Angels Sighted: Part Three

I managed to get four good rides in this week as I was searching for angels. Riding to work I prefer to avoid the interstates so I often take Highways 53 and 41 up to Dalton. I love the old roads, the blue highways, the aging main thoroughfares for towns before the behemoth, impersonal, concrete monstrosities were built. The old roads have dusty hearts and souls, folks out walking, the occasional tractor, high school football stadiums, roadside dinners, farmers selling fruit and vegetables, old motels resurrected as apartments. The stretches between towns have forests and fields with horses, cows, rickety leaning barns, clapboard houses and shotgun cottages with stacked ricks of firewood, old sofas and Weber grills on the porches. Colors seem brighter, shadows darker, as if they’re being sharpened by the sunlight on the roads and grasses.
On interstates the colors are dull, lifeless, the scenery monotonous. These are industrial strength roads more likely to attract zombies or zombies in training. Besides, no angels are allowed on interstates. They’re prohibited along with pedestrians and non-motorized vehicles. It’s on the signs, for heaven’s sake!
I will confess to being distracted a lot this week. Between marking papers, preparing for classes, trying to get some walks in and editing one of my novels I realized I had bouts where I had sunk back into ‘everydayness’. As we say here in the south, ‘I caught myself’ rushing, getting angry at other drivers and avoiding strangers at times. “Catch yourself on”, an old Ireland expression kept coming to mind to remind me that I was looking for angels. You have to be open, alert and friendly if you’re going to spot them in their various disguises.
One thing I’ve realized is that angels usually show up when someone needs something. An angel in disguise like Elijah might show up in need or we ourselves might need some help. My first angel encounter this week happened when Big Red and I were turning into a shopping center too slowly and we hit a bump and I dropped her. I was fine; thank you for asking. I just hopped off, but Big Red was on her side looking like the beached figurehead from a ship. I was embarrassed, for her and me, and tried to upright her as fast as I could but I was struggling with her 739 pounds (that’s right after she gets out of the shower). A guy came out of nowhere and helped me lift her, then he smiled and took off. It reminded me of how we all want and expect to be the angel, and never the person in need. We all want to be the Good Samaritan and not the wounded man.
Other sighting were scarce. I realized again that if I was hunting for angels I needed to go to where there were people in need. So I headed back to this free meal program again where I knew some folks. I was dressed in my usual off work attire – in torn jeans (fashionable now!) Harley shirt and leather vest. I met a guy outside that was living in his car at a truck stop. We talked awhile. He said he wanted to get one of those motel rooms you could rent for a month. Did I want to split the cost with him? I thanked him but declined the offer. I went inside, said hello to some folks, grabbed a plate of food, sat down and started eating. Some church group had fixed the food. They were happy, generous and friendly, in no way condescending. There was a woman eating across from me that was thanking the coordinator for the food and the take away bags she’d gotten for her and her family. When she got her check, she said, she wanted to come back and cook the meal for everyone at the center. Another woman wanted to get a take-out plate for someone who was back in their tent and too sick to come. There was talk of who was in jail, who had gotten jobs and who was in the hospital. There were jokes and laughter and talking about when they might have their next karaoke night. An older couple were flirting and pampering each other and folks were teasing them about it. I wanted to say to them (the one I knew), jokingly, “Get a room!” when I remembered that they lived in a tent. Sad, poignant but beautiful. Love’s healing glow will angle into any nook or cranny and find us, wherever we are.
I finished my food, thanked the servers from the church and the coordinator and got ready to leave. A server graciously asked me if I wanted some food to take home. I politely declined and thanked her again. I went outside and talked with the smokers for a while. After a spell I said goodbye and took off on Big Red. Along the blue highways I rode the Buddleias, the butterfly bushes,were blooming, the branches shooting bright flowers into the air like bottle rockets. There was the scent of newly mown grass in the air and the fragrance from cut pine trees stacked on chugging timber trucks. I enjoyed the silence and the humming cadence of Big Red’s engine. And I thought about angels.

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