Jazz Garden

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Status: Finished  |  Genre: Science Fiction  |  House: Booksie Classic


It's Sci Fi, but it's also romance.

Submitted: November 18, 2017

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Submitted: November 18, 2017

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Jazz Garden

One Beautiful Day

 

©Thomas Van Horn 2017

 

I slip out from under the covers without waking Lin half an hour before the sun shows. I’m good at that. I sneak down the hall past Ruthi’s room. Don’t want her waking up either. I’m looking for a moment of solitude. With the dawn.

After a quick leak without flushing, for the sake of silence, I head down the dark hallway to the living room.

I’m in my pajamas. Hell, I could dress like this until three in the afternoon. Lets me hang loose. I like that. But I’ll be donning my hiking gear later. Gird up my loins ‘cause I got a mission today.

Misty, little grey fluff, darts ahead like she knows where we’re going. Then she pauses and looks back at me, waiting for me to catch up.

When I get there she rubs up against my ankles purring loud enough to wake everybody up.

I bend down and scratch the back of her neck. “Misty Cat,” I whisper.

She lifts her back and takes a few steps to increase the area getting scratched, her tail twitching, before leading the way down the hall again. I follow. She knows.

As I round the corner into the living room the dark grey gets lighter. Across the room the south wall is all window. The dark of the night sky is lighter than the dark down the hallway. That dim light fills the room.

Our apartment looks out over San Francisco from125 stories up in a glass tower. There’s some fifty stories above us.

Buildings got real tall and relatively easy to make when they started stacking modular sections, lifting them up with big tractor drones. It’s drones that prune the up high vines, too.

The living room is spacious; doesn’t have a whole lot of furniture. Hardwood floor slats point to the window. Rugs are around, here and there. Big pillows. A couple of low riding chairs. And the futon. And my garden.

My garden. A forest of all my plants breaks up the window’s rectangle. OK, it’s not a forest but it’s a good enough description for a collection of plant life all living together. Or garden. Same thing. I stroll over. They’re all silhouetted against the pre-dawn skylight outside.

My plants. They’re all lives; miracles. Yet they’re common as dirt itself. The world, when it’s allowed to be, just pours forth life. Even when you stomp on it, it grows. A seed can grow out from under a rock if it needs to.

I can get a tickle of vertigo if I allow myself to look down instead of out over the city landscape; land, being a misnomer anyway. There’s a whole bunch of concrete and glass. Land is only where it’s planned.

Us humansgrow plants all over the place. Heck, vines drape off the tops of skyscrapers. And the sidewalks have giant pots of store-bought plants. Trees and flowers and veggies on a little plot within the landscape of manmade rock.

But I like to make it easier for a few of the little green blooded threads in the tapestry that are growing without the aid of some corporation.

The surface, down on the streets, is relatively calm with the street lights glowing. Near empty. Soon it will be crawling with vehicles and pedestrians that resemble a hill of ants from my point of view.

Out over the tops of the buildings, that’s where the sky is, that’s what nourishes my many potted plants and my own life. And my family’s life. And my cat. And the other fuzzies that live here.

So, yeah. I have a few rooms in a skyscraper. About as far away from nature as one can get. But plants don’t care as long as they have their plot, and sun and water and food.  They got all that. So my plants grow so well it’s like they’re dancing. They reach out to the light like a worship.

People call me Jazz. Jazz Mohan. I’m actually a Malcolm. But I’ve been Jazz for years since I have this knack for laying out some love on the keyboard. I got a band that rides my piano with me. They’re how I earn my living. We call the band Flora.

I’m the color of coffee and about that warm, I guess. I’ve grown a mohawk of dreads that hangs to my butt. And hell, I’m so long and lean I have an uncle still calls me string bean. He’s called me that since I was a kid. Anyway, that’s why I can stretch way beyond an octave if I need to.

Outside a purple tint leaks into the grays and before long tinges of pink mix in. The new morning light reflects on all the glass planes with their angles, all reflecting the light like a cubist painting. The colors morph, adding light little by little until the colors start to lean warm; oranges with the purples, with soft radiant transitions. Yellows show.

I hear my garden rejoice in that part of me that lets go of rationality. The part that’s willing to fly.

Soon the sun peeks up over the darkened horizon behind the forest of skyscrapers. Suddenly the whole painting takes on more boom, enriching the warmth, as shafts of golden brilliance shoot through any spaces between the buildings and the hills, lighting the shadows down on the street with sharp intense floods of light. Now, there’s some beauty. I love it.

I take the watering hose with its shower nozzle and spray my face letting the water run in my eyes and sucking it up my nose and taking long drafts. Drinking water. That's divine. Something wonderful about wetting your face in the morning with the stuff you’re made of.

I’ve built a waterproof trough under the garden so don’t worry about the floor.

I let my face drip dry, it’s part of the water trip, as I meander along the garden reaching out my hand and caressing the leaves and flower petals and vegetable edibles; and I coo softly, feeling the sunlight that’s starting to come in like a gentle flood.  Certainly a warmth different than the warmth of a blanket or a family. Radiant warmth.  It’s so strong up here there are devices to tone it down but I don’t do that too much. I like the blast of it. So do the plants.

But there is this one plant that wilts in some hang down manner. Not happy. It shows no joy, no matter what I do. What?  Not enough water? Too much?  Same dirt as all the others. Did I break too much root? And the light? Perhaps too much. Perhaps this is a shade lover. Can’t remember where I found it, but I should have noticed. I’m kind of lax with the scientific details.

Standing next to the sad plant in its pot I cup my hands within its space. This life is an individual, I think to myself. “What is your imbalance,” I ask the plant. “Tell me what you need.” I stand quiet and receptive, reaching out into the peace for that plant answer.

And then, “Popi?” A little voice, my daughter, breaks my trance.

I come out of it and turn her way. “Good morning, Ruthi.”

“Popi.”

She falls in for a hug.

