The Unusual Disposition of Alastair Adams

Alastair Adams was old. So old, in fact, that the wrinkles on his face were no longer lines, but deep ridges that seemed to fill to the brim with the very substance of joy when he smiled. Alastair Adams was always smiling. When he walked to the park each morning to sit on the rickety bench with the chipped paint – he smiled. When the little swallows swooped over his head and landed like feathers at his feet – he smiled. And most of all, when the wind swept over the pond and gently rustled the leaves of the shady dogwood trees – he smiled.

The townsfolk of Prescott Gulch all knew Alastair Adams, and he knew them. It was common knowledge amongst the little boys that “Age-Old Adams”, as they called him in their decrepit treehouses, had already been 50 years alive when Prescott Gulch was first christened as a town. Each morning, as Alastair Adams ventured out of his “modest mansion”, as he lovingly referred to his miniscule homestead, the people of the Gulch were just waking up. The womenfolk were just rising to gather eggs for breakfast and sweep the invasive dust off the kitchen tables. The menfolk were just stretching aching limbs through the holes of well-worn and faded long johns, and still, many children stirred in light slumber, minds already anxious to begin the day’s shenanigans.

And all the while, Alastair Adams walked, and he smiled while he walked. And when the dishes had been cleared after breakfast, the men were pulling on mud-caked boots and sunbleached hats, the children had already run out of doors to swirl their toes in the cool grass and commandeer sticks to make them into Indian spears. As they ran wildly through the crackling shrubs, they observed Old Alastair from the corners of their bright and wandering eyes, and they liked him. For there was something about the air that surrounded his shoulders and tousled his snowy white hair that felt peaceful and right. In their parents, they saw only anxiety and pain. That was their norm. The ritualistic way in which life in Prescott Gulch played out, from beginning to end. There was worry about the ever-present dust, and because of the dust, there was worry about the crops. And from this anxiety about crops, sprouted a fear of going hungry. And hidden behind this fear of starvation, there was the overarching, all-consuming fear of death. But this fear, this sadness, did not exist within Alastair Adams, and the children did not understand it, but it comforted them greatly.

But on one unusually cool and windy day in Prescott Gulch, where the clouds billowed overhead like weightless boulders, Alastair Adams was not smiling. When the sun was already gaining height in the pale, grey sky, he strolled through the center of town, down the rows of dull-colored houses. The families had already sat down to steaming bowls of breakfast porridge when they spied Alastair Adams through their scratched windows, dragging his feet on his way to the little pond where he simply sat for hours, counting the ripples caused by brown leaves cascading onto the water. The women cleared the dishes and went out of doors to hang the laundry on delicate clotheslines, and the dingy linen flapped loosely in the wind like whispers to the neighbors about what could possibly be the reason for kind old Alastair’s abnormally somber disposition.

All that day, Adams sat silently on that decrepit bench, but the swallows did not fly near him, and the wind did not whistle through the dogwood trees with the same gentle sighing as before. And instead of counting the ripples made by falling leaves, he counted the circles created by his salty tears dropping into the glassy water.

As the sun dipped slowly down from the sky, casting heavy shadows across the creaking porches of every dilapidated house in Prescott Gulch, Alastair Adams remained by the pond. The men, returning from a laborious day’s work of tilling fields and kicking up dust, passed the little park at dusk, and their minds, though exhausted with anxiety about the season’s harvest, found the energy to worry about Good Old Alastair as well. They knew what was happening, the cause of his sorrow, but still hoped it was not true. When they reached their front doors, and their children swarmed about their legs in nervous excitement, they deliberately pushed past them, eager to reach their wives, who would surely offer some motherly comfort concerning the status of Alastair Adam’s mood. Much to their dismay, when the men swept their dainty companions into their stained and grimy arms, and inquired about the old man, they were met with disconcerting explanations.

