Wednesday, September 15, 2010

The Land Of Linda









How can you tell you're on vacation when you're already retired? One way is to travel in the Land of Linda. My friend Linda is a woman of unusual buoyancy. It's not that she's been untouched by sorrow, but she is always finely attuned to delight. This is a magnificent planet we're clinging to the skin of, with many rewards for anyone with good wonder receptors. Linda's are top-notch. If your own are undeveloped or vestigial, you're well advised to hitch up to Linda's wagon and wait for marvels.

Linda learns as much as she can, which helps, but some of her powers may be genetic. It is her father Gerry who owned up to arranging for our phenomenal weather on a recent trip to Cape Cod. Per his instructions, Hurricane Earl slouched off shore after a mild rinse-and-scrub, dropping off  some spare birds. Cape Cod itself is the afterthought of a glacier, a beckoning finger in the Boston harbor with shiny Provincetown at the fingernail position. Four of us (including the wildly entertaining Sara and Kelly) ventured in, and the house Linda rented on our behalf was a five-minute walk from the ocean and came complete with filled bird feeders. Our first night there, I poked my head out towards the sky for a nanosecond and a meteor pierced the Milky Way. None followed, but that one gleamed like a pin in the map of Linda Land. It was time for adventure, time to load images onto our retinas for future dreams.

"That dragonfly over there is carrying off a hummingbird," Linda remarked from the Adirondack chair, and sure enough something with the silhouette of a winged golf ball zipped by. I did not and still do not know that dragonflies have hummingbird-carrying capability, but there is a whole world of wonders out there, more than you can jam in your head in a lifetime, and isn't ignorance a wonder in itself? The kind you're aware of, at least. Why, at any moment you can hope to be enlightened about some microfact or other that can take the top of your head off. I live for those moments.

Sitting in an Adirondack with a cup of coffee as the morning light fingers through the trees, I begin to dial in my own wonder receptors. Traffic is heavy in the commute to the bird feeders, and as time warbles on, layers of life-sounds sort themselves out. A Ford Intrusion bellows by, dull as money, but in its rowdy wake, the splendid planet reasserts itself.

A small wedge of that splendor is available to anyone willing to pay attention, and another wafer to anyone willing to pay for binoculars. The heads of hummingbirds ripple with their sipping tongues. Life, death, tragedy and romance play out under a single leaf. It occurs to me, as my personal clamor subsides and gives way to the natural music, that meteors are slicing through the sunny sky right then and there, joining the list of marvels outside my narrow perception. I register a scant movement in my periphery and turn, and the forest begins to extrude hadrosaurs. One, two, three hadrosaurs leak out into the meadow in search of cracked corn--thank you, Linda--and resolve, upon further review, into turkeys, readily identifiable from the construction-paper versions we made in first grade, but the size of furniture. They are followed by ten more junior models and then they evaporate into the woods again.

It is possible, if enough attention is paid, to disappear oneself, to become so trivial that the movements of the planet affirm their truer natures: the sun no longer appears to climb in the sky, but we tilt towards it, yearning towards sunset, swinging around until it seems certain we will drop off the bottom at night's edge. But that is not what happens at sunset. Linda is in charge, and Linda finds for us a murmuration of starlings. Yes, she does. Hundreds of thousands of starlings bloop and roll in the sky just at sunset, roiling above an ocean of mercury and a pyramid of sand, and then, in seconds, they all drop to the earth and disappear. The ground before us is now invisibly feathered, and Linda has remembered the Proseco, too. What is she planning for the next day?


Not so much. Whales appear, but even through powerful binoculars they are just commas on the horizon. But soon enough, they are drawn to Linda and pull towards shore for an extended synchro performance, tails aloft and flippers slapping. I could not be peeled away for another forty-five minutes, but Linda is inquiring whether we might need to see Provincetown, just around the bend. Nothing about it seems likely to best the whales, starlings, dragonflies and hadrosaurs, and we are comfortable leaving it among the many things we may never see.

