Beautiful Life

In the hour leading up to the storm, I ghostwrote a blog entry on the topic of motivating employees. During the storm I wrote parts of an article about the next Democratic National Convention, and then I scheduled meetings with clients to discuss their flyers and their elevator speeches.

After the storm, I slipped into my flip-flops and walked out into the cool damp air to clear my head. I wandered up the lane across from our house, down to the end, and plucked an apple from an ancient tree in Joe’s yard. It was russet and green with inedible divots where worms had burrowed in while it was maturing. The flesh was sweet and dry, with an old-timey butter flavor underlying the familiar apple taste.

I wondered whether the figs by his house were ripening yet.

On the horizon beyond Joe’s house is a vast expanse of city-owned land, a noise buffer against the airport just north of us, hundreds of acres of woods and streams and deer. Joe keeps his lawn meticulously trimmed. But between the wide arc maintained by his zero-turn mower and the woods in the distance, is the kudzu.

It must have been woods once, too. But someone had come through and cleared it out for some forgotten purpose, taking down the trees and removing all the vegetation. Some trauma, probably erosion, had then cut a vast ravine savagely through the landscape, a forbidding, winding, steep terrain awaiting a child’s daring exploration. And at some point, many years ago, the kudzu had arrived like a long-awaited nurse at a dying patient’s bedside, and laid a healing balm over the earth’s raw red wounds, bandaged up the dead and dying trees.

This afternoon I stood at the edge of that old scar and breathed in the expanse of green, with its three tall sentinels, headless trees now covered in kudzu. Beyond the kudzu, down in the little valley, mist was rising out of the woods.

My mind filled involuntarily with all I had left to do this afternoon: finish an article, write news updates for two-way radio sales, sweep the kitchen, cook. I felt the weight of my phone in my pocket and wondered when my wondering would be interrupted. And I wished.

I wished for long, dreamy walks in the rain. Great expanses of time to listen to the world and let my creativity develop. I fancied myself a poet, a writer of fiction, a creator of worlds, a breather of magic. I wished for a life filled with mystery and wonder. Ah, for the life of the aristocrat, nothing to do but to throw myself down in the grass and examine the grasshopper.

At my feet was a hopeful tendril of ambitious kudzu, creeping across the trim patch of grass I stood on, stretching out of the wonderland and into the well-ordered world of Joe’s lawn. Its leaves were ornamented with raindrops, tiny spheres of silver and grey and reflection.

I wonder if I look deeply enough into a raindrop, whether I could see my future, like in a medium’s crystal ball. But when I look all I see is this moment, the shimmering grey sky and glances of light in changing silver-touched colors. I notice how the drop clings irregularly to the leaf, its lower surface bubbled and pocked, even as its arching upper surface glimmers and shines in perfect smoothness.

While I’m looking, I begin to notice birdsong. Like the underside of the raindrop, it is irregular and unglamorous. Just one bird calling to another, “I’m still here! Where are you?” “Here!” “Me too!” “Still here!”

And I realize suddenly that I’m here too. Bumpy and unglamorous, here I am.

I look up at that broad expanse of mystical kudzuland with the woods at its feet and I see my beautiful life. Here I am. Here in my long, dreamy walk after the rain. Here is my mystery, my wonder. All I have to do is notice it.

My life clings to the surface of the world like that raindrop on a leaf. I write about business continuity, and data storage technologies. I talk to clients and I do my laundry. All that bumpy, irregular, frenzied and sometimes unbearably boring glue that holds my life on the surface, keeps it here where I belong. It has a beauty of its own.

And in the gap, in the space between the sky above and the leaf below, there is an entire world in which to glimmer and shine and reflect.

On my way back down to the surface, back to my office, I step up to Joe’s house to investigate the fig tree. The first plump brown fruit breaks between my lips tasting of memory, long walks with Grandpa. The next with sheer pleasure, sweet and earthy and soft. The next few I carefully cradle in my shirt and bring home to share with my love. I arrange them in a circle on a white plate and present them with a sideways grin. I watch his blue eyes open with delight, I see them close with pleasure as his teeth pierce the brown skin.

I see wonder. I see mystery. I see that the magic is already here, in my beautiful life.

 

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