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patterns of ink

How fruitless to be ever thinking yet never embrace a thought... to have the power to believe and believe it's all for naught. I, too, have reckoned time and truth (content to wonder if not think) in metaphors and meaning and endless patterns of ink. Perhaps a few may find their way to the world where others live, sharing not just thoughts I've gathered but those I wish to give. Tom Kapanka

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Location: Lake Michigan Shoreline, Midwest, United States

By Grace, I'm a follower of Christ; by day, I'm a school administrator; by night (and always) I'm a husband and father (and now a grandfather); and by week's end, I usually find myself writing in this space. Feel free to join in the dialogue.

Friday, August 06, 2021

Just Before The End

I’ve changed some since before all this--

before sense gave way to the global scare

of something in the air...

Before our smiles were veiled

and strangers snarled if we exhaled 

within two outstretched arms.....

before our eyes could cast aspersions 

from behind the magic masks

as if peeking through drawn curtains

at shadows in the yard.

And now that it has passed 

(or in this pause between two storms),

I’ve learned to value strangers on the street

and treasure recollections of those I meet

in the same place where they were before.

It started weeks ago, when my wife and I,

in hopes of seeing something just the same,

ventured to a diner where we sometimes went

and though it had a different name, 

we went again.

(It had never gone to pitching tents outdoors.

Instead, it closed for a year or more

before the new owner mustered up the nerve 

to open for business again.)

Across the room was a waitress 

who through the years 

had topped my coffee off in passing. 

I did not know her name nor she ours

but we were "regulars" enough to catch her eye,

and her distant glance and smile seemed to say,

"You're back. I remember you. So glad to see

you're still in the cast of this play we’re in again."

We later spoke, of course, 

but the gist of what we said was that.

Such glances seem to happen everywhere I go.

I'll see someone I don't really know

and smile at them as if I do,

and they do the same to me on cue. 

A mother and child out for a walk...

The man at the hardware store...

The cashier at the grocer, smiling behind glass

like a teller at the bank.

Strange that simply seeing faces makes me smile--

unexpectedly--because they are not loved ones

or friends from long ago.

They are the “extras” in the movie of my life

as I am an extra in theirs.

(No matter who we are, at some stage, in some setting,

in someone else's script...

we're all of us merely extras--bit parts... passers by

without whose presence the story is not real.)

Till now, we extras went unnoticed and uncredited,

but now, after all this, unwittingly and unrehearsed

we're in supporting roles with perfect strangers.

The throw-away lines and greetings 

once lost in the ambient noise

now somehow suddenly matter…

the words matter… the people matter… 

the going on matters…

as our unmasked faces show again 

a glimpse of whose image they bear.

So here’s to the vaguely familiar faces

we see again each day. 

Here's to the extras and nameless pedestrians

simply going on their way 

as the last scene slowly widens

and the streets and buildings blur

to the long and gradual bend

of the horizon

that slowly fades... just before 

The End.

It has now been 18 months since our state first closed its schools. Most everyone I know admits to going through phases during the pandemic that began to spread around the world in 2019. The first phase was disbelief: "How could this be?" Even as we watch with pity as Italy sang through the night, it didn't seem like it would happen here in the U.S. But it did. 

The second phase was survival mode and we all walked a tight rope between faith and fear, characterized by extreme caution on a dystopian movie set of empty streets and shuttered storefronts. For months, we worked from home and rarely went outside as delivered groceries sat for 24 hours on our porches. Then, as if handling nitroglycerine, our gloved hands sanitized the paper bags and individual containers (Paper bags, we were told, were safer than plastic.)

The third stage was confusion.  We had been told that common masks were ineffective and not needed. Then they were mandated indoors and out. By the seventh month, some schools were determined to open (as we did), while many states began a long year of "distance learning" for millions of students. Unemployment soared. A sense of isolation and lost hope began affecting people's mental health, and the suicide rate began to escalate even as the number of actual deaths from the virus began to decline. Businesses remained closed, many went under and never reopened. Some restaurants began serving limited menus in make-shift clear tents or shanties. 

In many major Democratically-controlled cities, massive protests and riots were allowed to go on virtually unimpeded by law enforcement (officers of which were, in fact, the subject of the protests). Historic statues and monuments were torn down and defaced. The nation was torn along political lines, and the fact that so called "red states" were handling the pandemic quite differently than "blue states." This political divide led to distrust as the pandemic was used as the reason to allow untested "mail-in" voting for the 2020 presidential election. The aftermath of that controversial process continues to play out in America to this day. And in places like Australia, even more dystopian Marxism has taken control.

By June, 2021, 14 months after the closures, and several months after the non-FDA-approved vaccines were made available to all who chose to get it, most of America was reopen again. By this time, there was a deep sense of doubt in anything that the "experts" had to say about our health status. By then the source of the virus (Wuhan, China) was no longer in doubt even by those who had denied the most obvious facts for more than a year. The only thing that unified "both sides" seemed to be that masks were no longer needed (and once again proclaimed ineffective in blocking the virus). 

Seeing a masked face has now become the exception rather than the rule. One can go days without seeing a mask. Faces and smiles are all around. It is wonderful, and it was when this window of "normalcy" first opened that we ate at a Grand Haven diner (formerly called "Delite"). It had been completely renovated into a 1950's motif. It was attractive but entirely different with many new young staff and though it was late June in a tourist town, there were many empty tables. It was then we saw the one person we recognized from the years before. Those thoughts prompted these lines.

I'm a big fan of old movies, and I like the ones that end without answering all of the questions, but the director's choice to end the story with a wider and wider shot until the viewer is seeing a more omniscient perspective reminds us that all is in God's hands... from beginning to end.

Note: Just one of the studies done on how masks make communication difficult.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

And so I think you have described the simple joy of riding a bicycle… It’s been about 55 years since dad took me on my first bicycle journey. I still remember our conversations and quiet moments when nothing was said. It has been a simple pleasure and gift that was introduced me to. As you know I still ride just for the pleasure of meeting people and seeing the beauty in God’s creation. Sorta a “Gideon” thing. People are amazing. Each person created in the image of God. So many people sharing their experiences in a vulenerable moment while sitting on a shaded bench along a path or a city park like “two old friends”. Each one having a great story amazing in so many different ways. Some tales are sad and some make you laugh together when shared. Yes, we were created to share, laugh, and rejoice with people, and to love and be loved by others. These simple emotions and memories over the years have been amazing, enriching my life in countless ways. Of all the things that I enjoy doing the most it is the simple pleasures I find when traveling by bike and meeting people. It has become apparent that life’s interaction are not accidental and that our paths cross. It truly is a divine plan. This is the amazing thing. There is a purpose in our crossing paths out in the middle of nowhere. This one thing has impacted me the most. I am a teacher by profession. In similar fassion this simple pleasure of taking the time to listen and share with the human race. Each experience giving opportunity to share Gods blessings in our lives. This brings brings joy and pleasure. It’s what we were created for. Reaching out and sharing with People. James says it best: Faith without taking the time to invest in people is dead. If it is not accompanied by action or interaction it is worthless… James 2 Covid has made this limiting but not gone. Do what you enjoy and we find the that people are still there desiring interaction and it is an amazing journey!

8/8/21 7:50 AM  

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