Passionate

PassionateFinding people and events that bring a smile and uplift my soul requires being open to the incidental and unexpected.

The arborist, editor, and tire man did just that. Their presence in my life is not a miracle—I don’t think, though I could be mistaken—but are they incidental gifts, unexpected epiphanies?

Absolutely!

They’re the kind of presents we too frequently overlook, or worse yet, dismiss, at least I do.

Not this time. And, as the holiday season unfolds, I’m grateful that my busyness, and myopic preoccupation with self got derailed by their presence and brought me pleasure, needed hope and joy.

It began on a November morning, Monday the thirteenth to be exact. I’d opened my laptop, and while the screen came to life I took delight in the sun’s rays streaming through the forest beyond my home office window. The day ahead included typical activities: writing, reading, responding to e-mails, exercise, and several appointments in my home office. The atypical events included: the arrival of Gregory, an arborist, to cut down and remove several wind-damaged trees, a detailed reading (dismissively scanned the night before) and response to an e-mail from Roy—an editor and friend—as well as an appointment with Wayne to have all weather tires mounted on my Volvo.

My second cup of coffee, still steaming, was in its place on the desk to my right when I was startled by the unmistakable revving-up growl of a chainsaw.  I put on a hoodie and walked out to greet Gregory and his two assistants. They politely refused my offer of coffee, and after a brief conversation they began their work—Gregory deftly measuring and sawing while the two others hauled cuttings to a wood-chipper, and tossed larger pieces into their truck. Gregory, whom I’d met eleven years ago, has always been efficient and thorough in the jobs he’s done for me, but what I saw on this morning was the joy he puts into and receives from his craft.

He specializes in the care, (love], and maintenance of all species of trees. He employs a chainsaw with the dexterity, grace and precision with which a Sushi chef uses knives—an extension of his deceptively strong arms. In his hands, a stump-cutter glides across the surface the way a Miele vacuum cleaner does on a fine carpet. He respectfully walks among saplings, shrubbery, old and new growth, and does so displaying a reverence for all. I recalled an incident that occurred several years ago. A neighbor, in my presence, once referred to a tree in our yard as a “worthless weed.” Gregory wistfully looked into the branches, touched the trunk of the fifteen-foot perennial plant and politely but firmly replied, “It is a Juniperus Virginiana, a healthy eastern cedar. It will outlive us.”

I returned to my computer and opened Roy’s e-mail which included an attachment, titled RMC Book Collection Notes, a draft of the chapter he’ll contribute to an “edited volume of the history of Christian publishing.” He’s been an editor for over four decades and a book collector for most of that time as well.

Roy and I have known each other for almost twenty years. Though we live on opposite coasts and rarely see each other, we stay in touch online. His love of books may only be rivaled by his love of running, something I once shared with him, but now vicariously enjoy through his journal entries. I downloaded then read the attachment listing some of his collection. Melville, Davies, Kidd, Kierkegaard, MacDonald, Brooks, Murakami, and Sendak are among the authors whose collected works he owns and treasures. The 214 “books on the history of book publishing and writing in the US for the 19th, 20th, and 21st centuries” is his most important collection. He has also collected “a copy of every translation of the Bible in English published in the last 75 years in the US,” including a rare copy of the Lamsa Bible, and a leather-bound Scofield Bible autographed by the scholars on the translating committee.

I reread Roy’s list of collected works twice, marveled at the variety of authors on the list, and then unexpectedly began a third reading, but this time focusing on the “between the lines” love and affection he has for the written word and the books in which they’re printed. His joy was contagious, not just because we share a love for books, but I found pleasure in his joy.

Later, I pulled up the driveway where Wayne, of Wayne’s Tires, greeted me. The constant low whirring of the air compressor would soon give way to the pneumatic impact wrench he skillfully employs to remove and then later re-secure the lug-nuts on the Volvo’s four tire rims. Wayne has been taking care of my car’s tire needs for ten years. He replaces the regular tires with “snows” as winter approaches, and takes them off when winter turns to spring. We chat a bit about business and the weather, occasionally about local politics, and about tires, a subject he knows well, and not just because it’s his vocation—he loves working with them.

This day, and primed by my earlier conversation with Gregory and response to Roy’s e-mail, I asked him why tires and how long he’d been working with them. He said that he’d opened the shop 30 years ago, and not had a moment of regret. He mentioned the importance of being his own boss and employee, an independent work-life that suited him.