I give her a kiss on the cheek with the hug. Her strong back flexes as she tightens her hold on me. She gets those muscles from working out on the gear I’ve installed in her room. It’s a work out, but to her it’s playing. Especially her favorite, the pole, where she performs beautiful ballets, dancing on it like there was no gravity; feet pointed in graceful relationships to each other and fingers held just so.

Lin taught her that. Star material.

What you doing?” she asks.

“I’m talking to my plants.”

“But I told you, plants can’t talk.” She’s cocky and skeptical and not afraid of her father.

“Oh?” I reply.  “But they can listen.”

“Oh?”

Ruthi, coffee skin like me, with a dainty nose and petite lips, and a hint of oriental eyes like her mom. But her hair is definitely African. The tight curls fluffed up into an afro that we pull back into a pony tail, also filled out with afro body. She’s tall for eight years, but go figure. Check me.

She’s a little sprite, barefoot in her light blue jammies. My little lady. She has the ability to see the minor things that make up a major; a wisdom not learned but already there when she was born. That’s my guess. My little genius.

“Really.” I tell her. “You can talk to it.”

“What will I say?” Tiny humble voice.

“Tell it you love it. Put your hands around it like I showed you.”

So she says, cupping the plant’s aura in her hands, “Little plant.” A long pause. “I love you.”

But then she turns to me. ”What kind of plant is it?”

“I haven’t looked that one up.” I say with a shrug.

“Hmmm,” is her reply as she strokes the leaves, super soft because of the wilting. She cradles a cluster of leaves in her hands as she leans in close; her voice’s breath flows over their surface.

“Little plant, look here, my daddy says if you don’t feel good you have to lift your mind higher. You have to think your way better. But, I know you’re a plant and thinking isn’t what you do, so I’ll think for you. All you have to do is hear me.”

There’s my Ruthi. She amazes me. My daughter. She hears me when I teach. I love that as one of my life’s greatest events.

She looks up at me with that look of hope. Is that what you mean? Which demonstrates that she’s not totally convinced. We lean together and wrap our arms around each other. Daughter and Dad. What a thing.

Misty cat lies on the futon watching. Curious about us. Certainly a cat.

Lin walks into the room. She’s so pretty in the morning, right out of bed.

“You up?” she asks.

“Yeah slipped out early. While ago.”

“Coffee then?”

“Yeah, love.” I pause and grin at Ruthi. “And a glass of castor oil for the munchkin here.”

“Popi!” she says, playing being indignant. “I want some coffee, too.”

“Just a snibbet,” I say. “But goat milk, too. You need your goodies to grow.”

“Popi.”

“You do.”

“Ok, but coffee first.”

“Ok…hey. You know you’re cute, don’t you, with your face and stuff?”

“OK.”

She overwhelms me with her young beauty and cleverness. I lift her up and carry her to the kitchen, following Lin.

“A front is blowing in,” Lin informs me as we step into the kitchen.

Still holding Ruthi, I wrap my free arm around Lin and we have a sweet loving kiss with Ruthi squirming between us.

“Bring on the storm,” I say.

I let Ruthi down and pour coffee for Lin and I and a tiny shot glass for Ruthi, which she downs fast and sprints down the hall obviously avoiding her goat’s milk.

“You go farm,” says Lin as we have another hug now that I have both arms. We linger there, pressed from thigh to neck, up tight, so sweet.

My coffee cup leads me down the hallway.  As I walk into the living room, Ruthi, staring down in the plants says, “Look. Popi. It’s Moses.”  She points to the rim of a flower pot.

Looking in close I see Moses edging along, on his way to the next flower pot, no doubt.

Moses, our solitary snail, has lived with us for more than a year. One day, in Ruthi’s fascination with the plants, she found Moses at the base of a stem.  He was just a little feller doing what snails do. Not much from our point of view.

That snail became the point of focus for some days after that and then stuck around. Like, what else was he going to do? To him my forest was like a planet in outer space. It would be a long dry trek from my apartment to the next closest snail compatible environment.

Ruthi said, “Well, Let’s let him live here.”

Hum.” I pretended to ponder it. “OK. Shall we name it?”

“We’ll call him Max,” she blurted.

“Max?”

“Well?” she said in her defense.

“How ‘bout Speedy?” I suggested.

“That don’t fit,” she correctly argued.

“Doesn’t fit,” I said.

“Yeah.”

“Man Friday?”

“Nope,” she said as she crossed her arms and frowned in concentration pondering the snail.

“I think we should name him Bartholemew,” I said as a joke.

“Popi.”  She fingered a leaf. “Who’s that?”

“No?” I paused for effect because I already knew what’s coming next. “Then Moses.”

Suddenly she lit up. “Moses. Hey! I like that. We’ll call him Moses.”

So Moses it is. He’s amazing. He traverses the entire length of my potted garden. It takes a day to do that if he’s going for it. Somehow this snail, Moses, got past me when I brought in a plant. But that’s OK. He’s become a member of the household.

He likes to eat on the leaves, but it’s not like it’s a whole herd of snails eating everything. It’s just him so I’m glad to give him some food. Makes me feel good. And Ruthi, too.

Moses never did procreate while with us. He’s been the only snail for a long time. I guess I was right to consider him a he, if snails do that male female kind of thing. I don’t know. Never looked it up.

Ruthi cups the wilted plant again thinking on it.

I don’t know the level of her concentration. But what I suspect, with life, one can visualize a light, know it as the creative life of Christ, swirl it around and sweep it over the ailment, the light seeps in at the molecular level, or the atomic level, and adjusts the atoms back to where it is the expression of the ideal divine design. Atomic adjustment. Huh. What I know is, I’m not the one doing this when it happens. I’m just the brush of some painter.

That Christ is the artist but the paint is the visualization of the nourishment up from the soil, the water, and the inflow of light. That’s what I do, here in the world. And don’t forget elimination of waste product from the metabolism. Ah, the process of life. Every frickin’ thing alive does it.

Ruthi breaks into my dreaming train of thought, “Hey, there she is!” Obviously, while I was off in my thoughts, she was searching for one of our other unlikely pets.

