The heart

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I live in a town made of three streets, three bars, five churches, one gift shop, a drug store, a grocer, a school, a bank. It’s not much to look at, especially in the winter when the evergreen goes down and it is too cold for the garden club to gussy everything up with hanging baskets. Always, though, we’re surrounded by bluffs always eager to glow with sun set or rise.

There are mornings this town is too small to contain the amount of life which flourishes, tucked away here in the valley bowl. Parking becomes an issue. This morning for instance, is the annual Doughnuts for Dads breakfast at the elementary school. At 1pm we’ll have first Friday early release as usual. At 11:00 we bid farewell to the fire chief.

When the fire chief of 30 years in a small-town you’ve probably never heard of, dies, the governor will order flags to be lowered. Your streets will fill with over forty fire trucks, twenty ambulances, dozens of sheriffs, from departments up to 100 miles away. Mourners will be shuttled in from lots outside of town Over sixty men and women in uniform will give the chief his last call. They will line the school  children up on the sidewalk to wave in all the heroes. To learn, this is the heart of community. Of service. It’s America. America before it got all pear-shaped and shade-eyed.

I’m going to tell you a secret. The fire chief had a habit of getting on my nerves. For one thing, he was also the town electrician and never showed up for a job when he said he would. Sometimes he would show up months later. Sometimes this was forgivable because he was off saving lives and stuff. Sometimes he was playing cards or driving around in a big red fire engine for kicks. Sometimes he was inexplicably digging up the lot he bought across the street from my house with a back hoe at 6am. While he was also brave and kind and funny, in a small town, you become well aware that no one is perfect. And you learn that life is never based on fairness. You can, for instance, dedicate over thirty years of your life to saving lives, bearing witness to tragedy and miracles, fighting fire,  and still drop dead of a heart attack, playing cards at 62. In a town this small, you will be remembered for the hero you were. You will be forgiven and loved for being human. And easily enough we will forgive ourselves and all the others who cross our paths. You can’t afford not to around here.

Our town is made of three streets and they are double parked with emergency vehicles. The sidewalks are sea of navy blue and well shined badges. It’s touching. In my own life, I’ve never done anything which would inspire such a farewell. And that’s okay. But still I wonder what I could do better, not necessarily for posterity, but maybe just of service to others.

What I mean to say, is  sometimes, the fire chief got on my nerves. He was just human. I have spent much of my life so aware of my flaws, my insecurities, I have been inhibited when it comes to doing much of anything big. One does not have to be perfect to be perfectly of service. To make lives better. That is a legacy I am thinking on today.

I keep thinking of this really woo-woo thing I heard on a documentary about meditation once. How in this modern age 1/3 will die, 1/3 will go mad, and 1/3 will awaken. The past year seems to have buried so many dead. Probably no more than any other year, but subjectively more, because so many more were people who touched my own life either personally or artistically. And more than once I have thought the world is going mad. And while I dismissed such a sentiment as woo-woo, I can’t help but wonder which heap I’ll be sorted into.

It’s enough to make a girl feel sort of mindful.

 

Much love,

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9 thoughts on “The heart

  1. Small town life… It’s as you say. The town may be small but the life in it is often so big. Some of us focus too much on our own flaws. You do a service in a real sense. My life always feels richer reading your words. Deep breaths and mindful thoughts. peace to you & lots of sparkles

  2. Just randomly reading. Are you aware of how great a writer you are? You may never have crowds lining the streets to wish you farewell, but I wonder if you know how many lives you have touched? I doubt I would have ever tried to write a poem if it weren’t for the scavenger hunts. I wonder how many others would say the same? Or the influence you’ve had on poets and fellow writers. A mutual friend recently told me how much of a difference you’ve made in his life, with your suggestions and guidance on his writing. You’ve always been so kind, your words always uplifting. And you write from the heart when you write here, in your telling the tales of daily life. You’re a wonderful writer, Leah. You’ve touched many lives. And one day your daughter will tell the story of her mother, of the influence and encouragement you gave to her. You’re a golden thread in the tapestry of life. Just thought I’d let you know that it was always a pleasure to know you. Much love. ~Jo

    • Thank you, Jo. I am so sorry I never saw this comment. I haven’t been here much. I am so glad you tried out the prompts and to know you too 🙂

    • Lol, thanks, Carrie. I hope you do things with your things. Files, I mean :D. Yesterday at the grocery store I told the cashier she could put the penny change in her thing and she had a really dirty mind, so I probably should be more careful with my specifics.

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