Category Archives: Holiday

Charlotte’s Hope

a mothers remembrance.jpg

 

Charlotte once resided in a modest house on the corner of Lilly Street and Shumer Way, nestled inside one of the many decaying towns in the delta area of Arkansas. While she hadn’t stepped foot inside the family home in decades, it was still an infrequent and lingering beacon, a place that once defined her. Her mom had departed this world unexpectedly just as Charlotte hit her stride as an adult. Though her own life was full, a little air exited her soul with her mother’s passing. She not only had buried her mother but a sliver of her own life as well. It remained in her hometown, cloistered and protected from the world.

The promise of life blossomed before her, of course, but the loss of the person closest to her heart would always be one characterized by that uneasy and painful feeling one experiences after swallowing too big of a bite. In Charlotte’s case, the bubble of discomfort failed to fade completely. Each new experience, every shared story, and all moments of clarity occurred with an invisible and almost indiscernible hand on her shoulder. As time marched forward, the hand would feel lighter even as the bruise on her soul deepened. If a kind soul such as her mother could find herself so ingloriously subjected to the injustice of unearned disease, it could writhe toward anyone, despite nobility, intention, or merit. It was a hard lesson to accept but her mother taught it with unimaginable and sublime beauty.

She’d find herself in her hometown, often without remembering the interstate or the quaint highways that brought her there, the same byways once traveled by her mother. The engine of her car would be thunderously ticking, even as the beads of sweat rolled down her forehead. After untold minutes, she’d lower the driver window. Her eyes would devour the familiar details of the small covered rear porch and door, the one almost everyone used. The front door was almost ornamental; someone announcing himself there invariably identified as strangers. She knew without looking that there were 18 rows of white clapboard ascending the side of the house, culminating in exposed painted soffits. Some nights she would slowly emerge from a dream and could still feel the rough sensation of those painted boards as she leaned against the house of her youth. In the summer, one could feel the heat from several feet away.

The cacophony of the summer insects would reach her ears, the hum of mosquitoes would play its summertime melody, and she would cry. In her hometown, most memories anchored in the perennial summertime of her youth. Her mother was so close and the echo of her voice was a lingering presence in the humid air. Whispers, languid syllables of laughter and love, all these intertwined and coalesced in the way that only occurs in Southern towns infected by the paradoxical need to move away.

The peeling paint of the place she once called home still called her name. The four side windows once adorned with light and familiar faces now blankly stared outward without regard. The lawn now screamed for someone to show it the attention it once took for granted. No children would dance in its hidden garden again and it was likely that no family would claim it as an anchor before the structure yielded to the inevitable neglect and gravity. This town and all other places like it are the observable results of entropy; all slide toward darkness and disorder without a guiding force to sustain them. She felt sometimes that her mother was the same dynamic demonstration of physics and that her growing absence was slowly accumulating in her own body as a void with a widening precipice.

The apparition of her mom walked the streets next to the house, idly chiding an unseen canine companion as it wandered in exploration. That her mother might indeed be slightly beyond the unseen membrane between this place of the here and now and the unknown seemed plausible. It was a spell without resolution, though. Hours of fondly wishing it to be so proved the fruitlessness of the endeavor.
“Claire,” Charlotte would cautiously whisper, her mother’s name a secret she dared not say aloud, all these years later. The name, once fallen from her lips, would unleash something primal inside her.

The expectation of her mother’s return was the closest thing to an afterlife that Charlotte could anticipate. Perhaps tomorrow, perhaps in a decade, she would also yield to this world’s demands and sleep one last time, to awaken in the place wherein her mother now resided. It was promise enough for her, beyond even the lofty covenants given to her in church.

Mother and daughter would join one another in raucous laughter, undoubtedly in the unassuming kitchen of her youth. Love would be on the menu, forever, accompanied by the foods with which her mother had so gracefully adorned the family dinner table.

For now, though, Charlotte experienced the heat, the buzz of insects, and the observance of the disintegration of the cradle and crucible of her innermost heart. She could feel the fingers of time furtively clawing their way up her spine, just as they were doing to the integrity of the house she once called home. Both she and the house would inevitably succumb.

As a bead of sweat coalesced against her neck, those same fateful fingers chilled her and she smiled the most secret and indecipherable of smiles that puzzled everyone who knew her.

Not everyone holds onto life with desperation. For some, hope lies beyond, away, and in lingering embraces.

