Tuesday, May 4, 2010

The Permission Giver

Tuesday, May 4, 2010
It was a clear, warm day when I began my usual long walk in the Wetlands. The trails were crowded with older couples holding hands, pretty thin women running fast and getting thinner and binoculared khaki clad bird watchers.

Near the top of one trail, a beautiful Asian girl stood among a circle of benches. Her camouflaged printed messenger bag overflowed with sketchbooks, pencils, cameras and paint supplies. Deeply absorbed in thought, she was oblivious to my presence. Behind me, two galloping golden retrievers were leading two fifty-ish suntanned men. The dogs were in quest of four falcons and being off-leash, freed to be the earnest hunters they were in their hearts.

As I took it all in, my mind wandered and I drifted to reflecting about a book I’d been reading. The author, Susan Woolridge Goldsmith, is a poetry and writing teacher whom I admire. One of her essays expounded upon “where she is truly from”, prompting her readers and students to think and write about where they are "truly from".

Walking my dusty path, I did as she suggested. I released my inhibitions and allowed my rich imagination to transport me to a distant, wild island place. I day dreamt that I came from a green and forested country, snuggled deep in the hills beneath moist fog. Here and there, sun light illuminated wildflower covered meadows, while dragonflies buzzed. At the edges of my island, fierce ocean waters slammed against its windswept, jagged coastline.

The island women were tall and slim. Their tangled auburn hair fell down their backs, tickling their trim waists. Strong ruddy, broad shouldered men were stoic and protective. In this place, I knew couples found each other and remained devoted for life. On warm nights, their bodies slept entwined under stars or beneath sheltering oaks when rain fell. Perhaps this place was ancient Ireland or Britain in Celtic times—or possibly, a mythic land of the Amazons. Were my thoughts the inspiration for a story or a novel, or had I totally lost it?

As I continued walking and pondering my ideas, the sight of folded papers lying on the trail ahead snapped me back to reality. I unfolded 10 typed written pages with a woman’s handwritten notes in the margin. I stooped to retrieve them. The papers appeared to be a classroom handout. Looking over the first page, I read the heading “laboradite crystal”. The text that followed described the mineral’s properties, but was not a bit geological or scientific.

As I leafed through the pages, I recognized other crystal names. I don’t recall the title of this handout, but it was clearly mystical. I flipped the papers over and discovered lengthy notes—journal like entries. I read the woman's log of a 40 minute walk. “So her walk is today,” I spoke out loud. Looking around, I saw only one woman at least a half mile behind. It seemed unlikely these class notes were hers . . .

Guilt swept over me as I read her private thoughts, but shamefully only lasted a moment. In a childish effort to hide my prize, I nervously looked about as I squirreled the fascinating papers away. I was curious to read more. In fact, I was thrilled! Why? I had just accused myself of tripping out on my own imagination, but this woman actually believed that a crystal could bring enlightenment, true love and other stuff. Somehow, her words had given me permission to fly my own “freak flag”! My walk was finished, I had a mission. I turned on my heels and headed back to my car.

A moment later, my heart sank when I realized I had been busted. The woman that had trailed so far behind panted up to me. She was a wide and heavy woman, sun-protected under an even wider straw hat. “Did you happen to pick up some papers on the trail near here?” she asked.

I was mesmerized by the woman’s bright smile and open charming face. This was the woman whose inner most thoughts I had glimpsed moments before. In her obesity, she was completely unapologetic and comfortable. She was honest and unafraid of her wild, written words. She was a giver of permission. Permission to be fully one’s self. She was lovely and she was bodacious.

I disguised my disappointment behind my sunglasses as I sheepishly responded, “I knew I’d find to whom they belonged.” I reached into my waist pack and begrudgingly passed them to her. She explained she’d seen me stoop and hoped I had discovered her lost papers. She had kept an eye on my red baseball cap thinking she’d never catch me. I truly wished she hadn’t. Why did I turn around—why didn’t I continue walking the loop? If only I'd just kept going, she wouldn’t have had the chance to talk with me.

My mind raced—for an instant, I contemplated snatching back the papers and bolting away down the trail. She was right, there was no way she could overtake me—me in my red L.A. Marathon hat! Being afraid of bad juju and all that crystal-karma-power stuff, I thought better of it. Oprah has often reminded that it is never wrong to do the right thing.

I wanted to ask her if she was a writer. But I didn’t because that would be admitting I'd read her words and I’d seen enough to realize they were deeply personal. I too, record private thoughts in a journal.

We parted, she with her notes and me with inspiration and respect for another's thoughts. Two minutes further down the trail, I turned back intending to call after her, but she was not there. Her large sun hat was nowhere in sight. How could this be? Where could she have gone that I could no longer see her? Had she removed her sunhat, thereby making her less obvious among the few walkers? No. She was gone, but I have not forgotten.

* * * * *

“It’s not a bad idea to get in the habit of writing down one’s thoughts.
It saves one having to bother anyone with them.”
--Isabel Colegate, English writer

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