My notes from a park bench over lunch document all of 10 minutes, a slice of time out of my busy workday.
Scribbling on a dogged eared scratchpad I pulled from under the driver's seat, I notice it only has two pages left and worry that it may not be enough.
Conservatively, I write today's jottings around their predecessors – words like "awkwardness" and "deploy" are followed by a FED EX tracking number and address for a package wrongfully delivered to our house – some three miles off mark.
It doesn't take long to embrace the abundance of life out here – shrills of three or more varieties of birds form a confluence of song, marking boundaries, trumpeting food, luring mates and announcing births.
In the distance, a large dog's deep lonesome bark rises above rooftops, above tree tops; sailing over the park's winding corridors.
As warming midafternoon sun visits me, cool April breezes wash over my body, kissing my bare cheeks and ankles, causing the pleasant thrill of goose bumps.
A woodpecker's rat-a-tat-tat telegraphs a hunt for life-sustaining nourishment of bugs in deadwood.
A distant diesel engine wheezes, slowly dissolving into an edgy throaty cough as it treasonously chokes clean air. Not far behind a revving motorcycle competes with a cardinal's loud melodic whistle – fast and then slow trilling, "Cheer, cheer, cheer."
One car, then another quietly snake through the park, stealing by hushed, as though tiptoeing in a sanctuary – my sanctuary. I don't look up, so as not to acknowledge their invasion of this holy communion of sorts.
Like milking a cow, first tugging on one utter, then the next, I gather raw materials that spill from my pen onto this notepad. Clusters of robins fluttering about, busily nesting nuthatches and wrens, too. A yellow warbler's sweet lisping notes form phrases, telling stories of fight or flight, win or lose, live or die.
Filling every inch of one page, I turn it over and sprightly diagram more thoughts.
I stop journaling long enough to see the rolling hills of Northeast Nebraska, sprawling across the bottom of the hazy blue sky, forming a muted sleepy gray horizon.
Jotting, "I can see Nebraska from here," I ponder how early settlers probably peered from this same place. What internal fortitude and will drove them over such enticingly unfriendly terrain?
Interrupting my wondering, screeching tires lay rubber. Probably someone's in a hurry – maybe impatiently showing off in a line of traffic that would much rather crawl.
Five minutes of writing has passed when I remember a phone conversation with my brother the night before. Only 16 months my senior, he will be 61 in July. Out of work for the first time in nine years, he is back in school studying to be an RN. I asked him how it was going.
"We are supposed to write in our journals every day," he began. "I don't know," he waffled. "I may wait until the night before the assignment is due and then write it all at once."
I preach. "Don't do that. It's counterproductive. Besides, your professor will know you did it in one sitting. Just take five minutes every day and write whatever's on your mind. You'll be surprised at how much needs to be expressed."
He was unusually silent. I struck a chord. "Certainly, you have five minutes every day," I continued filling the quiet. "Everybody has five minutes to spare." He allowed me to finish.
"My career counselor, my professor and you all must be in cahoots," he rebutted with a sarcastic chuckle tainted with a smidgen of angst. "You all said the same thing."
Talking to my brother is like sitting through a moldy old history lesson on the dynamics of my family. He never fails to regurgitate the eternal discord he and my father combatively shared with one another. Not to mention his failed marriage and estranged relationships with family, friends and co-workers.
"I've come to the conclusion that I can't get along with anyone," he uncharacteristically admitted, laughing to hide his pain.
This time, I see a clearer picture – something more clinical – maybe a chemical imbalance that makes people want to run from, not toward him.
As I sit on this park bench contemplating life with my brother – childhood memories pay an uninvited but welcome visit. He was my first playmate. He taught me how to tie my shoes when I was three and how to slow dance when I was 13, just in time for my first real dance in the school gymnasium. I don't remember saying goodbye to him when Mother shipped him off to a private Catholic men's college or welcoming him back after he had dropped out.
I wonder if my brother will be journaling about any of this.
2012 © Copyright Paula Damon.
A resident of Southeast South Dakota, Paula Bosco Damon is a national award-winning columnist. Her writing has won first-place in competitions of the National Federation of Press Women, South Dakota Press Women and Iowa Press Women. In the 2009, 2010 and 2011 South Dakota Press Women Communications Contests, her columns have earned eight first-place awards. To contact Paula, email boscodamon.paula@gmail, follow her blog at firstname.lastname@example.org and find her on FaceBook.