Tuesday, December 10, 2013

Unexpected Sparks

This morning we left Kory at home while we went to Blackfoot to get some work done on the Tahoe that we got in  an even trade for our green truck (no money exchanged hands, but we kept our tires and wheels, battery and trailer hitch).
The oil needed to be changed and an engine plug needed to be installed, so that we could plug in the Tahoe on freezing cold days.
While they were at it, we also wanted them to take a good look underneath while the Tahoe was up on the rack.
LC had climbed underneath it when we were contemplating a trade, and believed it to be a good vehicle.
But the day we made the switch had been a very long, very cold and sometimes snowy day.  And with two guys test driving vehicles and changing out tires and batteries and hitches and then test driving again, and then checking out vehicle histories on-line etc etc etc we hoped that LC had not missed anything major.
 We parked the Tahoe inside the garage for a few days, when nights were slated to get down to ungodly temperatures like -20.  The advantage was that we could see if there were leaks.
We did not think that there were any.
After dropping off the Tahoe (and with two and a half hours to kill) LC and I walked around the snowy and cold streets of Blackfoot.
Blackfoot is a small town.  About 11,000 people.
It was established in the very early 1900's and neither one of us has really spent a lot of time in that town.
Our normal trips to Blackfoot consisted of grocery shopping, gas buying, banking and bill paying.
In short, nothing fun.
LC and I had fairly negative impressions of Blackfoot the first few times we visited there.
Too many one way streets.  Too much street parking that made it difficult to see around vehicles when making turns.  A small, working, blue collar, light industrial town with very few things that were aesthetically pleasing.
Our impression had moderated quite a bit since those first visits.
We have learned our way around town.  Learned to navigate the one way streets. and learned to accept the blind spots when vehicles are parked too close to the corners.
Learned where good service is provided and where it is not.
And on this particular day, as we killed time on a cold (but more moderate) morning than we have had in over a week, we walked and wandered a little.
And - as is the case when I (and we) walk in Atomic City - on foot we saw things that we do not see when driving quickly by on the way to run errands.................
LC pointed it out before I saw it.
A sidewalk water fountain.
I loved the form of it.  The artistic lines.  The hard and dark surface that stood out against the stark whiteness of the snow.
I had never seen it before when we drove by this place, and even as I walked I would have missed it if LC hadn't drawn me to it............
I HAD seen this building many times in the past, and what had always drawn me to it was the painting in the windows.
Two entire windows and one door were completely filled with a mountain, lake, pine tree landscape of muted greys and whites and blues.
It was a subtlety beautiful painting that seemed even more beautiful not in the bright colors and busy-ness of summer, but in the quieter and grey and white days of winter...........
One old home was located on a busy main street.
The owners of the home had made use of every available space in their tiny yard, and it was filled with an eclectic combination of summer yard art and tacky Christmas decorations.
On the outside of their home I saw this metal Gone Fishin sign............
But it was the gnome buried in snow that really caught my attention.
As I snapped this picture, LC wondered out loud if the gnome I had left in Tennessee was still there.
Many trails in middle Tennessee had their own trail gnomes - a whimsical gift to trail users that was supposed to bring them safety and good luck in their travels.
The trails I frequented at a military base 10 miles from the house we had there did not have a gnome, and so one day I bought one and left it at the trail head.
On the bottom of the gnome I had written some lame poem about "trail gnome" and "this is my home" and "safety when you roam".
One of the guys (who was the initial driving force behind getting those wonderful trail built in the first place) saw me on trail one day, and we both stopped (as we always did when our paths crossed) and exchanged pleasantries.
He asked me if I had left the gnome at the trail head and I told him no.
After all...........gnomes just mysteriously appear, and claim a particular trail as their own.
PEOPLE don't just leave them.  They're GNOMES.  Magical and sweet beings who pick their own trails.
Nobody ever knew who left it, and after saying goodbye to it before heading for a job in Juneau Alaska, I wondered how long it would be before I saw it again.
Two years later, when I made it back to Tennessee, he was still there.
My trails were still there.  My lake was still there.  My trail friends were still there.  And my gnome was still there.......................
All the windows of this little building that offered music lessons, contained original and unique art work...................
After wandering around quiet streets for an hour, LC and I went on a conscious hunt for hot chocolate.
We found this little shop that contained baked goods, coffee and hot chocolate, complete with all the endless choices that come with these kinds of specialty places.
Fancy pastries that I didn't recognize and didn't want to pay for.  Fancy syrups and creams that I didn't recognize and didn't want to pay for.
$5.98 got us one muffin and two hot chocolates (no syrup and no cream thanks) and this place reminded me very much of every place I ever drank coffee in Juneau, only with less ambiance.
Regardless, as LC and I sat at a counter overlooking the street, the place was warm and although the hot chocolate was tasteless it was warm also.
We drank, ate, scanned the newspaper, and before we left I snapped some quick pictures of some of the sweet sayings that decorated one wall of the shop..............
The Tahoe was in very good shape, and totally tight underneath.
Good deal.
It was a cold but good morning, and I had enjoyed wandering around a small portion of town and actually seeing things that up-til-then I had not seen.
It is amazing what you can find when you slow down, take your time and really "see".
We were 20 miles outside of Blackfoot on a rapidly clearing late morning when LC suddenly hit the breaks on the highway.
Startled I looked up and through the windshield, wondering why the sudden slow down and then quick stop.
"You gotta take a picture of that!"
Without answering me, LC looked at me and smiled, looked in the rear view mirror again, and unexpectedly backed up a short way on the highway.
I had seen this lone little tree in the desert so many times, and so many times I had told myself that one day I would take a picture of him overlooking the Twin Buttes.
When I looked at him this morning, on the way home from town, I realized why LC had been so excited.
Our lone little tree in the desert was decorated for Christmas.
I don't know why.
And I don't know who.
But I knew that I loved what had been done, and was grateful to an unknown person for giving at least two people a wonderful and unexpected surprise................
Our new Tahoe................
Our brightest blazes of gladness are commonly kindled by unexpected sparks..........Samuel Johnson 

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