A Good Day

Church, then a nap, then a long ride in a convertible.

The convertible ride was therapeutic. There’s something about a long drive that calms my spirit. That’s why, when I had jobs that had me traveling to far away cities, I never complained about the miles in a car. Four hours to New York City or Boston. Easy peasy. Eleven hours to DC? No problem. That’s eleven hours of therapy. Eleven hours of thinking, of prayer, of letting the filth of the world wash off of me. What nature is to some, driving is to me.

And driving with the top down? Sensual. You feel the world around you instead of watching it. The rise and fall of temperature and winds. The noise of cars and motorcycles and fog horns on the river, or children playing hopscotch. The smell of farms, factories and flowers.

Yeah, my version of heaven includes a convertible.

I drove without a destination. Basically, I would come to an intersection and say, which way have I never been before? And took that road. I ended up driving along one of the New York Canals.

Eventually, I ended up in Schuylerville, NY, about 45 minutes from my house. That is, if you go the normal route. I had taken nearly 3 hours. I spent some time on the canal, near some locks, When boats are not being raised or lowered in them, locks are the quietest place on earth. No currents. No wind. No action. Nothing. The only sound I heard were two dragonflies playing tag and using my head for base.

Three hours of thinking. It was good. I spent time thinking about my mistakes – not in a beating myself up sort of way (I have already done plenty of that.), but looking at the lessons I have taken from all of them; looking in wonderment and how I’ve survived myself and still have a life full of blessings despite the rather large pile of wrong turns.

All day long, a phrase had been echoing in my mind: “If you stretch all my sins from end to end.” I knew a poem was brewing, but I never got past that phrase. Too many other things came to mind.

For a time, I sat on the edge of the locks and let my feet dangle over the edge. I suspect, in more active times, someone official would have come and scolded me and sent me on my way. But this was Sunday at dusk, and not a soul was there. My mistakes in life washed over me like a bad newsreel and I was grateful, for here I was, on a beautiful day, in a beautiful place, wandering without a care.

At my age, you don’t get many days without cares. They are a treasure.

Time passed as I stared into space. The mosquitoes came out. Time to run. I got in the PT Cruiser and hit the road, outrunning the pesky little bloodsuckers in a moment.

As I came into town, I slowed down. Grills were alight everywhere. The smell of braising beef filled my nostrils. Suddenly, I had the hankering for a good steak. But I was in a tiny little town in New York on a Sunday Evening, about eight in the evening. Where was I going to find a good juicy steak?

At Clark’s Steakhouse.

I’ve passed it half a hundred times on my way to Saratoga. A little corner dive in a little town that from the outside has nothing to recommend it. Still, I was hungry. I stopped. I went in.

It was a nice place. Far nicer than you’d imagine from the outside. Clearly a local place. I got the once over from everyone there (and it was busy). Evidently I had my Outsider plaque on. But just like a bad western, they all took their look, then went back to dining and talking and pretty soon I had disappeared in their minds.

The steak was good. So was the tomato bisque soup that came with it. I liked being anonymous for a while. I wrote, the poem that had been rattling in my head finally showing itself:

If
you stretched all my sins
from end to end,
the bridge would run far
into the horizon,
a broken sort of road,
a strange path to a quirky perfection
that depends more
on honest failure
than post card pretense.

That’s me,
a tourist, too often lost
in the light,
constantly wondering
how so many blessings found me
when I have stumbled
in the dark, so long,
sure I deserved less,
less than less.
Never understanding grace

needs no reason,
that true love is for madmen and God alone,
and to try and make sense
of it all
is folly.

Yeah, I thought. A good end to a good day. I could drive home now. Tummy full. Hair askew. Mind cleared.

Sundays. For some, they are the first day of the week. For some, the last. For me, it’s the time between. Between all the other things I do. I preach on Sundays but my church meets early in the morning, by nine.  Otherwise, Sunday’s are generally mine. I can read. Nap, Paint, Wander. Tomorrow I work. Yesterday I did stuff around the house.

But the in-between times are when I refresh, when become renewed, when I play with ideas and thoughts and remember who I am outside the roles in life I play: Father. Worker Bee. Pastor. Friend.

A good day. No lessons. No responsibilities. Just an opportunity to be and wander. Tomorrow stuff will hit. Tomorrow I’ll be working. Tomorrow people will need things from me. I will pull out the to-do list and get to it.

But not today.

Life is good.

Tom

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