The troubadour is back in front of Trader Joe’s!
The grey-ponytailed man was sitting in a folding chair with his guitar when I came out after shopping. My heart was so filled with joy it started overflowing in tears.
“You’re back!” I exclaimed, trundling my cart toward him, grinning from ear to ear.
“Hello, hello! It’s so good to see you…”
I think of him as Jesse, although that’s not his name. I do know his name, and he knows mine. He was usually there when I shopped, his guitar case open and a few coins and bills scattered inside. He must be in his 60s, like me. Possibly homeless. Possibly living in his car. I don’t know.
All I know is he has the sweetest voice, and such great love shining out of his blue eyes, it’s almost unbearably poignant to be near him.
I haven’t seen him since Covid started. Eighteen months and counting.
Jesse is back. This is an augury of some sea change, or so I choose to believe. Some element of the waiting is over.
In the store, I briefly considered buying still more canned goods to stockpile. But I couldn’t work up enough fear to do so. And besides, we already have quite a lot.
If as an unvaccinated nonperson I am disallowed store entry in the future, we’ll be able to last awhile on what’s in the cupboards. Plus oranges and avocados from our trees. And I’m sure one of our vaccinated friends would shop for us.
That’s one of the most peculiar paragraphs imaginable, yet it is nothing short of truth.
I elected to forgo an experimental medical procedure (“vaccination”), and this could eventually disqualify me from shopping in a store.
There are already countries, or states in the United States, where this is the case. I believe France is one. And I think New York requires vaccine passports for certain venues. Even Canada appears to be on the verge of the unthinkable.
I am balancing the fear that creeps toward me against the pure tremolo of Jesse’s voice and the gentle plunk of the notes from his guitar.
I gravitate toward the guitar and his voice singing love rather than the creeping beast of fear.
There’s a Bruce Springsteen song with lyrics that go something like, tattooed on one hand was love, on the other hand, fear. I haven’t listened to that song in decades but that phrase has always stayed with me.
It feels as if we are all being carried along on this great tide, the sea changes overtaking the world, and we ride along the crest of the wave.
The only freedom we truly seem to have is the freedom to choose our interior experience of these external events. Do we struggle through the waves, thrashing frantically and fearful of drowning?
Or do we glide along on an invisible surfboard, navigating the peaks and valleys and laughing as the cool, sparkling water splashes our faces?
Jesse is back. I drop some money in the guitar case because I know I have more cash than he does.
He tells me where he’s been and we catch up a bit on how our families are.
When I’m ready to leave I look at him for a long moment and then lean toward him. He holds his guitar to the side and stands up. And we hug.
I’ve never thought to hug him before. His sweater is scratchy wool and smells faintly of cigarettes. His shoulders are sturdy. When we pull away, we both raise our eyebrows as if to say, well, if you have Covid or I have Covid, so be it.
The hug was worth it.
There seem to be forces at work in the world that have one gear and one weapon that they wield relentlessly. The gear is calibrated to destruction. The weapon is fear.
Music cannot be destroyed. Fear cannot prevent me from hugging another human being.
As best I can, I embody and emanate this knowledge and this state of being. If it cannot penetrate the artificial carapaces of those who would destroy us, at least my emanations will only bounce off of them, and flow warmly into those who are receptive to love and light and joy.
And music. An ambassador and a carrier of love and light and joy.
I drive home singing the Neil Young song about the starships coming and the final revolution of the world.