Thursday, November 30, 2006

LIFE TEACHES ME A LESSON, DEATH, TOO...and then there's the BOOK news

Coming home Thanksgiving weekend, we saw him on the side of the road. A skinny kid, maybe around my son's age, with a serious flat tire.
If there's anything more desolate than being beached on the side of the road while the whole uncaring world soars past, I don't know what it is.

We. Have. To. Stop. I said. Unfortunately, it's not really like me to stop
and help someone with car trouble. Since I'm about the most useless person on the planet when it comes to lug nuts and jacks, I don't have much to offer. And then I'm always mindful of the tabloid tales about good samaritans who were lured into a serial killer's trap. Clearly, I spend too much time in the supermarket line.

But this was a kid, staring into the trunk of his car, looking as mystified by the spare as I would be. A kid my son's age. And I could practically read his sweetness in the slope of his shoulder, the way he brushed his longish hair out of his eyes. (Did I mention my son also has long hair?)

So we stopped. And it turned out the boy, the young man with the lanky build had something to offer us, not vice versa.

He was playing some kind of indie rock on the car radio and kind of rolling his shoulders to the rhythm. Leisurely, he opened a vitamin water, like he was having his own little picnic all by himself on the side of the road.

"You all didn't have to stop," he said. I noticed the Southern accent and the North Carolina plates at the same time. "I got this under control. Least I think I do."

"Have you ever changed a tire before?" my husband asked dubiously.

"No, but looks like I'm gonna learn." He smiled widely, and gave the lugnuts an ineffectual turn. When they didn't move, he shrugged, then allowed his shoulders to do one of those shimmy things as he picked up a snatch of music.

This had to be the most relaxed motorist in distress that I'd ever seen. I told him I was impressed by his equanimity. I would have been in flat out hair tearing, why-me-god cortisone-releasing mode by then.

"The way I look at it; this is just what I'm doing now," he said, as if reading my mind. It's not good or bad unless I think it is."

And so we laughed and chatted as we helped him change the tire. Well, okay, I mostly chatted and held the flashlight and listened to the music from the radio. And he was right. It wasn't good or bad. It was just what we were doing at the moment.

Imagine if I started thinking of everything in my life that way! What a revolution that would be.

************************************************************************

PEOPLE I WISH I'D KNOWN: The Weekly One-line Obituaries

Nancy Wynne Jones, a painter: "It was her desire to possess and be possessed by the bogs of County Mayo."

The Rev. Ian Musgrave: "He delighted in words, numbers, jigsaw puzzles, gadgets and unusual tools."

Stephen Benbow: "He never lost his passion for music, but he was reluctant to travel far from home because of his large collection of animals, including goats, chickens and a donkey."

Mark Purdy, a campaigning farmer who fought the use of pesticides in cattle: "He was incapable of harming any living thing.



******************************************************************************

In LIT NEWS, Todd makes a case against book snobbery.

And David Thayer writes eloquently, as always, about the writer's singular need for solitude.

67 comments:

Anonymous said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Sky said...

oh dear - what a piece of spam in your comments - can you delete it?

patry, i love this post! the philosophy: "JUST WHAT I AM DOING RIGHT NOW!" wow - and in adopting that concept i don't have to put any undue burdens on myself or anyone else when things don't go according to plan! perfect! each moment is a lesson, each moment is a piece of the journey, no less or more important than the next. oh, i want to be able to live that way!

this post made me wonder about his parents - where he learned this philosophy at such an early age - was it modeled for him? either great parenting or good weed! ooops - did i really say that?! :))

your enjoyment of the obits, which also fascinate me from time to time, reminds me of my love of cemeteries. i love to walk through them and read the markers, figure out the ages people were when they died, see who is related to whom. even as a child i loved doing that. it is life that i enjoy there - lives that were full and connected.

Left-handed Trees... said...

I think that, as a writer, one naturally becomes a magnet for the most interesting people. Or is it that other people just don't write it down and share it? I think your Zen master boy with the flat was just amazing...whether via parenting or good weed (as Sky may have very wisely suggested)--his was a fascinating perspective.
--D.--

Tarakuanyin said...

Such wisdom in one so young. What a great encounter.

Marilyn said...

re the Spam...neither good nor bad...just what is (just keep repeating that.) ;) I had to laugh reading about how you'd react to a flat tire. I find myself lately (Paging Dr. Perimenopause!) totally losing it over the TINIEST things...a stuck jar lid, a stubbed toe, a line that moves a nanosecond slower than I want it to, etc. I *know* that it serves no purpose to do that...even so, it's easy to forget in the moment. So thank you for the reminder (that I need to tape to my forehead) that's it all just...what is.

Anonymous said...

Lol, I should adopt a bit of his attitude...but then I'd have nothing to whine to you about on the phone.

Tish

Patry Francis said...

sky: I considered the "good weed" possibility, but in this case, I don't think so. Maybe he really was a student of zen, or was blessed with a rare placid nature that was meant to be a lesson to all he encountered. As a mother, though, I really love the idea that his parents may have modelled this kind of radical acceptance.

delia: I love your phrase "zen master boy with a flat tire". If I'd thought of it, it would have made a much better title!

