dedicated in gratitude to the fleeting and indefectible beauty of Maples
Things I noticed:
A young boy, maybe 9 or 10, with brown tousled hair falling into his eyes, making sure his mom was watching his skateboard trick. He did it on the rumble of the bricks and upon completion whipped his locks around immediately, like a rubberband releasing tension, to see if she was looking. She was. His shoulders relaxed for the slightest moment and then it started all over again.
In the same square, a man and woman. Were they homeless? Rough and ragged. Hewn from heaviness. I could only clearly see him from my bench. His hair was tousled, too. The color of worn life in his locks. Not that it was gray necessarily. It was indeed sunkissed by the elements with veins of gold, but lackluster. It rested madly, just above his shoulders. I noticed I didn't want to make any contact--that some people put off tinder. But then he put earphones on. And I witnessed the most glorious, un-selfconscious, head-bobbin', hands air-drummin' display of joyous rocking out. The heaviness in some alchemical mystery transformed.
The Whetstone creek kept a steady and comforting drone. I was so drawn I twisted my body so I could look at the disappearing water. There were two small brown birds scantering in the bushes. I found it sad I didn't know my winged neighbors on a first name basis. I noted that and my disturbance. One bird approached with the usual staccato movements. Closer and closer. There was just enough pause in between to see the soft face. Even the beak looked soft. And gentle, gentle eyes. I could have looked into this innocence for hours, it was so consoling.
I smelled the young guy at the market. The one with psoriasis and awkward social manners. The one that has the straight, stringy hair, who cut it short recently and didn't quite know how to respond to my compliment. He smelled of body odor. Unpleasant. I wondered if anyone has ever mentioned it to him. Or how they would, considering he seems so guarded and sensitive. And I thought about fragility and the delicacy of communication.
I heard the voice of a child. I never saw her. I heard her say with such conviction, "But I don't just like it, I LOVE it."
The woman from France tasted the Vermont raclette and was transported across the sea back home. The nuances of flavor, texture, aroma, all resurrected a remembrance of things past. Like Proust's 'petite madeleine' cake, she left with a half pound of her involuntary memory.
If my phone hadn't been stolen at the Burbank airport, if it wasn't time to renew my contract, if I wasn't so ignorant (and perhaps non-caring) about these technological devices, if I wasn't so ready to trust the salesman's opinion partly out of impatience (just give me a phone already so I can leave thank you very much!), I wouldn't have had the type of device that allowed me to check my email on my break. And I wouldn't have had to endure the rest of my shift with a stone on my chest. I wasn't a good clown that day, but I was an amazing actor. Customers left with bouncy steps and packages of mold.
One evening, with the encouragement of a friend, I forced my frail heart to go hear the swing band. I even danced. Getting lost in the steps, fumbling, laughing, apologizing and smiling the whole way through. It felt good to move. I drank Frangelico. It was a warm and buttery comfort drink, like liquid macaroni and cheese. I watched friends of the clarinet player, a family, sit in front of us. And when the red-haired freckled boy floating towards teenage years got up to sit in his Father's lap, I wondered if this would be the last year of his nonchalance.
If I remove the stone and breathe into the chambers, I can unearth the place of gratitude and gilded grace. A place beyond desire or attachment. It flits in and out but it is there. When the sun sets there are many colors in between before succumbing to the Night.
"Living awake is the dying and living awake."
The piano tuner came back to finish the job. When he was done, I asked him to play. I was so tired. My chest heavy. I gathered some pillows and a throw blanket and lay upon the wooden floor to listen. He sat facing the piano. Slumped. He unconsciously took his right middle and index finger, cocked his head and scratched vigorously for 3 seconds. What compelled him, I do not know. He sat slumped again. I thought to myself, and then actually told him out loud, that if I were teaching Clown, I would take that gesture and amplify it. It is a beautiful action that speaks to and for him. From his own body and being. I watched him do that very same gesture before playing piano the previous night. Perhaps it re-calibrates something, because what transpired next could only be described as sublime.
He listens to his heart, his soul, and it comes out his fingers as an exertion upon the keys. Soft, heavy, lighter, louder. A caress, a slide, an aerial drop--his fingers dance across. I marvel. I want to do that. To be the medium for that kind of birth. No book or sheet music. Unadulterated. Pure. I want to cry. Eyes closed, I feel the wooden floor beneath me and let the resonance envelope me. Medicine. I notice it is in the pauses, the inhalations, that the notes sink into my skin. They shower me with beauty and remind me of my pain, my desires, my dreams, my failures, my joys. They wash over me and I don't want him to stop. I want the piano tuner to keep scratching his head and playing. A prayer in the moment. A Tibetan sand mandala. And then the sounds are whisked away by silence.
We don't move and let the stillness descend. After a bit, I break it by asking what he was thinking about while playing. A brief pause. And then he answers, "where to go next."