Thursday, June 16, 2011

Missouri and a Sense of Place

I woke up this morning to rain. Straight-forward rain. The rain that isn't from a storm, just a passing thundercloud. The kind of rain the lawn service will continue to mow straight through. Straight-down rain.

We don't have that often where I live in Texas. Or if we do, it doesn't feel the same. Here in Missouri, it is cool. It is May and the windows are open, and I slept with a breeze blowing through all night. It is just sprinkling now, at noon, and the mower has packed up and left after his 20 minutes of work and with his 20 dollars of pay. Lying in bed, with the wind blowing, and the rain trickling, I am reminded of closing my eyes as a child and listening to the rain forrest around me. The raindrops dripping and dropping from leaf to leaf, the birds tweeting and singing and making all sorts of noise, but soothing noise, repetitive noise, and I wonder if that's how we originally learned music. As a child though, all that ambient noise sounded just like the "rain forrest" sounds you heard on CDs at those earthy stores in Kansas City that I didn't really understand much except they must have been started by someone who liked to travel. There's no need for sound machines while you sleep here or white noise bunnies placed next to cribs. Not when you lie in bed in Missouri.

In Texas the birds where I live are hideous. Mostly grackles, and they squawk. And because they're not beautiful like a toucan or a peacock, their noise is obnoxious, loathesome even. And while I've had a sprinkling of cardinals in my yard in Texas this spring, it's mostly grackles that one encounters, half deformed from fighting with car tires in the parking lot of grocery stores, pecking at bits of food that have fallen and fried on the smoldering asphalt and squawking and biting at each other, fighting over that generic brand of spaghetti noodles that must have slipped out of someone's cart and been run over by someone else's car and left scattered across the parking lot for the grackles to fight over. Then they fly (if their wings still work) up to the branches of the small trees littering the lot to squawk and shit with the hundred other grackles up there scaring adults and children alike as we scuttle with our groceries underneath.

It's like being in an episode of The Birds.

But it's not like that in Missouri. How it got so peaceful here, I'll never know. I remember the fighting, and the "Get dressed!"s and "That's my barbie!"s of childhood, and the "You ruined my favorite shirt!"s and "I can't believe you read my diary!"s of adolescence. But then all the girls grew up and moved out and learned how to clean up after themselves (except with men and for that they always seemed to come home for help cleaning) and got jobs and dogs and managed both alongside a mortgage and a car payment.

Now you come home and the floors have been redone. You've never seen anything so shiny as these hardwood floors. Even that spot where your sister's bunny peed it's acidic urine all over the floors is gone. And the ceiling that always leaked rain and probably asbestos onto your head during thunderstorms (markedly different that today's brief downpour), it got fixed too, so now there's no spray painting over water stains on ceilings and no hanging posters over places where the wood has rotted. And that spot of cherries on the ceiling that marked where the trash flew everywhere after mom threw it at you because you were fighting over who got the "nicer" sheet of drawing paper as you sat in front of the television, preparing to mimic Bob Ross's lovely watercolor, that's gone too.

My point is that it's cleaner here now, calmer. And one feels safe. Much safer than during childhood even though now one knows that natural disasters and failing economies and adulterous husbands and salary-cuts and mental health disorders all make the world a much scarier place than the masked men under the bed and monsters lurking in the closet and the study room ghost ever managed to conjure up in our imaginations. So while reality has settled in, so has my sense of place in this house and quite frankly, here it has endured. Here perseverance has prevailed.

"It'll get hot here," mother warned when I remarked at how wonderful it felt stepping off the plane at 6 o'clock to be greeted by 87 degrees of heat instead of the hundreds I left in Texas. "Yes, mother but it's June. And still spring. And in Texas its been in the triple digits since May. It won't get that hot here until July." And it will. July and August will be miserable here in Missouri and everyone will be either at the pool or in their office buildings. But by July and August in Texas, we'll have been oppressed by the heat for four straight months, with one or two more to go, and morale will be down, and unlike everyone else in the world who loses weight during the summer, we'll have put more on because there's no exercise to be done when it's 107 degrees outside and the pools feel like bathwater only muggier and even driving from your home to the gym is ample time to dehydrate if you've not had a full 8 ounces before braving the scurry to the car and the rolling down of the windows and the blasting of the AC.

Yes, it'll get hot here, but only for two months. And then the season will change and the rain will fall again and the leaves will turn and new smells and scenery will startle your senses into remembering again that life is changing and we must be aware.

I love my house in Texas. I love my life there. I love my dog and two cats and my boyfriend and my budding acting career and my quirky friends. I love my black, older neighborhood and my toyota corolla with it's "cool people care" bumper stickers and bluebonnets. I love that almost anything I want to buy in Austin I can buy either local or organic. I love that we have whole neighborhoods of "green housing." I love that there are more theaters there, professional and community, than I can keep track of, and that original art can be found on every coffee shop wall. I love the tattoos and the piercings and the mohawks and the liberals and the bicycles, hybids, smart cars, metro-rail, buses and the "dillo."

But I love my parents old house too with the coal bin and the original wood floors (newly polished) and the bookshelves built into every room and the doorknobs that fall off the doors and the attic and the basement and the study where the ghost lived that I moved into when Emily grew old enough to need her own room. And I love the trees that are taller than our two-story house and the fact that it rains at least once a month and I love the flowers and rock gardens and bushes that bloom and grass that grows green without the need for perpetual sprinklers. I love the four seasons and the violent storms and the soft rains and quiet snows and sleeping all night with the windows open.

I love that finally Missouri gives me a sense of place.

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