The Flower Lady
There is an art to life, and central to it is seeing outside of our chattering mind. It’s one thing to meditate, simplify, and reduce, but to do so in the catastrophe of living is quite an other matter. There is truly a gift to going inside the chaos and there is no better way of doing it than human connection.
It has always astounded me how chilled and selfish is much of the interaction between those served and the servers. The checker at the market, the bag boy, the woman at the teller, the leaf blower, the tired crabby old seniors in line at the pharmacy and so it goes. I suppose our painful isolation in the storm is protective instinct, but it does create a callous barrier between us and the wonders of life that do continue to appear if we are wakeful.
I am thinking of the flower lady, now. Her name was Sherri Greenlee. Once or twice a week we go to the local Safeway to shop for groceries. It is a huge box store, teeming with busy mothers, shopping carts, snail slow seniors, the after-school kids enriching the in-house Starbucks and waves of noisy commotion. In that atmosphere hardworking, hard pressed staff accommodate everything and everybody imaginable, dealing with carpel tunnel or standing on their aching feet for hours and hours. Many accept the assault of complaints, whining, rudeness and incivility as part of the job. Damn, can you imagine how that feels, day after day, week after week, month after month?
Sometimes spirituality is as simple as connecting, communicating and listening. I have learned much from my partner in this art of connecting. Tending toward over intellectualization, hermetic withdrawal and an old man’s crabby impatience I am constantly stopped in wonder by my partner’s gift of connection. In all the places we have ever lived over the past twenty years he manages with a bodhisattva’s grace to ‘know’ those around him by listening, asking the right questions and affirming the spirit unfolding. His is a Zorba’s passion for the moment.
He knows about the counter lady’s nasty husband, her son’s jail time for pot and her mother-in law’s Alzheimer’s, about the two jobs she undertakes because her daughter is in nursing school. The baking lady is a minister’s wife, who spent years in Asia as a missionary and volunteers at a local food bank. The vegetable man is newly married and jokes a lot. The checkout lady has a four year old son, who is fixated with the word ‘No.’ and came up with the word ’Fuck’ recently, so the ex-husband is supervised now. And so it goes, this rich stew of human life and that which connects us all—our raw joyful and painful humanity.
Sherri Greenlee was one such connection. She was the manager of the floral station at Safeway—-a large and complex operation that involved non-stop hard work and work that demanded a creative eye for beauty. Sherri also did the outside holiday displays that dazzled the consumer’s eye. She was the first to be encountered entering the store and the last, from our exit.
Sherri was a little over five feet, or so it seemed to me, with beautiful red/gold hair and pale flawless skin. She was the mother of three and a grandmother, who devoted her precious spare time to community and her kids’ athletic activities. She loved to have the chance to advise on floral combinations or what was special that day. One imagined it wasn’t that often people asked her. Listening to her talk about these mundane genre activities was mesmerizing. She made the ordinary magical, and in no small way exuded the positive path she made though the catastrophe of a busy life.
Not too many hours after our last visit with her Sherri’s Mustang was found crashed into a tree on the way home. It is speculated she had a stroke or heart attack. Take the time to connect. Tell folks you appreciate their help, their service, themselves.