A day with no worries
A carefree 24 hours
A life built on structure
Isn’t meant to flow without consequences
Or is it?
Structure provides a frame
That can allow the freedom of imagination
A day filled with dreaming
Following the current of a fleeting thought.
Where will it lead?
It might be fun to find out.
A fine balance
Atop a sharp peak
Leaning on each other
We will not fall
After a strenuous climb
With tenuous hand holds
Arms in the air
We lean out
How far can we stretch
While supporting each other
Grows from struggling together
From learning each other’s strengths
From learning each other’s failures
A balance of strength
And of weaknesses
Each knowing the other will stand
A long life together
Slipping into valleys
A moment to celebrate
A hard-wrought partnership
Born of trust, built of love
A fine balance
Sometimes when the light is just right
It captures a leaf or a blade of grass
And they pulse with life
I imagine busy cells
Out of sunlight
And I smile
Plants are feeding
Chickens don’t make very good practice raptors. They’re not wild, fierce predators. They don’t twist their heads to bite my hand. They don’t try to shred my skin with their talons, although they could if they wanted. They do try to spread their wings to fly out of my grasp. They get bored with roll playing and would rather peck at bugs on the ground. I haven’t tried to pick up my not-fierce-predator chickens wearing leather gauntlets that limit my mobility. That’s next.
I need practice raptors before I pick up actual raptors. I thought the chickens would be better for practice than the cat, although he is wilder and more predatory. But he doesn’t have wings or two taloned feet that can be held in one hand. He’ll bite, but he doesn’t have a long enough neck to grasp with one gloved hand. Or a beak. He’s a poor stand-in for a turkey vulture. Or a hawk. Or an owl. But he does howl.
I need practice raptors because the next phase in my new bird care career is handling raptors in the hospital and rehab facility where I volunteer. Sick and injured birds are dropped off daily. Most are small birds that are examined and gently placed in baskets for care. Raptors are different. A trained volunteer holds raptors while they are examined by the resident expert. So, I need to learn how to pick up a raptor from its traveling box and hold its sharp ends while the expert pokes and prods, pulls feet, and spreads wings.
I don’t want to be responsible for a shredded, bleeding resident bird expert. So, I practice. Or I try with somewhat willing chickens.
Pindi burst into the grand hall panting, her hands on her knees, trying to catch her breath.
“Mother, Father, Mindi, the dragons are back!” Pindi gasped between breaths. “Can we go greet them? Please? There are so many! They’re resting in the Crape Myrtle Trees. Ka-a and his friends made room for them.”
“May we,” Queen Caelia corrected.
“May we go greet them?” Pindi repeated, bouncing from one foot to the other, impatient to get going.
“They’re here early,” said King Bran. “Let’s go speak with them. I’d like to hear about their migration.”
“There are lots of babies and young dragons with them,” Pindi said. “We can make friends.”
King Bran and Queen Caelia flew towards the front of the garden, followed by Pindi and Mindi. They saw hundreds of dragons sitting in the Crape Myrtle Trees. The dragons looked down from the branches, their long necks curving gracefully. Their wings shone with every color of the rainbow. Their eyes were kind.
“Wow!” whispered Mindi. “They’re beautiful.”
“Argan, Feyran, we are happy to see you,” King Bran called to the leaders of the blaze of dragons. “How was your migration?”
“King Bran, Queen Caelia, Princesses Pindi and Mindi,” replied Argan, nodding his head regally. “We are happy to see you. We had to leave our summer lands early. There were huge storms coming. I wanted to be gone before the winds and rains started. We flew quickly, ahead of the storms.” Argan was very formal in addressing the fairies. Fairy was not his best language. He spoke slowly and sometimes stumbled on the words.
“Did you have any trouble along the way?” asked King Bran.
Bored by the adults’ conversation, Pindi and Mindi flew over to a small group of young dragons.
“Hi,” they said. “We’re Pindi and Mindi. Welcome to our land. Let’s be friends!”
The young dragons all spoke at once, none of it in Fairy.
“I guess they don’t speak Fairy,” said Mindi. “We don’t speak Dragon. What shall we do?”
“We don’t need to talk,” said Pindi. We can use signs and gestures. And we can teach each other our languages.”
“Come on, let’s fly,” Pindi called to the dragons as she gestured with her arm. “Let’s go.”
A half dozen young dragons lifted off from the Crape Myrtle Tree and followed Pindi and Mindi.
“What if someone sees us?” Mindi asked.
“Don’t worry,” Pindi replied. “Most humans can’t see fairies, let alone dragons. We’re invisible to them because they don’t believe in us.”
Dragons are much larger than fairies, and they fly faster. Pindi and Mindi flew as fast as they could after the dragons, but they couldn’t catch up. They stopped at the large fir tree to rest.
“I don’t think they know they left us behind,” said Mind, pouting. “I wanted to get to know them.”
Just then, the dragons turned and flew back towards the Crape Myrtle Trees calling to Pindi and Mindi in Dragon.
“We’re here!” Pindi shouted, jumping up and down on a branch. “Over here!”
