Friday, May 02, 2008
Another Simple Pleasure
Far too often in the blitzing around of our lives, we skip over those things which fall into the category of “simple pleasures.” By their very definition they conjure up something which is special, particularly in the sense of serendipity or surprize which accompanies. Big Movie Premieres, Lavish Meals at top restaurants, Grand Soirées in fancy clothes. All of those are rich in experience in their own way. Yet for me, the kind of joys in life which I cherish most are the ones which are, essentially, served up to you on a silver platter, if only you take the time to notice. Taking time is crucial, for the essence of a “simple pleasure” is that for all its lack of complexity, obligation or expense, you give up enough time to properly behold it.
Making your way to the Grand Canyon, and not hanging out an extra couple of days, just to wander aimlessly along the canyon's rim, and watch a vulture or two do a low, elegantly sweeping pass, is tantamount to dissing the whole Canyon structure. Walking by, as I did recently, a virtual forest of Rosemary plants, draped across a fake Italianesque lake side, next to a fake Italianesque version of Ponte Vecchio (Las Vegas, of course), but which, in their own right, present a dizzyingly powerful aroma which literally stops you in your tracks.
The sweep of Rosemary bushes, several hundred feet in length, made me conjure up a giant brick oven, with dozens upon dozens of chickens, lightly oiled, and swirling on imaginary rotisseries..the essence of mildly charred Rosemary leaf wafting throughout. I suppose it's not something the chickens would enjoy so much, but for one who delights in fresh herbs, it was an unavoidable image.
In our front yard in Arlington, there has been a wonderful old tree, which accompanied the property when we bought it 1985, and continues to this day to spread its boughs. It's a non-fruit bearing cherry tree, several feet around at the base, and which spreads broadly across the front yard, touching both the edge of the street, and the rim of the front roof. It's a full earthy shape, barren in winter, and dense from March through October, with is greenery. The lawn underneath doesn't get much sun in the summer, due to the thickness of the branches, but the tree does give the yard a kind of stateliness otherwise uncommon in these smallish post-war Arlington homes. The real treat, however comes in April, when the tree presents us with a magnificent gift of pink blossoms and petals. Thousands and thousands ( this is the sort of thing that makes you think “Mass Media”... as if each of the blossoms is ONE TV set somewhere in the heartland... millions of them together create a real 'community') of the softest pinkest blossoms, delicate petals somehow perserved through what must be a rather traumatic birthing arrangement on the tiniest branch of the tree. It's quite a sight. And every year, as the blossoms dominate the front yard for a few weeks, neighbors wander by, slowing their step, to gaze at this minature piece of Yosemite, right here on Upton Street. As the wind blows or the rains pour, pink petals start to drift off the tree onto the yard, creating a gorgeous, pink, and truly unrakeable mat over the lawn. And if a car is parked on the road under the tree, it too, will suffer a new coat of paint, softer, pinker, and richer than mere lacquer. Some neighbors bring their children by on the way to the park, and let them play in the pink snow. And who wouldn't want to.
The other day I was arriving home from a Hillary campaign trip, to see the Miata, (Merlot in color) covered by the petals in front of the house. I had to make a trip to the lab, and wanted to see if the leaves would fly like fairy dust off the car as I drove. Rain the night before had weighed down the blossoms enough that few of them flew from the car, and when I parked at the lab, hundreds were still stuck. I dropped off film, picked up some contact sheets, and sat in the car briefly to peruse my work. As I sat there, talk radio in the background, I noticed a figure approach the car, a man of Eastern lineage (Indian, perhaps?).
Our front path to the street
His shadow passed over me, as he came near the car, and he ended up standing at the back of the car, by the trunk. I felt a little sense of doom, for who approaches a car not their own, and invades that space? Then quickly he reached in a pocket and retrieved a small plastic ziploc bag, the kind you put your shaving cream and toothpaste in at the airport security line. He opened the bag, and started to fill it with the pink petals. With gusto, as if they were freshly crushed tomatoes and he was making a sauce, he grabbed handful after handful, and filled his bag. I wanted to say something, to ask what he was doing, but it almost seemed like for that moment I was the intruder. He was so intent, and precise in his movements, it was astonishing. And though the Miata is about as big as a tennis shoe, he seemed neither to notice nor car that there might have been an occupant. Once the bag was filled to bursting with the petals, he turned and walked back up Wilson Boulevard, disappearing within seconds. Was it for his daughter's wedding? A centerpiece for his wife's dinner table? A vase for the steam room at his health club? We won't ever know.
All we might surmise is that like the folks for our little neighborhood, he was, when he first viewed the petals, moved to act. To keep, preserve, and enjoy those little pink beauties which God had happily draped the car with. He understood the meaning of “simple pleasure” and as quickly as he saw them, he wanted them preserved to be shared.
The view from inside the car
If each of us would take a little time to look, to see, to notice, it just might take the edge off the harshness we face. There is really nothing simpler than what grows on trees. Not money perhaps, but as rich as gold for the soul. We're just sayin'.... David