Hardware, hard life

Today’s historic photo stop:

J. C. Brown General Merchandise

Jesse Charles Brown was a native of Falls Mill, Tenn., near Huntland. In the late 1890s, he came to Huntsville after the deaths of his parents.

He was brought here because someone saw him perched on a fence post – the universal symbol at the time that someone was in need.

For a year or so, he worked for P.F. Dunnavant, the legendary owner of Dunnavant’s Department Store.

In 1898, he opened his general merchandise store in west Huntsville, where business was thriving with the development of the textile mills.

Located near a row of microbreweries…

With an interesting brick building across the street…

This corner has potential for something, but what? The neighbourhood has many Hispanic businesses. Perhaps a Latin music dance hall with a bar that serves Cuban food?

Architectural Originality

Using both available material (new, recycled and natural) and inspiration from others’ innovation to assemble a greenhouse kit, we want to add a bit of originality to the repertoire of backyard meditative spaces.

Years ago, we planned a backyard writer’s cottage comprised of four sections tied to four compass points:

  • Castle tower to the north
  • Tin roof shack to the south
  • Adobe pueblo to the west
  • Buddhist temple to the east
  • The center portion was a crossroads, the floor a meditation labyrinth, the walls covered with Irish Celtic symbols, the ceiling a reproduction of the Sistine Chapel

Its shape gave tribute to our subcultural upbringing:

Back then, our construction capabilities were limited if not nonexistent.

We couldn’t find or develop the confidence to build the original design.

We have changed, grown confident, and now build what we want, giving ourselves a limited budget to force ingenuity.

The new design generalizes the meditative qualities of organised religion, removing specific symbology, wrapped up into the prefab greenhouse kit.

As for the rest, you’ll see soon enough!

Under a blue sky

In a world where members of our species rush to release the latest product into the marketplace in hopes of making a change, whether a change to their personal wealth or a change to sub/cultural practices, we sit and watch the trees slowly open new leaves, wonder about the life of a mistletoe bush growing on a tree limb high in the forest canopy, smell the little turf fire burning beside us on this cool Sunday morning.

Insects have hatched and bounce through the air in the backyard again.

Our life partner nurses a head cold brought on by seasonal allergic reactions and watches fictional love stories on the tellie.

We meditate.

What is meditation?

Meditation is getting out of our thoughts, out of our inner world, and existing as simply as possible in this moment, taking the phrase “at one with the universe” into unintentional practice, without agenda or purpose, letting our senses (our interface with external stimuli) exist without cultural interpretation.

Smell a new odour or fragrance whilst sitting and do not guess its source, only notice its effect on our olfactory system.

See everything taking place between us and an object in the distance, including the surface of our eyeballs, the dust floating through the air, the spider webs on the window and the insects flying through sunshine.

And when we let go of the labels, removing our interpretation of rainbow-coloured reflective lines as spider webs, we find ourselves deep in meditative trances.

= = = = =

Yesterday, after we left the house on our solo motorbike journey and stopped at the petrol station a mile from our house, ready for mindless meditation upon riding the road, our life partner called to ask if we’d check to make sure she’d unplugged the curling iron after she’d left the house for an all-day workshop of handmade notecard crafting.  We topped off the petrol tank and rushed home to unplug all devices in our bathroom so we could get back on the road.  Life is full of moments like this, happily giving ourselves over to our social connections and responsibilities that define partnerships.

= = = = =

Despite riding a motorcycle a few times in our lives — a minibike at age 10, our first adult-sized motorbike at age 22, a larger motorbike at age 36, and now an even larger motorbike at age 55 — we have much to learn to increase our confidence whilst riding.

Yesterday, we followed our Google Maps GPS-based directions to lead us to a mountaintop waterfall.  The directions took us on some mountainside road we were most definitely uncomfortable riding on, scaring us in fact.

Mountainside road

Riding on the outside of this road in winter, seeing the sheer dropoff to the right, no guardrail, no cover of tree leaves to hide the view, meeting a motorcar veering out into our lane in the curve ahead…well, let’s say that we burst into a sweat, despite the morning chill, keeping our throttle steady and our eyes focused straight ahead.

At the top of the mountain, we missed the sign for the waterfall and turned down the wrong road, due in large part to our nervousness.  We pulled into a gravel driveway to reverse our direction and, for the first time on this motorbike, because of a momentary lapse of confidence, fell over in the loose gravel.

