Thursday, July 05, 2012


Bright sun, clear sky, but still cool. The sap is flowing strong in trees-of-heaven, and though I understand – as I ride beneath them on Lincoln street – why some people call them “stink-palms,” it isn't an unpleasant smell to me, though it is a dangerous one, an invitation to nostalgia and grief. It's the smell of the fullness of summer, and I've never belonged in summer. I'm a creature of winter, of shifting, indirect light, of fog and rain, of the clarity of long-running rivulets. In the direct sunlight I am a swollen, awkward, blundering creature.

I carry four things in the left front pocket of my jeans. The fob that magically opens the doors and enables the elevators of my office building; the small key to my bicycle lock; a wooden skull, a bit smaller than an ordinary marble, carved for me as a good-luck piece by Clint in massage school; and a red-orange beach agate, like a little sun. I've lost the pale blue-green, almost turquoise, sea-glass I used to carry in that same pocket. Time goes on and things get lost.

Nothing magical in my right front pocket. Keys and change. Wallet in my right back pocket. That's it. Martha finds it comical that when I put on a clean pair of jeans I methodically put everything from the pockets of the old pair into the pockets of the new pair. I'm not sure why. How do other people keep track of their stuff? You have to do it somehow.

The enormous relief of the fifth of July. It's like the day after Christmas: a year before I have to do this again! My two least favorite days of the year, days on which failure is guaranteed, when the fact that I am not what was wanted or expected is made clear and put on public display. I don't struggle against it. Two days of misery per year, that's not much, in a generally happy life. It's like the county taxes. You just pay it.

Summer begins now, in western Oregon, summer for real. I'll survive it. I have the four things in my pocket, and I have friends, even if they're far away.


YourFireAnt said...

Trees of heaven....stink palms....I'm curious. Are they a conifer?

A "not unpleasant smell" is so subjective isn't it. I for one like the scent of skunks, and of that little pink flower called "Herb Robert" which so many herbalists have said is "unpleasant".

And I'm with you on the not a summer sort of person thing.


Dale said...

No, not a conifer. AKA Ailanthus. A swift-growing, short-lived shade tree indigenous to China:

Anne said...

It is so true that things get lost. Even big things. I look at old photos and wonder what ever happened to this or that piece of furniture, or some old painting that I had even forgotten I made. Somehow I remain more or less the same person, even though I go through life leaving behind a trail of lost stuff.

Since you feel as you do about summer it's a good thing you live in the Pacific northwest, since there is so little summer for you to endure.

Dale said...

Anne, yes! I'm very fortunate to live here. I was appalled by the summer weather in Connecticut, when I lived there: I couldn't believe that rational beings had decided it was a habitable place :-)

rbarenblat said...

when the fact that I am not what was wanted or expected

I cannot imagine a world in which you are not what is wanted.

Anonymous said...

My stuff is in my purse. Occasionally there is some critical item in my right front pants pocket, but that's risky, as I'm likely to lose track of it. My purse is sturdy, designed as a hiking bag, and has many pockets, which hold specific things. It is also large enough to hold my iPad, although I use it for that less than I expected. My iPad also replaces several bulky things I used to carry at all times (calendar, calculator, address book). I'm not a light traveler - I have all sorts of things with me everywhere - but most everything is in my purse or iPad.

What happens on the 4th of July that's dreadful? I'm curious. I mostly stay home and reassure the cats that we are safe (fireworks). Sometimes there are picnics to decide to go to or avoid.


Dale said...

The 4th is the birthday of a person with whom I have virulent love/hate relationship -- a person who has betrayed me over and over, who regularly abuses people I love, is fantastically self-absorbed and vain, and whom I adore, and who is the source of nearly everything I value most about myself. Plus it's a social occasion on which one is supposed to declare one's allegiance or disaffection from said person, and create (or eschew) the noises of warfare, which I find very disturbing in its own right. It is the nadir of my year, very like Christmas -- except worse, in that it's also, often, stiflingly hot.

Dale said...

Dear Rachel. xoxo