Thursday, October 31, 2013

Hey Sis

Remember Eddie Jakeworth.  And the hot spot.  How did we get there?  We must have paddled across the lake and met him at the store.  That’s why you let me tag along.  You needed me to paddle in the front, as one way or the other, you’d be heading into the wind. 

Remember the hot spot.  That perfectly secluded circle of dunes up the inlet to the lake.  You could only get there in a canoe. Hot, hidden, and secret, it was easy to get sunburned there. Eddie had a, Marlon Brando in On the Waterfront, kind of good looks, at least to me, a hooked nose and a compact boxer’s build. He was a townie with a rough charm and a hint of danger. For you, I think he was a stand-in for your big crush on Chris McClean, the Scarsdale boy from the summer camp. A handsome Holden Caulfield with a cool  irony, loafers without socks and all the rest.

I am certain you were the main attraction.  I was just along to paddle the canoe. I can’t remember if Eddie had cigarettes, but I bet he did and in my mind.s eye, they are rolled up in the sleeve of his t-shirt, just like in the movies. So I hung around; to swim, look for crayfish, get sunburned, smoking one of Eddie’s cigarettes, a fifth wheel. Trying hard not to be a pest. And then, out of the blue, Eddie kissed me…me.  I was dazzled.  I guess he figured he was man enough for the two of us or I was ready to be kissed.  Who knows.  I was past words, swooning. And he kissed me again. And there in my head it felt like a thunderclap. You were unimpressed, I think you hardly noticed.

It was a relief to paddle home, rhythmic and monotonous, almost a meditation.  Dinner went by in a haze and next I remember sitting in the upstairs window in the evening, smoking one of grandma’s long cigarette butts I had scavenged earlier in the day, hoping not to be caught at it, reclining in the window in the memory of that kiss.  I think you were out in the canoe, paddling by the boy’s camp.  The wind was gone, the lake like glass. You had moved on.

I doubt we ever talked about that day at the hot spot. To you it wasn't particularly important and not something you would talk to your little sister about.  Too me it was something so brand new, I didn't even know how to describe it to myself. And so I never said a word about it.

So here I am fifty years later, watering the roof garden, muttering my question to you, hey sis, do you remember? The sun is not quite up and I am talking to the same stars we watched  drifting on the lake in the canoe, in August; counting shooting stars. No one else remembers that day. No one knows the whole story.   You, me, and Eddie Jakeworth were the only ones there in that hot spot, that day.

Lala and Professor Laurita are not here.  No one here knows them. They are up there cruising the stars looking for you.  I would like to hear your voice now, telling me how you remember that day. Memory or imagination, I will never know. But the pictures are still vivid to me, alive in my head.

I’m guessing for you, it would be different. Maybe you wouldn't remember it at all. I wonder if you could still feel that hot sand and those kisses that tasted of cigarettes. I can. But I am the only one here 50 years later, watering my garden, tears in my eyes, talking to the stars. Looking for you.

Wednesday, October 30, 2013

Orb Weaver

 I can think of a million little lazy-ass things I need to do before I sit down to write, postponing involving myself in something that requires a special kind of focus and effort that in the end could leave me feeling exposed and embarrassment.

 I  find that a story that has lived in my head for too long a time, becomes stale, spoken to others in bits and pieces  it loses its zest. It doesn't care to be written down any more.  I think that writing, drafting, testing out a line of inquiry, an essay or a story, needs private daily attention, like weeding a garden or sweeping the walk.  By doing that, nudging the story forward every day, I can make it into something ordinary, easier to do, just another part of the day.

After all there is so much writing out there in the world, a little more weighs nothing. For instance, this week the internet has been full of mischief.  Random items that have captured my attention are too numerous to count.   Some days the news can be so terrible and depressing that I get drawn into odd, light-hearted stories. For example, the website “dental floss for the mind” is full of odd mildly useful details. You can chill a beer in 15 minutes, if you wrap it in a wet paper towel and put it in the freezer.  You can cut soft cheese really well with unflavored dental floss.  This and many other tips I learned, were either true or false on a video which analyzed  the effectiveness of 20 life hacks. Don’t ask how I got there, I couldn't tell you. What is a life hack anyway? I had to ask my daughter.

