Two parents once came up to me after a school board meeting and thanked me profusely. They felt so much better. At the time, I thought I hadn’t done anything. No decision had been made. But I had done something. I had simply let them talk; I listened; I empathized.

Recently, I emailed my former neighbors — rabidly, on the attack — and asked how dare they employ my ex-husband? How dare they pay him cash when he hasn’t paid child support in years? I expected my former neighbors to be defensive and angry, but, instead, the email I received back was kind and thoughtful and incredibly insightful. They’ll likely keep employing him, but at that point, I didn’t even care. Their empathy for me had opened up my heart to be empathetic for their plight, too.

What makes me remember this on a breezy autumn is maybe nothing but my own unhappiness about the adult world, both in general and in particular. Recently, I realized with the work I’m doing now, I could actually pack up and take a geographical cure from my immediate adult world, head somewhere else to work for the next four months. Like, perhaps, a desert cave.

Bad idea, I think. Those former neighbors and I have finally made our peace, and this one is likely to be lasting.

On a withered branch
A crow has alighted:
Nightfall in autumn

— Basho