Bzzzzz


Shhh… can you hear it? There between the rustle of the wind in the leaves, and the low grumble of distant thunder; the sound of summer arriving in Minnesota. I thought it would never arrive, but here it is at last. Sitting on the deck yesterday afternoon, the warm, thick air wrapped around me like a blanket. I lay back in the lawn chair, and closed my eyes and listened to the sound of it. The soft buzz of the fuzzy bee’s working their way through the planters, the ever present hum of lawn mowers in the distance, the sounds of the trees tossing their heads back in the strong breeze, the insistent chirp of the Cardinals .

We seldom go anywhere on the three big holiday weekends of the summer. I never really feel the need. There’s something wonderful about staying in town as half the population of the Twin Cities sits in traffic on the interstate, in a hurry to relax. There is so much to do right here in town, and so few people around to get in the way.

On Saturday night 20 Prospect Jr. and I went to the Twins game and soaked in baseball, hotdogs, apple pie, and Chevrolet. On Sunday, we sat on the edge of the couch and watched one of the most thrilling Indy 500’s of all time, then went out and launched model rockets. On Monday we took the pups geocaching with us, and let them run with the pack at the “dog park”. We’re not normally “Dog park” people, but the one in Arden Hills is 3 acres with ponds for the pups to swim in, and Maggie the Wonderdog is an old Swamp Hound. 2 hours, and 10 ticks later, we were all beat from the heat, and ready for ice cream. (Little known fact, Dairy Queen will give the puppies free soft serve in a cup if you ask nicely.)

Otherwise, the weekend was passed in blissful laziness. A game of catch here and there, and some sausages grilling on the deck. The way summer days were meant to be spent, buzzing lazily from one flower to the next, gathering memories like nectar, to add to the sweet honey of our lives.

Bzzzzz…..

Keeping the yard safe from Sqwerlz

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The official start of summer

1978 - Our Backyard


It’s a sunny, cool, Minnesota morning here on the front porch. The last day before the Memorial Day weekend, the official start of summer. Half of the population of the Twin Cities is either on the road north, or spent last night packing the car, and are sitting in the cubicles anxiously watching the clock waiting to get on the road. Not being cabin owners, or fishermen, the 20 Prospect clan will be hanging out in town like we always do. Our summer will begin the way that my summers always did as a kid. Flying the flag from the front porch, as we sit in a rocking chair, sipping lemonade and grilling sausages.

Hot dogs, baseball, apple pie, and Chevrolet.

Back in Batavia, I know that people are hanging out their flags all up and down the length of Prospect Avenue. I miss that tree lined street of shady front porches. As much as I love our Minnesota home, these 1950’s Ramblers just don’t have the same romance as the old eclectic Queen Anne’s, and Four Square homes squatting cheek to jowl along the sidewalks. Those lilac scented streets basking in the first hints of summers humidity seemed full of the promise of lazy summer days. In a few short weeks school would be over, and the long empty expanse of summer would stretch before us with nothing to do but play baseball, ride bikes, and go for swims in the city pool. Hot, sticky, lemonade summer. Time for jean shorts, t-shirts, and rubber toed Keds scuffling through the gravel driveway. I would sell my soul for another one of those summers right now.

Instead, I will watch it through the eyes of 20 Prospect Jr., and Lil’ Miss 20 Prospect. Less than 2 weeks of school left before they escape for the summer. Ten and Eleven years old, these are the golden years. There won’t be too many more childhood summers left before teenage hormones and worries start to press in on them. As a father, if I can give them nothing more than a safe space, and the freedom to enjoy these years, I have done my job.

Happy Memorial Day Prospecter’s, wherever you may be. I hope you find a little slice of peace.

Of Time and the River

It’s a cool overcast morning here on the front porch. Light rain sprinkles down like holy water from the wooly, gray blanket of clouds. It’s hard to give a damn about much on a day like this. I’d just like to crawl up into my head, curl up with my imagination, and take a nap. The way I used to in grade school.

Day dreams are an interesting thing. I think humans must be the only creature to willingly imagine themselves in a reality outside of the one they inhabit. I’ve found no better day dream fodder than the Library of Congress online photo collection.

