Under the Leaves

26 September 2023

An urging restlessness returned my thoughts to the usual mental debate for this autumn Tuesday. “I know no one there. No one knows me. Should I go?” Then I began thinking of New York City in the 1920s and 1930s.

Images of my father’s Brooklyn neighborhood popped in my mind. Some of these faded photographs I managed to find and tuck in a few envelopes before I left what I had called home. Now they flipped through my thoughts. I had heard and answered the appeal for tombstone contributions from an Italian-American community. Now, I felt a connection to this unknown someone who chose the moral grace of “doing the right thing” — Here is the story of Pietro Pete Panto.

Here was Pietro, buried unmarked, unrecognized, not far from where I now quietly live. Pete — standing, saying no to corruption, even in the face of violence, and upholding his own moral compass in favor of workers’ struggles. At another historical time, almost 100 years ago, when honesty seemed scarce, Panto remained steadfast to model workers’ collective conscience of honest travail and its rewards. How much yet how little things change! I spoke to people in attendance – open, focused, welcoming – waiting with umbrellas prepared for the threats of a downpour.

Before I left the house, I debated whether to buy flowers. A quick visual survey of the backyard revealed one perfect red rosebud, and several purple wildflowers, palm-like fronds, and plenty of greenery. I gathered the flowers and whispered a prayer for the guidance to do the right thing, and to brave the conviction to follow those whispers.

And when ready to leave, I returned to the car, shuffling through brown, decaying leaves over rows of graves. By chance, I brushed some brown leaves off one of the foot-stones and looking up, read and received the message to recognize the synchronicity and serendipity of this afternoon.

By jjillgallery

Quietly seeking to meet Trust wherever Life leads, I understand service as key to gratitude and balance. Freshwater woodlands evoke the most serenity in me wherever they're found. I've shared space & time on terrain of my Ligurian and Oscan ancestors, feeling their souls guiding me, especially in silent contemplation. Today, after over thirty years of engagement in programs for children, secondary, university and adult learning, the gifts life brings on Long Island's Matinecock-Algonquin earth, I try to give & receive with grace.

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