Monday, November 9, 2009

Artful Dodging

Charles Dickens' ARTFUL DODGER

"He was a snub-nosed, flat-browed, common-faced boy enough; and as dirty a
juvenile as one would wish to see; but he had about him all the airs and manners
of a man. He was short of his age: with rather bow-legs, and little, sharp, ugly
eyes. His hat was stuck on the top of his head so lightly, that it threatened to
fall off every moment--and would have done so, very often, if the wearer had not
had a knack of every now and then giving his head a sudden twitch, which brought
it back to its old place again. He wore a man's coat, which reached nearly to
his heels. He had turned the cuffs back, half-way up his arm, to get his hands
out of the sleeves: apparently with the ultimated view of thrusting them into
the pockets of his corduroy trousers; for there he kept them. He was,
altogether, as roystering and swaggering a young gentleman as ever stood four
feet six, or something less, in the bluchers."

My pal and I were having a chat and catch-up yesterday morning. I heard through the grapevine that she had fallen this weekend and couldn't get up. Pete and I worry about her being out there alone, so the news was alarming. I listened to her recount the episode. She was able to get herself back to the house, with no small effort, watched each step of the way by her trusted Jane E. The phone is in the house, and once there she called for help.

"We worry about you S. When is your helper gonna start?"

"In a week or two she'll start coming regular. Three afternoons for a couple hours."

"That is good news."

"Ra told me about your fall, and boy was I glad to hear she is just 8 minutes away!"

"She's an angel."

"She seems to be. I thanked her for the generous offer she left on my cellphone. Maybe during a season when folks aren't burning wood that riverside meadow will be a great option for the Vardo folks plus one."

"Oh yeh, the wood smoke. Got it!"

"How's the city?"

" I'm making adjustments."

"You mean your mask."

"Between the mask and my artful dodging I try to keep ahead or away from the pollution and the chemicals people use on themselves and in their houses."

My friend is well-read. She's read many, many books in her life and now she is living a life that includes the plots from all those books and more. She laughed at the Artful Dodger reference and relished Dickens' mastery for characterization. I looked around at the tiny and colorful interior of the vardo as we chatted. Extraordinary and ordinary. I imagined the scuffed elbows on my friend's body and knew the determined set of her jaw as she pulled herself back home. I noted the size and reasons for my present home. To me, the artful dodging that takes place in an ordinary 24/7 is no less a craft than that of the wiley street boy of Dickens' England. Thousands of Artful Dodgers navigate the streets, cities, corriders pathways and neighbors of Earth today. While we travel the roads and highways more and more of us stand with signs of a once-more crumbling society. Some are more artful than others at navigating the streets. Many more of us will get more practice at Artful Dodging. I read each (or try to) sign held up by folks on street corners. There are variations on the theme, but mainly people are in trouble and they're doing what they can. I'm beyond judging any of them. "Seniors. No Family. Homeless." That could be my sign. I found a couple dollars, rolled down my window and handed the money to the man. He thanked me and passed blessing my way. I returned the blessing.

From the comfort of our friends' basement and computer, I lay the words to the plot of this life. In an odd way Pete, Jots and I are living in a boarding house with characters as bold and real as any Dickens' novel. None of us revenile, our lives are rich with themes similar, familiar. We are old people, and among us we have aging parents older and more frail than ourselves. Willing hearts have opened to us, and there is space for a wheeled wagon. The grace comes from sharing only who we are and what we are, now. God does have a scene of humor it's no wonder ... she must have one to keep loving us when we forget to love one another exactly as we are.

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