It’s the kind that crawls in under the summer sunshine.
Soft, growly thunder beats the humid Indiana air,
Making way for the heavy-laden travelers.
When it comes, steady streaming, all is wet-covered
And the earth drinks deeply.
Bubbles sail through growing puddles and down rivulets
Sculpting the ingenuous dirt.
In the pasture, the Martin house sways on its long pole,
Like a tall man just woken from a long nap.
Rain prances on the tin of the barn roof with a rhythmic cacophony
And washes over the sharp edge to become a fountain wall,
Trapping in and daring, daring.
To rush through the heavy beating wet
To stop, stand, stay…
To eye drink and clean breathe.
Until the eventual ebb.
Winter in the city is full of abstract and unique beauty. But for me, part of the beauty of Winter is simply found in the relishing of the idea of sunny seasons. Sunny seasons made all the sunnier by grey sky scrapers hemmed in with grey streets, and sporting grey shadows always eager to eat up any ray of sunshine that dares to creep through the crevices between buildings. Thinking of those nearly-shadowless golden times always brings back memories of long days spent outside working with the most splendid animals on God’s good earth: horses.
“Don’t ever let them convince you they don’t know!” Every visit from my trusty farrier Glen Martin was accompanied by golden one-liners of truth like that. Small, battle-scarred and always happy, even on the days when my filly would try to make him into a Glen and dirt sandwich, he’d patiently trim the hooves of my beasts, mop his sweating face with a well-used handkerchief, and tell the tales of his hard-earned scars. He was always perfectly calm. I’d hear him from underneath my horse as he did his work, in between cajoling, coaxing, and wrestling my 700 and 1,800 pound brats: “They know, oh they know.”
I always end up echoing Glen’s words when I’m telling people about horses. I don’t know how else to summarize that look they get in their big, deep eyes when you’ve got them all tacked up and are about to get on. It’s the look that determines whether or not you’re going to have a smooth breeze of a ride or a battle on your hands. A horse can take one look at you and instantly know what you’ve got. One of the first things I always tell my riding students is that these wise beasts require confident sincerity in order for them to be willing to build a trusting partnership. They can’t be fooled by fancy words, or even your tone of voice. They just know.
So many of my sunny days have been characterized by lessons both to and from horses. Grey winter days like today serve to beautifully enrich the memories of those not-so-distant days full of deep, honest equine eyes, cheery farriers, and lessons in sincerity. Sometimes beauty is found in the sweet pangs of longing for something else.
It’s a swell feeling when you realize that you’re accomplishing some of your life’s aspirations just by going about your day to day business. Alright, I’ll admit I’ve been over-lavish with aspirations at times. I doubt I’ll ever get to be a pirate, or even a trucker. I probably won’t ever get around to moving the state of Oregon to France so that I can host hippies in my chateau. I’d rather not turn into the recluse misanthrope that I’d have to become in order to write all the books I’ve aspired to author. Who reads Feed Store Memoirs anyway. Nevertheless, as I’ve said, some of my multifarious aspirations have been and are being actualized.
The particular goal I’m referring to is an odd one, moving Oregon to France is elementary in comparison. You see, there was a point when I resolved to someday get a job in some large, dark, dank warehouse. I suppose this idea was the child of one too many Wonderings in combination with a little Insatiable Curiosity. I’d read in books how just about everything that we consume is the product of some prodigious productive process involving assembly lines and fellows with moustaches in hard hats. But I couldn’t help wondering what really went on behind the educational picture books. Behind the neatly ordered aisles of mass-productivity at the grocery store. Behind the moustaches. The only way to figure out the truth* was obviously to become my own inside man and just hunker down and get a job at one of those massive warehouses where everything that’s anything ever happens. It was the only way. Answers would be had, moustaches or no. And then I would write a book about the whole experience to check off yet another aspiration. All in a day’s work.
A day’s work.
Let me tell you a little about my Summer job. I ride my bike 2.5 miles down the road to a warehouse the size of a small country. A country in which busy people in work out clothes and steel toed boots drive around on contraptions of all shapes and sizes and accomplish things. We build huge pallets of groceries for Aldi stores, so you could call it the store for the stores. It’s a push and a rush. We have to construct those pallet puzzles at a certain pace (270 cases per hour) or we’re out of a job. Our days are spent lifting, sweating, building, and talking into a headset that don’t take no nonsense. People use terms like “maximizing” and “efficiency” and “rate” and “picks” and a lot of other choice words unfit for the ears of women or children. I’m convinced that it’s just about the most unromantic place on earth, which makes life interesting if you’re a die hard romantic.
It’s downright tantalizing most days. I can’t help but think about the Rime of the Ancient Mariner as I toss a 30lb box of bananas on top of hundreds of cans of soup: bananas bananas everywhere, nor any bite to eat. But despite the struggle and strain and toil and sweat and blood (cardboard cuts are 17 times worse than paper cuts), there’s something noble about what goes on in that little country. Everyone who works there does so not because manual labor is fun or entertaining, but because they have to. Because there’s a good paycheck somewhere at the other end and they need it to get by. To just live life. Some days it takes a four course breakfast and a couple tylenol washed down by an entire pot of coffee just to get back to work after the previous long day. So you can see why I deeply respect all of my mighty coworkers despite the fact that none of them actually have moustaches.
Yes, it’s very unromantic. Yes, it’s hard, hard work. But certain golden little moments make it worth a little more than a paycheck every two weeks. Like the time the machine I was driving got stuck slipping around in peanut butter left on the ground from an earlier spilled pallet. Or the time I splashed through a huge puddle of pickle juice (from a fallen case of of pickles) as I liberally unleashed 5 paper towel rolls into it. There’s the delightfully earthy smell in the produce aisle that comes from sack upon sack of potatoes freshly plucked from the ground. Then there’s the fact that I’m doing something every day that I’d aspired to and Wondered about for a rather long time in one way or another. And life is very good.
*I realize that most of these sort of wonderings could’ve probably been easily appeased by watching channel eleventywhatever daytime television, but I grew up without a television. So that’s that.
I’ve grown into the childlike tendency to Wonder a lot. Today I wondered about moonlight, and if the moonlight that shines off my front porch tonight is the same moonlight that lit it up 150 years ago when the same porch smelled like freshly sawn wood but had a lot less angst. Or does the moon dish out brand new light every night? Will Wonders never cease?
Sweet, sweet Summer time.
I name each season. The Disillusioned Summer comes right after The Spring of The Sprawl. It’s something I’ve been doing for a few years, a way of helping me sort and remember…um, life.
Thank goodness for seasons. Can you imagine life without our prompt masters of change and time and element? Fall of ’02 would be lost somewhere amid 365 days of monotony. Trying to pull out memories from the indistinguishable months would be tiresome and we’d likely stop trying after a while. Life would move from perpetual to predictable and that would be that. Oh, but thank goodness for seasons: colorful, fresh, and busting at the seams with prospect. Each one building on previous empires of neatly mapped memories.
This Summer’s been laced with Rememberings When and riflings through mental chronicles of not quite bygone seasons. I don’t know what this humdinger of a Summer will be dubbed just yet, I suppose it hasn’t really finished becoming. But on its way there it’s been steeped in sweat and hard, hard work, in very merry tunes and poetry and in heavy nights feeling the earth breath at star-rise. And always, always in glory.
Glory to the God of Change and Season and Back When.
Today (like every day of this Sultry Summer thus far) finds me missing Far Away Places.
I miss being surprised around every corner by mysterious and mist-encroached hills masquerading as shadows.