I see trees of green…
Bright blessed days…
Climate chaos. Children dying in windowless warehouses. Cruelty against women. Corruption.
This song played at my wedding as I danced with my grandfather as he sang along–out loud. (He died the very next year. On his birthday.)
The song was sung again last night by a preacher man with a guitar in front of the Meetinghouse where the annual community supper is held in Marlboro on the last Tuesday of June, an event which serves as the opener of the summer season of services still held in the sanctuary upstairs, and includes the rest of us as a fundraiser for the old building upon which we have depended for the preschool and the town meeting luncheon and private functions (weddings and funerals and birthday parties) and especially the brand new community center, housed downstairs.
But I didn’t sing along. And why not? Wasn’t the world around me beautiful? Finally green, and not raining as it had been all day and was predicted to be all evening.
Wasn’t the food wonderful? Baked beans and macaroni & cheese and corn pudding and gorgeous salads. Weren’t there two types of berry crumble—blueberry and raspberry, and didn’t Jean make her coveted, cordialed, chocolate cake?
After supper, the youngest children stood in a line on the stairs out front (like mine once did) to pull the winning tickets for the raffle prizes. Over the years my family has returned home with pottery, calendars, art, wooden trucks, boxes of berries, maple syrup, and even a certificate for a half-cord of wood, and these are just the prizes that I can recall off the top of my head.
What a wonderful world. The small blonde child on the stairs flitted from her grandfather to her father and back to the task at hand: delivering donated prizes to elders and middle-aged ones and parents of small children and even to a teenager or two.
All of this took place in the surround of vibrant green and birdsong and the continuity of a community who connects and cares and creates.
What a wonderful world.
The woman on the bench in front of me, decades older, and in compromised health, sang out loud like my grandfather had. He and I had been a funny couple on the dance floor, with more than a foot between us, and his bald, bony head and mine full of curls looking up at him with my whole life ahead.
The bright blessed day, the dark sacred night
This not being happy, this refusing to sing among all these mostly white people of some means, is the ultimate form of entitlement I suspect–the privilege of choosing to be bitter when everything in my life is practically perfect.
I went to the Community Supper alone because everyone is gone this week from home, and I could have just as easily stayed put, and I wanted to, but then the sun came out just an hour before the event, and I took that as a sign, especially since I had a refrigerator full of food from the graduation party, and I was in the mood for a good dessert and a prize.
It’s been hard this week home alone. I’ve had to lug the trash to the bottom of the road and drag the empty can back up again. I’ve had to take out the compost and wash the pots and pans and carry the watering can to each of the new flowering trees. I’ve had to do all of this along with my own chores, while each day I face my book which flings me into despair for fear I’m not up to the task of completing it, while I could be in a fun-filled city beside a big body of water with my family, and didn’t I bring this on myself, and isn’t it the epitome of privilege to wrestle with that which is of my own choosing.
I wonder if I’d been happier last night if I’d won. For twenty years I’ve been wanting to win breakfast for two at the inn. It occurred to me last June or maybe the one before that I could just call Jean to see if I could come in for breakfast even though I’m not a guest, but I never remember to do that. I just keep waiting on winning. Like I’ve been waiting on happiness and joy. Until everything–for everyone–is just so. What a waste of time.