Huge Moon-risings

Thursday, March 21, 2019

I’ve turned off the net earlier today, ever glad to have few hours without its stealthy intrusions into my computer and even, I suspect, wirelessly into my small Samsung Galaxy III mini, phone.

         As I sat down to the supper for which I had carefully set a place on my folding table at the sofa, I thought how many things today had been, to my eyes, beautiful. We had warm sunlight, and a chilly, whipping wind, the kind of weather in which a bather at the nearby beach could get deeply sunburned, like the dear, tall Yankees do, walking into the super market in their L.L. Bean Bermuda shorts, grinning as if they didn’t know better than to get lobstered down here in the South.

         The wind whipped little strands of my hair into my face, even my mouth, and yet it was neither too cold nor too gusty, to be pleasant, considering the heat that will be coming any time it wishes, never mind the season or month. I’ve remembered some of my worst choices being made under what can seem a literally threatening, and certainly drugging, hot sun. We have the kind of heat that we think of as northerners do extreme cold—something that can be dangerous, even fatal. We shield our eyes and skin from it, if we listen to science and can afford such sheltering—many can’t on these seafood-harvesting Georgia shores, on the blazing, luxuriously green golf courses, or the beach-side pools at Sea Island. But on a day like today, the wind, teasing and merry, provides an excuse to let sunblock be enough, and the devil take worrying about anything else, in this paradise. Yes, that’s what I thought, stopping to balance with my hand on the fender of my grimy white Honda Pilot, even in Winn Dixie’s Parking Lot on Highway 17, among a flock of ill-parked other cars, with barely a single real junk heap among them, no word but Paradise comes to mind.  I stand right there and peer across the road to check the state of the sky that is visible all the way down to the horizon’s low cypress trees, imported palms, flat yellow marshlands.

                Last night, the full moon hovered over that unseen shoreline. It just appeared, large and low as a washtub tilted on its side, brimful of cream, misted over by gold. As I walked, it moved, and I wanted it to be framed by something on shore. I moved on, the moon cruised, and I stopped and so did she, fulfilling my wish, as, briefly framed between some dark, upreaching claws of cypress, the golden moon posed, then rolled on.

         “I didn’t even see it,” said a fellow dog-walker when I pointed it out. Moving onto our wide, twilight shadowed lawn, she stepped closer toward the rising moon, face to face, under a dusky lavender sky. I saw it just above her head—outsized, superbly round, an orb of gleaming gold. It hovered, soundless, but the energy of our astonishment zoomed that moon up very close and filled the twilight. Her figure in its long white dress, made her a pale silhouette near the dark oaks. Did those trees also gawk at this silent wonder?  In seconds, overborne by stillness, my friend murmured, “Breathtaking,” just as I had moments before. One word gave us harmony with it all. Yet, nothing in nature could hold still, and when we saw that moon change ever so little, we resumed our walks, moving at a good pace, our dogs tugging their leashes in opposite directions. It would have been wrenching to leave such glory, but the moon, whitening and rising, was leaving us. *****(When I met my friend walking two days later, in clear afternoon sun, she told me she had seen the moonrise two more times—this time orange and only half emerged on the horizon, and then huge and golden again the next night. These awe-filled sightings are precious and fleeting. When next we look, that moon will be its silver, dime-sized shape, high in the dark night sky.

That orb must have impressed my mind, for when, tonight, making cornbread, I broke the fragile shell of a Jumbo egg over a cup, it fell into concentric circles—the geometric plumpness of golden yolk, the oval cups of the large shell, white on the outside, cream inside, falling into my open fingers so perfectly, that even the broken shell edges rounded into perfect half and quarter circles, as if in some kind of visual music. The fluorescent light overhead made the transparent white of the egg bright as the yolk, and all I could think was, perfect, geometric circles, how our eyes love them, even though nature’s shapes will rarely, except for planets and moons, insist on geometry. It also loves the accommodations made by wrinkles and irregularities and leaves of trees that curl and clump and thrash in the wind with near—but-never quite– formless– reckless joy. )

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Late Night Wilderness Enlightened by Audible

