Tag Archives: winter

Morning Moments, Part Two: The Perch…

 

perch

Pallet Perch

 

Sitting in my blue chair, watching a lone hawk glide effortlessly over the fields, Sasha rooting around behind me in the snowy woods, the winter sun bathing my face. Across the meadow, a phalanx of birch hold sentry at wood’s edge. Close to me, skullcaps of snow cover stones on a low wall.

It was calm save for a soft wind rustling pine needles, showering me with a fine mist of snow dust. The oaks and pines creaked and groaned, swaying high above from lofty winter gusts. Only a gentle frigid breeze eddied about me as I sat contemplating such tranquility.

As in yesterday morning, I concentrated on the moment at hand. After all, what else was there? Present, but lost from worry, from stress—lost from monkey mind.

It was pure. I stayed one, surrounded by nature, by the world, by the universe, alone yet part and parcel of eternity. Such moments keep a soul attuned to the tension, the rhythm, the sway of nature.

Does a squirrel high in a sycamore wonder what time it is, slavishly glancing at a wristwatch (okay, iPhone) distressing that he’ll be late for his AA meeting? (Acorns Anonymous.)

Or the crow flying overhead. Does he flagellate himself for being late at the gathering on Elm Street for the latest roadkill? No. No such codswallop. The squirrel and crow exist. For the moment. That is all they have. There is no scheming, no nights of lying in nests, stressing about missed carrion weeks ago or formulating plans to screw over a crow-worker.

A hammering in the distance startled my reverie. A pileated woodpecker, banging its head against a tree. At least it has a purpose. Humans doing that serves to illustrate the sheer, absurd drivel we engage in. Does lying in bed, stressing over Monday’s workload have anything to do with Friday night, free from work, the whole weekend ahead? No. Yet only humans perform such self-inflicted misery. Time to reclaim mind. Time to reclaim what is the moment.

Sasha still roots about, as though searching for delicate truffles. Crows fly over the fields, winging their way to a kind of kaffeeklatsch, a murder of friends out for…well, maybe not coffee.

I sit and absorb all this without judgment, without comment, without question. I am simply here. The lesson learned, to allow my soul such moments, such time, such experiences, to exist and lessen the chaos I create.

Later on, between twilight and dusk, when all is silhouette and night beckons, I went on the deck to retrieve the birdfeeders. A jet passed on by. It left a slight pink contrail, like a flame without a candle. The jet slowly faded, a mere glimmer in the distance. But the flame remained, floating, slowly diminishing in size, a last gasp of light upon darkening skies.

It simply was.

 

Copyright, Paul Grignon, 2018 – All Rights Reserved.

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UPSsence of Insanity…

This post clocks in at around 1,600 words so perhaps you’d like to take a break and come back later to finish. And thank you, as always, for stopping by.

Barely secured, jostled about on a slim stiff seat, a bumpy cold ride as brumal winds whistled through an open door, I was on my way to deliver packages to folk who cared not a whit to our plight. Yes, such as it was, my brief stint as a UPS driver helper during these past holidays.

Luckily my driver Mike was a good-natured sort and during those long hellacious days, he provided much needed laughter. You had to have a sense of humor for this job. That, and be a masochist.

Mike’s route consisted of locations around the Sturfield environs, encompassing a few  expensive enclaves as well as hovels and a smattering of businesses along the way.

As we got to know each over the course of three weeks, I told him not to expect any holiday tips from the townsfolk, the wanna-be rich who reside in preposterously over-priced, maxed-out mortgage McMansions, cookie-cutter structures flimsily constructed, replete with immaculate tiny verdant lawns carefully groomed with unnecessary, expensive sit-down mowers. Folk who wish to appear wealthy, who want to believe their town was special, like a Newton, Brookline, or Holden. But it was all an illusion.

The rarefied air was unfounded, the stink of elitism was unwarranted, the kind of town where brown people are hard to come by.

“You don’t think so?” Mike asked, peering at me as we drove at ferocious speeds to our next icy destination.

“I’ll bet you get absolutely nothing. Maybe, just maybe, if you’re lucky, a $10 gift card to Dunkin Donuts. But I doubt it.”

