A Case of a Yellow Umbrella

I met a new friend this morning.

Two ships that would otherwise pass in the night stopped to chat.  She had a yellow umbrella, which was nice to see on such a dreary day.  So I told her.  We talked, we walked, and the substance of our three-minute friendship was over; she walked up the stairs while I continued along the path.

I often enjoy striking up conversations with strangers as I walk the worn-out path between the parking garage and “real life.”  Too often, we are unwelcome to such conversations, so we shyly move away or feign disinterestedness.  Often we really are just disinterested.  But on the off chance that we find a willing partner to talk with for three minutes, it is as if we have stumbled upon grace.  Unexpected, unwarranted.  But all the more lovely because, in the grand scheme of things, it need not have existed.  But it does.

To break ourselves out of autonomous shells, to let life reach down and breathe upon us, even to let the Spirit hover over the watery chaos that our daily routines disguise—-what wondrous love is this?  And what does it take to make that vulnerability possible?  It is not unlike Shug telling Celie, “I think it pisses God off when you walk by the color purple in a field and don’t notice it;” it is a sin to walk by a yellow umbrella and not notice the person carrying it.  What a shame to be so closed off to wonder, to small moments of sheer joyfulness.

One of my favorite quotations (and despite what you may think, I am not a “quotations” person) comes from Camus.  “In the depth of winter,” he tells me, “I finally learned that within me there lay an invincible summer.”  Hearts continue to beat on these wintry days.  Breath enters and exists (though perhaps not with the humid ease of summertime).

It is worth remembering on dreary days, when it is too easy to steel yourself against the cold, the wet, the uncomfortable, that there is life to be had in the midst of even the most dull circumstances.  We may never meet again, me and this new friend of mine.  But I will remember the bright moment of her conversation.

Is this eternal summer what we recall when we see yellow umbrellas on slushy-gray days like today?

Surely it is more than this.  But surely, it cannot be less.


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