There’s something to be said about walking a canopied path, one with an unknown terminus. I hear the dutiful mower off in the unmeasured distance and the inescapable traffic humming from another planet. Birds without cipher, and the gentle waterfall of the creek. I walk barefoot on the path. I am more than willing to accept the bite of an unexpected pebble. Descending into the creek, I let the energetic minnows nibble and dart at my feet. My feet toughen perennially with the inevitable warmth. As I stood in the creek today, I watched a snake rhythmically approach me. I stood motionless to avoid disturbing it or drawing its attention. In a moment of mindless forgetfulness, I reached into the creek to pick up a beautiful flat stone, forgetting my Fitbit watch on my wrist. Luckily, nature and technology called a truce. A woman and her blue-silver eyed German Shepherd came down to the creek bottom so that the dog could drink and frolic. He nuzzled my hand as I stood in water that was only a foot deep. He thanked me by splashing and shaking the water from his coat as he moved away. The solitude was refreshing, but I wish I could have had a hand near me, attached to someone listening to me pointing excitedly at what probably seems like mundane nature. For a while out there, there were moments I didn’t even have my own voice in my head. Love, X .
He was lost in the maze of the hospital. Somehow he found himself in a hallway by elevators reserved for the people conducting the largely hidden work that sustains such a place. He stood by the elevators, casually looking at all the unhelpful signage. The access doors opened to his right. A nurse pushing a bed came through them, struggling with the effort. On the bed lay a young woman about 16 years of age. Her hair was disheveled, and she looked uncertain. Next to her was an open book upside down. The nurse dragged the bed to a stop inches away from the man. He turned towards the young girl and said, “You look so much like my niece.” The young woman smiled weakly toward him and nodded. “Are you doing okay?” he asked her. She shook her head “no” as the nurse watched her. “I know you don’t know me, but do you need anything?” His voice cracked as he spoke. The young woman reached up with her right hand and held his. The man didn’t flinch and lightly gripped her hand in return. After a few seconds, she let go and smiled again. The nurse gave the bed a sharp push and continued down the hall. Anyone standing there bore witness to one of those rare moments of anonymous caring. The kind we hope fills every corner of the world. Love, X +
I sat in my little blue car as the rain pounded the roof. I wasn’t waiting on the rain to subside. I was writing my little anecdote about the family bicycling in the rain. When I finished, I exited the car and went into the store to buy some empty calories. Preferably something hotter than the surface of the sun. I paid and then stepped to the side to use the lottery ticket checker. Obviously, I did not win, or this post would be markedly different. The clerk and I exchanged pithy commentary about language. Because that’s what people do, right? This clerk in particular, who I’ll call MacKenzie (because that’s his name), commented about the French language. And then we digressed, as is our custom. I told him that the Marshallese language was one of those interesting languages wherein you could use the same word for “hello” as “goodbye.” And I pronounced it for him: “Yokwe.” He repeated it perfectly but then gave me the look that indicated he thought I MIGHT be pulling his leg. Which is also customary. He’s one of those people whose job definitely doesn’t match his intelligence. As we quickly jumped to another related subject, a customer approached. I saw him obliquely and assumed he was Latino due to the pronounced mustache. Having finished checking my lottery ticket, I said, “Yokwe” to the clerk as a goodbye. The allegedly Latino customer looked quickly at me and repeated the word. “Are you Marshallese?” I asked him as he smiled. He nodded. I told the clerk, “See!? I wasn’t pulling your leg.” We laughed. I went out to my car, and as I turned to get in, I saw that the Marshallese gentleman was at his car and looking in my direction. I waved and got in. Since I was ravenous, I tore the bag open and dumped about half of the fiery contents in my mouth. A car honked behind me, and as I looked in my mirrors, I saw that the Marshallese man was passing behind me and waving again. I’m certain that he was tickled that his language was being used and talked about. The encounter was a surprise of coincidence and rapid-fire wit. And we inadvertently made someone happier because of it.
Just shy of noon, I stopped to make a right turn as I left work. It rained lightly and the clouds were darkly ominous. It’s the kind of ambience that makes green turn almost neon on the trees. Luckily no one was behind me. I watched a little girl of about 7 years of age, her pigtails flying under her helmet, as she pedaled furiously to make the hill. Twenty feet behind her were two more children on their respective little bicycles. Mom sprinted to catch up with them. They all laughed with absolute glee as mom pushed them both as she ran. A few feet behind her, the dad was smiling as he ran while pushing a stroller. It was a caravan of both exercise and happiness. All of them were smiling and laughing. An unexpected sight for a rainy yet beautiful midday Friday. Without an intention to do so, I watched them all climb the hill for several seconds. It was joy and spontaneity incarnate. Driving away, my thoughts turned to all the lessons that the parents were imparting to the children who were enjoying the rainy day. Fitness, spontaneity, family time, and laughter. Memories made.
