Thursday, September 29, 2005

Build Me a Fire

Autumn finally hit my city today. The rains came last night, sweeping aside the curtain of humidity, revealing a stage set with clear blue skies and crisp temperatures.

I know Spring is supposed to be the season of love when the world is awakening from its icy slumber, emerging from hibernation, ready to seek interaction again, but Autumn might just outdo Spring for me. Spring's ardor is so blatant. Bright blooms cry out for attention. Wild creatures buzz and purr as phermones draw them out of their solitude. Hormones run rampant as skirt lengths recede up thighs.

Autumn, however, Autumn's allure is found in its seduction. Autumn draws you in. She sneaks up on you, like any temptress might. She offers you succor from the sweltering heat of her sister Summer. Autumn coos and whispers, "Cross my threshold. Enter my embrace, here you will be safe. Here you will find comfort from your weary days."

Her breath sweeps 'round your ears, cooling the senses. She entreats you with chilly nights warmed by crackling fires, toasted marshmallows and mulled wine. Her game is slow and deliberate. Unlike her brazen sister Spring, Autumn does not herald her arrival. She creeps in purposefully and, like the rising tide, arrives upon the stoop of your sand castle before the bridge is drawn. She rolls around the moat, breaches the outer wall and crashes your inner sanctuary only to ebb away with the sinking tide, leaving behind a wreckage fit for her barren sister Winter.

She is a vixen of the most wily kind, this season Autumn. With cinnamon and cider on her side, she coaxes you into sweaters and scarves and close-toed shoes. She awakens carnal instincts. She begs to be kindled, stirred, stoked and allowed to blaze freely, her light reflected in our eyes. But in the end, she dies away, leaving only embers, ashes and that smoky smell that lingers in your sweater for weeks and your mind ever more.

Tuesday, September 27, 2005

But... You Don't Even LIKE Children

It was laughable, really, me getting a job at a day care. However, I'd rather laugh with a paycheck than continue with my sobering stint of unemployment.

It was the summer after I graduated from college. I had neglected to inform my boss that I would be around for the summer before moving off and starting a new life. As luck would have it, I finally got around to telling her the day *after* she had hired someone to take my place. I don't think I even realized she was interviewing for my position. Of course, as I had worked in the office for two years, including the previous summer, she would rather have had me around than have to teach a newbie, but alas, my procrastination (and a lacking budget) truly worked against me.

Speaking of lacking budgets, I attempted to find a "respectable" job for about a month before the funds ran depressingly low and I broke down, applying for the first guaranteed prospect: working for the campus day care. You may be able to guess my friends' reactions from the title of this post, but I reassured them that everything would work out swimmingly. After all, I had a nephew whom I loved and he was a kid. Therefore, if a=b (I love my nephew) and b=c (my nephew is a kid), then a must equal c, right? Surely, I must love kids, right? Wrong.

I was the last person they hired for the summer and ended up being the "floater." Basically, I would go wherever a person was needed. At first I was "stuck" with the two and three year olds. Monday, Wednesday and Friday mornings we had 18 of the little buggers, most of them ESL (English as Second Language). In the afternoon on those days, we had 5 kids, also some ESL, with one little boy who would NOT. STOP. CRYING.* Honestly, I don't know which was worse, the morning or the afternoon.

It wasn't until I this job that I understood the allure of "Happy Hour." Honestly, chasing after rugrats all day really wore me out and ran my spirits ragged. In a couple of weeks, though, I was moved to the four and five year old class. I *loved* it there. If you don't understand the different developmental stages of kids, let me help you out. Younger kids like to explore and learn on their own. They might have one or two bosom buddies with whom they will share their experiences. If you are not one of these people, back off-- or at least enter with caution.

Four and Five year olds, however, were fascinating. They played with me. They talked to me. They explained the inner-workings of their minds. Even the ESL kids could speak English for the most part and they even came out of their own worlds every once in a while to ask my name, to wonder who the heck I was and why I wanted to play with them.

Then my worst fear realized itself and I was switched back to the twos and threes. After playing with kids who would respond, I thought this sheer torture. That is, until Kevin repeated "truck" and Sam echoed "giraffe." At that moment, the moment where I realized they do pay attention and they actually want to learn from me, at that moment, my heart broke open and those chubby little hands massaged my soul into a play-doh-like goo.

I can honestly say those few short months at the day care changed my life forever. I loved playing with the four and five year olds, I even had some fun with the six to twelve year olds (though they work the nerves a bit themselves), but after I finally peered into a two year old's eyes and saw a little genius waiting to be taught, struggling to learn, inviting me into his independent little world-- after that, my heart was never the same.

Isn't it funny how that happens so often? You go somewhere to "teach" and end up "learning." I hope that never changes.

*Incidentally, this little boy did finally stop crying-- his last day at the day care. It was funny. He finally adapted and played and had fun. Then he had to leave all over again since he was just visiting the States for the summer from Korea. Poor little guy must have been so traumatized. = ( He taught me a lot, too.

Friday, September 23, 2005

Two Years Plus

Wow, it's been over two years since I started PRE. That's really odd to me. It doesn't feel like it's been two years. As a matter of fact, PRE was my second blogging endeavor, so it's been much more than two years since I entered the blogging world. Crazy, man, crazy.