On that day, thirteen years before, Alastair Adams had lost his wife. She was claimed by time, as time comes to claim all things, living and unliving. And only a year prior, the couple’s son and his family had come in a rusted Ford Model T to visit the Gulch, and on their way back home, they blew a tire on a bumpy dirt highway and lost control, sending the vehicle and all its passengers tumbling down a deep gorge to their demise. All his life, Alastair Adams seemed to be stalked by misery, and yet he never dropped his smile for more than a moment. But on that day, October 26th every year, he merely sat at the pond, tears spilling down his cheeks, ignoring the biting wind, despite the fact that he was shivering terribly.

The children felt the change in the air, and they furrowed their freckled brows at both mother and father as they spoke softly of Age Old Adams. They lingered on the outskirts of their range of hearing and began to be troubled with the thought of the kindly man in distress. Father was always somewhat agitated, on account of lack of rain for the crops. Not a day passed when Mother was not overworked and exhausted from chores and looking after her family. But the old man was different. When Alastair Adams cried, the world wept along with him. When he was troubled, everyone’s lives came screeching to a halt until he was spotted smiling again.

As was done each year on this day, the folk of Prescott Gulch took care of Alastair Adams. The men chopped extra firewood for Old Alastair and stacked it orderly along his little house. The women cooked him delicious, warm food and laid it in fragile glassware on his doorstep. And the children, innocent and gentle, wove delicate crowns made from all the local prairie flowers and weeds, and placed them around the potted plants on his porch.

When their kindly work was done, the townspeople returned silently to their homes, though their hearts were still heavy with worry for the man. One by one, the oil lamps were extinguished and the shutters drawn, but Alastair Adams did not budge. As the darkness deepened, the moon rose steadily, but still, he sat on the bench with the chipping paint, thinking of his past: his wife, his son, and all the unfortunate happenings of his youth.

At dawn, when the world was fresh with the sights and sounds of rebirth, something in Alastair Adams seemed to awaken. The life-giving sun shone bright light on his age-worn cheeks, drying his tears and filling his mind with brightness. His pain faded away from him like the residue of a dream and he remembered the ways he had been blessed. He remembered the way the stars twinkled in the summertime, and the sound of crunching leaves beneath his scuffed shoes, the compassionate love of his neighbors and the sacrifices they made for his well-being. He thought of his dear wife, and of her everlasting peacefulness, even in the darkest of times. And he rediscovered, just as he did every year, that she would not want him to spend what time he had left in sorrow. Rather, she would wish him to be joyous, in spite of the woe found in living.  So with her memory, and that of his son alive in his heart, he rose steadily from the warped bench and began the return journey to his small home.

Each family, with tables swept clean and plates set, sat down to the morning meal, and as they ate silently, were interrupted by a sudden knocking at their door. As each wife rose from her table, crossed dusty, distressed floors, and heaved open creaking wooden doors, she was greeted by an unexpected sight. Alastair Adams, bashful smile playing on his lips, stood patiently on the porch.

“Thank you,” he said, “so very much for your kindness and care. It means the world to both me and Roxanne.” And with a slight nod of his head and tears forming in his clear eyes, he departed, and moved on to the next home.

When the wives returned to their quaint kitchens and told their families of Old Alastair’s actions, a calm descended over each household. The children could return to disturbing the grass and climbing the broad trees without a care in the world. The men would find their minds once again preoccupied with issues of farming and growing. The women, however, would think long and deeply on Mr. Adams’s disposition, and their hearts would break and mend themselves again many more times in that day before they came to conclude that he truly was a uniquely joyous spirit.

For Alastair Adams was old. So old, in fact, that his life was beginning to stretch thin, and his misfortunes seemed to outweigh his graces, and yet, he lived, and in each day he chose to find a surplus of blessings.

 

See your blessings. Find your joy.

Gabriella

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One Word, One Way of Life

It’s Wednesday again. A day devoted to words that enrich our writing, speaking, and our very lives. But unlike last week, this word of the day is not complex. It is not a dozen syllables or used only by Oxford professors and linguistic snobs. It is a common word, but it is a tremendously important one. One that we all need in our lives.

Love:

1. Unselfish loyal and benevolent concern for the good of another

2. Warm attachment, enthusiasm, or devotion

3.  Strong affection for another arising out of kinship or personal ties

Love. Thank God for love. We want more of it but don’t give nearly enough of it. This life essence that makes everything worth while – it is what makes us human. It is pure. It is kind. It is hopeful and rejuvenating.

