I took a walk and the girls followed me on their bikes until twilight. We visited a pond where pet fish swam. We visited the horses at the barn, smelled that horsey smell, looked into their dark eyes, and named the horses as if they were ours: Hades, Chestnut, and Charlotte. I felt so powerful in the buzzing of a receding warm afternoon, observing Onion Mountain in the horizon line, watching the purple Foxgloves and periwinkle Penstamen (sp?) bob in the brilliant grass.
Today, we finished a tennis tournament in Black Butte Ranch. I gave the girls a little tour of where Daddy and I used to camp, sleeping in the open under the stars, where we took a moonlit bike ride, houses I cleaned, where we played grass volleyball at nights, or parties we attended. I spoke of pools Daddy lifeguarded, drawings he used to leave in the pool log, the way he answered the phone that always gave me chills of delight, “It’s a great day at South Meadow Pool … this is Paul,” how he never wore a watch and knew that when the sun hit this spot on the tree, it was time to go to work. We lived on handfuls of Grapenuts and bananas wrapped in bread and leftovers from the renters of houses. I remembered the night we camped in Skylight Cave, the smell of Paul’s pipe and the solid feel of his chest as I leaned back on it, the smell of his pipe again, the sweet songs sung by friends on the guitar, the poetry read, the restfulness and restlessness of youth on summer break with all of life before us and unforseen obstacles to our undreamed dreams… the moments slipped by like pearls off a string and we let them slip off, watching them drop and scatter on the floor, heedless of their value. But who is to say that pearls are more lovely stringed than scattered?
We were young and in love. The girls asked for more stories. I told them about college days at the Virginia Cafe where Paul and I would meet in Portland because it was the half-way point. We’d buy coffee or tea because it was cheap and we were broke and, if we smiled and apologized, the waitress would give us free refills. We’d sip slowly, staring into each other’s eyes, analyzing Emily Dickensen poetry, and talking of the future or the issues of the day or how to change the world.
Then, we’d slip into the night, arm in arm, smoking Menthol cigarettes, and Paul always eyeing buildings to climb. One time we found a fire escape, and Paul scaled the building to reach the bottom of it. He pulled me up and we climbed to the top. A ladder extended over the very edge. Shaky and terrified, I climbed the ladder, following Paul, trusting his eyes to guide me to the top. To this day, my hands get sweaty and my heart beats rapidly, thinking of my body hanging over several stories, trying to keep up with Paul.
Those were the days when Paul was in his element — looking for ways to challenge himself physically, challenging me to follow him.
He called yesterday. With time to think alone, the seasickness behind him, engaged in battle with sea and wind, it’s as if he sees most clearly what to do. His voice has a clipped, decisive quality that hasn’t been heard in a couple of years. The lethargy, the defeat, the bitter acceptance is absent. It excites and frightens me because it usually precedes an invitation to do something that makes my hands sweat and my heart beat wildly.
He’s talking about the trip again.
He’s also asked me to send off applications for him for teaching positions.
I’m not sure what he has in his mind.
But I need to keep packing. In the meantime, I feel shaky and my hands are sweaty. Paul is in his element and the air feels dangerous. Surrendering and following is always easier in theory.