No Ordinary Hook

Jack is a two-pronged trick-or-treating strategist.

He has two plastic candy holders. The first one is the standard, round pumpkin with the looped black handle. Ours is purple. He calls this one Beginner.

The second one is orange, bucket-shaped, pumpkin-faced. He calls this one Advanced.

That’s because last year he and his dad spent a lot of time trick-or-treating and they actually filled the first one, came home, swapped it out for the second and pretty much filled that too. Yes, it was way too much candy and he did NOT eat it all.

Jack is big into Halloween. As soon as Back to School wears off, he turns on the imagination for Halloween. What should I be? The kid believes.

We have to make sure the costume isn’t too hot because one year in a black cat outfit, he got overheated and had a seizure down the block at the neighbor’s fence. I remember the spot he stopped in, staring into space, lifting his arm slightly and falling into bamboo.

A little while after that, a mom I like brought her kids by our house to trick-or-treat. She asked Where’s Jack? I didn’t want to say, so I just said He’s in for the night, nodding my head in a strained kind of way.

This year, with the seizures HOPEFULLY in our rear view, Jack is Maui, the demigod from Moana. You know, it’s Dwayne The Rock Johnson and his big song is You’re Welcome.

Maui carries a magical fish hook. It’s his attribute. We got one on Amazon, along with a Maui costume which is just a pair of pajamas, but that doesn’t bother Jack. On Halloween night we’ll layer up underneath so he’s not cold.

Maui carries a magical fish hook. It’s his attribute. We got one on Amazon, along with a Maui costume which is just a pair of pajamas, but that doesn’t bother Jack. On Halloween night we’ll layer up underneath so he’s not cold.

In character, Jack screws his face up and half smiles like he’s all strong and powerful, crooks his arm and makes a muscle. He knows where the strength is and he’s learning how to tap it.

Today, we headed out to Fred Meyer for a few things. He asked, Would it be ok if I bring my hook? I said sure.

Now, this is no ordinary hook. It evokes whalebone covered in brown scrimshaw tattoos. The handle is brown too, meant to look like twine wound tight for a good grip. Of course it’s all plastic, but what do you expect?

Oh and that’s not all! This is a light-up hook with a few sound effects thrown in — sssshhhhhuuu, sssshhhhhuuu. Jack’s been dressed up in the p.j.s acting out all the scenes from Moana in the house. He’s got all the moves to You’re Welcome, the dipping, the clapping, the twisting and crouching. His imagination just takes hold and you can see it illuminated right behind his eyes. It’s his power, just another kind.

Even though he’s a teen now and I’d really like him to be trick-or-treating with a group of neighborhood or school kids, his friends are limited and it’s usually just Jack and I trick-or-treating, or Jack and Dad going out. This year we’ll meet up with one friend and his little brother for a while, boys we’ve known since kindergarten.

Anyway, when we’re ready to leave for Fred Meyer, Jack appears, not only with his hook but in his Maui costume too. Full on. I smile. We get to the store, and in he goes ahead of me. I enter and I see the people waiting in line at the register. They stare and wonder why he walks that way.

To themselves, they ask What’s wrong with him? Face it, we all still say that. Even though it comes from a place of superiority and judgement, not understanding and grace. We’re just not that evolved yet. People need the label, it helps them. But there’s so many bad words on that label and I can’t live in the reminder. I need to exist in the possibility of what he can become.

To themselves, they ask What’s wrong with him? Face it, we all still say that. Even though it comes from a place of superiority and judgement, not understanding and grace. We’re just not that evolved yet. People need the label, it helps them. But there’s so many bad words on that label and I can’t live in the reminder. I need to exist in the possibility of what he can become.

So this is what I say to Jack: Walk right on in. With your hook. In your costume. With your walk. With your voice.

And that’s what we do. It’s so easy for me to believe in this kid. I’ve seen him struggle and I know what the seizures did to his brain. I believe with all my heart, especially because the stragglers at the register never will. I have to believe in him even more due to that.

So when we’re driving down Sand Point Way, heading home from our trip to Fred and the story he’s telling me comes to a nonlinear conclusion, I say Yeah! and I smile and nod my head with gusto. I know I’m acting a little myself now, but I’m here to build him up. Always. He’s strong — with or without the hook — and he knows it.

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Lesson

Everyone knows this about me but while surreal headlines hammer on about the Las Vegas shooter, the enormous power of the NRA, the voracious sexual appetite of a now-done Hollywood boss, cruelty in football and some senator calling the White House an adult day care center…you know what I’m doing?

Walking the dog. Down by the water. Always, seeking the water, under open sky.

wetlands 2017 3

Nature makes sense to me. Running around the woods in Stony Brook with our ragtag gang when I was small, building forts and playing war in bamboo and mud meant that the place I know best is trees, dirt and sky. And the water. And the creek was my first water.

The creek off Erland Road — past the cut-through at the bottom of a rutted, sandy path meandering through pricker bushes and pokeweed — where I got carried away in the current in 1966.

My mom couldn’t swim. She sat on a blanket in her blue daisy suit and floppy white hat, talking to our neighbor who lay on a towel. Out in the water, my feet left the sand. My legs pedaled in deep water and I got pulled around the corner, first slow then fast into the main current. I was 5 and the only one in that day.

I remember the current pulling me down between narrow banks where grass grew. My head stayed above water. It was almost like being carried off on a cloud. There was symmetry there. I wasn’t afraid and didn’t think of drowning.

My mom must have, though. She must’ve stopped her chitchat to look out and see me suddenly being pulled away. She panicked. Our neighbor, just a teenage girl, ran down the bank and jumped in to rescue me.

I really didn’t know what the fuss was about. The creek had held me in the palm of its hand. The pull of the current was just nature teaching me a lesson.

Shadow and slant light balanced on leaves across the woods, the bead of the dogwood, the current pulling east off West Meadow Beach, these were my first and essential lessons. The ones I return to. To me there’s both chaos and order beneath the bramble, thorn and sand, in the smashed berry streaked purple across your arm. I’m just in it and it carries me.

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