Tag Archives: odd jobs

Chapter 1 – Pressed

6 Jul

Little Miss Softy

Wants to rest but

Her mind is

Pressed

For time

It passes

Before my day has begun

Night has come

And there is no business

To be done

After midnight

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How does life get better than this?

4 Jul

I am grateful.

I am open to opportunities that improve this world, starting with myself.

I make decisions and choices that honor this life and the life of others.

I continue to strengthen every day as a giver, not just a receiver; a grower, a keeper, a steward of the fragile beauties in this life.

I listen with a clear conscience and open mind knowing everything new is new.

I heed the lessons of the past and make goals for the future but my life is here and now.

I accept and embrace the duality of nature in myself and the world I live in.

I am all I need to be at this moment.

When two roads converged in a wood, I took the Allelopath

18 Apr

Allelopathy, I discovered yesterday—is the effect one species has upon the growth, survival and reproduction of another species by chemical, biological or ecological processes. For instance, a tree that grows to be tall and wide benefits the humans beneath it by providing shade where they may have a picnic, make sweet love and carve their initials into the pliable bark marking the first moment of their life-long commitment to benefit each other and their future children. The same tree does not allow any other species to thrive beneath it because of the very shade that benefits the humans.

I also discovered that plants aren’t the only ones with allelopathic tendencies.

It was a typical Tuesday morning eradication session at the Leon Creek Greenway where the Invaders volunteer their time to eradicate non-native invasive species. Ie. Kill things, record how and when they were killed, pinpoint a GPS location of the slaying and record it in a national database. It’s satisfying work because you can see the difference you are making in a landscape right away. Where once there was a mono-culture of invasive species, you can see the potential for new native growth almost immediately. Kind of like getting a haircut: It always makes you feel better about your future somehow.

This day was going along par for the course. I had my first kill and a fat one at that—around six inches in diameter. I had to use my Gomboy or folding handsaw. Felt good to get a big one under my belt first thing. I called out my count and the code for loathed Chinaberry Tree. Most of the trees we eradicated that morning were big Chinas. We had a crew of about 10 and it only took two to do the work of even the biggest tree. So the rest of us just sort of milled about watching or looking for our own pre-flagged specimen to fell.

I’ve been on several of these expeditions before but this one was different in so many ways, it really made me stop and think. The work we did at Rancho Diana seemed much more unobtrusive. We weren’t felling large trees but we were pulling, chopping and spraying hundreds of Nandina every week. There was the “Nandina Forest” where the bamboo-like plant had taken over an entire area of underbrush. That week I learned how to identify Nandia in every  stage of life from a newly formed sprig to a mature bush with berries. Somehow it seemed not only physically easier to hand-pluck the babies from the lush fertile forest floor but cognitively, I didn’t suffer other decisions. Like, which weapon to most effectively destroy the thing. I didn’t have to spend a lot of time with the same plant sawing or even break a sweat. All I had to do was seek, identify and destroy. Now look out honey, ’cause I’m usin’ tech-knowledgey…Somebody come and help me please…Somebody better save my soul! Wha? Oh, sorry Iggy Pop sideline. Happens every time.

So, the other thing is that something gets me out there in the civilized wild. A trail runs through it, but nature remains in control. Very early in our first effort to girdle a hug-sized Ligustrum we were verbally accosted by a few well-intentioned tree evangelists who proclaimed us “black-hearted sinners” for our defiant act of ecological restoration.

Black hearted sinners forever

Black hearted sinners forever

“We’re all invasive species!” She exclaimed passionately.

I see her point. So who decides?

If nature or her G-d for that matter saw fit for this plant to grow and thrive who are we to destroy it?

My rebuttle was weak. “But it will KILL all the other plants.”

Interesting perspective. Not true though.

It in fact, does nothing actively to kill anything. It only exists for the sole-purpose of existing.

