Oh, the things people throw away! Perfectly good items – especially in well-heeled neighborhoods. It’s no wonder we stop, poke around on Trash Day, and make off with a treasure – or at least something with its fair share of remaining utility.
It’s another rainy morning and I chose a meandering path through a beautiful neighborhood, hoping to avoid the worst of the traffic (and garbage trucks) after early errands. I was enjoying the leaves in all their colorful glory, slowing as I moved over speed bumps, and content with the contrast of prideful foliage and November rain.
And then I saw him.
He was hard to miss – a big guy in a black pith helmet and dark jacket, his motorcycle parked just next to him. He was lifting a huge object out of a trash can.
I slowed even more and watched through the windshield wipers. The object appeared to be a mirror – a Federal mirror, in good condition. It had to be four feet tall, and the man was struggling, trying to lay it or stand it on his motorcycle so he could cart it off. It was a fascinating scene, and I admit, a lovely mirror which I can only assume was not a period piece, because even the rich don’t toss out 200-year old objects when they tire of them.
Don’t judge a book by its cover (or its helmet)
What amused me was that this man was unfazed by the rain and determined to get that thing onto his bike, which reminded me first off – never judge a book by its cover (or its helmet and Harley), and secondly – some gifts in life are free. Even if they come with a struggle.
More to my merriment, one house down (after all, I couldn’t remain there, staring), I saw another source of delight. A sign on the edge of the property that read “Free dirt.”
Free dirt? Are you kidding? (Really. You can’t make this stuff up.)
At first I laughed out loud, and took my time waiting for the merge back onto a busy street. Free dirt. Apparently available at the mansion nearest you. And then I thought: Well, isn’t all dirt free? Or shouldn’t it be?
Does everything have its price?
As I made my way home I realized, of course, that the answer to my first question is no, and my second – yes and no. I’ve purchased dirt over the years – potting soil to be specific. And I suppose, theoretically, if you live in an urban environment where dirt is scarce, it’s a matter of basic supply and demand. If you need it and don’t have it, and the other guy has it and will sell it – it comes with a price. Of course in the rain, it’s free mud (or costly mud) – which led me to think of the sort of dirt (and mud-throwing) that seems free – ill will and bad words – and even that, eventually, comes with a price.
You know. The sixties. Beads around our necks. Flower power stickers. Peace symbols painted on our VW mini-vans. The days of Woodstock and tie-dye and Bob and Carol and Ted and Alice. Like I said, free love. Permission to give away what some paid for – with wedding rings or dollars, or other exchange of services. Ideally, an exchange of hearts is involved, but even that is debatable. Doesn’t everything have a price? Can’t love be bought?
The best things in life…
You know the expression – “the best things in life are free.” It sounds good, but is there any truth in it?
Aren’t there strings attached to most of our endeavors, as well as our emotions? Aren’t all human relationships an exchange of services, a transactional exchange? Is it just a matter of pay now or pay later? Do any of us love freely, or live freely – unless we do so in utter disregard of others and then, is that really a life that we want?
I thought about what it means to love freely. We love our children freely – and fiercely. (And pay the price, willingly.) When we fall in love we often do so tethered to our passions and feel anything but free. When love is a mutual exchange, the ties that bind are ties we want, ties we choose, given freely, but ties nonetheless.
And then there are signs. All sorts of signs. And free dirt. And those determined to make it work when they stumble on treasure, because treasure is rare, and free treasure – even more so.
As for free love – an offering of the body is not an offering of the heart; an exchange of bodies is not an exchange of hearts. It is sex, and sex isn’t lovemaking. Now free love may be a misnomer in any context; when love is scarce it doesn’t come freely. Of course, when it’s plentiful, it doesn’t come freely either. So where does that leave us?
For myself, I’m pondering signs. And wondering how Motorcycle Man managed the mirror.
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