Looking at the white ceramic-tiled floor made me realize the oldness of things. The circa late 1990’s floor was showing her face with a pair of unmatched areas covering repairs in the ground of seventy-year-old leaking water pipes. The expiration date of the infrastructure of this old house had been stretched just too thin.
Since then, I’ve been carrying an awareness of cracks and leaks and an unmatched patchwork when driving around town where a tired gas station was covered with plywood and rust, a ranch-style addition extended like a T from an old red-brick farmhouse, and a ghostly dark brick two-story building where only shadows live.
How I once thought of oldness as being just that—a state of being that had always been that way: old water pipes that would always be prone to leaking, a gas station that had always been closed, a newspaper office that had always been shuddered.
Perhaps I carry this thinking from my youth, defined by the present tense, that had neither a history nor a future. When in grade school, I’d ride my bike into town that was marked by four corners. I knew for sure the dime store, set in on one of the cornered blocks, would always be well-stocked with school supplies every year, a black cow milk shake could be slurpped at the counter, and the parakeets stacked in cages along the back wall would sing in greeting. On the next corner, Deerfields bakery let out sweet, buttery scents that wafted through town, making my nose happy and my stomach sing. A few storefronts down, on a kitty-corner, the Music Center always had their doors open and a spot in the back room on Saturday mornings where I was sure to learn yet another piece of classical music on guitar from Mr. Biernacki sitting next to me.
My youth held no consciousness of time, and aging had no place. I knew for sure that home never had an expiration date, and that it would always be there, in Deerfield. The four corners told me so.
I realize now how time has marked her progression. The oldness of things—the mismatches of tile, rust, darkened building, boarded openings—is time traveled when once the tiles matched, the building’s windows were lit, and the gas station in redbrick and shiny pumps had hummed.
My youth was something I really knew for sure, perhaps it was because of the present tense when more years were ahead of me than I had already lived.
I think back to what I knew for sure then,
And what I know for sure, now.
My bedside clock telling me the time of morning, every morning,
the dim light from the window awakening me,
through the parting of linen curtains,
the creation of space in form and function.
What I know for sure is the shine of deep earth tones of paving stones on the patio after an overnight rain, still empty flower beds pockmarked with the nocturnal wanderings of deer feet,
track marks in vertical patterns on the wood fence by rodents with bushy tails and long front teeth.
The squirrels have returned, but for sure they’ve never departed.
The moon holds her head high, leading the way for sun, before it bows to her yellow glow.
That the day has begun, for sure.
The sun rises in the east over frosted rooftops and smoking chimneys, for sure.
light nudges her way through naked trunks and slender limbs to find space and me.
The north branch of the river runs south, for sure
And a robin’s ear will always be turned to the ground
Solace and peace and home is what I know for sure
A medley of beads of time strung to mark the present
From the oldness of things
Like the four corners of my youth, the natural world is where I can also find home.