Pastor Walter Mitty sat mesmerized by the snow gently falling outside his kitchen window Tuesday afternoon. It was the same trance like state that would come over him while camping at Point Beach when he would sit on the bench of his campsite’s picnic table in the evening and stare into the fire for hours.
At first he had felt guilty about deciding to stay at home for the day instead of trudging the three blocks through the snow to the church office. The thought of his members accusing him of being a slacker frightened him somehow, but now, five hours into the day, a feeling of well being was washing over him.
The scraping of the steel blade of a Village of Poplar Park snowplow on the brick street he lived on broke his trance. With his awareness back inside his kitchen he remembered that he had brewed up a pot of fair trade coffee from Nicaragua he had bought on sale at Trader Joe’s, but when he took a sip, he discovered that it was cold. So completely had he been drawn out of himself that he had lost track of time.
Serenity was the word that came to his mind as he poured himself a fresh mug of coffee.
“Maybe this is what that Buddhist monk on Channel 11 was trying to explain about the goal of meditation,” he wondered. “To kind of lose yourself.”
Thinking about religious guys on TV, Mitty’s mind segued to imagining what the Rev. Johnny Christian would say about the state he was in. After thinking about it for a minute, Mitty decided that the TV preacher couldn’t quiet himself in meditation long enough to forget about himself. Silence was not Johnny Christian’s path to serenity. In fact, he wasn’t even sure Rev. Johnny even wanted to feel serene. What he shouted at the 2000 faithful looking up at him pacing back and forth on the stage every Sunday were words like energy and power and victory; and the packed house would jump to their feet and clap and shout “amen” and even dance, and the band would launch into an upbeat version of “I’m so glad, Jesus lifted me.”
“I guess I’m more of a Quaker than a Pentecostal,” Mitty decided, finding comfort in the warm coffee mug in his hands and returning his gaze to the snowflakes lazily drifting down from the sky.
For supper he decided to reheat some chicken soup he had in the freezer. As he popped the frozen leftovers into the micro wave, he wondered what was happening in the world outside his cozy haven, so he turned on the radio to All Things Considered.
“The Dow closed at 14,254,” said the reporter from the Wall Street Journal.
He imagined that Dominique wouldn’t be bothered by the snow at all as he drove home from his 34th floor office in the Loop. The man in the Brooks Brothers suit had seen his investments double since 2007. He had understood that you buy low and sell high.
On the other hand, Henry his homeless friend would be having a hard time. He might have even come by the church to find some shelter and found all the doors locked, forcing him to ride the Blue Line trains back and forth all day to keep warm. At first he felt sorry for Henry, but then he realized that the homeless man lived in at least two “realities” and could move back and forth to whichever one was most comfortable at the time.
At 5:30 he heard the plows making another pass on the street outside. Those guys from the public works department would be staying awake with Red Bull and strong coffee as they worked double shifts restoring the streets of Poplar Park to normal.
“The funny thing about normal,” he mused as he set the alarm for 6:00 am, climbed into bed and pulled the quilt up over his shoulders. “It all depends on where you’re coming from and how you respond to what some folks call ‘reality’.”