Monday October 7th, 2013 10:42 PM. Now. The present. The only place I feel like I can begin my story. The Story of My Life. A phrase I have repeated so many times in my 41 years that it almost seems comical, and yet nowadays almost brings a tear to my eye at just the thought of letting the words slide from my lips. Here in Buffalo, New York we are known mostly for our unbearable winters. Although much more unbearable to those who don’t live here it seems, given the national coverage we get every time we get a foot of snow. A foot of snow to a Buffalonian is generally more a cause for celebration than any sort of tragic weather event. This, of course, provided it doesn’t happen on a Sunday night causing a Monday morning 5 AM dig out for the folks going to work. (No a foot of snow does not get us out of work) We are hard-nosed, hardworking, blue-collar folk around these parts.
In 41 winters I can remember 5 crippling winter storms that paralyzed the city for a few days. Of course, we are known as the “City of Good Neighbors”, and we take care of each other here, less nowadays, but walk down any sparkling snow-covered street in December with a motorist stuck in the slippery stuff, and you will find someone willing to help push them out. I remember exactly one tornado, a few earthquakes, that maybe felt like a big truck hit a bump in front of the house, and zero hurricanes. All in all we don’t have it so bad. I am a bit of a winter recluse. I don’t have a penchant for winter sports such as skiing like many Buffalonians do. I generally try to hunker down, keep the driveway clear, and get some work done around the house, or work some extra overtime during the long winter days to help pay for the holiday bills.
I did, however, state that it was early October, and for a winter recluse, fall is the precursor to those long winter days. This is a time for those like me to get our fill of outdoor activities without sweating in the sun. I am not a huge fan of the fall because it generally means more yard work, raking up leaves, and watching my garden that I worked so hard on wither and die. The change of seasons does, however, bring some really amazing beauty to the landscape. The leaves begin to change colors and that adds a rainbow of color to our landscape. It becomes a more picturesque and alluring landscape almost by the minute. As I sit here typing, we are on the cusp of becoming witness to that beauty.
The one thing Buffalo does have 365 days a year is Lake Erie. She, I will refer to it as a woman because it is much too breathtaking to be a man, has been one of the most undeniable reasons that I have stayed a Buffalonian my entire life. I would miss her dearly if I left. She is many times the cause of those winter storms, but much more often than not just a magnificent body of water to our west. On some days the water rages like the ocean, with waves crashing over the break walls and jumping high into the air. Other times it can be so calm you would think it was a piece of glass you could walk to Canada on. I have spent many a day staring out over her vastness. I have laughed with her, cried with her, spent my senior year in study hall studying nothing but those waves crashing along the miles long break wall. I have ridden her waves, swam in her, fished in her, I have walked on her in the winter when she freezes over, and spend every workday driving next to her trying to concentrate on the road rather than her beauty. The most defining moment of her beauty happens every single day as the sun seems to fall into her, and disappear into her depths. Depending on the cloud cover, type of clouds, and where they are in the sky, we sometimes get a light show that rivals any in the world. There have been times that my entire neighborhood turns almost blood-red from the sun reflecting off the clouds. A good friend of mine took a picture with her phone of her husband, son, and nephew wading in her waters, arms stretched up to the sun as it set in a sea of color so beautiful that I initially thought it was something she had downloaded to her phone from a Hawaiian sunset. She sent it with the words “om shanti” which translates to peace. It sure looked like peace if peace had an image.
So let’s get back to today… Things in my life have been pretty tragic lately. I have been searching a great deal for some inner shanti. That search has led me away from my usual muse, my guitar, after a musician I had long been acquainted with died of a drug overdose. I have been searching for inspiration from other places, my favorite being my camera. It helps to get me out in the world, get some exercise, and it is a solid companion that doesn’t squawk at me about being tired from walking a couple of miles. It is nothing special, something a friend got at a garage sale, and sold to me because I had mentioned that I had been looking for one. It does take some really nice pictures, though I have little knowledge of photography. So today I decided to go catch the sunset over that beautiful lake. When I walked out to the car for the short ride to Gallagher Beach (better known as Ghetto Beach to Buffalonians because of the abandoned grain mills, and pea gravel in place of sand on the “beach”) I was excited that the sky was clear and the sun was still shining. I excitedly pulled out of my driveway, skipping the planned jaunt to the local coffee shop for fear I might miss the sunset. As I headed west toward the sun I was making sure my camera was at the ready, with fully charged batteries. A few minutes later I arrived at my destination, and looked out over the lake, and all I saw was a bank of clouds, just in the west, not a cloud elsewhere in the sky, sent surely just at that moment to block my view of that heavenly decent. Story of my life… I snapped a few pictures anyway, but none near what I had hoped to capture. Lesson learned, the moments we think we are anticipating are not always going to be that which we expected or hoped. However, if we look past that expectation, many times we see what we are truly there for in that moment of time. If we look hard enough there is beauty in almost anything.