The Block Island Times

Or some place in between

By Gloria S. Redlich | Nov 05, 2011

Another autumn has slipped by us with its long breaths of cool air and startlingly warm days, in the midst of which we found ourselves once again moving down from the trees into the house. Indeed, this year we moved out and back into the Treehouse so many times before we actually remained at ground level that it is hard to realize we have come down to earth. Or some place in between.

Of course, he-who-schleps-without-grumbling grumbles, “She never manages ‘down to earth,’ no matter what!” Do you think he means I have my head in the stars? Time was when he thought that was wonderfully exciting about me. I was a dreamer, he said with undisguised pride. Or were those only sentiments to get us through courtship? It is amazing how perspectives alter with the years.

Still, before I digress into an aside about the halcyon days of early love, I should tell you how it was we found ourselves moving out of the Treehouse three times this year. The first was to seek refuge from the winds of Hurricane Irene, at which time nestling in the trees didn’t seem particularly romantic. The second and third were because once the house was open, however briefly, it seemed too delicious not to spend time there until it was promised out again and we, once more, packed up for the Treehouse.

You will soon surmise that this moaning and groaning is brought about by nothing much, which after all is at the root of much disgruntlement in life. The large woes of the world are simply so daunting that we know before we begin there’s not much we can do about them and are struck silent.

Smaller woes are generally brought about by our own peculiar choices. Why live in the Treehouse in the first place? He-who-figures-everything-out-while-kicking-the-tires-of-the-car says, “We need to put the house to work for us.” She-who-shares-life’s-perplexities-and-surprises with him simply nods and starts packing — as you may recall, books first.

Somewhere at 36,000 feet

But having escaped an end-of-October blizzard, I am writing this somewhere at 36,000 feet, which when I take it out and think about it is something on the level of fantastical. Not the altitude and not that we haven’t flown before, traversing continents and oceans. Rather, it is the manner in which we occupy ourselves while following a grinding five-and-a-half hour path through the skies to Phoenix that astonishes. (“Grinding” is the way the captain characterizes our route, just after we have settled into our seats.) Phoenix is by the way not our destination.

Of the three seat-mates crunched into pretzel postures, one reads a book, one plays electronic games and the third writes a “Chronicle” of her adventures in metaphoric space. Two of these travelers are together; the one occupying the prized end seat is a stranger. He finds himself reluctantly accommodating the others as they extricate themselves for necessary runs up the aisle.

In a silent ballet, arms flailing and contorting our bodies to avoid the stowed stuff that’s slipped out, we climb over each other to reach an illusion of open space. I should mention we have been warned several times by flight attendants and even the captain that, per order of the Office of Homeland Security, we “may not congregate or form long lines waiting for the lavatory.”

Instead, we are simply told to watch from our seats for a change in the lighting of a small rectangular symbol that happens to be posted at least 40 seats away from us, looking forward, and in any case is only visible from the aisle seats. Most of us, of course, are seated elsewhere.

When the light is red, we shall know the lav is occupied and when not — we are to make a break for it. No, they do not put it quite that way.

Watchers and leapers

However, what do you suppose some 200 of us, who have just devoured our bagged lunches, are doing? We are sitting and watching for the changing lights. We have become watchers and leapers. I should add that one of the lights over a lav is in back of the plane. Not only can I not see that one until I scramble over my travel partner, I trip over the feet of the gentleman who has just stood up to let me pass but who blocks the path to the only open stall. At this time, he-who-notices-everything mutters, “Oh, no! Klutz on the loose.” In a great effort at restraint, I make no retort.

By now disheveled but undaunted, I make a dash — moving slowly but deliberately —just as a toddler darts into the aisle before me. I am only saved from an unfortunate collision by the quickly snatching arm of her mother, who smiles wanly at me as I pass.

On returning to my seat, I congratulate myself for making it without congregating or forming lines; up here in this rarified atmosphere I have complied with my country’s leaders, who have found yet another creative way to ensure our safety.

The pilot of our connecting flight to San Diego is more succinct altogether. Since we are only to be in the air for an hour’s flight, he thinks we can hold it.

Of course, I am immediately chastised by you-know-who for making light of a serious issue. Furthermore, he tells me I have misquoted the captain, who merely said, “I think it would be good to wait until we land.” The audacity implicit in either interpretation leaves me speechless, for once.

All things great and small

However, he-who-comments-on all things-great-and-small shrugs and whispers to no one in particular, “There’s actually not much difference for her between hurtling through space in a plane or in a daydream. If it’s not the land of metaphor, it’s a storybook world she inhabits after all.”

I say it is simply a division of labor: he takes care of the serious things like paying the bills, kicking the tires and trimming the trees; I see to the stories and the background music. Remember I grew up on the musicals of the 1940s and 50s.

A friend of ours years ago voiced a sentiment that could have been taken straight out of the mouth of he-who-decries-frivolity: “Life is not a musical; while it’s taking place, there is no orchestral crescendo!” Years ago, my mother-in-law, when invited to see “Fiddler on the Roof,” put it even more succinctly: “I lived there and no one sang!” So you see, for him it’s completely hereditary.

However, for me — child of the happily-ever-after genre of movies known as musicals — life’s struggles happen and are overcome just as “the wind comes sweeping down the plains,” or during a ride in the “surrey with the fringe on top.” I say we have to search for ways to keep the edge off serious, locate the absurd within the bureaucracy and just keep whistling “Dixie.” It’s hard work, but after all somebody’s got to do it.

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