Riding Metro North. No Wings.


Low 30’s F.

Walking to catch the 6:16 a.m. train to Manhattan, irritated that I have a late jump, and finding a seat is now a 50% probability. $15.25 for a ticket, and I have to worry about getting a seat.

I’m 1000 ft away from the stairs to the platform, and the cyclops eye beams through the morning fog illuminating the track.  This is followed by a short horn blast signaling its arrival at the station.

It’s 3 minutes early.

I run.

I catch the train.


I stand for 55 minutes.

I’ve started a new book by Niall Williams titled “This is Happiness.” And this ain’t bloody Happiness.

Bad night sleep.  Bad nights’ sleep. “Nights” plural.  It’s been two weeks.  Insomnia exacerbated by left shoulder ache which I attribute to the onset of arthritis from a separated shoulder injury 30 years ago. I hope that’s all it is and nothing worse; nothing found in this morning’s self-examination, no lumps in the armpit. The pain starts in the lower shoulder, moves up through the arm pit, into the bone, and then up into the neck, and loops again, and again. The pain rattles my teeth, gnawing on tin foil over fillings.

And it doesn’t stop there. Hip Bone connected to the Thigh bone thing… This shoulder thing has led to lower back pain. Self-diagnosis: I typically sleep (for a lifetime-to-date) on my left side.  Shoulder pain requires me to sleep on my right, which isn’t working.  The wireless ear bud is now in my opposite ear, with Audible narration pumping more of Niall Williams’ This is Happiness into my head. Body, ear, head, back are all contorted in new positions, and lower back groans from the change. This fragile ecosystem all held together for over 50 years, is coming unglued.

45 minutes standing on train, and I’m shifting to get comfortable. I set my bag down. Shoulder pain has been muscled out of the way by the lower back which is having its way now. I lean against vestibule, close my eyes, and hope for relief.

Niall Williams: “I’m older now… But there’s something undoing about the dying light of mid-afternoon. In that empty old house on Marlborough Road all that had stitched me into this life came undone and I couldn’t escape the feeling that folded against my back were wings that had failed to opens.”

“I couldn’t escape the feeling that folded against my back were wings that failed to open.”

Fast forward to late afternoon.

I’m on Metro North heading home.

I can’t get comfortable in my seat. Shoulder. Back. Eyes heavy. I set my smartphone down as the words blur. I can’t focus. I can’t hold onto anything solid.  I drift with the rocking of the train. I slide my hand around my brief case (to protect my gadgets) and fall asleep.

The train stops. The Conductor calls out the stop. Wow. Out cold for 35 minutes. Almost missed my stop.

I exit train. There’s a soft light drizzle.

I’m walking home.

I inhale. I pull my left shoulder in, and then out, in and then out. No pain.

I accelerate my pace, my lower back is humming, singing a song, cheering me on.

I quicken my pace, and hear my puffs of breath, and think Rilke.

“…day after day: bright, wretched, endlessly fragile.


Notes: Photo by João Cabral with Porto Portugal. (via Newthom)


  1. Sleeping on the train/bus has it´s positives. I did miss a stop once and ended up at the end of the line! I had to call hubby to come and get me. Embarrassed big time.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. You’re ready for Floridahhhhh

    Liked by 1 person

  3. That train ride sounds like a lot of misery! Hope you can catch up on your sleep and ease that shoulder pain.

    Liked by 2 people

  4. Hope you’re feeling good all over! If the shoulder continues, one official PT to try: Stand (bad shoulder side) an arm’s length away from wall. Raise arm straight out and make capital alphabet letters on the wall. Hurts like hell (after heat/hot shower, take anti-inflammatory/analgesic 10 minutes before the exercise), but after a couple of days of this torture, the pain is gone.

    Liked by 3 people

  5. A colleague and I were remarking just the other day on how glorious it is to move about pain free. At our age and stage, those moments occur far less frequently than the achy breaky ones but when they do, we put our hands together and bow our heads in gratitude. Sounds like that 35 minute nap was exactly what your shoulder needed.

    Liked by 1 person

  6. The bones and muscles become less forgiving with every passing year, it seems. Hope that you’re enjoying some downtime by the fire this weekend, pal….

    Liked by 1 person

  7. You have had a rough week, my friend. And after all those years of sleeping on the same side, it must be hell to try to readjust on the other. I’ve had hip pain (December 15th, December 15th, December 15th) since working these stupid Christmas parties and I have taken to sleeping on the other side of the bed which has refluffed up since Mick’s passing. It feels softer and suddenly I am sleeping(ish) more(ish)
    You must have been exhausted to have been able to sleep on the train! Your shoulders obviously relaxed just enough to ease that pain.
    Keep us posted on the effects of Carol’s suggestion. Maybe go see a PT and make sure you do them correctly – nothing worse than doing something with the wrong technique…
    And take it easy this weekend!

