When I was a kid, I disliked the word “chilly,” which seemed, to me, like a grown-up word. I didn’t like the word “woman” for the same reason. Only adults used words like chilly and woman. Kids said cold and lady. I found it unlikely that I would someday become a woman, and slightly disturbing that I had no choice in the matter. It seemed unfair that circumstances beyond my control could dictate my destiny. It wasn’t that I wanted to be a boy. But I hadn’t been asked. I wanted an option. I wanted a say.
The option, alas, was nonexistent, and now here I am, both a woman and chilly. Using both words with ease. Having my say. Doing all sorts of unexpected things – things I never thought I’d do – including using sentence fragments with abandon.
I was sitting outside on the deck, reading, trying to appreciate what might be one of our last temperate days for a while. A ladybug landed on my knuckle. She climbed over my grandmother’s diamond ring, which I wear on the middle finger of my right hand, then hurried over my ring finger. I held her up to my eye so I could get a good look at her. (The ladybug, apparently, also has no say in determining gender.) She took determined but graceful steps – an expert knuckle navigator. She paused, accommodating my scrutiny, then stretched her wings for a second, as though performing. I smiled. The bug flew.
Next door, the neighbor is riding a mower with a degree of recklessness that I’ve learned is customary during this endeavor. Every twenty seconds or so the blades hit a rock or a branch and it sounds like a shot ringing out. He just keeps going, high speed, more interested in completing the task than in doing it well. In his real life, he does fine, precise work. He’s a craftsman. But when it comes to this chore, he’s like a drunken cowboy.
I’ve been trying to find a new way of concluding these writings, these pieces, as I call them. Seems like I always turn reverent, always feel a little moment of what I have to call holiness, or awe, at the conclusion. I think it’s related to another inclination – wanting to say, when I finish writing, thank you. I’ve never really known who I was thanking, but the urge persists. I think we have to break our own habits though, periodically try to do something new, something unexpected. I could, for instance, ask a profound or pseudo-profound question. I could make a timely although possibly suspect observation, like “the neighbor just literally yelled yeeeehaaaa when he hit a rock.”
Or I can wait it out long enough that I get lucky: Inside my shirt, like a shiver, a ladybug is hiking up my cleavage. I tent the collar – – freedom.