The other day I noticed the gas gauge on the Ford pickup was getting a tad too close to E. I have a tendency to let it hover near that letter until the last possible gallon has been vaporized and I am forced to add some gas. But these days, the tank gets replenished with only a smidgeon of the liquid, and nary a ‘fill up’, what with the cost that goes hand in hand with the filling. I am appalled, I am amazed, I am in awe at the price of gasoline!

Parts of three decades of my life were spent inhaling petroleum fumes. In the 1960’s, Daddy owned Northside Mobil, a full-service gas station on North Main. I can’t remember the gallon price back then, but I do remember you got your tank filled by an attendant wearing a uniform that proudly displayed the flying red horse insignia. And along with a smile and chat, you got your oil and tires checked, and your windshield washed. You then paid a few paltry dollars for a full tank of gas. And before you drove off, you had in your possession either a free glass coffee mug or stamps that you later redeemed for something with that same insignia on it.

The 1970’s found me and two of my three siblings working at that same gas station. The tradition of ‘full service with a smile’ was still intact, and the price of regular gas remained well below a dollar. (For some reason .50 sticks in my mind.) I can still hear the click of the numbers on the face of the gas pump. The ‘dollar’ column was so slow in comparison to the ‘gallon’ column! And I remember all the cars we washed for free - an incentive for you to stop and fill up at our station. Yes, back then there was some mighty competition - Phillips ‘66, Conoco and Shamrock stations wanted your business, too.

Mobil was long gone, and Gulf (later, Shamrock) was the brand of gas sold at that same station on North Main in the 1980’s. I was managing the place for my cousin by then, and it seemed like the price of gas waxed and waned on a weekly basis. Unleaded had been added to the market, and regular gas was on its way out the door. I remember the day we went to $1.19, and I also remember the complaints that came with that price.

Oh, but if only I’d had access to a crystal ball back then. I would have foretold of the day when a gallon of unleaded gas would be over $3. No one in the 1980’s would have believed me. Heck, I wouldn’t have believed me, either! So, if you see me talking to myself, grumbling and grousing under my breath, as I part with a twenty dollar bill to get about six gallons of gas just drive on by. No, you’d better stop and add a few gallons, too. Because (mutter, mutter) tomorrow the price might possibly be even higher!

FFFFFF

I call it the art of ‘being’, and I experience it most often at the end of the day. The paintbrush has been laid down, the chores and conversations of the day have been finished, and the busy, noisy world has gone from light to silent, inky black.

The other night I was drawn to my usual place of ‘being’ west of town. I was called there by the moon and the planet, Venus. They have been playing tag in the western, night sky off and on for several months now, and this particular night they were especially beautiful, dangling up there against nothingness, the partial moon softly shining while Venus sparkled forth her radiance. And they weren’t alone in the vastness of space. The entire canopy of sky was filled and over-brimming with twinkling pinpoints of light. And I was reminded of a time when I was just a little girl and truly believed each light was a candle in the window of an angel’s room.

I inhaled the sweet scent of prairie grass, and my ears heard but one sound. Somewhere in the grass a merry band of crickets were rubbing their back legs together and making ‘music’. And as I sat on the tailgate of the pickup, I felt as the ant must feel when it cranes it neck and peers up at an elephant - tiny and oh, so insignificant! But I embraced that feeling, because it brought along with it the sense of perspective, which then produced a sense of peacefulness. Like the ant, we all scurry about our lives, picking up and putting down burdens and bits of sand that weigh a ton. We needlessly worry and stew about the little things. But just out of range is an elephant that is walking towards us. If he steps on us, what will it matter that we hurried and scurried and worried? Ah yes, the power of perspective.

I looked up at the diamond-strewn sky sparkling from horizon to horizon, and I felt the weight of worldliness worry slide away from my spirit. I softly sighed as I relaxed both my body and my mind, and I let myself fall into the wonderfulness of it all….this magical world that lies hidden behind the bright and sunlit day. I blessed the ant, and the elephant, and with a humble heart I said “thank you” to God for teaching me how to enjoy the art of simply ‘being’.