    Liked by 1 person

  8. I’m sorry to hear about your pain – hockey injury? Also, I thought the setting of your smartphone the seat was foreshadowing that you forgot about it when you got off the train. At least that didn’t happen…

    Liked by 1 person

  9. “I couldn’t escape the feeling that folded against my back were wings that failed to open.” Love this and your writing DK. Here’s my thoughts. As we get older, our only suffering is in wanting to hold onto the past, the way we were, the way we have always done things. Our freedom is in letting go, expanding and continually opening to new ways, and in doing so, our wings unfold slowly, easily, beautifully. 🦋🌈🦋

    Liked by 2 people

  10. Ah yes. Left shoulder pain. Me too. Old injuries — mostly skiing.

    The fact is, some of my pains today are a result of injuries doing things I loved to do in another time and space.

    I don’t regret the things I did that lead to those injuries – I loved whatever I was doing at the time. However, I do struggle sometimes with my aches and pains, oh and my attitude about this ‘ageing’ thingie. I’m practicing letting go on a daily basis (sometimes minute by minute). It’s a work in progress, but, when I accept it with grace, I discover that there are wonderful things I can do that ensure my body will continue to be my ‘happy’ partner in the years to come. And I’m thinking (hoping) the stretch of letting go and learning new things will ensure that my wings do not remain unfurled against my back.

    A nap on a train is a lovely interlude in what sounds like a very stressful time in your life. I’m glad to read it helped ease your pain, even if only for a little while — sometimes, that little while is all the reminder we need to hear our body’s invitation to stretch and unfurl our wings a little bit more.

    Liked by 1 person

  11. Great piece of writing & thanks for the intro to Niall Williams …Like you I suffer from lack of sleep and this week sore shoulder which will clear up when I do my reflexology and also hunt with my finger tips under the arm pit, along the upper side, across the chest & collar-bone & up and down the arm.(stay away from the elbow!!! area) when one finds a tender spot work gently on it – you will experience relief in your shoulder…I have wondered if reaching/extending for the laptop keyboard and using my external mouse cause some of my shoulder pain…which wasn’t present at other times when I use the computer most days…do stretches often, have Susan teach you a few yoga moves and have her apply some “Arnicare Gel” by Boiron on your shoulder… Best of luck to you and Sleep Well 🙂

    interactive hand reflexology chart

    interactive foot reflexology chart

    “Famous” Physical Therapists : 2 sleeping positions you must avoid by Bob & Brad

    Liked by 1 person

  12. Sometimes we have to just hold on loosely, pal…too tight and we lose the control we think we have

    Liked by 1 person

  13. well written, as always dk. it sounds, from the outside, like your body and mind are flashing all kinds of warning lights and signals as you head off in the direction of another busy, stressful, over-worked day. as you leave and head toward heart and home, your body and mind relax and sink into the comfort of peace, calm, and grace. what is the message here?

    Liked by 1 person

  14. To answer your question: Well I often am working on knots or tender spots, since I am always sore… for me it is intuitive & hands on..years ago I noticed a correlation between working on a sore spot and gleaning relief – so my curious mind googled and for accu-pressure and reflexology and found the Interactive charts if you knee hurts find the word knee under the photo and the area on the photo chart that needs to be worked is Highlighted on either foot or hand chart and then you go to your foot and rub that area! My hubby is always surprised he says I didn’t even know my arm was sore how do you find these knots! Consequentially, some of the books written by Barbara & Kevin Kunz are published by >> DK publishing!!! << formerly known as Dorling Kindersley a British company…https://www.dk.com/us/ the may have a partnership with Penguin/Random House? https://www.dk.com/us/
    a system of massage used to relieve tension and treat illness, based on the theory that there are reflex points on the feet, hands, and head linked to every part of the body.
    another definition…
    Reflexology is similar to acupuncture and acupressure in that it theorizes an influence on the body's vital energy through the stimulation of points on the body. … Reflexology and acupressure are both "reflex" therapies in that they work with points on one part of the body to affect other parts of the body.

    Liked by 1 person

  15. DK publishing I’m fairly sure published the large format children’s book full of facts and realistic photos on Dinosaurs, think there was one of Castles…the publishing house has a recognizable DK logo (red and white)…they have many divisions and genre within their publishing house…
    Hope the above links on reflexology bring you some comfort…so many pressure pts on the body that can be worked on that provide pain relief…

    Liked by 1 person

  16. Love the Rilke quote …. May we all find balance in the daily frustrations, and the aging process. Nice post DK 💛

    Liked by 1 person

  17. The cost is too high. People who use public transportation are helping save the environment. Cities should take that factor into consideration.
    A lovely post.

    Liked by 1 person

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