It was not the governments of the world that tore down the Berlin Wall.
It was not soldiers in uniforms, nor officials or dignitaries.
The Wall was brought down by ordinary people. Millhands and plumbers and taxi drivers and waitresses.
People who would no longer tolerate the isolation and separatism practiced by their native countries.
The Earth is our homeland.
We are one people.
Our fates entwined, I am carried along her wandering course.
Only the river has changed.
Here, within my canoe, I remain the same.
Now looking out at a different landscape.
I don’t remember exactly how long ago it happened, but I remember the moment quite clearly. I was opening the cupboard door, probably browsing for a snack, and Chuy sat down and looked up at me. His snacks come from the same cupboard.
Likely I had reasons for my intention to skip the dog snack. We go through plenty, as they are given generously. There is a regular wholesome meal at supper time, so there’s that appetite thing. Also, we can just get carried away sometimes and overdo it.
Then my imagination leaped ahead 12 seconds, to the moment I would retrieve something for myself and close the door. Chuy’s dog voice said, to himself or perhaps the cat beside him, “Oh.” a disappointed frown, “He’s only getting something for himself.”
You go ahead and call it guilt, or call it spoiling or call it Shirley or call it awakening. Call it what you will, it made my stomach sink and my heart skipped a beat to imagine being seen this way. To imagine being a creature without the means to get up there and open the door and grab a snack, as I can do without second thought.
In an instant I was changed. If I have no intention of giving the dog a snack, I will not have one for myself in front of her. If she skips it, so do I. (Yes, you are reading that correctly, above was the past, and Chuy was a he, but it’s she-girl Sassy now).
That was just the dog and the pantry. Sure enough, didn’t I come to see shortly how this applied to a thousand places in my life and my day.
It has helped me develop a total immunity to marketing of goods. That $20 for a shiny gadget will pay for half a corrective surgery on a Mercy Ship. The $35 for the other thing I really don’t need will go to my kids in Memphis. Maybe research or maybe treatment or maybe Band-Aids with colorful characters on them for children fighting cancer at St. Jude’s Children’s Research Hospital.
Even the half of a peanut butter sandwich on the console of the FunBus, saved for later. How do I explain “later” or “mine” to these sparrows and starlings that alight before me, and look up at me the same way Chuy did?
I went to lunch and drove past the old guy who is always walking on the sidewalk, winter and summer, and looking homeless and about 70 years old. It was cold and windy that day. I got a hot meatball sandwich and a cup of hot chocolate and I stopped and gave it to him. I could have wasted my time wondering if he liked meatball sandwiches, or if he was diabetic and couldn’t drink hot chocolate. I don’t know if he has a perfectly nice apartment and Meals On Wheels brings him lunch every day. What difference would that make anyway?
The Great Cosmos smiled on me. He looked at me with the sweetest face, with blue eyes as beautiful as my daughter’s. He spoke softly and kindly and smiled, and then he uttered the very words I’d heard my sainted mother say, so many times, to so many people.
“God bless you.”, he said.
In retrospect, perhaps I have failed in my Armchair zen Mission. Perhaps I am still studying Chuy’s lesson.
For after all was said and done, in the end, didn’t I end up getting something for myself anyway.
I beg your pardon, and I mean just that.
I’m sorry we won’t have time to chat.
I haven’t a moment to spare, you see,
Just now Mother is calling me.
It’s not entirely my fault,
This unavoidable delay.
But you know the world is bigger than me
And overwhelms my day.
It’s not only me, it’s also the birds
‘Cause they’re Tweeting me with their tweeting bird words.
And the trees are waving to catch my eye,
Passing clouds call out “Hello and goodbye.”
Am I to blame for marveling
At this air that smells of snow?
It surrounds me and embraces me,
And follows everywhere I go.
You wouldn’t hold it against a guy
Whose eyes automatically rise to the sky,
For breathing deep and lingering long,
To sing along with Nature’s song.
So hasten, must I,
To truncate this rhyme.
You and I can visit
Some other time.
I stopped my compulsive counting of the geese in the flocks that fly above me,
and instead admired their beauty.
I stopped foretelling the weather in these clouds that pass over me,
and instead enjoyed watching them sail.
I stopped thinking of those places where we don’t meet eye-to-eye,
and instead embraced those where we do.
As an October tradition here at ACZ, the annual posting of “October Piece”
(Click any image to begin slide carousels)
O! To be that Canada Goose, and see through those geese eyes,
That patchwork carpet below arrayed,
All Nature’s vainglorious color displayed,
As I fly through blue-gray October skies.
