Sunday, May 24, 2009

The Shy Root

by Zinta Aistars

Sunday eases into the bones and slows the blood. Sweeps away a thousand sins. Rained in the night, soft, steady. Morning breeze shakes the raindrops loose from new leaves overhead on spring lush grass, and me. Birds singing each their own song. I hum mine.

The scent of maple walnut coffee rising from my mug—a souvenir from one of my trips to Washington, D.C., covered with images of various monuments and cherry blossoms—I lean into the open deck door and look out on my little back yard. Never expected to be here this long. But time has a way of sneaking up on you, over you, past you. That evergreen at the back fence, grown thick and full, eight feet tall and heavy with new pale green growth, tipping each branch like swollen green fingers … it was no more than a few inches tall when first planted. A gift I never foresaw as taking root.

Lesson in all that, I know. We can either live our lives aware of all the many choices we make, or the choices we don’t make sweep us along. A book I recently read for work, Influencer: The Power to Change Anything (see my review in the spring issue of The Smoking Poet) begins with that very premise: you influence. Yourself and others, each and every moment, making countless choices and decisions, and so spreading effluvial consequences. We either embrace this power or hand it over. We either realize how powerful we are, or we live our lives as cowards.

I had spent my Saturday in a happy bustle of activity: shopping for light summer clothes in anticipation of my upcoming trip, again, to Washington D.C.; planting blue and purple verbena in front of my blue house; crooning to the astoundingly beautiful jazz voice of Madeline Peyroux on my stereo; enjoying an evening of thoughtful movies, two in a row, just because it is a holiday and we could. Then it was late night, and I was home alone again, and the peace of the warm evening, nearly summer, beckoned. I did not long for sleep, not yet. Instead, I picked a Hoyo de Monterrey from my humidor and went to sit on the front step.

Been a while since I’d smoked one of these. I’m not sure it is so much the cigar I enjoy, as the easy ritual, the time required, at least two hours to reach final ash. It becomes a meditation. A forced slowing of the blood.

So I sat, lazy rings of smoke rising, and watched the silent street. Watched the verbena in the flowerbeds along my driveway and imagined their tiny threadlike roots uncurling into new soil. I sat, thinking how at times we had sat, two alongside, on this step, and now, alone, realizing the shrubbery along either side had so overgrown the step that there was room for only one. Not sure why, but that made me smile. My house, I think, was hugging me. This house I had never called Home. I had made other choices, pushed my energy in other directions, tried to hold what was unworthy of holding. False dreams built on false hopes. I gave up my power. The energy seeped out of me and I gave up on making choices. Dead weight floating along in someone else’s down and dirty river.

Guinnez, my chow pup, rattled the front door behind me. Lonely for company. I held the cigar in my mouth and went inside, clipped him on his chain, with apology, hooked to the handle of the back door, and we went to sit instead on the steps of the old deck. Two cats following. Tippy Tommy, my old diabetic cat who was never supposed to live this long, once a great hunter, now content to huddle in a loaf beside me. His head tipped to one side, one eye on me. Jiggy, the black calico, off to search for stray moonlight. Guinnez made little puffs of disgust at my smoking ash, but lay beside me nonetheless, love overcoming all, and let his soft paws hang over the edge of the step. I rubbed his velvet ear. He forgave me.

Sinking into this night silence. Like silk, drawn softly over me. In the distance, a mile away, the faint hum of traffic on the interstate. The trees around the yard edges in black silhouette. Standing guard. What if I made this old deck into a room with a view? I looked over my shoulder at the gray weathered wood. The empty chairs. The rusty iron fire pit. Suddenly, I could see it. Wicker sofa in pillows the color of verbena. Windows all around, screened in the summer and open to breeze; edged with snow in the winter, when I would stoke the woodburning stove in the corner. I could see it. I could feel myself sitting there, feet up, the ash glowing on the tip of my nearly forgotten Hoyo. Random lines of poetry on scattered paper pieces on the table.
It could be possible, still, to create a Home here.

It really was a matter of choice. A decision to make, a taking back of my own power. So long suppressed by the dark choices others made, I had to learn again how to make my own. A long and twirling-in-circles process, but the general direction still forward.

I might have been Home a long time ago. To realize this … hurt. Old enough now to understand how time eats away, nibble after bite, until there is nothing left but white bone. Age was changing me. In a myriad of subtle ways. No longer seeking wild adventure as much as settling in, finding that sweet spot, easing into its shape. After a life of risk taking, I was finally letting the first threads of my roots uncurl in new old soil.

The very moment we realize how truly powerful we are—we are.

Sunday morning, sipping coffee, leaning into the doorway, I can still see the room I imagined the night before. I must first build this place called Home in my mind, only then could I begin to work with hammer and nail.

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