Every stone is a story. Of love, loss, regret, lessons, and acceptance.
I put one down, a singular stone, yesterday.
I placed it on a stem I bit off with my teeth.
Looking closely at the picture, you’ll see it handing in the branches. I took the picture when Erika and I walked the trail yesterday. Our walk went by the place that inspired my “¿” story from last Sunday. Pictures don’t capture how eerily overcast and beautifully the morning was. It was a stolen moment of warmth, falling leaves, and intimacy as our feet moved us along the path.
Fifteen years I carried that weight. I broke the watch purposefully all those years ago. A memento.
It’s on the trail now, maybe forever, maybe for a day.
It’s behind me now. Just as everything really is. I forgot I still had it. As I have with so many mementos lately, I wanted to release it and take back the power it once contained.
Everyone’s wounded in their own way. It’s easy to forget that because we feel like we have to conceal the hurt.
Because optimism is a consequence of love, the stone I left behind yesterday left my fingers easily. Erika stood behind me on the trail, watching me clumsily find my way closer to the abandoned trucks decomposing in the brush. After I walked back to the trail to meet her there and continue our lovely walk, I was happy.
Stones aren’t meant to be carried. They are meant to be measured, appreciated, and then left behind. If I had to carry all my accumulated stones, walking would be impossible, as unlikely as finding happiness if I were focused on my missteps.
Don’t forget your stones. Just don’t carry them.
Every stone in your pocket, in your heart, or in your head reduces your ability to siphon the good from whatever awaits you today.
Love, X .
PS I hadn’t heard the song “Stones” by Barbarossa until yesterday. I didn’t watch “HIMYM” like so many other people did. It got in my head to remind myself that every morning I get to decide whether to carry the stones or hurl them into the air – and away, where they belong.
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!
A few days ago, I walked five times, each a long, unplanned meandering. Though I almost always answer the call of the sidestreets, on the third time I cut through to reach the trail that traverses Northwest Arkansas. I’d lost track of time listening to TED talks about love, psychology, work, technology, and language. Ideas make my feet lighter than air. The creek along the trail wasn’t fast-moving, but its sounds, intermixed with the rustle of the encroaching trees and camouflaged birds, transfixed me.
A few minutes later, I reached one of the breaks in the foliage, one exposing a series of stones strategically placed across the creek. Without thought, I stepped off to cross the rocks. “Be careful,” I told myself. As everyone knows, river stones can be beguiling in their slipperiness. All of us have hopefully experienced the momentary horror of knowing we’re going to fall in, no matter how madly we windmill our arms for balance. My surgery incision tends to call out to me when I’m pondering crossing a fallen log, jumping a park bench, or climbing a tree. Oh, how I miss climbing trees! I’ve climbed fifty in the last year, even when the wind was dormant and the sun baked the upper reaches of the available trees. Few things can provide such a unique perspective. Sitting on a live thing, smelling the pungency of the leaves, and most of all, watching things and people move about with no concern for the possibility of someone sitting above them in the branches.
Halfway across, I forgot that I was crossing and stepped to the left, my feet submerging into the water. My shoes filled with water and my socks became soggy. I walked several yards through the middle of the creek. It was heavenly and my hot feet dispelled that heat into the water. I stood there, feeling the sensation.
“It’s nice, isn’t it?” asked a voice.
I looked around and saw no one.
“I’m over here,” the voice said. Because I was concentrating, I saw the woman sitting on the bank, her back against a tree. She had a book in one hand and a large bottle of soda in the other.
“Yes! It is fantastic. Sorry, I didn’t mean to interrupt.” I turned to walk back toward the traversing stones.
“You can stand there in the creek if you want. It’s everybody’s to enjoy,” she told me.
“What are you reading?” I asked her.
“Where The Crawdads Sing,” she told me, holding the book up.
“What a coincidence. I read that. It was a beautiful story.”
“Yes, this is my third reading.” She smiled.
I turned and walked back to the stones and away from the creek. All the way home, my feet squished as I walked. This time, I had not been the observer. Someone else had found a secret place and a way to enjoy it. My feet didn’t feel so wet any longer. All I could think about was the cool water and reading place by the creek.
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?” *
As the August sun relentlessly heated the front of my apartment and the metal door that fronts it, I walked across the parking lot to the dumpster. The remnants of the chicken I’d baked wouldn’t fare well until tomorrow. It’s nice having a dumpster that I don’t need to roll out to the curb. On the other hand, I find myself cleaning up after the other residents and the trash company that does the trash maintenance.
I watched the traffic on Gregg Avenue and across the railroad tracks on the opposite side of the street. I should be tired. When I woke up last night, thinking it was morning, it was only 11:11. By rough calculation, I would guess I’ve walked twenty miles since then. Though I can’t explain why, knowing that the Greenway trail was only a couple of minutes away made me want to put on shoes and walk a dozen miles again.
