Tuesday, September 30, 2014

Maple leaf aerodynamics

The big-leaf maple grove in front of my window has not really turned its mind to autumn yet. Almost all leaves are still deep green. But a small cousin clinging to the hillside a bit to the north is almost half bright yellow, which means I get to watch the leaves take off.

Because maple leaves don't actually fall so much as soar. I watched one moving horizontally on a brisk autumn breeze until it started moving upward, seeming uninterested in actually ending up on the ground at all. It disappeared past the top of my window on its way toward the roof.

Even without the assistance of wind, maple leaves take their time to get from branch to earth. Something about the broad, irregular shape and the protruding stem permit them to dance once they are free to do so. I'm envious. With my aching back and knees and shoulders, I doubt I will be able to make so free-spirited an exit when the time comes. And I'm almost sure I won't turn brilliant yellow to make a final bright flash on my way out. So I guess the best I can do is to applaud those who know how to go out with a flourish. And the show this year is only beginning.

Saturday, September 27, 2014

An unexpected gift

Every once in a while, somebody will give you a piece of their life.

I'm not talking about the intricate sharing of long-time friends or lovers or partners. This kind of thing comes from a stranger, who, for whatever reason, decides to open up to you.

I got one of those gifts just now as I bought tangerines and yogurt at a Trader Joe's. I was wearing the T-shirt I got as a thank-you after giving one of my children (the one who always knows Exactly what I can buy her for her birthday) tickets to a Tina Turner concert. The T-shirt has Tina seated on a simple chair looking out at the world with an expression of cheerful triumph. It was from one of her several "farewell" tours and has the dates and places of the concerts on the back.

The guy ringing up my purchases admired the shirt, then, after a brief pause, told me he dresses up like Tina and performs her most popular pieces. My immediate response was profound envy. I could no more imitate Tina than I could fly to Mars. "Can you do her voice?" I asked. "No, I lip-synch," he answered. "Just doing the dancing in high-heeled boots is plenty of challenge."

He bagged up my purchases, and I left, smiling. I smiled all the way home.

Saturday, September 6, 2014

Mirabile dictu!

I have forgiven my ex-husband.

I state this, not as an accomplishment, but as a discovery. We were married for ten years and have been divorced for 40, and until today, whenever I have encountered him in the course of interactions with our mutual children, it took only the sound of his voice to draw up around me armor that would be the envy of any medieval knight, containing within a turgid mix of pain and anger and odds and ends of longing and need. I knew that, as a Christian, I had to forgive him ("...forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us ..."), and I could almost always manage to behave as if I had forgiven him, but inside here, on the tarnished side of the armor, I couldn't manage to feel as if I had forgiven him, indeed, couldn't manage to feel as if I really wanted to forgive him.

Let's be clear. He is/was not a monster. We're not talking Simon Legree here. But people can do damage to one another in intimacy. We have three children, and it seemed best to me not to make them too cognizant of just how happy I was to be divorced from their father, how angry and confused any contact with him made me.

Until today. We were both at my son's house to watch the University of Oregon/Michigan State University football game. And I realized that the armor wasn't there, and I didn't miss it. I ate one of the relatively tasteless cookies he'd brought, hugged him good-bye, exchanged trivialities about our shared history, and drove home feeling only elated that Ducks won after a really good game 46-27. No "thank God that's over", no scurrying retreat into my inner sanctuary, no obsessive rumination on "how could I have made such an abysmal choice of life partner?"

I wish I could claim credit for the change. But it is a gift, plain and simple. I feel like I've lost 40 lbs.

We'll see, maybe it's just a passing whim, an after-effect of the Ducks' victory (they were down by 9 at the half! MSU was their first serious challenge of the season!), the kind of thing that feels meaningful, but actually comes of a happy digestion and  a good night's sleep.

But it feels like actual forgiveness.