Jottings: Down the rabbit hole
Our friends plant seeds in us that bloom at unexpected times.
My Chicago friend walks miles each day. He greets each person he passes and stops to appreciate everyday miracles like a toddler determined to master stairs, or a line of birds watching from a wire, or a woman singing as she sweeps her walk. He'll stop at a specialty shop and learn from the owner the passion behind that particular specialty. The walk ends with a stop at Whole Foods. He selects the ripest fruit and savors it as soon as he steps out of the store. When I visit his house, I see shelves of origami sculptures he has created, musical instruments from around the world that he has learned to play, and juggling supplies that he uses to distract recalcitrant students. He cooks for me and says, "Mmm-mmm, smell that!" with each spice he adds. He sounds like a hedonist, but he is a professional mediator, a resource person for the school system on restorative justice, and an elder at summer camps that challenge city boys with wilderness to question their meaning of masculinity. His way of living says, "First fill yourself with joy so that the work you do is filled with love." He would say that joy and an appreciation of beauty are our secret powers.
That is not how I was raised. "Do your work first, then you can reward yourself with something that brings joy. There is too much pain in the world for you to feel joy when others are feeling hopeless so first do what you can to alleviate pain." I think that philosophy has served me well in living a productive life. But today I woke up chased by tasks on a long to-do list. I didn't want to take the time to stretch or make breakfast or even dress. The work kept pushing me and it seemed that the world depended on me.
But my friend's face kept appearing before me like the white rabbit in Alice in Wonderland. I could not rid myself of his image so finally followed him down the rabbit hole of his world view.
I left my darkened house and stepped into a world of sunshine. I was met by song birds and daffodils and cherry blossoms and red shoots spewing from ninebark shrubs. Geese were honking, crows were flying. Trees were budding and bushes displaying their colors. The air sparkled with aliveness. And when I reached the Willamette River, I gasped as a sea lion chuffed his way toward Portland. I had never seen a sea lion in this river before. The world was bigger than my to-do list and I was captured by the busy aliveness.
When I did return home, the list had little power over me. I saw opportunities that I could choose to do or not to do. And with each task I did complete, I saw the possibility of fun and added that. I ended the day smiling, I felt like Alice's Cheshire cat grinning with some secret knowledge. In Cheshire the cat is said to grin because of the abundance of milk and cream.
I am not going to change a lifetime of habits after one day of following my friend. But it was a reminder of the gift that friendship gives in enlarging our lives.
Cherie Dupuis is a member of the Jottings Group at The Lake Oswego Adult Community Center.
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