Oh Very Young

“And the patches make the goodbye harder still.”

There is a hill, with picture perfect views of rolling hills and farms, where patriarchal oaks and stately sycamores stand guard over stones that fade and crack.  A creek flows at the base of this hill, and a newly planted dogwood anchors a slight apex in the hill, a corner halfway between my past and my present.

Tonight I sit cross-legged in the past, in front of a stereo, playing records, with skips and cracks and pops and all, a young boy marveling over the intricate artwork of album covers with names like “Teaser and the Firecat” and “Madman Across the Water.”  I pour over the lyrics of my dad’s records as the songs play, and the poetry comes alive with the full emotional power of music; it moves you.

It moved my dad, who passed on his own love of music by his example, which I emulate now.  A Cat Stevens disc finds its way into my cd player; Cat was one of dad’s favorites, and I understand why, for even forty years later his music is still relevant, still strikes an emotional chord.  It must be the truth then…and the truth of Cat’s lyrics are a double whammy on this hill…

Oh very young
What will you leave us this time?
You’re only dancing on this earth for a short while
And though your dreams may toss and turn you now
They will vanish away like your daddy’s best jeans
Denim Blue fading up to the sky
And though you want him to last forever
You know he never will
(You know he never will)

And the patches make the goodbye harder still

Halfway from my dogwood is a stone on this hill that I have been visiting for over thirty years.  Only thirty-seven; I understand it now from an angle that was impossible to a teenager.  Thirty-seven is Oh Very Young; what did you leave me this time, dad?

You left me music, and music bridges, music heals, music connects.  Thanks.  It still connects me to you, dad, even after all this time.

And you left me dogwoods, dad, your favorite tree, my favorite tree; and now there is one here, on our hill.

There is more connecting, dad.  At the top of this hill, just passed the dogwood, there will soon be another stone, another Oh Very Young.  This one was only forty-five, this one was even closer to me, this one still hurts.  I don’t understand why, or what to do next, but maybe you do, now.  Maybe you can help me figure it out as I traipse this dogwood divided trail of 37 to 45 steps between my past and my present.

Oh very young
What will you leave us this time?
There’ll never be a better chance to change your mind
And if you want this world to see a better day
Will you carry the words of love with you
Will you ride the great white bird into heaven
And though you want to last forever
You know you never will
(You know you never will)

And the goodbye makes the journey harder still

The dogwood stands dormant now, in late fall, leaves gone, sap retreating to the depths and protection of the inner trunk and roots, preparing for the barren days and long nights of winter, and those protections are necessary to survive the cold.  But there are buds on the ends of the branches, too, for the dogwood knows winter doesn’t last forever.  Maybe by springtime we will all be able to enjoy the creamy white blooms, cantilevered in perfect symmetry to this hill.

Oh very young
What will you leave us this time?
You’re only dancing on this earth for a short while
Oh very young
What will you leave us this time?

My youngest boy comes and gives me a big hug; he doesn’t know why dad is crying; but he sits in my lap, and we listen to Cat Stevens together…

http://touch.dailymotion.com/video/x7d3nm_cat-stevens-oh-very-young-live-hq_music

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Cedars

“Letting go gives us freedom, and freedom is the only condition for happiness.”

They drop out of the sky, unexpected, descending on the grapevines and berry patches; where did they come from?  Why are they here, in my backyard, at this moment, when they have not been here most of the year?  What brought them here at this particular time, at the same time that I am here?

How do they decide where to go, and when they get there, how do they decide how long to stay?  How do they decide where to go next?  Do they have a plan?  Or do they just take to their wings and trust in the Creator to provide for them, to guide them to the next berry patch?  What if the next berry patch is days away, do they worry about that?

So strange, the events of my life over this past year; the people that have dropped in, the ones who have dropped out.  Where did some of these people come from, where did others go, what of the ones who are here now?  How is it that I have gotten through some of these things, the days and weeks between berry patches?  How has the right person place or thing always been there exactly when I needed it the most?

What a striking, handsome bird, smooth feathers of brown-yellow silk, tails dipped in thick, still wet yellow paint, inner primaries dripping with red wax, the more so if they have been provided for well.  A black mask adds mystery and intrigue, maybe even a bit of mischief, especially when the subtle, flowing crest is raised in excitement – a pirate swashbuckler.

The Cedar Waxwing cuts a striking, dashing profile, James Bond entering a cocktail party in tailored suit, jaw squared and eyebrow raised – everyone notices the entrance.  They descend in numbers, creating a buzz, an excitement, swarming the grape vines and fruit trees, gorging on the fruit.  They are called “irruptive”, meaning they don’t fit the nice clean map lines and home ranges of other birds; sometimes they are here, when the conditions are right; sometimes they are not.  They are not defined by maps and expectations, but by their needs and minimum wants.  I envy their freedom.

I can’t help but stop and stare, their acrobatics are fascinating.  They reach out from the tiniest branch, stretching to the farthest off berry.  They hang upside down, by one foot, if they must, or they hover just off the grape raceme, or pluck a grape in a midflight dive.  There is a grace about all their movements, as if they are built for this role, as if this is the role for which they were made – and it is.

I think of my own acrobatics today, hanging from a ladder to patch the siding on a house that weighs me down with its maintenance and upkeep.  There was no grace whatsoever in my chores, just doing what needs done.  I think of the acrobatics in my life now, the constant juggling and hovering and diving and hanging by my toes most days just to get through.

It was overwhelming at first – I’ve always had a plan.  All my plans have been trashed, everything in my life seems uncertain.  But it is okay, I’m learning to wing it, and things are not falling apart; in fact they most often work out better than I could have planned.  Maybe I need to be more irruptive; maybe I’m in good company now, at least as judged by these beautiful creatures.

What a perfect day, sunny and warm!  I sit cross-legged in the green moss, in the warm sunshine, and watch the cedars, bringing them closer through high powered optics.  They are truly gorgeous creatures, the avian epitome of grace here in the comfort of all they need.  Most have stopped feeding, and are simply perched, preening, at the top of the trees, aglow in their majesty in the low late afternoon light.  Content, the Cedars, me…I don’t recall the last time I allowed myself the luxury of just sitting in the sun with such good company.

Of course nothing is static, for how would we learn and grow?  We must all adapt when the winds change.  I am distracted by a request from duty and when I return, the cedars are gone.  Where did they go?  Will they be back?  Will they cross my path again in the future, in the past?  Perhaps their gift is only the present, and I don’t regret their leaving.  I am not paralyzed by their loss, nor fearful that they won’t return, but I look forward to their re-acquaintance when the time is right, whether in this lifetime or the next…