Friday, September 5, 2014

Chapter 48

On my short list of favorite books, you will find Eat, Pray, Love by Elizabeth Gilbert near the top. My softcover copy is worn and pliable, a sign of several late night scrambles to its pages to find a quote or scene for reference. I love the feel of my copy, soft and comfortable like a favorite pair of jeans worn to the perfect point of contentment. It smells of hope and healing, and always reminds me of how far I've come since the first time I read it. My first encounter with the book was when my personal life shared similarities with the author's, leaving each word to resonate within me like a tuning fork.

If asked my favorite part of the book, I would quickly answer, "Chapter 48." Period. I learned more from that four-page chapter than from any other written work in my life. Whereas some people can quote religious scripture by chapter and verse, I have that ability with this one. (I can quote religious scriptures too, don't worry, but this is the modern-era book of which I can do the same.) Admittedly, my recitation practice has been centered on this one chapter, but with words so striking, I find it is all I need. When old friends  of the past begin to haunt my present, I rush to page 149 and read the words of Richard from Texas, as told by the author, Liz, during the beginnings of their friendship in India. At this point, Liz is pining over a failed romantic relationship and having trouble letting go. 

"Problem is, [Liz], you can't accept that this relationship had a real short shelf life. You're like a dog at the dump, baby -- you're just lickin' at an empty can, trying to get more nutrition out of it. And if you're not careful, that can's gonna get stuck on your snout forever and make your life miserable." -- Richard from Texas (Eat Pray Love by Elizabeth Gilbert)

I often wonder if Richard from Texas had any idea that his words would spread across the world, healing more than just Liz, but also me, and assuredly thousands of others who have read his words in her book. Wise words come in many forms and can be found in unexpected places, but when they are uttered -- and better yet, heard -- they have the potential to bridge a gaping chasm in the earth, as well as hearts. Richard built the bridge, and Liz published the map so people could find it. 

And I thank both of them frequently because I found it. I got it. The words make sense to me and pull me back to reality when I need a good stern verbal kick-in-the-butt. In the chapter, Richard explains how some people are not meant to be in our lives forever, no matter how much we may wish they were. We fight and tug and strain to keep them with us, but they go. They go by way of choice or circumstance, but they indeed go, and we are left standing in the memories. At the moment of the separation of our lives, we wonder what went wrong, what did we do? But we didn't do anything but live in this world where things happen when they need to happen, whether we like the result or not.

As I rushed to get out of the house on time this morning, I sped down the highway on my seven mile drive to work. Traffic was soon slowed by what I assumed was a school bus, since I knew when I left the house that I had left too late to get ahead of the bus that travels that road. I peered into the distance ahead and could not see the yellow bus on the horizon, but only saw dozens of cars moving at a glacial pace. After a few moments, I approached the vehicle causing the bottleneck and smiled at the sight of our local and legendary farmer, Mule*, hauling a pick-up truck full of pumpkins to town. The truck was laden with so many melons, it rolled at a pronounced angle, the rear bumper only inches from the pavement. I immediately smiled upon identifying the obstruction and my ire dissipated.

You see, Mule impedes the flow of traffic a few times a year but as any resident will tell you, it is worth it. In early summer, he hauls his locally-grown watermelons to town where they are sold at several markets. In late summer and early fall, it's pumpkins, like today. Occasionally, he simply pulls his truck into a parking lot while people nearly fall over themselves trying to get to him to purchase melons. He is part of our vernacular here. He is part of our culture and history. At certain times of the year his movements on the highway signal the changing of the season. Everything happens in its season, including the transport of melons.

It's the only time I see Mule, even though he lives in my part of the county. He's there at the changing of the seasons and then he is gone. But when it is time for him to come around again, when the time is right, he will appear. Much like everyone else in our lives.

Some people are not meant to be in our lives forever. Their purpose is to be a mirror back to us, showing us what we need to see in ourselves before moving along. At times, folks may enter, exit, and reenter our lives numerous times, always leaving us wondering why they left in the first place. But, you see, they were not meant to stay. People stay in our lives for as long as we continue to learn from them, whether that learning comes from being shown what to do or what not to do. All of life is learning, and all people in our lives are teachers.

Our hearts are better served realizing the fragility of relationships and being comfortable in recognizing our temporary connections are as ever-changing as the seasons. Everything happens in its season, and though we may pine for spring to emerge to save us from our winter chill, it is spring that decides when the time is right. And until that moment, we can only remember the beauty of springs-gone-by with a smile and a momentary word of appreciation spoken on the wind.

*Oh yes, that is his name. Well, nickname, but like the one-name celebrities of Cher or Madonna, Mule is famous in these hills both for his produce and his storytelling. 

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  1. Oh my goodness, Rita! You have blown me away again. You are fast becoming one of my most favourite authors. I'm serious! This is a wonderful post and would you believe, I am yet to read Eat Pray Love but I am definitely borrowing it from my library upon my next visit. I'm going to share this with my sister-in-law, she will love it!

    1. I could just hug you. Your support means so much to me, truly. I hope you enjoy the book, and give the movie a try, too. One of my favorite scenes from the book is not in the movie, and one of my favorite scenes in the movie is not in the book. And, oh my, oh my, I could float to work today on your words! :-)

  2. Replies
    1. Thank you, Ellen :-) Glad you enjoyed it.

    2. Your words always touch me. Many times it's as if you are pulling my own words from my heart! You have a gift. I miss you dear friend.


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