She points up under a leaf, looking back at me. I come in close, focusing in. And there is the lady. Yes, that’s her name, Lady.  Ruthi makes it a hobby to search for Lady.  Lady can be hard to find; she hides so still.  Ruthi will peruse every branch systematically until she finds the spider.

Lady’s an athlete. I’ve seen her jump a couple of feet faster than I can blink. She’s all furry with a black that seems to have a tint of deep blue and a hint of red on her back. She has as many eyes as she has legs. Eight!  You can tell she’s looking at you.Totally buff. Big chest and legs. Packed with whatever spider meat is. Lady also traverses the entire forest. But a lot faster than Moses.

Well, it’s always part of our appreciation of the garden to search out Moses and Lady to see that they’re all right.

This garden, my forest. It’s a whole window’s worth. What? Some thirty feet long, all window, full of plants. Over on the right side, would you believe it? A weeping willow tree, Mebro. The pot’s as big as a washing machine. I have to prune it all the time because it would gladly fill up the whole apartment. Lin takes the cuttings and weaves mats and when they dry she paints oriental scenes on them. She has a style. There’s a few of those hanging on our walls and the walls of friends. And there’s a few out there because people buy them.

On the opposite wall, at the other end of the window, I have a manzanita that I brought down as a sprout from Donner some fifteen years ago. Our honeymoon.  A little sprout then, now a major mini tree. Not supposed to remove plants but I did. Over the years I have trimmed it so it grows like a canopy over our futon.We got hanging candles in there. And a bunch of  significant trinkets.Stuff like a goose feather on a string. Some ceramic abstractions. A picture of the three of us. And other stuff.Ruth was conceived right here on this futon under this manzanita. We haven’t told her yet.

I made custom wooden shelves down at the Maker’s Space Lab. The shelves run along both walls perpendicular to the window. That makes for a lot of shelves, stair stepped, with potted plant spacing.And a few big gaps where I grow larger plants. The juniper, which I stole from the beach hill, low growing, shaped by the winds. So that’s what it does genetically. It matches our circular bamboo futon right next to it. Nice design. That’s Lin. She sets the few pieces of furniture just where they’re supposed to go. It’s her art and she can put together a pretty nice environment. Luckily she was able to incorporate my garden into her design because the window wall to the outside is all about the plants. So much beauty.  My prize.  Lin let’s it be.  And in trade I let her decorate, which is easy because I love it right down to the dishes.

Funny, the name Lin means forest. And she married me.

In one corner of the window there’s a bonsai lilac bush. It’s been growing for years but I trim it so it doesn’t get too big. It’s a miniature tree. Smells so good when it blooms. I’m working on a bonsai Eucalyptus, too. Talk about smelling good.

Long troughs of hydroponic systems, running the length of the window, produces green beans and spinach, broccoli and cauliflower. And there’s carrots and radishes, garlic and onions, in long dirt plots. The vegetables are planted in frequencies so that I always have something maturing ready to eat.

I clip off a spinach leaf with my fingernail and savor its green-ness.

The spinach grows so fast we can hardly keep up with it. If I prune off a broccoli or cauliflower floret more of them grow back in its place. Tell me God ain’t generous. I’ve got a setup down on the floor to keep them cool since they like the shade.

We grow the herbs that we mix with olive oil and vinegar or cream for the dressing.

And my friend, Red Bud, over there in its slot in the shelves.

We eat  our breakfast in the living room; eggs and cheddar on muffins with butter and some left over fish fried crispy in garlic and onion oil. A whole grapefruit apiece.

Later, as morning approaches noon, indeed, a system blows in. The scene out the big window softens with purple grays, hanging with low clouds, with sheets of water sweeping off of them. The ocean coming in. Mist droplets dot the glass. The visible distance only goes so far as all the buildings fade. I can barely see the streets below. Beautiful day, I think to myself.

Lin and I stand arm in arm looking out.

“Are you sure you want to go out in this?”  Lin asks already knowing the answer.

“I love crappy weather.” Smiling at her. Kiss on the lips.

Soon, I fetch my jacket from the closet. It’s deep emerald green with crimson highlights; hangs halfway down my thigh.The material’s as tough as a tent.  My shoes are designed for concrete walking, giving the pad of soft dirt and grass while I walk the sidewalks.

I wrap my maroon turban around my head and leave a trailer that covers myhanging dreads to keep them dry.

After kissing my ladies bye, I carry my gear down the hall to the elevator. Magnetic propulsion. Our elevators are really fast, they got to be with 175 floors, but programed to not break our necks with the starts and stops.

The doors open. Larry’s there, coming down from the floor above me. Larry looks so Scottish. Don’t know if he is but he has a long red beard and a grounded grin.

“Larry.”

“Hey, Jazz,” he says with his friendly smile. “You playing tonight?”

“No. I’m staying up here in the sky.”

“Jeni and I got some cake. That’s what we’re doing,” he says.

“Boo-ger.”

We laugh. Those two are woven threads in a cloth like Lin and I.

The elevator. I love the feel of this acceleration. Gives my loins a tingle. But I don’t exclaim that to Larry. We come to that stop. My molecules stomp on their brakes. Science says it’s OK, so I guess it’s alright to put my body through this a couple of times daily.

I step out the front door into the mellow mist. Thank God for the cloudy shade and the mist. It can get really hot around here. So hot that they’ve invented cooling suits and just about everybody with any wealth wears them; but not me. Even though I have some bucks I prefer to accustom myself to the way the world is, just in case the infrastructure crumbles. Sometimes it seems about as stable as a stack of marbles.

Ocean smell is in the air, telling me I ain’t smelling the water I drink.

I’m amazed. On earth water takes on various forms. Salty ocean, smelling like kelp and fish.  And fresh water, without the salt; drinkable by the animals and plants. Then there’s the suspended water in the atmosphere. It might not show all that much, but there’s a bunch of it. And then consider all the water in all the blood and all the chlorophyll.

