Monday’s Meander: Spring Keeps Unfolding Along the Willamette River

For some reason I have lately been having problems downloading iPhone photos to my Dell laptop. These few show a small array from the wonderful walk yesterday as it edged towards mid-60 degrees Fahrenheit. There were more shots of people fishing, of flowering bushes and 6+ feet tall graceful grasses and others… In any case, I am grateful we could get out and enjoy this. About a quarter of the sparse number of walkers had masks on. There was plenty of room to keep our distance–a little lonely for this time of year. Many cyclists of all ages sped by. Heartening to see kids on their bikes having fun.

Such a relaxing couple of hours outdoors! Spring perhaps means more than ever.

It was less empty than it appears…but in ordinary times, this area would be full of folks barbecuing (there is a covered picnic area just left of photo) and gathered in groups to chat. There were several dog walkers (I didn’t want to intrude upon snapping a pic) and a few couples and families on pathways alongside the water. We all found the relief of beauty and other peaceful moments, as well as friendly nods or greetings as best we can.

Until next time–be safe, stay connected to others, keep nurturing hope and spread small kindnesses.

Warm regards to all,

Cynthia

Friday’s Passing Fancy/Poem: This Flesh on Earth

How tender this skin, voluminous

frailty of flesh that nets our dreams

labors in favor of greater longevity

hijacks time and its intentions

redresses error to redouble efforts

carries fear and courage in cellular symmetry

sees depth and breadth in a flash

accepts lust or purity in equal measure

entreats mind and Mother Wit to share wisdom

quiets then rings out voices of billions

bears all stories and creates more tellers

harbors secrets or offers them freedom

restrains, forgoes and denies basic needs

and welcomes touch, water, bread

fights losing battles to preserve a breath

then sooner or later relinquishes its hold:

this skin that brings the miracles together

until– well-used or unbearable– it is shed:

bless this flesh that we may live better,

bless and guard us in our deep seclusions

and may we use great libraries of mind

discover cosmologies of spirit

hear songs of earth and galaxies

dance with a resurrecting Light

to the beat of the blood-deep

yes I mean yes hold close this one moment

lift up our weeping hearts, feel their might

Wednesdays’ Word/Short Story: What He’d Longed For

Photo by Lum3n.com on Pexels.com

Oscar took the rosewood-grained pen into both hands and turned the barrel over and over. The fine golden accents on cap and hefty body shone under the warm light of his desk lamp. He leaned back in the swivel chair with its worn buttery leather, and stilled the impulse to turn in it, side to side, as he mused. He needed to think without the usual distractions. Before him rested a sheet of grey-blue stationary, smooth and hearty enough for his pressured, rapid penmanship. His supply of writing papers was replenished a week prior, but the pen…it had been in his possession for thirty-six years. A gift, and one that did not diminish in usefulness or elegance after all this time.

It had been on his mind from dawn to midnight to write the letter ever since word had arrived from Addie. It was two days ago that he shuffled through the mail, then once more when realizing he’d had a glimpse of spare, careful handwriting, almost calligraphic. At first he thought, Another invitation to someone’s christening or wedding or who knows what else, and would have tossed it aside awhile. But there was something about the handwriting that brought him closer to the script, then held it at arm’s length to look again. To take it in.

The address label stated: Adelaide P. Trussman. From Wisconsin, of all places. The first name, yes, he got that, not the last–who else did he know with that name? No one. That place or the reason for the dispatch, no. It took him several seconds to entertain the probability that Addie–the Addie he’d known during college days, pre-law days– had written to him thirty five years after they had last communicated.

He took it to his desk immediately and stood above it, hands flattened on desktop keeping him upright, heart pounding. And then he did nothing more with it. But paced back and forth on the tattered Persian rug by his desk, glancing with each pass at the envelope as if it was a strange and risky thing to even cast his eye upon.

He then assembled a thick ham sandwich with white bean soup for dinner and sat in the long dining room, the two white candles that he usually lit staying flameless. The food went down fast, unremarkable but tasting like nothing and he wondered why he’d bothered, he was that unnerved. He was a man who indulged his appreciation of any sort of meal, and his girth testified to such, though his height was significant, as well. But he felt slightly unwell after eating.

And sleep failed him more than usual. Every time he closed his eyes he saw her: shoulder-length, ashy- blonde hair, as she herself had called it (rather than “dirty”, she’d confessed); medium-slim figure attired in her standard white button-up shirt and snug jeans; and her head thrown back in laughter, wide mouth revealing slightly crooked front teeth that showed up readily–she often smiled and laughed, with anyone or for any reason, he’d thought. Then he dropped off, unable to recall more, only to wake periodically, unsettled.

