Over the last few days, I painted another 6″ X 24″ tile. I drilled holes in six places to make it easier to secure safely in my surprise location. I glued dozens of multi-colored glow-in-the-dark rocks to the front. On the back, I wrote a truth of mine in marker. The truth is very personal. Anyone who wants to know it will have to climb a considerable height to do so.
This makes me happy.
After work today, I climbed a tall tree before I lost my nerve. It’s the first tall one I’ve climbed since my surgery. It was tricky getting up there with a two-foot-long tile strung around my neck as I ascended. As far as I could tell, no one noticed me as I rose the vertical surface of the tree, carefully finding my foothold. After twenty feet, my reluctance vanished, and I forgot all about the possibility of falling. I’m just as likely to get killed by a rogue intestine or a plane falling out of the sky as I am climbing a tree. Besides, I laughed at the idea of my precarious fall being covered on the local news or the What’s Up, Fayetteville group. “Arts & Crafts Take Local Man’s Life” would work nicely. “Idiot Falls While Doing Performance Art” also serves its purpose.
As the limbs thinned out, I stood, watching the area below me. It was beautiful. I took the tile, ran steel wire through the open holes, and secured it from one primarily perpendicular limb. Not wanting to leave the view behind, I sat near the trunk and just felt the wind around me.
It was a stolen moment!
After a few minutes, I climbed down in one quick descent and stood back on the ground. I looked up at the pretty colored rocks and the brightly painted long tile. Yes, that would do nicely.
Where did I place the beautifully decorated tile? That’s the question, isn’t it? Take a moment and stare up into the slowly appearing upper branches of the trees around you. “Look up, not down” is not only a symbolic reminder to find yourself and answers looking directly into the world, but now also a practical guide to ever finding my hidden-in-plain-sight tilework.
Beauty is anywhere you find it, y’all. Even if you never find my tilework, look around and find the people and things that light you up. Give them attention and appreciation. From time to time, look up to behold the wonders that we forget to see. If you can do so, look at yourself in the mirror and remember that no matter who you are, someone loves you. Merry Xmas!
“You’re only given a little spark of madness, you mustn’t lose it.” — Robin WIlliams
As for my smaller lighter brooch I made and wore today, it was wildly successful. Sure, I had a couple of eyerolls and a bit of derision. 98% was effusively humorous. One person asked me to make one for her husband, who struggles to avoid losing lighters. I imagined him on the construction site with a lighter-brooch on his shirt, while his coworkers chortled at him. The woman at the gas station thought it was both practical and creative. The booth clerk at the flea market said, “Art is in the eye of the beholder. That’s fairly creative, X.”
Though I make these things to be creative and for self-amusement, I also accidentally discover human behavior lessons by doing so.
You’ll hear me say with regularity, “Anything can be made into a brooch if you’re audacious enough.” The fact that I have one made out of a pregnancy test should be proof enough of that.
“Life is far too important a thing ever to talk seriously about.” -Oscar Wilde
Rare is the person who directly expresses displeasure. Not so much about the specific idea or implementation; rather, the IDEA of such a thing. Those people are to be avoided. It belies a lack of enthusiasm for creativity and the autonomy of others to be ridiculous. People who can’t engage in random acts of ridiculousness aren’t part of my tribe, to put it mildly.
People who directly say, “It’s not that clever or not appealing” either do so because they are honest, which is truly a great thing, or they can’t help but to express negativity, which is its opposite. I’m carefree about people’s reactions but I do notice when someone isn’t engaging in a spirit of enthusiasm or encouragement. Life is bland enough without encouraging more of the same.
To everyone who thought it was clever, thank you. To those who didn’t, I can’t hit all home runs. But out of the hundreds of people I ran across today, my cigarette lighter brooch was the most singular thing I saw anyone wearing today. And that’s a home run each and every time – in part because it gives people the opportunity to be amused, annoyed, or to interact. I can’t be certain that NO ONE has ever made a working cigarette lighter brooch. But I am certain that the idea came to me from the mist of my own mind – and that no one I know has ever seen one. Until today. That makes me happy.
The best line I came up with today was a play on words: “Can I send you a Bic pic?”
“Creativity is contagious, pass it on.” – Albert Einstein
Among the things I once did a LONG time ago was to find and gift used vintage holiday cards. Not only is the artwork a surprise and delight, but it brings me nostalgia for times I never knew.
This Xmas card is postmarked on Dec. 21, 1909.
Now, years later, I love using my genealogy ability to find either the receiver or sender and look back at their life. If I wanted, I could find one of the descendants of William Early. William, to whom the postcard was sent. I could unravel the entire biography for the sender, Bessie McGivern of Galesburg, Illinois. She aged into a beautiful woman. I found several pictures of her.