All of everything on Earth is of water. Even desert sand. The air around and between the particles of sand is a low degree of wet. But there’s wet. And sand itself?  Certainly the stuff that compressed over eons into stone and crystal was once a wet mush of particles. So where did the water in that mush go? I suspect that most of it went into the atmosphere.

In my very informal inquiry of this I discovered that in minerals there is hydrogen and oxygen atoms. But not in the water form. Are there remnants of water compressed in the crystal?  I don’t know. I’m just wondering.

I do know, though, that the water of salty ocean, through distillation on an atmospheric scale, leaving the salt behind, collects in the sky and gets so heavy that it falls back to the surface of Earth. Then it’s rain. And rain is where we live.

Witnessing this is among my greatest loves.

It’s like Lin and Ruthi, my family, my greatest love. Then my piano. And then the glory of how everything is all put together; so well, so brilliantly constructed, interconnected, in a most absolute manner. Uncountable elements make up the collection that is all of them. The one. Everything. That’s that thing I love. It’s so huge it’s incomprehensible yet I know within it I can be a nicely colored thread in the big tapestry by letting my heart mind hands play piano and giving hero plants a better neighborhood to grow in. Not to mention growing a perfect daughter. Not to mention a loving relationship with my wife, a mind and body meld. These things are the color of my life and therefore a color in the universe.

Sounds just about religious, huh?  Well what? Lin came up Catholic but now just loves God. I was born a baptist but tried on Islam for awhile when I was younger and now I just love God, too. I’m a Christ fan as a foundation. This “just loving God” is the thing that caused her and I to realize we we’re in love with each other and wanted to be together. Now Ruthi has a love of God, too. I ask her what is God and she says he’s the maker. Good enough for me, daughter. I just tell her to appreciate it. Being made. She gets it.

I duck in under an awning to get out of the mist and pull my kit from one of my jacket pockets. I jam my one hitter into the bud and pack the little pipe just so. Lighting it, I pull a hit of my strain called Red Bud. It’s taste, I’m well programed to love it. So good.

I stow the kit and stroll back out into the mist towards the Stanyan complex, holding it…hold it.

I let it out.  Ahhhhhhh, exhaling the diluted smoke. A bunch remains within me as it incorporates into my blood stream through my lungs and goes to where it seems to know where to go. Something knows. A lightness falls in behind my eyeballs. A lifting rush and a sigh of relief. Suddenly I’m perceiving the sidewalk passing by and the sky up beyond the buildings, all gray and misty this time; but that’s got its beauty. Sure feels cool and good on my face as I look up.

The city sounds come in from farther out than they normally do. It all plays together as if that’s the way someone wrote a symphony.

I notice the comfy feel of my hands in my pockets.

So, at this point on my hike up the Stanyan Street hill I feel an exhilaration and my step takes on further enthusiasm. I have an enthusiasm, anyway, but I’ve added some whoopy do.

Lord.

I pull my hands out of my pockets and pump my arms to add to the motor of my climb. Breathing hard on purpose before I need to, to oxygenate my blood, oxygen I’ll need soon as I get up on the steep part.

I walk two blocks to where the hairy hill heads up and I start climbing. There’s less crowd on the slopes. People tend towards level. So it’s, for a city, wilder the higher you get. Meaning there’s more potential for some loner plant to be growing out of a crack. Anyway, I’m heading for Mount Sutro since I love it.

The mist on my face feels even better than my morning hose shower because this water falls from the sky instead of through a pipe. I’m funny like that.

I huff up the hill while music plays in my head to the rhythm of my steps. The left hand running scales and the right hand jamming to that. I can even invent the percussion and the bass. I go straight up blind, be-bopping in my head while I walk. I get so in it.

So good; a something beyond.  Ah, pot. Marijuana does things besides sitting there being beautiful. A practical plant. A medicine, yet an amusement ride.

My plant. Red Bud. From good old California cuttings. Cuttings from a high linage. I don’t like lows. I don’t even like buzz. I like high. That gliding, increased perception, grounded enhancement of what’s right in front of my eyes. That’s where I am. That’s how Red Bud works.

So, I’m a farmer, even though I live in a concrete cube. I dig in dirt. I pick crops. I grow beauty. Small outfit. But it’s a farm. It’s my garden.

The last time my family line lived near dirt was two generations ago. My Mom and Dad lived here in the city. My grandpa ended up suburban. But before that, he met his wife, my Granny, Juli, in the Haight Asbury block when they both had run off to try on this thing that happened.

And my great grandpa was somewhere between suburban and farmer with his plot of land in the mid-west. Then I have a great, great Grandpa that was straight up farmer, living with the soil, selling veggies and eggs, and chickens. He sold to the local grocery store for years. Out in Alabama.

And his great grandpa was also a farmer, but he farmed for the man.  He was a slave. That man’s grandpa was from Africa. That’s my dad’s side.

My mom is a Mediterranean beauty. She tells me she’s Italian Egyptian but doesn’t know much more than that. I’ve got no reason to doubt it. My dad’s one lucky man to see her every morning.

I love my folks. Without them I wouldn’t have had time to play jazz. Hell, they bought me my first piano.

Lin’s family came out of China. Her granddad brought his young wife to America in a corporate move when he was young.  His son, her dad, worked in computer potentials. Chinese ancestry but distant lineage left back in China. If one had to define Lin’s parents’ identity it would be Chinese San Franciscan.

It’s like walking through a deep canyon with cliffs rising to the sky, made of glass, this architectural era’s favorite surface. Here at sidewalk level it’s retail and restaurants.  The next few floors are offices. So much commerce.  OK, that’s where we pick our roots and berries like our distant ancestors did in their woods. Now we have a commodity that we trade for a commodity. Money. Gets the food.

The sidewalks are populated with people. Might as well be New York.  But these are San Franciscan people, there’s something mellow there. Probably a bias on my part. These are some unique people. And on the stoops along the way; those same people with their cats and dogs. An occasional ferret. A raccoon. And even a python. And those people’s plants in plots, in pots, grown on their steps. Plants from the store.

