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  • Marie Smysor Watson

The Longest Month

Since it's been February - my least fave month - for roughly the last nine-hundred-fifty-two days, I've naturally been thinking a lot about summer. I love the Midwest's temperatmental weather, no doubt, but I do get weary of each season as it nears its end (it will end, right?!?) At any rate, one of my favorite things to do in the summer is to lay on the grass and look up at the sky and let my mind wander/wonder (what can I say? I'm a low-maintenance type of gal.) Since I was just thinking about this lifelong practice of mine (which certainly can be done on the snow, but isn't quite as pleasant), it brought to mind this snippet of my newest novel-in-waiting, Our Own Precious Places. I won't go into the details, except to say that it's a multi-generational family saga - a mother and her six children narrate - set in the place I love the most. Below is tiny excerpt from John Robert, the main protagonist's second son, and fourth in family line-up. Sweet dreams of warmer days, my friends!


“Ever wonder how all of this found its place?”

She laid next to me on the coarse wool blanket. Broad daylight, under the sky and the eye of God and everybody, covered by the meadow and the big bluestem that grew up around us. Her hands raised into the air, her fingers splayed like she was trying to catch the sunlight. Her ring, a simple band of gold, shone.

“How do you mean?” Me, drowsy from the sun and from what had come before.

“How did this grass find this space? And the wild indigo and the goldenrod? And the swallowtail butterfly? And the ants and the grasshoppers? Every little thing, how did it all get here? “

“Some people would say God.”

“Sure, but what would you say?”

“Well.” My mind strained against the rightness of the afternoon. “It is God, I do believe that. But it’s something else too.”

“Something beyond God?” She smiled. “That’s blasphemous.”

“Not beyond, beneath. Something beneath God, helping everything find its place. Something in the ground, in the dirt.”

“Mmmm, sounds nice. I don’t think I believe it, but it sounds good.” She rolled toward me, her dark hair blanketing my chest.

“What’s so hard to believe about it?” I asked the top of her head.

“It doesn’t add up to much. There’s nothing much to keep us here. Keep us going. It all seems so, so random.”

“You don’t think I was meant to be here with you? Right now?”

“It’s certainly nice to think so,” she murmured into my side.

“Well, I know so.” I kissed her part, a thin white line that shone like a scar, as a way of making peace. She quivered.

The sky was cloudless, an ocean. I remembered it and the smells and the sounds of life and death and all of the good and bad that confused itself, one for the other, until there were no longer two sides, only one place where we all were, anchored in the moment, both the breathing and the dead, and it didn’t matter anymore which was which. Only that we were there together, under that bottomless sky that just kept going, no matter what.

“We don’t have long,” she said, raising those deep and lovely eyes to mine. The hand that stroked my chest was like the inside of a rabbit’s ear. Velvet, soft. Quiet.

Things are never what they seem. It’s a tired old truth, but truth nonetheless. Take a woman’s body. Not that I’ve known many of them. Just two really. I know Tillie’s. Broad in places, slim in others. A good size girl, right-sized, not too big nor too little. Solid. Bigger, fleshier, than this other woman’s body, but harder somehow. More angles, less yielding, less giving. I was terribly old before I understood a woman’s body could be soft almost everywhere.

Somewhere, pulled up tight behind her husband’s barn, sat my truck. The passenger side was partways full of undelivered mail. I would have to be going soon, but not just yet.


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