I could wander for hours through the digital archives, and lose myself in the depths of the photos, and the faces of a forgotten past. Looking through photographs of Minneapolis from the 1880’s-1910’s I am struck by what has changed, and what hasn’t.

The man made world of the 19th century was built on a different scale. The natural world still shows the scars of the rise of the industrial revolution, and the creation of the world that we inhabit. Buildings stand in empty fields like obelisks to a new god, their new bricks shining in the sunlight. Smokestacks poke skyward, and plumes of black coal smoke paint streaks across a cloudless sky. The landscape is still less than one generation removed from a native prairie peopled by Indians.

In the photographs of people, there is no mistaking the changes. People pose awkwardly, as if the clothes they inhabit are foreign.  Their fashions, hairstyles, and faces make them look like a different species. Homo-sapiens-victorianus.

Of all the photos, the one thing that doesn’t change is the underlying landscape. The bones of this land survive beneath a different skin. Look at the river then, and now, and you cannot mistake the place. We move like shadows across this landscape, our works no more permanent that the clothes we wear.  Time flows like a river, but the land beneath it is eternal.

But enough words. Come with me now, and climb into our time machine.

This and all photos from the Detroit Publishing Co. collection in the library of congress

This old depot still stands on Washington Ave.

Minnehaha Park Pavillion

Boulevard around Lake Calhoun

Lake Harriet

The Stone Arch Bridge of the Great Northern Railroad

Minnehaha Falls

Looking across Bohemian Flats, and Mississippi River, at the East Bank of the University of Minnesota,

Fowell Hall at the University of MN

Lake Harriet Twilight

Mea Maxima Culpa

Catholics are supposed to believe in the cleansing power of confession. That we can sheepsihly walk into a booth, and have an aging “celibate” hippie stand in for our Lord and Savior and tell us that it’s OK to be human and rip out the hearts of others and stamp on them, so long as we feel bad about it. Say a handful of Hail Marys, and one of those hard to remember prayers like the Memorare and all is forgiven. Unfortunately, we know better. The sadistic nuns Sisters of Mercy drilled it into our brains that we were pretty much unrepentant, irredeemable sinners. (For the record, they had the unrepentant part right). So even though we know that salvation is just a few muttered words in a dark phone booth away, we pretty much hold our deepest, and darkest sins in the bottomless well of our hearts, and share them with no one.

Except the internet.

Unfortunately, The Catechism of the Catholic Church is mum on the redemptive powers of online confession. (I’m waiting for the 2012 edition)

Why I am telling any of you this, I have no idea. Lack of shame. Need for closure. Pain of carrying it inside for 30 years. Take your pick. This is one of those stories that never stops burning when you think of it. Even telling it now, I am afraid that only more pain will come of it. So I lay it out to you with my eyes squeezed shut, hoping that it someone brings about some sort of karmic healing.

Todd was the second kid I remember meeting. Peter Carmichael was the first, when our Mom’s set us up on play dates at age 4. ( to help cut the apron strings that kept us bound tight to Jerry and Joyce.) Todd was the 2nd. He lived in the upstairs apartment right next door to 20 Prospect, with his parents, his 3 brothers, and his aunt. The apartment wasn’t any bigger than the upstairs of our house, and to this day I cannot imagine how they all managed to fit in there. It was another 100+ year old Queen Anne style home, owned by Onolee, the old lady that lived downstairs. In restrospect, one of the great oddities about the apartment was that it didn’t have a separate entrance. Todd’s family entered by walking through Onolee’s living room. In all the years we lived next to each other, I never went into Todd’s house further than the foyer for one very simple, but un-avoidable reason. His mother.

