Hiking a favored path toward dusk one fall day, I trust the quiet breeze, and the gentle rustle of the yellowing maple leaves will lift my spirit. The shifting shadows that surround mirror my inner turbulence.
The weight of thoughts slow my stride. Suddenly I sense a gentle brush against my shoulder. I glance down to see a large feather settle on the woodland carpet beneath my feet.
I look above into the leafy canopy hoping to catch sight of the bird that has parted with the feather but the foliage is impenetrable.
Kneeling, I lift it recognizing a red-tailed hawk feather. It is perfection, hints of red amid the brown ending in pale downy fluff just above the quill point. It warms my soul. How could I stay downcast in the presence of such beauty? Holding it aloft, I give thanks for the exquisite gift.
Even early me wanted to walk in back of me. I wondered about all degrees of me.
Contorted view from a video, photo and mirror do not suffice.
It is nice to know my chin but why not my nape? I want to see firsthand how my hair landscapes and escapes.
I would stand and look down at the top of my head as if it were a bush. A new perspective on the full outer body me.
An x-ray exposed parts inside me; that was interesting to see. But what about the curves and planes of me?
What is my stride, I want to see. It would be fun to detail the soles of my feet – down where the plantar fascia pain seeps. Do the sole creases mirror those of my palm? What stories hide there?
And what about behind my knee?
No one can tell me about the rest of me; I want to see.
How I look in jeans and more. Am I really neat? What about that seat? Why can’t I see the folds where the buttocks tuck and find my thighs? And while I am at it, why not that great channel between what I daily know but have never truly seen.
I would scrutinize the vertebrae one by one as they interlock through the tree. Latissimus dorsi, trapezius, rhomboids, majors and minors that flex and extend. And what about those erectors. Structures critical to be me.
I want to examine the lower back scar from the morning the maple tree grew sick of me.
Things that make me unique.
I know it is ordained not to see. Don’t think badly of me. I really treasure what I can see. Still, how I would love to celebrate all 360 degrees of me.
The calendar and temperature suggest otherwise, but my spring begins when the first flock of robins descend on the tree outside my dining room window. They arrive in large numbers to retrieve the red berries that just a week ago were encased in ice.
The Philodendron on the north facing windowsill I curated all winter also sense a change – their leaves display an aliveness that short winter days and the dryness of furnace heat had stifled.
The earth emits a musky odor as plants and creatures stir underneath pushing up toward the light. Leaves begin to take flight in the March wind uncovering new growth throughout my yard.
You need stuff; you go get stuff. My visits to the supermarket and its environs are in general non-events. One late spring morning last year I was feeling rather pleased with myself as I exited the store with only two plastic bags in tow. Opening the car door, I deposit the bags. Cars pull in; cars pull out. The usual rhythms of activity in a suburban mall.
As I put the key in the ignition and prepare to start my car, my attention is drawn to the sight of a slight woman collapse onto the blacktop. I recall she had been in line behind me. Collapse may not be the most descriptive word for she just folds in half as she sinks onto the warm road, as graceful as a dancer. She appears conscious yet makes no effort to rise. A younger woman who trails a few paces behind her catches up and bends over grabbing under her armpits in an attempt to lift her. The effort leaves left both women disheveled.
Feeling distressed by troubling events, I went searching for solace in beauty.
Sometimes such a quest takes me no further than my backyard, other times an excursion is the best remedy. This time I headed off to the Met museum in NYC. Upon entering there was a cursory inspection of my handbag. My immediate reaction was how easy it would be for someone bent on wreaking havoc among the antiquities to have done so. However, I did not let this thought dampen my enthusiasm for the beautiful objects I expected to see.
“Why is it so damn cold?” I hear myself muttering. The morning cold feels like it has inserted itself into my bones. I chose high heels to make myself appear taller, thinner and more in charge. Already my shoes are exacting revenge on my protesting toes. My campaign manager, Alden Ritter and aide, Rachel Posen hold blue signs pleading “Re-elect Lyris Fein.” We target sleep-–deprived commuters.
They flow down the platform demonstrating little interest in us. I am just another candidate in a forest. I bestow my practiced smile on them. Alden or Rachel thrust a glossy flyer in their hands, the one with a family photo and my bio. Some brush past but most accept it without looking directly at me. A few shake my benumbed hand. After giving the flyer a cursory look, many then deftly dispose of it in the trash bin. I know that before the last train car exits the station, Rachel will be bin diving to the retrieve any spared the soil of a splashed coffee. We do recycle. It is part of our ritual. Well, the 8:11 has come and gone. The three of us rush back to the hulking Ford Expedition rented for the duration.
These days when I venture into Manhattan, I am more inclined to take the train than drive. I no longer relish the challenge of navigating through dense traffic or deciphering a forest of parking rules. Is this because I am older and wiser? I am unsure. I notice other changes in my big city behavior and perceptions.
For example, the younger me would never have dared to approach a very handsome young man on the train platform asking him to pull up his pants. I explain to him that exposed underwear takes away from his good looks. Surprise, surprise – he appears chastened and even thanks me for reminding him about it.
The images of the Twin Towers crumbling and the lives lost remains fresh. Please make time this day and in the days to come, to count your blessings. Be kind, thoughtful and loving to the people around you. For those who seek to cause death and misery throughout the world, we must pray for their enlightenment.
I make sure to get to the station fifteen minutes before the last train to the city. The harvest moon and earlier rain shower turns the asphalt in front of the station to a sparkling carpet of gold. Climbing to the platform I can make out the narrow park that parallels the river. The tide comes on the rocks in a whooshing sound. As the water flows back into the river, it has the music of a gentle brook. A sharp billed cormorant backlit by the moon’s rays sits above the river on a boat launch piling. Pinpoint lights from houses at the foot of the distant mountain appear to wink at me. I am glad I arrived at the station early. I am the only person waiting, unusual even though it is midweek and a late hour.