Potholes of the Soul

Potholes of the Soul

For those of you that read it, “The Epiphany” was a life altering true story brought on by a simple seagull. If someone were to tell me my entire outlook on life would have changed five minutes prior to this transpiring, I quickly would have asked them who was selling drugs in the prison yard.

In those days, a delusion attached to the munchies would have been a good start to my day; but my morning ways and part of my soul were altered witnessing this epic struggle for freedom. To be honest, I’m still not certain if it was a blessing or a curse.

After being caged for decades, you would assume I would be able to relate to “The Bird Man Of Alcatraz” after all we both could see things from a convicts point of view. Instead I can tell you for certain, the sparrow was just something convenient to be cherished by the actor  as a cockroach would not have been as cute.

In my situation – like The Birdman’s – there’s not a large selection of things to care for. Since I work for lawns and grounds, you would think there would be some type of wildlife to adopt, but there is not a single blade of grass in my work area. The grounds consist of what amounts to a giant sand box. I can only guess it was designed to keep the pedophiles in there natural surroundings. The perk is it gets me out of my cage for an hour a day, and when I am done, I can take a hot shower by myself.

However, because of the record snowfalls in Dannemora, it’s one of those jobs no convicts that can work anywhere else wants, shower or not. This means every undesirable inmate is assigned to it. I will admit, at times prior I really didn’t play well with others either. If you added up our indictments, there are 15 life sentences, and well over 200 additional prison years between 6 of us. Most have multiple life sentences and not a chance of ever seeing the free world again.

Yet firsthand, I have watched human beings hardened and callused beyond my words care for things beyond my comprehension. I can only assume they caused so much destruction in their lives when something inside them snapped, there was an insatiable need to nurture something.

Something as simple as sneaking out a few slices of bread to feed the pigeons can make all the difference in the world. One of us is even guilty of cooking brown rice for our feathered friends in the winter. This happened after I realized the bread was not helping them any. Then, it is comical to listen to a bunch of convicted killers debate the nutritional value of white bread compared to pigeons dietary needs.

I recently managed to rescue a half-frozen luna moth. The word moth didn’t do this animal any justice. Far from your drab garden-variety insect, its delicate palm-sized powdered wings appeared painted and its plump over-stuffed body looked as though Mother Nature assembled it herself. Then, considering the ancient Greeks believed the soul left the body in the form of a moth, I could only wonder who’s I was attempting to nurse back to health, or at the very least get back to room temperature. I had to wonder if I was nurturing a soul passing from one place to another or if it was nurturing mine.

Filling the potholes of our souls is not exclusive to convicts. The eccentric old widow with the cats and plants, the rich businessman with the Arabian horses he never rode and I am more than sure some of the same veterans who graciously shared “Let Freedom Ring“ have a wide assortment of pets. Those innocuous furry, finned, or feathered things you love, that give you a reason to forget.

Maybe these cherished things were acquired during an internal conflict of self-acceptance; maybe to escape the past, or grow beyond the present. Or maybe they repaired a longing to flee the un-inspired, or the emptiness of a past tragedy. Like the cat lady next door to you, or the serial killer next to me, we all share common ground in needing something. Then, whatever it is, it often has to fill a void of epic depths.

To reinforce this comment, how many of you have come home from a hectic day at work, or a short trip from a place you didn’t want to go to in the first place, and were greeted by a wet nose and wagging tail? You could walk in rich, poor, late or an hour early, yet the unconditional love you’re guaranteed will never be fraudulent. There’s no faking something four-legged, furry, and ecstatic to greet you.

On that note, someone I care about is in the process of losing the second of her sibling canines. Since birth, the worst abuse they had to suffer was a moist cotton cloth wiped across their jowls after they ate a home cooked meal. Other times they were chased out of bed in the morning so it could be made for them. Like the fledging bird which leaves the convicts nest, these pampered pets unknowingly filled the emotional cracks in someone’s life for years past. Now that they’re needed to fix another broken soul, there’s an emptiness that appears unfillable.

The loss of something loved is like the final act of an orchestra. That one strike of a triangle as the lights begin to dim. By itself the sound means nothing, but as a finale it never fails to express its own turmoil. Then, like that one movement trailing off into infinity, the things we cherish could never be forgotten, or ever become unimportant.

After we realize – like the note – their vessel was never ours to grasp. Their symphony can play on forever in our memories. But if we highlight their departure, we mistakenly take the focus off their healing powers. So after they repaired the damages of a lifetime of storms, the difficult part is not having to say goodbye.

The truly hard part is trying to say thank you.