Category Archives: Gift

What A Life!

What a beautiful morning. Despite the rain and lightning moving in, I went outside and started hanging more painted tiles on my fence project. This week, I painted 20+ more tiles and a couple of dozen wood samples to attach to my out-of-control art project out there. It was sublime feeling the wind howl through the vertical slats of the fence boards and the light rainfall across my face and neck. I woke up with a reservoir of energy and enthusiasm. Nature repaid me with its light caresses as I stood there in the dark, loaded with washers, screws, and tiles leaning against the old boards. I know I looked foolish, standing there with no shirt on, smiling. The temperature dropped 10-15 while I was out there feeling the storm front coalesce above me.

I missed a couple of phone calls last night. I called my sister back around 4 a.m. She, of course, didn’t answer. I hope she’s fixing her hair. I know that such an endeavor will take her literal hours. Lord help all the people who don’t have their do-not-disturb turned on. Everyone lives a different life and schedule. I wake up with the same enthusiasm at 2 a.m. that I have at 4 p.m.

I thought about my cousin Jimmy’s son Noah. Jimmy died nine years ago, which seems like a lifetime ago. Noah is graduating as valedictorian of his high school class. I can’t help but imagine how proud Jimmy would be – and that Noah is going to college. Jimmy would want his son to be happy much more than he’d worry about finishing college. As someone who died in his early forties, Jimmy would be right to do so. So many plans, so many assumptions about the seemingly endless days ahead to love, laugh, and do the things that are within our grasp. It’s been quite a while since I’ve seen Noah. He’s grown unimaginably and has the youthful looks of someone who reminds me of a young Matthew McConaughey. I hope he keeps that handsomeness. Otherwise, he’ll grow into a jowly-cheeked Englishman like his grandfather, my Uncle Buck.

In the graduation picture, Noah is the one on the right. (ha!) The woman on the left is Alissa, my cousin Jimmy’s widow. They were married about a month before he died. I could write endlessly about the complexities of that, and of lives forcibly derailed by an unexpected circumstance. It’s a lesson I know too well. I’ll limit myself to saying that if you want something, grab that sh!t while you can. Tomorrow is never promised and plans for the future are all predicated on the false belief that there is always time and that youth is our protector. The other picture is from 2004 when Noah was a beautiful little baby. Jimmy and I had such fun watching Noah’s mind react to shenanigans. He smiled a LOT.

I included a picture of Noah’s mom from the first time I met her at my trailer in Johnson, in the part of my life I refer to as ‘the before.’ It didn’t work out with her and Jimmy. They had chemistry. Jimmy had many demons that would have made it almost impossible for her to make him happy. It’s no disrespect to Jimmy’s memory to share that truth. The Terry side of the family unfortunately is prone to shattering opportunities by succumbing to vices. Jimmy, like the rest of us, could sabotage the best things.

As the rain started, I looked up to the apartments. One of my neighbors had covered the railings with sheets. I went and pulled them down and took them to the dungeon/laundry room and stuffed them in the dryer and turned it on. When the neighbors exit and see that their sheets are missing, I’m going to say, “The Fayetteville police just issued another warning to advise everyone that the Infamous Sheet Bandit is up to hooliganism again. I saw him take the sheets.” I might as well use my act of consideration as justification for a little verbal pranking. I’ll let them think their sheets are missing for a couple of minutes before letting them know what I did. After the wife goes back inside to tell her family about the Infamous Sheet Bandit. It’s Fayetteville and such a miscreant may be indeed running loose on these streets.

I took a picture of my right hand a couple of days ago. Ribald interpretations aside (I’m left-handed, by the way), putting almost a thousand screws into boards in the last couple of weeks using only hand tools has given me an artists’ scar, one of tough callouses in the palm of my hand.

I rescued a really old tiny rocking chair from the hospital dumpster a couple of weeks ago. I don’t have the skills to make it beautiful. But I do have the enthusiasm to fix it and paint it and give it new life for a child I know. I so badly want to paint it a beautiful rich color. We have enough unadorned and practical things in life.