And then, on the second day after its arrival, he took his time reading Addie’s letter. He sat in the bright spring garden, and afterwards he stayed there a very long while, letter pages fluttering on the bench beside him.

And read it three times more.

Now he sat at his desk in a ruminative mood, jumbled feelings capsizing inside him. This was the day he would respond.

My dear Addie,

That was quite too familiar, wasn’t it?

Hello there, Addie!

Too casual, almost rudely so. Like John Wayne in a sexy, aggressive manner.

Hello my old friend,

That might be thought presumptuous. Were they really such great friends that one short final year of undergraduate school? Despite the fact that they fairly often studied together, shared a meal at least two times as week, went out with their buddies to theater and concerts and met up afterwards at various dwelling places to keep the party going? And got closer near the end? Not as close as he wished, but enough to linger inside his mind.

He pulled out a journal he used to write drafts of various things and on a white page he wrote with a cheap ball point rather than the fine fountain pen.

Dear Addie,

That seemed best. Keep it a cleanly simple and correct greeting, one that could be passed over without a pause.

It was indeed a bit of a shock to find your elegantly addressed envelope among the usual suspects of disposable advertisements and rancorous bills. It is seldom that one gets a real letter these days, much less arriving from someone from the past, like a ghost arising from the pedestrian and quiet landscape of life as I do live it.

Was that too much? Too revealing that he lived a more solitary life than he’d planned the days before or long after law school? He left it and kept with the momentum; he could edit later.

Your address label announced that you reside in Wisconsin, apparently a small city unknown to me. That was cause enough to look twice.

No, that would not do. It had the grating edge of criticism, even a minor threat of scorn now he thought it over. A small city in Wisconsin–as if he was shocked and in a distasteful way. Well, even if it had felt close to that… he was born and bred, now well established in the city wilds of Chicago–but wait, he did recall she loved the country. She had grown up on a ranch–Idaho, he thought–the first thirteen years of her life and had told him she missed the countryside and honest work of outdoor chores. So she may have found her Shangri-la, or close enough.

He drew a firm line through the sentences and began again.

First, it gave me pause that you are not living in Idaho or Massachusetts, after all. But Wisconsin must be a place you well enjoy; you missed more rural spaces even though you planned on being a lawyer. You did end up practicing law, too, and you do so no doubt well and diligently. This is the very good news. I practice, as well, as you must have discovered, and am now a partner at Longham, Wright and Levison. I still have to check that it is my name at the end of that line. It goes well. But perhaps we can discuss our work another time.

He reconsidered and crossed out the last line.

Oh, he’d be glad to talk about law, skip the rest, the less said that was directly personal the better and easier. Yet, in fact, that is what he longed to do, as well–talk about their last year, how much enjoyment was shared, how he’d longed to hold her much closer than a fast squeeze as greeting or farewell….well, not that, of course not, he’d not now say that.

I am glad to hear from you…was he glad, was that the word? Began again. Plunge right in feet first as Addie did, may as well get to it and get it finished. She had asked to reconnect. What did that mean in this day and age?

I was honored that you thought of me in this time of upheaval and loss. I knew you had married, of course, as you also learned of my decision to wed Jeanette, yet years absent of communication have created a yawning gap in knowledge of our experiences. My marriage lasted four years. It was meant to end from the start, perhaps; I realized I am at my best on my own and my life is full enough of events as well as my work. And Jeanette was intent on more hours spent solidifying her career in emergency medicine. Our lives rarely intersected. But we left each other with a decent, even kind farewell. And no children to bear the brunt of the ending.

I come back home to peace and pleasantries alongside my mammoth, somewhat stately cat, Titan. It is a good life I have made. I don’t regret our marriage but I do not harbor misgivings, either. I am, to my surprise, a man at my ease most of the time.

And it can get quiet enough to hear those long whiskers twitch some days or nights, Oscar thought, running a hand over forehead and balding pate. But he’d said what he meant. No sense embellishing or telling her lies.

It seems as if you have had more happy times than trying. Bruce sounds like an admirable man, someone with whom you experienced many joys as well as usual life challenges over thirty years of marriage. I’m saddened for you–that he was in the auto accident, that you lost him in such a devastating manner. It must have been harder than anything you have faced in your life. And to go on, to consider an entirely different array of elements that must now fill and reshape your life.

