It’s quiet in my heart these days. I hear the urgent faintly in the distance, but it’s easily ignored. My “work” is to bike or walk somewhere each day and fit everything else around it.
The movie I’m living could be labelled understated. No blockbuster moments to write about, and yet there are scenes I cherish.
Saturday I rode to North Vancouver to participate in the physically-distanced Dances of Universal Peace. We usually finish around 9 pm, so I’d planned to return by transit. But when it was time to go home, I wasn’t tired. I enjoyed the strength I had to pedal uphill without stopping and, of course, the rush of zooming down.
Nearing home I turned a corner to find the full moon smack dab in front of me, bigger than I’d ever seen it before. When my route took me east again, I kept looking for that smiling face to reappear.
Minutes later, I dinged my bell. “On your left,” I called out gently.
A woman stepped out of the way. As I passed her, I asked, “Did you see the moon?”
“Yes,” she gasped. “That’s what I was looking at.”
I was touched to share this moment of connection with a stranger.
When I got home, Fred was waiting for me with a glass of wine and a game of Sequence ready to go. It was neck and neck, and then he won in “sudden death overtime” (our name for the third tie-breaker round).
Then we went outside and looked for the moon. There she was, nestled behind the branches ready to be captured in our memory.
When I was six or seven years old, growing up in Pittsburgh, I used to take a precious penny of my own and hide it for someone-else to find. It was a curious compulsion; sadly, I’ve never been seized by it since. For some reason I always “hid” the penny along the same stretch of side-walk up the street. I would cradle it at the roots of a sycamore, say, or in a hole left by a chipped-off piece of side-walk. Then I would take a piece of chalk, and, starting at either end of the block, draw huge arrows leading up to the penny from both directions. After I learned to write I labeled the arrows: SURPRISE AHEAD or MONEY THIS WAY. I was greatly excited, during all this arrow-drawing, at the thought of the first lucky passer-by who would receive in this way, regardless of merit, a free gift from the universe. But I never lurked about. I would go straight home and not give the matter another thought, until, some months later, I would be gripped again by the impulse to hide another penny.
It is still the first week in January, and I’ve got great plans. I’ve been thinking about seeing. There are lots of things to see, unwrapped gifts and free surprises. The world is fairly studded and strewn with pennies cast broadside from a generous hand. But–and this is the point–who gets excited by a mere penny? If you follow one arrow, if you crouch motionless on a bank to watch a tremulous ripple thrill on the water and are rewarded by the sight of a muskrat kit paddling from its den, will you count that sight a chip of copper only, and go your rueful way? It is dire poverty indeed when a man is so malnourished and fatigued that he won’t stoop to pick up a penny. But if you cultivate a healthy poverty and simplicity, so that finding a penny will literally make your day, then, since the world is in fact planted in pennies, you have with your poverty bought a lifetime of days. It is that simple. What you see is what you get.
– Annie Dillard, Pilgrim at Tinker Creek
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What pennies have you picked up lately? My friend Gail finally got to see her husband face to face. He has been convalescing in a long term care facility, and she has not been allowed to visit him since March. Now that travel abroad is out of the question, our friends Marijke and Dave, who are in their seventies, purchased electric bikes and are planninig new adventures.