Nearby there is a monument to my forebears, who lurched over in the belly of a wooden tub called the Mayflower. After a two-month journey, they were urped ashore around here and, while no doubt relieved, were insufficiently delighted by the prospects and sailed on. They didn't have Linda, though.

43 comments:

  1. Lovely narrative. Lucky you to inhabit Linda world at any time of the year!

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  2. I feel sorry for the folks who can't feel the wonder.

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  3. Imagine how those first colonists would have done with Linda to accompany them. They'd have had enough food! They could have fed some hungry natives, instead of the other way 'round. We might be living in the USL.

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  4. "...she is always finely attuned to delight. This is a magnificent planet we're clinging to the skin of, with many rewards for anyone with good wonder receptors."
    You have a great way with words but this post is exceptional. I love this introduction.

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  5. I would love to have a Linda in my life. She sounds wonderful

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  6. Yes, Ruth said it well: you always have a great way with words, but this post knocked my socks off. I am constantly amazed at your talent. And! Did YOU and YOURS make that fabulous sand pyramid? Can I use that picture to send people over here to read this??? Thank you for making my morning exceptional.

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  7. My god, man! Your writing is so poetic, so engaging and vivid and interesting. The highest compliment I can give is that a writer makes me think of Pat Conroy. And I'm giving that to you. You rock.

    Can I borrow Linda sometime?

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  8. Plus, she knows her way around a lobstah! Great tribute to a great person that Kelly and I are just super-pleased to know, thanks to you!

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  9. "I'm so happy, living in the USL!" I like that. We happened upon the pyramid just before the ocean did. It's the kind of thing that happens in the USL.

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  10. Anybody else feel like you're in middle school again--sitting in the corner of the lunchroom with your brown-bag liverwurst sandwich wishing you could be eating hot-lunch corndogs with the cool kids like Linda and Murr?
    Anyone? Anyone?

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  11. This post is a sparkler, Murr...you were leaving me in puddles all over the place. My best "Linda" moment was in my garden: a butterfly took off from a flower and I heard its wings flapping. I had to remind myself to breathe again, it was such an huge moment for me.

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  12. I have the "hadrosaurs" in my yard as well! Every time they come running through, I am convinced the special effects guys that worked on Jurassic Park used them as the models for velociraptors! They are deadly for grasshopper folks this time of year.

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  13. Kat: I was cool until fifth grade and then it was a long slog before I sharpened up a totally fake earth-mama hippie persona in high school to see me through to my first nervous breakdown. Still, no one ever gave me liverwurst, so that's something.

    Tiffin, right the heck ON: butterfly flapping. I still remember when I watched a robin on a branch at eye level, a couple yards away, and it leaned forward and did a little "poot." Not audible, but I saw the butt feathers fluff up. These are the things that dreams are made of.

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  14. All right, this post made me decide I have to show you hummingbird tracks. And I will do that the very next time you are at my house.

    It is hard to pick a favorite of your writings but I believe I have found it. This is brilliant and beautiful, a perfect encapsulization of the kind of wandering yet profound thought that accompanies real, no bones-about-it downtime with wonderful people and no schedule to worry about. Kudissimos, Murrebaby.

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  15. What a lovely tribute to your friendship with Linda! We all need a Linda in our lives! Everyday times with special friends make every day special - thanks for making us all take a moment to just "be".

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  16. I hope a friend will some day describe me as "finely attuned to delight." What a beautiful writing voice you have, Murr.

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  17. Now I seek to not only to channel Murr, but to be Linda for even one millisecond a day to anyone! This post is just beautiful...and Linda looks every bit like my sister in law Carol from Berkeley!

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  18. Your best ever. Thank you, Murr.

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  19. Wonderful trip you take the readers on.

