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Wednesday, May 25, 2016

Paradise Bench

Last October, the day Peg and I were moving into the waterfront Florida condo we had leased for six months, a neighbor two doors down saw me carrying boxes on the sidewalk and said, "So, I see you're moving out along with the rest of us."

That's how we learned our condo, which was thirty yards from Tampa bay with a view to die for, was scheduled, along with the entire building, for complete exterior demolition and reconstruction. Within three week all of the beautiful landscaping had been leveled, scaffolding surrounded the entire building, pneumatic tools pounded all day, and giant blue tarps covered the building at night.  It had been the perfect location, until suddenly it wasn't.

Immediately upon learning this not so good news from our neighbor we began the process of getting out of our lease and looking for another place, a process that took nearly two months. In the mean time, we tried to enjoy the other amenities of the complex, especially the wonderful walking paths, gorgeous water views,  sunrises and sunsets - just not from our own porch and windows.  As we walk around the property, mostly with our dog Wilson, we lamented our loss, and tried to keep our anxiety intact. We did our best to "enjoy it while we can."  Unfortunately the more we enjoyed our surroundings the worse our actual living conditions became.

One of our favorite spots to soak it all in was a bench which offered a full view of the boat channel and slips, which also served as a favorite playground for manatee, dolphins, and numerous exotic waterfowl.  While sitting on the bench late one afternoon commiserating our situation there came a booming voice from behind us.  It was unmistakably "New York" and proclaimed in a one word sentence as only New Yorkers can, "Ya-li-vin-pair-uh-dice!"

We turned to see a cab with the driver hanging one arm and head out the window declaring again, "Ya-li-vin-pair-uh-dice!"

A brief conversation revealed he had also recently moved to Florida from New York City to "retire" in Tarpon Springs where Greek relatives lived.  He was driving a cab to supplement retirement and this was the first fare he had into our condo complex.  He continued to gush about how "bee-yewt-ee-ful" it was.

As you may suspect, this exchange immediately put our lamentation in perspective as we turned our gaze back toward the post card scene before us.  It was also a turning point in our overall perspective as we began to put efforts into finding another condo to lease in the same complex. We shifted from lamentation to hope by realizing we were already in paradise.

To make a long story short, within a couple of weeks we did secure a new lease on another condo that actually overlooks the channel and dock area that sits in front of what we now call the "Paradise Bench" and is still our favorite spot!

I share this story as a parable of how humanity has taken our home, Earth, and turned it into a place of exile rather than the paradise it is.  We have even created elaborate myths and religions around "falls from grace" and "expulsion from the garden" and "poor wayfaring strangers" that perpetuate lamentation instead of hope.  We fail to appreciate the sheer wonder and beauty of Earth and its fullness of Life.

Perhaps this is what Jesus so insistently tries to tell us when he says, "Repent! The Kingdom of Heaven is near!"  If Jesus had come from Brooklyn he would have probably said, "'ey! Tewn aroun'! Ya-li-vin-pair-uh-dice! It's bee-yewt-ee-ful!"

Paradise Bench

The View


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