Running. With Whippoorwills.

dreamy-sea-gull-fly

Mile Marker 0:

It’s 4:25 am, and Quiet but for the whippoorwills which break the silence. How do I know they are whippoorwills? Because I like to say w-h-i-p-p-o-o-r-w-i-l-l-s. And because that’s the only way I can work in this beautiful poem by Howard Moss.

And then the whippoorwill
Begins its tireless, cool,
Calm, and precise lament—
Again and again and again—
Its love replying in kind,
Or blindly sung to itself,
Waiting for something to happen.

~ Howard Moss, from “Going to Sleep in the Country,” New Selected Poems

Tireless, cool, calm, and precise lament. Again and again and again.

Not the tireless. Not the cool. Not the calm. But I’ve got the lament part down. And the again and again and again part. And I excel at waiting for something to happen.

GET UP. GET MOVING. TIME TO RUN.

My lips form wwwwhip, wwwwhippoor, and there it is: whippoorwill. Soothing. I repeat it Again and again and again.

There’s magic in the formation of these letters.

Or I’m a circus monkey. [Read more…]

Riding Metro-North. Pre-Game.

city-lights-dreamy

3:45 am, Tuesday morning.
I’m up.
Should be tired.
Not tired.
Body is saying “Go!”
Zeke stirs at my feet, and leans in.

Mental flotsam. But there it is again.

I jump in the shower.
I close my eyes, and linger in the sauna.

How do you know it isn’t?

I walk down the hall.
Behind door 1, Eric sleeps after a night out with friends.
Behind door 2, Rachel is wrapped under two comforters. She’s well into the final act of her dream.
Children.

You could be squarely in the middle of it, right now.

[Read more…]

Riding Metro North. Lacking Connection.

city-lights

It’s 8:58 p.m.
The 9:06 is not reachable from my position in Manhattan.
Later train, late night and another red-eye loop of early morning, late night and early morning. Do Over.

It’s Hour 17 on the shot clock on Tuesday evening.
Yet, it can’t touch me. Not tonight.
I’m primed with three glasses of Napa Chardonnay from dinner, and it’s lifting the fatigue off the mat. The mind lolls in a mist. Could this be bliss? Or inebriation?

Tourists are milling on Fifth Avenue.
Smoke hangs over the grill of a food cart. Middle eastern music is blaring from a boom box. The proprietor is whacking away at the chicken on the grill. How could I possibly be hungry?

I find my seat on the 9:39. And settle.

She boards the train.

Blonde, middle age, white collared shirt, pearls, dark gray blazer, and closed-shoe pumps with 3″ heels. Lawyer?
She places her leather bag on the seat, sits and tugs her skirt down over her knees.
She pulls a tablet from her bag, covers her mouth and coughs. And coughs again and again. Smoker’s cough.
The commuter next to her has his laptop open and his fingers are working the keys. He hasn’t lifted his head. Techie?

The train pulls out of Grand Central at 9:39 pm and rumbles through the dark tunnel. [Read more…]

Catching Metro-North.

new-york-city-afternoon-manhattan

6:13 pm.
Madison Square Garden to Grand Central.
10 blocks North — 3 blocks East.
22 minutes to the 6:35 pm New Haven Line.
Rush hour. On foot.

Doable? Let’s go.

Tourists.
Suits.
Students.
Lovers.
Jaywalk.
Contractors.
Homeless.
Tourists.
Street Vendors.
Food cart. Pita. Gyros.
Cabs.
Pedicabs.
Bus tour hawkers.
Shysters.
Shopkeepers.
Jaywalk.
Three abreast.
Tourists.
Lollygaggers.
Messengers.
Bikers.
Tourists.
Black Cars.
Red lights.
Bumbin’Jostlin’ (Sorry!)
Jaywalk.
Walk signs.
Don’t walk.
Jaywalk.
Sidewalk.
Soft spring breeze.
Pungent marinating garbage.
Zig. Zag.
Smokers.
Tourists.
City Buses.
Car horns.

[Read more…]

Flying. Over Interstate 80 East.

fly,plane,jet,window,clouds,photography

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…]

Be. Where you are.

woman-mist-dreamy

I glance right at the digital read out.
Monday: 4:00 am. Tuesday: 2 am. Now: 1:38 am.
Impressive trajectory. By Friday, you’ll be a 7-Eleven, open 7 x 24.
I run the math. 3.5 hours.
It just can’t be.
I turn away from the clock, a source of irritation, and close my eyes.
Aha! Bad, but not So bad. It’s Mountain Daylight Time without the Daylight. It’s 3:38 am EST. Jet lag has to be the culprit.

It’s silent but for the low hum of the hotel air-conditioning.
The bed, is alien. The pillows are off.
There’s no Zeke at my feet. His Leaning. First at the legs, and as the night progresses, into my torso. After seven years, when I’m away, it has become a leaning akin to a missing limb on an amputee.
Don’t open your eyes. Don’t reach for the laptop. Don’t do it.

[Read more…]

Riding Metro-North S/N. With Crawford.

Amtrak Cascades train 509 races through Vader, WA.

