I’d had a burger for dinner. It was decent enough. A side salad and some sliced onion gave me extra reason to go out for a dusk-time stomp around town.
I decided to stroll down Beech Street beyond the preschool to my future home. While flip-flops are convenient to slip into, the noise of them slapping against my heels annoyed all on a quiet summer night. A slap, slap, slap as I crossed Main Street beating the big shark trucks over the crosswalk sounded thunderous.
A block further I visited a friend, once coworker, and then took the final blocks down to the house. It was quiet and I wandered through the broken fence to view the sunset from the back yard. Purples and reds mix and blend to make a spectacular last breath. I decided the color I’ll paint the house might be reddish-purple. It’s a good color.
And I headed back to Mr. Happy’s with the sounds of faint country playing below.
With thoughts of furnishing a home, I spent mid-morning hitting garage sales. One, a fund-raiser at the Southwest Memorial Hospital, had some great bargains. I wandered through the rows of tables and found seven seasons of Friends.
“How much?” I asked a woman wearing a bright tie-dyed shirt (all of those helping were in the same uniform).
“How about ten dollars?” I paused in thought and then she said, “How about five. We need to sell them.”
“Sure,” I responded happily.
There was a large oil painting leaning against a pillar at the front of the sale. I’d looked at it and assumed it was out of my price range. It reminded me of last night. I picked up a neglected lawn sculpture of welded shovels and trowels (a bird?) deciding to offer two dollars. The woman agrees.
I scan the large painting once more. “How about five for that?” she suggested.
“I think I’ve got five,” I said handing her my money.
As I started to head towards my Blazer an aged man I once knew stops me and asks, “How much did you pay for the sculpture?”
“Two dollars,” I say.
“I’ll give you five.”
So, my final investment in art this morning has been two dollars. I think I got a bargain…and I do believe it’s kismet!
Can you believe it? Twice each week I go to a correctional facility and teach Adult Education. My afternoon is split in half as the women and men are not allowed to occupy the space at the same time. I’m finding the students to be very respectful and sincerely interested in working towards their GEDs. I truly enjoy my time with them!
I’ve always believed people are people…but I must admit before I first came to teach I had images of Hannibal Lector with his mask and talking about fava beans. I wondered if students would get violent with me. I wondered if some might not like having a white instructor (the inmates are all Native American). The truth could not be further from the Hollywood image or my own ignorance.
I find my time in class relaxing. Yesterday I did some practice testing with students and found myself pacing the floor as I finished reading Frank McCourt’s Tis. The room is barren except for a stack of grey pads in one corner, the long row of tables and chairs filled with orange garbed ladies. There is a window high on one wall which is likely ten inches high by thirty-five or so inches wide. From where I stand I get a perfectly framed vision of Mesa Verde in the distance; it appears like a very realistic landscape image and I breathe out deep.
The class is considered a privilege and I think the students see it that way. I admit there are things I’ve done in my life which might have gotten me in jail- nothing too serious. Anyhow, I keep my time and materials as organized and simple as I can. I try to determine the students’ need and point them in the right direction.
I learn as much from my students as they learn from me. I asked if they were allowed to talk with each other when they are in their cells. “We speak into the vents,” one shared. I guess it is a little like the movies.
The time goes by quickly and soon I find I am reaching for the button alongside of the door. I know someone is watching me from behind a mirrored wall. “It’s Joe in the GED class. We’re done for the day.” The students return their chair into a stack in the corner and file out to walk through the metal detector. I sort my stacks of papers and fill the handled file box. Out the door, down the hall, I buzz my way through a number of doors and out into the world again. Beyond the parking lot, an old mare chews on a tangled mass of sage. This is a fine life, I decide.
I grabbed a book off one of the shelves in the learning center where I work (I wanted something to read while proctoring a practice GED test to an adult student). Titled Living in the Now and recommended by Oprah (notice how I don't even need to say a last name), I decided it was worth a look.
