Changeable Skies

April 27, 2008

My life is changing in so many ways. I don’t know who to trust anymore. There’s a shadow running through my days, like a beggar going from door to door.
                    — Neil Young, b. 1945, Canadian singer-songwriter
                        from “A Man Needs a Maid”

We’ve had a string of warm days. The forsythia has gone completely from gold to green. The light and the air have been so clean that each leaf’s edge seems outlined. Last week a cardinal lit from underneath streaked across the vista like a flame, and an eastern bluebird has made several appearances.

Bluebirds prefer open fields and are unusual so close to a suburban house. More unusual still was the fact that this bluebird seemed in no hurry, taking a lot of time to forage in the area between our two biggest trees. That’s at the back of the house that borders a wide vista, the view I can see from my place at the kitchen table. But one afternoon last week when I looked up from my computer in an upstairs room that faces the front of the house, there was the bluebird. It seemed to be looking directly at me from a perch in a tree not twenty-five feet from my window. It’s a messenger, certainly, come to tell me something, but what?

I’m trying to get into my summer brain. I have four weeks until the Bread Loaf notification letters come and then ten weeks beyond that until my annual August Gallivant begins. For the first time since I began the August Gallivants I don’t have to be back in time for the start of the academic year and Lynn’s field hockey season. I am trying not to let the next two weeks disappear into anxiety over the logistics of Lynn’s graduation and the ways both subtle and dramatic that my life is changing.

I went for a walk last evening, part of my “Zero to Sixty (minutes a day) in Twelve Weeks” plan to lose the sludge that has built up in my joints and muscles over the winter. I did only three minutes (of twenty) before I had to stop, not because I was winded, but because around the corner I came upon two of my closest neighborhood friends. Janice had just finished walking her dog and Marilyn had just arrived home, probably from having observed the last day of Passover at her married son’s house. We stood together in Marilyn’s driveway in the deepening twilight, talking about our children. We did that at that very spot nearly every spring and summer evening for years when the kids were little. The children’s laughter and their occasional squabbles and their requests for maternal services often interrupted our conversations. We’re not interrupted anymore.

Tweety on the StreetPresently I continued my walk. At the top of the hill I turned left and came upon Tweety sitting at the curb. I wondered what he was doing there. We don’t have “big trash week” anymore, that amusing (to a fiction writer, anyway) time when scavengers would come to pick over large or bulky furniture items and appliances that neighborhood residents thought suitable to discard. And trash day isn’t until Thursday anyway.

I stopped and looked at the huge plush doll. It seemed clean and not at all bedraggled, certainly no velveteen rabbit with its hair loved off and its eyes dropped out. It seemed carefully placed, but not at the end of the driveway opposite the mailbox, where we in this neighborhood typically place the trash. I couldn’t resist reaching out and patting its head.

This morning I set out early for the gym, determined to follow through on my plans to get all healthy and fit because I have so much living to do and I don’t want to do it in a chair. It had rained overnight and I needed the windshield wipers going as I drove up the hill under the canopy of trees that line our street. And there, still at the curb where I’d left him last night, was Tweety, his foolish grin still in place.

Why is he here? I wondered. Has someone outgrown him and abandoned him? Was he a well-meant but unwanted gift? I stopped in the drizzle long enough to take the picture, and I swear the figure waved at me.

We’re both on the move, under changeable skies.

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