May 13, 2007

The Coin Sower

In a weedy lot on the walk between my house and the used bookstore, I once found more than two dollars in coins. I smiled secretively and slipped them into my pocket, telling no one. But what I wanted to do was shout like a child, “Look what I found!”

The next time I walked that route, I checked the grass, more to remember my lucky find than expecting a new one, and to my amazement I saw two quarters, three pennies, and a nickel.

A bubbling spring of coins? An anonymous philanthropist sowing happiness on the ground? I imagined a silent, unacknowledged relationship between a homeless man and a benefactor he never saw. Or maybe the vacant lot was a private shrine, a superstitious neighbor’s tribute to local gods. This time I didn’t pick up the coins. They were for others, not for me. I’d already taken my due.

The third time, they were strewn everywhere, like baubles at some tribal wedding. I counted three dollars in quarters before I stooped close enough to touch them. Then the smaller change, the shiny and the tarnished, in plain sight and hidden in the grass, everyplace I searched, as if my looking multiplied them.

I imagined a voice saying, Who are you to refuse what the world sees fit to give? What if you picked these coins up and broke a spell you hadn’t even known had been cast on you?

My fingers grasped a penny. And as I hunkered in the grass, dreaming, a car horn blasted behind me and a young male voice called out, “Hey!” like a whip across my back. I slipped in the dirt; I hit the ground, then bolted to my feet, angry at myself for being startled. Noticing the penny in my hand, I dropped it to the grass.

I stared at the field of treasure and thought, Your way is the way of renunciation. My eyes unfocussed until there was no glinting left to see. I stepped off the curb and scuffed away along the asphalt.

A few yards down I stopped and looked back. I dug into my pants pocket and pulled out…eighty-nine cents.

“Here, kids!” I shouted, and flung my coins in a shining arc of copper and silver. They were all for me.