“When I do my job well,” he continued, “customers like you feel safe and confident on the road, and that’s important. It’s a simple job,” he said, “but like anything else, doing it well takes more than the simple effort of removing and replacing tires—I like people to feel good when they leave my shop, and the best way to assure that is for me to take pride in doing my job to the best of my ability. I love doing tires, and I hope that shows in my work.

“It does,” I replied.

Three men in different vocations, who exhibit both pride and joy in their work, is refreshing. All too often people work for money and little else. Though I’ve cut down trees, embraced books, and replaced tires, their respective love and attachment to those occupations has passion my efforts didn’t. I often take for granted my own passion for the practice of psychotherapy because it’s what I do. Gregory, Roy and Wayne reconnected me with what I can easily take for granted—the joy and pleasure in committing to the work of something for which you have passion. When I keep myself open to a world that can frequently be perceived as routine I may be visited by the incidental gift and the unexpected epiphany.

Passionate

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14 Comments

  1. Alan

    Having joy in what we do is a tremendous blessing. Taking time to recognize others who do blesses them.
    Thanks for the reminder to pay attention to others and also to appreciate it when we have the opportunity for experiencing joy in our vocations and avocations

    Reply
    1. yourrel4 (Post author)

      Alan,
      Thank you for adding to the discussion: paying attention, recognizing, appreciating, and experiencing joy of and for others, and ourselves in the process.
      Roger

      Reply
  2. JoAnne Kurman

    How many times do people say how lucky you are for loving what you do for a living, Roger? It’s a really big deal, to devote your life to what you love doing. Truly a labor of love.

    Reply
    1. yourrel4 (Post author)

      Jo Anne,
      Two of the best jobs I had while in college and grad school were driving a delivery truck for Coca-Cola, and lugging sides of beef and unloading freight cars of meat for Armour Meat Company. The men who did that full time worked hard, and the ones who passionately invested themselves in being the best butchers, luggers, and drivers had the most pleasure and joy while performing tough and dirty work. Those for whom it was just a paycheck were unhappy. I know you feel “lucky you are loving what you do for a living.” And, yes, it is a big deal!
      Thanks for reading and commenting, Jo Anne.
      Roger

      Reply
  3. Roy M Carlisle

    Hey Roger, you articulated what I cannot often express. And now I have learned something about myself that I was only dimly aware of before. I used to say to people that, “I don’t publish books/manuscripts, I publish people.” That is absolutely true but now I know that I love books, I adore them, and I cherish them. When I was growing up my parents always chided me for saying I “loved” something that was inanimate. Only people can be loved they would say. Wrong. Books really can elicit feelings of affection, feelings of joy, feelings of companionship, feelings of discovery, and it all adds up to love. My partner, Dr. Lorie, is now beginning to understand that I really do love my books and that is why they surround me and my desk, at home and at my office. Her deeper understanding of that makes her a more compassionate partner. And that makes me glad. She is looking for something she can love, and I am hoping we can find that for her, besides people, of course. Thanks again for your words!

    Reply
    1. yourrel4 (Post author)

      Roy,
      Thanks to you I have a copy of Robertson Davies’ High Spirits: A Collection of Ghost Stories sitting on my desk–I’m excited. Perhaps there’ll be more of his works on my shelf in the future. The phrase “I don’t publish books/manuscripts, I publish people” got my attention–intimate, and a reflection of your passion that extends to the writer and not just the words she or he writes. Books are inanimate but the stories they contain and the author who crafted them are animate. Thank you for helping me see this.
      Roger

      Reply
  4. Colette

    Ah, yes, it is good to be aware of and open to the perspective and passion of others with whom we cross paths in our lives. Seeing, appreciating, respecting, and acknowledging what they do, and sharing conversations with them is rewarding, helping us to feel the pleasure and joys of others, and reminding us of our own. Your writing about this has triggered a question for me, however, which keeps haunting me in these bizarre times in our country, in our world. How can I/we be open to those others, whom I cannot understand, who voted for and still support , a man who spews hateful rhetoric, ansd wants to build a wall to keep out others from our homeland, built by immigrants who entered under the tourch and promise of Lady Liberty? I do not know how to understand and be open the rage and rancor of those others. I am praying, with all my heart, the first essential prayer recommended by Anne LaMott, HELP! As always, sharing your thoughts and feelings in your writings, evokes a spectrum of thoughts and feelings in your readers. Thank you, and write on, mon ami!

