(My beloved hill in autumn. By the way, that satellite dish was there when we came, but we never activated it. Who needed television in a place like this?)
In my last post, I alluded to neighbors who seemed to find us odd because we were so frequently outside wandering about, open-mouthed with awe. When we first moved to the mountains five years ago from the flatlands of Raleigh, we woke up every morning and looked out the window and were amazed anew and so grateful to be able to gaze out at green hills and blue ridges and endless sky. We were like babies seeing the world for the first time. And, having been through a great deal of hardship, we found comfort and rest in those ancient hills.
There was a hill rising up next to the house we used to live in, and I loved to run up to the top where you could see not only mountains stretching out to forever, but the whole bowl of the sky. I felt like Maria in the Sound of Music but, being shy, I neither sang nor twirled around as I ran, though I sort of did in my heart. But every day, I climbed that hill and stood at the top and looked up at the expanse of the heavens—the always changing face of the firmament.
And almost every day, I’d see our closest neighbor driving by in her SUV, and I’d wave. She not only never waved back, but she’d stare at me, sort of the way you’d stare at a freak show at the circus. I wish I could say I didn’t care and to heck with her, but I did care. We had just moved to the area and were eager to meet our neighbors and make new friends. And the people from whom we bought the house had told us how friendly these neighbors were. So the rejection seemed personal.
The funny thing is, we never did meet them in the three years they lived next door to us. Lord knows we tried. The four of us took frequent walks that took us past their house. When we’d see them out, we’d holler hello and sort of pause in the way you do when you think someone might actually walk the twenty steps toward you and greet their new neighbors. But they’d usually go back inside or else their golden retrievers would run towards us barking and snarling. First time I’d ever seen unfriendly golden retrievers.
But, anyway, I did what I often do when confronted with something painful—I wrote a poem about it. I’ve hesitated to put it up here because I thought you might find it mean. But, really, I think it expresses perfectly what I felt at the rejection—sometimes a bewildered hurt and sometimes an acerbic bitterness. Poems have a way of wrenching the truth from you, I think. And writing the poem was cleansing and helped me to release my hurt and bitterness.
So here it is. If you find it too sour or unkind, forgive me. I’m human. At least, it’s honest. And if you just plain don’t like it, well…forgive me, too.
And, by the way, our new neighbors where we live now may find us odd, too. (Because, after all, I suppose we really are—at least in the eyes of the world). But they don’t seem to hold it against us. They not only talk to us, they wave. And they don’t look at us like a side show at the traveling carnival.
I really appreciate that.
Won’t You Be My Neighbor?
We have come to these mountains
From the flatlands,
Pilgrims seeking higher ground,
Seeking refuge from
Our valley of shadow and death.
It is more beautiful
Than our imaginings.
The ancient hills enfold us,
Absorbing our grief.
We are cupped in God’s hands.
I am a tight fist,
Brought to tears
By the way the sun
Gilds the edges of the clouds.
So we ask forgiveness
From you, our new neighbor,
If we still gawk like tourists,
If we look like babies
Seeing the world for the first time.
I saw you staring from your SUV,
As you drove past me in the field,
Walking with my face skyward, mouth agape.
I waved, you just stared,
Your face wrinkled in…puzzlement? Disgust?
You seem to find us odd.
But is it strange
To be looking heavenward
In this place where
God seems so near?
Or is it stranger still
That I’ve never seen your feet
Touch the ground.
You, your cell phone, your SUV
Can’t we just see ourselves
As fellow pilgrims–
On our spiritual journey?
Me, looking upward,
And you, on your cell phone,
A call from God.