Postcards from a distance, “wish you weren’t here”

Driving to the vet’s office I blanked out again, forgot where I was going. It’s the same route I used to take driving to work, the road that curves by the elementary school and the playground where we used to take the kids, that boggy green belt with dead trees in the middle grown over with flowers and shrubs. Down the road past people on their phones walking their dogs, stopping at the light with the first view of the lake, those million dollar homes along the shores. We never wanted to live in the suburbs but a number of factors led us here, and now it’s our home and our lives, it’s where we put in. Up the road past the cyclists peddling, recalling when Mike and I rented bikes in France, how painful that was climbing the cliff-sides overlooking the sea, but then we stopped for dinner and shared a bottle of wine and everything was alright. It was the first time I ordered “fruits de la mer,” a pasta dish with fresh seafood. I was proud of myself I could translate the name, fruits of the sea. The last time I took Ginger to the vet was March, they’d just started the new policy of making you check in over the phone and wait in your car while they examine your pet. And it seemed ridiculous to me then but now it feels normal as I sit here waiting on my phone. How all thoughts of travel feel so much farther away now. And I don’t want to go anywhere, anyways. We piddle around the yard noting how the angle of the sun changes, how it lights up the prisms in the window, throwing bits of rainbow like confetti on the walls. And the kids have taken to staying up all night (literally), sleeping most of the day. We are like the day shift taking over for the night crew, they clock out as we clock in. When they rise around 4 we are thinking about dinner and they are getting their cereal, then fixing themselves dinner as we wake up. And so I take this road now and remember back to the days I used to drive in, and doubt it will ever be the same. There is a pervasive sense of loss in all this, a strange peace that could be a kind of acceptance or another form of dismay. The frame of our worlds collapsing down, retracting. A kaleidoscope in reverse.

Watching the hummingbird turf wars for best access to the feeders as they bluff charge each other. One winds up high and hovers there like a kite, then dive bombs the other, changing course at the last second. They don’t seem like nice birds to me, I think their proboscis makes them too self-assured. Lily has started using the term “straggot” for teenaged boys who pose like they’re bad-ass on TikTok (“straight faggot”). And we try to equate straggot with the same strain of hate from its cousin word but she insists it’s different, that “faggot” comes from a practice of rolling up gays in a carpet and lighting them on fire. Which doesn’t seem plausible to me I say, because who has extra carpeting lying around like that? We look it up and learn they actually burned heretics in carpets like that (women too), and faggot derives from slurs originally aimed at women. Well, that’s what we did on Friday night anyways. That, and I got a fire going but no one paid any attention to it so I just sat by it sulking, waiting for the stars to come out and the bistro lamps to go off. That, and I chased a fly around the house with a swatter. Dawn said they have these bug zappers now shaped like small tennis racquets and we thought we could make some sport of that.

It is a milky, languid day. All those leaning trees. I uprooted some foxgloves and threw their trumpets on the ground. Watered the scotch moss on the side of the house, trying to remember that patchwork of color that’s unique to Scotland: those parched-looking hills of green and brown, some yellow. That feeling I sometimes get of crazed infatuation for nature, just wanting to jump into it, to have it consume me. To disappear into the dark of the forest and have it erase me, to let me back in.

Categories: parenting, prose, writing

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15 replies

  1. I wrote a poem in Portuguese, once, and far from me to translate all of it here, but it ends somewhat like:
    the soil, this rejected
    beast, this epic
    of silences,

    the fount of all
    that oppresses. A hauling
    of lead, a night unwoven
    by dry pine needles
    hiding the pith of pines
    and the opulent argent line
    of the larches; some manner of despair
    cries locked in quietude.

    It’s interesting to me, this feral wound of the man wanting to get lost in the subtle violence of nature, which is the precise core of your text. How, in your trip to the vet, you are abstracted, seduced, beckoned. How your adaptation to the app is felt as some sort of minor wound that seems healed, how your education of Lily regarding something as simple as which words ought not to be used and whence they hail feels, somehow, like an artificial thing that quickly wanes, “evolates”. How you seem stuck in some sense of sempiternal dislodging, of loss. And then, perhaps to culminate all of this but undoubtedly a product of your punctilious mind, you pull out foxgloves, the “digitalis”, both a symbol for the synthetic and for what got us out of the great motherly beast of nature to begin with: not this mind, which forever haunts us, but our hands, these little cups of dexterity, our digits.
    I explored these themes for a while, in my memnos cycle, which precedes this one. Sometimes, I feel like I lived a damn lifetime, and I’m twenty-four! Haha.

