from all my family and friends.  It allowed me time to breathe, “find myself”, and do some major work on fixing my deep flaws I had developed over years of alcoholism.  It was a great setup, but it did pose one great drawback: it was super lonely.

 

I never would have admitted at the time that I was lonely—mostly because I don’t think I even knew I was lonely.  But of course I was.  There was a lot of upside but being lonely was inevitable.  Luckily, I refused to settle or even actively date when I knew that I wasn’t ready.  This allowed me to be available when my Karla came into my life and also to get as much inner work done as I could before she got there.  So when she found me, I was the best version of me I could have been at that point (although you can ALWAYS keep being a better version of yourself, always always always).

 

Going from single for a decade to in a deeply committed relationship naturally had some shock value for me, and required a period of adjustment.  Fortunately my partner is full of kindness and innate understanding and guided me through the change.  Certainly there were elements of living with another person (or in our case, two other people and a dog!) that were challenging for me at first, but also of course, there were a great many positives and bonuses that come with having an all-the-time partner.  Most of these positives I at least anticipated or could have anticipated.  One thing I never saw coming:  her parents and grandparents.

 

I knew, of course, that when you gain a life partner, their parents become a part of your life.  That was not a surprise.  What I was not prepared for was the level of connection I would have with these people, and the amount of affection and caring they would have for me, and me for them.  From almost my first meeting with Karla’s mother, father, step-mother (although that term doesn’t do adequate justice to the maternal force that is Amy) and grandparents (I’ve only met her maternal grandparents as her other set lives a good distance away) I have felt a true and abiding acceptance.  Karla and I are not married but all these people truly are my family and I love seeing them any chance we get.  They are all different, unique, loving people who I am genuinely excited to get to know more as the years pass.  What a boon!

 

What staggers me the most, when I stop to think about it, is that I spent so much time completely alone, and then finally found a partner—and then a kid and a dog!  They all fill my heart up so much.  On top of that, both of my parents have been terrific parents throughout my life and continue to nurture me emotionally, in addition to being stellar grandparents.  And now to come to the realization that I’ve gained even more family, have even more love and help and caring…well, as I have said before, my cup certainly overflows.  It’s like the world felt it had to make up for all that time I spent by myself.  And sometimes you just have to write a blog about how great things are.

Gravity Works

Posted in Prose, Uncategorized with tags , , on July 2, 2016 by sethdellinger

It’s so exciting, watching a baby, a baby on the edge, just into the toddle, the toddler on the edge of everything, getting into everything. He must be watched constantly, and it is exciting and boring at the same time, this monitoring as the child tries, assays, everything over and over. We have developed a restraint. We call it a high chair and bundle the baby off to it. It looks downright medieval, this highchair with its belts and its sliding, lipped tray table that pins her into it. The baby, so encumbered, writhes and wriggles, all ampersands. We have learned to throw things onto the tray, distractions. Often it is cereal. It is almost always Cheerios. Why Cheerios, cheerless Cheerios? But it is, and the baby immediately responds, gasping and grasping, O-ing for the little o’s. They are like little stem-less keys, all thumbs, that he then inserts into any and all holes, tests the fit (nose, ears, eyes even). Even as we begin to remember something about the hazard of choking, choking hazard, the kid has found where the Cheerios work. The mouth, yes, that’s the ticket. And the child will commence to push all these buttons of oats down this open hatch. Then what do we do? We have played the Cheerio card. The baby looks up at us intently, a brown study of crumbs. And then we do it; we do it even though we know we shouldn’t. We dig deep in our pockets and withdraw our keyring. Now here is an authentic choking hazard, but we are at our wit’s end, too tired (and we can’t leave her worming in that high chair) to go look for the oversized toothy teething keys (pastel colored, soft-edged), designed and marketed for this very moment, when we are about to serve up our real keys. The keys spread eagle on the tray. Instantly, the child attempts to unlock this mystery (the empty vessel he is—ears, nose, mouth), scratching the tabula rasa of his still-soft skull. Suddenly, the baby leans over, off to the side of the chair, and drops the keys. They fall, make a confused clatter on the kitchen floor. Then the baby does this: she looks at us. She looks at the keys. She looks at us. She looks at the keys. Us. We know what we are to do, what we will do. We pick up the keys and place them on the tray once more. And immediately they are once more on the floor. Again with the looking. Again with the picking up and the dropping. This can go on, it seems, for hours. “Gravity works,” we cry out. But for the kid it doesn’t. The next release the keys might drop up. The keys are key as they fall. As they fall they open for us, they open us (if we can just get past the tedium) to possibility, that space to wonder about wonder.

