I clip the leash on to the little dog’s collar and we step out into pale morning sunshine. This early, the air is cool, and I think I will bring my coffee and IPad outside and sit on the repurposed chair, with its plush new cushion, and write this morning. I’ll pour steaming coffee into my Hartstone mug, the one with the pansies–but first, the insistent little dog needs her morning walk.
We head down the driveway, and we veer to the left. Greta sniffs and grumbles among the rocks in Shirley’s landscaping, tippy-toeing around the plantings, investigating last night’s rich residue of smells. In the hard, caked dirt, there are exactly round drill-holes, the evidence that the cicadas were here, vividly present for much of May and June. Now the offspring of those noisy, vanquished conquerors have begun their long slow burrow below.
Birds call; a robin pulls a tidbit from the dirt on the other side of Shirley’s lawn. I just read something about birds and their relationship to dinosaurs, and now I can’t help but picturing T-Rex with feathers. Or seeing hidden meaning in the bright, bold glint of a robin’s eye. This one ignores me, hopping into clumsy flight, its morning treat dangling from its beak.
I think, as I wander alongside the exploring hound, about last night’s presentation at the Gant House, where Anita Jackson, with a simple prop or two, made the character of Anna Maria Gant come alive. Love’s difficult when you’re enslaved: that was a big part of Anita’s message, and she told the story of the Gants in the mid-1800’s, owned by different people but united in lawful marriage. When Nelson’s owner died and left him free, Anna Maria was still someone’s personal belonging. Nelson worked all summer to earn a thick bundle of bills; he came and put it on the mistress’s table.
And she, Anita showed us, laughed at him.
Nelson persevered, and he finally purchased his wife’s freedom; they started a family, and they left a legacy, spiraling from the building where we sat, watching Anita bring them back to life. We looked at the transom over the door, with ‘NT GANT’ etched into the fine old glass, and we thought about their triumph.
We listened to a local lawyer share a tale with a different ending, of a man from the same era who’d escaped slavery and settled into Zanesville. Who, after three years of freedom, was returned back into slavery by the local sheriff. That sheriff argued that he was bound to uphold the law, the lawyer said, but he was excommunicated by his church, which held that God’s law supersedes man’s.
Too late for the slave, though, who disappeared back into the system of bondage.
We listened, Mark and I, and then we talked to friends afterward in the full and milling room.
This week, we remembered that history also burrows into the ground where we walk–that tragedies and triumphs both have led to this time now.
We reach the end of the morning’s forward march, Greta and I, and turn back so she can start to re-snuffle all the things she’s just explored. And I think about the visit yesterday, in the building where my office is, of a wonderful group of adults from the local disability services center. We’ve partnered with them, our little college, providing rooms for meetings and an aud for a movie and a venture into adapting technology at the IDEA Lab.
Those partnerings have provided times of fun and laughter and opportunities for thought and growth; they have been gifts in themselves, the events, but the folks involved wanted to thank the college a little more tangibly. They brought in little glass jars. Each one was labelled with a letter, spelling out ‘FANS’…an acronym for friends and neighbors. Our visitors filled the jars with candy, with Twix and Milky Ways and Snickers bars. They set a pan of home-baked chocolate chip cookies on the counter, and they provided paper plates and napkins.
The display was resplendent (we eyed the goodies greedily), and the providers turned from it with happy smiles, proud and generous.
“I LIKE your purple shirt!” Miss J said to my colleague Jaime, and when I asked if I could snap a photo on my phone, young Mr. B. ran over to give Jim, our CHRO, a big, spontaneous hug.
The hubbub drew a few faculty from their offices and a few interested students from the lounge on that late summer day, and there was a warm little group to appreciate this lovely act of giving.
We focus, Missy Hartley, who coordinates the outreach, told me months ago, on people’s strengths, and not their weaknesses–a person-centered philosophy. People with disabilities have a lot to share, in tangibles and in other, deeper, ways.
This week I was reminded of that; and in the loving acts of this gentle group, I saw a different kind of triumph.
Greta and I reach the car port; I stash the evidence of our walk in the trash, unhook her tether, and we go inside to get her treat. I gather up my coffee and my aging technology, and I head outside to the cool and quiet patio. I cast my thoughts back over this ordinary week. This week we joined, after much dithering and indecision, a beautiful gym on the college campus. It’s a gleaming two story building across the road, on the furthest reach of the College drive, nuzzling up against the nature walk. It has two pools and it has an indoor track. There are treadmills and stationary bikes and coaches and classes. We vowed, this time, to use our memberships regularly.
That was Tuesday.
On Wednesday morning, my son James got up in time to come to work with me at 7:00. He left his book-bag in my office and he took his laptop over to the gym and he came back, grinning, 90 minutes later.
“I walked on the treadmill for 36 minutes,” he said proudly, “and burned off 96 calories.” He wedged his laptop up in front of him, he said, put it where one might rest a book, and he typed as he strode on the moving belt.
“It was pretty cool,” said my autistic son, for whom new people and unfamiliar places can be pretty daunting challenges, and he allowed how he can’t wait to go back.
Maybe, now I think about it, triumph’s all around me.
This week, a friend is feeling better after the latest round of chemo has rassled its way through her system, broadening the part in her hair, wreaking havoc with her digestion, but doing, we pray each day, its harsh and hopeful work.
This week another gutsy friend dared to put her vision out there, to interview for a wonderful new job. It’s a position where she could take her gifts and broadcast them wholesale, helping thousands instead of hundreds, sending ripples far out in our endless sea. A dreamer, a do-er, she cast her longing out there into highly competitive waters. We’re praying her power links slickly and solidly with the enterprise that, surely and certainly, needs her wondrous talent.
But, even if that doesn’t happen, there is power in the daring.
This week, we used the bounty of Randy’s fields to cook up a pot of veggie soup, to swirl together an imaginative stir-fry, and to simmer a big batch of tangy chili. We are learning about using peppers–Hungarian, banana, and jalapeno. We are circling around the habaneros, wondering if we’ve got what it takes to appreciate them fully. And we are enjoying the sunshine in the flavors, and the zest of locally grown foods.
New tastes. New explorations. A little culinary triumph.
In fact, I realize as I write this morning, there’s been a lot of the triumphant in this mundane and ordinary week. One little, hardly unusual, barely remarkable week: but fully triumphant. Seeds were planted. Seeds flourish. Hardship is endured to bring on the next stage, the blossoming.
Is this ALWAYS there, I wonder today, amid the bustle, below the bellowing, these real and vibrant, important things? Prayer forms: Please keep me awake–don’t let me miss it. Help me strong-arm the frou-frau off the table and help me see the triumphs–triumphs past, and new, and brewing–triumphs that are surely there, just as now, in every ordinary week.