Sure, its leaves drop and make the soil beneath it more alkaline insuring its own survival and the survival of other plants whose tastes agree. Sure, its canopy is large and dense to the detriment of many beneath it, earning it its nickname The Umbrella Tree. Sure, its prolific berries fall and turn to seeds and take their turns growing where they are unsurreptitiously planted. But if blame is due, it might just as well rest on the wings of that ill-fated bird who eats—gorges itself actually—becomes drunk on the toxic berries, flies downstream and deposits the seed at the mouth of another river where Chinaberry has never grown before and then dies. But not before making another even less desirable deposit of bloody seed encrusted feces on your freshly washed but unfortunately unwaxed clear coat instantly lowering your resale value.

Ultimately, we are the ones responsible for introducing the plant here in the first place. It’s a beautiful tree. Resilient. Hardy. Fast growing. Deciduous and flowering; it provides a brilliant if not common display of something in every season. It only becomes ugly when you see it choke out every other species or block a river from flowing freely. If you never saw a snake strike, you could assume it had no fangs. In these woods, the Chinaberry are sparse but large. They aren’t showing their fangs here. But as anyone who has ever been bitten by a snake knows: Size does matter.

Somewhere downstream or over the next hill or around the far bend the effects of these and several other non-native invasives that you can buy and are often touted as best use landscaping plants because of their tolerance for neglect and extreme weather. And that’s our justification for killing. G-d save our black-hearted souls! Funny thing though, they always seem to sprout back up in threes for each  individual we take down to a stump. Some say it’s a futile effort. We call it job security.

Makes ya kinda wonder though, doesn’t it.

Sitting for the Master

14 Apr

Sometimes a painting is just a painting. Sometimes it’s more. Sometimes it speaks when you stop long enough to listen. Sometimes you recognize it in a crowd of strangers as a potential friend. Sometimes you meet and sit and after a while you realize you’ve found a life-long connection. That’s how it was with The Turnip and me.

The Turnip

The Turnip by  Seth Camm 

And that’s how it was sitting for Seth among the titanic greek columns of Mr. Santikos’ Palladium Theater/Bar where he is showing his art work and painting in the forward-thinking gallery spawned by the success of The Wonderland of America’s Bijou Theater, where his fiancée Rebecca Coffey is showing her art to movie goers who may or may not be intentionally seeking more from their entertainment than Hollywood has to offer. Can we just go to the movie now? Not yet, I’m still looking!

So, tell me how this works. What do I do?

Just sit there and look pretty.

Can I move? Look around?

Well, you can but not too fast or it’ll turn out blurry.

Hm. Easiest job I’ve done all week. Sure beats cleaning poo and rat guts on the snake farm.

But staring at the faces of the ones who came before, I somehow felt unworthy. Still I was giddy. At home now, I’m certain I was wearing that “shit eating grin” my dad used to call the look my face when they fought. The one I put on when they inevitably said, “Wipe that smile off your face.” The one that turned itself down at the edges so even though I felt like I was smiling, it didn’t offend anyone because I appeared to be just as unhappy as they were.

Break time!

And the first time I’ve ever seen what someone else sees when they see me.

Wow is all I can say. I know. I’m supposed to be a writer and all I’ve got is wow. To be fair, I’m in awe of this person before me. Of his talent. Of his grace. Of the way his eyes translate the world outside him to his hands in that esoteric language known only to trained artisans who practice attaining nothing less than perfection on a daily basis. Who continue with the daunting, joyful task of living and creating new things in absolute faith every single day of their lives for the pure joy of it. Because life would not be worth living without it and despite the fact that though they may reach seemingly unattainable heights they may be the only ones who recognize it and that has to be reward enough.

Can I get you anything?

A shot-gun, a twelve pack and a passing buffalo.

Would you settle for some chocolate?

I’m going to turn you blue now.

But wait! I’ve been blue for so long. I want to be a different color now. I want to wipe that shit eating grin off my face and glow.

I didn’t bring enough white to finish.

But I’m ready! I’m ready for my face to reflect how I feel inside. How rich, happy, loved and secure I am all by myself though it may not seem like it because I’m talking my head off like a teenager on three-way. I want to shine like the women on the wall. But are they really happy or does the master see something in all of us no one else can?