I walk down Baker to the panhandle of Golden Gate, and cut through it. I love that stretch.  I  get to Ashbury and turn theretowards the Haight. I go by there for my granny’s sake.

A huge building built up on arced stilts with rainbow colors spans the entire Haight Ashbury intersection. It’s remembered for its place in history but all about commercial endeavor now. They’re the modernized, corporatized home grown mom and pop feel thatdistantly honors the hippy culture. It’s a mall.

My granny would shit her britches if she saw it. I’ve got a picture of her. She stood there in front of some psychedelically painted store front, arm in arm with guys in top hats and denim vests. Grandpa was one of them. This before they knew they were going to be in love. She wore a long loose dress with intricate flower patterns and a head band holding her frizzed hair out of her face. A beauty obviously having one hell of a time. They all grinned like they just heard their favorite old joke.

She was here when this particular corner and this neighborhood fell into an expression of hipness and earned itself a name. She was a piece of that puzzle, for sure. If one was to lay it out on a graph of human experience Haight Ashbury would be a  peak. A reach higher. A symbol in a world wide movement. Tickled some kind of brotherhood.

Well, it took a dive later, and then was saved for posterity's sake, and became a child of commercialism of the Haight Ashbury concept. And now it’s just a piece of the global market with a few brave hangers on. Even still. Kind of fell from it’s peak on the graph.

Plant life is preserved like a museum in various spots on the San Francisco map. My favorite besides Golden Gate is Mt. Sutro, your basic stand of Eucalyptus on a hilltop. Otherwise, it’s covered with soft ground plants. Lots of ferns. If one had his mind right it would be like lying on a feather bed. I guess I’ve been there. I’ve had my mind right before. With my bud, Ron.  On Mt. Sutro. I’ll never forget. Mount Sutro. Right. Ah. Enhanced. That’s what it was. If I’ve ever gotten near experiencing the singularity, that was it. Nature’s own shrooms. Some years ago.

I reach the Belgrave dead end, stop, and stare into the immediate forest.

It’s a whole forest of plant life but I’m looking for stragglers. Those that are the ones in need. Jesus preached of going to find the lost and separated. The lost sheep.  It’s a stretch but isn’t it the same? I didn’t plan to go out and emulate the shepherd in the Jesus’ story, but when I’d been doing this a while I realized that’s what my trip is. For that I’m thankful. I’ll do that without being a radical Christian.

It’s that Jesus story about where the seed falls. The things that could happen depending on the circumstances.

Falling in a concrete wilderness allows for poor odds of survival, but I come along and allow some grace and the plant survives. That’s the point of his story. Yes, I know, I’m buying a myth when I wed what I’m doing with the activities of Jesus. But, hey. I’m saving lost causes.

So, something’s calling from behind me. I’ve learned to recognize the spirit’s guidance that enhances rational planning. Holy spirit if you’re biblically inclined. Urges are enough to suggest the direction to go. So I turn around to search the concrete. I mean, that’s my gig anyway.

Back down the street a bit, I see that speck of green about 30 feet up some concrete stairs; old like the San Francisco houses in this edge of the park neighborhood.

Years of the pressure of gravity and the variations of temperature leaves stress cracks in the concrete where dirt from molecules of life that died, scooting along the surface in the wind, collects. Over time some seed falls in, just by some seed luck, and finds a plot to drop root.

I kneel down by the tiny plant. I think it may be a baby vine. Its leaves lift towards the light of the sky, aimed recently on sunnier days. And look, it has a little flower, striving to procreate. What’s the odds that a bee will bring the right pollen to this lonesome sprite of a plant? It looks so healthy in these grim environments. But this little plant will find there’s not enough nourishment or water in this minuscule plot of dirt to be a mature plant. Nor is there any pollen from a cohort with which to mate. It’s doomed. Well, I’m short on its particular pollen at home but at least it will survive as an individual.

My first act is to greet the plant. I mean it. I approach it as I would an old lady at an intersection. Tender care. Respect. Willing to help.

Then I touch it like I would the youngest kitten. A petting. And I speak to it in a comfortable tone. Come with me. Trust me. I speak as if it hears me because I believe it does. At least it feels my vibration.

I carry a kit of tools designed for plant rescue. My design. A cloth to wrap the roots in and a liter of water. Some plastic Magnaware. A few different diggers to use. Diggers that are old discarded dental tools.

I pour some water into the crack to slicken up the dirt. Then I slide a flat skinny blade along the edge of the crack and wiggle it around. That breaks down the dirt’s settled in structure. After that I carefully dig out the dirt on top with a little spoon shaped tool, placing it on a square of paper so I can bring some environment with the plant; the dirt that it’s used to.

As I dig deeper, I add more water. Lube, Mebro.

When I come to a root I hook it with a pick. Little by little tugs while I loosen the dirt. No breaks. No cuts. Although it happens. Can’t help it. Plants have a way of reaching roots down deep so they lose some resources in my extraction. But they compensate and regrow if they have the food and water. Which they’re going to get.

Funny how dental tools are just miniature diggers. Surgical, with solid metal textured handles. Excellent weight and balance for stability. Perfect size. Divine design by mankind.

I feel the mist landing on the back of my jeans leg, starting to soak it up little by little as I meticulously extract the plant from its birthplace. It’s like taking a kid away from its parents, but the parents down in the crack in the concrete are pretty skinny. I don’t think the kid plant would argue. Once it processes out of the transplant trauma, it will be a much happier plant what with a plot of sufficient dirt, with no lack of water, fish as food, straight on sunshine, and the love that permeates the room where it lives.

I waste no time wrapping the plant in a cloth and soaking it with water and laying it in a plastic container.

So there you have it. I pack up my gear.

With the chore done, I sit on the step and gaze back up the hill to the Sutro forest. Towering Eucalyptus waving in the gentle wind. Misty blue green pines. Sharp deep greens contrasting with soft buffy colors. And sienna browns. These are the things I paint with my piano.

A lady comes down the steps, and smiling, navigates around me.

