Gate Theory of Personal Relationships

What a long way to walk to find there’s a gate blocking my way. Inglorious in means and forgive me for not seeing it coming from you. Forgive me, too, for stopping your own passage.

My friend, when I entered a relationship with you, our pairing created a new path for me to walk. That was exciting– an adventure I wouldn’t have had without you. Even though we’d bonded, the path was just for me. I walked it alone. You walked yours by yourself as well.

It sounds odd when I say as a blanket statement, “A friendship creates two solitary paths.” How is that possible, and why the solitary point of view? Aren’t we in this together? Bonded by handshakes or hugs; inseparable, and proven by years of loyalty?

There is one self, always. We are individuals– before, during and after we are friends. Our respective spaces must be for just one. Even though pairings have extra power, they never remove a person from self-regulation and autonomy.

The one-self-always concept is evident even at the mother/infant level. While the child may be dependent for many needs, he cries on his own inclination. His satisfaction comes from inputs processed by his nervous system and brain. How do his skin’s sensations feel to him? Are they tingly, tight, itchy or just right? Does anything on his insides cause him discomfort? Only he knows, because the sum of sensory factors affects him alone.

Independence is also voluntary, going beyond instinct and reaction. The youngster holds his breath, as an experiment, or to be provocative, despite being told not to do so. He responds differently to identical instructions and more often than not, his individualism increases over time.

If the one-self concept is true, then a human pairing is linking, not merging. Think of it this way: Becoming friends is a personal decision made by two. You do not decide that we will be friends. And I, and you, will always retain our right stop it, as sad as that sounds.

We also retain the right to reach out again.

In the moments before our friendship began, there was nothing that was you and me. Our bond started as nothing, we both had a massive blank wall in front of us, a wall that was impenetrable with just our individual tools. When we two became a thing, our friendship created instant openings in front of us. Your wall and my wall were modified with entrances and in fact each of your personal relationships hollows out an entirely new full-length alley in front of you. Time spent with each pal allows deeper progress along these passages and keeps you moving– so long as you remain friends.

This description can get tricky so let me speak from my side of things. I’m walking down many alleys, concurrent and at varying points of distance, and each passage has been enabled by a given personal connection. They’re my friend, or my mate, my special friend, my cousin, my brother. That would make Alleys 1, 2, 3, 4 and 5. The numbers can range into the hundreds, for some people. I’m walking each corridor, simultaneously. If you are one of those people in my life, I’m in the alley you have opened for me.

As are you, over on your side of things. We talk, you walk, and our relationship marks your progression.

Now let me tell you of my passages. Alleys are for one person and yet if I describe them, you can acquaint yourself with the experience of mine.

Picture these, as my friend.

First of all, thanks to knowing you, I’m happy to be able to walk into new territory. Sure it’s maroon-colored brick, but look what you’ve done with it, as we step inside. You can see that the alley’s not dark at all. Your attention to me has illuminated this place, better than the sun or lightbulbs could ever do. Is my description an exaggeration, flippant, for a lazy compliment to you? Because what light could be better than the sun? What light could possibly be better than what we know?

Let me tell you. Your light moves; it varies in color and intensity depending on what you see I’m looking at and how you gauge my mood. By manipulating the light, you’ve made it easier on me, killing shadows and all they hide. Your light has a way of toning down the harshness of hard truth and smooths out the edges of the facts I must face.

You hide nothing. I’m still seeing the truth with your light. I’m seeing it in a custodial way, where the facts’ impact on me is being managed by a kind heart. Because you’re somewhere out there, for me, in here.

That’s just the start of my alleyway, created by our friendship.

What you say to me is written on the walls on the left and right– the innermost thoughts you’ve shared are for me to re-read at any time. And I do, often. I walk back and forth, up and down this corridor to go over your jokes and your wisdom and your thoughts on why things are. Since this is my place, there’s no risk of others’ eyes getting ahold of what you’ve chosen to express.

What we’ve experienced in our shared lives warms me in here. Remember all the times we ran around town, having laughs and taking in the sights? How about the times you told me of your discoveries and couldn’t wait to see my reaction? You’ve brought new music and right here, right now it’s being played at the perfect volume for my mood. There are no speakers or radio in my alley but the music is here. All I have to do is be present and I’ll be satisfied.

Do you hear that? We were sixteen and you brought an exciting new guitar player to my ears– a player who would live a short life and yet would inspire generations to come. You found him before most. He gave his perfect music to the world and you gave him to me.

Listen, that’s you.

Here’s a narrow table to the left. On it are the foods you’ve introduced, like that day in Somerville when you told me to get the capicola sub with hots and extra onion and provolone and olive oil. You said, “Tell him to make it the way he likes it and he will use the freshest bread for you.” That sandwich always keeps me fed.

I’m walking further along and I can talk to you, any time of the day or night.

I have your favorite chair in here and all I have to ask is, “Want to talk?” and an impression of you appears in seconds. I lean against the wall and say: “Did I do the right thing?” When I’d done that thing. We go over the basics and your words form into something I can absorb, like how the fresh Italian bread takes in the precious oil.

And there’s more, because our experiences are ongoing.

This part of the alley up ahead has soft lights, colored green and purple. What’s the reason for the mood? I’ve come to find out these faint hues at this time of day help slow down my world. You read me, you have the gels set and I walk right into it. You sit me down and put a drink in my hand. See where my mind goes? It’s thanks to you!

We go on a road trip and I keep walking. I hear echoes, we’re playing pinball at some dive and you are hitting all the table’s sweet spots. Your quarter is lasting forever and a hard knock within the machine awards you a free play. A small group of townies has formed behind us and you shout words of encouragement to yourself. I walk deeper into this corridor that echoes with the celebration of a million points and seven strangers, affected by one deft swipe of your hand.

That is the greatness an alley can bring.

The alley experience is complex. And then, some relationships end. You drop your gate in my alley and as far as you’re concerned, it’s over.

For whatever reason, you’ve decided the friendship’s no more. It had run its course, or we had grown apart, or I’d betrayed you, disappointed you, perhaps done you wrong. Maybe you wanted to trade up. Find someone smarter, with more education, more money, a more desirable address. Maybe I’d stopped being what you needed me to be. It happens and it hurts.

The gate keeps me from moving forward here, but it does not close the entrance.

The gate blocks what’s up ahead, which if I stare hard enough looks to be a long darkened pathway. Past the gate are empty walls– no sounds, no aromas, just a closed opportunity of what we were going to be. I can only suppose the blankness goes on forever, since I can’t actually see much past these bars.

Sometimes your gate dropping is due to your own limitation, and not mine. You had given all you have, and are done. You’ve coasted to a stop. You don’t want to go anywhere new. Or maybe someone better than me came along. Or you decided after all that you don’t want children, don’t want to get married. BAM! There’s the gate. And here I am, sometimes miles down this way, feeling– just what am I feeling right now?

You? Have stopped us?

You? After we’d come all this way?

Is there anything I can do about it? Talk it out, as we’ve done? No.

If I’d known at the beginning of our walk that one day you’d give up, would I have chosen to have gone all this way with you?

Do you know that at the time you opened this alleyway, there were others wanting to do that for me as well? How far along are they now, with someone else? How deep have they gone, what kind of joy is happening inside their unbroachable space, that I can’t see?

How many years have I spent with you? I can never get that time back! If our alley is no longer an ongoing thing, created by you, just for me, then how can I stay in here another minute?

