There’s so much sun, this morning.  So much that I’m sitting on our second-storey balcony with my toast-plate and coffee cup on the railing, soaking it in.  Feels like my face might be turning gold. A few miles up Broadway, where we used to live, our neighborhood birds were mockingbirds, robins, and starlings, with a few cardinals, chickadees, wrens, and the odd towhee (and the very odd owl).  Here on Eleanor Street, it feels like all we have are robins.  Rather chubby birds, with an unmelodic & unimaginative call, who never get in fights.  Peckish pushovers.

.   .   .

On Saturday, I took a sweet almond croissant and a Java cappuccino with me on a walk from Ijam’s to the Will Skelton Greenway in South Knoxville.  Croissant eaten as I passed the rail line to Mead’s Quarry, cappuccino drunk just before I reached my favorite bench—past the sunflower fields, with a view of the old train bridge.  That place—one of my favorites places in this whole city—is somehow so solitary in spite of the random noisy walkers/runners, the nearby Island Home airport, distant (mysterious) machinery, the odd motorboat.  It’s what my soul needs.  The birds there—they come out if you can be still for ten minutes—are what it needs.

Below me at the riverbank, with a noisy chatter, perched a small kingfisher, white necktie, big black bill, and then it disappeared. To my left, in the riverbank thicket, trembled a tiny dun-colored flycatcher, and then it was gone.

What should I learn from them? That they appear, and then disappear? Astonishing in their presence, with their fragility, beauty, lingering like small fires in the memory?

I kept thinking, on my walk down there to the river, that I had awakened that morning without bearings. Had such a wonderful time with Casey the night before—now as much a sister to me as my blood-sisters—drank two sweet malty stouts and came home rejoicing and drunk.  Marshall had a candle lit, lights off, and was playing sad songs on the guitar, and after I listened for a while I became sad, too. I felt movements of soul—I wanted to be alive, awake, feeling, to understand more about this time in my life.  I went to bed, floating between the sheets.  The next morning I had no idea what I was going to do with myself.  Alone, since Marshall had to work and would then watch the UT game (which I didn’t feel like watching). Recovering loneliness in the midst of marriage is both needful and so disorienting … I laid in bed till I realized I needed the peace of wild things (Berry).

Tiny, walnut-sized wrens, wilder-looking, more speckled than the wrens at Overton Place, flitted from naked branch to dry weed stalk, and were gone again.  (They do not tax their lives with forethought of grief [Berry again].)  I wanted to know how to follow them—I wanted to glean their wild fields.

Was it this: that God carefully works the earth for their sustenance, for their happiness? Their living-places, at the riverbank, are suited for them—someone has made them perfect.  It must be God, because who else can care for each wild bird?

And how would I know if my living-places were prepared and maintained for my sustenance, and happiness? My living feels a shambles, often; neglected, strange, on the verge of desolation. But maybe I’m connecting my living too closely with these flashing neon signs for Meniere’s Disease, fertility angst, uncertain careers: our life together feels like a tenuous survival, peppered with gold dust, but when I look at my life, at what I truly believe is mine, a life that’s been given to me, I can cry with longing for it.  I want its delight, its promises, its significance, its small (small, small!) glory. I do. It’s true.

So I say to myself then: Look closely at the life you long for, and keep wanting it. Maybe the lives we desire, with our entire souls, are very slowly being given to us. Maybe we are becoming the people we want to be—or we can. It’s available.

And when I started to think about the life I want to live, so many of the things I wanted I already had—I just wanted more.  I want to love profoundly and be loved profoundly, to wander and take photographs, to be a poet, a naturalist, a farmer, and to have nice kitchen things. I want to have more time, and to feel less guilt.

The life I want isn’t in another country, another time, another universe.

 

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