‘How do ya do?”

“I’m good,” as she descends the stairs past me.

I remember a trip we took, Lin and Ruthi and I, just a while back, up to these woods. We meandered around, not through the marked trails and features, but on the Stanyan Street edge where it’s a patch of wild. Right up there. Where I took that flight; once upon a time.

Lin and I have been sniffing dirt and things since we met. Wherever we go. That’s got something to do with our togetherness. We jive in our appreciation of all the stuff. The world is made up of trips to be had, even smelling dirt and having the realization of what it is, a material born of rock and rot that’s full of nourishment and holds water, for plants to grow in.  I couldn’t name any of dirt’s ingredients, but all together they smell strongly of life. The fact of dirt, gives me hope.

That day I sat them down in the ferny mulch.

“See this right here?” I suggested the square yard in front of us. “Let’s sit real still and watch what happens.”

Lin took my hand and I took Ruthi’s and we sat in anticipation.

“Good thing Misty isn’t here,” said Ruthi.  She’s so smart.

Before long we noticed darting motions. The ground was teeming with life. A whole system, I’m sure. Coming up to the surface just to crawl down between the leaf layer. The little bugs living their lives.

Wild flowers surrounded us with their bees that zipped around like they knew what they’re doing. What a duty they maintain. They were challenged decades ago, dying off and raising alarms. But the good lord’s science and engineering, and whatever else, saved them and they came back.

And birds, with their dinosaur ancestors, flittered around making noise that we call song. Not, though. If you sit there long enough, you get an eye full of the ways of birds.

Even Ruthi will sit so still. She’s a junior scientist and will do what needs to be done to learn something. How cool is that?

I lift a single finger, a cue for them to listen up. Luckily they love me.

“OK, you guys,” I said. “Close your eyes. OK? Now be still and listen without thinking about anything. Just witness the sounds.”

So we do. An abundance of birds, rustles, muted civilization, the wind in waves; these are what the song said.

“Now, bend on over and sniff the soil,” I said.

We all do in unison. What a bunch of gurus.

I get a sniff of rich earth with a back of ocean. A prosperity of life just pouring on. Dirt and atmosphere. Where a lot of life lives. You can smell it.

So, now we’re all on our knees and elbows, looking close into the forest floor.

“Look here.”

They leaned in closer.

I pulled back some leaves and there was a scramble of variousbugs and one brown sprinting spider.

It’s a whole world; a totally different scene than the one we’re living in.

“And check this.” I pulled back more layers of the fallen leaves, little by little, and as I got deeper in, the leaves were less and the dirt was more. We could see the progression of the leaves turning to dirt. Within this process, bugs lived.

So that was family outing in the forest. One of my favorite days. Ever.

Before I take off for home, I go up in the woods and turn over a fallen log. I catch a couple of formidable black ants. Knew they’d be there. I usea postcard to scoop them up and a stick toherd them; to lead them into a Magnaware container. Mean looking ants. Huge head and pinchers and a shiny black back.

I have a couple of cases, one for the mean assed ants, and another for the crickets or various beetles. I let them go in the garden at home and they run around like bugs do. They’re for Lady. If it’s a bug she will eat it. Even ants. But I notice, with a warrior ant, she’ll always position herself behind the ant before she jumps on its back.

I tell the ants, “You’re going up against the bitch. Good luck and a fat chance.” Like I’m an old Roman telling a gladiator to die with honor. “Lady got better tools and smarts and strength. And poison. She will win and she will eat you. Sad but true.”

Even so, the ants still act like they’re bruising for a fight.

Those ugly brown crickets, they’re your basic insect cows all shit brown with towering knees. Living to be eaten. They don’t seem to care. Lady loves them, too.

I just give the cricket a finger flick on the back of the head and it stops resisting; stunned for an instant.  I lay it up close to Lady and she does this little dance before jumping on the cricket’s back. I can see her whole body contribute to pushing her fangs between its armor plates. Getting down to business. The bug is further stunned, let me tell you. It lays there and gets eaten.

Ruthi keeps asking if she can whack a cricket upside his head. But I don’t let her.

“We’ll let the patriarch do the dirty work for now, little lady. You’re too innocent to be an accomplice in these killings.”

“I want to, Popi.”

“Someday,” I said.

I realize I’ve been dreaming for a good many blocks as I walk home. It’s a good thing I don’t get whacked walking along with all my attention in my head. My automatic pilot keeps my ass safe.

About a half a mile from home, I’m pooped to the bone. But I have new plant life to put in a pot with its plot. That’s cool and worth the work. I can see my glass tower down the street; a damned high stack of residence, except for the first few floors which is retail geared to serve the people above. The building has everything from groceries to exercise. And earthquake proof generators to keep the electricity on no matter what happens.

They always say if the big one hits and you’re way up high, lay down flat and hold onto something that is affixed. The place is going to swing. You don’t want to be going out the window.

Elevator up and I’m out. I drag down the hall to my home. Open the door. My self is the key.  Ruth jumps up, running into my arms before I can drop my stuff. The hug of love. And there over Ruthi’s shoulder is Lin smiling and awaiting her hug from the great explorer returned home. This warmth prospers the plants and the people. It’s love, mebro. The house is full of it.

“Me ladies,” I say, “I bring plant life, as if we don’t have enough of it.”

They just look at me, grinning.

I carry my gear with the expectant plant over to my work space, open the container and turn the wet rag back. There lies a naked plant, showing the bloomers of its roots. If a  plant has hope then this one hopes that I get its roots covered real soon.

I do. In a new red ceramic pot with its draining system in place at the bottom, I scoop in some potting dirt. Then I hold the plant up, hanging into the pot, and sprinkle the dirt from the crack in the sidewalk that this plant started off in, around the roots, and then fill the pot to the top. Lots of water then to fill in the dirt particles around the root to settle structurally and making it easier to get something to eat. And then the rotten fish solution. Stink to me, food to the little plant. Or in this case, medicine.