Covid and my personal life have aligned to make my previous concerns a little bit less than significant. Everywhere, everything is changing.
The sunset, though? And the wall of music that the insects provide; they are a cacophony of sameness. Beauty, too.
I won’t answer the call of the wanderer tonight, though the sidewalks and trail whisper my name.
I’ll lie in bed and listen, if need be, to the day swiftly approaching. I’ll rise to meet it, whether sleep embraces me or not.
In a nod to the 1970s, my bathroom shower still had those horrid track-guided sliding glass doors on them. Mine are now resting comfortably in the back recess of a closet. In an ideal world, the tenants at this complex would gather ceremoniously under a full moon in the parking lot and shatter all such remaining glass doors with golf clubs. Today, I spent a bit of time compiling layers and pictures to create another custom shower curtain, one filled with pictures and meanings, both hidden and plain. I loved the previous one I had, but it was filled with a life that is no longer mine to claim.
I waited until after 3 p.m. today to take a long walk. It seemed appropriate to bake off my remaining energy under the blistering sun. Some of the trail was shadowed by foliage. I walked further along it than I previously had, so my eyes feasted on new sights. I broke my previous pushup record by 3 p.m. Today, I broke it through diligence and determination, rather than systematic application. I wanted yet another way to remember my first full day in my new apartment. Tomorrow will remind me that today was memorable.
After my walk, I laid on the laminate floor, my blue box fan blowing on me. I got up, poured wine into my antique green cup, and toasted my past, the one whispering in my ear. If you want to think a bit, google the word “Olēka,” and watch the video on YT.
The picture is from last night. It’s a solar-powered lantern, sitting on the banister railing outside. Below, you can see my little car, sharing the same color.
At the end of the week, I’m moving to Fayetteville to an older apartment off of Gregg. I chose it because someone I trust lives in the same small complex. I had to wait because the last tenant detonated a White Trash Bomb inside. So, I get new, albeit warped floors (no carpet), and a new metal door. You know bad things went down if the door has to be replaced. I get a new fridge, too. I suspect the previous tenant’s fridge went to the Hoarder’s Hall of Fame in Biscoe.
I have a renter’s insurance policy. If someone breaks in, they will regret it. Not because I’m going to hurt them, but because I will make them grammatically diagram sentences until they repent from their life of crime. Anyone who breaks into an apartment where I’ll live hasn’t analyzed the cost/benefit of choosing WHERE to commit a crime. Which reinforces my assertion that if a robber breaks in, I do not doubt that he will LEAVE something for me as a gift rather than take something.
Note: I have a priceless Thomas Kinkade collection of reprints worth about $4 if the apartment burns down.
There are “X”s and a “10” on the door if someone has any doubt who lives there. It’s a bit embarrassing that they think I’m a 10. I assume that’s what they meant.
It’s not too far from work. I can walk fast and be there in 22 minutes. I can walk normally and be there in 30. (If I skateboard there, it’ll take 57 minutes, with 45 minutes of those waiting on the ambulance to pick me up.) I’d rather not live alone, although everyone tells me that I need to, just once. Each time, I feel like I’m being prepped for a timeshare pitch. Or maybe membership into a cult. 🙂 I’m not certain why people espouse the joy of single living. I’m a great roommate, and generally speaking, I would always opt to be around people. There are so few people who live alone who seem to be joyous. Content? Yes. Clint Black, the dubiously eloquent country music star, put it best: “…so we tell ourselves that what we found is what we meant to find…”
One of my superpowers is that it’s almost impossible to bore me. I assumed everyone was this way until I was much older.
The apartment has two bedrooms. Once I get an exhaust fan installed, I am going to perfect my recipe for Blue Sky. (Sorry, “Breaking Bad” fans.) Let’s be honest here, though. Most of you who know me probably wonder what in the heck I’ll be doing without adult supervision. I am practicing both my yodeling AND maniacal laughing. I may learn to play the bagpipes, too, just in case the yodeling and maniacal laughing doesn’t convince everyone that I’m strange. I’ve learned that it’s impossible to discern a novice bagpipe player from an accomplished one. I can make the same music by squeezing an opera singer much too hard.
I am going to miss Springdale. Not East Springdale, per se, even though it’s been good to me despite the awkward access and relative lack of restaurants. I’ve walked and learned so much about it during the pandemic. It is a bit strange to have intimately become familiar with so much of it only to move a town away. I hadn’t planned on moving away from this area, but that’s how life is.
