Posted by: Peadar Ban | January 21, 2009

Good Morning

“Hello! Good morning!”

He had a quiet voice, but emphatic nonetheless. The morning, however, took no notice. Anyway, none that I could detect. It continued to plod on. “It’s a greeting, not a command. I was speaking to you and not the rest of the world.” I looked up and saw him at the door of this little room where I sit now typing these words.

“How did you get in?”

“Do you need to ask? You should know by now that I am always in, and never.”

“Please,” I said, putting down my tea, “no games this morning. I haven’t time or talent for them, and I especially haven’t the mood for them today. It’s not a happy day for me.”

“I like the truth you tell me. You don’t have to, but I like it. Honesty is, after all, the best policy. Go on, keep being honest. Maybe I can help.”

“There’s only one thing you can do.” I turned away and looked out the window. My neighbor across the street, a nice fellow just about 40 years old, on his second wife, their daughter turning five or six, was just beginning to fire up his snow blower. It Was A Good Morning

I said a prayer he’d find the time and have the heart to come over and do my drive when he’d finished his. The snow had been falling during the night, and as the day broke with blank whiteness I noticed a three foot plow row down at the end of my driveway; just what I needed.

“Is that all?” There was heavy emphasis on “that”.

I looked around at my visitor. “Huh?” “Is that all?” he repeated. “I’m having some trouble figuring this out, so help me if you will…” He paused and walked to the window while I stared at him. “I mean I made sure that there’d be no more than five inches of dry snow. I know that you’re capable of handling that. Besides the exercise will do you some good.”

“Oh, you’re talking about the snow?” Now, I got his meaning. “No, that’s the least of it, but it’s not helping my mood, right now.” The dull roar of the snow blower coughed into life across the street.

“Mind if I sit down?” he asked.

“No, feel free.” A smile crept over his quiet face. “Nice line,” he chuckled.

“I’ve been meaning to stop by for a while, now. We haven’t been in touch, you know, and I wanted you to catch me up on things,” he said, assuming that pose of his; at ease in the chair he liked, elbows on the arms, fingers joined in an attitude of prayer and his chin resting lightly on his fingertips. He looked at me. I looked at him.

“Irish? The tea?” He pointed to my mug. “It is. Would you like a cup?” He nodded. I left to get him some of the best stuff in the world to drink. When I returned and handed it to him he said, “You have a good life here.”

“That’s just it. I have a good life and I can feel myself doing two things, losing my grip on it and trying to keep it at one and the same time.”

“Make sense of that for me, please?”

“You know, I wish I could. I’d have to make sense of it for me, though, before I tried. I feel a bit like the day looks, and working with the figure, I also feel a bit like a guy stuck in the snow, doing nothing more than making a lot of noise and sliding back and forth in the same eighteen inch rut.”

“Why not just stop and wait for a while?”

“Good advice,” I said. “Do you know you’re not the only one who’s given it?”

“Sure I do. It was always me speaking, anyway. I just figured if you heard it straight from the horse’s mouth you’d pay attention.”

“Maybe it’s just mid-winter depression, something a bit more serious than “blahs”. Maybe I should play a little B.B. King and work my way out of it.”

As if he wasn’t listening to what I’d just said, he continued, “And, while you’re waiting, pray. B.B. King has a place, I am sure. Who should know that better than me?” He smiled, and went on, “Every once in a while a sailor needs to tow his boat up on the shore and scrape the hull. You know why?”

“Barnacles.” I said. He beamed at me. “Spot on. The problem with my metaphor, here, is that sailors don’t become attached to their barnacles; don’t fall in love with them, or believe that getting rid of them would impoverish their lives. They don’t choose them. But all of the people I know, and that’s all of the people, choose most of them, and cling desperately to them.”

There was an increase in the noise outside the window. I didn’t have to look to know that my neighbor was crossing the street with his snow blower. “Look at that,” he said, “one worry taken care of.” He paused as the noise progressed up my drive. I was thinking about his “one worry” remark.

“What do you mean, one worry?” I asked. “I wasn’t worried about that.” “Oh,” he said flatly, and smiled that knowing smile of his. “Don’t try to fool me. It has never succeeded.”

“Every time you go to Mass you hear the words, “free us from all our anxieties”. Do you ever pay any attention to them; join your thoughts to what the priest says?” “Well, yeah. I mean I guess so. What else would I do? Should I say, only these seven I’d like to keep, please?”

“Well, if you happen not to be thinking about something, almost anything, else at that time, and flirting with a lightning bolt for being a wise guy you might. But, it’s a serious question. You’ve got hundreds of them. That doesn’t make you any better or worse than anyone else, of course. It’s not a sin to worry. You are, after all, human.

I understand you being worried about the things you are thinking. And, I understand your stuck feeling. That’s natural. The solution, though isn’t. It never is.”

A full minute passed while we sat and looked at each other and the snow blower made its progress up and down my drive. A song started going through my head. Well, not a song, just one line from a song, “Come and rest in me.” The notes for each word progress down the scale to a final Middle C, and there it ends.

“Is that it? Is that all?”

“One thing or another will happen,” he said. “But in the end what will really matter is how it is done, with me or without me. With me rest, assured. Without me, worry. The choice is yours.”

“But, what if the question is what should I do?” “The answer,” he said, looking directly into me, “is, which decision allows you to sail smoothly. You already know that.”

The blower noise had stopped. It was quiet.

“Well, look at that,” he said, “where does the time go?” He laughed out loud. “You know, the folks who say I’m a grumpy old guy aren’t anywhere near the truth. Thanks for the tea and the conversation. Good morning.”

He left. I’d like to say that the sun broke through the clouds after that, but no. It was cloudy all day, and that night we got another nine inches of snow. There was no help from the guy across the street. I walked around like a cripple for two days. But, I was a happy cripple.

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Responses

  1. Yah, I think we know where BB King’s place is alright…it’s a hot place…

  2. A lot of it is meaningful…regular guy with perhaps regular “worries”…talks to God…LISTENS to God…finds answer is to rest in God…pretty simple, yet so difficult to do…spoke to me

  3. Reading it, felt like I was there in the room watching and listening to the “two of you”. Felt warm, natural, and comfortable.

    Some of the subject discussed hit a personal note, although these subjects touch or affect all. It’s a matter of awareness.

    All and all it had meaning for me, but was intimate and not onerous. While spiritual and of serious subject matter(s), it was not threatening or dogmatic.

  4. As I seriously weigh the possibility of clinging to a particular barnacle for life, it occurs to me that the question of “which decision allows you to sail smoothly” has not been reflected on with sufficient duration…

  5. Hello Jan,

    I suspect that “smooth sailing” has something to do with what Eckhardt so poetically termed “abgescheidenheit”..pronounced exactly as it is spelled. Achieving that does, indeed, require a sufficient duration of reflection; also openess and grace.

    Sailing, especially sailing smoothly, of course, requires skill and work.

    Finally…and lately..I am reminded of what Our lady said to St. Juan Diego, ” My smallest child…is it not I your mother who am here? Are you not protected under my shadow? Am I not the source of all your joy? Are you not in the hollow of my mantle, enfolded in my arms? Do you need anything else?”

    Comfortable and Detached Regards,
    Peter


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