In a jaded sense of certainty derived from living, lo these many years upon this plane, I think I know everything.
I know the seasons will change…somewhat. I know the bill from Frontier will arrive with ever increasing and inaccurate charges. I know we will never clean out the garage without the help of powerful stimulants, be they natural, man-made, or God-given, although I suspect and hope God has better things to do.
This certain, assured knowledge of the predictable workings of the world can be a tedious burden, so far removed from the wonderment of childhood where all things are bright and possible.
Such a, know-it-all, attitude might almost approach cynicism. Why read Shakespeare when you know they die at the end? Why look up at the stars when they may have burnt out eons ago (“put out the light and put out the light”)? And, finally, why do I have to realize that, as Disneyland proclaims in the hopeful Tomorrowland song, “It’s A Great Big Beautiful Tomorrow,” that tomorrow is here and it’s not.
In this current political climate, anyone can get a bit bogged down. The Earth is becoming a wobbling, weary planet, with cracked ice caps, hopes and hearts, instead of the brave new world that we once envisioned. Fearing the fate of the planet is daunting enough but, adding insult to injury, must I suffer a collection of small irritations as well?
As if sharp-toothed hungry hyenas were nipping at my heels, I am dogged by the mix-up with health insurance, the missing check, the scam phone calls, those little scorpions, college funding for the darling daughter or lack thereof, as well as our own befuddled future. What about the mystery of the water damage to the library book that we had to pay to replace? I never spilled any water on that book. No, some evil imp must have come in the night in search of mischief and sprinkled the innocent tome, “Will I See My Dog In Heaven,” with his trick lapel flower or worse. I think I recall hearing some cruel, cackling laughter in the middle of the night but I thought I was only dreaming.
After retrieving the mail (no the check didn’t come), I glance up at the tangled and mangled wind chimes, wondering if I possess the patience or skill to untwine the knotted strands, as if I were some Goddess of Weaving with clever fingers, setting right the world. It’s an impossible task, reminiscent of the frustration of untangling a long strand of Christmas lights, guaranteed to produce profanities, not only from the Beleaguered Husband but from even the most gentle of lips. Surely the same imp who damaged the book has been at work here with his sharp and ragged claws to weave a great clump of mess out of what should be the wind made into music. I set to work. Hours and days seem to roll by, until, suddenly it is accomplished. I re-hang the chimes and smile a little.
While perched there, up on the old faithful, the paint-splattered, rusty step-stool, I notice something. From above, I see the sunlight fall on an abandoned, neglected plant in its pot. It had at one time been a beautiful blossoming bougainvillea. The dear Husband had presented me with an array of plants in riotous colors for my birthday. They had suddenly appeared in our yard that October day, all pink and purple and orange, in the company of a fine pumpkin and to see those colors so alive and undeniably happy, brightened the heart.
It is hard to grow bougainvillea in our hardscrabble Topanga earth and between a gopher, my lack of skills and the oncoming cold and rain I watched the flowers fall away. By Christmas they were gone: nothing left but brittle sticks in those I had planted in the ground as well as the one I had left in the container. I set the pot of now colorless, dead sticks aside, never quite getting around to dumping it. Hope is a thing of dry, barren stems. There it has remained, a haunted, ugly thing as dead as anything you’d want to see, or wouldn’t.
To my utter amazement, I now discover…BUDS! Green sprigs of life, resurrected, new and promising, where there were only desolate twigs. And I notice tiny leaves are on the bare bougainvillea plants in our yard also. I am ready to dance. I have been surprised! And there is nothing better then surprise to cure cynicism.
I remember now, I don’t know everything. There are surprises like the time my daughter, one sad and dreary day, brought home a small kitten, or the complete surprise of having fallen in love with my husband as if I was under a spell, like Tatiana when she became enamored of an ass. And what about the incredible surprise and delight of finding my lost collection of Beatles cards which miraculously appeared in a place where I had looked for them a hundred times.
Oh, how had I forgotten the wonder of the world? How not to have seen, recently, the surprising beauty of the moo; to feel the fresh brush of an early evening breeze like a caress from someone invisible who loves you; to hear the enchanted sound of wind chimes playing just for you; to taste anew the familiar old flavor of a chocolate bunny? To know with certainty, yes, you will see your dog in heaven.
Lost kittens do come home, people are healed, some guys live through motorcycle accidents and, when needed, leaders appear. They might be carpenters, farm workers, a mother with a cause, someone with a guitar, a librarian, a politician, a guy who runs a burger joint, a poet, the publisher of a newspaper, a kid from Topanga. They might be all of them, all of them and all of us standing together to say, “Put down the gun” or “Build not the wall” or “Don’t push the button” or even the old but true adage, “War is not healthy for children and other living things.”
Perhaps part of my cynicism was that I had been too long away from young children. Having just recently returned to teaching theater to pre-schoolers, I look into those young eyes and see the magic of the world and all of its surprise still blessedly alive and well. When asked about the month of the year in which their birthdays fell, one little girl answers, “Tuesday.”
I catch my breath. “Yes, Tuesday is one of my favorite months,” I say.
And Monday and Wednesday and Thursday…