Do you know what I discovered about my new retirement digs? I’ve found a place that White folks been keeping from us. Now before some of my White sisters and brothers get bent out of shape and think I’ve gone all kamikaze racist on your behinds, I’m just kidding—sort of. In 1964 when the Civil Rights Act passed allowing Black folks the ability to travel, live, go to school, eat in restaurants, shop, and pretty much exist in previously restricted areas due to our race, it became a game of my childhood to waltz into those newly opened arenas and soak up all the beauty, knowledge, tranquility, and lusciousness I’d been missing out on for all my poor, pathetic life (see my first book: Monsters’ Throwdown for the entertaining details). I had a mentor (twenty years older than I) who would call me on any given day and announce: “Put on your best Sunday-go-to-meeting clothes and grab a pair of white gloves because we are going to a place that the White folks been keepin’ from us!” It has become a tagline between my husband (who is White) and me throughout the years whenever we encounter something extraordinarily lovely. When we unpacked the final box in our new home and stepped back to absorb the beauty of it all, I said to him, “Look, Honey, we found a place. . . ” And WW (a.k.a. “White and Wonderful”) with arms wrapped around me and tears in his eyes, interrupted me and said: “And can you believe that the same little girl who was born in a toilet in Monsters’ Throwdown is the same little girl who is retiring in this tranquil place—this sanctuary for dreamers?”
Photo Credit: Eleanor Tomczyk/ “A sanctuary for dreamers”
I spend my mornings going for long walks in bucolic settings, followed by meditation and reading on my sun-kissed deck. Weather permitting, I have breakfast with my man on the deck overlooking yellow and red hibiscus plants as hummingbirds stream in from the nature preserve that is my backyard, and then I write in an office which has one huge wall of glass that overlooks cultivated yards of red and pink crepe myrtles. I would never leave if I didn’t have to, but I know that sometimes duty will call, and I’ll have to venture back into the not so pleasant world from time to time.
Photo credit: Eleanor Tomczyk/Author’s view from her sun-kissed deck
Such was last weekend. As often happens to my husband WW and me, invitations come that compete for the same dates, and decisions must be made as to the validity, the importance of the relationships, and our finances regarding which one will be RSVP’d “yes” or “no” to. We were invited to the wedding of my nephew and to a reunion of a group of people that I once thought I’d found tranquility with in my hippie days but turned out to be a bust in the long run (check out my latest book on the subject: Fleeing Oz). We chose my nephew’s wedding in Vermont. It was the correct choice—the wedding was wonderful. My nephew and his new wife are delightful and everyone was overjoyed to see us. I found Vermont to be magnificently beautiful but, as a writer, I found the scores of Moose Crossing signs along the roads to be more than blog worthy—they would have made a great Saturday Night Live skit.
Photo Credit: Joy E. Hecht
I don’t know from moose (is the plural of moose “meese,” “mooses,” “moosi,” or “moosen”?)—I’ve never seen one in my life. The only moose I know of is the cartoon moose, “Bullwinkle J. Moose” from the show Rocky and Bullwinkle. So you can imagine my surprise when driving up into the gorgeous mountains of Vermont (another place the White folks been keeping from us—I didn’t see one Black person in them there hills!), every third sign was a warning about moose crossings.
The Bullwinkle moose I came to know in the ghettos of Cleveland, Ohio via TV was benign, sweet-tempered, hilariously funny, and didn’t take himself too seriously. He went to college at “Wossamotta U” and was part-time governor of Moosylvania Island. (Remember the running gag of Bullwinkle attempting to pull a rabbit out of a top hat which was never successful? He would send me into gales of laughter—after Rocky, the side-kick squirrel’s emphatic declarations of “but that trick never works!”—because out of the hat would pop a lion or a tiger or even Rocky.) That running joke never failed to cause me to fall over laughing as a poor Black child. Bullwinkle was one of my first friends, and he taught me humor.
