Life is so unpredictable. I know no religion except my experience to
be able to sense the outside world thru reason and feeling.
I know of no parting waters or large scale miracles. For me, if there
is anything divine in the world, it comes to me in the smallest gifts.
It's the ray of light shinning thru the trees and thick dew on a early
morning. The sip of an excellent glass of Chianti. It's the sound of
birds upon waking after a great nights sleep. It's simply the sunset.
It also comes to me in the most random of ways. This Sunday morning
while working on my computer, in Starbucks, with my large mug of coffee
sweetened with a big scoop of chocolate, I was touched in a way that no
Sunday mass could ever. No preacher or religious text could give me this experience.
As I was buried into my own work, focused ever so intently on my
computer screen, the sip of a coffee was the only momentary
distraction followed by my complete emersion of my full consciousness
back into my computer screen. The world disappears around me when I am so focused as in this very morning. It was in this moment that a voice
from right next to my ear sounded. It was a question that took me out
of my moment, an elderly gentleman, a bit frail, a bit of an accent
but not distinguishable as to where asked me, "Are you a
Photographer"? You see I had been working on some photos on my computer and
this man was positioned slightly behind me so he could see my screen.
I am one to treat everyone with respect. So I politely answered that I
was not and I was hoping to get right back to my work. After all, this
man interrupted MY private moment by looking at my screen and asking
me a question. I wanted to get back to MY own personal world. He
then just started telling me about himself. "I was a photographer for 20
years, I used to shoot weddings" he said with his thick accent. I
dared not mention that I was in the wedding business because I wanted
to get back to my works. What was important to me was getting back to
what I was focused on doing at the time. He seemed like a real sweet
and innocent man but this was MY time and no one else's. I felt a bit
like maybe it was time to leave, after all my battery on my computer
was almost finished. Yea, I was ready to politely get out of there.
"What is your name?" he asked. To be polite I said "My name is
Carmen". He quickly responded with his accent, "Oh, how nice my name
is Carmen also!". Sparking now a bit of curiosity , I asked him if he
was Italian. He said, "why yes I am, I am from Abruzzo, Italy". NOW he
had my full attention.
What began so random and our conversation may have lasted 30 minutes, he kept
speaking to me in Italian and I was amazed because I was understanding
100% of what he was saying. Turns out se was born in the same region that my
family originated. I could feel his smile and somehow “I” with no effort at all had given
this man such a joy of a human connection. The joke, so to speak, was
really on me. There was no longer a photo on my mind, nor was
there any space around us, there was simply me and this strange man
with my name. I hung onto every word he said as we laughed about
things that we had in common.
Leaving the Starbucks I was sure wanted to give him my number. I found myself
hoping we could get together again for coffee, maybe even the following Sunday.
When I think about this experience I get a bit welted up. It's so
beautiful at its essence. It was a moment of pure joy, a simple
pleasure or maybe even a gift from somewhere.
Every so often I have one of these gifts touch me and for me the mere
fact that they happen make me so grateful to be alive. My every sense
at this moment feels supercharged. I don't need to know if a sea ever
parted nor do I care, I just need to have coffee with a random
stranger named Carmen to allow me to stop and appreciate my life.
I never did get Carmen’s number and I never saw him again but I’ll always cherish
that encounter and quietly hope to be interrupted again.
As an addendum a few years later I’ve come up with this thought:
You may stand on a thousand shores yet never see beyond your shadow or
speak with one stranger and explore the universe.
Carmen circa 2013