“C’mon, it can’t be that bad.”

“Mike, you will learn that Sturfieldians are, in two words, fake and cheap.”

We bounced along rutted roads, in back the overstuffed van tossing packages indiscriminately. There was no discernable rhyme or reason to the load, packed to the ceiling.

Mike only had this route since September, so he had no idea of the type of people who lived there. He was in for a rude awakening.

There were some townsfolk , I told him, who thought it beneath their status to shop at Walmart, preferring to purchase their skillets and Skittles at Target or, for less bang for your buck, at Crate & Barrel.

I told Mike a story of some people (we used to call them friends) who complained how they had the smallest house in the neighborhood, a desirable enclave of eclectic structures that spoke of old money.

“We walked with them one Halloween,” I began, “and whenever we met their friends or neighbors, they never introduced us. It was evident we were beneath their social status. At the time, we were renting a house, as if the word ‘renter’ was taboo, to be whispered only, hushed like the word ‘cancer’.

Mike looked at me, wondering if I was pulling his leg. But something in his eyes told me he knew I spoke the truth.

“No, Mike. Sorry. No tips for you!” I said in my best Soup Nazi voice.

Fighting bitter winds and miserable snapping curs, my job was to jump out the open door, take packages and sprint up ice encrusted driveways or cut through lawns and deposit parcels on icy stoops. This was the routine—sometimes for nine or ten hours straight.

I had to chortle over this temporary job. It was surreal, a job suited for unstable folk, people who were a bit touched, those who must enjoy the pain and misery of relentless cold. Did I fit the bill? I must, as I was paid a paltry sum to brave these brutish conditions: $11 an hour. Christ, at some of my past modeling gigs I made three times that amount, just for baring all in unbearable frigid rooms, standing in the all together whilst students sat and drew me, a circle of strangers bedecked in fur-lined frocks and woolly scarves. I endured that—for three hour stretches—because I did not mind making $30+ an hour.

Here though, donning an over-sized UPS coat over several layers and wearing flimsy orange work gloves, I dodged frozen dog turds and toys submerged in snow, leaping over guy wires holding up enormous kitschy Christmas balloons, all to deposit packages on doorsteps.

We averaged over 200 stops each day. Since it was December, sunlight was fleeting, disappearing before three in the afternoon. Flashlights were paramount, as who knew what mongrel dog or forest creature lurked on the fringe, awaiting a surprise attack to sample the tenderness of my thigh.

It was godawful. I had to laugh to myself, though, at the sheer absurdity of it all. (Camus was correct.) But during these darkled forays onto strangers’ lands, balancing ponderous parcels on my shoulders, Mike managed to keep me in stitches, allowing my cold tired soul to realize the rather risible nature of such employ. I marveled at how he was still doing this after 17 years. Yes, my driver, like me, was a true masochist.

December 22nd arrived, and I yearned for days end. I called Mike “Eeyore” as every day, especially this last day, he assured me that we ‘were screwed!’, that we wouldn’t finish until 10:30, maybe 11pm. I assured him, like every day before, we’d be done by 7:30, eight at the latest. And we did. We cranked it out, mainly because I wanted to be at home with my lovely wife and two boys, sitting before the woodstove and indulging in a questionable libation. It was certainly better than caromed about in a frigid van, with winter winds seeking passage between collar and sleeve alike.

The day merciful ended, and I bid Mike a splendid holiday. My stint as a driver helper was complete. I could now return to my frozen RAV4, stuck amongst the snow in the far reaches of a strip mall.

Sitting in my vehicle, waiting for a hint of heat to thaw my pre-hypothermia state, I was quite sure I’d be stopping at the local Packie, to purchase with my meager earnings a soporific that would both relax and induce a semblance of sleep.

*************************

Forward a week later (still having not received my last check) I found myself traveling eastward to—you guessed it—the UPS hub, where I was to be interviewed for a package handler position. Did I mention to you that perhaps I might be a masochist?

But let’s face it. I needed a job. Working briefly as a driver helper did not constitute a real job. Especially at an embarrassing eleven dollars per hour.

So there I was sitting in a room, with others who dreamed of becoming package handlers. (Could that really be possible?)

