Walking Cross-Town. With the lid popped off.

“Bring an umbrella. It’s going to rain.”  She follows the weather. She barks out the forecast. It will be 35 years in September, and I’ve found she’s right 50% of the time. And I remind her of the 50% on the wrong side. It keeps the wheels on the bus going round and round. I mumble under my breath: How hard can it rain? Do I really need to haul an umbrella around, another 1.5 pounds in my already overstuffed bag.

I take the umbrella.

It didn’t have to be this tight on time. It really didn’t.  I could have postponed an 8 a.m. conference call, taken the earlier train and given myself ample wiggle room to walk, to take an Uber or to catch a cab. I even thought about it, at length.  But no, No Sir. Why defer, when you can do it now, right now. Pack it tight, pack it in.  The Counselling Blog (I need it / I read it / I won’t admit it) shared a quote yesterday that was shared anonymously:  “I try to contain my crazy but the lid keeps popping off.” I get it. I do.

I have a 10:30 a.m. training session that I am leading with 20 colleagues. The train is scheduled to arrive at Grand Central at 9:59 a.m. It’s 10 minutes late, and it’s a 13-minute walk across town if you hit the street lights just right. Tight. Too tight for a guy who likes to arrive early, set up the room, sit and relax, and review my presentation notes.

I exit Grand Central Station. It’s raining. No. I mean, it’s Raining. Sheets. I stand under a covered area and look for Cabs. Are you kidding? Waiting for a Miracle. I pull up the Uber app and it says no availability for 12 minutes. I don’t have 12 minutes and it would take another 15-20 minutes to get across town in this traffic.

I pop open the umbrella. There are streams of rainwater rushing down the streets into the drains. Monsoon on Madison. Puddles are accumulating at the cross walks. The marble in front of the major hotels is smooth, gray and slick like ice. I need to slow my pace as the umbrella in my right hand is stretching me up, my overstuffed backpack in my left is pulling me down and my smooth, leather soled lace-ups are struggling to stay anchored to the concrete slabs – an off-kilter Rickshaw teetering on a single wheel. Treacherous. [Read more…]

Into the mug of morning pour yourself

Into the mug of morning
pour yourself, warm
and dark, your aromatic
presence hugging the hand-formed
divide between inside and out.
Ease from empty into full
until, brim-level, you
rise an swirl, a steamy
mist rejoining its source.

~Sharon Sharp


Notes: Photo: mennyfox55. Poem: Thank you Make Believe Boutique

Sunday Morning

So much held in a heart in a lifetime. So much held in a heart in a day, an hour, a moment. We are utterly open with no one in the end—not mother and father, not wife or husband, not lover, not child, not friend. We open windows to each but we live alone in the house of the heart. Perhaps we must. Perhaps we could not bear to be so naked, for fear of a constantly harrowed heart. When young we think there will come one person who will savor and sustain us always; when we are older we know this is the dream of a child, that all hearts finally are bruised and scarred, scored and torn, repaired by time and will, patched by force of character, yet fragile and rickety forevermore, no matter how ferocious the defense and how many bricks you bring to the wall. You can brick up your heart as stout and tight and hard and cold and impregnable as you possibly can and down it comes in an instant, felled by a woman’s second glance, a child’s apple breath, the shatter of glass in the road, the words I have something to tell you, a cat with a broken spine dragging itself into the forest to die, the brush of your mother’s papery ancient hand in the thicket of your hair, the memory of your father’s voice early in the morning echoing from the kitchen where he is making pancakes for his children.

~ Brian Doyle, from “Joyas Voladoras


Photo via Your Eyes Blaze Out

Running in Michigan. With a stumbling block, or a Stepping-Stone.

71° F. An intermittent breeze blows off Lake Superior.  Upper Michigan…a half step slower in pace, and a full step-and-a-half ahead in balance.  With skies so blue, clouds so white, water and air so clean, you can taste the Pure emblazoned on the license plates on the cars that pass me by.

