Last Saturday night as I was tending to the gallery a man I'm acquainted with came through the door. He looked at me and I him. We both smiled recognizing one another. I'll call him Michael; that's not his name, but I want to keep his identity his. As we greeted, he mentioned he wasn't aware I was tied to the gallery. Saturday was the first time he'd been here. We'd not talked that much before for him to know I was affiliated with the imagine ART Gallery.
We recognize each other from the Organic Community Garden in Florence where he's been somewhat of a fixture, and we're finishing our first growing season as the imagine/Northampton plot. I met him early on because he was easy to talk with, and seems to enjoy conversation. I showed him around the gallery's current exhibit. He appeared to enjoy it thoroughly. As we went from one piece to the next, we shared our views about art and how important it is as a creative human expression. Michael mentioned he'd done some art as a young man, but hadn't kept up with it. Even so, he'd always appreciated artists and what they could create.
Near the end of our conversation, he alluded to a traumatic brain injury he'd sustained a few years back. His recovery has been slow, but steady in that the injuries he sustained affected his ability to walk and talk. By the way, he spoke the ordeal was no small thing. If he'd never said anything I would have been completely unaware he suffered a devastating accident from the times I'd seen and talked to him. He said it took a long while to regain his ability to speak and get around. Even now he has good days and days not so good.
I noted with such serious and life altering injuries, people can feel depressed and even bitter about what had come upon them. I remarked he never has shown evidence of that when I've been around him. He responded by talking about keeping an attitude of wonder. When he did, his face lit up with a smile. He admitted he would allow himself to be angry about what had befallen him, but at some point realized he could choose to focus on all the good still in his life. He added, for instance, how he could watch the bees go about their work in the garden and get absorbed for a couple of hours. Such absorption is key to seeing the wonder all around us, by the way. It should be cultivated carefully and persistently in my opinion, but I digress. He also talked about the joys and skills of roasting his own coffee (using an old pressure cooker and modifying with a Rube Goldberg-esque type of contraption he rigged) from raw beans bought in Florence every couple of weeks so as to enjoy the coffee like he can get nowhere else.Wonder indeed!
To me it, was very clear Michael had made a choice -- and kept to it -- to observe the world from the focused perspective of joy, delight, and wonder, in spite of how his life had been altered irrevocably by suffering. He said he saw no point in being bitter when there was still so much to see and enjoy all around. him. The world wasn't his oyster, but he wouldn't let it be a veil of tears either.
Michael is a "spiritual man" as are many folks in Northampton; you know: I'm not religious; I'm spiritual.They talk a certain way and have a kind of interior quiet one can see, especially the folks who've been at it for years. In our conversation, he told me of a book he'd just read by Ram Dass who according to Wikipedia is "an American contemporary spiritual teacher and the author of the seminal 1971 book Be Here Now. (Dass) is known for his personal and professional associations with Timothy Leary at Harvard University in the early 1960s, for his travels to India and his relationship with the Hindu guru Neem Karoli Baba. I was aware of him from my college days; in those days, he was Baba Ram Dass. The book Michael had just finished was Still Here. He recommended it highly so I could glean a perspective he found valuable. I let it go at that.
I like him and hope to get to know him better. He's is a gentle and kind man, passionate about raising food well (organically), and sharing it with others. He loves the idea of giving it away or planting stuff so others can freely take it, such as the raspberry patch he turned me on to at the Florence garden.There seems no guile in him. I always find it refreshing to be around folks who ably recognize wonder in simple things; what others walk past with nary a glance. I'm not around people like him enough; I suspect most of us aren't because of the unexamined, plugged-in busyness we all tend to live. When I am around people with eyes, ears and hearts for wonder, that lightness of being I've referred to in other blogs settles on me for a bit and I'm opened to a quiet, easy joy.
Our plans are to plant again next year and we'll have two plots to instead of one. So, there'll be more chances to chat with him. I look forward to it. I'd especially like him to come to know the God behind the bees and all their wondrous work. He just needs to look a little closer. Maybe I, or we can help him.