June 3: This morning, I found a poem from bentlily blogger Samantha Reynolds that echoes and augments a conversation about kindness I’ve been having with blog-friends Ju-Lyn and Manja.
Reynolds peppers her poem with lovely examples of generosity that are simultaneously extraordinary and ordinary. She writes:
“America is a skin of land
that holds 331 million hearts,
and if we could see
an aerial view,
would light up
the map. . . .
“. . . The map is blinking again,
like a carpet of stars,
with endless examples
Exactly. I grieve how — in our news, our anger, our despair — we are encouraged to forget that abundant goodness resides everywhere, here in the United States and all over the world. If we pause to look, I think each of us can find strong hands and generous hearts within reach. And I think we can be them too.
June 4: With my windows down and my sunroof open, I barreled down the highway to visit my best friend from law school, Joan, whom I hadn’t seen in 30 years. The day, the friendship, the exhilaration called for Bruce Springsteen’s album “Born to Run.” As I cranked the volume to match the wind, a Corvette zoomed past me. That was me! So I zipped my Prius into the fast lane and accelerated. I pretended to be the Corvette and instantly a wall of guitars, keyboards, drums and saxophone exploded into the song “Night.” (A neglected gem, “Night” is a wide-eyed, joyous version of “Born to Run.”) For a moment I was wild and free.
Naturally, my Prius soon begged to return to a slower lane. But I played Night again and again. I’m a Prius, not a Corvette. I’m also everything in the song, which says:
“You’re in love with all the wonder it brings
and very muscle in your body sings
as the highway ignites.
You work nine to five and somehow you survive till the night.”
June 5: Yesterday my friend Joan and I visited magnificent Chanticleer Garden, near Philadelphia. Joan told me the names of all the flowers — foxglove, lupine, bachelor’s button and more. She gently squeezed the cheeks of a snapdragon blossom and its mouth popped open. She found seats for us in a shaded terrace. And she made sure I noticed the blue wildflowers scattered in the wheat field — along with the pond, the “ruin” and all the whimseys scattered throughout the estate.
Joined by her husband Don, Joan and I talked and laughed all weekend. This morning, we even compared Spelling Bee words. Yesterday, Joan urged me to choose all the paths (hill, creek, woodland) winding through beautiful Chanticleer. I did. And soon I’ll choose the highway that takes me back to her again.
June 6: I visited the beach at Assateague today and watched the ocean delight a dozen late-afternoon surfers. As I turned to leave, a dad and his two young children dropped their surfboards in the sand near me. The dad waxed the boards; the older child —a girl of about ten in a spiffy yellow-shouldered wetsuit —practiced her stance; and her eight-year old brother played in the sand. As last, father and daughter paddled out beyond the sandbar and waited for the perfect ride. Twice the father attempted to launch his daughter into a curling wave, but timing or balance thwarted her both times.
After a while, the little boy peeled on his wetsuit and paddled his miniature surfboard to a spot where his dad guided him through the breakers. Just as the family reunited in the “line-up,” I turned to go. Not very story ends in triumph or surprise.
Then a surfer caught my eye. In what appeared to be an tank-top wetsuit (how had I not noticed her before?), the surfer timed her wave perfectly and sliced a long diagonal line northward, squeezing every bit of push from the wave as she neared the beach. I walked away, but turned back hoping for one more glimpse of the father and daughter. And there they were, in shallow water. With a shock I realized that the “bare” shoulders of the elegant surfer were actually the yellow bits of the girl’s two-toned wetsuit.
I’m sipping my beer as I write this. Young lady, I salute both you and your dad, who clearly knows what he loves.
June 7: Weeds pebble the garden like poppy seeds on a bagel. In the laundry room, bed sheets billow like cumulus clouds. Emails … well, I don’t want to talk about emails.
I also have a stack of magazines, a sunny patio corner, and a pitcher of water where ice cubes tango with lemon slices. Don’t tell anyone, but I know exactly how I’ll spend the next few hours.
Bonus: Speaking of gardens, I was gobsmacked by these photos of a bee sipping nectar from 100 Country Trek. We’ve all seen beautiful bee-and-flower photos (= every day, if you play the word game Spelling Bee). But these are extraordinary. I finally understand how bees pollinate the flowers.
June 8: My kind neighbors — the ones who planted holly bushes and banana trees in our garden — took me to lunch today. Their daughter and son-in-law own a waterfront restaurant called Harborside, where I’ve watched pleasure boats and fishing boats navigate out to the Atlantic Ocean.
My neighbors invited me to choose our table: a sunny dockside seat along the channel? A breezy table under the ceiling fans? Let’s sit where you like to sit, I said. The bar, they said. Done.
We took our seats on stools that swiveled to the waterfront. The bartender greeted my neighbors with the snapped tabs of two cans of beers and then pulled a draft beer for me. Gradually, the three-sided bar filled with retirees like us. Everyone knew everyone else, and my neighbors made sure to introduce me around. I felt like I could walk into the bar tomorrow and find people to talk to.
As I sipped my second frosty beer, Bob Dylan’s “Subterranean Homesick Blues” started playing. In one of his great protest songs, Dylan reminds us that “we don’t need a weatherman to know which way the wind blows.” True. But for these two hours of kindness, I decided to step out of the wind and instead let the breeze carry me away.
Bonus: Jeremiah introduced me to this 1964 video in which a very young Bob Dylan, standing in a London alley, uses cue cards to present the fast-paced lyrics of “Subterranean Homesick Blues.” It’s worth a look. See if you can find poet Allen Ginsberg standing at the edge of the frame.
June 9: I spent a long, hot and frustrating morning in the garden. My task (and failure): to uproot tangled skeins of vinca vine that are choking our crepe myrtles and mailbox. Even a sunny outdoor shower didn’t relieve me. So I took myself out to lunch.
I chose a small sometimes-open café called Surfside Rooster, where a few weeks ago I enjoyed a terrific cheesesteak and friendly conversation with a server around my age. We had exchanged names; by some memory miracle, I greeted her by name today and reintroduced myself. Cindy remembered the details of my order (yes, please: I’ll get my usual cucumber & onion salad with that peppers-onions-mushrooms cheesesteak). And while the kitchen worked, we talked about gardening and cooking for crowds.
Eventually, arriving customers pulled her away and I turned to my book. We parted with assignments: Cindy will think up more recipes and I’ll search for Lime Basil seedlings. The iced tea, cheesesteak, complimentary pasta salad, and air-conditioning restored my equilibrium. Best, though, was eating in a place where someone knows my name.
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