In search of story


Disconnections: July 4.18

In an amazing, death-defying feat of coordination and grace, I balanced colander and bowl and camera as I cleaned beans yesterday evening on the swing. There was a hope of incoming storm — how we need the rain — and as I sat there I felt the change: the breeze rose almost to the level of wind, the underbellies of leaves rolled upward, and a blessed cool-down settled on a hot world.

The colander belonged to my Grandma O’Hern. She too cleaned beans in it. In her cotton summer housedresses, shoulder-to knee apron, Grandma shoes, and, yes, hairnet, she was always cleaning something. Except when chores were done and she’d sit on her swing on her screened porch. On my luckiest days, I sat next to her.

She was the daughter of immigrants. Both my grandmas were daughters of immigrants. Neither finished grade school. I sat for a long time yesterday evening looking at that colander. Of course I was no longer on that deck but was in her kitchen, on her swing.

The 4th of July finds me very introspective this year. From sea to shining sea one vast ad-hominem attack.  Purple-mountained alternative facts. Amber waves of tweets. A fruited plain of party lines.

I guess the colander challenged me to fly the flag today for the right reasons.

It never did rain last night; some things we cannot influence. I choose to think the flag says there are some things we CAN influence.



Connections: January 7.18

Behind the brambly trees,

near distant,

the horizon burned,

color of gladiola

I have summer-seen,

but quick to cool,

lost to cinder grey

though I stretched my hand

to stop it —

ashen sky now

ashen snow —

the awning on the swing flaps

like trapped bird,

winter warming laps

at frozen ground,

then ice.




The primal screen

I read of home trends, of what’s “hot,” of “dated” and “fresh.” “Pfau,” I say to all those housefashion police, as I step through my sliding back door. Don’t bother me with trends; I have a screened porch. It is the classic: the Parthenon, the Sphinx, that thing to be marveled at for all time. It is at once inside and outside, liberating and protecting, open and enclosed. Miraculous.

More’s the miracle, it takes me back to my grandma’s screened porch, the portal to bliss. A big swing hung there, covered with a worn woven blanket; I would sit next to Grandma for as long as she could stand it, and she scratched my back as we floated back and forth. Now, when the dentist comes at me, and I’d rather be somewhere else, I put myself on that porch, on that swing.

Grandma would sit on her porch when the chores of the day were done and the evening breeze rearranged the summer dust on the leaves. Sometimes a storm would blast through, and the porch would suddenly be the coolest place in the world, lightning-scented, drippy. And the summer dust would be washed away.

My porch has mere chairs, but I sit there when my chores are done (and when they aren’t). The summer evening performs. “Bolero”-like, it layers its after-dinner sounds and slowly swells with voices and trimmers, the pit-pat of joggers, the under-buzz of bikes, the rhythms of bouncing. Then just crickets. And doors, like eyes, closing dreamily on the day as the sun bows low and takes its leave.

Cycles of life, light and dark, the busy and the still, in theater before us, Grandma and me.