No one is upset and nothing hurts

I was dreaming this morning when a cat woke me with a bladder massage.
In the dream, my extended family was celebrating my birthday at my childhood home, around a redwood picnic table my father had built, on a sunny summer day, in the shade of a cherry tree, a maple and some redwoods.
There was picnic food on the table, no animals were trying to steal it, the sun was warm but gentle and not blinding, the way summer sun used to be.
Everyone was happy at the same time, but not excited, there was no drama, no one was sad or mad at someone, everyone got along.
My grandmother was not there. I imagine she was in Montana, as a teenager, riding horses.
My uncle, who sometimes felt compelled to be weird at gatherings, I suppose due to anxiety, was not there. He might have been in the hills filling his green and white Ford pickup with scavenged firewood.
My parents (whom I remember missing yesterday) were there. They were younger than they had been when they died. 30s or 40s. My father looked fit and was not wearing a shirt, which was typical of him in the summer at that age. I talked to my mother.
I talked to my father. I asked him how Heaven was.
No one is upset and nothing hurts, he said.
My sister gave me a letter she had written for my birthday. It was written with a wide calligraphy pen in several colors. Each color said something else, and the colors intertwined, and tangled, and she had written it in her normal handwriting not calligraphy despite the nib she was using so I was unable to read it.
I asked her to read it for me.
She was about to read it when I woke up.

Calibration

I don’t know if you do this.
Maybe you do this. Maybe it’s universal:
measure all other memories by this one memory you have.
Not necessarily a dramatic or rambunctious one.
For me it is the time I sat in the bamboo patch next to my uncle’s junk pile.
The main quality is one of peace. I was about 3-4 years old, so not in school yet.
No obligations. Summer. Warm – I had a beagle pal cuddling and watching out for me.
I was wearing bib overalls and a felt hat.
Watching chickens, those nourishing animals, scratch in the dirt.
Watching their shadows, and the shadows of the bamboo, playing in the light.
Listening to the sounds the chickens made.
No other humans to make happy or proud or otherwise perform for.
Just the peace. Lots of time. Animals. Plants. Smells. Interesting light.

Christmas Eve at the wrong supermarket

The line at the deli counter moves slowly,
but it moves. Everyone is calmer than I expected.
A young woman, maybe she’s 30, or a little younger, appears beside me,
touches me softly on the arm. Behind her the rain
stops and the sun comes out.
She stage whispers, “I’m at the wrong supermarket!”
The man in front of me, same age as her, smiles, watching this unfold.
“Not only that, you have the wrong man,” I whisper back.
Only then does she see me, old guy unlike her man in every way.
The other man chuckles with warmth.
So do I.
We have all felt what she is feeling.
She hooks her arm into his.
They leave for the right supermarket.
I stand where I am,
waiting for my cold cuts,
still feeling that touch.

He can’t be wounded cause he’s got no heart

Odin goes to the store for a smoothie at lunch. His coat pocket is full of peanuts in the shell.
Believe me when I tell you crows can go through a peanut shell in no time.

Odin gets two small smoothies because they come in bottles he can use to make smoothies at home for Loki, now that he lugged the blender back up to the kitchen from the cellar. The glass jar he used the first time, Loki finally got a janitor to open it for her.

On the way back to the office, halfway up the hill, Odin gives some peanuts to Huginn and Muninn and admires the black storm clouds gathering over the city. There is nothing like that dramatic light, is there, when sun shines on black storm clouds.

He is back in his office before the hail falls.

It doesn’t last long.

Are you happy with your life? Odin’s wife asked him.

He thought about it. He was miserable, but not with his life. It was not his life’s fault. His life was fine and he liked it and he told her that. All the circumstances of his life. Loving wife and daughters. Nice house. Job.

He was just sick of himself. His life was innocent.

He had a dream after that, a nightmare about a beige McMansion. After the dream he asked it questions. Who are the scary men? They are your fears. What is the house? The house is your life.

So maybe he wasn’t 100% happy with his life, really. But it wasn’t his life’s fault it was beige.

What say the hanged?

If you have a twin inside you, don’t stop talking to it or you will eventually forget it is there and it will turn to stone.

What say the slain?

If you think you don’t have a twin inside you, you just haven’t found it yet. Or you forgot it already.

Watch

Watch gets up early and finishes the IKEA thing in the cellar to surprise his wife, and it works, she is surprised.

You have a long lunch break on Fridays, don’t you? says his wife, and asks him to go to the Konzerthaus to get tickets she had ordered.

He drinks espresso, makes scrambled eggs, goes to work.

Watch reads an aphorism online, posted by a man who seems to have concluded that his function in life is to share wisdom. Much of the wisdom is good, so Watch keeps reading it.

This one says, The secret to unhappiness is taking life personally.

At lunch Watch walks fast to catch a streetcar, partly to get to the Konzerthaus as fast as he can, partly because a work colleague is walking the same direction, a little ahead of him, and hurrying to avoid walking with Watch for some reason. By walking the same speed, Watch prevents him from escaping; soon, though, he runs out of sadism and lets the man get away.