And sometimes it can be me that calls it quits. I can place a gate in your way too. I can close off your path, if I’ve decided we’re over. I think:

If I’d have known you were not going to honor your vow, I would not have married you.

If I had known you were an abuser, I would not have given you so many years of my life.

You’re sabotaging me. You might not even know it. I’ve swallowed it back for years– no more.

I can do better than to be with you.

I am sure there are people with many gated corridors. To them I say: You are not a failure. You are not a poor friend. A question to ask is, how’s the content of your gated passages? Are they well-decorated with conversation, do they echo with laughter, are they filled with scents of candles burned on your behalf? I say, don’t focus so much on the gate. It is but one space. You were a great friend for each bit of cherish your ex gave you.

You earned every inch of that space.

I also say, look to your alleys that are working. In fact, you should spend more of your time there, and let that particular companion know how much you appreciate him or her. Look to create new alleys, for someone new. There is no maximum limit, no diminishment with quantity. You may find that more alleys are actually healthier for the overall reduction of gates.

There are people who face a mostly-solid wall in front of them, their entire lives. That’s right, few to no alleys. Some may call them lonely people. They didn’t make the connections, didn’t know how to go about the whole personal relationship thing, or were simply content with a life on their own. I’ve thought a lot about this. It is very difficult to find someone with whom to make a personal connection. Someone with your best interests at heart, that’s the qualifier that has left many without.

Some alley-less people have had disastrous cave-ins from childhood, and have taken quite some effort to seal up those passages. They are not going to let that happen again.

The alley-less by choice don’t want to get stuck in there. No thank you. They don’t want to be down any tight path involving anyone. I’m open to talking to them. I respect them. The best I can do is to make myself available. I’m here if you need me. You can always hang a drapery over your entrance, if you don’t want to acknowledge someone cares about you.

Friends don’t give up easily. I’ve had a gate dropped and instead of cutting my losses and turning back, I stayed there for awhile. I called to you. I waited to see if you saw your way past what had caused our rift. Sometimes I try to think of ways around our problem. I think: The gate does not have to stay closed. I think: You dropped the gate to protect me. Or to protect yourself.

Sometimes a gate is dropped and I’m okay with it. Our friendship had its day and was over. Other times I think, my friend’s made a mistake and I can solve this for us. I can do something where this gate could transform into something I could work with. I could somehow make my body smaller and glide through openings that required me to change. Or I could speak through it, and perhaps find out it’s not a gate at all, but a microphone that only my friend could hear. And then we’d rejoin, a little wiser perhaps.

A gate can be dealt with. The person who dropped it must be the one who lifts it. This is the stuff of friendship repair.

Is there a single best way to deal with the gate? One guess is to measure how far I’d walked with your presence with me. No matter how much I loved what you’d done with my alley, the fact is you weren’t satisfied with what I’d done with yours. If I walked away from the gate without giving you a protest, please forgive me; it’s because I didn’t think I could do any particular good right now. It’s my alley and I can come back to your artificial end of it, any time I wish, and give it a shake.

I’ve found it’s ok to park at the gate. Just sit and wait, right here. Bring my own light, if you’ve shut yours off. I can stop at this artificial end and just be present for awhile. And not say, “Screw it.” Not say “Screw her,” or “Screw him.” Just, sit and wait. Because the friendship was that grand. And deep down, you’d know I was here. As you knew me.

The measure of a great friendship is not just how well adorned your alley looks. I like to think it’s more about how well did you furnish your friend’s passage.

CAPTION: This low-resolution photo inspired the concept of Gate Theory and I quickly scribbled the first ideas on a Post It note and stuck it to the computer screen to ponder. The photo of this conglomeration became the picture for the finished story.
Posted in non-fiction, Uncategorized | 4 Comments

Disease

There’s a path for us to walk and it’s an exciting time to go. We can see a destination, yes? Of goodness and happiness, where every scent’s an appeal, every instinct is charmed and of course all’s locked to us with a big, bright chain. A welcoming charge races through our blood as we surge towards the promise of something better than home. We are running! Go to it– the fertile country is open to us!

Stop. Just wait. I said stop! You and you and you. This is what we seek but it’s not what we want. Don’t you see it? We no longer cherish the life we’d started out to live. We’ve talked ourselves into making something work that need not be grander than our heritage. Our sights are fixed on the horizon, and why is that, when home was what made us?

By walking this path, we’ve been led to wear nicer clothes, sit at ornate tables, and own triplicates of many toys. Bigger, not ours, not needed either. We’ve been fooled, wasting our time, and our people have to stop, right now.

We took the bait of the promise of having more. We did not know how to be satisfied with what bit we’d had and enjoyed for years. That’s why I say stop walking. This path leads us to greater, not better. Let’s huddle and share our ideas, not one step in any direction until we’ve talked it out.

Wanting more is personal.

I want to stop brushing away the delicate modesty that patiently tries knitting inside me, over and over, and head back to home. I need to take the steps as a group, with each of you at my side. If not us all, then we’ve lost some. Let’s stop something big and stop something bigger.

It’s time to disappoint the disease.

Posted in Artwork, non-fiction | 6 Comments

Charleston Walking

CHARLESTON WALKING is an 18-piece exhibit of photography from Charleston, South Carolina. The pictures were taken June 30th through July 2nd, 2021 using the Sony A7R full-frame camera with the Carl Zeiss 55 mm f/1.8 lens.

It took me exactly one year to sort and chose the shots for this exhibit. The selection process wasn’t easy. I threw away half of my choices in the 24 hours prior to posting this show. Why is that?

Certainly, my perspective has changed in a year. However, the honest perspective of this show was preserved in each shot as it was taken. Adding to the built-in authenticity, I have left the pictures in the order in which they were taken. In a way, we are walking the city together.

The answer as to why I threw away so many “final” shots can be found in artistic judgement. I want to show the best of the material at hand. Over time, mediocre shots sink and better ones rise. Last-minute additions include 1811 House and July 4th Colors. Can you imagine this exhibit without those?

I also completely reworked Pride in Nation, The Secret of Secret’s View, and Hey Miss Lady. This meant scrapping the work I had done to those pictures and going back to the original jpegs and starting from scratch– quite a lengthy process.

One last thing you should know before we begin. What you see here are the first pictures I took upon suffering permanent hearing loss in my right ear. The pictures and my written notes reflect what I was going through, seven days after normal hearing shut down, and the distorted electric noises took over. I walked the streets with my camera in hand, happy to be out and free, and thankful for the ability to give you another sequence of an artist’s take on his surroundings.

Click on each photo to enlarge. Use your back button to return to the show.

ABOVE: JULY 4TH COLORS. Photograph 4903. This picture sat in the unused bin for a year; it wasn’t going to be in this show. When I was reviewing the final selections, I went back to the library of shots to see what I might have missed. The red, white and blue is pleasing, adding to the strong architecture and floral elements. The wrapped flag provides a needed separation on the eve of my country’s Independence Day.

ABOVE: THE WINDS OF NATURE. Photograph 4940. It’s pronounced “wind”, like The Long and Winding Road. The trunk’s musculature gives it strength and grooves, for shadows to lounge. The buildings are a reminder of who claims to lay claim to the land.

ABOVE: ONE’S ALIVE. Photograph 4944. Is there anything more fragile than this growth? Yes, you are more fragile.

A simple acknowledgment that with a pair, for example a pair of ears, one can die, or essentially cease to function. And so, how should we respond? The terrified face on the tree trunk’s left side adds an ugly outgrowth to the situation– you might not even notice the silent scream that’s taking place within this precious system. We can focus on the branch that has ceased, or we can give our attention and full appreciation to the living bit. While there’s still time.

