Roman Sturgis Take care of each other and make good decisions.

November 6, 2007

How it all works.

Filed under: Blog — Roman @ 5:17 pm

After class, I returned to W’s and ate the left-over Indian food I had for supper last night. I tend to get reflective after a meal, and the big thought today was: last week was ROUGH. In addition to having my mornings taken up with teaching at Boston Arts Academy, which really cuts into my morning writing time, I turned in a not-so-complete story to the director of the creative writing program I’m attending. His class, for many of us, seems to be the one we worry most about. I felt stupid for turning in something less than my best, and made many excuses and justifications to myself as to why: not enough time, too much reading, been involved with other important matters, family issues, wedding planning…

But today, I sense that I’m rising out of the bad cycle, and lifting up into a period of goodness. In addition to the class I’d just returned from, where I had a very productive workshop on a very special story that I’ve been trying to write for something on the order of five years now, I had a good, hot meal. Furthermore, the cold rain from the morning had lifted, and by the time I finished dinner, the heavy, low-ceilinged clouds that had been responsible for last night’s heavy showers, were brilliantly lit with late afternoon sunshine, the kind that infuses everything it touches with graceful splendor. The magic hour, I remember film majors at Emerson saying.

When I first graduated from Emerson College, I was determined to do two things. First, I would get into the program at Boston University. In fact, for many years, until they accepted me, I carried in my wallet a clipping from a magazine—a short blurb about the program, lifted from the department website. It said something about being old and venerable and decidedly different from other programs, and if one looked closely, a glimpse of the Charles river and perhaps the white triangles of community boaters.

Second, I would find a job that allowed me to write. I found work as a prep cook at an expensive restaurant, thinking that I would learn a lot about my other passion, food, and not burn precious brain power that I needed for writing. I worked mornings until the line cooks came in for dinner, and then after being allowed to join the varsity employees for staff meal, I’d shuffle home stinking of garbage (one of my larger responsibilities) and sit down at my computer to write. My girlfriend at the time was a server at the restaurant, and worked until midnight or one, so I’d write for several hours until she was free. Sometimes, if I was done writing for the night, I’d crawl up my closet through a trap door onto the roof of our building. On my meager paycheck I could only afford so much for living expenses, so I rented a shoebox shaped room from a young doctor doing his residency at Boston Medical Center. I don’t think he knew about the trapdoor. If he had, he might not have rented me the room.

I treated the roof like it was my treehouse and would often bring a beer up with me, always my cigarettes, and if I had any, a wimpy pinner, which I would smoke greedily hoping for a decent high. Often the best part of rooftopping, as I called it in my journals, was watching the birds, mostly seagulls, underlit by the city nights, bright white and spiraling upwards in formation, gently lifted by the heat of the city. At 8:45, the office lights in the Prudential go off, floor by floor, starting at 27, all the way down to 14; I would often time my rooftopping to coincide.

It took three applications over four years, a few moves, a tough year teaching in DC, a lot of whiskey, a major break-up, and then meeting my fiancé, before I was accepted into the program at BU. In the excitement following the decision, I scrambled to find housing. Those of you who are familiar with Boston will understand what I’m talking about. I got word in May that I got into BU. Three short months to move from South Carolina and to find a place to live in a super-saturated housing market.

Just so happened my friend W was planning on a lot of travel over the course of the fall and winter, and he asked, out of the blue, if I would like to apartment sit for him until I found a place to live. Just so happened, W’s apartment building has an INCREDIBLE roof deck, and I went there today, after my successful workshop and filling meal, to catch the magic hour—something I try to do often, and am saddened to realize no other residents of the building take advantage of.

At Emerson I took a great class on ecologies with Alan Hankin, an energetic professor who has since passed. The course focused on the interface between wild and urban ecologies, and we did a study on the local animal populations in the Boston Common and the Public Garden. If you’ve been to the Garden in recent years you will see small black signs that say not to feed the birds, and why it’s harmful to them. Studies my class conducted on local duck and geese populations were used by the Boston Parks and Gardens office to develop those signs. Anyway, Alan instilled in all of us a fond respect for birds. He was a serious birder himself, and he taught us to identify many of the Boston fowl that fly over us every day.

This afternoon, standing on the roof of W’s apartment, a red tailed hawk silently floated up from below, over the wrought iron fence that surrounds the roof deck, and perched on the corner of the elevator housing. She ruffled her feathers, hopped along the edge a foot or so, looked left, looked right, hopped back to the corner and stood still. This happened less than twenty feet from my position, and instinctively I froze, but not after gasping quietly, “Oh my God!”

Because I KNEW this bird. She has a nest on top of the old Ritz. There’s another pair roosting on an Emerson building, but unless a third pair has migrated into Boston…but anyway, I’m sure this was Ritzy Red. My classmates and I spent an entire semester with binoculars watching her from the bridge in the Public Garden, identifying her by the twin lines of black along her dorsal feathers, interspersed with the dull red tail that gives the species their name. Never had any of us—not even Alan, who watched this bird for YEARS—had been this close. Ever. It was unheard of.

Ritzy Red jumped off the edge and spread her wings, and with two beats, soared off the building and across the roof of the neighbors. We find things, I remembered, when we’re not looking for them.

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