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.

Rainmakers

Now that super storm Sandy is mostly past, those in the wake of the destruction are left to dig out from under all of the mayhem. As all natural disasters do, Sandy left behind not only massive damage brought on by the high winds, flooding, snow, fire and explosions that were part of the storm and its immediate effects but a whole swath of financial, social, political, logistical and definitely not least of all, emotional and personal damages that will take years to be mitigated, let alone resolved. Besides the losses of life and health that are such obvious costs of a massive storm ripping through, we all know–those who have been through this grinder before, anywhere in the world most especially–that there are innumerable other things once held dear that have been slashed away in a few hours’ time and many of them will never be recovered.digital painting from a photo

The homes blown down, stripped away by violent waters, or burned were filled with people and lives and the Stuff of those lives–in many cases, all gone. The businesses closed for a few days, often in crucial periods of their peak season, are eclipsed by those whose doors, if they still physically exist, will close forever and by the many owners and employees and customers who will have to find other resources for making a living or acquiring the services and goods they count on to shape their ordinary lives. They will all find, as my spouse said very quietly to me when I came down the stairs to find him waiting palely on the 11th of September in 2001, that ‘the world as we know it has changed.’digital painting from a photo

But we also know from long experience that disasters, whether natural or human-made, can bring unexpected goodness trailing in their wake. The immediate selflessness and generosity and heroism shown by those who rush into the maelstrom to save others and who pull the stricken into their waiting arms of safety and warmth and shelter and healing are, when we others take a lesson from their shining examples, only the first wave of light and hope to follow the darkness and despair. If we all, whether by the nebulous but potent means of offering support in our hearts, minds, prayers, and invention or by the more concrete ways of donating, digging, driving; of building stronger buildings to replace those lost, remembering those who have died with forward-looking perpetuation of their virtues, and taking up whatever tools we have to recreate a more closely knit community that can expand exponentially to bring in every person with every need and every gift that can fill that need–then every storm is not an irremediable horror and every battle is not the one that will end safety and sanity forever. We are bigger than the storms. We can be the rainmakers who rise up out of ordinariness and even destruction to build something real and new and extraordinary.

Getting in Touch with (My) Nature

I’m sorry to say I’m not cut out to be the savior of the planet. I’m not even very good at saving coupons or saving your reverence. There are lots of saints and superheroes better suited than I am to rescuing goodness, health and happiness. I’m just pleased with myself if I can get the recycling out on time for pickup, fix the wiggly leg on a chair so I don’t have to get a whole new chair to replace it, pull up about six weeds about twice a week. My part in world betterment will always be a smallish one.

But I do have a part in it. I’m ready and willing to play it. One little thing that is on my list of preferred universe-improvement techniques is to work on gradually including a bit less in my daily eating habits and freeing up those calories for people who actually need them more. Ideally, I’d like to find a few ways to see that those people who actually need them get them as well, whether it’s because I feed them myself with my cooking or my modest attempts at micro-mini-farming (I expect to successfully grow up to eighteen vegetables in this season alone), or because I support causes that are better equipped to feed them through charitable or communal means.

Another dainty little improvement I am willing and possibly even able to make in the condition of the quality of life as it exists on this planet is to find more ways to make less waste. I am researching how to capture both the rainwater falling on and the grey-water produced in my house for reuse and distribution in the garden. In Texas, that’s not just a potential money-saver but if drought conditions like last summer’s return or persist, a potential life-saver. But it shouldn’t be too terribly hard. The water’s there. It just needs to be corralled and redirected to where it can be most useful. It’s a natural adjunct to the aforementioned dinky farm-let of a garden with pint-sized patches of vegetables, plus a greater devotion to native, drought-resistant and wildlife friendly plantings that should, over time, reduce the whole yard’s dependence on additional water, provide a bit more natural cover and food for the local bugs and beasts and birds, and ultimately, require less maintenance and far less artificial or chemical intervention to preserve it all in vigorous health and beauty.

My self-improvement plot is mighty simple by comparison even to these extremely modest proposals. I’m just going to try to give in to my less-than-ideal motives and personality quirks less frequently than is my native inclination. I’m going to push myself to consciously and conscientiously do more of the nicer and better and more productive things I am capable of doing, more of the time. Beyond this I’m not certain I can go–but my plans being undersized as they are, I hope that I have just that much more chance of making my individual pin-prick of a difference for the better in my portion of creation, however puny, circumscribed or insignificant it may be. Better by far than not making the attempt. Reality is overwhelming and bemusing enough. Why not work on tweaking it one sweet, precious atom, if I can?

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This is where I landed. Where can I fly from here?