In the little self contained world of Prospect Avenue, Todd’s Mom was the most feared, and despised woman. She didn’t work, but seemed to watch over us like a constant dark cloud from her perch in the upstairs of 22 Prospect. We lived in mortal fear of the screech of her voice, screaming down at us from a screened window, or worse, from the open balcony. Looking up we feared the sudden appearance of her overweight, polyester bound visage, with curlers in her hair. Why she always had curlers in her hair I never understood, because she left the house only once or twice a week at most. Digressing…

Todd was the oldest of their children, and a kid that always stood out from the rest. Aside from the living situation of his family, there was one other thing that I picked up on. Todd was always spoken of by the adults in the neighborhood in a different tone of voice from the rest of his family. Despite the disparing remarks that our parents might make about his Mom when they assumed we weren’t listening, if Todd came up in a grown up conversation, it was usually quickly followed with a comment of pity, or a shrug or sigh of helplessness. You see, Todd was different from his siblings. Todd was adopted. But more than that, Todd was abused.

It wasn’t until years later that my Mom explained that Todd had the same Dad as his brothers, but a different mother. Once, in a moment of weakness, Todd even confided the same to me. That he had “another Mom”, who lived “somewhere else”. In the nuclear family world of the early 1970’s Western New York, this was beyond my comprehension. I had never heard of divorce, much less families of children from mixed marriages, unless they were named Brady. One week each summer a big Buick would appear in the driveway next door, and a nice looking older couple would come out. They would go inside and emerge a short while later with Todd and his suitcase. He would be beeming with excitement, and the car would back out the gravel driv, and disappear up Prospect Ave. One week later, they would return with Todd and he would be full of stories about life in an exotic foreign city named “Medina” where his grandparents lived in the country, on a farm.

But when I met Todd, I knew none of this. All I knew was that Todd was somehow different from the rest of us. Grownups spoke about him differently. Unlike myself and the other boys on the street, he didn’t have an older sibling. His family did not live in a house of their own. His Mom seemed to embody the Wicked Witch of the West, and the Abomidable Snow Monster, combined. I’m not sure when I first remember realizing that something was wrong with the way his Mom treated him. I’m guessing it was around age 6, when he emerged from the garage after having been taken in there by his Mom, showing us the teeth marks on his arm where she had bit him.

At age six, things like this stand out to you like an elephant in a supermarket. But children learn at a very young age to take their cues from their parents, and others around them. Little kids see things everyday that don’t make sense, and they look to Mom & Dad for guidance. Are they scared? Are they angry? Are they ignoring it?

I told Mom about what happened, and so did Peter, then some hushed phone calls were placed. The next day, a long dark sedan appeared at the curb, and a man in a suit came got out with a woman in a dress. The went inside of Todd’s house for quite a while. When they eventually emerged, hours later, we watched them drive away. Todd was not with them. He came out later that day, crying and yelling at us that if we ever said anything ever again about it, those people were going to come and take him away forever.

So we took our cues from the grownups on Prospect, and we pretended nothing happened. But things did happen. Todd would always be singled out by his mother’s screech from the upstairs for some infraction, and called into the house while his brothers kept on playing. There would be screaming and crying from the upstairs apartment , and when he did emerge he had bruises on his arms and legs, and black eyes. As kids we lived in fear, and never quite understood what was happening or why. Injustice didn’t exist in our pre-teen minds. Surely, he must have done something to deserve it.

As the years passed, Todd always had an invisible scarlet letter sewed onto his sleeve. He stood out from the other kids. When conflicts arose during games, it was usually Todd that was the first to have the meltdown. we had our share of fist fights during those times, but after hearing the shreiks that followed from the windows of his upstairs apartment, my guilt always got the better of me, and I came to blame myself for losing it.

Todd and his siblings went to Robert Morris, but by the 8th grade, his folks had somehow managed to put together enough money to send them to St. Mary’s. It was strange at first to see Todd walking off to school in his parochial uniform. I always wondered what brought about the change, and assumed it was his umarried aunt, who lived with the family, and only ever left the house to walk to Mass, or work at Alberty Drugstore. I asked him once why he had switched schools, and he told me his aunt was paying for it.