I skipped lunch today and left work. The second part of this post notwithstanding, I went to McDonald’s for french fries, often confused as barbituates due to the deliciousness of the salt and grease which coat them. As I pulled up to the pay window, a very young woman greeted me. Before I could utter a word, she said, “Oh, your earring AND glasses match your car. It’s a beautiful color!” Without pausing, I replied, “I pick a car to match each day’s earring choice.” She laughed and said, “That makes perfect sense.” I went to the park adjacent to it and watched the huge crows scampering about and cawcawing mindlessly. It reminded me of an impromptu management meeting because all the crows were squawking simultaneously. The weather was perfect for sitting in the car and munching. Oddly, NPR was playing a segment about eating disorders. When I finished, I walked back over to McDonald’s and bought a basket of fries. These weren’t for me; the murder of crows would be the recipient. I climbed on the rocks and began to toss the fries strategically near the black, winged harbingers. The birds joyously amplified their cawcawing and screeches as they began to snatch the fallen fries from the ground. Shockingly, none of them asked for a condiment packet of ketchup to accompany their snack. A woman in a nearby car watched and smiled. As I finished, she rolled down her window and motioned for me to approach her car. She handed me a bit of bun from her burger and the remaining fries from her lunch. “Let’s try something different,” I told her. I walked a few feet away from her car and piled her remnants in a small stack and walked back to my car. The five or six crows lunged over to the pile and began pecking madly and in unison at the food on the ground. It was another round of joyous cackling and squawks as they noisily devoured the unexpected second course. The woman in her car gave me the thumbs up for giving her a closer look at the crows as they dined on America’s favorite fast food.
I got teased this morning for playing my 70-minute Rocky montage. And that tickles me. Because I got up at 1:00 a.m. and decided I would do 5 minutes of push-ups every hour. I’ll leave you to speculate how many that’s turned out to be so far. This is a one-off day because I made a promise a long time ago not to overdo it. Playing Rocky music evokes muscle memory from when I was younger. I won’t always be able to do this. And I don’t expect to. But for today, it’s a nice reminder that I can. When you don’t do the things you can, It remains remarkably easy not to do them. And for the people rolling their eyes and thinking that I’m humble bragging, that’s okay too. Push-ups have evolved into an amazing anti-anxiety remedy for me. If my arms get too sore, it’s not like I’m going to need to reach up and brush my hair. It treasonously jumped ship decades ago. I don’t miss it.
If you’ve got kids, you already know how loud a murder of crows can be. And if you have a job, you’ll probably identify with the cacophony of overlapping voices allegedly communicating at high volume. The flavor of fries still coats my mouth as I write this. It was a dumb little excursion for me after work but oddly satisfying.
I will call this one the flyover of impossibilities. As I walked out to my little blue car, a helicopter passed over, its helices thrumming the air. I’m not morbid but I am unusually aware that such things fall from the sky. It’s been 30 years since the plane crash. But there’s hardly a day that passes that I don’t hear someone comment something along the lines of, “But how likely is that?” I’m sure a strange look across as my face sometimes when this happens. On a long enough timeline, everything is possible. I’ve actually become proud of that horrible day in the early ’90s. I received an unwelcome message, one that I learned over and over in childhood… periodically I get pissed off at myself because the lesson slips my mind. And it fascinates me that people think I’m a certain way capriciously. It’s such a part of my inherent nature that I forget that they couldn’t understand. I might live to be 90. But I’ve come to embrace something in me that is probably a defect. As people fret and futurize, there are times when the futility of doing so seems so damn obvious to me. It causes self-reflection and makes me wonder if all of that is true, why do I catch myself overthinking and concerned about the what-ifs? Love, X +
Fate in the creek redux. It sounds like an elitist country music song. The mossy stones in the bed of the creek are slipperier than the nostrils of a 7-year-old in January. But the birds are chirping, bicycles and pedestrians are passing by above and beyond the rise that borders the creek. The sunlight is casting deep and mercurial shadows across the shimmering water. While it might not equal the smell of frying bacon on a random Saturday of my youth with my grandparents, It beats the hell out of working. I’ve always loved this but I must be getting older. I’ll know for sure when you hear me say that I have a favorite spatula. The only way it could feel any better is if somebody were carefully traversing the bed of the creek to hand me a slice of pepperoni pizza or a large french fry. Summer is definitely coming. But it’s not here today. Just a cool breeze and enough sunlight penetrating the canopy of the trees… X
The following is a great little anecdote from one of my favorite people. The last couple of lines are sublime:
When I worked at Windstream, I would often take my lunch to Reservoir Park (in Little Rock) when the weather was pretty. Just to get away from the stress at that building and sit in nature.
One day when I was in the park, I saw a dog (of course) walking around. I tried to get it to come to me, and it wouldn’t. I watched it as it moved on. About five minutes later, an older woman came fast, walking by, carrying a leash. I started the car and drove up to her. I asked if she was looking for a white dog. She said, “Yes.” I said, “I know where it was headed. Do you want me to take you that way?” She hesitated and then said, “Please.” She got in, and as we were driving, we exchanged names, and I told her where I work and that I had been eating lunch when the dog came by. She said they lived at the end of the park.
We located the dog. It was on a path where the car couldn’t go, but we could see it, and she would be able to catch up. As she was thanking me, she told me to please be safe, and then she laughed and asked, “Didn’t your mother teach you not to pick up strangers?” I laughed and said, “Yes! Just like yours taught you not to get in a stranger’s car.” +
As I walked down the hill at breakneck speed I caught up to another coworker. He’s an older guy who was raised in a very similar background to me. I took a fallen limb off the sidewalk and broke a 2-ft length of it free. I told him, “If you don’t pick up your pace, you’re going to get a switch on the back of your legs.” We both laughed. And then he told me a story that I really enjoyed: “When I was a young boy, I got a whipping with a stick quite often. My mom made both me and my brother fetch one. So we ended up getting the stick for one another instead of ourselves. My brother thought he was smart and got the gnarliest rough one he could find, intending it to be used on me. Mom took it out of his hand and then turned him around and gave him what for with that horrible stick. As my brother howled in pain and protest, I was crying so hard tears ran down my face. So when it was my turn, I hardly felt it, knowing I was gonna tease my brother for weeks. He ought to have known that you can’t outsmart your mama.”