That done, I wipe my hands on my pants as I head for the piano. I pull out the bench, sit down, and light a few candles.

I lay down a progression of chords and sing some yeah yeah scat a few times. That’s Ruthi’s cue. She scoots up on the piano bench to my left, looking at me with an expectant grin, while candle light reflects on her face. Like let’s go. How could I resist. Her and I have our own special boogie.

Ruthi and I have a history. I instructed her, once upon a time, as she grew beyond just pounding the keys and laughing, to just play one note, in the bass ranges, over and over; one, two, three, four, keeping the beat.  And I jammed to that in the mid range and trebles. It pleased the hell out of her when she noticed how we jived. She heard it and giggled with delight. My jaws ached from the grinning. My girl.

So, with that accomplished, I showed her a second note. She was just four years old and she was moving the music with a couple of notes and some rhythm. Two notes, then three, which was leaning hard on being a scale. She developed the ability and she loved it. And whatever she did I jammed to it.

So we play together every night just about.

What’s cool is, the best yet, I showed her how to delay a note, like a hiccup, a mini pause, which gives the scales flavor.  I demonstrated it over and over;a lifted shoulder, head tilt, cool pause, like the snap of the fingers, until she got it. And she sure did. Once it’s programed it happens with ease. So with that process even expanded further, we lean into jazz, and she and I play it.

Lin stands behind us with her hands on our shoulders grinning like a happy cat and tapping her foot while Ruthi booms a bass and my fingers fling and flip as if they know what they’re doing. Before long Lin sits down up on the right side and jams little treble riffs to the jazz going on. Six hands! No one’s going to get this on paper; it’s way too spontaneous. Expressionistic jazz. We carry on like that for a while, giggling out loud on that occasion when we nail it.

But, after a while Lin and Ruthi wander away. They’re not as enthusiastic about the piano as I am.  So, I’m left here alone. It’s like Mama sends me to my room.

As is my way, I slump over the keyboard in a moment of silence. Ahh, yeah. Then I float my hands over the keys, until serendipity instructs a finger to drop and push a key down. And then others.  And then combos. And then scales. Scales from the heart more than the mind; the mind that brings forth learned music. But I’m a bunch of heart. I let it pour out without thinking so much. I know the keys well enough to freely flow.  The key signatures; I wander between them. That’s really my specialty.  Roaming through easy on the ear dissonance. It’s expressionism with no key signature intended.
Ripples of a stream, Mebro. I let them flow over me. Your creation, Lord. Through me. As me.

I’ve seen, so subtle in my mind, some kind of input, that if followed leads to something good. Not to be believed at first, but I learned to trust it. It’s settled in so well, I’ve come to feel thatit’s not going to be our intellect that moves us into the next step of evolution, it’s our intuition. It’s the metaphysical definition of the virgin birth. It’s what Jesus was talking about.

Anyway, I use that when I play my piano. From the gut.

Just when you’re getting used to the pattern of my song, the notes take off somewhere else like a wind came through. You realize that pattern was like a rivulet over a rock. Then up comes another one. And then more. It prolongs conclusions. So people listening can just ride. That’s my jazz.

After a while of blissing out, the oncoming evening calls me and I stop. When I look around there’s Lin and Ruthi lounging on the futon, framed by the manzanita, giggling about who knows what. And, oh, there’s food and a bottle of wine on the floor table. Lin’s already popped the cork and filed her goblet.

And Misty cat, like some second kid watching the humans and keeping an eye on the cheese.

I walk over and sit down on the edge of the futon. Pull the cork with my teeth, pop, and pour some grape. Oh yeah.

And cheese. A white mellow and a sharp orange cheddar.  I like to chew together a combo of the two. Kiwi laid out on the rich, deep, glassy blue platter. Like deep ocean with green sparkling planets. That plate, made by Lin’s good friend, Joanna, who puts out pots by the thousands. The kiwi’s tart on top of the cheese.

So, I sit with my two lady loves and get into the nibbling. We pass around a long skinny sour dough baguette, gnawing off chunks. It’s a ritual that’s part of our love.

Lin and I have our white wine from up in the hills, a pinot gregio tonight, with just the right amount of pizazz.  We drink from our special goblets crafted full of delicate grace by that same Joanna. Glazed porcelain.

Ruthi sips cranberry juice with a squeeze of lime from her own special goblet.

We sit together and gaze out the window, listening to some old Steve Reich.  Eighteen Musicians, an abstraction of the sound of a brook. That’s my take. One of the cuts has a flute beating like a heart. Reich was playing music way ahead of his time. His musical changes give me the liberty to do the musical changes I do. He should be living now, but that’s not my call.

Well, I like the classics, orchestras and rock and all the variations of all that, and old jazz, but the music of the present is made for and by the people of the day, and it fits somehow. Good thing, because that’s what I do.

We can put these pillows any way we want for the moment’s comfort.  And from Lin’s point of view, her art. The placement of the pillows. Mobile soft seats. Free to go anywhere, yet they generally gather around the futon.

The whole scene in the room follows along with the color changes outside as the sun lays on the horizon.

Ruthi pets Misty on the head. How good it feels; to give Misty Cat that love and to let herself drift for a moment. Ruthi’s doing that. So is Misty.

Suddenly Ruthi asks, “Have you looked up your new plant yet?”

“No.” I look her in the eye with that smile of mine that sluffs things off. I tell her, “I haven’t, and truly, I don’t care. About its name. I just love its life.”

It frustrates her a bit. I can tell by her face. She momentarily ponders within. But that face isn’t enough to make me do a bunch of reading to find out the names of things. I’m way over right brained to do that.

“Popi, you should know.”

“No, you know.”

She stares up at my face.

“I”ll just do the hike,” I say. “I’ll bring you the plant to study.”

“Popi.”

“What?”

She pauses, thinking about it. “OK”

“Good. because I don’t want to study.”

She looks down at her hands holding each other. “It’s like playing bass and jamming,” she says. “You go get them and I’ll look them up.”

“Is that right? That’s good.” I don’t know what she means, but I’m glad she’s thinking.

