Tuesday, August 07, 2007

Salt of the Earth

"Air moves from high pressure to low pressure, deflected to the right or the left by the rotation of the earth. It’s a simple matter of physics." (Jan Deblieu, Wind)

"The prayer flowers were ships built to sail nowhere – set aflame they unreeled a bitter scent and carried the tiny pleas scribbled on their petals only as far as the limits of the glass bowl before they died." (Helen Oyeyemi, The Opposite House)

The way one baby can light up the world shows how shadows take form, how light travels through time and stays in its own way its own form, even while constantly changing. One baby has entered our world with a gummy smile and the softest pink cheeks and wide open blue eyes, and this is its own transfer of energy in the tiniest green dress with colorful flowers. I watch the way her father watches her as he lifts her hands as though she is playing the piano on the smooth kitchen counter with the music playing in the background. She is alternately smiling, giggling, gurgling, and turning her head to see all that is, all that may come. The energy of all moves in her, around her, and we wonder aloud what she sees. Her mother laughs in front of her, gently pushes her stroller and lullabies her, marveling at this little girl who has become herself, from her.

There are flowers in the air around them as this happens. The honey flowers that have floated from the past into this air linger like a hardened sugar coating and a lacquered kimono which has folds with stalks and leaves and limbs that fold and unfold, delicate and still somehow as strong as the oldest tree roots. What oldest roots are these, I wonder, as I sift and sort among the white tendrils that are stronger than any cable or cord. My fingers are dirty now, and I have been digging in dirt for longer than days, more than what time I thought we had allotted to this adventure. This air blowing so freely, with lightning flashing and thunder sounding so close, brings up clouds and rainbows that tumble together.

We are together on Tybee Island for this vacation, only our parents are not here, and I feel their absence with the blustering wind and flashing lightning, as well as with the rainbows that fill a path through the sky. We learned that "tybee" is an Indian words that means salt. The salt of the earth was taken from the water to trade, precious. As we drove back from the store, sun showers brought a full rainbow after a heavy pour, and I thought of our parents, salt of the earth, on the fourth floor so far away in a hospital – a room and floor and place opposite from this where we, their children and grandchildren, are. Dad lies in a hospital bed, up and moving some as he can, as he is encouraged to do. Mom is, we know, undaunted, weary, and disappointed. She has fed him, covered his feet when they are cold, helped him to move. He is forgetful, grateful, docile, aiming to be simply comfortable. Here, we are surrounded by palm fronds, magnolias, thick brush, and the loud sounds of crickets and so many more creatures unknown to us. Three of us walked on the path around the park today, looking for signs of the old railroad and smelling ashes of a burned out old house as we walked by. Wax myrtles were planted, egret images lingered, and beside a drainage ditch we saw oyster shells tied together in net bags, shoring each other up. I’ve never heard of "Wax myrtles" before, though I’m sure I’ve seen many. I’ve learned it is the southern version of Bay Berry. The small waxy berries give birds good food to keep their strength up during those long migratory patterns. I think I did see a Painted Bunting once, in Kathy’s yard in Pittsboro – painted or indigo? Electric blue, with orange markings, absolutely striking and beautiful. Here we read about cowbirds, too, which are parasitic and preys of buntings – they take over nests and push out bunting eggs.

Intermittent bright sun, then showers. I don’t know what all of these plants and bugs are called, but their presence is known, and I feel them making themselves known here. They know their place. Yesterday we walked the island perimeter, on the busy street, the beach, and through neighborhoods with houses and trailers old and new, slick and well-used.

We went to the beach today, driving and some riding bicycles. The dark brown sand is packed hard, and shells and stones are pulverized in clusters. Sea gulls walked and stalked on the sand, easy among people. The sand bars at the island tip reach far out into water, and we don’t know where the river and ocean converge exactly. The flat empty expanse is beautiful. The water is warm and cool in streams as we move through, pulling each other in trains in the shallows, walking on our hands, submerged. A jellyfish or something with tentacles crept over my sister’s leg and left its mark. Tiny creatures burrowed with bubbles into the sand in pools. The tide was strong in some areas, and smooth and easy in others. The salt in the water was heavy and strong-tasting. We drip water and drop sand as we walk, laughing.

We know love as we do. There is so much to do within us, and with each other, within our world. These beautiful growing children bring us back to the wonderful way the world is made, the joy that is already here, within each seed, each creature, each life.

We prepare food, with my sister-in-law’s recipes and stirs, we choose local produce from shelves. We grilled fish, and tasted the flesh of water in it, with its oil and herbs and savory rich life. The fresh revival of life comes with it, with "our" new baby here, and our thoughts of our parents who are so distant from us, yet ever-present in every move, every choice, every thought. Emily brings them closer with her kindnesses, and we share our moments every way we can. We know love as we do.

Sweet Lowland Tybee Tours

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