Run outside. Take a picture of the first thing you see. Run inside. Take a picture of the second thing you see. Write about the connection between these two random objects, people, or scenes.
Well, thank God, they didn’t ask for the photos, just that we do it and write about the outside and inside views being connected. True Confessions: I didn’t take the pictures. However (one tantalizing finger held up for the qualifier), I did walk outside and back inside snapping mind photos galore. Does that count?
Outside it is about 28 degrees, bright sunshine, and clear blue skies as only Seattle and its environs can produce. I can hear kids playing, but don’t see ‘em. I study my car in exasperation. It is filled with the four spring, summer, fall tires from the time I took the car in to change to winter tires. Groceries from Costco, a 20 lbs bag of kitty litter, etc. Back indoors. The view is of my apartment, overly warm to anybody except me, filled wall to ceiling with books and paintings. A tremendous burst of color is what you sense the first time you see it…the paintings are mine for the most part. Bright oranges and reds, high yellows, dusky golds, blues of every shade. Someone once walked the “gallery” and said she wasn’t fond of the colors orange and red…. “Well, you are not going to like my work!” Thank God she said that otherwise I might not have known why she didn’t like ‘em.
On the table, you would see a large notebook that is just one in over a decade of morning pages. The object of morning pages comes from “The Artist’s Way” by Julia Cameron and has had over time an enormous impact on me. It was to get past any sense of writer’s block. Every morning you face a blank page and just start writing for at least three pages. Stream of thought, it simply doesn’t matter what you put down. It is just to get the clutter out of your head. I think I’ve done this since 1998 and I go through a notebook about every two months depending on what is happening. This is one of my morning routines and why I have to get up two hours before I have to be somewhere… back to the indoor shot – in that notebook is a list of Daily Life Maintenance Tasks. They never cease. No matter how many I cross off, more just accumulate – and sometimes the same ones, over and over again.
At this point, you’ve got to be wondering how I connect the outdoors and the indoors with fostering capitalism in my little neighborhood. Someone in property management had what they thought was a brilliant idea. They would combine a “green” save the earth project with saving money and employee injuries and time. Sigh. I am all for helping the planet. Y’bet. Sigh. I will even cooperate with sorting my garbage even though there’s really no room and the rules do not allow us to store anything on our patios or outside our front doors… I live alone and it takes time to build up garbage, cans, paper, plastics, etc. I will even wash out the containers mainly so my house does not smell like garbage or a bar gone horribly wrong. But, here’s what they did:
It is a large property divided in two by a road. On each side of the road are a number of units, usually six to a building. I am in Building U as in U, V, W, X, Y, Z. Yes, there are that many. It is a lovely property, filled with all sorts of trees and abuts a State Park, so we get all kinds of birds and wild animals in our back patios. Outside mine, which is on the ground floor, are trees taller than three stories and a daily parade of wild life. When it rains, there is a pond that suddenly grows and threatens to flood my home, but never quite succeeds. One morning, a mallard on its way south for the winter stopped off at the pond and splashed happily for a while until taking off again.
When I moved in eight years ago, property management had set up gigantic heavy steel trash bins and big containers for recycling – all beautifully discrete behind small fenced off areas, about the size of a compact parking spot. For several years, I was able to go outside my door, walk up six steps, cross the parking lot and drop off the trash, so maybe 100-200 feet or more. But, convenient. Easy. Nice. And, then, sigh, they went green. They were already green, but it wasn’t enough for them. No. They had to go further. They took away all the garbage containers, the plastic bins for sorting paper, plastic, cans, etc. They tore down the fenced areas and created more parking spaces. No real warning, mind you. Just a notice suddenly appearing on my front door, stating that we would all be happy to hear we were going green to the 10th power. From here on out, a recycling area had been established that had an enormous trash compactor, the plastic sorting bins had been replaced with gigantic trash bins for sorting with all the posted DOs and DON’Ts green people so love. Here’s the thing: It was on the other side of the property, which means I have to now pack up my garbage in my car and drive to it… The maintenance people loved it. They would no longer have to connect up all the big garbage bins in a caboose like manner and drive ‘em over, sometimes suffering injuries because they were small women and those suckers were heavy… I could see their point of view, but frankly, I had no sympathy for this latest effort to really, truly save the planet. This was insanity personified. I have to drive my car to take out my trash…. I am not on a rural route. I live in a suburban area. I did not sign up for this. And, I get very cranky every time I have to do this.
