Brief Encounters on a Saturday Morning

We made a short trip to town this morning to get a favorite breakfast and take care of a few errands. We were gone for about three hours, not enough time for much to happen.

Along the road new patches of daffodils were opening, seemingly around every curve. Pairs of doves were searching for food on the roadside in many places. In recent years many doves have found their way farther up the mountain to treat us to their gentle cooing calls and the whistling of their wings as they fly.

The driver in a red pickup truck was in a great hurry today as he pulled up no more than twenty five feet behind me. He stayed there all the way down the six miles of curvy mountain road until we got closer to town.

At the local Waffle House, our favorite place for a wonderful breakfast, the familiar staff were as delightful as always, working quickly in crowded quarters, all the while smiling, laughing, and enjoying each other and the customers.

At the next table were a father and two young teenage girls, one with blue eyes sparkling even more than her excited conversation.

At the local big box store I proceeded to pull a shopping cart from the mass of waiting carts. A woman even older than I am had gotten out of a car at curb and walked with difficulty into the store. I passed my cart to her and was greeted with a big smile and a surprised, “Oh, thank you”. I heard her later inside telling her companion, “I had wanted to get a smaller cart, but I didn’t see any.” Hopefully I didn’t keep her from getting the cart she wanted.

The next cart I pried loose had a noisy, wobbly wheel. As I was putting it aside, I told a woman who was getting her own cart, “I got that wheel last time. I’m not gonna take it again”. She cheerily responded, “I always get the worst one”.

Seeing a college-age woman coming into the store with a worried look on her face, I wondered whether she was troubled about something or just deep in thought. That made me imagine what might be the concerns of each of the hundreds of people in the store at that moment.

Traveling to our next stop we passed an ancient oak tree, its gnarled branches twisting outward in every direction. It stood alone in the edge of a pasture, drawing our attention and a comment, “That’s a great tree.”

Driving the road from town to our homeplace we passed several old, abandoned houses along the way, several collapsing into piles of decaying lumber. One somewhat leveled spot in the edge of the woods had a small clump of bright yellow daffodils marking this as the site of the long-ago house of a long-ago family.

We noticed a new fence in the back yard of a house that had been vacant for several years after the child moved away and the parents died. The large shaggy dog lying in the yard was gazing off into the distance across the creek. At that moment the Carrie Newcomer song “Learning to Sit with Not Knowing” was playing on the car CD player. That reminded me of a drawing depicting “mindfulness” which showed a man and a dog walking toward a wooded landscape with the sun setting beyond. The thought bubble above the man showed his concerns about all the tasks he needed to be doing, problems with work, money worries, etc. The bubble above the dog showed the scene before them: the trees and the setting sun.

We passed a neighbor’s young dog who seems to spend all his time chained outside a small shed beside the road. He was probably a rescue dog, skinny and fearful-looking when he first came to this place. He’s more robust looking these days and always appears happy to see us when we pause to greet him. Today he was lying outside his shelter, basking in the warm sunshine after a few cold, wet days.

At home again we put up three bird feeders filled with the black oil sunflower seed we had just bought in town. By the time I got back inside, two young deer who visit frequently were looking quizzically at the feeders and checking some favorite spots for the corn I sometimes put out for them. I quickly got some corn and took it out; the crows found the new treat first but there should still be some left when the deer return.

While putting out the food for our visitors, I noticed that periwinkle blooms are beginning to show in the front yard, small, bright blue flowers on evergreen vines that continue to spread. We have seen periwinkle patches along roadsides or in wooded places where once there were homes. Our plants came from Carole’s parents’ home and from the long-ago homesite of her third great grandparents which we discovered some years ago in the woods alongside a creek named for their family. We’re glad that now they mark the site of our homeplace here on the mountain.

These were our few encounters on this Saturday morning—moments of meeting and moments of meaning.

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