The 7 tea roses sitting on the deck, roots untangled and exposed, tilted in their makeshift pots, looked like fish out of water. I stared at them through the picture window. The wind whipped the mustard ash leaves across the peeling gray paint. We called a handyman to help shore the deck for winter. He is coming Thursday. And we are looking into gutters for the small white cottage named Indria. Another way I knew I loved Liz – when she referred to her home by proper name.
I have felt like a fish out of water most of my life. A grand sweeping statement, not made of detail or feeling. Living an alternative lifestyle is a long swim upriver. Strong. Strong and long. Luckily, I am a good swimmer. But lately, weak in the knees. And fish don’t have knees, do they? Only fins and gills. They breathe with gills. Oxygen out. Or in? Now I’m confusing lungless fish with the leaves on the oaks that bend and gnarl across skies to the west of me.
I’m longing for more confidence. Everything is going fine. Swimmingly, in fact. Yet that nagging doubt. It rises this time of year, when the skies grow darker and the hours of light, leaner. I am sad to see the light go. Happy for a snowy winter. Can you have it both ways? Maybe in pulp fiction.
The tea roses – Liz drove home from work, unpadlocked the shed, and out came the square-toed shovel. I was commenting on red Ravine and peeked up to see her bent body over a grassy hole. I had to go out and help. 7 tea roses. We inherited them from our friends who moved last summer, only 10 minutes away. They bought a new house and are not fond of the idiosyncrasies of hybrid roses.
But Liz never shrinks from a challenge. It is I who run. She has the greenest of thumbs and now I’m thinking about the time we visited the Jolly Green Giant sign down in rolling, hilly southern Minnesota, Le Sueur. She snapped a photo of me standing next to the pea-clothed big guy. Did he have a leaf for a hat? Oxygen. If I find the photo, maybe I’ll post it. But then I’d have to blur out my face and body leaving nothing but – this writing practice.
Last night before the rain, I pulled on steel-toed motorcycle boots and helped Liz plant the 7 tea roses we dug up from our friends’ home on Sunday. They have round white tags with silver edges and names like Queen Elizabeth and Glowing Peace and Elle and Mirandy and Betty White, but we gave Betty away to our neighbor, Bev. And when we were done, they looked happier and no longer like fish out of water, but roots in wet land.
And my fingernails bled dirt underneath and my hands smelled like a ribbon of earthworm. My hair blew back behind my eardrums and the wind was so loud she swept the changing season that seems to pound through my head. We walked into Indria and made chicken and dumpling soup. And all seemed right with the world until I remembered the fish that I’m allergic to now, and the lump came back into my throat. The same watery lump that dumps me on dry land, wondering which decision it is that will tip the gray scales.
-posted on red Ravine, Wednesday, September 26th, 2007
-from Topic post, WRITING TOPIC – FISH OUT OF WATER