Friday, August 12, 2016

One Voice, One Vote

The elections are a few weeks off and the TV is off, where it is likely to stay until late tomorrow night. There have been many words on the TV, words on the Web, some that make you wonder, some that just make you wonder if someone was hypoxic. Here at the Range, it is just Thursday morning.  I've a cup of coffee and a hour to write,  and just relax before my work day starts. There is no lamp light, only the glow of a keyboard and a candle lit, the match then snuffed like a dying planet in miniature, extinguished with just the rush of breath.

I can not tell you who to vote for, where or how. But think about it.  What seems to be monumental at this moment to the world is, for my world, for yours, just one vote, just one action. Actions, that when taken, can not be undone.

I've never had a tattoo. One of my  closest girlfriends has several, but they aren't really tattoos, they are works of art, incredibly detailed and delicate history etched into flesh. They are hidden by clothing so it was some time before I was even aware she had them, until changing clothes together for a formal occasion, they were revealed as her clothing fell to the floor like flower petals and I was struck by the beauty against alabaster flesh.
 But I always hesitated to get one. For starters I have a pretty low threshold of pain, which apparently is not uncommon among redheads. Then there is the whole "what would I get?" I have enough freckles that if someone were to connect the dots on my arms with an ink pen as a prank while I'm asleep, it might resemble a tattoo (don't ask how I know). But still, it's a big choice and a permanent one.

Some tattoos are crafted with months, even years, of thoughts and stories behind them. Others are done on the spur of the moment at the urging of friends who say "everyone has one, you need to have one too!" Both end in that moment when you unclench your hands from the pain, fingers filling again with blood and you realize that the rose, maple leaf, or big battleship with the words "Wanda Forever", or whatever it is that your heart clasped firmly on to, will be marked on your body for the rest of your life.

Such are those moments in early adulthood, when one is proving points as much as themselves. Two members of my family had died and the rest of us scattered in our grief, myself wandering the skies of a big world far from anything familiar. What I yearned for was the smell of fresh baked bread, sewing machine oil, fresh cut grass, the long ago sound of Mom laughing as Dad sang "Barnacle Bill the Sailor", chasing the little ones down the hall. I wanted family dinners around an old table, the sound of happy voices, the tender touch of hands that uphold and forgive. What I had what was life handed me, and no amount of wishing can bring back dreams that weren't yours to craft.

But I can remember those days as if it were today, the sounds, the throated roar of an engine, the whisper of wheels on the pavement, the oily smell of jet fuel and asphalt that lay heavy on my skin as I wandered. I had the tools to take care of myself, yet I unknowingly was looking for someone to anchor what had somehow been set adrift. Looking back now, I think "how naive !" But unfortunately, the future of individuals, indeed, a very nation, can lie in the actions of those so unaware of the true costs of things.

It's not long after, that I awoke one morning with a slight headache from jet lag, wondering, for a moment, where I am. I've awakened next to a stranger. Not really a stranger though, we had known each other a little less than a year and agreed on this venture, much to the delight of his family anyway. But now I just see a stranger, mouth shut in a firm line, no tenderness in it, a head tilted away from me, no longer listening. The cheap hotel a.c. blows over my legs like sweatshop silk, dust laden light glinting on a ring on my left hand, put there at some little "church" in a desert town where nothing seems permanent except loss.

I was not the girl he had wanted to marry but I did not know that at the time. That girl was not suitable, according to his parents. I was the girl they wanted him to marry, to come into the fold with, a big farm to inherit someday, a big future. Myself, I wanted that absolute of family, mine torn asunder. I was at that age of my 20's where every parent, every magazine, it seems, was urging one to marry.

I spent the next 10 years paying for the mistake of not being that girl, the hopes of laughter giving way to sounds no louder than a sigh but filled with such fury.
Actions. At the time we do things for reasons known only to us, and then looking back on those choices, years later, at the scars that only show when the cover of fabric falls away, do you wonder -What WAS I thinking?

So I don't make choices quickly any more. The people that share my life, my table now, are ones I've known for years. They know my strong choices and uphold them, they know my poor choices and forgive them.  As well, I accept them for what they are, not attempting to change them to fit something I need.
They are around me when it comes time to celebrate something. They are dinners, bad puns and zombie targets, tools and discovery, songs and music, too long dormant. They are there when the rain falls like knives, simply warming me, their flame drying me from the inside out.

There are some that might rightly say, that when all is said and done, just one action, just like one vote, will not change the course of the future. But it will let me sleep, knowing that for this moment, I made a choice. It's not the choice of a naive child in an adult's body, looking for someone to provide for me what I was capable of providing myself. It's the choice of one who has worked and lost and cried and fought, and will continue to do so as long as God gives me strength.
Yes, it's just a voting booth, just the motion of a hand, a moment in time. As the hand moves, so does that time, so much longing and loss, hopes dashed and restored, lies told out of the depth of our hearing and whispered softly in our ears, the clang of coins filling a pocket or scattering on the ground like tears. It's just a vote, it's just a simple action.

Or is it?

I curl up with my coffee and my notepad, looking at the photos on my desk of those people in my life that taught me to love and trust again, smiles of shared moments, a touch that is like gold in the hand, firm and secure. I look at the shelves against the walls, so many books, some patches, some awards, merits of years given and service paid to something I still feel is more important than just being popular. There's a flag and a small cross, ceremonial shapes of mortality, reminders that some choices are everlasting. There's a tail from a whitetail, taken in a hunt, some spent brass that guarded a life, a piece of old uniform fabric, the scents of verbena and gunpowder and freedom that soak into my skin and bones like ink, to stay with me til the end of days.

It is just one small voice - but it is mine.
 - Brigi