Monday, January 15, 2007
I’m an oaf. It's always been that way. You could call it clumsy, but I’m not sure it’s that. Back when I was young and lithe (oh to be young and lithe again…) folks would ask me if I was a dancer or a model. Once, when I said no, one fellow said: “Huh. You move like one.” He might have had ulterior motives, but the point is: mine is a curious kind of clumsy.
I used to chalk it up to a tall girl thing  – at 5 foot 12, I’m not built to the same scale as the rest of the world. But I manage to get through most days without tripping up too much. I’ve only been in one auto accident (if you don’t count the curbs that I’ve clipped) and then it was the other guy who sideswiped me in the early morning in a neighborhood intersection (later that day I told my grandmother about it: “Grama: I was in car accident this morning -- I was hit by priest.” Her voice soaked with concern, she wanted to know: “Oh Dayna dear: Was he drinking?” Grama’s a good Lutheran. She knows all about those priests.)
No: when I destroy something it’s usually sudden, startling, and forceful. And entirely unexpected. Never with malice aforethought, although my darlin’ companion has suggested it has something to do with a certain lack of awareness (thanks for the vote of confidence, dear).
Take tonight’s meatloaf incident. Buoyed by the success of Georgia’s Cabbage and Apple Salad I turned back to her cookbook to make the first meatloaf of my life last night (I figured if meatloaf was good enough for one of America’s preeminent modernist artists, it was good enough for me) – and, frankly, it wasn’t half bad. Tonight I warmed up the leftovers and – and here’s the crucial point – after we had eaten I left the glass Pyrex loaf pan on the front burner of the stove, to cool.
A little while later I put on the kettle to make some tea. Not the kettle that I summarily destroyed last spring – this is a new, as yet unscathed, kettle. But I made a mistake that I’ve made before with our &#~$%! stove – I turned on the front burner, thinking I was turning on the back burner.
And of course I turned it up high enough to boil the water in the kettle – the water that was in the kettle on the BACK burner.
I stepped into the living room where I can still hear the kettle doing its thing, but very soon the sounds from the kitchen became very un-kettle-like. Bubbling and gurgling – not hissing and boiling and whistling. I stepped into the kitchen to find the glass loaf pan cooking on a red hot burner.
I turned off the burner. This was the correct thing to do. And then I did something that I shouldn’t have done: I lifted the loaf pan (with oven mitts, of course) and set it on a wooden cutting board that was perched over the sink.
Just as I set it down I thought to myself: “This probably isn’t the best thing to do.” And as I stood there in my mitts, studying the situation, the pan exploded with a brilliant bang.
Glass shrapnel flew everywhere. Boom, clatter, bang.
The beautiful thing was that I was in a position to witness the whole event.
Later, as I was picking a piece of glass out of my middle toe, I realized that it was pure good luck that a piece hadn’t flown up into my eye. It took me about an hour to clean up the whole mess and wash all the dishes that had been exposed and sift under cabinets and down drain pipes to get every last piece.
But here’s the thing: It was beautiful. And exhilarating. My only anxiety was attached to my darlin’ companion’s reaction to the mess (he's a tidy soul and I suspect that my inclination towards messiness makes him a little bit crazy) – and so I immediately shouted – as I have on so many other occasions where something not unlike this has occurred – “don’t come into the kitchen! I’ll take care of it!”
Another important point: This kind of destruction occurs in my life with some frequency. Despite my best efforts it's not uncommon for things to explode or otherwise self-destruct under my influence.
While sweeping up the chaos I flashed to a conversation that I had in Guatemala with some friends. We were talking about the plausibility of our Mayan horoscopes – they’re determined according to the Mayan calendar, so they take into account not only the month and day on which an individual is born, but also the year. My sign is the Ik’ – the North Wind – which is one of four days, or Mams, on which a new year may begin.
It’s a forceful sign -- and violent. It represents “wind, breath, life, one’s spirit” – a little like the Chinese idea of Ch’i. “Imaginative, physically strong, dreamers. A child born on Ik’ will be a bravo, strong, wild, even violent person”. Of course I took exception to the violent part. Me? Violent? I wouldn’t hurt a flea. When the truth is: I wouldn’t mean to hurt a flea. But of course it’s my nature, like Steinbeck’s Lenny, to squash it flat before I realize I’ve killed it.
And of course I’ve done the same thing with words, to friends, and to family, before I realize the damage I’ve inflicted and can’t revoke, goddammit.
Ik’ is the wind that precedes the rainstorm, kicking up the clouds and shaking down the trees. If you’ve ever been in Boulder, Colorado in the summertime at about 4 o’clock in the afternoon, you know exactly what I mean.
And Ik’, I learned tonight, can be Pyrex -- cooked past its tolerance, shattering in a furious storm of light and noise, scattering diamonds of glass across the tiles.
 heatherlorin's posted some great tall girl stuff over at mixed bag recently »