This is a three part post. If you missed it, here is Part I. Below are parts II and III (where things get brighter). Shine on!
Months had slipped by since we had last spoken, so her unexpected, morning call alarmed me. “Margie? Is that you?” I inquired.
“Yes! Good morning, Sunshine! You are on my mind right now. Are you on your way to work yet?” she asked.
“I’m just getting ready to leave. Are you okay?”
“Yes, I’m fine. I’m sorry to worry you. I just wondered if you were seeing this amazing morning sky. I just dropped our Murphy dog off at the vets near the school, and the view was really something.” Margie and I traveled the same Harmonsburg Road to get to work and cherished our brief, fifteen-minute rural commutes. We drove through countless spectacles of spacious surroundings and colorful country skylines. Some mornings brought more splendor than others, and this one compelled her to reach out to me.
“Phew! I’m glad nothing’s wrong,” I said. “I’m running behind and still in my driveway. It’s so good to hear your happy voice though.” Margie Malloy is the epitome of zest and the contrary of blah; she radiates with positive energy and helps people recharge. Margie is a genuine full-time sunshine. When I titled my blog Tales from a Part-Time Sunshine, I realized I knew very few full-timers, and she beams as one of them.
“It’s so good to hear your voice too.” We chatted for another minute then she said, “I’ll let you go, so you can drive to work. Enjoy the scenery. I miss you!”
“I miss you too! I can’t wait to check out the morning sun.”
“Actually, it’s the moon that is spectacular right now!
“The moon? It’s daylight though.”
“Jiminey Crickets!” She exclaimed in her favorite expression. “Yes, the moon! It hasn’t set yet.”
Oh boy! A lingering supermoon… “I was ready to scream at that big sucker last night. I’ll try to give it a fresh set of eyes. Thank you for thinking of me. I’ll be in touch.” From my driveway, I saw a Crayola blue sky illuminated by the sunshine of winter, but no moon. I was afraid I missed it.
Then I turned onto Harmonsburg Road, and the plump beauty glowed in a different light than the night before. My entire attitude about the Wolf Moon changed in a huff and a puff. I gazed at her with no need to howl or even whine. She was not the enemy but a vision of pure innocence.
How totally human of me to blame something other than myself for the inner demons I had played hostess to. I had to stop feeding those devils my Jello mold moods.
The moon, visiting the sun’s neighborhood, spoke to me in a different language. She hovered with subtle radiance and gently whispered, “Good morning, Sunshine.” I don’t know if she was greeting me, the sun, or the entire world.
I stopped the car to get out and take pictures before she disappeared behind a barn. Beholding not one, but two, celestial bodies floating together in the same ocean above was more than a visual treat. It proved that I needed to quit ignoring the sources of light the universe offers. My pretty Himalayan salt lamp, the one I plug in to combat negativity, can’t even compare.
I gotta have more sunshine! More moonshine! More soulshine! More cowbell, baby! (Sorry, I couldn’t resist.) And just then, I could see clearly and found the key to unchain my dark thoughts.
I got back into my car and put on the Grateful Dead channel to listen to one of Margie’s favorite bands. I wanted to continue the positive vibes she initiated and listen to music that reminded me of her. Powered by my peaceful thoughts, I continued down the road, singing “Truckin,’” felling freer than I had in months. My head had cleared like a shaken Etch a Sketch.
And just when I didn’t think the morning could get any brighter, Sirius XM played my favorite Grateful Dead song, “Ripple.”
What an amazing, reflective song about so many themes I was currently working through: existentialism, spirituality, optimism, reality, individuality, community, responsibility…
I could write pages on what “Ripple” means to me, but here is my abridged analysis and how it applies to that refreshing morning.
Grateful Dead – “Ripple”
If my words did glow with the gold of sunshine
And my tunes were played on the harp unstrung
Would you hear my voice come through the music
Would you hold it near as it were your own?
It’s a hand-me-down, the thoughts are broken
Perhaps they’re better left unsung
I don’t know, don’t really care
Let there be songs to fill the air
Ripple in still water
When there is no pebble tossed
Nor wind to blow
Reach out your hand if your cup be empty
If your cup is full may it be again
Let it be known there is a fountain
That was not made by the hands of men
There is a road, no simple highway
Between the dawn and the dark of night
And if you go no one may follow
That path is for your steps alone
Ripple in still water
When there is no pebble tossed
Nor wind to blow
You who choose to lead must follow
But if you fall you fall alone
If you should stand then who’s to guide you?
