Monday Musings

I found myself driving through gray mist on the way to the refuge this morning. I arrived to an empty parking except for three people cleaning the area with bags and grabbers, changing out trash liners. My kind of morning: mostly quiet with a walk in solitude.

I walked most of the way out on the dike road but stopped short of the estuary boardwalk. Low tide, lots of ducks and crows, but little wildlife aside from that.

Walking back I see two bald eagles way off in the trees; dashing silhouttes in all this gray and white sky. I decide to complete the loop on the inside boardwalk and spy a red-breasted sapsucker posing in the trees. He watches me for a spell then goes back to work on the tree. The color of his red feathers against the green of the tree pops. He is a stunning bird.

Around the bend, I begin scanning the trees for the great horned owl. I’m fooled by a couple branches and clumps of moss, but then I spy something way up in the tree. Could it be him?

Yes!! Later, the crows detect him and a handful of black corvids surround him, squawking their heads off. I think they do it to alert others of his presence, but it may be that they feel a breach in some imaginary boundary they have set. Before I leave, I run into a class of fifth graders on a field trip and every one of them had binoculars! I helped them find the owl and watched their faces light up and listened to excited voices as they saw that beautiful creature through bramble in the trees.

When I leave them I find myself taken back in time. I remember 11 in all of its awkwardness and I remember new discoveries and how the world seemed so big. My mind goes to colorful things and confidence and a story comes to mind.

I’m eleven. I have a brand new pair of suede bell-bottoms with a patchwork of bright color. These pants are everything. And now, I am the coolest kid on the block. I have a wide, white belt with silver button-holes. I’m wearing a white high collar knit shirt with a zipper from the bottom of my ribcage to the top of my neck. The zipper pull is a ring the size of a quarter. I love every single thing about this outfit. I’m over the moon.

Mom says not to wear the new pants outside to play, but I don’t listen. I’m feeling confident and sharp. I feel as good as I look and this is a new, big feeling for me. The other kids are not as impressed as I’d like them to be, but I don’t care. I’m showing off now, kicking the crap out of the rubber kickball in our cul-de-sac. Rounding the bases with flare and lightening speed …

And then it happens.

I catch the edge of our makeshift base and skid across the pavement. I’m not hurt too bad, but when I get up I see a rip in the knee and blood spilling out. I don’t remember if they laughed. I was crushed. I’d survive the scrape, but those pants? Ruined.

I wasn’t met with sympathy when I went inside. I ruined my brand new clothes after being told not to play in them and I was scolded pretty good. I cried. I was alone in my grief. I took a hit harder than pavement that day. I lost that feeling of real confidence. Looking back, that confidence and certainty may have been the feeling I have been chasing my whole life.

I’m not sure why this story came to me today. Maybe it was the combination of color and a handful of impressionable 11 year olds. Maybe it’s that I still feel the same devastation over ruined things and loss. I’ll say this for sure, what happens to a child at 11 (or 7 or 13 or 17) has some staying power. I remember that story … that day, so vividly. And while the feeling of confidence is a thing that made an impression, the feeling of aloneness and sadness and reprimand did too.

My favorite today, was a quiet girl who couldn’t see the owl at first. I got to feel that joy when it finally came into focus for her. People will always remember how you make them feel. I remembered that as I high-fived her and shared the moment. I may have lingered with the fifth graders in all their joy today. Next time you see that chance in your own life, maybe you will too.

12 Comments on “Monday Musings

  1. Cool sapsucker photos! Thanks for high fiving the little girl. It will help her remember that special moment.

  2. Love this one. I think this is, if not the best, one of the best pieces you have written. Most of us have had some kind of Pants Story. Brought back an old memory.

    • Thank you, Don. And thanks for sharing. I love when a story inspires another story. I think you’re right about everyone having some version of this. Oh, the awkwardness of youth*

    • I have to say that watching those kids so engaged in nature did my heart good. Too often I see people bring their kids and use the boardwalk as a playground. Oh, to be young and enthusiastic! Thanks for writing. I will most certainly keep on as long as I can*

  3. I never really understood people’s stories of an idealized childhood. These stories are the building blocks of our lives. This has been my decade to build a new relationship with those stories. It’s taken a shitload of writing to get there, but it works! Sounds like a beautiful day. Thank you for your kindness to those children.

    • I’d love to know how it works. Do you rewrite the story with different highlights? Is it a practice of letting go? I had a pretty good young life but there are stories that haunt me. For me it has been about forgiveness for both myself and others. I definitely remember how people made me feel and I consider that now in my life too. Those kids were great and yes, a beautiful day*

      • I guess for me the short answer is following Natalie Goldberg’s method in Writing Down the Bones. But I also took her online class (every spring), and have been in ongoing writing groups in which we practice sitting, do writing practice, read aloud, and write some more. The more you write, the more those stories that inside us keep popping up, in different ways. Eventually “the water runs clear.” A longer answer would take a conversation. I’m around. πŸ™‚

  4. Impressive that you engaged the field trippers, rather than decide your day was done. Love the Story of the Pants. I couldn’t wear bell bottoms, or any other kind of pants, to school until my senior year in high school, when the dress code finally changed. Sometimes I feel like a dinosaur.

    • The Story of the Pants. πŸ˜… Oh, yes. I need to look for a photo. I loved them sooo much. I think I missed dress codes completely in school. When I saw every kid with binoculars (and using them!) my heart skipped. Not every group I see there is so engaged. A good day.

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