Friday, September 9, 2016
The end of a story is always fraught with emotion, whether it is happening as you watch or, as is often the case, if you are revisiting the ending of a story that was, one you may have even missed. I've said here many times that there's more, there's always more, but I've not meant to imply that there are not definite endings. It is the reflecting and considering that gives even the most finished of stories their longevity, their neverendingness.
We've finished roasting our hotdogs over a fire in the backyard. They day is cool for early September, the sky bright blue with requisite shape-shifting clouds - first Aslan, then a boat, finally "that alien from that movie we liked" - the air, drained of its summer blanket of humidity is crisp and clear. I've stoked the fire a bit and the boys are lighting the ends of long sticks and tracing smoketrails through the air, blue-gray smoke like earthbound contrails linger then are caught in the breeze and gone.
I am thinking about something but am reluctant to tell the boys my idea. I know it will end a story they are telling and I wonder if that is my role. But, all summer long I've been mowing around the teepee of sticks they spent a couple of days making last fall. (I showed a few images of their little fort a while back at the end of a nice piece called Wobbly and Wobberjawed.) I've caught the mower deck on a stick or two and sort of messed it all up and the floor is overgrown with neglect and, well, it all needs to go. I tell them it is time to clean it up and suggest dragging the wood and branches up to the fire and we can break it all up and burn it.
I like the finality of my suggestion - clearly poetic, justified, succinct.
Nick does not.
He says he's not sure he wants it to go yet. Both boys go on about how much fun it was to build, how hard they worked, how they did it all themselves and...
"When was the last time you were in it?"
"That's a good point, Nick."
Nick is like me, he doesn't really like when things come to a close. School years, outgrown shirts, golden sunsets, cake. I can tell he's seeing it as an ending, especially the notion of tearing down and burning it.
"Stories have to end, Nick, but they live on in our memories."
He looks at me carefully, he knows what I mean. He knows I know how hard it can be, how almost cruel it seems.
"I took pictures when you made it, I'll take few now as you tear it down." He sees the balance, the justice, the arc of that.
It's time, he gets that. He understands that it is now only a dry bunch of sticks, overgrown grass and weeds. I want him to figure out that the story is not in the branches and sticks I am asking him to burn, but in the smoke, ash and embers which will rise from it. It is a hard lesson for a boy. It is a harder lesson for a man.
"Alright, let's do it."
I took some pics, hope you don't mind taking a look.
Here's an image of the boys in it when they finished it last fall:
You know what? My voice is getting tired. I'm just gonna let this one tell itself. You'll provide a nice narrative, won'tcha?
It's funny how using images like this necessitates a linear story line. I'm reminded of friends showing me pictures years ago, often after showing the same drug store envelope of prints to others before they got to me, and fumbling through them, mumbling "Oh, wait, this one's next and... hold on, I think this is before that and... how did these get so out of order?"
"... so out of order."
Stories get like that as we look back on them. We think, hey, maybe this would be good first and it all really started here, in the middle somehow, and...
So here I am at the wait there's more, there's always more, part of the story. Z was carrying a big load toward the firepit and he lost the balance of it and it dumped out onto the green grass carpet.
"Woah! Dad come see this is sooo pretty. Nick!"
Nick came running and we stood, mesmerized at this unusual phenomenon. There was talk of beauty and decay, of purples and greens, of cycles and stories, of loss and hope, of work and reward and attention and observation and endings. All because of a lichen covered branch. A lichen covered branch that only came to be because two sweet, courageous, imaginative boycubs set it upright in the shade of a soft pine tree in the gentle breeze of an Ohio backyard.
Perhaps I should have started with that.
It is so kind of you to visit, come back won'tcha?
(Listen, FB has abandoned small guys like me, they don't want you to leave so they don't like to feed out posts that might do that. I've scores of likes on my blog page but most posts only reach a few dozen. Frankly, it is all beyond my meager understanding of social media. I've got an RSS feed up there, it is a new one and, well, I don't know if it works right, but you may want to re-subscribe to it if you were on the old one. Understand this isn't really promotion, I've long given up becoming an important blogger - that deal was sealed when I promised to not advertise or do sponsored posts or sell my posts for "exposure" - I just want the folks who are interested and inclined to read what I put down to have that chance.)