I run under the bridge which towers overhead. Rail cars roll out on the ore docks.  A massive freighter sits silently waiting for the iron ore pellets to fall down the chutes into its belly. One can’t pass this scene and not be filled with Gordon Lightfoot’s The Wreck of Edmund of Fitzgerald:

The legend lives on from the Chippewa on down
Of the big lake they called ‘gitche gumee’
The lake, it is said, never gives up her dead
When the skies of November turn gloomy
With a load of iron ore twenty-six thousand tons more
Than the Edmund Fitzgerald weighed empty

I enter Presque Isle Park. I’m hearing horns through my ear buds. Can’t be.  I tuck my earbuds into my pocket and follow the tune. A man, in his 70’s, in a kilt, stands in the woods with his bagpipes – he’s alone and belting out Scotland the Brave. Goosebumps pop on my forearms. I must have Scotland in the gene pool, must have.

Genes. Family history. Family trees. DNA testing. The purpose of this family get-together was to celebrate my Father-in-Law discovering his full Sister on a genetic service. What’s bigger than meeting a sister you never knew you had? [Read more…]

T.G.I.F.: It’s been a long week


Photo: Pentti Sammallahti. Varanasi, India. 1999 (via Newthom)

Walking. Solus, with the Light-House.

It was a week ago. An otherwise unforgettable day, but for a moment, a single firefly with its other worldly bioluminescence, which keeps circling back.

“Do you want a ride home?”

It’s a short walk home from the train station, ~2000 steps. One hour in the quiet car on Metro North didn’t quench it, the thirst for more solitude, more Alone, more decompression. I walk.

The torso leans forward, the feet step one-two-one-two.  Lean forward? A tip from a Youtube fitness coach who explained that it propels you forward. So I lean forward. If he told you to hop on your right foot and rub your stomach round and round with your left hand, you’d do it.

It’s humid. God, it’s Humid. Torso leans forward, thick air pushes back, slowing forward motion. Thunderheads build in the distance.

The neck tie is in my brief case. The slim fit button down shirt soaks up the sweat on back, arms and neck.

Black leather lace-ups wrap tighter and tighter, and pump like pistons (up, down, up, down) – a squishy, pus filled blister, like the thunderheads, is ready to explode. Humidity. Sweat. Blister.  It’s a scene out of Beau Taplin’s “Run Freely“: “Human beings are made of water. We were not designed to hold ourselves together, rather run freely like oceans, like rivers.[Read more…]

Riding Uptown. Man on Venus. Man on Mars.

“How long to Grand Central?”

“20 minutes, maybe 30, it’s Rush Hour.”

Uber driver. Black Toyota Camry. Leather seats worn. Dashboard tanned with thousands of hours of direct sunlight.

“Your English is good. Where are you from?”

He glances at me in the rear view mirror. Reticent.

“Ethiopia, Sir.”

“How long have you been here?”

“9 years.”

“And your family? Are they here or back in Ethiopia?”

“Oh, they’re all back in Ethiopia. I’m here with my wife.”

“Do you miss home?”

Long pause.

“People think it’s easy. Here in America.” He pulls up. Polite, respectful.

I shift the conversation. We’re a few minutes out.

“You have a 4.94 (out of 5) driver rating. Wow. That’s something. How do you do it?”

“I don’t know Sir.” He smiles.

“I’m curious. Out of 10 rides, how many riders tip?” [Read more…]

Now has come, an easy time

Now has come, an easy time. I let it
roll. There is a lake somewhere
so blue and far nobody owns it.
A wind comes by, and a willow listens
gracefully.

I hear all this, every summer…
That lake stays blue and free; it goes
on and on.

And I know where it is.

~ William Stafford, from “Why I Am Happy” in Early Morning: Remembering My Father, William Stafford by Kim Stafford 


Notes: Poem – Thank you Hammock Papers. Photo: Elena Morelli

Where she goes, they follow. All 76 of them… She’s the Mom of the Year.

Where she goes, they follow. All 76 of them. A female duck in Minnesota has about six dozen ducklings in her care, a remarkable image that an amateur wildlife photographer captured on a recent trip to Lake Bemidji, about 150 miles northwest of Duluth, Minn.

