Monday, October 30, 2006

The Turning

Turning points.

Yesterday the wind cleared the deck of leaves. Yesterday the wind buried the steps in leaves. Two days ago the sun ricocheted off tree leaves —creating a kaleidoscope of autumn colors. In twenty-four hours bare limbs and nude trees attested to the turning of the seasons. Sometimes this change happens slowly, almost a leaf at a time. Other times the wind seems bent on a drastic stripping away of the vestiges of summer.

We mark the calendar, purchase appropriate paraphernalia to accommodate the imminent changes, set the clock back, bemoan the quickened darkness, and turn on the heat. We anticipate the arrival of autumn's fullness and close on her heels— winter.

Turnings. Turning points. When I turned eight my father gave me a box of Dubble Bubble chewing gum. At that time, before dentists and the ADA droned on about sugar and tooth decay, we all chewed bubble gum and blew spectacular bubbles. My friend Nina's bubble stuck to her eyelashes when it burst unexpectedly.

A full box represented a treasure drove. I envisioned myself practicing hour and after hour and eventually entering a Dubble Bubble contest. Each pink piece, carefully wrapped with a riddle and then an outside wrapper, represented stardom. "I gave you enough," said my father,"to share with your friends." Until he uttered those words sharing the cache of gum never entered my mind. A turning point—the realization that moral expectations entwine themselves in the ownership of property. That box sat unopened for days while I attempted to answer the question of whether I wanted, needed, or must share the contents. Finally I did because I wanted my father's approval. He never asked me if I shared. I never did enter a contest because the yo yo man appeared in our sphere and I couldn't practice 'Around the World' or 'Sleep the Dog' and blow bubbles.

Imagine the turning point when years later I discovered that history runs around and around repeating itself endlessly and we don't learn from prior generations. That sent me away from present history to ancient history where I immersed myself in the muddy banks of the Nile until years later I emerged and turned again to the present. That year I turned with a vengeance to politics. The 1972 presidential race — McGovern and Nixon. I didn't join a commune, but I folded flyers, addressed envelopes and mailed hundreds of pleas to voters. Vote for McGovern. We saw him as the representative of the Second Coming. We sang and stayed up to hear the returns. What happened to my envelopes, or those of Bonnie or Maury or Ann? Did they evaporate? How could forty-nine states support Nixon? I turned away from envelopes and painted warnings on poster board and carried placards.

Jump on the bandwagon. Turn with open arms to welcome the new panacea, the tabloid telling you of how to beat the market, buy low, sell high, position yourself.

I find myself turning to echoes, traces—remnants. I hear my grandfather intoning the afternoon prayer. He's wrapped in a talit and his body sways with the rhythm of his chant.

I am at a turning point. My words need to find a new posture, a stretching out on the page, a falling off the page, a rearrangement, a realignment. I am becoming. I am in the act of becoming. I am metamorphosing into a neo-post-modernist.

Monday, October 16, 2006

The Dance Recital


With the sun blazing and an appreciative audience she danced until twilight.

When out taking photos I look for the unexpected—a chance encounter. I found the dancer on a small hill, perhaps an incline. At that moment a glaring sun gazed and illuminated every strand—every wispy hair. Each strand glowed and burned. A breeze set her in motion.

She pirouetted—jumped —raised her hands in awe. She danced for me.

Saturday, October 14, 2006

A Surprise Birthday Party

My birthday —that once a year celebration—that gift of exuberant life: an iris with breakfast, a helium filled balloon announcing my birthday in purple lettering, wrapped gifts, and a card filled with love. Add to that the sun, blue sky, a perfect cup of coffee, an afternoon spent walking in a sculpture garden and finding spots of exquisite beauty—the way the sun illuminated orange and yellow blades of a plant or a stone carving that pulsated and then dinner with friends.

Once I had a surprise birthday party. Perhaps it wasn’t a party because one thinks of a large extravaganza with hoards of people hidden in nooks and crannies all waiting to pile out screeching happy birthday. Mine was a subdued affair—mid-afternoon in the middle of the week.

I taught twenty minutes away from home and on the day of my birthday I left school shortly after the 2:40 pm busses left. When I arrived home I found the table in the kitchen decorated with a festive paper tablecloth, a birthday centerpiece, plates with a cake design, and matching napkins and paper cups. My daughter Elyse, twelve at the time, had also festooned the room with garlands and balloons.

We ate cupcakes, drank milk, and talked. We both tried, for the afternoon—tried to understand one another.