The Brightest Sky

I don’t know if you’re seeing the same sky I’m seeing today but it’s one of those wide open perfect blue fall skies with buoyant white clouds like cotton candy that traipse from tree to tree and electrical pole to electrical pole. They’re bisected by the wires like lines on sheet music. The sky stretches all the way across the road, large and flashy, quite proud of itself, which sounds incredibly stupid because the sky is always filling up all the available space above our heads even on those days when it seems to be turned in on itself like a sleepy child who tries to avoid waking up by rolling into his blankets so the morning can’t see him.

Today’s sky was an “anything is possible” kind. It gave me a feeling of hope but also sadness for all those days long ago when I was younger and time and space were more often than not open ended, fluid, without edges you could detect. The kind of days and nights where you were the passenger in a car and the person driving loved you more than anything, even perhaps more than a slice of chocolate pie. Who would rest his arm across the back of the bench seat and hug you close to him. You weren’t a burden, a nag, the mother of his children. Instead you were someone he wanted to share secrets with, impress, kiss you in the chips aisle of the Safeway just because he couldn’t help himself and neither of you cared who was watching. You actually felt sorry for all those other people watching who didn’t have THIS. This amazing thing the two of you had invented.

I’m that other person now, scratching my head trying to think if there was ever a time I was that hot little girl, someone who was loved passionately and fiercely. These days it wouldn’t even need to be a teenage passion. It would only need to be a long drive, late at night, where he’d suddenly want me close. Perhaps his hand would stray because even now you still had….something desirable. It would be quieter and gentler, that love. It would fit comfortably around you.

It would be a long drive on a warm autumn day like today where the familiar trees whip by and the vista opens up to grass and pastures peppered with small white houses, awkward clothes lines, tethered dogs and sun bleached plastic play structures that strike you as immeasurably sad. The same old, same old, in a new place. You’ve seen it all before – together and apart – but not THIS particular lackluster clothesline on THIS road TOGETHER. Right now. It means something different than it would have back then. It means something important even if you can’t name it.

And it wouldn’t take much to woo me. A gravel pull off in which the car finds itself, the engine shuts off and begins to tick as it cools. He grins and gets out, leaving you there, wondering. Out of the trunk is a blanket and a basket that has food and wine and he knows a little spot just beyond those trees where no dog can find us and no one will ever know.

And the possibilities aren’t endless for whatever comes next in the future but it’s not about future, it’s not about later, under this crazy bright sky that winks conspiratorially. It’s about now. It’s about all the things you wanted out of life and never got. Or haven’t had since you were 17 and thin and none of your hair was gray and children existed on a sheet of notebook paper you scribbled late at night while listing your life plans.

You knew that was a joke even while you wrote it even though a lot of it came true. You just forgot to write: to be loved, to be honored, to be respected. It had never occurred to you then that these things would be a problem. Like imagining that one day there’d be no oxygen, no rain, no hot cup of coffee on a cold foggy morning in which you, and you, alone, wake up those children who are everything, and start another day.

Pacific

I went to California last week and saw the opposite ocean. There wasn’t a beach but I won’t hold that against it. I once, in a past life, lived on a rocky outcrop overlooking the Atlantic and did okay. What else? I drank, I talked, I caught up with family, I toured a candy factory, explored a semi-ghost town that was 95% closed for the day, sat in a hot tub, scrounged for bargains at thrift stores, slept in, watched movies, petted a dog and two cats, finally met a no-longer-imaginary friend, ate well, flew the friendly skies. It was wonderful and the week sped by like nobody’s business.

The children were always in the back of my mind but they were in good hands. When I returned to work, I discovered I’d been moved to a new office. One with windows, albeit windows filled with cobwebs but glorious windows nonetheless. I’ve spent the last few days catching up on work and unpacking my stuff – unpacking in two places. I still have curtains to put up (to hide the filth) and a few pictures yet to hang but I’m settling in.

Every aspect of my life is slowly settling in and settling down (and we won’t discuss the surprising tax bills that add up to $1,000 but whatever; I’ll deal with those) and with the garden mostly dismantled for the season, I’m beginning to think about other things. Writing, for one. It’s been more than a year since I’ve formally sat down on a regular basis (or, really, any basis) and worked on a project and it just so happens that the students will soon be on a fall break which will be the perfect time to go back to the library and see if that old saddle still fits. I’m planning to couple this with another round of The Artists Way.

It’s necessary to have something other than holidays to look forward to at this time of year. Spring and Summer take care of themselves. They’re no brainers. Fall and Winter require carefully planning. You don’t want to discover you’ve fallen into a deep dark dismal hole all of a sudden. I need THINGS to do to keep that from happening. I need to be doing things, every day, every week, the same things – writing and reading and making things – so that these months will go by as swiftly as possible. The holidays are bumps on the line, like the commercial blips inserted in an online video. They last a certain length of time and then – big sigh – they are behind you. Still putting things behind me but focused on ahead. Ahead is good. Ahead is something that is not Now or Then. Ahead is progress and hope and small shoots of green popping out of warm black earth. Ahead is pacific.