Slo-mo it was, like in a film, the motorbike and us keeling over as we felt the gravel give way, using our left leg to ease the motorbike down rather than fall over.

Quickly, two motorists stopped to render aid but we waved them off as we used our motorcycle safety course training to shut off the engine and lift the motorbike back into a standing position, straightening out the leftside mirror, brushing the gravel dust off our leg and getting back on the road, our pride a little scratched but none the worse for wear.

We encountered one of the motorists at the waterfall and exchanged knowing nods, no reason to say anything.

Waterfall ride - 3 Mar 2018

= = = = =

Although our lives are brief in relation to the age of this planet, we see the insects outside and know a few of them have only a day or so to spend in their adult stage, seeking reproductive mates before they die, contributing much to the cycle of life of this planet if they can reproduce before being eaten, their sets of states of energy recycled no matter what.

In our morning meditation, casually recalling yesterday’s long motorbike ride from 0830 to 1530, with stops for petrol, sightseeing and hiking, we gladly know that the insects which died as they splatted against our motorbike helmet windscreen contributed to our time on this planet and we thank them for their anonymous contribution.

Fiefdoms, Inc.

When the Dragon declares itself ruler for life and the Bear rules for life by proxy, does the Eagle keep its dominion ready for war by allowing its chicks to accrue extra talons despite their propensity to kill one another in overzealous playfulness whilst learning to grow up, some eaglets never fully maturing, always attacking one another, no clear foe or prey to focus on?

What is the cost, what is the opportunity, what is future we want when cooperatively competing for the resources of a small water planet?

Working through the rain

On occasion, we stop physically moving — motorcycle riding, backyard building, aquarium cleaning, blood delivering — to observe not only the other living sets of states of energy around us whilst they interact with the drops of bacteria-laden rain falling around us, but also ourselves.

For at least or around seven years, we cultivated a new set of friends centred on the art/exercise of dancing.

We began with a few free ballroom dance lessons and progressed from there, getting to know our fellow novices as well as our instructors, thereby meeting them socially away from the dance floor.

These friendships grew,
even when we didn’t want them to,
knowing as we do
our inner selves we’ve carefully hidden from view.

We haven’t fully analysed, dissected and catalogued the interaction we easily understand as the emotional state of falling in love so it behooves us to compare the call of the Carolina wren outside to our conversations, note writing, text sending and flirting that led us to fall in love with our fellow dancers.

In other words, it was only natural.

We immediately fell in love with Guin for no reason we can readily provide.  To be sure, she fits within a category of Familiar that includes sister, mother and wife (our life companion we’ve known since 1974), the singular examples of labels that make for simplicity and frugality in our decision-making.

Guin seem to fill another role — that of ourselves in the binary gender opposite.

Also, we wondered if it was a type of matter/antimatter interaction.

Something about Guin led us to let our inner selves out into the open and, by doing so, drying up an old wellspring of writing material, for if one can live the life we felt compelled to write about, why take the time to write about it when living it was so much more emotionally challenging, thrilling, fascinating and fulfilling?

We know that life is generally cyclical.

Certainly, the bare deciduous trees outside soaking up rain falling in an unusually warm ambient temperature range this time of year testifies to both normal cycles and abnormal changes within cycles.

After seven plus/minus years of learning new dance moves — cyclical body changes one performs solo, in pairs or in groups — we felt the cyclical nature of body movement begin to wear us out, both physically and emotionally.

Yet, extricating ourselves from interwoven cyclical relationships we’d nurtured with people of various beliefs about relationship norms that made the dancing community what seemed like a basic part of the rest of our lives…well, it has taken longer than we thought possible, certainly longer than we wanted.

We don’t easily say “no” to friends, colleagues or customers.

We are people pleasers, never sure where our next meal is coming from, not knowing where we’ll spend the night, despite having established a successful financial portfolio with our life partner.

We know our time on this planet as this set of states of energy is temporary and oh so very brief.

We have worked to make ourselves as forgotten as possible whilst alive, a mantra we chanted to ourselves as early as our kindergarten years, quite possibly when we walked through the family cemetery over broken gravestones or explored old cabins rotting in the woods, definitely when we saw dead animals on paved roads, laughing quietly to ourselves at the comparison of asphalt as a type of reprocessed dinosaur bodies slowly absorbing a recently-dead animal, none of whom we knew, making us aware that we’re all forgotten over time.

