I got a new job, but it wasn’t what I expected. The job I THOUGHT I was accepting isn’t the actual job I now have. We agreed that I would work full-time at a particular rate of pay, and it would all take effect as soon as the store manager received the go-ahead from her boss: the district manager… She didn’t sign-off on the agreement, so now I work part-time for two dollars less per hour than we originally agreed. This has put me in a really tough place and isn’t sustainable for me, so I am looking for another income source while I continue with the current job. At the same time, the alternator went out on my pick-up. It is currently in the shop, waiting on me to get enough money to get it repaired.
I guess you could call this an “economic downturn.” I just call it being poor. I have spent the last year making up ground and achieving some goals financially, yet I have taken a step backwards currently. One of the things this means is that I either rely on the kindness of friends for transportation or walk and use public transportation. Since public transportation is limited in Johnson County and non-existant on weekends, this mainly leaves walking around suburban community in which I live. Although a couple of friends have helped me out a couple of times recently, I HATE to ask, because it makes life more complicated for them. I don’t want to be a hassle for them… and… there probably are some personal pride issues involved as well. Walking and taking puble transit slows my life down…and I had forgotten some benefits of that.
If you have read this blog very deeply, you might remember that I used a bike as my transportation for about a year and a half. I learned a lot about myself and life in that time period. Honestly, I have probably needed a refresher course. Getting from place to place in the manner humans have for centuries, allows one to re-engage the rythms of the natural world, and to get back in touch with your own body. Expending energy in this way somehow feels more organic, and knowing that it will cost time and effort to go somewhere, helps one to prioritize your trips. It also lightens your carbon footprint.
In the beginning, I walked with certain amount of fear and anxiety:
“Will I lose my job?”
“Will I lose my apartment?”
“Will I lose my pick-up?”
“Will I have to quit school?”
“Am I destined to be stuck in a “Groundhog’s Day” of poverty?”
However, as I have continued to walk, I am once again finding beauty along the way that chases away the fear. I sometimes imagine Jesus walking with me, as he did with his disciples while they trudged along dusty paths, and watched the landscape slowly reveal it’s secrets, while also listening to the secrets of God.
The other evening as I was walking home from the library, I followed a walking/running/biking path which follows Indian Creek, as it snakes through suburbia. The trail winds beside a park, along a certain spot, so one side is open while the other is bordered by a strip of trees and twisted undergrowth between the path and the creek bank. As I walked to the library, I watched a youth football team practice. Since it is early in the season, and still pretty hot, they were wearing helmets, t-shirts, and shorts. Smiling slightly, I watched as the young adult coaches put the boys through drills, which called from my memory the days of my own youth, when I wore the helmet, and the coaches” words of encouragement and instruction were directed at me. (Although I remember a lot less encouragement, and a lot more yelling…) Even now, I remember the beauty of being part of a team of guys, working for a common purpose.
-The taste of salty sweat as it cascaded from under my helmet and trickled into my mouth…
-The excitement of the practice when the pads went on for the first time that year, and we would “go live” in drills, which combined the controlled violence of full contact, with the shouts of teammates spurring each other on…
-The sound of that first, good hit…
-The longed for refreshment of the mid-practice ice break, where players would all reach with un-washed hands… dirty and bloodied… into a common ice chest, and then pour heaping handsful of ice into their helmets and then retreat with a group of buddies to whatever shade there might be, kneel on one knee, and converse through crunches of ice…
-The sound of the coach’s’ whistle, and the dreaded words: “On the line, boys…”, followed by hated wind sprints…
-Finally, after all the players finished the final sprint, and stood with hands on hips or rested atop their heads, and chests heaving from the exertion; the final whistle and the command: “Bring it in!” All players, who were formerly exhausted, suddenly erupt in a rebel yell, rush to the coach, who holds his hand high above his head, raise all their hands upwards towards his, and finish in a rousing, orchestrated chant and response.
The beginning of football season is beautiful for an old player. You can smell it coming in the air, and you wish… every year, you wish… that once again, you could put on the pads in a locker room with your band of brothers.
Sorry… I got a little lost there…….
As I was returning home, the practice was still going on, though the shadows were lengthening. This time, my focus was on the fathers watching practice . They were spread out along the sidelines, seated in the requisite, canvas football/baseball/soccer, fold-away chars; huddled in small groups under trees which cast ever-deeper and longer, negative images of themselves across the water-starved, August grass. I loved the sight of them, these fathers who were investing both in their sons, and in themselves. Theywere becoming a band of father-brothers, reliving the personal glory of past football memories (real or imagined…) and looked on this crop of would-be jocks with both a critical, yet proud eye. I know these relationships can grow as their sons grow, and these August evenings will become cherished memories which mellow, and become richer with each passing year. If they were to ask, my only suggestion would be: “Take plenty of pictures, Dad… with your camera and with your heart. One day it will be your joy to share them with both your adult son and HIS child.”
