Walking Cross-Town. Crossing the Street.

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The morning ritual is…

GET to the office.
GET to the desk.
Fire up the PC.
GET a jump on the day.
Same. Same. Same.

I exit Grand Central,
and head West.
Same route.
As the crow flies,
it’s a straight shot, on foot, cross-town, to the office on 48th street.
Speed traps are meted out by flashing Don’t Walk! signs and traffic,
as jaywalking is a cultural norm in Gotham.

I couldn’t tell you what triggered it.
It could have been a car horn.
A driver shouting at another.
Or perhaps more subtle,
a bird call amidst the gray, inert skyscrapers,
or a unusually, warm early morning wind gust from my left.

[Read more…]

Hello?

light-heaven-clouds

[…] I ask nothing more of God
than a very slight little tap,
coming to answer yes to my question…

~ Hélène Cixous, from “The Cauliflower of the Lautaret,” Love Itself: In the Letter Box


Notes: Quote Source: Journey of Words. Helene Cixous’ full passage on Google Books. Photograph: Petrified Tears

It would just be there

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I lie awake,
wishing I had faith of some kind.
I’ve caught glimpses of it now and then,
I can even conjure it up for a second or two,
but it fades.
It’s a stillness,
the polar opposite of worry.
It isn’t hope;
hope has too much energy,
requires constant renewal;
faith (if I had it) would just be there.

~ Abigail Thomas, Safekeeping: Some True Stories From a Life


Photograph: A. Sprigg via Precious Things

Flying. Over Interstate 80 East.

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It’s 8:00 am Friday morning.  Delta flight 466, a non-stop to JFK, departing at 8:30.

Hordes of travelers mill around the gate — all restless, anxious, and shifting from one foot to the other waiting for their zone to be called.

With no status on this airline, my concern rests with available overhead bin storage capacity. My shoulders tense up. I will cram this bloody carryon bag under my seat to avoid checking it. 

158 seats are taken on this 160-seat Boeing 737-800.  I see space in an overhead bin at the front of the plane, and suffer the stares as I jam my bag between two others. I know this is against First Class rules. But, go ahead Lady. Say something. Grab this Tiger by the tail. I’m operating on 4 hours of sleep, and just itching for confrontation. Go ahead. Give it your best shot.

The middle seat to my right remains open. Passengers continue to board. Could this be my lucky day? Or…Not? Could he or she be an armrest hog? Take frequent bathroom breaks? Bring a pungent and messy burrito on board for breakfast? Listen to music blaring from earbuds? Have a drippy nose? Body odor? Be doused in perfume? Nosy? LEANER? TALKER? [Read more…]

I need a belief system

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Heather Havrilesky, Like a Prayer:

I don’t believe in God, but I need some kind of a prayer to repeat when things go haywire. I need a prayer because, as a writer with several unruly dependents under my roof, each day is a rollercoaster, a crapshoot, an exercise in uncertainty.

[…]

See how the tiniest events can shift the barometer just enough to stir up a storm? My buoyant mood sinks. The day that felt so full of promise sags, landing in a haze of exhaustion and niggling worries by the time I crawl into bed.

I need a belief system. I need a morning ritual. I need to say some bold and glorious words out loud at the start of the day, to remind myself who I am and what I’m doing and what the point of it all is. Unfortunately, I don’t like saying bold and glorious words out loud. So I need a prayer that’s not too prayer-like. I need a belief system that doesn’t require me to suspend my disbelief.

[…]

So instead, I just lay in bed and tried to think of every member of my family and every one of my closest friends. I started with my husband, my kids, my mother, my sisters, my brother, their spouses and kids, my aunts, and my father, who’s been dead for 19 years. Then I listed my close friends. I put them in alphabetical order so they were easier to remember.

The next day, it was much easier to remember everyone, even though it had been hard the first time.

And by the third day, the names felt almost like a prayer.

It’s been a month, and now every morning I just say my prayer of names. Doing that makes me realise that I do have a belief system: almost everything is superfluous, except people. People matter. And there’s a strange emancipation that comes from acknowledging the people you love, and giving them your love, even when you know they can’t always understand you, accept you or love you back. People are flawed. But people will surprise you.

We aren’t on this Earth to improve endlessly, forever approaching infinite perfection but never quite getting there. We are here to notice the enormity and beauty of everything around us, and to notice each other – to notice how flawed we all are, and feel connected anyway.

Read entire essay by Heather Havrilesky at Aeon Magazine @ Like a Prayer.


Image Credit: Tanya Moss

Riding Metro North. With the Crusaders.

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It’s 27° F. I’m fast stepping to catch the 6:16 am train to Grand Central. My soles are snapping the rock salt crystals. The eyes are scanning the sidewalk on the look out for black ice. It’s March. It’s damn cold. I shiver. It’s over. It’s over soon.

I review my notes for my 8:30 am presentation. And then shift to the morning papers.  I scan my calendar.  I complete the Morning rituals. I’m done early.

The gear box is misfiring. Where’s the pre-game anxiety? Where’s the morning email missives? Where’s the pullin’ Locomotive?

The noise-canceling earphones and the music player are dialed up. I’ve encased Myself inside Myself. Myself and Bob Seger, Against the Wind.

My phone vibrates signaling a text from Rachel — she’s two trains behind me. Hi Daddy! I send her a link in reply: FDA Panel Backs Kythera Double-Chin TreatmentThanks Dad. Another genetic beauty mark that you’ve passed down to me. I chuckle. She’s mine. Not yet 7 am and she’s counterpunching. That’s My Girl.