ABOVE: GO ON FOREVER. Photograph 4960. Life can’t be stopped, over and over again. When my hearing failed, I sought to see life anywhere nature led me. I wrote these words in my notebook: “When I hear normally in my left and muffled in my right, I’m hearing two worlds. This is new.”

On 7/2/2021 I channeled the intruding plant pictured above and wrote in its voice: “We keep trying. We are not going to really crush this fence, like we’ve seen others do. We are going to whither and burn here, unnoticed. What’s worse than being forgotten? Being dismissed. What can amplify us?”

My response was this: “What makes you think you’ll be amplified, or discussed, or sketched? Why should you have an expectation?”

Because I am life! I am here. I take my energy from the sun and I grow.”

ABOVE: TO YOU SHALL COME A PARTNER. Photograph 4974. Your special friend will be complimentary, and will be of a different brand and color than you; he won’t be part of your original plan but certainly of the grand design; he will need to be guided and shaped, much like you’ll need your particular kind of upkeep; and neither of you alone would be better off apart. Trust your pairing. To you shall come a partner.

ABOVE: 1811 HOUSE, #303. Photograph 4989. This picture took a lot of work to make real– try shooting a white building in the Southern sun and you’ll see what I mean. Details tend to wash out and if you get finnicky with your camera’s settings you’ll certainly melt into the pavement. We are in luck: The special lens and camera were aided by powerful high-definition Photoshop tools, providing the ability to preserve and showcase detail to its fullest benefit. The 35MP image at 7173 x 4905 pixels shows every fleck of peeling paint. This building has history and character, the condition of the railings tells us something of its aged state. The roof looks new, and she is standing proud, there and here.

ABOVE: DO NOT PACK. Photograph 5000. I saw this Post-It Note in a supermarket parking lot. You are witness to an instruction that either failed or succeeded in its purpose and was subsequently ripped off its travel item in a moment of haste. The item was not subject to be packed. It was subject to be labeled– perhaps a food or drink item left on the back seat of a car for quick access. It was labeled DO NOT PACK because apparently it could be confused with that which should be packed. What was the item, who were the travelers, and would they in a million years think they made the subject of a photography exhibit?

ABOVE: I SEE YOU. Photograph 5016. As she was lost, I found her. Stepped over by others, ignored, not acknowledged, and assigned no value. Dropped leaf, bitten off by the breeze, spit out by the wind, I’ve got you.

ABOVE: WINDOW DISPLAY COMPETITION. Photograph 5025. A friendly competition exists among the building owners, as to who can create the prettiest window floral arrangements. My vote goes to the business with the best burger.

ABOVE: SHADOW GRIFTS. Photograph 5048. A Painted Lady’s crazy sunglasses.

ABOVE: PRIDE IN NATION. Photograph 5058. I love to see the national flag and take opportunities to film her in all the beautiful ways.

ABOVE: THE SECRET OF SECRET’S VIEW. Photograph 5096. I saw this house while on a paid walking tour of the city. The path our guide took us was somewhat of a hidden way, not obvious to the public and well worth the rare sights.

ABOVE: THE GLORY OF HISTORY AT PLAY. Photograph 5114. I study this picture and can only imagine the hours of games that took place here. Not just games either; perhaps this was the place for lunch, as two men would watch the world go by. There’s room for a cold drink or two, even with a full checker game going. Pull up a seat and turn back the clock. This table goes back decades– we can only imagine the people and their conversations. We can imagine it because we’ve had our respective tables with gentlemen and lady friends, and we remember them with love.

The men who sit here are old. Each has failings that neither talk about. Both hurt, are worn out, and the most important thing is who’s got the next move. And that they’ve got each other.

ABOVE: HEY MISS LADY, WOULD YA STAND WITH ME? Photograph 5127. I worked on several takes of this picture, going this and that way, finally deciding on something rich, detailed, and exciting. This tree is tall– I’ve cropped out the street and the SUV parked at the tree’s trunk. Somehow, her elegance is only enhanced by the editing. Instinctively it seems, her top backs a bit away from the building, as if to give herself headroom so as not to be so crowded. The flag’s flapping in the wind, which is a reminder to us that tropical storms hit this area on a regular basis. She can handle them, thank you very much.

ABOVE: WHAT’S NOT MEANT TO BE SEEN? Photograph 5142. Buildings are made of brick, and then covered with cement so that they can be easily repaired after earthquakes and other means of damage. Sometimes, the upkeep doesn’t quite keep up. Here we can see a service entrance has been filled in with bricks, forming a pattern all their own. A version of this picture was used for the title graphic to this exhibition.

Wasn’t it nice to be new? Isn’t it great to be older? How fortunate to have such a history to look back on!

ABOVE: BEWARE, GUARD DOG ON DUTY. Photograph 5147. We were told this fellow’s name but we didn’t write it down. He’s in charge of guarding the place. Nothing gets by him, he’s got eyes on it all. We told him about a few shady tourists we saw out back; he’ll get right on it.

ABOVE: THE OLD DAYS. Photograph 5153. St. Michael’s Episcopal Church, dating back to the mid-1700’s. The bells were cast in London.

The Charleston streets are in their everyday routine. My exploration is unlike this. That’s how someone goes to the bother to make images. My perception is fresh and deliberate, and I’m free to turn or linger.

ABOVE: PRESERVE US. Photograph 5157. As old as ancient wood is man’s attachment to natural things. This is how we associate with the greatness we can see, feel and hear. May it always be that way.

Posted in Charleston, Photography | 4 Comments

Your Precious Velocity

As hard as you may be, you won’t stand a chance at direct confrontation if you’re up against something or someone who’s sizably bigger than you. And if you think your velocity is a formidable demonstration of your will, don’t be surprised when you’re left buried, or shattered to pieces.

“Wait,” you say, “I’m actually faster and tougher than my opponent. I won’t be destroyed.” If that’s true, you might give him a dent– and then proceed to bounce off him like a deflected joke. Superior strength or speed aren’t defacto game winners; just ask the baseball smacking the surface of a lake, or the rock striking the parking lot. Both of these nimble fighters would lose the direct-engagement strategy, even given their advantages.

Face it, if you’re fighting a battle where the bad guy is so much bigger than you, then neither hardness nor speed will work in your favor. And if your enemy’s quite a bit softer than you, you’ll simply penetrate his surface when you strike. It wouldn’t have mattered that you had more structural integrity; he was bigger, and you got buried. As before, you will not win. You’ll remain lodged underground, or underwater, where no one can see you, and your voice is muffled to silence.

With direct confrontation, if your enemy’s mass happens to be harder, there’s no doubt you’ll break up into a pile of debris. And if you and your opponent are of equal strength– a condition that’s as rare as matching two custom color paints– then it will be you who’ll be bounced, not he. You will either be bounced and expelled where your superior energy works against you, or you’ll ricochet until you come to rest, perhaps somewhere on your opponent’s surface. Prepare now, to be a part of his system.

Let’s summarize, to this point. In a direct confrontation with a much larger enemy, the following apply:

You being harder = you’ll get buried.

You being faster = you’ll get smashed.

You being equal hardness = you’ll get bounced.

Do you think we’re discussing formal war? We are not. We are discussing your life. Aren’t you at war? You most certainly are, informally of course. We all are. And we all are fighting foes that dwarf us.

Does your employer support activities that violate your core values? You’re at war.

