In Her Pocket
Here's how it all began.
Two guys were sitting in the bus stop at northbound Rainier and Edmunds, drinking and talking. I remember noting that with surprise when I first started driving on Rainier: Out here, people hang out in bus stops. I pulled up with my 7, and the guys became animated. "Look, it's Nathan's bus! Let's get on!"
I didn't know they'd said that. All I saw were two animated friends stumbling aboard. But unbeknownst to me, a woman had walked by on the sidewalk at the exact moment they'd spoke. She didn't need the bus, but took note of the fact that these two had decided to ride a bus for no other reason than that this driver was driving it.
Months would go by. The aforementioned pedestrian, a distinguished author and professor of English at PLU, would find herself at the MOHAI gift shop in early 2019. Intrigued by the cover, she picked up my book and would later read it in the spring of that year. She would realize the author was the same person as that bus driver from before.
Wendy Call is her name, and after reading it invited me to participate as an author in PLU's Visiting Writer Series, a day of events wherein I taught class, got interviewed by the campus literary journal, spoke to a group about life as an artist and the creative process, dined with faculty, and read to another group from my book and blog, with further discussion and Q&A.
It was one of the best days and biggest honors I can recall, and the highlight of this best day was the scattered conversation held between myself and the students who attended the day's final event, the reading.
Most of the crowd had left, but those who wanted to stay stayed, and after the talk was given and the books signed, we joined each other as the equals we were, unorganized clusters of enthusiasm here and there in the big, now-emptying hall. We rushed to the other end of the room to get a picture together; I scurried to and fro, packing up my camera gear while listening and talking, earnest handshakes as the day finally slowed down, and I could register the beauty of what these folks had to share, their kind words and desire to live in the goodness we had together made. It was the afterglow, my reeling thrill at having made it through all the events, and apparently capably enough. My excitement and gratitude mirrored their own, as we together rose on the altruistic high of a joy only we could cocreate, that of giving and receiving love, and genuine appreciation.
The highlight of this highlight was going over film photography prints with a remarkable student, the sort whose questions and aptitude remind you that it's okay to believe in magic, that what comes next can be brighter and richer than even what came before. Mathilde had the Glow. We looked at her first contact sheet and talked about contrast levels and depth in the frame, but really we were just sharing joy, riding the epicenter of a wave built by everyone in the room. They made the day possible, most especially Wendy Call, the professor with a sharp eye for life.
Mathilde and I were able to close the evening out as we did because of this moment: Two guys at a bus stop who'd said, "Look, it's Nathan's bus! Let's get on!"
That and a passersby with an observant eye, who noticed and put it in her pocket for later.
That's the alchemy of the universe, just the tiniest glimpse of how it all works, and I am left with no other conclusion than that with enough reflection and hindsight, it is an alchemy I could only describe as entirely, unimaginably, and incomprehensibly beautiful.
Above photo by Wendy Call. Some of the various PLU events were filmed; I'll post them here in time!
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