Yes, let’s picture Prince. His blue suit, the white clouds, that impish grin, big brown eyes drawing you in….
One, Two, One, two, three, four.
I was working part time in a five-and-dime. My boss was Mr. McGee. Seems that I was busy doing something close to nothing But different than the day before. That’s when I saw her, ooh, I saw her. She walked in through the out door, out door.
~ ~ ~ ~ ~
[lyrics from Prince’s Raspberry Beret]
[This is a re-post. Prince passed away five years ago, a genius lost much too soon.]
We learned about souls in the first or second grade, not long after we learned about God. Maybe it was part of getting ready for our first confession. Preparing…that’s what they called it…preparing for our first confession.
There’s a soul in us, they said, in the middle of us, and it wasn’t our heart. Other than that, they were fuzzy on the details. They didn’t tell us how it looked, like they might if it was an arm or leg, or even a stomach or brain. What I do remember was that we are born with a clean soul. Before you got old enough to sin, your soul is clean. Perfectly clean.
Then you sin, and it’s not so clean. If you sin a lot, if you commit a mortal sin, or even multiple mortal sins, your soul turns. Then, if you go to confession, and say your penance, it gets washed clean again.
Back then, I pictured the soul like a circle. It wasn’t in my heart, and it wasn’t in my head, but somewhere else inside me. It was a very nuanced part of our being, although I knew nothing of nuance and I had a very mixed up idea of what it was to be a being. So I pictured the soul like what I would describe now as a pie chart. If you’ve been good, you have a nice clean circle, and if you’ve been bad, well, you can picture that pie chart.
Tall trees stand stubborn, dark straggly lines against a soft blue sky. It could be the middle of February. We … the humans … watch. We tap our toes and wonder. Isn’t it time for spring? Some small, discernible bits of newness? Some buds, or some green, some encouraging signs of a new season.
No, the trees look back, offering nothing more than a confident sway, as the uppermost branches, leafless, bend in unison.
They’re mostly oaks and a few poplars. And it’s like they’ve become defiant, adamant at least, about who’s in control. Plain, unadorned branches, move slowly left and then right in the breeze. Shouldn’t they be working on some green, some buds, even some pollen? I’ve watched this slow drama play out so many years, and yet I wonder impatiently what happens first. Tiny sprigs of green, or those long strands of gold pollen?
The trees, though, the trees stand stubborn, and they sway when they feel like it. They move with a swagger, resistant to every human wish for spring. We’re all used to waiting now, aren’t we? But It feels like it will be the 4th of July, and still those big old trees will be standing there looking like they looked in February. We … the humans … restless, watching, waiting for them to green up. And waiting for a life that resembles something like it used to be. Any day now, maybe next week, maybe in a few months.
To this day, I love the soft, hoof to dirt rhythm, of a gallop. Clop clop clop clop, horse and rider, dust flying, in an old western. Clop clop clop clop. It’s sound and picture and smell and dust and dirt and powerful horse, all in a background sound that fills the brain.
When I was little, I played tap dance. With patent leather shoes banging and making as much noise as I could on a linoleum floor. It was silly and noisy, clicking and knocking the heck out of those shoes and that cheap floor. I love. I love that sound too.
But tonight it’s a cold dark winter night, it’s late, and I’m half asleep. Tick tick tick. The slick, scraping sound of icy sleet hitting windows, brushing glass. Tick tick tick. I’m inside, and feeling protected. Safe, I suppose. Yet the sound calls, barely calls, beckoning me from a desperate, a desperately soft floating dreamy winter numbness. Tick tick tick, calling me out from some sad sense of empty waiting. Tick tick tick. Out there in the dark. Tapping at the window. Tapping at the subconscious. It taps me on the shoulder. “Wake up. Listen, girl, listen. Yeah, girl, you. You hear that? Wake up, girl.” I get up and look, I guess hoping to see something in the darkness besides sleet hitting the glass. Out there where you know there’s nothing but dark and cold. What did I hope to see? I think something to make me look, to rouse, to look up and smile. Yeah, something to shake the numbness, to make me look up, and about, and smile.
Absent-minded, I look outside, and my brain works to pair long lines, from trees, with vertical panes, from the window. I like it when they’re perfectly parallel. When I take pictures in the woods, I angle the shot so trees naturally slanted to the sun come out straight up and down in the picture. Flowers too. And within the compulsion of these mental confines falls the nuisance and distraction of utility lines. Struggling to aim up over the lines so they don’t pull your eye from the clouds, or the sun, or the trees on the horizon. Sometimes, though, lines are inescapable. Sometimes you can’t take out the lines and have the same picture.
January doesn’t exactly call to you. It’s easy to zone out in the numbness of these dull, dreary days. And sometimes the look of January isn’t enough even to make me look up. But the sounds out there, they still work.
There’s no one else around mid-afternoon, and it’s quiet. I try to convince myself it’s peaceful, but the mood is more like melancholy. Trees and what’s left of plants look like they’re scarcely holding on. It’s a still cold quiet void. Quiet and gray. My spirit too.
Yet, if you hang around the quiet long enough, there’s more than silence.
A subtle rippling, just audible. Water moving over stones and around bends. Slow enough to make singular tones. Soothing. Like listening from another room, while someone strums a guitar. Slowly picking the strings, one string at at time.
That kind of soothing.
Then the cheeps. Tiny cheeps. I’m partial to towhees, and they never let me down. Winter, summer, doesn’t matter. They’re around, and they’re gonna cheep. But other birds too. The cardinals, for sure. Their winter tones are sweet. Comfortable, less commanding, less stressed, almost purposeless. Not the loud complicated spring show-off mating songs or the summer alarms and calls. It’s soft and gentle. As if they’re going about life, hunting the brush for a meal or snack, and mindlessly humming.
There’s been too much gray. Too much cloudy. I’d rather have snow. But we get comfort where we can. And January brings a quiet comfort. If nothing else, it brings quiet. Quiet intersecting lonely intersecting reassurance. A kind of hushed reassurance.