Sentiment vs. Syntax

The porch light catches magnolia blossoms half-trodden on the glistening sidewalk before me as I write and remember all the nights spent on this white wicker love seat with the same view. Only, blog post nostalgia begs me to reconsider: the dim, post-rain fog that surrounds me on the first night of spring fails to comfort like the warm breeze that stirs up my wind chimes in mid-June. The setting varies with the seasons, and my perspective tags along.

It’s never really been the same view. My body settles into cornflower blue paisley cushions worn to my shape, and I finish this sentence after stopping to evaluate the necessity of a comma after blue in the previous independent clause. I accept that the Writing SOL exam for my sophomores was last week, and my thoughts can take precedent over syntax like our new units. We’re writing poetry and fairy tales for the next two months, after all. If e.e. cummings can spell his name in lowercase letters, the grammar guru’s genius is eradicated by prioritizing the writer’s voice and message over command of language conventions. If there are no rules in poetry, then the sky is the limit. If the kids are lost in a fairy tale, they will believe anything is possible.

As my students have transitioned from the Art of Rhetorical Persuasion to discover the taste of freedom, as the five paragraph essay basic, staple mainstay fades from foggy adolescent memories, so I find myself allowing more latitude in every area. I’m not as young as I used to be, and my shoulder reminds me in subtle and sledgehammer ways that it has a broken bone, for goodness’ sake. In turn, I’ve been more submissive, bending to the rotator cuff’s will. I will tolerate a degree of organized chaos, ignoring dusty surfaces no one will notice but me and consolidating clutter to appropriate junk drawers.

My gym mentor Chuck helps me sort through life’s clutter. After describing the type of pain I’d felt the day I’d forgotten my sling at work as my arm being pulled downward, Chuck said something profound: “Gravity works against all things… with time.” It was just that way, with a pause for emphasis, and it struck us both squarely as we shifted contexts, and subsequently, we shifted perspectives, too. I could hear my brain cue up Pandora as John Mayor’s voice filled the empty space. It’s working against me, wants to take me down. Gravity is metaphorical. Chuck had been literal, and yet, his words echo and resound every day as I see a new application, even catchier than the pop song lyrics.

Gravity literally weighs on my shoulder without the sling, and I feel the way it works against me. When I look in the mirror, I see the way that gravity has worked against me and know it will continue to add even more wrinkles and make skin sag in a manner that won’t let me pass for twenty-nine anymore. Last April, I was squeezing into size ten jeans. Now, my size two A-line skirts from personal training days are seeing light after a decade in storage. Unfortunately, even though I can fit into the Forever 21 crop tops causing dress code violations at school, I’m too old to actually wear them in public without pulling them down every other second.

We’re never completely satisfied. When our instinctive desire to be better wins out over passive participation in entertainment, the varying perspectives are far more entertaining when experiencing the real world. I’ve done that from this front porch, and I’ve never seen the same two Tuesdays, not in one hundred and fifty-eight nights of blind typing or the near quarter of a million words spilled out of my brain onto the page and shared with friends and strangers who happen to connect with something in the way that I saw life on that particular evening, still and silent on a street that soothes me with the familiar comfort of the collective nights in which I responded to the setting this porch gives me. And yes, that sentence was correctly punctuated, not that it matters to e.e. cummings.

One of those connections was Charming, but I never could have known that starting a blog would amount to finding my husband. Gravity has worked against us, too. Two and a half years of a mid-distance relationship takes its toll. In our fragmented time together on the weekends and stolen handfuls of phone conversations to tide us over until Friday night. The drive on 95 wears on us both, and planning a wedding across state lines adds to the load. The restricted use of and resulting clumsiness combined with the nagging pain and associated sleep loss caused by my right arm keep me at a resting irritability rate of about a five on a scale of one to ten.

I know I’m not fun to be around, but I can’t expect Charming to overlook my snarky retorts and be my knight in shining armor at the same time. Gravity is weighing on him, too, as his career future has taken an incredible turn that will mean everything changes, for him and for us. I’ve written about all my worries for the world to see, but my Charming will bear the weight on his shoulders because he knows I’ve only got one right now. I learn lessons when I sit here. I told myself in a blog post months ago that I can’t put the burden of my happiness in Charming, that experiencing joy originated somewhere else, that I could be at peace even if I wasn’t smiling all the time.

Molded into these blue cushions, I gaze out at the same magnolia tree opposite my loveseat in my front yard. This afternoon, I was surprised by how long they’ve been in bloom. Perhaps rather than confusing the Japanese trees, the colder temperatures gave my block a couple more weeks of brilliant color. Today, even against the rain, they made me smile. My writing journey reveals the seasons I experience just like my magnolias. There were nights I looked out at barren branches and saw the cold in my own heart. Other times, the late setting sun inspired a hopeful optimism as the full shade of green leaves kept me comfortable.


In one of my very first posts, I fixated on the great, old oak tree that fell on Valentine’s Day three years ago. It was my first nature analogy, setting the stage for the way my writing would take shape and find its own voice and message. Almost always, my perspective fits my magnolias and the weather. Tonight is the same, so night is ever the same. You can’t see the pink blossoms in the dark of night, but they are there. It’s cold, but it will get warmer soon. That’s how I’m feeling about my life right now, too.

Even as I pen these words, all sparked by Chuck’s unintentionally powerful statement. Gravity works against all things, and it’s the “over time” part that matters. Gravity doesn’t affect Word documents, but it affects everything else in my life. Gravity took down that oak tree, but it took a hundred years. For three years, I’ve devoted a night to my mistress, and unlike e.e. cummings, the intentional act of routine writing has led me to a masterful command of language that tantalizes me.

Weaving words and wisdom in attempts at wit challenges me, and there’s no one who gives better advice than Chuck. If the stars align, and it seems they might, I told Chuck to start hitting the record button on his smart phone whenever he starts spilling out one of his inspirational stories from his days on the force. It doesn’t seem fair to the world that all his wisdom is wasted on an audience of one.

What if my mistress could be more than that? I could ghost write Chuck’s book of motivational anecdotes. I could write my mom’s story the way we’ve always dreamed about doing in the hazy someday. I could visit all the places in Italy where my ancestors lived and worked and write the book I don’t even know I’m supposed to write yet. What if?

When Charming and I get married, I will become his wife. That will undoubtedly bring a new perspective, one that will never see these magnolia trees shed their blossoms. Despite the dark, I look out and see the colorful pink I know will be there in the morning. We’ll move into a home together, and I’ll find a new writer’s perch, and I’m already wondering what will replace the magnolias to inspire and delight my writing love affair.

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