I would list the amenities for my next place. There’s one problem, though. There aren’t any. Door, walls, floor, ceiling. The minimum. (And that’s more than enough, to start!) The Razorback Greenway is close, allegedly 5 minutes to walk to the nearest crosspoint. I love the trail system. But I also discovered that I love urban walking more than the trails. The train tracks run parallel on the opposite side of Gregg. It’s a good thing that I have a universe inside my head. It might be the only thing keeping me on the right side of sanity and happiness. I don’t need much. Most of us don’t, even though we drown ourselves in things and distractions. I’ve already walked dozens of miles around the area in the last few weeks. Subway is 10 minutes away if I walk, as is a great coffee place. The bonus is that there there are two pubs/breweries very close, too, in case I decide I need to follow the family tradition of drinking myself into oblivion. (The family motto: I don’t drink to remember, I drink to forget that I don’t remember.)
“Most of us cook with two pans – yet have dozens. It explains why there’s a lot wrong with how we live.” – X
The next part of my life is going to be utterly alien to me, anchored by necessity. It’s a certainty that I’m going to continue to walk endlessly and find everything interesting for miles in each direction. I laugh when people tell me, “You have to be careful, X. It’s a different place over here.” Be careful? Life has already reminded me that the dangers that cause the most upheaval cannot be avoided, no matter how careful you are.
The most significant current danger to me in this life is failing to remember the lessons I’ve learned. Getting robbed is an inconvenience – but temporary. Dealing with the consequences of my stubborn stupidity – that’s timeless.
I’m going to struggle with being unanchored for a while, and that’s okay. And if it’s not, well, that’s too bad. I made my bed, and now I’m going to lie in it. On that note, I will not have to make the bed if I don’t want to. I’m not one of those nutty people who insist that a made bed sets the stage for a great day. A peaceful mind does that, not the surroundings into which one arises. I’ve slept with a comforter-only for decades. The only reason I can think of to ‘make’ my bed is in the rare event I suddenly begin to worry about such goofy considerations as “What your bed says about you to other people.”
I am, of course, afraid of the uncertainty, the loneliness, and the ‘new normal’ that I’ll have to adopt. I have to “choose my hard,” so to speak, and pay the price for my choices.
Life moves forward, even if we try to avoid it.
I’ll be looking at my ugly trim in my new apartment, listening to the foreign sounds of other people around me. But I’ll also be laughing internally, wondering what my neighbors think of the “Police Tape – Do Not Disturb” ribbon tapes in an x-pattern across the entryway of my door.
I’d write a bit more, but I need to go listen to feral cats screaming. I’ve been told it’s the best way to appreciate bagpipe music.
P.S. Anyone who wants my address can have it. I mean literally. Just kidding. Write a message if you want or need my phone number or address. Unless you thought my “Breaking Bad” joke was true. Or you’re a die-hard Thomas Kinkade fan. I doubt the Venn Diagram of those two types of people ever converges, much in the same way that Mensa doesn’t recruit at NASCAR events.
I’m out walking through the allegedly iffy stretch of town. The moon is beautiful and a little iridescent against the horizon, before the sunrise. I can feel the heat of the day waiting to blanket everything. But it cannot bake away the beauty of the morning before the sunrise. Last Saturday morning, I ignored the lightning and the rain and walked anyway. It turned out to be an extraordinary walk.
My path was different this morning. New things to see, places to find, and streets to mentally catalog. Walking these places touches them into my memory in a way that driving never will. Though there is nothing magical on these streets, I know that I will probably remember this morning. I have been continually surprised by the equidistant nexus of places I can reach in thirty minutes. Because of the campus and the number of people living over here, the ebb and flow of activity never ceases even if it’s difficult to sometimes spot.
My first conversation and interaction happened as I made my first left turn. A very physically fit man was walking a mastiff on the opposite side of the street. He would have to be fit to corral that large dog. Even the leash or rope he was holding looked to be over an inch thick. In his hand he had a travel mug of coffee. He lifted it and said, “This is the most beautiful part of the day.” I agreed and laughed. He told me to have a great Saturday. As I told him the same, it occurred to me that expectations often wildly contradict reality. Sometimes, they render everything with a sheen of mystery; others, with an ache.
Almost everyone waved or saluted me as we passed. Even the Latinos up on the crane against the large expensive building they were working on. So much of the architecture over here is distinctively beautiful viewed without people or complete light to interfere with it. I think all the people trying to enjoy life late at night with crowded spectacle are missing out.
But what do I know? I’m just a dude, walking. I couldn’t have reached the glass and steel of this architecture without traversing the allegedly iffy.
I think that is my metaphor for today. One day, looking back, I hope to discover that the same metaphor will encompass my recent past. If your yesterday wasn’t what you wanted or needed, shake it off and call it your allegedly iffy. It’s damn hard to appreciate the good times without a kick in the teeth every once in awhile. I’d prefer to evade the kick, but if we could vote, trauma would never touch us.
The sun is crowding the top of the horizon now. Although I’m in the deep shadow of this stretch of the trail, slivers of the sun pierce the canopy, like verdant curtains swept open inside one’s living room.