I got a call from French Polynesia. The wind kicked up so hard in the lagoon that Juniper sawed and popped through one of her mooring lines. On top of that, my friends went to start her engine and the starter button fell straight through the panel, then she wouldn’t even start by hotwiring. The starter button is a known issue. That thing fell off when I was sailing to Tahiti. I fixed it with gold duct-tape. I love gold duct-tape! Have you ever taped with it? It will make you smile all golden and it will make all your broken pieces glow. Anyway, when I couldn’t find a new starter button in Tahiti, I hodge-podged busted parts back together in a more permanent way, which I guess was not permanent enough. As for why the hotwiring didn’t work, there is a thin blue cable that sometimes breaks loose directly on the starter itself. I have to use a combination of mirrors to see where in the hell it goes, but other than that, it’s an easy fix. I am hoping that is all it is, otherwise my brain will itch and I won’t know how in the world to scratch it. And you know how crazy it drives you when you got an itch that you can’t scratch?
It’s hard for me to be away from Juniper. To not even have the option to get to her until April 1st. Even that date is not a guarantee, it’s just some future number that the government threw out there, but it hasn’t stuck yet. I am so grateful for my sailing sea-sister Kerstin, who is Juniper’s guardian angel, watching over her at the pearl farm. Keeping her safe. Keeping her warm. If she wasn’t there, I might have already lost my head into a hole.
There is a reason for everything. A reason why I am stuck here, in Arkansas. I don’t know this reason yet, but have welcomed it, whatever it is. These are my roots. Right here in this place where tongues talk slow and loose and lazy with the accent of hillbillies. It’s been twenty years since I’ve spent this much time near my roots and perhaps they needed tending or at least some of that water that the rest of me has been drinking.
Plus, this is what makes life beautiful. All it’s little jolting surprises and secrets. The way it can shake you up and toss you around and the next thing you know you are suspended and facing a new direction, which was never a direction you intended to face or even knew that you could enjoy facing? I love life for this.
In the direction I am facing, cold diamonds fall from the sky and pile high. A frozen water jungle bursts and glows and dangles, like millions of rainbowed mirages. Faces blink out of sunbeams. Icicles drip. Icicles drop. The limbs of nature bend. The breath of frost seeps through skin and thoughts and windowpanes, into the bone of everything. I crawl, my particles sinking deep into its twilight zone. This is the snow. This is the storm.
I am so thirsty for it. I need more of it. I need all of it. It’s novelty, ripping through the staleness of my days and conjuring parts of me that await in my shadow and seldom shine. I put on a navy-blue snow suit, that belonged to my father in the 70s. On my head I wear a pink wool Jane-Fonda-style headband and pink sunglasses and pink lipstick- this is so I feel less like a man, but my sister says it makes me look like I live in a trailer. I don’t care, but I do.
I make snow angels and snow balls and snow people. I snow hike into forests I once knew, that have grown white and foreign. I sled down streets turned to slopes -on kayaks, on blow-up rafts, on boxes, on anything that slips and slides. It’s all a cheap thrill. I sit on innertubes and hold onto ropes attached to 4 wheelers, I let them drag me across this new tundra. Next to me there are people skiing down the streets of Little Rock, Arkansas!
I feel like a waterfall falling. I am falling down the hill of a golf course on a toy made for someone 30 years younger than me- in my heart I am still that age, body be damned. At the bottom of the hill, I turn, I look up. There are three sleds coming towards me, one is a girl whom I have never met, but I know instantly because she has the same face as her father, a friend of mine from childhood. I try to move out of their way as they try to sled out of mine, all of our mouths and eyes wide open as we collide. The flesh on the right side of my body pelted by all of them at once. The point of impact throbs.
I lay there, looking up. Unable to move at first, because while my heart is 8, my limberness is not. I am embarrassed. Everyone wants to help me up, but I want them to go away. I want to help myself in a slow and soft way without any eyes to see me fumble. Fumbling is easier when nobody is watching. In fact, if nobody is watching, it’s as if you didn’t fumble at all. Like a tree that falls, but makes no sound without ears to hear it.
I close my eyes and remember a snow-storm when I was little. It is Christmas Eve and I am on a campaign sign. It says “Vote for Judge Kilgore.” I am with my sister and my neighbors, the Kilgore boys. We go down the hill in front of our house again and again and again, until a car comes and rolls on top of us. It’s wheels lock onto the sled and it sleds with us beneath it, towards a major road that eventually turns into a highway. I am on the back of the campaign sign sled. I hit the tire and roll off. When I look up, head like a hammer, I see boots and mittens and hats and limbs, flying out from beneath the car. One of us bit through our tongue, one of us had a concussion, one of us had a tire rash, all of us were on the police radio. Still I love the snow.
Arkansas snow is dreamier than Colorado snow, because in Colorado it always snows. This year ranks next to 1918 for the highest snow depth on record in this neck of the woods. And I’ve decided that a snow storm in a town that rarely gets snow- is very much like sailing. When the storms come we stock up on food and must conserve water and power and let our faucets drip so pipes don’t freeze. Nobody is ever fully prepared, especially the power company, and cars get stuck and everybody needs an extra hand at some point- which forces strangers to unite. One year, Arkansas even needed help of the National Guard. That year, the only thing left at the liquor stores was Pabst Blue Ribbon and our world was so frozen we didn’t know how to unfreeze it, families in dark houses- sleeping next to fires.
