I met a woman this weekend, who under normal circumstances, I might not have looked twice at, let alone stopped to talk with her. She had a deep, reddish tan not unlike some of the women of my mother’s generation who didn’t know about skin cancer until it was too late to make up for the hours spent under harsh UV rays. She stood with a bit of a hunch in her back. Her shoulders were rounded, but not in a tense way.
I noticed her hands first. I want to say it was because my eyes were down while I was busy looking for something, but the truth is I try to avoid eye contact when I don’t want to converse with someone. Dirt stained her knuckles, and the undersides of her nails were caked black with soil. Her fingers didn’t straighten—I’m sure it was the result of arthritis. As she handed me my bag full of zucchini and summer squash, I looked up to pay. She smiled and a million tiny cracks appeared at the corner of her light blue eyes.
I told her how beautiful her produce was. This was not a lie. The colors were vibrant, the smells wonderful, and the prices just right. She said, “This is all I do. I sleep for a bit, tend to the plants, eat and tend some more. This is what I love.”
“Then you have a wonderful life.” I said this thinking about how I would love to spend all my waking hours doing what I love.
She looked at me for a moment, then nodded her head and said, “You’re right, it is wonderful.”
I thought about her again last night as I ate her life’s bounty. It tasted like happiness.