And while I say all this, I am sure that a certain someone has been floating subconsciously through your head, tap dancing his or her way across your heartstrings. I know he’s been on my mind. Savor the thought of them. Let the very idea of their joy and laughter fill your heart to the point of bursting. As your face turns to a darker shade of pink, remember to always be a source of their smiles, and to give more than you receive. Let us be selfless and always strive to love more perfectly, more purely, more beautifully. For him, or for her, and for all creation.

Love,

Gabriella

 

 

O Captain! My Captain!

walt-whitman

Well, you guessed it. This Taco Tuesday is really a “Walt Whitman Appreciation Day”. In truth, I believe that every day should be Walt Whitman Appreciation Day. From the classic O Captain! My Captain! to the equally heart-wrenching Vigil Strange I Kept On The Field One Night, every line is masterfully woven together to create tremendous works of art. The unbelievable capacity of poetry to make me feel everything reached its culmination as I delved deeper into the writings of Whitman, and I remember almost too clearly the night I sat in bed, knees tucked to my chest, book clutched in my hands, the very first time a poem made me cry. So when the words on the page blur together as your tears leave their warped footprints on the fading ink, remember that if you feel bad reading it, poor Mr. Whitman had to feel even worse so he could find the emotional capacity to write it.

To leave you with some more lighthearted words from Walt Whitman –

“Keep your face always towards the sunshine – and shadows will fall behind you.”

“Happiness, not in another place, but this place… Not for another hour, but this hour.”

I hope you will discover something you love,

Gabriella

 

 

Monday Means Music

Oh Monday.

You bring with you a wave of sorrow and drawn out yawns as you settle heavy over us. Many have attempted to combat your wickedness with hopeful sayings and inspirational speeches, and yet, you prove to be a consistently formidable foe. Though many have tried and failed to lay to waste your ruin, I have found that only one solution remains effective in dispatching you week after week.

Music.

A soft and sweet, and sometimes swift and savory mix of fantastic music with even better lyrics.

Feast your ears, my friends.

The Mondays:
>Welcome Home, Son - Radical Face
>Land of the Bloody Unknown - The Middle East
>Helplessness Blues - Fleet Foxes
>Tenuousness - Andrew Bird
>She Lit A Fire - Lord Huron
>Fire and the Flood - Vance Joy
>All Points - James Vincent McMorrow
>Step Outside - Jose Gonzalez
>Featherstone - The Paper Kites
>She Changes the Weather - Swim Deep
>Advanced Falconry - Mutual Benefit
>We Can't Be Beat - The Walkmen
>Home - Dan Croll

All my love,

Gabriella

There’s Something About Sundays

I woke up this morning beating myself up. With the sun cascading through my pale curtains, bathing my room in warm light, I had nothing to be unhappy about, and yet, I found myself in a state of unwarranted panic. I’m certain I am not alone when I fall into these periods of existential crises, but the solace in communal despair is short-lived when you find yourself staring the future dead in the eyes, unsure of yourself and everything that remains to be done. Familiar thoughts run through my head: I’m too young to be this stressed, but I’m too old to still be so lost in this life. But as I paced infinite circles on and off the worn carpet, I was reminded of something beautiful.

This is what Sundays are all about. We wake up, we pour a cup of steaming beverage, we go to church, we go to brunch, we watch the football game and read that book, we sit in the sunshine and feel the breeze dancing across our cheeks and swirling in our hair. We take that nap that has seemed so alluring, call that old friend that we’ve been meaning to reconnect with, or write that piece that’s been put off for far too long. It’s the simple things, the lazy things, the lovely little things that we do to reward ourselves for all the week’s hard work. Sundays aren’t for dreading the future or regretting the past – they’re for savoring the slower days of life that make all the other stuff seem worthwhile.

There’s something about Sundays that leave me feeling blessed at the end of the day, no matter how I woke up in the morning.

Soak it all in. Love every moment,

Gabriella

So This is Love.

