Walking. With One (Good) Wing Creatures.

5:15 a.m. I’m out the door.  Dark Sky is calling for rain. Let’s see.

It’s been ~675 mornings, almost consecutive. Like in a row. I’m on my daybreak walk @ Cove Island Park.

It’s not all glorious Swans and pirouettes.

There she is. Up top. The Gull. She? He? Sorry, with no disrespect intended to whatever it is, I’m old school. Or just old. I don’t know its pronoun, and we’re going with She.

I wasn’t paying attention. Not downward anyway.  And typically, the wildlife clears out-of-the-way when Darth Vader approaches. A 6’1″ human, black hoodie, black jacket, black sweat pants, black gloves, black toque (pronounced tuuuk), and a matching black backpack.  Darth, who recently had foot surgery, happens to be dragging his right leg, with his Sorel boot scraping the asphalt behind him.  So all winged creatures give Darth wide berth.
[Read more…]

Sunday Morning

I never cared much for swans until the day a swan told me I was wrong. It was a cloudy winter morning and I was suffering from a recently broken heart. I sat myself down on a concrete step by Jesus Lock and was staring at the river, feeling the world was just as cold and grey, when a female mute swan hoist herself out from the water and stumped towards me on leathery, in-turned webbed feet and sturdy black legs. I assumed she wanted food. Swans can break an arm with one blow of their wing, I remembered, one of those warnings from childhood that get annealed into adult fight-or-flight responses. Part of me wanted to get up and move further away, but most of me was just too tired. I watched her, her snaky neck, black eye, her blank hauteur. I expected her to stop, but she did not. She walked right up to where I sat on the step, her head towering over mine. Then she turned around to face the river, shifted left, and plonked herself down, her body parallel with my own, so close her wing-feathers were pressed against my thighs. Let no one ever speak of swans as being airy, insubstantial things. I was sitting with something the size of a large dog. And now I was too astonished to be nervous. I didn’t know what to do: I grasped, bewildered, for the correct interspecies social etiquette. She looked at me incuriously, then tucked her head sideways and backwards into her raised coverts, neck curved, and fell fast asleep. We sat there together for ten minutes, until a family came past and a toddler made a beeline for her. She slipped back into the water and ploughed upstream. As I watched her leave something shifted inside me and I began to weep with an emotion I recognised as gratitude. That day was when swans turned into real creatures for me, and it has spurred me since to seek out others.

—  Helen Macdonald, Vesper Flights (Grove Press, August 25, 2020)


Photo: DK’s Swan. Sept 11, 2020. 6:15 am. The Cove, Stamford, CT. Related Swan posts: Swan1

“It was just a good day.”


Notes:

That there is nothing weak about kindness and compassion

It has been remarked that Elijah was a kind man. I tell my daughters—and I have to say, listening to Elijah’s daughters speak, that got me choked up. I am sure those of you who have sons feel the same way, but there is something about daughters and their fathers. And I was thinking, I would want my daughters to know how much I love them, but I would also want them to know that being a strong man includes being kind. That there is nothing weak about kindness and compassion. There is nothing weak about looking out for others. There is nothing weak about being honorable. You are not a sucker to have integrity and to treat others with respect. I was sitting here and I was just noticing the Honorable Elijah E. Cummings and, you know, this is a title that we confer on all kinds of people who get elected to public office. We’re supposed to introduce them as honorable.

