Sheep May Safely Graze by Margaret Dupree
 Autumn 2014 Dobbs Ferry, NY It was high school. There was nothing particularly interesting about it. People failed, people passed, and people were tired. Somebody watched their crush walk across campus again, and couples snuggled up and watched YouTube videos. That afternoon Peter played “American Pie” during lunch and everyone, while absorbed in last minute work, sang along. The speakers vibrated the classic and at first, no one moved. Then as the chorus picked up, more people smiled and hummed along. The late autumn glow filtered in and the sky was still that perfect blue. I always know that winter is really moving in when the September blue sky drains away. The remaining warmth coated the few seniors who animatedly belted along to the middle of the song. Its meaning is partially if not totally lost to people of my generation, but in that moment, especially for us, it meant something intangibly special. A large group of seniors disillusioned enough to sing along to “American Pie”? That’s special. After school I went to the mall with my friends. It’s a cliché, but I swear we don’t do it often. We usually stick around town and get food or go to a game. But today, we needed to go to the mall. So all four of us conversed over who was driving and what we were buying for our friend’s birthday and as usual made the decision as last minute as possible. We shopped for a friend and, of course, for ourselves. We were all indecisive about our purchases, disappointed when something didn’t look or fit right, and guilty about spending too much time in every store. When we sat down at PF Changs for dinner, we flipped through the menus asking each other about food options. “Do you want to share…,” “Hmm but what about this…,” all the questions and turning of plastic pages, furled brows, and “a few more minutes please” made it seem like the most important decision in the world, but it was only dinner. Once we had finally ordered, Emily checked her college decision for UGA and wondered (like she did earlier) whether she should open it. Opening it was easy in theory. It was a login and an application status, but Emily’s shoulders shot straight for her ears and she kept flipping her phone over in her hand as she took little sips of her drink. She radiated fear and hope simultaneously. For the ten minutes she left the login page alone; she could hope as much as she wanted and live blissfully in potential acceptance without the burden of thinking about a choice. She logged in quietly and someone was mid-sentence when she blurted out that she had been accepted. From afar we probably seemed like stereotypical white girls who were out to dinner on a Friday. Squeals of “we’re so proud and happy for you” were probably audible for about five tables all around us. It certainly seemed normal. But this was the beginning of the end –the beginning of the next step. So for her it must have been special in some sense, knowing she was heading somewhere. A lot of us can’t say the same. We know we are, but we don’t really know. It’s a strange limbo to be in. It’s tires spinning, it’s running on a treadmill, it’s sailing into the wind. It’s stop and go traffic on a major interstate. But the sun went down and rose the next day, and so it goes. Dec 31 10:44 2014 BVI (a little cove off the side of Virgin Gorda) Right now, there is a little over an hour left of 2014. I'm sitting in the cockpit of a 72-foot sloop called the Pacific Wave and I'm looking out at the islands and ocean beyond. The waxing gibbous moon is basking the fluffy clouds in an ethereal silver and the mast lights on the other two sailboats around us flicker across the water carefully and quietly. The sleepy little lights from the houses on the shore glow brightly in golds and bronzes. More and more are turning off for the night. The normally aqua water is an inky silk and the sky is speckled with little stars. The breeze is gentle and the temperature is like a soft sheet on a mattress in the middle of summer. Now and then the rocking of the boat moves the boom just so the moon shines down on my silent brothers and me. Crickets and birds sound like they, too, are celebrating the new year, and yachts overflowing with champagne and food slide across the water around the cove intermittently. I want to watch nothing change as our species celebrates another year on earth. I want to feel the shift of the new year that always seems to occur and look out across the water as everything remains as it was hours before and will be hours after until the blazing sun rises at 6:20 tomorrow morning and the sky will glow and turn cornflower blue. I want to welcome the year without fuss or “Auld Lang Syne” or kissing. Just to watch it switch effortlessly and say hello and welcome. To watch it as it occurs in so many places around the world where we aren't there to make a fuss. At two minutes until midnight there’s a breeze. A big one. It’s not aggressive or uncomfortable. It’s coaxing. It’s the same breeze that brings in the fall and ushers in spring. It glides over the wooden deck of our vessel and there is a slight whistle. Is it the New Year? Did it manifest itself in a wind? People always say “winds of change,” but what kind of statement does that actually make? Change is always happening. Wind is always happening. It seems redundant to me. Nevertheless, the breeze that shook the sails and undulated the flag on the stern of the boat lasted only a few seconds. Then the setting was back to normal. Or was it? At 12:00 there are horns from ships and then fireworks that spurt out from the horizon and bay across. The colors come