Then there was an article about how a  community crowd sourced security in their town. When the police force was cut and local crime began to rise, they used an internet website called Crowdtilt which helps groups raise funds. The article went on to ask, is this a good idea or is this what government should be doing? Will this funding of private community functions favor only the wealthier neighborhoods?  Good question, interesting to debate. But no time to linger, this led on in a link right there in the article to another story about how the pedestal for the statue of liberty was actually the first crowd sourced project. Undertaken by Joseph Pulitzer,  he raised the money to build the  pedestal in his NYC newspaper. He published every single 50 cent to $500  donor. Boston was trying to take the statue away, by campaigning for the funds he kept the famous statue in NY Harbor.  On and on  the internet path goes from the curious to the trivial to the downright need to know,  interesting details, trivia and worthwhile questions piled one on top of another.

This web of endless information sends me out into the garden. Out there the details are also many and layered. But slower, information is gained leisurely by looking carefully at the same thing closely and often.  Is that plant growing, does it get enough morning sun? What is that big brown spider? I named him web weaver, as that is what he weaves, it is definitely not an orb. It is a web.   I looked him up in trusty google search, something I do not think I could do without, and there he is amongst the hundreds of pictures of spiders in the huge orb weaver family. He is not the prettiest orb weaver. He is brown with long crab like legs and about the size of a quarter. During the day he sleeps collapsed into a tiny space in a clothes pin on my laundry line, but every night, sometime in the middle of the night he gets up and builds his web. It is there early in the morning, before sunrise when I first stumble in the garden. Lucky for me and I guess for him too, he has put it in a place I seldom walk through, unless I am weeding there.  His web is probably three feet square and looks exactly as you would imagine from all the Halloween drawings  you have ever seen.
After a few days he was joined by another spider, I think a female orb weaver.  She spins her web at a right angle to his.  Equally large, the two webs are joined at one edge. They use my clothes line as a place to spin out their trap lines and by 9:00 in the morning that is all that is left of their webs and he is asleep in the clothes pin, she hiding somewhere in the garden.

For those few hours in the early morning, their webs effectively trap whatever is flying through my garden. Every morning he draws his web back in, leaving only one line in place to begin tomorrow’s web.

Their webs catch the morning light from one angle, but are invisible from another.  The radial lines are paths that they can walk on, the other lateral connecting lines are sticky traps for all the unsuspecting.  He and his co-spider sit upside down in the middle of these beautiful creations waiting, and then at some point in the early morning, known only to them they devour the entire net and retreat to rest. To a human this nightly construction looks Herculean, to them a simple, edible place to be.

They can live a year or more and I am  hoping they will stay in my garden.  Apparently this is their habit, to stay in one place.  The only complication being that I cannot take down my laundry line, something I do occasionally to get an unobstructed view of the garden. But laundry is a daily chore and so I don’t mind leaving it there.  Of course I cannot use his clothes pin and I wonder if his rest is disturbed by the bouncing on the line when I hang up my wet clothes.  He seems not to mind.

 We coexist.

Now, the female partner has left the garden, he has been alone these last few mornings and it appears that on Sunday, he took the day off or maybe just took in his web before I got up to check on him. I look for him in the morning and watch him when I am weeding in the garden.  I have seen him catch a fly and roll him up in a quick culinary web taco.  I have seen him carry his fly back to the center of his web  and eat it all.

So there we are a strange little paus de deux.
It fortifies me to see him in his web every morning.  He constructs it and deconstructs it every day.  His simple rhythm makes it just a little easier for me to sit down and write.

                                       This fellow watches with casual curiosity from the roof.
                                                            He is this year's roof kitty.