I should have known I couldn’t let May slip by without a note of reverence. We have history, May and I. It’s the month when I seem to both lose the most and find the most; the month that makes me pay attention.
It’s the month my dad died twelve years ago, the month my mum had a stroke in 2010; the month she died a year later. It’s the month I was married and the month—in a completely different year—that I was close to snuffing it too. It’s also the month I didn’t.
The details of finding and losing are never as important as the lessons.
And there’s little point in going on about either.
And personal, in way that’s worth celebrating with others.
I went walking this morning, although I didn’t feel like walking. I’ve buggered up my neck. Don’t ask how. It doesn’t matter. It’s a long story. It’s the usual story. It’s no surprise. It’s my own fault. It happened a few weeks ago. In May.
Anyway. Everything hurts. Walking, sitting, swimming, driving, writing, thinking, looking around.
Like I said, the details are unimportant.
Halfway to the beach I remember I’ve forgotten my camera, which almost makes me turn around and go home and stay there. Wallow a bit, the way you feel you have a right to when everything hurts.
But the car keeps moving toward the lake and I don’t have the strength to argue.
So to the lake we go.
And once there, I walk.
First, past the hot pink wild roses that smell just like gift soap, then past gulls sunbathing on the pier, past the guy, young, maybe his first summer job, with ear protectors and a weed whacker in the garden donated by the Rotary Club. I think how much more he might get out of the experience if he could hear the waves and the birds, the laughter of an older couple in matching helmets as they cycle by. I have a set of clippers I’d be happy to lend him.
The sand is warm, the lake calm and glassy. Sky blue. Clouds fat.
A woman approaches in lycra. I lift my head for eye contact, prepare to say hello, but she marches by, all purpose and form. I have the feeling a pedometre might be involved. She’s walking for health, for fitness. No time for niceties. Best not to get in the way. Best not to judge. We all walk for our own reasons.
I’m carrying my sandals, sloshing through the water, hoping I don’t have any open wounds; a couple of seagulls paddle along just ahead of me, stopping when I stop. I like this connection, all three of us aware of each other. Then a story I heard on the news this morning comes to mind, about that guy who sent body parts in the mail, the things he did to kittens, and I wonder what happens to some people that they don’t feel connected to things, and I wonder how much of that can be fixed… and whether we’re a society who even knows how to fix broken people.
I watch a mother and a young boy, maybe four years old, approach the lake. She is so scared for him, clutches at him as he makes for the shore. But he’s scared too. He walks slowly, tentative. Both of them stand at the edge not knowing to pick up a stone and skip it. Eventually, they leave, make for the swing sets up on the grass, but even there I can see her face, anxious, telling him to be careful. He moves around stiffly, checking to see if she’s watching; he wants to please her. He’ll be careful.
After that it’s just me.
I collect beach glass, more than I’ve ever collected in one day. Mostly green but a couple of browns and a nice sized clear. Most are tiny, but it doesn’t matter. That my eye finds them is what counts. I’m grateful whenever I can see what’s right in front of me.
I fill a grocery bag with litter.
I find a plastic lion and almost leave it but then it makes me think of Bert Lahr and I smile, pop it into my pocket with the glass. I hope its owner wasn’t too distraught when s/he got home and found the lion missing. Maybe s/he’ll come back to search for it and find something else, something much lovelier, in the process. Maybe I’ll take it back, leave it in the crook of a tree. Or on the swings. Maybe the frightened boy will be the next to find it.
I’m sorry I don’t have a camera to take a picture of a low-flying gull over clear stoney water and tufts of seaweed.
Or four feathers that look more like ancient pens discarded on the sand.
By the time I get to the large flat rock where I once saw a young girl meditating, seemingly oblivious to anyone who passed, I’ve stopped thinking about pictures, about capturing things, and I remind myself it’s good sometimes to let things go, that there are other ways, many ways, of remembering.