Anything Will Do
It was one of those long hot afternoons Melbourne gives you as a blessing. I had been everywhere in my mind and feelings having had the house to myself all day. Strange the things you can find in your mind if you climb right into it. That very day I had realised my ability to sink back into the depths of my mind had probably been one of the gifts from emerging prematurely from the womb. The womb, after all, was where I had been at one with everything. It was the place I felt at home. And coming out too early to breathe easily hadn’t aroused much of a desire to explore the world I arrived in. Much better to keep diving back in, where it was safe.
No matter, I was out now, and seeing the flowers my wife had arranged in my work area were dead, I decided to walk out with the dog to the empty creek and collect some dry grasses. Maybe I could make a half decent arrangement.
The sun was just beginning to lose its belting heat, and it was good to be out. There were plenty of different types of grass, so I soon had a handful. At that point a man stopped on the nearby path and watched me for a while. He didn’t seem in a hurry. “What are you doing?” He asked.
I told him I wanted to see if I could make an arrangement in a vase. He smiled and said, “I guess anything will do.”
I felt sure I knew what he meant. He was an old man, and was talking to me as a companion in his years. So I understood him to be saying that when your role as a parent or breadwinner has gone, you have to do something to occupy you, and almost anything will do.
I nodded and walked up close to him. He was a wiry, tough looking Australian, but looked beaten about by illness, his facial skin broken and peeling, and his hands too. He didn’t seem to mind me looking at him though, and told me he’d had two heart bypass operations within the last year. He went on to say that he had been walking ever since he retired.
Having been roaming about through my own vulnerabilities, I was very open to feeling something of the situation and his courage. It stirred me looking at his bright eyes and cheeky smile, challenging life to do its worse, but still not break his spirit.
I said to him, “How’re you doing?”
He knew exactly what I meant. How are you doing in the middle of all this? He smiled and said he had so many mechanical parts in him now he would probably go on for ages.
I took his hand and shook it to express my admiration for the spirit that shone through his beaten up old body. Then he walked on and I went home with my handful of grasses, and my memory of an old man’s life worn face.