Unexpected moments of connection.
Climbing up and down Mt. Bonnell has become a bit of a weekly pilgrimage for me. Often I am not alone. I am joined by others who walk in silence. Though, on many occasions, only a glance or a smile is exchanged, an unspoken, yet palpable feeling of community is created; a community of solitudes, as Parker Palmer might describe. I feel not only bathed by the environment, but also by the focus, persistence and humanity of those walking alongside me.
Today, there were four of us at Mt. Bonnell. I saw a man I have seen a few times. He was quite old and frail looking, but nonetheless had two canes in hand and began his climb up and down. His legs were thin, his glasses thick. His demeanor felt kind. I glanced a time or two as I passed him and the others. Finally, I stopped. “You are very inspiring, sir”. He lifted his glance from the steps to look up at me. He said, “Hold on a moment”, as he stopped the timer on his watch. As our eyes met, I again said, “You are very inspiring”. He said thank you and shared that he was eighty years old and enjoyed coming to Mt. Bonnell. It made him feel good. We shared our names and he offered his business card. Beneath his full name it stated, Retired Engineer. I told him that I used to be an engineer too. He laughed sweetly and asked “Used to? Once an engineer, always an engineer”. I smiled back. I told him that I teach meditation now and he asked if it was an indian thing. I explained a little. He told me that he felt more comfortable coming to Mt. Bonnell than walking in his neighborhood, where he had taken a bad fall over his rolling walker four years ago; so bad in fact that he remembers it vividly. The railing at Mt. Bonnell felt more stable and secure to him. He also shared that on occasion he runs on a treadmill with straps at the therapy place he goes to, but they won’t let him run as fast as he would like. He shared and shared, and I felt nothing but joy in listening to this sweet soul. We eventually continued on our own walks, but I told him that I hoped to see him again.
During the course of our conversation, the other two people who had been walking up and down noticed. What happened next was beautiful. As I walked down the steps, I heard the other middle aged man talking to Dixon. As he passed me, he said, “what a cool guy”. I agreed. As I walked further, I saw the other lady now walking alongside Dixon and talking with him. Just like that, our sweet community of solitudes had become a little more connected, our circle a little smaller. I can’t say for sure, but I think each of us was profoundly inspired by Dixon. I know I was and I am so grateful to be graced by his presence.