I have lost my way on the internet tonight. I wanted to post a file from my documents to Facebook and could find no way in the world to do that, so i wish to post it here. But no, I cannot do that, because it is already created and ready, and what I must do, somehow, is talk about reading Charles Dickens on Audible, and what a feast of language and thought, heart, morality, literary agility and more things than I can articulate– it is. When I read something like Barnaby Rudge, which has broken my heart a hundred times (forgive the uncritic-like comment, but it’s true) I get both excited and upset. Only Audible books, with their amazing narrating voices could deliver this incredible book to me. If I had to cope with my late-life need of glasses to read a dense text, and also with something like that late reported tendency of some to faint in front of masterworks of visual art, I would let both things stop me. In the past, tasting just a few paragraphs of a Dickens text, I was overwhelmed with its evidence of a culture of our English language that has passed from existence. Longing to have it back, grieving for the poverty of our current level of articulation upon all subjects, longing to experience it in Dickens, I just gave up on its cost in energy and emotion. Then along comes Audible, and wonderful voices reading dramatically–just enough–to enliven the words, and I’m binge listening to the most marvelous thought, language, heart, mind and soul I have ever heard expressed. I think of the Dickens I have read about–so little to the point of his mastery and magnificence in his work , and so much cheap gossip of the literary kind–and I think–the man is the work and the work is the man in full. I know he died of a heart attack while giving his own dramatic readings of “A Christmas Carol,” in order to earn enough money to meet his debts, while his masterworks had to just wait on the bookshelves of the few, every descending decade of our culture. But his popularity would not have grown if there had not been scores of educated, delighted readers waiting for every episode of these novels he published a chapter at a time. That’s the crowd to whom I would wish to belong, and I know where, even now, that crowd might be found–in the Modern Language Association’s annual conferences, where all the masterworks of classic literature find their devotees, and where the discussion of his novels can reach an articulation akin to his own. Please heaven, let that be so, even to this date.

Mama and George Washington Could Not Tell a Lie

I reread these pieces, subject to forgetting they exist, within a few weeks, and so they comfort me when I find them again. One more piece of this life I have treasured, put down in print, to save and to share. Join me; try your hand at it. WordPress.com, which I joined and then put off working with forever, has been a generous host–even though they supply such a forest of instruction and support,that a weary writer must search hard for just one or two trees to suit her work. But that, alas, is the way of the internet, which I have had since Radio Shack played Pacelbell’s sonata, to rainbow lights, on its Tandy 1000 computer, in 1988. The Tandy laptop which I used until I wore it out, cost, back then, $1400.00. Ah the perks of the well-cared for home-maker in the U.S.A. She can write novels and paint pictures, too, and that’s a pretty good deal, when there are loved children to raise at the same time.

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Mama and George Washington Could Not Tell a Lie

Yes, here’s to Mama and George Washington, who shared the same trait. They could not tell a lie. So little George, the story goes, admitted cutting down his father’s cherry tree. This also meant, on February 22, Granny always made Mama a birthday cake with cherries and a hatchet on its white frosted surface. Mama, as my book will show, may not have ever told a lie, but if she held a grudge that belied appearances, she finally told the truth, no matter how long it took. I was blessed to hear that last, powerful truth, from her lips.

Right here and right now, life is good, and has more of heaven in it than even I, a devout believer of that gospel, had thought. For I have found at least a handful of my ideal readers for the book I…

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Seesaw, Marjory Daw

Seesaw, Marjory Daw

A nursery rhyme came to me last night, and I kept singing it while I walked my little dog:

Seesaw, Marjory Daw, Jack shall have a new master,

He won’t make but a penny a day,

 Because he can’t work any faster!”

          It took me back to such vivid memories, that it seemed they were present, not past, and the real present was a blurred, confusing thing. The leader of these remembered scenes was my younger sister, Deedee, whose real name was Diana, and at the time, I was still head and shoulders taller than she was. She wore scuffed brown oxford shoes, with mud dried on the soles at times from her managing and riding, her retired, amusement park, Welsh pony, installed in a white lean-to stable Daddy had built in the required 300 yards back from our house. Mama ironed creases in Deedee’s jeans, a thing I thought highly spoiled my sister, but Mama said, “It’s just her way,” and went on ironing.  Everyone in the family wanted to keep Diana happy, except for Daddy, who never caught on how much better it was not to upset her.

          Deedee was known for her toughness, even on the school playground. Still, she had this appealing other side that could make you want to please her, and to follow her on whatever adventure she created.  It was that side that often persuaded me to join the neighborhood kids following Deedee around. Doing that was consenting to enter the hazardous realms she opened up for us in our wooded, Southwest Atlanta landscape. As if that territory, with its creamy white Writer Spider’s nest emblazoned across two pine tree trunks on the root-laced mud steps down to the bottomland, did not hold shocks enough, Deedee made up others. One of them came at the end of that nursery rhyme when just the two of us took to the one piece of bought playground equipment in our whole acre of backyard—a large board seesaw. I should have learned my lesson, but I didn’t want to. Even though it had happened before, I was surprised and outraged that, for Deedee, this jolting trick could not happen often enough. As soon as I had finished singing that song, and we had pumped that long seesaw up and down to give each of us a turn soaring to a fine height, with me as high in the air as I could go—Deedee, starting her turn,  jumped off instead, sending me crashing to the ground on that hard board seat. “Y’Yow-ww!” I screamed, giving her the most reward she could wish. Only my sturdy butt saved me from worse pain—the kind we got if a foot slipped from the pedal on a boy’s bike, and we suddenly fell, full straddle, onto that long bar that reinforced it. Now, that hurt.  Don’t ask why we rode boys’ bikes—if Deedee wanted us to ride, we grabbed any available bike and hung on.

