Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Lost and Found

In August, as the days grow hotter and the fields turn paler and my pitbull joyously falls to his back in the long weeds, wriggling and sounding like a dolphin, huge emoting, moans of joy--as the days of August come to an end the dust on the roads grow thicker, it seems the more desperate or broken find their way to my stairs or my door or perhaps my heart.

"There's a...girl, passed out by the steps" said my partner to me one evening as the heat baked from the stones and the sun began a slow slide in the west. "you should check on her" he said, not wanting to startle or alarm a young woman.

And he's right, a mild middle aged or aging woman is far less alarming, surely.

So I went to the foot of my steps, and yes, there was a girl. She lay in the gutter, curled on her side. Her hair was in short rastas, covered with dust. Her bare legs were folded to her stomach. Her long, tan hands bore a couple very worn silver rings. She wore a very short shift, which once may have had flowers patterned on it but had been worn and washed so often the flowers were simply memories. Her feet were stuck in old tennis shoes with holes, several sizes too big.
Her long eyelashes made faint shadows on her cheeks; her lips were pale and gently curved.

I stood there a moment, looking down at her. Yes, she was breathing. Fairly evenly. "Sweetie" I said, using the endearment that comes so quickly to my tongue, the one my children, I fear, hate, "sweetie, are you okay?"

I asked a few times. My partner came and stood beside me. A sherrif's car passed by. "We could take her to the emergency room" said my partner. But I said, "We'd have to wake her first, and if this is an overdose they'd probably send her to jail instead". Unfortunately, we've had experience like that.

I kept murmuring to her.

"You'll have to shake her" said my partner. "I don't want to scare her" said I. But then I knelt beside her and put my hand on her thin, bare shoulder, still talking. Her temperature seemed pretty normal. I took her pulse...yeah, steady, firm.

She moaned and spat, twice, still sleeping, her head pillowed on a rock. "This is not a good place to sleep" said I, hand on her shoulder. "Have you taken something? Can you speak to me?"

And then the guy with the brindle pitbull came up. "She shouldn't have been drinking so much in the sun" said he.

"Athena, wake up!"

And she opened her hazy blue eyes. And swore. And said "why did you wake me? Now I'm hungry, and I don't have anything to eat".

So we got them both some food, and the dog as well, and the guy said he'd get her to her camp.

But late that night I saw her again, wandering the road in her thin shift, eyes glazed. I've looked for her since. If she's 16 I'd be surprised, this thin and beautiful wanderer. I've got to get a better grasp of where the new ones are, where the camps are, how the children are.

When they are sleeping at your stairs, well, you wonder.

The young couple who came by the next day were in better shape, but they'd been crying, and they had two puppies much too young to be away from their mom. Brutally hot days then. The little pups were limp and dehydrated. We talked a long while, got them food--all of them, yes, of course the little dogs too--thought out strategies, heard their stories. They've been back a few times now, and each time the pups look better. Yesterday they were playing and romping and Champ my pitbull--who had seemed woefully concerned at the first meeting, nudging them and whimpering--finally gave up and gave me a glance of disgust and went into another room to escape their bouncing and pouncing.

What did you call them? I asked. The one in the black collar is Mocha; the one in the purple collar is named...Athena.

Okay, fine. I do inhabit a realm of coincidence.

Today's first customer stood in the store talking to himself quite a while. I kept typing. I talk to myself sometimes; it's not very alarming. I figured if he wanted to talk to me he could, but meanwhile, fine, talk to the bookshelves and the dog and the air, that's okay.

After a while he came and said "I do want something". I waited. "Do you have any borscht?"
I said unfortunately I did not, though borscht is very good. "Then,maybe, do you have squash baked slow with honey?" Again, sadly, I could not provide. "But I do have fruit and bread" I said, and offered him some.

He stared at an apple.

No, others have been here, I can feel them, he said.

Well, yes, this is a bookstore, we have a lot of people come through.

