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Snip—Snip—Smidgens of hair tickle my cheek, then splay upon the cape snapped around my neck. A glimpse into the oval mirror above the styling table catches the sinewy forearms of my hairdresser as he pauses before gripping the scissors and resumes cutting my bangs. Chatter and funky music pump up the busyness in his salon.

Again, I look into the mirror. Puffiness beneath my brown eyes and white-hair flecking my temples reveal my aging. It wasn’t always like this. A much younger face looked back at me when I had first sat in his styling hair. That was thirty-five years ago.

The first chair was in the Casual Coiffe in St. Louis, Missouri, a salon owned by his uncle. Not only was I surprised by his precision haircut, but also his kindness drew me to return every four months.

Over the years, pieces of his story emerged: an avid reader; working with his uncle and managing a fourplex in the Tower Grove area; his marriage and helping to birth two sons, parent, then empower them to be on their own; his first salon, with two subsequent changes in venues. Care lines in his clean-shaven face deepened as he styled hair and later cared for the needs of his infirm uncle, even his death and the disposal of his cremains in Ohio. Annual family vacations over the years to Mexican beaches sparked even more stories.

However, styling hair eventually became an occupational hazard that required several shoulder surgeries followed by painful convalescences. Once healed, he was back at work.

Helping his patrons, through the artistry of his hands, recalls a saying of Jesus: “Well done, good and faithful servant. You have been faithful over a little; I will set you over much. Enter into the joy of your master.” Matthew 25:23.

His name is Rob, of Rob and Company Salon in St. Louis, Missouri.

 

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“If you love the truth, be a lover of silence. Silence like the sun will illuminate you in God.”—a trenchant saying attributed to the seventh-century Isaac the Syrian, Bishop, theologian, and monk, and regarded a saint by the Eastern Orthodox Church.

Simple words, if pondered, reveal the unseen caught in the flux of time. Key to this process is passion, whose firelight, like the sun, ignites inner worlds. But who cares to go there? To discipline unruly instincts clamoring for expression? That would be like dying. Such flies in the face of our cultural mores, entrapped in denial and rationalization. The predictable is more comfortable, yet soulless.

It does not take much to see who is truly alive among us: their quickening gaze, their resonant voices, their authority, of whatever age. Companions of the fire, they thrive in their burning. They just seem to know.

 

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Quack-quack-quack-quack-quack! There they go again, the mallard in the lead up the slope toward a neighbor’s front yard. Orange webbed feet list from side to side like tipsy seamen on leave. But perhaps these ducks are tipsy.

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Motorists stop as they meander across streets; joggers pause as the ducks sun on the creek bottom; mothers pushing strollers step aside; business men gawk as they parade down sidewalks, their quacks in lockstep with their careening.

It wasn’t always this way. For years we’ve followed their life cycle–spring migration, pre-nesting, nesting, brood rearing, post breeding, molting, and fall migration–all within the confines of the private pond in our neighborhood.

What to make of this anomaly disorienting our ducks, compelling them to leave their shaded refuge in favor of our streets? Perhaps harmful electromagnetic frequencies from the looming cell tower nearby, from our handheld computerized devices, from our hybrid cars, from power lines and transformers, to mention a few.

Lest I lose my orientation like the ducks and traverse barren paths inimical to my individuation, I must stay focused upon the next right step, thereby sacrificing the less than, however attractive. Such discernment works!

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