Awesome, Brilliant, Perfect

I do not shy away from using superlatives. Instead of, “thank you, that would suit my taste nicely,” if someone offers me anything that pleases me I’m generally much more likely to blurt, “perfect!” even though I know perfectly well that almost nothing in this universe is in fact demonstrably perfect. Quite the contrary, I should think.

But I do get a bit tired of hearing extreme words bandied about with such frequency in less-than-worthy circumstances that they can quickly become meaningless. If I am trying to pay anyone a compliment, it would sadden me to be unable to find a single proper turn of phrase worthy of the occasion because all of the fitting terms are so watered down and hackneyed by then that whatever I say will end up sounding like sidelong sarcasm. I hear people described as geniuses often enough that it would seem my own modestly strong intellect is actually appallingly lowbrow in comparison with the general population’s much more impressive IQ average. Even calling people brilliant, unless they’re visibly beaming with phosphorescence or incandescence, is probably overdoing it; most of the time I’ll bet it’s something that a fine yet ordinary person did or said or thought in a specific instance that was brilliant, shining so brightly in part precisely because of its having appeared in the setting of its less sparkling human source. Isn’t that spectacular enough? Most of us never get to think, do or say anything wildly impressive and distinctive in our entire lives, so why not appreciate the rarity and beauty of each occurrence of such brilliance without flattening it out through excessive flattery.

Awesome” is one of my most mourned of these half-dead words. The popular practice of calling all good things Awesome not only tends to defy the full meaning of the word as breathtaking, wildly impressive, and awe-inspiring, but makes it sound fatuous and empty to call anything genuinely deserving the title Awesome. I was reminded of this the other day when, on the drive home, I was startled to see what looked like a four-meter-tall stalk of asparagus growing in a neighbor’s front garden, right by the road. It was the flowering spike of a ‘century plant‘—a magnificent blue-leaved agave of the sort that grows to rather massive proportions in its native climates (Texas included), though only for about 1 to 3 decades rather than an actual century. The centennial reference is to the habit of this beautiful but spiny plant, in that it bears, only once in its lifetime, such an impressive tree-like stem as this that can sometimes reach eight meters in height, and when it’s reached its peak it bursts, almost frighteningly quickly, into a firework of magnificent, prehistoric looking yellow flowers, and then dies, leaf rosette and all, with the exception of whatever offshoots it has meanwhile nursed to, quite literally, supplant it.Century Plant

And let me tell you, the sight of one of these beautiful monsters rocketing into bloom in my very own neighborhood is not only tremendously surprising, it is awesome. It is a rare and showy natural oddity and worthy of jaw-dropping, gasping, stomping on the brakes very suddenly, awe. So I’m here to tell you, if you weren’t already fully aware of it, that I have no hesitation about using any and every superlative I can dredge up when I think the occasion calls for it. I’ll keep trying to be more accurate and varied in my terminology so as not to denude the language of its full use. But, admittedly, I’ll keep falling down on the job like most others do. I’m not perfect, after all.

Green Means Go

It’ll be a while yet. Spring and its sprouts aren’t making any particular headway even here in Texas just now, and I don’t expect to see any more than tiny hints of promising green until the current cycle of typically unpredictable and radically changeable temperatures settle into their usual late-February-into-March kindliness. But I can’t help thinking ahead.photoAfter all, there’s such a compelling sense of momentum that comes with those first tiny glimpses of something ever so delicate and yet determinedly pointy that forces its way out of hard ground and harder branches. The very fact that they can emerge from such unwilling sources tells me that once they’ve driven through those barriers, not only is there little that could stop them, they will pick up speed as they go, unfolding, uncurling, swelling, bursting into bloom, and finally, enlarging into the full fruits of the season. Such a suffusion of newness and energy and purpose!photoI look forward, in the same way, to some of my many projects coming to fruition, as I so rarely know what the final outcome will be, really. What seems like a perfectly lovely little green bell pepper can grow up into a dramatically bold but even sweeter scarlet capiscum, if nurtured and tended along its sojourn of development; in the same way, what may have begun as a quick little one-line idea sketch with pencil or pen while I sat in the back of a rehearsal hall or in the waiting room before an appointment could well grow up, over time, into a digitally enhanced illustration full of color and texture and layers that I hadn’t planned at the start. Whatever the result, it begins with the green bud or the green light of an idea, and I cannot resist the allure of that color, beckoning me with its promises and possibilities.

Morning’s Glories

photoYou’d think I knew nothing whatsoever of the morning’s glories, being a late sleeper by choice and reluctant to go anywhere outside of my own quiet home even when forced to be Up early. Or what feels like early to me. Yet I get up before dawn at least once a week for the trek down to Dallas, and I’ve certainly flown plenty of times on morning flights that required my appearance at the gate at some ghastly hour, since it’s usually slightly cheaper then and often it means arriving at my destination with some margin of time to get me to my intended lodging by bedtime, if not to earlier events.

And amazingly, I’ve found things to enjoy in the morning hours. Sunrise can easily be as grand a spectacle as a sunset, and when the world begins to stir it’s often in fascinating and literally eye-opening ways that the sleepy end of day can’t share. There is a tinge of excitement to wondering what lies in the day ahead, and sometimes even a sense of urgency that can stir me to look forward with greater intensity to what is to come.

Still, I’d far rather lie abed and greet the day in slothful comfort. If I can do so with the curtain open and the splash of a brilliant morning glory peering in at me, that’s perfectly welcome and will likely make my rising the easier. Just let me greet the day at my own pace and I will happily sing the morning’s glories when I’ve gotten up much later as I’d like.

In the meantime, on this day of America celebrating the immeasurable gifts found in and through the life and work of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., I am reminded that the most dazzling and magnificent light is that streaming from the souls of good people who go about the work of making the world better for all, no matter what the risk. May we shed light on our neighbors, friends and family through what we do and the way we live, today and every day. No matter when the day actually starts.

Early or Late, Good Sleep is Great

digital artworkRestoration Drama

Give me dreams, but let me sleep,

In peaceful rest to lie—

Haul off the tossing, counting sheep,

The nightmares passing by—

Yes, make the most of forty winks,

A hundred, if I may;

Remove insomnia and keep

Harsh wakefulness at bay—

No more foul nights as hostage to

Psychosis’ nasty knife—

Now, make a truce and make it true,

Right through eternal life!

No Phobia of Goddesses Bearing Blessings

[Note: You should, however, skip the third frame if you’re arachnophobic.]photographic presentation of textphoto