Vibrant fall leaves, blue sky, a pleasantly crisp breeze, but there’s no crispness in my step as I walk to the community garden. The news is filled with covid and our harvest has all but ended. Then I notice shadows on the asphalt ribbon of this one-car path, the breeze allowing branches to tease their shapes in the mottled sunlight. The shadows change with each step. I focus on the dark, switch to the light, then look for the overall pattern. I am fully in this moment. And I am happy.
The tranquil feeling stays with me as I leave the wooded area into full sunlight on a well-traveled road. Suddenly I shudder. I try to shrug it off. There they are across the road, four Trump signs lined parallel to the road, each different, on a nicely kept lawn. Above the front porch, three large flags ruffle in the breeze – a Trump flag in the middle, flanked by a grayish blue and white American flag and one sporting two crossed assault rifles in white on a black background.
I don’t understand the shrine-like adulation of Trump displayed here and elsewhere in our community. I recoil from such displays. Toward such neighbors, I harbor bad feelings, bordering on hostility. They’re people I don’t even know. I can’t seem to help it. Yet, the abundance of Trump signs in one yard unsettles me. Farewell, tranquility.
As I’m nursing my dismay, a youngish bearded man emerges from behind the house and walks toward the road carrying a recycling bin. It’s garbage day. Good, he recycles. That’s a plus. I call, “Hello,” and smile. He smiles back, a warm smile on a genial face, and says, “Hi.”
I feel better. I imagine that he’s an overall good man who loves his family and friends, as well as his community and country. I believe he’s a hard worker because during other walks to the garden over the summer, I saw his steady progress on the shed he built in the back. It’s a narrow barn-like structure with a loft that has a circular window. A charming structure that’s almost finished. I admire it. I admire his skill and aesthetic sense.
I don’t, however, admire my neighbor’s political sense – yet I do respect him as a fellow human being. I don’t know his story. I don’t know why he believes that Trump is the political answer to his needs and those of his family and country. But I do know that he’s a member of my community.
As Parker J. Palmer said about community members, “Often they will be persons who will upset our settled view of self and world. In fact, we might define true community as that place where the person you least want to live with lives.”
So I look ahead, admire the golden, red, and orange maples I’m approaching. I continue walking to the garden, there to be grateful for the abundance of food and the meaningful moments of work it has given me and my fellow community gardeners.
Tranquility restored, for now.
Photos at the community garden in October: our zinnias and okra stalks; Sheila & Steve’s kale; Ann & Tom’s Swiss chard