Ah, but then a miracle took place. Kids started knocking on my door, sometimes just one, other times, gangs show up. Small kids and everybody is under 12, usually in the eight to 10 category. “Do you have any trash you need taken out?” Why, yes, I do. We negotiate price. The going rate is a $1.00 a bag. They came up with this by starting at a quarter, then .50 cents, then a $1.00. A couple got greedy and said $5.00. No takers, except on idiot across the way, damn his eyes. Some are too shy to name a price. They scuff their feet, saying, “Whatever you think is right.” Ummm, this won’t do. I tell them what the current rate is and ask if they agree. Why, yes, they do, brightening right up and beaming at me. One enterprising fellow popped up at my car as I drove in, asking if I had trash. I did not that day. “Well, see, I really want to buy some new shoes.” He showed me his current pair and they indeed had holes in them. “I need five dollars to buy ‘em. I’ve saved up the rest of the money. Would you lend me $5.00 and I’ll work it off, taking your trash out?” It appealed to me. He’d been a good, dependable kid and he was trading on that. And, I had five dollars on hand. He was good about the deal, too. Another one wasn’t, but, he got hoisted. He finally showed up with a gang of kids on a day that I had several bags. There is always a leader who speaks on behalf of the group, though they will chime in when the subject interests them. In this instance, it was my shirker, who hadn’t fulfilled his side of our deal. I reminded him about our deal. “Oh, yeah…” He said without enthusiasm and ducked his head. I explained to the others that nobody got paid until he worked off the deal and asked if they knew about that. There were looks that could kill and promised retribution. The gang backed up and left him standing at the door on his own.
Interestingly, it didn’t stifle the trade. Business was brisk. They would bring in groceries from my car. Offer to sweep the porch or back patio. And one project was priceless. All of the apartments come with storage closets off the patio. When I had moved in, my brother filled it with everything that would not be needed on a constant basis. Time went by. Okay, years. The great thing about Western Washington is we do not have bugs for the most part. No ants, no cockroaches, sometimes fleas, but for the most part none of the aggravating life forms of California. We do, however, have spiders and that is where I draw the line. If no one is around, I will deal with it. If somebody else is around, I’m all for climbing on top of the nearest piece of furniture and crying, “EEK!” I insist on seeing a corpse due to a longtime friend having assured she had killed the spider and then telling me the next day, she hadn’t. Sweeping the patio, I knew it had spiders and sometimes wolf spiders…shudder. And, I knew, if I opened the storage door they would be waiting to take revenge. All of them, herds of them. No way was I opening the storage door. Time passed. Clutter grew inside my house. I got tired of four winter tires in my bedroom. One fine spring day, three kids showed up. I asked if they would be interested in a day long project. Yes, they would. We discussed it. They would have to clear everything out of the storage area, repack in clean boxes, dusting everything and maybe, just maybe they would have to tackle spiders. Could they do it? The smallest of the group piped up, “Oh, I love spiders. I can name ‘em. They don’t bother me at all.” Luckily, for everybody concerned, he was also a stellar project leader. I ask them to go take a look and give me a bid. Hey, capitalism, remember? After much consultation and whispering, they knocked on the door. “We can’t figure out what to charge.” Hmmm… “Okay, how much time do you think is involved? A day, two days?” “Nah, with the three of us, we’ll have it done in a couple of hours.” Ambition. I liked it. “Remember, some of it will have to be taken to the trash.” They nodded. “Alright, there are three of you and you think a couple of hours will do it?” More nodding. “How about $10.00 a piece for each of you? That is a total of….?” “THIRTY DOLLARS!” My little spider wizard shouted enthusiastically. I beamed at his math skills and said, “That’s right. Does that seem fair to all of you? Do you want to think that over?” Interestingly, there was some hesitation. The math spider wizard took it in, “Give us a moment, please.” “Y’bet.” I shut the door again. Shortly, another knock at the door. “We will do it for $10.00 each.” Excellent. And, they did. Thank God for the project manager wizard. He did most of the work, bless his heart, but he kept things moving. He set up a system where anything deemed trash was sent off by bicycle and they kept the stuff moving in and out of old boxes to new, all dusted and commented on. They made room for the winter tires and everything was going well. Other kids caught onto something happening and stopped by to see what it was. One wanted to jump in, but was more afraid of spiders than I was. He surrendered after a bit. They asked if they could add kids to the project. “Well, yes, of course you can. But remember, you’ve bid for $10.00 each for a total of $30.00, so you’ll need to determine how much you want to pay ‘em out of your total $30.00.” Ah, that caused some thinking. It was delightful to watch them work through it. In the end, I paid them $50.00 for a project I would have paid a lot more for just to make it go away. Well, come on! Tipping is allowed, if not encouraged!
Sadly, they did not come today. I had to lug the stuff in from the car myself. It made me appreciate them all the more. They must have done really well at Christmas. I love those kids! Whenever I am outside or driving through the property, they wave and yell hi to me by name. I’ve now got three bags of trash ready to go. Maybe they’ll knock tomorrow.