I don’t know the sender’s and receiver’s connection.
But I love that I COULD find out if I wanted – to crack open a spider’s web of connections throughout history, time, and geography.
So, when I see used vintage cards, I don’t see relics or dusty, useless reminders.
When I give them, I’m giving something of myself; the admiration of life shared. You might not know it by looking at me, but I feel a kinship to some of the old ways. Of writing, of postcards, of delayed communication. If you get one from me, I’m also reminding you that life is fleeting and that one day our lives will be footnotes, memories, and details.
I see art.
I see life.
I see footprints of those who preceded us, much in the same way we’ll precede those who follow.
Time. Love. Connection.
Love, X .
P.S. *You’ll note that back then, “Xmas” was completely acceptable, before disinformation spread to lessen its beauty.
If you have a front license plate – or a holder, you might want to check your vehicles!
When I took off the flimsy license plate from the front of my attractive clown car, I had a flash of inspiration. I was going to paint it and decorate it. Of course.
I realized that I should revive an old trick of mine: secretly put NEW plates on other people’s vehicles.
And so, today, I put one of my special creations on someone’s vehicle.
Today’s proudly asked: “AM I CUTE??? CALL XXX-XXX-XXX.”
I’m laughing even as I type this.
I love you all and one of you needs to walk around to the front of your vehicle. Or don’t. Just expect a confusing phone call from a stranger, and/or a potential love interest if they think you are cute.
I had an extra tub of sidewalk chalk in my little car. Who doesn’t? I’ve had so many little adventures grabbing chalk and drawing for people who’ll never know who did it. Quick messages, words of encouragement, poetry, and odd notes to perplex those who happen upon them. The outside world is nothing if not surfaces, ones unfortunately left blank and colorless. If I find a bucket of chalk, crayons, or markers marked down, I grab a set.
Yesterday, I went to Dollar General to find cheap mixing bottles for my protein requirement. I bought another tub of chalk and a set of crayons and markers for a couple of bucks. A man was walking across in front of Lucky Luke’s bbq. He said, “Cool pin, man” as he looked at my shirt. I had money in my hand, as well as my Dollar General bags. I was on the way to the laundromat a couple of doors down to get what is commonly known as an “assload” of quarters. It’s one of the habits I’ve acquired living in an apartment without my own washer and dryer. “Do you need anything?” I asked him. I would have given him $10 if he had asked. “Nah, I’m good for today.” I stopped. “Hey, how about a tub of chalk? Draw something interesting, pass the time?” He didn’t hesitate. “Hell yes, I’d love a bucket of chalk. I haven’t touched chalk in years. My nephew and I will burn through this.” I handed him the bucket. I could see a little glimmer of the child he once was flickering on his face.
This morning, on a whim, I took the other bucket out and walked over to my downstairs neighbor. His door was open. His young son was already outside, riding around in circles, waiting impatiently on his dad. I handed the dad the chalk. He smiled. “Thanks!” he said. I almost told him it was for his son, but I’d rather see both of them out there covering the pavement and sidewalk with beautiful colors.
I saw them minutes later, riding toward the trail on Poplar.
No one is bored holding a stick of chalk – unless they wish to be. Blank canvases everywhere, waiting.
A gaggle of young runners made their way up Poplar toward the traffic light. I was outside near the crosswalk measuring for an address plaque I’m making for the apartment simplex. The last runner was struggling to catch up. “You won’t always be last,” I told him as he crossed Gregg. “I hate running!” He said. I laughed. “You won’t hate it the day you leave all of them behind you, though.” I gave him the thumbs up.
Around 8 last night, I heard weird popping noises. I didn’t think much of it. I was standing outside on the deck. Waking up this morning, I discovered that an unidentified idiot shot into the apartments by the trail on Poplar Street. Automatic gunfire, too. I can see the apartments and trail from the crosswalk outside the apartment. Y’all can scoff, but I wish I’d taken a walk last night. There’s no better adventure story than gunfire after sunset. Have you noticed that almost no nincompoops get up at 5 a.m., drink a cup of coffee, and start shooting? We need a better class of hooligans in Fayetteville! Also, bullets are expensive.
I bought four pieces of bacon in the work cafeteria this morning. (No, I’m not authorized to return to work yet. At least not PAID work.) It’s been a year since I had bacon. Bacon salt has been my salvation in the interim. When I got back to the apartment, I made lettuce and bacon wraps. I may have blacked out with pleasure for a moment.
