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Make No Mistake

By Bill McFadyen

“Early” depends on your internal clock but for me, it was early – daylight before the sunrise. True to her preferred Sunday ritual, my wife slept on. Penny sniffed for interlopers from the night before and Norma did that cat-thing where she demanded attention until it was offered, at which time she scampered into the grass to stalk any and all movement. Summer watched intently from her pen, wishing it was quail season.

Sitting on the porch sofa, facing west, I waited for the gold light to appear in the tops of the pines, knowing that once it ignited, it would descend the length of the trunks, imperceptibly since I never seem to be able to concentrate for the duration of its settlement to the ground. The crows dominated the conversation, as crows will do, but the quieter layers of conversation –  cardinals and wrens and chickadees – were there as well, if you successfully blocked out the big talkers. Always there to visually impress was the giant dogwood that has dominated the back yard since I moved onto the property almost thirty years ago. On this morning, she stubbornly held nearly all her thousands of spring petals. I wondered if she knew, like I did, that the violent front predicted for that evening would surely dislodge them. I wondered if she would regret their fall, as I did, or if she just saw it as the next arc in her life’s circle.

In that simply serene moment, an old friend came to my mind. His name is David Wilcox and he hails from the North Carolina mountains. He was introduced to me by Sam Hobbs, an hourly-waged guitar peddler in our Greenville music store in the late ‘90s, who went on to be a doctor of eyeballs. I met Wilcox only once, backstage after a concert he gave in Washington, N.C. I was much happier to meet him than he was to meet me. I had shared great intimacy with him for many years listening to his CDs; he knew of me only in abstract. He had met thousands of facsimiles of me night after night, and on that one time that we were together in person, it was kind of obvious that meeting me and my ilk was something of a necessity in his line of work, not a goal.

It was predestined that the friendship be one-way. The things he shared with me were most likely created in settings like the one in my morning, except he was the one watching the light in the trees and hearing the calls of the birds. His emotions bled out onto guitar strings and vibrated across vocal chords. His intent was to share that result with anyone who loved the music and its message. He did not also offer his reciprocity of friendship as an accessory to the purchase of the CD. I accepted what he offered. 

In the subtle happiness of my morning, accompanied by dogs and a cat and birds and sun-reflecting trees, I thought of his song, “Big Mistake.” It is a bright, up-tempo creation about from where all this morning’s beauty and cognizance and love originated. He says that when he was in school, he paid close attention to the teacher’s description of a giant bang that sent the pieces flying all over the universe, and how those teachers claimed that those pieces settled into the perfect randomness of this world in which we live:

“It was a big mistake to have eyes that see

To have love like this inside of me

To have lips that smile as I swim your kiss

To have minds that will forever every part of this.”

From whatever porch he first penned that refrain, he felt the same way I did sitting on mine that aforementioned morning. All of this was no accident. How could I look at all of that and see an explosion as the cause without personifying a Prime Force for the explosion itself? How could protons and electrons and white-hot gases turn into the love we feel for our family and friends? It is just too absolutely perfect an outcome to credit randomness.

My wife had said a couple of days before, when I left for an overnighter, that she did not sleep well when I was gone. A couple of hours after the sunlight touched ground that day, I walked into our room and said it did not appear to me that she had trouble sleeping when I was not there. I crawled back in and played “Big Mistake” on my cell phone. She smiled at the familiarity of it, starting her day by remembering the hours we spent together over the years listening to our one-way friend sing that song.

“What do you think of that?” I asked after the final chord.

“I think CityView will love it.”  Then she went back to sleep.