Someone enters the space. Someone who looks quite comfortable looking at art and in her own skin. Someone who doesn’t wait to be invited, is first to offer a smile and says, “I like your light.” Someone who means what she says in every way possible.

It was the best compliment I had ever heard given to an artist. It was a compliment not only to his work and his talent but his existence. Because the master uses light, needs light, reflects light and is light.

It may make a nice underpainting for something in the future.

In the shadowy outline on his canvas, I saw so much in me—so much potential for a finished piece. So much potential for a finished person—though we are all a work in progress. It was definitely me, or at the very least the me the people passing by could see as their eyes widened in disbelief. It reminded me of that fresh feeling you get when you step out of the shower and see yourself for the first time in the steamy mirror. You can’t see it yet, but you know you’re under there and all you have to do is sweep your hand across the cool glass to reveal it.

So many feelings in a glance. I had to look away. It was too beautiful. I practically ran outside to text everyone I know how awesome it was to be sitting for the master. The truth is I was afraid to see what he saw. I covered it up with small talk and giggles and he knew it too.

I lost the likeness of you.

I’m going down a path here that’s getting a bit steep, but sitting for the master always is isn’t it.

At home now, I realize I was afraid to see my own potential. But in that light, I felt that someday when I’m brave enough, I’ll look myself in the eyes and allow him to show me the beauty he sees. Until that day, I’m quite comfortable practicing my own perfection faithfully in perpetuity. I will continue with the daunting, joyful task of living and creating new things in absolute faith every single day of my life for the pure joy of it. Because life would not be worth living without it and despite the fact that though I may reach seemingly unattainable heights I may be the only one who recognizes it and that has to be reward enough.

Thanks for sitting for me tonight.

No thank you. It was an honor.

Returned my uniform yesterday

28 Dec

R. says as long as he likes me, and he does—I can work with him every day this week. I ponder the thought and begin planning how busy I will be with my real job tomorrow. Probably so busy I won’t even get to go outside I say aloud. When I get home, I’ll check my e-mail and let you know for sure this evening. It’s feast or famine this business.

I’ve finished almost the entire bottle of water and I can tell R. is getting a little miffed. Either that or he is tired after a busy day of deliveries that will surely be followed by another two weeks of busy days; followed by another 20 years. But, at least we’re outside, he reassures himself over the blower motor. The blast of hot air from the engine compartment reminds me of O. I miss him in all his incompetent splendor. He was a good guy.

The company has a strict policy regarding sexual harassment. They didn’t tell us what it was, just that it is very strict. After three days of riding together, you learn a lot about a person whether they tell you or not. As R. pondered just how great our communication would be in three days if it was already this good today; I was getting sentimental over O. My first driver. I guess you never really get over your first. They’re the ones who teach you how to do things for the first time. Right or wrong, you’ll always remember them and compare their ways to the ways of all those who follow. Beyond that, there’s a trust established when you are forced into a new or potentially dangerous situation with complete strangers and come out alive.  Just like the driver helper group initially bonded over our common need to find a job and found ourselves gathered around a table just like Thanksgiving Dinner I felt myself thrust into the great brown world of logistics—it’s sustainable don’tcha know.

O. and I established a higher level of trust than most by the second day. He had no sooner confided in me that his boss was no less than requiring him to have a better day and entered the code for the gate when a car zoomed around us activating the only one car per entry mechanism that sends the boom gate—the wooden thing that goes down at railroad crossings and airport parking and apparently, this complex—into action. There was no time to respond. We went barreling through and the thing came down a lot more violently than I ever expected between the force of the big, brown truck and the forward movement. It cracked like lightening over the passenger mirror. I closed my eyes and leaned to the left as far as possible while covering my face with my right arm. It dragged alongside the outside of the truck until it finally dislodged itself, broke off and fell to the ground with a hollow thwack. Apparently, this was not going to be a better day.

