The Heron

When tension knots itself

round my neck

like the world’s least-wanted

scarf,

I go to the river.

I stand on the bridge

staring down

until the tension

falls

and the blue-brown water

carries it away

with the yellow leaves.

I saw a heron there once.

I didn’t realize

what it was

at first.

I had met ravens

the size of cats,

but never a heron.

When I approached,

its beady orange eye

watched.

Frightened? Or wary?

I didn’t know. I wanted to.

I went back to the bridge.

To the next stranger to cross,

I said,

Look.

He looked,

and his eyes got huge

with wonder.

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Adventures with a wheeled schoolbag

It’s been more than a year since I was dragged kicking and screaming into the idea that, since my spine has a rather incorrect definition of the word straight, I should probably not carry a backpack loaded down with textbooks and school supplies anymore.

So, I switched over to wheeled bags.

If I had been in high school when I realized this, I probably would have had to deal with some interesting paperwork and shenanigans to get a key to the school’s only elevator, which you had to have an officially sanctioned reason to use, but they probably wouldn’t have made me carry my bag up the stairs every time I had to go to the science hallway. Probably. Since I was in college by then, and colleges tend to trust their students not to use elevators for frivolous reasons, I didn’t need to do that. Yay me.

While I don’t miss wondering if the various muscles, bones, and tendons in my back were going to murder me in my sleep every time I picked up my bag, I do miss lots of other things about not being attached to something with wheels. Like still thinking I could join the military if I wanted.

Like being able to take the stairs.

The stairs at the university library are really fascinating. All the steps are made of stone, which lasts nearly forever supposedly, but the generations of students using those stairs have left little indents in the steps where their feet were. Walking on those is so cool. I get to physically connect to the past, stepping where people decades before me also stepped, working on school and other struggles similar to mine.

Aaaand I usually have to take the elevator, which is rickety (well, it probably isn’t, but anxiety makes it seem that way) and sometimes smells weird.

Or questioning whether I’m allowed to push the access button to get in and out of buildings, since one hand is always occupied with pulling my bag and sometimes the other is holding something, and so getting though doors gets a little harder.

I’m pretty good at using my feet to get the door open, but getting it to stay open long enough to get my bag through too doesn’t always work. Sometimes the people behind or ahead of me will take pity and hold the door open, which is very nice of them, but I don’t particularly want pity. Do I use the button, so the doors open themselves and I don’t have to mutter thanks at a complete stranger? Or am I not disabled enough to need that?

I’m never entirely sure. Sometimes  I use it. Sometimes I don’t. If the universe gave me an etiquette book on such matters the day my spine went out of shape, I was too young to care. I think I was eight when my ballet teacher said my back had problems and they should be looked at.

I also sort of miss not having to maintain the wheels. An entire yard of fishing line got tangled around one axle last month. I don’t think I managed to get all of it out. The wheel broke later. I had to get a new bag.

Well, I was going to just deal with it without getting a new bag, but my parents found out and insisted. Parents can be nice like that.

But there are plenty of things I don’t miss about carrying a regular school bag. I don’t miss my back hurting as much as it used to. I don’t miss having no excuse when I accidentally tripped someone.

In fact, I could probably figure out how to trip people on purpose with my bag and make it look like an accident, if I was a budding super villain. I’m not, and I won’t, but I could if I wanted to.

I don’t miss trying to decide if the extra weight from another book was worth having just one book on hand that wasn’t focused on school.

I don’t miss having to drop my bag at the end of the day, because it’s already dropped.

I don’t miss trying to decide which kinds of straps were more comfortable to carry, or the way my favorite school shirts got all rough from where the backpack  rubbed on them all day.

So when I say there are things I miss, I’m not saying that the universe ought to alter itself to make those things I miss come back. I’m not trying to complain. I’m simply sharing a part of my story. It might not be one everyone can empathize with, but  I think it’s when we see the ways our stories are different that we start to understand one another better.

So: my spine isn’t straight. It alters my life in these ways. I don’t need you to fix it all for me, but I would like you to listen if you have the time.

some Halloween shenanigans

I took my roommate to the grocery store on Saturday to get Halloween candy. We didn’t expect trick-or-treaters, but figured it was better to be prepared.  Our apartment complex has a mixture of single students and students with spouses and children in it, so it was a (distant) possibility.

We didn’t get any trick-or-treaters. Ah well.

I’ve been working on learning some Christmas songs on my guitar already this weekend, and truth to tell I’m always  listening to a few Christmas songs at least, so I’m hardly a holiday purist. Doing ballet as a kid, we started rehearsals for The Nutcracker in September. It was still something of a shock to step into the museum of art on Halloween morning, trying to dodge the chill, and find that the gift shop had already moved the Halloween display and replaced it with Christmas things. On Halloween.

I wore my Winter Soldier costume to class on Monday. Black clothes, combat boots, shiny duct tape arm that is kind of uncomfortable but I love anyways. The effect was somewhat spoiled by having to put on a purple turtleneck under the black because it was cold, but someone asked to take a selfie with me anyway. I think that’s the peak of my cosplay experience. Last year someone thought I was a full metal alchemist character, and someone else asked if I was twelve.

Twelve. Really?

I saw a lot of cool costumes on campus. Waldo. A t-rex. Someone dressed their toddler as Dobby. A pregnant woman made her stomach an eight ball. Donald Trump. Captain America. Rapunzel. In one of my classes, a gal dressed as the matchmaker from Mulan, complete with ink goatee. Joy. Ed Sheeran, which was probably my favorite. He’d drawn the arm tattoos himself in marker and they didn’t match the actual tattoos at all but they were funny.

I also saw a lot of leaves on campus. This is the first fall since I was quite young that I’m anywhere that gets this many fallen leaves, and I’m finally starting to understand why leaves are so big a part of autumn-related art. There is no dirt. There is no grass. There is no pavement. All is leaf.

It’s a real joy to try getting a wheeled school bag through.

I ran across a friend I didn’t expect to see while eating dinner on campus. We chatted. I ate a cupcake that was intended to look like a ghost but mostly looked like a bunch of varieties of sugar.

I was invited by a group from church to watch It’s The Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown, and since that’s a necessary element of every Halloween, I joined them. They made really adorable pumpkin-shaped jello.

One of the people in that group uses a wheelchair, and so there was a rather amusing and frightening scene before the film started as four people helped lift him up a flight and a half of stairs to the apartment that  everyone was meeting at. I was invited to join them in the effort. I declined. I have too misshapen a spine for that to be a good idea, and would rather not accidentally drop a friend.

Somehow, though, they managed  without me.

October 31st has been meant for a lot of things that I didn’t use it for this year. Remembering the dead–skeletons don’t make me think of the dead. They make me think, “ew.” Contemplating the change of seasons, preparing for winter–I mostly muttered about the cold. Scaring off unfriendly spirits-I guess? I did practice my murder expression. Connecting with friends–well, I did that. I think.

Mostly, though, I enjoyed the candy.

Also, watch this music video. It’s so precious.