Monday, July 5, 2010


As firecracker bangs rattled in the distance, I reminisced about last year's 4th of July fireworks' display in Sonoma. I went off on my own to the field where the city set off its show. After a few starts I settled on a spot I thought would be secure after the evening turned dark. Sonoma, particularly that section with few lights, could get inky black. I watched how families rolled in, spreading blankets out. More of a rough crowd gathered nearby. (Rough in expletive language, what was in their souls I didn't know). I tucked my knees under in meditation stance to ward off the profanities, blocking the negative expressions around me...

As darkness weighed down, I looked around the field wondering if I had made the right decision to sit where I was when a woman, if I had to guess her age 60ish, asked if I was alone. I admitted I was and she asked if I wouldn’t mind if she joined me. I didn't and she sat down similarly crossing her legs. We began the usual getting acquitted chit-chat. We talked about why we both ended up there on our own. I told her I was fairly new to Sonoma. She told me she could have gone to her relatives that day as per usual but she wasn’t up to it that year. She explained that recently she'd been diagnosed with a brain tumor. My immediate response to hearing her diagnosis was simply, “That sucks." I didn’t prevaricate. I didn’t try to make her feel better. I guessed that at her relatives' house she would've had to hear all the usual things people say in that situation. Whatever was pressing on her head, on her experience, imploding or exploding, I didn't tax her to share.

Our discussion turned to politics and where we thought the country was heading. She shared her career history and I shared my career expectations. Finally, the fireworks display started. We watched together and turned to each other after a particularly glorious one exclaiming, ooh, and ah!!

At the end, we parted ways. She wished me good luck. I may have wished her that too. As I walked to my car I saw her near me. She stooped a bit, huddling against the cold night, and wound tight in her thoughts. I fought the urge to walk with her. There are times when we all really need to be alone.

What I took away from my experience was this: In my time of needing company, the universe had sent me this woman to sit next to me. And, in some way, being able to tell me about her tumor, someone who didn't have any expectation of her also helped. There are times when you need someone to acknowledge the truth of your pain so you can in turn accept the truth of your circumstances. I find that once you can accept that truth, you can heal. Can anyone ever heal if their pain is always denied?

I never saw the woman again so I don't know if the explosions in her head were ever freed. I hope that wherever she is, she has peace.


Donna Carrick said...

Simply beautiful, Jen. Simply poignant.

Helen E. said...

Beautiful and profound. It seems that the simplest things sometimes make the biggest difference.

PoeticHeart said...

Wonderful writing. Something special in the placement, small conversation,like a comforting simplicity...a beauty in this.

Jen Pearlman said...

Thank you ladies - for the read, your thoughts, and your kind words. I'm glad others appreciate the profound in the seemingly simple interactions we have :)