Thursday, April 30, 2009

And let us not forget the magic in giving....
another beautiful piece by Mark Nepo.


Once the doctors broke their huddle, 
her uncle leaned in, “What would you like?” 
The little girl beamed, “A white piano!” 
It took him three weeks but he had 
one waiting in her room. She played 
it every day like the medicine it was.

And the guitar player stopping for water 
on his way through Virginia, hearing the 
gas station owner on the phone, “I got no 
choice. I gotta put ’em down.” The young 
man keeps telling everyone, “I don’t know 
why, but I had to take them.” Now the 
old dog and three pups live in his car.

And the old nurse who dreams of her 
grandma sitting in the backseat on long 
trips warming her hands. And this one,
in awe of her sister who after ten years of 
meditating gave it up to care for orphans. 
Not ’cause she was done with it, but ’cause 
what she found there was now everywhere.

And the speech therapist who when sad
opens the memory of her grandfather like 
a thin napkin holding a pressed flower. A 
country doctor, he took chickens instead of 
money. She was thirteen when he died. A 
week after the funeral, her father and uncle 
were going through his things. In a burst of
anger, her uncle dumped his books in the 
field by the burning barrel and dragged the 
bookcase home. It began to rain and the 
books, like broken doves, softened and 
enlarged. She took the older ones and 
keeps them close. She opens them
when it rains and he talks to her.

And how about the son of a heroin addict 
who serves soup in a shelter? Since the givers 
seldom know what they give, it’s the pour of 
the ladle that ties us all together. Now you tell 
me of your old aunt who lives on an island 
off the coast. Going blind, she’s tying ropes 
from house to tree to water bucket; 
feeling her way through all that 
is familiar and strangely liking it.
--Mark Nepo

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

The Courage to See with Fresh Innocent Eyes
I like to think that each of us sees through a prism, a prism much like the crystal one that makes rainbows on my walls every morning. Most of us forget that our prism can be turned, that we can see through a different facet of it at any time. Most of us don't ever touch it. We think it wont matter which way we move it, that it will always reflect light the same way. It's the few that dare to reach up and turn their prism, those that dare to see things in fresh, innocent ways, that find magic sprinkled throughout their lives. The magic is always out there, you just have to have the courage to turn your prism to see it. 

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

 Part Five

            Benji thought. He thought and he thought and he thought. Then one day he knew what he would do. There was a man on the hill. He was a very wealthy man. He would go to him. Benji put his guitar on his back and started the long climb up the mountain.

When he reached the estate, he walked across the tiny gravel on the drive hearing it crunch under his shoes. The heavy oak door in front of him mysteriously creaked open.

“Come in,” said the butler. “I saw you walking up the hill. Master and I and have been waiting for you.”

He walked up the meandering staircase, his feet padded by the plush red carpet. He looked up and saw a huge glass chandelier. On the walls he saw paintings the size of Rosa’s family home. His heart started to beat faster. He had never been in such a grand house before. He was frightened.

“What can I do for you, Son?” said a white haired man behind a big desk.

Benji took a deep breath. “I came to see if you would be interested in buying my guitar.”

“Your guitar? Now why would I want to buy your guitar?”

“It’s a beautiful guitar, not another one like it in the whole wide world. My grandfather gave it to me. Its surely an antique.” Benji knew rich people liked to have antiques.

“Why are you selling it if it is so precious to you, Son?” asked the white haired man.

“I have found love and her name is Rosa. I want to marry her and take her back to the United States with me but I don’t have enough money.”

“Fair enough. Why not play a little for me so I know it’s as special as you say it is.”

So Benji did. And because he knew it was the last time he would ever play his beloved guitar, he played as he had never played before. The love he felt for his Rosa, for the future they would have together, for the life they would share for years and years to come poured from his elegantly sculpted fingers. He felt a richness inside that he had never felt before, a sense that what he was doing was indeed a gift from the heavens, something he had been put on this earth to do. And when it was all too much to continue, when he felt as if his own heart might burst, he stopped. Slowly, he raised his head.

Benji looked at the white haired man. He had tears streaming down his face and his eyes were sparkling as bright as Rosa’s on that first day the two lovers had met.

“How much do you need to bring your bride home with you to the United States?”

“Three thousand US dollars, Sir.”

The white haired man cleared his throat with a loud grumble and then he said, “I will pay you that much to never sell your guitar, Son. It was made for you as the sun was made for the earth, as the sea was made to quench her thirst and as the wind was made to blow her dry.”

Benji couldn’t speak.

“Promise me though, promise me you will never sell your guitar. Promise me so I can sleep at night.”

            Benji nodded his head. His eyes, just like the white haired man’s, sparkled with tears.

            “Go then, go to your love and tell her what I have told you so that you may always remember this day, never doubting your life’s purpose again.”

            Benji nodded his head as he put his guitar back in its case, tucking the three hundred dollars into a little pocket near the back. He shook the man’s hand and the butler’s hand, too, each their heads bowed in honor and humility.

            “Thank you, “ whispered Benji, his heart now a lump in his throat.

As Benji walked down the gravel drive to tell Rosa the good news, a million things raced through his heart. They could leave tomorrow if they chose and they could even buy an ice cream on the way. ”Rosa would like that,” he said to himself. Benji reached up to feel his guitar on his back when he felt an urge to look up into the sky. Above him way up high was a bird— not big or small, not white or black, or even particularly pretty. In fact, it looked quite unusual. Benji blinked the wetness from his big eyes. The bird was soaring and it was swooping and its wings seemed free and alive in much the same way Benji felt right then himself. That was when he remembered.

