A Midnight Ramble with no destination in mind
(being a drift from Linda)

The air is heavy with the scent of lush green growth as I drive home from a late night at the store. The smell rambles around my memories, evoking Seattle summers, cooler nights. In the eight years I've lived here -- longer than I lived in my beloved city of Seattle, longer than my whole stay in the state of Washington! -- eight years in this one Podunk town on the border between the desert and the the Great Plains, in eight whole years I've never seen the land this lush at the end of July. It's always brown by May, but this year we've had so much rain that I imagine the annual rainfall so far might be greater than the average for all the whole years I've been here.

It seems to be making for another year of Biblical weather of a different sort. Last year there was snow in April, a draught, howling dust storms, and rains of mud. This year, instead, we get the desert abloom, an oasis, a paradise, and the only weird rain this time is rains of little black beetles that drop with intermittent pats from the ceiling of the store, in the quiet of the small hours of the night as I stay to work on the books.

Tonight I came home early -- just around midnight, with a waning yellow moon rising behind the oil tanks and prickles of microwave towers -- because tomorrow I need to rise early, seven a.m., to go to work at my other job, early start on telephone trouble tickets in the hope that I can complete them this once, and before we have to turn in the rental car, return to driving one tender old van ($439 repair job, indeed).

I should be heading to bed as soon as I get home. Instead, I am mentally drafting this bit of a ramble, and knowing that I'll try to squeeze in just a few moments of real life, of Linda-life, doing what I love most to do. But I'll pay the price for it tomorrow in exhaustion.

So I drive against the glare from the he lights of an oncoming train and think about waning moons, and waxing moons -- a moon dipped in beeswax, dipped and dipped again, growing fatter with each wax coating, waxing, till it's full, and the candle begins burning down, and how that fat waning moon, yellow and softly mottled, looks like a candle burning down, glowing from within.

Waxing and waning. Such lovely old-fashioned words. And I think of the power of words, as seen while watching kids grow up. The coming train reminds me that for a long time, "train" was one of Ted's words, or a synonym for train, "ah-ah" he called it, his very own word and one reminiscent of the sound of a train whistle. And as I turn away from the track up Elkins road I glance west toward the city, yellow glow in the hazy, moisture-drenched night air and spot the top of a concrete water tower about five miles away (yes, it is flat here) looking like a crown resting on a rise, or a castle, and I remember

Miri, every day at the same point in our morning drive, saying, "Tasses!" and me saying, "Glasses?" and trying to see what she was pointing at that reminded her of glasses. After weeks of this, she gave up. But about a year later, a somewhat clearer kid-voice said, "See, mommy? Castle!" and suddenly I spotted the turreted grain tower she'd pointed at on so many days.

And Ted, every day coming back from the post office, pointing, "Ah-ah," and me trying to see a train -- there were no tracks in the neighborhood -- but one day, months later I looked up early (he'd given up trying to show me the train weeks before) and saw a configuration -- low blocky building and the water tower behind it positioned to look like an old-fashioned smoke stack on the front of a train engine -- as quickly gone when we drove around a turn -- the train!

Then at home as I park our slightly revitalized old van behind the rental car we'd had once during the year before -- its purple finish still shows some of the key scratches put there by vandals when I parked it behind the store and worked late one Sunday -- I think, no, I'll go straight to bed

But as I step past the detritus of my kids' romps in the front yard -- tumbled bikes, tipped wagon, the remains of the string spider-web that they wove in the tree -- I hear that train slowly screeching to a halt, and I stop to listen, thinking how much it sounds like a hundred voices, all trying to sing together, the same song but all of them in a different key, off-key, sounding like nothing so much as the background noise in my head lately when I'm at the store, and my kids are there arguing loudly while Dave tries to sort them out, and the pubescent boys at the back table are playing a card game, excitedly, and I have customers at the counter, four sets of two each, all ranged out looking through our singles binders and clamoring for trades, and I'm trying to concentrate on logging a video in on the computer, and the phone rings and it's some kid wanting me to settle a bet between himself and his brother

And the inside of my head sounds like that train screeching to a halt, a chorus of chaotic voices -- "Ah ah!"


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1998 Linda Blanchard. Date Added: September 12, 1996 Last Update: May 29, 2005.