Saturday evening, late summer. The sun is just beginning to set behind the oaks and pines at the edge of our property. I’m sitting on our back patio enjoying the sunset. The birds are twittering all around – mockingbirds, bluebirds, doves, cardinals, painfully bright yellow finches, hummingbirds zooming and chattering between us. Unlike all the other cookie-cutter houses in the neighborhood, we’ve tried to fit flowering trees into every empty square foot we can so that a little paradise appears once you cross the property line. Bumblebees are busy buzzing about the jasmine vines that climb the pergola I built many years ago to dress our patio and break up the hot afternoon sun.
My wife is reading across from me, and just before I started typing this I was thinking about changing the world. Think big, right? I have a journal on my lap, cradled on propped-up, crossed legs, and a pen in my left hand. I always hold the pen in my left, but I write with the other. I’ve always felt I was left-handed, but then what the paper endures is the scribblings of a five-year-old. That must be the age I changed hands.
A glass of scotch is at the ready to do the heavy lifting for my big thinking – a MacCallan 12-year-old, because I can’t justify the $200 price tag of the 18-year (not on an indie writer’s salary, and ‘salary’ in this context is a bastardization of the concept ‘next to nothing’). The 18-year is my favorite, but “perfect is the enemy of good,” they say. I think Andrew Carnegie’s quote is more apt here, though: “Strong men know when to compromise, and that all principles can be compromised to serve a greater principle.” A 12-year MacCallan is a greater principle than Jack Daniels.
I lift the glass between my thumb and middle fingers and the pen crosses over the edge of the glass, wedged in a writing grip. See, if I had held the pen in my right hand I would have lost the imagined sophistication. So, it stays in my left – home base – even though it has little other use there. Leaning back in the chair and sipping the scotch (a cigar might put the moment over the top, and would paint an entirely different picture for me) makes me feel like a professor grading papers for Monday, or a businessman looking over proposals for The Big Meeting. I’m neither, and that suits me just fine. Teaching is tough, and I’ve had my fill of the business world.
This is the moment. Precisely at this moment, lifting the glass to my lips as I stare into the amber liquor washing over the whiskey stones, I know this was something worth writing about. It’s the little things that make all the difference. And this is such a little thing. The evening is clear and the daylight is ever-fading, and the person I care most about in this world is sitting across from me. It’s as if I have discovered some long lost secret. But I haven’t; I had merely forgotten it.