A Gift…….A thing given willingly to someone without payment (Oxford English dictionary)
Have you ever been given the gift of a day?
Today was my gift of a day, my precious day, my remarkable day, my unique day.
‘But surely’ you exclaim ‘you should live as though every day is a gift?’
(Here I lower my head ashamedly)Yes, I admit, even though I try my best to follow the Buddhist way and think along those lines, I am only human and sometimes I find it difficult to meditate and to live in the present.
Recently I confessed to my mother that I was trying to be a Buddhist, that I was practising meditation.
She just laughed and said ‘you’ll never manage that, you talk too much, it’s just one of your phases, it will pass’ and she turned my attention to the latest Richard Dawkins book that she was reading.
My mother is a part time atheist.
But my wish to meditate hasn’t passed.
I’m getting better at it and interestingly I do my best meditation when I’m out on the yellow bicycle.
But back to my day.
I might add here that this won’t be the first time I’ve been given one of these days.
The most remarkable one that comes to mind was after my surgery for cancer, when the great man himself brought me up to a room and looked me in the eye
‘Your histology results are back! He said gravely.
Then putting a strong hand on my shoulder continued, ‘basically pet your cured’
There you go!
At the time of my diagnosis I thought I was going to die.
Now I have been told I won’t, at least not from this cancer. If that’s not the gift of days I don’t know what is and after that, at every follow up, when my CT scan would be ‘clear’, I felt I had been given the gift of life, a fresh chance (Though, when I’d ring ‘Tom’ (not his real name) jubilantly to give him my good news, He will always reply ‘Really? that’s wonderful ! But still’ He would pause ‘watch out for those buses and taxi’s as you cycle home’)
But this gift day should have been today because,
Today I was going to work overtime so I would be earning good money for it.
Which I had already spent mentally on new shoes, a trip to the west and other gifts to myself.
Oh you can imagine how disappointed I was when I got a phone call cancelling it.
Therein lies another lesson, don’t count those chickens before they are ready to cross that road.
After sulking for a while and uttering dark murmurings about the unfairness of life and poor me, it struck me, I could do two things!
I could feel victimized OR I could see this day as one of those precious days when every instant of it would be special, a day not to be wasted, a day to be lived to the full.
I already knew its worth in monetary terms now I had the chance to match and even exceed it in real value terms.
I planned to treat each moment with reverence.
So what did I do with it?
Well as one does when there is such value laid on the head of a single day, I panicked and my mind began to jump from pillar to post, will I cycle north( because it went without saying that any day of value includes the yellow bike )will I cycle south , maybe east would be good, but what about the west.
And on I went dithering in this manner for quite some time.
Then I got up and made a coffee.
Not in my old coffee pot, but in my lovely pink one and I lifted down my most colourful cup and when I had made it and poured the white frothy milk over it, I picked up my paint brush and painted a girl on a yellow bike on the froth.
I sipped it slowly and appreciatively and watched my bicycle coffee girl disappear and decided the best way to manage this day was to watch carefully for good things that happened during it and ignore the bad things.
One hour later Washed and dressed I headed off on the yellow bicycle and picking up speed down the hill shot around the corner in the middle of the path…..
Where I met a handsome young man on a racing bicycle also in the middle of the path weaving his way up the hill and as I turned to my left he turned to his right and when he tried to swing the other way I was already making that adjustment so that with loud squealing of brakes we collided gently.
Amazingly I manage to stay upright while he tips over and lies on the grass verge, but instead of being cross he laughs and smiles and apologises and I laugh and smile and apologise and he jumps up with the agility of his years and enquires if I was OK and I think that maybe he was having a gift of a day too, and we wish each other the best and head off on our separate ways.
By now I’ve no idea where the yellow bicycle is taking me, the road begins to rise sharply again and we head along the bicycle path in first gear.
To my left people are lurching down the hill in their tin cans of cars, red faced, packed like sardines without the oil.
While we climb slowly towards to the sky.
To where a pair of buzzards are circling.
They cry encouragement to each other as they wheel in larger and even larger circles, higher and higher until they are just dots in the halo of the sun.
I watch them for a while until I’m almost blind before heading on again.
At the roundabout there is a man in a tiny hut with strawberries painted on the side. Besides selling strawberries he sells potatoes and it is these he is busy weighing and bagging.
He doesn’t bother to pause in his chore and glance at me.
I look into the large sack and putting in my hand, scratch a potato with my fingernail, the clayey skin comes off leaving a pearly white texture underneath.
‘Nice spuds’ I remark.
‘British queens’ He grumbles sticking a price sticker on. ‘picked this morning’
‘I can see that’ I reply. ‘I’ll take a bag’.
He looks at me for the first time, his eyes are as blue as the sky, the black of his pupils like those buzzards I had just watched.
‘oh and a punnet of strawberries’ at last he smiles.
Normally I would pay and go but today I stay and chat for a while.
‘Hows business’? I enquire
‘Some days good, some not so, most people prefer to get their spuds clean and washed from the supermarket. I live on the coast, being thinking I might build a few stables and let the land … to the horsey people ya know’…
I nod and agree that he might make a few bob that way when a large Jeep pulls up and a woman gets out and totters on high heels towards us.
The strawberry man looks as though all his birthdays have come at once…I wave him goodbye and as I pass the woman I smile at her and pop a strawberry into my mouth and making yummy tummy rubbing motion with my hand roll my eyes ….’delicious’ I call to her.
I hope she buys a few punnet’s.
On we go.
At the turn in the corner there is a small white church, almost Grecian in appearance.
It seems my father was the architect who oversaw any renovations to this church but sadly he is dead so I cannot ask him those questions you wished you had had the time to ask but were too busy and imagined you had all the time in the world when really you didn’t.
I go in to light a candle for various reasons but mostly in gratitude for my lovely family.
I am not of any religious persuasion but there is something about going into the cool calm interior of a church and the lighting of a candle and watching your wishes and prayers spiral smokily to the ceiling..
I loved lighting candles in France when I was cycling from the Atlantic to the Mediterranean…whopping great big candles a foot or more high.
Candles that would have no difficulty in burning a church down…I also loved how the care taker would come in at lunch time and announce in a loud disrespectful roar that the church was closing.
By now I know where the yellow bicycle is taking me.
My daughters willow green gates loom up ahead and soon I am wandering through her garden, seeing what has grown since I was last there.
I check the grass, it could do with a mowing.
Once again I become fidgety so I make a pot of tea and force myself to sit on the garden chair, under the parasol.
I take out my notebook to do some writing but my attention is caught by a small honey bee disappearing and reappearing among the thistle flowers .
It comes over to investigate my pen.
It flies off again.
The drone of a small plane flying overhead drowns out the noise of the bee. The bee stops but the plane drones on then is gone out towards the sea.
All is quiet again.
A single feather flutters out of the sky and lands near by.
It is mostly black but one half is iridescent blue.
Almost the blue of a freshly caught mackerel,
Mackerel from the sky?
But I know its a magpies feather.
a charm , a gift,
For my wonderful beautiful gift of a day.