Paying Attention in Toledo, Ohio

At least two or three times a year, we take the three-hour drive north to Toledo, to see friends. Usually one of those times is Labor Day Weekend, the “last hurrah” of summer. We usually spend the night with our friend Diane, who throws a little dinner party. Sunday night was no exception!

Diane always greets us with a smile, a kiss and a hug.

I met Diane while singing in Masterworks Chorale. I sang with the group for three seasons, while we lived in Toledo. Donna loved to mix up the altos and the tenors, and somehow, I ended up sitting next to Diane more often than not. Just look at that face, and it’s easy to see why I would want to make friends with her!

Dining at Diane’s is all about the people, and so usually when we come, she invites someone else over who she knows we would want to see anyway! Sunday night, as is often the case, it was Sue and Sandy Craig.

Sue and Sandy are also long time Masterworks members. We all share our joy of music, but even more our joy of life!

The evening was mostly spent around Diane’s huge antique dining table, enjoying a delicious meal, sharing pictures, stories, and even a pleasant interruption–Diane’s son Don calling from San Francisco! With Sandy’s and Anthony’s common interest in politics, you know that a large chunk of the evening’s conversation was focused around the upcoming presidential election. In fact, I believe it wasn’t five minutes after the Craig’s arrived that we went down that road! Usually in moments like that, I sneak off to the kitchen for a moment of repose…

As the evening wound down, so did we. I often pick up books in Diane’s house–she has scads of them laying about! Sunday night, I noticed that many of them were poetry. As we were sitting in the den where Diane and I made my bed, I picked up a book of W.H. Auden. “Oh,” she piped up, “let me show you my favorite one,” as she turned to September 1st, 1939. “Look at the last stanza–that’s the part I really like,” she instructed. I sat there and read, unable to speak.

I managed to say thank you.

“The rest of the poem, you know is all this drinking in the bar, and everything…but that part is really a prayer,” she said.

All I could do was gently nod.

Well, night fell, and so did we. After sleeping like babies, the three of us were soon stirring, and eating our favorite Diane breakfast. It wasn’t long before the kitchen was a veritable symphony of sound–coffee pot gurgling, bacon sizzling in the skillet, the tablespoon of butter goes plop into a saute pan, followed quickly by Diane’s old fashioned egg beater happily whirring…all to the tune of my morning pick of music–John Renbourn.

With all that fuel, we were destined to use up some energy! So we called the Craigs and talked them into a hike at Wildwood Metropark. Of course, we had to have a sidetrip in Sue and Sandy’s beautiful back yard!

The five of us piled in Anthony’s Rav4, and before we knew it, we were at Wildwood. What a wonderful hike!

Sandy loves his trees! He even inspired me to begin to pay attention to trees in a new way.

“Trees are fascinating,” he said. “You can plant a whole grove of the same species, and no two will turn out the same way.” Now I wonder what we can learn from those trees…

…and the bees! They were going crazy on the wildflowers. While I used my camera as a tool to notice life at a bee’s-eye level, I saw the most amazing thing. A sneaky little honeybee climbed on the back of a big old bumblebee, and stole a lump of pollen off its leg! While Sandy and I collectively searched for a neutral word to describe such behavior (opportunistic!), I just let my mind wander and wonder about life at the level of bees…

…until we met Bernie.

There he was, in the middle of the path, at an intersection of meadow and wood. It was a perfect spot for magic–neither here nor there. And there, at Bernie’s feet were a pair of cardinals–one male, one female. We stood in amazement until the cardinals noticed we were there, and flew away (Bernie knew we were there long before).

Then the conversation began.

Bernie made a habit of noticing everything. I mean everything.

“I get birds, butterflies, everything comes to me,” he said. Just about every day he stands in the spot where he was standing, and waits with a bag of unsalted peanuts, for his friends the cardinals. He told a story of someone who gave him a gift certificate to buy those nuts. A gift, for a gift. Now that’s a gift!

Bernie is 83, and lives in the house his grandfather built in 1907. There are not many people in the world who can say that any more. He spoke of his wife in a nursing home several years ago. We assume she died, but for whatever reason, he did not speak those words. He also spoke of visiting people in the nursing home every day, and taking the gift to them of telling them what he saw on his hikes. “I have a dozen books I keep in my car,” he said, “and that way I can show them pictures of what I see. Some of them may never get to do that again.”

Bernie wants people to slow down and notice what is going on. I could really understand. He and I were completely on the same wavelength, this amazing cardinal-feeding man and I.

“How does he do that?” I asked Anthony as we walked away? “He lives in the same moment they do,” was the answer I heard in my ear, and the answer I knew in my heart long before.

Be well, and at peace,


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2 Comments on “Paying Attention in Toledo, Ohio”

  1. Deborah Ling Says:

    For more than you ever imagined about bees, read “The Secret Life of Bees” by Sue Monk Kidd. It’s a masterful novel about women, worship and bees. My name, Deborah, means bee. The bees hive was an ancient symbol of some goddess religions because it looks like a womb. It was often mistaken for a bull’s head with horns, and that symbolism is woven into some judeo/christian art work. The ‘horns’ were actually fallopian tubes! Oh the wonder of misunderstandings! Be well.

  2. […] public links >> feet Paying Attention in Toledo, Ohio Saved by yautjaqueen on Mon 27-10-2008 Planning a Web 2.0 Conference: Step 2 Saved by […]

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