High at the top of the plum tree I sit very still with my eyes closed, and I breathe.
It's a bit like being in the midst of a cloud. The air is bracing cold in early morning, and I'm enfolded in the ethereal pink scent of plum blossoms, so heavy as to be nearly tangible. The buds just opened a day or so ago -- very early this year -- and the tree still has every one of its fragile blooms; not a single petal has fallen. In less than a month they'll blanket the ground beneath this tree like a soft pink snow.
Technically, I shouldn't be in this tree -- or at least I shouldn't be up this high. The fragile branches are much too slender to support my weight in this part of the canopy; I am half-perched and half-floating, caught somewhere between earth and heaven like a living kite. But I saw the tree this morning, unusually tall for this area and a magnificent burst of pale pink against the first light, and my heart ached to be up in it. So up I went.
Last night the town hall hosted a wedding reception for some happy couple, and I made myself presentable, walked in, mingled with the guests and helped myself to the buffet table. Public Nicety #7 ("I will listen and learn before opening my mouth") always serves me well in such circumstances. I sat quietly at a table, listening to other conversations, and if anyone turned toward me to ask a question, I'd quickly interject one of my own: "Now how do you know the groom?" "What a beautiful gown! I wonder where she got it?" "I haven't heard where they're going on their honeymoon..." People are usually more than happy to talk about themselves or gossip about the things they know. As the conversation moved away from me, I excused myself and slipped out.
The nomadic nature of my life has turned me into a more or less nocturnal creature, sleeping in empty homes during the day, but occasionally I need a catnap at night to tide me over. So last night I curled up beneath a tree in one of the public parks. It can be dangerous to do this in a town with strict anti-vagrancy laws, but no one disturbed me.
A mother and a little child pass by below me, probably on their way to catch an early bus. The child -- a girl -- looks up, the way adults never seem to do, and through the branches she sees me. She waves, and I smile and wiggle my fingers back at her. Then she tugs at her mama's hand, trying to get her to see me as well, but her mother is too busy doing something with her phone to stop and see as her child sees. You really don't need a knack for magic to be invisible these days.
If we were all given new eyes and new minds tomorrow, I'm convinced, there would be very little pain in the world. So much of our seeing and thinking becomes roughened and callused by life. I know it's a necessary survival mechanism, but it also allows us to pass by a world of suffering without really acknowledging it. Children, on the other hand, see things with utter freshness -- but they also tend to assume that whatever they see around them, however beautiful or bizarre, is normal. They are like fish who live, move and have their being completely enveloped in water, and who therefore have no concept of what water is.
I guess I was the same way. I went through childhood in Corey without ever stopping to consider how and why we did things as we did. It was just normal; I couldn't even imagine another way of doing things until I was old enough to start considering how outsiders lived, what they did differently from us, and why. And suddenly I had all sorts of things to think about.