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Possumhaw: A good place to be

 

Shannon Bardwell

 

After half-a century I feel I've finally gotten to the place I'm meant to be. It's not so much a physical place as it is an-everything-else place. It's a comfortable place where there's a lot less striving. 

 

Being in a comfortable place reminded me of my friend; she's in her 80s now. We were visiting on her tiny patio where there was her comfy chair, a chair for a companion, an ashtray and a few plants. As we talked she took a long drag on her cigarette which told me she was comfortable, for she's a closet smoker.  

 

Above us hung a plant promising "Tommy Toe" tomatoes. A crepe myrtle draped over, blocking the afternoon sun. In the little green space between the patio and a brick wall was the most perfect bed of clipped green grass, cool on the toes, and a couple of azalea bushes.  

 

That summer there was an invasion of the largest grasshoppers I'd ever seen. They were bright green and black ... huge. We watched them spit tobacco until one day a neighbor leaned over and snipped them in two with a pair of scissors. It was the undoing of their already-precarious friendship.  

 

The irony of her place was that it is smack-dab in the middle of town, surrounded by a high brick wall. She spent many an early morning and late evening on her patio reading newspapers, one or two, and complaining about politicians while she smoked. 

 

Once, we discussed solitude. "I like my own company," she said. 

 

I think of her when I talk to myself, sometimes taking opposing sides. It's a good place to be, to like your own company. 

 

I think of her when I read Max Ehrman's words hanging in my hallway, "Go placidly amid the noise and haste and remember what peace there may be in silence." 

 

I thought of her on Saturday while standing at the edge of the field watching Sam bush-hogging. He was wearing his straw cowboy hat. As he passed back and forth, he looked behind and before. I was hoping he might look my way and wave like he does sometimes, but better that he look where he's been and where he's going. It is good to look where you've been and where you're going. It helps to find your place. 

 

I put out the sprinklers getting ready for when they'd be needed. I pulled weeds, worked the flower beds and fed the ducks. I told the ducks that I loved them. I repotted an orchid that was in a broken pot; saving the shards for the mosaic patio I'm stomping out in the mud under a tree that has no grass.  

 

I tossed some flakes to the goldfish and noticed the daisies were waning, while the lilies and gardenias were ready to burst. The zinnias and gladiolas look like they might finally make that grand flower bed I was hoping for.

 

Shannon Rule Bardwell is a Southern writer living quietly in the Prairie.

 

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