What moved you? What made you laugh or cry today? What did you notice?
Sometimes I ask myself those questions. They help me not take my life for granted. They help me feel more connected. And sometimes they make me bow.
But yesterday morning these questions were the last thing on my mind. In fact, not much other than a very grumpy mood was on my mind as I set out on my run. But that was about to change… And last night, remembering my questions, I bowed to the man at the pond. And then I gave my memory of it all a pen:
The pond has been frozen for several days now. Yesterday afternoon there were many children and puppies and peoples skating and slipping and sliding gleefully around on the ice, but this morning, it being Monday, a work- and school-day, not so many. This morning, after my run, I stopped at the pond again.
In the distance, a handful of skaters: one skating in smooth circles on a cleared patch to my right; in the middle distance to my left two others skating on another smooth patch; and closest to where I stood, on the right, a man and his boy simply laughing and rolling around on the ice. It was all quite enjoyable to watch in an absentminded, daydreamy way, but the person who really drew my attention stood a mere few feet to my left, doing nothing more than gazing at the skaters, and in particular one girl-woman who was too far for me to be able to tell her age, but by the way she moved, I’d say she was, at most, in her 20’s and possibly even, still in her teens.
The man was short, Latino-looking, and somewhere between mid-age and going-on-oldish age. A couple of feet behind us, on the bench, sat a very quiet boy, sucking his thumb, wrapped in several jackets including a woman’s coat. I wondered if the girl-woman was the boy’s mom. I wondered if the man who’d captured my attention was her father. Maybe he was watching the boy so she could skate. Really, I had no idea.
I watched the skaters, but mostly I wanted to watch the man watching the girl and so, as often as I could without being obvious, I cast a surreptitious glance his way only to find his eyes, still focused in the distance, on the girl. Mostly he was serious, though always his eyes were soft, and sometimes the edges of his mouth would venture up into the ever so slightest smile, which usually happened when she fell and quickly got up, or when she did some little twirl or wobbly pirouette.
His manner was shy, self-contained. Very quiet. And caring. At one point he turned and, seeing that one of the coats had slipped off the child, he went over and, with a tender touch, tucked the coats more closely around the boy before stepping back to his spot to take up gazing at the girl in the distance.
In this country, at least around here, when I see men of the ethnicity, the heritage, of this man at the pond, they are often wearing custodial clothing, mopping a floor here, cleaning dishes there. Not always, certainly, but often. This man’s clothes were in good condition, and he wore a baseball cap. He was neither poorly nor well dressed.
I am not sure why I was so taken by him. We never exchanged a word, nor did our eyes ever meet. I have no idea who he was or what in the world he does, but what I felt watching him was a kind of swelling in my chest, as if my ribs had suddenly become far too tight for my heart. I can feel it in my body, even now, just remembering. I could try to name what that is, that feeling in my chest, but words fall so short. A name, a label, wouldn’t even come close to doing it justice. My body knows better.I realize that if my little scene here, the one I’ve just told you, were a movie, it’d be sorely lacking in plot. What can I say! Sure, I can’t help wondering about the man: what are his hopes, his dreams, his fears, his loves? Really, I have no idea. But I’m pretty sure I am right when I say that two of his loves were there at the pond this morning. As well as a woman —a stranger— with a rib cage too tight for whatever was happening in her heart.
I tip my hat to the man at the pond. And to you. Thanks for reading. I hesitate to even post this for I wonder: did you have to be there?
Ah well. It’s just a blog. But tell me, if you want, what have you noticed lately?