Both Sides of the Fence

A Tosa resident since 1991, Christine walks the dog, cooks but avoids housework, writes and reads, and enjoys the company of friends and strangers. Her job takes her around the state, learning about people's health. A Quaker (no, they don't wear blue hats or sell oatmeal or motor oil), she has been known to stand on both sides of the political and philosophic fence at the same time, which is very uncomfortable when you think about it. She writes about pretty much whatever stops in to visit her busy mind at the moment. One reader described her as "incredibly opinionated but not judgmental." That sounds like a good thing to strive for!

A happy Valentine's Day

Underwood Creek Parkway, Gratitude, Valentine's Day

I left work a little early today to grab some more of the light and the mild weather than my usual day allows. And to give my faithful love, Idgie, a decent walk for Valentine's Day.

The good thing about not having a romantic partner, if there is a good thing about it, is that you get to love more clearly all the rest of whatever it is you are given to love. This rescued dog, these children now grown, those neighbors and chance acquaintances, you friends who know me and let me know you back.

We walked the Underwood Creek Parkway as we often do. And though the sky was cloudy, the most wonderful colors hid among the grays. I felt a little sorry that dogs, except maybe the birding kind, don't raise their heads up much, except to catch a windbourne smell, a sharp sound.

There was one of those: sudden, high, bright. A child's voice. I can't remember the last time I saw children playing here. But there they were, this boy, about eight, and this girl, a little younger, cautiously making their way down the concrete walls of the creek. They'd come through the maple bog and crossed the railroad tracks, and now they were investigating the ice edging the water.

"Look," the boy yelled, excited. "It's pretty!" He paused, bent to examine something, and shouted again: "It's pretty!"

I don't know what he saw, but I hope the girl saw it too, and I hope she felt the same delight. Leaves layered and frozen in translucent ice, maybe, or the brittle, lacey, clear kind of ice that breaks in fractal patterns.

I think I know just how he felt. In the most unexpected places, you are seized by joy or love or wonder--or by all of those.

"It's pretty," your heart says, all on its own, without having to be taught.

I waited a bit, a little worried that these children might not know how to handle themselves even in such tame wild places. I'm a mother: that's what we do. But a woman followed them down to share what held their attention.

Let us now praise parents who raise their children and grandchildren to be a little wild, too.

Here's my Valentine's Day gift to you. I've probably given it to you before. But I give it to you with joy and love and wonder all over again.

Wild Geese
by Mary Oliver

You do not have to be good.
You do not have to walk on your knees
For a hundred miles through the desert, repenting.
You only have to let the soft animal of your body
love what it loves.
Tell me about your despair, yours, and I will tell you mine.
Meanwhile the world goes on.
Meanwhile the sun and the clear pebbles of the rain
are moving across the landscapes,
over the prairies and the deep trees,
the mountains and the rivers.
Meanwhile the wild geese, high in the clean blue air,
are heading home again.
Whoever you are, no matter how lonely,
the world offers itself to your imagination,
calls to you like the wild geese, harsh and exciting --
over and over announcing your place
in the family of things.

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