Un Assuming


Not everything is what it appears to be. In the absence of facts, the absence of conversation with someone, people tend to decide for themselves what “must have happened” instead of asking. It is frustrating and disappointing, particularly when you expected more from them than some silent judgement of any kind to begin with.

There are two ways to handle this: one is to confront them, to say to them, “Let’s talk; you seem to have a problem with how this has been handled.” In today’s political atmosphere where we are in no short supply of prejudice, amateur commentary, and where partial information dictates decisions and conclusions, it is no wonder we all are too familiar with this on some level in our lives. It happens very commonly to many people—homeless, unemployed, those on assistance, those addicted, those depressed, those who have one form or another of mental illness. Dare I say we are tragically used to people passing judgement on those souls? It happens, too, in the public domain—politics, religion, protests, marches, and other high-profile, media-doused situations. However, the saddest and most subtle form of judgement comes most often in personal and unassuming moments. Ironically, those opinions are rarely rendered verbally; unfortunately, silence can be akin to conviction, and confrontation seems inevitable to bring peace, or at the very least, some understanding.

I wonder if the Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., when he exclaimed with such grace that he hoped his children would one day live in a nation where they would “not be judged by the color of their skin but by the content of their character,” could have anticipated that most people wouldn’t take the time to even bother to learn a person’s character; or worse, make that judgment based upon a scattering of information determined from slices of rumors and off-hand guessing. It is tiring.

The second approach to such unstated reproach is harder: walk away. Just take a deep breath, accept the things you cannot change, and walk away. Like the song “From a Distance,” which exclaims the beauty of this planet when seen from afar, I’ve noticed that I care less about what people think but don’t say if the view is from this wilderness.

Ah, this wilderness.

Yesterday I noticed on the top bare branches of an old oak, small bunches of leaves caught like seaweed on a hook in the current, or like a pair of old sneakers tied together and tossed across a power line. Bunches of leaves that even this winter wind and rain and ice couldn’t cut loose. It was a moment of resistance and, yet, great peace. There’s a metaphor there waiting to happen.

It is cold, and tonight is the full moon, the super moon, an eclipsed moon, just before midnight or just after here on the East Coast. Right now out over the river it is bright, and the waves are crashing into each other and covering the turn-around at the end of the road near the water. There’s a negative wind chill, and the frozen pines are scrapping against each other testing their flexibility. Not all the trees are going to make it through this night.

I’m wondering where my friends are, and my family. Some are watching football, blood pressure rising with each bad call; some watching Outlander, blood pressure rising with each turn of phrase. I don’t know what some others are doing. I’ve not heard from them, or we’ve lost touch for some reason or another. 

I miss a quiet conversation about the journey, about the moon, about the beauty of a blue sky over an amber wheat field which no camera could hope to capture, and certainly not one in a cell phone. I miss pouring the next glass of wine, outside, laughing and then at some point making that turn toward serious conversation as we talk about those in our lives with so much less time left, and of those who need our care. I miss how tired we can get staying up so late to the point at which we want to turn in but don’t for the sheer peace found in the moment.

Bernard Malamud has a great line in his book, The Natural. He writes, “I believe we have two lives: the one we learn from, and the one we live after that.” It’s taken me much longer to reach Part Two than others I know, but that’s okay; I’m here, and I’ve done okay surrounding myself with beauty, whether it be here in nature and the sound of the wind on a cold night with a full moon, or in the souls of those who have allowed me in their lives, who stay up late and talk about the stars, or who rise too early for the sun and sit in silence watching the imperfect future come over the horizon. In this way I have learned to chase away depression which already spends too much time here, and recall, as often as I can, the first part of an e.e. cummings poem:

i shall imagine life
    is not worth dying, if
               (and when) roses complain
            their beauties are in vain




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