I'm not as artsy as I used to be. I mean, on this blog. Actually, if I had to be honest, I'm probably not as artsy in real life, either. That's kind of sad. It's not that it takes much more time to be a little more creative, it's just that it takes just enough more time that I don't care to put the effort in to it.

I used to draw. With chalk. Not on sidewalks, although I did enough of that around my college campus in an effort to advertise events. But what I'm talking about is taking art chalks/pastels and a large sheet of paper and making something out of nothing. In college, actually, I wanted to decorate my room but didn't want to just buy posters of random things to put up, so I made my own. I took posterboard and old posters and covered them with pictures and phrases that inspired me. When I left college I left them behind.

Sometimes I feel when I left college I left too much behind. Granted, there are some pieces of immaturity that I was wont to leave-- thrift store chic can only get you so far in life before you have to "grow up." Even more so, thrift store chic mentality can only get you so far in life before you have to grow up.

I didn't think the chalk posters would wear well on the trek. And, honestly, I wouldn't have put them up again-- they aren't "me" any more. But sometimes I look at my chalks and I miss sitting on the hardwood floor of my little college apartment, music blaring, hands covered in color, art forming in front of me.

Today my artistic side tends to express itself most in fashion-- clothing, accessories, makeup. Especially makeup. It's the reason I'm a makeup addict, actually. I don't wear gobs and gobs of it, but I love the idea of creating with it. Makeup is an artistic outlet for me. I go into stores and before I know it, my hands are covered with shades like when I sat on that hardwood floor. Sitting in front of my mirror, I play and watch art form on the canvas that is my face.

And then I wash it away. I don't put it on my wall or save it in a scrap book. I watch it swirl down the drain or smear across my towel. So it is with my creativity these days. It is not so much documented here or in some journal, as it is painted into a flourish in my mind at night, only to be washed down the drain of forgetfulness by the maiden sleep. And what a detergent she is, for she leaves no trace of the masterpiece, save for a line or two smeared across my mind, a haunting residue of the art that was.

Thursday, September 22, 2005

Simulation Poverty

I don't know how many times a day or week I tell people I'm poor. I know I'm not actually poor. I'm not impoverished. I don't live on the streets and dig in dumpsters. So, I came up with a slant on the claim of being poor. Now I say, "I'm not poor, I'm indebted." In fact, that saying is more true than I could ever know.

Myles wrote a post recently about attempting to simulate poverty based on the HHS 2004 Poverty Guidelines. While an admirable challenge, I find at least one major flaw in his effort: it is an effort.

You see, I've worked with the poverty-stricken for a number of years now and if there's one thing I've learned from it all, it is this: circumstance plays such an enormous part of poverty. I have spoken to many men and women who have found themselves on the street and I only know of one who has really made an effort stay there. Granted, many men and women who find themselves on the street may give up trying to get off of them; they might succumb to the feeling that fate has cast them aside, but mostly, there is some attempt to rise above poverty.

Whether they be victims of natural disasters (such as the Katrina victims), drugs, alcohol, failed marriages, overwhelming hospital bills or run-aways from physical abuse, there's a feeling among a majority of the homeless and impoverished that poverty has beset them. They did not seek out poverty, it landed upon them. This leads to an attitude no simulation can ever replicate. It's the difference between being hit by a drunk driver and driving yourself into a pole. Both are tragic, but one is a choice and the other inflicted.

Friday, September 16, 2005

Someone Paved the Sky

While we rested unaware
Warming neglected beds
Vandals tricked the starry hunter
Washed him with cement

Orion where were you,
Where was your bow
Faithful guardian on high?
Not satisfied with fields and forests
They went and paved the sky

The sun won't rise or call the moon
To offer hope of light
They're trapped beneath the stone horizon
Where highway becomes sky

No longer simply under foot
But heavy over head
Eyes fall on steely monochrome
No green, no blue, no red

The world's faded into grey
Apparently over night
While we rested unaware
Someone paved the sky


Monday, September 12, 2005

I Left My Heart In...

I was Saturday night. The heat of the day had finally ebbed into a respectable temper. Overhead, a nearly half-sated moon cast a surprisingly bright light for its dark, maize-colored demeanor. Not a cloud dared vandalize the ebony canvas, though stars smattered about defiantly here and there.

Windows rolled down, the still night air forced to movement by my speeding vehicle, I allowed my senses to soak in the world around me-- including those emitting from my stereo. And then, with six simple beats of a song, it hit me: I have given away or inadvertently lost so many pieces of my heart that I'm surprised I have any love left to give at all.

It's funny how a beautiful night can remind you of love; how a simple song can remind you of times gone by. With those six beats I remembered someone who had stolen a piece of my heart that I may never see again. That memory triggered others and before I knew it, the cool breeze through my windows began to bite instead of refresh and the dark, open sky signaled loss instead of opportunity.

And yet, I continued to remember and with those memories came relief and gratitude, for even though my heart has traveled where my body never has, it still has more to give. Instead of despair at the love I have lost, I thanked God for the love I've been blessed to give and receive, and the ability to continue to do so.

With that realization, the horizon burst open once again as one of opportunity. The road unfurled before me leading to new adventures. My heart, rising and falling within my chest to the rhythm of the night once more. The song ended and I rewound it, listening to it with fresh, appreciative ears; grateful to be able to feel at all.