At The Bakery
Our neighbourhood bakery has been around since The Songwriter was a little boy. As is his custom, he always shows up bright and early on the Friday morning after Thanksgiving, for his first holiday order of bright red Santa cookies. He will continue to stop in every few days until the New Year dawns and the Santa cookie cutter is stored away till the next November. He is not alone in his devotion to this local bakery. Stop in anytime of the day and you are sure to see a crowd gathered there, staring hungrily into the long glass cases, lost in the delicious difficulty of choosing between cream horns and chocolate eclairs, red velvet cakes and sweet potato pies. It’s all here and it’s all incredible. People drive many miles to visit this place but it’s just a short, pleasant walk from my front door, sitting on the hill, just past the Little League park where a flock of Sugar Maples glow in the sunshine.
Around four o’clock last Monday afternoon, during a rain storm, a runaway car jumped the curb, flew up over the hill and crashed straight through the front entrance of the bakery, scattering brick, mortar and glass, and coming to rest beside the holiday cupcakes and the gingerbread men. Any other day, this would have been an unspeakable tragedy, for any other day the bakery would have been packed with children on their way home from school, lined up for a treat before heading home. But it was Monday, and the bakery is closed on Mondays. No one, not even the unfortunate fellow behind the wheel of the car, had so much as a scratch. One more mystery to be grateful for in this strange and wonderful life.
The randomness of events is often a hard thing to swallow. So many what ifs and if onlys. On that awful September 11th, many years ago - though it seems only yesterday - I remember thinking a lot about those who were supposed to be in those dreadful towers, or on those horrid planes, but for one reason or another, were not. How would you ever make sense of that one? Then there was my friend who was hit by a taxi on the very first hour of her very first visit to London. Like so many Americans are prone to do, she looked the wrong way before stepping into the street. The timing had to be perfect for her to be hit, and it obviously was. She spent a week in a London hospital, then flew home to bedrest. Not exactly the trip she had planned. You hear of people who have won the lottery several times over. I know someone who’s been struck by lightning three times. Three times! Frankly, it doesn’t take much imagination to realize that no matter how carefully we plan our lives, so much is simply out of our control.
Not too long after that dark September of 2001, I was in a local restaurant waiting for a table when a rather well-known designer sat down beside me. Although we had both served on a design panel or two in the past, we didn’t know each other well, so our conversation was fairly trivial. At some point I happened to mention that The Songwriter and I would soon be heading off on one of our trips to Scotland. She looked appalled and informed me that she didn’t intend to travel outside the country until “all this terrorism business is over”. Through the ensuing years I’ve often wondered if she is still waiting at home, her faded travel brochures gathering dust as she keeps an eye glued to the news. No, we can never predict what’s coming round the corner. Our lives intersect in the strangest of ways. Sometimes we step off the curb and the taxi swerves to miss us. Sometimes it doesn’t. Sometimes the car runs headlong into the bakery on a rainy afternoon, and no one is there.
I have found that there exists a soft, shady spot smack in the middle of Mystery and Faith and that’s where I choose to spend most of my days. Singer Iris Dement says it best when she sings,
“I believe in love and I live my life accordingly.
But I choose to let the mystery be.”
And sometimes, this poem by Robert Bly makes perfect sense to me.
People Like Us
There are more like us. All over the world
There are confused people, who can't remember
The name of their dog when they wake up, and
Who love God but can't remember where
He was when they went to sleep. It's
All right. The world cleanses itself this way.
A wrong number occurs to you in the middle
Of the night, you dial it, it rings just in time
To save the house. And the second-story man
Gets the wrong address, where the insomniac lives,
And he's lonely, and they talk, and the thief
Goes back to college. Even in graduate school,
You can wander into the wrong classroom,
And hear great poems lovingly spoken
By the wrong professor. And you find your soul
And greatness has a defender, and even in death
by Robert Bly