Monday, April 21, 2008

What a gas!

Republican or Democrat. Conservative or Liberal. I'm ready for people to say what they mean and mean what they say. Or just shut up.

Tuesday, April 15, 2008

Creamy, dry roasted, peanut-flavored purpose

I was hungry.
But just because the apartment had a refrigerator, didn't mean it had food.
My brother's place was a typical bachelor pad (this was premarriage). And visiting him periodically, I knew how to locate a few items, like dishes (in the sink), electronic devises (in every room), and everything else (in the closet). What I couldn't find was food.
He was out. I was there. And leaving wasn't an option. I had to stick it out for the evening. To survive this experience, I would need sustenance.
After hiring a detective, using a basset hound, and performing a Google search for "food in brother's apartment", I found a jar of Peter Pan - complete with a halo and glory light.
With a spoon, a clean one, and a glass of water, I leaned against the counter, intent on savoring my spoils. I dug in, dug the goop out, and shoved it in my mouth.
Peanut butter is one of those things you have to savor. Even if you don't like it, you have to. It doesn't give you much choice. It's so dry, so sticky, you must have a battle plan during consumption and a contingency in cases of contact with the roof of your mouth.
I had my water. I thought I was prepared. I was so wrong.
This wasn't peanut butter. This couldn't be peanut butter. This tasted like fat, like peanut flavored fat. It was like Crisco, but with a nutty hint.
What had happened to this Peter Pan? What was wrong with it?
I'm a health conscious individual.
Okay, I'm crazed with it.
I like authenticity in EVERYTHING - people, currency, and food. If I meet someone, I expect them to be themselves. If I'm given money, I expect it not to be counterfeit. If I'm eating peanut butter, I expect peanuts ground into a creamy or chunky spread. I expect peanuts and salt. And I expect nothing else.
In my house, peanut butter was peanut butter. It was the real deal. Take it to the bank. But this...this...inferior substitute was nasty. I decided to starve instead. There was nothing edible about it. In fact, I could no longer even call it peanut butter. From that point on, I called it fat with a peanut mixed in.
It's astounding, really, how easily we accept substitutions. Instead of friends, we have business associates. Instead of truth, we have politics. Instead of health, we have a pill. Instead of anything real, anything pure, we fill in the void with inferior replicas - synthetic, particleboard, genetically altered, fork-tongued doubles. And instead of seriously finding fulfillment, purpose, real worth in our lives, we settle for a raise at work, a bigger house, a younger spouse, a fancier title, a little fame, a lot of fortune.
In the end, all we really get is a nut flavored spread, instead of real peanut butter.
We could be living out lives with purpose in Christ, we could be exercising our talents, we could be amazed at how our dreams are small compared to God's dreams for us.
We could be really living.
We could.
Years ago, when I was a kid, I loved Peter Pan. It tasted good, went down easy, and satisfied my hunger. I had no idea something else was out there, something more real, more nutritious, more filling, more delicious, was just outside my box.
I'm not a kid anymore. I've experienced a little life, at least enough to recognize REAL people, REAL purpose, and REAL peanut butter. Anything else, including my once loved Peter Pan, is nothing but a cheap imitation.

Friday, April 11, 2008

The life and times of Gerdie

Gerdie is never late. She wakes with the sun, she sleeps with the moon. She always arrives on time.

Her birth name is Gertrude, a family heirloom that never quite fit. It was like a pair of shoes handed down three generations. By the time Gerdie got it, the sole was gone.

That's how she's always felt about her name. In fact, it was how she felt about everything, like she arrived a few generations too late. Born 60 years earlier, deep in the era of Dinah Shore and T.S. Eliot, her life would have been different, if not, at least, her CD collection.
Instead, she is encapsulated in the age of media overload and American Idol winners.

You could say that is Gerdie's obsession with punctuality. And you might be right. Then again, no one - least of all Gerdie - knows why she is always on time.

I met her on a Tuesday. She was humming a tune that sounded very much like "A Tree in the Meadow," a 1948 hit by Margaret Whiting. It was so faint, like a lark on a wind drifting from one gust to another. I wondered later if it had only been a harmonic ringing in my ears.

We didn't say anything. She was arriving at work. I was doing the same. She nodded and I nodded back. It was a greeting I've grown accustomed to over the weeks, like she is saying, "I already know everything you are going to say. Let's just get our work done."

I didn't take it as a slant. In fact, it felt more like a sisterhood. We were the only members of this society. Just her. Just me. Just our unspoken agreement to remain silent.

Without words, I've learned to read her movements, her moods, her tweets of frustration and her silent sighs in the afternoon. She has a sway to her movements like the offbeat rhythm of a jazz melody. Yet the job always gets done.

I'm a big fan of Gerdie. Or maybe it's her work ethic. I've faithfully greeted her every morning, nodding our understand as she soars to her task and I walk to mine. Piece by measured piece, she snaps together the puzzle of her work, the reason for her being. It's an instinctual craving, I think. I feel it, too.

Gerdie doesn't understand her purpose in life. At least not all of it. Yet she labors without a hitch, not knowing where it will lead, only that movement won't happen without action.

I admire Gerdie. She's a little small for her age and wears too much black. But she's building her future one small twig at a time. In the end, it could be a nest, or it could be a castle.

In honor of my little black bird who greets me each day. Thanks for the working companionship - you outside the window, me always beyond. I don't know your real name or your real history, but if we ever find a way to cross the communication barrier, this is what I imagined you'd tell me.
Just so you know, you are building a nest that will eventually destroy my porch roof. And I just refuse to stop you.
So build on Gerdie.