Monday, October 26, 2009

Day six hundred and sixty ... Everything must go.

I'm slowly realizing how I'm living my life.

We all do it differently; this is unavoidable. Though many people can't seem to stop trying to be someone else, living life vicariously instead of observing and enjoying its uniqueness.

My family here on the east coast--over the last hundred odd years--collected box upon box of belongings. It's all in the house in Mattapoisett. There are the toys from perhaps three or four generations. From stuffed dolls with real hair, protected by plastic bags whose sole purpose is attempting to contain the stuffing-turned-dust from falling out of myriad holes in its hand-sewn body, to the tin wind-up toys of the forties and fifties, the carriages and old bikes with hard rubber tires and hand painted logos made with pride in the USA, to the Legos and Lincoln Logs, the Tinker Toys, the Batmobiles and Six Million Dollar Men, the Atari 2600's along with the battered joysticks and paddles that took the brunt of the abuse from impatient, ever-strengthening hands controlled by fidgety, ever-shortening attention spans.

There are dinnerware sets. There are old globes and maps. There are hundreds of volumes of tax documents, receipts, bank balances, and communiques. Clothes, furniture, pots, pans, tables, chairs, old doorbells, planters, watering cans, piggy banks, clothes hangers, racks, basins, bags, boxes, hats, pins, pens and pencils dull and sharp as tacks.

And it's all just sitting there exactly in conflict with the way I am living my life.

I don't know if it's a sign of my generation or not. I don't know if it has anything to do with the war we're in or the reason we're in it. I don't know if it's as much to do with the realization that I've wasted so much time standing still and aging instead of running, climbing, jumping, and flying. But I just don't feel like I want whoever comes next in the line of my family to have to deal with it all.

I want to die cleanly.

I don't want whoever's left standing, holding the court documents that entitle them to my stuff--and this means all of my stuff, my mom's and aunt's and uncle's and grandparent's--to have to gaze incomprehensibly at a seemingly insurmountable expanse of tangible objects, feeling the same overwhelming sense of powerlessness that I have felt over the last year.

And so, I'm cleaning house starting with the one I actually live in.

It's been almost a year since I packed my cellar full of the boxes and bags of "usable" items and moved them into here. And there they have sat, picked over a few times, but largely ignored.

The Goodwill just opened a store a couple miles away. They've seen my car pull up more than a few times, tripping the hose that lays outside the loading door signaling a new donor's arrival. I can control this cycle as long as I stay on the other side of that door. Not to mention that I'd rather not see the price they put on my erstwhile possessions.

It feels so good to move it out. It is almost like a brand new emotion is triggered when I see a space in the corner, or a drawer in a bureau that can find a new use. My house is as alive as I am, and has to be taken care of from time to time to ensure its health and well being. The chimney had to get professionally swept last week, just like I have to go to the doctor this week for a physical, to make sure everything is moving along the way it should.

Jodi and I cleaned the whole downstairs yesterday--vacuumed and mopped to a squeaky shine. We moved the couches, picked up the mats and the rugs, rescued the many spiders who had taken shelter in the corners and under the cabinets. I even had a little fit because the sun was going down and I wanted to take a walk outside before we had finished in the kitchen. I sometimes start to break down because I can see it all so clearly in front of me--the things I am doing, the things I have done, and the things I want to do--and I want to put them all in a sack and call dibs.

"You don't really want to take a walk and then have to deal with the rest of this, do you?" she asked.

And, of course, she was right. We finished cleaning the floor, took a walk, came home, and relaxed. We cooked dinner together, made a fire in the hearth, and watched a few hours of TV curled up close on the couch.

But today is a new day, just as tomorrow will be. I have a plan to have the cellar cleaned out of unusable items by the time it gets too cold to do it without a hat and gloves--or, about a month. That will mark a year and a few days since I moved into this amazing place. The cellar was empty then, save for a few stray leftovers from the previous owners. And I'm not going to abuse the privilege of space.

And that is exactly what I feel space is: a privilege.

My life's purpose is to create.

My mind makes my living.

My possessions color my surroundings.

My surroundings color my thoughts.

If my surroundings are cluttered and strewn with redundancies, then so will be my thoughts.

