Monday, August 24, 2015

August sweat

The track is flat, but it's hot. The end of a Georgia August is not quite as muggy as a Mississippi August, but muggy enough. Thursday I ran two miles with the cross-country team, but I stopped after 3/4 of a mile to clock the runners' laps, so I had a break. That's when you start to sweat, when you stop. Drops cam eoff my forehead and dripped onto the clipboard, smearing the marks I made to keep track of the laps they ran. The pen quit in the influx of sweat, but I made indentations in the paper and pretended I was still writing. They jogged past me, announcing their laps. "McKoon, 9...Lewis, 9...Terrell, 7...Morgan, 6." The girls rarely say their numbers, although Cunningham will hold up her fingers as she goes past, the lead female, who never puts her long hair up in a ponytail. I don't know how she runs that way.

Coach came back from unlocking the girls' dressing room and took the clipboard from me, so I join the team again. I ran the last five, only walking a little, but only keeping moving because I don't want to wimp out in front of the team. Runners' pride is powerful.

So today, I only intended to run two miles, but the sun went behind a cloud, a breeze came up, and I felt like I had a little more in me, so I did the whole three, and it was easier than before. I wore the dri-fit top I bought at Goodwill, and it made a difference. The football team was practicing on the field, too, and an audience generally makes you run better. I noticed things about the runers as I put my miles in . Coaxum has an odd and long stride. Brand walks a lot and says his calves hurt. DeRaney didn't bring water. Hodge rides Coach's bike because she hurt her foot, and she bought her pink running shoes at Kids Footlocker. Redovich and Terrell tend to run at the same pace as I; both are scrupulously honest. They never lie about their laps and they seldom stop to walk. Terrell is a wrestler. I always mean to watch him while we stretch because wrestlers are the most flexible people on earth, but I forget. Redovich told me she comes from a family of runners. She runs evenly and seriously, alone, with a resolute face, and she never talks much. I had to ask her before she told me about her family.

So today,  Cunningham warmed up to me and asked me if I ran three. When I told her yes, she congratulated me. It was nice. Then we stretched, me focusing on hip openers, the same ones I did at 4:30 this morning, incorporating pigeon pose, followed by butterfly, an adaptation of  happy baby, and ending by cradling our calves in arms,  with foot in crook of elbow and knee in the other elbox, trying to hook legs behind and over shoulders, but I was too slippery with sweat. Maybe one day. That hook is the start of the five-point star, a yoga pose I aspire to like scorpion, but it'll be years, maybe never. Coaxum is almost there, but she releases her leg immediately when everybody looks. I meant to look at Terrell again to see if he could hook his leg behind his shoulder.  Dang it!

But what I feel such gratitude for is, these kids are a great influence on me. I haven't run three miles in several years. I thought I couldn't any more because of my knee. But--hello, running! I've missed you! It's so good to be dripping with sweat on a track in the summer heat.

Sunday, August 16, 2015

Sweeping Motions

What’s messier right now — your bedroom or you computer’s desktop (or your favorite device’s home screen)? Tell us how and why it got to that state.

My bedroom is uncharacteristically messy in that the two baskets of books beside my bed are out of line and uneven. In addition, the huge TV underneath the window is sitting at an angle  from the wall. My children were home from college. I was lubricating the derailleurs on the bikes and took a moment to riffle through the books looking for the bike repair manual to give to my daughter's boyfriend, since I found him a decent mountain bike at Goodwill and had Tyler at Dicks Sporting Goods to repair. Connor has another bike in pieces on his apartment floor, and I don't understand the bike repair book anyway. Better to clear out detritus than to have clutter.

The TV, though, is driving me crazy. It was a hand me down I tried to give to the other daughter, and she carried it halfway out to the car before she told me she didn't need it. When she put it back, she didn't put it against the wall. Why? Why would anyone leave a TV set at an angle?

So now that they are gone, the dishes washed, the upstairs thermostat turned back up to 80, I should tidy the bedroom. I don't mind a little chaos, but I like my things geometrically aligned when I'm by myself.

Monday, August 10, 2015

Wishing in one hand

Three Coins in the Fountain

Have you ever tossed a coin or two into a fountain and made a wish? Did it come true?

I don't remember ever tossing a coin in a fountain or even a wishing well. I remember running around the edge of a fountain. I remember my sister falling into the fountain in December. I even remember what she was wearing--a wool plaid pantsuit. Well, it was the seventies. She had to shiver in the wet wool all the way home. I surely must have thrown a coin into Trevi Fountains, because I was there, but maybe not because I was fifteen and oblivious to tradition.
What I have thrown into water is a message in a bottle, but I don't remember what it said. The idea is charming, but I don't really believe in those kinds of things: messages in bottles or coins in fountains. I wish on stars, but it's just a cursory action. I said a spell I found in a book of witchcraft I found in the library at around thirteen or fourteen. Nothing came of it that I remember. So I guess the saying is true for me, "Wish in one hand and spit in the other and see which fills up first." I believe in doing things I'm afraid of much more. I believe in checking your voice mail, running a Class III rapid, going on blind dates. That's where I put my belief in the future, not in lottery tickets or Ouija boards.
So why do I blow the fluff off dandelions and kiss the hem of my skirt when it's turned up? I always put my left shoe on first and never toss my hat on the bed. So I guess I might as well go find a fountain and rustle up some spare change. You never know.