Do your local, regional or national politicians represent your social interests, or others’? You’re at war.

Do your “favorite manufacturers” from whom you purchase goods share your environmental concerns?

Do people of your race or ethnicity embarrass, frighten, or offend you? And so on.

You, a person alone, cannot fight these foes. Is fight too strong a word for you? How about engage, change, educate, minimize, pick a word that’s easier for you to swallow. I assure you, it’s war. Coat it in the sweetener of your choice. Close your eyes, don’t read the wrapper, and take it down that way if you must.

You, a person who’s linked with others who are like-minded, are still too small for the greater enemy. You will be smashed, buried, or deflected unless you conduct yourself in a different way. We have framed this as war, but if you prefer, we can simply state our activity as engagement for the means to defeat the opponent.

Here’s an alternate view. I will spell it out for you. Do with it, as you wish.

Do not go to active war. Do preserve yourself.

Preserve yourself, and preserve what you believe in. Keep watch on the opponent. Take care of your friends and grow your numbers– increase your size. Win the fight organically, where nature will cede to the party of superior displacement. This means you must ally with Father Time. This means your precious velocity isn’t the asset you thought it was. In fact, the speed in which your kind has prided itself in has perhaps kept others from joining you.

Velocity is your enemy!

Take the steps naturally. You might not live long enough to see your side prevail. This means you must be satisfied with your course of action and the course of world, and the current fortunes of your particular war. If you are not satisfied, if you want to rev up and smash your opposition, you are not fighting to this alternate plan. You will lose, and there will be one less place for new allies to gravitate to.

Do not remove your station. Build your station.

You must not kill others. You must not firebomb nor smash nor disrupt. You will gather and conduct yourself in a means that will attract others to your center.

Your enemy is much bigger than you, and the plus side is, there are many on that side who are discontent with their course. You can’t see these people; be assured they are there.

The enemy’s discontented population have a variety of reasons for feeling less-than-onboard, but they are afraid of disengaging with the mass because nothing has yet presented a more suitable new home. They fear isolation and attack. So they remain in the mass.

Be the home others are seeking. Be the side that one would want to be allied with. Be ready for their ideas. Those people might be clinging to the other side based on only one principle. I’m not saying take on those principles. I’m saying, make your ethics and your way of life so overwhelmingly “at home”, that people from the other side will sacrifice the one or two strands that hold them away from you.

CAPTION: Velocity will get you smashed if this is the way you choose to fight.
Posted in non-fiction | Leave a comment

Isle of Palms: Secrets of the Shells

Welcome to Isle of Palms: Secrets of the Shells, a photography & writing exhibit from the famous “Long Island” beach of South Carolina.

This exhibit features six photographs captured with the Sony A7R full-frame camera and 55 mm Carl Zeiss lens. With commentary written in a notebook while walking the shoreline, June 21st through June 24th 2022. This is my fourth Isle of Palms photography and writing exhibit.

The writing precedes the photographs.

Tuesday June 21st, 2022:

No one wants to see what others have picked over. A person wants to make his own discoveries, therefore it’s not just about what’s new to him. People want to find what no one else has yet seen.

*

You must write down your thoughts as they come, despite the difficulties in doing so. It’s not so much that you’ll forget your ideas, because you will forget. What’s lost is that you’ll change between now and then, between the idea coming to you, and when you find the time, if ever, to write it down. Write it now, expand upon it soon.

*

Pieces of you will come off as you forget experiences and impressions. That which is you will be built over, obscured by new growth you have carefully chosen to ignore.

*

A child will forget most things. A parent will forget most things. My dad carrying me at the beach is the most important thing I’ve forgotten.

*

You are walking over buried treasure. You can be forgiven for not seeing it. No forgiveness, for not stopping to look.

Wednesday June 22nd, 2022:

Shells I threw back yesterday appear on the beach today. This is the thrill a child believes. This is the truth no jaded adult can disprove.

*

Everyone here has their own situation. Top level: “We are enjoying the beach”. What’s at level 5? Level 15? Level 50? Utter despair, seeking relief. Utter peace, seeking continuation.

*

Walk along the water’s edge, to find what the tide is freshly depositing; turn and walk back the same path, find something you hadn’t seen.

*

Seagulls floating inches from my head. “Why can’t you do this when I have my camera?” I ask. “Why can’t you capture us this moment?” they reply. To myself: Why must you always find an excuse for not being ready, no matter what instrument is at hand.

*

Don’t let the magnificent jet fly-by distract you from the insignificance at your feet.

*

It only works if you let it.

*

(Just now) I shared something with someone, and I could tell from her reaction she saw no value in it. I walked away, then thought, perhaps she saw a value in a stranger coming up and sharing.

*

Father with months-old daughter, carefully placing her feet for the first time into the sea. And I saw this!

*

I know what it is, and I will tell you. Better you find out for yourself, and tell me what you’ve discovered.

*

What is missing here in the infinity before me, is the actual infinity of each creature’s story. And that’s just speaking of the bits I can see, and in the moment of today.

*

The biggest castle you’ll build will be killed by the tides, if it even lasts to survive the boys.

*

Complete wonderful noise in my head, zeroes out the noise I’d accumulated there. Wind, laughter, gulls, sea crashing KILLS operator’s manuals, labels, translations, and engineering change orders.

*

I’m searching for the perfect thing, but it’s just for my whim of now. Watch how fast I’ll drop it, when it’s at hand.

*

People just marching, not looking down. I’m standing still, not looking up. Our contemplation of the other will come, not at the same time but in our good time. And I bet, we’ll switch sides.

*

Mother, you gave me a book that I scoffed at, then reluctantly read and enjoyed. I couldn’t admit to you anything remotely positive about the book, and I know I let you down. I missed an opportunity to discuss Anne Morrow Lindbergh’s beautiful ideas. Mom, I want the book, and you, back.

*

What you’ve lost, first had to be found by you.

*

I saw someone walk towards me, why couldn’t it have been you, old friend? I saw someone walk away from me, so crushed it was you.

*

The ideas written or the images recorded? You must chose one.

*

I can steal something but I can’t ever give it back. I will still have been a thief.

*

“Don’t crane your neck to search for that thing,” said someone who doesn’t own my head.

*

You’re almost there, with such a far way to go.

*

The cold tide touches my feet, telling me I must be moved.

*

The last time I was here, this was not my home. Now that it is, I am still but a visitor.

*

No matter how many times I look, it’s not going to be you. I continue to look.

*

Walking faster, to get to someplace less pleasant.

*

You stop for such a great discovery, yet you brazenly walk past dozens greater.

*

Stopping diligently to record the Now, while what I’m writing will always be the Then.

Friday June 24th, 2022:

Act friendly, get caught and lose your life. Act friendly, get saved and gain reprieve.

*

Destroying habitat; should I make the young boy aware that he’s trampling on sand exactly where land crabs live? Or upon hearing my words, would he stomp and trample even more? And search for them. Maybe enlist friends too. Worse yet, would I risk the anger of his dad?

How do land crabs survive the public on the beach? If the creatures are wiped out here, what could bring them back? It seems, not the sea.

*

Memories of the sea, and the beach, and my friend. I hope you think of me Eric. I hope you cherish how we passed the time. I’ll see you again.

*

“Seek, find, possess.” Are these three actions deadly? Are they up to no good together? If yes, then why is this sequence the motive of every boy and many men?

What is the factor that I’m missing? Is this part of a larger puzzle or condition that I’m too close to comprehend? There must be a rightful purpose to S/F/P.

