Wednesday, April 17, 2013

Stranger Things in Heaven & Earth

Here I was imagining I'd be better with this blog this year, and I allllmost managed, until a snafu with my hosting service shut my website down for almost a month. Alas. I'm sure you all missed me. 

Aw, I missed you too.
Barred owl mother and chick. By William H. Majoros
(Own work) [CC-BY-SA-3.0], via Wikimedia Commons

I want to tell you a story about something that happened to me last week. I don't know what to make of it. I just know that it feels as if it was important, as if I'll look back in twenty years and remember this.

I was in a waiting room, and it was evening, and the gentleman next to me asked if I was an actress. Really! Out of the blue! I said no, because, well, I'm not. And then I asked why, because he hadn't asked it like a pickup line, but like he was curious about something.

Oh, he said, just the way you hold yourself, you look like an actress. Or a dancer, or something.

I am a dancer, I said, as it happens.

Why get into a conversation with a random man in a dismal room with no one left in it but the two of us and one or the other certain to be called away soon? I don't know; because I'm a talker, maybe, because it was more pleasant to speak to a real person than read a garish magazine, because he was soft-spoken and had kind eyes. He had gray in his beard. It was a free clinic, a place it's unusual to see a man, especially a not-young man. I was curious about him, too.

We talked about dance. He said wistfully he wasn't much of a dancer, he was a layperson. But he liked music, he said, he liked to move. He just didn't know how. So of course, being me, I got enthusiastic and waved my hands and told him about a place really not too far away where you can literally just go and dance, you and dozens of other wistful strange kind souls in a room all together and also apart, just dancing. It's kind of goofy. It's also sweet, and wonderful, and good.

Nobody came to call either of us. We kept talking. He asked me what I wanted to do. Not what I did, mind you - what I wanted to do. So I told him about the museum, of course. Oh, he said softly, almost to himself, well, that's wonderful. What a beautiful thing to it is to have a purpose.

He was diffident, humble, gentle, warm.

I asked him about himself. I don't know what I expected. From his manner of talking, I thought he was going to say something sort of shy and sad, unassuming. But his face shone. He told me he was a wireless engineer and he got to climb tall things, all over the world. He told me he'd gotten to go to the very top of the tallest bridge in the country. It was so high, he told me, but I could hear the water, way down below. It was the most beautiful shade of green.

He looked suffused with radiance, remembering. I love my life, he told me, quietly. I love being alive. I wake up every day thankful.

And yes, that was when his name got called. He told me it was nice to talk to me. I stammered something back because I didn't really have the words. And I sat back and thought about what had just happened to me, the total shining peace in his face, the relaxation of his body in the chair, the modesty, the total presence of his, how he was really listening, how it wasn't a big deal to him at all. I don't think that I have ever, in my entire life, met someone quite like him. He was so ordinary, so completely unassuming and yet totally luminous, full of some tranquil depths I didn't understand. I know nothing about him except that he's afraid to dance because he thinks people will laugh at him and that he is glad to be alive. Whatever lit him up is mysterious to me. There in the dingy waiting room something completely transcendent touched me and moved on, like a bird alighting very briefly on my shoulder. I will consider it a blessing.

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