Splash in Time
My chubby thighs spill over the wooden edges of the unaccommodating desk chair as a damp handout is placed before me, the bluish mimeograph ink smudging my index finger as I trace the thick arrows from cloud past raindrops to earth and over mysterious waves back to sky. From the front of the classroom, Teacher, in paisley dress and flat tie-up shoes, motions to a flip chart while she explains the word she had written on the board when we were at recess. CYCLE. Something that happens over and over. Something that can be counted on, like trees losing their leaves in autumn and growing new ones in spring. Like what else, Teacher asks? Eating breakfast? Cindy says. Yes, Teacher smiles. Doing homework? Lamar smirks. Yes, Teacher laughs. Having a birthday? I say. Exactly, Teacher nods.
I learn to read words like splash and galoshes, like downpour and thunder. I learn mist and gully washer, drenched and flood. I learn “Where’s your umbrella?” and “Don’t get wet.” and “Wipe your feet!”
Decades later, I seek the rain. Stand in it when I’m brave enough. Feel the pelting of the drops, the shock of cold on my neck and cheek, worship what is there all along, vapor made manifest, life force of all that breathes in this world.
Knowing Something Good
I remember an elementary school assignment to memorize a poem and create a picture to go with it. A stick-figure girl, indicated by the triangle of her skirt, stands on a green hill, her carrot-tip nose tipping skyward toward one white pillow of cotton stuck on the sky. Vincent Van Gogh I was not. I remember the poem’s opening lines, “I wandered lonely as a cloud,” but how did the rest of it go? “. . . .That floats on high o’er vales and hills / When all at once I saw a crowd / A host of golden daffodils. . . . For oft, when on my couch I lie / In vacant or in pensive mood /They flash upon that inward eye / Which is the bliss of solitude. . . .” Ah, yes.
Years passed before I found full access to what Wordsworth intoned as the “inward eye” and the “bliss of solitude,” but once I did, the idea of loneliness lost its power over me. Clouds became portals, as did flowers and hills and creatures and soil and seed and scent and spice and dreams and colors and seasons and water and wind and, yes, poetry. When I realized that I WAS the eyes and ears and tongue made to bear witness to the Beloved Spirit of Creation, Benefactor of All That Is, how could I be lonely? And that is also when I learned the difference between loneliness and solitude.
Solitude may be more accessible to those of us who have crossed the threshold where death’s knock becomes an underlying rhythm, its heartbeat the only guarantee. That’s where I’ve arrived. To elderhood. How precious the moments of awareness when my story gets light enough, free enough, to flutter up to that lonely cloud and to bless and embrace it as another gracious gift of my sentience in this fleeting life.
Thank you to Ann Randolph and the powerful writing community in her current Unmute Yourself Writing Workshop series for affirming and encouraging my voice.