As I stare out the window and watch the snow slowly build on the limbs of the now barren crab apple, painting it with a whiteness that bears heavily, giving the smaller branches a better view of the ground in which their fruit of the summer lies buried.
I am forced to wonder if the tree continues to watch me, if its vision is clouded by the snowy blanket in which it wraps itself this day, and if it does, what must it think of someone so sedentary when it, bearing its winter burden can still dance gently in the morning wind.
He says he cannot believe in angels because he has never seen one. I do not believe in his sort of angels, but not for lack of visual confirmation, rather that I live in a world that now is so deeply in need, that an angel might be our last, best hope, but the scope of angelic miracles is not likely wide enough to encompass the utter disaster which we have created.
I tell him that I do believe in angels, that I have met several in my life, and scowl when he laughs so that he must consider that I am serious, and then he asks what an angel looks like, so he will recognize one when and if he ever sees one.
I advise him that you don’t have to search all that hard, that you merely need to be aware, and watch the face of the baby when you stop and coo at him or her as they lie in their stroller, staring up at the always welcoming sky.
On this night he walks silently into her dream uninvited, but she is used to the incursions. On other nights it is she who sidles up to him in the depths of dreaming, each slipping away ahead of dawn. On rare nights each enters the dreams of the other, paths crossing at the synaptic border. On those nights she looks for him, he for her, each grows fearful the he or she will be trapped, alone, when dawn arrives and the body gently wakes, she or he wandering lost in a familiar alien reality.
It is a day set aside for resolutions although there is no reason you cannot make a resolution any day of your choosing.
Perhaps it is a day for those resolutions you might not otherwise make, the bold or daunting, more likely a day for the resolutions you know you will abandon as too hard or simply utterly impractical.
This year I have resolved not to engage in the annual ritual, the annual farce more accurately, and will achieve a long-held goal of conceding failure early, in a new year that will afford myriad chances to come up short.
And there is a hidden blessing in my newfound resolve to swear off resolutions, so take that old Epimenides.
We marched for hours, going nowhere really, but nowhere was the point of the marching so we achieved the goal the Air Force set. We didn’t even think it odd that they made us shave our heads, so we’d all look like fools, there was a war on and we were in the military, so we had already proven that point. We were the smarter ones, as it turned out, enlistees who’d spend our time on bases getting the pilots ready to fly into the danger we knew we had so carefully avoided, and for us the greatest risk appeared daily in the mess hall.
First published in As You Were, the Military Review, Vol. 13, 2020
The most important lessons he taught were in those moments when he was absolutely silent, the smile across his face shouting across the background din of everyday life, his eyes wide with a sort of childish awe that I had long since given up as adolescent.
The child sees everything for the first time regardless how many times she has gazed at what we adults are certain is the same scene, a pure iteration, hears each call of the cardinal as a never-before-heard song, not the now boring chorus of a too long repeated lyric, its melody now painful.
His lessons too easily slipped away, as he did a few years later, mourning a poor substitute for memories that eased into the damp ground with him, but the smile of my granddaughter at seemingly everything and nothing, her laughter at the squirrel inverted from the crook arm of the bird feeder defying the shield below to stop his constant thefts, the giggles at the clouds filling the sky with characters I could not hope to see, brought him back, and with him the joys of my childhood long suppressed.
It is all well and good to believe that you will know it when you find it, that it will be so obvious you could not miss it.
You’ve been down that road before, and on several occasions were certain that you’d found it in her face, or hers, in her smile, or her laugh, or one of their soft touches and caresses.
You were wrong each time, a facsimile at best, an avatar if you wish, so you are determined to be prepared this time, for there must be a this time you are certain.
You have read all the best books, consulted on the internet, careful to sort the wheat from the chaff, skimmed the cream of the offerings, and have practiced reading the tea leaves.
You dare not miss it so you maintain a high level of vigilance and a focus that is not easily interrupted, ready to spring, but know that it defies logic, that the mind is useless in its presence, and that it is the heart not the head that feels true love.