Swaying Spires

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On the day of my death, I won’t remember the three spires protruding from a tuft of orange-yellow strips of dried leaves outside my window. I won’t remember how they sway with the movement if the air and rain before a blue-green juniper. The sky is grey without definition. It is not special.

I will leave my desk to fix a lunch, and hopefully thousands more lunches before that final day. Each lunch I fix, I will be farther and further from the fleeting, swaying spires.

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Clever Clouds

Boardwalk

This clever little thing.  There are days when the clouds look like unicorns and puppies and there are days when they are made of devils and dragons.  I wonder if we see what we want to see, or if we see only what we’re told to see.  I wonder if we will ever see what’s really there, and if we can know it when we do.

No Really, Who Are You?

So Small, Comparatively

To you, I am simply another blogger.  You know little else, not even my hair color or sex.  To my employer, I am reliable.  To my neighbors, I am a gardener.  To a gardener, I am joke.  To my insurance provider, I am a number.  To my dog, I am everything.  To Mr. Vincent, I am an editor.  To my ex, I am an ex.  To my current love, I am love.  To Otto’s Market cashier, I am a coffee drinker.   To the playhouse, I am a regular.  To success, I am a failure.  To my opponent, I am quick at the net.  To my coach, I am not quick enough.  To a previous landlord, I am a relief to be rid of.  To the guy who collects shopping carts at the A&P, I am an inconsiderate asshole.  To Jared, I am ancient.  To Mr. Neville, I have so much vitality.  To my brother, I am reliable.   To my father, I am wrong, but I can assure you that I’m right.  To Juliet, I am a terrible friend.  She is completely right.  To Tracy, I am on his side.  To living a good and meaningful life, I am almost a success.

Many characteristics comprise the whole, but there is that one thing that overshadows the rest.  That is what I’m after.  This is what drives me mad.

Who am I to me?

Who are you?  Who are you to them?  Who are you to you?

Filling the box is incredibly difficult.  When anything is possible, decisions become problematic.  Such a small box, comparatively.  Yet, anything can fit.

A Necessary Expletive, Right Here and Now

On one particularly miserable night, I told Santino, a tall, lanky, teenaged recovering addict, twenty years my junior, to fuck off.

Santino and I were in a room, a tiny box of a room comparatively, filled with pizza ovens, dough stations, sauce stations, slicing stations, televised sports stations, stacks of pizza boxes, refrigerators, garbage cans, and rows of shelves stocked with ketchup, olive oil, soap, and all sorts of essentials.

I was standing amidst a fat, grey-skinned man who regularly poured cornstarch into his shorts on hot days, two dirty water splashing dishwashers, a team of coming and going cursing and bitching waitresses, and a few teenaged boys who neither added nor subtracted anything from my life.

Despite the amount of time I’ve spent in this room, I’ve no idea of walls’ color, the nature of the floor and ceiling, or even if it had a window.  I don’t know if that matters.

Besides, I’m not there.  I’m here, seated before two windows.

My space is lovely.  I sit at an old wooden desk situated before two oversized windows that look onto the neighborhood.   I see the weekender’s backward American flag powered by wind from the South, piles of oak and maple leaves, hydrangeas dying to be trimmed before the frost, an old blue Ford pickup made completely of metal driven by a young smoker, two squirrels, bobbing evergreen branches that I will cut for a Christmas wreath, women with dyed hair and too much make up knocking on doors to discuss Jesus, the shadows shrinking so quickly.

To my right is a mirror image of this room.  Instead of a desk before the windows, my dog drapes himself over the back of a couch to keep watch on the neighborhood.  My dog sees the same two women, but he doesn’t know about their made up faces, dyed hair, or that they want to discuss Jesus.  He doesn’t even know who Jesus is.  He sees two squirrels corkscrewing up a tree.  He enjoys relieving himself in the pile of leaves.  He watches a stray car pass, a robin hop along the fence, a fisherman carry his pole and bucket.  I know that the pole the man carries is used to catch fish, but he sees a man who is a potential threat to his home.  I see squirrels playfully run up a tree, he senses their scent and perhaps he imagines a chase.

On a particularly depressing night in the box, I cringed at the thought of leaving the box to deliver food to people who I didn’t care about, in exchange for money.  With tomato sauce lodged under my fingernails, a variety of food splattered on my sneakers, reeking of garlic, dirty dishwater dripping from my legs, I cringed at the thought of the imminent and perpetual meaningless small talk with people I didn’t care a bit about.  For money.  Not to mention, I was standing incredibly close to the man who regularly poured cornstarch into his shorts.

Somehow, at that moment, Santino, the recovering addict, twenty years my junior, saw the misery in my face and crossed the room.  We had no business together, but he made me his business.  He told me that at that very moment, there is nowhere else that I’m supposed to be, or could be, than right here, right now.

I had no time for this chit-chat.  My mouth thanked him, but in my head I told him to fuck off, in the meanest way possible, of course.  I took my filthy, smelly self into the dining room, delivered food, spoke about nothing to people I didn’t care about, and retrieved money.  Fuck you, Santino.

That was a long time ago, and any more times that night, that week, that year, I returned to the box to deliver food in exchange for money, and many more times Santino’s words ran through my head. He was right.  I was supposed to be there, right then, just as I am supposed to be here, right now.  I am always supposed to be exactly where I am.  Even if I’m in motion, I am still right here, right now.  You are too.  You’re here reading this, telling me to fuck off in your head, or high-fiving me, or telling me to learn to write.  Everyone who is right here, right now, will see and experience something very different.  It is up to you to create the essence.