*

Don’t feed the sea gulls, they will get used to your provision. Feed them, and you’ll encourage more birds. Feed them, and when you go away, they will suffer.

Don’t teach the birds to self-sustain. Don’t create special accommodations to make their lives easier.

Do the hardest thing a man can do– leave them be. Leave them be!

Do the world the biggest favor and look after yourself. In the short term, you will not be satisfied, at all.

*

The beach wind’s crushing your umbrella. You’ve got the wrong one, and why didn’t you know?

Now, what else in your life is “the wind”, what else is poorly suiting you, and how long will you allow yourself to struggle with it?

“I need a better umbrella,” you say. Well, was it a cost issue? A lack of planning? Or a failure to understand the wind’s ferocity? Each of these could have been solved– before you brought your family to the beach.

*

From this island, the Seewee Indians greeted the first English settlers. The Indians were so impressed with the visitors, they outfitted at least one canoe with supplies and set off for England. These men were never seen nor heard from again. This impresses me on many levels.

1. The Seewee’s daring and ambition, to try the unknown.

2. Their being impressed by the White Man.

3. The Seewee’s willingness to leave their loved ones.

4. The fact that their story was recorded– we have just a hint of fact, and enough to make me yearn to know these brave Native men.

*

Oh, what I have seen on the surface! Oh, what I can’t see underneath!

Photography section to Isle of Palms: Secrets of the Shells.

These shells were chosen for their respective voices, during my long beach walks. If you were to travel to Isle of Palms, you would certainly find prettier shells and more impressive examples. This chorus is what sang to me sweetest.

“HIDDEN”. Click to enlarge.
“MASK”. Click to enlarge.
“ENORMOUS” Click to enlarge.
“STORIED”. Click to enlarge.
“FAMILIAR” Click to enlarge.
“SECRETS”. Click to enlarge.
Posted in 72 Hours, Charleston, Photography | 2 Comments

The Insurmountable Atom

Size matters with machinery, not so much with words. For instance, take the word “Understand”. At ten letters long, with an unimpeachable meaning, it’s powerful, isn’t it? Because if you understand something, you can diffuse it. You can make money off it. You can enjoy it. You can operate a given thing safely. Perhaps you can even utilize that particular something for a benefit of your choosing. Because with the proper understanding. you can create leverage to ease someone’s pain. Your satisfaction increases if the person you’re helping happens to be one who’s oppressed by a societal lack of understanding.

If we compare that grand concept to the shortest-of-words, “ma”, then I can tell you which is more powerful to me. A mother can supersede understanding like how a pebble can defeat the ocean. A tiny stone vs. three miles of watery depths– I’ll bet that the will of the pebble wins. It’s dropped, and is unstopped. That is, until the pebble reaches rest, where it wants to be.

If you don’t agree with me, then I would love to hear your thoughts. Which specific person do you most often forgive their lack of understanding? I’m not talking about general categories of people, such as “Children”, and “Those Less Fortunate Than I”. Is it your boss? No. Is it the clerk in the return line? No. Is it the airline pilot? Never.

For me, there can be only one person on Earth who’s more important than the point she’s missing, and that’s ma. After all, who gets a free pass to the one door you hold in reserve for your mother and your mother only?

And who on Earth, with and without witness, held the greatest understanding of them all? I’m talking about the moment your mother first held you.

Mothers birth life, and therefore hold the greatest understanding. And Mother is the only person, to me, who can be forgiven her moments when she fails to understand.

I made a war statement drawing that combined a terribly destructive image with nearly two-dozen words. There are words to the left of the image, and words to the right. I did not choose random words, nor did I create a word-salad. I have also left off several obvious cliches that viewers would typically be aware of and which would unnecessarily crowd out the greater message.

Army commanders never want their soldiers to take the words on the right, and combine them with those on the left. If enough soldiers were to do so, then there would be no more fighting.

Taken alone, each word singly could be applied to make a better fighting man. But combined, one right-side word first, paired with one left-side word, and the war machine would stop. This was something a wise woman taught me, my entire life. Mother would tell me, “If you combine those words, you will think twice. You will do no harm.”

Ma is the insurmountable atom of everything earthly. And that is what I understand.

CAPTION: Ma is the insurmountable atom.
Posted in non-fiction, The Literate War | Leave a comment

D-Day Plus Four

We’ve got so many grand ideas to keep track of, we’d all be nearly bursting if such vessels as our minds could be contained. If each of us could manage to remember just a little piece of our ambition and intent, and not necessarily just his own, then together we’d have a good collection of what we wanted to do after the war.

For example, Harrigan wants to expand his pop’s barber shop back home. Seems his little town in Arizona has a lot of ladies’ stores on Main Street, and Harry reckons the fellas there could use a place of their own. Not just another barber’s chair; that was too predictable. Harrigan, we need clarification– pronto!

“Tobacco,” he shouted, as we walked behind an M4 on D-Day Plus Four– that is, four days after we’d stormed the French coast to fight the Germans. Harrigan waved his hand in frustration, as if to say, “Let’s not talk about this right now.” We riflemen, that is, Harrigan, Kendall, Jimmy and me, were passing a knocked-out German pillbox gun emplacement and had to keep alert. Harrigan was itching to lay out his personal post-war plan but kept it to himself as we inched behind the slow-moving Sherman tank.

He didn’t have long to wait for his opportunity to tell us. Our commanding officer passed down word that the immediate area was clear, and we were to pause. Supplies were being brought forward, and causalities brought back.

“Look,” Harrigan said, as we gathered in a small circle not too far from the pillbox. “My hometown Avondale’s got nice shops, girl’s shops, hats, shoes, all that stuff. I’ve spent a long time studying this. The men don’t want to tag along with their women all the time they’re shopping. Sure, the younger guys are lovestruck, they’ll stick with their lady through hours of all that frilly, dreadful stuff,” he said.

“Not me,” piped Kendall, a big soldier at the ripe old age of thirty-three. “Right!” Harrigan agreed. “You older guys have no need of hanging around while your gal shops. Heck, she don’t even want you around.”

“My Mary wants me there, I mean she’d not mind my company,” Jimmy stated. Jimmy The Kid was a bit too big in pride, and a bit too small in uniform. He and Mary had just married last year. He was eighteen years old, with an undented thin gold band on his finger. I’d see him all the time, using his thumb to gently touch that ring, perhaps to make sure it was safely in place. Maybe he felt for the ring to remind him of the day in 1943 when they’d made their vows. I could understand why he’d want to keep her close, on a sunny shopping day.

His dream was her. And starting a family.

“Right,” Harrigan was quick to agree with the kid. “You and Mary will be spending your afternoons together and that’ll be just fine. She will need your strong goofy arms to carry her stuff. She’ll want to talk to you, without having to turn around, without wondering if you’re really there.”

Without worrying that you’re not there. If Harry had been the reckless type, he might have put it that way, but he kept himself just on this side of the line of decency. The good guys don’t destroy their kid soldiers. The good guys want their kid soldiers to survive the wars, as far as wishes can carry.

Harrigan continued: “Guys like Dave and Kendall, you know, older guys, can slip away. Older gals actually don’t mind if their fellas go somewhere. While they are spending money.”

“They don’t want you to know how much they’re spending!” Jimmy said.

“Exactly. So what’s a guy to do, read a newspaper? Nah. We done that in the morning. We done that at night. I’m talking one PM, mid day. You’ve just boughtten her lunch. She’s got the wandering eye, you know, store fronts. I ask again, what’s a guy to do?