A week prior to the snow, I saw red-breasted robins in flocks so large you would have thought Arkansas was a part of a Hitchcock movie. They were eating berries and whistling. Melodious. They whistle this song “cheerily, cheer up, cheer up, cheerily, cheer up.” Some say angels of our ancestors fly inside of them- “Robins appear when loved ones are near.” They symbolize death and rebirth and spring and love. My mom and I sprinkle seeds for them in the snow.
My new way to say goodbye- “Miss me so hard. Miss me like ice in summer.”
FICTION STORY- because it is so cold where I am, this fiction tale takes you to the desert.
Dixie and Dakota drove down the freeway towards a dry and people-less place. Holding hands except for when Dakota shifted gears, but Dixie didn’t have any real skin in the game anymore. That tingle that she used to soak up and slosh around into different shades of passion, had long dissolved. She was a robot. She wondered if the baby would make it better or worse. Seven months to go. Till better or worse.
“Pack up your sunflower smile. And your bandana blues,” Dixie sang along to Townes Van Zandt while watching the world streak outside the window. Sedimentary rock structures painted the landscape like drip castles made of rainbowed ripples. Dixie thought about all the treasures buried beneath the desert kingdom; topaz, agate, opal, dinosaur bones, trilobites…oh trilobites!
Dixie was born with an itch for the ocean, but she hadn’t ever made it passed no-man’s-land. She turned down the radio and said, “Isn’t it just so wild to imagine that all this desert used to be on the sea floor?”
Dakota said, “The only difference between the desert and the sea is salt water.”
When they first met, Dixie was ripe and ready for the pickin’ and Dakota was fresh air with a promising breeze. He liked her blank blue eyes that looked forever caught in a cluster of clouds. She liked his Native American roots and the way he could toss her around as if she was a milkweed seed. Dixie said, “Say saltwater again, but slowly, it makes me hungry to hear it.”
Dakota rolled his eyes. She used to miss him so hard when he was gone. Now he was a boring puzzle that she could no longer cared to solve. She pulled her hand away from his and held both hands out the window letting the wind bend them like petals. A dog ran alongside their truck barking.
Dixie said, “I was reading today about Skinwalkers, it’s a Navajo belief, that some people can transform into animals and if you look at them in their red eyes, they can absorb into your body and destroy all the good in you with their evil nature magic! Did grandma Butterfly ever teach you about that?”
Dakota said, “Yea, but everything my grandma says is hogwash. It’s like she lives in a fantasy.”
He turned his yellow truck onto a dirt road. The rocks flooded scarlet red and reached high.
Dixie slapped Dakota’s arm, “Reality is nothing without fantasy. In fact, I think reality started as a fantasy. Plus, Grandma Butterfly is total magic. She makes medicine out of wild plants, and she starts fire with stones, and I bet that she could even find water in a dry desert. With her, you could never get lost.”
Dirt swirled into tiny tornadoes as they drove fast, then slowed. Dakota pulled over and parked beneath a Juniper tree. Dixie stared at the blooms of pink desert phlox sliding out of cracked earth.
“Where are we going?” She asked.
“Come on babe, where’s your sense of adventure?” He said.
She got out of the car, “What about food and water?” She asked.
Dakota pulled out a teal pack, shook it in the air, then threw it on his back. Dixie picked a berry up off the ground. She thought about how this little purple fleshy fruit in her hand was the ripened ovary of a plant. Pollen riding on insect wings to a flower- pistol, stamen, pollination, plant ovaries swelling. The thought of flower sex and its simplicity turned her on as much as the word saltwater did. She looked at Dakota and felt bone-dry by his love. She squeezed the berry until it popped. It’s juice all sticky between her fingers.
They walked to a split in the trail. Dakota spun in circles with his compass, then turned the direction he thought was west. It was pathless.
Dixie demanded again, “Where are we going, Dakota?”
“Chill babe, I’m taking you to see cowboy holes, it’s a vortex, you’ll dig it,” he said.
Dixie saw a blueish woman with see-through skin, in a white dress and beaded peach-colored crown, floating above a prickly pear cactus and pointing East. Dixie wasn’t shocked by this, her pregnancy had gifted her with odd sounds and visions. Last week all the raindrops turned into frogs and spoke to her in unison. The raindrop frogs said, “We love your mushrooms.” Which made Dixie cover her breasts and scream.
Dixie stopped walking, “You sure this is right way?”
Dakota gave her the trust-me-cause-I’m-a-man look and kept on, keeping on. The see-through blue woman shook her head and pointed East again. Dixie didn’t know if she should listen to blue woman or the sad sack that she called boyfriend. Either way felt like melting.
“Give me the keys, I’m going back to the truck,” She said.
Dakota stopped, “Don’t be a fuddy duddy, Dixie.”
Dixie followed Dakota heavy footed, yet flimsy. She followed him passed jackrabbits and lizards and snakes. She followed him until the sky blazed pink and peacock blue, then black. She followed him until the night was made of moonless eyes and screeching cougar cries. She followed him until Dakota stopped, realizing he was lost.
TO BE CONTINUED…………