We’ve been traveling. A sliver of beige rests over foothills, the sky a pre-dawn blue. Light blushes between ridges. This is trail country: around a lake, skirting pristine pastures, edging endless prairies. But I keep looking for the core world, a deeper place, that bright bell of sun. We’re not Presbyterian school girls, after all; we’re in the middle of a wake-up call.
One night a canopy of fiery stars, one garish North Star, and calmness. It was December 6th, the same day President Abraham Lincoln ordered the hanging of 39 Santee Sioux Indians in 1862. December 6th, the same day in 1912 that China voted for universal human rights. And the very same day in 1980 that Jim Bakker raped Jessica Hahn. But this night was later, 2004. Into that night came sound, a deafening, and a great jolt. The bark of twisting metal. We spun in slow motion for what turned into seven long years. The driver of the truck crossed the center line and hit us; she was drunk one minute, then dead the next. Every night is black enough.
Twenty years and a missing page. Forty and the middle’s blown out. After that it’s fifty, oh fifty, all lightning strikes and thunder. Even friends,cornstalks in a harvested field,disappearing. This age turns gray and each month’s picture changes.
Today I walked with six legs, two of my own and, between mine, four of an orange tabby who has no sense of timing. Humoring cats in such desperate need of favor is a cultivated art. Slips are to be expected, but here is where my agility serves me well: I’m light on my feet, like a cat; I catch myself before trampling a tail, or worse, a skull. So far, so steady. He only wanted petting so I bent over and stroked him on the back, head, and sides, and none too softly. It was in the middle of the backyard, in the blasting of a January sun. I held two chicken eggs in one hand and couldn’t pick him up with the other, but he didn’t seem to mind as long as my legs networked with his in a saunter of assent.
Please laugh, I tell my farmer; dance in time with me. Old luck makes the best luck, and ancient stars are most reliable. Let’s talk of days, trees as art form, cold, loss, and longing. What can you tell me about beauty, or living in a perfect moment? These are things I ask of him—smoke out to understanding. This is my night vision in a forest of coyotes lying in wait.