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  20. I have many Linda moments among my study group turtles: for example, showing a rescued tortoise his first full moon; watching a box turtle watching a full moon and the way his front legs moved in and out with deep breathing; holding a tortoise while he studied a praying mantis eye to eye for many minutes; seeing a wild garter snake turn around and come back to my feet when I spoke to a turtle in my hand. What an introduction!

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  21. Yes, thanks for the trip. Thanks for sharing Linda. Even more, thanks for sharing you. Truly. (I only say truly when I'm all shivery and happy. Truly I enjoyed this post)

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  22. I really enjoyed this post too, and hearing about Linda, who sounds like my kind of person. Those hadrosaurs remind me a little of Calvin and Hobbes.

    I'm proud to say that my wonder receptors are generally first rate, even when I've got cat crap to clean up and foot-high dandelions in my garden. Dandelions are really amazing plants, and while there's nothing nice to say about cat crap, it's a small price to pay for getting to watch cats tear up your house.

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  23. Agree with Julie. Best one yet. Humbling.

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  24. To be able to see the great promise in what, to many, is the most ordinary thing...like a sunlit sky or a beach full of sand...is wonder.
    And I love the way you tell it.

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  25. I am calmly vowing to write like you. And to open my horizons.

    Do you offer mind-links or anything?

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  26. Sure. Here you go.

    Jeez you guys--thanks. And is there really such a thing as hummingbird tracks on demand? I would faint dead away. Here's to Linda!

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  27. I've been a Linda all my life, but never so proud to bear the name. Now I must try to live up to your Linda's mighty example. And as another descendant of those Mayflower voyagers, I dare to hope that you and I are from the same line. Couldn't be prouder of anything than to claim relationship with you. You made my morning. Thank you.

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  28. Well, shoot. Elder Wm. Brewster had six children, but you seldom run into Brewsters anymore. Not Fruitful. Except in one sense. Who is your ancestor?

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  29. What a beautiful post, about a beautiful person. It's so true.

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  30. I read this yesterday at work. I hate when I sob on the job. This may be your best ever post and I'm not surprised; Linda does bring out our best selves. Peter and I have been fortunate to spend a fair amount of time in the Land of Linda and you brought those experiences vividly to life.

    I miss and love you both. A lot.

    PS: Hope you had as swell a birthday as you deserve.

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  31. And we too have been able to share Linda-Land for a little more than a decade. You have made a beautiful tribute to her. We are all so lucky to share time with her in her world!

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  32. Totally wonderful blog. I try to live each day like this so stay on vacation. And I'm usually the Linda in my group. Want a week-long catered canoe trip? No problem.

    I once managed to completely wear out a group of inner city kids and several of my fellow teachers by taking everyone out for a day in the park. We saw birds,alligators,turtles, deer and snakes. Took a two hikes. Went to the nature center. Attended a slide show. Ate two catered(by me) meals. Went to the observatory. Teachers requested that the next time, I do this over at least two trips. All the kids fell asleep as soon as the cars started up.

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  33. You, mkircus, are a very good woman. And yes, I do want a catered canoe trip. Rock on.

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  35. Those Brewsters, huh? Another cousin here. Would have to go back to the Tree, but I do remember Fear, Love and Wrestling. OK, descend from their brother Jonathan's daughter Mary.

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  36. Better than a child of Fear, although Wrestling might have been fun.

    Well Cuz, I'm delighted we share a few genes. I'm totally addicted to your blog and your brilliant humor. Now, how did we end up in Texas and Oregon? Those genes must be stalwart and stubborn to have survived. But I doubt that's where the humor came from.

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  37. Does this mean I can visit the Land of Linda?

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  38. Does this mean I can visit the Land of Linda?

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  39. You, mkircus, are a very good woman. And yes, I do want a catered canoe trip. Rock on.

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  40. I would love to have a Linda in my life. She sounds wonderful

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  41. I feel sorry for the folks who can't feel the wonder.

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