02 September 2011


I can live on glimpses. I have to. By choice, my husband Dave and I make our home in a secluded rural area. This offers us much in the way of tranquility, lessons from nature, a quiet retreat from the world. What it doesn't offer is men. Most weeks I can count on my fingers the number of different men I see—Dave and my several male coworkers—and still have my thumbs left over.

There are months when I don't make it into town at all. Used to, Dave was in town every weekday for his job; he could run errands, get the groceries. Now in retirement, he still gets to town more often than I. Those times I do land in civilization I arrive ravenous for the sight, sound and smell of living, breathing male flesh. Hunger is the best sauce, says the proverb. When I'm on full alert, even a walk through the grocery store serves up a saucy feast for the senses. And don't even get me started on Saturday mornings at the lumberyard.

And then there was the other Tuesday. Oh my gosh. I was on my way to work when I saw him. Shirtless, he stood at the end of his parents' driveway, hoisted two empty garbage cans. This threw his shoulders back, thrust his chest forward. His pecs were popping, biceps flexing as he hefted the twin containers. I wanted to slam on the brakes, gawk and gawk some more. I wanted an 8 x 10" glossy. Autographed. With a phone number.

He's the neighbor's boy, college kid home for the summer. I first saw him from a distance about a month ago, out in the field helping his father bale hay. He looked beautiful. Dumb, maybe, for having stripped off his shirt while haying, but mostly beautiful. Thing is, for me nearly every man looks gorgeous from a distance. My imagination fills in details, usually in his favor. And mine.

I had not seen this man face-on, close-up before. Some things are worth the wait. Some moments last forever. As I say, I can live on glimpses.

I can see him even now. Blonde curls wreathe a classic face, rounded full lips, strong chin. Suntanned skin ripples over a shapely body. He might have stepped out of a sacred oak tree or descended a sky bridge from Mount Olympus. Striking, striking man. He is a 3-D iteration—in living color—of the men I pant after in photo books.

And then I flashed on past him, cursing under my breath the oncoming truck that made me wrench my eyes back to the road. I silenced the radio so I could savor the moment, savor him, fix him in mind's eye, exult over such perfectly sculpted pecs occupying space within three-quarters mile of our house. Ah, me. Ah, men. Amen.

Surely such beauty doesn't inhabit every oak tree between home and work. Or maybe it does. Maybe the whole world is sacred, reveals itself as such to anyone who is looking.

His looks have stayed with me. I've watched for him ever since. Begun to think I made him up, or if not, saw more than there was to see. Maybe he's not that good looking after all. Maybe I have an overactive imagination.

And then I think, well, so what? If the rapturous vision doesn't always hold up under close scrutiny, so what? There's plenty of ugliness run amok in the world; I know this. I don't think it would be such a bad thing if we all saw Greek gods in oak trees . . . if we all saw the sacred in the everyday, the divine in the ordinary . . . if we started treating each other as if we were all made of stardust, as if we were all somehow celestial beings.

I caught a glimpse of the ineffable in the college-age son of a neighbor standing cheek-to-jowl with trash cans. And you can bet I keep my eyes peeled every time I pass those oak trees at the end of his drive. If I watch closely, maybe I will see him again.

Or maybe, if I'm attentive and willing to slow down, maybe I'll look within and catch a glimpse of god as close to me as my own heartbeat. The mystics tell us the divine dwells within—within me, within you, within all life, all beings. In all that is, there gleams some spark of the creative energy that animates the world. Not in every instance so visually arresting—alas!—but still, when carefully considered and understood, every bit as beautiful.

This article appeared in the September issue of The Community Letter.