Song in my head: David Gray's Babylon. I may well be buying a copy of the album soon if the rest of the album is as promising as that one song.
Today is beautiful outside: the softer blue of sky that comes in spring, sunshine with real warmth in it. Most of the trees in the subdivision are dogwoods, and they are verging on the beginnings of bloom, Next week they will be fully blooming and stark white.Reminders: my grandmother's house. In the back there is an old, creaking porch swing that my grandfather built several years before he died. Before I was born, he planted a redbud sapling next to it.
The now fully-grown tree towers over the swing, with those peculiarly-shaped leaves. They are heart-shaped. Not as in vaguely heart shaped, but exactly heart-shaped. In early spring the tree flowers out in electric shades of dark pink and red; a technicolor budding.
My grandfather would sit squarely in the middle of the swing, his hands clutching either one or two canes, depending on how badly his back (broken in the 1950s) was ailing him that day. He had the most enormous hands, though they had been weakened by age and arthritis. Years of farm work and chopping wood had exchanged deftness for raw endurance and strength. As a child I was fascinated by his slow, patient way of knotting a fish hook onto monofilament line.
Proud to a fault, he never discussed the fact that he needed the canes. Nor would he discuss the effort that it took him to make it from the house to his seat outside. He needed to be there; the solace it gave was, in his mind, worth the negotiation of doorways and painful steps it took to get there.
I find myself staring outside the window of this room with, I suspect, much the same look on my face that he always had on his. He would stare out across the yard, out to his crops, his tinkering shed, to Johnny and Iva's house a half-mile down, next door. He was not looking for anything—just reminding himself of his world and his place in it.
Our landscapes and our creations live after us. The house still stands; the redbud expands ever-closer to the garage. The shed needs a new coat of paint, and its frail storm door needs a straighten or a replacement. The area between his house and Johnny-and-Iva's lies fallow, left for grass after my grandfather became too frail to plow it every year.
My grandmother laid Iva, her neighbor of decades, to rest last year after a brutal bout with cancer. My mother says she grieved deeply at the loss. For over thirty years, the two women had grown accustomed to twitching aside a curtain at night, checking for the daily, ritual extinguishment of lights. Their husbands had shared everything from farm equipment to fish.
I wonder, from a cautious distance, if the redbud has bloomed yet this spring, and whether Johnny leans out toward his window at night to check on the lights at my grandmother's house.
Where is your place?