An Extremely High Note

I’m like that guy who can very nearly hit his high B-flat.digital illustration

I’m reasonably useful in my little bitty part of the world, but my imperfections are both ever-present and well known to me. I have learned, long since, that as in real (physical/aural) life, in the metaphorical sense I am far better used as a chorister than as a soloist. My ego is neither too big nor too fragile for me to know that I make much better Filler in either setting than I do star material. Anybody with any sense knows that it takes a whole bunch of us to sing backup for the marquee artists, to act as support staff and cheering section and general-dogsbodies for the persons who are better designed for leadership roles. There are rare occasions when I’m the most experienced or skilled in the necessary ways for the task at hand, but as that’s mostly by default and by dint of the odds, I take no cue that it should become the norm.

I’d much rather stick contentedly to my supporting roles, humming along quietly as best I can, and perform no unintentional solos. If I ever get up that high B-flat, I’ll let you know; until then, I’d appreciate if those of you with the proper pipes carry on, and you can count on me for that low undercurrent of pretty-fair tones to fill in around your excellence. I’m excellent enough at my own, non-flashy, kind of stuff.

Heroes & Icons

What if we memorialized every great person who ever existed with a monument? Would there be a spectacular array, an endless crowd of museums and statues, or would it be a pitifully paltry showing?

We are accustomed, most of us nowadays, to thinking of people celebrated for simple excellence as entertainers of various kinds as being iconic or heroic. Does this last? Of course it does–in some small few out of the thousands. Mostly, though, at some point it becomes easier to see through the facade of greatness to recognize natural, ordinary  mortality, albeit often tinged with real excellence. photoAnd what recognition and reverence do we afford the true human treasures among us? The teachers and nursing home attendants, the hard-working janitors and the patient and nurturing parents who all work without expectation of worthwhile recompense for the true betterment of the world? Imagine the world decorated with art and architecture honoring the dedicated fireman who didn’t die in a dramatic explosive fire while saving orphans but instead served faithfully as a firefighter in his town for twenty-six years before quietly retiring to a modest split-level where he keeps his two young grandkids under his loving, watchful eye after school until their mother gets home from work. Picture statues commemorating the great deeds of the quiet lady who owned the small neighborhood grocery and after a hundred-year storm opened it and gave away everything on the shelves to the neighbors so they could survive until the needed services could be reestablished.photoThe collection of dedicatory art might be a lot less flashy and showy. But if every real great among us were recognized in this way, there would surely be a whole lot bigger and more meaningful museum of marvels among us, wouldn’t there.

A New Day

A beautiful rarity changes everything around it. The appearance of the exquisite anomaly transforms all proximal life into a sweeter reality. I have seen occasional scissor-tailed flycatchers since moving here, but these marvelous creatures clearly love to fly, and that means the sightings are fleeting and I am seldom fortunate enough to see them, let alone agile enough to record the moment photographically. But after constant misfires and long stretches of not seeing the pretties at all, I finally got my moment. Besides making me euphoric, it felt epiphanic.photoWhat if, I thought to myself, I could become like those lovely birds? Is it possible for ordinary people to be the beautiful rarities that break through mundane reality enough to spark others’ anomalous joy? Of course we can. It’s not easy, to be sure. But if we can be stirred so deeply by pretty little long-tailed birds, by an intricate mathematical equation, by a magnificent ocean wave, or by a rusty gate creaking open to a secret courtyard, why then, an act of kindness bestowed on a stranger or a smile lighting up a dark moment for a friend might in fact be just enough. And more might be better.photo

Super Chicken

mixed media artworkMy superpower, if I could be said to have any, is being supremely ordinary. Yeah, I’m really, really good at that. Now, you may think it’s not impressive that I’m good at being so-so, and you could be forgiven for thinking it. And yet . . .

Besides that it requires massive numbers of us mid-range sorts to keep nature in a sort of balance with the various human outliers at the top (and bottom) of the spectrum, there’s also the comfort and safety of being able to travel under the radar of scrutiny and pressure to which both kinds of exceptional people are exposed.

What on earth does this mean I am good at doing, at being? Why, I do what’s expected. I go to sleep; I wake up. I eat and I walk and I get dressed and undressed, and the world carries right on around me. And though I don’t at the moment have employment outside of our home, my current occupation being Homemaker, I spend myself and my efforts, rather, on doing the small and yet significant things that might not be essential to keeping the world operational but grease the gears, instead. And keeping the cogs working relatively smoothly is as useful in its own way as being the driver, the engineer or a cog myself. I go to meetings and do Projects, too, to be sure, but mostly what I do nowadays is fix a meal, repair a door-jamb, ferry my spouse and a student to a rehearsal. I do laundry; I prune the plantings near the window. Glamorous? Just exactly enough.

Because the luster of the day comes not from being admired and lauded but from being appreciated, even if it’s hardly necessary to hear that announced constantly–after all, the proof of its value is in plain view if the needful things get done. Any reward lies in the belief that I make life that one tiny iota smoother and pleasanter for that one brief instant, even if only for this one other person. It’s borne on the smile of relief worn by him whose sheaf of office paperwork got filed at last when he couldn’t get to it himself, or whose old slippers have been mended by the time he gets home from the office at the end of the day. It’s in the neighbor being glad to have the excess garden supplies or box of art materials I’ve collected to send to school with her. It’s with me when I arrange the chairs alongside the singers before a rehearsal when I come by to listen to their work. It’s mostly in knowing that the stuff needed to keep quotidian action on course is being looked after, bit by little bit. And that I’m the person for the job.

I don’t do this selflessly, of course, because I would hardly keep it up for long if it weren’t so simply and inherently rewarding. And it certainly bespeaks no genius or courage on my part that I do it, for clearly it takes greater skill and ingenuity and bravery to do all of the shiny, showy things for which I provide my atoms of encouragement from the periphery. Maybe a jot of courage only to admit to being a homemaker and loving it. So many who haven’t the privilege of the life seem to disdain it and misconstrue its meaning, especially if it doesn’t have either children or wealth as part of the equation. I am far more fearful of having no sense of purpose than of being thought unimportant by anyone else; I care more about feeling my own worth than having it validated by any outside agents.

So if I seem to anyone to be afraid of taking a larger role in the Real World as they see it, I suppose I ought to admit that in one sense I am. I know that having this Job for a few years has given me new strength and the ability to go out in the wider world for a so-called Real one again when the time comes, yet I do dread leaving this role that has given me a feeling of vocation more than anything else I’ve ever done and risking the dimming of any of the self-worth I’ve garnered or the value I’ve learned to impute to the tasks of being normal and simple and everyday, which I’ve learned to see as so much deeper and richer than they’d seemed until I tried on the role of their custodian myself. I do, at the end of it, think that if I’m a dull, bland or unimportant grease-monkey to the cogs of the world, I’m a damn good one, and if I’m scared of giving up that high honor, then I at least credit myself with being a superior variety of chicken.