I was walking out of Borders Bookstore with destination in mind when I was stopped short by a small mass impeding my path in the middle of the sidewalk. Glancing down to investigate the best strategy for overcoming this obstacle, I discovered it was a small child. Padded so thickly in fluffy winter clothing that it was difficult to imagine a person inside, he was struck still, head tilted upward and one arm raised with a woolen mitten dangling and spinning slowly from sleeve, the only sign of movement.

My eyes traced the invisible line stemming from small pointing finger to sky.  It was late afternoon, and I could remember an ancient intrigue of first realizing that the moon is often visible in the sky while the sun still shines. Something that most people know but rarely gaze up to see. But now the sky was shrouded in half-clouds and I didn’t see a moon.

Sidewalk squares ahead, the child’s parents finally realized their offspring was a slowly-sprouting statue on the Borders sidewalk, and they hollered back an encouragement for him to catch up. “Moon.” The sole word uttered from the mitten-toting keystone’s mouth. So I squinted at the sky as hard as my eyelids had strength, examined the slim connect-the-dots space between clouds, and slowly a tiny sliver of moon, hardly visible to an unsearching eye, came into focus.

Later that day, freed from the stilting child’s wonder, a friend flippantly mentioned how the child she babysits obsesses over the moon. It struck a chord that sounded to me like an important memory. But she jumped erratically to the next topic and talked on.

This is the difference between the experience and the retelling. Between the story and the summary. Between the taste and the food critic’s review. Between the friend’s nostalgic stories and the weekend spent visiting their childhood home. Between the discussion of love and its actual shoulder-popping-back-in-the-joint sensation: to get clobbered in the middle of the sidewalk by the sight of a hazy sliver of moon while everyone else walks by.

It must have been about two years ago when I found an old postcard in a book. A sun-glare photograph, and on the back, the note was sprawled: “I’m writing like a chopper and flying low.” It inspired my phase of writing down words, slipping them in borrowed books, and returning them to the library. Hoping they would be found and needed. It was then, too, that I deemed Carl Phillip’s book The Rest of Love some of my favorite poetry pages.

It was about a week ago that I strolled through the library, realized an urgent need for more poetry in my life, spotted Carl Phillip’s poems on the shelf, and gathered them to re-read.

It was tonight as I was reading a poem to myself out-loud that I turned the page and there it was, clicking its toe on the sidewalk with a small smirk, waiting for me: a purple post-it note stuck to the page staunchly declaring in my own handwriting,

Some things fall apart so that other things can fall together.

An unintentional future letter to myself, an unexpected tree-house strung with Christmas lights in the middle of the woods. Found and needed.

Do you want to dance?

November 4, 2010

My body was sprawled on the roof outside my window on an unexpectedly skirt-wearing short-sleeved day in late October, letting frustrated life questions reverberate from my chest to the open blue sky above me: Are my decisions worthwhile? Should I be more practical in my future-attempts?

My dad has this story he told me when I was seven years old about trying to decide whether he should leave his successful financial career to go back to school for teaching. As he was contemplating this dilemma, whispering prayers for guidance to the corner of the room where the wall meets the ceiling, he put on his headphones and immediately heard Michael Jackson’s song “Man in the Mirror” directing the phrase “Go ahead, make that change!” into his eardrums. He listened to Michael. (I reminded him of the way Michael changed his life on the event of Michael’s death, and he seemed slightly embarrassed that I remembered a story he told me when I was a kid. These days he’s cycled back around from teaching to finance.)

This morning, the church service I went to was a drama of the scene where Jesus comes to visit the home of Martha and Mary. Perhaps my favorite story in that giant book. The one where Martha tattle-tales on Mary because she’s running around doing all the work while Mary sits with Jesus and talks. The famous “one thing needful” is to spend that time in simple presence. “Stop taking yourself so damn serious and be present with me,” is pretty much what Jesus says.

So there I am glued to the roof on a perfect autumn day, trapped in suspenseful anticipation for my mind to reach an answer to my questions, trying to contemplate my life decisions with big words because I have 500 more words to learn for the GREs, and Sufjan Stevens crooning on my computer sings to me:

“It’s a long life. Everything is chance. Does it register? Do you want to dance?”

The song saying to me: Stop taking yourself so serious and enjoy the presence of unexpected beauty. The silly is salvation from the ultimately overserious.

I imagined myself whirling around the sky dancing, present and imaginative on the sun-warmed roof, needful.