gate

An Open Letter to the Prowler At My Gate

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We were both surprised. Me—driving fast, fifteen minutes late for my yoga class. You– at my gate with your bag over your shoulder, expecting an empty house.

I have to hand it to you though. You were smooth. As I rolled down my window, preparing an icy, “May I help you?” you were ready with an offensive move.

“Excuse me, ma’am” in a voice as smooth as butter, “do you have a light?”

“No,” I spluttered, and drove off.

 

In the time it took to get to the end of the long driveway and drive back home, you were gone. My German shepherd was panting. My mini dachshund was barking frantically, his snout quivering over the side of the canyon, where you’d undoubtedly fled.

 

The sheriff told me you’d been casing the house, noting my schedule. He said crime was way up, mostly due to prisoners being released from the county jail because of over-crowding.

 

You didn’t look like a recently released prisoner, with your tidy dark clothes, your well-tended appearance.  Neither did you seem like a homeless person, not desperate, lost or despairing. In fact, you seemed to have it all together.

 

Which is what made me feel calm later. Surely such an intentional person would henceforth decide to leave my house alone—with its large German shepherd and gate. Surely it is my neighbors in this small canyon neighborhood, the ones without gates or dogs, who have the most to fear from you.

 

What I really want to say though is that our brief encounter brought me a gift. And I didn’t realize it until this morning, almost three weeks later.

 

I’ve been wondering why my heart is broken, why I can’t shake off the news. Why pictures of men, women and children herded up by Isis haunt my thoughts. Why photos of the exploded airplane in the Ukraine and the deadly rockets in Gaza settle like a gray fog in my chest. And this morning I realized why.

 

When you appeared outside my gate, my sense of security cracked. I felt vulnerable.  For the first time, I knew someone had been watching me as a predator observes it prey. You were waiting to take something from me.  And though I am well protected and realistically quite safe, I felt the anxiety of being the focus of another’s targeted desire.

 

And the ordinary people of the Middle East, the Ukraine, the Gaza strip– they are completely caught in the maelstrom of others’ violent desires. Unlike me, they have no defenses. Unlike me, they are not protected. They are not safe.  They are helpless as the ruthless advance their aims.

 

So your unwelcome appearance at my gate cracked me open to a deeper level of awareness, and I thank  you. I trust that you will not return.  I hope my deepened compassion abides.

 


 

 

Boyd, Iron Fence and Gate, courtesy of the National Gallery of Art

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