Sunday, May 25, 2014

Remembering Moonlight

Sounding like Goethe on his deathbed, I handed the contractor the blueprints for what would become Sandhill and instructed, “Light.  That’s what I want.  As much as possible.”  So the windows were broadened and lengthened in order to not simply permit, but invite as much light as possible into the rooms.  With the serendipity of a southern orientation came sunrise through the bedroom windows and sunset through all the others. 
I soon discovered that it wasn’t only sunlight that welcomed itself into Sandhill through all those windows, but moonlight as well.  Each month, in the week the moon waxed toward full, I would go to bed each night under a slightly more silver glow and when the sphere of reflected light reached perfect roundness, the whole room shimmered.   It was as though the pillows, the sheets, the comforter had all been sprinkled with sequins.  As though a handful of stardust had slid down the moonbeams and scattered itself across the furniture. 
Sometimes the light was liquid and poured through the panes like water from a jug or over a sluice or through a funnel, puddling on the floor and the bed linens in wading pools of pale illumination.  I would lie there and listen to the silence, as full and content as the moon, and my next conscious thought would be morning.
For fifteen years there was not so much as a valance adorning any of the windows.  I loved the suns’s play of bright and brighter overlapping each other on the floors, the strangely angled shadows  projected onto the walls.  I was constantly amazed that Old Linen, the paint color I’d chosen for every room, could look so completely different from morning to afternoon,  from hallway to kitchen, from spring to fall.  
The nakedness of my windows was both frightening and embarrassing to Grannie who finally asked me one day, “Aren’t you afraid somebody might be able to see in?”  To which I responded, “If they come this far, they deserve to see something.”  She was not amused. 
About eight years ago, in the aftermath of three bumper car hurricanes that brought enough rain inland to require rather significant repairs, I put up blinds.  Wide slatted ones.  Easy to open so that I might maintain my this-is-freedom-not-vulnerability stance, but equally easy to close in order to seal off, block out, hide from view what I’d finally admitted in what passed for adulthood could be frightening, dangerous or, at least, uncomfortable.
The result has been plenty of nights, many nights, most nights, when I couldn’t have said whether the moon was waxing or waning or whether it was, in fact, outside my bedroom window, at all.
Last week – and I can’t say exactly why last week was different –, when the moon was full, when the sky was cloudless, when the memory of moonlight shining through my window sprang up like a craving, I turned off the lamp and opened the blinds.  I got into bed and lay very still, waiting to feel the shimmer, waiting to hear the silence. 

Across the room, on top of the chest of drawers, I could make out the silhouettes of photos, books, an hourglass.  People, words, time.   Their sharp edges were softened in the pale moon breath, dulled beyond any capacity to worry or wound.  I had forgotten what moonlight can do to edges.   I had forgotten what moonlight does to me.

Copyright 2014

Sunday, May 11, 2014

Propagation of Fruit

For fourteen years I have walked the circle drive at the Screven County Courthouse.  At least once a month for fourteen years I have walked, heels clicking against the pavement, files tucked under my arm or stuffed into a rolling briefcase, toward the double glass doors and the wide tiled hallway that leads to the courtroom.  As often as not, in warmer weather, I have walked to the tune of a mower moving back and forth over the front lawn like a metronome, breathing in the shaved grass along with the scent of the roses Mrs. Pullen planted at the front door when she was clerk.

And in all that time, through all those springs and summers when the heat cushioned me like bubble wrap, on all the clear sunny days when the fire trucks at the station next door were sparkling in their just-washed shimmer, in all the early mornings when the puffy white clouds had not yet been burned away, in all that time in which I thought I was paying attention, I never once noticed what I noticed today.   And what I noticed today, out of the corner of my eye, was a blackberry.
Not even as large as the tip of my pinky, it was poking its head through the equally tiny leaves of the hedge that runs along the edge of the circle drive.  I stood the rolling briefcase upright and looked closer.  There were three or four more, all peeking out coquettishly from within the pencil-thin branches that grew like a vast web of veins four feet into the air before sprouting a five o’clock shadow’s worth of greenery. 

So I picked them.  And popped them into my mouth.  And tasted the hardness, the coldness, the bitterness of a not-yet-ripened fruit.

That bitterness, that sharpness that purses lips and leaves teeth tender, it is no accident.  There is a reason behind the deterrent to eating fruit that is green and immature.  The seeds inside ripe fruit, juicy and tasty, sweet-swelling and enticing, are mature, capable of reproducing.  Eaten by animals, the mature seeds are expelled and the cycle begins again. The seeds inside immature fruit are barren.  Eat that fruit, those berries and the cycle stops.  The circle is broken.

I’d had breakfast. I wasn’t hungry.  But who spies the first blackberries of the season and doesn’t pick them?  Doesn’t pop them into her mouth without a thought for the chemical nonpareils sprinkled on top?  Who in the world, after a winter that dragged on like a soap opera death scene,  sees this herald of nascence and renewal and walks on by?   Not this girl. 

Not this world.  We choose precocious over experienced, we honor youth over age, we trade-in and trade-up for whatever is newest and freshest, and ignore what history, personal and human, has taught us – that waiting is not the worst use of one’s time when the stakes are high.

I can’t say am actually sorry for picking the blackberries.  At least, not those blackberries.  But there are some fruits I have picked too soon, some bites that have left a sour taste in my mouth, some berries I should have left on the vine.  And who can forget them?  Not this girl.

Copyright 2014