The train enters a long, slow curve into Manhattan.  Rachel is leaning into the curve, behind but with me — her electronic Hi Daddy, Oliver’s soft wind, like a belt of silk, wraps the house.

We’re in the tunnels. The normal pulse escalation zone. I’m watching the Commuters scrambling to gather their bags to prepare for ejection.  I’m watching. Sitting. At Peace, Calm and Centered – with Seger crooning in the background. Damn de-stabilizing. Mad-Man turned Zen.

I let the masses pour out of the train and clear. I follow behind the herd.

I exit out onto 42nd Street and Vanderbilt, and she catches me catch her eye.

I’m OFF. Again. FAIL! Commuters Creed: Avoid eye contact. [Read more…]

But, not yet have I reached that bright life or that white happiness – not yet.

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Men and women of faith who pray – that is, who come to a certain assigned place, at definite times, and are not abashed to go down on their knees – will not tarry for the cup of coffee or the news break or the end of the movie when the moment arrives. The habit, then, has become their life. What some might call the restrictions of the daily office they find to be an opportunity to foster the inner life. The hours are appointed and named; they are the Lord’s. Life’s fretfulness is transcended. The different and the novel are sweet, but regularity and repetition are also teachers. Divine attentiveness cannot be kept casually, or visited only in season, like Venice and Switzerland. Or, perhaps it can, but then how attentive is it? And if you have no ceremony, no habits, which may be opulent or may be simple but are exact and rigorous and familiar, how can you reach toward the actuality of faith, or even a moral life, except vaguely? The patterns of our lives reveal us. Our habits measure us. Our battles with our habits speak of dreams yet to become real. I would like to be like the fox, earnest in devotion and humor both, or the brave, compliant pond shutting its heavy door for the long winter. But, not yet have I reached that bright life or that white happiness – not yet.

~ Mary Oliver, Long Life: Essays and Other Writings


Art: Oldsamovar (Art by Alexanderliech Kosnichev)

 

Sunday Morning: Shrinks back farther into the empty sleeve of the church

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Early in March,
in the shadow of the abandoned Assembly of God,
there’s a melting snowdrift shaped like a hand
whose five thin fingers reach
to soothe the grass on the neighboring lawn.
Each day this white hand shrinks back farther
into the empty sleeve of the church.

~ Ted Kooser, The Wheeling Year: A Poet’s Field Book 


Photograph: Ed Erglis (Minnesota)

 

Sunday Morning: People are religious or not, but


Lisa Batiashvili, the 35-year-old Georgian violinist who is this season’s artist in residence with the New York Philharmonic and will perform Barber’s Violin Concerto with that orchestra this week, is an eloquent musician. In concert and on award-winning recordings, she has captivated critics and audiences with her natural elegance, silky sound and the meticulous grace of her articulation. There is a laserlike directness to her playing that enables her to transmit concentrated emotions without a trace of affectation or theatrics: the musical equivalent to laparoscopic surgery.

In conversation, Ms. Batiashvili exhibits many of the same qualities. Soft-spoken but determined, she speaks as openly about the political responsibilities of an artist as she does about her personal relationship to Bach’s music — the subject of her latest recording and of coming performances with the Philharmonic — and the unhealthy obsession of the violin world with the instruments of Antonio Stradivari…

Ms. Batiashvili said it took time and experimentation for her to feel ready to record Bach. When she did, she said, “something spiritual happened to me — people are religious or not, but Bach makes you believe in something for sure.

~ Corinna da Fonseca-Wollheim on Lisa Batiashvili on Violins, Ukraine and Valery Gergiev


Lisa Batiashvili, 35, is a Georgian violinist, the daughter of a violinist father and a pianist mother. Her father was her first teacher from age 4. In 1995, she was a prize winner in the International Jean Sibelius Violin Competition. Batiashvili and her oboist husband François Leleux, reside in France with their two children. She plays the 1709 Engleman Stradivarius on loan from the Nippon Music Foundation.

Some keep the Sabbath going to Church. I keep it, staying at Home.

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Pico Iyer, Chapter 5: “A Secular Sabbath” from “The Art of Stillness: Adventures in Going Nowhere.”:

The need for an empty space, a pause, is something we have all felt in our bones; it’s the rest in a piece of music that gives it resonance and shape…the reason a certain kind of writer will include a lot of blank space on a page, so his sentences have room to breathe (and his readers, too). The one word for which the adjective “holy” is used in the Ten Commandments is Sabbath…

These days, in the age of movement and connection, space, as Marx had it in another context, has been annihilated by time; we feel as though we can make contact with almost anywhere at any moment. But as fast as geography is coming under our control, the clock is exerting more and more tyranny over us. And the more we can contact others, the more, it sometimes seems, we lose contact with ourselves…

This is what the principle of the Sabbath enshrines…the one day a week we take off becomes a vast empty space through which we can wander, without agenda, as through the light-filled passageways of Notre Dame. Of course, for a religious person, it’s also very much about community and ritual and refreshing one’s relationship with God and ages past. But even for the rest of us, it’s like a retreat house that ensures we’ll have something bright and purposeful to carry back into the other six days…

The Sabbath recalls to us that, in the end, all our journeys have to bring us home. And we do not have to travel far to get away from our less considered habits. The places that move us most deeply, as I found in the monastery, are often the ones we recognize like long-lost friends; we come to them with a piercing sense of familiarity, as if returning to some source we already know. “Some keep the Sabbath going to Church—” Emily Dickinson wrote. “I keep it, staying at Home.”


Notes: