When my alarm goes off, the sky glows with a blue hint of the morning sunrise. Turning off my alarm, I moan internally, wishing for just another hour of sleep, but I roll out of bed anyway. The morning run is part of me now. It is important to the person I am and the person I am becoming. I dress in my old blue t-shirt and exercise pants and tell myself that I must buy better running clothes soon, but not yet. I’ll wait a little until I’m thinner, and faster. By the time my teeth are brushed and I’ve had a drink of water, I’m more awake and ready to head out. Stepping out the door, I realize just how cold 40 degrees is and I’m tempted to turn around and go back in. The air is cold and still smells of last night’s rain. I convince myself that by the time I’ve gone a couple of blocks, I’ll be warm again and that when I get home there will be the triumph of completing one more run. I can do it. I am stronger than my bed and the cold weather and I’ll be back at it again tomorrow.
The Deck Swing at Grandma’s House
Visiting Grandma in the summer, my brother and I would sit on the green-cushioned swing hung from the roof of the covered deck and eat banana, cherry, and root beer popsicles while we watched the hostas grow on the north side of her house. We never sat on the two Adirondack chairs. When you are eight or six years-old, those chairs just make you bend into a “V” shape and soon you lose circulation to your feet. Right about that time is when you suddenly realize that not only are your feet numb, you are in a nearly impossible angle from which to extricate yourself. Only at that age, we just called it “being stuck”. Sometimes we didn’t sit on the swing either. We would kneel on it backwards and peer into the garage window and see what we could see in there. It was full of Grandpa’s old stuff. We never knew Grandpa, but we saw a lot of his stuff. We saw old gloves and tool boxes, fertilizer and old fishing tackle boxes, and old calendars with pictures of girls in short shorts and button shirts tied just below their chests. Interesting as it was to us, somehow we knew that place was off limits to us and we never went in there to explore on our own. The few times we followed Grandma in, it was as though we were entering a dust-laden sanctuary. We could feel old memories hanging on the floating motes in the air around us and we did not want to disrupt them. So most of the time, we contented ourselves with peering through the dirty window and wondering why Grandpa wanted girlie calendars when he had our beautiful Grandma to look at. After we finished our popsicles and were a little cooled off by the shade, we would put our sticks in the trash cans by the garage door and run back to play in Grandma’s hidden garden.
I Am From…
I am from a sandbox in a desert town
A-B-C-D-E-F-G with Big Bird.
I’m from blackberry brambles,
blackberry pie, blackberry fingers.
I’m from Grape Grandma’s flowery dress, purple, white, green.
I am from rain, rain, rain,
mudball fights and fortress doors
caterpillars in jars, ferns in the forest,
frogs, climbing trees, and pine sap on my sweater.
I’m from a bicycle with daisies on a banana seat,
from a wrinkly, winky grandma holding on behind
and letting go,
playing truck driver at the closed gas station,
I’m from doorbell ditching at Buster Brown’s mansion.
I am from salty, sulfur swimming in summer heat and winter fog.
From eating too many sunflower seeds, hulls and all,
getting sick, sick, sick, and cut wide, wide open.
I’m from teachers who spoke Spanish,
books of whangdoodles, cottages, orphans, castles,
and Mrs. Mike.
I am from Swedish fish at Bell’s Market, buying
illicit Sen-Sen to eat in the backyard before
“No Bears Come Out Tonight”.
I’m from friends who tried suicide
and survived. And the ones who didn’t.
I’m from babies, bedtime stories, family camping
never catching a fish.
I am from a solar eclipse, the Pleiades,
wishing on a shooting star.
I’m from puppies, kittens, hamsters,
funerals for old pets.
I’m from China,
tears for my children,
fear of police,
bargaining for scarves,
oranges in January,
shamrocks in February and March,
more rain, rain, rain.
I am from America,
Free to shout,
Free to argue,
Free to play,
Free to worship,
I Am Free to be Who I Am.
The wall behind my desk is scattered with photos of the rusty, red-orange desert stone formations near where I live. I love those photos. If sunrises melted into hard, tangible earth, they would streak across the landscape just like that. A red watercolor with vertical drips that puddled at the bottom and orange horizontal streaks running below the horizon; the blue of the sky so intense you feel the heat of the sand, taste the grit in the dust stirred up by your feet, and know there could not possibly be any orange or red left for another sunset. Until evening comes, when the formations are cast into blackening shadow and the sky steals back it’s color from the earth to create a fire-show streaking across the western sky. Finally all the colors fade and the world is plunged into cooling darkness until morning, when the earth steals the sunrise colors and makes them solid again.