I sat and perused the papers before me, information about the job, what to expect and the hourly rate. And there it was, in black and white: $11 an hour. Fancy that. ‘You must be joshing me,’ I muttered, oblivious to the banter and joking of others who seemed eager—eager!—to readily submit their bodies and minds to such meager and menial labor.

The perky young assistant, Melissa, guided us through the paperwork and then took us in a rag-tag fashion to “The Hub”, where all the action took place.

I was horrified. It reminded me of a mechanical nightmare, as though immersed in a ghastly scene straight out of a Bosch canvas.

The interior was dim, with whirring conveyor belts slowly moving packages along, some parcels dropping to the floor with a bang.

Melissa showed us several stations: loading or unloading trucks, sorting a mountain of goods, all at an astounding rate best suited for a cyborg.

Sheer and utter madness. Insanity within dim, cavernous walls. I saw workers in semis, unloading parcels with light dimmer than candles, the constant whining and clattering echoing along endless corridors as though we somehow entered a three-dimensional Rube Goldberg device.

Did I mention I was shocked? But the kicker though, despite the minuscule money offered, was that you were only guaranteed 3.5 hours a day. And maybe, if you were very lucky, five hours a day.

We fled the clanking, darkened interior and wended our way across the bitter cold tarmac. My subsequent interview was brief: “Not for me,” I said to a still smiling, still perky Melissa. “The hours and pay and working conditions are atrocious.”

Still, she tried to reassure me that after twelve months of slave labor for pittance pay, I was ‘guaranteed’ a fifty-cent raise. I suppose she was less than ecstatic by my gaze. Deep down, she must have realized how incredibly absurd and laughable it all was. I bid her goodbye.

Buffeted by arctic blasts, I crossed the immense parking lot to my car and cranked the heat. No, the job was not for me. And this certainly is not a knock against UPS, not at all. I know, first-hand, how hard the drivers work, through all kinds of hellish weather and conditions. My brief stint with Mike was enough to make me realize I was not destined to drive one of those rollicking ‘Brownies”, as the vans are called.

Mike, here’s to you and all your fellow drivers. I salute you in your tenacity, your perseverance and, most of all, your camaraderie during our month of hell.

A few days after it was all over, after the holidays, I gave Mike a call, inquiring about all the tips he made.

“Yeah, Paul, you were right,” he said with a sigh. And then added, “Although I did get a $5 gift card to Dunkin Donuts!”

‘Ah, Sturfieldians at their finest,’ I thought.

 

Copyright, Paul Grignon, 2018, All Rights Reserved.

 

Christmas Presently…

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Tis true, today is Three Kings’ Day, but twelve days ago it was Christmas.

A time of remembrance, of warmth, of gatherings near a healing hearth. And all of that was present this past Christmastime, a holiday spent with family.

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Our Nightmare-Before-Christmas sort of snowman greeted all who crossed our threshold. There is nothing more inviting than entering a dwelling from frigid conditions and witness a plethora of radiant candles, beacons of welcome and comfort.

Our simple residence was festooned with an eclectic selection of holiday trinkets, from antique ornaments to slightly kitschy gewgaws scattered about.

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Reindeer, Santa, and  glistening balls covered sundry surfaces, all giving a festive glow to the interior.

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Nutcrackers held sway from above, their solemn gaze impenetrable, like the Moai from Easter Island, the former regaled in wondrous costume.

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In other recesses, various St. Nicks’ peered from candlelit corners, admiring the walls bedecked in Christmas attire.

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Wassailers perched under laden boughs, wishing all a healthy holiday season and new year.

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Other characters wishing the same huddled in darkled corners, while a wan candle allowed a semblance of warmth.

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May the warmth of our simple home provide you all a glimpse into comfort and calm in the New Year and may much health and happiness be yours.

Copyright, Paul Grignon, All Rights Reserved.

A Day in December…

Claude Monet

The bitter cold seemed not to bother Andi. He jigged and pranced in the driveway, his tail whipping the frigid air. I tugged on my gloves and joined him on the pavement, securing his leash for our morning stroll. Well, not exactly a stroll; more like a brisk jog/run. Damn, it was cold!

