My alarm is set to 5:30 am with a view to walking out the door as the living room clock chimes 6:30.  When we slipped back from that blessed extra hour of summer’s daylight to the short bleak sun of standard time, I almost missed my bus.  The driver saw me running and commented as I boarded that it happens a lot at the change-over.  That evening I nudged the minute hand forward three notches.  This routine has proven adequate to allow one or two stabs at the snooze button and a brief return to possibly finish a dream that was left incomplete and still reach my stop two short blocks away.  If I forego the snooze button, there’s still time for a brief shower or a bite of breakfast, wherever the need or the urge is greater.

One morning last summer, one of the very few where my head was lowered and my shoulders hunched beneath an umbrella as a steady rain pressed down.  I splashed along the sidewalk concentrating on avoiding the deeper puddles and noticed a small movement on the grass off to my left, a small black and white movement.  I was sharing course and heading with a skunk, a fellow traveller heading for the corner of Highview and Montclair.  Our tracks were not quite parallel, likely to converge before the corner and the bus stop.  Disaster loomed.

We noticed each other at the same instant and both, recognizing the relationship between discretion and valour, practicality and foolishness, paused, then slowly,  and cautiously altered our paths keeping wary eye contact all the while until a more comfortable distance separated us. Now suppose for one moment that either of us had been less conscious or sensitive to the disposition of the other.  If the skunk, being startled from his reverie, suddenly recalled some past encounter with this two-legged predator or his four-legged accomplice and reacted as skunks are wont to do, or if I reacted with a start and brandished briefcase and umbrella to ward off what I supposed to be an inevitable consequence of our meeting, what a very bad day we both might have had.  In the very worst case, my striped companion might have foreseen himself simmering in a pot or, after being skinned and tanned, sitting upon my head, tail swinging at my neck.  Or I might be sealing my clothes in air-tight bags for the trash after standing beneath the shower for an eternity in a vain attempt to remove the evidence of my foolishness.
The skunk went his mysterious way and, after boarding my bus, I went mine.
We met and we parted, never really discerning each other’s intention.

Lesson #19 – Discretion And Valour

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