The Moon is Down

Posted in Prose, Uncategorized with tags , , , , , on April 24, 2016 by sethdellinger

Rivers of items pour into the thrift store.  Hats and golf clubs and rusty saws; side tables and lamps with no cords and plush prairie dogs and embroidered pillows.  All day long these pieces of lives slide into the thrift store, glimpses past your neighbors window, views into the locked houses.  Sometimes it’s collections; thirty John Wayne movies, complete sets of Alex Haley figurines, fifteen Danielle Steele hardcovers.  It’s when you see the large collections of things that you know–you know someone died.  Dad died and the kids might have looked over his stuff, piled in the deepest corners of the den and stacked like waffles in the garage, and just not known what to do with it all.  Do you want this? they asked each other, nobody wanting to say no, not wanting to seem careless, but he made them watch “The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance” ten times as kids and they can’t imagine keeping it, even if they did love Dad.  These collections terrify me when I see them.  I have collections.  I have lots of collections.    The ability of someone else’s–some poor dead someone else–amassed material goods to bring me face to face with the abyss seems unfair.  There are so many other ways to find yourself face to face with the abyss, to have Danielle Steele novels from 1982 do the trick makes me think I’m getting too easy.  I like to be near water.  Any body of water will do. Oceans, rivers, lakes, creeks or rivulets, what-have-you.  There’s something about depths.  Fathoms.  Great distances and quantities unknowable.  My mind can fixate for hours on the questions of depth.  It must be so dark down below so much water, it must be so muddy, so briny, so devoid of light and life.  And yet things do live down there.  Organisms thrive.  Little creatures scurry about amidst all the pressure, never knowing sunlight.  I currently live very close to a river.  Not a huge river but it’s a river.  I like to ride my bicycle across a nearby bridge onto an island that is smack center in the river.  I ride out to the tip of the island where the water is spliced, diverted to either side.  I watch the river roll toward me in vast sheets, then split in two and slide past.  It is best to do in the summer.  The boats are out.  Fishermen in tiny outboards, their high-pitched whine echoing off the banks.  The heat of the summer makes the sound pungent.  Pungent whiny motor sound bouncing off river banks, and the sky above can get so blue, so blue.  Then there are river birds, usually.  Some white egrets off in the distance, a heron or two swooping by occasionally.  They call out to one another and their calls mix with boats, the lapping of the water, my own measured, shallow breaths.  It’s enormous things that get me, see?  The enormity of the river–it doesn’t care about me.  It doesn’t know who I am or even acknowledge my life.  It is benign but it is still a faceless monster.  It doesn’t feel but it will keep sliding past this island long after I am gone.  There is comfort in my littleness.  The river is pure and elemental and outside of time.  The river is not nearly as big as the ocean but it might as well be, next to me.  I take my boy to playgrounds.  We go to playgrounds frequently, almost daily in the summer.  We walk there through the humid city streets.  He likes to point at things and name the ones he knows–like house and truck–and ask questions about the ones he doesn’t know yet.  I tell him how water comes down the spouts when it rains.  He can say rain, but not water, not yet. We get to the playgrounds hoping other kids are there for him to play with, but usually there aren’t.  I play with him as much as I can on the tiny kids playground equipment.  It is fun.  It is not at all a task or a burden.  Just a few months ago the little guy was all burbles and gurgles and now here he is holding conversations with me.  It’s electric.  It’s just as elemental as the river.  Often I end up putting him in the little kid swing–the one that looks like a vinyl diaper.  I push him and make faces and he giggles.  It’s usually early evening and he sees the sun starting to nuzzle the horizon.  Sun down?  he asks.  He doesn’t want the sun to go down because he knows that means we have to go home.  Is it down yet?  I ask him.  No, he says, moon down.  That’s right.  The sun is up, the moon is down, all is well with the world.  Often on my days off–while my love is at work and our boy at the sitter–I like to take walks by myself.  It’s astonishing how few people are out, physically, in the world during the day.  Actually walking on sidewalks.  There seems to be very little need for it any more, even in a city.  I walk mostly alone from block to block, neighborhood to neighborhood.  In the hot summer months it feels even more deliciously lonesome, the hot, heavy air pushing in on everything.  The abandoned tricycle on the street corner seems pressurized by the hot air, more solitary but more graceful.  The squirrels in the dogwoods seem to know me, turning their nuts over in their hands like airborne otters, they seem to say It is hot and pressurized and we know you, we are out here, too.  I look at all the houses–so many of them!–with all the windows dark in the middle of the day, and everything so quiet.  I wonder about all the dark quiet houses.  Where are the people?  At their jobs, working to pay for the houses we rarely get to be in, and the cars to get them there (and keep them from having to walk on sidewalks).  Life doesn’t happen here, in the houses, but elsewhere.  Life happens on the move, in transit, on vinyl swings, we swing, we swing, we swing.  I walk until I get sweaty and thirsty and I turn around and head back home. I turn the air conditioning up and pull the blinds and turn on the television.  Everything out there is so big and elemental and universal and here on the screen everything is so small and incomplete and digestible.  I suppose we need the small to balance out the large.  The massive iron oceanliner swaying in a distant harbor at night, the moonlight on its riveted hull.  Things so huge, if you think about them hard enough, just the thought will crush you.

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