Years ago, when Madison and I first arrived in Charlotte we were pretty poor. I started work as soon as I could as a teaching assistant at a Montessori school in Ballentyne and we found a tiny appartment on 8th street and we began a difficult and wonderful new life.
Did I mention we were pretty poor? Because that is how I came to be thinking of this place we used to go. Working at a school had it’s perks. It meant that I was able to be the main care-taker of my own child during holidays and summers, and it meant that I needed to find lots of things for us to do without a lot of money. Over the first few years of living in Charlotte, we found odd spots that we loved. Veterans Park with the sprinklers we loved where we would bike and spend the hottest summer days; Reedy Creek Park and walking out to the old remains of the stone house in the fall, Public libraries all over the area and a small yellow house on Seventh Street where we spent many afternoons because it was peaceful, had books, art and so many interesting things to explore.
I can’t remember what the store was called. It was new-agey, contained all manner of religious books from different religious traditions, crystals, hand-carved items from far away places, organic and natural food products, hemp clothing, artwork, insense and the like. The reason I don’t remember the name is I often just called it, “The Witchy Store.” Madison and I went there once a week for a while, generally on Saturdays. The guy who owned the store wore kakhi–with hat, was gray haired, and looked like he was getting ready to leave for the airport to go on safarri at around seven that evening (of whatever day we were on). He was perhaps just mildly eccentric.
So here’s what used to happen inside this store. We’d arrive, check out any new items that had come into the store since our last visit, pick some insense if we had a few extra dollars, and Madison would sit down in front of the Hindu art. She had a particular peice that always called to her. A poster of a God and Godess, who’s necks were strung with tiny elephant heads. I know, very odd. But every time we got to the store, after looking around, Madison would sit in front of that poster and count the elephant heads–there were over a hundred. That was what she wanted to do. So I would wait for her. There were lots of heads, so sometimes the counting took a lot of time. While I was waiting, I would usually get a book from the bookshelf and read. I read all sorts of things there; vegan cookbooks, various religious texts, and once this book that began with just one very small, very humble, idea.
I opened the book and read, “What if, instead of trying so hard to change the world, our actual job is to love it.” If you asked me the name of the book, or the author, I wouldn’t be able to tell you. It’s the idea that I remember because it changed how I looked at the world. Not all at once, but over time.
This popped into my head again this morning, about loving the world just as it is, with flaws and problems and beauty and sweetness. And while I’m at it, loving life–the being born, the living, and the dying all together. On my ride this morning I was thinking this because last night the sky just let loose, and even while I slept I knew how hard it was raining. When I first woke up it was still raining, and then it stopped, and I could feel the room getting lighter. Even before I went out I knew it was going to be a glorious today. When I walked outside with my bike it was wet and drippy, with a sky so startlingly blue. That is how I came to be thinking that thought as I rode through Freedom Park to work, that some days it is really difficult to love the world, but today it is certainly not.
And while I’m at it, what if we’re also supposed to love people just as they are and not ask them to be different from who they are. If you want the truth, I was having trouble doing that yesterday afternoon as the classroom erupted in a little bit of mayhem–just a little. But today has been easier. And most days I look at these little people….and even at myself, and I think about how unique, creative and interesting each person actually is, and I can love them. And I can love myself too. Some days it’s harder, but always, at some point, I remember that phrase that I read in that book in the Witchy Store, by an author who’s name I can’t remember, that made such an impact on me…and moving outward, on my daughter and on the people we’ve come to know and love since we got to Charlotte all those years ago.