And then again, I'd pay good money to get to hear David Bowie cover "Wrecking Ball."
Too late, I know, but if Buffy has taught me anything, it's that a girl can dream.
I got out of the habit when I left farming country –– though it's a virtuous and pleasant tradition to spend part of this first summer weekend cleaning gravestones and trimming overgrown grass on an antique stranger's plot.
Still, over the course of this year's Memorial Day weekend, I'll take a moment or two to contemplate and be grateful for the service of those who have gone ahead.
When my sister and I were green and youthful singletons*, sharing a happening beach apartment on Pass-a-Grille Beach, we witnessed a Christmas miracle. Of sorts.
(*That time was roughly ten minutes or so ago on the geological time scale.)
Not just any old city bird, this was a pure white dove that stomped in its pigeon-toed way across the thin, sandy carpet of the living room, past the mod, mirrored wall of the dining room, straight into the bathroom where my sister was showering.
"Caa-hooo! Caa-hooo!" the bird insisted.
The bird was nonplussed by the Bottacelli vision of my sister emerging from the shower. The reciprocal –– less so. My sister found the pearly-white creature creepy and unsettling in her personal space, but it was unmistakably a bird of peace, so we put out a dish of water, scattered some crumbs on the patio, and shooed it back outdoors.
The next morning, the dove barged through the door cooing. It waddled straight to her bedroom and hopped onto the pile of blankets covering my sister. "Well, F-ing-A Tweetie," my sister said.
We had a propensity to speak the intensifying phrase "F-ing-A" in a John Wayne accent that year. The sobriquet "Pilgrim" was also heard rather more frequently than one might have wished.
The bird fluffed its feathers and settled more comfortably onto the hump of blankets.
"F-ing-A Tweetie," my sister said. "A Christmas miracle."
The dove said, "Humpf," in bird-language and left a small deposit on the blanket.
F-ing-A-Tweetie lived with us for a week, during the cold snap of that Christmas season. Quite tame, the bird suffered itself to be handled and was happy to settle on the back of the couch when we watched television. It was not banded, though it must have been someone's pet. Unless it truly was a Christmas miracle.
At the turning of the year –– by the Festival of the Epiphany, say –– the visitation ended. Day dawned, and no cooing and no stomping around the house. Then another day and no bird, and another. We hoped that F-ing A Tweetie hadn't been eaten or blown into the Gulf, but that might have been too miraculous to hope for a bird of peace flying around in the world.
Ephemera: items of fleeting use, or lasting a single day. A single item would be called an ephemeron.
In the course of history, "ephemera" has described a fever (perhaps a 24-hour bug) and actual
insects like mayflies. But at present, ephemera usually refers to the scraps of paper that show a glimpse into the specific past.
Like my grandmother's Red Cross Life Saving Corps certification card:
And this a ticket stub:
Which give a little color to this snapshot of Ruthie:
Ninety years of fleeting days since she was a kid at college with her life a big unknown ahead of her.
One of my writer friends (Hi Kathy L!) says that she doesn't understand how other people DON'T constantly make up stories about stuff they see or hear. Me neither.
The music pulsed and throbbed with a insistent beat that [content removed. Unsuitable, obvious, and clichéd.]
Pip's squad had been waiting for a very long time. It had been so long and they had grown so used to their position that they nearly missed the signal when it came. At least one of them would have given a bitter wheeze of laughter at that: all that time holding still and they miss the transport. Again.
But no. They had by God discipline, and when the Sarge gave an order...they scrambled. Oscar mike it was: shocking slow and messy as hell, they emerged from their bolt-hole and formed ranks. They knew they must look bad, could see it in the sideways glances of the exfiltration team, but the CO just returned their salute and asked if they were ready to come home.
She knew Groot, a vegetable hero. She knew "I'll Follow the Sun," though she didn't usually entertain a kindness for beetles. She knew the scope of her reach and the resonant feel of cooked clay. She knew the soft warning of impending rain and the shock of hosed water, and the passing interest of passers-by.
She knew her up from down, but until the last moment, she had not understood the brutal truth about gravity.
A shrug, a ripple, a wayward heartbeat from the ground below, and she was airborne. The fleeting unpleasantness followed by a longer-lasting one: she landed on concrete, terra-cotta opening like a set of shark's teeth all around her tender underparts.
Everything felt wrong: the sun shone sideways, burning where it had never done before, and carefully hoarded molecules of water drifted off in the little breeze. This is what is is to die, she thought, this is my end. And then: no, I will live some more.
More Nick Drake and less "Day"? Why yes, I would like that.
The impulse that sent a person up a ladder or onto her friend's shoulders to make these amendments –– it makes me smile and feel a little more hopeful about the world we share.
The decision to scratch a pair of wings onto a road-sign is a small, subversive act of humor and –– I believe –– genuine love. An act with no particular spiritual agenda aside from cheering up the next person who happens to notice. It's generous, random, and clever. Thank you, artists.
Alternate interpretation: these are personal messages from the universe. As some of my spiritual friends will doubtless point out that once you start noticing, you'll see angels everywhere. Spinning in infinity, in the architecture, dancing on the heads of pins. Agreed...but pariodolia.
Creative writing teacher Terra Pressler used to tell us to consciously look for visual miracles. Keeping my eyes open, I have seen a nightjar sleeping on a traffic light, a skywritten smiley-face over Tampa, and pale green lichen growing in the shape of an angel.
For each shipwreck and partial dismemberment and what-not on the bounding main, there are thousands of unlikely near-misses.
Like history, sailing stories are told by the survivors.
The wind was piping up, and as an A-cat is wont to do, the boat began to sail without human guidance.
It charged along for perhaps a boat-length or so before attempting to tip over. Then came the sad truth: the mainsheet, that rope used to trim the sail –– the gas pedal, more or less –– was in fact tied around my skipper's right ankle.
Like a greyhound reaching the end of its chain and yanking itself to a standstill, the boat sped up, tipped, stopped, smacked back down, sped up, tipped, stopped smacked back down, over and over, with our hero dangling by a thread.
The boat couldn't properly tip over and the rider could neither dismount nor regain his seat. "He was heading for Cuba," one of the other sailors told me, strangely gleeful.
"I didn't have a knife to cut myself free." Mr. Linton admitted. "Or anyway, it was in the mast-bag and I couldn't reach it."
Dunked repeatedly, pointed toward the open ocean, and rescue not close to hand –– the dunking went on until somehow –– somehow –– he managed to wiggle free.
This story seems to grow in horribilification* the more I think about it. We are all here by luck and chance. One tiny mistake or a droplet of ill luck and ––
Maybe maybe the stories are better left untold.
*Sure <shrugs defiantly> I made that word up. Horribilification. Big Whup. I think we all know what it means.
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