27 February 2009

Gateway to Second Chances

I don't know if it's a strictly observed tradition but I notice that while people are hyper-animated screaming for beads from the Mardi Gras parade floats, tossed beads that hit the ground usually remain on the ground. Nobody bends over to pick up dropped beads. They're sorta like pennies...

There's a double gate between my house and the next. Up until a few weeks ago, both gates were padlocked and I had a key to the padlock on the left. A complex, mostly-unarticulated set of rationale kept the padlocks in place. And the padlocked gates helped launch an ongoing series of complex but boring episodes involving the utility companies, UPS, etc.

A couple of weeks ago, I got tired of it. Since Obama's election, a lot of boring unarticulated shit has become unbearable to me and I've begun interrupting some of those processes. I unlocked the gate I had a key for. The other gate is still locked.

I started decorating the gates when I found a big red bow in the street walking home one night. Left over from Christmas, it was still red, still vivid, but discarded. I brought it home and hung it on the gate. Some days it looked forlorn; some days it looked courageous.

Last weekend of Carnival, the beads on the street started reminding me of the forlorn red bow at home. And then somewhere along the line, the abandoned beads began to provoke somewhat wistful reflection on people and places and plans in my near and distant past.

I'm reading "Instructions to the Cook: A Zen Master's Lessons in Living a Life That Matters".

...How do we find the ingredients? We simply open our eyes and look around us. We take the materials that are at hand, right in front of us... We work with what we have in each and every moment.
Our body is an ingredient. Our relationships are ingredients. Our thoughts, our emotions, ... The place we live, the leaves that fall, the haze around the moon, the traffic in the city streets...all these are also our ingredients.
Use Everything. ...take the ingredients we think are going to ruin our meal and figure out how to use them so that they improve it...

So I started picking up beads from the street. I like the broken ones especially but accept the intact ones as well. I weave and loop and tie them to the gates. The locked one and the open one. It's a conjure. A ritual. A charm. An altar. Announcing to myself and the Spirit of Chance that I'm willing. That I welcome an opening, a passage, a reprieve.

I welcome it with my humble self bending down to retrieve the beads while native New Orleanians watch. I welcome it with my creative improvisational self, making up the design in the moment. I welcome it with Staying Awake self, looking at the gates anew each day when I return with more beads to add.

And, don't you know? Second chances are beginning to erupt. My telephone was disconnected Mardi Gras night but my tax refund arrived the next day. A part-time job offer I thought was lost weeks ago resurfaced yesterday morning at a higher rate of pay. And a former employer who seemed to be blowing off my request for a written reference, suddenly resurfaced today in email, happy to write a letter of recommendation.

Thanks to CSer, Emiko, for taking the photos this afternoon.


  1. Don't know exactly what it is, but in this image, more than any other I've seen, I'd say, you look like New Orleans ... haunting, easy, colorful, glorious.

  2. Alex, thank you for allowing this peek into your interesting, interested mind. I am fascinated by the psychology of the two locked gates to one walkway. What a apt metaphor of the hyper religious. Or something. To unlock what you can and make it beautiful....you go, woman.

    Could a pulpit ever be so rich and free as Alex standing by her beaded gateway?


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