Friday, September 08, 2006

Talk to Me Pretty

I miss colorful language. One might argue, I suppose, that modern discourse is filled with color - or maybe off-color. That's not the kind of color I crave. What I long for is the rich language of the south, positively luxuriant in its bounty of simile and metaphor, rooted in the country, delivered slowly, drawled, virtually sung.

My parents grew up in North Texas, almost to the Red River, sixty miles from Dallas, which along with Houston was the only "sophisticated" city in the state, in those days. Texas was really part of the south then; maybe not the "deep" south, like Alabama or Mississippi, but deep enough to have many southern characteristics. Among them certainly were gentility, courtesy, and sweet talkin', liberally infused with the ubiquitous y'aaaaaall. Texan communication that my parents knew was bright and rich and fertile with phrases that told stories, conjured pictures, conveying with florid precision the true spirit of the tale.

But this couple of kids from North Texas went north, past Oklahoma, out into the great unknown, where there were probably giants. All the way to Canada they went. And when they landed in a small Canadian community, they were foreigners indeed. The subdued, reserved Canadians, with their clipped, quick articulation, were impossible for Texan ears to understand, and conversely, Canadians could only widen their eyes in wonder at the elongated parlance coming from my parents' mouths. To some they sounded like hayseeds; but some found them charming, and would ask questions just to elicit the tones, the cadence - no matter the meaning.

Through the years, my parents lost much of the color. Their ears became accustomed to northern confabulation. Gradually all those sweet phrases evaporated. They sped up their own speech without even knowing, which caused great consternation among Texas kin when they returned home for visits.

In my parents' minds, Texas is lodged as it was more than 50 years ago. They think the language is still as luscious as it was then. Their ears still want to curl around that speech, as Texan as katydid or locust song in the summer. But, with the exception of some small towns where the older Texan generation is waning and disappearing, we Texans generally talk a lot like the full amalgum of all Americans who have moved hither and thither across the country, picking up idioms, losing others. We are homogenized. We don't talk so pretty anymore, for sure.

I long to hear the pretty, so on the occasions I do, I'm tickled beyond the words.

I've been making some changes in my medical care - new specialists and a new primary care physician. I visited him for the first time last week. His examination was thorough, and he remarked that I had a little (ahem) build-up in one of my ears. I made a face, and he said, "Don't worry. It doesn't look like it's been there for a century."

I said, "Hey, you shouldn't use words like 'century' when you're talking to someone as old as I am."

He winked his young, sly eye at me and said, "Aww, your breath still smells of mother's milk."

"I loooooove you," I drawled out, in Scarlet fashion, barely stopping the word "Suuuuugar" from following. (After a certain age, you can get by with that, though, you know.)

I suspect I have a pretty talk cohort.

Wednesday, September 06, 2006

Casualty of Re-Entry

I might jump in as if today was a new starting point, without trying to backtrack and explain anything. But, I have to talk about our vacation, which is now something of a distant memory; we were on the back side of it, coming home a month ago. For many people, a month can contain worlds.

Climbing up, up to the heights of Rocky Mountain National Park is physically, but also symbolically rising above the mundane world. We were lowlanders in rare air that made us breathe differently and altered our minds as well. We were incapable of contemplating problems we left fettered to our real lives. From that elevated perspective, the lower levels of life seemed to be attached to chronology in super fast motion, while we were privileged to visit a plane where time is measured in eons, and alterations are ascribed to percentages of eons. Like, when they say a chasm was formed 600 million years ago (half an eon), or a volcano erupted 60,000 years ago and scattered lava rocks about, which still lay where they fell, as if it were a mere moment past.

Nothing about those mountains has changed save piles of rocks that slid down a precipice 100 years ago. The only changes are man made in the form of roads or trails or inobtrusive villages, and that onslaught has been at snail's pace. Don and his grandfather visited Colorado every summer to camp when he was a boy. His grandfather took hundreds of pictures of visitas, which we revisited and appear absolutely unchanged. We can prove it.

The mountains are vast, the valleys are vast, the ecosystem is vast and oblivious to man. I was rendered so small, so without power or ego, like I was in the presence of God and completely undone by His immensity. The words of scripture, "Who is man that thou art mindful of him?" played in my head over and over. The miracle of what I believe: that He is ever mindful of me almost overwhelmed me.

Our days were simple - everything at the lowest common denominator. Who was showering when, where would we eat, what road would we explore? The smallness of basic existence in that setting was completely satisfying. I was sure I could stay there, on that schedule, for the rest of my life and not feel hunger for more.

I thought, "I'm changed. I will divest myself of everything when I return home. I don't need anything but half of what I packed in my bags." And I meant it when I thought it. How then, now that I have been back only a month, have I so reverted? How is it that I do want? How is it that I so quickly picked up speed, and fell into many of the same old patterns that felt foreign at re-entry? How could I so easily re-affix filters, like social expectations and modern thinking, that I removed on the high places?

Did you ever see Continental Divide with John Belushi? That's me. Going through the "normal" motions, with a look of bewilderment on my face.

Thursday, July 27, 2006

We're Off

In case anyone thinks I have gone AWOL, I wanted to let you know we are off to Colorado, land of mountains and lofty trees and all manner of wildlife, including fish, which we will be pursuing. I have never fished in my life - no not ever - but D visited Wal-Mart last week and came home with two poles and a plastic box filled with colorful and squiggly lures and bate. I even bought shoes that are appropriate for fishing, being as how my cute sandals would just not cut it in the wilderness.

