A couple days ago I was up stupidly late when I heard a voice outside. I live in the sticks, so this is unusual. I turned out the light and slipped outside with bo stick in hand–yes, I watch too many of those shows when I’m too exhausted to move, but too awake to stop the mouse wheels in my head. After a moment, I heard a stoner’s hacking down the road followed by a loud drunken rap, subject matter revolving around “that damn bitch.” I could hear hip-hop in the other direction emanating from a car parked by our spot of the river and the party was happenin’.
I was in my pajamas. Evening had ground well past midnight. I decided to spare them my “I don’t care if you party here, just don’t leave any trash behind” speech. I enjoy drunken fools, even hostile ones, but I didn’t even have energy to find my shoes–which is why I was standing in the wet grass in my socks listening to another passed over artist make his way up the road.
In the morning the kids and I went to see if our guests left us any presents. They always sign the registry with the usual burn marks, spinning tires tearing up the grass as they exit. Their donation to the tip jar was equally common, a miserly fifteen cents in returnables, with the other portion of the donation burned or broken in the sacrificial fire. Superstition is alive and well, it would seem. However, they added a special caveat I hadn’t seen before.
I believe in the “make it better when you leave” philosophy, but I felt outdone by my unexpected company’s etiquette. After carrying my picnic table a hundred feet for something to sit on, they decided that its slowly rotting frame and crumbling paint job were finally in need of replacement. They must have been moved by the images painted on the picnic table by my children of hearts and rainbows with words like “love” and “peace,” those age old axioms of empathetic humanity.
Out with the old, in with the new? If you want something to come into your life, make room for it? Grow new seeds in tilled dirt? IDK? WTF?
This is why their customs challenged me to open my mind:
1. When I am a stupid drunken fool, I tend to burn branches. I identify with branches. I grew up around them. Despite this, when I looked around the dead fire in the morning, all I could see were signs of my sylvan neglect; undisposed fallen branches were everywhere. Yet here were people whose experience was more “refined” than mine. They identified with furniture, aware that it possessed flammable qualities, and were willing to sacrifice their place to sit to do me the honor of burning my picnic table. Wow and huh.
2. Their spirited dedication in honoring me was further demonstrated when they left evidence behind. No, I’m not talking about the sales slip identifying them as people who bought Corona at Scumbies on October 1, 2016. It’s the illegally burned painted boards arranged around the fire’s perimeter like the spokes of a bicycle wheel as it breaks apart from sonic speed. That’s what happens to my mind when I try to think fast enough to comprehend the profound wisdom of my guests, and all I get instead is “duh…..” To be bold enough to do me such a favor while dodging the deft grip of law enforcement AND flaunt it in their faces by leaving evidence behind! Incredible.