    I’m sorry for the massive response, but I absolutely loved the details of this writing. Perhaps not everyone reads as attentively as I, but your details are not lost to me, Bill! Never! And also, I was quite nice to you in my recommendations, but I did claim that you were giving out pink light sabres. I hope you don’t mind!

    Liked by 1 person

    • I must say I haven’t ever received a comment like this, and feel a bit elated by it…you’re 24 in some crude measurement of time but seem somehow infinite in your perspective here, it’s blowing my mind! Thank you for the lovely share and that piece of yours…I’m going to counter with one because you took the time to do this. Hold on, I have to transcribe it from another poet I was just reading. You might like it. Not that WC Williams douche.

      Liked by 1 person

    • This is from a poet named David Whyte, from our area in the Pacific Northwest, the US:

      Life turns like a slow river
      and suddenly you are there
      at the edge of the water
      with all the rest
      and the fire carries the
      feast and the laughter
      and in the darkness
      away from the fire
      the unspoken griefs
      that still
      make togetherness
      but then
      just as suddenly
      it has become a fire less
      night again
      and you find yourself alone
      and you must speak to the stars
      or the rain-filled clouds
      or anything at hand
      to find your place.

      When you are alone
      you must do anything
      to believe
      and when you are
      you must speak
      with everything
      you know
      and everything you are
      in order
      to belong.

      From “What I Must Tell Myself”

      Thanks for the killer comment. Bill

      Liked by 2 people

      • I know David Whyte and the poem! (which is much larger) Though I thought he was English, I did not know he was from the PNW.
        I really, really adore the poem in its entirety, and I’m especially fond of how David titled it. Though I sadly do not write like him, I always found that I’m profoundly lucky in being able to love authors so vastly different from my style. Eh, the little pleasures, right?
        Anyways, Bill, thank you for permitting me to comment and to display you in my blog for all-the-ever, and thank you for this rich exchange.

        Liked by 1 person

      • Yeah, thank you…pleasure is all mine! I think Whyte must be from the UK but made his home in the PNW. I adopt him as “ours,” at any rate. Be well!

        Liked by 1 person

  2. The other day my old man claimed that hummingbirds are like the chihuahuas of the bird world. And they really are. Apologies to their fans.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Enjoyed the post, and also the poetry and detailed literary analysis by João-Maria. I would never have made the connection between foxglove > digitalis > digits/fingers, that’s neatly done. An interesting discussion also of terminology, the gay/heretic/carpet bombing thing.
    I usually keep it quiet, but didn’t really enjoy reading “Walden,” (speaking of heretics) especially when reading of Thoreau’s trips to town for dinners, and to have his mom do his laundry, etc. But still, the desire to dive into nature, that’s constantly present, it surfaces all the time, without any conscious prompting, doesn’t it.

    Liked by 1 person

    • I do love the way you put that Robert, through and through…particularly the bit about nature there at the end. I don’t recall reading Walden; we studied the “transcendentalists” I think they were called about 35 years ago now. Should pay them another look, right?! I recall being moved by Whitman, but sometimes when I go back they don’t hold up. And I’m tired of requiring things being explained to me. It’s funny, I think Joao-Maria saw stuff in my text I didn’t know was there! That’s cool for people to get different things though. She is way beyond me in her studies and POV. I think you are too, old Hoss! Grateful for your reading here and always insightful, thoughtful comments, thanks!

      Liked by 1 person

  4. This piece definitely captures the bizarre melancholy of the times we are in. Bravo, I guess…

    Liked by 1 person

  5. This deserves more of a comment than I’m able to muster up at this late hour, but I see you already have the mother of all comments up there, so I’ll just say that this here is mighty fine work there, yessir.

    Liked by 1 person

  6. “Well, that’s what we did on Friday night anyways.” Made me laugh.

    I mentioned this before, but I thought it would fade as we got outside more and more: I’m really enjoying seeing the landscape these days. Just driving Abby to work at the golf course out in the country, passing the contours of farmers’ fields, the order of crops, the shades of green and gold in the hills. Are we seeing things differently now?

    Liked by 1 person

    • I have a similar experience when we’re out driving around, which we do sometimes just to “get out.” And yes I think there’s something about our perception that’s changed. It may not be as deep…could just be from going stir-crazy. But I feel similarly. Glad you liked that little gag…gosh I appreciate how you pack ‘em in there in your writings.

      Liked by 1 person

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