“Well fellas let me tell ya. Come to Avondale’s oldest and finest barber shop. My pa knows how to cut your hair and whiskers just right. He has the skills, and he has the tools. Guy talk, we all need it, but where’s the room to gather?”

We huddled closer to hear Harrigan’s plan.

“All right. Pa has exactly one chair, which will soon be two when I get back home. Because I’ve scouted the storefronts to our left, and to our right, and behind us, and even above us. We’re going to expand in one direction, perhaps two. We will make the most opportune choice– when I can assess. And charm. And canoodle. When this war’s over.”

“What’s this all gotta do with selling cigarettes?” Kendall complained.

“Ah!” Harrigan smiled. “Not just cigarettes. I’m talking, fine tobacco. I’m talking– cigars.”

“Oh I like this turn of events!”

“Yes my friend. Cigars. Specialty stuff. Im-ported. Here, Kenny,” Harrigan extended two empty hands. “Let me open the box for you. Let me do you the honor sir. Take a whiff. Umm! You got it, the aroma’s the perfect pitch, even unlit.”

Kendall closed his eyes and nodded. “I like it.”

Harrigan smiled. “A fine cigar, a glass of bourbon, and some friends. A fellow takes that appeal. He wants it. This moment is becoming of him. That aroma, and heck the sight and presence of him with the cigar completes his desired state of being. He relaxes, and he thinks, ‘I am the man I’d set out to become.'”

“Oh!” we murmured in unison. Harrigan was on a roll!

“And then there’s pipe tobacco,” Harrigan continued. “When that flavored stuff is lit, you are smelling sweet, boys!”

“I like it, too.” Jimmy was sold, and he wasn’t even the customer!

“Guys, listen close,” Harrigan said. “There ain’t no such shop within ten, twenty, thirty miles of pa’s place. No sir. We will be the ones. I’ve got the idea, the whole thing planned out. I’ve written to pa. He is slow to understand but he is slow even when he gets a speeding ticket. So he’ll be okay with this. He wants me to stick around town. You know, wants me close to home when I get back. He writes to me, ‘Please boy don’t leave me.’ Okay then poppers, you want that, I want this. I’ve outlined my plan. This is the future for us. This will position us well for the 1950’s.”

The guys sighed. To a man, swear to God. The 1950’s? We were going to love every minute of those years! We’d never given a thought to that decade till now!

Kendall nodded. “It’s a good plan Harry. Of merit.” Then: “This war’s gonna settle the world for sure. There ain’t no way we’re going to leave it open for any more of this mad nation crap. Dictator fascists, no more. We’re making a clean sweep of it boys, is all. I’ve never seen such advanced mobilization to wipe these louses out. The whole world’s involved. They are with us. The side of Good has said, ‘No More’. We are doing this nasty bit now, disrupting everyone’s lives, and people are going to learn from it. We will never allow it again.”

“Amen,” Jimmy said, his thumb working fast on the base of his ring finger. He said, “So Kenny, what do you want to do when the war’s over?”

“What do I want to do?” Kendall spoke quickly, then paused. He spoke fast and stopped to reserve the air. He was commanding the moment as his and his only, as was granted to him by the kid nearly half his age. I took Kenny’s pause as something quite special. Because him unfolding before us was going to be immense.

Most things Kenny did were that way. We were the ones who were going to hear his plan for the first time.

“I’m a rifleman in France,” he started. Not one of us said, “Well, we all are.” No one was on par with Kenny.

“I’m a United States Army rifleman in France and after this war I am going to do something that no one that I know has conceived of doing. Which is, I want to rebuild this country.”

“Come on,” Harrigan joked. “I was expecting something bigger.” But Kenny was serious.

“I want to help, just like I helped–” Kenny choked up and stopped. Then the good soldier plowed forward: “Five days ago I was tapped to be advanced eyes, directing fire to a bridge and then a line of buildings. I was so good at spotting, battleship gun crews and artillery captains wouldn’t release me. I called fire on French structures, all of them, but we of course called them German targets. Which was the truth. Make sense of that, boys. Can’t be done.

“In essence, I destroyed those structures. We can say, I helped destroy them. They’d been around for ages, and now they are rubble.”

Harry wanted something bigger from Kendall, and he was getting it.

“I spent D-Day Plus Three breaking more shop windows than the Hurricane of ’38. Davey you know all about that one,” Kenny said to me. He knew I was a Massachusetts guy, and that storm killed us.

“And I spent this morning doing the worst thing I could do to men. I looked them in the eye.”

That was too much for our Jimmy; he cupped his hand over the upper half of his face and wept, without a sound. I’ve seen him do it before and it tore me up each time. The kid thought that by hiding his eyes, he was covering ours too.

I didn’t say a word. Kendall reached over and touched the kid’s arm, and continued: “Y’all did it too, when we passed those farmers and their wives. And when we passed those kids. You looked them square in the face. Toughest thing you could do. Why do I say that? Because you’re moving on. You’re a change agent. You’re in control. You are part of a working system. They are not.

“You looked at the young Frenchies. Kids whose body movements were slower than their grandpa’s. How was that possible? The answer is– this is Upside-Down World. We, the four of us, looked at those wrenched people and they looked at us and what did we do next? We kept advancing. Not to make it better. To make it worse. Upside-Down World.

“That ain’t right. This ain’t right. What am I doing here? I’ll tell you. What I’m doing is not what my mother birthed me to do. And I ain’t gonna go back to the States– forgive me Harry– and resume my Main Street life. The tobacco smells sweet and I hope you sell a ton. Forgive me Jimmy, start your family, and get back to your life just as fast as you can, kid. You too Dave. This is no disrespect to you three.

“And it’s all the respect to the French people. DAMN IT ALL, I cannot, I will not leave this land as it is. If we have the strength and fortune to march thru to Berlin, by God’s will I’ll come back right that moment to right this moment. Meaning, to right this destructive moment in time. To work with the French to rebuild what’s been done here. Fix what we’ve done. What I have done.”

We were silent. Our circle of four.

Nobody asked me what I wanted to do when the war was over and that was fine with me. Kenny kinda shut down the mood. As I said, that was okay. He had a goal like the others. His was the last stated, and the most noble. We sat with our thoughts.

I was sure that one day I would tell them that I wanted to paint. Well, maybe not paint exactly, but to convey the beauty I couldn’t help but see in everyday life. To share what I perceived, to those who just saw what was in front of them.

Because everything I’ve ever seen, since I was a kid, has come alive as something artful. I happen to view my surroundings in brushstrokes, and I hear in musical tones. Even this battlefield we’re resting in, has a beauty– forgive me, a certain happiness– that only I can see.

I wish others had the opportunity to appraise the world in this way.

Where the guys see a knoll, that’s been ripped jagged with shellfire, I see a hill that’s a patchwork of many colors. Not necessarily a wide-range mind you, but a sympathetic pallet with a focus of theme. A quilt of sort, that I can use as a cover. I can take what’s being presented and register it in a soothing way.

I don’t just see wonderful things, I can spread this wonder, too.

I can sit with someone who’s done damage to their life, or gone astray, and I can begin to see courage. The person may still be on the down, but now there’s something growing inside, just from us talking. This is not something that’s shared, but given.

Maybe one day I’ll tell the guys.

We four soldiers sat in a circle. Our plans have been added to the war gear we carry with us. Our dreams are the lightest of things. They ask nothing of us. In fact, the thoughts we carry actually lighten our load.

