1 – ONE LITTLE PROBLEM – Cobblestone Investment Trust, Chicago, Illinois, October 1993
“Bobby, I’m prepared to offer you the position of Director of Real Estate Investments, but there’s one little problem.” He leans forward, elbows on a Herman Miller executive desk, dips his head, and looks at me over the top of his reading glasses.
“What’s that, John?” I fidget, lean back in my chair, and push back from his desk.
“There are two Bobby’s that already report to me. You would be the third.” He reaches for his coffee mug. St. Louis Cardinals is stenciled in gold letters above the team’s logo. “Bobby White, goes by his initials, BW, the same as yours. And there’s Bobby Cramer. I call him Bobby. You’ll have to change your name.”
“Change my name!” I straighten my back. “What do you mean?”
“Not your last name.” He leans back in a black and chrome swivel-chair, lifts his leg, and thumps his Florsheim shoe on the desk, leather sole facing me. “Not your last name. That wouldn’t be an appropriate request. Just call yourself by a different first name. Maybe you could be Robert? Then I could call you Rob, Robbie, Robert, or RW.”
2 – HAWK TALKER– Madison area, Wisconsin, July 2005
“Music communicates in many ways, Robert.” Marge picks up a pencil and draws a downward sloping line across treble clef lines on a sheet of music notation paper. “How long have we been meeting for piano lessons?”
“Oh, about three years.” I turn from my keyboard to face her. “I started lessons when I realized that my song lyrics needed musical accompaniment.”
“What if you composed a melody where your music went down the scale from higher to lower notes?” She hands me her drawing. “In most of your songs, melodies ascend.”
Later that evening I struggled to compose a descending melody. Without a point of reference, or awareness of an example, it was difficult to create new music so I turned on the radio. Soon I heard a descending melody. I hadn’t heard a descending melody until Marge asked. When I paused and paid attention to my need, I raised my awareness and noticed what I needed to hear.
The next day I met a client to discuss his business brand. We focused on potential customers and how Ben could increase sales.
“It seems like every time I meet a potential customer on her terms, I gain a new relationship,” he observed. “Like, if I listen deeply to her concerns, I increase my awareness of what she truly wants. Then, when I speak to her real issues, I make a connection, and close a sale.”
On my way home, I reflected on Ben’s insight. A descending melody played on the radio
in the background. As I listened, I felt awareness of the music move down and out of my body, to open me to new experiences. Upon arrival, I got out of the car and walked up the path. A hawk flew across my way and perched on an oak limb twenty feet ahead. I paused and gazed upward.
Hawk’s eyes met mine. “Owah,” she greeted.
I had not heard a hawk call out in this manner. I continued to walk toward her and responded, “Yeah.”
“Owah,” she replied.
We continued our conversation, “Yeah.”
“Yeah.” I stood directly beneath her. She turned her head, side-to-side, and flew toward the woods. I bounded up the steps to our home, found Jeannie, and shouted, “I am Hawk Talker!”
3 – INFINITY – Dan’s kitchen, Ashton, Wisconsin, June 2010
“She collected rounded granite stones and nestled them in a basket like eggs in a nest.” I reach across Dan’s kitchen table for another glazed donut. “I shouldn’t, but may I?”
“Of course.” Dan pushes a plate of sugar-coated delights to the center of the table. “Please do. I may have another myself, a bit later. Who had a basket of stones, Robert?”
“Mother.” I wipe crumbs from the corner of my mouth. “Delicious. She collected weathered stones from Lake Michigan beaches, or river rocks as some call them, from streams or inland Wisconsin lakes that were created by ancient glaciers. She preferred smooth stones, polished by water and sand into round or oval shapes. Some were red or brown speckled, others were veined with contrasting igneous material that formed unusual patterns. Most were gray or off-white. Mother placed larger stones in a wicker basket, like kids use when they hunt for Easter eggs. Smaller stones were tucked in a twig basket that resembled a bird’s nest.”
“Where did she keep these baskets?” Dan reaches for a napkin and donut. “Later is now.”
I laugh. “Baskets were in her dining room. After she passed, we had an estate sale. The baskets were not sold so I consolidated all of the stones into one basket and brought them home with me–”
“And put them in your dining room,” he laughs.
“No, I’m not sure. Eventually I found them and they ended up outside in our flower bed. After a few years the baskets deteriorated and stones became two small piles. We added mulch to the flower bed and must have spread the stones when we raked leaves in the fall.”
“Didn’t you also have a landscaper to help you with your yard work?” Dan reaches for a water pitcher and two glasses. “Cool drink?”
I nod my head. “Yes, please. This spring when I raked, I discovered a patch of stones. As I began to pick them up, I was drawn to one gray stone in particular. I almost overlooked the rock because only about the size of a dime was visible above ground. Too deep for my fingers, I grabbed a trowel, dug up the stone, and turned it over. Eureka.”
“A perfect figure eight was formed by veins of a crystalline, quartz-type of material in the oval shaped, gray granite stone.” I sigh. “At the same moment, a woodpecker began to drum in the nearby woods–”
“Do, do, do, do.” Dan hums the theme from Twilight Zone. “Like the time when the woodpecker guided you to your grandmother’s grave?”
“Yes, only this time the message was different.”
“As I rotated the stone, I saw the figure eight transformed into the symbol for infinity.”
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Richard Wilberg, MS, PLCC, ACC
Creativity Coach for Personal Fulfillment and Career Success
About the Author
I write personal essays, creative non-fiction, flash fiction, and self-development articles from my home in Madison, Wisconsin.