We crossed Rte. 19, passed on through a slight dirt road, and started our walk up Tower Hill Road. It was early, about 7:30am. There was not a hint of wind. Bare trees scraped the dun colored sky, and a mere smudge of sun appeared now and then through streaking ragged gray clouds.

No one was up and about. Distant dogs yowled as we trudged upward, Andi sniffing everything in sight, pausing here and there to listen to the howling of unseen hounds.

We ascended the hill, and with the higher elevation, a brisk brumal wind whipped at my layers, as Andi peered up at me, pleading for a return to warm confines.

But I would have none of it. It was good to be out in such frigorific climes, braced against such biting winter chills, and I knew the walk would do us both good.

To assuage Andi’s beseeching stares, I started to run, something I knew he loved to do. We raced, up and up, the cold stinging and tearing my eyes, Andi frolicking through pockets of snow and piles of dead withered leaves, up, up we went, and soon I paused, slightly out of breath.

We crossed the road to a lifeless lea, flora long dead, mere fragments of stalks jutting from crusted tufts. I let Andi run loose and gave a half-hearted chase, but soon I elected to stand rigid in the middle of the meadow, while Andi skipped and whirled in wide wild arcs across the fallow field.

I stood there and embraced the icy grip, at one with nature; the brutal cold; the thin, skeletal branches of a windbreak swaying gently in a winter breeze; the bruised passages of sky above, the wan sun feebly filtering through scudding scrapes of clouds tinged in pinks and grays and purples.

I was one with everything. Even Andi stood motionless, his gaze far off into the darkled edge of woods, where unseen creatures scampered.

A lone crow appeared, a black rent in the sky, cawing as it glided by.

“Caw! Caw! Caw!” it screeched, but to me, it sounded like, “Paul! Paul! Paul!”, as though it was my Dad, just passing by, saying a good morning hello.

‘Hi Pops!’ I whispered back, as the crow disappeared over a copse of birch.

We stood there, just Andi and I, immersed in the wonder and beauty all around us. Some folk would describe the scene before us as drab and dreary and depressing. But I thrive in it, allowing my body, mind, and spirit to embrace such a peaceful vista.

At length, sensing Andi’s desire to return, I leashed him and we wended our way down, down Tower Hill, across the thin expanse of dirt, and back into our yard.

Once ensconced inside, Andi bounded on the couch, gnawed his bone for a moment, and promptly went to sleep. I poured a cup of coffee and stood by the kitchen bay window. A light snow was falling, and the last of the sun disappeared. Cradling my coffee, feeling nice and toasty, my face still thawing, I relished our little walk.

A crow suddenly appeared, and perched on the wooden fence beyond the driveway. It bobbed its head, this way and that, and then fixed its onyx stare upon me. We gazed at each other, for a moment or two, and it turned and flitted off, cawing as it sliced through the swirling snowflakes.

‘Bye, Dad. Hope you are well.’

I turned from the window, sat down to my laptop, and began my post.

©Paul Grignon, 2014 – All Rights Reserved.

The painting above, by Claude Monet, is called  ‘The Magpie’. But for all intents and purposes of this post, it is a crow.

Character Immersion…

So I’ve been woefully neglecting my WPI, a Dystopian love story that takes place in the near future. For added authenticity, I thought I’d live my protagonist, a slice of ‘his’ life. I thought it a good idea to get into his head, to better get into gear and off my sorry ass to finish my damn novel.

‘K. stands hidden in a stand of pine in the dead of winter somewhere in New Hampshire. He contemplates his life now, of what has transpired in the past few months, years even.

He is fond of Jack Daniels and, cloistered under the cover of shadows, he pulls out a pint and takes a long swallow.

He stands and gazes out at what the country has become. He then thinks of J., a woman he met briefly, only once, and yet that one time is etched firmly in his head……’

So begins my manuscript. Well, sort of. Don’t want to give too much away in style.

I thought I’d immerse myself in his shoes, feel what he experiences, and with that visceral approach, I thought it would stimulate me to put pen to paper.

So here are a few visuals to help you ‘feel’ the mood of my book-in-progress. (The revision part is hell, isn’t it?)