And just like I had to clear out the clutter in my mind from my twenty odd years of self-abuse--scraping, scrubbing, scouring, and shoveling--to get to the point where I could see new corners, empty drawers, and the natural grain of the floors that graciously hold my frame up day after day after day, I can now do the same for the place I call home.

All I can see is all I can see. It doesn't get much simpler than that. Unless, of course, I have a bunch of junk in my way.

Thanks for reading,


Monday, October 12, 2009

Day six hundred and forty eight ... Lucky.

I always dreamed it would be this way.

Years and years of my over-earnest attempts to find the perfect pull to my push are paying off. The space between my sentences--some discrete and organized; some ill fitting--are finally being taken up with either an unhurried silence or a well groomed retort.

It's all happening all the time when I am with my sweetheart. This collaboration doesn't need an introduction anymore. It doesn't need a prompt. It doesn't need an explanation. It just picks up wherever it left off and moves forward and upward.

And I'm definitely not taking it for granted.

I made a promise months ago to keep my affairs with Jodi as private as popular sentiment allows, which is not what I would allow, mind you, because I--as some of you know--have a tendency to let some sensitive information out from time to time.

But that's not to say that I can't just share my awe.

Jodi and I went for a drive this weekend up to Stowe, Vermont for some leaf-peeping. We somehow found the last hotel room in all of New England through the help of the internet; it was an idea that we had batted around a bit--not too thoroughly, but enough to lay out some intentions--and it all kind of fell into place. We shot some website links of destinations back and forth, and within a few hours we had decided to go for it and book the room and take it from there. We left in the morning and took minimal belongings. It was really just for the night, but I tend to over think things and end up with a car full of camping lanterns and leather jackets if left to my own devices. Thankfully my devices are being checked on occasionally as my rapidly simplifying life drains of superfluous needs.

But anyway, we headed out for the drive which on the map should have taken 3.5 hours but ended up taking 5. We were in no hurry. We had no one to meet. We had only ourselves to contend to, and even if--for whatever farcical reason--we had sat in the god dammed driveway for the whole time I swear we could have found enough to keep us entertained. We're just good like that. We stopped at a rest area and had free coffee and cookies. We listened to the radio a little bit. We got off of the highway halfway up and jumped on a scenic route that wound through thirty or so tiny Vermont towns replete with barns and cows, sheep and chickens, bee hives and maple trees, green grass and hay bales.

The only thing that brought my attention to the fact that I wasn't floating through a dream like I've had a hundred times was the state ordered ignition interlock device which allows me--a man almost two years sober--to drive his car. Other than that I could have been fast asleep on a dreamy journey, side by side with my true love, gliding over a multi-colored canvas of reds, golds, oranges, and five shades of green. Even at that, I would try every once in a while to open my eyes wider, hoping I could take in more. And each time I could feel my lids touching my eyebrows like the last slot of a venetian blind reaching its apex.

Conversation. Silence. The whoosh of air through the back windows. A constant report (by yours truly) of the outside air temperature--at first rapidly dropping, then leveling off, shedding a degree here and a degree there. The swell of the radio--public radio, mostly--and then its regress back to white noise. A scratch on the neck. A brush of a hand. A clasping of fingers until the anathema of traffic demands our digits disengage.

We have made this happen, yet it seems as if we haven't done a thing.

Just as I am sitting here alive writing these words of how amazed I am this has finally happened it seems as if I have always been in love.

The road wound and swooped. The pressure played with our ears like a plunger in a fussy sink. We got out and took photos at the slightest delightful chance.

We stopped at a tiny town because we were hungry and because there was parking. We saw a sign that said "Wood Fired Pizza" on the edge of a public park. It was a mobile wood fired oven. We each had a slice of pesto pizza that was amazingly good. We walked around a tiny bit and almost went into a rummage sale but didn't. We tried taking our own picture with my phone but a passing woman with two dogs asked if we wanted her to take it and, of course, we said okay.

The day went on like this--like a dream--as we let gravity tamp us down like so many coffee grounds in an espresso maker--the pressurized water of life running itself down us and through us, depositing us in two neatly placed cups on either end of a double spout.

And I found myself embracing this woman every chance I could tactfully get. I would know instantly if I was overdoing it, but it was never an issue. I don't know if she doesn't care about what other people think as much as I do, or if we are just so expert on our ability to weave in and out of the one person we become when we aren't apart that nobody gives us a second glance.

