- I put my beanie on this morning and the smell of the earth, of leaves, trees, smoke and fire completely took over my life, just for a moment. It made me happy sad. I have just come home from a camping trip, which for me means an intense and complex experience filled with a deep fear, and an even deeper love. I love sleeping outdoors, but I have developed a clinical fear of being attacked by a bear, after I had an encounter with one a few years back. This chicken-egg relationship between an immense fear of death and overwhelming love for life follows me like a shadow, ever since. My doctor thinks I have general anxiety disorder. I’m dubious.
- Almost every day I look at the clock at exactly 12:34. It happens so often; it’s almost starting to bother me. It could just be an unthinkably improbable coincidence; it could mean something deeper. The mystical side of me leans towards the latter. Maybe it means I am blessed, or maybe, I’m cursed: blessed with an abundant dose of respect for life, or cursed with an unflinching fear of losing it. And just like that, this possibility hits me with a cold fist; this storm of deep mixed emotion could forever circle above my heart with a bitter constancy.
- There is a nature trail near my house. On it there is a section that runs straight with an obnoxious amount of wild brush and bodies of water on both sides, like an aisle decorated for a beautiful bride. If you are there at just the right time in the morning, the sun shoots through one side of the leaves like a line drive, unleashing light, with every leaf becoming a little lampshade. For just this one second, this trail looks like it could be the gates of heaven; humble, small, and bewitching in the simplest way.
- A homeless man sleeps under a pavilion at the beginning of my morning path. I can never truly see him because he’s always wrapped up so tight in his dusty cotton cocoon. Under layers of clothes, a hat, and a huge blanket he just lays there perfectly still and snug. This morning I brought him some coffee and pumpkin bread, not at all out of a sense of societal duty or compassion, just because. I approached and said, “Excuse me”. After a quick rustle, he poked only the circumference of his face out of the tiers of fabric and said nothing, just looked at me like he had just woke up. “I brought you some coffee and bread if you’re hungry” I said. For some odd reason, what happened next blew me away. He said “Oh, thank you” in the most shockingly cheery and pedestrian way, as if we had been friends for decades, and I was helping him out with a project around his home.
- I wondered as I walked away, “what if this man was an angel?” Maybe he came to this earth only to see such a wayward humanity that has wandered so far from love, and he just couldn’t take it. So now he just sleeps on this bench and waits for God to call him back home. Maybe he is sitting on that bench, drinking the coffee and thinking that I am the angel. What if we are all called to treat each other as prospective angels, helping each other get by in this hopeless world that is so dark, cruel.
- On the walk this morning, I also saw an eagle. She would only poke her tiny head out, as if to say a very slight and cautious “good morning”. Her nest looked big enough for a human child to live comfortably, like something out of Neverland. I also saw a string of spider web so thick and strong it was suspending a small branch in mid air; this branch looked as if it was floating on its own, free from gravity, free from physics. In these moments, nature spoke to me; actually, she screamed. She spoke like God speaks, not audibly, but so profoundly clear and in a way you could never forget. The message sunk to the bottom of me, like a smell in a house one hundred years old. And today, the message was, “live”.
© Jeff Caldwell