Midnight Snack

You’re out on your deck enjoying a look at the stars and you toss your cheese rind and pear cores over the edge of the deck into the dark abyss. It’s late winter, pretty dry and there are not many night sounds. Occasionally there is the stray whistle of a thrushie bird or a distant chirp of grasshopper. You’re really deep into the silence of the night, and the awareness that there are at least a zillion more stars in Oiron here than anywhere else you’ve ever been. You think, “It’s just me out here alone with the universe.”

Just as you rest your wine glass on the railing, lean back into the mesh of your chair and put your feet up you think you hear a new sound. At first, it’s a gentle shush, a leaf turning over somewhere, and you go back to gazing at the cosmos. Then you hear it again. Leaning forward, straining to see over the railing of the deck into the smothering blackness you get a creepy sensation and the hair on your neck starts to prickle. You hear a rustle of leaves over there and here and up there and down there and right underneath the deck you’re now standing on.

It’s beginning to sound like something really big, spread all over the place, is slowly creeping up on you, like the Blob, like Seymour in the Little Shop of Horrors, but you see nothing. The fruit and cheese and wine start an argument in your stomach resulting in a sour sensation that momentarily distracts you. You reach up and smooth the hair standing on end on the back of your neck, rub your stomach, push the slider open and hit the outside light switch.

The sound seems to be converging on one spot so you timidly go back out on the deck and very slowly, knees just a wee bit jittery, peer over the edge. And there they are.

Hundreds of hermit crabs on maneuvers, soldier crabs. Scrabbling along the ground and over everything in sight, their top shaped black and white shells point upward and slightly askew. They’re piling up on the remnants of your midnight snack.

A really big one the size of a softball has a core and it’s turning it over in its red blue  claw the size of your thumb. Black thready feelers, red legs and swaying conical shells  are everywhere. Crabs  are scrambling over dead logs and rocks heading for the melee. Looking up hill and down hill you discover there are more of them than you can count,  in all sizes, moving much faster than seems possible.

Sitting back down you contemplate your half full wine bottle. It would not be a good thing to drink too much and fall off the deck, you tell yourself, trying to regain your former sense of cosmic order. It’s no use. You know now they’re out there, waiting.

Tomorrow: Hermie Houdini

The island of St. John is loaded with what we northerners would call hermit crabs. Locally they are referred to as soldier crabs (Coenobita clypeatus) because of their propensity to move through the bush in huge numbers like an advancing army. The first time you become acquainted with this phenomenon it can really unnerve you.

© 2010 Jennifer M. Pierce, All Rights Reserved

Lunar Observation

I woke up in a snarl of sheets and blankets diagonally across my bed this morning. It was a restless night. My mind was very clear though, and this is the word that was right there the moment I knew I was awake: observation.

Now my revelation is fading fast with the light of day, and I’m chasing it down like a lizard after mosquitoes. I lunge and miss, lunge and miss and then latch on with a satisfied smack. I remember. It’s about moonlight.

I read a book recently titled Caribbean Poetry, Folktales and Short Stories, self published by Ophelia Powell Torres and Victor Torres. I don’t know them, but reading their little tome is a lot like successful treasure hunting.

Here’s the last line on page eleven, a poetic list of adages with the heading “Tales to Live By” :

Never fall asleep under the moonlight, you may get up with your mouth twisted.

Oh boy, are they ever right! Here I am now, like a dog mouthing its hindquarters relentlessly in search of an annoying flea.

I am reminded of Keswick, my farmer friend across way, in Maine. He used to say that if the light of a full moon hit you while you were sleeping, it would make you crazy. He said he slept with his head in the closet when the moon was full. I’m not going to comment on his sanity here.

A psych nurse who worked in the Supermax prison once told me that full moon nights were the busiest, and I’ve heard the same thing from friends in law enforcement and other psych units.

Here’s where the observation comes in: It’s not only people who have already gone over the edge of something who are lunatics, this can happen to anyone careless enough to sleep with their blinds up on a clear night.

© 2010 Jennifer M. Pierce, All Rights Reserved

Pocket Notes

It is amazing how the past can spill over into the present, like early morning light falling on a hillside in shadow. Here is a remembrance of a friendship from my past triggered by thinking about an object.

I think of the repeated mention of moleskin notebooks by female writers. I wonder what they mean exactly. I picture moleskin as being that felt like sticky stuff Dr. Scholls sells for treating blisters, bolstering the fit of shoes, cushioning the bottoms of chairs to protect the floors from scratches. I think back to my own penchant for pocket notebooks and wonder if moleskin notebook is a trendy badge of identification for a writer because of Joan Didion’s writing about hers. I wonder if it’s like Birkenstock and long Indian print skirts identifying an alternative life style. I remember my own search for a small notebook that would neatly fit in my back pocket. I was always wanting to write something down.

Then I remember this.

I scoured every store I could find in the Greater Boston area. I wanted a book which would not only hold paper that could be replenished, I wanted it to hold a pen or pencil as well. After months of looking I found a tiny Etienne Aigner leather bound book smaller than a shirt pocket. It had a retractable lead pencil that fit into a tight loop of leather and a brass snap ring binder. It was perfect. But it carried a price tag that was nearly a third of my weekly paycheck at the time. I longed for that notebook. Not one to spend frivolously, I kept on purchasing small spiral notepads and clipped a ball point pen to my shirt instead. And secretly, I was reluctant to be identified with this fashion designer who reminded me of my mother’s “Career Shop” taste. I was in the process of truly becoming me.

