Sunday, August 15, 2021

On Rivers and Crossings

 "I've got to cross that River Jordan

       Lord, I've got to cross that for myself

Say nobody here can cross it for me

I've got to cross it by myself."  

  Sunday evening arrived with the stillness of a held breath.  The rough-hewn path beckoned me down the hill and through the meadow , where even the whine of the occasional mosquito was startlingly loud in the soupy air.  

  There's something about Sunday evening which stands up to remind me that there's a week ahead.  My generation shrinks from this, calling it "The Sunday Scaries".  Whatever.  This feeling was illustrated by nature, as the path led directly to the Potomac shore, terminating in a river to cross.

  Thoughts crowded around my ears like the gnats above the fragrant grasses.  I'll be moving across that river (eventually), and perhaps this will be one of the few remaining summer Sundays to spend on the gravely banks.  A good friend of mine has just crossed another sort of river.  He was like one of the old oaks that stretch their arms out over these meadows.  He had seen much lighting in his life, and laughed with an oaky mirth.  His eyes would gleam out of his weathered face, waiting for me to get his joke.  He lived at the retirement home.  I'm not sad that he gets to rest.  He's earned it. I sure will miss him, though.  A forest ought to have oak trees in it.  

  I plopped down on a washed-up railroad tie, the perfect seat for a wandering spirit.  An enormous yacht plied the bathwater-still river.  Observing from my humble chair, my first instinct was to write it off as a major headache that I wouldn't really want if I were rich.  How Cain of me to scoff at this nautical Abel enjoying a lovely Sunday on the water.  

  The damselflies flitted through the still air, and finally it was time to go.  A walking stick presented itself to me from a pile of driftwood.  STEP-STEP-CLOMP through the packed shells and sand, winding back to the path through the meadow.  Somehow, the stick was more than a bleached twig - it seemed to have the spirit of adventure in it.  It fit perfectly.  

  The gray evening sky let some light through, illuminating that stern Sunday feeling:  Some are gone, some are to be helped tomorrow, some challenges will rear up like sharks from the water.  Perhaps I can poke 'em in the eye with the walking stick...

  Friends will be missed.  Storms will come, and so will the rays of hope.  A man stands alone, and the path winds forward into the unknown.   There are rivers to cross.  

What a blessing.





Tuesday, August 10, 2021

Letters from Josh, Vol. 59

(After a two-month hiatus, I've resumed writing to my senior buddies in assisted living homes across the area.  It's neat to connect with words.  I thought you all might enjoy, too.) 

Letters from Josh

Endless Summer                                                                           Letter 59    8/9/21

  Howdy, folks!  It’s been a little while.  Josh Urban here...DJ and science lecturer who occasionally plays at your community.  Perhaps we’ve never met, and maybe this is your first Letters from Josh.  Created over a year ago, this was my way to bring a little joy during the lockdown, and has turned into a fun project.  If you’re reading this for the first time, welcome.  If you’re an old friend, welcome back. I like to bring my buddies with me through words, so buckle up!  I’ve hiked down to the local park, and am sitting on the back porch of historic Mt. Aventine, with it’s lovely Potomac river valley view.   Nathaniel Chapman, best friend and business partner of George Mason, had this plantation house built directly across the river from Gunston Cove, Mr. Mason’s estate.  A descendent of his, Percy Chapman, would bolt from the property when Union Soldiers showed up to arrest and execute him for spying.  (He escaped.)  Today, bloodshed and misery have been gently and gratefully replaced by lush nature, peaceful and quiet.  (As I write this, the A/C unit kicked on with a clatter as if on cue.  D’oh!)  The thick summer air hangs hazy and humid over the river.  I feel like a fish, swimming in an endless summer. And, if a fish had ever pondered the immensity of the ocean, so too must he have felt like I do now, immersed in the hazy nostalgia of an August afternoon. Have you ever felt this spirit of Summer, for lack of a better word?  Christmas has it, spring does, too.  The aching melancholy of an autumn rain is not to be overlooked.  But summer, man...The timeless singing in the trees, the too-short loves, and the Sun, the Sun.  Brash at midday making colors pop, and lazy in the afternoon, a mellow baker, kneading the dough of thunderstorms in a mighty kitchen of an immense sky.  He’s even felt at night, the city concrete radiating noontime memories to the sweating pedestrians.  The goldfinches, flitting through the meadow below the porch like little pieces of this light, chatter gleefully about how good it is to have the gift of an endless summer afternoon.  The A/C unit shuts off, as a breeze toussels the leaves of the wise old poplar tree.  I gaze across the Potomac river, and wave.  Happy August, everyone!

  • Josh