Meanwhile, some of us, like her, sit in the gathering dark in our versions of curious little hometowns and wait. All of this, each detail, is temporary on a sufficiently long enough timeline.

Memories abide and love resists the void.

You Don’t Bring Me Flours Anymore

6666.jpg

Several days ago, I brought my wife Dawn a nice vase of flowers.

It was, therefore, a surprise when she said, “X, you don’t bring me flowers anymore,” a couple of days ago. (Much like the old Barbara Streisand standard…)

Later that day, as I was reading, it struck me that she was, in fact, using one of her favorite communication tricks: the homophone. I won’t bore you with a redundant reminder of what constitutes a homophone because I’m sure that you all, much like myself, spent a good portion of the weekend reading your “Obscure English Quarterly” magazine.

So, today, I granted her wish. Now, she can no longer say, “X, you don’t bring me flours anymore.”

Quizzical initial looks of consternation aside, I think she enjoyed the surprise.

When I bought this gift today at Richard’s Flourist Shop, he told me to not add water to these flours. Even if I was going to make bread.

A Non-Birthday Celebration at The Cabin

 

20180303_100817.jpg

 

Under the pretense of an early birthday celebration for me, Dawn and I went and stayed a couple of nights at our favorite cabin: Wisteria Lane Lodging. Dawn insisted on that elusive ‘something’ for me, despite my general lack of enthusiasm. Without hesitation, I voted for a getaway weekend for us both to enjoy. As we always do, we stopped at the grocery store at Holiday Island and marched up and down the aisles several times. We’ve always found something interesting to try. Stores which exist near retirees tend to have a few things that are difficult to find elsewhere. I picked up a couple of extras, as I was certain that my unblemished cooking record would be irrevocably tarnished this time.

We arrived at the cabin, embued with a certainty that it was going to be a great weekend.

The creek below the cabin was still flowing with cold, clear water, but both days were warmer and dry. It started raining a little as we were packing up to leave. We prefer the rainy days while at the cabin, but our request for a deluge went unheeded.

Despite being forced to endure the sunlight, we somehow managed to enjoy ourselves anyway. 🙂

While we ate like royalty, we took the time to plan healthier choices. I grilled several times and despite my vegetarian proclivities, we had steak, chicken, steakburgers, corn on the cob and even grilled bell peppers. Just to expand my limited abilities, I brought a grill glove and basket, both of which were very useful. I still managed to burn a finger nicely, though, in a moment of inattention.  Given my general disregard for protocol, I’m always relieved that I once again avoided burning either the cabin or the forest around me. It’s hard to believe other adults once trusted me with charcoal. I still suspect gas grills were popularized in anticipation of some future mishap on my part.

The picture below reveals how long and wide the covered porch is. The swing is on the opposite end. The difference with Wisteria is that it’s easy to grill regardless of the weather.  The porch is the best feature of the cabin, one which is overlooked by most vacation cabins.

blurred.jpg

 

On Sunday morning, as I was grilling, a thunderous clomping of feet came from the right. I thought an antelope had entered the planked walkway alongside the cabin. Before I could react, a large labrador poked her head around the corner, very hesitant and nervous. I’m not sure who the dog belongs to or how far it had traveled, but after a minute of cooing at her, I went inside and retrieved a couple of large grilled chicken breasts from the day before. As I fed her, the dog’s reluctance evaporated. Within minutes, I had a new best friend who wanted belly rubs. It was difficult to stop petting this adorable dog, especially as she looked at me eyes filled with appreciation.

20180304_081224.jpg

Dawn came outside to see what all the dancing and laughing was about.

We also finally got to watch “Three Billboards,” a copy I had ordered from Amazon to coincide with its release. We never watch movies on DVD. Despite the violence, we laughed several times. Even when the son jumped up with a butcher knife and casually placed it under his dad’s chin, I laughed in recognition of the casual truth of the way it unfolded. The story resonated with me as I sat in the middle of a place where no people were anywhere around. My memories provided the nonsensical backdrop. Since I was at one of my favorite places in the world, I will always remember seeing this movie.

It was a rare treat to enjoy the movie in the middle of nothing, without access to phones or internet. I also took my laptop and connected it to the large TV, to watch a couple of our favorite shows, along with my huge digital music collection. In combination with Dawn’s nice bluetooth speaker, we had an excessive amount of portable entertainment.  We tend to have a laugh at being in the middle of nowhere while maximizing our technology reach. It requires us to plan a little better, as there are fewer and fewer places without access to cellphones or internet. One day, we’ll look back in fascination at how quaint such a thing will seem to us.

