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
.

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!

.

.

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

.

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
.

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.

.

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
.

The Dread Of a Day Beautifully Begun

Angstmorgen

Having been exposed to multiple entries in the Dictionary of Obscure Sorrows, I worked to create a word to describe a sensation that sometimes plagues me. “Angstmorgen” is the word I came up with.

The feeling of dread for a day well-begun, as if an unseen litany of potential catastrophes lies ahead of you. No matter how energetic you are, how happy your embrace of loved ones. Experience teaches us that everything is eventual and that life is cyclical in its relentless ability to surprise us.

We can wake up with optimism, laughter, and the scent of a freshly-brewed cup of coffee in our comforted hands. We can look out on a sun cresting the horizon.

Somewhere, somewhen, there is always the chance that a calamity has already occurred and not yet reached our awareness.

People we love can decide that we no longer have a place in their lives. An inattentive driver can speed out of a parking lot in the wee hours of the morning, crushing the side of our vehicle. Our heart, dutiful servant though it may be, might choose today to stop providing our bodies with needed oxygen. Our boss might tell us we no longer have a job.

We have to enjoy the moments as they come.

It’s the only way to be satisfied or happy.

Because of the way our minds work, we accumulate the past in our minds instead of allowing the brightness of a new day to renew us. We know we are not our past or the cascade of our mistakes and choices.

The calamities that might befall us are unseen for a reason. For most of them, we can do nothing to prevent them.

Hug the person you wake up with. Savor the cup of coffee. Let the cat or dog in your house feel your hand on its back and ears. Your page is blank today and you can write whatever you want on this pristine entry. I wrote a few words and names of gratitude on a blank page this morning.

My needs are simple and my wants are few. And that makes me happy. I walked out on the landing, the cool mist-filled wind chilled me. I looked at all my happy colors, the colored lights I created filling my eyes. My cat meowed next to me.

Savor those moments.

Push angstmorgen aside, if you can.

The day is yours to experience.

Love, X
.

3 a.m. DIY Lights

There’s nothing quite like wiring a DIY light kit using liquor bottles at 3 a.m. On the fly. The cat thinks I’ve lost my mind. The colors are much more vivid than they seem. I’m using my “Don’t Do Meth In Our Bathroom” candle to melt wax to hold the tiny microwire leads in place. It doesn’t smell like meth, though. Not that anyone would notice around here. Half-jokingly, I’d add that meth or marijuana might be the essence of spring, given how both smells seem to compete with the mountains of pollen accumulating everywhere.

The mason jars are regular solar lights I converted into mason jar solar lanterns. They were originally home to some of the best homemade salsa I had in a long time. You can’t see my fence in the background, but I added several more tiles to the mix. I think I have three dozen installed on the fence now, a variety of colors and sizes. Anyone allergic to gaudy color is gonna have a bad time here.

I was accused of not having enough color around here, so I thought I’d repurpose my strings of outdoor lights to make the bottles. I love solar lanterns – but nothing beats the consistency of electricity to power the magic of light in a place that desperately needs more to remind the inhabitants that a place is as good as you make it.

There’s a metaphor for life somewhere in all that.

Love, X
.

The Box

Near the multiple piles of brush on the perimeter of the street, I spied a white box. It was out of place, bright, and sitting as if placed there. I picked it up, expecting it to be heavy. It was light. I opened the clasp on the front and lifted the lid. Inside were a couple of dozen brightly colored notes, each written by attendees of what looked to be a baby shower. Though it might not sound sublime, it lit me up with the imaginings of a foreign life and a curiosity to know how the box found its way to be haphazardly placed where I discovered it.

I read the notes eagerly, my thoughts tied to an event and a person who I’d never meet. One was a rudimentary drawing of a swaddled baby, one probably drawn by a young child.

It was a lemon moment, one that I can’t quite describe.

I brought the little box home with me and glued the slight imperfection along the bottom. I don’t know what to do with it, other than to wonder about the life it represents and the child it celebrated.

I hope the mother is happy with her new child.

I hope.

And that makes me happy.

I’m sitting here with the apartment door open, listening to the rain and the cacophony of birds in the surrounding trees. My cat is wandering the landing, probably attempting to trespass further than he is supposed to. It’s a beautiful morning and the sun hasn’t greeted me yet.

Somewhere, the mom and the new baby associated with the box I found live their lives.

Fayetteville. There are surprises everywhere if you know where to look and how to appreciate them.

Love, X
.