Though it’s not done, I also added another picture of my dead tree project. I put one living branch on it, as well as three bright songbirds. Since I’m a fan of sentimental metaphors, I like to think it symbolizes that even dead trees provide beauty, comfort, and the possibility of adaptation to whatever comes next.

Love, X

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Dead Tree Project Nest

I added a dozen more limbs to my dead tree project.

I thought about making a fake bird nest to perch inside it. I didn’t want to buy an artificial one.

Today, I made a quick getaway at work to walk down to the creek. I’m lucky to be so close to such a place of serenity.

On the Appleby bridge above Scull creek, I found a perfectly-preserved nest in the road. That it hadn’t been damaged by traffic was a surprise. I took it inside with me and brought it home.

As I painted tiles this afternoon, I painted the nest a vivid blue, which is rapidly becoming my favorite decorative color. I gave silent thanks to the birds that spent countless hours carefully constructing it. Their loss will become a part of my art project. It fits perfectly with the theme of bringing something dead back to life.

It’s odd that yesterday afternoon I was thinking about what to make a bird’s nest from. And voila, magic, one appeared in a place that it had no reason to be. (“Voila” is actually two words in French, meaning to ‘look there.’ I’m glad I did.)

I am still amazed that things just appear in my life when I’m not looking. There’s hope for me yet.

Don’t be confused by the door in the background. That’s how my pixie/fairy gets into the apartment. It’s not a full-size door.

Love, X

The Laugh

I dreamed such vivid dreams last night. I’m not sure what fueled them.

Even Barb, Mike’s mom, made an appearance. She woke me up, laughing. She reminded me that I once thought 4 a.m. or 5 a.m. was early. She worked hard and one of her jobs started incredibly early. It was my ‘job’ that summer to get up and go to Mike’s to be with him and his brother after she left for work. In my dream, she handed me a cup of coffee and sat and talked to me. She’s been gone for almost seven years. Over forty have passed since that summer I was paid to babysit my best friend.

I dreamed of Jimmy and Noah. Time has skipped fifteen years somehow. i posted this clip because it starts with Jimmy’s infamous laugh. If Noah inherited anything, I hope it’s that.

Love, X

Inaction

In my new life I have countless stolen moments. Both in the late night and in the early morning. Whatever lies next and unseen in the path of my life, I know that these moments will scatter and disperse and become less frequent. I call them lemon moments because they are pungent and sour, but also fill my mouth and heart with delicious taste. A mouth of lemon provides a bite.

As I sit here on the deck drinking a bitterly delicious first cup of coffee, the wind occasionally lifts flotsam that’s been carelessly left outside or deliberately discarded. The lightning and thunder grows closer and the wind increasingly grows in intensity. I can hear raindrops begin to drum on the waiting vehicles. The insects are roaring and providing background melody.

Yesterday, I returned to the creek. Its water had subsided as the flood receded into the past. The water was still cool and refreshing. A single snake slithered across the causeway and into the upper stream above it. A man hollered down to me, warning me of snakes in the water. “Yes, I know.” As if they didn’t belong there and that I were not the interloper into their world. Snakes may bite when startled. It is nothing personal. I wish I could remember that when their human equivalent surprises me with their hurtful way of navigating life.

If I come across as introspective or pensive it is because I am. But I’ve smiled like a fool multiple times this morning. As the fire trucks and police raced past me to a developing emergency, as the wind gusted and spit rain on me, as my cat resisted capture and darted away from me, and as I looked at the bottle lights and my art-filled fence vaguely lit seventy feet away.

I love these early mornings. Projects and activity are waiting for me. I think of Taoism. It is supposed to teach us the lesson of action through inaction. To allow the natural process of life to cascade around us and envelop us. We of course resist, wanting it to unfold in the way that we think is most beneficial to us. Most of us don’t appreciate the lemon moments when they happen.

