My wife and I traveled up to a small mountain community Sunday to “celebrate” Father’s Day. It is the same community we rode our bicycles too on Saturday morning. The difference, the trip took us, one-way, two hours to pedal and 20 minutes to drive. The other difference, I ate a power bar and drank a Gatorade on Saturday, Pizza and two beers on Sunday, a Father’s Day feast.
This is a quaint and quirky little community, somewhat isolated from the rest of the world. It is not on the way to anywhere. Rugged mountains border the north and south. There is a swanky little town 30 minutes to the East for the rich “horse people” and an interstate 15 miles away to the West. Two, 100-year-old general stores sit on Main Street right beside each other, one that sales hardware, the other with a grill that serves Hot Dogs and ice-cream. There are a couple of restaurants, art galleries, a bakery, two or three trinket shops, and then my favorite, an old guy who sells stuff he finds at the trash dump and turns into “art”.
This guy is a character. Sunday he was sitting outside of his shop under a tent, staring at a six-foot long piece of wood with a cigarette dangling out of his mouth. When I asked him what he was making he said a bench, or maybe a table, or it could be a place to hang his fishing rods. I asked him when he would know, and he looked up at me with a swirl of smoke circling around his face and said with a smile, maybe tomorrow.
I figured he was in his late sixties or early seventies, but we have all seen the face of a men who have lived their lives the way they wanted, on their own terms. Too much sun, too much drink, too many cigarette, too much living. Time builds character on those faces that is not always flattering to the rest of the world. His hair was gray, dirty and unkempt, like he cut it himself. In my civilized world he could have used a shower and a toothbrush which probably accounts for the three or four teeth he was missing. In fifteen minutes we covered topics that ranged from carpenter bees to trout fishing. He had an opinion on everything and enough knowledge to make him dangerous or a good liar.
This was the show, this is what he was selling. Crazy city people coming up from the flat lands to see this character and buy a $20 box he makes out of scarp wood and a mason jar that he claims will trap carpenter bees, no money back guarantee if it doesn’t work. Local color, local flavor. We hide characters like this in the city. We walk past them without acknowledgement. We confer titles like crazy, nuts, or eccentric giving them a wide berth when we walk past as if we could catch whatever they are afflicted with.
I love characters. I love people who not only live their life on their own terms but accept and embrace those terms. Some things work-out, some don’t. Some days you get breaks, some days the day breaks you. You wear your life on your face, every crack and crevice, like the rings on a tree. Those lines count the laughs and the tears, the joys and the pains. A face that shows the world you are here, you have survived one more day and maybe one more tomorrow.
“Life is a series of natural and spontaneous changes. Don’t resist them – that only creates sorrow. Let reality be reality. Let things flow naturally forward in whatever way they like.” – Lao Tzu