He thought about jumping in front of a car, but that would be so distressful for an unlucky driver. Then he considered launching himself from the balcony. But his neighbors were so nice and it would be a shame to upset them like that. So many options seemed objectively disgusting to his cultivated style, when he thought about it.
So instead, he made blueberry muffins. The berries had been begging to be plucked from his extensive back patio garden anyway. He made the muffins with almond flour just in case Miss LeAnne from next door came over, since she had decided a few years ago to be gluten intolerant.
The oven beeped. The aroma was marvelous- the warmth of butter and sugar paired with the sweet tang of the blueberry. Just like each time before, he failed to wait for the cooling period. His burnt fingertips were well worth his ecstatic tastebuds. He really did make the best muffins in town, as the gals at bookclub had always told him.
But he had not been to book club in a while. He was too embarrassed, because he had not been able to keep up with the reading. It was hard to read anything with so many befuddling words running through his head. He would get them tangled up with the words on the page and then the story wouldn’t make any sense. It was useless to even try anymore. And wouldn’t it be better to not show up than to show up and not even know the main character’s ambition?
He spread a little honey on the next muffin. He imagined that if the Fountain of Youth was really out there, the water must taste like honey. It had an innocent sweetness about it that made one truly taste the sunshine the bees had basked in between their pollen-laden trips. But it also tasted a tad sinful, like a little secret one must not have too much of. An innocent sin- if that’s not the taste of youth, he didn’t know what was.
His youth had indeed been an innocent sin. He’d been born into a good family, well off enough that he could literally afford to run with the wrong crowd for a few years until his mother pulled his leash up short and sent him on his way to success. He’d gone into pharmaceuticals, which made him more than enough to both support his painting hobby, and hide his bourbon problem for many years. Rock bottom had been a good friend for a while, and then he was back on his feet- and heaven be praised- still had his retirement plan. It was just enough tragic back story for him to become the famous artist he became known as across the globe.
Now his paintings hung in the hallways of presidents and billionaire CEOs. The socially royal placed his portraits of beautiful strangers in their front foyer so every guest would know they had one. A few hung humbly in his mother’s old house, where his baby sister now lived with his gorgeous nieces (and portraits of them stood on his own shelves, right behind their college graduation pictures). A small painting stood on Miss LeAnne’s kitchen counter. He’d wanted to gift her a bigger one, of a young woman by a lake that had been praised by so many critics he’d previously not been able to part with it. But Miss LeAnne had begged for his 5 by 7 experimental oil work of a happy frog in the rain. She said it made her giggle. So of course, he framed it for her and handed it over along with a pan of gluten-free lemon bars.
And it had made him giggle too, to see that frog sitting there in the rain. When he found it on his back porch seven years ago, he considered bringing the poor thing inside before he remembered that some creatures liked rain. So instead he had run inside for the small canvas he’d just purchased. It was not even a quarter the size of his usual canvases- but the happy little frog was far less than a quarter of his usual model, so it was fitting.
The happy frog seemed to still hold as much joy on Miss LeAnne’s counter as he had on the rain, and that was real success, wasn’t it?
He reached for another muffin, stopped. At his age, the metabolism was slow and a third muffin was surly going to put a little belly on his well-honed physic. Sixty-two or not, he enjoyed looking good, even if it was just for his reflection these days. One never knew when an art professor would call for a guest speaker, or a critic for a second opinion. So one must always look his best.
Then again, at sixty-two, wouldn’t a little belly be cute? Perhaps it would make him appear a bit more worldly? More settled-in to retirement? Plus the muffins were still warm, so waste not want not.
He took this muffin out to the balcony. He spread himself across the lounge, admiring how the Meyer lemons were coming in this year on his topiaried-tree. It would have been a shame if he’d jumped off earlier, because perhaps no one would have picked the lemons before they turned and that’d be such a loss. Plus this muffin was delicious.
He sighed, and the sun seemed to reach into his bones, warm them steadily. The slow stream of inspiration was tickling his toes. In a few minutes, it would ebb into his chest and then flow through his fingers. He decided that, in a moment, he would stand up and fetch a fresh canvas, capture this sunlight in paint. A small joy, but a joy nonetheless, and a joy he was glad he had not missed.
Komorebi ([Japanese] noun): The interplay between light and leaves when sunlight shines through trees.
So this is an almost-happy story, and I hope it leaves you with a happy note. Really I was thinking about lemon bars, which reminded me of a list I made for a friend in middle school. She was having a very hard couple of weeks and our world has a habit of making the first teen years just the absolute worst anyway. We’d had an assignment in a class to make a list of some kind, and apparently I’d been in a great mood that day and was writing a list about all the little things I was happy about: soccer practice had gone well, mom made lemon bars, this was day 3 in my new shoes and I still didn’t have mud on them! You know, deep insightful stuff. She asked if she could borrow my list. My nerd-ness worried she wanted to copy it for the assignment but I let her have it after class anyway. I promptly forgot about it. Months later, the list, now well worn and with a few new marks and stains, fell out of her bag. She’d been reading it every night so she didn’t make a terrible choice.
And that thought meets me every time I pull something fresh from the oven. The world can get really dark sometimes, but man lemon bars and blueberry muffins are AMAZING, aren’t they?? A frog in the rain, a sunbeam on the balcony, a smile from the lovely neighbor- these things we have to grasp onto when the bad stuff looks so big.
The light through the trees, one might say. May it shine on you today, lovely reader.