    Reply
    1. yourrel4 (Post author)

      Colette,
      Anne Lamott is a great start, and finish! Those with whom we disagree are often the most difficult to be open with, let alone embrace. No simple answer unless Solomon is listening, and if so please speak! I appreciate that you raise a perplexing question, and maybe the answer can be found in pushing and forcing ourselves to live fully and consistently, gnashing of teeth included, into being open to the other regardless of their beliefs and our rejection of them.
      Roger

      Reply
  5. Bill Lane Doulos

    Yes, as usual Roger your writing strikes a responsive chord in me. Passion is important in my work and my relationships. Your three examples inspire me to rekindle my passion. When my passion for my work diminishes, I lose an important gift that God gives to me. I am inspired to be more passionate in my relationships, which I so often take for granted. I like to say I jump out of bed each morning for the adventure that each day brings. But I quit “jumping” several years back. The point is that when I am at my best I yearn for what each day offers: a new friend, perhaps; a deeper satisfaction to my curiosity about life and about people; a more unique way of expressing my love for God’s universe; a new approach to a new challenge in caring for the addicted. In fact I am meeting with a psychologist friend of mine late this afternoon, and with her client who is unknown to me. He or she has an addiction issue, and since I work in this field and am 12 years sober myself, maybe I can offer some insight. I am not so eager to help this unknown person as I am to know a new person and glean from them some insights. I can’t wait! Maybe instead of just sharing some information, I can enter a mutual exchange of spirit with this new person. Maybe I can appreciate him or her like Roy Carlisle loves his books and like your arborist friend Gregory communed with the spirit of that Juniperus Virginiana. I hope the passion never flows out of my experiences and explorations. Thank you for stoking these embers of passion Roger.

    Reply
    1. yourrel4 (Post author)

      Bill,
      The embers are stoked, Bill, whether you jump or drag yourself out of bed in the morning! I wish you well in this meeting, but in the wishing feel certain you’ll find insights and new information in which “a mutual exchange of spirit will occur. The more I remind myself that the unexpected is present (more than I imagine), the more consistently I take in the “gift” of it. Congratulations on twelve years of sobriety, and an ongoing openness to what God and the Universe have in store for you!
      Roger

      Reply
  6. drlou

    I had a similar experience last year when I served on a jury during a civil trial involving a construction project. “How will I stay awake during the lengthy testimony about steel beams and pipes and cranes and concrete?” I thought. But I was surprised to find myself enjoying (can this really be the right word?) the people who carefully and enthusiastically explained to the jury the details of their craft. In particular, I enjoyed the “concrete guy” with his sun-burned, weather-beaten, wizened face as he thoroughly, richly, passionately taught us about pouring concrete. One almost could say that he “loved” all things concrete. Pouring concrete was never a topic that came up in my Christian liberal arts college education. So I now find myself looking at the sidewalks that provide me safe passage on my neighborhood walks, and notice the details of their substance, remembering him and enjoying that I can pay attention in a new way. Memory and imagination combine to form a deeper sense of empathy for the “Other,” among whom this man was in my experience, and I am grateful that he was such a good teacher.

    So I resonate with this post! And I also want to point out, that people share their passions with us when we are curious and ask about them, which, of course, you did.

    Reply
    1. yourrel4 (Post author)

      Dr Lou,
      Thanks for writing about your experience on a jury. The phrase “loved all things concrete” along with “looking at sidewalks that provide me safe passage…and notice the details of their substance…memory and imagination combine to form a deeper sense of the other…” States the point well–you had a fine teacher, and he a receptive student in a most interesting “classroom.”
      Roger

      Reply
  7. Gary

    Great job Doc it is a great reminder that all of us should take time to appreciate what others do and how much they love what they do. Also that our selves should remember what we love and continue to find ways to do it. Gary

    Reply
    1. yourrel4 (Post author)

      Gary,
      Thanks for taking the time to read an comment–much appreciated. Your phrase, “take time to appreciate what others do and how much they love what they do,” is true. There have been too many times when I don’t ask or take in the “other,” who they are and “how much they love what they do.” I hope no longer.
      Thanks for this, my friend.
      Roger

      Reply

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