focused on the now

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A morning walk. The four of us holding hands. Past our shop—closed until Spring—then down 2nd Avenue. Sleepy Alpena. Little Man and Oogie chattering. S.B. dreaming aloud. About art, the business, what may be waiting. In five years. A few months. Maybe just over the bridge.

Things can change suddenly. Weirdly. Without warning. But I don’t let it—my writer’s mind—get the best of me. Instead of tuning into the mess of movement that plays through continuously like motion pictures somewhere up there behind my eyes, I focus on the now.

Big wooden crate in the window of the antique store—we’re into those lately.

Puddles—winter today is melting away.

Oogie—fidgeting and fidgeting with her gloves.

Little Man—getting too far ahead.

“Stop!” I say.

He is caught up in one-foot-in-front-of-the-other. On the move. And when he is moving, he is much like me. Not thinking, but feeling. The warm sunlight. Lake Huron air. Wide open space that begs a boy to run.

“See that?” I ask.

He looks at the signal.

“Don’t walk,” he says.

“Exactly. Just wait a minute and then it will change.”

“Count to sixty,” says S.B.

I look to Oogie. She smiles. I look to S.B. She smiles. I look at Little Man and he is deep in the counting. He gets to 20 and the light changes.

“Hey!” he says. “That wasn’t sixty!”

“We got lucky,” says S.B. “We didn’t have to wait a full minute.”

On the bridge, we pass a short burly man. He’s in an insulated plaid shirt. Camo baseball cap. Wearing what looks to be safety glasses. He is fishing. No bucket. No tackle box. Just a pole. Line dangling all the way down to the black Thunder BayRiver that is filled with jagged white ice floes and happy ducks. I’m not sure what he’s after. If he’s after anything at all. And I know how it is sometimes—when you just want to get out, be near the water, alone—so I don’t say a word. The four of us pass the one of him in complete silence as the river pushes into the lake. Ice melts. The world spins round and we somehow hold fast to this—our place—just a horsefeather away from the 45th parallel.

We walk.

Little man up front.

Me and S.B. side-by-side with Oogie close behind.

Another storefront. I see us. A reflection. A family passing by. And I see furniture I like but cannot afford.

There is the great theater we need more of.

The restaurant we’ve sworn off.

And as we pass Fletcher Street Brewery, I say to the kids, “Mommy and Daddy will be dancing there tonight!”

“We will?” S.B. asks.

The kids laugh.

“Sure,” I say, “Depends on how much we drink.”

She laughs. Smiles. And it is yet again one of those moments where I wonder how on earth this woman decided to shackle herself to me. A moody, stubborn man that always seems to want more than he has. Cannot function without writing. And fights daily to maintain the balance our family needs.

“Let’s run!” I say, and me and Oogie and Little Man run and run and run. When we stop, we all kind of go our separate ways. Little Man moves up the river walk. Far ahead to where Lady Michigan sits when the weather is warm and tourists are ready to spend, spend, spend. Oogie picks up small rocks. Stones. Names the ice floes as they drift by.

“A triangle!” she says. “A house! A diamond!”

And I stand there, looking at the river.  Watching my boy. My girl. Looking back at my wife as she catches up. Slowly. At her own pace. Her curly locks bouncing. That contagious smile. And as the day warms and the river lets loose and the sun brings Spring to January, our town, our life, our choices look perfect. And I am humbled by the fact that things change suddenly. Weirdly. Without warning. And I am hopeful as we move through this motion picture.

Living dreams aloud.

Focused on the now.

~ K. J.


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