It is an ordinary moment, really. The kind that often passes between strangers, slips its everyday grace into the toll of hours.
And yet nothing about my morning feels ordinary when I leave the gym and on impulse decide to wander down to the main street of my town. The sun is out, the muggy heat of the previous day has lifted and with winter finally having made its disappearance, it seems everyone had the same idea.
My plan after working out was to clean the house and run a few errands before an appointment later that afternoon and the wedding I will officiate. But instead I browse my favorite music store, where I pepper the saleswoman with giddy questions every few minutes about this artist and that release and her opinion of this album versus that one. She is gracious and cheerful and after I eagerly walk away with an eclectic stash of country, folk, pop and retro soul, I decide to stop at a market I’ve never noticed before.
There I spend more than 30 minutes talking to the owner, so long I have to interrupt our conversation to run down the street and feed my meter. We start off with music because he notices my CDs, and before long he’s recommending different artists to me and sharing a video clip from a song he thinks I’d like. We talk about the store, what he sells and why when I tell him curiosity is the only reason I’m there. I taste the chocolate tahini he carries, marvel at his selection of raw cheeses, wander back to the counter for his advice, chat some more.
And so it goes. I walk around, pick up an item, ask about it, maybe decide to buy it. At some point, we exchange names. We laugh. And we keep on talking.
All the while there’s a mound of toast waiting behind him for a group tour set to arrive any minute and though I insist I don’t want to keep him from his task, our conversation remains a meandering delight. He knows so much about the neighborhood that I don’t. We talk housing, local fundraisers, new businesses and restaurants, the importance of community, my newfound love of gin. We give ourselves to the unhurried, the simple, the kind. We stitch one ordinary moment into another.
Yet when I leave, I carry a buoyancy that leavens the day with its sweetness. The energy of our exchange lingers in the minutes of driving home, making lunch, getting ready for my meeting and then my wedding — gentling everything, pooling it all with light.
And I am struck by the awareness that so often in life the magic happens in the in between. In between the planning and doing, the hurtling from here to there, while we anticipate the big moment, the main event, the destination narrowly in our sights. When the plans get thrown out or momentarily derailed, when the shoulds and if onlys are abandoned, all there is — all there ever is — is right now. And missing that moment could mean missing the beauty, the wonder, the joy, the gift of connection it proffers.
Later that afternoon, I’m filling out the marriage license after performing an outdoor wedding ceremony just before the first raindrops hit when one of the flower girls, slides up to me. We are in the barn, where the cocktail hour is being held, and she announces she’s waiting for her mom. I invite her to have a seat next to me.
In the unfolding minutes, I learn the following: the children who were standing toward the back during the wedding are her cousins and include twins; her feet hurt (as she slips off her shoes and examines them); her elegant bun, which I assure her is indeed very pretty, is held together by copious amounts of hairspray; she’s only a little hungry and won’t eat anything until her mom appears because she always eats with her mom; this is not only her second wedding but her second run as a flower girl (her feet hurt the first time, too); and she’s really excited to stay here all night.
She is utterly enchanting, I am completely charmed, and she knows both.
I ask her if she’s seen the owls since we are at an historic museum and wildlife sanctuary. Her eyes grow round as she gasps “There are owls here?” Of course I promise to take her to see them, which means waiting for her mom to return from wherever she’s disappeared to so her mini-adventure can be approved.
My post-ceremony plan was to briefly mingle with the bride and groom’s guests, eat a few hors d’oeuvres and head home. But almost 45 minutes later, I am escorting this sprightly moppet, her cousins and her mom to the owl enclosure where their excitement and curiosity remind me of my own fascination with these majestic creatures the first time I saw them here. The kids bop around their towering cages, peering up at them on tip-toes, their awed mouths a litany of questions and exclamations. They ask to be picked up to get a closer view and are just as intrigued with the meal of mice laid out for each bird as they are the raptors themselves.
And as their bright voices float around me, I think of how good this is, just this — the gathering dusk, their clarion joy, the gift of everything incalculable that lives in the in between.