But Elijah Cummings was honorable before he was elected to office. There’s a difference. There is a difference if you are honorable and treated others honorably outside the limelight. On the side of a road; in a quiet moment, counseling somebody you work with; letting your daughters know you love them…

~ Excerpt from former U.S. President Barack Obama’s eulogy yesterday honoring Representative Elijah Cummings of Maryland (Read full text of eulogy @ The Atlantic, October 25, 2019)

Sunday Morning

I, said a prayer for the deer, as we always do when dispensing with wildlife, like the pileated woodpecker that flew straight into one of the windows on the side of the house and then collapsed dead on the windshield of our car. My God, was that upsetting…

Laurel, for all of her sometimes hard-boiled feelings about the foibles of human beings, had boundless feelings of responsibility for animals, the more innocent, the more boundless the feeling. She regularly escorted bugs out of the house, even the ladybugs that had a tendency to blight the place in fall and spring. She resisted even my vacuuming and releasing when there were dozens of them. Spiders were escorted out. And she had a very practical method for removing bees and wasps that involved an overturned glass and an index card.

Rick MoodyThe Long Accomplishment: A Memoir of Hope and Struggle in Matrimony (August 6, 2019)


Photo of the artist Laurel Nakadate by Sabine Mirlesse via artspace.com

Running. With light that falls.

6 a.m. Friday morning.

I’m running. Down the hill, around the corner, and down the sidewalk on Post Road.

I adjust my stride to miss the cracks between the concrete slabs. Grass sprouts up from the cracks, asparagus colored green, bushy clumps – it was a Simone Weil moment: “Only the light that falls continually from the sky gives a tree the energy to push powerful roots into the earth. The tree is actually rooted in the sky.”  How? How does this grass push its way through the concrete? The light, roots the grass to the earth, pulls it upward to the sky.

The street is empty but for a big city bus a few hundred feet up the road. Its body is dark, a hulking silhouette, its interior beams, illuminated. It’s odd to see a large bus in our small town, so early, so far from Manhattan. The bus is full, passengers lean their heads against windows, their mornings started in darkness some time earlier followed by…

A long walk to the bus stop.
A long wait for the bus, delayed.
A slow tip of the hand to release coins into the dispenser for the fare.
A long ride on the bus to work, seats worn, cushions flat, flush to metal.
A long walk from the bus stop to work. 
And do it all over on the return at the end of the day.

It’s a few feet from our back door to the garage to my car. The gas tank is full.  I push the button for ignition, the cool air conditioning envelopes me in the cabin. I adjust my position in the soft leather seat. Always have a seat. Never a long walk. Never a need for coins.

I pass a bus on the street on my drive to work. Passengers look down, with blank-eyed stares.

Yes, Simone. Yes. The light. The sky. The trees. The roots. The earth.

And…The Lottery.


Notes:

  • Post inspiration: “I honestly believe that…things can change in an instant, and made it key to my philosophy of life: neither money nor my work define me. I like them, they allow me to do many things I enjoy, but if I did not have them, I know I would be able to find something else to do, I would be able to survive, I could be happy…I never take anything for granted, and I never forget how lucky I have been, and am.” ~ Alan Cumming, Not My Father’s Son: A Memoir
  • Photograph: Skogrun
  • Related Posts: Commuting Series

What are you going through?

All around me were strangers. I knew no one. And as far as I knew, no one had any idea what I was dealing with….As I turned away and stared at the Pacific Ocean through the little window from my seat on the plane, I was left with a bunch of grief and two big questions. What burdens are all the people on this plane carrying? And how would I treat them differently if I knew?

~ Carl Richards, from “Ask Yourself This: What Burdens Is That Other Person Carrying?”

 


Post title and post Inspired by: “I remember reading some works of Simone Veil, a French woman who lived in France during the war and she said there’s only one question worth asking anybody and that question is, “What are you going through?” ~Leonard Cohen, From Leonard Cohen interview With Stina Dabrowski (Thank you Make Believe Boutique)

Riding Metro North. With SkinnyPop.

train-car-jpg

Michael posted it. I chew on it.

“The older I grow, the more I listen to people who don’t talk much.”  Germain G. Glidden.

Like a needle stuck in a rut, it churns.

The older I grow…The older I grow…The older I grow.

It’s Monday, an unexpected break, with two cancellations. I mosey cross-town to catch an early afternoon train.

