Monday, May 24, 2010

City Mouse, Country Mouse

Two and a half hours.

Choice: grocery shop or flaneur. Feed the body or feed the soul.

She choses to feed the soul.

She drives a half hour to the closest city--a city which she is certain real city-dwellers would laugh at. Nevertheless, it is city enough for her. She parks the car, locks the doors, and walks down a brick sidewalk. She is joined at the crosswalk by a man in khaki shorts and two greyhounds. At least, she thinks they are greyhounds. They've got funky stripes, and they walk with a spring in their steps, like they're used to running.

If she lived in a city, she thinks, in a loft with big windows and an open floor plan, where friends would gather for impromptu dinner parties featuring things like pancetta and fried squash blossoms, she would have a dog like that. But she doesn't, so she won't.

She keeps walking, over the bridge with the river's water churning below, past the cafe, past the bank, the toy store, the lawyers' offices. She arrives at an antique store. Inside, there are bottles of sea glass, children's roll-top desks, oak tables, nine-foot half-round windows, wicker loveseats, and fabric samples. A framed Leonardo da Vinci poster leans against a glass-fronted cabinet.

She roams through the store, reveling in the benches, the kitchen tables, the chairs. How many pie crusts were rolled out on this farm table? Where is the child who sat in this desk? Who filled this bookcase with books? Were they spy novels? Romances? Farmer's almanacs?

How much she would like to fill her house with this furniture!

But, with a sigh, she knows she cannot. The time-space continuum works against her. Mostly the space continuum.

On her way out, she sees a desk cubby. It will fit on her desk. Perhaps it might even bring some order to the chaos. She will use it to file manuscripts in, to hold stones, and sharp pencils, and rubber-bands.

As she drives back home, she realizes she needed a mini-vacation. While it's true there was no actual progress made on the manuscript itself, she feels balanced. Now that she lives in Small Town, New England, she sometimes gets homesick for city life, for the whiff of diesel, the honk of a horn, a chance to brush up against other people. City mouse, country mouse. Today was a day for sunshine streaming down on city streets. Tonight she will tackle those revisions. Tonight she will count words under a sky dense with stars and a moon that knows all.

Sunday, May 16, 2010

Fish is Fish

Last summer, the Gingerbread Man put nine goldfish in the pond. It was a very small pond, fed by a very small spring, bordered by sticks and stones, mostly. Moss, ferns, iris, and marsh marigolds grew on its edges. Week by week went by, and each time she looked, it seemed as if there were fewer and fewer goldfish.

By summer's end, only one goldfish survived. More clever than the others, this goldfish would hide under the leaves that fell on the surface of the water. They named him Angst and took him in to winter over in a glass bowl set on a bookcase by an east window. He sickened in the bowl almost immediately, turning black on stem and stern. They fretted over him, researched goldfish diseases, took action. Angst eventually got better, returning to his normal orange shimmer. They were relieved, happy in his goldfish antics, his goldfish shine. He grew bigger and bigger over the winter, fed on a daily diet of fish pellets.

When the sunshine became a bit more regular, they returned him to the pond, now inhabited by a frog. Angst was quite large now, for a twenty-five cent goldfish, anyway. They worried that he wouldn't be able to hide under the fronds of the ferns that hang down to the water's edge. When they went to visit him in the blue hour of the day, they couldn't find him. She worried again. A large fish in a small pond is a dangerous thing to be, what with raccoons and fisher cats trolling the woods.

She thinks about Angst as she drives home now, after being gone for several days, hoping he has simply been playing hide and seek with them. She remembers her mother saying certain people were big fish in little ponds when she was growing up. It was her mother's way of saying that people weren't really as important as they thought they were. She wonders if she is a big fish in a small pond, growing larger on a daily diet of pellets--a suspect means of nutrition. It's a dangerous place to be, with the fisher cats and raccoons of the world on the prowl.

She doesn't want to be a big fish in a small pond. She doesn't even want to be a big fish in a big pond. She's happy in her own corner, doing what she likes to do. She ruminates on this as the tires speed over the asphalt, mile after mile. When she reaches the exit for her town, she decides she's not a fish at all, big or little.

She's the keeper of the pond.

Thursday, May 6, 2010

The Tipping Point

Remember the swing
Remember the crab-apple tree
Remember the lilacs and the pussy-willows,
The pheasants and the squirrels
Remember the joy of pumping legs,
Swinging so high your stomach dropped down--
The exhilaration of flying.
Remember the rough brown bark
Ants climbing tree
Side by side to knee and elbow
Remember hanging upside down on branch
Hair swinging free
Blood rushing to face,
The tipping point.