And so this week’s moment of happiness despite the news.
Twice in the last week, I’ve been enchanted by visions along the side of the road. It’s probably safer to be focused on the road in front of you than what’s along the side, but, well, I notice. Once, my side-of-the-road-watching earned me a poem, a haiku, called, appropriately, “On The Side Of The Road”:
Woman walking black
flowing skirt leopard backpack
fashion plate of sass
She was SUCH attitude, in her mid-20’s, I bet, stalking, stomping, arms swinging, hands fisted, skirt flapping, backpack bouncing above her hips. That was a woman to be reckoned with, and I bet she’s stomping in success somewhere now. She made me smile for the rest of my day.
And so this week, two visions. First, I was pulling up to one of the more obnoxious intersections in Waukesha, at Barstow and St. Paul. It was our rush hour and it’s a time of tempers and horns that honk before the red turns fully to green because you are supposed to GO, DAMMIT! I was the first in line to turn left from St. Paul to Barstow, and I was edgy, waiting to be honked at.
Across the street, sitting on a patch of grass, a man with a scraggly beard and scragglier hair sat cross-legged and smiled over a sketchpad. His hand moved so fast, as fast as the car behind me would want me to go, and he kept looking up and then straight down Barstow, his smile widening into an open-mouthed laugh.
I see this intersection at least once a day and I couldn’t imagine what was bringing him such joy. Joy to the point of wanting to sit right down, right there, sketch it and keep it forever. So at the risk of missing the moment the red turned to green, I turned my head so I could look in that direction. I saw what I always saw. A car wash on the left, our out-of-business Hardees on the right, the bridge that crosses the Fox River, the road leading toward downtown.
But this man sketched with open-mouthed joy the view I see every day. And his joy was contagious. By the time the light switched and the inevitable honk came, I was beaming too. I don’t think I’ll ever see that street the same way again.
Then, a few days later, I was heading home and at another light, I saw a man standing at a bus stop. He was on the sidewalk, not leaning against the post or a tree, but standing upright. He wasn’t staring down the street, grasping for that first sign of the bus, tapping his foot. He didn’t even have his face in a screen. No watch, no phone, no tablet.
He was holding a book. A book-book. A REAL book. And he was immersed. I think the bus could have come and gone and he would have never noticed.
I know that focus. That sucked-into-a-story-to-hell-with-the-rest-of-the-world concentration. That just getting lost in a book feeling. And as someone who tries to write so that others can get lost, let me tell you, that was such a gratifying sight. There are so many articles and studies out there that claim we aren’t reading. But this man was. Not only that, he was READING. Reading with ferocity, reading was his LIFE, in that particular moment. And I bet, when he closed his eyes to sleep that night, he still saw those words behind his eyelids.
I drove home happy and looking at the streets before me like artwork. Like books I haven’t yet read or written. I drove home happy.
And yes, that helps. Despite. Anyway.