Tuesday, October 31, 2006

The Days of the Red Winged Blackbirds

Sometimes, particularly when I am writing letters or working on columns, I find I am waiting for the significant moment, the definitive event, the special observation. And I let the ordinary days, those precious times, pass unnoted.
This post may be ordinary.

Yes, I've been busy. My days are complicated and my duties seem many. Let's see--a health fair, at which many bike helmets were given away . Oh, yes, blood pressure checks were done, and people got earnest information on all sorts of chronic diseases, but I was there with a couple fellow board members and our pile of bike helmets to give away--red ones, with flame markings; blue ones with flames; blue shiny ones with no flames; silver and black ones; and tiny ones patterned with flowers on hot pink. Four sizes. We've figured that if the youngsters who zip about the rugged tree lined streets and lots on their rusted bikes had helmets it might...just might...help the morale of our emergency room staff who hate to have little children with head injuries come in.

Yeah, I know. In many places of the world bike helmets wouldn't save the children. But here--well, we do what we can.

So I was fitting the helmets on the little heads, and getting the colors right, though it might mean dashing back to the storage room at the clinic to find the shiny blue one in medium, and having a great time of it. And the little girls had hula hoops. These circles of plastic were a fad in the 1950's, when I was growing up. I was, let me tell you, an excellent hulahooper, able to spin the hoop round and round my midsection by the hour, out on the summer lawns, laughing.

The girls were great at it. "Hey, come try!" they called, and of course I did.

I wasn't good at all, but I kept trying. "Maybe you need a bigger hoop" "Try like this". It was quite the project.

The media was present to take photos of the somber and responsible board members of the clinic as we did somber and responsible things. I was...over on the sidelines with my hula hoop and a bunch of little girls and a couple little boys who were also amused, and cheering me on.

I wish I could say I got it; my Queen of Hooping status restored miraculously. But I didn't, and I must say the media folks looked....oh, they looked so serious. It made me laugh more.

I realized, after an afternoon of helmet fitting and hooping and laughing that I may not have quite enough silliness in my life. I shall try to change that.

And the other night, as my youngest child and I sat in our battered car, waiting for his papa to bring the last things from the cabin, where we are still working on repairing bear damage, and I turned the car light on, Gabe started making shadow pictures.

Well, there was little else to do at the moment, and shadow pictures are always fun. Made me remember when my brothers and I were very small, and we'd stay up late at night. I had a contraband flashlight and would make bunnies and alligators and sometimes odd people and we'd tell long, fantastic, shadowy stories. I was perhaps 9 then, maybe younger.

I watched Gabe's shadows. They were very ornate; he made goblin faces and pumpkin shapes I wouldn't have thought of, and butterflies. I was thinking, happily, that this is evidence of his connection with cause and effect, that he can think out the shape, the light, the shadow, the story. He's so bright, I thought fondly, watching a particularly nice goblin take form.

And then, as so often happens in my life with my youngest child, I remembered he will be 18 in the spring, this pretty child who was so enraptured by the shadows his fingers cast. I remembered that most of the people outside the family do not understand a word he says. I recalled that just a few days ago, as I said something about some number--I no longer recall just what--and he looked up and said "what dat?" and I said..seven, you know, like seven things. You know, as we count things, one, two, three. He looked at me and snorted "people say dat, but fake" . Not fake, Gabriel, I said, we count things with numbers, look, here are two apples, and now three, and we'd write them like this: 2, 3. "Too silly" he said, and went back to looking at the pictures of muscles in the anatomy book he likes.

But you know, I was still very pleased with his magical shadows. It's complicated, having a so called "special needs child". I am constantly astonished by the gifts, and tripped up by the fears and challenges.

I suspect there are all kinds of intelligence.

And I was thinking about this during one of my Women in Black vigils, as I watched the setting sun glow through the red and yellow leaves of the liquidamber tree, and the usual flocks of blackbirds seeded the sky, wheeled, perched on the church across the street, flew to the redwood trees, turned...and flashed, suddenly, from the blackness, the bits of scarlet. Yes, a group of redwings had flocked with my usual somber Birds in Black, and were flashing their bright, surprising shoulder patches with every swoop and turn.

