The morning unfolds as intently as the seven shocked paperwhites on the kitchen windowsill. These eager bulbs arrived in the mail just days ago as a jumble of almost onions in a bed of empty skins, each with a single greedy green talon already demanding light.
Now, they grow in reverse, diving into the sunny glass, the summery water, to establish tethers. Tomorrow, the unfolding will gain altitude, structure.
Days later, as winter will flower on the morning lawn in frost that crunches under the kitten’s paw, and the kitchen will don the vestments of spring; These resolute tubers will overnight transform from fledgling shoots to a constellation of snowy florets.
And, their irrefutable perfume will force us to another season.
As I dream of summer break, I think about how part of winter break was about getting business done: post-Christmas cleaning, pre-tax season and end of semester filing, and dreaded errands and appointments. The most dreaded of these tasks: flu shot and annual mammogram. I try to think strategically. Which one do I want to do least? Which one will hurt the most? The answer is the same, so I go to get the flu short first. I half-lie when the cheerful nurse asks if I am sick. I am at the tail end of a cold, but I am going to cross this visit off my to do list today.
Because this is my first flu shot, “Joy” walks me through the steps verbally: “First I am going to pinch your arm; now, you should feel the cold liquid under the skin. All done.”
I realize two things as she practically offers me a lollipop:
- I shouldn’t have made the easy stop first.
- That was fast. I have plenty of time; I don’t need to rush to radiology.
So even though I have been lost in my own neighborhood (once or twice), I decide to take a tour through the corridors, mostly to see if I can find color and story, families in the throes of something interesting that I don’t quite understand.
In one of the narrow connecting bridges between buildings, I suddenly enter the blue at almost the same altitude as a soaring lion kite and several sailing others. These kites all seem so much bigger here. I am a small swallow in a fantastic aviary.
No I am not, I’m lost. And I still have to present myself for the mammogram.
“They don’t know me, but they always insist they’ve seen me somewhere before. They ask my father’s name, where I grew up, if I worked in a small town, at a corner store, a school, or hospital, somewhere helping people get somewhere else.
They say they know me as certainly as they once knew the Periodic Table, the names of local plants and birds, and the title of that piece of music by that composer they once heard.
They always think they know girls like me, girls with, they say, enchanting eyes. Girls like me appear to listen and impress—not with tales of our own colorful adventures—with our mysterious, cosmic silence.”
We went in to see the selection of $3.95 rings. We were told they’d been out of stock for more than thirty years.
When I was a child, my family spent many Fourth of July celebrations on the banks of Atascadero Lake, watching fireworks shot over the water. One of these nights, exhausted from a day of sun and water, I thought I saw the fireworks form a smiley face and than an American flag. Later though I wasn’t sure if I’d really seen these formations; maybe I had been dreaming them. Decades went by and I did not see another smiley face or flag. I didn’t see much more than fountains and blossoms and shooting stars.
But recently I saw several sideways smiles, a few Saturns, and hearts going every direction. Alert, in the cold night air, I am certain these fiery configurations exist. I wasn’t dreaming.