“Childhood is measured out by sounds and smells and sights, before the dark hour of reason grows.”
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I was reminded of this painting, based on a photograph, by an unlikely figure: Facebook.
We all have a profile and engage in it’s meticulous, brilliant distraction. Over the past several weeks, I’ve plucked the crust from my eyes each morning and reached over to quell the grating sounds of my alarm clock – which would also be my phone. Usually there’s a recommendation from our social media overlord to reminisce and share an old memory – I’m guessing they’ve been pulling at your nostalgia-strings too. The catch, at lease for me, is that the past twelve months of my life have been, mildly put, troubled.
Facebook’s algorithms have yet to filter out the job losses, financial woes, marital strife, and death. It’s hard to fault an equation for hoisting my life’s misery back upon me, even as I scramble to escape the sense of demoralizing defeat, but there it is, like a mirror, holding your failures as a civilized man right up to your face.
Today, thankfully, brought a different narrative. Rather than a friend-turned-enemy or a recently-deceased compatriot, I was reminded of a painting I’d made and quickly forgot about. I made a simple picture of a crisp, lifeless twig; I was satisfied. The canvas of the earth shifts during the winter time; colors turn from vibrant to monochrome. A very good and close friend, deeply religious, often speaks of God’s divine design, proclaiming that “the colors of His palette never clash.”
I certainly couldn’t be described as a religious or faithful human being, but my friend is right. The colors of the natural world do not compete for glory – they sit side-by-side in exquisite harmony, promoting a sensory experience that is indeed “miraculous,” and can easily be described as “heavenly.”
And now I spread my gospel to you.
It doesn’t always have to be serious, now does it? It’s my birthday, and I’m feeling nostalgic.
Four years ago, I had the extreme pleasure of driving hours in early-morning darkness north from the Mexico border to Tucson International Airport to visit my sister in Boston. About an hour into the drive, going through Tombstone, my car punched through a thick fog, crawling at a twenty mile-per-hour pace. Before me, like an apparition, more than a dozen deer, wreathed in fog, trotted confidently down the main stretch of road through the town like a team of brewery horses.
Watching them clop at an even unbroken pace, I felt as though I had been teleported. Steam blew out of their nostrils. My car didn’t frighten them. It was a sight.
I met my first-born nephew when I finally arrived in Boston. After climbing an ungodly number of flights up from the red-line to Harvard Square, my brother-in-law was waiting to take me to their flat. Having lived in a small southwest town for several months, it was an exceptionally peculiar transition into the bright-light bustle of Boston. Overwhelming even, but not frightening. It’s amazing how quickly we adapt to our surroundings, how quickly everything else becomes alien.
The squealing sound of the rails, the parade of lights rushing through the streets, the mass of rigid shoulders marching about, fists buried in winter coats – I had almost forgotten what winter was like for the rest of the country. I still prefer a chilly Arizona mountain to drifts of snow.
My sister and I went out for lunch the day after my birthday, a lovely restaurant with the gayest of the gayest of all hosts leading us to our table; lisping, delicate-wristed stereotypes abounded. Every café and restaurant feels like paradise when you walk in from the forbidding cold. My sis was happy to have some time away from the apartment and the rigors of raising a new-born child, and I was happy to drink a beer and warm my hands in a corner pub with my sister – someone I’m confident still knows me better than anybody else, despite years of living thousands of miles away.
When we eventually emerged onto Harvard Square, the ‘Hasty Pudding Woman of the Year’ parade was winding it’s way through. I wasn’t aware of this tradition, but it’s an event put on by the Hasty Pudding Theatricals Society at Harvard. Beginning in 1951, the society bestows an award to performers deemed to have made a “lasting and impressive contribution to the world of entertainment.” The television series “Homeland” had just wrapped it’s first season and had attracted a significant amount of acclaim, and at the head of the procession was Claire Danes.
I only managed to nab a few little snapshots, but it was still a lot of fun to walk up to the snowy street, not expecting anything, only to have a brass band and a load of wagons dig through the thoroughfare with crowds of people all about. Excitement is contagious, and the streets were lined with people. My birthdays, ever since I left home, have always attracted tragedy – break-ups, job losses, frustrations with family, work, or school. But this was a good one. The last good one I can remember. The only good one I remember since I left home for college.
I’ll never forget it. I have the pictures to remind me.