Silent and sweet. Like just waking from a dream, when the world is still out of focus and everything seems distant. But it was a safe sort of distance – a comfortable space between the drifting and the returning to reality; A place where everything seemed peaceful and lucid. And that beautiful, unearthly distance lingered in the air and on our skin. When he was driving me home in the dead of night, and we raced the moon into eternity and sang songs to the stars – I stopped mid-sentence to just look at him and smile. And he didn’t notice when my soft gaze became a stare and I waged a war against flushed cheeks and a pounding heart, finally grasping hold of the strength to turn away. It was his shoulder nudging mine as we kicked at the dirt beneath our feet, and his tired hands reaching out for my wrist when I tried to walk away after he told a corny joke. His voice gently rising and falling with the blowing wind as we told stories along the coast, and the way I simply watched it all happen.

That is how I fell in love.

Balanced and unwavering. As the constant ebb and flow of the tide kissing the shoreline and rushing back to regain its strength. It is the long talks when he’s driving me home, when my thoughts play pinball inside my skull as I cloud the passenger window with hot breath and a thousand weary words. The way he listens with his heart and answers with his soul, and though he is a man of few words, they are all I need to hear. It is the transparency, the clarity of the moment when I wrap my arms around his neck and he swears that he doesn’t know what he would do without me. I never believe him, but he is nothing if not an honest man. It is the times when he lets me make peace between his restless mind and tender spirit that fight against each other relentlessly. How he gives of himself until there’s nothing left but his beating heart, and he’s willing to give that up too, but I won’t let him, because something has to keep him going. But he doesn’t listen. For if ever God made a man more unmovable than the mountains and the roots of the earth, it is him. And if a man can make the mountains sway, it is him. And I will join the dance with laughter on my lips and a song in my heart.

And that is how I continue to love.

Thursday? Or Friday Eve?

The bestial Wednesday crept through the shadows of the waning Tuesday, eager to unleash its exhausting wrath upon our poor existences the moment the clock struck midnight. Upon rising that dull and foreboding morning, the dead weight of Wednesday was already heavy on our drowsy shoulders. After tugging sore limbs through the holes of well-worn clothing, we threw open the doors of our lives and trudged on into our daily responsibilities, heads struggling to remain high, chins drooping into cups of overpriced coffee. But though the day was long, and with each hour passing even slower than the last – we did it. With our chalices of victory held aloft, and the stenches of sweat and cheap frozen dinners mingling in the stale air, we celebrated our conquering of the ominous beast that was Wednesday. After the ceremonies and merrymaking met their end, we crawled, weary and in need of showers, into our warm, inviting beds, ready to sleep in preparation of the following day.

Thursday. With promise of new beginnings it rose eagerly with the sun to wake us from our shallow slumbering. But as the beams of radiance and rebirth kiss our bloodshot eyes and bring redness into our cheeks, we look upon Thursday with scorn. Were we made bitter and cold by the battle of Wednesday? Or is the allure of Friday taunting us from beyond the veil of another long day and sleepless night? Either way, our routines remain much the same. We beg Thursday to end our suffering quickly, and it ignores our pleas for mercy and drags sluggishly on for what seems like an eternity. Just when we think we can bear it no longer, the clock strikes its sweet spot and alerts us that it’s quitting time, and we are filled with an unbelievable sense of relief. Finally, it is time for Friday.

But why do we do this to ourselves? Why do we live each day in constant longing for the next? Are we so discontent with our day to day existence that the only conceivable thing to save us from our despair is the hope of the next day? Perhaps if we were to seek joy and contentment in all days – Wednesday included – we would not find ourselves so desperate for the night to come and put us out of our misery. They say that attitude is everything, and it can find the good in anything. So how about we stop looking at each day like a task we must complete, but as an adventure that we get to experience. Each day is the eve of a new and incredible adventure. On the eve of a special day, there is excitement and happiness, there is a sense of anticipation and wonder. With this mentality, we can approach each morning as another opportunity to experience this world and seek greatness.

So, good morning, Friday Eve. I can’t wait to see what you have in store for us all.

With eagerness,

Gabriella