When I was nearing middle age and heading toward plump, I ran short of money. The car broke and needed a hard-to-get part. It sat in a repair shop for most of a summer and part of an autumn. I did not borrow funds or expend energy clamoring for a replacement car or a faster repair job. We walked, rode bikes, and ventured onto public transportation. We saw our neighborhood from a brand-new angle. Gardens not noticed when whizzing by on four wheels can be appreciated flower by flower when one is walking. Friendly hellos are gathered. Relationships are formed.
The pantry slid to near empty. I used items that had been tucked into corners for years - bags of popcorn kernels and packets of mung beans and alfalfa seeds. My cooking skills were enhanced; I learned that the most unlikely conglomeration of ingredients could become a very tasty supper. Guests were routinely offered water. It was that or nothing. Free samples offered in neighboring markets were gratifying snacks, truly appreciated. Found pennies were bundled and spent. It was a satisfying time; it was a fun time.
I would love to be sitting on a bulging endowment fund one day, but I have no regrets about times when my pockets contained only lint. The time to which I refer gave me a slimmer body. There was no money to fritter away on junk food. And with walking as my primary mode of transportation, my hips reverted to slender. For the first time in my life, my daughter was routinely mistaken for my sister.
During that time my appreciation peaked for the many unbidden gifts that cross our paths daily. I had mulberries by the bellyful every morning. All I had to do was reach up and pluck them before they fell to the ground. Who needs a farmers' market when such delicacies hang from urban trees? At the beginning of fall, crisp sugary apples were strewn on the grass of a nearby corner. They were eaten as is, or chopped into oatmeal or steamed with a topping of cinnamon and nuts.
Later in the season, I had sweet grapes lining a favorite path. (The owners of the grapevines had in years past had their fill of turning the fruit into jam; they were happy to share their Concord wealth.) Always there were soda cans and bottles to turn into nickels to turn into rice or beans or blueberries.
Life slowed down. A day's agenda did not include event upon event until we stumbled to bed knowing that the next day's to-do list would be just as long. Entertainment centered around home. We read, talked, puttered in the garden. A trip to the store, carefully balancing groceries on bikes on the journey back, was an adventure within itself. The trip was also fodder for later conversation.
When my wallet plumped out again, my walking habit and narrower hips remained. I emerged secure, knowing that a lack of funds doesn't mean a lack of bounty, a lack of providence. I know how rich we are.