Having too much time is like having too much money—it’s an asshole thing to complain about, but still a problem.
Whoever painted this mystery on my street—likely an alien—knew clearly where she was going and clearly where everyone else should be and what we all should avoid. She knew to tell everyone that if they dug here, something terrible would explode. Warning was the alien’s meaningful work.
She wrote: It would all go down in February.
Someone who came after—likely a human, likely me with my one blue running foot rudely in the shot—must have had too much time on her hands—an asshole problem—and, grasping around for something to fill her hours, investigated the alien’s code, aware only of its mystery and not its warning. She must have taken the arrow to indicate her life path and dug there foolishly—hoping to find her purpose entombed in the asphalt. Instead, our Pandora released the malicious thing, nailing her, the wise alien, and everyone else who had heretofore been busy.
It all went down in February.
Every now and then she comes out to kneel by the blackened hole in the cracked and cracking street. She cranes her neck to observe the bloom of the mushroom cloud she made and picks gravel from under her unmanicured nails. Locked down like all of us, she has all the time in the world for this.
Dostoyevsky said, “Life is life everywhere.” I don’t remember where or when he said it, but his mind was on human suffering in Siberia.
Bars and blue are the view from my office window. I live in a dirty, dying town in the inland desert of Southern California. We call it an empire. My neighborhood is ghetto-lite, but still rough enough to have warranted bars on all the doors and windows since 1985.
Here in the SoCal inland desert empire, it is green and, in the winter, the temperature rarely dips below forty degrees. The snow, in Siberia, is like bars I’m sure, but unlike these in my window, inescapable. Blue sky, like life, is blue sky everywhere though and we have at least these two things in common which, as I stand in the sun, un-barred, I’m sure is much more comfort to me on blue days wishing for the shocking sanctity of suffering and snow than it is to them on days that are nothing but sanctity, suffering, and snow
Some people have monsters under their beds. Some people have shoes and extra blankets. Some people have porn. Some very lucky people have money. I have two Ouija boards—one made by my best friend—the beautiful one, board and friend—and one made by Hasbro—the glow-in-the-dark one, the one covered in dust and almost crushed by my ancient, broke-down box spring.
This is the game I am playing with life. I talk to spirits constantly. I’m sure they all put the Michelle-specific ear plugs in long ago. I have nightmares that are backwards prophecies. Life seems to be moving without me touching it—though really I must be touching it. I’m so white, I glow in the dark. The best parts of me were made by love.
Once, I wondered if sleeping with two Ouija boards under my bed was the reason I have nightmares every night, but then I realized only I can give them that power, and I only would give them that power if I moved them elsewhere in fear. I left them where they were and although I still have nightmares, I am winning this game.
That my address happened to end up in my crotch in this my first attempt at arty photography is sheer Universal genius.
I was not born here. The house was born around my family when we moved to this city when I was four—the best part of all that happened when my parents got divorced.
Right after the divorce, my sister, mother, and I lived with my great aunt and uncle for a while and wore Goodwill clothes. Somehow, in less than a year, my mother was able to afford this house. Maybe it was all the money we saved wearing those Goodwill clothes that had that smell—the other people’s houses smell that must have dishearten my mother as we were between houses and, I know, humiliated my older sister who was sure she was really born royal and this town was all too bottom of the barrel for her. The smell seemed exotic to me and had a whisper to it, something like the ghosts of all the children who ate and played and sweat in these clothes before me.
My family continues to eat, play, and sweat in this house thirty-seven years later. It is now filled with our own ghostly whispers and we are sure to haunt it until the Big One knocks it down. It has been good to us and if all it cost was wearing good will on our backs for a year, it would have been a bargain at twice the price.
Today I am grateful for the sunrise under which I started my morning writing. In the east it looked like the heavens and earth were on fire. In the west the clouds spread in great pink streaks across a periwinkle sky. These are all common things to say about the sunrise, I know.
I remember The Phantom Tollbooth and how one of the characters our heroes meet is Chroma the Great. He conducts the sunrise like music. Each rising color makes a tone or phrase of its own. I adore that book and I adore the movie and I adore the image. When I lived in Nashville I would sometimes (OK rarely) take a walk at this time of day and a little earlier. I didn’t have to worry about coyotes and other stray dogs trained to be killers there, not to mention actual killers. But in the hour or so before sunrise, I would walk along and look up at the sky and swear I could hear the planets singing as they moved both imperceptibly slow and unbelievably fast. It was as if I were a voyeur to their sacred praise of the gods and each other, crouched in the moist green, as I was, in a simple, working class neighborhood at the center of the Tennessee valley.
So I am grateful for the sunrise this morning and for the planets’ tender singing. It is wonderful to know they sing and praise and move on their courses everywhere, even over the concrete and brown grass, thirsty coyotes and other stray, unloved dogs.
I did a bit of digging about what it takes to be a travel writer last night and learned that supplying your own photographs is often a part of it. Now, I’m legally blind, so this is somewhat of a challenge. The upshot is that I do love to take pictures, (weird I ended up with the bad eyes and the urge toward visual art at the same time).
So to begin my photography adventure with the beginning of my photography adventure, I started with my phone, my backyard, and the few flowers that have survived the unbearable heat snap we’ve had the last few days.
If you don’t mind me saying so, I think I did a pretty decent job for being new, near-blind, and equipped with an elderly iPhone. There is something wrong with the color in the closeup of the hibiscus. It appears the burst of color is distorting the detail of the flower. I’m sure I’ll learn how to deal with that in time.