“It was mind blowing,” the photographer, Brent Cizek, said in an interview. “I didn’t know that a duck could care for that many chicks.” It’s not unusual to see many ducklings gathered together. Some 20 or 30 have been reported with a single hen. But 70-plus? “It’s an extraordinary sighting,” said Richard O. Prum, an ornithologist at Yale University…

Mr. Cizek said he first stumbled upon the brood in late June, when he headed out to the local lake in an eight-foot plastic boat he bought to fuel his outdoor photography. He said he wasn’t expecting to take many pictures that day — he brought one camera and one lens — but then he saw the duck and her babies.

He began snapping photos while trying to steer in choppy water. He rushed home to look at his camera roll, he said, and found that only one image turned out: the duck, who is being called Mama, blazing the way for the long line of ducklings in her wake.

“It kind of compels you just to look and wonder: How?” Mr. Cizek said. “How did this happen? How is this mom taking care of all of these ducklings? She just looks really proud and stoic in the photo.” [Read more…]

Truth (In Step Counting)

“The goal is to take ten thousand steps per day, and once you do, it vibrates.”  “Hard?” “No,” she said. “It’s just a tingle.”

I bought a Fitbit of my own…Ten thousand steps, I learned, amounts to a little more than four miles for someone my size. It sounds like a lot, but you can cover that distance over the course of an average day without even trying…I was traveling myself when I got my Fitbit, and because the tingle feels so good, not just as a sensation but also as a mark of accomplishment, I began pacing the airport rather than doing what I normally do, which is sit in the waiting area…I also started taking the stairs instead of the escalator and avoiding the moving sidewalk…

To people like Dawn and me, people who are obsessive to begin with, the Fitbit is a digital trainer, perpetually egging us on. During the first few weeks that I had it, I’d return to my hotel at the end of the day, and when I discovered that I’d taken a total of, say, twelve thousand steps, I’d go out for another three thousand.  “But why?” Hugh asked when I told him about it. “Why isn’t twelve thousand enough?” “Because,” I told him, “my Fitbit thinks I can do better.” I look back at that time and laugh—fifteen thousand steps—ha! That’s only about seven miles! …

I was averaging twenty-five thousand steps, or around ten and a half miles per day. Trousers that had grown too snug were suddenly loose again, and I noticed that my face was looking a lot thinner. Then I upped it to thirty thousand steps and started walking farther afield…

I look back on the days I averaged only thirty thousand steps and think, Honestly, how lazy can you get? When I hit thirty-five thousand steps a day, Fitbit sent me an e-badge, and then one for forty thousand, and forty-five thousand. Now I’m up to sixty thousand, which is twenty-five and a half miles. Walking that distance at the age of fifty-seven with completely flat feet while lugging a heavy bag of garbage takes close to nine hours—a big block of time but hardly wasted. I listen to audiobooks and podcasts. I talk to people…

At the end of my first sixty-thousand-step day, I staggered home with my flashlight knowing that now I’d advance to sixty-five thousand and that there’d be no end to it until my feet snapped off at the ankles. Then it’d just be my jagged bones stabbing into the soft ground. Why is it some people can manage a thing like a Fitbit, while others go off the rails and allow it to rule, and perhaps even ruin, their lives? While marching along the roadside, I often think of a TV show that I watched a few years back—Obsessed, it was called…

For reasons I cannot determine, my Fitbit died. I was devastated when I tapped the broadest part of it and the little dots failed to appear. Then I felt a great sense of freedom. It seemed that my life was now my own again. But was it? Walking twenty-five miles, or even running up the stairs and back, suddenly seemed pointless, since without the steps being counted and registered, what use were they? I lasted five hours before I ordered a replacement, express delivery. It arrived the following afternoon, and my hands shook as I tore open the box. Ten minutes later, my new master strapped securely around my left wrist, I was out the door, racing, practically running, to make up for lost time.

David Sedaris, from “Stepping Out” in Calypso  (May, 2018)


Photo: Thad Zajdowicz with “Keep Walking

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