It’s D-Day Plus Four and our commander is calling our group to action again. It’s D-Day Plus Four and the Germans have much fight left in them. Harry, Kenny, Jimmy and me, the casualties continue to mount, casualties, killed by a mortar shell, dead center in our circle. Casualties plus four, because it’s D-Day.

CAPTION: We remember the service dead on Memorial Day.

Posted in Fiction, The Literate War, WWII | 2 Comments

Welcome to the Neighborhood

Imagine the pleasure of being greeted with a smile and a hello, as you take a walk near your home. Imagine strangers welcoming you, simply because you’re passing by. Picture living where most of the people are open to conversation from their street-side porches, if you want to engage. They might ask your name, and it feels right to respond in kind. It may occur to you that this is a good way to make some new friends. This is the place I live.

I have never known a neighborhood like this. I’ve waited a long time, and traveled a long way, to get here.

It seems to me that significant power can be had from the unity of similar types of people. I’m not talking about those of us who look alike. Not the same gender, or education. Not the same nationality, nor common language. I’m not even talking about the same faith, or political party.

What do I mean, exactly? Well, if our consistencies happen to be the values we hold– for example, the manner in which we treat others– then men and women can create something wonderful. The phenomenon translates to home turf if the majority of our neighbors share one more common thing.

Where I live, our unity is this: Absolutely everyone from street to street, three-miles wide, have moved here within the last six years. That’s it. We’ve decided, one family at a time, and without a coordinated plan, that we’re starting over, right here.

A forest was cleared, and we came, and we built.

We left what we had, from all corners of the country, to make a better life. Everyone’s starting over, since about 2016.

Let me tell you what it’s like. I set out each day for a brisk 40-minute walk. The sidewalk starts right outside my apartment door, and I make a beeline for the street next to the park. A woman is walking her dog, and she says hello. A jogger smiles and opens his fingers in a tight, right-angled wave. I respond in kind.

I pass the central pond with its automobile-sized island, until recently home to a family of eight geese. I’m in the thick of the houses now. Below me, neat white sidewalk squares separate front lawns of homes from the small sections of grass that abut the street. Tiny centipedes, thin as a pencil lead and one-half inch long, walk this cement path too. In fact I step over centipedes on the average of one per second, which translates to over two-thousand of these curious creatures during my two-mile routine.

Innocent enough and quite cute, they too are excited to be here.

The scent of Confederate Jasmine is sweet and plentiful. This plant is something like a wild vine, with white flowers emitting their fragrance. Believe me, the aroma is one that you’d never get tired of.

Porches are typically about ten feet from the sidewalk, and are adorned with signs. “Life Needs More Friends and Front Porches”, reads one. “Welcome to the O’Neil’s”, says another, in carefully-painted script. With all this, and more, the thoughts that rise to my mind are natural, and soothing. Hello neighbors, hello people I haven’t met yet.

I don’t force this. I don’t pursue the bond out of a need to fit in. The environment simply makes it easy for this group.

Here’s the secret. People are happy because they know how fortunate they are to be here. They’ve escaped. From where did they come?

Perhaps their former states’ politicians didn’t represent their interests. Maybe neighbors never glanced up from years of car-door-to-front-door. No matter what anyone says, or thinks, or writes about, people don’t truck to a new neighborhood across the country, just for better weather. It takes a massive push to get people to move from the state of their origin.

The secret, part two: People from across the United States got tired of a certain way of life, got tired of a way that wasn’t going to change for the better, and did something about it.

They had to work to get out, and to get here.

This is not Utopia. This is not a commune, nor a gated community. There is crime; we lock our doors, and keep aware of what’s going on around us.

Recently a fire alarm was pulled and the residents of my building filed out into the night. As we stood, in no particular grouping, just waiting for the fire truck to investigate and let us go back to sleep, I heard a woman say to no one in particular: “Well, this is one way to meet your neighbors!” I didn’t even bother to look up.

A few days later, a lady was waiting outside for her husband. I stopped and asked her, “Were you part of that fire alarm last week?” She said yes. Was she the one I’d overheard? It was. We introduced ourselves, and in the end, she had been right that night. And if she hadn’t said it then, I wouldn’t have had anything to mention now. We’d have remained strangers.

I have met others. Not just in saying hello, but exchanging phone numbers as well. Does that sound strange to you? It does to me. Mainly because I’ve only lived here six months and old attitudes die hard.

A few weeks ago my family was invited to a new friend’s home for dinner. What a wonderful time we had! Not only was the food delicious, but we got to know a little more about someone new to us, someone who would text and ask how we were holding up in the latest wild rainstorm raging outside.

That kind of connection is a beautiful thing. Because the only way a full life works, is with friends. Welcome to the neighborhood.

CAPTION: Welcome to the Neighborhood. Come take a walk with me, miles of friendly people await.
Posted in non-fiction | 2 Comments

Flower in An Empty Lot

Near where I live, there’s a flower growing in an undeveloped commercial lot. It’s a wildflower, and not a variety that people desire to own and maintain. This flower– let’s call it Flower One– is a weed. Not just that, but it’s growing in a place that no plant should ever endeavor to live.

A living thing with no long-term plan— is that really true? Is there a grand universal scheme of existence, or is life a matter of scatter, where the start and stop is distinct and rational, measured by what can be seen?

In garden shops around the world, in all the retail places where Million Bells are carefully watered, pruned, and priced, Flower One is excluded. Flower One may be pretty, but it’s nowhere near the class of the Bells. Flower One may look good at one particular moment of its cycle, but there are other flowers with longer moments, and pedigree names.

Flower One, single and pure in Hansa Yellow. Five petals in the arrangement of the star of life, universal from the starfish to the human hand. Flower One. When there’s only one to look at, it looks the best in the lot; tough with a stick for a stem but there’s a reason why tough things are tough things.

I’d be tough too, if I had to stand alone.

Flower One may look decent in a certain photograph, but there’s another floral bunch that’s just unbeatable. They don’t go by one particular species name, let’s just say they are on a team. And Flower One will never be on that team, not ever. It will never be invited to the Beautiful Bouquets, never asked to join up. It will never be on that court, nor allowed in the arena of play. Instead, Flower One is destined to be stepped on, in the patron’s trek to the stadium.

I love Flower One. I want to go to the wind-swept construction site and scoop it up, gather the dirt, preserve the rootball, and coax that plant like the fool that I am. I want to give Flower One water, even though it’s built for long draughts and days of rainy deluge. I want to give it real soil, full of nutrients and free of bugs, even though it’s growing just fine in the wastes of worse than third-rate beach sand.

Would Flower One be okay in my living room? Would the comfortable temperature control suit it? Would a dedicated pot encourage its growth, preserve its life? How could it not thrive with the certainty of environment, and the care of attention, and the regularity of kind, spoken words?

Why would it not thrive with me?

Because it belongs outside.

Because it throve on no words, ever. Because it’s alive solely due to the harsh world, that is its normal condition.

Oh, I’ve got inklings of the damage I’ve done, and I’ve not moved an inch.

I’ll never venture to remove Flower One as I’ve wished, I could never break and subject that plant to the possible miss. That which it knows is something I know far too well. There is so much stacked against it, how could I slog out to rescue a perfectly free and healthy being?

One of trillions of such beings! Why just one, and why just it?

Flower One isn’t just battling the lack of love. It’s flourishing in the wrong place. You see, my home is scheduled to be built on the spot it grows.

The plant is going to be stepped on, by workers carrying sheetrock. The tractors driving over it will be grading my waterway slope. This is what happens in the world.

I pity Flower One.

