On Solid Ground

It’s 4 steps out the back door to the screen door, push it open, 2 steps through— slap! Five steps across the deck, down 6 more steps until my feet touch grass. Twenty-two steps across the lawn to the pair of black wrought iron chairs I have placed under the absolute shade of the Leyland cypresses. It beckons me out of the late afternoon sun.

We inherited the wrought iron set with the purchase of our first house and moved it to our second house and now to our third. The chairs and the bench and the round side table that accompanied them are the old-school wrought iron. Heavy. With layers of paint gummed up on the metal and not a little rust poking through.

The chairs sat- plain and unadorned- by our fire pit in the lawn. To sit on them or the bench would be to risk rust stains and snags. I once considered hauling the set away as scrap and getting some of that newfangled crap that’s light as a feather but that you know will be in the trash heap after one or two seasons. This stuff is solid. Durable. Dependable.

In the early days of the virus, when the shutdowns were imminent and the toilet paper was nowhere to be found except hoarded in suburban garages, I went to Big Lots. I purchased tie-on cushions- one for each chair and two for the bench. Usually one to bleed out time and energy finding the perfect fit and color, these gray, slightly-too-big cushions gave me what knew I would need in the coming spring weeks- a soft place to land.

I dragged the chairs across the lawn, ripping up tiny divots in the grass toward their destination under the trees.

Today I carry my glass filled with ice and my cold can of Diet Coke straight from the fridge. Plop down in a chair. Relish the sound of metal shearing as I pop the top. Pour it over the ice, careful to keep all the fizz in the glass. I need every drop.

I sit and stare across our quarter-acre kingdom. Watch the birds at the feeders, the dragonflies practicing their maneuvers. See a fly land on my bare foot. Shoo it away.

I look up and watch the thin, hazy clouds flow across the sky. If I sit long enough and look long enough, it is I that begins to move under a fixed ceiling of water vapor. The weight of the chair presses into the earth. My feet are anchored in place. I feel the whole mass and weight of the spherical, globular earth holding me up. Supporting me. Its permanence pushing up through my feet and into my heart.

My head may be turning and spinning, but I am on solid ground once again. Finally, I can exhale. Slow down to the pace of the turning earth. Feel the power of its spiral trajectory.

Breathe in. Breathe out.

Hear the screen door slap. “Mom?” she calls.

And back in I go. Thirty-nine steps, and I count each one.