And the road wore on. We ascended in a northerly fashion up, up, up, past the churches and cow fields, the breakfast joints and haute cusineries. We slipped through the middle of what used to be mountains like a marble through a pair of massive granite bookends. And the signs kept us abreast of our progress. But, truth be told, I didn't really want to stop driving. I didn't want to have to end our temporary confinement. I didn't want to have to talk to another living soul and buy a ticket and go into the craft fair which was our ulterior reason for driving over 300 miles.

Because I could sit perfectly still in silence with this one person for hours upon end, smiling. It would be enough.

We did eventually make it to the craft fair for the last hour. It was nice, but I found it a bit uninspired. Nonetheless, we ended up buying some chocolate, some hot sauce, and some kettle corn. We found the hotel after a few misses. And then, a nice place to have dinner. We stayed up and watched some bad television. We went to bed sufficiently tired and satisfied and slept until the Japanese family loudly taking pictures outside our window woke us up.

As Jodi took some photos on the balcony it started to briefly snow. Mother Nature seemed excited as we were to be there.

Earlier in the day I had driven a few miles back to get gas and we had ended up at a cider mill where we got some donuts and some hot cider. We enjoyed these again for breakfast with the free coffee the hotel provided. We checked out and then I managed to extract a ten percent discount from the AAA membership I have. I'm sure my mom and aunt were smiling. We almost got on the alpine slide, but it was shut down so the ice could be cleaned off the track. Instead we took a slightly more sensible scenic gondola ride to the top of the highest peak in Vermont and had an unforgettable lunch (which is where the picture at the top of this entry was taken). The ten minute ride to the top was a mixture of excited picture-taking and animated embraces.

After that we stopped at Ben and Jerry's Ice Cream Factory and overheard some bitter exchanges: "... you were right, I was wrong ... does that make you happy?" And I thought to myself that the answer to that question is so unimportant, especially because it even had to be asked.

The Red Sox lost that day at 2:30, ending the season for 2009.

The drive home went by like an unmarked Crown Victoria. We had a serious project to attend to: we had to make an apple pie!

We cut out some serious traffic thanks to Jodi's trusty iPhone and slipped back into Massachusetts, our home. I had guessed we would make it to the grocery store at 7:10; Jodi had predicted 7:00. She was right, I was wrong, we were both happy.

We fired up the oven and donned our chef hats. I made a phone call to Paul to sort out an ingredient issue and he was, as always, willing and eager to help.

The Patriots lost in overtime at 7:30.

At 8:45--after preparing, together, our first homemade crust and filling it with local apples tossed with sugar, cinnamon, nutmeg, and butter--a pie was unleashed on the world.

It wasn't the prettiest pie in the world. And, in fact, it only got worse looking as I tore into it with my knife. But it was the final act in a fantastic performance of a beloved production. It was served--still very much warm--with ice cream to our Sunday night TV friends Ken, Sarah, Sheena, and Omar. The apples had a slight firmness on the outside but were all soft and serious towards the center. Ken tried to hold out. He wanted to say no and, in fact, he did at first. But as I came back into the kitchen and witnessed Jodi serving him a modest slice he explained that "I couldn't resist ... it's just too good!"

We enjoyed our Sunday night television together and then parted ways. Jodi, though, stayed right here with me and we spent some more time together just amazed that we could be so thoroughly content.

This time we spent--this time after a full day and a half of being together, traveling up to what was not far from the border of Canada, making a pie, and spending time with our friends--this small parcel of time seemed like a whole other night in and of itself. It felt like we had just met for the evening. It felt fresh. It felt different. It felt like the two of us had opened up a new LP and put it on the platter and dropped the needle, expectantly waiting for the opening notes of track one.

I don't think that Jodi ever noticed my grimace when I pinched myself right then. I don't think she ever does, and I do it quite often. I do it because I kind of do want to wake up if this is all a dream. Because I want to write it down. I want to always remember it. I want to tell the world what I saw in my head--how I lived, for a brief moment in time, a life that I can only imagine is what the most detailed definition of love is.

Because I always dreamed it would be this way.

Thank you, Jodi Lynne Nicholas.

I love you so very much,


And, as always, to you who spent the time to process my seemingly never ending story of amazing life-discovery:

Thanks for reading,