Santino taught me to see and experience my dirty job and pieces of my life from a new perspective, just as my dog sees the same neighborhood from another set of windows.  I worked hard and I did my job well.  It was not glamorous, but it afforded the simple and meaningful life I still appreciate and desire.

The Raw Beauty of a Moment

A moment is a specific and significant, yet immeasurable period of time. A moment is distinct in comparison to that which surrounds it. Distinct, unique. Fleeting.

People share moments, wait just a moment, wait for their big moment, things have had their moment. There are moments of force, magnetic moments, moments to remember, Moment skis that are made in the USA from 95% North American materials. Someone will be with you in a moment. There are momentary lapses of judgment. Nikki Minaj wishes that she “could have this moment for life, for life, for life.” You can measure the internal strength of an object to find its bending moment.

There is the moment of truth.

Douglas Kennedy received a four-star Amazon book review for, “The Moment: A Novel.” One nail-biting Ebay bidder sits on the edge of a seat, 12 seconds away from a Precious Moments figurine. This Magic Moment is having a wedding sale you will not want to miss. Fireworks awed Squints and Smalls to the tune of The Drifters’ “This Magic Moment.” There are awkward moments and moments of clarity. For $259 you can stay at The Moment hotel in Hollywood, California.

Take a moment. I will be with you in a moment.

A moment. How do you know when a moment begins and when it ends? When does the present suddenly become the past? At which point does that specific and significant moment appear to be clutched in your hand? And at which point does it slip through your fingers? Is there a static instant, a “NOW?” Can you be aware enough to know it? Is there enough time to know it?

A moment, this moment right now, is incredibly fast, fleeting, gone, tossed into the past. Every sentence, every word, every letter, every breath, suddenly in the past. This one. Now. Right now, and now, and now, and now…

One incredible moment, however impermanent, however skewed by synaptic memory, existed and fleeted into my past. I existed outside of passing time, absorbing that one moment, that one “now.”

With the help of a team of creative, talented, and generous people, I am able to revisit a representation of that moment whenever I choose. It was January 5, 2012, a day at the beach depicted in the photo, the day I filled the box. I felt like Squints and Smalls, when nothing else existed but the raw beauty of a single moment, one I will share with you in the future.

 

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Gratitude, Self-Doubt, and a Dog

A question was posed by blogger “Clarabelle” this morning about gratitude. What does gratitude feel like to me? While you toss that around in your own head for a few minutes, or visit her blog right here: Clarabelle, I will explain how I arrived at my answer.

My mission was to write an incredibly fabulous, poetic, and unique piece that would fetch large audiences who would all be in agreement about my brilliance. It would make people wonder how, or if, a mere human could create such perfection. They would argue that the author must be a team, as even the greatest wordsmith could never encompass such complexity in plain language. It would read as if it had always been written, always existed, and was just waiting for the right moment to be unveiled.

I sat there, at my desk, in a Mexican poncho, one slipper, drinking the sludgy, chalky bottom of very strong coffee.

While I waited for Brilliance to begin, Self-Doubt stopped by with breaking news. Self-Doubt couldn’t wait another moment to tell me that trying to fill a box for twenty years is just stupid, writing about it in a blog is even stupider, that I am my only audience, and that an illiterate child is more skillful at written language than I.

Whomp, whomp.

I closed my laptop. I replaced my slipper with two walking shoes, the Mexican blanket with a jacket, and filled my cup with coffee and cream. I set out for a walk, just me and my dog. I thought about Clarabelle’s question of gratitude. I thought about the beautiful red autumn leaves, the salty smell of ocean air, how it makes my hair feel, how Amy Hempel’s writing is so perfect and precise. I thought how truly happy my dog was to sniff the fallen leaves as he looked up at me with admiration and a wagging tail. I stood still, waves crashed, clouds slung low, a stranger smiled at my happy dog. I was so incredibly thankful for that moment.

Although I am not a seasoned professional writer, and many a novice is far more masterful than me, no one before me has ever created this combination of words. No one before me has experienced the beauty of the moment which inspired them. It is beautiful in and of itself.

Clarabelle, I thank you.

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Empty Space and the Problem with Permanence

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The problem with permanence is that if I were to secure the most precious thing inside the box and wrap it tightly forever, could it stay precious and will it still matter? Twenty years ago, in that heart-pounding moment, the acquisition of the box was all that mattered. Today, its contents are what matter. That fleeting moment of the heist exists simply as a unique combination of a few million synapses firing in my brain. The fleeting nature of everything exists in exactly the same way.

If I didn’t own this box, the tiny space it envelopes wouldn’t matter. Tiny spaces exist everywhere, without a need to fill them, so why is this space so important to permanently fill? Perhaps because the container’s sides, top, and bottom give the empty space a specific beginning and end, a border that defines where it is and where it is not. That in itself makes it special. Perhaps it shouldn’t be filled at all.

Empty space is incredibly important: empty space between spoken words can be an uncomfortable silence, a gentle poetic pause to emphasize meaning, or a moment to silently create the perfect combination of words. The unadorned empty space above a sofa can be boring and drab, or a space to rest your eyes from spaces filled with clutter.

Empty space: a silent bump that forces you to slow down and think of what isn’t, what could be, and what is; what’s missing, its potential, and appreciation.