Wednesday, February 12, 2014


Young people seem so very young, nowadays. Their bodies are absurdly pliable, and their problems seem so very far away from mine. Real enough to them, of course. You wish there was some way to tell them: the grand things they're angst-ing about are not what's going to matter to them in the long run; not nearly so much as the habits they're forming while they're waiting for the Dreamboat Boy and the Meaningful Work. Those habits will outlast both, and become the real fabric of their lives. 

But I was one and twenty,
No use to talk to me. 

All the world seems dark, with the colors rising vividly against it, since the snow melted. We're living in a black velvet painting of a world. Startling reds and greens and yellows glow in the gloom. Even the dull purple paint so mysteriously favored by Portlanders has an eldritch gleam and richness to it. The first madly reckless crocuses are placing their bets, and the leafless whips of anonymous bushes have gone scarlet, or mustard, or spring green: the shrub equivalent of rolling up their sleeves and spitting on their hands. All hell's going to break loose pretty soon.

I quietly grow stronger, every day, in body and in mind: I love it that if I lay my hand on my belly, when I'm sitting up from lying on my back, I feel a sheet of hard muscle there, despite how well-marbled I am. I love that I can spring lightly up from there without using my hands. I love that I can make myself do one more thing, and another beyond that, before my will crumbles. It's nothing and it's everything.

Up at Dabney, on the Sandy River, we wandered in the first snowfall, with the ducks and the kingfishers. A woodpecker – what was he? We forgot to look him up, and he was so distinctive, all black and white bars and stripes! – rappelled down his rotting tree a couple yards from us, either completely unworried, or so focused on his meal that he never noticed us. He probably thinks that slow clumsy primates are the least of his problems. We all make mistakes.

Grateful for friends, friends of the hand and friends of word, for sustaining me, interrogating me, steadying me while I scramble up unfamiliar slopes. Long, long ago I bushwacked up the Duckabush valley in the Olympic Mountains. Every crest disclosed a new world, in those steep, miniaturized alps. I feel a bit like that now. Everything new and strange.


Peter said...
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Peter said...

So important for me now to spring to my feet, or at least I'd call it that -- to get up from the floor without using my hands, just my glutes and hamstrings (if I have that right). Little things like that. The nice burn I felt in my abs yesterday, not from a good workout, admittedly, but from a resumption of workouts after over a week off. Little things that quietly atone for gradually failing hearing and sight. Wearing skinny jeans counters -- on Casual Fridays, anyway -- having to get closer to the quieter students to hear their remarks. (More of them every year; must be a new Silent Generation coming.)

Absolutely love your paragraph on color. The season's changing? Please give me Dale every time.

Marly Youmans said...

I sent that first paragraph to my two older children, currently laying down habits...