By the time we were teens, there was no longer any mystery behind Todd’s situation. Even my 13 year old brain could put the pieces of this puzzle together. It was apparent that Todd was the result of an affair between his father, and another woman. His mother always resented him, and went out of her way to make his life a living hell. Like the lilacs leaning over the back fence, or the old barn slowly succumbing to gravity in our backyard, this reality was just another piece of the fabric of life at 20 Prospect. Somehow, having a friend next door that was abused became “normal”. As much as I hae to admit it, I also came to view Todd as “damaged goods”. Maybe in my immature preteen mind, I was afraid that if I got too close to him his pain would become mine. So I began to try to always keep a wall of indifference between us, lest I be pulled into his hell.

When I graduated from St. Joes, and enrolled at Noter Dame, I was amazed to learn that Todd had too. I thought there would be no way that his aunt would be able to pay for parochial high school. ND was a big jump in tuition from St. Mary’s. But there, on the first day of class, as Mom drove me up the street, I saw Todd walking on his way to ND. One of the big changes between St. Joes and ND at the time, was the uniform. In grade school, all of us Catholic brats dressed alike. White shirts, blue trousers, and clip on tie in the appointed school colors. But at ND, there was no uniform for boys. (Just girls). For the boys they had a dress code that dictated ties and dress pants for the boys, with sweater, vest, or sport coat during winter.This was a big change. For the first time in my life, I had to worry about matching my clothes.

But as stressful as dressing myself was, I can’t even imagine what Todd went through. He had nothing to wear to school, but a handful of white oxfords, one pair of blue polyester pants, and an old pair of his Dad’s dress shoes from the early 70’s. When Todd showed up at ND dressed like that, he had fresh meat written all over him.

I was never an outgoing kid, and I have never had an easy time making friends. So it only stood to reason that Todd and I would sit together at lunch, and talk. I was going out for JV football, and trying my bets to blend into the woodwork. as awkward as I felt and looked, Todd was 10X worse. In addition to his clothes, he also suffered a bad case of acne. It didn’t take long for the jocks in the freshman, and sophomore class to single his out for torture. It was painful to watch. He had never learned to handle conflict any better than when we were six. When kids pushed him, he pushed back. When they called him names, and humiliated him in front of others, he had no response but anger and fists. But the cuts and barbs of teenage teasing, don’t give you targets for your fists. Todd was soon a social pariah, and I was faced with a hard choice. Stand by the kid I had grown up with, and defend him, or cower in fear and shame.

It should come as no great surprise, that I cowered in fear. In his hour of need, when he needed a friend more than ever, I turned my back and denied knowing him. If only a cock had crowed three times, the scene would have been complete.

By the next fall, Todd had transfered to BHS, and I could breath a very loud sigh of releif. Now I could go about skulking in the shadows, and trying to build a false persona of my own to protect me from being the slowest buffalo in the herd. So I went about it with added fervor.

Despite living next door to each other, I saw him less and less. I was involved in sports, and then girls. I had little time for hanigng out at home, or playing catch in the street. Todd fell into a circle of other outcasts at the public high school. When we graduated, he enlisted in the Navy and disappeared. After that, our encounters were few. Whenever he was back in Batavia on leave he would stop by and talk to my folks to see how I was doing. If I happened to be around we’d sit on the front steps and he would tell me all about life in San Diego, and I would listen, looking for my first opportunity to get away, and hide from the shame that I felt buring within me. He never seemed to notice or care.

Gradually, his trips home became fewer and farther in between. The last time I saw him, he had gotten kicked out of the Navy for failing a drug test. He swore his innocence to me, and I nodded in silent agreement that life was not fair, and wished him luck in his appeals. He had found an apartment with friends, and was only coming by Prospect Ave to see his brothers. He told me he hadn’t spoken with his mother in years, and didn’t care if he ever saw her again. He was working stocking shelves, and saving up money to move back to California. I felt more happy for him that day than I had in my entire life.

Graduation from college took me out of Batavia, and on this long journey of my own, and it has been over 20 years since I have seen him. In that time hid family moved out of the apartment to a home of their own. A few years later his Mother passed away. Not long after that, so did my Dad, and then Prospect Ave. became a memory for our family too.

