Alice

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If you ever want to see how ingrained a habit is, try breaking it, even once. I meditate every day after work. The weather has been unseasonably warm and to not go out in it would be a travesty, as my mother would say. To catch it I have to leave as soon as I get home and delay my sit for just a bit. Small thing, right? Even as I feel an exhilaration to hit the trail my feet drag as my body clearly wants to sit for meditation. Working at getting out the front door is tantamount to walking through a tunnel of cotton candy. It’s odd feeling your body wanting to go back inside as your head, heads out. That odd feeling though, is the sound of gears grinding on my ego’s ideas on how life should be. I’ve been thinking lately that I should practice that grind more often.

On any given day, goose poop litters the paths and sidewalks all the way to the marsh. On my walks I hop between the piles looking as if I’m playing the longest game of hopscotch ever. I know it’s pointless since, as the snow melts, the runoff is full of goose poop. What appears to be a clean path, isn’t. Still, I hop along imagining I am a paratrooper crossing a mind field into enemy lines. One wrong step and I’m done. Its entertainment for me, if not my neighbors and reminds me of being ten. Today, however, I remembered the muckers. I have sneakers I only wear to my friend’s barn to muck the stalls. Their bottoms have slogged through a lot of horse manure and I leave them in the garage. I don them happily knowing they were made for the world’s biggest piles of dung and finally leave my stoop.

A neighbor’s voice carries easily across the lake in a deep baritone, as he appears to be talking to someone on the phone. It is impossible not to eavesdrop.

“Everywhere we go, I ask after someone and they always say, “Oh that guy, he’s been dead for ages”. Then they seem all apologetic. Alice just says, “Don’t worry honey, we thought we should be dead ages ago, too.” His laughter banks off the houses on the other side of the lake and I can’t help but smile.

“Listen, listen here… I went to my 61st high school reunion. They had a list of names of those who graduated that year. Three pages of dead folks and a page of the living. All anyone wants to talk about is how so and so died. If he died parachuting out of a plane or in a runaway train ya got my ear, but other than that, hearing how old people died is about as interesting as stewed beets. Honestly, I’ve had a better time at a funeral.” He guffaws loudly. “Huh? Hell, I’ve already written my obit. No one lies about my accomplishments better than me. Ain’t that right, Alice.” I think I hear a kind of grunt come from inside the house, presumably Alice.

“No, no… I’m gonna be 87 next week. No, I’m not kidding.” He slams his hand down, emphatically, on the deck rail. “I’ll be 87. A guy called the other day to try to sell Alice and I life insurance. We told ’em if he was selling death insurance we’d be in!” Laughter storms the lake.

“I make a damn fine Rob Roy, I tell ya and here, listen up… If I get to heaven before you, I’ll have the finest Rob Roy you’ve ever had sittin’ there on the bar…. Well, hell, if you can’t drink in heaven where can you drink? Ain’t that right, Alice” Finally, Alice appears on the deck, “Ask him if he thinks that was water they were drinkin’ in those cups at the last supper? Ask him that.” I realize I’ve fallen in love with a woman I’ve never met.

Their banter continues and I walk on facing the setting western sun. They say sunlight is good for the cones in your eyes and that all of our sunglass wearing is actually weakening our eyesight. All our indoors-ness and computer screens are shortening our cones and causing them to vibrate in shorter color ranges. Holistic practitioners say we should get at least thirty minutes of sun every day. This is also true of the pituitary gland, I’ve read. That as we age the pituitary calcifies and it needs sunlight to blast off those calcifications. These are the sort of odd concerns and thoughts one has as they age. Do I have a clean pituitary gland? I mean, who wants a pituitary as hard as your shin bone. So I walk with my eye lids half closed and let the sun warm my eyes and imagine a limber pituitary and long, vibrating cones. Or I do for few moments, but the sun is warm and speaks so much of spring that after a time I am walking, half lidded thinking of beaches and warmer days to come. My meditation time is now long forgotten, along with the goose poop, as I walk into the sunny marsh. I realize I have gone from weird hopscotch lady to pituitary worrying sun bather. I remember the old man having himself a fine laugh at death with his old gal, Alice. I laugh, too. Me and my muckers and my calcified pituitary and short, faded, retinal cones, breaking the ceiling on my wierd little habits. I laugh even harder and wish I could confirm how funny life is with old Alice.