Traversing The Road

Starting with a laugh… as I walked West Miller Street close to my apartment, I watched a greyish blue Chevy Traverse round the deceptively sharp curve to approach me. It was speeding of course. I walked along the right-hand side of the street on the grass. As the vehicle approached, I observed the older woman driving and notice the approaching speed bump. It’s not high profile. Had she simply driven over it, there would have been no laugh. Instead, she braked hard to avoid going over it at 35+ mph. The younger woman in the passenger seat didn’t appear to be wearing a seatbelt. She was turned sideways in the seat, drinking a presumptive soda through her straw. As the driver braked, the passenger went forward unexpectedly. I couldn’t quite see it when it happened, but she squeezed her styrofoam cup as she was jerked forward. The passenger bounced off the dashboard. Weirdly, both the driver and the passenger looked at me simultaneously as I walked and laughed. The passenger started pantomiming her displeasure toward the driver. She wildly pointed down and across her lap. I assume she was baptized in soda. I shrugged my shoulders when the driver looked at me again, having come to a full stop a couple of feet past the speed bump. When I looked back at the vehicle a few seconds later to note the make and model, I laughed again at the fact that it was wrongly named the “Traverse.” It certainly didn’t this afternoon.

Now I want to add another speed bump on top of the authorized one and watch as speeders coming from Woodland school hit it without warning. I could give it the name “Speed Wall” instead of a speed bump.

When I exited the convenience store a few minutes later, I drank my diet soda and crushed ice with enthusiasm. A nun dressed in all white entered as I held the door open for her. One of the regulars who is also quite the scam storyteller asked me if I wanted to buy some weed. With a very serious face, I said, “Yes. I need five pounds of it if you have it.” The look on his face was priceless. “Five pounds? How long will that last you?” Not missing a beat, I replied, “Oh, I’d say about nine or ten days. Can you hook me up?” He shook his head, still not realizing I was joking. “No, I can’t get anywhere near that amount!” I told him I was very disappointed in his inventory problem. I walked away, shaking my head, pretending to be concerned. I didn’t look back. I didn’t dare. There is no way I would have been able to avoid laughing.

At the intersection with Onyx Coffee, I watched as drivers carelessly drove across the crosswalk and ignored the road markings. Because I was feeling clever, I crouched down and pointed my fingers on the concrete, pretending I was a sprinter about to take off across the crosswalk. My eyes were focused on the red indicator across the street. As I did so, a white Chevy pickup pulled all the way across the crosswalk in front of me and stopped. His intention was to make a right turn, even if he had to block pedestrians to do so. I walked in front of his vehicle. Instead of pointing at the crosswalk or the sign across the street, I instead pointed at the grill of his truck. “Oh my god!” I said. And kept pointing. “You need to see this,” I told him, continuing to point. He put his truck in park and exited his truck to see what I was gesticulating toward on the front of his truck. As he did, I walked across the street and kept going. I didn’t look back that time, either. I wondered if he might get angry and return to curse at me. He’d have to make at least TWO more turns to head back in my direction, though.

When I walked two streets past my apartment, I watched a man climb inside the dumpster on the corner. He was having trouble, so I told him to use the truck fork holes as steps. He must have been a newbie to the dumpster scene. I didn’t talk to him long, but it turns out he has a decent job in the evening. He’s been scavenging and reworking furniture and different items. His truck was parked several feet away in the apartment parking lot. He also told me something interesting: that he often found construction workers’ beer in there. They often use it to hide their alcohol while they’re on the job site. He told me that last week he found a bicycle that required only a few dollars of parts – and that he sold it for $100. I wished him luck and told him that he should take a look in the dumpster at my apartment on Sunday afternoon. He thanked me.

I didn’t see another Traverse as I crossed the speed bump again.

X
.

Art? And Walking…

“Someone” started an art project on the north fence. 🙂 I fixed as much of the fence as I could, using 200+ hex fence screws, by hand, without power tools. Those are painted floor tiles, backed with buffering felt pads to allow for slight movement and expansion. I’m not done yet. Is anything really ever done? It’s been amusing to watch the passersby and neighbors take a double-take as they walk past or drive up. I have 100+ feet to use if I want. Is it art? I don’t know. But it is colorful and a much-needed dose of it for this pale place. Now that it’s spring, I’m adding color everywhere. Including a super-secret project I’ve been doing incrementally. The super-secret project requires a little bit of stealth, as it’s not an authorized art display. But it sticks out like a blazing pair of pants if you look in the right direction.

Last week, I made an effort to wear my FitBit more consistently. I fell short of 160,000 steps Monday-Friday. It’s somewhere around 72 miles. I might have overshot my competition a bit. 🙂 My previous closest rival wouldn’t join my workweek hustles this week. The whole point for me is to challenge myself. But it does work much better if someone is nipping at my heels through the week.