Life happens in brief moments—poetry happens in those moments. Sunday and Monday were peculiar sorts of days. Peculiar in their moments.
On Sunday, Chris, Ian, and I went to town to buy groceries. Yes, I “go to town” to shop. My choices here in the county are entirely too limited. As I was readying myself to go, my phone randomly began to play an old voicemail from my friend Rachel, in Colorado. It didn’t play the message in Colorado, Rachel’s in Colorado. I mumbled about erratic technology, put the phone and my iPad in my bag, and continued with my day.
The first stop of the day was lunch, because it is simply not possible to shop on an empty stomach, and it’s impossible to get a good meal before shopping. As I pulled my phone from my bag, it replayed Rachel’s message again. It said, “Hey, I was thinking about you, love you. See you in a couple of weeks.” I’d listened to it the day she called; I just hadn’t deleted it.
Lunch was unremarkable. The restaurant crowded with an odd mix of people who looked like they had just come from church, and people who had obviously been out late Saturday night, indulging. The service somewhat slow.
As we headed out, a woman stopped me, “Aren’t you that teacher from John Tyler?”
I smiled and said, “Well, I don’t know if I’m that teacher, but I do teach there.” I readjusted my bag, it was heavy, you know, it had an iPad in with everything else I carry.
“Yes, yes—you’re the one who read that story. About the chickens!”
Several months ago, I did a reading at the college. I was one of several readers, and the story was short. I was a little surprised that she remembered me. We chatted for a moment about writing, about her son, about the importance of chasing dreams.
It was an awkward moment. It’s gratifying to be remembered for your stories, but a little awkward in the church/hung over lunch crowd. She requested my email address, which I provided, and I continued on in my quest for groceries.
While Chris and Ian packed the trunk with our spoils, I pulled the iPad from my bag and checked my email.
Once home, Ian and I settled in to watch a few episodes of Enterprise. Yes we’re still watching it. No, I don’t want to talk about it; too much doesn’t add up for the rest of the franchise: tribbles, the Borg, before Captain Kirk? Yeah, but it is the only show in the series we haven’s seen, so there you have it.
About halfway through an episode in which Captain Archer (Scott Bakula) is being held prisoner by the Klingons, I realize my iPad is nowhere to be found. It’s not with my keys and sunglasses, it’s not in my bag. This leaves only one other option; it’s been sitting in my car, windows closed, in the heat, all afternoon. Cool. Well, not really, it’s really the opposite of cool on every level I can imagine. It was out of character for me to carry the iPad to the grocery store, one more thing to have to carry. It was unfathomable to me that I would have left it out in the heat. But I did.
Between episodes (The Crossing and Judgment) I went out to retrieve it. There was a loud, angry squirrel chorus in the yard. At first, I thought to ignore it, but it was an insistent sound, loud, so I followed it.
Around the driveway, I followed the line of cedar trees, looking up to see if, perhaps, one of the barn cats had gotten into a nest or something. Hummingbirds were flitting about, even though the sun was setting (Hummingbirds are early to bed, early to rise sorts of beings), and barn sparrows were circling. Circling.
A rabbit hauled ass across the yard, like a child caught with his hand in the cookie jar.
But it’s the vocal squirrels that kept my attention. I found them on the ground, maybe a half-dozen of them. I inched forward cautiously. They weren’t fighting; they had surrounded a terrapin. Its little eyes glared out of the shell, in a defiant sort of way.
“What the hell? What are y’all doing to that turtle? Is it hurt?” I moved towards it.
Squirrels scattered. The buzz of the hummingbirds stopped. Sparrows disappeared. The terrapin snapped into his shell. One brave, belligerent squirrel continued to complain from the tree line. It was an odd moment. I carried the closed shell into the woods on the other side of my library, beyond the squirrels’ line of vision.
Back in the house, I placed my iPad down next to my phone, which was open to Rachel’s voicemail. Again.
We watched another episode of Enterprise (only 3.5 seasons to go!). I fell asleep thinking about militant squirrels, animals whose only defense is their home, and Rachel.
Monday morning I read about the continuing fires in Colorado and decided to call Rachel later in the day. I watched students’ end-of-term presentations, drafted a poem for Yahoo about the squirrel experience, and read an email that said Rachel’s town was being evacuated.
I picked up my cell phone and discovered that it had stopped downloading voicemails the day after Rachel’s call. Odd, I thought. I tinkered with my poem whilst students drafted their final writing assignments. I worried that perhaps the Universe had been trying to tell me something about Rachel the day before; I just hadn’t been listening.
I left Rachel a voicemail, sent a text to a mutual friend, and drove home to wait for a return call. I google-mapped Rachel’s house, and the High Park fire—they are too close together for my comfort, the gap between house and flames is less than ten miles, maybe less than five. Minutes stretched into hours through lunch, and then dinner. I called Rachel back and she answered her phone. She’s been evacuated. If her home burns, she said, it was meant to be. She’s let go of her possessions that she couldn’t rescue. I thought about the terrapin in the yard, the angry—fiery squirrels that surrounded it. I can’t just pluck her house out of the nearby inferno. But Rachel’s ok.
I titled my poem (thank you everyone who proofed and critiqued for me). It’s unseasonably warm here, the animals are short tempered, fires are raging out of control, Captain Archer saves the world from the Borg, who have, you know, traveled back in time. It’s funny how the Universe brings us things, isn’t it? I thought about the dreams I should be chasing, and then submitted the poem. Resistance is futile.
I’ll let you know when it goes up on Yahoo.