I found myself pulled into the concepts presented. In simple words salvation is found when we "let go" and "live in the now." Surrender is the same as releasing the ego. I know I feel better when my ego goes to sleep and life accelerates.
This morning I was in the laundry mat. The ceiling fans like Wonka-ish daisy heads spin above the hum, spin cycle, wash whirl and coin into the catch jingle. Quiet dramas act out in the birthing of sheets, shirts and skirts pulled from the dryer. I sit at the industrial-grade table and speak with two women who work at the mat. Politics, gardening and the meaning of the Cortez Journal (mostly ads and angry words we decide). The connections are worth as much as the clean laundry.
I live off these words- God has a plan and doing laundry is part of it.
I’ve been house-hunting for over 6 months now. My Realtor has been more than helpful in finding properties for me to consider. Some are shacks, some are abandoned bad chi domains and some are possibilities.
Several weeks ago, Judy took me to an interesting place with many pluses. Located in-town, this house is definitely a fixer-upper. The house is old (which I like), has some unique architectural features, is on a big lot, has an outbuilding, and is in a fairly quiet neighborhood; these are the pluses.
Concerns are many. I already know the house needs to be rewired and the heat system is propane (not ideal). I wonder about the structural elements. I also wonder about toxic levels (you might have guessed I’d head in this direction).
After making an offer and accepting a counter-offer, I hopped onto finding a home inspector and getting some of the toxicity possibilities tested. I’ve already tested for mold spores and found it isn’t an issue. This evening I’ll collect the radon test materials to send for lab analysis. I also plan to call the electrical company to see if they’ll test EMF from back pole (there’s a buzzing box above the back shed).
I’m ready to have my own space. I deserve it. This house may prove to be my future home or it may show itself to be a lemon. I should know this week.
The process brings to mind the need for our homes to be healthy. It’s not a new issue. If you find yourself in a similar situation, shop around for an inspector who can find any clues to toxins in the structure and property. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again- if my home is healthy and happy, so am I.
I decided to go on a hike today. I’d revisit Sand Canyon with its trails of slick rock and moonshine (at least when the moon is shining). There’s plenty of scenery even on the drive down- the airport (so small it is said the airport employees need to chase the cattle away before a plane can land), McElmo Canyon (home of the finest peaches and melons anywhere), and the occasional gas well (chaffs my ass). Can I make the use of any more parentheses (certainly)?
I quieted my thoughts and considered the beauty of the setting. A good place to be inspired- I decided.
I thought I’d find a quiet shady place near the canyon edge to sit and write. But everywhere it seemed there were people. I decide to skip the trail I’d meant to take and continue on one I’d hoped would be less traveled. The worn sandy path continued in turns between the pinion and juniper trees. I the distance a woman praised her dog for shitting at the canyon bottom before returning to the trail. A group of high school kids sat at one look out point and shared stories in the only piece of shade. Ughh! It drove me further along the canyon edge. I turned another corner and came upon a large group speaking in a language- familiar, yet . I forgot about my plans to write and tried to place the words.
I asked, “What language are you speaking?”
The man closest said, “Polish.”
“Where in Poland are you from?”
“I’ve been to Krakow. I had a girlfriend from there. My first book takes place in the city.”
“You’re a writer?”
“I’ve a small publishing house in Krakow.”
I was stunned as we walked side by side and shared stories.
What are the chances really? A writer whose first book takes place in Krakow and a publisher from Krakow meeting on a trail in a canyon outside of Cortez. It is the smallest of worlds at times. I guess it brings to mind- sometimes you end up being exactly where you need to be at exactly the right time.