I know, over there, Lady and Moses and all the other life forms are crawling around. Even the smaller furries and scalies. The mites and microbes. We all live here. Members of my family. Strange, I realize, there’s nothing in this home that’s larger than me. Except, maybe Ruthi. Lin and I are on the same plateau, bigger than the bugs, spiders, and snails. And the cat. And the microbes. Although, the microbes can kill us. Oh shut up!  I suppose the cat could kill us if it wanted to.

Anyway, Ruthi’s just large on energy. She owns this place.

The sun slips down, taking its time, morphing color to color on the glass buildings. Changing the painting. The garden silhouettesas the sky darkens. Misty’s laying here up against my leg for her comfort and the cheese. I give her nibbles, of course. She’d be digging cheese.

Ruthi’s leaning on Lin and Lin is leaning on me. Cat at my knee. Spider hiding.

Ruthi says like a violin solo in an empty room.  “Popi,” as she looks over at me, “I want to do the jam side sometime. You play bass. OK?”

“That’d be good,” I say. I’m truly cool with that.

“Look at that. She be growing,” says Lin.

“Yeah.” I turn to Ruthi. “You have some ideas?”

“No,” she says.

‘Good, then you can play from your heart.”

“Yeah.”

I see in her face she slips inside to a fantasy.  A sudden distant stare. Thinking about playing lead, I’ll bet.

I’m left staring at the colors out the window for a moment. When I look back I see that Ruthi has fallen into a snooze and Lin is looking lovingly at her and then up at me.

“We’re lucky, aren't we?” she says.

“We’re blessed, baby. We must have done something right to get this.”

“Yeah, Babe.”

Misty stretches out in a yawn, arching her back, with her knives extended looking like some sci-fi monster. But my warm hand on her belly softens her and her blades retract and her soft paws hug my arm. My cat. What a blessing. A cat.

Lin watches with a settled contentment. Truly, a mellow moment. We’re lucky to have it. We know. I lean into her lean into me.

“Love you, Lin.”

“Love you, too, Baby.” A pause worthy of the sunset. “Jazz man.”

I give her a kiss on the lips. And I get hers back.

Tugging tight, the shoulder to bring your true love in closer. That’s some kind of bliss.

“Lin.”

We settle in each other’s eyes.

She tells me, “Your jazz tonight. Sweetness.”

“My heart through my hands, baby.”

“I love you, ya mo.”

“Love you too, Lin.”

We giggle together.

It would take holy hell to separate us.

She’s fading. That snoozing off that gets giddy.  But passes by like someone falling. Then they’re out

Good night, Lin. And Ruthi. And Misty. Snooze crew here. But I see a thing to do just up ahead. I’ll sleep later.

In my pocket I have about a hit and a half left over from my hike. I’m not opposed to taking a whole hit and a half at once. So I do. An extra lung stretch, I suppose. Suck it in until the ember turns to ash.

Some gently throwing pillowness follows as the exhale pours out like clouds in a gale. I blow it away from Ruthi and Lin, although, Lin wouldn’t mind a molecule or two.

A patience sets in. Let be what is. A temporary loss of ego closes my eyes and makes my head bob a bit while multicolored forms frolic in my dream state. And then I come out of it inside that magic moment that occurs; a momentary dance of what’s right in front of me.

Through this the ladies sleep and I’m left free to do some branch swinging.

A heartbeat kind of pulse carries me along like I’m floating a river. Scenery suggests itself, a little less than rational, as stuff comes in from some different angles.

That pot aftertaste and effect, like a signature to a letter. The quality sings out. This shit’s good. And I grew it with the help of the powers that do stuff like that.

The music came to an end a while ago. The room is still. The quiet has a beat. Breaths and building clicks interrupt the purity of silence. But that’s to be expected. Life makes noises. Existence makes noises.

I revel in it. Thoughtless, fleeting dreams of a sort. And an awareness. Here I am, right now.  There’s peace in that.

I hear a rustle in some dry fallen leaves in the pots. I’ll bet that’s Lady. Looking for a bug. Sucks that things get eaten alive, fear and pain, you know. I don’t have an answer for that but I do know that’s what is. Hell, the tiger’s gotta eat. So that’s it.

I lay in that thought a moment until a chuckle comes up when I realize that Moses rarely makes noise. Conclusion. Spiders are noisier than snails. See, I’m a scientist.

I notice the silhouette of the sad plant standing up a little taller. Less wilt. The leaves taking on that upward reach. Good. That’s all I need to know. I know you can bless a plant. And, to take it all the way there, you can bless anything and do that thing good. I can buy that because I’ve seen it. Here it is right in front of me. Again.

My ladies, so warm and comfortable here with me. I know what it is, beyond the feel of it. We bask in each others’ pheromones. It’s home where the comfort is.

And Misty, like a living throw pillow. She just hangs with us, no matter where we are in the house. And Lady and Moses, over there.

The bugs, I’m sure they’re hiding. Because of said Lady.

Yet the leaves are willing to allow Moses to take bites from them. Like, what choice do they have?

Life’s rules play out.

Huh, I gotta laugh. Lady shits digested bug. And Moses shits leaves. Life’s eaten and what’s not needed is deposited to fertilize the Earth. I sense an ongoing order.

All the life in the midst of all existence, every element that all together makes it up, flows along like a river. Not one thing in all existence is excluded from that river.  Like I said, everything is a member of the big One. Everything all together, is one thing. And if things didn’t eat and shit, it’d be a whole different story. But they do. And that’s good. God’s design, if you want my opinion. And I know you do.

I’m getting snoozy as the earth light dims into deeper purples, going black, which contrasts with the warm lights of humanity in their buildings and the surface light buzzing down on the street. But up here the night dominates the sky; weighs down on the city lights below. It’s bigger. It’s where I live, Mebro. Up in the sky. It’s where I sleep with my family. Where my garden grows. Peace. Thank God.

 


© Copyright 2019 Thomas Van Horn. All rights reserved.

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