Sunday, May 2, 2010

Glory Days

I’m driving down I-5, somewhere between Grants Pass and Medford. Driving through the mountains always gives me a bit of a rush. There’s skill involved in that kind of driving, making sure I have enough power on the way up and enough control on the way down. The whole time I work to balance my attention. I’d just as soon stare out the window at the ridgelines and trees above or the farms and ranches below, but those wickedly sharp curves and lumbering semi trucks demand their share of my brain. The CD clicks over to the next song and all of a sudden there is something else competing for my attention. Bruce Springsteen ushers me into my weekend in Ashland, the town of my college years.

Now I think I'm going down to the well tonight
and I'm going to drink till I get my fill
And I hope when I get old I don't sit around thinking about it
but I probably will
Yeah, just sitting back trying to recapture
a little of the glory of, well time slips away
and leaves you with nothing mister but
boring stories of glory days

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I show up at the potluck, I can already hear folks pickin’ guitar on the back porch. Ruby, the fat old dog who used to be my lithe hiking companion rushes out the door to leap at me, crying with excitement at seeing me again after all this time. Ruby’s owner comes to the door to greet me, his four year old daughter hiding behind his legs. We hug like old friends who haven’t seen each other in too long because that’s what we are. I make my rounds at the party, warmly greeting the people I have loved for years and introducing myself to the new folks who I imagined I could love if I still lived in this town. Talk soon turns to babies – two of my dear friends are massively pregnant and my friend and his wife just had their second baby less than a month ago. I’m happy and sad. I want this, but there is so much more to want and not want about this place.

Soon I am holding the baby, her blue eyes open and staring into mine. The smell, oh lord, there is no smell like that of a new baby’s head. I sit in that cozy front room, humming songs, surrounded by pregnant women and older mothers talking love. The smell is still with me.

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Driving up into the mountains again, alone this time, more Bruce on the CD player. This road is so full of memories. The overlook I stopped at with this boyfriend, a roadcut we visited on a memorable geology field trip. Every curve, every tree, every view holding such strong memories of times past. 20 minutes up the road and I pull into the driveway of a park I’ve never been to. I read on the internet that they have a labyrinth made out of field stones in a meadow overlooking town. I could use some centering and grounding.

The labyrinth is exactly as beautiful as I expected it to be. Turkey vultures, ravens and robins have made their appearances on my walk and a giant, stately oak tree looks over the labyrinth. As I walk thoughts of the night before come back. It was uncomfortable; being in Ashland often is these days. Like trying on your favorite jeans from 10 years ago. Even if they fit they just don’t feel right, they aren’t right for now. My early 20s were such emotional times but I think I didn’t realize it at the time that revisiting the memories requires me to process it all in a way I didn’t or couldn’t then.

Along the path of the labyrinth there are tiny pink flowers, small rabbitbrush plants and even a small pine tree. Their presence in the here and now brings to mind the children and babies I spent time with that morning. May Day opens the door to summer and these beautiful little girls, along with the natural presence surrounding me, are showing me the door to my next set of Glory Days. They are here, now, and maybe in the future. The past doesn’t bother them, not even the mountain who watched it all come and go. Why am I spending so much anxiety over what happened back then? Those days were Glory Days, but there are Glory Days coming up, too. Those little girls, those flowers, that raven and that mountain all have the prime of their live coming up. And so do I. These are Glory Days now, in fact, these are Better Days!

Well my soul checked out missing as I sat listening
To the hours and minutes tickin' away
Yeah, just sittin' around waitin' for my life to begin
While it was all just slippin' away
I'm tired of waitin' for tomorrow to come
Or that train to come roarin' 'round the bend
I got a new suit of clothes a pretty red rose
And a woman I can call my friend

These are better days baby
Yeah there's better days shining through
These are better days baby
Better days with a girl like you

Happy May Day!