Continuing to walk past the park, I entered one of the more shaded sections of the trail. In this section, the trees completely overhang the trail and the sounds of the Midwestern forrest enfold you, accompanied by the occasional biker, or runner going in either direction. While the overhead blanket of trees block the sun, they also block any possible cooling breeze. They also act as a humidifier, as the natural expiration of the thick vegetation on the forrest floor is held underneath the limb-blanket. It is still and humid in these sections of the trail. Squirrels scamper unseen across the ground, scattering dead leaves in their wake and erupt in the occasional argument with a neighbor, filled with a chattering game of chase and evade which darts from tree to tree. Occasionally, you can see the master-weaver artistry of a spider’s web as it stretches from bush to bush to lower hanging tree limb.
The best part of this walk, however, occurred just after I emerged from the tunnel which was burrowed underneath the main thoroughfare of our city to allow the path to continue following the creek. Looking ahead, and off to the right, there is a long, finger-like meadow which is bordered on one side by a man-made, raised plateau upon which sits a strip mall facing opposite the creek; and on the other side by: trees, the jogging trail, more trees, and the creek. My eyes caught a slight movement in the meadow as my eyes grew accustomed to the sunlight after leaving the tunnel. Straining to identify the source of the movement, I noticed two White-tail deer, and three fawns. Two of the fawns seemed to be quite young, while the other was a little older, and larger. Walking to a solitary tree near the edge of the meadow, I stopped to watch while the adults and older fawn grazed contentedly while moving step by hesitant step away from my position, yet in the direction I would be travelling. I barely noticed the other young fawn until I saw the tip of its head just above the taller grass, while it lay on the ground. As I watched, the adult reached out with its front hoof, and flicked the fawn to rouse it from the ground. The fawn slowly rose on it spindly legs, and then began to playfully buck and jump, all the while shaking its head. I began to chuckle, and then looked over to see a middle-aged couple walk past… “There are deer with fawns right over there,” I said softly. They both smiled, yet kept walking.
I once again resumed my trek home. The light was steadily diminishing as I walked, and the couple just ahead slowed their step for a moment as they looked through the trees to the right to view the deer in the meadow. They turned towards me and smiled while motioning towards them. I smiled and we all continued to walk, they for exercise, and me for transportation.
Eventually, I came upon a bench beside the path that I remembered. Stripping off my backpack, I sat and looked back towards the deer. I had passed them, but they still meandered towards my position, so I decided I would sit tight and see just how close they would get to me before escaping into the trees. One doe with her fawn continued to edge closer and closer to me. Every so often, she would lift her head, raise her nose in the air while pricking her ears forward and keep her tail rigidly straight in the air. She seemed to know I was there, yet she continued to walk steadily forward until she was within 20-25 feet from where I was sitting.
She continued to stand there, checking the air for my scent and listening with her stiff ears for any sudden movements. While the doe maintained her statuesque stance, the fawn (the older one) stood behind and just to the side of her, and mirrored it’s mother’s position.
“It’s alright,” I said, as if speaking to a child, so as not to alarm, “I won’t hurt you.”
She continued to stand her ground, and I continued to sit at the bench watching them. They were absolutely beautiful, in the darkening conditions. I spoke several times to them, yet they never walked backward, but kept their attention fully on my movements. Eventually, I turned, picked up my backpack, put it on and began walking home again. As I walked, I heard the “hoot… hoot…” of an owl several times. I felt a calm seep through me, and thanked God for the gifts I had just received.
I get frustrated sometimes with what I call “Johnson County Beige”. The area in which I live is the very definition of suburbia, with good schools, large homes, wide, well-maintained streets, many corporate-based retail businesses and restaurants, but very little unique style or color. I miss the broad strokes of individuality and soul that I see in urban KC or other metro areas in which I have travelled recently. And I have complained to God about “having to live here…” While I know I could seek to move, and I am not aversed to listening to an opportunity should someone have one; I have continued to feel like I am supposed to remain here. However, God has been speaking to me about being discontent with the many gifts given me here. I am beginning to get a deeper appreciation for where I live. And honestly, having to walk is giving me a clearer understanding of how God provides for me every new day.
I am reminded to be thankful, and I am.
“But if you try sometimes… you just might find…. you get what you need… ”