          Deedee wanted to be a boy and acted like one. While we watched our  small-screened black and white TV, she sat on the living room rug, with her jeans-clad leg all bent up, the better to carve, “D.D.,” on the bottom of her shoe with her pocket knife; it was the way she wished her name was spelled. It should have been, for it sounds menacing, and she always liked being that, better than anything. In the back seat of the car, with Daddy driving us to one of his beloved summer vacation spots, Alexa, the youngest, and I, contented ourselves with having won window seats.  Deedee, however,  insisted we all three play “Scissors, Rock, Paper.” Whoever got her Paper cut by Deedee’s Scissors, for instance, had to turn up her wrist and have it slapped swift and hard, with two wet forefingers, making a stinging blaze on tender skin. We smothered our squeals to conceal this mischief from Daddy and Mama in the front seat, both of them in a peaceful spell on the trip. If we were lucky, the game would end soon enough, with Daddy stopping the car so we could drink ice cold Pepsi from a big metal cooler with a spigot to pour it into paper cups, and eat the sandwiches Mama had made, so we never drove far without stopping for refreshments and a break to stretch our legs, find a restroom.

          There were two ways I contrived to please Deedee and get her to spend a lot of time playing with me. Even though I had a typewriter, a record player, oil paints and an easel in our bedroom, something told me to get outside every time I could, if I wanted to be healthy and strong like Diana–and I truly did. One was by becoming the “Don” of our detective team on bikes, that she led, while calling herself, “Bart.” After we had ridden those bikes in the summer heat until we were breathless, we pumped them uphill through two more steep hills, to reach Dr. Buffkin’s corner drugstore, with icesicles pictured on the door to announce its air-conditioned bliss. We went in and, without apology, plunked down a nickel and ordered a Pepsi, the larger fountain drink than Coca Cola, with two straws. We cooled off in tandem, sipping the syrupy cold liquid, and that’s when we could both see each other’s red faces and noses beaded with sweat; I was tense with secret joy that she wanted only to share this pleasure with me, and had no tricks or need for them on her mind.

           The other way I won Deedee’s company was more elaborate and consisted of finding a way, over time, to re-create in our basement, among the overhead pipes and undersides of our board floors, plus some remaining heaps of red clay beyond the concrete square floor–the exact movie scene of a Saturday serial called, “The Secret Key.” Of course it was a Western, no big-city grimness. In it, the cowboy heroes gathered at a secret hideaway where their leader started every meeting, with a call for the Secret Key, and when he placed it in a niche in the center of the table, lights mysteriously blazed up around it, meaning that the owner of the Secret Key was present, and the scheming could begin. It took weeks of summer days to concoct our version of this, for we had first to acquire a hand drill of good size, with a half-inch bit for drilling a hole in our bedroom floor. How or whether we got parental permission for this, I don’t recall, but the day indeed came. We took time to call up from the basement to the bedroom above, enough questions and answers to determine just where to drill that hole. When the drill bit cleared that half-inch hole and sank through, you would have thought we struck oil, from our excited shrieks.  The large rubber plug had already been unscrewed from the extension cord and the end wire was ready to slip through that hole. I ran upstairs with a screwdriver and re-attached the plug, leaving it ready on the floor for Diana to plug in.

           We had already cleaned up the basement hideaway where we had sometimes spent the night on a piece of metal made into a bed. None of us would have dreamed of sleeping on this, if not for the all-night adventure, with our parents shrugging at our nonsense, and their voices able to be heard if we called up to them. Now all that was turned into a makeshift sofa and tucked about with a blanket. On either side of it we had placed cardboard-box end tables. With instructions from a toy-making book, we had removed the metal ends of lightbulbs, set the bulb ends in Mason jar-lid rings, and poured them full of blue tinted water. They sat quite well and gave a fine blue light with a candle glued into its hot wax in a cup nearby. Next, we took two card tables and managed to fasten a large old picture frame stretching between them, and a couple of wide shelf boards to hide the gap around it. With a dark, discarded bedspread to cover all except a cutout for the picture frame portion, and to hang down and skirt that table, we put under it four small lamps, and some blue-tissue paper taped to the underside of the glass in the frame. It looked much like the long table with the sunken rectangle in the middle from the Saturday movie. We attached the lamps to an extension cord long enough to be hidden and run up through that hole in the basement ceiling. All our work centered on one surprise.

