Quiet Sunday

A pair of house finches are eyeing the hanging basket that sways over our front porch: wary, little locals looking for a new home. The gentlest breeze rustles a few leaves on the sycamore just beyond the picket fence. No cars move up or down the street, quite a contrast to yesterday’s busy Farmers Market morning. My first sip of coffee…

Around the corner, down the street, across the bridge, the world continues to spin: a Congressional committee deliberates past transgressions; men, women, and children march against gun violence; glaciers melt and seas rise. But here, in this single, silent moment, all is calm, all is bright.

In a couple of days, my wife and I will be on an airplane, flying over vast plains on our way to Colorado. We’ll be there a week: a wedding, time with friends, a glimpse of grandchildren we haven’t seen in three years. I rue the hassle of travel these days, but in this case, the results may well be worth it. I hope so, anyway. Nothing is certain anymore.

Yesterday, I attended a memorial service for a friend and mentor who passed away in January. He used to live nearby, but in the wake of the 2016 election, he and his wife moved to a quieter, safer place a thousand miles or more away. I never saw him again. But yesterday, he came rushing back to me, vital and quirky, vulgar and funny as ever. Three speakers brought him back to life and then several other good folk who knew him well were moved to embellish him, Quaker-like, forming him from the silence of a room in the literary house he had helped to establish. I wanted to say something, but didn’t. Sometimes, less is more, and those who spoke knew him better than I. Well, maybe just longer, not necessarily better. Just so you know, I miss him, too.

I’m glad I don’t have a crystal ball. I worry for us. I prefer to live in hope because it’s better than despair. When I consider my part in all this, I fret, then come to the conclusion that I just need to keep learning my lines and perfecting my performance. I make small changes because there isn’t time for major ones anymore. Step-by-step, day-by-day, and if I’m lucky, year-by-year. 

Those house finches are still watching me, wondering if I would make a good landlord. I tell them they would be welcome tenants, but that’s only a half-truth. Another pair nested in a hanging basket a few years ago which made it impossible to water the plants. By the time the chicks hatched and fledged, the plants in the basket were all long since dead. Nevertheless, I like to think it made a good launching pad. Who knows? Maybe this pair are returning to a home one of them once knew. We’re all just flying through this thin air, over rivers, plains, and mountains, each of us on our solitary, singular way from alpha to omega.

Colorado beckons. I pack lightly, but my wife moves wardrobes. She tells me to mind my own business; she’s right about that. I bet the house finches will move in while we’re away.

I’ll be right back.

Jamie Kirkpatrick is a writer and photographer who lives in Chestertown. His work has appeared in the Washington Post, the Baltimore Sun, the Philadelphia Inquirer, the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, the Washington College Alumni Magazine, and American Cowboy Magazine.

Two collections of his essays (“Musing Right Along” and “I’ll Be Right Back”) are available on Amazon.

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