Jesus! Are you okay?! O. shouts and unbuckles himself as soon as we have come to a safe stop. I’m kinda stunned but fine. Your face! Let me see it, he laments and reaches cradled palms toward my chin, lifting it up to his eyes. Not a scratch. Did that scare you? I’m really sorry. No, no. I’m fine. Really. He gives me little signals that he really is a good dad and a caring person but this is something more. We sit there smoking for a minute before O. makes the call to his boss. We’re going to be here for a while if you want to snack, he says pushing gently past me to exit on my side. I’m still buckled in. I don’t understand how you eat so much and stay so thin. Well, there’s not much room to pack it in so I eat often. Do you want some of my almonds and apricots? Girl, you know I have a toothache and you’re offering me that hard-ass shit? It’s all I brought.

There was a time I would have taken that personally but this is not it. I know he is suffering. He plays it off but I am beginning to wonder if the reason I didn’t hear from him on the fourth day is because he got fired. The damage to the truck blended right in with the other scratches. Apparently, live oak is just as strong as whatever that non-splintering material in the gate was. Thank god there was no shrapnel, O. thinks to himself so loud I can hear. Could have scratched her face up bad. The security guard for the complex shows up and assures O. that he will be getting a bill in the mail for $150. O. shrugs that off too and seems confident in the knowledge that the company will pay. I’ll be a witness if you need one, I say. There was absolutely no way you could have stopped. That car came out of nowhere and cut right in front of you. At every subsequent gate, I look into the mirror for him as he enters the code and give the all clear.

SDH Pt. 10 – Where it turns into to something else all together

27 Dec

I’m not paranoid. I’m OBSERVANT! I shout silently—impudently and hop in the truck. A quick flash of me in a candle lit room on a table under a white sheet caresses my brain. It’s 45 degrees and R. won’t let me shut the door because it sticks and I have to struggle to open it fast enough. I feel that if I practiced, I would eventually get better and faster but he insists. I’m not cold. I feel a heat radiating from my core and pat myself on the back for being centered and maintaining my power zone. The way they explained it in training there are “right ways” to practice delivery driving and logistics. According to the company videos: stretching, breathing, eating healthy and taking part in relaxation are all integral to maintaining a long, healthy and prosperous future at work and at home. Or maybe I inserted that last part.

In the interest of full disclosure, the story you have been reading is 100% true. I think. Mostly. I mean it’s my version of reality. I will admit to you that I am parting my veils a bit for you right now. This is the part of the story where I tell you the kind of things that drove my husband so mad with desire he actually questioned if they were true.  I assure you they were not. Totally. I mean some of them sort of happened but not really and then those got mixed up with the ones that were not just true at all. So, hold on. We’re going for an exciting ride and it’s going to be fun. Well, at least for me and isn’t that what it all comes down to when you hear me moan your name in voice so deep you know it’s coming from that spot just below my navel. The spot you love to bury your nose in. Your hands around my hips, your fingers pressing into the firm muscle of my upper buttocks. I whisper, “What is that called again?” Into your ear and you reward me with an audible shudder. I make my breath hot and say more. This time I’ve altered my tone and all you can hear is how much I want you in every deeper confession.

“I like it when you bite my neck. I think it’s a button. Yeahhhh. When you do it right it releeeases tension and ohhhhh, yessssss. That’s the one. Oh myyyyyy.” More hot breath, more confessions, more pleasure exchange.

“Do you see where this is going?”

Yes.

Do you want to try to push my button?   MMmmhmmm.

SDH Pt. 8 – Another day, another $32 after taxes

22 Dec

Here, I bought you some water. Drink up, R. says. What a guy. Not one of my other drivers has even offered me a drink. Luckily, I brought my own after the first day of being without for two hours. I did have gum, which is the only thing that made it tolerable. Not running is thirsty work.

We’re getting along great. My pet peeves are his pet peeves. It’s Smart Water he says—even better for you than just plain water. Yes, I say. Thank you. It tastes great. Out here in the country the drive ways are more than long, they’re distant. He drops me off at one, drives to the next and then turns around for me. Don’t worry he says, I’ll always come back. It really had not occurred to me that he wouldn’t. Something makes me feel grateful that I texted my location or at least my last location to my friends before I hopped in the truck. Beware of dogs! He shouts as he rolls away.

