Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Paper Airplanes In Flight


Outside winter’s display window, a lamppost lit steady falling snow all through the setting nightfall and on toward dawn. A single street lamp casted shadows into his third floor apartment office room, as he sat staring out the double-paned glass hypnotized by the accumulating snow narrowly stacking upon the ledges and roofs, which were at eye level. The gently dancing crystalized flakes lit up like luminescent schools of miniature tropical fish swimming in a giant deep ocean fishbowl. 
His room was dark except for a single curved antique lamp with its fluted glass shaped shade pointing down toward his wicker wastebasket. The deflected light brought a mood to the room that he desired, since he wanted to curl up inside his pile of woolen blankets, then burrow deep in his well-worn brown corduroy stuffed easy chair, which was a hand-me-down from his grandmother after the estate was settled, to watch the night pass silently by.
Evening snows invite silence, and the body’s need to be securely wrapped up in warmth while mesmerized by nature’s frosty rain. If it were summer, he might have the windows open listening to the droplets tap upon the window glass, but the silent snow fell as quietly as clouds drifting across the night’s sky. The absence of its sound was mystifying. 
As a child, he spent time in his room folding paper airplanes into various designs sending them through the air toward hanging targets and wastebaskets. He would lay on his bed, pillows propped up against the corner wall tossing handmade paper airplanes at his simple hanging targets that hung from kite string taped upon the ceiling. Now an adult, this historical pastime continued. He folded them without looking, and often in the dark, feeling his way along the edges of the paper with delicate precision and skill. His fingers took their time caressing the corners of the specially chosen sheets, which were picked from the stacked trays storing the various grades offered to him.
His mind often needed distraction when it could not drop anxious and repetitive thoughts into the available mental depository in order to shrink each one into rubble suitable for discard knowing that this place inside his mind would gently disarm what were actually of minimal importance.
Tonight he folded airplanes using his lightest weighted paper and tossing them at each of his two hanging Alexander Calder mobiles purchased while at the Smithsonian museum last summer when visiting a friend in Washington, DC. He enjoyed spinning the mobiles in this way, which made him feel like he had stretched beyond the mundane and into the realm of skill, like arranging the colors on a Rubik’s Cube into desired patterns.
He had lingering and nagging thoughts. Ones that would wake him at 3 A.M. wanting immediate resolution, which stressed him because it was more than likely there was not one available that would drift him back into soothing sleep.  His dreams had him on long bus rides missing stops, whereby he would have to then ride another one back to where he should have gotten off. Other dreams had him in apartments or rooms he did not recognize uncertain of what to do next.
In order to return to calm, he would sit up in his dark bedroom, pick up one of his airplanes creasing it back into a single dimension, and then fan it open tossing it toward the illuminating hallway night light. On the floor by his nightstand were several paper airplanes idly waiting for flight parked in a small box.
This activity was meditative; no mantra, no teacher, no method, only the flight of paper airplanes. Watching them move silently through the bedroom air quieted his mind drawing him away from noisy thoughts as each one soared below blue ceiling tiles toward the dim light of the hallway, tapping into memories of his youth, in silence, once more.
After several minutes he lied back down and fell back into sleep, while outside the snow quickly piled high deadening all of the evening sounds. (591 words)

Monday, January 3, 2011

The Gift


Chris and Mirriam moved onto her grandmother’s farm in New Hampshire not far from the White Mountains where her great-grandfather hid out as the First World War broke out. He was a pacifist resisting conscription into the American army. As an immigrant from Austria, he resisted a forced return to spill blood on the soil he remembered as home (so dearly). He bought a large farm with family money he inherited prior to landing on the shores of Newfoundland, Canada. He and others made their way down to New Hampshire to work as a tree climbers and fellers for hire as lumber went for the war effort.

As a young child, he fearlessly climbed every tree he saw in the small village outside of Graz scaling to cloud entangling tree limbs. In New Hampshire, he steadily scaled and trimmed trees on the estates of the wealthy industrialists.

An elderly shipping magnate moved onto his summer estate escaping the Boston high society culture he found repellent. The interest in trees and arbor studies linked these two men together as spring is to summer. The elderly man told Merriam’s great-grandfather that he had an overgrown farm nearby that he no longer wanted and suggested he take it off his hands if he would care for it properly. “Of course,” was the answer; as it had been said.

The gift was 300 acres of old growth timber, scrub trees that over powered the farm fields, a largely solid two-storied 1880s fieldstone barn filled with rusting farm implements of the time, and a semi-burned down farmhouse.

Merriam’s mother, who inherited the land after her mother’s death, had not returned, nor anyone else, for10 years. The old fieldstone barn had been converted into a giant home by her great-grandfather, who became a skilled stonemason during his lifetime.

The old man cultivated and planted hundreds of seedlings, formed into orchestrated woodlands of pines, spruces, larches, oaks, maples, and trees from seeds gathered from other forests visited now nearing 100 years old. Inside some of the treed landscapes were stone benches, planters, organic sculptures, and walls as tall as 10 feet high laid in circular, curved, or just straight formations not seen unless one were to hike into that living wooded montage.

The young couple mesmerized by the wildness of the land with its densely canopied tree topped home filled with generational animal life roaming and flying felt the stronger heartbeat to the land. They unwrapped and uncovered great-grandfather’s handmade stone treasures, nestled within overgrown shrubs and tall trunks of trees; and, while doing so the stonemason’s medieval hideaway tower with its arched open windows, and iron railings, along with a wide flowing creek running around it and a stone moss covered bridge crossing it was revealed.

All paths were undetectable and overgrown mystifying their explorations. The two crossed the bridge, and found the entrance opening with a log staircase leading to the open circular room surrounded by its guardian woodland offering a view of the landscape from almost 20 feet above the loamy earth. The distant rolling landscape was visible from one arched lookout, or the dense forest from another. Each framed window offering views of a vibrant and pulsating natural world as its moist breath evolved and changed this enchanting place over decades.

More steps led to the rooftop parapet not unlike a castle’s turret. Carved into the wall surrounding the entire circumference read, “To my flesh and blood, finally arriving, to live, pray, and gaze in awe, I give you this place of peace-1926.”  It was here that their life found new love. (599 words)