Saturday, November 16, 2013

Steel Umbrellas

Evening had settled in and with it the rain. The lights shimmered in random patterns on the black pavement when we crossed the road; our quick motion bobbed as we moved over it's uneven surface. The street was worn to deep ruts, thousands of little carbide chisels from tires of the cars that drove this thirty miles of road in endless repetition. This constant motion of vehicles perplexed me when I'd first arrived; no real place to go, yet everyone drove everywhere, even if only a block. I found the answer to my conundrum when a local lady unapologetically stated, “Hey, our cars are our umbrellas.” As we jumped to the sidewalk we dashed for the overhang that gave us respite from the constant soaking; here we would wait for the seven twenty bus heading north. Setting our bags down on the small swath of dry concrete near the building, the younger children busied themselves in floating debris along the curb's edge. Their small silhouettes dancing about, crouching and springing up to follow the unseen objects as they navigated around obstacles. Some of the older kids lounged on the bags of laundry while another sat holding a book at odd angles seeing if she could find enough light to read by. The sound of the rain falling around us was suddenly disturbed by the sound of a phone ringing and the rustling of a bag. Then the voice of my daughter, “Oh, hi Papa!”
“No, we are just waiting for the bus.”
“We just finished taking showers and washing laundry.”
“No, we are on our way back to the boat.”
My thoughts began to drift to the sound of the words just spoken and how alien they must seem in our society; how a family content with what conveniences available, had been willing to trade others for the freedom of not being tied down. Yet if any of those navigating the dark wet roads that night, safe within their umbrellas of steel and glass, passed by to notice our group of shadows under an overhang their thought of a life like ours would be incomprehensible. Not that I feel I am right and they are wrong; my mind was swirling with questions but few answers. What if one could trade some convenience for a little more freedom, would they? Is comfort really what life is all about? Are we more at ease with all the baggage carried, striving to meet a level of convenience acceptable to our society? Why do some in our society ostracize those that choose a path less traveled? What turns in my life led me to where I am? Would I go back if I could? This last question I was able to answer with complete serenity, “No, I would not.” I heard a voice as if in a distance; the voice of my wife calling, “The bus is here.”