"I used to skip out on church when I was a kid and I came down to this very spot and go hunting," the 83-year old neighbor says as we both sit in the foyer in between meetings at church. "There were ducks, geese, you name it. They were all down here." I tell him it's ironic that he used to skip out on church and all these years later, a church was built where he used to go to escape the meetings. Some things you can't outrun...
I sit and listen to his story and I think of my dad. He was a hunter as well--too bad he didn't get a chance to do any hunting in the marshlands that were once on the same land where our church stands surrounded by homes. "And right here," the neighbor points to the ground. "Right here was under three feet of water." I've heard this before.
We were joined by three neighbors, all in their eighties. They find places to sit on the comfortable chairs. "What do you have there?" I asked the diminutive woman as she comes in carrying a sprig of cut foliage. "This is a piece of a thistle plant I have in my yard. I'm going to use it for the lesson I'm giving on obedience. It's pretty, but can be a little thorny." We all nod in agreement. "You giving the lesson?" says her next-door neighbor (who happens to be sitting right next...). She says she is. "I'm giving the lesson as well, and it's on obedience, too."
"You giving the lesson?" asks the once great hunter. "If you're giving the lesson, I'm going home." We all laugh. He is a funny man. "Hey," says the one who soon will teach later in the afternoon. "I got a spider on me--I think you brought a spider in with your thistles." "Oh, I'm sorry," says the embarrassed and slightly concerned neighbor. "I hope there's no more spiders in this." She takes the sprig and shakes it lightly over the carpet, relieving any other arachnids of their hold on their once-living home.
The three speak as friends, over 300 years of experiences seeing changes, the thousands of faces those four pairs of eyes have seen, the memories they have, the loved ones they've known and hove have passed on. As I sit, I think I'm learning more in those few minutes just watching my neighbors interact than I do in all the other 180 minutes combined.