English: 2006 Jeep Wrangler TJ Golden Eagle Edition (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
One of my neighbors died over the weekend, but hold on. I’m not gonna leave you here with just that news, because God gives a gift in it.
This neighbor was a real man who was known by a nickname. He was usually alone, and could be any man, but I’m going to give him a fictitious name, to protect his privacy. Here, I’m going to call him “Johnny,” because his hard-scrabble life, which showed all over his whole self, reminded me of the musician Johnny Cash. Johnny Cash understood hard time.
My neighbor owned a Jeep Wrangler. He liked to wear some kind of camouflage and a sharp-looking wide-brimmed hat, with a long coat in winter. Some people used to complain that Johnny’s Jeep took up a parking space and he rarely, if ever, drove the Jeep. (People should understand that keeping your ride helps keep your dignity).
Last night, I felt sad, seeing Johnny’s Jeep outside in the parking lot.
I parked my car beside it. Johnny kept his Jeep clean, although it’s old and rustic-looking, but not rusty. It’s the kind of Jeep with a tough fabric top and roll bars, open all-around.
The tread on the Goodyear radials is still good and the Jeep is a four-speed or five-speed, with maybe two clutches (?) extra pedals. I looked on purpose, but don’t know enough about vehicles to describe the Jeep just right. Johnny had taped over the top of the stick shift, where I’ve seen those speeds diagrams.
When I was out there looking at that Jeep, I felt mournful about Johnny, which is strange, to feel that way about a stranger, but it just shows how we are all connected somehow, and how each life matters. There was cloud cover last night and no stars could be seen and the train that runs nearby roared by, like a loud page turning.
The license plate on Johnny’s Jeep said “Polk” so I drove out to Polk County, Tennessee, on the open highway today, driving to feel better, lonely, with nothing else to do right now, with the window rolled down in my car.
I parked at the edge of the Cherokee National Forest sign and sat down and there was such beauty there, it looked like somebody painted it, with pine trees and shadows and light breezes and tiny lavender flowers with white centers and another kind of plant with delicate fuzzy blooms and water, the lonely lapping sounds, shimmering like diamonds, only better.
There were two men standing up in a boat, on Parksville Lake, so there were just the three of us, as far as I could see. The men stood and fished for a few minutes, very quiet and peaceful. Then they sat down and I heard the boat motor and the men in the boat. They went on through the water. The wake of that boat was so solitary and beautiful and gentle and pure. Finally, they disappeared on down the lake, looking for other places to fish, I guess.
Today, I believe God gave all this to Johnny, and He’s given this to all of us too, for Lent.
We know Johnny’s okay now, further on up the road, with God, and lots of friends. Isn’t God good, the way He pays such close attention, to each and every individual life, including us. Jesus said happy are the sad.