“Surfing is an individual expression of one’s own worth and one’s own ability to participate directly with nature. And what makes it really enjoyable to me is that every wave is different…there’s a special, non-repetitive pleasure in it that never gets boring.” –Otis Chandler
I’ll admit it. I didn’t sleep well last night. There wasn’t late night music going on downstairs. I wasn’t ill. I simply didn’t have the means to let go of work issues and I took them to bed with me (funny how when you try to let go of issues they just keep resurfacing…reminds me of my father rototilling up rocks in our backyard when I was young. We’d have to go out and pick rock from the dirt again and again and again. It seems it was a whole summer process and it got boring after rock ten). Anyhow, I didn’t get until almost eight; this is rare, as I’m usually up at the crack of dawn.
I got up and managed a half-assed attempt to go jogging. As I headed towards the spiral staircase, the back way up to my apartment, my landlord, literally Mr. Happy himself, pulled into the adjacent parking. We said our “Good mornings” and I headed up the stairs.
I decided I would go out for coffee and try to meet up with a friend who I haven’t seen in a while. I sent him a text and he sent a message back “In Mancos and heading to Durango.” Of well, I finished my bowl of cereal and slipped into my flip-flops and out the door. I’d go to the coffee shop on my own.
The Sprucetree Coffee Shop is open under a new owner. I had been frequenting it through the winter and usually found some friendly conversation. I hadn’t been in in some time and most of the regulars were not to be found. I did have a couple of teacher friends get in line behind me; they were having their own conversation, so I let them to themselves.
I drank my cappuccino and looked through a book on spiritual retreats I’d pulled off from one of the shelves. It felt too quiet. I needed to find some life.
I hiked to go to the bank and decided I’d finish my coffee on the way. I’d gotten to the bank just as it opened for Saturday hours. I always enjoy going into this bank. It is especially friendly and the people who work keep a jovial spirit rolling along. It’s nice to know my money is safe and with good humor.
On my Main Street hike, I’d seen a sign for a yard sale north on Washington. I flip-flopped my way down the street and found the sale. I looked at a guitar leaning against a tree and asked the price.
“$140,” said the man sitting on the back bumper of a pick-up. I wandered around looking at the rest of the items.
Somehow, at the point I can’t quite remember how, the conversation of houses came up. I mentioned looking for an affordable house.
“I got mine at auction for fifty-two thousand. It’s got a full basement. The place was a mess, but I got the inside cleaned out and I’ll take care of the rest,” he explained.
“I had a house back east. I bought it and cleaned to get rid of toxins because of health issues.”
“I’ve got toxicity issues too. What were you dealing with?”
I explained all of the symptoms, time and money I’d invested in cleaning out my body; it appears he has similar issues. Anyhow, we talked for some time and I shared some names, book titles and website for him to explore.
Just as I was about to leave a friend who’d taken over as renter at the shack of a house I’d once rented approached with her boyfriend. She picked up the guitar and began to play it. We laughed a little as I’d been considering returning to purchase it. I told the seller, “She’ll give the guitar a good home,” and left shortly after.
My next stop as I wandered town was the Methodist Thrift Store. I typically go in and scan the high end items in the case up front (high end usually means over $5), then I head to the bookshelves in the far corner. As my eyes wandered over the titles on row after row of book spines, I heard a familiar laugh. A couple I’ve known for many years were having fun reading coffee mugs to each other. I stepped from behind my shelf, said hello and a conversation pursued.
Now I am back at my kitchen table, writing about the morning and looking through a book I purchased at the thrift store. Surfing He’e Nalu: Hawaiian Proverbs and Inspirational Quotes Celebrating Hawai’i’s Royal Sport sits next to my laptop and I am contemplating some rock climbing this afternoon.
My social life is a kind of surfing. I go from place to place and see where the waves of conversation are to be had. My morning has been rich with spoken words and laughter. If the waves of social interaction are too great, I tumble about and find I may be prey to the sharks. I often feel new to this kind of surfing. I sometimes feel ill prepared. But surf I will!
Here’s hoping your life is fill with nice waves and intervals of calm water.
