Again with a challenging day at work yesterday. If it was mental challenge of an intellectual sort, that would be one thing… a pleasure, actually. I love to try and have my mind roll and stretch in new ways. Mental yoga—who knew it could bend that way? But lately, the challenge has been far more emotive, far more interior and heart oriented, rooted in unique perceptions of things.
But then when least expected the door to the left opens and I’m left chuckling, because I hadn’t seen one there.
I rode the bus down to my parish yesterday for an evening meeting. I was NewYork neutral to the crowd and who was sitting next to me. Until the seventy something man asked me the end point of the bus route. Clearly he was struggling for the words in English and not understanding my answer. I noticed he was holding a passport from Spain and was fortunately able to negotiate my way through conjugations and vocabulary to converse in Spanish. His relief would have been gift enough… and then he asked me what I did for my work and where/why I’d learned Spanish. I spoke simply about the happiness I have in working with another language, the pleasure of it on my tongue, the shape of it in my mouth, the sparks and colors when syllables and meaning encounter each other. This moved into a discussion of poetry… he asked if I read Neruda. The simplest response I could offer was a patting of my heart, closed eyes, and a smile. Soon he was quoting parts of Neruda poetry that he had memorized. He spoke about his practice of reciting poetry mentally while he swam—such a connection did he find between the rhythms of the two activities.
We shifted into the culture of self-interest and materialism that seems so wide-spread in the United States and parts of Europe. Poetry, literature, art, these were things you carried with you in your heart that needed nothing more than a soul open to noticing and perceiving, accepting.
This gentleman from Murcia is a retired professor of French who has made choices so that “la muerte no me lleva corriendo.” Death does not carry him running.
Amen to that.