raw elements

Fire snakes are lit to help pull-apart rails slide back together again. This I learn from a nephew who spent years as an engine boss fighting wild fires in the Rocky Mountain states.  The properties of fire are not difficult to learn, right? Just decide to pay attention. But I am his father’s sister and so he doesn’t say that to me. He says instead: Huh! I thought everyone knew rails pull apart and fire puts them back together. He’s a kind man.

High winds bring color.  This is what my father writes with today’s emailed photo. I think of all the years my siblings and I watched our father take photos. A road trip interrupted by a series of vista points and photo ops. Early morning calls to “rise and shine” in order to capture sunrise on the canyon walls in the river setting we grew up within. So common to me, it’s only now I am paying attention. I hadn’t thought about high winds in this regard until now. What else have I been missing?

Pay attention. Drive to the grocery store with your mittens off. The steering wheel is cold and feels harder. Locust trees have been the first to lose their leaves. I realize this once I notice the Patmore ash trees downtown are still a vivid yellow. And the row of pine trees at Burger King have recently been trimmed. I pull into the parking lot and reach under the seat for my camera, thinking to take a few photos of the fresh wounds, the sap sliding down the rough bark.

Across the parking lot, a truck load of large river rock is being spread between the front of a 24-hour breakfast shop and the mature low-lying evergreen shrubs hugging against the brick facade.  Why? No one  will see the gorgeous rocks  once they are spread out.  Maybe they are meant for water shed? But while I might not know the answer, I know who to call.

I take my sappy photos, get back in my warm car and dial a shout-out to Plentywarmboots. Not too long ago he and I had spent a cold Saturday searching for roller shades at thrift stores to repair a broken shade at my house. After he had disappeared from the home improvement section, I found him just as he was buying a pair of size nine boots (two sizes  too small for his own feet). The boots were for a man he’d noticed earlier wearing soccer cleats, holding a cardboard sign at the corner of Fourth and Exposition.

And when he answers, and when I tell him about the rocks I can hear him stir.

“Is this the breakfast joint downtown?” He asks. I think I hear him pulling on his boots, zipping up his coat. Finding car keys in his pocket, as though to drive downtown and take a look.

Yes. Downtown, across from the library. Now I hear him sigh. Street people, he says, street people.  It’s warmer between the bushes and the building. Once those rocks are in, they’ll lose a place to sleep.


About redmitten

author of Cracking Geodes Open, Making Good Use of August, and The Peppermint Bottle. poetry editor for IthacaLit. website: https://toomuchaugust.wordpress.com

8 responses to “raw elements

  1. That fellow in the boots is some treasure. Not just for you and all who he serves, but for the rest of us through you. Beautiful story. Blessings, Tim

    • redmitten

      tim, i agree about boot-man and others who serve without notice/attention. helps me slow down and pay more attention. blessings and grace back to you.

  2. fire snakes are very exotic creatures indeed…. what a world – yes, there is beauty even next to a burger king if you know how to see.

    the next time we have high winds i will be paying attention.

    • redmitten

      amanda, as much as the wind blows where i grew up and where my parents still live- i hadn’t thought about how the high winds bring such color. but no doubt my parents are right. and fire snakes! it reminds me of your other world!

  3. wuffda

    I am completely undone. My next prayers will include street people.

    • redmitten

      rox, a few years ago the guaranteed place for shelter (the empire bar) was torn down and so everything shifted some blocks north to the library. during the day, shelter is not a problem because the library is open. but at night- there aren’t enough warm places. yes there are shelters here (rescue mission, women’s shelter, etc) but the inn is overflowing and so . . . oy.

  4. Rose Hunter

    “I thought everyone knew rails pull apart and fire puts them back together.”
    Love this. 🙂

    • redmitten

      ha, i did, too. and then the metaphor showed up and i’ve had fun with that ever since. this nephew of mine- oh he could take the o’keefe cake in expressions but so could his cousins. quotable genes…

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