Saturday, January 29, 2011

The Road That Used To Be

Sometimes in darkness it only takes a small ray of light to fill up the room. I awoke before the family and sat on the front porch, watching the squirrels play in the snow, and the birds torture the squirrels playing in the snow. The world was still and serene, beautiful in its plainness.

It struck me like a Mac Davis song. Remember him? He had this art of taking the average and painting it, as it is, magically ordinary. The songs weren’t hard for the simple Joe to sing, any one could and the listener couldn’t help but hum along. They were all memorably spectacular, but complexly simple.

Maybe I’m just finally getting the reins on things, but like listening to “I Believe In Music”, “Forever Lovers” or “A Little Less Conversation” I find myself sighing in contentment, dazzled with the ordinary routine of life. I’m finding basic comfort in basic comfort, sometimes to the point of getting annoyed when the slightest hair is out of place.

Hopefully the scope of my vision is widening. I don’t find myself dwelling in the anger and pain of the past. I’m not quite focused yet, but I don’t seem to be spinning my wheels as much in the snow banks. It’s melting away in the middling 48 degree sunshine.

I took a brief drive this morning, as I oft do on a Saturday, veering off my usual path down a portion of a road I used to be forced to travel. There was a time when Old Forge Creek Road was the only one leading to town. It was treacherously curvy and dangerously narrow, following babble by babble the creek that leads to somewhere I’ve never really known.

There’s not a lot left of that old road that used to be. Now only two small sections exist, the smaller one I live on, used only by the five families that live on either end, and the bigger section still heavily traveled and still following every pebble of the creek. That old portion hasn’t changed much but now leads to nowhere.

I recall the bike wrecks, the spills in the creek and the dogs chasing the old Ford Granddad used to drive, nipping stupidly at the tires. I used to think it was so beautiful, but that beauty is now gone. The older folks and the poor folk that still live there haven’t taken care of it. It’s weedy, neglected and stereotypical Appalachian.

Many years ago, I remember trying to cross the creek in a spot other than the bridge, as children will typically find a way to do. I remember slipping off one of the jagged stones and landing painfully on several others.

In tears, cut, bloody and wet, I remember bawling, literally bawling, to my Aunt Mag who was dabbing my scrapes and asking “Why God puts such odd rocks across the river”, as I thought it was.

In wonderful Southern drawl my Aunt Mag smiled as she rubbed Rosebud Salve into my little wounds. “Danny, God has to put odd rocks in the river.” When I cried more and told her it wasn’t fair to make people slip and fall, she of course had the perfect answer.

“There’s odd rocks across the river so the next time you step you know you’re footing is sure.” That answer has rung through my head the rest of my life.

As I find myself at a resting spot, please God let it be just a resting spot, I am learning the joys of the magically ordinary. I work when they allow me. I clean house and make dinner for Mom and Dad. I get a kick out of Dad getting a kick out of me being able to walk in the room look at the TV and immediately know what movie he’s watching.

I’ve found quiet joy in the one day this week Mom slept late, not getting out of her robe and nightgown, just sitting by the fireplace and working on a crossword puzzle well into the night. I find peace in the hyperkinetics of my dog, Jackson, as he sniffs out and digs to China looking for a mole. I get a belly laugh spying the neighbors feeding their pet pig the junk mail, Roscoe snacking away dressed in a bright green sweater she made for him.

There’s also this odd peaceful addiction to Twitter. I truly enjoy reading the Tweets, and unlike most, I read them all. I follow over a hundred people. Like most of America I have this creepy fetish of wondering what ‘celebrities’ are up to. I prefer to follow the ones who Tweet realism, rather than networking.

Kurt Warner tweets about his kids. Yesterday stating where each one was, the seven year old being “in Tupperware”. That cracked me up, having visions of a tot in time out in a big plastic microwave safe container. I realize he didn’t mean in that way, but I went there. But that’s the sort of thing I enjoy reading, the normality of those whose choice of paths have made them anything but.

I like knowing that Kristin Chenoweth is a chronic insomniac, one more thing we have in common…hint hint. I like the fact that Allison Sweeney’s young son last week “was hungrier than a two tummied giant”. I like it that Russell Tovey makes fun of his own ears and James Cameron thinks Kim Kardasian is already in “3D”.

