Sunday, January 30, 2011

Winter Walking

I love winter. January is my favorite month.

The year is new and full of promise in January. Anything can happen.

Christmas crumbs spill over into each day.

My birthday is in January when I get to be queen for a day… or a week if I can pull it off.

I know, you’re saying, are you crazy? You live in Wisconsin! Snow and more snow and negative double digits on the thermometer. What’s so great about that?

Cold. Tucked inside. Alone. Safe from the elements. Without fear of intrusion.

I like it.

If I want to, I can hide behind winter’s cloak. There’s nowhere to go when it’s so cold outside. One ought to stay in, to themselves.

No fear of offense in winter because you see no one.

Unless you choose to.

If you go out and about, it’s on purpose.

You can share quick laughter ducking between doors and cars. Opportunities for kindness abound when cars must be shoveled out and brushed off. It’s easy to share a shiver. No one cares what you look like beneath the layers.

Best of all? You can walk in a wonderland of glitter – a snow globe tipped for your enjoyment.

Snow. Layers and layers of billowy glitter sparkling against the midnight sky. Lighting even the darkest dark with an ethereal neon shine.

I breathe better in winter. The air is clear, crisp, concise.

And stars sparkle differently in winter. Sinking beneath the weight of the frosty air, they stud the midnight sky with diamonds.

I hold it to myself like a selfish child on Christmas Day.

I know it won’t last. None of it will. It will have to be shared and given away eventually. Back to the earth from whence it came. Adding to the water table to provide a foundation for spring.

The snow will melt. The days will lengthen. The doors will have to be opened.

But for today? I spread my arms wide and embrace the majesty of the winter night.

The Book of Pages About Crossing Bridges by Kris A. Newman is available through the
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Wednesday, January 12, 2011

First John

I’m kind of stuck on the “angel” angle these days. I keep remembering people who have blessed me. Maybe I’m getting old, but I seem to have an awful lot of good memories. I’m going to attempt to get some of these memories out into the atmosphere to encourage people to, “just be nice!” as my Grandma would say.

So, go on, do something random and kind to someone you know and someone you don’t know. Someday, maybe you’ll be a part of my angel collection…..

Not very many people on the planet will know my first angel, and those who do might wonder at the label “angel.” But this isn’t their memory. It’s mine. And this is how I remember him and what I learned from him.

First John.

I don’t know why he was walking – he had a motorcycle. I don’t remember what the bike looked like, but I remember the sound, the smell, the feel of the Harley engine, the roughness of the leather seat, the smoothness of the gas tank. If I heard it, I could identify that bike.

But that day, the one that flashes in my memory, he didn’t have the bike and I don’t know why.

It was before the road was paved. I can see the dust gathered along the side and me piling it up and smoothing it out while I waited. I knew he would be there soon. He came down the hill walking toward me. Black hair combed back, but flopping along the sides in spite of the attempts to tame it. T-shirt, jeans, heavy work boots. He looks like the All-American iconic working man.

To my three-year-old stature, he was immeasurably tall; seeming to stretch to the heavens. I knew if I could get him to pick me up, the entire earth and all of its things would be beneath me. I would be like the queen in the movie borne in a carriage from the servant’s shoulders. Only the sharp blue sky and the powder puff clouds would be above me. I would be queen!

Surely, that’s how he made me feel. Safe, protected, above it all. When he bent to me and lifted me in those mammoth, strong arms…. I flew!

That day, when I waited patiently for him at the bottom of the hill, I didn’t consciously think all those things, but I knew them.

I also waited for that gentle smile to light his eyes. Pure love, pure enjoyment. As though I were the best little girl in the world. I smile today – so many, many lifetimes later – thinking of his smile.

One more thing I know about that day. In that working man’s lunchbox – the flip top with a Thermos tucked in its rounded top – somewhere buried in the deep, dark, cool interior a Kit Kat bar was hidden for me. If not there, then in a pocket of the leather vest he wore, or maybe his t-shirt, close to his heart. It would be there for me to find, a favorite game we played.

Then, in my memory, he is there, finally getting to me and reaching his hands as I call, “Up! Up!”

John might seem an odd angel to you, but he left an indelible mark on my life.

I’m not sure how that slice of time ends. When the vest was buried by men’s violence in a blur of viscous anger, the patch hidden or confiscated or destroyed. I couldn’t read the word Outlaws then, but I came to understand the fear of the word and the innate sadness it brought to me. The boots, chains, bike, vest – to me they made him invincible. To someone else a target.

I was too young to understand the meaning of the words spoken the day they called. I saw the tears, heard the anguish, but didn’t know why. Forgotten by the adults speaking above and around me, I heard the radio playing, “Bridge Over Troubled Water.” Ever after, it became the catalyst of the phrase, “that’s the song that was playing when they called about John.”

Of all my angels, John is the first most precious to me. He was taken from me first, before I wanted him to go. He taught me to see beyond the surface; to look in a man’s eyes to find out who he is; to not discount anyone.

I don’t know his history or the story of his last day. The waiting day is the only real, complete memory I have of him. I have heard other stories: how he loved me, how he always had candy for me, how he would tuck me in his leather and take me on the bike. I can feel the patch on my face and smell his leather, but only once can I see his face. That is the day I waited for him and he smiled.

In my memory, he is a giant who carried me like a queen, whose smile spoke volumes of love to me. That is enough.