Connection to Place

DRFrom my balcony I watch a man dressed in gardener’s green carry a long bamboo pole towards one of the palm trees that dot the perfectly manicured lawns of this resort.  He holds one end of the pole and jabs the other end over and over, high into the palm’s branches until, with a thunk, a large, smooth-skinned fruit falls to the ground. He repeats the process, and a second fruit lands heavily, but this time, splits open with a spray of milk. The man drops the pole to the ground and with a practiced motion scoops up the fruit and holds the crack over his mouth. He stands there, head tilted back, both hands holding the fruit, almost motionless, letting the sweet liquid drip into his mouth.

I am aware, as I watch him, of the connection he has to this place, the great green earth, the trees and the air and the liquid contained in a fruit. A connection I do not have. His closeness to nature, his intimacy with his environment, makes me feel like a visitor to this planet.  I am only experiencing the most surface, the most exposed, the easily accessible parts of my world.

I had a garden once. I grew beans and tomatoes. I cleaned and boiled the first batch of beans before I ate them. I did not feel comfortable eating the food I grew. Dirt is dirty, to eat something that has been outside, exposed, seemed dangerous. At first.  But eventually, after it was obvious that I wasn’t going to poison myself, I picked a bean and ate it. I will never forget the taste of that bean, the texture of the sun warmed shell, the snap, the crunch.

But that was a long time ago, and now I live in a place with no yard, in an apartment above the earth, separate from the surface. I chose this separation, because to me the pleasure of a modern, albeit disconnected life outweighs the pleasure to be had in growing my own food.  Or perhaps I should say it another way.  The work and effort involved in growing those beans and tomatoes was a price I wasn’t willing to pay for the joy the food provided.

I will remain a visitor.  But I will know, while I watch the gardener drop the now empty shell and pick up his bamboo pole to move onto the next tree, that there is something I am missing.

A Composition on Composition

A Composition is a thing composed of various elements.

This post is a thing composed of definition and memory and an attempt to find balance.

First – definition:

See first sentence.

Second – memory:

Seventh grade english class: I am wearing my glasses because they are new. Before the week is out, I will lose them through a combination of negligence and embarrassment. ‘Four-Eyes’ is a commonly used phrase. Nerds are not cool yet.

While I can still see the board, I absorb the teacher’s lessons like a sponge. She is and always will be my favorite teacher. The repetitive boredom of summer sluffs off my sun-soaked brain and I leap into learning grammar and poetry and composition with the thrill of a diver on the high board.

The first composition assignment is written in purple ink at the top of my brand new homework notebook. The title of the composition is written in blue ink on the top of the first page of my brand new composition book. Over the weekend, the book bag containing both items sits ignored in the back-hall, while September skies pull me, briefly, back into summer.

Sunday night, at the dining room table, its varnished surface covered in the pressed pen-marks of two generations of homework-doers, my siblings and I struggle to finish what should have been done by now. The composition fails to live up to anyone’s expectations, including my own. On Monday the first C  is given and received, establishing the pattern of the year to follow.

Third – balance:

The word ‘composition’ always felt the way sour milk smells. Bad – off – wrong.  Back when writing was a chore, back when I didn’t know how to move thoughts from mind to paper. So hard back then, not so hard now. I’ve had a lot of practice since then.

The word ‘composition’ always related to words, a softer sort of essay, an alternative for the old-fashioned theme. But now it is reorienting itself in my brain. Expanding into new territory the way an amoeba moves a pseudopod to the next place it wants to go.

The word ‘composition’ now relates to art, my newest skill. Composition is what makes art interesting. A drawn banana is just as boring to look at on paper as it is to look at in real life. No matter how perfect the execution, a banana is a banana is a banana.

There are, as I am currently learning, eight elements of composition in art. One of which is balance. I learn that the balance of the elements of a piece can affect the mood. As in real life, when things are balanced, I am calm; when things are out of whack, I am a stressed out wacko.

Last – the composition:

At this moment, I am wearing my glasses. Perhaps the twentieth or so pair of my life. I can’t think of the last time I heard the phrase ‘four-eyes’ and nerds are cool now. Composition doesn’t turn my stomach any more. Composition takes the pieces of my abilities, my old skills and new skills, and sparks potential creative recombinations. The trick is finding the balance, holding on to the things that let me see what’s on the board, and not getting sucked into dull boredom of repetitivity.