A Cardinal in Our Fridge of Friends: On Letting It Be

Denya, imagining what could be.
There's a cardinal in my fridge. He's bright red, plump, stuffed, and grim, sitting in a small Rubbermaid bowl on a nest of paper shreds from my deceased father's bills, waiting for his farm-fresh blue chicken egg to hatch. He's there because at breakfast Lord Fauntleroy, 6, was more interested in hatching the chicken eggs from Plato's Harvest Farm than he was in eating them. 

"I think no one in the world should eat animals anymore!" he announced. Our response was an amused "Well, ok then!" but probably we should have offered an equally cheery idea: "That's ok! You don't have to eat meat, but let everyone else in the world eat whatever they want and don't give it a second thought." Second thought is always flawed, but hindsight is 20/20. As for the hatching egg, in third grade, he'll probably hatch real eggs in school and he'll understand how the whole thing works. For now, though, he gets to imagine what could be. He will figure out for himself what cannot be, but only after believing in the possibility first. I hope he will learn on his own, and then be content to just let some things be. 

Children are one of the things we can let be. I ran into Kristen, an old high school friend, on a walk yesterday morning. We stopped to chat for a moment. Somehow, in just that two-minute interaction, we got talking about careers and the trades. She, like most people my age, had her kids in her twenties and now they are all done with college and working in the real world. Her son is managing a restaurant, after a conflicted experience in college and a few detours. He's doing mostly fine now, though, and she regretted having "micromanaged" him through high school. "It didn't work," she said, "and it didn't matter. I should have let him be."

Denya visited the other day. We sat in the backyard in the sunshine at a safe distance and had lunch together, then shared a few tunes—her on fiddle, me on flute. The next day, she sent a note: "For me, our visit was a 10 on 10. We didn’t spend the whole time, or half of it, judging other people’s choices. Ugh. That is sooo wearying!" I hadn't noticed, but it was true: We didn't talk at all about what everyone else was doing, and we didn't judge each other's actions either. It was so refreshing. We just talked; we let things be. 

We are so lucky when we have friends like Denya. Friends like Denya, without saying a word, present the possibility that you actually could be a friend like Denya: someone who lets people be who they are. It took Denya a lot of work to get there; she will tell you that. But she did it, and she's still doing it. At 74 or so, she's still doing the work of acceptance every day. She always wears a flower in her ear. It is a recognition of beauty, an emblem of deep gratitude and abiding joy, no matter whether she's happy, sad, angry, or frustrated in any given passing moment. A flower lets things be.

Denya is a bright cardinal in a flock of squawk. She sits on that pale blue egg, patiently working and waiting... because she believes in maybe. She imagines and works toward what could be and she accepts what cannot. She keeps hoping and she also lets some things be. 

May we all be a little more like Denya.