Watching my dogs run in the sun, I laugh as Sputnik chases a butterfly. The Santa Ana wind is blowing and the gusts carry the insect higher into the blue bright heat of mid-day, but she does not give up. Back and forth she races beneath it, squinting into the sun and dust.
I wonder how dogs keep sand-grit out of their eyes enough to not stop chasing what it is they are after.
I cup my hand against my face as another gust blows sand at me angrily. My shadow on the ground does the same and I suspect my hair looks crazier than hers does.
Woola licks my hand absently as he jogs by.
It’s a lovely day.
In between gusts, I look around the yard. My yard. Outside my house.
How did I get here?
How did I get to this point in my life? What’s next? Does anyone other than me even care?
I am annoyed, having just read a couple letters from a prison penpal. I once applied to work in a juvenile detention facility for mentally ill young people, many centuries ago; this was before I worked as a youth counselor and had to go ‘inside’ to meet with my clients. The sound of large locks closing behind me and the inability to carry even a ballpoint pen into the meeting room was appalling. My church has a prison ministry, where they go to some of the toughest places on the planet to visit with incarcerated folks (San Quentin, Pelican Bay, or Tehachapi Prison, anyone? How about Corcoran, where Charles Manson has lived since about 1971? Yep, the prison ministry volunteers have been and go to them all). However, knowing my aversion to that locking sound and my lack of keys or ability to affect my own departure from such locales caused me to volunteer instead for the letter writing end of the ministry. I got a request to put cash on the books, which I understand — people need stuff, especially when chances are slim that they will ever get out. However, when you tell me you don’t want anything in one letter but then ask for a lo of cash monies t in the next? I got problems.
I mean, I know how to answer, but I am saddened at the general thought of someone young enough to be my daughter — who has a daughter of her own — locked up possibly for the rest of her life.
An existential whats-it moment of dread, panic, depression, sorrow, wonder, amazement, accomplishment, glee, resignation, and determination all rolled into one.
How did I get here?
That girl could be me. I could have turned left one day, a long time ago, and made a decision that would have put me behind bars forever. Where I would never have seen my son grow up. Where I would have never had the chance to buy another home or another car or complain about having more month than money when I pay my bills. Where I would have not gone on to get my terminal degree or have the opportunity to teach online.
Where I would never have had the chance to stand in the sun, watching my two dogs play.
Where I would never have had the chance to meet you. Or you, or even you.
No matter what, I’m glad I made it here.
Thank you for being here with me, and I hope you’ll do me a favor once in a while?
Remind me that no bars hold me. That I have the keys: all I need to do is step out of my own head once in a while to be free.