Sunday, August 26, 2012

circles, all around

my purple room friend is a gentle prodder. she had not heard much from writemuch these past few weeks and was wondering what i was thinking. writemuch in fact was, too, wondering what i was thinking, as this, my double-nickel birthday week began. 

it began in fact with circles. walking in circles, that is, which when i think about it, is pretty much how my mind works. i start out thinking i'm going to clean out the pantry but that leads somehow to the bedroom closet which leads to the tomato patch which leads to the kitchen window sill which makes me hungry which leads me back to the pantry. and on and on. or how my day goes. circle my block three times with the dog and his friend. spin the tires to work and back. move from desk to copier to kitchen to church and back again. circles.

back to walking. i don't know much about labyrinths or their mystical properties, but there is one where i work. sometimes i walk up through the grass to take pictures of it, but as of last week, i had not actually walked it in a good long while.

but my week began there, with my purple roommate and the others who occupy the work hall with me. our instructions were to walk in silence, and if we bumped into each other along the path not to worry about it too much. that's life, isn't it? distancing ourselves from each other, then circling back, bumping into, distancing again. oh, and we might recognize it as how we meet God on occasion. distancing, bumping into, circling back. letting God circle us sometimes.

i set out on the path and walked those circles and thought, thanked, questioned, petitioned — tried to listen to something more than the soft scuffle of my shoes on brick.

i found myself thanking God for all my years however poorly i have sometimes lived them. just to get up in the morning to begin the circle is a blessing. as i turned a corner down the path (which is really a yellowish sort of brick road) my thinking turned to my hope for my children, which is easy and hard to think about at the same time. both are at corners, each facing change that is unknown and surprising. and as my week began, it was hard for this mother to sit tight and watch, to wait and see.

another corner. another thought. the husband. the job. the community i work for. my own ability to do good in that world and the larger one. what people think of me. and who i really am. heavy and light. light and heavy, thoughts kept coming as gentle as the slow breeze circling me.

back in the office, one of my work friends said they noticed as they turned the corner each time, their thoughts turned a corner, too, their conversation shifted. just like mine.

when i started out my career so many years ago, i worked for a tiny daily newspaper, taking pictures of friday night lights and check presentations. i spent hours in a dark room wearing a shiny yellow apron, dipping my fingers in developer and fix, watching an image emerge from blank paper. the next job — my second one — lasted only one year, yet i wrote and wrote and wrote, made awful mistakes that somehow were forgiven and learned much from them. i learned how to lay out a newspaper, to tell a good story. that job led to this and that through the years, to the job i have now, taking pictures, writing, teaching, designing, questioning. a bit of every little thing i've learned in these 30 years. and last week i produced a little magazine for the people i work for, using all of those skills. circles.

that second job, too, changed me the most, set me on all sorts of paths. it's where i met my husband. got my first dog.

on thursday of last week, my son landed his second career job. oh, the hope i have for him. circles.

on friday, i headed home. if you are born in the South of course you may live anywhere but you are always from one place. on the eve of my birthday, i broke hushpuppies over barbecue and stew at my childhood kitchen table, listening to my parents talk. when i asked them if i was early or late, my mother said a little early. and i learned something new: i had been delivered not by the doctor who was my father's partner, but by the nurse who worked for him much of my childhood. Both doctors were busy with a patient when my mother couldn't hold me in anymore, so the nurse pulled my screaming head into the world.

my mother had a couple of gifts for me. one, a small pillowcase hand-embroidered by an elderly neighbor more than 50 years ago. miss applewhite was blind, and though we can't figure out how, she designed a perfect bouquet of flowers with circular centers, never dropping a stitch. i had used this pillowcase as a child. circles.

yesterday, i spent my birthday lunch over burgers with my boys, then we drove around the block to where my son's new office will be. my supper shared with "friendless" friends whose son shares his birthday with me. more circles.

back in the spring, i took part in an online writing community. each day for 37 days we were to answer a prompt. i was working on my novel at the same time, so on some days, i skipped the prompt, including this one on day 11: notice all the circles you see today.

i guess the circles were tired of me not paying attention.

as is usual when i start to write, i have no real notion of what something is about. just a little niggle in my head. blind-like, i fiddle with stitches that seem not to connect, until somehow something whole emerges, just like images from the developer in that dark room years ago.


like double nickels taped to a birthday card from my lifelong friend. a new camera and lens from my family. candles for my patio. a casserole dish decorated with a labyrinth of circles. the last of the season's tomatoes on the window sill. zinnias. the communion cup.

circles, all around.

 writemuch.blogspot is the original work of author susan byrum rountree. all written work and photography is copyright protected and can only be used with written permission of the author.