Was that hinging on maudlin? too personal?….Did she even want him to comfort her or was he imagining that? But he thought he felt her intention, that she need someone to talk to who also knew her back when. That shared history can matter more in hard times.

He considered it: snowy weather, icy roads, another driver fast out of control, an unavoidable hillside. Too much. Oscar would not revisit it in the letter despite wanting to know more. Was there an investigation or was it that simple? She had stated the bare details plainly and then only said she was having trouble with widowhood. As if one might ever find it not terribly troublesome. He could not imagine, not really, what she felt. But she didn’t sound as if she was drowning in tears. Well, it had been over a year. Perhaps she had gotten over the worst of it.

She had two adult children who cared about her, “a blessing, although they both live on the west coast and I see them only a three or four times a year,” she wrote. “But I have the beauty and sweat of hard work. You know how much that can fill up time and diminish any random need for more.”

Well, he didn’t have much need for more. But he could see that she did. It was a shock to lose her Bruce and now there was daily drudgery and longing as she remade her life alone.

Or so he speculated as he read between the lines.

You had said you would like to rekindle a friendship.

Oscar’s heart raced a bit once more. He stood up and shook his body out head to toe to calm himself, walked to the window. What was Addie writing to him about, in the end? A check -in after thirty-six years of nothing? They’d had something small, really not much, a warm friendship that mattered more to him than to her, he had been certain.

Outside were the huge oak and maple trees, expansive garden flourishing with its vivid carnival of blooms and texture-rich green plantings, the two benches he’d placed here and there in order to read, to meditate, to doze. He adored this home on a half acre. The historical brick house was too large, perhaps, but that didn’t bother him. He liked his meanders through the high-ceilinged rooms, appreciated the tidiness and the pleasing Shaker furnishings, enjoyed a sweep of views from each light-filled window. And Titan would pad behind him or overtake him, then disappear until the next mealtime or if he felt like rooting at the foot of the bed at night. If Oscar went outdoors, the luxurious cat would streak past to claim a cozy spot under a bush or at his feet– if not inclined to chase something else moving.

It was the most basic scenarios which gave him comfort after arduous and engaging long work days. Well, that and a good sherry; great literature or a fast thriller to entertain him; so much music to hear that he’d not be finished with it in his lifetime; an hour’s horseback ride at a welcoming stables twice a month for the sheer pleasure of learning something new; meeting with friends at the golf course whenever he was so moved. A satisfying meal three times a day. He was privileged and he admitted it to himself, and the way he felt better about it was to take pro bono cases, too. And he gave a bit of advice on the Community Free Legal Connection line.

He shook his head; he had drifted way beyond letter writing. He got lost in his ways and means, not hers, but it was good to reevaluate what he cared about, too.

I would like that. It has been so long since we shared any thoughts, it might take quite some time to reconnect. We both have full schedules and commitments to attend to, but I am thankful you let me know of the passing of your husband …but also that you are managing, anyway. It helps to have community such as you describe, with potlucks and farmer’s markets and many events for people to gather for celebrated or mourned occasions. And your important book club–that is a boon after all the years you have known the participants. We must not forget MahJong–there’s a game to engage you well, even back in college. (I haven’t yet learned it.)

Was he acting poorly? Brushing her off? After all this time…

He had wondered for years if she might turn up in his life one day, even in passing. Imagined that it would be what he had hoped as a young man, and might even culminate in a romantic and impassioned embrace. Or perhaps more. Love. Much to his embarrassment later, he’d shared that with his closest friend Grant, right after Jeanette, and Grant covered his smile with a hand and probed less. He knew it would take time for the dust to settle, his friend offered without unkindness.

Oscar was not the type for fluff or fuss, Grant told others if asked, but was a good-natured and well meaning man, a gentleman who could get a tad rowdy if encouraged, and simply brilliant at the law. And, it went without saying, supremely content as a bachelor–most of the time–while not averse to meeting with smart, like-minded women with which to share experiences. And that was close to the truth. Oscar could take intimate company or leave it; more often he left it as the years passed.

So, here was the moment Oscar had fantasized– and he was extolling the virtues of her new…independence via widowhood? Ghastly of him. Was he just a commitment-phobe, as a few had hinted or outright accused?

No, a resounding no. He was committed to living the life that he chose. It was not what he’d first anticipated by this age, but it had turned out well.

He put ballpoint to paper once more.

I am glad to offer support as you continue to sort things out. Since, as you know from the past, I have long appreciated the art of letter writing, I am glad you reached out in this manner, as well. We surely have much to catch up on and it pleases me to think of time well spent doing so. Such a correspondence seems an extraordinary thing to undertake in these virtual reality-mad times.

