Isn’t he magnificent?
Where I live, you don’t see many long-horn cattle. This herd lives along the road we take to get “to town” and I’ve played hell avoiding them for about ten months now.
There’s a story here, and it has more to do with elusion than livestock.
My dad loved cattle. No matter how many we had on the farm, they were more pets than hamburger, and Dad fell ill about the same time this magnificent herd moved in up the hill. We passed them on the way to the hospital on his last trip there, and I slowed so he could see them. Mind you, my father had farmed all his life; he’d seen cattle. That, and he was weak and sick. But he pretended delight because his child so needed him to, and I felt, that day, such a bruise spreading on my soul, I didn’t believe I could ever recover.
Here’s another one.
A girl I didn’t know at all once held my hand as she died. We’d rolled up on that car accident - as we do, in our shiny rig – to save the day, and we didn’t get it done. That’s all. These things happen in our line of work. But that girl had a tangle of glorious dark hair just like my daughter’s and she wanted to live, and I lied to her when I said, “We’ll get you out of here. You’ll be okay.”
Ah, another bruise; a fearsome, horrible one. I will tell you - sometimes that girl still appears from nowhere to whack me over the head with the certain knowledge of my own stifling limitations.
So much is said about PTSD these days! And without belittling that status, might I suggest that almost everyone you meet is carting around a load of soul trauma? And the tricky thing about that condition is, it’s quiet. The soul walks its path with God but no one else. And if you don’t have God, you walk it alone. But you don’t talk about it much.
No one can see the size of the bruise or gauge the level of pain. The causes are so many and so varied that you can’t begin to guess the method of injury. But this isn’t a nice neat fracture to be iced and elevated; often it’s a gaping wound. Invisible to the naked eye, but so painful the victim is in danger of . .
Of what? Despair. Darkness. The utter inability to see . . . a blue sky. To hear a favorite song, to smell a dandelion. To feel love.
Ah, is there a point to all this?
Only this –it would be so good if we could be gentle with each other always. If we could try to help each other back from that dark ledge. You don’t know what trauma the soul sitting next to you has suffered or is suffering now.
That, and this – remember, if you’re bleeding, how your soul gets to go on. Whether you want it to or not. Your heart can break for good; I do believe that. But this thing we call soul remembers where it came from.
And sometimes it can even bring little pieces of that other place here. Compassion, laughter. Love.
People, if we have each other we can all be all right.
Have a beautiful August! Walk in the sunshine a lot!
A thousand memories fisted together into a big tinsel ball that smells of evergreen, cinnamon, and life. Marvel the Mustang! I must’ve been, what? Four or five? I never forgot the moment, the joy, of unwrapping that gift. I rode that silly toy all the way to the corner – a quarter mile away - in the snow.
Midnight mass, Mom in her long fur coat. She sang . . . well, yes, like an angel. That voice issued from that small person like Gabriel himself commandeered her soul and everybody in the church went still to listen, and to stand in awe.
The year of the pink Barbie Cadillac, the year of the flu, the year of the lost Christmas tree.
But here – there is this, and this is, after all, what I need to write about.
I was driving home with Keith Whitley playing on my iPod, and he had reached his last song – his best – before I realized October had passed. Tell Lorrie I Love Her is November music, straight from the grave to your heart, where it leaves teeth marks. Golden October is in tatters; summer’s sunlit memory has faded again into gray reality.
Keith Whitley, of course, is irrevocably dead and Lorrie left to mourn.
We laugh at mortality on Halloween. Brave behind our masks and paint, drunk on chocolate, wine, and our own audacity. We are benign ghosts in bedsheets, vampires with blood-tipped fangs, stiff-legged zombies – our dance is set to the glorious tempo of gentle, sparkling fall.
November calls us to sober up, chills us to the bone with unforgiving winds and skeletal trees -darkness, always, a mere breath away.
Wiccans preach a thinning of the veil, now – something you can almost see, as though the sky is smeared in charcoals, and beyond it . . . maybe? Can you discern? A hand reaching for you? Leave an empty seat at the dinner table, then. Set out food and wine.
Pooh! Hocus Pocus!
October came on gilded wings in the night, and by morning the air was clear and sweet as champagne, another summer laid to dusty death.
A year gone by, then, since last the witches danced on Samhain. New growth spurts, new loves, new wrinkles, but, look – while all has changed, it yet remains the same, and that is the gift of the season. October’s ghosts are the sweetest; they beckon us forward and call us backward all at once. Rush outside and the air will lift you up - carry you like a scarlet tumble of leaves – and on it you will hear the echo of every self you’ve ever been, and every self you will be.
Who could deny magic in October?
Remember small tennis shoes pounding the pavement on Halloween night? Glo sticks bracketing wrists, ghoul faces grinning – the wind caught their capes, and they flew, didn’t they? Up and up on the new, sharp wind, right into forever.
Remember nineteen? What is was like to be poised, sure-footed on the cliff of adulthood? God, what a flight, from the railroad bridge to the water below with the moon cutting the sky and the stars chasing each other in the current. That love, that year, was the sweetest love – kisses tasted like candy apples; every breath was dizzying.
Look back, look back – first real football game, so small! The cat costume that every sibling wore, the orange forever candle, bonfires and cemetery walks, baby’s first costume – all in colors that swirl and riot and escape the memory before the painter’s brush slaps the canvas.
But here – today, the wind smells like apples and the sky is hard and blue as bone china. October beckons like a siren song. Magic is ours for the taking – hold it in your palm and blow it into flame; it won’t burn you. The wind scatters the leaves off the hill into a bright, tumbling wave, and the ghost voices are calling you to fly.
Oh, jump into that current. Love like a child, run like your feet have wings – wine is the sweetest this time of year, love spells last forever, and tomorrow is poised on tip-toe right around the corner.
Hello, sweet October! We love you!
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