I also left a surprise brooch for someone today. Nothing says, “Good morning!” as inexplicably as a surprise brooch. Today, I’m wearing a spectacular fleur-de-lis brooch that I found at Peace At Home. I’d not thought much about the symbol until recently. Like so many symbols, it’s an ancient one. When I chose the name “X,” I thought I was simplifying things. Lord, the number of things “X” can signify is astonishing, even though it is just a single letter. It’s nice having a name that looks the same regardless of direction.
Seeing someone’s ASL post this morning made me realize that people around me didn’t know I was saying “Please” a lot of the time. It may look like I’m rubbing my heart. I learned it from a deaf man who attempted to work at Cargill years ago. “Please” and “Thank you” are both great visuals, even in normal conversation – not that I’m sure what that is. People running away from me with their palms clamped firmly over their ears give me the wrong impression.
I finished the address plaque for the apartments. I used reflective numbers. And I couldn’t quite bring myself to NOT put a little bling and beauty on there in the form of a dragonfly. I also installed a nice solar light above it, either to illuminate the reflective numbers I chose – or so that the idiots shooting automatic weapons will have something other than my ass to aim at if they find themselves with an oversupply of bullets.
Other: * While chatting with my case manager, I did offer to re-write my surgical report. It needs a plot twist and a little bit of pizzazz. And/or humor and brevity: “Patient failed to notice my approach as I used a #11 blade to gut him. We found a herniation near the appendix but this box of Cracker Jacks did not have a surprise.” * A random internet person read my post about Tammy’s weight loss: “You have no idea how seeing you and your friend have motivated me. I think I have your incremental idea in my head now. I’ve already lost ten lbs, just by deciding to do a few small things each day. Such as choosing differently, doing exercises every hour while at work, and keeping my mouth shut as much as I can. You’re right. Food can’t get in there if it isn’t open!” * Another person wrote me and asked me if this quote is mine: “Saying you aren’t photogenic is kinda like saying you’re better looking than all available evidence.” No, but I wish I had. It’s pithy and logical. * A Bit Of Daily Motivation: “Have you stopped to think that somewhere there’s a tree growing that might one day become your coffin?” *
A visit to Sam’s proved valuable in my quest for tomfoolery. The door checker was very adamant I use the Scan-As-You-Go feature. I told him I thought that was for the bathroom. (Is that joke funny?) Among my many feats, I went down the chip and nut aisle and scanned every item on it, about 50 items. And then asked for help to remove “a couple” of things I needed to delete from my app checkout cart. Several people asked for assistance because I still wore my work badge, soft purple shirt, and fantastic Dance Commander brooch. I did my best to help them except for the last guy, who was in a bad mood and couldn’t find the coffee on sale. Without missing a beat, I told him it was all the way in the back rear corner, past the paper towels. Note: it’s not there. But it was the furthest point from me in the store. He walked off, and I decided it would be a good time to leave. I hope he complains about me to the manager! If I don’t get Employee of The Month, I’ll know who to blame. . The picture of 3 photos is of the upper right corner of my fridge, which I’m loading with photo magnets. Everyone in the pictures except me suffers or suffered from addiction issues. Of the 5 other people in the photos, all but one of them died with their addictions. My sister Marsha is making another heroic effort to right her ship as I write this. Having phrased it slightly wrong when I said “other than me,” the truth is that everyone suffers if they love someone with addictions. Watching someone get on the diving board and stay there and then lose the battle is one of the most painful experiences any of us can live through.
There are no bystanders to addiction. . It’s nice having a metal door. Not because it heats up to 180 F in the summer. Or prevents most people from being able to kick it. No, I like it because I can fill it with photo magnets and nonsense. . The purpose of the picture of me against the brownish wallpaper background is two-fold: to show the brooch I wore today and to give publicity to someone’s kitchen wallpaper. I’m not standing in said kitchen. I took a picture of me standing near the trail and transposed myself onto the wild wallpaper background. The brooch inspired a lot of comments: Is it a pilot’s insignia? Was it a repurposed military medal? My go-to response was this: I’ve been promoted to Dance Commander. Whatever you do, DO NOT go to YouTube and watch “Dance Commander – Electric Six.” I love the song, but I’m guessing 103% of y’all won’t. (It’s more than 100% due to the number of my social media friends who have multiple voices in their heads.)
. The picture of the two pennies was the second brooch I made. I gave it to my Director as a gift. If the joke is too thin, it’s this: “Here are my two cents worth.” It might come in handy in conversations.
. The picture of the broken watch is sentimental. I broke off 1/2 of the band and attached a brooch clip on the reverse. I couldn’t bring myself to discard the broken watch. The phoenix in me told me to give it new life – so I did.
. The fuchsia-colored bird metalwork is something I had made by Married To The Metal on Etsy. I painted it when I moved here. If you’re interested, you should look up the word “Onism” on “The Dictionary of Obscure Sorrows.” It’s delightful and an apt reminder while I live inside this box. It is where I discovered the word “Sonder” and many others that are a delight.
