Thursday, January 14, 2010

And now for something a little different...

The fallacy in our thinking is that everything is random.

The phone rings.

I say this as someone who was once a born-again fundamentalist of the predestination persuasion, certain that my steps were preordained from the beginning of creation and impossible to change. There was a tremendous amount of comfort knowing that God himself was watching over me—me, one of the chosen. It wasn’t until later that the cracks set in, spiderwebbing the fragile shell of my faith. Where did free will come in? What about the stone age peoples of Africa and South America who never heard of the Messiah, were they doomed to an eternity in hell for their ignorance? And if so, what kind of god would do such a cruel, merciless thing?

“My ways are not your ways,” the pastor intoned, week after week, as if that were answer enough.

It wasn’t. It isn’t.

The phone rings. I glance at the caller ID. My stomach sinks. Here is the moment of reckoning.

Here is a connection, though I don’t know it at the time. Or maybe not a connection but a link. The differences are subtle and sometimes impossible to differentiate. Not that it matters. They’re really just lifelines tossed out to drowning souls.

“I hear,” the voice says, “you resigned from the council.”

“News travels fast,” I reply. Warning bells clamor. As a reporter, I’m wary of being on the receiving end of an interview.

“The agenda,” the man says.

Ah, yes. That.

I also believe that as a reporter it’s good to be on the receiving end of an interview, especially one with so many ways of being misconstrued. With so many friends reading it, and so many enemies.

My letter of resignation will speak for itself, I tell him. Within those short few paragraphs are enough truths to make it palatable, and enough half-truths to keep people guessing.

As with everything, there’s the official story and the unwritable story. I don’t tell him that I think artists, introverts, writers and other dreamers have any business sitting in judgment on their neighbors. Their natures aren’t geared toward dominance. The eyes of their souls look elsewhere.

“You’re supposed to say you want to spend more time with your family,” he says. “Politicians always use that as an excuse.”

“I prefer ‘going rogue.’”

He has a point. As we speak, I imagine a Wednesday evening spent with my wife rather than at a meeting that invariably leaves me wanting to get hammered.

Our disconnection leaves me disconnected. Lori’s gone and I feel adrift and now painfully exposed. I’d served on the city council for almost seven years, but times change, and so do people. And to tell the truth, I never wanted the position in the first place. The only reason I ran was because nobody else would. It certainly wasn’t for the money because there wasn’t any.

It wasn’t for the prestige, because there wasn’t any of that, either.

I return to the task at hand, transferring my photographs off the computer onto a pair of external hard drives. Mostly I’m preparing for the transfer, spending hours modifying and organizing my folder structure. It’s a rat’s nest going back to my first digital capture. Now I want order and tidiness. Maybe it’s a metaphor for a new chapter in my life. A better me.

I pop another beer and download the day’s photos. After some cropping, sorting and tweaking, I upload a few to my Web site. The hollow feeling is supplanted by something else, satisfaction, perhaps, or justification. The more I do this the more I understand Chase Jarvis’ paradigm of create-share-sustain. Creating art is great fun but only becomes real when it’s shared. Here, then, is my sharing: an image of our old bicycle covered with hoarfrost and the distant ridge veiled behind freezing fog, a blue jay behind a lattice of frosted branches, a wild rabbit. Beauty in the starkest of winters.

The sense of elation quickly fades. I’m back to dark thoughts about the upcoming news article, but I’m also ready to begin the transfer. I click the button and start the process. A little window pops up with a progress bar. It will take hours, so I turn off the light and head to bed.


The daily routine: up at three, two hours at the plant, back home to a cup of coffee and the computer. Gritty-eyed, fragile, lonely. Several e-mails await my groggy attention.

“This is now, officially, my favorite blog,” someone named k writes.

A little jolt runs through me. It’s not the coffee but the sense of a connection. A link. A lifeline.

And then there’s a short five-minute video on Chase Jarvis’ Web site. There’s not much to it, some mood music while a photographer is shown shooting toward the camera as a street rushes past. A very long street. At the halfway mark, the scene is reversed until the photographer is standing in an intersection. A traffic light flashes green, flashes red. Credits roll.

Okay, interesting, maybe worth a rerun because of the music. Then a screen appears giving the reason the video was created. The artists wanted to portray, and explore, what’s hailed as the longest street in the world—Yonge Street in Canada.

“Our personal journey down this street was no easy task,” the artist wrote. “After many steps, pictures, and pulled leg muscles, we traveled over 40 kilometers to make this video. In the end we can say that Yonge St. is as long as it sounds and offers everything the heart desires. We regret nothing.”


Lifeline. Connection.


We regret nothing.

Create. Share. Sustain.

I grab my camera and snap a shot of the early morning sun reflecting off the new external hard drives, a tendril of steam curling from my coffee cup. This is my world.

And later, after Lori returns home and my equilibrium is restored, I glance out the window to see a wild rabbit snoozing on top of Mr. Bun’s cairn. Something inside like a frozen chunk of ice breaks free and melts and for a long while I feel torn from gravity’s bonds.

“Come see!” I shout, and as Lori watches the rabbit watching us I wrap her in my arms and return whole and safe to the earth I love.

I regret nothing.


Carol said...

Very nice, Tom. I enjoyed the video too, and hope to share it. Wow!

Jenni said...

So many layers in your writing, such depth. Sometimes when I read what you've written, I feel that instead of looking at my monitor I'm looking at a mirror into the dark places of my soul. Sudden illumination and I'm nodding as I read, "Yes, yes, and yes." A link, a connection. Thank you for that.

Thank you, too, for the photo print and card. They arrived a few days ago. I can't wait to hang them both, reminders of a connection made with someone I've never actually met and with a piece of my own soul found in the words and images of another. What a beautiful, amazing thing.

Unknown said...

I so get this. Appreciate the honesty and simplicity, which (I've figured out) is why this is my favorite blog. Keep it up!

Tom Parker said...

Thanks you all for being there. We are kindred souls...

cheryl said...

Jenni - Tom is pretty cool in person, too. He has this wild and fun energy about him.

Tom, what always strikes me in pieces like this is how Lori always grounds you, she's your home base. What a great love you share.

P.S. Loved your "going rouge" comment.

Tom Parker said...

Jeez, Cheryl, the comment was "going rogue," not "going rouge." That damn u makes all the difference. Though maybe in retrospect that's what you meant? Pink or lavender?

cheryl said...

Hahahaha. As I was typing that entry I was thinking of the blooper I saw the other day in which the NBC Today Show news guy misspoke himself and called the book "Going Rouge." I guess that's why my fingers mistyped it. Heh.

- Dan said...

I think you need a t-shirt that says "I'm going rouge!"

Tom Parker said...

Dan -- Do not, I repeat, do not go there. Or I'll hit you with my purse.

shoreacres said...

Tucked into this entry is the biggest laugh I've gotten for a while. I'll give you a clue - seven words. Can you find it? You'll recognize it ;-)

Tom Parker said...

Linda -- I hope you mean the part about half-truths leaving people guessing. If not, give me a clue. Seven words is tough because I have to switch hands or start on my toes.

shoreacres said...

That wasn't a good clue, was it? About halfway down, you start a paragraph with this phrase:

I return to the task at hand...

Now, you see why I laughed!

Tom Parker said...

How could I not have seen that?! Yes yes yes. For readers who wonder what the hell we're talking about, Linda's most excellent blog is called "The Task at Hand." I must be going blind.