Friday, August 7, 2015

Looking at light

Of course it's dark because it's ten o'clock and when I look out my window, I cup my hands and lean into the glass to banish the reflections of my lamps and the TV. I find I am looking into two things that fill me with, well, joy. An evergreen (Thula Green Giant) I planted six years ago, into which I have entwined white twinkle lights. The same lights are around the trunks of a sweet guy tree and a cedar tree about fifteen feet from the house, and I plugged them all in after I mowed the lawn this afternoon.

I look farther, beyond the evergreen and the sweet gum and the cedar to the Leyland cypresses lining the back yard before it gives into the woods. Above the cypresses I think there's still some light left in the sky, a deep indigo, but I realize it's the reflection on the window glass from my blue bedroom. Still quite lovely. I lean into the glass; it's very clean because reflections are one of my favorite things. On the blue walls I have three mirrors, not necessarily from narcissism, but because of the way the mirrors catch the afternoon light in this southern exposure.

I can't see any more but the twinkle lights, but I think if the window were open, I could smell the new-cut grass. As I peer out, the tree frogs start up. After a rain, and it rained last night, they start their serenade. When this happens, I mute the TV or music and listen for as long as they go on. So close, I can tell they are in the Thula Green Giant, and that one is about five feet up while the other close to the ground. They trill back and forth one more vibrant than the other, the one close to the ground sounding as thought it might want to settle in for the night. A good idea, I think, so I pull the sheers over the panes and head back to bed, still listening to the frogs. When I turn my bedside lamp off, I will leave the twinkle lights on so if I wake in the night I'll see a dim glow filling the blue bedroom. Through the WindowLooking at lightDaily PostThrough the Through the Through the #64

Wednesday, August 5, 2015

My daughter's ankle

My 17-year-old daughter told me she was going to the library, and I thought it was odd, but she is the reader of the family, so I thought, well, okay. She came back with a tattoo. It was an anchor on her ankle, and I was nonplussed. She told me it was for Hope, her friend who had just died in a car accident, so I did not voice my opinions about tattoos. She already knew them, anyway. Six months later, when Maggie applied for college she had to write an essay about a formative experience. It was only then that I understood the import of her actions.

Maggie wrote that when Hope was killed, she felt absolutely nothing. She thought she should be feeling grief, but she didn't. She got the tattoo in the same way. She settled on Hebrews 6:19: "We have this hope as the anchor of the soul." My good girl. It wasn't a particularly original tattoo, but it was maybe the the first autonomous decision she made as an adult. She made it with deliberation, knowing that she would have to tell me, her mother, and accept the consequences of lying and doing something that I had always preached against. I had firm views on despoiling one's body, and Maggie has mostly honored my authority, so this was a decisive foray into adulthood for her. When she wrote her college essay, she said that the feelings she had while getting the tattoo were exactly the same as her feelings when Hope died, numbness. The artist told her it would hurt, but she didn't feel the pain, only listened to the buzzing of the needle and watched the ink imprint into her skin. The result though, permanent and indelible, like death.

In my second year of teaching school, I lost a student I loved to a motorcycle accident. Every Sunday for sixteen years, I've prayed for his soul, and I think Maggie's tattoo is really the same thing  Every Sunday, I think of how old Willie would be, what he might have done with his life. I imagine Maggie thinks of what Hope have done with hers. I won't forget Willie and Maggie has told me she won't forget Hope, I guess prayers are a kind of tattoo, or tattoos might be some kind of prayer. Ink on skin, words from the heart. I have to respect Maggie's lie about the library. It's a testament not to deception, but to loss, honor, and recognition of sorrow.

Tuesday, August 4, 2015

Recycling center

I am most myself in other people's clothes--my father's old yacht club cap, my daughter's outgrown sports bra, the gym shorts my sister gave me, and the t-shirts that came from Goodwill. In those I paddle the Chattahoochee, flop around on my yoga mat, and bike the roads east of Atlanta. I attribute my fondness for hand-me-downs to having a big sister I tried hard to be like, but the slovenliness is all me. I remember my mother reprimanding me about wearing the same clothes three days in a row, and forty years ago, it was the same outfit: shorts and a t-shirt. Especially in the summer, when I still try never to put on make up or wear real shoes. Mostly I wear sunscreen and flipflops that cost 98 cents at Walmart.

In the fall, however, which now starts the first of August, school begins and I have to do things like wash my hair and put on lipstick. I wear dresses and bracelets and carry a purse; I  embrace entire color-coordinated outfits and wear high heels so my eleventh-graders won't dwarf me. They're still hand-me-downs, though. My friends and family all know I will accept and love their discards, and when I do shop, I head for the thrift store. The teacher part of me wants to take in those vagabond garments, the little sister part wants to look grown up, and the nerd in me wants to live by Thoreau's advice to beware of any enterprise requiring new clothes.  Whatever, I may never enter a department store again.