Dawn had never tried a pickle-ice ice freeze pop. She wishes she had never tried one, now. The look of horrified amusement when she tried her first while we were at the cabin is now etched in my mind. Given her desire to spit in every direction upon tasting it, I’d rate her impression as “Unfavorable.” She also claims to have never tried pickle juice over crushed ice, a delight once available when we were younger. By the way, Dawn loves pickles, so I’m not sure how to attribute her distaste for ice pops. I’d like to point out that she loathes tomatoes, but two of her favorite foods are marinara and salsa. She also doesn’t suffer fools lightly – which doesn’t make sense, either, because all evidence points to her having married me voluntarily.

 

werwer

 

At night, I played my13-hour thunderstorm-creek-waves sound file I made. Much of the component sounds are ones I’ve recorded on previous visits to Wisteria, standing in the overflowing creek or under the edge of the porch. It crashed and ebbed all through both nights. Though the skies were clear above us, if you had stood outside our cabin at midnight, you would have heard and felt the slight reverberation of the virtual thunderstorms inside.  Friday night, the moon shone through the gaps in the skylight like a beacon pointed down on us.

We also painted rocks again. I spent a little time cleaning them and applying a horrid bright green primer coat, possibly in an attempt to frighten any passing squirrels. We avidly grabbed our paints and started gossiping on the porch, in the sunlight, attempting to paint the rocks instead of our own fingers and faces.

20180304_075718.jpg

 

For mine, I decided to use the excuse of my birthday as a macabre prognostication of my departure date.  For those who despise Roman numerals: 1967-2037.

 

20180304_075710.jpg

 

 

asdas.jpg

 

I’m inevitably reluctant to leave the cabin. It’s a privilege to be able to enjoy it and I never fail to ask myself why I don’t adopt more elements of living simply.

We live in suburbs, aligned in symmetrical houses that seem to give our lives order.

For a couple of days, as Dawn and I lived a short while in the forest, our lives were in order.

 

Earwax Candle Kit For Christmas

 

1111

1112.jpg

These fun PrankPack boxes are awesome. I bought a few this year to wow friends and family. This “Create Your Own Earwax Candle Kit” is going to be a surprise for my mother-in-law.

She loves being pranked and nothing says “I cherish you” like a horrified smirk followed by a laugh. (She can’t see this post…)

This kit allegedly comes with an earwax collection hat and a collection reservoir for your ounces of nightly earwax.

I wonder if such a candle, were it possible to produce one, might waft a lightly-scented aroma of yuletide inner ear around the house for Christmas?

 

The company offers several styles. At least one of them will make you laugh. I promise.

P.S. If you want to order your own for a future bit of fun, here is the website:

PrankPack Website

A Christmas Villa In The Living Room MMXVII

My wife Dawn greenlit my enthusiastic wish to build a Christmas villa in the living room this year. Using several hundred pictures, 100+ boxes, innumerable lights, a couple hundred ornaments and bits of crazy, a universal remote to control it all, a Festivus pole (for the rest of us, of course), hidden gift compartments, a house cat who daily prays for a gift to fall from above, and a huge dose of yuletide spirit… we present the most unusually-decorated living room you can possibly see all year.

I shot this video with Dawn performing the role of director. I drank 17 cups of coffee prior to shooting and I now regret telling Dawn her version was too jittery.

P.S. I wrote this version of “Carol of The Bells” myself so that social media sites couldn’t claim copyright. I hope you like that part, too. Writing music is another one of my hobbies, one which requires a commitment of time.

My living room has a vaulted ceiling, so the drunken rectangle I created piece by piece is approximately 8′ high, 15′ wide, and 20′ long. It’s difficult to grasp the scale unless you walk through the front door.

20171209_152817.jpg

A gallon of my patented Elf Juice, one which grants the imbiber the ability to decorate one’s domicile in the manner of Buddy The Elf.

