Last Sunday brought something somewhere in between the two. Carol and I were taking a walk along Spy Pond on a still-warmish late afternoon. We approached a picnic table where a family was making supper. There was a grill on the ground with sizzling skewers of chicken and vegetable kabobs. "It smells wonderful!" Carol commented to the family. That, perhaps, was the key in the door. Immediately they insisted on us joining them. Would not take no for an answer! We politely pulled in one direction—you're very kind, thanks, but—and they more strongly pulled in the other. The balance shifted to where it seemed insulting to refuse. We stepped inside the circle from passing stranger to welcome guest. Tentatively at first. How long should we stay? A nibble and then thanks? Time and amity did their work. We sat, and we ate together. We talked, introduced. They were a young husband and wife, her parents visiting from India, and her niece, about ten, from Chicago. The couple had last lived in California. They talked about the propensity of many Californians to be super-friendly on first contact, but disappointing on follow-through: We'll make a date! (No call, no email). New Englanders the opposite: initial reserve, but they tend to stick. The subject of writing came up, specifically children's books. We told them about the picture book we had published, the Mexican myth, How Music Came to the World. The young husband insisted that we tell it. I did. He immediately told one in return, an Indian folktale about a master craftsman who bragged he could best Yama, or Death, and when Yama came for him and found hundreds of perfect life-size effigies of the artisan, he almost left in confusion, but remarked, "No man could have made these. This must be the work of a god!" Whereupon the artisan blurted proudly, "Not at all, it is my work!" Hubris will get you every time. Then the niece chimed in with her retelling of Demeter, Hades, and Persephone. Storytelling takes you deeper inside the circle. We were something pretty close to friends now. Certainly neighbors; they lived only a few blocks away. We exchanged contact information, and the following day we walked over to their house, following through, with a copy of our book for the niece, who was flying back to Chicago the next day.
Be open to manna, our rabbi had said on Rosh Hashana. All well and good, generally speaking, if you believe in such accidental bestowals. But here was manna in the form of chicken kabobs and three ancient myths on a serendipitous Sunday afternoon by Spy Pond in October. Falling like the fortunate snow that wakes the travelers in The Wizard of Oz.
Unusual weather we're having lately, ain't it?