And even in the dark, I knew I was cutting it too short.
But the late hour and the music from my headphones were mixing forcefully in my head with the words she had spoken so back and forth, back and forth, I cut the grass, leaving the carpeted earth raw and sore, and thoroughly exposed to the ferocity of the next day’s sun.
And there was power in her words, for previous to this night, this neighbor’s life was boasts of Bella her dog toughened by being chained in the snow and Tiger her cat who’d dragged his broken leg behind him until it healed on its own, and I’d avoided her like a voice of imminent darkness, running from her and her pride over images of sad shivering dogs and injured cats. But an innocuous question this evening began the unraveling of her soul, and what started as an unmowed lawn at sunset had manifested into this neighbor’s eyes misty, her voice husky, together weeding my flowerbed, the sharing of her self dissembling her carefully-constructed bravado.
And as steel blade sliced the grass, I rewound and walked with her through my mind–hearing again of no car, no money, a bipolar husband who won’t let her leave but uses grocery money for weed and stashes condoms for dalliances–and knew that at sunset when I’d come out to mow, we’d both been different, but as light faded, she’d let me see who she was and we’d descended into the sacred space of intimacy, my mouth forming the questions I dared not even want the answer to–“But do you still love him/does he love you?”–and her answering–“No”, face collapsing, eyes spilling–standing aside any veneer under the realness of the darkening sky, as if the world was right then living within a poignant vulnerability it could not resist.
Because as she said it–“No”—she dissolved her own dream; and there was no love anymore, no happier moments to soothe the heart of rough times, just $600 of weed replacing food in children’s tummies, Bella the dog going hungry on nights the kids clean their dinner plates; her heart filling itself with days of impossible longing, baring her soul to her neighbors because of the agony of the loss, and cradling broken dreams from within her most tender self until there was nothing else to do but reach out to the world for solace.
And the disintegration of her façade made my heart implode.
And later–weeds pulled, soil under fingernails, living the truth of a dirty life–I sheared Nature as I softly cried, replaying a singular song as I mowed the long, thick green so short that it could not now avoid being scorched by Mother Nature’s sun, playing out the life of this woman as Elton lowed to me his sweet song about young days of dreams and hopes.
But standing in the cool of the darkened planet, I felt a shift. For as day goes to night, such is the way of everything, and as I smelled the shaved earth, I remembered that burned forests are actually the best fertilizer for new life.
And in a single second, the words of this grieving woman became the music of a human soul, her vulnerability beckoning me closer, inviting me to love her, to nurture her fragile dreamer and inhale the softness of herself. And it was a magical act of grace that from within the power of her own sadness, she could let me know her, for in so doing she had heeded the call of cherishing her own self.
And under the dark of the summer sky, the world sang to me lyrics of nostalgic counterpoint, and the tears falling down my face christened the night, and changed me. And from within my own private emotional world, headphones still in ears, I replayed the evening, now hearing the whispers of it’s cleansing beauty.
For there are nights of heartbreak, feeling trapped within a life we don’t want, our misery perplexing and hardening, feeling distracted by our thoughts into the clipping of a scorched lawn.
And there are nights that are the end of a summer’s day, where we slip out of the room of our own experience to step back into the dream of ourselves, listening to Elton extol the universality of our bittersweet journeys while we wait for the deadness of the brown grass to once-again turn green.