011Taken from inside my barn, internal temperature about 15 degrees. My writing pad, and a shot of whiskey. On the chair rests a plaid shirt that belonged to my Dad.

014A painting I did of my father. He looks down at me, balefully, seemingly shaking his head at his wastrel son.

020That’s me, sitting in the same chair, whiskey in the foreground. Here I sit in the cold, feeling what my protagonist feels, thinking about a myriad of things.

015Paintings by Sargent and Chagall keep me company, another artistic Muse that lies dormant, as evidenced by the next photo.

016Ah yes, there it is. My vacant easel. At least the wood panel residing on it has a coat of gesso. In the upper left corner is a painting done by my grandmother, restored beautifully by my brother Joe.

017And here sits a jumbled mass of frozen paints. Perhaps in the spring they will thaw and I’ll be able to slap something on that vacant canvas.

013But back to my protagonist, his scotch, and his thoughts.

I sit in that chair, sit in the god-awful cold, feel what ‘he’ feels, and then I begin to put pen to paper.

Let’s see, where was I? Oh yes.

‘K. pockets the bottle and descends the hill. Thoughts of J. weigh heavily in his mind. He must find a way to…’

And so continues my revision.

Do you, on occasion, ever ‘live’ your own character?

Copyright, Paul Grignon, 2014-All Rights Reserved.

Winter Wonders…

Winter Blue

Winter Blue

Andi and I crossed the road, past the cemetery, and entered a fallow frozen field where ankle-deep  snow greeted us. Above, chem-trails criss-crossed the sky, the only blight to an otherwise perfect expanse of azure.

Here, in the depths of winter, after much frolicking about, did I pause to take in the splendor before me.

snowfallI watched as the distant feeble sun still held sway over snow-dusted branches. The tiny warmth emitted caused small cascades of snow to fall. It reminded me of Mount Crumpet, when the Grinch was struggling to keep the overloaded sled from plunging off the edge. Remember that scene? Small balls of snow fell, little frozen puffs followed by a fine mist of even smaller flakes, all tumbling to the depths below.

new england sceneThe quintessential New England landscape, replete with a sagging red shack. Upon closer inspection of the fence, I noticed a tuft on a post that remarkably resembled those Hostess sno-balls. I cannot recall ever eating one of them as they never appeared edible.

Snowball

‘Sno’ ball

railEven the rail sported a spiky countenance, tufts of ice sprouting from its surface. Beyond the fence lay a pristine pasture and, on closer inspection, the winter stubble of grass poking its blades out wore a winter wig of white.

Winter Stubble

Winter Stubble

Frozen berries on frozen limbs also added their own individual brumal touch.

Merry Berries

Merry Berries

Further along the field, a milkweed pod imitated beautifully a Canadian goose, the pod wearing a most flattering chapeau of white as well.

Canadian Pod?

Canadian Pod?

country roadPast the pasture Andi and I ventured along a winding winter road and, on closer inspection, where parcels of pavement had been strewn with sand, it looked like the inside of a Charleston Chew should one have deigned to tear it apart.

candy barClose to home, our barn provided a lovely study of shadows, our beautiful blue heron (a reminder of my dear Dad), the rusted flower pail, and the slant of black all commingling to present a winter still life.

Brumal Barn

Brumal Barn

And I couldn’t resist this last pic, of Andi embracing our monstrous cat, Boo, a perfect way to end a winter stroll.

Andi & Boo

Andi & Boo

Copyright, Paul Grignon-2014, all rights reserved.

 

Passage and Presence…

 

Woods

Walking along misty lane early morning,

Silent; a wan sun, distant and cold.

Unseen, save the thousand pair

Of ancient Indian eyes

Staring through sun-filtered,

Snow-laden trees.

A farmer’s old stone wall,

Tumbled and broken,

Meanders parallel, forgotten.

White settlers on

Native red lands;

I, too, a modern-day

Interloper,

Scraping along sacred grounds

Scarred and sealed

In asphalt.

(A shiver grips me;

Is it the clasp

Of season brumal,

Or the clutch of

Centuries-old collective guilt?)

Ancient Woods

©Paul Grignon-2014, All Rights Reserved.