It’s kinda creepy navigating through the overgrown bush of the wild places in peoples’ front yards out here. It’s also almost exactly how I would choose to leave my land if I had some. Lush, native with little to no “improvement”. I feel an uneasy comfort approaching the fenced in exotics many locals keep as pets or game. Zebras, Oryx (a sort of long-horned antelope), llamas, ostrich and the spiral horned goat-looking thing that rammed our car at the drive-through zoo a couple years ago. Texas: It really is like a whole ‘nuther country.

R. does return and compliments me on my graceful three-point entrance with a caveat. Can you speed it up a little? Sure, thing! I say, wondering if my other drivers felt the same way. Please do let me know if there is anything else I can do to help you out or improve what I’m already doing, I add. Oh, I’m pretty outspoken, says R. yet somehow I don’t really believe him. He startles when I laugh and rarely makes eye-contact even when he is not driving.

I’m thinking we’ve already had some pretty deep conversations when somehow, we get on the topic of religion. R. wants me to know that he is a repressed Catholic boy. His words. I begin to wonder where this is going when he asks how come I’m not drinking my water. I really should be. It’s a tall bottle – maybe 32 oz. and I’ve only made a dent in it around 1/8 of the way down.  Oh, right, I say and grab the bottle instinctively, already falling into my normal pattern of obedience and control in the presence of a tractable male. It’s comfortable here. In fact, I feel so comfortable and safe that even as the lip of the bottle touches my lips I can’t recall if the lid snapped when I turned it off the first time. The text of a little yellow sticker flashes through my mind—Do not consume if safety seal has been broken.

Did it snap or didn’t it? I can’t remember! I’m starting to feel sleepy just thinking about it. Is that his plan? I wonder how many of us have gone before? But he’s a delivery guy, they do background checks! How would he maintain a career and a normal life? They always do. And they’re the nice ones too. The ones who get along just fine with everyone. The quiet ones. He was a great neighbor—never a bother. What a tragedy.  Who’d have guessed? All these years he’s been luring seasonal driver helpers out into the country, drugging them into the back of his truck and driving them home like a COD who didn’t answer the door.  You never know what’s going to be inside, but it’s got to be good.

Holy crap! I’m driving around in the middle of nowhere, TX with a serial killer! Suddenly, time slows down to a crawl. I feel very, very calm. All I have to do is stay awake. He’s not aggressive, at least not yet. He probably won’t attack unless I’m unconscious. Okay. So, no more water. But, how do I maintain the façade that I am drinking it and Jesus, God I am SO very thirsty all the sudden. I have mine own water in my bag in the back but how would that look? I take little sips and hold it in my mouth for a while hoping something in my saliva counteracts the sedative before I swallow. Thrity-six more stops before break-time he announces me out of my thoughts. I don’t’ know about you, but I have to take a potty break! Oh wow, okay maybe he is human after all. The other two never even mentioned it.

Of course he’s human. That doesn’t mean he’s not a serial killer. They hire these seasonal helpers en masse. One or two could easily go missing. They’re just the type no one would miss either because they’re the ones who are always doing something just a little out of the norm. If he starts to ask me about my family connections, I’ll know he’s researching. The problem with that is even though I love my family dearly and they love me right back they would absolutely not question my absence for at least two days before beginning to inquire. By then, I could be buried in this guy’s backyard.

At least he’s nice. I mean, if you’re going to be heinously murdered I suspect the experience could be made as pleasant as possible by a caring killer. He seems genuinely interested in my “real” job. Raised his voice for the first time all day when he exclaimed, how COOL it must be to do the thing I do. To get into the minds of my clients and give them exactly what they want, even when they don’t know what that thing might be. Well, at least that’s the goal, I respond quietly almost modestly; secretly thinking wow, this guy really gets it. I’m probably glowing in the dark. I’m definitely smiling as we pass by the bank of mailboxes in one of those incredibly weird sub-divisions where all the houses are packed tightly next to one another for a few miles surrounded by vacant land again, and again, and yes. We ARE driving in circles.