Saturday, October 29, 2011

Saturday Musings, 29 October 2011

Good morning,

If the success of an event is judged by the quantity of trash and the soreness of the co-hostess's feet, the inaugural Open House at Suite 100 passes muster. My suite-mates and I remain astonished at the strength of our collective friendships and the harmony with which the disparate groups mingled in the corridors and offices, among the striking, provocative and warm digital art of Jean Van Harlingen, whose works we have shown in our Suite for the last year. On Wednesday, this display courtesy of the VALA Gallery of Johnson County will come down from the walls of our suite, and the works of another VALA artist will be displayed. Fall fades, giving way to winter, and Thanksgiving dances just beyond our reach, on the next page of my calendar. Life continues.

My week held more than one astonishing, powerful moment. But among them, one rises in my mind as I sit here. I drove home by an unaccustomed route on Thursday, and as I made the long curve around a Kansas parkway towards State Line Road past the rich, green expanse of a golf course, a small fox stepped from the southern edge of the roadway and ventured into the throb of civilization's evening regimen. I drew my car to a halt, as did those to my left and in front of me. No one sounded a horn, or edged forward, as the critter softly, slowly traversed the span of asphalt and slipped into a small stand of trees on the northern side. I released the breath that I had held in apprehension for the little guy, and eased my foot back to the gas pedal. The world resumed its rush hour haste.

This is not my first encounter with the dizzy overlap of nature with modernity. I am taken back to a morning when I drove across the mountains between Fayetteville, Arkansas and Newton County to make an appearance in a case in which I served as appointed counsel for the mentally retarded mother of a young boy whom she sought to save from her predator parents. I drove too fast, distracted by my resentment at being drawn from the life I aimed to make in the tamed hills of Arkansas' college town back to the life at which I had failed in the sleepy town of Jasper.

I made a long curve too fast, skittering close to the edge which dropped beyond sight into a wooded expanse of Ozark beauty. I righted the vehicle, easing over to the brake, letting my heart pound itself to quiet in my chest. When the trembling had subsided, I resumed my journey, shaking my head, glancing at the rise of hill to my left and the depths of green to my right. No roses to stop and smell here, I thought, and laughed a little, out loud, in the empty car.

My self-congratulatory chuckle explains why I let the speed accumulate and gave no thought to my own invincibility. Around the next corner, I slammed the car to a sudden stop, and looked, without comprehension, at the mass in the roadway. My heart lurched as a pair of eyes returned my gaze from the near end of the brown bear otherwise comfortable in the lane that I meant to traverse. She must have found warmth on the pavement, or perhaps, like an old cat, she favored a smooth surface for napping. She appeared to have settled into a dip in the highway just large enough for her body.

We sat, the bear and I, for some moments. I rolled down the window for reasons I no longer recall, perhaps because it just seemed the thing to do. I have always been taught to crack the window while traversing bridges, and the movement must be instinctual for me. The cool fall air wafted into the cabin of my vehicle. Eventually, I became aware of sounds. Birds high in the trees; a distant drone; and a sound that I realized, after a few moments, came from the bear.

She was yawning.

The gape of her mouth startled me. Seeing the slight swing of her paw and the sharp edge of her teeth heightened my fear. The bear spanned one entire lane of the two-lane highway, and because of the curve of the road, I could not move to the left without the potential of calamity from unseen oncoming traffic. The road dropped sharply from the narrow shoulder with no guard rail. I assessed my options. I could risk a head-on collision, wait for the bear to move, or sit, in the last event possibly risking sudden death from the slam of a car into the back of my vehicle. Hobson only offered two choices, I reminded myself. But wasn't one of them arguably good?

The bear resolved my dilemma. For reasons of her own, at which I can only feebly guess, she rose, slowly, onto her back legs. Glancing at me with deliberation, she gazed behind her, into the descending depths of the wooded hillside. She considered her options: climbing up, or edging down. Without regard to my existence, she choose the latter. She swung her heavy body around, giving me a brief, awesome glimpse of her height, then heaved herself with something close to grace, and vanished, among the lower branches of the evergreens.

I did not move for a few long moments. I made the curve at a slow speed, and never reached the allowed limit for the rest of the trip. I fulfilled the day's obligation, and retook the road near dusk. I do not believe I drew a full breath until I pulled into my own parking space, on a small, tamed hillside in Fayetteville, where my old calico cat watched for me from one of the many windows of my house on Skyline Drive.

Tony Bennett sings on the radio. I stop to listen. From the interviewer's questions, I gather that Mr. Bennett has a new release. He speaks sentimentally of the past in a craggy voice, and the radio man lets him tell his stories. My coffee grows cold as I linger here, at my wobbly old writing desk, in Kansas City, where the only vestiges of nature are the likes of a small brown fox in the roadway, the occasional deer glimpsed at the edges of a city park, and the sad-eyed animals caged in our zoo.

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.