For two or more years, we’ve wanted to tell Guin goodbye but couldn’t, always pulled back into her world in February, the month of love, our biological clock still ticking, part of us saying that perhaps giving up what we’d spent a lifetime building — a childless but financially successful marriage — could be thrown away on the small chance that Guin or someone she’d introduce us to would conceive and grow a child with us, making us not completely forgotten.

We are, after all, an integral part of this universe and our natural body urges persist no matter how much we say we can be above and/or outside the cycles of nature.

We’ve explored our thought patterns ad infinitum (if not ad nauseum) and determined we have a predetermined set of thoughts which do not change, although we’ve tried to change them to our detriment sometimes.

We have never fully figured out if our predilection for sexual monogamy is innate or learned for there is in us an unmistakable attraction to others besides our life partner but our thoughts are most comfortable when we say we are monogamous; many within the dance community are polyamorous, exchanging sexual partners as frequently and as easily as they change dance partners; thus, bringing forth a child within that environment was always going to be difficult for me to handle.

Friends of ours who grew up in an enviroment that countered their internal set of beliefs and made the transition to a community that supported them internally and externally have extolled the wisdom that we should get outside our comfort zone, referring mainly to their childhood subculture/community as the comfort zone that really wasn’t.

Because we are people pleasers and chameleons, we can give people the impression we are like them, reflecting their best characteristics back to them as PMA (positive mental attitude) practitioners.

For seven years, we have built a strong PMA feedback loop with sensitive members of the dance community, seeing they needed emotional support more than most, hearing their devastating life stories in need of reparation and structuring, far outside anything we’d call a comfort zone.

In turn, we sacrified ourselves, at first gaining the thrill of newness, savouring the creativity of an artistic community that supported our attempt of artistic expression in the way we lived, including the desire to write fiction.

In time, we suffered, the relationship with our life partner nearly torn apart — last summer, we tested the waters of divorce and found them wanting.

Thank goodness, our feet are firmly rooted in the reality of our true selves, not easily ripped out and replanted elsewhere, our comfort zone well established.

So, for us, the last seven years were interesting, giving us the opportunity to explore our beliefs, affirming and dispelling the illusion of inner selves, confirming that we are actually happy, depression being a reaction against threats to ourselves that were never really threats to begin with.

There is no reason to continue playing with fire in regards to hanging out with and getting emotionally close with members of the dance community who comfortably enjoy polyamorous relationships.

Will we miss Guin and all the others?

Sure we will.

But we expect them to forget about us pretty easily since they make friends quickly.

As for us, we are back to working on our longterm goals of walking a quiet meditative path onto our deaths, including the short lives of unicellular microorganisms taking place moment by moment within us and the ultimate end of our recognisable set of states of energy within the next few years or decades.

Whether our life or our life partner’s ends first is a mystery.  Either way, one of us will go on living quietly, finding ways to fill our time with our creative hobbies, being nice as we can be given our core personality traits, whether innate or learned.

A moment like this, writing in the sunroom, is what we work for in planning and building the meditative writer’s studio in the backyard with no fixed timeline.  This moment is all that matters, where we spend the next one never certain.

Bottom line: We feel much more relaxed now that we’ve purged seven years of frustratingly trying to squeeze our square set of beliefs into the expanding circle of Guin’s.  Guin gave us the feeling that we could be someone else, someone who lives hundreds of earthyears in the future, as long as we ignored our natural selves and pretended we were someone we are not.  Turns out we are who we are, not who we think we could be.  We happily live in this moment, not the roller coaster manic/depressive future.  Guin and others like her, including many of our coworkers, may be the future — we wish them well.  We always knew this quiet moment alone with a set of writer’s tools was all we had but were afraid to share it with others, including any random blog readers, because we were raised to believe we’re supposed to be aiming for a bright conspicuous consumption fully interactive community future, overtaking Mars with our expansion plans, moving from planet to planet and solar system to solar system, consuming resources with aplomb.  We are tired of consuming without end.  We are tired of managing multiple online personalities in the guise of social media profiles. We have given them up and returned fully to this blog.  In so doing, we live rather frugally within our means as much as we can, letting others manage our wealth to keep us comfortably frugal to the end of our lives.

In other words, finally saying goodbye to Guin this week hurts a little bit but we’ll get over it.