first, the sound a few seconds later. The shore of the cove is silent and dark. Nothing stirs. It’s the same as it was three minutes ago. It’s just a new year. The crickets and the birds slowly go to sleep. Tomorrow is another day for them. It will start and end as it always has. 11:13 March 3rd 2015 (NYC) It passed as seamlessly as all other days go. From 10pm to 11pm and then, I guess, back around the clock again. The city lights glow through my curtain and cars still honk. The city doesn’t stop because tomorrow is my birthday. Tomorrow is a regular day for most other people. Although there are 19 million other people who share my birthday (I looked it up). But while everyone says congratulations tomorrow, all I will think of is if I just made it through the hard or easy part of life. Was that fun or is the fun part starting now? I list all the things I can do now, all the social things and legal things I can do. But nothing sounds quite as fun as running through Central Park on a spring day, or zooming through city streets on a scooter, or being able to jump into water over and over and over again without finding it boring. Nothing is quite as great as midnight snacks, or a new picture book, or a new toy. Nothing in the real world is as nice (so far) as falling asleep in the car and waking up in bed. Nothing is quite like Santa Claus, or Halloween, or Easter as a child. When I was little, these events seemed impervious to time. Summer stretched on endlessly, and winter was the best because there was snow to play in. I never stopped to cherish the summer rain on the metal roofs at summer camp, or the taste of hot chocolate at a friend’s house during a sleepover. It always felt like those times would return, yet years have come and gone and they haven’t come back. Life used to be marked by holidays and birthdays– marked by happy things, times of celebration. When I was little…When I was little. I don’t feel any different from when I was little. I don’t look in the mirror and say, “Geez, I’ve really grown these last seventeen years, that’s crazy! Look at how much I have changed!” It was seamless, graceful, and silent. It is the time in an hourglass that falls bit by bit and before you know it, there it is, all of the sand at the bottom. 6:00 am March 4th 2015 I don’t feel any different from when I went to sleep. I don’t feel wiser or smarter or more mature. The difference is today that I could go to real jail if I commit a crime. I can now buy a lotto ticket, vote for a representative, go to war, and buy tobacco outside of New York. But I’m the same as I was yesterday. What the hell is the basis for the idea that a seventeen-year-old one day is less legal than an eighteen year old the next day? Does one more day make that much a difference? Will people automatically assume that I’m eighteen when they look at me? People who don’t know me would not know how old I am. They wouldn’t know that I became a legal adult. The people on the sidewalk don’t know it’s my birthday. They just think it’s another day. The sun rose, their alarms went off, and they got up for another Wednesday. The double decker bus 27A Dublin, Ireland 3/26 6:14 pm 2015 The late afternoon sky is a deep blue. It’s the kind of blue that a painter sees on an exotic lizard and spends her entire life trying to recreate on canvas. The red brick buildings glow in the setting sun, which fights through the darker clouds that work to rain down on the Irish capital. The double-decker bus stops and moves through the residential streets, passing churches, parks, store fronts, schools, and bars. The bus stops for time, in front of a little row of brick buildings, all alike, with white shades on their square windows. One of the windows has daffodils in a smooth black vase. The yellow shines out against the ordinary shades of the window. I can almost imagine the resident putting the vase there to liven up the living room or bedroom. It was a small thought, “let’s put daffodils in the window” and without much argument, a black vase was removed from a closet, filled with water, and given three or four daffodils. The vase is in the line of vision of those on the bus, and it’s nice to think that someone put them there for us to admire. Almost directly above the daffodils in the windowsill is the moon. It’s now a half moon ––not crescent like when I arrived a week ago. The bus begins to move again, and the silhouette of the moving vehicle against brick frames each window perfectly for a moment at a time. I know I will never see that window again. I know this is my last time in Dublin for a long time, possibly ever. I know there are people and places on this journey that I will never cross paths with again. I fear that my brain’s memory card will erase the beautiful things I see and experience. The little jokes, the sights, smells, sounds, and late night conversations will fade as time goes on. Perhaps it’s the price we pay for living longer. One new memory for one old one. High school is ending and college is on the horizon. I sit frozen in the one long moment before the bus moves away from the window. I feel the bus lurch forward and the perfect line between the moon and daffodil is gone and there’s no point in straining to look for it behind me because I know it’s gone. I look around at everyone else on the bus. People are looking at their phones, reading books, talking to the people next to them. They didn’t see the daffodil or the moon. They didn’t see how pretty it was. The view outside of the window is normal, residential, unremarkable. They all wait for their stop on the bus so they can get off and do the next thing on their list.