“Do you know," Peter asked, "why swallows build in the eaves of houses? It is to listen to the stories.” ~ J.M. Barrie, Peter Pan


Summer - Chapter 1. Lessons.

The humidity hangs heavy in the house, heavy enough that even the mosquitoes struggle their way through it.  It lays on my skin and the walls and I complain about the rain, about its seeming neverendingness, about the towels and bathroom rugs that never all-the-way dry after I've showered; hours later the bathroom still feels damp, despite the open window and the fans blowing from different directions. Never mind that the sun has appeared for a bit - I don't think it rained yesterday and it hasn't yet today, but it lurks in the forecast and comes and goes, and goes some more, and is coming again, and soon.

I can't seem to get the words right.  They struggle past me like the mosquitoes, swirling slowly beyond reach when I try to catch them, my movement pushing them away.  I think I will write them down on paper, but the paper is damp and depresses me.

It feels like a story, one that needs chapters, and a heroine.  It starts with the smallest of floods, the very smallest, ankle deep at most, just an inch or two of water, but an inch or two of water rushing through your house front to back side to side carries its own story, and it moves faster than you can pick things up and out of the the way, and it is still a flood.  I am embarrassed to say that, to write it down like that, when The Blanco River is taking people's lives and homes, when I can turn on the tv and watch the water rise down the road in Dallas and Athens, and I say my gratefuls for the smallness of my flood, but nonetheless it is where this story begins.  I am typing to the sound of quiet birds under a gray sky.


I'd woken in the darkness to the sound of something outside and walked to the kitchen, to look out the window onto the back porch, and I stepped in moving water.  The rain against the street light a block over showed the storm, but it was too late, and this water lives in Mombasa anyway, it would go where it would go, but that knowing didn't make it easier.  I found myself shouting at it all to stop, but water and rain only listen when they choose.  They silenced the cat, but not me.

Two weeks and 4 days ago.  


the furniture is in all the wrong places, and the lesson in that is that it doesn't matter.  somewhere in the midst of all this, of pulling up carpet and working on floors, we went out for chinese food.  my fortune cookie read "If the table moves, move with it".


By the end of the first day, the carpet was gone and the furniture stood helter skeltered about the house, piled with boxes and bags and clothing, and it was only by the time my friends and helpers were gone, by the time I'd showered and caught my breath, that I realized my bed had been pushed sideways against a wall, surrounded by, sheltered by (as it turned out) taller furniture and the one plant I keep in the room.  It was a womb to hold me.  It was the stuff of childhood dreams.  A private space to shut away the world.  For a week, at the end of work days and exhaustion, I would climb into that shelter and read by the light of my kindle and sleep would quickly find me. I told myself when this is all over, when the floor is fixed and everything returns to normal, I will leave the bed here.  I will move a table into the middle of the room, and I'll replace the overhead light with something pretty.  I'll leave that one mirror propped where it is.

And then we moved it all to the other side of the room, making room to begin work on the floor where the bed once stood.  We piled benches and rain boots on other benches, pushed my grandmother's trunk and a table against those, and then the bed.  It was suddenly an island unto itself, floating in the room. Sometimes it stopped raining and the sun came out.  Sometimes we had shadows.  I opened the windows and breezes blew through the bedroom and on through the house.  The cat sat on the windowsill.  I told myself I'd been wrong, that when this was all over, this is where I will leave the bed.  I will let the benches be a headboard, let the sun fall on my face and wake me in the mornings.  I don't need a table in the middle of the room, I told myself, but I'll leave the mirror and yes, still replace the overhead light with something pretty.

And then the rain got bigger once again, and water once again found its way into my house - not much, but enough for the bed to be shoved quickly away from the center of the room, too close to two walls.  It's where I've slept for the past 4 nights.  It will not stay there.  The furniture in the living room is still in the wrong places - the couch is turned to the east instead of the north, piled with quilts and pillows, and I refuse to put on the slipcover until the floor is finished.  Chairs are stacked on other chairs and there are still boxes and bags piled on everything, but I have organized them and can now find what I need.  I have thrown things out. Shoes, baskets, pillows, shirts. Pieces of a past life.


We are baby stepping through the weather, doing it all ourselves in spare moments, praying for sunshine and summer.  I tell myself I am too old for this, but obviously I am not.  I am moving with the table, wherever it goes.



the aftermath

my neighborhood.  last night.

image by katie wintters langham.

after midnight.  the middle of the road around the corner. 
there and back was just a few steps through the trees,
the perfect ending to a long hard busy week.
i like the way we scooched all the chairs closer as the evening wore on.

all this after an earlier party a few blocks away.  it was a day full of cakes and strawberries.

stories were told.  we tried our best to understand the ones spoken with a french accent and laughed loudly at the secrets too funny not to share.  there was wine and water and food served under skies that threatened to rain.  there was lightning.  jingle bell cat is sprawled in a spot off to the right where you cannot see him. there were dogs playing and children and music.

this morning i struggled my way awake to find katie on the back porch in rain boots and gown, wrapped in the sheerest of soft teal shawls, writing her morning pages in a notebook of the same color, the day hanging gray and misty around her. she looked like a fairy tale.