If I knew the way I would take you home
Written by Jerome J. Garcia, Robert C. Hunter • Copyright © Universal Music Publishing Group
The first two stanzas are the poet/author/singer invoking an audience to pay attention We have the free will to choose to listen or not. Either way, the singer goes on using his voice to “let there be songs to fill the air.” There’s a chance someone will hear and be moved by the piece. Margie reached out to me about the harmonious road she expected me to travel. Of course, I wanted to hear what her eyes did, and I was remarkably moved.
The refrain, “Ripple in still water…” is proof that unexpected miracles surround us daily. What causes the ripples without pebble or wind? I have faith that God is the supreme ripple maker (not to be confused with the intoxicating kind that Fred G. Sanford loves). I also believe that humans can make ripples with the power of prayer, love for each other, and positivity.
I arrived at work (two minutes early) and texted Margie to tell her how I wished to hear “Ripple” and felt like it was no coincidence that it aired. Divine DJ? I like to think so. She heard it too! In those four minutes and ten seconds, we were separately jamming and sending each other positive thoughts and prayers, ripples.
The next stanza evokes Psalm 23. This “fountain that was not made by the hands of men.” is eternally available. I am aware of this, yet I have put myself on some thirsty quests before refilling my cup. I either ignore the fountain and try my own remedies or I get to distracted to reach out my hand with my empty cup. I finally drank from the moon and renewed my outlook.
The next stanza reiterates that the road each of us travels isn’t filled with shortcuts; there is “no simple highway between the dawn and the dark of night,” between life and death, between joy and pain. “That path is for [my] steps alone.”
Over the past year, I bathed in extra darkness. Although I’d sip from the bright fountain, I’d go down the wrong avenue, drifting away from the dawn. No one could save me from my hurts except for me. I kept my physical body healthy, nourished, and active while working on my mind. I read, slept, prayed, and practiced silence. Finally the thoughts that overwhelmed me, became weightless, thank God.
The chorus repeats “ripple in still water” reminding us of the perfect circle spinning within the smooth stream. Hope spontaneously gushes from human kindness and community as well as solitude and guidance from the Universal Light, The Fountainhead, The Ripple Mainspring.
The final verse reveals that people still lead, follow, and rely on each other. It’s human nature to connect, but, ultimately, we are responsible for ourselves and growth of self awareness. There will be days that we have to stand alone and fall alone. This is not to say we shouldn’t support others, but we shouldn’t try to change them. I have tried this, and my version of support, which might not match another’s fingerprints, has been rejected, misunderstood, and hurtful.
Margie’s simple call about Mother Nature’s scene came to me when I was battling ugly views about humanity. I misjudged people, scrutinizing their unattractive parts and neglecting the whole being. While dissecting others, I was on the brink of sinking with my hefty pride. I forgot my manners, failed to say thanks, and partied in my pity (loneliest gig ever). I needed a sign, a rope of hope, and Margie’s words reminded me that my little eyes get to enjoy the beauty of the whole world. I recognized multitudes of blessings and the gratitude poured out of me. God willing, I didn’t fall but am humbled by my stumbles.
Since then, I try to stand taller and closer to dawn. Trying on others’ shoes (even when they’re not my style) helps me to better accept humanity. It may be a lifelong challenge, but I ultimately wish to love my neighbors like my dogs love me, unconditionally.
I’m flawed, and so are you. What a relief to not have to act perfect. We can learn from each other’s choices. If I’m compelled to share a story or lesson, there’s a chance, even if my harp is unstrung, that I might be heard and make a difference, a ripple.
The poet ends with, “If I knew the way, I would take you home.” There is no mortal who knows the exact path we need to follow, but we are blessed if we know people who genuinely give us more cowbell during our journey. That’s Margie, a cheerleader for humanity and all the beautifully chaotic mysteries surrounding each life.
The faces of the sun and moon, enhanced by the ripples of Margie Malloy and Jerry Garcia enlightened my past, present, and future. This was the road trip I needed to restart the new year with my Happiness is… calendar. Have a 2018 you dreamed of!
Here is an entertaining video of The Grateful Dead’s “Ripple” and The Peanuts Gang (published by Bingogh, 2013)