Miracles.
The Show plays same time daily. Pre-dawn in a tight band around 4:30 am.
Zeke‘s bred to hunt birds. His Dad, to wake free of alarms.
I peek out from under the covers, and voila.
6 hours of intermittent shut-eye, and the florescent digits blaze 4:38 am.
The red spark plugs ignite the engine.
I calculate the odds of catching the 5:01 am.
22 minutes to shower, shave, dress, cover 1/4 mile and buy ticket.
Too tight. Next train: 5:40 am.

*  *   *

I make the 5:40.

I finish skimming the morning e-papers.

I move to Matthew Crawford’s new book: The World Beyond Your Head: On Becoming an Individual in an Age of Distraction.  After an engaging introduction, I catch myself jumping words, then sentences and whole paragraphs. I’m skipping a torrent of multi-syllabic words. I’m not understanding much of it — it’s washing over me like dirty runoff. I’m hoping something sticks. Nothing does. [Read more…]

Not as well as Yo-Yo Ma, but still, to touch the hem of the gown that is art itself

ann-patchett-

Why is it that we understand playing the cello will require work, but we attribute writing to the magic of inspiration? Chances are, any child who stays with an instrument for more than two weeks has some adult making her practice, and any child who sticks with it longer than that does so because she understands that practice makes her play better and that there is a deep, soul-satisfying pleasure in improvement. If a person of any age picked up the cello for the first time and said, “I’ll be playing in Carnegie Hall next month!” you would pity their delusion, yet beginning fiction writers all across the country polish up their best efforts and send them off to The New Yorker. Perhaps you’re thinking here that playing an instrument is not an art itself but an interpretation of the composer’s art, but I stand by my metaphor. The art of writing comes way down the line, as does the art of interpreting Bach. Art stands on the shoulders of craft, which means that to get to the art you must master the craft. If you want to write, practice writing. Practice it for hours a day, not to come up with a story you can publish, but because you long to learn how to write well, because there is something that you alone can say. Write the story, learn from it, put it away, write another story. Think of a sink pipe filled with sticky sediment. The only way to get clean water is to force a small ocean through the tap. Most of us are full up with bad stories, boring stories, self-indulgent stories, searing works of unendurable melodrama. We must get all of them out of our system in order to find the good stories that may or may not exist in the freshwater underneath. […]

Does this sound like a lot of work without any guarantee of success? Well, yes, but it also calls into question our definition of success. Playing the cello, we’re more likely to realize that the pleasure is the practice, the ability to create this beautiful sound; not to do it as well as Yo-Yo Ma, but still, to touch the hem of the gown that is art itself… I got better at closing the gap between my hand and my head by clocking in the hours, stacking up the pages. Somewhere in all my years of practice, I don’t know where exactly, I arrived at the art. […]

Forgiveness. The ability to forgive oneself. Stop here for a few breaths and think about this because it is the key to making art, and very possibly the key to finding any semblance of happiness in life. […]

I believe, more than anything, that this grief of constantly having to face down our own inadequacies is what keeps people from being writers. Forgiveness, therefore, is key. I can’t write the book I want to write, but I can and will write the book I am capable of writing. Again and again throughout the course of my life I will forgive myself.

~ Ann Patchett. This is the Story of a Happy Marriage, Harper Perennial, 2014)


Source: Brain Pickings – The Workhorse and the Butterfly: Ann Patchett on Writing and Why Self-Forgiveness Is the Most Important Ingredient of Great Art

Morning Call

sleep-anna-vihastaya-photography

You start with a wisp of memory, or some detail that won’t let you be. You write, you cross out. You write again, revise, feel like giving up. What pulls you through? Curiosity.

~ Abigail Thomas, What Comes Next and How to Like It: A Memoir



It’s an all-night dance at The Alibi.

The strobes, the churning, my personal whitewater at the base of a long spillway of a hydroelectric dam.

I pull the left shoulder back and tug it hard to roll away from a throbbing right, and then settle heavily on the left. A desperate search for comfort.

A handless re-positioning of the knee pillow, a defensive moat shielding bone on bone impact, a life-to-date action now into the tens of thousands. And counting.

Voices drift into the dreamless oblivion. The unreal is more powerful than the real…Stone crumbles. Wood rots…But things as fragile as a thought, a dream, a legend, they can go on and on.¹

A chill, a pulling up of the covers, and the play repeats.

Left shoulder pull
Right shoulder roll
Right knee tuck
Left knee slide
Voices
Covers

They can go on and on…


Notes:

Walking Cross-Town. In Vogue.

new-york-city-rain-street

Dawn breaks. The air is heavy for April. I peek into my bag, and I’m reassured by the pocket umbrella. It’s the second train of the morning. 55 minutes, 2 stops. Destination: Grand Central Station. But for the clack of steel on steel, the train is silent.

We arrive at Grand Central. The masses, bees awakened and agitated, pour out of the hive and race for the exits.

A count of the passersby between Madison and Fifth: it’s 6 of 9, 7 of 10 if you include me. The count is Secluded. Sequestered. White cords are draped from ear lobes to pockets, strapped to the Source, private and away.  One smiling. One solemn. One harried, a Working Mom?  One at peace. One head bobs with lips’ syncing.  And the narrator, Madonna in Strike a Pose.

When all else fails and you long to be
Something better than you are today
I know a place where you can get away

“You long to be Something better than you are today.”
[Read more…]