. The picture of the edge of my deck is my color tile project-in-the-making. Several of the neighbors probably think of me as some kind of artist because, most days, I’m on the deck painting a variety of things that look out of place. The apartment simplex has a variety of people: dealer, disabled, dog people, and probable serial killer. I have a lot to shoot for if I want to become the most infamous resident here. To be accused of too much color and art would be a glorious compliment.
. I went outside and picked up a lot of trash. I quit, though, because my neighbor Bill got angry when I tried to put him in a trash bag. Please take a shower, Bill. Joking aside, I find myself picking up the mess here often. It’s not my job, but I hope I never get to the point where such things don’t register in my brain; doing so will mean I’ve accepted my environment. There are several things about this place that are very much in need of handcuffs, flamethrowers, or eye-rolling. While I was out, I managed to place another prank in plain view. Just call me Prank Sinatra. . A FedX truck barreled into the parking lot while I stood outside, relishing the breeze. The driver had salsa music blaring. For southerners, ‘salsa music’ isn’t music you listen to while you eat Tex-Mex, by the way. The driver was surprised I greeted him in Spanish. I love watching drivers pull up and always hope they need a signature. They can expect a lot of interesting scenarios with the crowd who lives here. Barking, sometimes even from actual dogs, suspiciously-folded window blinds, and a strange cast of characters. . I have to go choose among my 17 colors of paint and see what needs brightening now. I know I don’t. I hope the mood lasts. Last evening was a challenge for me. In closing, I’d like to add: no, Marilyn, I don’t have a cat yet, although I suspect I ate a bit of cat food in the cafeteria this morning at work.
I was given this Jesus pendant as a little surprise.
Since I received a bit of advice from Erika, who has a lot of jewelry experience, something many people don’t know, I chose it to be my first DIY brooch. Amazon and Hobby Lobby provided my first essential kits to get started. Anything can be a brooch if you’re sufficiently motivated. That’s fair warning. 🙂
I ordered a simple soldering kit to learn to make them properly. You’ll know when the kit arrives, because you’ll see a post of me being surprised I melted my fingers or stuck the soldering iron on my cheek accidentally.
I had the Jesus pendant on the window sill facing the kitchen, displayed.
It wasn’t until two weeks later that I discovered that it was actually a directional double image locket; one perspective Jesus, the other Mary.
Not to stretch the comparison, but I wonder how many other obvious surprises are hidden in plain sight.
The fact that I’m kind of a doofus for failing to realize it’s actually a visual illusion shouldn’t be a surprise.
It’s devilishly difficult to photograph these!
It’s the first brooch I’ve ever made, at least in an attempt to do so properly.
PS I’m not a Christian, but I love the message, even as I continue to fail to remember to do unto others.
Yesterday, I put up a 4-shelf system behind my metal front door. It’s wasted space and ideal to display curios, knick-knacks, or bric-a-brac. (If you like the hoity-toity French word for small pieces of goofiness on display.) Give me credit for using a neutral color. My inclination was to do a series of bright resonant colors.
I’m using the bottom shelf to display my favorite brooches. I guess I have a brooch addiction. What kind of 12-step program is available for such an affliction probably would be really fabulous.
For those with discerning eyes, yes, that is a pregnancy test on the far right. No, I’m not pregnant. I put that odd curio there to catch people off guard. In case they aren’t already on guard just strolling through the front door. It’s akin to the fun I have by putting underwear on the door or on the floor in plain sight. Since my friend Marilyn insists I’m circling the crazy drain, I see no point resisting filling this old apartment with a variety of easter egg surprises. (The apartment simplex has a few surprises I’ve put up – and as far as I know, no one has questioned them. It’ll be interesting to see how far I can task this long-term project before being called out. 🙂 )
As for the real confession, lately I’ve been taking puffs of small cigars. The first puff always gives me a buzz. No, these are not the cannabis kind. Despite what you’d guess by reading what I write, I don’t do drugs – and they don’t do me, either. Today is the day I stop taking puffs. This is one of those small habits that most people keep a secret, especially if it’s one they are about to give up. It’s a bit ridiculous to reveal that I’ve been doing it. I hate secrecy, which is ironic on several levels. I have no problem confessing such stupidities. I’ve found that if you don’t confess things, even the small ones, people’s idea of you grows increasingly disparate from reality.
I’m painting more tiles and attempting a wall rack. The wall rack is already a bit of a mess.
As for my small first-world problems, people I love are experiencing real heartache and the kind of life surprises that really hurt. I have hope that all of us end this day with more love and peace than we started with. It’s a small ask, one bordering on prayer.