20171209_152826.jpg
A necessary part of the structure is a cat bed constructed into the base of one of the 8 9-foot vertical columns. (Our cat’s name is Güino, given that he was a shelter cat, one rescued from the Feline Witness Protection Program.)
20171209_153416.jpg
The green-and-yellow picture is a wanted poster for my stepson Ty. A list of mostly imaginary crimes is listed at the bottom. To the right, you’ll note our infamous family portrait, just us two monkeys posing for the camera. (Dawn is on the left in the portrait, by the way.)
20171209_153707.jpg
Anyone who thinks I don’t like pictures, please take a note at this point. Despite ordering several hundred before I started, I found myself needing more as I neared what I thought would be the final push to completion.
20171209_153910
The columns are all tall and each one is connected in a drunken rectangle around the entirety of the living room. Looking back, it was a lot of work but if Dawn didn’t lose her mind watching me meticulously create each box, each column, and apply every picture and detail, I will look back on this in years to come and ask, “Why didn’t anybody stop me?” 🙂

There are both visible and concealed Christmas-themed quotes from some of my favorite books and movies for the season, too.
20171209_153922
Don’t be distracted by the backward clock. It comes in handy when visitors foolishly try to determine what time it is. Note the handsome couple in the background of the clock. Anyone with a spider phobia needs to walk around carefully, as the million streamers often touch you unexpectedly in the neck as you pass.
20171209_154350.jpg
What’s not visible in this barrage of pictures and Christmas insanity is my appreciation for life, one given to me in daily wonder and amused amazement.

To have the time, energy and ability to creatively express myself is a luxury which I don’t take for granted.

I have to admit, though, that this is a spectacle.

20171209_163311.jpg
20171209_163355.jpg
20171209_163456.jpg
Almost everyone I know has at least one picture of honor in the celebration. Some of the pictures are irreverent, but none fail to make us think or laugh. Or think then laugh.
20171209_163547.jpg
You’d never know it, but there are several presents hidden in plain sight around the room. Several might require demolition to access them but as we all know, that is what Christmas is all about.
20171209_163559.jpg
20171209_165229
Taken from the kitchen, looking over the counter, perhaps waiting for Santa Claus to come inside and demand a pint of eggnog and a slice of pepperoni pizza.
20171209_163415.jpg
The Festivus pole certainly adds a dazzle to the room, doesn’t it? In keeping with the original intent of Festivus, I don’t adorn the pole with anything to distract us from its beauty. I’m convinced Dawn wants to accidentally recycle it sometimes – or give it to someone building a fence. If this were to happen, however, I would have no choice but to replace it from Wagner Steel and add her transgression to the following year’s “Airing of the Grievances.”
20171209_163441.jpg
Note that my genuine Daisy BB gun sits next to our wiretap device, ready at a moment’s notice if some crazed Christmas-hating Grinch attempts to enter the house and steal Christmas from us. Hint: such a person is going to need a truck, a saw and a mean disposition.

Also, the Grinch will have to depart with it all, as I took great care to conceal hidden compartments for gifts. I kept a treasure map, but I’m not certain even I was diligent enough to note them all.

20171209_163508.jpg
If anyone looks at this and wonders, “Is that ME?” – the answer is probably “yes.” And, you are welcome. Several hundred pictures used in this project makes it likely that if I know you and have shared any levity in our lives that you are part of this.
20171209_153902.jpg
20171209_154439.jpg
Christmas quotes, ornaments, pictures from my life, pictures of iconic Christmas scenes, vintage Christmas ads, crayons, bows, ribbons – if it is interesting or unusual, I tried to find a way to include it in this.
20171201_142314

20171209_163451.jpg

The above picture is of the column containing the cat bed on the bottom. I’m pretty sure there’s at least one hidden gift in this column I forgot to take note of during the initial stages of building this.
20171209_152844
Here’s a link to a previous post I did, one describing the last time I did this on a really large scale: 2011 Christmas Craziness2011 Christmas Craziness
20171209_153027
The above was taken from the reverse side of the decorations. Note the dollar bills. Here’s a link to explain what the dollars mean: Christmas Dollars Each Year
I didn’t take as many closeup pictures of the tree this year, even though we added several fantastic ornaments. Some of them I ordered and had custom-made, some were whimsy from different stores and events from our lives this year. I’ve met many people who’ve adopted a motley approach to their Christmas tree ornaments but I’ll be ornament-to-ornament that none shares a breadth of diversity like the collection my wife and me have. People tend to look closely at our tree and shout, “THIS can be used an ornament?!” and laugh, filing away the idea for later use.
Now that it’s done, I can look at the pictures and lights, and wonder about my year and the future which follows. Another Christmas, another year.

