take the long way

Years and years ago on the 5th of July I carried our young cat, Obsidian, to the beach early in the morning. Tim and I had just moved to North Bend, Oregon, and the day was brilliant. So quiet, too. "Sid" hadn't seen the ocean before (it's possible he never did, being preoccupied with this giant sandbox in front of it). I had a feeling he and I would be alone on the beach, and I was right. There were remnants of fireworks strewn hither and yon, but no doggies, no parties, no people.

I recalled Sid's and my adventure this morning, as I set out on foot to reach the church in time to help with the first Saturday neighborhood breakfast. I wondered if I would see anybody. Soon enough there was a man in a cap, carrying his fishing pole, moving off the bike path down to the river's edge. His profile expressed a quiet intention toward trout for brunch. I considered taking a photo of him, but I didn't wish to intrude.

Next came a man on his bike, a woman on hers. Greetings were exchanged. A woman walking, wearing sunglasses, as I have come to do lately, late in life, perhaps, but these days I tire of squinting.

Then appeared an osprey, dipping and wheeling. I tried to swing the camera his direction in time but only caught blue. Oh, well, the river stayed put (in a manner of speaking).

Last night I climbed into bed before dark. Tim's been working crazy hours doing vacation relief, so he wouldn't be home till later. Already the world outside was booming, but I knew I was tired enough to sleep well. Tim sometimes tells the story of once back in North Bend, when I was tired enough, and a huge windstorm blew through. Tim sat up watching transformers explode across the bay while I went on sleeping.

I wanted to be up today in time to eat my breakfast, water plants, and walk to the church. I don't always make it to serve at this monthly event. Today there would be fewer regular helpers than usual. The meal's recipients are mostly homeless people from "The Whit", our eclectic neighborhood. I've spent my share of awkward moments at previous breakfasts, trying to learn the ropes. Serving food isn't a natural gift; I was fired after one week of waitressing years ago. But this morning I did my best not to dread making the attempt in my slow, distracted fashion. Wandering to the breakfast at my own pace consoled me.

I scanned Goose Island for inhabitants.

They were up and at breakfast, too, I think.

I pondered the morality of feeding those who might be less fortunate. It seems to me this scriptural adage to do for others must be the most straightforward, and the least self-conscious, method of trying to make the world better. My experience, anyway, has made it clear that every Cause, every Change I have tried to be part of, every Answer to our culture's problems turns out to be complex and fraught with problems. It seems I can only come up with ways to Give the world something different, or to Take Away something wrong. The reason I get all excited and informed and sharing words in capitals is because my Giving or my Taking Away is from my own mind, and my idea, even if I'm coming up with it in committee, is limited in vision and scope. The Idea might solve one thing, but it does nothing to solve something else, and sooner or later there will be a Terrible Thing associated with the aspect of solving I personally have promoted.

Whereas fixing a meal with care and inviting people to come in and be served is fairly direct. Even if I'm awkward at it, the deed gets done; tummies get filled. Laughter and relaxation come about in the context of breaking a fast together. That's what happened (it was in the process of happening already by the time I arrived at my church) this morning. I realized I could handle pretty well wandering among the tables offering cups of OJ or Cran-Raspberry to people, so I did.

It was a brilliant, thirsty morning.


Anonymous said…
FRESCA says:
Oh, yeah, that's it, that's how I feel volunteering at the Thrift Store! It's not an Idea, it's a Doing. In this case, related to "clothe the naked" (as well as recycling things that otherwise would go in a landfill).

Any Idea or Action can so easily become a hydra---that many-headed monster Hercules fought (I think... do you remember?):
when you cut off one head, the monster sprouted MORE!
So I try to think, what am I spawning here, by any action?
deanna said…
I don't recall for sure, but hydra sounds right for that thing. And yes, a Doing rather than an Idea. It's humbler and (as you may have said somewhere recently) unglamorous, but it's more real and lasting.

I can celebrate people doing little, kind things in line with their convictions. Thanks for thinking and doing your thoughts, Fresca. :)