Saturday, March 6, 2010

Saturday Musings, 06 March 2010

Good morning,

The screen in front of me is wide and bright. The box in which I write contains odd graphics, bright blue lines, and a plethora of confusing choices that I largely ignore. To the left is a list of my most frequent correspondents, which tells me who among my friends is awake and cruising the Internet, or checking email, or viewing a pirate movie downloaded in a quest to watch all the nominees before tomorrow's award ceremony.

Sitting at a small, five-year-old laptop last week, I succumbed to the urge to drill through Facebook to the Find Friends search feature, and looked for people from my past. I found a few of them: My cousin in southern Missouri; my artist friend in St. Louis; a man in Massachusetts who was pursuing his Masters in Philosophy when I was an undergrad at SLU. With strains of "music like Bonnie Raitt" coming from through my five dollar speakers in one window, I read messages from them in another. Married. . .five years in Europe. Divorced. . . three kids. . . doing murals and mosaics. . .a bout with cancer last year. . .yes, I remember you. . .Their words, in white, blue-framed boxes, coming from places I have never been and might not ever go.

I close my eyes, and hear the wild rumble of roller blades on a hardwood floor. I feel the slick surface of a green leather recliner, and battle the cumbersome weight of a cast that ranges from stem to stern. I see the tall ceilings of my 43rd Street apartment, feel the cold of another March, another early spring, through the open French doors of my mid-town balcony. I hear the excited chatter of young men who have clomped up the fire escape in their skates to check on me, coming through the back door left unlocked for just that purpose. Deep in my chest, I shudder under the burden of my helplessness as I watch them skate out again, the lunch they have brought untouched on the TV tray beside me. March, 1982, seven weeks or so after my terrible defeat in a car versus pedestrian battle.

This morning I saw eight slender grackles on a power line as I drove back to my house after an early errand. The sight of them reminded me of my first trip to northwestern Arkansas, late one spring, more years ago than I care to realize. Dazed by love, or something like it, I had falsely claimed to enjoy camping, in the eager, breathless voice that no one could possibly find credible. During that week, much of which I spent huddled in a broken sleeping bag on a wooden platform between the narrow confines of an impossibly small tent, I allowed myself to be convinced that snakes could fly. As I walked the length of a mucky, marshy creek bed, I ducked, darting a haunted glance towards the long branches above me, shaking broken, damp leaves from a long fat braid at the base of my neck. Only the warm chuckle of my companion, and the sight of the bright gleam in his eye, told me that I had been played for a city slicker.

Later, as the sun rose somewhere beyond the thick, uncut forest, I folded my good leg beneath me, and stretched the crooked knee, extending my foot beyond the plywood. dangling over the edge of the raised bed on which our tent had been pitched. I ran one finger along the rough denim of my blue jeans, and idly wondered at the source of an earnest rustle in the brush. Just some little raccoon or something, I told myself. I was alone, having declined an invitation to hike down the side of the hill in search of firewood. Nothing big. There can't be bears.

I did not recognize the animal which emerged from the undergrowth. Feline, and small, with black-tipped ears and mottled brown fur, long legs and wide, sturdy paws. I could not see its teeth but presumed their sharpness. I snatched my foot back before I remembered the offending knee, then clutched my gut as pain seared through my limbs. This can't be happening. I am not alone in godforsaken Arkansas about to be eaten by a mountain lion.

The cat stood still, its eyes intent, its muscles rigid. No more than five feet separated us, five feet on a slight incline, with I at the upper end. Still unsure of myself after the flying snake debacle, I searched my memory for a clue as to what this creature might be, and how I should react to it. Every fiber of my carbon-monoxide enriched urban being cried out for flight, but that blasted knee could never carry me to anything resembling safety. The air vibrated with alarm, emanating from the pit of my stomach and spanning the distance between my quivering body and the lithe, agile form of the beast.

It sensed the return of my companion before I did, and, with a long, last look at me, silently, slowly, moved back into the undergrowth. My stiff muscles reluctantly relaxed, so that by the time I heard the returning clatter of the only other human for fifty miles, I could nonchalantly grouse about the minimal potential for a satisfying lunch anytime soon. I brushed at my pants, feeling the slightly sickening jolt of pain in my right knee, and struggled to stand, lifting my arms high above my head, as much to open my airways to the freshness around me as to signify my general disdain of all things rustic, from mountain lions to flying snakes.

As I drove beneath the wire this morning, I tapped my horn, just barely, and slowed in the middle of 83rd street to watch the little band of migrating birds rise into the morning sky. What do they know that I do not, I asked myself. Why do they have no need for computers, cellphones, Facebook? Why do they not yearn for reconnection with old friends whom they might have known when they were young and still hopeful?

The insistent horn-blast of an impatient citizen called me back to the stale environs of my Saturn Vue, and I signaled, to take the cutaway down Lee Boulevard, and back to Brookside, where the morning's chores and my cold cup of coffee awaited me.

Mugwumpishly tendered,

Corinne Corley

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The Missouri Mugwump™

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I've been many things in my life: A child, a daughter, a friend; a wife, a mother, a lawyer and a pet-owner. I've given my best to many things and my worst to a few. I live in Brookside, in an airplane bungalow. I'm an eternal optimist and a sometime-poet. If I ever got a poem published in The New Yorker, I would die a happy woman. I'm a proud supporter of the Arts in Kansas City. I vote Democrat, fly the American flag, cry at Hallmark commercials, and recycle.