Supermoon Superseason Superceding

20171201_140713

Advisory: Possibly NSFW, depending on whether you like the smell of weird cheese or enjoy trying to clog dance after your leg falls asleep…

Before being sidetracked by frivolous detail, the picture is a 3-D one I made of my wife. Her eyes are googly and her hair made from a few dozen strands of ribbon slivers. It is a thing of beauty, even more so than the leg lamp from “A Christmas Story.” I’m certain that Dawn will grow to love it, as it hangs from the living room heater vent on the ceiling.

This is a story about a walk, but not really. I didn’t sleep well last night. Dawn had experienced some excruciating muscle cramps in her lower leg, the kind of erupting pain so intense that she would have traded a baseball bat to the elbow to lessen them. I’m not the best sleeper to begin with but the anticipation of waking up in a sudden sweat as the person next to me screams in the dark is not one to be enjoyed. Being unable to help except perhaps to be a prop to lean against only worsens the situation. My problem is that I want to do something clever, such as sing the lyrics to “Lean on Me.” To her credit, Dawn still hasn’t shot me in justified irritation, although I think I’ve mentioned that she keeps hinting that she wants me to buy her a crossbow and only one arrow to accompany it.

(We usually only scream in pain like that as we accidentally watch the nightly news, a feeling many of you might find to be familiar.)

I glimpsed the ominous orange supermoon only for less than a minute this morning. It was hanging low on the western horizon, somehow dodging the unexpected cloud cover. Even though I knew it was a fruitless attempt, I took a picture of it. It might as well be an image taken from an endoscopy procedure.

As I stood in the middle of Don Tyson Parkway, admiring the moon’s brief beauty, in the background I watched as a white dually pickup attempted to navigate the circumference of the double roundabout at high speed. As the truck rocked and bounced over the edge of the sidewalk, I hoped the driver was holding a steaming cup of hot coffee and that as he hit the obstruction unexpectedly, that the coffee boiled his nuggets as it spilled into his lap. Nothing evokes the spirit of Christmas like the sound of a reckless driver screaming from the consequences of his poor driving. (The best part of waking up is hot liquid in your cup, so to speak.)

I greeted this morning, along with the unusual soft brightness the obscured moon brought with it. The night hours had reset the monstrosity of the early part of my day yesterday. We all have our own issues and sometimes even when we do the right thing to correct them, they worsen. The trolls and sociopaths seem to be vigilant along the periphery of our lives. They wait, knowing they will be able to spread the opposites of happiness and joy, like sad black and blue glitter – or hateful holiday cards, ones filled with profanity and pictures of war and destruction. In my case, I wait, because no matter how idiotically people might behave, I will still have my keyboard. History will be written in farce, cleverly disguised as fiction. No matter what happens, I tend to say, “It will make a great story.” So far, time has given me a buffer to be able to laugh at everything.

Yesterday was also supposed to be the kick-off of phase two of the 2018 IBLCC weight-loss challenge. For reasons related to the last paragraph, that too fell through. Trolls are like the Stephen King’s Langoliers, except instead of eating time, they eat other people’s joy. I lost 30 lbs during phase one. In the interim, while waiting for my competition to catch up, I regained some of the weight back. (Which should be no surprise, given my insatiable urge to eat an entire pizza as if it were a fruit roll-up.) Phase two was going to both excuse and impetus to finally get to 200 lbs, which is still way too high for someone of my advancing years and historically untrustworthy arteries. Whiskey, salt pork and lard flow through my veins, at least genetically. None of these has fared well in scientific studies of longevity.

(I had an uncle who once insisted that he’d stopped drinking alcohol and eating bacon when they stopped tasting good. I think he meant it as a challenge.)

Once away from the absurd pseudo-rules of commerce, I had a fantastic afternoon. While Dawn was frolicking in Eureka Springs with her sister, I was adding a million yuletide touches to my massive architectural Christmas display. For those of you who are worried about the weight, don’t be; our house is on a concrete foundation. If I had to describe what it looks like, I would say it is a hybrid between what Will Ferrell as Elf did in the department store scene and how Steve Martin might design a children’s room for the holiday season if he ate an entire bag of magic mushrooms after browsing Etsy for 16 hours.

Before leaving this note, I’d like to tell all of you who were worried about the roundabout driver’s nuggets that he escaped injury. I waved at him as he passed. I could see his silhouette inside the truck cab due to the streetlights. He waved back as he went about his day, hopefully without further attempt to set a land speed record. Also, duallys are just about the ugliest vehicles on the planet.