Please let me know if this is something you would benefit from and still may like to share. Until then, I sincerely hope you will find the coming months opening to more fascinating possibilities that help close the profound gaps the loss of your husband has created. I am certain you will.

You certainly deserve all the best in your life, Addie. I have always thought so.

Warm regards (and gratitude that I still use your graduation gift, a beautiful thing),

Oscar

He looked over the draft, made a few more changes, then picked up his rosewood pen, uncapped it and let the ink flow with his meticulous words onto the fine stationary. It was a joy to use his tools of correspondence, and more so in response to Addie. He had waited a lifetime to do so once more. But if she didn’t want to just write letters… well, then, he’d not be the one to fuss over a lost opportunity. There would eventually be other people, other letters to write thoughtfully with his cherished pen.

After he was satisfied with the pages, he slid it into matching envelope with a slow sigh and left it in the lacquered tray in the table by the front door. He patted it, then went to the kitchen to prepare fresh salmon he’d purchased earlier in the day, Titan scurrying at his heels.

Monday’s Meander: An Annual Waterfront Gathering and Concert

Usually I post pictures of landscapes or visits to museums, gardens, etc., but I miss seeing more people out and about, enjoying themselves. So many looked solemn, sad, weary today on our walk. Then I came across photos from a waterfront festival in Portland, year 2014. A free, open air Oregon Symphony Concert is a hit each year, and boaters come out in droves plus huge crowds that sit alongside the water and before the stage. The other performers that time included Portland Opera, Oregon Ballet Theatre, Portland Youth Philharmonic, Metropolitan Youth Symphony, 234th Army Band of the Oregon National Guard, Hillsboro School District, Mariachi Una Voz, BRAVO Youth Orchestras and the big drums of Portland Taiko. A fine, diverse group of offerings to fill senses, minds and hearts.

Such a normal state of events in healthier summer times. I feel a wave of nostalgia as I study them. I love being down in city center, going to art fairs and numbers of markets and eating out and shopping, just strolling by the Willamette River’s city walkways, sharing a coffee with others. I suspect I will be looking at more of my city shots, and posting them off and on.

But this also happily confirms that we have had scads of splendid days and nights in our vibrant, artsy, thriving Pacific NW city. And there will be more, sooner or later– if we follow mandates to stay as well as we can and thus, help others do the same. I know we can rebuild after things settle, eventually. I am proud of Portlanders’ willingness to do what is safe and try to support our local businesses as we can, and more and more online.

Like Powell’s Bookstore, for one, a fantastic independent bookseller (there are several, all closed now as are all brick and mortar nonessential businesses) that offer books to customers all over the world. Check them out at http://www.Powell.com. You’ll find rare books and first editions; literary, experimental and genre fiction along with graphic novels, tons of nonfiction and poetry, of course. And more. Yes, I read even longer hours now–a gift, except for too little sleep when nighttime reading…

I would enjoy hearing what you love about your towns and cities! Let me know with your comments.

Please take good care.

Friday’S Passing Fancy/Poem: A Small Thing

This isn’t a poem. 

It is a moment that wants 

to be set free,  a small

thing with a bigger imagination, 

a plaintive whistling in the dark, 

a boy with a bird on his shoulder, 

a shadowed heart that also blazes. 

This is a pause in lavender twilight, 

a thought that strikes dew-laden air,

a random stop on a serpentine trail that 

detains us so we may become less lost. 

This is a minor rescue despite the rending. 

It is a moment of intimacy saved for  

others frail or frightened or 

hungry for something else. 

Here arrives night, dreams or not,

still an old woolen blanket 

so that inside it we may camp, 

carried by night dense with falling stars,

warming our hands over pulses of

heat from stubs of saved candles. 

This is a memorial, yes, but a story

of miracles. The morning comes like a scarf

drifting over the face. It has always a 

luminosity that wants not to let us go, 

our human hopes close like protection, 

with recognition discerned in kindness, 

and soon everyone more known

to one another in the struggle. 

Angels, that’s what seems closer now, 

the angels summoned of our longing

or our surrendering,

each drifting this way, a chorus. 

To hold up.

To comfort.

To forge a way to new horizons.

So if this is no poem, 

then consider it a memo, 

a reminder, 

a way of remembering 

all that is good about the world, 

the things we must not misplace, 

and promises made to keep: 

find hallowed the life we each can mold 

now, not then nor far tomorrow,

and also release it, exuberant or weary,

with the wings and winds of God

to the hands that will open.