Beautiful Stories I Want to Write…Or Live

I really don’t want to create a bucket list.  I’m afraid that I won’t be able to stop writing and then I’ll look not a list of achievements but a list of things I don’t know that I’ll ever be able to experience.

It won’t be a bucket list.  It will be a regret list.  And I don’t want to live my life crossing off one regret after another.  I want to live my life with a collection of UV beads that remind me of a summer I stepped outside my boundaries and captured life between my open hands, letting it settle there like a strained glass butterfly.

This last weekend, I heard a wonderful story about the Ramadan drummer in Cairo, a man who walks the streets in hours before sunrise.  He plays a simple hand-drum and sings to the people to awaken them and prepare for the day.

Time to pray.

Time to eat.

Time to be joyful and loving and compassionate and good.

If you listen to the story, you hear joy.  You will hear goodness and compassion and delight.  I love how Leila Fadel and the producers of NPR were able to capture the laughter of the children chasing the drummer.  They aptly described him as a Pied Piper.  But he isn’t leading the children to their deaths.  He is leading them to…prayer.  To life.

At the end, Fadel describes a woman standing on her balcony, watching the drummer as he passes beneath.  And I wish I was standing there with her, draped in soft cloth, standing in the dim light cast from the kitchen (I’m dreaming, imaging, and extrapolating here).  The tea pot is whistling.  The drummer has reached the end of the block and is preparing to turn, to go forward.  To leave my line of vision.

Time to pray.

Time to eat.

Time to be joyful and loving and compassionate and good.

Another NPR story I heard a decade ago was about the Street of the Cauldron Makers.  Unfortunately, at this point, the story has evaporated into a quick summary and is missing the rich descriptions of this incredible place.  Just the name, alone, is a story title.

The Street of the Cauldron Makers.

If I remember correctly (big question here), one of the workers on the street is known for his compassion.  I remember (???) the reporter describing him feeding a stray cat, how the skittish animal would cautiously approach the man and his outstretched hand.  How the cat would surrender to the need to be loved and would tentatively rub her head against his long fingers.

Or, maybe, I’m extrapolating again…creating a moment that doesn’t exist.  But it does exist…even if only now.  In these words.  I remember the man.  I remember a cat.  Because I used that image as the basis for a story that I tried to write and eventually dumped because it really wasn’t going anywhere and didn’t need to breathe anymore words.  I still want to write this story.

I still want to live this story.

One thing I am seeing with more clarity is that my fear and anxiety, my list of tethers and leashes and muzzles, keep holding me away from what I know I can do with my life, from experiences that I thought were just beyond the reach of my fingers.

What do I want to do?

Ride in a hot air balloon

Learn how to juggle

See:  the Grand Canyon, Yosemite Park, Yellowstone, Monterey Bay, the whale shark in Atlanta.

Travel to:  countries I have never visited.  Yes, that is an ambiguous, vague statement.  I grew up in Germany.  I have visited many of the historic landmarks discussed in history books.  And what I learned is that those landmarks are amazing….but….start lacking something when seen in a conglomeration of people wearing fanny packs while looking at the world through a camera lens or smart phone screen.

I want to see the world not as a tourist or a traveler but as a shadow.  I want to blend into the society and watch the people as they live.  One of my favorite memories of New York City was sitting in a garden tucked in the shadows of two buildings.  It was a quiet oasis for the people of New York, not something that will be found in a tourist book or a map of legendary sites and must see locations.  I pulled out a journal and wrote.  I stared at the brick walls surrounding me, listened to the quiet hum of traffic as it mingled with bird song and the wind sieving through the trees and shed my tourist exoskeleton and just lived.

I want to watch the sun rise in a place I have never visited before.  I want to watch the sun set in a place I have never visited before.  And I need to have traveled miles and miles and miles to accomplish this dream.  I love The Simpsons episode when Homer meets his mother.  At the end, he sits on the hood of his car and watches the sun set and the stars slowly breach the twilight sky.  He reflects, contemplates, lives.

I keep on telling my children that life is not about being a bystander.  Life is about swallowing the bile which rises from fear and pushing forward.  Life is about knowing that pain will accompany action but that taking steps in spite of the pain is what matters.  I am woefully out of shape and woefully overweight (no one better write reassuring compliments to me.  I know what the truth is and I am merely reporting facts), and the hike at Dragon’s Tooth Peak has made me worry about the upcoming hundred miles on the AT.

But I won’t give up.  I will be the slow hiker.  I’ll arrive at the sites last.  And I’ll have plenty of ibuprofen.  And I will still smile.  And then I’ll pull out a journal and I’ll write and write and write some more.

The gift of the beads was something which has made me stop and think a lot.  I keep on living in a ten mile radius that has become a stilted routine which wearies me.  Fifteen beads have encouraged me to think about fifteen different ways to live my life and stop worrying about….

and that’s the funny part….I don’t know.


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