The hallways in Grand Central, teeming in rush hour, stand empty, resting.  The board flashes Track 106, departing in 30 minutes.  30 minutes. 30 minutes. 30 minutes.

The stomach growls. I circle the snack bar. Once. And then twice. And then back again. Snickers Bars. Doritos. Mixed Nuts. M&Ms. Papers. Magazines. Sodas chilling. An oversize bag of Jalapeno SkinnyPop. Bingo. I grab the bag and a Kit-Kat Bar.  The tattooed counter man lifts his head from the NY Post, “Bag for this?

I step into the last car, it’s dimly lit. [Read more…]

Walking Cross-Town. With a Tin Cup.

face-of-hand-abstract

The moment, seconds really, should have degraded into an inkblot, edges fraying, burrowing to lose itself among the billions of other moments, stored for retrieval at a later date when a similar moment showed up. Aha, I remember that.

But No.

This one Rises, floats on Top, bobbing up and down, making sure it isn’t lost. Remember this, it seems to say. Don’t forget this, it needs to say.

I’m walking Cross-Town on 47th. It’s dark. It’s early, 6:23 am. And, it’s Cold – sub 35° F, with winds gusting. Feels like 26° F. Biting.

I’m wearing a trench coat, knee length, its heavy lining leaning in on my shoulders. It’s zipped to the throat.

The fur lined leather gloves keep the hands and fingers toasty. I grip my case with one, and swing the other, the motion pulling me forward, the pace quick, the blood and bones warming from the movement.

And there he was.

Alone. [Read more…]

Zeke. Post Mortem. Did you cry then?

zeke-vizsla-dog-pet

I ran the morning of his “expiration.” Same route. There was no rustling, no reason to turn, but my attention is pulled hard right to the other side of the highway.  A doe, large, silent, and frozen in spot, stares. Our eyes lock. Go ahead Girl, speak to me. I’m listening.

Two hours “before”, I’m watching The Man Who Knew Infinity, an inspiring flick about Srinivasa Ramanujan, a self-taught Indian genius who forged a bond with his math professor, G.H. Hardy, while fighting an institution that refused to acknowledge his achievements (racism, jealousy, fear). Here’s Hardy, an atheist and his mentor, in a speech to a skeptical decisioning board:  “So, now we see the enormous breakthrough that he has achieved…Mr. Ramanujan told me that an equation had no meaning unless it expressed a thought of God…Well, despite everything in my being set to the contrary, perhaps he is right…So, in the end, I have been forced to consider, who are we to question Ramanujan, let alone God.” Just as Hardy finishes his impassioned plea, Zeke, prostrate on the hard wood floor, starts choking, unable to catch his breath, the tumor working its devilish deed. Why now? Why so soon? Who am I to question…?

Minutes “after“, I look in his water dish, peanut shells float in lukewarm water, undigested remains and backwash from his lock jaw. We need to remove the water dish, his food dish, his crate, his toys and everything else.  Yet, while all physical remnants have been cleared, the silence from the absence of his footsteps, his swishing tail, his presence, all Thunder in this empty house.

Vizsla’s are “velcro” dogs, restless, following you everywhere, all the time. What happens when your shadow of eight years, is no longer there, no longer anywhere but in your head. You continuously look over your shoulder feeling something, yet there’s nothing there. With the velcro detached, when do You become detached, unstuck, unhinged? [Read more…]

The Present


Stick with this to the end…

Extraordinary person. Ordinary People and their Extraordinary Stories.

goose-chronicles

I’m rushing to catch the elevator. I’m late for my next meeting, and busy replaying the outcome of the last. I step into the building lobby and run into a colleague.

JQ: Hey, Dave. Do you have a minute?

DK: Running late, but of course.

JQ: I wanted to share an idea and get your thoughts.  I know that you’ve been blogging for some time. I’ve been thinking of doing the same. I visit assisted care living facilities (ACLF) on weekends and write stories.

DK: Write stories?