There are a lot of things in life that I claim to regret, but really don’t. Silly, superficial things that are easy to think and joke about. And then there is Todd. I do my best to try not to think about him, but ever few years something reminds me of him, and I feel that stabbing shame. He was a friend, and when he needed me, I turned my back on him. To make it worse, he never held it against me, but continued to treat me like a friend I never was.

Even now, at age 42, this story hurts like hell to tell. There are so many things I wish we could have done. Things that could have stopped the abuse and the pain that he sufffered as a kid. Then I remember that the one thing that I could have done, I failed to do. And I feel the stabbing pain of a Judas within my heart.

It has been over 28 years since I denied him. I have never paid for these sins. They burn like 30 pieces of silver in my pocket.

I speak truth.

And the truth hurts.

I see the boys of summer in their ruin…

Well that whole rapture thing was a bit of a bust. Bummer. I was really looking forward to pretending I had been hoovered up into heaven, and not coming to work today. But while it may have been a disappointing weekend from a divine point of view, it was not without it’s share of Armageddon. The tornado sirens went off both days, and we had to huddle in the basement watching every Minnesotan’s favorite TV Sport. Emergency Weather Broadcasts.

Seriously, after having spent 17 years in this state I can now explain the finer points of “wall clouds”, and “hook echoes”. Minnesotans are total weather geeks. We know the obscure in’s and out’s of weather ephemera better than we know the rules of baseball.

Sunday’s tornado was the closest call we’ve ever had. It passed within a 1/2 mile of our homestead. We suffered no damage, and bizarrely, looking at the yard afterward we didn’t even have leaves fall off of the trees. I guess that’s normal in a storm like that. The damage is confined to a narrow area. Watching the news, it seems like the folks in North Minneapolis got the worst of it.

Once the storm had passed, the sky cleared, and it was another achingly beautiful spring evening. The sunlight shone in golden beams upon the neighborhood, as if the storm never happened. It was a dream like summer evening, and Mrs. 20 P. and I sat on the front steps with the pups, as the kids played in the yard. They had been shaking with fear just an hour before, and now they were as carefree as could be. Kids are like puppies that way. They live in the moment. I remember those days, and can place my finger on the moment at which they ended.

It was 1983, the last summer of my boyhood. I was fourteen years old, transitioning from freshman to sophomore years of high school, and caught somewhere between childhood and young adulthood. That summer was to be the last of the worry free, unencumbered, summers of my youth. It stretched out before me in bright sunshine, and dappled shade, three months of freedom from the tyranny of alarm clocks. Late nights spent watching late night TV long after Dad headed off to bed. Mornings spent sleeping until 10 or 11 o’clock, only to be awoken by the scuffling sounds of sneakers in the gravel driveway, followed by footsteps and voices on the back porch, and the tinny knocking of kid fists on the screen door.

My bedroom window at 20 Prospect was right above the back porch steps, and I could hear the neighborhood kids gathering below on the porch steps. Ranging from 9 to 14, the boys of Prospect Avenue would gather for sports every day from spring to fall. Summer was the height of our baseball season, as the street hockey sticks were put away in the basements and garages, and the ball gloves and bats came out.

Eventually the knocking would cease, and the kids would start calling up to my window for me to get out of bed so we could play some softball. As the kids in the neighborhood had grown, and the number of them multiplied, our ball games had moved from wiffle ball played in the backyard, to softball played in the park around the block. Being the oldest, I was expected to be the team organizer, equipment provider, and chief umpire for the games. In addition to the collection of bats and balls that had accumulated over the years from my big bruddahs beer league softball, I also had a collection of old Frisbees that served as the bases. At times there seemed to be no end to the treasures and effluvia that collected in the cellar of 20 Prospect, in large piles, and cardboard boxes, crammed in every corner.

That was also the summer I had received a glove for my 14th birthday. It was the first new glove I had gotten since 2nd grade, and I spent much time looking through the Brand Names catalog picking it out. In the end I selected a softball glove as big as a peach basket. It hung off of my spindly arm like a suitcase, but I loved it, and spent hours rubbing it with neatsfoot oil, and storing it with a ball stuffed deep in the pocket, and rubber bands around it to give it the necessary shape.

