Friction

I enjoyed last night’s Wednesday Night Poetry. My set, though shorter than the thirty minutes I expected, allowed me to read most of the poems I planned to share. Fortunately for me, eleven people from Hot Springs Village came to show their support. Without them, the crowd would have been rather sparse; but with them, the chairs were comfortably filled, with only a half dozen or so empty ones, as best I can tell.

Naturally, the people who came specifically to support me were complimentary of my reading. And so were a few of the “regulars.” As nice as it is to hear positive feedback, I know from experience at Wednesday Night Poetry that the expectation is that all feedback will be positive. That’s the point; to offer support and encouragement. And I suppose suggestions for improvement in that environment would be equivalent to critique, which would go against the grain of the event. Yet I had the sense (why, I don’t really know) that my reading was hollow. I had real trouble getting through one poem, based on the experience of scattering my late sister’s ashes in the Gulf of Mexico. I don’t think that reading was hollow. But the rest? I wish I could get some honest feedback. Ah, well, I guess I’ll have to find an honest critic who doesn’t care about hurting my feeling.

Last night was event number 1605 in its thirty-year history. And tomorrow night a special event will follow, celebrating the life of Wednesday Night Poetry’s founder, Bud Kenny, who died on October 2nd; a Wednesday, of course.  At the appointed time, 6:20 or so, I (along with nine other readers stationed at different galleries throughout Hot Springs) will read one of Bud’s poems and will proceed toward the Superior Brewery, where the celebration of his life will continue. I expect the event to have quite a following; they’re arranging for shuttles to move people to and from remote parking. We shall see.

***

As I consider the people “in my sphere” who showed up last night, it occurs to me that some people seem to have a gene for empathy and grace and kindness and compassion and a host of other attributes that lend themselves to being supportive. Very few of the people who came to show their support are extremely close to me; in fact, there aren’t many people who are. But to the people who showed up, that doesn’t matter; they came because they couldn’t imagine not being there to support someone within their sphere of care and compassion. They came even though the weather was sloppy and the roads were wet; they came even though the Astros were playing in the final game of the World Series, something rather important to some of them. That’s just the kind of people they are. And that’s the kind of person I try to be, though not hard enough. I want to be there to show people support and compassion and appreciation; to offer evidence they matter.  I think I sometimes fail to take that into account when planning what I will do with my day. I should more frequently ask myself, “Would my presence in support of someone help them recognize they do, indeed, matter in this world?”

***

The temperature outside is only 33 degrees right now and is expected to top out at 47 later today. The forecast for tonight’s low is 29. Despite the chilly temperatures, clear skies probably will make the day feel warmer and more pleasant than yesterday: gloomy, bone-chilling, and unpleasantly nippy. I hope I’m right. I’d like to get out and about today. Even though I left the house yesterday for an errand or two and then went out last night, I felt confined and controlled, as if I were a dog on a short leash.

Speaking of dogs on a short leash, I met someone last night, my sister-in-law’s new male friend, who has a small dog; a fifteen-year-old wire-haired something or other. It sounds a little like the dog I imagined in a blog post I adapted and read last night. The dog (my story’s dog) was named Cinnamon. I’m waffling back and forth about whether I should get a dog. A small dog. A pocket-sized dog. A companion that enjoys being in my presence. And, of course, whose presence I would enjoy. A house-trained, pleasant-mannered, affable dog. Yeah. Well, I’ll think about it.

But the weather makes me wonder; would I be willing to walk Cinnamon on cold, rainy days? Do I have the patience to take good care of a dog? I would not tolerate anyone, myself included, ignoring or abandoning or otherwise mistreating a dog. Yeah. Well, I’ll think about it. Like I said.

***

For reasons unknown, we were without water for a time this morning. After I explored the crawl space under the house to no avail, I called and left a voice message with the public utilities department. And then my wife called the next door neighbors, who also had no water; during their conversation, though, the water came back on. And while they were talking, another neighbor called and left a message, asking whether our water was on. Obviously, the POA turned off the water for a short while, then turned it back on, but we have no idea why. The absence of flow from the tap, even for a short while, calls attention the the fact that water is important; vital, in fact. Yet many people around the world don’t have the luxury of water flowing from the tap. In fact, many don’t have the luxury of clean water, period. They may have to walk miles to get water of questionable quality from a community well. Do we realize how incredibly fortunate we are?

A return call from the POA revealed the problem; there was a major water main break. And they are issuing a precautionary boil order until tests can be done to verify the safety of the water from our taps.  Getting a taste of the third world lifestyle we’re attempting to create with intersocietal friction and hatred.

***

Fires rage in California. Egos rage in Washington, DC. War rages in Syria. Does Earth’s population realize we could solve virtually all of the problems that face humankind and the planet at large if we only opted to cooperate with one another? No. I guess not.

About John Swinburn

"Love not what you are but what you may become."― Miguel de Cervantes
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