Laura Girardeau has something to ponder, again

Literati! Most (all) of the mistakes I have made and continue to make in life are crass, crude, awkward and alienating. Laura Girardeau, on the other hand, would like to inform us that mistakes can actually be graceful.

 Walking in Suburbia

by Laura Girardeau

I live in an undulating bowl of mama belly, green thighs open to sky. I live in a tilled, shaven place, where land is mown but nature wins. I live in the sameness of suburbia, trying to find eternal breath.

Here I am again, stroller clicking down perfect sidewalks, a clock losing time. I’m trapped in safety, ruled by regularity. But one night, like a divining rod, my daughter points to “Wawa.”

We find The Pond, a graceful mistake, behind beige apartments: a human-dug second thought near soccer fields. One eternal breath and I decide: it’s enough.

Redwing songs bounce like light off water. Are they defending territory or voicing joy? Cottonwoods cast love spells, in spring with glossy buds the scent of passion, in summer with floating wishes.

Suddenly, a wildflower like a maiden: bronze nose and petal hair forever blown by wind. Like me once, a maiden with purple bandana, becoming herself in wild mountains. Called “Shooting star,” I named it “Purple lady with her hair in the wind who knows what she wants.” I thought I’d never see them again, this flower and myself, misplaced in suburbia.

Clutching wishes in her fist, my daughter wonders at the expanse of the close world. Wind ruffles thoughts from her hair, translates first words into silent gratitude, into holiness. I flash on my Secret Place of childhood, when I named the world. Perhaps this humble pond will become The Pond, the Singing Lake. Soon my daughter will succumb to cottonwood’s love spell, climb strong arms to sky.

I hug a stunted tree and recall a wild ponderosa, its puzzle-piece bark always unfolding. I once thought if I melted into its cinnamon embrace, I’d piece my life together the way it never was. Sweet vanilla heat rises, butterscotch-rich, though this is only Jack pine.

I thought I needed Grand Canyon, Amazon, Everest. But again I’m quenched by holy pond muck, blessed by redwing hymns and cottonwood prayers. I can solve the puzzle with Jack pine, not the real thing. My daughter knows what’s real, and I’m re-enchanted by this graceful mistake.

 

(An angel rest-stop.)

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13 comments

  1. Parisianne Modert says:

    “Walking in Suburbia” is a cascade of waterfall lyrical reflections into a woman’s lake of experiences, close to daughter, as daughter, as mother, as to imagined grandmother, a thread of rich colors waved on a loom’s womb and contrasted with a manicured suburbia which is sterile and lacking the natural wild Gaia connection that Ms. Girardeau possesses.

    My critiques throughout this contest have been tainted by and perhaps disqualified by knowing the writers too well to be objective. I confess that Laura is in my opinion is my second favorite living female writer only to Gail Carriger. My favorite male writer so I cannot be accused of being sexist is Paulo Coelho followed by Neil Gaiman.

    I will say that I have read this story two times and may never begin to understand many of the nuances; although I imagine they have rich explanations. The imagery here is beyond compare within this contest of quick moving ballet steps and baby carriages, but I am left confused to the meanings of many of the phrases. That is probably my fault not Laura’s, so I would love to understand better and better this beautifully written tapistry of birth and life that is feminine, female and awe inspiring as to the beauty of worded phrases and observations.

  2. Parisianne Modert says:

    I’ve now read this story five times taking breaks in-between readings and it is much clearer to me and I am enchanted by this description of nature’s timing and mind set of child-birth with the memories of consumation lingering with rich imagery. This is a story I will read many times and treasure more and more with each reading.

  3. Karen Comer says:

    Breathtaking imagery, lovely story. I understood immediately the “human-dug second thought pond” and, oh god, all too much I detest and shrink away from anything beige. Living in Florida I’m dumbfounded by the boring paint palette used by developers and homeowners alike, especially in the interior. It’s sub-tropical here! Look at Key West! Look at the Islands with their bright and cheery colors! But I digress…

    I do understand the author’s hope for her daughter, but can also feel her underlying malaise. My generation could experience the real thing; wild birds flying free – not screaming warning notes because their habitat is rapidly disappearing. Real ponds made by nature and not an excavator. Trees that grow where they should grow, not transplanted because of specific form or convenient maintenance.

    I guess hope is a vital part of the human cycle; we’re all “clocks losing time.”

  4. Kenneth Weene

    Would that I could again be enchanted as simply as the writer’s toddler. “Clutching wishes in her fist” — What a grand description of that age. How sad it makes me to know there are goose piles on the grass, that the cottonwood have been sprayed with poisons that will kill all, and those redwings? They will be the first to go, for their prayers are for dinners that are already toxic. Evocative fantasy, and now this curmudgeon is off to other things.

  5. Laura G says:

    Thank you all for your thoughtful responses! The domestication of the world is indeed sad, but seeing through a child’s eyes brings back the wonder, and memories of our own backyard adventures. Wherever I am, I try to wonder in the wild, whether a domesticated garden or flower growing through the sidewalk. I also I fight for the preservation of true wilderness, especially with a pen!

  6. Laura, you showed me the roots of this rich essay decades ago. But the depth now, seeing the planet once again yet through your lovely daughter’s eyes, brings it into full maturity. What a privilege to witness the full flowering of your literary bud!

    • Laura G says:

      Coming from a writer such as you, this is a great compliment. Especially since you’re focused on journalism. This tells me that this “walk” is intelligible to people from various walks of life. Thank you!

  7. Laura G says:

    Please note: the photo of my daughter up a tree may not display on some browsers. The heading “angel rest stop” is Thorn’s photo title, and not part of the story…

  8. Beautiful imagery and phrasing, Laura. And what a gift that you appreciate nature where you find it. I sometimes overlook what’s right in front of me while I’m yearning for the wild mountain stream and pristine forest.

  9. Mac Eagan says:

    What I appreciate about this piece is how the imagery swirls around in abundance and there is no way to take it in except to take it in.
    Some writers reach readers through the reader’s mind but this piece connects directly to heart and soul. It is not necessarily to be understood by thinking but by experiencing.

  10. Tiffany V says:

    I used to call it, when I’d go somewhere and bring my Enya CD, “affected nature”. I was younger and caught up in the smell of outside that was safe, predictable, controllable even. You brought that memory up with what you wrote. That’s the point of writers, of storytellers. It’s a good strong magic.

  11. Holly says:

    Every once and awhile I come across a writing that puts deep meaning into just a few words. Laura does that. Her eloquent story is full of sentences that are stories in themselves. I find myself reading and rereading to take it all in. Way to go Laura, another excellent piece. Please keep them coming!!

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