Ah! To be that white-tailed deer,
Browsing ‘mongst the elms and pines,
Walking the tumbled-down rock fence lines,
As I bid the first snowflake “Appear!”.
Oh! To be that fox of the glen,
Who seeks all manner of food and forage,
To fatten his flanks with winter storage,
When drifting snows will surround my den.
Alas! To be that little one,
Raking leaf piles, carving pumpkins,
Stuffing a scarecrow country bumpkin,
Breathlessly awaiting Halloween fun!
Sometimes the world appears to be a bumbling behemoth,
a bull in a china shop, an unleashed Baby Huey, crushing the furniture.
Yet always she comes with the gentlest of hands, and the most tender heart.
I can’t help but love the sweet giant, even as she suffocates me in her embrace.
Inspired by The Rabbit Patch Diaries – http://www.rabbitpatchdiary.com
If I could teach you anything, if I could wish for you to grasp one concept, it would be this:
During those fleeting and routine moments that occupy our every day, as our subconscious drives us to keep moving like a moth around the flame, take time to notice. To notice just this. This now. These seemingly innocuous surroundings. These most common and ordinary things.
You must expend no effort for the greatest memories of your lifetime to be retained in your mind’s eye.
The birth of your children.
The passing of dear ones.
These events shine like diamonds on the beach. You could not forget them if you tried.
Add now, to that gallery.
A moment on a trail as the rain falls on Chuy and me.
A silent night on an isolated island, as peace fell on the moon and me.
The Harrier hanging suspended over the hay field on a summer breeze.
You must stop and look and record these snapshot memories.
Daughter’s face in the rear view mirror, which I mistook for her mother.
That quiet summer morning, coffee in the cabana with my dearest friend, waiting for the sun.
The dark, sacred night, lovers locked in embrace.
These pictures will be meaningless to others, so I shan’t go on.
They are not major events, accomplishments, achievements, setbacks or tragedies.
All can relate to those.
These are just for me (as yours will be just for you).
I am filling the walls of the gallery of my mind, so as to be surrounded by the simple beauty of my life.
The patter of rain on my slicker.
The sting of wind-driven snow.
This warm sun on my face.
Liberty is at the core, the very founding of this nation.
We failed, as a species, for many years in this area.
Enslaving humans, treating women as second-class citizens that could not own property or vote.
Segregating children by the color of their skin, not seeing the content of their character, as Dr. King admonished.
Mistreating and abusing people because of their religious affiliation or gender orientation.
Times changed. No more slavery. No more second-class genders. Free to be me.
Somewhere in the fight for “me”, it seems we forgot about “you”.
In our quests to be our best and truest selves, focus turned inward. I can do this, and no one can stop me. I can believe this. I can say that.
Hip-hooray for all this embracing liberty, but can’t we bring civility along?
There was a time when people took pride in their appearance. They didn’t come to work looking like they are ready to go to the rodeo, the gym, or the beach. We dress down, “because I can”. But how about dressing nicely just ’cause it’s…well, nice?
There was a time when people kept their opinions to themselves sometimes. To avoid offense. To show respect. I will be the first in line to defend your right to free speech. But can’t we sometimes exercise our right to be quiet?
There was a time when rudeness was considered rude. When apologies were in vogue. There was a time when an apology was so serious it took on the words “I beg your pardon.“.
There was a time when people could see beyond their own skin. When people realized we are all cut from the same cloth. We are kindred. We are the same inside. We all feel and wish and dream the same. We can all be hurt and insulted. We all wish for happiness and comfort.
“Just because we can, doesn’t mean we should.”
Let the other guy go ahead of you in the checkout or on the on ramp.
Hold the door for someone.
How about “May I have a cheeseburger, please?” instead of “Gimme a cheeseburger and a super-sized Coke.”
How about waiting patiently, like your mother taught you, when the person in line counts change or buys lottery tickets or does whatever else they do while we wait in line behind them?
Suppose young people treated adults with respect? Suppose adults showed the same respect for young people?
Suppose, instead of tolerance, we could teach the generations to come to move beyond that?
Beyond “mainstreaming” and “inclusion”. Beyond mandates that command us to treat one another with respect.
A long time ago, a wise man gave us this entire lesson wrapped in a single sentence.
“So as you do unto these, the least of my brethren, you do unto me.”
So here’s to liberty. Here’s to freedom. Here’s to celebrating your own uniqueness in the world. You celebrate you, and I will celebrate you.
I ask only that you don’t forget about him and her and the other one and me. We’re out here. Outside your skin.
Wouldn’t you love to celebrate being the most courteous person you know? I sure would!
One last thing. There are instructions for this respect and consideration stuff. Write it down if you need to.
“Love one another.”.
Seek peace (and manners),