28 January 2018

Flood on the River of Dreams

His eyes open slow as the rise of the sun. A patient inexorability shedding light on the world. It is cool here, and quiet save for the sounds of the forest. Pain resides here, too, but as a fading memory in his bones. The earth is cool and damp under sore cheekbones. Tadhg breathes deep of the petrichorean air, marveling that he appears to be alive.

His world swims into focus. Sand the color of Demerara sugar. A mosaic of glossy gravel, nacreous in the early light. Ahead lies a dense line of riparian jetsam, arranged by the fractal urgency of high rushing water. Beyond the wrack, a wall of cedars and pines wait patiently in hunter and emerald refulgency caressed by the quickening daylight. 
The flood, he hoped, was gone.

Tadhg levers himself to hands and knees. The bank rests in its shawl of green, brown, and tan. His eye is attracted to a vivid patch of color, shimmying in a zephyr padding down the riverbed with feline silence. Flowers? he thinks, how did they survive? He lurches upright to get a better view. A score of slow paces later and his guess is confirmed. It is a patch of flowers resplendent in shades of cornflower and indigo.

He stands with hands on hips to marvel at this small miracle. The flood had been savage in its intensity, days if not weeks of roil and destruction. Tadhg looked around and wondered if he was anywhere near home. Judging from the unfamiliarity of the terrain he reckoned that unlikely. Yet it was beautiful here, and the combination of water and forest stilled his jangled nerves with arboreal comfort.

The silence is broken. A sharp cry breaks out overhead, causing Tadhg to look up and out over the river. He spies a bald eagle skimming the tree line on the opposite bank. The bird is bathed in the aureate glory of the morning sunlight. The sight of the bird loosens something in Tadhg's chest, and he finds it possible to breathe easy once again.

TokTokTok. From just inside the trees beyond the flowers comes the unmistakeable sound of a woodpecker drumming on a trunk. The sound makes Tadhg smile. He cannot escape the parallel between his own stubborn joust with the world and the labors of the unseen bird. 

The eagle glides downriver, a spirit passing into the light mist. Dying echoes of the woodpecker fade into the forest. Quietude descends on the river as even the breeze ceases its whispers. Tadhg can feel the earth breathing beneath his feet. 

He looks down at his filthy, sodden clothes. He sees the scratches on his arms and hands, a result of scouring amongst the gravel of the flood. He bleeds, slowly, but survives. Falling to his knees he prostrates himself in prayer before the flowers. Surely the existence of such beauty amongst the wrack is proof to his pagan heart that the earth, or something bigger, wants him to live.

21 January 2018

On the Verge of Gone

The milk. It has been in there for two weeks past the expiration date. Unscrew the cap anyway. Wipe off the seal. Peering into the jug reveals no curds, at
least that can be seen by the naked eye. Good sign, maybe. Do you want to take the chance? Cereal is no good with water on it, right? Water on cereal. Yes, that happened once. Never want to be that low again. So, what to do. The kicker will be the sniff test. No getting around it. Lift the jug. Breathe in deep.

Then fall down a rabbit hole of memory, the lingering sweet dairy aroma undercut with the faintest undertone of curdling. The kitchen is different, but standing at the sink is the same. The hands engaged in myriad domestic entanglements, the mind drifting to thoughts of warmth and affection after the dishes are done. A carton of milk sits on the counter, awaiting transport back to the refrigerator. Other groceries surround the carton, the results of grocery shopping shared with someone, a way to take the drudgery out of chores.

The light in this kitchen is different than the one in which you pace nowadays. The light seems better, warmer, welcoming. This is the difference between a house that knew love and a glorified cell harboring cold desperation. The routine once known as an incubator of good feeling no longer exists. Time and distance have seen to it. But what peculiar cruelty arisen from the banality of sliced white bread and a container of milk. This is what hurts.

It used to be the groceries could be put away and the hands were freed up to seek out touch. To wrap arms around warmth. Fingers resting on the gentle curve of hips, drawing closer to a kiss and shared breath. The simple acknowledgement of a humanity close to the soul, near impossible to find any other way. Travel in time and space. A miracle contained in the molecules of milk on its way to immortality.

Two weeks old, approaching undrinkability, but there is little choice to do otherwise. Snap. The cord breaks. The eyes water. Once again at the counter on a gray morning, bewildered with jug in hand. It is almost spoiled, it won’t be long. Bitterness and hunger leave no options. The milk is poured. The cereal downed. The stomach lurches and the heart spasms at the scent of milk on the verge of gone.

14 January 2018

Highwire Over the Black

8:13 PM. Notes from the cell. A mid-winter night's nightmare. I tell you now this is not a "feel good" essay.

