Wednesday, February 01, 2012

Out of Nowhere...

"My wife told me April was going to be horrible," he yelled as I shuffled down the sidewalk. I had thirty seconds until boot camp, and I didn't realize anyone was outside. Jarred, I turned to identify the voice, and I found a man in his late 60s, walking briskly, 50 paces behind me.

"I'm sorry?" I asked, pausing for a minute as I readjusted my yoga mat and water bottle.

His salt and pepper hair glistened with sweat and his ruddy, round cheeks glowed like a vibrant sunrise. My question provoked a smile and he happily jumped on the opportunity to elaborate.

"My wife has a negative view," he began, swinging his arms back and forth in perfect coordinated rhythm, as he jetted toward my spot on the sidewalk. "She thinks the nice weather will bite us in the ass in April," he continued, nearly matching my position foot-for-foot.

I smiled, slightly amused, slightly concerned about being late.

"Not me," he bellowed, raising his volume and lowering his register four or five notches, clearly commanding a masculine authority of sorts.

"I'm not living in April. I'm living for today, and today is absolutely spectacular," he concluded, raising his eyes like a small child following the trail of a kite.

"You're right," I offered with a half-cocked smile. "Sunny, 60 degree days in February are rare and we need to enjoy them without worrying about April," I stammered out. He met my declaration with a nod and an infectious, full-bellied smile, and then he walked right past me.

I haven't been able to extract him from my mind, attempting to figure out which corner produced his presence on what seemed like an otherwise empty street. Or what inspired him to call out to a perfect stranger, 50 feet in front of him.

Then I traced back through my day. Despite the fact I walked outside this morning without mittens and a scarf, I never stopped to acknowledge the warm breeze. Despite the fact I didn't have to scrape or heat up my car, I never appreciated the fact I could open the door, sit in my seat, and begin to drive without laboring over thick slats of ice or waiting for my windows to defrost. And despite the fact I even removed my coat before I entered my vehicle, I never felt the inner tickle to burst into song, belting "The hills are alive with the sound of music," across urban Columbus; instead, I plopped onto the seat, tuned into NPR, watched out for pedestrians, and engaged in a series of mindless right and left turns en route to school.

But it was an absolutely gorgeous morning now that I think about it. And that absolutely gorgeous morning continued throughout the day. Once I got to school, I spent my early hours coaching a student on his poetry performance--something I absolutely love to do. I spent my morning classes reading funny material that inspired a few laughs and certainly more engagement than the previous two activities, and one of my afternoon classes was interrupted by a student who wanted to thank me for my help on her college essay. "I got into the scholar's program," she explained and then she reached out to hug me.

From start to finish, I had so many things to rev up my engine and make me sing, yet I never stopped long enough to relish the good. Instead, I found myself overwhelmed with concern about the bad.

But then, some 60 year old guy came out of nowhere. Some 60 some year old guy tossed around a few silly words about the weather, and consequently jostled my thoughts about the delicate workings of my internal Doppler Radar. Instead of appreciating the temperature, the young poet, the kids who enjoyed my reading selections, the students who were engaged in their afternoon writing assignments, the 83 year-old partner Laura found for one of my students, or the twelfth grader who took time to come thank me for my help, I directed all of my energy on the few who were off task, on the a few who needed a bit more focus.

As I trudged into boot camp, my steps were stopped by a man who asked me to pay attention. Who asked me to take notice of a 60 degree day. Who invited me to feel the sun above me, to allow the luke-warm air to lift me in his arms, and to realize how many blessings we can see if we could just take a moment to gaze beyond our cynicism.


  1. I love the characterization of this guy :) It's amazing what gets sent our way when we need it!