More than fish, we are in pursuit of coolness, blessed coolness. I anticipate that my clothing will not stick to me the minute I step out the front door the entire time I am there. With perfect faith that we will indeed encounter chilly evenings, I bought a blue jean jacket. I know. I know. It is almost inconceivable that one would need such a thing at the end of July/first of August. But I am assured that a light wrap might feel wonderful in the evening, when we will stroll after dining - just on sidewalks, mind you. I have no wish to encounter bear or even wandering elk, but I think they will stay out of the middle of Estes Park after sundown.

I'll have stories, I just know it, and I will share them when I return, although I may need a few days to come back to normal after VACATION!

Au revoir, mes amis.

Sunday, July 23, 2006

Sunday Scribblings - Thief!

I never stole when I was a little girl or a teenager, being absolutely assured of the repercussions if such a sin was discovered. My conscience was molded and sharpened until even the tiniest potential for ill-gotten gain was guarded against - as witnessed by my incessant counting and re-counting of change, lest I accept more than I was meant to receive. I always gave back what was not due me.

My foray into thievery was way out of the scope of my character, and a big surprise to me (In case you should think I am purporting some kind of perfection, trust me when I say all aspects of my character were not and are not perfectly chiselled in stone. I've got lots of cracks!). It happened when I was over the age of 40, and it happened without malice of forethought. As a matter of fact, I did not even know I had engagegd in thievery until after the fact.

We had moved away from the Northeast, but I frequently returned for business. On some of my trips, Bethany accompanied me, and we took the opportunity to play in New York City. When living in New Jersey, I had explored the wonders of the city, but it was not until we were living in Texas that I came to realize what delights could be found at ABC Carpet & Home. Reference sections of decorating magazines often mentioned the store. So, I planned a little time at the end of a business trip for Beth and me to visit the decorator's Mecca.

Entering that seven-story holy shrine to beautiful things was a heart-stopping experience. Bethany had to pull me out of the way of other customers. My feet had become leaden and were planted right inside the front door, where I gawked like the most unsophisticated of tourists. The place is organized into distinct departments, but it feels like you have entered a great potentate's palace - one who has an outrageous sense of humor - such is the lavishness of chandeliers and woven rugs and carved furniture and brilliant eye-candy art and accessories. Nudged from my trance, I lurched about, touching, grinning like a loon might before his ghastly guffaw. Wooden floors creaked and old elevators squeaked. Though unspeakably gorgeous, the store was not foreboding, but positively welcoming to even me in my hayseed state.

There were unique pieces for which I would gladly have taken credit cards to the edges of their limits, but even so, I knew there was not a suitable place in our home to showcase them. I finally picked out a few small accessories that could be accommodated in my luggage and found the closest gleaming, wooden check-out stand, with chatty, smiling clerks scurrying behind.

With great courtesy, someone accepted the bounty of finds in my arms and began de-tagging, entering into the computer and stashing in a large shopping bag. I proferred my credit card and completed the back-and-forth process of signing the ticket, accepting the receipt from the clerk, who was fluttering between customers, and hoisting the bag. As I did, I noticed that one of my treasures was still on the counter - a French-blue frame for a 4 inch by 6 inch picture, made of old, painted wood, abused and weathered, charming. I popped in in my large bag and headed for the door.

Beth and I whisked ourselves back to our hotel, packed quickly and caught an early evening plane. It was not until I was filing my receipts at home the next day that I began to think about the total cost of my purchases in light of all I had ended up with. I went down the list, inspecting my receipt - and it wasn't there! The blue, aged frame was NOT THERE. I had simply taken it from the counter and absconded with it, right out the front door of ABC. I hadn't looked guilty because I didn't know I was. No one yelled, "Stop, thief!"

A few short minutes later, after going through operator assistance, I was speaking with ABC. "I took something from your store yesterday without paying. I'd like to send you the money." Silence, then again, "How may I direct your call?" I repeated my horrible confession, vaguely aware of what an idiot I must sound like. "What department would you like to speak to?" I didn't know exactly. The frame had been displayed in a bedroom setting. Was it the bedroom furniture department? I set about trying to describe my unpurchased treasure and where I had found it. The piece had no identifying mark for reference.

"I believe the price was $38," I said. "Should I send my check to someone's attention in particular?" I was put on hold for a long period of time, and a new person, just as mystified as the first returned to the phone. I told my story again. That person was followed by a third.

I guess there are not many attacks of conscience when people take merchandise without paying. The employees did not appear to be trained to handle the situation. To be sure, they did not know what to make of my insistence that I pay what I owed. A very frustrated clerk finally told me to just forget it. She had no idea how to get the money into the system. I let that roll around in my head for a few days, but I just couldn't do it. I wrote a quick little letter of explanation and mailed a check for $38 plus applicable tax to ABC Carpet & Home. The check was indeed cashed.

Do you think they started a conscience account?

Thursday, June 15, 2006

Starting Over

And hoping I can bring all my friends along.

After I recover a little from all the pain of the past couple of days, of the shock of having someone read my words that I never intended to hurt, I'll be back. I have to keep writing - now that the floodgates have been opened. Honesty feels good, but it has its price.