Monday, September 6, 2010

A Visit from Earl while I was Away

Beauford Delaney, "Throw it in the Creek" c. 1938

Oasis Reflection;
Turbulence and Change
 I remember standing on a street corner with the black  painter Beauford Delaney down in the Village, waiting for the light to  change, and he pointed down and said, “Look.” I looked and all I saw was  water. And he said, “Look again,” which I did, and I saw oil on the  water and the city reflected in the puddle. It was a great revelation to  me. I can’t explain it. He taught me how to see, and how to trust what I  saw. Painters have often taught writers how to see. And once you’ve had  that experience, you see differently*James Baldwin, Paris Review 84

A lot has been happening lately, and life events are encouraging me to look in new ways.

The painting above references the folk wisdom that if something gets bad enough it should be thrown away, "Throw it in the creek." This is a disturbing thought, because I keep thinking of the Bosnian girl whose brother filmed her throwing black and white puppies in the river. You wonder how could those puppies be bad? I'm making an unsettling connection, but I've just returned from taking my daughter off to college. I don't know quite what to do with myself right now; however, I am delighted that she got into a good school and that she is enjoying her new life. Ultimately, that is what makes me the happiest. Still, we don't realize how our daily lives are shaped by our loved ones until they are away.
My college girl entering Mystic Pizza

While I was off the island of Puerto Rico, Sr. Earl, the hurricane, came to visit. My husband called me during the storm, which he was driving through, and gave me a blow by blow (pun?) account! I hear the loud wind while I yell, "Don't talk to me! Drive! You might get hurt!" Then he says, "All the lights are gone. I can't see the road." Finally, I told him I couldn't take the stress anymore- and it was making me not hungry-so please hang  up the phone. Oh, I know how bad that sounds! But it was such a surprising response from me that he did get off the phone.

I was at Mystic Pizza when he called. Do you know the restaurant in Mystic, Connecticut? It was the location of the movie, Mystic Pizza with Julia Roberts. The movie features three teenage girls who all work at the pizzeria and are trying to figure out what to do with their lives; one is reluctant to marry, another attracts the son of a wealthy family (Julia Roberts), and one is saving up for Yale University. I kept thinking of the story, while we were looking around the area. I never realized that Connecticut was such a sea oriented society. We stopped at the Portuguese Fisherman, and had a very large breakfast! (but no seafood!) It's only open for breakfast and brunch. (I think it should be called a diner now instead of a restaurant.)
Waffles cannot be contained on the plate! Huge serving sizes!

The entire area seems to be patriotic and though I may be mistaken, it also seemed conservative. The flags were at half-staff because of an officer who was killed in the line of duty. (I first wrote half-mast but I think that term is best used on ships.) When I was seventeen, I served in the US Navy for four years and I think that this coastal area of Connecticut could be called a Navy town- only it's Coast Guard all the way! I felt that familiar but distant feeling of being around many people who are connected to the military in some way, either business or family. Veterans were proud of their service, and one waitress talked about her boyfriend overseas. Everywhere, the presence of the military was strongly felt. I asked a group of young men for directions and one carefully groomed man stopped in the middle of the road to make sure I got the correct directions. A car honked at us for making them wait, but I just thought that guy was so helpful with his southern accent and polite manner, he probably was in the Coast Guard, (Yes, I know all servicemen are not gentleman- I was in the Navy, after all!)
When I arrived home, the yard was full of hurricane debris; branches and abundant piles of long pine needles. It smelled a bit like Christmas. It took a half day to clean up the yard. I was thinking about hurricanes as I raked and washed.  

A hurricane moves in a wide circle, the outer rings bring light rain, and as it picks up strength winds blow and bend trees. If it passes directly over, there is a time when it's profoundly hot, humid and the wind is still. It's a false calm because the storm is getting closer, but if you understand the hurricane's process, you have time to organize for the next ring of wind and rain to arrive. Usually, it's light rain again but then quickly turns into a dangerous storm. In the mountains, trees fall, mud slides, and a telephone pole may fall. But an amazing thing happens- you find the nicest people out on the road waving flashlights and yelling to passing cars (and complete strangers) that the road is blocked. "Slow down! Turn around! Be careful!" And though you cannot hear them, you know they must be warning you of approaching danger because they are risking their own lives while standing out in the storm. You slow down, see the telephone poll, and turn around as my husband did on the night that Earl brushed passed Puerto Rico. He was saved from a car crash because of those people shining their dim flashlights and yelling to save a stranger with all of their might.
The windy rings of change are turbulent, too, but don't you love it when you find heroes along the way? It's in the difficult times that we know how best to serve each other.These were my thoughts as I cleaned up after the storm. I'm having a storm in my life, but it's good. I have so much to celebrate and be thankful for!
Waiting at the San Juan airport.

Writer's Rising authors (and readers), thanks for reading!
I'm sending you good thoughts.

*Thanks to writer, Cynthia Newberry Martin, for the quote and inspiration.