Kalmia latifolia

The kalmia latifolia is, appropriately, our state flower of Pennsylvania.

Stepping off the path where this fact lives, according to vacationideas.com, it makes sense that hills, valleys, ups, and downs would be associated with our great commonwealth:

While the mountains do not reach the highs of their bigger cousins in the West, Pennsylvania is home to the Appalachian Mountains, which cut right through the state, with the Pocono and Allegheny Mountains as the most important sub-ranges.”

Further down the road, we have an area identified as the Laurel Highlands. The Laurel Highlands is a region in southwestern Pennsylvania made up of Fayette County, Somerset County and Westmoreland County.

S’merge all these ideas together – mountains and laurels – to get one rooted flower: the mountain laurel. A stately bloom captured on the other side of a lens settled gently in the hands of one with an eye for such beauty. I’ve shared her seizing symmetry before. Pictures are frozen in two dimensions, yet move emotions as if she is asking us to touch the scent … feeling its life.

The featured image for this post is from her archive. Once again, words are necessary.

Every state has a flower, a tree, a motto, a bird. Eastern hemlocks stand proudly as our tree, shouting, “Virtue, Liberty, Independence” from its branches and fine, dark-green needles. Secretive ruffed grouse may be seen by walking through the very forests where my keenly observant friend finds objects – shall I say, finely tuned, natural pleasures – to arrest our attention. These mentioned are Pennsylvania’s designated treasures sometimes surprisingly seen when least expected. Encouragement is urged for you to find your state’s magnificence as my sightly-gifted, grass-rooted earth swoosher asks all of her friends to do.

I’m asking you to find three dimensional allurement in your stately space. As a non-woodsy, never burly guy, my main path does not often go through lush thicket. On the rare occasion it does, either my eyes are too swollen to appreciate the moments, or closely held anxieties I cling to for comfort prevent any relaxed recreation. It is, therefore, your job to log in some forest time on behalf of all peculiar path-adverse people, like me, who only want to sit in comfortable chairs and glance upon very beautiful pictures.

Her pictures draw me in, so why would I subject myself to bugs, bothers, and blisters? I can live, momentarily, in a fantastical world of flowers, nights, trees, birds, and skys without leaving the safety of my insecurities. This is what great art does for those open to the possibilities. A Warholian jaunt, or Leibovitz-like skip from our trouble into whatever we imagine life needs to be to get us through that moment.

A calming moment, perhaps. Maybe kalmia? Softly spoken, with an Italian accent, “Come here..”. “…You’re welcome to join me as my friend. Sit with me and we will rest.”

Great images never have one view, of course. How many times do great paintings draw different opinions from the palettes of discerning wine and cheese guests? Her kalmia latifolia is white on green. A pre-holiday gift to help me keep hoping the present time is not so bad as it seems. They’re very open, as if to want to hold my hand – if only for a moment – and then retreat. Little umbrellas to hide the rain. All of this in a picture.

It’s ok to be open to these possibilities – even if only in two dimensions. I know the creator of the image is alive and well … in three dimensions. She’ll keep clicking away. It’s in her nature to do so and nature gladly accepts her good will. Maybe she’ll catch that wobbly ruffed grouse in her frame sometime for all of us to see.

I sure hope so ’cause there’s not much chance of one crossing my path anytime soon. This chair is just way too comfortable.

It Was Nuts

Flam, paradiddle, and ratamacue. Give any high school snare line sticks, drums, and each player the promise of a Big Mac upon completion of the exercise, and they’ll crack off those rudiments faster than you can say, “Two All-Beef patties, please.”

I sell all-beef hotdogs at my concession trailer – almost as long as those high school basin-bangers above have been alive. I’m also quite familiar with the standard set of rudiments percussionists must know, being a certified K-12 music educator. Yes, I’m a piano-playing, full-time food concessionaire, blogger-slash-whatever it takes to get through lifer. It’s crazy. The turns and twists along life’s less than concrete pathways are unpredictable for most of us. Solid plans laid out early on do work out, for some, as they unfold in a perfect unity with the universe. Arguably, for most of us, we have to adapt to ever changing circumstances. Ever hear of that thing called, “2020”? It’s nuts!

