I am afraid of heights, and I come by it honestly.
My father dislikes the thought of falling enough
that he feels anxious when our cat sits on the porch railing.
It’s two stories up, but still – I think she’d make it.
When I am up high, trying to be brave
like my friends who scale buildings
my fear is not vertiginous.
It’s paralyzing, and I don’t like to go forward
or backward, and I get stuck.
But I don’t get dizzy.
However, when I am lying in bed, half asleep
and my brain tells me in a flash
that the world has dropped from beneath me –
And so is the feeling of a chair with uneven legs,
half an inch above the ground on either side.
A fraction of a second of free fall.
It’s enough to send you spinning.
This is connected, somehow, to the feeling
of community I do not have
but would like to have
and am always hoping for.
That hanging instant when the chair is wobbling
feels a little like the waiting time
when I think perhaps the new acquaintances
or the old friends half moved-on from me,
will be the ones to call me up this time
and ask me back into their lives.
It’s sad because the solid truth of it is
even if they did
it probably wouldn’t feel like enough.
The ache of renewed attempts would still be there,
the creeping notion that nobody else is lonely
or if they are
they are not lonely for me.
When the chair comes back down
from its terrible, wobbling, vertiginous half-inch height,
the ground is solid and I
can lean back and enjoy
When the dizzying hope that I
will be called by those who do not call me
dissipates back to solid life and plans,
all that’s left is a little grumpiness,
an irrational disappointment,
and an added effort.
I must not only call (again),
introduce an idea – dinner? board games?
I must do so graciously, gratefully.
I have not been slighted by a call that did not come.
How could I be?
In my briefly teetering chair
or bed during a phantom lurch
I don’t suddenly hope for a different
better outcome than the return of stability.
And now it occurs to me,
a little too late to avoid a few weeks
of feeling unwillingly let down,
that by connecting this hope
of being reached out to, of being asked in
to any brief vertigo
I have got hold of the wrong end of the thing.
It is because I am not always patient.
(I come by that honestly, too)
It is because I have never grown a garden from seeds.
I have never planted tiny nearly invisible specks in the ground,
knowing full well that most of them will come to nothing
except perhaps feeding birds
that do not live where there are crumbs to seek.
I buy plants small, but growing,
and let them get larger, or not.
In fact frequently I stunt their growth by failing
to put in the gentle effort it would take
to move them from their small pot to a bigger one,
and give them room to stretch their roots a bit.
Ok. The seeds are tiny.
Most of them, if we can even call them alive,
But some of them, eventually
very, very eventually,
You are never on the verge of having a garden,
the way your chair leg is on the verge of hitting ground again.
You have a garden, or you don’t.
To push this analogy as far as it will go:
I have a garden. It is small, and I am not very good at it
I could be.
I can learn, from this year’s fallow and
next year’s blossoms growing into fruit.
later on today I’ll make a call, and a suggestion.
If that call does not come through,
I’ll make another.
I can learn to be ok with that, too.
I really like plants,
and I really like climbing on things,
and in fact I love that moment
when the chair hangs