Thursday, November 01, 2007

Patch up these souls, please

He was wearing a top hat the last few days, jaunty atop his greying curls, a perfect image from Alice in Wonderland, dashing about the streets of this town, finding places to curl up and sleep in the bushes, raging at the stars.

"One of these days" said the blonde who works sometimes at the laundromat nearby, "someone will put him in the back of a pickup and tie him and beat him and no one will find the body. Good riddance, I say."

"That would be murder, and that would be wrong" I said, mildly, putting some blankets into the big washing machine.

"But no one would miss him"

"His parents might, you know they live down the street"

"Yeah, and he tried to kill them"

"Well, I don't know about that. You know, he's hard to take, but I might miss him"

The conversation wasn't going very far. I got the machine spinning and went back to my store. And it's not that my friend the blonde is fully unkind. After a very rocky start to our relationship, in which she tried earnestly to convince me that it was best to have folks freeze in the hills than try to help, she now and then slides into the bookstore when no one is around and hands me a bag of clean socks, or some wool sweaters. "Someone will need 'em. Don't like waste."

The thing is, there have been deaths. Murders. Beatings. Knifings. All in the beautiful little towns, in the forest lanes where the ravens look on, beside the green river.

The thing is, there are a lot of broken people. No, not all of them are without homes either.

My friend with the top hat once had a home, a kid, a family. He had a dog too, a yellow Staffordshire much like my Champ. I don't know his whole story of descent into whatever hell he is mostly in. I do know I felt very pleased the day, years back now, when he stopped for a moment to watch me plant petunias and said the first whole sentence I 'd ever heard him speak. This was after 2 or 3 years of my daily "Good morning, how are you doing?"

He said "My mom likes petunias too."

His mom does. She shares my love of flowers; I've always meant to ask her for some seeds of her broken-color four o'clocks; the sort my grandmother grew, which are so hard to find seed for these days. I grow yellow and fuschia and white ones, but all self-color. I have gazed enviously at her splotched and patterned flowers for many a summer now.

I went back to put my laundry in the dryer. "You know," I said, "it's not that folks like that guy really want to annoy or scare you. Think about..well, suppose someone had a broken leg and walked all slow and got in your way. Would you blame him? You might get all irritated, but you'd know he couldn't exactly run, right?"

She nodded.

"so, this guy had kind of a broken--I don't know, heart, mind, soul. And he gets in the way. "

I doubt I convinced her. Ah, but there are days I simply want to call down divine healing or choirs of angels, or devas, or whatever would work--I'm not even fussy about the name or the tradition. Just send some divine healing, okay? Patch up these souls. Free them.

The checker at the market said today "you know Sean? The one with the leafblower?" Yes, I do. The guy has driven me nuts for a few weeks. He has the loudest leafblower in the universe and has decided to make the world neat, being at the top of his manic cycle.
Well, he's in jail. Or with luck, being evaluated at the mental health hospital up north. But probably in jail. Broke out all the windows in a vacant restaurant. To free the air. I knew he was spiraling out--but there's no one to catch him. His sister owns a shop down the road, his parents are fine and well known and compassionate. No one could help.

I made a little trip--I don't have to go far--to the place a young guy enroute to his mom's house was beaten to death one thanksgiving some years ago. He'd spent his last day with me, listening to Mozart in the shop. We'd given him the blanket he died in. I was the last person to hear his breathing.
There is still a stain on the cement. I pass it nearly every day, but tonight I went there, and stood a moment, and said again "I am so sorry".

"I didn't plan on being homeless" says the tall dude who has asked for some raingear for weeks--and finally got some. "I know" I say, "life is odd, you just never know" "Got that right, sister" he says.

"Did you know some homeless people have dogs?" asks little Jessica, who is six, who has spent several days now hanging out at the shop. I affirm that this is so. "And some, like me, have kitties" she says, brightly. Right again. She's living in a van with her very young mother and father, and a kitten she dresses in doll clothes. The kitten has also spent a lot of time visiting, much to the interest of the store cats and Champ the pitbull. Jessica has instructed Champ very sternly in the best way to treat kittens. "You must never ever eat a kitten" she says. She was running a fever yesterday, but came by for early Halloween treats. Princess, the kitten, was dressed as a fairy princess.

