Saturday, September 24, 2011

Saturday Musings, 24 September 2011

Good morning,

Unfamiliar surroundings greeted my slitted, foggy eyes this morning. My beloved and I slipped south on old 69 yesterday, bound for the Coves on Grand Lake near Afton, Oklahoma. Our lunch stop led to the discovery of a dusty used bookstore in Fort Scott, Kansas, at which I chatted with a Dead Head whom I stopped just shy of calling aging, realizing that we come from the same generation. I found a mystery by a Swedish writer whom I have been wanting to try, whose books apparently defy procurement by our public library. We drove around the perimeter of the Fort, then headed south again, arriving at our friends' golf course residence just in time to see a small doe dart across the road near their home. I marveled, until an hour later, on our way to dinner, when I saw the entire herd and listened to stories of the annoyances they cause.

The overwhelming beauty of their home and its serene air eases the tension from between my shoulder blades. We watch the finches sneak from amidst the dense foliage to settle on the perches of one of the many feeders tended by the lady of the house. My eyes flutter closed, and I let the quiet conversation fade into a pleasant blur.

I irritated yet another hearing officer this past Thursday. Among the thorns that I pressed into her side was a slightly snotty comment that slipped from between my lips before my brain could engage. For that, I rose to the occasion and sent a faxed atonement, but for citing law, I make neither apology nor lament. To my raising of a statutory defense to the action that the agency sought to have endorsed, the hearing officer snapped that she had no time to read the law. When she offered the agency's file into evidence, an act that should have been undertaken by the agency representative, not the allegedly impartial 'tribunal' , and I objected as it had not been previously served on me or my client, she nearly came undone.

Ultimately, the hearing collapsed of its own weight, ostensibly to be re-set, but I have triggered agency action to end the farce and evidence that they might take the bait has already surfaced. The local agency representative called my client on Friday, asking if I had sent a request for termination of the matter. I have, indeed, in three-part harmony, with notary seal, authentication, and tersely cited supporting authority.

It was a good week for the Indians.

I'm wondering, as I sit with my Mac resting on the scarred surface of an old French butcher table, how many mornings I have sat in other people's kitchens. From Murray Valley in Newton County, Arkansas, to the gentle slops of Epworth Heights in Ludington, Michigan, I've perfected the art of house-guesting. As I write, bacon lends its wicked fragrance to the air of this kitchen, here amongst the grove of thriving plants and scabrous stone that surrounds our friends' home. My husband has taken yesterday's Wall Street journal to the deck, which looks out over a steep ravine, at the bottom of which, I believe, is the lake itself. I have no responsibilities. I am free to sip coffee made by someone else, and stretch my aching neck, and wonder if my son got his anthropology paper done by midnight, as required.

I squander the quiet morning wondering why pillows cradle my head more gently in other people's homes. As a traveler, I abandon concern for whether my clothing demonstrates my dislike of ironing. It came from a suitcase -- of course it has wrinkles. Never mind that they are permanent: when one is traveling, one need not iron.

I think about my pro bono client of Thursday's hearing. As we waited for the hearing officer, whose call came ten minutes late without comment, she told me about her children, who range in age from thirteen to twenty-nine. I felt my forehead tighten as I calculated. Either she had started very young, or wore her age better than I do, the latter of which seemed unlikely given her two years in prison. I'm forty-five, she offered, seeing my confusion.

I could not believe it. She looked thirty or slightly more to me, with her thin, short stature and her smooth complexion. I only did drugs for a couple of years, she assured me. I got caught, and they made me for a felony because my youngest child was in the car. Preconceived notions splintered on the tile around me. I slid my eyes along the notes that I had written. I realized that there must be more to her story, since her youngest two had been in the guardianship of her sister since 1998. Oh, that, she whispered, and slightly shook her head. It was a bad time. Bad. I didn't ask her to explain. I have seen enough of other people's pain to make me keenly aware that my own pales by comparison.

After the aborted hearing, I followed her outside the building. I had assembled a bag of clothing to take to our local DAV, and it had occurred to me that the things might fit her, and might be put to better use in her hands. She accepted them with quiet and unapologetic gratitude. I offered to take her home, rather than making her haul the bag of clothing on the bus. She declined. I think we both felt relieved when I accepted her decision, and said goodbye. I watched her walk up Pennsylvania, past the gaggle of men waiting for the evening soup kitchen to open its doors at the corner church.

I represent this woman pro bono. I took her case in a moment of uncharacteristic weakness, not out of a sense of social obligation but because I've gossiped behind the back of the old acquaintance who asked me to do so. I feel guilty about my cattiness, despite the fact that every word I spoke was the absolute truth. Over the last few months, as I met the various deadlines of this proceeding for which I am receiving no monetary compensation, I have lamented both my snotty comments about my old acquaintance, and the punishment that I let the universe mete out. But on Thursday, watching the unintended third party beneficiary of my self-inflicted penance resolutely trudge towards the first of two buses that would take her home, I had no regrets.

Breakfast begins to appear and its fragrance beckons. I leave my reverie about the events of the week, and turn my attention to a pair of perfectly cooked eggs, a jar of Michigan jelly, a toasted English muffin, and three smiling, robe-clad companions.

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.