August

A recipe soon (a quite kick-ass one too, IIDSSM), but first, a tale based upon actual events:

August is when my list-writing gets out of hand. All summer, lists have been written—grocery lists, yard ideas, small plans for future dates, general to-do’s. These are well-behaved lists: written legibly, categorized in neat columns on a sheet of paper. Optimistic, energetic words that inspire organized action and accomplishment. Neat bullet points that are crossed off and then tossed in the recycling:
* yoga
* groceries
* call dentist
* grill PM
* paint

But as summer progresses and nears completion, the lists turn, and take on a panicked and accusatory quality. These are no longer to-do lists, but guilty lists of things not done; things that should have been done. Summer things whose viable time is rapidly diminishing:
“paint house, stain deck, beach soon”.

The structure of the August lists mirror the state of my brain. No longer are words written out in-full on neat note-pads. Gone are the prim bullet points. These are words scrawled on anything that is handy at the time, on scraps of paper that clutter every surface and get lost easily under things, including new lists.
The words are abbreviated to the point of incomprehension when unearthed days later:
“fab”,
“ging/pep ic”,
“tri mob”.

These lists are more plentiful, yet shorter, and document every aspect of my converging lives without attention to genre or scale:
“util bill, wrench, job ideas” share a shred of paper near the coffee maker;

“mulch, blog” under a stack of library books;

on the nightstand: “memories, IC recipes, coffee”.

Occasional words are boldly visible; judgmental:
“dentist!!!”, “FURNACE”,
while others with question marks are lost quickly, embarrassed, knowing they will not receive further consideration:
“fix laptop?”, “gym memb?”

Most of the August lists have been written out of compulsion or desperation–scribbled hastily to free up mental real-estate and then abandoned.
But at some point, these lists reach a critical mass and begin a gravitational pull toward consolidation.
For companionship, maybe.
Small paper fragments containing single words slip out from under magazines and bills and fall to the floor. They flutter down from countertops and shelves and begin inching toward each other. They origami-fold into little mobile creatures:
airplanes, paper cranes, butterflies, jumping frogs, and they begin to assemble in the living room.

When they’ve all extracted themselves from their nooks and crannies, I can see their immense volume and I back away uneasily. I unwittingly continue to add to their numbers with mental to-do’s that flow out of my head and collect with the paper lists.

In short time my living space is too uncomfortable to share with them and I’m forced outside. They creep toward the door, following, determined little reminders, so I start walking.
The direction doesn’t seem to matter, so I choose uphill, perhaps so the still-spilling words from my head will have a harder time following me once they hit the ground.
My pace is uneven at first and the lists tumble out of my brain in a chaotic flood, soaking the pavement behind me. But as my feet find their rhythm, the flood becomes a neater, two-dimensional sheet, and then thin further still to mere strands of connected ideas.

I climb further uphill and the traffic and asphalt give way to tall grasses and dirt. The words are not even a trickle now and I’m sweaty in the late-day sun, so with the drill of cicadas fatiguing me, I stop on the narrow path and rest. I sit down and look up, my brain still stubbornly trying to list, but there’s not a word, idea, plan, or thought left undocumented.
I lean back, relieved, and watch the sky. Tree branches have formed a catcher’s mitt for the setting sun and the tall grasses bend in over me. Wispy clouds are tinted orange and pink and, unable to help myself, I start forming a word with them—the only yet-unlisted word I can find.
I pull and shape the clouds to make letters:
S-L-E-E-P.
And now, finally, everything listed and my head peacefully empty, I lay down and close my eyes.

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