That which troubles my sleep, and my waking hours. I am tightrope walking over a scar of infinite black below. The curiousness of the activity stems from not comprehending how it came to be. My mind is not expansive enough, yet. 

On one side of this chasm lies a carnivale of connection and affection which I crave. On the other lies a fortress, built of the stones of bitterness, into which my heart wishes to retreat. All the while, my feet shuffle gingerly over the wire. The wind of desperation tests my balance.

Move forward, move back, it matters not. Any choice involves a fall. The blackness of mistrust threatens to swallow me whole should I slip. It threatens to swallow me should I stand still. Paralyzed, cold, frantic. Mistrust seeps into every feeling, every thought. This is no way to have a life.

Paradoxically it also feels like being backed into a corner. Two walls, floor, a low ceiling all closing in. There is no wind, only a thickening atmosphere. Left with nothing but desperation to figure out who to trust, as there is none towards others or myself. The unofficial motto for the Disunited States of Me: “In Pain We Trust”.

Snow is falling as I write this. I see the fat flakes hurtling to the ground. On the radio, The Jayhawks croon “You shouldn’t hide your colors” to which a bitter chuckle escapes my lips. Shouldn’t hide my colors? Noble, it might seem. Courageous, perhaps. I let my colors fly because I believed those things to be true. My reward was to watch while the heart to which mine had pledged allegiance cut down my mast and set the flag ablaze. Glory ending in ashes and rubble.

My soul is neither coroner nor archaeologist, but it finds itself sifting through the blackened debris that surrounds it. Fragments of a life. Bits and pieces tattooed with words barely visible through traces of smoke and charred edges. It is painful, this performing of forensics on the shattered remains of one's own heart.

Out on the wire, nothing stays still. Thoughts, feelings. The pulse in the veins even contributes its own instability, a constant challenge to the act of standing still. Staring into the tea mug I watch the trembles of my hands translate into ripples over the mahogany liquid. Closing my eyes, I dive in, surfacing on the wire again. The sun is peeking through the clouds. But I am still there suspended over the void. Connection seems so close, if only I could believe. 

The fortress may be cold and dark but it has thick walls. Walls that deflect pain and rejection, behind which sleep might be possible. The carnival is bright and warm but in the past I have paid dearly for the cost of a ticket. A ticket which did nothing to prevent the despair of rejection. So it is I am paralyzed on the wire. My colors are mute and hidden. It is only a matter of time before I fall. The question is, which way?

07 January 2018

Moment Stretches On Forever

Nothing lasts forever. Everything is transient. So says popular wisdom and some religions. If so, does that mean time is elastic? Heartache drawn out in front of a second hand that never seems to move. Despair squeezed my heart with a cold hand, the shock of which galvanized me into twitchy wakefulness.

Awake to a sky burnished pearly and streaked with dull orange. The cottage cold as the fire burned low. Sitting up on the edge of the bed I felt the dream receding like the waves sliding up and down under the ice along the shoreline. Head heavy and sluggish, the ocean looking the same and eerily gelatinous. The ocean, I thought, is transient in appearance but not in existence. It is there. Always.

Apparently like the pain I felt this morning. Still feel, that is. The notion of transient and "this too shall pass" seeming an insult in the face of the broken heart lodged in my chest. It too shall pass? 

"When?" I muttered to the icy air. "Time is stretching out before me, and the end point of this seems nowhere in sight!"

Oyster colored clouds parted out over the waves. A thin beam of sunlight slowly made its way into the cottage, limning the interior with a glow that had little warmth. Outside the waves continued their slow caress of the beach along the headland. Faint tinkling reached my ears as the ice clotted along the tideline shifted. 

The blood seemed thicker in my veins. I could smell the salt water but it did not stir me in the usual manner. It was cold. I needed heat. I needed light. Time to stoke the fire. I shuffled over to the hearth, picking up the ice cold iron poker to prod the embers. Driftwood was low. I would need to do a beach walk.

I threw a few pieces of salty wood into the fireplace. More would go into the small potbelly stove, for tea and breakfast. The flames winked into existence, slowly growing in intensity. The minerals in the wood flared faint blue and green as they burned off. The heat seeped into my grateful bones. 

I turned to look out the windows facing the sea. The water was jade flecked with orange and gold from the sun. It was beautiful. The horizon stretched from side to side, infinite, relentless. It became my moment, delineator of pain, stretching on for what seemed like forever. To my lips came the prayer that soon the clock would tick, and this moment of pain would pass. The waves break, the ice cracks and groans. I wait.