A man was in love with me in those days. He was an only child, first generation Italian. I was the only serious love in his thirty three years, and he wanted to marry me. For my birthday the last year we were friends he presented me with a box containing three gifts. He said there was a present for each of the iterations of me. One  for the practical tomboy , the practical thrifty hands-on girl and the others are for the soft feminine woman she conceals.

The professionally wrapped package contained three things: The oxblood red leather bound notebook with an embossed horseshoe logo I coveted. A dark blue Long’s Jewelry Store box containing a delicate gold heart shaped pendant with a tiny diamond suspended from a wisp of chain. A long pale pink granny style night gown with discrete lace at the neckline.

I left this friendship not long after these gifts were given, wounding my friend mortally, I think.

He was still living at home in the room where he spent his entire life. He returned each night to the bed he slept in as a child, his mother’s only son. I finalized my divorce because of him, but in the end I knew- he would always be his mother’s son, and she his number one. I had no desire to compete with that strong bond. I never said I was sorry and he never forgave me. He stalked me for years, heartbroken and enraged; sent vicious poison pen letters and cleverly insulting gifts. Then his voice fell silent.

Of these gifts, only the well used notebook remains. Its snap rings are rigid, locked in place with verdigris, the rich red dye has bled from its corners, the pencil and its replacement are long gone. The night gown, worn only once, I donated to the Goodwill Store. I left the delicate gold necklace hanging on a temporary cardboard marker in a perfectly landscaped enormous cemetery twenty years after it was given

I had driven from Maine to the grave yard north of Boston where this former love, this man-boy was laid to rest; then spent hours in this stark impersonal place where the rules on the map said no sitting on the grass.

Kneeling on the sod in defiance I tried to  absorb the meaning of the moldering flowers, read the ribbons imprinted “Dearest Cousin”, wept. I had missed the funeral by a week. I was breathing in the past and exhaling apologies for breaking this man’s heart. I loved my friend, who I feel certain never forgave me. He had given me many gifts, his deep friendship the best of all. I told him so, in that place of perpetual care. I shared with him the parts of me that not even he could understand, forgave him there, for loving me.

© 2010 Jennifer M. Pierce, All Rights Reserved

Ebb and Flow

The bright moonlight and intermittent showers woke me up early today, 4:04am to be precise. I am probably some sort of lunatic. The days around full and new moon tug at my sleeping body, like the minute shift in gravity that forces tides to be more extreme during these lunar phases. I don’t sleep well; flop around like a grunion on a Pacific beach.

Restless, I get up and go out on the deck to make myself a cup of coffee. There is no way I am going to be able to sit quietly in the zero gravity lounger and meditate the coming day into existence. This restless gravity affected morning calls for what I have named mindless walking. I pace back and forth over the same spot for long stretches. In my current abode that space is the confines of my deck, and ell fifteen by seventeen. I can navigate this ell in the pitch dark without bumping into anything. I usually wear shoes, scorpions sometimes inhabit the cracks between the decking boards, and bits of catch and keep find their thorny way onto the piece of carpet serving as a door mat.

This morning I walk barefoot, because my Crocs are not handy. The gravel and fallen leaves that have blown and washed onto the deck crinkle and crunch underfoot. I have a sudden idea of how to keep the gravel off the deck, and am surprised it has never occurred to me before.

I let this thought go and do my back and forth, back and forth noticing the transition of light from moon to sun. I think, this moment is the cusp, when moonlight gives way to daylight. The crystal blue-white radiance of moon seeps magically into to the warm magenta tinged gold of early sun rays. The seemingly weighty cumulus of  basalt gray morph into lighthearted mouse gray fluff afloat in sky-blue pink. The upward thrust crests of the far hillside emerge from deep green black; turning from the color of a still pool in summer to a radiant golden tone reminiscent of unpolished brass. My mind is stuck on color shifts and my writing assignment. I’m working on descriptive narrative.

Then I start thinking about my lifetime relationship with the sky. I remember how much of the poetry I have written depicts the sun and moon and sky, since I was seven years old. I think, this is my constant. I want more of it.

I have lived in a lot of places, and never before this moment on the deck, walking mindlessly, could I honestly say I knew what I wanted.

I am dumbstruck because I have not been thinking of wants. I have been focused on the now, what is. In my mindless walking some interesting bits of data have risen to surface, either shaken up by the gentle jostling of my gait, or has become congealed with the constant rhythmic churning of my body, like butter from cream.

I want to live where I can see 180 degrees from northeast to southwest so I can watch the sun and moon carve their arcs through the seasons, so I will never again check the radar or turn on the weather radio except during hurricane season. I want to live where I can greet and salute the sun and moon by rising and setting with them in my line of sight. I want to see the horizon.

I have no notion of how I can realize this new awareness, but there it is. I am accustomed to these mysteries. I know now it will not leave me. I will know it in every truncated rising and setting, ebb and flow.

© 2010 Jennifer M. Pierce, All Rights Reserved