I came home from band practice a couple of weeks ago, and there was a new trail marker in the dining room.
Not a literal trail marker, of course. Rather, it was one of those objects that show up in my life every now and then, and seem to serve a purpose wholly different than the one for which they were designed: they seem intended to also let me know that I’m not where I was the last time I saw one.
A reissue of an old R&B album, rather than the latest CD by the latest mopey college-rock act. A title for a vehicle, sent after the last payment was made. A mortgage, signed, sealed and delivered. A wedding ring.
The oldest trail markers didn’t tell you how far you were from your destination, or even what your destination might be. They had no numbers, no arrows, no hints, no help. The oldest trail markers basically just told you that you weren’t where you were the last time you saw one — that, like it or not and rightly or not, you were covering ground, moving from one place to another.
That’s what my personal trail markers are like. Something just comes into my life, I see it and I know I’m not where I was the last time I found myself considering another object in the same sort of way. They make me aware I’ve been moving through life the entire time, regardless of how conscious I was of the travel, or how directed I was toward any given destination.
This time, it was a freaking wine fridge.
Rebecca and I had been talking about getting one, in the same half-serious way we talked about getting lots of stuff at some point. But the reality of seeing that sleek little appliance tucked in against the end of the buffet — a rhinoceros in the dining room would’ve been equally expected. I mean, yeah, we like to drink wine, but an actual wine fridge? It’s so … adult. So contemporary modern adult. There’s nothing wrong with contemporary modern adult, of course, and nothing I would ever feel ashamed of.
Another thing the oldest trail markers did was give you the hope that, even though you barely knew what the hell you were doing, you were probably headed in the right direction.
I just tend to forget I’m an adult, of any stripe. Particularly after spending two hours banging out rudimentary rock ’n’ roll music at unhealthy volumes with the same guys I was doing that same shit with 10 years ago. It tends to keep one in a somewhat arrested state.
So I stood there, and I looked at the wine fridge, feeling very strongly that it was more than a wine fridge. That it was an indicator of my movement through life. And of course it made me wonder about the larger journey. Was I on the right path? Had I strayed far from my original dreams and goals? Was I betraying all that identified me as myself, or had I undergone a transformation, a metamorphosis, from that earlier me into a completely different me for whom a wine fridge was simply a wine fridge, and not some dumb trigger that my subconscious pounced upon in order to squirt an unrelated anxiety up into my waking mind?
Such big questions can sometimes make me profoundly uneasy.
But then we had to wait until the next payday to actually put anything in the wine fridge, and I felt very much like myself again.
I was somewhere else, sure, but not lost, just moving forward.
Just looking for the next marker.
*For Joe, who likes to order his with extra treacle.
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