Out of Reach

Album Leaf No. 1

IMG_0881.2aEvening on the patio.  The garden walls and house walls stretch up to a troubled sky.  “Rain,” whispers the wind.  But heat says, “Not here.  Not yet.”  In the desert that means, “Maybe not at all.”  The scent of moisture in the air is tantalizing.

From across the wall I can hear traditional New Mexican music — a tease of high trumpet, just on the edge of earshot.  A live band, maybe in Old Town Plaza or at the museum.  I used to keep track of the concerts, even knowing I couldn’t attend, but I haven’t lately.  Still, it’s lovely to picture the crowds wandering around the plaza with their ice cream cones, enjoying the music in Friday night ease.

The dog behind the walls next door has a new squeaky toy and is working hard to find the squeak.  Luther was the same with his toys — intense, puzzled.  Excited over the Great Mystery of Squeakiness.  Let down once it was solved.

The breeze carries the trumpet to me again.  It’s been joined by a couple of tenors, a little bit of cowbell.

Cowbell.  I snort into my iced tea.  Because what we really need is a little more cowbell:

Is the schtick all that funny any more?  I can’t tell.  But with that brief moment’s laughter I’m engulfed in a paradox:  that you can both be walled off alone from the world and joined to it by the things you share.  The cultural references, the memories.  Small things:  “I, too, had a dog who loved squeaky toys.” By the empathy of Friday night enjoyment, the communion of fellow-feeling, even if you’re not present with the others feeling it.  Maybe even if you’re the only one feeling it.

Metaphysics.  It’s fine in its way, but is it enough to overcome the physical barriers of walls and illness?  (Walls and illness: forever linked in my mind.)  I don’t know.  Tonight it is.  Maybe that’s all we need to ask.

IMG_0879.3aAs dusk gathers, the tip of one cloud catches fire in the last light, just out of reach of darkness.  The dog has conquered the squeak in its toy and is pawing at the door to go inside; the Great Mystery of Peace and Quiet isn’t really its thing.  I settle into the cushions on the Adirondack chair, listening hard past the crickets, hoping to hear just a little more cowbell.

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14 thoughts on “Out of Reach

  1. I loved this piece! It made me laugh (more cowbell!), brought warm memories of New Mexico back to me, and most of all, made me reflect on my own walls and sense of limitations as well as possibilities for communing across the walls. Blogs like this one certainly facilitate such efforts. Thank you for sharing such lovely writing with us.

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    1. Thank you for those lovely words, Tierra. I’m so glad this piece created an opening into a wider world of reflection for you. Glad, too, that it made you laugh. :)

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  2. This really left me to ponder as dusk settles over my day…and the noises drift in through the window…my walls being inside driven there by mosquitoes. And hearing children playing and thinking back to when I was a child and wishing I played more still…birds chattering as the sun sets, the noises of boats from the lake or motorcycles enjoying the warm dry evening. I think those walls are sometimes built by illness and sometimes built by ourselves as I do being more comfortable behind those walls though secretly wanting to break them down….well much food for thought….and yes I always need more cowbell!

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    1. Oh, Donna, I felt that same way as a child. We had to go to bed wickedly early. The sun was still up, and everyone else was outside playing. I imagine your asthma was a bigger barrier than my careful parents, though.

      Yes, we can certainly be very good wall-builders, and as Rich says below, the invisible walls are so much harder to scale. Mosquitoes are their own force to reckon with… We may actually have some here soon, as monsoon season has begun in earnest!

      Thank you for that lovely, vivid comment. I could hear the boats and motorcycles.

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  3. So many walls in life… ‘over which I never could see’ (in the words of the late Joe Strummer). This was so evocative Stacy. The sense of the New Mexico evening was with me as I read, along with the poignant feeling that something wonderful might be going on, out of sight, and just out of reach. Me, I am a ‘joiner’ by nature. I yearn to be part of life. To take part in the action. To feel the music. Even if it means I am ‘only’ playing the cowbell …Thank you for making me think, and smile x

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    1. Thank you, Jacque. As I suspect you know, there’s no such thing as “only” a cowbell! :) (Just as there are no small parts, only small actors.) I’ve always been half joiner and half loner, but there is no way the old me would have heard live music in my neighborhood on a Friday night and not gone out to track it down. Ah, well. So many walls in life, indeed — it’s a beautiful thing that they’re ever crossed at all, really. Much easier to let them stand, just because they’re already there. x

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  4. I am enjoying living behind our wall. Our palisade fence. Passing strangers and dogs are out there. But if I’m in the garden we strike up an easy conversation. A hermit I am.
    (I kept your post to enjoy last and linger on from my Feedly)

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    1. Thank you, Rich. Yes, about those invisible walls — if only we could see the right footholds… And yes to more cowbell! (Aack! I just found myself checking Amazon for cowbells.)

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  5. Solo wasn’t let down by the discovery of the squeak, Stacy. “Squeak, squeak, squeak” – drove us nuts. We’d wait until she went out into the garden and hide the blasted thing. But she’d come straight back in and stare at the exact spot where we’d hidden it. I suppose she could smell the squeak. I fancy a bit of trumpet tootling over our garden. We get the ferry’s horn when it’s foggy, low level traffic noise, wind coming in over the Channel and the limping seagull raps loudly against the window but yes, some trumpet would be nice. (I feel a little cheated that I never met Luther … though Solo could have taught him a thing or two about attention span).

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    1. Solo really had a knack, didn’t she? Why does none of that story surprise me? When I got Luther he was 1 1/2 years old and had never learned how to play. The first toy he “got” was a squeaky hamburger. I can still see him putting one thoughtful paw on it and studying the squeak very seriously for a while before putting a paw on it again — and then suddenly just cracking up with delight. So I’ve always been grateful to squeaky toys and not as annoyed as is normal. I’m glad Solo was not available to teach him a terrier’s attention span.

      A seagull at the window would be startling — like Edgar Allen Poe’s raven, only harder to rhyme. I would be only too pleased to loan you one of our mariachi bands. The one that plays in the supermarket is yours for the asking.

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