"Do you ever just want to fly away?" asked Jessica, leaning her hot head against me. Sometimes I do, I said. Sometimes I do.

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Blogger Zach Attack said...

Wonderful writing.

7:21 PM, November 02, 2007  
Blogger Bibi-Aisha said...

I agree,you have a wonderful style of writing. Aah,if only we could just fly away. It's sick and sad that we treat people better based on their family,status,profession,wealth. It truly doesn't matter who we are, all that matters is what we are

12:58 PM, November 03, 2007  
Blogger graceonline said...

Jarvenpa, your compassion, love and generosity ever inspire and encourage. I wonder if you are a Bodhisattva.

Thank you for your courage. Thank you for inviting us into your shop, for sharing glimpses out your windows and up and down your streets. I give gratitude for the love that flows through you and pray you have all you need.

12:19 PM, November 04, 2007  
Blogger jarvenpa said...

thank you zach and bibi and grace.
No, far from a Bodhisattva status--though I had a beloved yellow dog we called Buddy-satva, because he demonstrated infinite and unconditional love for all beings. Perhaps someday I'll reach his status. Little Alicia spent yesterday with me and now has added a puppy to her family, along with Princess the kitten. I had a couple other children on hand who had mysteriously lost their parents for the afternoon--it was fun, though I wondered if I'd have to tell my partner we'd acquired a stray child or two. We played pile the horses in the middle of the floor (plastic horses) and King Kong eats the books and other nice games.

6:17 PM, November 07, 2007  
Blogger David said...

"Princess, the kitten, was dressed as a fairy princess."

I am struggling to find words to explain why this simple sentence began a flow of tears that has not ceased for several minutes. Perhaps it is the contraposition of human suffering with the untainted beauty of a small child's imagination. I want there to be hope for this child's future! Please tell me that she is at least going to school?

Thank you Jarvenpa.

10:09 AM, November 08, 2007  
Blogger jarvenpa said...

Jessica/Alicia (I used the other name in another article to protect the child; oh dear), like many of the children living with at risk families is in a very unstable situation. Families like hers fear to put their children in school because of the possibility of losing their children to the foster care system. Her mother is very into learning, and the little girl is currently being very well supplied with books. If the family's life stabilizes--they are new arrivals to our region, traveled here from the midwest--mom may be convinced to try out our schools. Until then at least this bright child will have a lot of books and opportunities to bring her pets by for a visit or two. I've been glad to see connections being made with other children; the eldest of the kids who spent time with us the other day is a very nurturing 8 year old.
These days I have been meeting families who are in the 3rd or 4th generation of families who have lived on the streets, in vans, in situations of constant struggle. They have many gifts of perspective to offer, and some wisdom; I hope that I can maybe offer some links to opportunities or some ease from pure survival. Particularly for the youngsters.

11:23 AM, November 08, 2007  
Blogger jarvenpa said...

This is interesting. After typing that I had a visit from another young mom with a daughter close to Jessica's age, who had just come from the local school where the principal had been threatening her because her daughter had been late and absent a number of times.
This family lives with friends, barely, far from town. Mom is very young, but very concerned for the daughter's well being. She was in tears.
The family has moved several times in the past years (and mom says they will be moving again next month). The principal had threatened her with "the authorities" because, among other things, the little girl's hair was dirty today (not filthy, and the family must heat water to wash, on a woodstove).
Frustrating. There is so much to do; I am sure the principal would be astonished to realize he is not helping the child by his words and actions. I think I'm going to be visiting the guy soon. And I'm overdue for another chat with my friends on the school board.
Small changes can make huge differences.
I saw Jessica today as well. She looked tired, but came in to read some books and check in with my dog.

2:41 PM, November 08, 2007  

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