       With about five young watchers gathered around that table, and the basement door closed, and no light except that little candle, we waited for the dimness to take its hushing effect.  I stood at the head of the table and brandished a key in the air. Very loudly, I announced, “The Secret Key!”  Then I took my time and placed the key in its shaped depression in a tiny box taped to the picture glass. “The Secret Key!” I called to the ceiling once again, and on this signal, Diana, kneeling on the floor upstairs, plugged in the cord. Sudden beams of light burst into the darkness, shining up through the blue-tissue-papered picture glass, lighting up the faces around the table. Light glared on the brown beams of the floor above, where no one saw a tiny hole.  The quasi living room with its blue-watered lightbulbs produced dark shadows and lurid gleams, around that table glowing from four hidden lamps, while our little neighborhood kids squealed with awe and delight.

          All we needed was a chord of music, but the gasp from our younger audience was just as good. Before they could get too curious and suspicious, Diana appeared, knocking at the basement door and I let her in and shut it tight again. “I’m here to collect the Secret Key,” she said, “It must be hidden so no one else can use it to find out our plans.”  At this signal, I slipped out the door and hurried upstairs to our bedroom, tip-toeing to run quietly, unheard. Diana then, swearing them to secrecy, told some made-up plans to the group, about a raft we were going to build just like Huckleberry Finn’s, and how we’d float it down the creek in the bottomlands.  “Those are secret plans”, she said, “and now, I’m ready to hide The SECRET KEY!” she yelled. “No one can use The SECRET KEY !” she repeated, and kneeling upstairs, I unplugged the lamp cord, plunging them all into darkness again. Diana then picked up the little candle and told them to wait quietly for “Cowboy Don,” which they pretended with all their hearts was not just me, her big sister, but a real cowpoke.  Pretending was a power we all yielded to, and no one would break the spell..  For the same reason, everyone accepted, from Deedee’s own lips, that she was “Cowboy Bart.”  All that remained was for me to come back down, be let in the door by Diana, and have her place the Secret Key in its box into my hands.  I dashed out the door and went to hide it under the back porch. Next, Bart led everybody outdoors, and the two of us took them on a quick, stomping run down the root and mud ravine steps of the woods, to the bottomlands creek, and back up again.

          After we staged the full scene for our friends and everyone we could drag over to our yard, we returned the lamps to where they belonged, and moved on.

          Diana and I then took to a game between “Bart and Don,” of hiding the key from each other and conducting great house and bicycle-ridden searches and quizzes of each other, to find it. At last, half due to our out-growing it, and half to my risking contact with some black widow spider besides the one we had trapped in  a jar and studied, I eased a brick out of its extra mounds of mortar in a remote basement wall. Once I placed that key in the gap and slid the brick into place, Diana never found it, and I remained the forever holder of the Secret Key.

          Unaware of nature’s undercurrents, we were tolerant of each other’s growing pains. Take the quarrel we had when Deedee ultimately wanted to trade me her blue jeans to wear in exchange for my flower-printed dress. I snatched the dress back, but she didn’t let go, and we both fell over the spindled foot of my twin bed, catching  Mama who had been leaning there, and making her roll onto that bed with me, Deedee, and the jeans and dress, all in a tumble, pushing Alexa, who had been sitting there to put on her socks, onto the floor. No injuries were sustained in this tumble, not even to Mama’s pride, for she was tolerant, too, but it was obvious we were all changing every day. We were already sharing one jar of creamy Arrid, the universal deodorant back then, and I ironed all our clothes so I could stay in the back bedroom and listen to my Bing Crosby and Frank Sinatra records while I worked. We learned to get our clothes out of the front-loading Bendix washer so they wouldn’t sour, before we hung them out on the clothesline. That washer, won in a post-war drawing at Rich’s, waited many months, until Charles Martin Company(now, Martin Marietta) could install it. It lasted all the way through a years-later move to Decatur and into our young adulthood.

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          Next time, why that plan to build a raft like Huckleberry Finn was the worst thing we ever did, and how Deedee went from backyard leader to being the littlest and toughest member of the Capitol View Church Basketball Team.