if there’s light, there’s a shadow.
[click the pictures if you’d like to go places.]
as she stepped out into the noontime, she couldn’t shake the feeling that something was missing.
she had learned the futility of ignoring these voices long ago. either she paid attention or they increased in volume and density and mass and all those other 4th grade science terms until she could know nothing else.
she turned around.
and watched her shadow break into smaller and smaller pieces until the pieces became smaller than the pores in the sidewalk and slipped down like so many raindrops, down to unearth worms that sizzle on the surface since worms are much bigger than broken shadow bits and often find themselves unable to fit back down into sidewalk pores after rainstorms.
she has a lot of strange days. a while back she came to the conclusion that no one thing makes any more or less sense than another.
but everything is interesting.
she leveled herself with the pavement, belly down, and ran her finger over the bumps and dips in the concrete.
not even a smudge.
nothing. her shadow disappeared from beneath her feet. not that there’s much she could have done to prevent such a thing. maybe. she’d never tried to grasp a shadow before, so perhaps a little effort would have shown her just how sticky a shadow could be.
she popped back up and probably would have continued on up had it not been for a tree branch a few feet over head. she needs to be more careful now.
bodies are much lighter and more likely to float away without shadows to ground them.
she walked out into the midnight and, staring at the moon, didn’t notice the bubbling pile of turbid tar until the bigger part of her left foot had been swallowed.
pulling her foot up and out she examined the strange substance, twanged the strings that stretched from the pile up to the shoe she now held in her hand.
disgust is the word that comes to mind when one’s shoe has been engulfed by a turbid tar in the nighttime. but she was not at all disgusted.
her seven senses swapped places.
there was a presence in her nostrils but the muck had no smell. and though it clung to her shoe with a mighty cling, it had no stick.
belly down on the front porch, she leveled herself with the goo. she popped a bubble and a breath of murk tickled her eyeball before slithering up into the night. she stuck her finger in and twirled like spaghetti. she unraveled the strand from her finger, tied a slipknot, and draped it over the railing. [she’ll need that later.]
it had come up from underneath, she knew, and not dropped from above.
and she had been chosen to bring it back.
it was on the day when the icicle dripped on her head.
that drip which made her stop a step after she walked under the icicle, turn in time to watch it, feel it, slice through the tuft of air in front of her nose and impale an unsuspecting caterpillar.
that caterpillar had been lucky enough to survive two days of icicle weather and was lucky enough to not be stepped on by the girl. it was in that moment that his luck ran out and the caterpillar squirmed his last squirm on either side of his icy intruder.
that look in the caterpillar’s eyes as he squirmed his last squirm was what did it. a look from a caterpillar.
that this was all it took to make her insides uncocoon around the feeling she’d kept stashed in hibernation since the last time it was icicle weather was nearly enough to raise her temperature past the melting point of caterpillars.
but not quite.
that would have been too much to fit into a single day.
let alone a single moment.
though all of this fits into a single [this] moment.
or so she’s heard.
that this is too much to fit into a single moment might not make any more sense than watching an icicle zip past her nose and impale a formerly lucky caterpillar. but. who’s counting?
she’s not too keen on counting.
counting is 1 sure method of removing the life from any moment.
she’s found it takes 2. maybe 3 seconds.
‘quality, not quantity,’ she says.
that’s what she says, but not always what she lives.
there’s just so much.
she has a hard time deciding. ‘focus.’ she hears. usually from inside. when it’s from the inside, it’s harder to hear but even harder not to listen.
but it’s also hard to listen to ‘focus’ when there are thirty other words happening that are not ‘focus.’ she has to hear ‘focus’ before she has the ability to focus on that single word and ignore the other thirty words. which makes about as much sense as that caterpillar thing.
that caterpillar thing makes about as much sense as any of the rest of this. that caterpillar that gave her the feeling that now inches along, webs her into all the others. a little bit of knowing is a dangling icicle overtop an inching caterpillar that makes us stop for a second, notice how huge this place is and how lucky we are to be webbed with all the rest, moving in the same direction. or trying to. often we notice the icicle dangling and back up, trip over frozen shoelaces back flat in a chilly spot where another icicle dangles from a different angle for as long the weather stays ripe enough for caterpillars. then at best, we’re one-eye blinded.
forward, she tells her shoes. there will always be icicles but keep this movement and they’ll fall behind her, shatter in snowprint footsteps. that’s a beautiful sound, she thinks. anyone would think such a thing. will anyone notice? why is it that when someone else thinks the thing, the feeling shatters, the sound of icicles falling in frozen footsteps? what makes words shatter that feeling that begs to be shared? how can she freeze the feeling, share without thought-shattering?