Pity is the deadly shot that rushes out of a man’s pores, with no preparation to present to the jury. The jury sits in my judgement, and I plead nothing, on the effects of my discharge. I offer nothing but admit that the pity, indeed came from me. I couldn’t stop it. I can’t take it back, and I can’t take it away. My pity is what really slaughtered Flower One.

My pity diminished the natural course of that plant’s life, long before the workmen came to the build site.

My lawyer wanted me to plead that my pity was assigned to me, that it came from a good place. I waved him away. It’s all on me.

My lawyer wants me to stop talking, now. If it pleases the court, I’ll continue. I’ll talk to whomever will listen, this has to be said.

There has to be a long-term plan, far beyond mankind’s comprehension, because the jury that’s tasked to me is going to need more than a rational measurement of what can simply be seen. I destroyed a life that no one regarded but me, no one knew about but me, no one knew where it lived but me. Where, is here. My heart. That lot.

My crime: I considered the construction-site weed to be something that required my involvement. And I believed that the plant was to be felt sorry for, and a candidate to be interfered with, in order for it to be made “right”. All that was my mistake.

I have a few requests. To the long-term plan: Will you watch out for me? Would you please take away the crush I feel? Because that plant’s place and purpose were not valueless, no life’s is, and my flaw again and again is forgetting that lesson, so patiently shown to me. By you.

Dear Flower One: A long-term plan can set this right. Because it’s not just one. And not just you. If my crime was not a transgression at all– as my lawyer and others argue– then there were many plants and forms of life that could have, should have been considered saving, on an equal basis as you. And that would have been maddening to conceive and impossible to execute. At this moment I understand that your life, all life, has the course of independence. You grow, and you’ll go, on a timetable away from my wristwatch and calendar. I did you a disservice, not by my building a home where you live, but by thinking I knew better than what put you there.

A photograph and some awkward writing are but two open hands, vainly searching to come together but never shall, here on Earth. The long-term plan can account for this by spreading a greater understanding, a guide through the pain and loss that can’t be resolved, by any man.

CAPTION: Flower in An Empty Lot.
Posted in Photography | 5 Comments

I Am Open to New Opportunities

I am open to new opportunities. I am seeking a new opportunity. These are similar thoughts, and the passive and active differences have something to do with the degree of urgency. A question for you: If you too are open, or are seeking, have you let your thoughts be known? Not necessarily as a public statement, but privately, as an admission to yourself?

“I am open to new opportunities”: What is lacking with what you have now?

“I am seeking a new opportunity”: What’s the minimum that will satisfy you? What do you have to offer, that will satisfy them, the opportunity holders?

Let’s explore the depth off this dock. You can always step back to shore, if you don’t trust that your keel will clear the bottom.

Picture this. Someone’s carrying a bunch of groceries from her car to her home, and in the middle of handling her keys, and the apartment door, and five bags, she drops a carton of eggs. Let me ask you, did it matter how much care those eggs received prior?

The woman could kneel at the broken mess and say, “Oh I shouldn’t have carried so many bags at once!” or “Why didn’t I just carry the eggs and open the door? And come back for everything else a minute later?” She could say all that, and it wouldn’t matter. Just like it didn’t matter how carefully she’d chosen the eggs in the market, had checked their date, and opened the carton to examine for cracks in the shells. All the care, intentions and actions meant nothing if the eggs were dropped.

Before we continue, let me ask you two questions that will help us a bit further along. Which of the following yes/no questions indicates the most value to you? One is quite broad, the other is specific. First statement: Are you open to a new opportunity? Second statement: I have an extra postage stamp; would you take it for free?

I ask that you choose one. Pick the question that you rate as being worth the most to you. Just park your answer for now, we’ll re-visit it later.

All right, picture this. A charitable non-profit organization had sent a mailer to all shareholders and stakeholders, thanking several donors–all of them truly deserving thanks. By this action, what has the board communicated to the donors that were left off the list?

The implied message to the un-acknowledged donors can be perceived in a few ways. Here’s one: “You haven’t been as generous as those who made the list.” Or perhaps it’s this: “We haven’t given much thought about how your being left off the list may affect your continued philanthropy with us.” Let’s also consider the possibility that the charity had understood that the donors who were left off the thank you list were in fact not interested in public recognition and would not be bothered by the list at all.

The non-profit had better be careful with their eggs. The understanding can’t be an assumption. It doesn’t matter the care the charity had afforded to the off-list donors in the past. It doesn’t matter the plans the charity and those donors had made together, including the donor’s generosity and the good that was in the works for the community. The charity doesn’t want to be in the position of kneeling at their mess on the floor, thinking how absolutely stupid they were, in one thoughtless moment.

Remember how we talked about the two yes or no questions? Do you have your answer about which you value most? Do you think it’s a fifty-eight cent choice?

Chances are, of course you’re open to a new opportunity. It would have to be the one just right for you– your choice. In fact, I’d bet that if most people considered the two questions, they’d acknowledge that the right opportunity taken on their own initiative would be worth more than mailing an envelope.

What do you think would happen if we put the question to the man on the street? I would never want to try to ask him. Why do I say this? Because while uttering the first offer, I would feel as if I was belittling myself–and the other person, too. I would be shrinking as I spoke, losing six inches per word, because it would seem to me, and to him, that I was trying to sucker him into something he didn’t want or need.

This is because the question must come from within ourselves. If the offer of “Are you open to an opportunity” comes from someone else, even from a loved one in a private setting, it would take us by surprise. We would be flustered, right? It would show our vulnerability, an implied mismanagement of ourselves. And no one wants that presumptive lack of planning brought to light, unless it’s our finger on the light switch.

We want to be the one to decide if it’s time for a new direction. And then we’d arrange a chat with our loved one, and say something like “Hey, I want to tell you. I’m open to a new opportunity. Let me tell you what I have in mind.” And maybe they could help you with it.

The awkwardness of this coming from someone else: If your boss said, “Are you open to a new opportunity?” you could see this as a way to a promotion, or new responsibilities that could lead to valuable skills. You might say “Yes!” and she could then say, “Well then I think you should pursue it.” Ouch. No, um, I’d like to stay. If that’s okay?

The confidence of this coming from yourself: If you ask for a meeting with your boss, and during the appropriate time you told her, “I would like to learn more about certain aspects of the job, that would help me with my speed and accuracy. Can I tell you about it?” You might find that your boss’s answer could only help you get more solid in your work. And then lead to valuable skills, and responsibilities, and a promotion. See how the shift could work?

What does the egg-dropping story, and the charity donor story have to do with personal opportunities, aside from demonstration analysis?

If the egg-drop woman is open to new opportunities, she can plan for four new meals this week. Instead of her tried-and-true meatloaf, meatballs, scrambled eggs, and an egg-and-cheese sandwich, she’ll have to work on something else. Maybe it’s a new soup recipe. Maybe it’s beef prepared a different way than she’s always known to do it. Or maybe she picks up the phone and calls four different pals and incorporates friends into her mealtimes. This week. And maybe that could be the start of a new tradition?

The non-profit charity had better be careful with their bulletins. They can’t assume donors don’t want to be recognized, especially when said donors are the type of rich people who enjoy helping out–and expect to be known to be helping out. Even if they prefer to be listed as Anonymous. Believe it, they will be looking for their newsletter nod, under the As. You don’t want those donors to Be Seeking A New Opportunity… to donate elsewhere!

CAPTION: I am open to a new opportunity.
Posted in non-fiction, Photography | 4 Comments