Years of lifting weights, and some lengthy lectures from my retired military father, have always prompted me to maintain the strictest of body posture. Even when walking, my shoulders are thrust back, my chest is held outward, my abdomen is pulled inward, and my spine is kept as straight as a fresh-cut piece of lumber. This ramrod posture is complimented by head held high and eyes locked forward. In short, I am the perfect wind-up metal toy soldier!
Whenever my trusted hound Xena and I find ourselves on one of our blissful early morning excursions; I still discover myself walking with perfect posture. I am certain that my canine companion and I make quite the sight for early morning motorists. Xena maintains a canter that can only be ascribed to a Clydesdale horse. She is poetry in motion as she lifts her massive paws upward and thrusts them forward. She holds her head high and her tail points skyward in a graceful arc. Behind her is the owner, moving forward in a precise, near-military march. Where are the “Field and Stream” photographers when you need them?
There are those frequent times when Xena pauses to take in the aromas of the dogs that have preceded her on the same walking route. She will run around in erratic circular motions, all in an attempt to identify the breed and gender of the dog that trod the grass hours before her. I suspect that my hound is also evaluating what these fellow dogs had for dinner the night before. As she continues her instinctive detective behavior, I relax and begin to look down at the sidewalk and the curb; observing the details that lie below.
One late afternoon, Xena and I were working our way back towards the house. The street that we were traversing is a popular route for the neighborhood schoolchildren. On any given day, I imagine that at least a hundred adolescents travel this way, to and from the nearby elementary school. Xena had managed to find yet another one of her olfactory treasures in the adjacent yard. Seeing that she was not trying to dig up the pristine green turf, my attention was drawn down towards the street curb.
There was the usual assortment of leaves and dirt compacted along the edge of the curb. This was tarnished by a candy wrapper and a yellowed cigarette butt. I started to look away when a glimmer of light appeared in the corner of my eye. I looked back down to see a small piece of metal reflecting the late afternoon sun. Resisting Xena’s muscular tug in the opposite direction; I dropped down to one knee in order to get a closer look. The object of my curiosity was a well-worn small metal key. I scooped it up and yielded to my dog’s need to keep moving forward.
Over the course of some half-dozen pauses in our walk; I observed the newfound key more closely. It was a small piece of stamped metal, perhaps made out of tin. It had a simple series of ridges and valleys along both of its edges. It did not take me long to surmise that it fit into a small padlock. More than likely it was the type of key that opened the lock on a diary or small jewelry box.
Arriving back at the house, I unharnessed Xena and let her in through the garage. My “man cave” takes on the form of an assortment of boxes, sports posters, tools, and my beloved Bowflex exercise machine. I pulled the small key out of my pocket and tossed it into a drawer filled with assorted nails and screws. I could not help but to begin reflecting on the key’s original owner.
Undoubtedly the small piece of cheap metal had initially belonged to a girl somewhere in her preteen years. I imagined that the key opened the lock to a diary, the fortress of private thoughts, fears, and aspirations of an adolescent school girl. So valued were the contents of her intimate journal that she even carried the key with her to school. I chuckled as I envisioned a bratty younger brother whose only aspiration in life was to catch a sneaky peek into the writings of his older sister. He would then spend countless hours taunting his sibling over her latest crush or her deepest insecurities.
All of us have a human need to unload our emotions. Our deepest thoughts are often things that we are afraid to share with the world. Instead we scribble our feelings of strength and weakness on anonymous sheets of paper. Later we go back to these treatises to reflect on who we were and who we hoped to be. Our diaries form a repository of our lives; how we react to the world around us, what makes us retreat into the sanctuary of our personal experience, and the aspirations that drive us to get out of bed every morning.
What about you? Surely you have your share of fears, journals full of personal experience and life lessons, and a healthy reserve of hopes and aspirations for the world around you. Do you scribe away these thoughts in a private place? Do you fear that somebody else might stumble across your most private and intimate thoughts? Will they hold these secrets over your head, threatening to expose your humanity to the world? Or are you one of those rare people who walks through life with an open book in hand? Do you share of yourself freely with those around you, seeking to teach and learn as your individual contribution to humanity?
This lazy Sunday afternoon, you too have found a small cheap metal key. It also opens a diary filled with “private” fears, hopes, insights, and aspirations. Do not be too quick to throw this key into a dusty drawer somewhere in your garage. This special little key opens the lock to my personal diary. Today marks the one hundred-tenth time that I have opened the pages of my diary to the world; all in the form of a blog posting. I can only hope that each and every one of you shares your key with the world as well.