Face my direction, I wanna to see you better, dear.
You’re a distraction from everything that I feel. ~ “Turn to White” by She and Him
A week ago today, the spouse and I arrived at our getaway spot—a swanky hotel in the not-so-swanky city of Chattanooga. (Sometimes, the hotel is the destination.) Luke fetched a valet, leaving me to mind the car and its load of ridiculous riches—I’ve never possessed the virtue of packing light. As I waited, a songbird perched on the side-view mirror, mere inches away. She proceeded to serenade me, a lovely allegretto—not to mention a greeting fit for the Disney-est of princesses.
Indeed, I live a charmed life.
At least, I did for those two days. We roamed and ate and ate some more. Poking around a bookshop, Luke picked up an old copy of Jack Kerouac’s On the Road, just because. We haunted the lobby of The Dwell, which is decked out in Mid-Century kitsch, and devoured its soundtrack of standards—and a well-crafted cocktail or two. I leaned forward; he leaned in, too. Tell me your hopes and dreams, my love. As if we hadn’t a care in the world!
It doesn’t sound like much, but it was everything.
Fast-forward to yesterday, when, standing in the front doorway, I feel our resident wren—our hanging ferns play host at least one nest per spring—whizzing over my head and into the den. I duck, shriek, run out onto the porch. Throwing open two tall windows, I watch and wait.
Apparently, I like birds best in theory. When they’re, you know, outside.
At last count, my den is decorated with a half dozen birds—wood, porcelain, and metal—as well as four rabbits, two greyhounds, and one sheep. What a critter-y room for a visiting critter. The live-action wren perches picturesquely—on a lamp shaped like branches, next to his iron-cast doppelganger; on the ornately carved back of my French-caned settee; on the mantel, between the clock and a (bird) figurine.
I implore the impostor: Come out! Cuz I’m sure the heck not coming in! Steeling myself, I dash into the kitchen, liberating a box of crackers from the pantry. I arrange crumbles on the sills, hoping to entice my feathered friend to rejoin the great outdoors.
The special needs bus rolls up; off bounces Sadie. I hand her a fistful of crackers. Snack is out here today, Sadie. A picnic! There’s a bird in our house, a very naughty bird. Sadie looks at me and shoves crackers in her mouth. I ask her if she might like to peer in the porch windows, see the birdie?
No. Emphatically, no. She isn’t into it, either.
So, logically (?) I pile Sadie in the car and drive around the country corner to the neighbors’. There’s a bird in the house. Say no more! Father and son grab a broom and truck over to Bird Land, shooing out the wren within seconds. Eyeing my cracker crumbs, they say something along the lines of
I spend thirty minutes scrubbing down the scene of the crime, rubber gloved and armed with vinegar and paper towels. This is why birds are best enjoyed from a distance. Luke comes home, gives Sadie her supper. We make a decent team, he and I. Sadie pops up from her seat, hands still ketchup-y, and he hollers, Dang it, who’s run off with the paper towels?
What are your hopes and dreams, my love?
I am up to my elbows in bird-turd.
Later that evening, we share a few more intimate exchanges. Can you replace the light bulb in the laundry room? Have you paid the Visa bill? The toilet’s running—again. Tres romantique!
Romance is precisely what the workaday so vexatiously lacks. As such, leaving Chattanooga felt tragical. Before we hit the road, we stopped at a nifty antiques store on the outskirts of town. I skulked in dark corners, sniveling. Look, honey, an aqua blue telephone circa 1960, just like they’d have at The Dwell! (Insert ugly-sob here.) This is not cheering you up, Luke noted. There’s nothing for it but to rip off the Band-Aid and head for the highway, toward home.
The thud. It is real.
As the odometer miles ticked off, I mourned. Not just the end of a mini-vacation, but the end of Luke plus Laura, an entirely different entity outside our own town’s limits. Off-campus us.
He and I, we were—in a way—breaking up.
I realize there are greater things to grieve. But I go ahead and grieve the small stuff, particularly endings. Departure day and the micro-death of he plus me, it washed over me like a wave. You would think tearing one’s self away from a city whose main bragging point is a freshwater aquarium—trout on display!—could be done with emotions more intact. Compared to yours truly, I suspect most folks remain more emotionally intact crossing the street.
With the heights come the depths.
To cope, I try to create soft landings, working to add a daily twist of terrific. Savor, as they say, the moments. But what makes moments special—their brevity—also renders them wholly unsatisfying. Moments are maddeningly… momentary. Truth is, I’m tired of being told to enjoy the moment. I am greedy. I want to enjoy a long string of moments, one after another.
I regret to report: A stolen quarter of an hour together sitting on the screened porch after supper does not magical Luke and Laura make. Knees creaking, we wipe moisture from our brows and rise from wicker chairs. It’s hot on the porch. We load the dishwasher, feed the dog, clean out the vegetable drawer. What’s on Netflix?
Everyday, we also change diapers—those of our fifteen-year old—and ward off tantrums and hire a highly skilled and super-humanly patient caregiver every time we leave the house.
There is no getaway on the schedule.
We are stuck, as is the church calendar, in Ordinary Time. After the drama—and deep meaning—of Advent, Christmas, and Epiphany, followed by Lent and Easter, there is quiet. In the quiet comes slow growth, if we take care to cultivate. In the quiet, every small act can make space for the presence of God. Frantic paper towel searches—sanctified! This I know. Still, I squirm under the truth of it.
I had lunch with Lanier the other day. “I want,” she said, with an element of try in her voice. “To live my life from the place of my best.”
Thou my best thought, by day or by night…
Yes, that. But, once in awhile, I run out of try. I am a child, stomping her foot. I want what I want—glad and golden hours, more piled upon more.
Is this so much to ask?
What is that feeling when you’re driving away from people and they recede on the plain till you see their specks dispersing? – it’s the too-huge world vaulting us, and it’s good-bye. ~ Jack Kerouac