Mule and Plow

We are just walking each other home.

Ram Dass

While living out the Era of Whippersnapper, I had a reoccurring dream starring mate D and my idealistic-self manning a roadside vegetable stand. At the conclusion of the steamy work day, we cooked a feast and invited neighbors and passersby to partake in the picnic-tabled side yard where sunflowers were in the business of waving their seed savers faces.

Though it’s now clear that this was not prophecy, it did foretell the way we’ve worked our story with me stirring the pot and D holding down the personal service element of things. Chapter by chapter we worked as a team most of the time. Much of our harmony still relies on our appreciation of each other’s point of view.

He considers my technicolor outlook with commentary such as “I like your ideas.” And I actually require his steadfast color blindness (for real) as he maintains a supernatural ability to strike at the heart of what is authentic and what really matters.

Through the twist and turns of small town living we’ve secured our partnership by way of similar takes on passing time. Simpatico friends: family hang-outs, consummation of books and movies, community, generous ideas, public school, good service, New Yorker cartoons, simplicity, mini adventures, gin and tonics, ole timely yards, well styled clothing and an eclectic legacy of wackadoodle dogs.

We also thrive together living close to the epicenter of live concerts and though we are fans of a multitude of sounds, in-person productions are rarities because we share in an almost sacred decision as to whether an artist and venue can support our expectations for a memory beyond popular music ‘o the day.

Leonard Cohen, Mandi Patinkin, Carlos Santana and Buddy Guy come to mind but more to the point the ethereal Nanci Griffith who flew away last week and sounded our reciprocal slant on musical pilgrimages. In praise of her art we recalled the fall of 2005 when we purchased 4 tickets to attend the object of our affection and the Blue Moon Orchestra’s concert to benefit All for the Hall, a fundraiser for the Country Music Hall of Fame and Museum. We invited our almost independent daughters to go with us.

How could the girls know that one of our most intimate acts in years past was singing Nanci Griffith’s poetry, specifically Trouble in the Fields, at the top of our lungs while traversing certain highways in support of their ever shifting visions of the future.

Griffith’s music was the inspiration and steady backdrop for those nail biting, hard working years. That’s because her lyrics confirmed the definition that Dalton is the mule and I am the plow, a fair and weird-ish take on going the distance in marriage.

Not long ago I received a gift from my cousin – might as well have been a zillion dollars worth of therapy; it was a CD of home movies flashing snippets of my Yazoo City generated family. With hanky and merlot in hand I screened vignettes of younger versions in my genetic pool, each frame bleeding into the next.

Delightfully not one segment was staged. The moving pictures of well-dressed children and adults, indoors and out, exposed unintentional revelations about what was to come.

At the close of the film a frame caught up to my grandparents somewhere in the 1950s. By that time they had taken monumental chances, lost their stake, trekked into multiple new communities and were not always included, sent a son to war, worked the heartbreak of their professions, grieved the earthly loss of friends to the Spanish Flu and subsequently siblings and parents, withstood the unpopularity of standing for the Mississippi underdog and yet there was more scary stuff to come.

Still documented right there in the movie they were leaning into each other on the steps of The Fairmont Hotel in San Francisco. Dressed in hats and suits for a day in the city, they were sharing animated and indefatigable belly laughs.

Somehow that vision of them loving their lives and each other, younger than we are today, reassured my plow to D’s mule, a solid promise come harvest time.