So maybe, said he, you have what I am looking for. I lost it so long ago. It is a box with three parts, and in it are roses and feathers. And there's a gold frame around it, like wheat, and there are pictures of everything that matters. And there are maple keys spinning over the surface of it, and when you have it you are okay again.

No, I said, that sounds so beautiful, but I do not have it here.

Someone is mistreating it, said he. And he went to pick up my broom.

Oh, I understand, said he. You are a witch. I see your broom. And your cat. And your dog. But I think you are okay.

I think so, I said.

He looked at a few more books, and brought me one on mythology. Here, he said, look.

Athena and her owls.

(the photo of Palas Atenea now at the Louvre, was taken by someone calling her or himself purolipan. Amazing lighting)

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Anonymous Anonymous said...

I think your Buddhist friend is right. You certainly have the patients of an ancient tree.

Cooler weather has arrived here in New England. I noticed the burning bushes are turning already, and some odd, probably sick maples. It's too early for fall really, but this has been one screwy year for plants. Mums that have come and gone, my asters are already blooming well before they should be. I wonder what the winter will bring.

6:26 PM, August 28, 2009  
Blogger Lori Witzel said...

Keep an eye out for snakes -- one of the earlier manifestations of Athena was as a snake-haired goddess.


Wishing you encounters of the green grass snake kind -- cool, viridian -- during summer heat.

11:43 AM, August 29, 2009  
Blogger am said...

Athena again.

Thinking of you and all those you care about. Just finished re-reading NAM VET by Chuck Dean, a book about healing from PTSD that was given to me a few weeks ago. Dean was talking about his experience at the beginning of the Gulf War:

"Without realizing it, I lost touch with present events and slipped back to the night of May 5, 1965, when I was packing my things on Okinawa to be deployed into the Vietnam combat zone. Athena, my wife, was the first to notice that something was wrong ..."

Your writing and your photos continue to move me through sorrow and joy.

2:33 PM, August 29, 2009  
Blogger ocean lady said...

My father used to be fascinated with the synchronicity of things, the long chains of improbable patterns that appeared out of everyday banality almost like a carnival trick. He wrote them down in a little notebook he carried and pointed them out wherever he found them. Then would go further, "On the other hand," he would say, "can any of us really imagine how utterly improbable it is just to have been born as we are, when 80,000 sperm were all rushing after one egg?" And that was just in that particular haphazard moment of love he would point out. In my own life, I have found that when bits of synchronicity occur, some movement is happening, and have learned to scrutinize them as signposts of a sort, if only one can make out what they mean.

In any case, may Athena look out for all the lost ones who come to your door, though you seem to be doing a MOST creditable job, as ever Jarvenpa.

7:22 PM, September 04, 2009  
Blogger jarvenpa said...

cemeteryconsort, it has been an odd season here as well, in terms of bloom and fading. I feel fall in the air now; we had some rain. The forecasters are predicting a wet winter for us.

Lori..oh yes, I will do that! Lots of snakes around here normally. You made me laugh, always a joy.

am--now, that's just...odd. And a moving book.

ocean lady--why didn't I know that about your father? I would have loved to have seen his ongoing notes. He was a dear, wise, and very handsome man.

7:57 PM, September 05, 2009  
Anonymous marly said...

That box . . . sounds like the start of a story. They all sound like starts of stories, and I guess they are: somebody's.

Athena. Wisdom has come to your door. Not surprising.

5:33 AM, October 01, 2009  
Blogger GEM said...

The eternal child in me connects with the box, makes me wonder if in madness is poetry and in poetry madness, but doesn't care because poets and poetry are so essential. I now want to go and make that box real it captivated me so.
You are an old, old soul, Jarvenpa, but one in whom childlike wonder is ever present. And there are reasons why so many people make it to your door for succour... acceptance, compassion, non-judgement... GEM

9:36 AM, October 04, 2009  
Blogger Lucy said...

What wonders, and what courage and patience you have.

12:18 PM, November 22, 2009  

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