Chaos, Roses, Life.

Friday morning, I’m washing the breakfast dishes when warm liquid runs over my bare toes. For the briefest moment, I think I’m standing in the edge of a warm ocean, and then I realize my kitchen sink drain has broken apart. Gallons of dishwater flow over the floor. 

I’ve cobbled the drain together before, but this time, I’ll actually need to fix it.

My daughter picks up a worried cat and assures him that, indeed, the drain will be fixed.

Midday, when I’ve finished work at my desk, I drive to the hardware store with a section of PVC. I’ve forgotten a mask; those cloths are at home, drying on the clothesline. I sigh, irritated. I have a six other things I want to do, besides drive around. 

But the thing is, I see a huge sign outside the store: masks are no longer required for the fully vaccinated. For the first time in however long, I walk into a store without a mask.

This has been a week of chaos. We all have these days or weeks, or maybe even decades. Who doesn’t? We’re humans, who live in a material world that’s constantly shifting (even if only incrementally) from well-put-together to chaos. The flip side, I suppose, is that sometimes we manage to arrange chaos back to order.

As in my kitchen sink: after dinner, I wash the dishes, and no flood alarms the cats.

By evening, I haven’t bought to tickets from Vermont to New Mexico to visit my parents, as I’m unable to surmount the chaos of the airline world. I haven’t eradicated my fears about my 16-year-old, driving around, heading into the adult world in what’s practically a heartbeat. The woodchucks are still doggedly determined to rise up around my gardening realm.

From the tangle of rosebushes someone planted long ago, I clip a single blossom. A thorn pricks my thumb, and a thin line of blood wells up. I touch the blossom to my blood and wipe my thumb clean.

Summer, Again

On this first day of summer, mock orange blooms beneath our bedroom windows — an enormous bush that nearly reaches to the second floor — its scent so sweet it’s nearly liquid.

Yesterday, a day that perhaps reflects our summer world: chaos combined with a languid beauty winding through. The chickens fly over their fence. My two jobs clamber for my attention. My oldest daughter coughs. My bank account teeters on dipping into the red.

And yet, a small dog named Dammit wanders through the library. The little children play in the sandbox for hours, digging with bent spoons and old trucks. That evening, I return to the library for a novelist to read. Four kids whose mother is at the food shelf follow me in. They check out books. I give them handfuls of bookmarks and Reading Rocks! tattoos. The youngest plays on the floor with the dollhouse, eating potato chips, sharing her life story with me.

Each summer I bring friends out
to note and share the (garden) display and produce.
Here is life’s habit on grand exhibit
and the hard work hidden.

— Leland Kinsey

White Mountains, New Hampshire

Summertime Chaos

Every June, I have the same vision that summer signifies a smoother sailing, a leveling out of our family life. Every July, I realize how mistaken is that cliche. By July, the garden is both flourishing and struggling. The house, emptied out on sunny days, fills up again on during these all-day rains, and a shifting clutter of books, clothes, pens, gum wrappers – and just about everything else – invades every room. Somehow, the windows are all smeared disgracefully.

Chaos is part of our life, I remind myself, not a temporary phase of life-with-children, but an integral physical force in the universe. Most of all, it’s not personal to me. Nonetheless, the creative force in me rises up. Possibly someday I’ll have that inner peace where I accept the crumbles of mud on the kitchen floor. Until then, chaos and I will keep dancing our waltz. This afternoon, I think we’re evenly partnered.

That’s how I see us… against the backdrop of Nature, life, the universe, which shows so little fairness in the distribution of reward and punishment and hurts some so much more than others, but hurts us all in some way and makes us angry, sad and weary, and sometimes surprised and overjoyed by evidence of an intelligence beyond our own that’s guiding us along our way, requiring consciousness of us and rewarding perseverance with happiness and malingering with suffering, and sometimes rendering the jewel into mud, taking consciousness away from those no less deserving than ourselves….

– David Payne, Barefoot to Avalon

garlic, West Woodbury, Vermont