Sunday, June 08, 2014

An August Gesture

(click to enlarge)
First, take a look at the hero photo I included with this entry. If it looks like a potted plant in a trash can, that's because it is a potted plant in a trash can. Specifically, it's a plant commonly known as "Lamb's Ear" for its seemingly-fuzzy broad leaves. Even more specifically, it's in my kitchen trash can, captured a year or two ago in August (that's half the title explained!).

And to be perfectly plain, I threw it away because it was dying. And it was dying because the lamb's ear plants don't particularly care for apartment-style living. Especially ones with little sun and no nitrogen-rich soil to speak of. In fact, the lack of arable soil in my apartment is shocking!

I had purchased the plant as a present for the woman I was infatuated with. We had needed to bow out of an expedition to a nearby nature preserve because she had injured her foot the previous evening. The next time I was going to see her, instead of bringing flowers, I was going to bring the lamb's ear. Not coincidentally, the lamb's ear belongs to the family of plants known as "woundwort," so I thought it would be a fun take on bringing flowers. She had a garden and a fresh "wound," so I thought it was clever.

But the gift stayed un-given.

The follow-up meeting got rescheduled. Pushed back. Rescheduled again. Dinner plans went interrupted. And while I took care of the plant as best I could, it drooped and wilted from the lack of proper sun exposure on my windowsill. Eventually becoming tired of looking at it slowly die - and certain that it wouldn't make a suitable present in the current state - I pitched it in the trash can with some disgust.

But before the pot could become covered with egg shells, yogurt containers, saran wrap, and chicken parts, I took a picture. I took that picture because I wanted to remind myself of a behavior I have; one that I had just demonstrated.

I like to make presents that take thought. In fact, in the absence of gifts that I've actually put consideration into, I tend not to give gifts. It just makes me feel better to know that when I prepare something, it's for a specific purpose and will not be applied to any other purpose. It makes the gift feel more special, and allows me to draw some satisfaction during an often-considerable extra amount of effort.

I have two posters on the floor in my office that were destined to be as gifts. Like the plant before them, they were intended to be specific gestures to a particular event happening in someone's life. I wanted them to be a sign that I was listening, even to the small and seemingly inconsequential mentions that sometimes signal deep desires or wants unfulfilled.

And I still have both posters.

It takes a not-insignificant amount of money and forethought to be nonchalant! And unlike the yogurt that I have to throw away because I didn't consume it all in time, I feel good about the posters and the plants and the recipes and the socks and the letters than never got sent. Some of them I keep, some things get donated, some things get eaten (not the posters or socks, mind!). They are still serving their purposes: reminding people of particular moments. Except that it's just me who sees them. And I remember, as I wipe the dust off or carefully re-box them.

I remember that I cared enough to spend the effort. I remember that it mattered to me if the color was green or red -- only a certain red was acceptable: it won't have the same effect if it's not red enough!

I remember when the framed gift was glimpsed in my car by the woman who had just finished telling me over dinner all the detailed and thought-through reasons why she didn't want us to see each other any more.

"What's that?" she asked, pointing to a brown-paper wrapped square in the trunk.
"Oh, just something I've been working on," I said dismissively.
"You should really finish some of these things you're always 'working on.' You'll feel better if you can say you've accomplished something."

*** *** ***

I told that story to a friend of mine who asked. When I finished, he shook his head. "Man, don't you ever get fed up 'being you?'" My response was a considered mix of "fssshsh," "pshhhh," and other sorts of dismissive noises, followed up with me stating, "What the hell does that even mean?" We gracefully transitioned to another subject, but the guy next to me at the bar (whom neither of us knew) said, "Man, you shoudn'tve put the pussy up on a pedestal."

Given how intoxicated that fellow was, that's an ambitious sentence with several tricky consonant clusters. A quick Google search shows me lots of sites using that phrase that seem like they cater to disaffected young men, cruelly scorned by bitches, whose ultimate fate involves shooting up a university to show how sensitive and deserving of sex they are.

I'm sure it meant something to him, but it still sounds like an incredibly demeaning set of letters. I think what he was *attempting* to *hint* towards, was that I make a big deal out of stuff that ultimately comes to nothing. And I do, but that tends to be the way attraction works with me. There's really just the one, at any given time, and that gets most of the thought and preparation. It works for me. Well, I say, "works"...

Anyway, maybe I'd have better results if I cast more lines. But I don't want to think, concerning anyone, that "this will do, sure. Why not?" I deserve better than that, she deserves better than that. Everyone deserves better than that.

So for better or worse, it's always a slow slog to realization, and then eyes for only one. It's just the way I'm wired, and I don't think I'll ever change. What use doing something if my heart -- quite figuratively -- isn't in it?

But I'm also aware enough to know that situations change. Fast. So there's no point in telling anyone how long I've been laboring on a project, if they just got finished with a sentence that includes the words "should see other people." A failure to communicate, some would say.

In the mean time, I'll keep thinking and making, and storing the really good ones that don't get used. And when I'm old enough to retire, I can open an extremely awkward museum that I pay other people to go through, so I can inflict the stories on them.


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