I like Mer and I like art. I like Mer art. My favorite piece hangs above my desk. Ethan, my youngest nephew, brought it with him on the Amtrac ride across the US with his family (they visited "The West" this past July). The happy Mer seem to have nothing better to do than pose for the artist. Ethan expressed pride in drawing the bikini completely on his own (and my niece, Sasha, Ethan's older sister, confessed she helped by drawing the "six pack" on the merman's belly); I didn't tell him I prefer bare-breasted mermaids.
I've had a splash of interest in my Merworld Fantasy Beul Nam Beinn this past week. A local book club have selected it as their read for the month (and they will visit my home with "wine, cheese and all sorts of food" in January so they might ask me questions related to the novel). Owners of Mr. Happy's, a Cortez establishment of fine food, drink and live performances, asked if I'd be interested in having a reading. Cortez being in the high desert of Colorado's western slope, we need a little Mer to liven up our lives.
As I was jogging this morning an idea floated to the surface- why not a Mer Art contest? It is unlikely anyone can create a piece as fine as Ethan's Mer, but someone might come close. The winner will be selected early in the new year and given a signed copy of Beul Nam Bienn along with a post on my website. It's all about having fun and being creative. Why not give it a try?
Morning is here. My current lifestyle is one of dragging myself to work and dragging myself home. It's tough. My life is out of balance.
Last evening, I found myself hiking over to the Carpenter Nature at the north edge of town. It was quiet and I had the setting to myself (except for the occasional rabbit scurrying or bird flit from sage to sage).
When I go out for one of these quiet adventures, I pause to take in the sunset. This was a special night though. Equally spectacular to the sun setting like a hallow to the "head" of the Sleeping Ute Mountain was a full moon rising over the La Plata Mountains to the east. I had my camera and took some pictures to post.
Speaking of the full moon, tonight I'm hosting a potluck. Since I'll be making some mango margaritas, I suspect the potluck will turn into a party. While I can appreciate the spectrum of quiet solitude to boisterous partying. Last night I needed some quiet. What I need tonight is a party.
Life is awfully good. I guess I can’t really compare it to anything…except maybe pre-life (can you remember what it was like before you were born? Me either.)
I have a couple of housemates. Tony lives in the basement. Jon is in the spare bedroom.
I connected with Tony by posting a little ad on Craigslist (something like “Room in exchange for your carpentry skills”). Anyhow, he showed up with a trailer of tools and a dream. He has helped with the home improvements a ton. He’s also a great cook and we’ve become good friends.
Jon has been a friend for about a year. We first met over a conversation at the local coffee house (shared our challenges of unemployment - is it true the new norm is plenty of middle aged folks who are struggling to survive?). Anyhow, we’re great friends. He contacted me a month ago saying he needed a place (as he’s navigating through a divorce). While I’m at work as a teacher, he’s been helping Tony with the home repairs.
Anyhow, the house is really coming together! I’d not truly understood what kind of project I was undertaking. It is amazing through all we can accomplish with the help of friends (old and new). The big plan this week is to begin painting the exterior.
I’m sipping my first cup of morning java. Soon we will be dipping the brush in the bucket. I have a feeling it’ll be a landmark day. I am already having visions of big parties under the full moon…enjoying this big space I call home.
Be not weak my friends. Life is good. I am a writer. I am a painter. The writing is done. Now I paint.
Sometimes it is important to just experience life. I’d gone for my morning jog. I panted at my doorsteps and decided the front yard could be watered. I turned on the sprinkler and experienced some wonderful layers- the sunrise beyond the playground beyond the sprinkler.
Life is in layers. Some are thick. Some are thin. Some have deep rooted fossils and some are fresh flooded mud.
I study layers of the earth, the rock, myself and others.
In my youth, favorite layers included the rainbow of jello in a family picnic, the discarded clothes on my bedroom floor, and the steaming mass of fermented organics deep in the compost pile. The calendar always felt like an unending ripple of predicted tides- a new school year, Halloween, Thanksgiving, Christmas, New Years, Saint Patrick’s Day, Easter and summer vacation. I remember the layers of my childhood as better than they ever were—there were many layers of complete crap.
My favorite layers as an adult seem more permanent. The layers between Heaven and Hell. The layers between love and fear. The layers between separation and connectedness. I guess these aren’t actually my favorite layers, they’re just the ones I think about the most.
Today I look at the sunrise beyond the playground beyond the sprinkler and think, This is how it is- life is layers- birth, death and the meaning we put in between. The lesson- live life and worry not.
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”