It’s a Simple Thing, Really

Oh, it’s a simple thing, really.

This collection of simple things.

Momentary treasures collected along the path.

Underscored by absence.

Once discovered, soon drifting, to fade within my wake.

Then gone.

A memory. Perhaps a story.

Then, the search anew.

The precious prize always undefined.

Yet, always recognized as pieces come together.

The smell of soft mud, filling flared nostrils as snow conducts an orderly retreat.

The gentle fingers of rushing air; tips stroking red cheeks.

The familiar stab of burning lungs as they bloom in time to blacksmith’s bellows.

Pockets of coolness, as they slip from slanting shadows. Embracing me as a ghost might.

Then letting go.

“Goodbye,” they whisper.

The trickle of sweat as it slides down my spine. The wait for the sensation to vanish.

The floating faces of people long gone. Momentary treasures experienced upon the path.

Their value underscored by absence.

The patient beauty of ice plates extending from the river’s sloping flanks toward a darkened center. Overlapping, they appear as prehistoric scales, waiting patiently for extinction. Moaning under the weight of the unfolding moment, they take time to reflect lancing light.

The pieces come together.

This morning, rushing along the banks of the river, not yet elderly ankles ache.

The moment swells, stretches. And within that extended moment, I approach the home of the jutting root on which I broke my foot 10 weeks ago.

Slowing my pace, I search for the perpetrator, whispering, “Where are you?”

Mindful of the root, I look to and fro.

“There! There you are, you little shit.”

Tucked under a blanket of snow, the perpetrator peaks at my passing person.

“Do you remember?” I ask. “10 weeks ago?”

The root, of course, does not respond.

And in the silence of the moment I remind the root, “As sun fell upon your friend the river, on the eve of Christmas Eve, I snapped my foot upon you.”

Plates shift and moan, overlapping.

The sound that morning displaced silence with a crack worthy of a homerun ball launched from home plate. But, rather than the roar of the Boston faithful, that early morning crack was followed by a fusillade of curses as I hopped to within striking distance of the offending tree. And on the banks of the Charles I punished the tree until fists bled.

This morning, with 10 weeks separating past and present, I shrug toward the tree.

Today, at the crack of dawn, the tree’s calm demeanor suggests all is well. All is forgiven. Glancing over my shoulder I see the tree bid me adieu with a wave of many bare branches.

The moment uncoils, warm and comforting, like the palm of my wife’s hand upon my cheek.

With the past fading within my wake, I pass the spot where a stranger pointed across the river years ago. And following his extended finger I witnessed the appearance of Mom and Dad; looking like high school sweethearts, arms tangled and smiles wide.

Then gone.

I spy the bench where I’d call Mom every Sunday morning. Me in the role of story teller. She in the role of cancer fighter.

“Tell me a story,” she’d ask. “One I’ll like. Maybe something funny, OK?”

And passing the bench, I notice a pile of faded words, frozen like fossils in hardened mud.

Frozen in time.

Coming together, those words gathered to form stories – the ones marked by me as Mom’s favorites. I often repeated the same story, each occurrence regaling her anew. For, in the end, cancer not only claimed her strength and sight. It claimed her memory.

“Oh, that’s a good one. You never told me that!” she’d cackle.

Years later on this morning, my mother’s laugh echoes across the Charles, reflecting the beauty of long ago shared moments.

Now drifting, to fade within my wake.

Soon gone.

Oh, it’s a simple thing, really.

This collection of simple things.

Now, with my foot sufficiently healed, I run without pain.

Such a simple thing.

Running without phone or earbuds.

Running with nothing more than a car key, $20, and a pocketful of time; just enough to consider deeds done and to be done.

In this moment, I spend time dreaming of smiles upon the faces of Gee and DJ.

And as I consider the smiles of my children, I smile as well.

Filling the here and now.

And that smile is passed like a baton to those running toward me, for they cannot help but react to the approach of a not yet elderly man beaming under the glow of an unseen moment.

A moment plucked from a pocketful of time.

Oh, it’s a simple thing, really.

This collection of simple things.

Some tucked just out of sight.

Time enough to dream.

To imagine ways in which to make them smile; my children I mean.

To scribble in invisible ink as I scratch stories on walls inside my head, words rushing in cursive over the path before me, some filling pages like this one.

To sketch a future where moments uncoil.

Some right, some wrong.

Upon the bridge I cross the Rubicon to drift within an extended moment of beauty.

Below the bridge plates of ice jumble, piling atop of each other.

Moaning gently.

On the other side, the coolness of a passing ghost embraces me. A tickle down my spine. The smell of earth. A stabbing in my lungs. The gentle touch upon my cheek.

The door opens wide.

Right here on earth. 

Oh, they pass quickly, they do!

These slivers of time.

These moments in heaven.

Bright white light leaps from ice flows upon the Charles. Without thinking I shield eyes.

“No,” I tell myself. “Look about and witness it.” This moment, I mean.

Opening eyes wide, I adjust sights to find my family waiting with open arms.

Ready to share a smile.

Poised for an adventure.

Steeled to shoulder a burden.

To share a tear.

The sun warms reddened cheeks.

The air brushes by as heaven’s momentary splendor fades within my wake.

Oh, it’s a simple thing, really.

This collection of simple things.

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