Wednesday, January 21, 2009
I walked to the mailbox this afternoon, later than usual after a busy day, and the cold air was a confrontation. It's done that a lot lately. The crisp affront has become expected; an insulting slap across the face that I have learned to instinctively burrow my chin against.
Or maybe because it's been a bad stretch all the way around that I have come to hate the winter cold so much; like it is the embodiment of all that is wrong and bad in my world. Like the frigid air is a metaphor for my own personal hell.
It's not far to the mailbox from our front door, thank God. And from it I pulled only a few items. An electric bill. A large envelope from the local theatre group for whom I am directing a show this spring.
And a card.
On January 21?
Immediately I ticked off, in my mind, the familiar annual milestones.
It's not my birthday until March 4. It's not Corrine's birthday until next September.
Our anniversary is in September. Our wedding was four months ago. And since it was addressed to both of us, I could rule out any of the kids' birthdays.
I recognized the name in the return address up in the lonely left-hand corner of the envelope and thought perhaps it was a thank you note for shipping out Surfacing.
But then again, I thought to myself, she's already sent a thank you.
I opened it once I was inside. In it was a card that featured a haiku from a Japanese poet named Masahide.
On the face of it, it read:
Barn's burned down,
now I can see the moon.
The haiku rests beneath a branch of a bamboo tree, its leaves silhouetted against a pale moon, which itself appears to be breaking through clouds.
I don't get cards much. In fact, I don't recall, other than Christmas and last year's birthday, when I got one. And I can certainly say I have never gotten a card from a near-perfect stranger.
Especially one with a check in it for $100.
Marie Harris, thank you.
I don't mean to call you out like this, to put you up and into a spotlight, but I must.
To my readers, Marie Harris is a fellow blogger who I discovered in that random way we find writers while out searching the blogosphere. I liked what I found on her blog - she is a creative spirit, a writer, a searcher like me - so I commented on her blog one day. And she reciprocated. And, like the rest of us, a blog friendship was formed.
I don't know Marie beyond the electronic landscape, which is to say I don't know Marie at all. I know her words. And, from them, I have formed a very shaky image of the person. But I don't know her any more than you who are reading this know me, really.
I mean, let's face it, if you were to draw a mental picture of me based on my latest posts, your image of me would be fairly dark. What with frozen, bursting pipes and all.
But we know Marie better today. Her card's haiku could not have more perfectly framed our life today if we wrote a thousand words in a thousand blogs for a thousand days.
It speaks of the unexpected freedom we can get from the ashes of a seeming disaster. Something bad happened, yes, but look at what you have gained. It's there. It's a bright, shining thing you're going to miss if you keep staring at the burnt barn.
And we got this message in the form of a haiku on a card from a near-perfect stranger in California.
Folks, that's a 3,000-mile random act of kindness.
I won't share with you what she said in the card, other than to say that it was in direct response to our latest pipe-bursting, frozen bathroom crisis. Her words are kind and generous and have, in their special way, thawed this winter of ours.
Her act of kindness has, in one fell stroke, shattered the ice cold of a merciless winter that has petrified our will and paralyzed our hope.
Our house has burned down, it seems, more than once lately.
But now we can see the moon.
Thanks to our perfect stranger.