Rocky and Bullwinkle/Created by Alexander Anderson (September 5, 1920 – October 22, 2010), Jay Ward, and Bill Scott
So you can imagine my surprise when I asked one very inebriated wedding guest what was up with all the Moose warnings along the highway. “What’s up,” he replied with great agitation, “I’ll tell you what’s up. Those signs are there to save your life. I assume every moose I come across is a serial killer. Your typical moose weighs 1,500 pounds. They are dumb as rocks and mean as hell. They carry most of their weight in their upper body on four pencil-like legs, and if they choose to attack you, neither you nor your car will survive. In my opinion, wild moose are more dangerous than grizzlies and they are full of attitude and aggression. Do you know if they raid your garbage can and return the next day for a follow-up snack, if there is nothing in the can (because the idiots ate all the garbage the day before!), they will get pissed and try and attack your shit—ram your house, ram your car, and stomp the crap out of you if you try and shoo them away? (Why get pissed at me for no follow-up garbage snack? Did I tell them to eat up all the garbage and not leave some for the next day? Dumb asses!) If you happen to hit one when they are crossing the highway, their entire upper body—all 1500 pounds of it will crash through your windshield, and you, the moose, and your car will be singing with Jesus before you can say: ‘Oh look, honey, there goes a moose crossing the highway.’ Moose—the only good moose is a dead moose, as far as I am concerned!”
Oy! Oy! Oy! And I thought because of Bullwinkle that I knew my moose!
Try as we could, WW and I never saw a moose while we were in Vermont (probably for the best), but it got us talking about the concept of moose crossing signs, and how they would be most helpful in life when coming across people you thought were one way (benign, friendly, humorous, gracious, kind, loving), but they turned out to be another way (mean-spirited, backbiting, aggressive, controlling, domineering, spiteful, and duplicitous—to name a few). Wouldn’t it be helpful to have “Moose Crossing” signs posted along life’s highway so that you would know to slow down, turn around, back up, flee, or simply take another highway?
ELEANOR’S “SELAH” (MEDITATIONS ON MOOSE CROSSING SIGNS)
I am discovering that “moose crossing” signs are just the order of the day to protect this stage of my life in my new sanctuary. (WW and I have decided that we do not care who doesn’t like us; we only care about the people we like, because they are the only ones we want to spend time with or allow into our lives anymore.)
After I returned from the wedding, someone from the reunion—the event I purposely chose not to attend—who I haven’t talked to in years, sent me a message reminiscing about the “good ol’ days” and the great times we had in our Christian community in the 70s (isn’t it amazing the selective memory that people have at reunions?). I, however, remember how this person, who once called me her best friend, verbally attacked me—for no apparent reason—in a car with another person just a few years ago, five minutes before she jumped out of the car to catch a plane, leaving me no rebuttal or recourse. There was never an apology—never a follow up to assess the damage that had been done. I also remember how a year or so after that “moose crossing,” this same woman wrote a caustic comment on my public blog because she didn’t like what I had to say about Sarah Palin (i.e., “perhaps Ms. Palin is not qualified to be a heartbeat away from the presidency”). My “friend” who didn’t know Sarah Palin chose to excoriate me in print, in public, in support of a nincompoop, as if I were a two-month old not entitled to an opinion. (If that is the mark of a best friend, I’d hate to see what an enemy acts like.)
I hit the delete button on my ex-friend’s message, and I erected a “Moose Crossing” sign in her name while I immersed myself back into the sanctuary I’ve been waiting all my life to inhabit.
“I am thankful the most important key in history was invented. It’s not the key to your house, your car, your boat, your safety deposit box, your bike lock or your private community. It’s the key to order, sanity, and peace of mind. The key is ‘Delete.’”—Elayne Boosler
“I think for me, home needs to be a sanctuary. I need to feel like I’ve escaped the day when I get home.” —Bella Heathcote
“If we could make our house a home, and then make it a sanctuary, I think we could truly find paradise on Earth.”—Alexandra Stoddard
“Happiness, true happiness, is an inner quality. It is a state of mind. If your mind is at peace, you are happy. If your mind is at peace, but you have nothing else, you can be happy. If you have everything the world can give – pleasure, possessions, power – but lack peace of mind, you can never be happy.”—Dada Vaswani
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