Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Days like this

After eleven months, it almost seems beside the point to add to this blog, but--this is already such a trope of blogs, with their sudden advents and equally sudden disappearances--I'm going to write at least this much: I'm sitting on a patio in northern California, an airplane roaring past, and I'm thinking about these lines from Kim Taylor's "Days Like This": "Days like this / you look up at the sky above you. / Days like this / you think about the ones that love you." I'm looking up at the sky, red-black beyond the heart-shaped leaves of a nearby tree, and thinking of all the loved ones that--who--crowd into even the most prosaic, the least blue, of skies. It's June 21, neatly poised between a slew of family birthdays (some of them from people who, in Taylor's words, went before me) and my folks' anniversary, and I'm recovering from a long road trip before moving, with my guy, into a new apartment. It's a good time to feel in the midst, in the thick, of things. And people. (Is there a better word for what we are after we die? Or, even, while we're living?) This sky is full of the plaintive howl of the neighbors' dog--full, throaty--and the traces of what you might, in Italian, call i miei morti: my dead ones, although they're not only mine, and not--can I say this?--only dead. One of my grandmothers, very much alive and perhaps the most generous person I know, pressed cold pork sandwiches into my hand just a week ago; the other one lives on, instead, in the memory of a round canister of talcum powder (what else could it have been?) that sat on the back of the toilet in her modest central Illinois home: if I were spending the night, I'd take a bath before bed, and once I was dry she'd take what was, I guess, literally a powder puff and--gently--whack whack whack my delighted body with it, a cloud of fragrant dust rising around me. Am I making this up? I think of her husband, my grandpa, gone just a year this summer, when I think of that bathroom: I think specifically of the smell of old-fashioned soap (stuff like Barbasol and Safeguard) that lingered in the bathtub of that small house, rubberized butterflies stuck to the bottom to keep you from slipping.

These memory chains extend indefinitely. I'm not just, or even primarily, thinking tonight of the folks I've lost. I'm thinking of the folks--virtual, in some cases, but somehow also very much present to me--whose lives shape mine: family, of course--my very pregnant sister's body, full of a tiny creature she calls Rosalind, who kicks ecstatically for Diet Mountain Dew--but also friends and, even, the rare guardian angels of the internet, like Brian, the guy who co-writes my favorite perfume blog, I Smell Therefore I Am. And, yes, the guardian angels of the highway--I just drove 3300 miles to get here--and the workplace: women, mostly, who have made me breakfast and dinner, who have written the kinds of things that allow someone like me to keep his job, who--through casual acts of generosity--keep making the world a little bigger, a little more open, a little more benevolently mysterious. If every word that comes from my fingers--or keyboard, or mouth--amounts to nothing more than a kind of thank you, is that such a bad thing? Is there any other way, really, to respond to the ones who love you; to the world that, despite everything, loves you?

So: days like this--nights like this--you think about the hands that made you sandwiches or coffee, that once, long ago or yesterday, anointed your body. You think about those hands and about the sky that changes dramatically over 3300 miles but never goes away.