With Abandon

On Tuesday morning someone pointed out a far corner of sky that wasn’t shrouded by muddy clouds. Just a small slice—delicate and brilliant. But by that afternoon the short glimpse of robin’s-egg blue had been consumed by the grayness that has managed to consume everything else.

It was raining in the mostly abandoned campus parking lot I had to cross to reach my room—solid, slow-falling raindrops smearing the lenses of my glasses, pecking their way under my sunflower umbrella, my green turned-up hood, cold and surprising on my neck. I tried to imagine myself a flower stalk, turning up my head to catch the water spilling onto my face, filling my pores, my very cells to bursting. But I only focus on the next step, shrink further into myself, block the impact.

The 6 o’ clock dusk dimming, walls of dark wooly cloud mass, the gray only becoming thicker, I couldn’t tell the depth of the water I was treading in, stepping awkwardly and lurching through on my toes, though my buckskin boots were already stained dark up to the ankles from the wet, my socks squelching under the steady and hollow rustle of water slapping blacktop. The drops hit like mini Saturns, rippling out into infinity while another instantly took its place. Street lamps ignited them like dying suns, burnt orange reflections smoldering and toppling in piercing fractures.

I walked fast and breathed shallow, the air damp and moldy like the patches of acid-yellow grass that refuses to green, the month that refuses to shed it’s winter skin, unfurl the light needed to make me open.

I wanted to force the rain into an excuse to feel alive again, wrestle it into metaphor for new beginnings. But maybe it’s just me that needs to be wrestled with.

When the girl with the pink polka-dot rain boots burrowed in her bag outside a dripping Honda civic, I thought about stealing the rubber boots off her feet so I could stomp flat-footed against the wet and watch it spray out from under me, kick the puddles into streaming arcs. Better yet, abandon shoes all together and surrender the careful confinement of it all. I should have left the umbrella in the lot, should have stood out there until the drops stopped feeling like an intrusion on my skin, shed the layers, felt my hair sting and plaster against excited cheeks, baptize myself out of submission, out of expectation.

But I didn’t.

And all week I’ve been thirsty for the child-like abandon that I lost somewhere in the seriousness of the adult world, that was smothered like a slice of blue in a season of gray. And I know that next time I’ll stare longer. I’ll get my feet wet. I’ll stand there until nothing else matters.

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On the Crest of the Wave

Today I finally got over to the Como conservatory like I’ve been wanting to do all winter, utterly ready for an emergency dose of green and warmth and whatever serenity I was hoping to find. Unfortunately for my introverted self, I was nothing short of disappointed to find the complete chaos I had walked straight into, warmish Sunday afternoons apparently being the most popular time to haul in strollers full of babbling children eager to pull off mittens they’ve been wrestled into all winter.

So I shifted my focus into full fledged people watching. And trying not to step on any oblivious toddlers.

If you’re like every other Twin Cities dweller and have been to Como, you know that one of the first sights you see when you enter the massive greenhouse gardens is the Crest of The Wave fountain centered in its own little courtyard, the barefooted statue of a woman seeming to leap into the density of trees scraping the glass walls. I want to spend the whole afternoon gazing at her, taking mental notes for the poem I want to revolve around her. Pulling a dingy 1976 penny out of my coin purse, I flick it off my thumbnail into the fountain’s top tier with a wet plink, wishing my feet were as light as the dark figure carved into such bliss.

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On the wooden bench to my left sits a small woman reading, her black hair rocking along with the baby she holds. She seems alone, and I think of how this is the place I would sit if I found myself that way. Through the automatic doors race two small hispanic girls, pressing themselves against the low bowl collecting what streams off the statue’s feet. The bigger girl bends her torso over the lip, raking her fingers through the clear water, letting it pour over over her palm. With no hesitation, she cups her hand, avoids the penny’s glinting at the bottom, and scoops the water into her mouth. She is oblivious to my or anyone else’s shock, and looks confused when her frazzled mother grabs her by the ear and pulls her away.

In the sunken garden, pendant flowers and lillypads float on the narrow pond, and my eyes are actually dizzy from the pink freckled lilies, violet pansies, and white roses so perfect they unfold like pearl kaleidoscopes.The crystal like walls slope into a glass Taj Mahal, slender coniferous trees trimmed liked manicured fingers line the interior as columns.  A woman with a camera around her neck and white hair walks in and exclaims, “Why, doesn’t it smell delicious in here?” and as weird as it sounds, it does.

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A two year old with brown, curly pigtails steps with one foot only on the shallow steps that lead up out of the garden as she and her dad count aloud 1, 2, 3, 4. When she trips, her arm goes taught in her father’s thick hand, her knees never scraping the stone. She points at the electric orange koi fish with their Fu Manchu mustaches, their rubbery, tunnel lips blowing kisses above the water.

And all around people are peeling off coats like old skins, shedding the cold and gray February slushed they tracked in. I cross my legs on the bench and watch them, the change in the air making them perk like the plants in their water mist, me feeling restored  from just observing it all. I lean into a ballet-slipper pink flower I don’t know the name of, the smell of raw honey and jasmine in my lungs.

I’m content here among this life that’s being tricked into blooming. The plants that have no idea of the environment they’re beating or the cold that presses up against the sun-soaked windows. They have no idea of all that is working in their favor, they only put down roots and stretch themselves as far as they can reach. As they are meant to.

As I think I am meant to. As I find the place that allows me to bloom just the same.