Solar Slide, Domestic Planets

Written by Rigby Celeste
Art by Gustavo Galeano Maz

Maybe it is as simple as everyone has told me: eat a good meal, go for a walk, soak in the sun. I live next to an outdoor after-school program. The park is not even a block from my residence; turn a corner and you’re there. When unpleasant thoughts pelt the rim of my forehead, I take myself on a walk for five minutes. Five minutes and you’re there! And once you’re there, you can’t imagine yourself anywhere else. The jungle gym twists and pulls around itself like spun candy in orange, emerald, and royal blue. The school kids swing, slide, scream and chase. Their yips and taunts merge with the songbird cries. Trees shade the walkways that spiral into the sun-lit playground. Without the leaves to shade it, the slide beams back sunlight. It becomes a star of its own. Like all stars, the park has a solar system in its orbit. 

Surrounding the jubilant playplace are rows of houses. They each vary in color, material and shape. Some are stucco with spanish tiles. Some have wooden panels and hanging flower pots. Like our own eight planets, I pass eight rows of houses: two on my street and five around the corner. Each yard is its own work of art. Imagine rows of Rauschenberg combines pulled down to lay flat in the gallery–that is what I pass on each walk. 16 compositions filled with light-up shoes, toy pianos, shovels, watering cans, cat litter, lawn chairs. Streaky, junky canvases of concrete, grass, and plastic figurines. I examine the junk treasures each person owns like I’m searching for meaning in burnt ochre brush strokes. I wonder where that small bike came from. I construct who owns the yard. The one with wilted grass and a peach toy jeep belongs to a family of five. Two of their children have already moved out of the house. And the yard across the street from them, with a wild garden and wooden windchimes, is owned by a spiritual grandma who lives alone. I prod at my fantasy tenants, trying to shape them into unpredictable characters. Perhaps that lonely grandma has a girlfriend with a beach-front retirement home; Perhaps the two children who moved out from the home across the way are Vegas stunt performers; Perhaps one house is owned only by a pack of rats!

When the real families walk out toting purses and keys, I pretend they are passing visitors. I prefer to decide what is inside the worlds of these houses. It changes every time. In that way, each walk to the park is a new adventure. I buzz to the farthest edge of my imagination. Where I once fabricated worse-case scenarios, I now paint whimsy and humor in the neighbor’s yard. My gallery walks redirect my attention from my stuttering ego, desperate for examination, to my little community. I don’t have to look to the stars and guess what I am here for. Instead, I am simply here. Here in the long dandelion-speckled grasses, with the tabbies too rowdy to stay indoors. Here with the barbie trucks, the lesbian meemaws, and the infinite possible surrounding planets. I am simply here, in my neighborhood, its own set of cosmos.