A Meeting of Minds
The two men stood facing each other in the twilight, paused for a second, and with an exchange of wisecracks moved together to join in a firm handshake. It was the first meeting of a pair of minds joined together in the ether – hopefully the first of many – an opportunity to chew the fat over subjects both diverse and deep. The younger man had traveled far, following an extended invitation to drop in for a visit with the country squire. The squire himself had driven a shorter distance, to help the youngster find his way in the dark. It was wintertime under the mesas, and the night air shivered as it raced to replace the light from the sun.
After pausing to collect a pair of pizzas, they climbed into their respective vehicles and navigated the darkened and dusty roads back to the ranch. The drive, while short, carried them beneath a massive sky dotted with stars and a sideways moon. The landscape loomed large around them, with junipers casting shadows over the frost covered soil like a protective parent. As they pulled into the driveway, a pair of dogs emerged from the dusk, racing behind the lead truck to greet their human’s return. They were puzzled at first by the newcomer, and propped their feet on the windows to take a closer look at his character. Apparently satisfied, they hopped down as he opened the door, and moved forward for a curious sniff and a comforting scratch behind the ears. Once these formalities were complete, they whispered back and forth between the men, brushing thighs and nuzzling kneecaps.
Eventually they made their way into the house, and met the Lady of the Manse, whose sparkling eyes told of a life well lived and loved. Munching on pizza (Mamacita’s: the best in New Mexico), the younger fellow sketched in the details of his life and work, and they soon settled into an easy rapport, sipping ale and wine as conversation peppered the air.
They spoke at first of language and lore, how stories and words are adopted and absorbed by cultures ranging from the fertile crescent to the frozen wastes. Both were fascinated by how similar the tales had remained, in spite of their migrations; cultures coloring, but not changing the messages and meanings within. They noted how language bore some of the same characteristics; the common vocabulary of life sharing roots intended to preserve meaning and intent across boundaries both physical and political. How words, some as simple as these, can bridge divides both mountainous and mental by conjuring images and symbols in minds desperate for comprehension.
Stepping outside for a smoke beneath the stars, they noticed a shadow approaching a fence and stepped forward to greet a friendly horse in search of a twilight treat. As they moseyed over, and the squire reached into his pockets and produced a bundle of equine pleasure. “Make sure he gives you a kiss first,” he said, passing over a fistful, and the younger man tilted his chin to the approaching animal with a smile and a “Hello.” Clay the horse, possibly spotting the loot exchange on the way over, strolled right up and immediately bowed his head to snuffle at the stranger’s pockets. Satisfied that the new guy came prepared, he lifted his head and pulled his lips in a horsey grin of welcome, before bowing back down to plant a wet fuzzy one on his new friend’s lips. Rewarded with sweets and cheek scratches, the process was repeated several more times, with the horse bobbing back and forth between the men until the treats were exhausted.
Feeling the bite of the night’s chill, the two men moved back into the house for another round of conversation. This time they traded tales of the past and specific events that had affected and shaped them in profound ways. Moments in time, told tightly in language well-rehearsed through mental repetition. Shadows flickered around the words, as the darker tales told of horrors experienced firsthand; demons dragged screeching into the light. Violence, death, near-death, failure and fear were brought forth by the younger, and the elder let the tide of pain rise and crest over a calming breakwater of stoic acceptance.
Acceptance. Nothing more, nothing less. Exactly what the past deserves.
As the conversations progressed, the shadows were forced into retreat as the events were revealed to contain hidden gifts – subtle epiphanies where a sharpened awareness bore tribute to the resiliency of spirit and the power of healing. Fear is always transient, they had learned; pain fleeting and ultimately bearable. No matter how awful the experiences life had forced them to bear, there were lessons to be learned by facing them with a patient, calm, and enlightened gaze. Even the darkest of moments contained an element of light, sometimes just enough to buoy a faith battered by circumstance. Angels nudged aside belligerent devils, offering a teaching moment in humanitarian grace, delivered precisely when needed the most. It never took much, they knew – the touch of a hand, an open ear, a whisper of concern, a word of relief – to chase away the sharper sides of life.
Another break, another set of smooches, and the introduction of a second equine companion. A little more shy than his first counterpart, Midnight approached shyly, as if unsure what to think of this new human. As Clay cheerfully gorged on the new pile of treats, Midnight hovered close to her human companion, nuzzling his lips and taking a few treats for herself. The sweetness of it all, sugar and kisses beneath the starlight…
It takes a lot to make a lifetime. Moments of joy, moments of sorrow, love, loss, wealth, and poverty are but pieces of existence. Fragments of being that color emotions, perceptions, belief, and experience. As the two men talked, exchanging stories like trinkets, a warm realization came over them. This is what life should be. This is what people should love.
“This,” said the gentleman, gesturing at the friendship forming between them, “is what people should be doing.”