What is that quality which prepares the soul for the reach across boundary and border to hold the heart in safety and support? What reminds each of us in the dark days of winter’s grief that just beyond the horizon are oncoming flocks winging their way through storm clouds and singing their songs of renewal?
During many aimless strolls through my neighborhood, I am witness to small episodes of our humanity speaking silently of love and life lived. Old men with their old dogs sitting on porches silent and still, like Greek figures along a pantheon of glory, embracing the moment and one another in the fragrance of an urban sky. It is a timeless frieze that solidifies in my mind’s eye a vision of utter fulfillment even as it speaks of loss and lament.
I too stand alone in a posture that blends with the porch and the man and his dog. The old man and I are inseparable as we both get to drink from the well of grief and fill up on an elixir of ecstasy that embraces our common condition; human.
I believe it is never a bad day when viewing bare branches out a window over a skyline of sparrows swooping across a clear sky.
I believe it is never a bad day when having at hand a clear vision of unknown support that one can receive and give to all people.
I believe it is never a bad day when being in the embrace of a lover who will lift a crushed heart in a moment’s tenderness and place it squarely back on the altar of celebration.
Answer the call to courage, to play centered along the edge, to spill and sputter, fall and recover repeatedly. Renew the call to risk and dare the world to continue to meet us at the depths of our grief and the heights of our glory.
I met a man recently. I met a man who invited me to sit and have my coffee at this table. I met a man who listened deeply even as he was hard of hearing. I met a man, a judge from Chicago, who refrained from passing judgment as he offered his table to me. I met a man who with clutched, frozen fingers on his right side and eyes that enveloped his surroundings, warmly offered his hand and saw me. I met a man, his name is Charlie Conner.
When he spoke, Charlie shouted loud enough for all the too-young, erudite scholars to hear at the far regions of Powell’s Bookstore. Charlie would make no excuse for his loud voice and his many opinions about the state of our nation and our leader who, in his opinion, has got the right idea on most issues. Charlie continually referred to “those damn liberals” who have a way of messing things up. Charlie and I stand on opposite sides when it came to the positioning of political perspectives, yet we sit squarely at the same table of our desire for human contact, connection, curiosity, and coffee.
We shared a common language of learning from each other even as we lived different experiences with differing surface values. Beneath all the posturing and statements of opinion, here were two people joined in communion and conversation without a desire to change or persuade. We understood that that would have been a most egregious violation and harmful to our cause. There was never any desire to change Charlie or be changed by Charlie on the surface talking points. Our transformation was occurring at a deeper soul level of motion set off by mutual respect and a suspicion that we were united in our deep longings.
At long last Charlie’s wife Edith showed up, carrying a shopping bag and a Midwestern accent. She inquired if he had been stirring up trouble again. I thought he was surely stirring things up, but it wasn’t trouble. As Charlie was leaving, he inquired about my surname. When he heard that I shared my name with Cuba’s liberator from Spain, I detected a lift in his body and a sharpening of his eye as he, seemingly for the first time, noticed I was wearing a beret. Muttering something about progressives, he vowed, tongue in cheek, to go home and free a few political prisoners in my honor.
The way I see it, Charlie, you have already set free a few of my own political prisoners who have resided in solitary cells cut off from a broad perspective of positions.
I met a man who, with me, declared a day of independence and liberation from the fear that binds us in isolation.