sugar in the gas tank

charlieThe Cyclamen returns to its spot by the window after I drag the Christmas tree to the curb.  The zoo will use the tree as a toy for the Siberian tiger. Once a herd of exotic deer was kept nearby which interested the tiger. Proximity, the zookeepers said,  kept the tiger on alert. One day, perhaps, a deer might break loose and the tiger would want to be ready for that moment when. That moment if. But instead, the zoo lost its credentials and had to give up all but one deer to another zoo. And the second tiger, too. A variety of dead evergreens spread throughout the exhibit is meant to perk the tiger up.

The obvious is not art. – Beatrice Wood

And I don’t remember the color of the blossoms until it blooms. Neither do I remember what it needs to bloom. In the, meantime two small Boston ferns are failing from their winter spot in my kitchen. I move them next to the Cyclamen, swapping eastern light for western. When they get water, it is leftovers from the stainless steel bottle I take with me whenever I leave my house. Sometimes that is not very often. And sometimes it is too much.

And yesterday was a day to leave the house: Nebraska was playing at the theater on the other side of town. The movie was partially filmed here, so tickets have been selling out. What the movie is sharing cannot be spelled out, and some of the Montana audience become restless once the scenes from our hometown are replaced by Nebraska landscapes. The lady wearing trendy green glassses next to me quietly places her bag of popcorn on the floor, gathers her handbag and leaves once the film arrives in Hawthorne, Nebraska. A couple two rows down mocks with hand gestures:  Speed up, speed up: When is something going to happen? Some of us stay through the last credits. One man brought his own seat cushion, another a light blue stadium blanket. Many are carrying the new 2014 annual popcorn bucket. Buy it now for $21 and refill it throughout the year for only $3.75.

No one leaves their buckets behind, but drink cups and candy wrappers litter the aisles.

The way life mimics art, or is it: art mimics life?

I drive home along the very route featured in the film. Railroad tracks, coal trains,  tire store, bus station. South-side houses. Up and over the sandstone rims.

Waiting  in my mailbox is the DVD, Twenty Feet from Stardom. A film a cousin wanted me to watch. What makes a star and what compels others to remain back-up singers? I am movied-out and yet I am not. I empty the remains of my water bottle on the ferns and the Cyclamen (and this is when I notice nine pink Cyclamen blossoms), and slip into movie mode. Darlene Love, Merry Clayton, Lisa Fischer, Dr. Mabel John. I fall for Lisa with her poetic hands and her spiritual grace. I fall into the music, the blend, the grace. Whatever it is they had, they have still. Despite the despair and the pain – the best people deal with it. Someone in the documentary said that. I write it down so I might still remember after the magic is gone.


About redmitten

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

12 responses to “sugar in the gas tank

  1. I love it here, Sherry. I want to see Nebraska. My euphorbia are re-blooming now in their winter indoor homes, and lantana, and a trailing white bloomer named ?? and the poinsettia I repotted, and my alligator pear is sprouting new top leaves. And the geranium, relentless, are forming new buds…even as I write.

    • redmitten

      kathleen, lovely. truly. my mother hasn’t been to my home in some years now due to my father’s inflexibility regarding travel. nonetheless, every time i water my plants, i think of my mother. the first thing she would do upon arrival would be to test the soil in every pot, telling me which pot was dry. i got to where i didn’t water before she came because i recognized how good she felt if she could go about my house watering plants. (it does feel good to water plants!) there isn’t a plant in my house that was not a gift from someone. each plant speaks of a certain event, a certain person.

  2. Oh, Sherry…there must be a poem in the tiger and the pine tree. Thanks for the intriguing read — as always.

    • redmitten

      k-lala, oh there is, isn’t there. even the sound “the tiger and the pine tree” is good to hear out loud. i am not one for zoos, but our zoo grounds is such a wonderful setting. it winds up and down a good length of a creek, and the wildlife sneaks onto the grounds when we aren’t looking….which i find intriguing. there are few exhibits and i am one who is glad for that. so good to hear from you!

  3. When we get to see NEBRASKA, we will soak up your town, then continue through the end of the movie. I will possibly always wonder how the dried-out pine appeals to the tiger(s). An enlightening podcast yesterday about opening the door to the divine (do we capitalize the word?), asked questions of us and spoke of “divine homesickness,” which I equate with forgetting what amounts of sun and water and what is essential we need to flourish, forgetting that we’ve forgotten. And thank you for your responses to my comments on your two previous posts. Things seem less forgotten after reading them. xo

    • redmitten

      marylinn, oh (!) “forgetting that we’ve forgotten.” now there is something round and welcoming, a place to dwell for a spell. some years ago i became friends with a man who didn’t know he was searching for that door. i thought i knew of that door, but in time he was the one who led me to the door he didn’t know he was searching for. when we are born, he would say, for a moment we see our entire life and all the universe. but it is too much to take in and so we drink from a river whose water makes us forget. then we journey on. now and then we come across someone or something that triggers that moment when we once saw everything at once. for a moment we realize we forgot we had forgotten. this friend felt that when these moments happen, they happen so that we might once again regain the path we had lost. events in our lives caused him to disappear- i miss him. and then i think, perhaps he was one of those triggers. xo-s

  4. Well, I needed a bit of you and your writing just now. Everything from the tiger and dead trees to leftover water. Thank you.

  5. Now I know I have to see “Nebraska.” Great read, full of things I want to remember or steal.

    • redmitten

      kass- thank you. if i write it, i have a better chance of remembering it myself, too. i have no recall-ability. good to hear from you!

  6. It’s good to know I’m not the only one who forgets the colours of the flowers on my plants until they bloom again. My collection of amaryllis has grown too big (some were gifts and some are the children of the gifts) so I wanted to give a few to friends. I still know where each one came from, but can’t recall their colours. I give the gifts, and wait for my friends to tell me what colour they received.
    Curious about this film Nebraska now. Enjoyed your description of going to see the film. A good variation on writing movie reviews.

    • redmitten

      chris, lovely to hear from you. i like thinking about how we can forget the color of a bloom but we remember its story. powerful words you’ve shared. the nebraska movie had someone commenting that he thought everyone who lived here was that way, mistaking landscape as a cause rather than as a tool. for me, it was a gorgeous film to experience and to consider.

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