Watch changes streetcars twice on the way to the Konzerthaus. When he boards the second streetcar, which is half full, a woman cackles a nuthouse laugh.

Okay, thinks Watch.

Then an angry man walks past, two meters tall, wearing a leather cowboy hat. Watch is careful not to look at him, because the man is paranoid schizophrenic.

You learn to see this sort of thing.

The man is complaining about whatever.

The nuthouse laugh woman laughs again. She can’t help it. Paranoid man demands to know who is laughing, and threatens to bash their brains in whoever it is. The woman stops laughing for a couple minutes.

Soon, though, she can’t hold it back and laughs again. The man rushes back to where she sits, which is where Watch happens to be standing, and says, Who is it? Who is laughing?

The streetcar stops and Watch gets out. He walks to the next station and gets on the third streetcar, which takes him close to the Konzerthaus.

Everyone else conducting transactions at the Konzerthaus seem to be retired and in their seventies, a condition they all deal with using a variety of strategies. The man is important and loud and dominant. He spends €600 on tickets. Then he wants CDs and his act sort of falls apart here because he is not sure which CDs he wants. The cashier waits patiently, which doesn’t make him feel any better.

The woman after the man is irritable and short and impatient. She completes her transaction and then interrupts the following transaction to demand a receipt which, the cashier points out, she already has.

The other woman, in front of Watch, is nice. She tells Watch her transaction will take a long time. Watch says he is only picking up preordered, prepaid tickets, and she offers to let him go ahead. Watch expresses gratitude.

A couple sits at a table and talks about something. Meanwhile a second window opens and Watch gets the tickets and leaves.

He gets on a streetcar at an atypical stop, with an oddly shaped shelter, as if it had been designed in the 1960s to look futuristic. The streetcar putters along until they get to Karlsplatz/Oper. It stops at a light, abruptly, and the bell rings (which the drivers normally use to warn people and cars etc). It rings for a long time, then stops. The streetcar does nothing after that.

Watch looks up toward the driver’s cabin, which is in the next car, but sees nothing. No commotion, nothing that would mean accident or murder.

The doors are all closed and turned off so no one can get out.

Other streetcars start piling up behind this one. A driver forces a door open, and tells someone the driver of Watch’s streetcar had disappeared. Then he leaves and the door closes again, retrapping everyone.

Eventually, after 15 minutes, a female passenger forces a door open and everyone disembarks and uses alternative modes of transportation. Watch takes a subway. He buys food in a station. It takes him a long time to decide what to get, because everything being sold at the station has given him food poisoning at one time or another in the past.

He catches another streetcar back to work. It takes about 5 minutes to walk from the stop to his office, during which time he eats crispy chicken and rice and vegetables.

He gets back right on time.

What did the crow say

It is, in May, a pleasure to fly above a city aburst with life, juicy leaves and rooftops, worms in gutters garbage in backyards a god just standing there taking it all in and when it turns to June and just as green and warm sky blue or gray or rainy and animals and people doing their thing, it’s a pleasure it is.

And to sit on a wire or branch at midday and cars drive past below and dogs on leashes and people some fast some slow and the god of lunch sits on his bench and shares a sausage or crispy chicken, the sweet-sour sauce is sticky on the beak and must be wiped in grass, but the chicken is tender and still hot from the wok.

Skwerls clink to bark, they and everything else are in their place, the slain are on the battlefield the hanged hang everything is as it should be. A girl walks with her father and declaims the doom of all existence or at least humanity and right she may be and he puts an arm around her for a second or two and lets her go again.

Quickening

It’s Friday and on Fridays everyone has a two-hour lunch break (you do, right? If not, send a letter to your Congressman) and because Odin  has time to meander a roundabout path he almost makes it to the store before the crow notices him.

Let me tell you something: having largish birds swoop around you close enough to hear their feathers on the air quickens the heart with joy, as long as they’re not pecking at you or shitting on you or something belonging to you or where you wanted to sit.

Heart quickened, Odin buys a mylar bag of cashew nuts and dried cranberries, and a small plastic bag of miniature dried sausages.

Odin eats some nuts and eats a sausage on his way back to the bench to share with the crow.

The atmosphere is cycling back and forth between the poles of nice, sunny, late-spring day and Is it maybe going to rain or not, without ever actually raining.

When he arrives at the bench, Odin is thinking about writing a love scene with the sentence, They kissed so hard a piece of dried sausage trapped between two molars was dislodged.

The grey crow has its rules of engagement, and they include not approaching closer than four feet. It will not come onto the bench for a bite of sausage. It hides the big pieces, and some of the nuts, and eats the small pieces and the rest of the nuts and cranberries.

On a two-hour lunch break, you have time to just sit on a bench in the sun/shade/sun/shade and rejoice in being a living thing.

Part of all this.

Just a part, one part among many.

What say the slain?

How fortunate you are, this very second.

And how I love you.