Crumbs From the Corner: Adventures in Woolgathering

Thursday, May 31, 2012

Eyes On The Sky

May twentieth. A solar eclipse was on the schedule, the like of which hadn't been seen in nearly twenty years and wouldn't be again for another fifty-nine.
Sort of a landmark moment, then.
We decided on a whim to be witnesses to the event, and set off for Pyramid Lake, some distance outside Reno, Nevada.
At one point as we motored along past little clusters of people preoccupied with telescopes and cameras and specially filtered glasses or machinery, it became clear that we wouldn't make the precise minute: we were miles from the lake site yet and the peak of the eclipse was due over us within five minutes.
We decided to stop, right there and then, anywhere possible, at the side of the road. In a plume of red desert dust the car came to a halt, at a spot in which only one other car was parked- we suspected for much the same purpose.
Out we got and tried to project the shadow of the eclipse onto a bit of paper with a pair of old military binoculars.
It worked out well enough, except that the luminous crescent kept flickering and disappearing off the page; and what with trying to keep the hands steady and take a photograph of the page at the same time while the seconds rushed by and the moon hurried with them and skimmed over the sun- it was a precarious balancing act.
The light around us became distinctly eerie: it dwindled noticeably and rapidly, as I'd never known it to do; then one of the occupants of the other car was walking towards us. 
This was her question: "Do you have glasses to see the eclipse with?" 
We, utter strangers to her, were quite honestly flummoxed for a single brief moment before we laughingly said that no, we didn't have filtered glasses, we were happily getting by with casting the image onto paper, and it was all we had.
"You can use mine to see it. I'll share with my husband."
We said no. Thanks, we said, but really, truly, no thanks.
Of course we did. We weren't going to take her own eclipse moment away when she'd likely been planning and plotting it for years.
Still, she insisted, thrusting them towards us determinedly as if there were no other discussion possible or necessary, before hurrying back to her own vantage point to share the sight half-and-half with her husband.
We used the glasses for the shortest of times, just long enough to look up and glimpse the sky while the sun flamed fiercely behind the moon.
We looked up long enough to be awed by the spectacle, but with a new quiet awe for something else, too, something that had wholly taken us by surprise in a brittle, remote corner of the world.
With that, the Nevada landscape, that sea of ancient dust and yes, even the very rocks, seemed somehow a little less harsh and unforgiving.
Thereafter we returned the glasses to their owner, having seen more than we'd ever expected to see of the evening sky, and having found out more about humble, ordinary strangers than we could have dreamed.
"Well," Spouse said when we were on the road once more, "who would have thought it? That kind gesture certainly eclipsed the eclipse for us, didn't it?"
Didn't it just.

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Pass the Salt

In my place of work, I serve food.
Right around the time that a homeless man began to turn up for lunch, and for afternoon and evening activities, items began to disappear from the fridge.
Just to be cautious, and without saying a word about it, those in charge made a new habit of locking the fridge doors after lunch was served so that nothing might go astray.
One of the older patrons entered the kitchen late one afternoon with the remains of her lunch. She wished to store it in the fridge while the Monday movie was playing, and she'd collect it afterwards.
That was not a problem, and the kitchen assistant took a key from her pocket.
The old lady was surprised enough to ask: why do you lock it?
It was explained to her, quietly and subtly, that one of the new patrons, a homeless fellow, had been helping himself to food after hours.
She didn't know which person that was, and he was described to her.
Her jaw, as the old saying goes, well and truly hit the floor.
She seemed to come over a little faint, and her hand veritably flew to her gaping mouth.
"Him? That man?" she whispered furtively, a strangled, dramatic gasp.
"I had no idea. I sat at his table today! I sat next to him."
Then came the shudder, the grimace, the eyes darting warily from side to side.
"I didn't know he was homeless!" 
No, she wasn't startled one whit by the fact that she dined with a fellow who pilfered food when nobody was looking; she was struck instead by his being a person of no fixed abode, when likely she'd not met one before, and that- that was the bit that made her twitch, poor thing who asked a homeless man to pass the salt and pepper. 

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

Swift Paw Reads

Mater had great plans for her little dog, Dandy, along the lines of sports stardom, but the dog perhaps has ambitions of his own.
The small fellow sniffed around one of the bookshelves while Mater observed quietly, and he gathered up a single book in his jaws and brought it gently to her feet.
It was the Standard English Dictionary.
He wants, I'd wager, to be a scholar; the football is a mere hobby.

Swift Paw

Mater bought a football for her little dog, Dandy.
By all accounts, he loves the thing: in the kitchen and all about the house he rolls on it, barks at it, kicks and chases and hides and licks it.
Mater is certain that he has the makings of a professional footballer, and she says she's determined to see the dream through to the end with an extensive training and practice regime.
I mentioned about the days in which my brother was himself obsessed with the game of football, and how he wanted to show Mater every new move he made, every trick and fancy skill.
He'd shout to her from the back field so she'd drop what she was doing and come trotting, saucepan or scrubbing brush in hand, but he would never be able to perform the maneuver again; that is, until Mater had either returned to the house or turned her back for the briefest of moments.
"I did give him plenty of encouragement," Mater reminisced to me on this day. "I always watched him when he asked me to, when I could, and it was the fault of neither of us that I didn't get to look at the great things he could do, the way I get to see Dandy's swift paw in action."
I said to her, "but think about this: did you ever let Brother play football in the kitchen while you cooked?"
"No," she said, pondering honestly. "I didn't."
"There you go, then. If you'd let him play indoors beside you, you'd never have missed anything at all."
Sure, maybe the football would have gone astray in the kitchen from time to time, and there'd likely have been a rich, leathery aftertaste to the casseroles, but Mater would have been on hand to witness every single unique star moment up until Brother decided he didn't want to play football anymore, that he was going to be a rock and blues musician.
Then, of course, he'd have been obliged to bring the drum kit and guitars and microphones, and other paraphernalia that his music studio is currently brimming with, into the tiny kitchen corner; and really, who among us knows what that combination would have tasted like, especially with Dandy using that patch as a training ground for his own particular brand of stardom.

Tuesday, May 8, 2012

Leaping with Mater

Mater was engrossed in a movie of some sort when I telephoned.
"I can't think of the name of what I'm watching, but you know the movie," she said to me. "It's got that McCain fella in it."
My reply was to say I didn't know which one she meant at all.
"Ah, come on," she kept at me. "Something like Internal Ferno. I mean Infernal Turno. No, I got that name wrong, didn't I?"
I suggested McQueen, Steve McQueen, instead of McCain. It was all I could think of, and Steve McQueen had indeed starred in what is commonly known as Towering Inferno.
No, she told me, and I could just see her flapping her hand at me in frustration; it wasn't him.
I was hopelessly baffled, but I know Mater, and I have adjusted to the nooks and crannies of her utterances over the years.
"You don't mean Bruce Willis, do you?"
"That's him," she said, thoroughly leaping at the answer. "Bruce Willis. Die Hard, that's the one."
It was an enormous leap from McCain to McClane, and from Internal Ferno or Infernal Turno to Die Hard, but we managed in the end, as we always do, to have the grasp of each other's conversation.
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