The dragons heard them and turned as a group, colors swirling like a sparkling rainbow.
One of the dragons nodded towards the fairies, turned her head, and jerked her neck back.
“I think she’s trying to tell us to climb in her back,” said Mindi. “Let’s go.”
Pindi chose a purple dragon and Mindi chose a pink one. They climbed up and the dragons took flight.
Pindi directed her dragon by pulling on her scales to go right or left. Mindi’s dragon followed. They flew until the dragons were tired, then headed back to the Crape Myrtle Trees. The dragons landed on branches and Pindi and Mindi leaped off their backs.
“That was fun!” Pindi said. “Let’s try to talk with the dragons.”
Mindi bowed her head to her dragon and said clearly, pointing at herself, “my name is Mindi.”
She repeated “Mindi” again. Her dragon nodded. She tried to say Mindi, but she couldn’t quite get her mouth around the sounds.
Mindi shrugged and pointed at her dragon and asked, What’s your name?”
“Spark,” said the pink dragon.
To Mindi, it sounded like “sssssparkkkk”. She tried to say the pink dragon’s name with the appropriate number of s’s and k’s. It was hard.
Spark smiled. Mindi’s attempt at saying her name was pretty good.
Pindi pointed to herself and said to her dragon, “my name is Pindi.”
The purple dragon looked puzzled. To her, Pindi sounded just like Mindi. Two fairies with the same name? That was weird.
Pindi pointed to the dragon and asked, “what’s your name?”
“Dazzle,” said the purple dragon.
Pindi tried to pronounce what sounded to her like “sszzazzle”.
Dragons and fairies giggled and tried to say each other’s names until Pindi heard her father call.
“Time to go,” she said. “Goodbye, it was fun flying with you today.”
At dawn the next morning, the blaze of dragons lifted from the branches of the Crape Myrtle Trees and flew south to their wintering grounds in the desert. It was a short stay, but Pindi and Mindi hoped Spark and Dazzle would be back next year.
The clock strikes one. I open my eyes. Marc’s not in bed. I wait, thinking he’s in the bathroom, then I hear the TV. I get up and pad to the TV room, blinking against the light. It hurts my eyes.
“I can’t sleep.”
“Can I get you some tea? Some melatonin?”
“No, I’ll just watch TV for a while. I’ll be in soon.”
I go back to bed.
The clock strikes two. Marc still isn’t in bed. I hear him snoring in the TV room and think he’ll be sore in the morning from sleeping on that small couch.
The clock strikes three. I wake to the slow, hypnotic massage of the cat kneading his fleece blanket against my ankles. His purring rumbles softly as his kneading slows and his magic fleece pulls him into sleep. I wish I had a magic fleece. Marc still isn’t in bed.
The clock strikes four. I hear Marc shuffle into the bedroom, sure of his way in the dark, but wary of shadows that might coalesce into a cat jumping in ambush at his ankles. But that cat is asleep on my feet.
The clock strikes five. I can feel that morning is close. Marc is snoring. I get up and walk around the bed to check the water in his CPAP. Empty. I wake him up. He fills the CPAP reservoir and resumes snoring, although more quietly.
The clock strikes six. The sky is brightening. Marc is still snoring. I toss and turn, trying to find a position that doesn’t make by hip hurt. I dislodge the cat, who meows in protest and goes back to sleep, but not on my feet.
The clock strikes seven. Marc gets up and goes downstairs. The cat continues to snore at the foot of the bed.
The clock strikes nine. I slept for two hours! I wish I could sleep more, but I can’t. Neither can the cat. He wants breakfast. I want coffee. And a nap.
Joe trudged slowly down the sidewalk towards the boarding house where he was staying. The wind was cold; he pulled his coat closer around his neck and shoved his hands in his pockets. He wanted a cigarette. Badly.
The strains of a piano drifted out from the club in the middle of the block. Jazz. The music pulled him in.
Inside, the air was blue from smoke. He breathed deeply, taking in that cigarette flavor. God, he missed smoking. He took another deep breath, filling his lungs with second-hand nicotine.
It was warm in the club. It smelled of alcohol, tobacco, and old perfume. The flor was scratched, the tables slightly sticky. A quartet was warming up their instruments at the back of the room. Stand up microphones gleamed in reflected light.
Joe found an empty table and sat. He hung his coat over the back of the chair and put his hat – his favorite felt fedora – on the table. Sandy brought him his regular drink – whisky, neat – without asking.
Joe signed. This felt more like home than the cold, dark boarding house with its hard mattress and thin blankets. There was no welcoming comfort that. Only cold charity.
He leaned back in his chair and stretched his legs. He watched the band start to play. As the song built, he closed his eyes and smiled.
Drifting, Joe dreamed of dancing, lighter than air, his wife in his arms. As long as there was music, he could dream. He could remember when life was good. Before the explosion that took his wife, his home, and left him with pins and shrapnel in his back. Before he lost his job as a mechanic because he couldn’t bend. Before his hands shook when he tried to use a wrench. Before. As long as there was music, he could dream. He was home.