The news and the world will always disappoint us. It has always been that way. People falsely believe that the good old days aren’t constantly renewed. If you’re wired for pessimism you will find justification. Optimism is knowing that your life is homogeneous and filled with both delights and disappointments. The trick of this dance is to remember to look for the things that light you up or give you a smile and to look away from the things that don’t.

When I took a picture of the bottle light, it was rendered in white. I had to filter the noise to reveal the color. That’s either metaphorical or practical.

As the thunder races and a lightning bolt illuminates the upper reaches of the sky, I am sitting here with myself and my thoughts.

I will stand up and break the spell in a minute.

For now, I look at my cat whose silhouette is comically backlit by one of my bottle lights. He meows at me, asking me for something I can’t decipher.

I can’t decipher myself sometimes. And I love it that way.

Welcome to Sunday y’all.

The minutes are falling away and the day will start whether you want it to or not.

Love, X

Chalk Rebuttal

The older lady in the pink shirt was walking with her husband. I could see it on her face, the reprimand approaching. She did not appreciate me having fun by the trail.

I said good morning.

She scowled and did that “ack” sound.

“Don’t you have something better to do?” Her voice was crawling with derision.

I replied in gibberish, as if I were speaking a foreign language. Although I thought it was impossible, her face became even more ugly with disapproval.

Because I’ve seen them on the trail several times, I know they will return this way in 15 or 20 minutes.

So, I pulled out my trusty stick of chalk and wrote this:

“Dear Pink Shirt Lady… I’m grateful that I’m happy. And sad that you’re not.”

I can only imagine the consternation and the infinite acking noises she will emit when she sees my chalk-scawled message.

Love, X

13th of Gratitude

“Today is like the surprise fries in the bottom of the bag. Find your fries.” – X

It’s only four but I’ve already been able to experience several sights, sounds, and surprises. Beauty is where you find it. I woke up to it.

I stopped to chalk up the sidewalk. I watched the moon above and listened to the bullfrogs croak and sing in their singular deep voices.

I also finally remembered to stop and take a picture of the tank car on the corner of Gregg Avenue.

At my doorstep was a pretty coffee cup, a clear one, filled with fresh flowers. I suspect it was from a neighbor repaying a surprise I left them yesterday afternoon. I can’t be sure which neighbor, as I surprised more than one.

I went out to the fence and added several tiles and painted cross boards, all filled with color. It amused me to imagine someone seeing me with tools and spray paint, possibly wondering if suspicious activity were afoot. Yes, art, if that is suspicious at that hour. I’ve been busy doing other projects, but I’ve taken a little time each day to add something to the fence. In time, perhaps I’ll have the entire expanse filled with color and shapes. I’m not sure what it will look like when I’m finished. If I’m ever finished.

It’s Friday the 13th and so far, no ill omens to deter my day.

Love, X
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Creek Reveries

I’m off work. Because the water has subsided, I wanted to soak my feet in the cold water and walk down the middle of the creek. I can’t describe how refreshing it is, or to hear the water cascade. I was reminded to watch the tangled branches on the creek side a little more closely. I walked right up on this little fellow with his head poking out of the water. There are a few snakes sunning on one side of the creek. If they’re floating down the creek, I just remain motionless and watch them pass. It is beautiful in here! The access walk is still flooded, so most people will not get their feet wet, much less like I do and take my shoes and socks off. I have the entire creek to myself except for the snakes and turtles – and the unseen birds singing in the trees and brush. It’s hard to worry about life with all this around me. I will walk back up the creek, moving my feet along the bottom to find purchase, in a few minutes. I hate to break the reverie of this moment!

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Appreciate

I turned on am radio this morning. I hit the ‘next’ button until a signal came through. I’m paraphrasing. Because life is so much coincidence and odd congruence, after hearing the words, I did my best to remember them. When I opened FB, I saw that a mutual friend had posted one of the themes of what I’d heard. Can it be a coincidence? I hope not. I hope there is an unseen thread running through our lives, one that we often find ourselves disconnected from. In it lies magic, delight, and yes, melancholy.