Rolling out of bed, and getting dressed, I would collect the equipment, and we would set off around the block on our bikes. I suppose we could have walked over to the park, but our bikes served a dual purpose. The park we played in was a large grassy, tree speckled square in front of the Blind School, known as Centennial Park, although I never quite understood what centennial it was commemorating. The park had once been the front grounds of the Blind School, and in the 1800’s had been lined with walking paths, lily ponds, and a large gazebo. At some point it had become a city park, but had always been kept undeveloped. Perhaps that had to do with the fact that the park was on the side of a a large hill. In the winter it served as the premier sledding hill in town. In the summer, it was just a shady, grassy place to walk the dog or play a game of catch.

The NYS School for the Blind in 1868. The pond at the lower left would become our ball field 114 years later

The maple trees that had been planted along the walking paths in the 1800’s had grown into a woods, and the walking paths had long since been overgrown with grass. There were no baseball diamonds in the park, or any other playing fields. But in the clearing where the old lily pond had been filled in, neighborhood kids had worn out a baseball field. The maple trees served as a towering, leafy roof above the field, and made pop flies a challenge. We’d park our bikes in a semicircle behind the home plate dirt spot, to form a backstop, and set out the Frisbees for our bases. After choosing up sides the games would begin. With only 9 or 10 kids, it took a bit of range to cover the field. Line drives would bounce off the trunks of the maples that served as foul poles, and determine if the ball was fair or foul. Balls hit deep to center would bounce and roll into the trees and make throws to home a real challenge.

Cenntenial Park in 1910

We could have chosen to ride a few blocks farther and play on one of the real ball fields at McArthur, Austin, or Woodward field, but Centennial was our park, and it seemed only natural that we would have our games there.  The list of ground rules for which trees were in play, and which were foul, was long, but there was no beating the cool shade of those maple trees on a hot summer day.

The park today

At the time it never occurred to me that this would be the last year I would spend playing ball with the neighborhood kids. I had played it all my life, from the time that I was the little mop haired kid that was relegated to right field, right up until I was the defacto league commissioner. But I was fourteen now, and my interests were about to change. I had discovered girls a few years before, but it would be at least a year before the girls discovered me. That last summer of my boyhood would be spent on the ball fields during the daytime. My evenings would be devoted to soccer practice, or long rides on my ten speed out past the Community College, and the Airport north of town, and into the mucklands of Elba. When night came I would be hanging out on Chris’ front porch, talking for hours about sports, and girls.

By mid-August it was over. Football practice had begun again, and I was sentenced to three-a-days in the buzzing, swampy, heat. The next summer would be spent in Drivers Ed class at the Community College, mowing lawns, playing soccer, lifting weights with the football team, and pursuing girls at the Trojans game. If only I could have found a way to bottle it up, and store it away. What I wouldn’t give to take one of those bottles down, and pour myself one of those lazy summer days right now.

I think of those times now that 20 Prospect Jr. is 10, and lil’ Miss 20 Prospect is 11. These are those magical years when they are big enough to do the big kid stuff, but still small enough to be able to spend the day playing, unencumbered by responsibility. So I watch them bouncing on the trampoline, or playing 4-square in the driveway, and know what they do not. That in another 30 years, these memories they are making will shine like gold in their middle aged memory.

Dylan Thomas was right. We are the sons of flint and pitch. O see the poles are kissing as they cross.

The scent remains the same

I awoke to the singing of Cardinals. Opening one eye to look at the clock, confirmed what I already knew. It was early. Way early. The sun was already breaking over the edge of the world, and painting the tree tops in golden light. I can’t blame the Cardinals. If I were a bird I’d be doing the same.

I closed my eyes, and tried to crawl back into the dream I had left, but the trail was already fading. The songs of the birds were seeping into my head, calling me back into the daylight I was trying to escape from. The dogs began to yawn at the foot of the bed, and I knew it wouldn’t be long before their insistent paws started knocking on the door. So I gave up, and rolled across the bed to climb out on the empty side. It always takes a few moments to figure out when Mrs. 20 Prospect is working a night shift, and the bed is half empty. Or half full, depending on your point of view I guess.

