Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Rainbow, Pot of Gold

It would've been so easy to take the car. I had only a few precious hours left of the day--my birthday--
and lots of calls to make: thank yous and hellos to friends who had acknowledged the occasion. I could dash over, pick up this one piece of Registered mail at the P.O., maybe return videos at the library, then be back home in a flash. But as I approached the car all in a rush, I stopped. “It’s beautiful out here,” I noticed all of a sudden. “I
could walk.”

I absolutely could walk, and preferred to, actually. Dublin had gotten me walking, and I haven't stopped since. It's continued to be my first choice when setting out for an errand, with the bicycle a close second. The car has sat in the driveway a lot, which pleases me for many reasons. Yes, of course: it would be better to walk. But was there time? I realized the 5 o'clock hour was quickly closing in. I went back inside to check: 4:25. With a brisk pace, I could make it. Great!

Off I went in my new Merrells—my latest investment in the walking life. They would allow me the clip I needed. And all was well until I spotted a mailman at his drop box.

Oh no, I thought. Delivery of the package had been attempted that very day; it may still be out on the route, I realized. I pulled out my claim ticket to read it and why exactly hadn’t I read it completely before now? In all my hurry and determination to receive what I thought could be a birthday surprise, it seemed I might've set out on a fool’s errand.

“Pick up after 10/14,” the carrier had noted. Nuts.

I retraced a few steps and approached the Postman. “Excuse me,” I started, then explained my concern.

“It depends,” he said. “If the carrier’s working oovertime, then he’s still out on the route. If not, it should be back. Do you want me to call and ask?” he said, reaching for his phone.

If his accent hadn’t tipped me off, the kind generosity of his offer surely would have.

“What part of Ireland are you from?” I asked with a smile.

“Tipperary,” he replied.

I'm just back from a year in Ireland," I said. "Never made it to Tipperary," I said, but told him where I had been.

"Ooh, but ye must've passed through on your way to Kerry," he said, and I remembered that indeed I had. Our conversation—visit, really—unfolded from there.

“I fell in love with your country,” I told him.

“People are a bit moore oopen, aren’t they?”

, I thought. Like this, like you. I was reminded of the unique quality to the exchanges I had had abroad; they were more...what? More human? More connected? All I know is they possessed a sparkle not common to my Boston encounters.

And here it was again. Humanity greeting humanity eye to eye with a genuine warmth and care exchanged in the space between us. I loved that. I still do.

“I'm Kathryn,” I said, extending my hand.

“John Ryan,” he smiled, returning a hearty handshake.

"Pleased to meet you," I said, and truly I was.

John Ryan from Tipperary, I thought smiling broadly as after we'd parted I continued into town. In the end I had declined his generous offer in favor of taking my chances. I was so happy to be walking. I was so happy I did not cheat myself of this gift-of-an encounter. I could have driven I thought, eyeing the backup of cars in five-o’clock traffic: hah! And only then did it occur to me sans regret that my moments with John Ryan might have cost me that day's chance at collecting the parcel.

On one hand, it’s such a small thing, a chance encounter with an Irish mailman 15 years in the States, talk of his mother who had just passed on, his sister who still lives there, my father’s death two years ago. It is a small and simple thing, I suppose: one, brief conversation of no great purpose or consequence. One could argue it was nothing, and I might be persuaded of that. I am more
inclined to think it was everything. What matters more, really, than a true human encounter, heart to heart, spirit to spirit, and the upliftment it engenders? Life arises by way of such moments, or does not.

I did make it to the P.O. in time, and despite a long queue, was able to claim my package: the Bat Mitzvah gift for my niece which for two weeks had been making its way to me from Israel--a delightful surprise. I had thought the Israeli-made pendant would ship from a U.S. distributor. Rainbow, pot of gold: the riches kept coming, is how it felt. I glowed golden, alight with the day's treasures, all the way home.


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