“Never turn your back on the ocean”
My new apartment is good fun. I sat at my desk last night and listened to rhythm of music below (I’m living above a bar/restaurant and the owners enjoy supporting the local music scene). Less than ten words came out on the paper I’d been scribbling on. Writers block? Distracted? It really doesn’t matter. I’ve learned if the words are a struggle to come up with, it is best to wait on the muse.
The time came this morning after sleeping in, jogging, hitting the thrift stores (always relaxes me and I’m not certain why), and wandering aimlessly. I rolled my Schwinn Beach Cruiser backwards down the stairs and skidded across the parking area, down an alley and out onto Market Street. The traffic was mild and at a corner stop as I waited on cross traffic a truck driver attempted to wave me through the intersection. I waved him by back. He leaned out his window as he passed saying, “Well, I tried.” I nodded with a smile and cruised on towards Hawkins Preserve.
After I park my bike, I hike down the uneven terrain of mostly slick rock with islands of cryptogrammic soil to the edge of McElmo Creek Canyon. Mesa Verde stretches across the south like some snow covered snake which secretly holds ancient Puebloans deep inside its creases and folds: a python of history recently infested by pavement and park rangers.
Ute Mountain is to my right and does in silhouette resemble some sleeping giant of an Indian chief. He still keeps his blanket of snow tucked around his neck and across his belly. Locals know not to plant until the Ute takes off his blanket. It’ll be another week or two.
I eat my simple lunch- an orange and a paper bag full of cashews mixed with cinnamon coated almonds. It mixes well with the feather of cool wind curling over my shoulders. I enjoy the silent connect to nature. The juniper and scrub oak make good company.
Sometimes I forget how easy it is to recharge my spirit. A simple and time in nature does the trick. How lucky to be me.
There was time when I could not stop writing. I just couldn’t. I would try to stop coming up with stories and story ideas, but they just seemed to pop into my head and spin around and around until I did something about it. Maybe the writing was a way of purging my system- body, mind and soul. Maybe it was a skill seeded in a childhood where the pain of life without love was replaced with escapes of the extreme. Maybe, just maybe, it was the desire to show my love to others by entertaining. Maybe I am trying my best to simply be heard.
More recently life has overwhelmed me. It is almost as though my creativity has had a large rock tied to it and it is sinking deep under the waters. I can make a gurgle or a bubble and no one cares but me. It is a lonely place. A place where I wish I didn't find myself.
Some people are so unkind and others are truly angels. One up lifts and the other makes you sink. I’m for whatever makes you laugh. I’m for whatever makes you sigh and thank God you’re alive. I’m for the good and the fun and the joy and love one finds in creating.
My first published book, Grandpa and the Christmas Crib, was about love being the support of creativity. I know I feel best when I’m creative and it seems others feel the same. Music, dance, writing, singing, painting, sculpting, hammering, buttoning, riding…whatever the form of creativity, make it happen. Hey, we’re all here to live full throttle. Make it so, my friend, make it so!
On the days when I can't get any words down...I think...I dream...I imagine. I float off to some cosmic jungle and fuzzy visions of swimming with a lovely off some rocky coast.
I need these visions...these escapes...these reasons for living.
Imagination is the Lincoln Logs of the spirit. Shed off the dark trappings and drift in the loving light--a power so fantastic we cannot forget. This is us. As it should be.
On the days when I can't get words down...
This has been quite a week! In addition to starting a new job, I've been planning a new radio show, connecting with medical experts on mercury, and continuing the hunt for a happy and inexpensive home.
Last night after trekking to the grocery store for bananas (I prefer the spotted ones with red tape around them), I did my evening prayer and meditation. I'd hoped with some quiet time my thoughts would become clear and structured. They didn't. I sat with my composition book in my lap. I did get the title down, but no clear words.
I guess sometimes we deal with jumbled thoughts. My brain sometimes doesn't shut down. It didn't last night. Jumbled, roving, tipping this way and that, I was wishing for a shut off switch. I guess it lends itself to some interesting dreams. To add to my jumbled entry, here's a monkey on a bus. Comments?