These mornings where I take the kids to school are a blessing. I can take my time showering, and eating breakfast, as the kids go about getting ready for school. Some days require more prodding than others. The dogs made their rounds of the yard, patrolling the perimeter, inspecting it for all the nocturnal scents that make their mornings so exciting. Fox? Possum? Turkey? I wonder what thoughts go through their furry little heads.

After a winter that seemed as if it would never end spring has finally arrived. The rains have turned the grass an Irish green. Ankle deep tufts brush against the bellies of the dogs as they burrow though it with their noses in search of scents. The Lilacs have begun to bloom, and the neighbor’s apple tree is in full glory. May can be the most beautiful month in Minnesota. Perhaps it’s the long months of whiteness that makes us fall so deeply in love with spring when it finally arrives. Or maybe we know how fleeting lilac time can be.

This is our 16th year of watching the lilacs bloom along the fence line. They were the first thing we saw when we came to look at the house, and the smell of them took our breath away. There is no other flower that lies so deep within my subconscious. The scent of them can take me back to childhood on Prospect Avenue when the lilacs bushes would droop from the weight of the blossoms, and bend over the fence from our neighbor’s yard. My bedroom faced the back, and during that brief, sweet time the scent of lilacs would drift in through my bedroom window each evening as I lay in bed waiting for sleep. For those two short weeks my dreams would blossom like the lilacs.

Sitting on the front porch with the kids today, as we were waiting to go to school it struck me just how big they have become. In another 4 years they will start off to High School, and these slow elementary mornings will be a thing of the past. The kids will be burdened by much more serious worries, and the dogs will be a little less concerned about the squirrels. As for me, I’ll be a little more gray and probably not a whole lot wiser. Sitting there in my rocking chair, with the kids and dogs playing nearby, it occurred to me that only the memories and the lilacs remain the same.

Photo from the Library of Congress Prokudin-Gorski collection

In the Lilac Twilight

This post was originally written last May 3rd. Holy krep it was an early spring last year. We are a good 2+ weeks behind this year. Which is my way of saying it’s time for another “pre-posted” blog post. Now with 20% more fiber!

Lilac time at 20 Prospect

May is my second favorite month, losing out to October by a whisker. I guess that means I’m a glass half empty kind of guy. Even though fall takes pride of place over spring, I still rejoice each year when May arrives. The skies are clear and cool, the leaves still hold that yellowish hue, and our world is reborn. Even though it is still too soon for the lazy summer heat, and we can still suffer from cold and freezing rain, I love it just the same. I love it as I love Thursday, not for what it is, but for what it heralds. May is the forerunner of summer. It arrives like the angel Gabriel to proclaim the salvation that awaits. School will end, and the heat will come, and summer will stretch above us like an endless blue sky.

Backyard in the Golden Hour

I wonder how different my life would have been if I’d have grown up in a southern land where May and October weren’t the bookends of Summer. I have always been affected by the seasons, and in our northern climate life is lived according to their rhythms. If I’d have lived in a land of eternal summer I would have grown up to be a different man. Maybe I wouldn’t have this nostalgia for things left behind. Maybe life would only exist for me in the present.

again with the lilacs...

Instead I live my life, poised between a past I struggle to understand, and a future I struggle to predict. To me the present only exists in relation to the past and the future. Unless I can make sense of the past, and speculate about the future, the present just doesn’t make sense.

Last night, I stood on the deck looking up at the indigo sky, watching satellites cross the heavens in their polar orbits. Passing from South to North above us every night, glinting in the light of the sun hidden over the horizon, their steady progress betraying the violence of their velocity. I looked around at the dark shapes of the pines silhouetted like missiles against the stars, and thought of our own orbits. Passing through the seasons, as steady as a satellite, our speed disguised by the distances we have crossed. We begin in a blaze of fire, before settling into our steady orbits, until time itself is marked by our passing. Counting off the seasons with each pass, gleaming in the light reflected from a sun we cannot see, until at last we fall back to earth, another a cold dark star burning across the sky.