Choice: Part 5

Photo by Mark A. Harrison

V

It is Saturday again, and they are leaning over the wooden railing, watching children play.  Boats made of sticks and paper bob in the green water.  At the end of the boardwalk, a woman in face paint is giving out free balloons.  Is this real? he asks.  She shrugs, says, that’s up to you.  Her hand on his is warm and cold, like ice melting. The sparks from the bonfire jump and spit like firecrackers in the final throes of ecstasy.

Above, a gull circles the sky, white against the blue.

< Part Four

Outsiders

Ever had One of Those Days, where the physical universe simply refuses to cooperate? Where you have the distinct sense that the rest of the world is some kind of universal one-size-fits-all, except that it’s made for someone of a very different size – possibly even a different species – than you? We’ve all been there, although for some of us, that’s the definition of our ‘normal’. On average, I feel like that at least once a day.

It sometimes helps to be reminded that, despite the loneliness inherent in feeling like an outsider, it is, ironically enough, a remarkably common phenomenon.

A quick search of any kind of media (be it song, poetry, film, books, graphic novels) reveals a veritable profusion of artistic works rooting for the outsider brave enough to defy the status quo – like The Blue and the Beyond, a beautifully animated short where The Man, aka the State (aka the ever-ephemeral “Them”) is portrayed as downright sinister, rather than simply dull and homogeneous. Or the Oscar-winning Paperman, with its celebration of perseverance.

I picked this one, though, for its heartfelt assurance that the love and support you need might be a lot closer than you think, if we could just learn how to communicate with each other better, to listen to what those closest to us are really trying to say. The sweetness at its core may strike the more cynical among us as bordering on (or downright inhabiting) cheezy sentiment, but sometimes that’s exactly what we need when the darkness of the world is threatening to suck us in. This one is for all the parents and children out there, of which we have all been at least one or the other, at some point in our lives.

Inspiration

TwinExit_byMarkAHarrison_smaller

Twin Exit by Mark A. Harrison

Coming back from a supply run this morning, energy reserves near empty and mood scraped raw despite the mere five minute journey each way, gave me plenty of time to ponder on what constitutes necessity (vacuum bags, in a household of cats and rugs and impossibly prolific dust bunnies, surely falls into that category, doesn’t it?). It didn’t help that ‘Your Town Now’ by Greg Brown was playing on the radio, an anti-consumerist anthem if there ever was one. (Don’t worry – this has a happy ending. It’s about inspiration, after all.)

There are plenty of things out there that drain energy without giving back, cycles of materialism and greed that people take part in without even realizing it. So much easier to coast with our brains in neutral, to avoid questions about what is necessary, when the current unspoken agreement of ‘normal’ embraces the most convenient, fastest, easiest, cheapest. Never mind that it’s an illusion, that all these things lining our shelves and filling our cars and keeping our roads drivable require a ridiculous amount of effort, resources, labour, and energy. Somehow, some of us – the lucky few – just happen to have been born into a time and place where the building blocks and costs of privilege are cleverly hidden – not invisible, or unknowable, not even all that hard to find, but shoved just out of sight, so we have to look and think, directly and with purpose, to bring them into the light.

Which brings me to the one thing that those of us cursed with optimism (almost all humans, really) desperately seek out whenever possible: Inspiration, that spark of wonder and delight that pulls you out of the morass of cynicism and propels you to act, create, speak honestly, give generously. I was thinking about what inspires me, what reminds me that there is beauty all around us, no matter where or who you are, providing a constant counterpoint to the relentless forces of destruction and denial. Things like seemingly random acts of kindness and compassion, music and art, children laughing, rescue dogs finding a proper home for the first time in their lives, sparks of colour against the grey expanse.

Thankfully for the rest of us, there are plenty of smart people out there laying bare the glaring problems of our modern world, people with far more skill, knowledge, and stamina than I have in my meager supplies. So I’ve made a decision. This blog-journal-thingie-whatsit, whatever it ends up evolving into, is going to be about hope and inspiration, wonder and creativity, in all their myriad beautiful, crazy, unpredictable forms.

As the late great Kurt Vonnegut once said (paraphrasing John Greenleaf Whittier), “Of all the words of mice and men, the saddest are, ‘It might have been’.” Let’s live our lives like they’re the only ones we’ve got, and leave space for others to do the same.