Scratching pennies on an aquamarine afternoon

I woke up today with a weird phrase in my head, maybe planted there by the self-help gods that leave kisses under your pillow, an Oprah-style tooth fairy. “Happiness is a choice.”

There is a balance. The give, the take, the wallow, the leap, the edge and the ledge and the space between breaths. For me the balance is often between making meaning out of things and just plain noticing things. Awake-like. If I search too hard for meaning, analyze too hard, meaning just scratches away, like the desperate scrape of a penny on a Lotto ticket that bores right through the paper. Time to easy up, slugger. Put the scratching pennies away.

I woke up one night with the image of a favorite essay in my mind. The fuzzy Xerox-of-a-Xerox typeface, and my professor’s cramped script in one corner. Cruising Blues, Robert Pirsig. I referenced it here about ten years ago, almost to the day. Which is weird. I read it a little differently now. It’s about people who spent years saving up for sailboats so that they could spend their days sailing around the world, only to find they’d rather be home after all. They liked “real” life. Ten years ago I thought those people were idiots but now find myself understanding their predicament.

The give, the take, the wallow, the leap. Choice. It’s nice to have options, to look into your many open doors and see the sky flying through them, the birds chirping and flitting in their non-committal ways. It is also annoying as hell. Because pretty soon, you can’t keep five feet in five doors, and all your friends are wondering what your address is. They want to send cards.

The edge and the ledge and the space between breaths. Everything’s a balance except wonder. There’s always wonder.  In the laugh of E’s baby Alice, in the icicle melting off the gutter, in the one cherry tomato petrified and hanging on the vine. In the paint chips at the hardware store, where you collect the brightest ones, just  to stare at. Chip number 7201. And 7943. And HC-50.  And you overhear: “I’m playing with yellows in the bedroom… this one’s too green.” And you can’t imagine TOO GREEN or why everything’s not always the 7675 of an aquamarine afternoon.

But scratch too hard on a paint chip, and it scrapes right through the paper.

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