And I’ve been writing. Sometimes its good, sometimes its bad, but I’ve gotten myself back in the routine of writing a minimum of an hour a day, that doesn’t include blogging, another story totally. I’m still not convinced that anything will ever come of my writing. It’s just something I just do, like breathing.

To be honest, I really wouldn’t know how to go about doing something with my writing. That’s why I blog, tri-blog actually. Just to put it out there past my own nose. It’s a long shot, but I know that once a bolt of lightning hit Ben Franklin’s key.

Over hearing a bit of silly conversation a few weeks ago during the snow storm at work lead me to writing a piece I ended up titling “The Hapka of Our Lives” concerning the brouhaha surrounding the departure of an actor from “Days of Our Lives”. It was a good piece; funny, tight and structured to perfectly fit the framework I set up for that blog.

On a silly lark, I tweeted a link to it to the actor himself. Untypically he apparently actually read it and retweeted it to a couple of other actors from the show, saying, “I almost died laughing”. I was very shocked and pleasantly surprised. That led to my little blog going bonkers for a few days.

It was a nice little kick to the ego. I didn’t get any new ‘followers’ from it and numbers dropped down to normal for the next two episodes I posted, which is fine. Sometimes you have to use your increments of “Fifteen Minutes” in small chunks to really be able to savor it. I have to admit, I don’t think the two posts after the “big” blog were very good.

In hindsight, I think I tried to imitate the “Hapka” blog getting silly and not really carrying the story along. That’s important in my writing, as a matter of fact, in my life. It’s fine to veer off in several directions as long as when they pull together they stay focused on the task at hand.

But all of this has led my to be more comfortable with my “average-ness”. Sometimes, I think we get so caught up in being better, in being excellent, in not settling for anything as long as its more than everyone else, we forget that in order to be the best there have to be a lot of people that are not.

That’s okay. A squirrel never wants to be anything more than a squirrel. Dreaming of something other than what we are is the one trait that makes us human. Our biggest problem only rears it’s ugliness when we only dream of something more and not set about any form of action to achieve it.

This is where I have spun my wheels lately. There’s not a whole lot left on my bucket list. I have been so, so lucky ticking them off one by one. Had a play produced. Check. Performed to a standing ovation. Check. Met a childhood hero. Check (Uhm…I recommend not doing that one, better to let them remain a hero than become human.) Been to Africa. Check. Check. Check.

Now I’ve never had that one great love, but I’ve loved and been loved. I’ve never had wealth, but I’ve taken care of myself and given back as much as I could when I could. I’ve never been blessed and cursed with children, but God knows what he’s doing. And I don’t feel I’ve fulfilled my purpose, but I’ve had a blast spending 52 two years fingering all around it knowing someday I’ll hit the right spot.

I’d still like to be on a game show. I’d still like to write for a soap opera (better hurry on that one, unfortunately the dinosaurs seem to be smoking their last cigarettes.) and I’d like to be published. I don’t really know how to go about achieving those, but I’ll figure it out.

And even at my age, I hold out hope for that one great love. An early mentor of mine, Owen Phillips, a man whom I also came to know as a dear friend, didn’t find that one great love until he was well past retirement age. He and his sweet wife married for the first time in their late sixties, spending their last years being able to do nothing but be in love.

That’s my image of true love. Thank you Owen for being the example of that possibility, and bless both you and your wife’s souls. The image of you both holding hands, walking down the sidewalks at dusk is an image that always brings a sigh to my heart. I miss you both every day.

As for the now, I walk a little more confident, a little less battered and a little more hopeful. Not that I still don’t get smacked constantly by the Blue Wham, but every moment I realize it’s okay to be content with normal, as long as I don’t stop focusing on just a little more, it doesn’t seem to be able to take hold.

I just can’t get bogged down on the old road that used to be. It’s fine to drive down it and remember occasionally, as tomorrow is guided by today’s worth of yesterday. I just can’t idle there, fretting over the odd rock in the river and never getting to the other side.

I understand I am an average, ordinary guy with a bucket still full of dreams. There’s nothing wrong with that at all. Maybe I’m just your average dreamer and just maybe I’m taking a few scoots toward remembering who am I and finding out who I want to be.