Sunday, March 30, 2008

They are going to be frogs

She bounced in, brown hair flying, clutching a plastic bottle filled with water and floating bits and pieces, calling "where is she? Hi Champ, where is she?"

It was sort of like having a little tornado whirl in the door, and I greeted her smiling. I'd seen her the day before for the first time since November, when she and her mother left for the southern end of the state, and I was glad to see her looking well and happy, though tired from the 18 hour drive. Her mother, Angel, said they were just up for a few days to visit friends, but maybe they'd be coming back, and anyway little Jessica wanted to see me, and Champ, and the cats.

"Look, look!" she cried, my little friend, thrusting her plastic bottle into my hands. "They are going to be frogs. I found them!"

Yep. Six little pollywogs were floating about. I took the cap off the bottle to give them a bit of air, though I couldn't recall if they needed extra air at this stage in life. It did seem to make them a bit more lively.

So we caught up on life a bit. Her little dog had been given away, which made her sad. Her kitten, the lovely Princess who wore doll dresses, had run away down in San Diego. This made her sad too, though I told her that perhaps the cat had run into someone who would love it, and care for it. "Not as much as I loved her" said Jessica, and sighed. "But mom says having pets costs too much".

She cheered up and asked if she could help me with Champ's footwrap. Due to my pitbull's nerve damage he gets to wear a stylish sock, wrapped in the flexible wrap racehorses wear on their delicate and strong legs. Jessica wanted to use two colors to make it pretty, so we wrapped in red with an overlay of midnight blue. Very stylish indeed.

And then she invented a cat toy to amuse Pippin the laundromat rescue cat, a big Maine Coon cat, who has been sad this week since his cat friends have left the shop, going to live with my daughter in her new, cat friendly home.

"I want to make animals well" said Jessica. I told her my niece does that, that she's an animal doc. "Oh, can she teach me?" said Jessica, her face alight with possibilities, and I had to tell her that alas, Jen lives far away. But I told her, and hoped it was true, that she will get her dreams.

I'd thought a lot about Jessica and her mother during the winter, hoping they were well, hoping they had shelter and food, that Jessica was warm and maybe happy.

Yesterday she danced out the door with her tadpoles before I could hand her a book or two, and I regret that, because for all I know she and her mom may be on the road again already. The customer who was browsing during the latest visit asked me about the little girl, and I told her a bit of the story. Oh, you are so nice, said the nice woman, a teacher visiting during her spring break. She teaches special education students down in the city, and told me she'd seen it all. The children who live in cars, the children who don't get enough food, the struggling mothers, the moments of pain and violence. I said "well, think of all the difference you have been making with your children, over the years. That counts for a lot".

I looked out to see Angel and Jessica and a couple of guys pulling out in their new car. The little girl had her face pressed against the glass. She was waving, holding up the bottle of tadpoles.

I smiled and waved back. They will grow up to be frogs. May she grow up to be what she wishes. May the world not break her heart.

Sunday, March 02, 2008

The Green Grass

We are in the fragile and beautiful moments of false spring. The plum trees are open, chalk white and tender, dropping petals on the long green grass. Though the mornings bring frost they also bring daffodils. Hail will come, and snow, before April, but for now the air is sweet.

So walking Champ the pitbull, whose advent in my life after his encounter with a hit and run truck down the road a bit was 4 years ago, this rescue of a night, I was thinking of the grass.
I have loved flowers all my life, and routinely stop to talk with my favorite trees, laying a hand tenderly on a branch, staring up into the dizzying sky. But I think it has always been the grass I have loved most, the lawns of childhood, the slopes near the Japanese woodlands down which I tumbled, over and over and over again with my brother in the early summers, the watered desert lawns, a dozen humble corners and vacant lots.

When I was a sentimental and dramatic teen I wrote a poem in which the sun was a dandelion and somehow the grass was the pelt of a green tiger. Yes, I mixed my metaphors in those days, fairly badly. But the grass does seem to me to be part of some great beast, some supportive companion.

So when last I longed to die, it was to the grass I went, and in the April sunlight lay full length in my meadow, and cried that I was tired, and my child was so ill, and I just wanted to enter that green light and be still.

And when I was much in love, my heated blood pounding, my loves and I did in the happier springtimes go to the wilderness, and to the meadows. When my firstborn was conceived my blue shirt was turned green with smudges of the wild grass from the slopes near the sea.

It has always been kind, and welcoming, the green grass. Whistles for my childhood hands, source of daisy chains and clover, quietly there, though I pull it from around the roses, walk over it, ignore it.

Sure, Walt Whitman was here far before me, and was it Julian of Norwich who saw all the divine in a hazel nut? I think so. But in the days of false spring the grass calls me home to my heart, comforts me when the world seems raw, connects me through all the days of my life, and the days of lives before my own.

Quietly. It is enough.

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