Sunday, August 23, 2020

Unexpected Growth

In early April of this year, I wanted to jump-start my yardwork for the summer. Normally I would wait until school was over for the summer, but this year, with Covid-19 and distance learning shutting down my daily physical journey to school, I decided to take a different approach.

My "spring break" had arrived rather unceremoniously. I was already not in school even though I continued to teach the best I could through a collection of programs, videos, and classroom chats on Google Meet. My heart and mind were ready to venture outside for some new scenery, something not emanating from a computer screen.

I hired one of my seniors who was working to make money for college to spread mulch for me. This would save me time for other things I had wanted to do. His father came with him to supervise and lend him a hand, and we began talking about an underdeveloped area beside my porch.

Beneath a nearby pine tree, Mom had this old, decrepit park bench that would break into pieces if a person were to sit on it. I told the father that I was thinking of throwing that piece of junk away as it served no real use. He told me that nothing is junk to him and that I could find a good place for it.

With minimal hesitation, I carefully moved the old bench beside the porch where it rested in the recently spread mulch. I stepped back for a long look into the future then said to the father, "You know, you are right. I can see cleaning the sludge off and putting flowers on here. That would be really nice."

So as spring slowly moved to summer, I would occasionally add more plants there, moving them around until I found just the right amount of sun for each one. I planted marigolds in the barrel planter, nestled pots of impatiens and coleuses around the bench, and repotted discount flowers left for dead at Lowe's.  

I watered them all each morning in an effort to keep as many of these plants thriving as long as possible. I continued to clip and replant. I fertilized. Then, like everything in my life, I lost interest. I would forget to water regularly, I worked on my writing, I went on vacation, and I  was just not as exuberant midsummer as I was in April. 

This weekend, the one before I head back to school, I took a closer, more reflective, look at the state of our little garden by the porch. It was still going strong. The decrepit park bench I nearly threw away was now a backdrop to a beautiful growth of flowers. The entire stretch flourished in the arid August sun beneath the shade of the pine trees. Even though I have seen more expansive displays of flowers throughout the summer,  none of them brings me as much joy as this. 

At times, we are strangers to events that force us to transition from one stage of our lives to the next. Unfortunately, we tend to be uneasy with these transitions. Moments of exhilaration disappear into those shadowed in mediocrity and despair. Times of uncertainty fade away, revealing those glimmering in hope and promise.  

By repurposing old ways with new outlooks, we become our own catalysts for the change we want and need during times when the future may be uncertain. And as the sun sets down the road, we can always take a closer look at our efforts in order to appreciate the choices we have made.

Sunday, August 16, 2020

Washing Machine Watchers

"Jodi, I don't want to freak you out or anything, but water is all over the kitchen floor and running down the hallway!" 

On a Monday evening my best friend Jodi and I were sitting on a breezy balcony overlooking the shimmering beach at Hilton Head. We had both finished our first celebratory drink since my arrival to South Carolina earlier that morning. I was closest to the door, and Jodi was too comfortable to replenish our drinks, so I offered to slip back inside for the both of us.

In order to protect the nesting sea turtles at night, visitors are reminded to draw the blinds to prevent light from disrupting the movement of the new hatchlings, sending them inland rather than out to sea. Jodi and I were being overly cautious by turning out all of the lights in addition to closing the blinds. We are both vigilant people who stress over the care of innocent creatures of this world.

As I walked through the dark to the kitchen, I noticed a glistening of light on a one-inch expanding puddle of water across the floor. I paused. "This can't be water," I said to myself as I splashed toward the washing machine where I opened the lid to find Jodi's new cotton throw floating atop a broken washing machine drum overflowing with cold water. I quickly ran back to tell Jodi about my unfortunate discovery.

"What?!?" Jodi gasped as she rushed through the balcony doors, past the living room, and into the kitchen where she braced herself as she assessed the catastrophe unwinding in front of us.

"Why does this always happen to me?" Jodi asked as she pulled hair behind her head. "Can't I get one minute of peace."

I echoed her sentiment with my own. "I wish I could get one moment of peace, too. I swear, let's just do this. This is the last ride this year, Jodi. I am not coming back to visit again."

"Oh, shut up, A.J," she laughed dismissively as she turned off the washing machine. "We need to clean this up."

And, with that, nearly fifty years of friendship sprung into action. Jodi dragged the entry rug and welcome mat away from the front door as I searched the closets for a broom and dustpan. Jodi jumped onto the phone to call the office and security for help while I slushed water with the broom in a vain attempt to encourage the growing pool of water out the front door. Separately, we held the status quo against the water. 

An hour later, we found it more advantageous to work together. I grabbed the dustpan to squeegee the water toward Jodi who labored to sweep the waves out the front door. A maintenance man appeared with a bundle of towels, looked around the area, and noted that the two of us had "made real headway." Drenched in sweat, we looked at each other, laughed at him, then grabbed the towels. We threw them around the floor to sop up the remaining spots of water until we finished and collapsed on the couch.

The next day Jodi's son David said he had told his father Vic about the disaster, finding him rather calm about the entire incident. "And what did we learn from this episode?" Vic had asked him.

Jodi chuckled and scoffed, "Well, what did you say in response to that?"

David shrugged. "What are you saying, father? That they should stand in front of the washing machine and watch it?"

Jodi and I laughed about Vic's and David's conversation for the next day or so, even taking pictures of ourselves sitting in front of the washing machine as we watched it intently.

Vic is not incorrect. Of course, he did not mean that we should sit in front of the washing machine or even be in the same room. That is not realistic in a hectic daily life. Perhaps all of us should be aware of life's working parts that grind on endlessly while we sit on our balconies.

If we know anything about the times in which we live, storms are always in front of us or behind us. We can watch as storms approach, preparing ourselves as we brace for impact. We can rally around one another when the storms arrive and help to clean up once they leave. We do not have to sit on our balconies oblivious to the notion that they may arrive, but we do not need to worry incessantly over a storm that has yet to arrive and may very well not at all. 

Storm at the Beach / HH 2020

Jodi and I
Jodi and I
Washing Machine Watchers