Friday, May 2, 2003


The temptation is to lean towards the Jack Nicholson character in “The Shining.” Don’t shave, don’t shower, scowl and walk around the house mumbling to myself. I’m tempted to create a document that reads “All work and no play makes Billy a dull boy,” over and over again, then leave it conspicuously open so Soo can discover it. Soo doesn’t buy the descent into madness routine, though. I have no right to be miserable and a neurotic self-indulgent fantasy does not a full-blown psychosis make. Besides, it’s spring! I just can’t get motivated to sharpen the long knives when the flowers start blooming and partly sunny outweighs partly cloudy.

Among of green
Stiff old bright
Broken branch come
White sweet may

It’s the only poem I know entirely by heart (primarily because it’s only 13 words), yet even in (or possibly because of) its brevity it captures the essence of spring, the gray to green to white, the rebirth, the whole cycle of life thing. A better wordsmith has already captured in those 13 words what I’m going to stumble around on for a chapter or so, but it’s early, I’ve got coffee and some time to type so what the hell.
I’ve been spending a lot of time mowing the lawn. It’s very calming and meditative in a sweaty grassy kind of way, all the parallel lines, making order out of chaos, taming nature and all that. Pushing a mower back and forth gives you time to think, which as I’ve already noted, can be a dangerous thing for me. After running through the usual, “When will I get a job, who else can give me a job, how are we going to get enough money to continue paying our mortgage, get health coverage, put Nate through school, solve world hunger,” etc…my mind drifts towards the more ethereal.
When we first saw this place everything was green, well, gray and green. And for the first month it stayed that way, just relentless, albeit multi-shaded, green. Mossy green, deep forest green, grassy yellowy green, brilliant almost chartreuse green, and every shade in between, all mixed with the dormant brown and gray twiggy masses of growth around here. It was the continued and consistent presence of green that made the first appearance of other colors so remarkable. Or maybe not so remarkable. This is, afterall, the Evergreen State. It rains, things grow. In keeping with my one great skill, ie stating the obvious; however plain and ordinary everyone else might view this stuff, I will continue.
So, I’m mowing the lawn and there’s this little shrub growing under some trees, just an ordinary juniper-y looking thing. I’d walked past it a few dozen times and never noticed it. Today, or that day, whenever it was when things started to bloom, I noticed little pink flowers sprouting out of the ends of its branches. Eureka! I stopped mowing and knelt down to take a closer look. They were beautiful. Tiny delicate blooms just squirting out of gnarly green pipe-cleaner brushes. Forgive my sentimentality, but it was moving. It was like a ray of hope, a promise that somewhere amidst all this pervasive green, there were other emotions waiting to break free. And now you may see where I’m going with this.
I get over myself and go back to mowing and thinking. Why is it that plants bloom? What’s the point of making themselves attractive? What’s the point of shaving or showering or not scowling at someone? Is there a biological imperative for humans to look pretty, beyond the healthful sanitary reasons, I mean. And beyond the vain attempts to spruce ourselves up to attract a mate, or maybe not too far beyond. Plants flower so they can attract birds or insects to gather their seeds or otherwise help them propagate. Maybe we’re all just gray and green, we’re all twisted twigs and deep buried roots, and it’s only sometimes for some of us that the conditions are right that it’s sunny or there’s enough warmth or nutrients or whatever to make us flower. Not rocket science or plant science, I know, botanists and psychologists and poets have written about this before and better than I.
Yesterday, I took a shower, gussied myself up and took the ferry into Seattle so I could have lunch and “network” with someone who has a job. All the job-finding experts say this is a good thing to do.
We’ll see. Anything’s possible, it is May again.

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