“Please, dear Benji, please give the instrument your love and believe you me, it will return your love many-fold.” Benji smiled. His Grandfather was right. The guitar had returned his love many-fold, many-fold indeed. 

Presence of Magic, Indeed!

Monday, April 20, 2009

Part Four

Rosa lived on the far side of town in a little shack with her mother and father and six sisters and brothers. She was the oldest and the most responsible. That’s why she sold the flowers that grew around their house. At least that’s what Benji thought and he was right. He arrived on a Friday, just after lunch.

“Hola! Anyone home?” He gently sang out through the overgrown bushes at the gate.
“Who are you?” said an old man with a hat on. “I don’t know you. Go away.”
“I’m Benji. I have come to marry Rosa. She is the love of my life and I must have her as my wife.”
“Why Rosa, why not Maria or Blanca or Victoria? Rosa is my eldest and she brings the most life into our family. No. You can’t have Rosa. She stays.”
“But I love her.”
“I meant what I said. No.” And he slammed the gate.
Benji sat down wondering what to do when suddenly he knew exactly what to do. He unlatched the case and took out his guitar.
Well, if your imagination is anything like mine, you know darn well that half the village came out to hear Benji play. It was simply magnificent. People were speechless, weeping, covering their mouths and as always, clutching their hearts.
“Who is this man sent to us from the heavens?” they all wondered.
“He is the man that will marry Rosa, my eldest daughter,” said the old man with a hat on.

But that’s not the end of the story.

Benji lived in the United States and Rosa lived in Mexico. The Mexican government wouldn’t let Benji stay much longer since his Visa was about to run out. And to get Rosa a Visa to the United States, well, that was almost impossible. What were they to do?
“I know a man that can help you,” said a friend of Rosa’s, “come with me.”
So they did.

The man was a government official who did sly things on the side. He lived in the United States many years before and knew how to get things done with a little money slipped under the table. But it would cost them, he said, three thousand US dollars, money Benji just didn’t have. Rosa put her head in her hands and cried.
“Don’t cry, my love. I will figure this out,” said Benji. “I will find a way to pay him.”
“But that is just too much, mi amor. It will take me years to make that selling flowers.”

What were they to do?

Sunday, April 19, 2009

Part Three

The more Benji played, the more love he felt pouring from his fingers. He didn’t understand how it was happening, but he was making music. Beautiful, heaven-sent music. Wherever he was, Benji played. And wherever he played, people didn’t just listen, they clutched their hearts. Benjamin Francis Smart had discovered what his most elegantly sculpted fingers were for.

The years went by and Benji finished school. He decided he didn’t want to go on to college so he got a part time job instead. When he wasn’t working he didn’t watch tv or mow the lawn. He didn’t go out to bars or talk on the phone with friends. All Benji wanted to do after work was to play his guitar.

One day when Benji was almost 40, his sister invited him to Mexico for a vacation. Benji had never been on a vacation. Even so, he decided to go. The next day, he packed up a small bag and with his guitar on his back, was on his way.

The first few days in Mexico were almost the same as back home except they were a bit warmer. He worked a little in the house for his sister then he played his guitar. Then he’d work a little more, and play his guitar a little more, too. Benji felt as content as he always did. Then something happened.

There was a ring at the door. Benji went to answer it. “Can I help you?” He said in his broken Spanish. The girl at the door smiled. She held her arms out. They were overflowing with flowers, some Benji had never seen or smelled or even heard of before.
“Do you want to sell me flowers?” he asked.
“Diez pesos,” she said, ‘barato.”
“One second,” he said, running inside to find his money. But Benji needed more than a second. This time it was he who clutched his heart. ”Is it still there?” he said to himself in a whisper. He wasn’t sure where his heart had gone. You see, for the first time in his life, Benji had fallen in love.

Every Thursday Rosa came to deliver flowers and every Thursday after she left he could barely handle the thought of having to wait a whole other week to see her again.
“This is too much for you, Benji,” his sister said. “You better go find her.”
So he did.

Saturday, April 18, 2009

Part Two

Benji hadn’t been to see his grandfather and Luther in a few days. He had just been too busy with homework and chores. So when he came home from school and saw his mama crying and when he heard her eek out ‘Grandfather’ through her tears, he knew something bad had happened. As fast as he could, he ran to his grandfather’s house. Without stopping even once, Benji made it all the way to the front porch in no time at all. The door was open.

“Grandfather? Luther?” But there was only silence. Benji was all alone. He peered around the room. There on the kitchen table was an envelope. It said Benji on the outside. He opened it up and this is what it said:

Dear Benji,
I am going away for a while and I want you to know how much I will miss
you. Things just won't be the same without you and Luther. But don’t you
worry, I will check on you now and again and will do my best to look out
for you no matter where I go. I do have one request of you in return,
however. Will you, Benji, will you please take care of my guitar? It’s in the
hall closet in the black case. I think it has waited its whole life for you.
And perhaps you, too, have waited much of your life for it—you, with the
hands made for creating beauty. Please, dear Benji, please give the
instrument your love and believe you me, it will return your love many-fold.
This, I can promise you.
I love you, Grandson,

From that day forward Benji went nowhere without his guitar. When he took a shower, it sat next to the bathroom sink. When he went to school it sat next to his desk. Even when he ran errands for his mama on his bicycle, the guitar came too, strapped to his back.

Then one day when he was waiting for the bus that would take him to school, Benji strummed a string. He felt a surge of energy rise up from deep within his tummy. “Wow,” he thought to himself, “maybe this is what my grandfather meant. I haven’t ever felt anything quite like that before.” Instead of getting on the bus, Benji turned for the woods. He couldn’t think about school or teachers or math, all he wanted to do was strum those strings. So that is exactly what he did.