Finally, I leave you with a poem, one written in a thoughtless moment of profane hilarity. This poem is much more enjoyable if you stand in the middle of a crowded room and recite it in a loud, raucous falsetto. If you have a special someone in your life who reminds you of this poem, stare into his eyes as you read it. Some hints require a little more effort.
.
.
.

Don’t Water the Asses

Attention is their nitrogen
strife, their air

Their fruit always bitter
their beds stony with despair

By the time you sniff them out,
your life, too, becomes a derriere
.
.
.

Overcome by Thanks

20171118_050710.jpg

This is a thanksgiving story, but not a traditional one. There are no invading settlers in my story, no artificial reverence for the things we otherwise take for granted. It’s a repetition of my mantra that we only truly give thanks in the in-between moments that comprise the bulk of our lives.

November had granted me another strange morning to visit the world. The temperature was soaring toward heaven at almost 70 degrees. For 3 a.m. on a mid-November morning, it was a gift I didn’t want to squander. I walked the deserted roads without a jacket, cares, or burdens.

Exiting the car, I heard a methodical clang, rendered musical by the wind. I turned to see that it originated from a flag at half-mast across the street, in front of the convenience store at Goad Springs and Monroe. My intention was to walk down the long valley toward Puppy Creek, a beautiful place in the early hours. Instead, I turned north and followed Goad parallel to the distant interstate. I didn’t see a single car until I reached Oakwood, at which point two cars stopped at the 4-way there and seemed determined to wait each other out. Each car flashed its lights at least twice at the other driver before the car ahead of me finally succumbed and passed. Because of this, I turned right onto Oakwood. As I reached the apex of the road on the bridge above the interstate below, I stopped for a moment, as I always do, to admire the wide expanse of asphalt, concrete, commerce and daily lives on display. The wind seemed determined to rip my shirt off at that height, running both below and above the bridge. Below, everything moved faster than nature intended.

I stood atop the piece of the world there, thanking the universe for not infringing upon me with tragic circumstance and for not rendering any part of my body as traitorous. I’ve known too many great people who’ve suffered from accidents, unseen blocked arteries, and misfortune. Loneliness had not visited me, nor hunger or poorness of household or spirit. In my corner of the world, ideas and humor infect so much of my life that there’s little room for other things. Had I often forgotten to feel thanks? Of course, for it is human blood which sustains me. It is our curse to fail to see the whimsical roulette wheel in our lives. One moment, ecstasy – the next, sorrow. For those of us lucky enough, we spin the wheel without too much concern, knowing that the dark placeholder is there, waiting to cloud over us. May the wheel spin so quickly that I can’t discern what’s written there…

I thought back to yesterday when my trip to the craft store provided me with a few moments of hilarity. Most of the faces in the store were frenzied and focused on getting through the lines at maximum speed. Knowing that the universe conspires against those who would pressure it toward acceleration, I languidly waited my turn, listening to the complaints and frustrations of those who weren’t aware that the universe laughs at such concerns. When my turn at the register came, I was pleased to discover that the cashier was desperate for humor and nonsense. Little did she know that I had a buffet loaded with such mirth in my pocket. She asked questions about my purchases, laughing more strongly with each answer. It fascinated her that many of my small items were non-traditional Xmas tree ornaments, including spiders, jewelry broaches, colorful birds, and dragonflies. (Our tree is a testament to strangeness.) She held up a couple of items, asking if they were ½-price or not. I said “Yes,” but pointed out that the birds and a couple of the other items weren’t on sale. I then said, “But if not, you can always just give me the bird.” I laughed and when she looked up, she understood the context of my joke. “Oh, I’ll give you the bird, alright.” The lady behind me in line howled in appreciation. As the manager walked by, I pointed toward my pile of items and said, “The clerk here just gave me the bird.” He laughed and shook his head. At least a dozen people around us were staring, trying to discover how it was that we had unearthed a trove of humor in the middle of that consumerist nightmare.  I was thankful to have enjoyed the moment. The cashier was happy, too. She had also learned that there were so many things that one can use as adornment and decoration if she simply abandoned the idea of ‘normal.’ I’m convinced she left yesterday with the impulse to share this with other people.