I laughed aloud. That's really all I need to keep my heart well sustained--a flash of beauty, something unexpected, a little brightness in the dark.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

..a flash of beauty, something unexpected, a little brightness in the dark : Gabe is all that.

8:02 PM, October 31, 2006  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

..and more!

8:02 PM, October 31, 2006  
Blogger David said...

When I was a kid, there was no such thing as a bike helmet. Considering how many times I fell off my bikes, I'm lucky that my head remained uncracked! So, I say good for you giving out helmets to the kids in your neighborhood!

I never could keep a hula hoop going. It must be something that girls have a natural talent for. ;)

It sounds like Gabe has some artistic talent judging by all the shadow shapes that he can make. Does he draw or paint?

10:04 PM, October 31, 2006  
Blogger Dr O2 said...

When I participate in fairs for kids, I feel somewhat old! It is somewhat not pleasent to feel like a grown up for me just yet. With that status comes personality chores like trying to act your age and stuff which I really try to avoid.

I am good & pro in my job but outside I like to be free, fun, sometimes wild & lively :-) while most if not all the so-called grown-ups are these serious looking people who are not enjoying life much :-S

8:55 PM, November 01, 2006  
Anonymous marly said...

Jarvenpa's realm, far from the vacuous and the debased: in that kingdom, Gabe is recognized as creative and lovely, blackbirds are seen, it is worthwhile to give to children, and frolic happens.

Real estate that can't be bought...

8:57 AM, November 02, 2006  
Blogger Kimia said...

That's the amazing thing about you dear Jarvenpa. You see the beauty and you notice the little things that keep the heart warm. Sometimes I feel blind and deaf.

10:38 PM, November 04, 2006  
Blogger LiVEwiRe said...

"A flash of beauty, something unexpected, a little brightness in the dark." Very interesting... often that's the gift you give to me; a reminder of things that are good and new ways to see them.

2:54 PM, November 06, 2006  
Blogger Lori Witzel said...

Nothing much to add, except that last bit, and the way you wrote about your relationship with Gabe, lifted me -- I felt light as those blackbird's flashing red feathers.

5:33 PM, November 17, 2006  
Blogger jac said...

--a flash of beauty, something unexpected, a little brightness in the dark.

That is what I need...all of us need it.
But you have it already, Jarvenpa !

Do you realise that ???

12:45 AM, November 23, 2006  
Blogger LiVEwiRe said...

Just checking in to make sure things are ok. My best to you, bear and everyone!

9:59 PM, November 28, 2006  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

There is a people who believe everything is created in dream time, not entirely sure what that means, but they don't count the way we do. As I recall they understand one and many. So if you asked a woman of that people how many children she had she would say many. She could tell you their names so we could count them but the whole counting thing sounds very suspect to them. I have a vague recollection of your being interested in languages that are becoming lost but I have recollections of things that havent happened. And then that square of the hypotenuse formula, pythagoras, it's hard to recall names, the whole fuss about that was that it made him realise that integers could no longer explain the world. Integers are perfect but the formula shows that the world is not. His number mysticism never quite recovered from that shock. I hope your son continues to show patience with you.

I don't think ill come visit you as a stray if I get early release on compassionate grounds I am going to leave this shit hole, i appreciate there is wonder here, but come on if i get early release what would be the point in wasting it by coming back. Peace be upon your house. I don't mean to say that I am in a prison, what do you take me for a neo-platonist. I think I would enjoy the company of your son at least he wouldn't laugh at me.

5:22 PM, December 03, 2006  
Blogger David said...

Hey Jarvenpa, how are things going? Hope you had a wonderful Thanksgiving. :) Did you get any of that flooding that happened up in Oregon? Indianapolis has some minor flooding at the moment. Our little river is up about six feet after some really heavy rain. Actually, we kind of dodged a bullet. a hundred miles west of us got a foot of snow! We got a few flurries, but mostly rain.

10:32 PM, December 04, 2006  

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