Sunday, November 8, 2009

Ladybug Riff

Here in Oswego, it’s unseasonably warm. High 50’s, slightly chilly despite the white wafer of the sun, which is making its descent behind the bare trees across the road. I like being chilled, I like unseasonably warm weather in November. I like, in fact, November. It rhymes with remember. Which rhymes with December. Which is a sentence fragment.

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.

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