she’s exactly where she needs to be so she keeps walking.
one two step.
step two and she’s looking up again. tickle the tip.
how long can she pause before the drip
makes her one two step again.
this drip she’s been fighting for years without knowing what or why and maybe she just needed to be so tired to forget what she’s always been remembering.
there’s no need to ask why, they tell her. why circle spins you below a dripping icicle and no spiral’s strong enough to yank you out of that orbit. orbit? the spin makes her dizzy like teacups at a church parking lot carnival. she hates to vomit and wonders why it’s so difficult to do what makes us feel better. she wonders why it’s so easy to forget these things. why they speak about magic as though it’s separate from all this.
when she’s off wondering too far, she forgets to feel the icicle drip.
you spend an awful lot of time up there, they tell her. there’s so much space everywhere else.
she starts again, this time tries singing the words to share the feeling words shatter unless they’re softened with music.
this is scary she thinks. this must be right.
she thinks of all the space and this time what scares her is the tiny corner where she spends most of her time. knee no waist deep no more waste she’ll go deeper and no it’s good that others have done this before, toss back a rope. she can hold a rope forever but can’t hold at arm’s length very long. a gentle pull in each direction and magic. balance. you could walk along that rope stretched in both directions. everywhere she goes, there’s another within stretching distance. the reaching makes you stronger, they tell her. she’s learning how to listen.
she’s learning the spin has wrapped her in ropes from either direction and a gentle pull from one side unwinds this cocoon. unnecessary is the word that comes to her mind. but it was necessary. the ropes kept her safe and now she’s found a place to allow the gentle tug. try this in the wrong space and the tugs will come from wacky angles. safe cocoon turns to christmas light tangle.
christmas light tangles are less forgiving but not impossible. don’t let the tired fool you. don’t plug it in before you’re ready. the temptation is to plug this in before you’re ready. it’s christmas time and all the other lights are up but rest easy. there will be more christmas.
but then sometimes she forgets she can’t have christmas all the time. no, there’s no ONE that can yank the cord, spin her out with little effort. she knows this, she feels this, but still she rushes to the socket tripping over tangles popping bulbs plugging in the cord on her way to the ground.
oops is ok, just don’t do it again. she frees a hand and yanks the cord.
ouch is ok when it’s real but she’s just been inventing ouch for so long. the taste of real still lingers on unsevered tastebuds so now this ouch is dull background and again she reaches for the outlet.
sparks of broken lightbulbs bounce off her eyes but nothing’s sinking in.
these days are stuck stuck stuck in snowy drifts of happy memories and stories about what she sees and all the signs she got so good at seeing are iced over though it’s far to warm for that kind of weather around here.
her sister is beautiful and writes words like
“i love you like an avalanche loves a skier”
which remind her how to find her self in words no, through words. with words as a warning so maybe you or maybe next time she won’t kick that pebble, start the drift down the mountain thinking that thinking will get her out of this but she can’t get back to level ground until she finds the energy to dig herself out.
maybe just start a different route. some of the time she knows it can all be different. just start walking and the path will clear.
or even just look around. the snow’s deep and sparkles when the sun sips in the clouds. she remembers. not to forget.
Crunch crunch. It took a year or so to grind her way through that nasty snack, but afterwards her insides turned to a soupy ooze that melted out her eyes and nose and ears and formed a squishy blanket but not in the way you might initially imagine a squishy blanket. upon hearing ‘squishy blanket’ one might become a little grossed out or possibly enraged but this squishy blanket in fact had the opposite effect. first it puddled around her in a comfy cuddle sack. the squishy blanket kept her from moving too fast which was in fact exactly what she needed. before she’d been moving so quickly she hadn’t the time to realize the danger in munching a crunchy christmas light.
SLOOOOOOOOOW DOOOOOOOOWN the blanket said.
ok fine she said and drifted into a dreamless sleep. when she woke up, the squishy blanket had all but disappeared into a cozy film, slick to the touch but again, nothing gross or enraging. this cozy film let her slip from one thing into the next without much thinking which is often a very good idea. [too much thinking might just lead one to munch a light bulb.] after slip sliding around through her days for a while, this cozy film slid her right into another that justsohappened to blend perfectly with hers like oil droplets from cars on wet pavement. technicolor rings formed and rippled and melted into each other in ways that each had recently deemed impossible and together they set off to slip slide through the rest of their days.