I don't know if writers necessarily encounter more interesting people--or we've just trained ourselves to "study" them with our pen when they come along.

tarakuanyin: I think of him as Thanksgiving's final blessing.

marilyn: There are so many things that go into the way we react to experiences we judge as unpleasant: genetics, past experience, and maybe more powerful than all of them: HORMONES. It's pretty hard to argue with PMS or peri-menopause...they play by their own rules. But I'm with you on taping ACCEPTANCE of what IS to my forehead and giving it a try.

tish: Oh, but our whining sessions are so much fun! p.s. I hope you know that one reason I had to stop was because Rachel inspired me.

robin andrea said...

I like what you modeled for him too, patry. Good lessons all the way around.

Patry Francis said...

r.a.: I hadn't thought of that...thank you for noticing.

AscenderRisesAbove said...

"no but I am going to learn"... what a wonder attitude; learning to say 'not yet' as opposed to just 'not'

gary said...

Imagine if everyone started thinking of everything in their life that way!
There is the revolution that's been trying to be for a long time.
Seems to me like that's what most religious movements have started out as, a revolutionary way of seeing and being.

Patry Francis said...

ascenderrises: An attiude certainly evident in your work!

gary: I carry on revolutions, at least in my head, just about every day. How about you?

Patry Francis said...

Gary, also wanted to let you know that I've tried, but I'm not able to get on your blog.

gary said...

Thanks for the heads up...somehow a check box got unchecked in the "new" Blogger. Hopefully it works now...Just as an aside I was having trouble getting into yours this evening. All I kept getting was the blogger bar...someday they'll fix all these things.

Anonymous said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
rdl said...

sounds like a hippie, love it! Makes me long for the good ole days when hanging out was an art.

Patry Francis said...

gary: glad you got it straightened out. For several hours, I couldn't get on my own blog either.

r: All we need is the VW bus...

chiefbiscuit said...

I am impressed that you stopped - you've given me another view of America (now that I've finally worked out that you are from there!) I didn't think Americans stopped for anyone - too dangerous. I guess I was pleased to hear that you helped him (I'd be like you and see my own son ...) and that it wasn't someone else who might've taken advantage of his lovely nature - or am I being overly suspicious of America's dangerous-ness? (I must admit to being influenced from watching 'America's Most Wanted' - tho' why we are offered that programme on our TV, I've no idea.)

tinker said...

"this is just what I'm doing now. It's not good or bad unless I think it is."

If he's casting such pearls of wisdom at this young age, it makes me wonder about him as an adult. If only we could someday find out the rest of his story...

Patry Francis said...

chiefbiscuit: First of all, I'm glad to see you back. I'll have to stop by your place and find out how your NaNo experience went! And yes, I'm afraid I'm influenced by the America's Most Wanted syndrome myself. Normally, I wouldn't even think of stopping. Must have been the combination of Thanksgiving's goodwill, and the resemblance to my son.

tinker: I wish he had a blog so we could check in on him now and then! Damn, I wish I'd suggested that to him!

Coll said...

"It isn't good or bad. It's just what I am doing right now." .. definitely an "ah-ha" moment . Thank you for this.

melba said...

Wonderful story! Yes i think when we meet people by chance they are put in our path to teach us something. I am glad you were with your husband. I would have wanted to stop too, but I would not have if I was alone or with my little ones. I read the headlines of those tabloids in the check out line of the grocery store too!

Patry Francis said...

coll: I'm such a slow learner; I seem to need an aha moment every day!

melba: Oh, I definitely wouldn't have stopped if I were alone--even if the kid did remind me of my son. Unfortunately, it's just too risky.

paris parfait said...

I love the philosophy of the stranger you stopped to help! Wise words. Reminds me of an elderly woman in Paris who was waiting to cross the street. My friend came along and asked if she needed help. She accepted, as my friend helped who walk across the street. She asked her what she would have done if she hadn't come along. The old lady replied, "Well someone always does come along." :)

The obit tidbits are wonderful - they always make me want to know more about that person.

colleen said...

I often wonder if these kinds of encounters might be those of Buddhas in disguise or monks in the making?

I'd like to meet those people too! More Buddhas? Aren't we all?

Jane Poe (aka Deborah) said...

Thank you for sharing this! Just what I'm doing at the moment... Brilliant. No judgement, just another life experience. I will take this with me. Much peace, JP

bloglily said...

Thank you for this Patry. It's exactly what a blog post should do and be. I often think, when I see young men like him, just barely old enough to be on their own, about how important it is to care for travelers, people who need just a tiny bit of help or good cheer.

Patry Francis said...

tara: Wonderful story, and I do believe it's true: someone always DOES come along.

As for my one-line obits, I should probably give links so you can learn more about these remarkable individuals, both the sung and the unsung.

colleen: Growing up, I was taught that we sometimes entertain angels unaware. It was a quote that came to mind when I met this young man. Angels and Buddhas are probably not all that different...

deborah: It's interesting that you use the word judgment. Often I've tried not to judge other people, but learning not to judge experience takes it to another level. p.s. I love that you always leave a trail of peace when you leave.

bloglily: I love your phrase "caring for travelers." I think that what struck me in this experience was that I realized I was also a traveler, and the young man I'd stopped to help was also caring for me.

Alexandra S said...

I was worried as I began your Thanksgiving story that it would have an unpleasant Flannery O'Connoresque ending but thankfully it didn't! When I see people pulled over I sometimes think of stopping but sadly am afraid. I think I lived in Los Angeles too long and became paranoid!

Patry Francis said...

Oh, Alexandra, I'm so glad that didn't happen--though I suppose it could have. O'Connor's world is all too real.

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