Some places leave vivid etchings on our memories. When we close our eyes and drift…we’re almost there again.
I was about 8 years old. There were crayfish to trap and study in Grandma’s Brook. I never saw more than one claw of the crayfish I named ‘Crab With The Big Green Claw,’ but I’ve never forgotten its elusiveness and the smell of the woods. Its one claw was green and comically large. He liked to poke it out from under the Big Rock like a punk street delinquent giving me the bad finger; then running away. Every time I tried to catch him with my coffee can he skittered further under The Big Rock, disappearing in a smoke-like fog of stirred up sand. This adventure was epic-like in my young life and I still find myself conjuring up images of those moments to this day. The Big Rock had soothing energies, like a dark blue house I visited only once when I met Donna Williams who wrote the Forward for my book Under The Banana Moon.
I was 30. A faux braided throw rug was ingeniously painted onto the hardwood entry floor in a trompe l’oeil style. It looked so real! I wanted to get on my hands and knees. I wanted to kneel and lay hands on the paint strokes to persuade myself that the colorful yarn weaves were dabs of paint color, not real at all. I marveled at the harmonious joining of things in the house. An aged map of the area was framed in the living room and I perused this piece of history for some time. Crisp fragile flowers and drying herbs were bundled lavishly in groups and hung with ties from swarthy beams above our heads. Donna and I tried to name the various flora. In the bathroom of the dark blue house, which was so small as to seem like an afterthought, I was happy.
Lingering in the wee cubicle of the little wallpapered bathroom to savor its Grandma atmosphere, I washed my hands and inhaled something akin to lavender or potpourri. That’s when I heard the rise and fall of music coming from the piano I’d seen bathed in light; in the other room. I paused before the antique sink basin, cocking my head and closing my eyes, listening…The piano was in full-play. I could relish the music from the bathroom but maybe not in Donna’s presence. This house received Donna’s music (which I knew she wrote herself) joyously. It thrummed on in a calm then harried pace and finished out neatly. I counted to ten in my head to be sure it was done, and opened my eyes. Only then did I rejoin my friend in the other room. Life felt full; my head was full, of similar sensory experiences and I use them to this day like a soothing lozenge for a sore feeling.
This is not “the” piano in the little blue house that day. It is a stock photo but I think it’s similar to the one in the house. There were no I-Phones then with cameras at the ready. I take the memories from the experience away with me, and have no pictures to show for my time spent with Donna.
Only five years later my spouse would be hit with a fatal disease. A few years later and everything sacred in my home was topsy turvy. Men were everywhere; widening door frames, making the bathroom bigger. A temporary non-flushable commode was set up in the bedroom while they remodeled the bathroom. Gone was ceiling-to-floor hand painted mural on that bathroom wall of pink roses entwined in and out of a white trellis against a light blue sky. The drywall with my mural on it was carried outside and thrown in a dumpster. I could go into the cellar to wash clothing and peer up through the bathroom floor and see the men working. The place was not only in shambles; I was too. I would sit on the bedroom commode and close my eyes; thinking of the bathroom in the dark blue house and I could almost hear Donna’s music.
He had a special laptop, provided by the MDA. It had a mechanism that hitched to his head and when he could aim a red light at the screen with his eyes somehow, to select things on screen. He was paralyzed, long past walking, but he had enough twitch in his knees so that when a mouse was velcroed between them, he could select something on the laptop by knocking them ever so gently together. At night after his laptop was put away I could rest a little until the time came to get him washed and into bed.
I could give myself a lame neck by sitting alongside him in his power chair like that with my head on his shoulder until he said he was cramped but he wanted my head there so I’d oblige. And we would have talks. I asked him what his dreams were. I was afraid to hear the answer.
He said that he wanted to see his kids grow up, that’s all.
I was beyond tears wasn’t I; at this stage of the game? Yet one escaped my eye. I told him with passion all about Stephen Hawking; the guy who lived so long with ALS. He said he was glad I read Science magazines. “I think you really will be the guy who lives ten years…or more.” I said, trying to believe it even as I said it; wishing it would be true and forcing conviction into my voice. All the while I was staring straight ahead at the entertainment center where I had smeared one whole narrow section with grout and inlaid stones and colored squares of glass. To fill in around the stones and glass, I had pressed in some sand. Not ANY sand. Sand gathered from under the disability ramp.
It was a ‘crab with the big green claw moment,’ that’s what I thought of this. It was peaceful as the three kids were in bed, the house was free from hammer-wielding men until morning, and he smelled like vanilla from his nutritional drinks. Yet an elusive thing loomed, giving me the bad finger and it was always out of my grasp. I wanted to catch it, examine it and understand it but I never would. Counting Crows music played faintly from a CD player in the room as it usually did. And these times were fleeting, I knew that.
I relish present day soothing places. I work in a place that has fresh flowers every day and Four Sister trees with outstretched hugging limbs outside a big window. I am love-silly with children in my world; and me in theirs. I watch them do things for the first time ever: examine bark on a tree, study an inch worm pulling across their knuckles, tasting fresh ice cream, homemade at the farm. Adam’s music plays as often now than it did then. The vivid memories of soothing places, then and now, the music (especially Adam’s) and the art (my mosaics, my painting) have been my lifeblood and things are more than okay.
She is trapped inside a month of gray
And they take a little every day
She is a victim of her own responses
Shackled to a heart that wants to settle
And then runs away
It’s a sin to be fading endlessly
Yeah, but she’s all right with me
She is leaving on a walkaway
She is leaving me in disarray
In the absence of a place to be
She stands there looking back at me
Hesitates, and then turns away
She’s just like mercury
Yeah, but she’s all right with me
Keep some sorrow in your hearts and minds
For the things that die before their time
For the restlessly abandoned homes
The tired and weary rambler’s bones
And stay beside me where I lie
She’s entwined in me
Crazy as can be
Yeah, but she’s all right with me