Thursday, November 07, 2013

What the Mute Gardener Taught Me: Fifteen Minutes of Music with Nothing Playing

I walked with purpose, a check in my pocket to deposit, a sports bra and tennis shoes to remind me this was an errand AND exercise.  I blew right past the man bent over, his sunhat bowed to the traffic, his tool digging down into the hard-packed earth of the neglected, city-owned sidewalk lawn. A small tree was newly planted in the middle of a circle he had carved in the dirt. 10 strides up the street, I paused, and circled back. Greeting him in English and Spanish didn't startle him for his work.  I was ignored, but allowed the awkward time to observe the mute gardener for a bit.



Just ahead, I passed a group of people blocking the sidewalk with their slow, serpentine parade, trash-bags and garden tools in hand, eyes on the concrete, I wondered if they were lost.  We're from Canada, one man explained when I asked where they were heading, holding rakes.  Oh, that explains it, I guess?  We're not really sure where we're going, he said.  Just cleaning up this area, volunteering for The Dream Center.


Canadians.

My walk turned to a run as I headed home on the downhill slope, pausing to capture a wall I walk / drive by almost daily.



I passed by my new coffee community, Muddy Paw, and headed up the Micheltorena stairs, stepping over the remains of a homeless camp, cigarette butts and empty, oily, fast-food bags strewn about.


I was thankful for the mute gardener, who slowed my speed-walk down to a pace where I could pay attention, be present.  

Freshen the Flowers, She Said

So I put them in the sink, for the cool porcelain 
     was tender,
and took out the tattered and cut each stem
     on a slant,
trimmed the black and raggy leaves, and set them all —
     roses, delphiniums, daisies, iris, lilies,
and more whose names I don't know, in bright new water —
     gave them

a bounce upward at the end to let them take
     their own choice of position, the wheels, the spurs,
the little shed of the buds. It took, to do this,
     perhaps fifteen minutes. 
Fifteen minutes of music
     with nothing playing.

~Mary Oliver, from Why I Wake Early

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