Friends are the family you choose, or you happen upon, going part of the way with you or years with you, precious as diamonds, rare as rainbows, more fun than a carnival. Sometimes they’re dogs. My friends are all very different from me except for ineffable qualities of heart, respect, affection and sympathy. In our cyber world, friends can live thousands of miles away. Wherever they are, life is much better with them than without them.
My friend has a developmentally disabled son, now in his 30s if you look at his birth year, but all over the place if you look at his development. I spent the past weekend at their house and the first quality time I’ve had with him in a while.
He can be maddening. Sometimes you want to say, “Could you just stop being so weird and annoying for five minutes?” but he can’t. Soon after you think that, you shrug and relax into “M time” and “M reality.” It’s seriously non-negotiable. If you can cross the bridge, you stand to experience some moments of extraordinary sweetness.
I paint rocks — as everyone knows. I’ve painted a few for M. He loves snakes, so I painted a rock of one of his snakes — a corn snake — as a Christmas present. I’m not sure he recognizes HIS snake in the rock, but he likes the rock and that’s what matters. Suddenly, this past Sunday, M wanted to paint snakes on rocks. I said, “OK, let’s do that,” and sent him out to find some good rocks to paint. He came in with rocks that were too pretty to paint and too small.
“You need to find some bigger rocks, M. Flatter, too. And these are too pretty.” M has a well-developed, if slightly bizarre, aesthetic sense, and I’m fairly sure he chose those rocks BECAUSE they were pretty. He went back out. His mom and I agreed it was a good strategy to send him out to a yard full of rocks so we could have a little piece and quiet.
When he came back he had two plausible snake-painting rocks. He got his paint, a new brush he’d bought at the art supply store the day before when we all went together, and he was ready. He even got a little plastic model of a coiled rattler, ready to spring, to model his painting on. The problem is that the plastic model was three dimensional and the snake on the rock would be two.
“Good idea,” I said. “But we can’t paint exactly that on the rock because it’s flat. Does that make sense? We can paint him, though.” I drew the coiled snake on the rock explaining to M what I was doing. Then he painted the coiled snake white. As the paint dried, he painted another snake on the other rock, this time green. It came out like a green blob because M’s unique physical coordination doesn’t give him excellent small motor skills. The white paint was dry, so I sketched the snake on the white paint and Mark painted it. “We need tan paint,” I said. All we had was an assortment of primary and secondary colors, no earth tones.
“How?” he said.
“Like this. Give me some green.” He slowly and deliberately opened the green paint. He didn’t want to spill it. “Great. Now I need some red.” He did the same with the little tub of red paint. “Awesome. I need some yellow.” Two shades of tan emerged, perfect for the rattler.
Then I sat back and watched. This is where the M magic comes in. No painter EVER felt more love or interest for his/her painting than M did for what he was doing. It was a very beautiful moment and I got to witness it.
You never know. More and more I think the purpose of life is the appreciation of small beautiful moments.
That evening, he, his mom and I played some card games together, Uno and Skip-bo. M is very skillful at both. Then it was time for him to go to bed, but he didn’t want to go. He employed every manipulative trick in his repertoire to delay that moment. At one point he looked at a photo on my phone. I put my hand over my phone, looked up at him, and grinned. He picked up that I was onto him and he started to giggle. I giggled, too. It was truly very funny, our inside joke. And I thought, “Who’d think I’d be giggling at this point in my life?” I silently thanked M for that.
The day began gray and somewhere in the 20s; unusually balmy for this time of year. The gray hung on, lower in some parts of town than in others, leaving behind hoar frost on a random tree and bush here and there. All the stores were closed except food stores, even the two liquor stores were closed. In fact, there aren’t many stores in Monte Vista.
After cleaning up the dog run, I grabbed the snow shovel and cleared the driveway. It was barely worth shoveling, but melting anything can lead to ice. It’s a pretty big driveway so it took a little while. Dusty and Bear barked at me through the fence and I told them to get over it.
I then cleared the walk beside the house and headed out to the front to get the walk from the front door to the sidewalk where my neighbor was sweeping away the snow with a heavy push broom. We shot the breeze for a while, said hello to another neighbor and his dog, then went back to our days. My main chore was going to the store and getting bananas and other necessary things that I was out of. The store was pretty full and I still have part of my California paranoia that people behind me in line are in a hurry. I was using the self-checkout (ha ha I think that’s a riot). I turned and apologized to the woman behind me. There’s a Bronco game today and she was all ready in her jersey, “It’s all right,” she said, “there’s no need to rush.”
No. I’m in Monte Vista. I’m in Monte Vista. ❤
Got home, ate lunch, rode the stationary bike, did my yoga, fed the dogs, talked to another neighbor on the phone (she’d passed by when I was calling Mindy from the front door), took a shower and now I’m writing this which sounds, probably, like a lot of NON-news, but…
A tranquil gray day is something to cherish. A neighbor who sweeps your walk is something to cherish. A neighbor who calls to make sure you got Mindy inside is something to cherish. The breaking clouds and sun on the mountain is worth a lifetime. A friendly smile at the not-so-supermarket is so much better than some angry guy yelling, “Why don’t you go through the checkout line with all that stuff?” and you only have 8 items… My third New Year commences here in Heaven and I think that, rather than making resolutions, it makes more sense to count the blessings of the past year. I won’t bore you with the list because, you know, it’s very, very long.
For two weeks now I’ve planned for this reading. I’ve practiced, written an introduction that wasn’t too long, found a chapter that is exciting, mysterious and makes people want to know more.
My friend Lois drove down from Colorado Springs over a mountain pass in less than ideal weather to be here. The weather has been cold and a little snowy — snowy enough to coat the warm streets, to melt and to freeze. We headed out. About 2/3 of the way to Alamosa (18 miles from Monte Vista) I could tell the roads were becoming increasingly icy under blowing snow. There was a 4WD truck in the ditch. Down the road there had clearly been an accident. We decided to turn around, come back, have dinner.
In the restaurant, I called my neighbor who had been planning to go. She was already there. Once at home, I put a note on Facebook to tell people what had happened and I then learned how many of my friends had gone to the library to get a book signed and hear me read.
I feel humbled, loved, appreciated and a great many more really wonderful things.