I stood at the crest of the rise of sand and dirt that made up the lip of this water filled bowl. Man made or nature made, it was hard to tell, for the perfect shape of the pond. But given the location, there in an area not associated with any subdivision or farm, it had to be nature made. The moon cleaved the pale waste that was sky, the sun having left like low tide, leaving this place in shadow, just the form of a young woman and the wet grieving of earth.
I looked down and saw it, the pale abandoned nest of a Canadian Goose, the goslings having been hatched if the eggs survived both rising water and predator. I picture the water moving, like slow waves, but it is as still as I am. We both seemingly wait for something, an act of fate, of destiny, the irrevocable sentence of time that's passed or simply, an invitation.
I wondered if I came back in ten years, twenty, if this place would still be here? Or would it be plowed into yet another row of Monopoly houses, another neighborhood of lives and love, fights and frustration and unborn children who can't wait to grow up so they can leave this place.
They say you can't go home again, and perhaps as far as a childhood home, that is true. But what of the memories of other places we hold firm in our mind's eye. Some of them we have a name for, our elementary school, the river where we dove as far out as we could into the dark water, the place where church bells rang. In the Book of Genesis, all is drawn out of fluid chaos by its name, "God called the dry land Earth". Sometimes, the incredibly complex can be summed up in one word. The Inuit have one such word to bring to conceivable life the fear and the awe that possesses them when they see a polar bear approaching across the ice "ilara". Some things have no words at all, their form remembered only in the etchings of tears.
But of those places, both named and unnamed, there are places you are drawn back to, years later, praying they are not changed, and knowing it will not be so.
For those are the time when what I remembered is simply gone. My Aunts house, where I sat in the tiny living room and listened to my favorite Uncle, the Engineer, ask questions that made me view the world in a whole new way. It's gone, the house raised to joint the tall colorful homes that rise towards the sky on those small lots. All that is left if a some glassware of my Aunts, and a trunk with the uniform of a great War, the cloth itself assuming the shape and form of those who are our heroes, looming tremendous against that backdrop of books and tools, and a small folded flag, that fills a sleeping house.
There in a city further away is a rental house I lived in as I started University. I shared the top floor apartment with two girl friends from high school, the main floor housing one of their brothers and a roommate, as did the basement. It was owned by one of my friends parents, We got cheap rent, but it was NOT free, the house having to pay for itself. It was so very tiny, two of us sharing one bedroom, one former bedroom, now the "living room", the really small one, mine, just enough room for a twin mattress on the floor and some pictures of musical instruments on the wall. In the tiny bathroom, a single antique claw footed tub, as deep as desire, where I would soak for an hour with Vivaldi playing, not the usual Queen or Led Zeppelins, when I actually had the place all to myself.
It was a big city, but we felt safe, we had each other, a couple of big brothers around, and a tape recording of big dogs barking that we'd play anytime someone knocked on the door at the bottom of our stairs, with a loud "Down Killer! Down!" We felt safe but we weren't naive, the stories of Ted Bundy still abounding in these neighborhoods, the glint of fear still in many young women's eyes, a primordial fear as sharp as a knife.
So many places, now gone, or changed to where what I remember of them is more recalling a piece of music I've heard, but for which I played no part.
When I was in grade school , on the long walk home, there was this giant shrub, actually several that had grown together, dying parts replaced by new shoots, all trimmed in a huge square shape. But underneath, in the tangle of their bases, you could crawl through, on your belly, like you were in some sort of secret fox hole. tunnel. There were lots of open branches and space so it wasn't EXACTLY like a foxhole, but we could pretend. Of course I'd arrive home, the dress my Mom had made for me all dirty and she had NO idea how I could get that way from a "walk home". At least it was easier to explain than that bike tire track that went up the back of my dress from the "Chicken Schwinns" episode in 5th grade.
So imagine my surprise when I was back in the town I grew up in, in that old neighborhood and saw that sculptured shrub was still there, all new pieces perhaps, but still a growing living thing. I could no longer fit underneath its form but I could see that image still, looking up through the dense shrubbery, the branches, the arms that protect, the leaves, guarding not just my form but my urgent heart as I thought that surely heaven must be this color green, that forever grows and will never die.
I look around me tonight, the walls of a place that is only a spot to lay my head when I'm on duty, my true home far away. But what of the memories made here, the dinners and laughter, Barkley's attempts to get the little plush Wookie off of Tam's purse, friends stopping by to walk him as my knee recovered, innumerable waffles, toast and toasts and always, books. There were tools and brass and puzzles and a question asked that made me look at the world in a whole new way.
Then there are the nights alone here, waiting for the phone to go off, even as it doesn't. My eye lids twitch as I try to sleep, the movement in response to my own brains thoughts or perhaps merely the cyclical movement of the earth and all of her watchers. In this place, there were memories made, and a life, perhaps forever changed. I wonder if years from now, I will drive past, just to see if it's here.
For these are the places of our happiest memories. They are scraps of time, like scraps of a note where your name once lay, a bit of stiff paper that mean little of itself, yet still you keep it, will not burn it or throw it away because it means something, something you can hold even if the marks upon it are faded to white, something that says what you were, what you felt, even as you still are.
Years from now, oh so many years you hope, to dream to grow, there will come another night, with eyes that twitch with the minds flooding, even if the body is failing, the organs requiring the care of a switch watch even as time ticks down. The eyes are full of everything save consciousness and others gather around, looking on with knowing and unbearable eyes. The places of your memory are likely long gone, all they have here is the pictures of them in that brain that still sparks like a match, unspoken stories mirrored in the eyes of those around you..
Those places are never truly lost, they simply lie in whatever peaceful trail, beside whatever placid and assuring pond of spent years remains; in the mirror of days in which the mind still contemplates older desires and everlasting hopes. They are there, always, quiet, musing, steadfast, the joy still triumphant even if the actual place is now cinder and dirt. In that brain, is one final vision, a place perhaps, a person, someone for whom that spark exists even if they were years gone. The breath slows, the body remembers, the eyes finally close even as they embrace all seeing.
From outside, the cry of a solitary Canadian Goose, soon joined by another,and another. Their sounds rise towards an astonishing crescendo, beyond the compass of hearing, as they fly upwards into a bright green sky.