by Gary Kaiser
He came riding toward me amplified music for entertainment eliminating the need for a bell to remind me I shouldn’t linger in the bike path which I felt was too subtly marked for the occasional tourist strolling in subdued awe of unfamiliar yet unremarkable surroundings. Slouched forward, his right hand held a mobile phone which probably showed a map tracking his progress or maybe a text message from someone important. I was reminded of stories my father told me biking through the rubble of post-war Normandy a cold muddy trek from Le Havre to Cité Montgeon past broken facades holding shattered dreams to the chapel where he’d serve refugees offering food and faith, reassured that even there, in everything, God is at work. Or earlier, riding across the Saskatchewan prairies one glorious autumn day singing a hymn at the top of his lungs with no one to hear him thanking God for the Earth so bright. I can see him riding, arms outstretched in darkness and in light looking up to embrace the heavens like Meg Ryan in City of Angels but without closing his eyes. What if my father had kept riding west or had stayed in Normandy instead of returning to southern Ontario to marry the young woman who would become beloved mother to me and my three siblings instead, meeting a farmer’s daughter or finding his calling among the Cree? I certainly wouldn’t be here in Lisbon scurrying out of the way of bikes or of anything else, for that matter such divine coincidences that result - among a few other things - in a statistical improbability like me grateful always to be the son of someone who looks up to beauty and to light.
On any given day, Gary Kaiser might be an amateur chef, teacher, translator, traveler, photographer, friend, father, or poet. Encouraged by a writer/minister/publisher/historian/cartographer father, he was born in Ontario, grew up in the New York City area, and now lives in San Francisco.