Gratitude: Germination, Money, Traffic, Tow Trucks

Gratitude is a practice that grows with use, strengthens as it gets stronger, spills out of the heart and into the world. Reciting the same dry words over and over again does not suffice. I need to write it down, seek out the new, let the words and associations spill out of me, touch each other off, tiny candle-flames coalescing until they’re blazing through the darkness.

As the days grow shorter, the trees flare and drop and reveal their bare architecture, my sap flows downward into silence. Under the snow, summertime slumbers. My mouth tied up with cobwebs and leaf mold, and underneath the filaments that hold the soil together, erupting after rain into white shoots of mushrooms — Indian paintbrush.

Three weeks ago, I struggled through unexpected traffic, late to a too-early appointment, left my car in its spot too long while the ignorant hounded me and I turned them tai-chi-like into pupils, and when the work was done and I could raise my head, I left the building to find my car half-hoisted in the joist of the tow truck.

I knew what came next. You don’t live in a city like Boston for ten years without knowing what came next. I danced the dance, said my lines, pleaded for mercy, failed to weep or gnash my teeth when the greasy man said, “Fifty dollars. Cash.”

Slaves who had become kings. I opened my wallet. No cash, but a card, and he would wait while I went to the ATM. Two twenties and a roll of quarters later, I was free, some buried part of me seething, sure, but the rest of me remembering how, in years past, I’d done the endless drive to industrial waste-yards, paid the fee and then the fee again, seen the greasy kings boasting about their orchards of waiting cars, the kings of trespass towing.

Learned the hard way that keeping my papers in order was not optional. Plodded to the other halls of justice, gave this paper-stamper and then that one my money more money always more money, watched my bank account wither past zero and into the land of deprivation, trying not to worry, not knowing what would keep me in the freezing room I rented with three others in Cambridge, eating lentils and rice in a cold winter porch, trusting in an unknown abundance despite the evidence.

And on that afternoon I saw the fruit of all that suffering.

Fifty dollars is a fortune when you have to it give to the miserable man in his miserable truck, and can be free to drive, comfortable and warm, through the bright autumn afternoon.

Kellie Elmore: Autumn's Apology

I got up to close the window
and saw her
she was spinning in the yard
and painting the leaves on my trees

sorry I was late

— Kellie Elmore, Autumn’s Apology

Haiku: Menotomy, Early Autumn, Cicadas, Late Summer

Menotomy lands
orange leaves upon a single tree
first sign of autumn

shrill drone of insects
green lawn dappled by sunlight
and wind in the leaves

The Gods Wait to Delight in You – The Laughing Heart, by Charles Bukowski

Last fall, every day, on the way to the Alewife stop on the Red Line, in a very dark time, I would see a poster someone had pasted on the concrete under the overpass. Superimposed over the image of a person, spreadeagled under a nighttime sky, these words:

your life is your life
don’t let it be clubbed into dank submission.
be on the watch.
there are ways out.
there is a light somewhere.
it may not be much light but
it beats the darkness.
be on the watch.
the gods will offer you chances.
know them.
take them.
you can’t beat death but
you can beat death in life, sometimes.
and the more often you learn to do it,
the more light there will be.
your life is your life.
know it while you have it.
you are marvelous
the gods wait to delight
in you.

The poster is still there, fading, parts of it ripped and flapping. The words can still make me cry, even more so now, when I learn that they were written by Charles Bukowksi, who carried his own black dog and still strove to walk the strand that all artists walk, between solid land and the ocean.

Full attribution: Charles Bukowski. “The Laughing Heart.” Betting on the Muse. Harper-Collins.

November Haiku: Yellow Leaves on the Ground

leaves against grey sky
winter’s chill but still yellow
carpeting the ground

standing on sunshine
while all around you winter
winches tight its grip