That’s our new neighborhood, over there. The robins are going crazy outside today, worms and twigs and scraps carried off to make ready. Build! Prepare! I know how they feel.
For the next few weeks, we’ll still have these views right out our back door. Views like this give me an instant sense of place. The bigness of the sky and broadness of the horizon does not make me feel small. It makes me feel located. Situated. Part of everything.
From atop our butte, we can stand in the sunshine, and watch three or four different weather systems cross the high desert plateau. Huge cloud shadows slide across the ridges and creases of faraway hills. Today, there are waves of snow passing west to east–the white, vertical swaths in this photo. From inside, where I sit working, I can watch the graupel fall and skitter down the incline of our neighbor’s roof. Every few minutes, it switches to soft, drifting flakes. Right now, I can see a robin on that roof, holding nest makings in her beak. Spring-winter mashup. (Sprinter?) It’s beautiful.
Writing prompt: Downtown.
You can walk the entire length of downtown, end-to-end, in less than 10 briskly paced minutes. Start at the library, go north toward the historic post office. There is a concert hall marquee, high-end shoe store, giant stuffed Totoro outside the Japanese anime shop. You will go past the Birkenstock store where you can put your name on the list for eggs from the owner’s home coop. There will be beautiful teenaged girls in lycra and Uggs, raccoon-eyed with goggle burns, tangled hair that must smell like mountain wind and snow powder.
Coupla nice restaurants with trendy cocktails. Sushi. Breweries. Expensive “home goods” boutiques with things like “reclaimed barn wood entry tables” and lamps from Sweden. Two candy shops and a toy store. Sometimes, a busker will show up with drums made from oil cans, or a gypsy selling crystals lined up in rows on a Mexican blanket. There will be women in tight jeans, high leather boots, fur-collared Patagonia parkas, expensive makeup not quite hiding their age. They will browse the racks of designer clothes, self-conscious and primped.
Off the main drag, past the bookstore promising live music on Tuesdays, sharp turn into an alley, look for the chipped, vintage school chairs lined up by the brick wall. Inside is a coffee shop and roastery, hipsters staring sullenly into their Airbooks. The barista will be wearing a snug plaid shirt with snaps and Warby Parkers. The espresso will be perfectly extracted, the latte milk a precise, glossy 150 degrees. The gal from the bakery will show up with the pastry delivery and almost everyone will greet her by name. Her cheeks are rosy like rose hip jam above a nubbly crocheted scarf.
The skies will turn indigo at dusk. The river slides by, silver.
I am a preparer.
Not a planner. Plans suggest that we have control. Planning fixes the future in place with best intentions. But I believe the best plans are almost always laid to waste — at the very least nibbled away at the corners, sometimes gutted from the inside out.
Preparation is the best we can do. We can learn and teach, assemble and arrange, train and organize, take inventory, calculate odds, push ourselves forward, trust and hope. Then add a heaping cup of Life and shake vigorously.
One of the first real arguments I had with my father was about the nature of spontaneity. He asserted, you cannot prepare for spontaneity. I vehemently insisted that you can be more spontaneous if you are prepared for the moment. (I was 12, and pretty sure I had life sorted out.)
I still don’t know who was right. But, thanks to the late David Rakoff and his book Half Empty, I have a nice label for the way my preparer brain works — I am a contingency thinker.
Yes, I am beleaguered by the What-ifs. I am a cursed Cassandra, able to see the future and unable to do anything to change it. But I am also an excellent process thinker and decent project manager. I’m really good at listening to your vision and helping you find a path forward, through the stones and around the flash flood zones, straight on toward whatever lights you up. I’ve been known to throw obstacles in my own path, but I’m great at helping you remove yours.
I bounce back from calamity with fortitude and resolve, because I’m not surprised that things fall apart. With a grim cheeriness, I acknowledge that the center does not hold. (Except when I’m clutching the pieces, grasping at falling shards, insisting I can hold it all together. But that never works for long.)
All of this brings me to Monday morning, early. Barely awake, I was pulling apple sauce and bread from the refrigerator, and my daughter’s lunch box from the cupboard, when my spouse said, “You remember it’s President’s Day. There’s no school.”
Crap. CRAP. What are we going to do all day? I wasn’t prepared for this. A Kipper marathon loomed bleakly on the horizon. Endless Candyland. And then a little, crazy, totally impractical idea wiggled across my mind.
I started swatting at that idea with every contingency I had — no way, we don’t, I can’t, what if … and then I stopped. I stopped myself right there, and I held myself to my own bendable-life promises. The ones I made when we closed up shop on our old life and called do-over: Fear less. Follow through on good ideas. Jump in and see what happens. Trust adventure. Trust yourself.
Forty-five minutes later, the kid and I were in a car haphazardly stuffed with snacks, swimming suits, pajamas, and audio books — heading east on Highway 20. It turns out, we had everything we needed, and then some.
Happy Friday Sky Day, everybody. Go find the horizon. Jump in.