I’ve placed the photos above near each other in order to demonstrate a point. The photos are virtually the same scene, separated by mere feet, and yet through various filters they look vastly different. Put 10 people around a table. They will all be looking at the same food in the same house and each one will see something different. Reality is a matter of perspective. They say beauty is in the eye of the beholder. So too is ugliness.

I was invited to a gathering by a friend. I had never been to the property it was hosted at so i typed the address into the gps and let the device tell me where to go. I had in my car a bag of potato chips to contribute to the potluck and i wore jeans, a plaid shirt, and tie dyed walmart slip ons. As i followed the little automated voice i thought, “Boy, you have to have money to live out here.” There were hundreds of acres of land, sprawling fields full of cows or recently bailed hay. There was just dry flat golden land as far as the eye could see. I knew i was getting farther from my world when the cows disappeared from view and were replaced by victorian style farm-houses and then straight-up mansions. I thought about turning around. I understood the predicament i had gotten myself into. My friend who had invited me shouldn’t have. This was not my scene. I couldn’t blend into this kind of crowd. I was not sophisticated enough. I was good at survival living…eating bugs, catching fish, pooping in buckets when necessary. I would not know what to do in this kind of situation where most items in the house would undoubtedly cost more than my car. I tried to calm my restless mind by staring at the cows. They stared back at me. I was early. I had a bit of time to decide if i was turning around. I stopped the car and watched the cows eat, nurse, and poop. They were big and hairy with moist noses and round ears. They watched me curiously while they chewed. I felt i would inevitably have more in common with the beautiful cows than the people i was going to spend the evening with.

Once i gained admittance to the gated property i had a moment to fully understand what i’d just stepped into…a situation i immediately wanted out of.

I could give a detailed account of all the times other guests reminded me that i did not belong here, put me in my place, or flat out asked how i came to be where i was standing and who invited me. I could describe all the times one particular distinguished guest addressed myself or another guest close to my socioeconomic status in front of the group to correct our behavior when really all we were doing was just being people who were unaccustomed to the expensive way of doing things. I could list all the times i was told like a child to not break things, destroy things, or hit anything with my car on the way out. I could spend time describing what the inside of a legit mansion looks like. I’ve come to the conclusion that none of this would be fair to the host. She opened her home to others.

what i will say is this: i have no business being in a mansion. The only three times i came in handy were when other people didn’t understand how to arrange kindling in a gas fire pit to get the logs to light, when the host got her jacket zipper jammed and my years of helping patients dress at work gave me the skillset to unjam it, and when the others forgot the way out of the house and i knew which door it was. I had a specific skillset that pertained to functionality and survival much more than charm and appearances.

I busied myself tending the fire as they had lit it hours before they intended to use it and they didn’t seem to realize fires required someone to tend them in order to be sustained and functional. it was a good task for me to get lost in. I rearranged the logs when they fell apart and added more in various places when the fire burned down. At supper one of the guests was alarmed that a flying thing had settled on her plate and i was able to tell her it was just a flake of ash.

I was told repeatedly that i was having the experience of a lifetime. It’s all a matter of perspective i guess.

This story will be rather disjointed and that’s because i’m leaving quite a bit out after coming to the conclusion that it’s not my place to speak on it. To understand the meat of what i’m trying to say return to the photographs at the top of the page. They are the same scene through different lens filters. We can all stand in the same room, look at the same scene, and see something completely different. For some, the scene was familiar, for others foreign. For me, the scene below will do just fine.

I did wonder whether the people who had attended had gone to eat food, enjoy each other’s company, or just say they’d seen the interior of a mansion. It seemed like it might have been a mixed bag. I decided that i did not inherently understand human behavior the way i did animals or fire and perhaps this was why i preferred to be a solitary creature.

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