“We are all on loan. If you believe in god, know that he’s going to call everyone in your life back to him. And if you don’t believe in a higher power, they are still going to leave, one by one. One of the things I taught my children is to act accordingly. Whether you believe in a higher power or not, remember that we are all temporary. Life distracts us with sights, sounds, sensations, and temptations. Keep your eye on the real prize: other people. You can all have all the things you want to delight you. But it is people in our lives who matter. And you are one of them for someone else. Be the person you should be for those around you. And find a way to appreciate the people who inhabit your world.”

Equally true is “chop wood and carry water.” Even as enlightened people, we have to do the things we have to in order to do the things we want to.

So, for now, my job is to somehow retrieve my cat Güino from the shadows of the far end of the landing outside. He doesn’t want to come inside. I don’t either. The insects are buzzing and the warmth of the May morning surrounds me.

A new day.

And if I’m lucky, a new way to appreciate even the moments that make me regret having a job or being around the people who need a skillet applied to their cranium. Maybe I’ll get lucky and no one will give me a much-needed application of the same.

Love, X

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The Day

He emerged from the old car; he was the embodiment of a life of struggle. A cigarette dangled loosely from his lips and he struggled to stand upright as he exited. He leaned resignedly against the passenger side of the car. His hair was pulled into a ponytail, protruding from the back of his hat. It seemed as though doing so cost him all his energy. I wished for a moment that I could gift him some of my energy. I have more than my fair share. I recently learned that he has struggled most of his life with addiction. It shows in his posture and on the crevices of his face.

His wife greeted me warmly. She exchanged quips and humor with me, mostly about her son-in-law needing to reward his wife with a clean apartment while she worked. We both laughed, knowing we were asking for the impossible. I forget that I made her several solar lanterns because she told my neighbor that she loved them. I like to think of things I’ve made adding color and light to a place I’ll never see.

In the background, the patter of the pump exhaling water from the foundation next door, one delayed by constant rains. It’s also the source of a few dozen of my painted rocks. I counted it a blessing that the construction has been delayed, even as I heard the man cursing the battle against the water. The birds chirped wildly and beautifully. Squirrels scampered everywhere, flinging mayhem and birdseed onto every available surface. They are both a curse and an additional dose of nature and beauty. I feel like those squirrels quite often, my energy seemingly boundless.

I have multiple projects going. I’m flittering between them. All are odd and colorful. I drove back to the apartment this morning with a dead tree stuffed into my tiny car. It pressed against me and the gear shift so tightly that I thought I might have to reach home driving purely in reverse. I’m going to breathe life into that dead tree in the way that I can. I chose it from the haphazard pile on which I found the baby shower box last week. When I retrieved the small tree and managed to insert it into the hatch of my car, I leaned against the car and watched and listened to the world awaken around me.

It’s Mothers Day, a day that fills some people with nostalgia and others with remorse or regret. Of things lost, opportunities squandered. All of those missed chances can’t be recalled. We can, however, dedicate ourselves to remembering the good things that every person gifted us. Even if they also left us with memories that are better suited to be locked away in private boxes. Life is not sepia-toned. It’s vibrant and always experienced in the ‘now’ of our consciousness. Memory can be both catalyst and chaos.

I don’t know why the picture rendered so purple, but I love that it did. I’m a terrible photographer but also in love with pictures. Happy accidents are amazing, even if the result of ignorance.

Love, X
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What a beautiful morning it has been already! I got to witness the sky grow brighter and listen to the unseen avalanche of birds as they sang. And I walked back up towards my little apartment. Filled with color and light. I think I outmatched it this morning.

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After

It’s difficult to believe that the flood water was several feet over my head at this point yesterday.

It’s even more difficult to remember what my life looked like a year ago.

I used the wrong night time effect on this picture. It’s a terrible picture but I love it… There’s so much moisture in the air that it renders me like an apparition. It’s 4:00 a.m. and dark. But the sunrise and the illumination it brings with it will soon come.

Love, X
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