Oh, and speaking of nuts…

Yesterday, I pulled my trailer into a rather tight space for an event, up on a knoll, overlooking a beautiful late summer afternoon. The gathering was a semi-large smooshing of humans celebrating the freedoms in America. I try to stay independent in my views when vending-attending these because I’m there for only one reason: to make as much money as I am able. Yes, “greedy capitalism” is in my blood because I can’t pay my bills with good intentions. That sentence is overstated sarcasm, of course, however some assume businesses exist for the sole intention of customer appeasement. Yes, this is important … but we need to be making money. Kinda the point of this event yesterday … I think; Although, I was too busy to pay any attention to the speakers many yards away under the pavilion so finely decorated with American flags, red-white-and-blue banners, and stars.

It ended up being a nice, profitable day. Unexpected. In one word, “nuts” – as we like to say when business is significantly better than what was planned. Extra trips to get more product, more dips into the bank bag for change, ice runs to keep up with soda, and the second row of burners on my grill fired up 75% of the time … all good indicators of a great sales day.

All during the early hours between negotiating my cart/trailer/van up the knoll in and around other tents and vendors, I was very aware of a wonderful tree smack dab in the middle of my specified spot. At no point in my fifteen years career have I ever had to work out a deal with an immovable, unemotional, vertical owner of a specific plot of land. No amount of words spoken convinced this new friend to move. I had to find a way around, about, above, across, against … Creativity in my soul, I cranked and creased my way into the spot. Van, cart, … and tree all together in one harmonious vendor space. That was 1/2 the problem solved.

Then came an uprising. Oh, not a bad thing, just rising up a 10×10 canopy over my cart. I’ve done this tent task so many times it’s a sleeper. One click here, one pull there. Repeat 4x. Done. However, on a gorgeous Saturday late morning in September, under a tree, not so much an easy thing to do as it was a stumper. The click-ups didn’t work so well. Apparently, my new friend had low hanging arms preventing my canopy from going up all the way. Yes, twig-twisting, cart adjusting, and more head-scratching for ten minutes until that problem was solved. Whew, right?

Once all was in place, coolers filled and grease-laden surfer dudes rode the breezy waves off my grill, the event was kicking off. “Freedom” was in full swing as my cash drawer was counted anticipating an average day that didn’t turn out to be such a day. And then it started.

Tap. Tap tap. Flam. Paradiddle. Ratamacue. Were my musical ears – so focused on the griddle – deceiving me? Was I too tired from the negotiating session earlier that I was hallucinating? Tapped out from overwork?

This went on for hours – semi-rhythmic light pitter-patter upon my ears. The non-melodic tones stopped occassionally only to restart at odd intervals, but I had no time to investigate as sausages and cheese-steaks kept slithering off my grill at an alarming pace. Ketchup, mustard, and onions distracting my every attempt to start looking around for clues to this dastardly deception.

Finally, after four hours, I exhaustively melted into a welcoming chair to enjoy a taco salad from a foodie friend food truck who was there. Head bowed down in submission to the moment, I saw – and realized – the culprits. These little buggers were all over the ground. Well, all around the ground perimeter of a 10×10 white canopy. Gee, I wonder how they got there? Bouncing off said canopy, perhaps?

I’ll give the tree some credit here for being capable of spite. Kudos. I know I interfered in its planned Saturday activities, but it wasn’t my fault, really. Was nut-bombing me for hours really necessary? Granted, I should have figured it out sooner. Also, the natural shade received was nice and I’m not compensating the tree for that. Money is too hard to earn these days. It doesn’t grow on … , like every grandfather says, … or, maybe it was upset about that, so throwing acorns was passive-aggressive behavior.

The day was nuts all around for sure. To say I was tired after all of it would be understating the facts.

Freedom can be celebrated. I am glad to be a part of any celebration – regardless of political affiliation or belief. Yes, I need to make money first and foremost. Yes, good intentions are important as well. I intend to keep doing what I’m doing as long as I can. I hope you do as well … whatever path you’re on, as twisted or unpredictable as it may be.

Just be careful of trees with nuts. They have a tendency to be a bit irritated if you happen to show up on an absolutely stunning, sunny day in September.