The Artist Date is a dream-child of Julia Cameron. We’ve discussed her book, The Artist’s Way, and highly recommend both the book and the weekly date. It can be life-changing. It can open your creativity like nothing else. This week, we really just need to pick up the mail.
I need to get my mail. I live on a cul de sac in a 1970s subdivision on the very south edge of a town that is small, but not too small to have a subdivision that escaped the postal service’s door-to-door delivery zoning, so my mail is delivered to a communal mailbox station at the end of my street. I’m sure the postal service has a proper name for such a thing, as well as the residential zoning that makes it possible for my mail to be delivered a block from my house instead of to a quaint black box with a lid that slams shut right outside my front door.
When I was small, the mail came through a slot in the wall and dropped into a receptacle in my front entry. I would see the mail carrier walking across the lawn and stand by the slot with my hand in the receptacle to catch it, my back pinned flat against the wall between the octagon-shaped window above and the front door so he didn’t see me waiting like I had nothing else to do but try to catch mail randomly dropping through a slot in the wall.
I haven’t gone for the mail for a few days because it’s cold and rainy. It’s the end of May when it should not be cold and rainy. I think the dissonance and the damp cold keep me indoors, in the basement, away from the windows.
Today it’s dry, at least. The sun is shining and the distinction between light and shadow is at last apparent, bright strips cross-hatching the dirty planks on my front deck. I go out without a sweatshirt but am still happy for sleeves covering my arms against a slight morning breeze.
The blacktop on my street is torn up. They came through two weeks ago (the last time it was sunny) with the big asphalt-eating machine and chewed off the top layer so they could put down a new one. The yellow truck gobbled the front side of my dogwood tree. A steady diet of bitumen calls for the occasional fiber, I suppose. The tree is not really a dogwood, but I don’t know what kind it is and it’s the only answer the “What Kind of Tree Is This” app will give me based on the configuration of the leaves. Right now, it’s the kind of tree that looks like something gnawed on the branches on the front side. The app doesn’t have an answer for that. We’ll just keep calling it a dogwood. A flowering dogwood, cornus florida, to be precisely incorrect.
I walk a zig-zaggy sort of walk down the street, my feet balancing atop the spaces between the deep grooves left in the pavement by the hungry machine’s teeth. The grooves are about half as wide as my red sneakers. I’m just asking to turn an ankle but it’s the only way to get to the mailbox without starting the car to drive half a block. I worry a little about Mrs. Anderson at the far end of the cul de sac. She has the farthest to walk, with the body least able to execute the necessary dance moves and least ready to recover from a fall if she should miss a step. But she jitters down the street every day and returns the way she came, with not much but sale flyers in her hand.
The blossoms on the flowering-whatever tree next to the flowering-dogwood-that-is-not-a-dogwood-and-doesn’t-even-flower have been raining. They no sooner opened themselves generously to the sun than the breeze pulled them free and lifted them into itself. They’ve floated to a soft landing in the pine branches and the grass. Some have fallen against the pavement, lining the grooves like cushy feather beds that will not soften my or Mrs. Anderson’s fall in the event we decide to take one.
I forget the mail and keep walking when I reach the corner, crossing to the park. The lot is full of cars, which is unusual so early on a weekday morning. I remember it’s summer and it’s not raining and I hear shouts from the baseball diamond where small children, who look like bobbleheads under oversized batting helmets, totter around the bases. One stands on second base, then steps off. Now he’s on, now he’s off, now he’s walking a circle around it while a small boy swings a lumberjack-sized bat and misses the ball on the tee for the fifteenth time. There are as many adults scattered in the outfield as players, and there are three times as many players in the field as a regulation game. One adult lifts a kindergartner under his armpits, stands him on his feet again and again, while the boy’s legs go limp underneath him like one of those jointed wooden toys that straighten and collapse with a push of a button.
There’s only time for one lap around the park. I sidestep puddles washed over the trail, only to soak my sneakers in the ankle-deep water camouflaged by grass needing a trim. I come back around the bend to find the same kids still in the outfield: a few in their serious fielding stance, one sitting on the ground picking at dandelions, one lying on his back looking at the sky, the adults congregated in right field talking and laughing and trying to get through the game.
It’s Tee Ball. Everybody plays the field. Everybody bats. Everybody swings until they hit the ball. Everybody doesn’t make it to first base. I stop at the mailbox to take my sale flyers before I turn back toward my house and the dogwood tree.