Later in the afternoon, my wife and I spent time placing the ornaments I had bought, some in person and some I had created online. All of them were distinct, like the moments that preceded them. We placed lights in jars and glassware, watching the clear glass transform into prisms of color, and light the space. This too was another moment, one worthy of thanks. Behind us, our new Brady Bunch family portrait watched us. “Laugh,” it was saying, repeatedly. The house now approaches a reflection of who I am inside, where eyes don’t reach and where life tends to meet me with a raised hand as if to say “Pause.”

Yesterday, leaving that place which occupies too much of my life in the name of commerce and small pieces of green-tinted paper, I cut across Joyce to the connecting road that leads to Zion. High above, I watched as a hawk circled, dived, and pirouetted in the fast winds. As I approached, the hawk turned lazily toward the road and began a dive. It seemed as if it were heading directly toward me. Faster it came. Just as I was certain it was going to hit my car, it spread its wings wide to slow its descent and extended its talons. It flew so close that for a moment I thought I should put down the windows to permit it to pass through the interior.  The hawk passed in front of me and landed on the bank of the road on the passenger side. I wanted to know if it had trapped something in its talons but the car and road conspired to block it from my view.

This is my incomplete and imperfect thanksgiving message. Much like the holiday itself, it can be overdone and teeter on the edge of gluttony. We focus so much on the periphery of things that we fail to weave our way back to the in-between moments. Our grocery lists and to-do demands distract us from the promise of being around people we value, holding a cup of coffee, tea or soda, each one of us with raised cup and spirits. All the ‘things’ interrupt the regularly scheduled message of shared moments.

As I finished my walk, I looked back in surprise at how far I’d come. Even with my limited grasp of the invisible ties between people, places, and things, I could see the analogy floating in front of me. Anyone who measures their life by the distance traversed is missing out on the craziness and colors of a million successive moments, none of which in themselves are worthy of enshrinement, but if removed from one’s life, would leave a void. The in-between is where we find comfort.

Before going home, I drove and stopped near a creek, took my shoes and socks off and rolled up my pants. Despite being unable to see much of anything, I carefully made my way down into the creek, across slippery stones, and stood. The frigid water lapped at my calves. And so it was that at barely 5 a.m. on a mid-November morning, I was standing in a cold creek, looking up at the sky. It began to sprinkle. Had the creek swallowed me whole at that moment, it would have had to mask my laugh. I was in-between moments, amazed that no one had convinced me when I was young that such moments are more important than diving from airplanes, seeing a waterfall, or sensing the sublime undercurrent beneath things.

When I got back in the car, my feet like blocks of cold granite, and since the car was once again cool, I turned on the radio. “Overcome” by Live was playing. I listened to it for the first time, even though I had heard it a 1,000 times.  I drove home barefooted, absorbing the words. It was an absurd and delightful moment, too.

Arriving home, I stood in the driveway, finishing my bottle of water and experiencing the wind on my bare feet and legs.  As I stood there, two Springdale police cars quickly came around the curve, going fast. I was surprised when the second car braked suddenly, right in front of me. It turned into the driveway across from me and I thought, “Finally, he’s done something inescapable.” Instead of stopping though, the car reversed and headed back in the same direction. The lead police car continued around the large loop on the backside of my neighborhood. It seems as if the universe wanted me to have one more anecdote and one more question, even at 5:34 a.m.

Give thanks.

Live in the in-between and perhaps we will meet there, in laughter.

While my words are imperfectly written, the day itself is not.

The world can wait. It always does, patiently. If you lean in and listen attentively, you can hear the fingers clicking in unison.

 

We Are the Brady Bunch

20171117_134736.jpg

I love the holiday season. It gives me an excuse to celebrate the absurd, to make art, and to fill my life with color and memories. The 400+ pictures I used to decorate the living room for the yuletide season weren’t enough, apparently.

Today, something I made for my wife Dawn arrived: a canvas of us with the Brady Bunch. Dawn is the baby in the middle, her sister Darla is on the right, and my mother-in-law Julia is on the left. (She’s the retired boxer). I’m the weird dude on the right demonstrating what I might look like if someone surprised me and stapled my tongue to a board. PS: The scenario of getting my tongue stapled isn’t too far-fetched.

I’m hoping that Crystal Bridges doesn’t make Dawn an offer for this masterpiece. Like the infamous leg lamp from “A Christmas Story,” this canvas is a true work of art, designed in the mind of a singular genius.

 

 

Note: Snapfish made this canvas. It’s hard to beat them for quality and price.

I’m in no way being compensated for saying this, either. I’ve bought a massive number of items from them over the years.