JQ: Yes. Many of the people I meet are ill, lonely and rarely visited by family. They look forward to speaking to me. I meet them all in person. Some interviews take 5 hours. Some 30 minutes. I take their picture. All with their consent or consent of a family member.

As he describes his “hobby,” I take an inventory of recent posts: Snoopy. A cat video. Hyperrealistic painting of lady in bath tub eating cake. OMG.  [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…]

5:00 Bell: Take me home. Take me home.

compassion,nature

“Locals help turtles return to the water at the Rushikulya river in eastern India.”


Xinhua, wsj.com photos of the day.

Absolutely pure

bird-winds-soar-blue-sky

This world –
absolutely pure
As is.
Behind the fear,
Vulnerability.
Behind that,
Sadness,
then compassion
And behind that the vast sky.

~ Rick Fields


Notes:

I can’t do anything / Contradictions / Blown by the wind

cow-calf-mother

8:06 p.m. on Friday evening.
I’m getting off the train returning home from a long work day in Manhattan.
T.G.I.F.
Susan and Zeke greet me at the train station for our walk home.
Zeke’s tail is wagging wildly, his head on a swivel searching for a present to bring to Dad.

“Eric had a bad day.”

I’m still winded from walking up the stairs from the platform.
The weight of the work week lifts, and anxiety flushes in.
My pulse starts to race. I’m gulping for air.
Bile rolls up my empty stomach and sits gnawing in my throat.

No. Please, no. Not my Son.

“He went to a bull fight with his friends.”

Panic begins to ease. Ms. Drama’s overstatements, or my fatigue misinterpreting degree of “bad day”?

“They left before half. He said there was one bullfighter. The matador has six ‘assistants’, 2 mounted on horseback, three flagmen and a sword servant. Six men looking to kill a single bull. He said it was barbaric. Sickening. He had to get out of the stadium.” [Read more…]

Darwinism. Maternalism. And Zeke.

baby-bird-030

Susan finds an abandoned baby bird on the lawn in the backyard. She has to protect it. To save it.

She cups it in her hand. She calls out to me to help.

“Put it back.”

I don’t get a response. A few minutes later she has the bird in a clear, plastic container. Where did she find that? (Note to self: Cache of Bird paraphernalia is growing.)

“Look at how cute she is.”

I glance at it. I’m gulping the flashback: What’s with you and birds? It was a different mother then. A Robin. Also, trying, to protect her young. The irony not lost on me.

“What do you think we should do?”

“I think you should put it back.” She’s getting attached. This will end badly.

“But it can’t fly!”

Zeke is circling. He’s sniffing wildly. His eyes are full. His breed and his blood, the Vizsla, was trained for generations to look up. To flush. To retrieve. It’s all about Birds.

“Its Mother can’t find it either. Go put it back. Near the trees.”

She ignores me. (Again.) I see her cupping the bird. Bobbing its beak in water.

“Come on birdy. Take a drink. Then we’re going back.”

That was Thursday.

Birdy had reappeared near the fence yesterday afternoon.
[Read more…]

Riding Metro-North. With The Gremlin.

train-gif

It’s Tuesday morning. A great night’s sleep. I’m Regenerated. I rise. I rise. I rise.

I walk to the train station to catch the 5:40. 62° F. The Air is still. The Birds are singing. Blue skies.

It’s Quiet.

The Train pulls up. 5:39am. Second train of the day. It’s packed.

I wedge past another commuter and take the window seat.

A Lady, mid-60’s, is facing me.  She’s in a 3-seater, on a full train, with her purse blocking the seat to her right and a bottle of Poland Springs water blocking the left.  “Prickly.” She has a cup of coffee in an unmarked styrofoam cup in her left hand and she’s pecking away on a crossword puzzle on an iPad. She does not lift her head as I pass.

It’s Quiet. The soft hum of the electric current powering the train. The clickety-clack of the tracks. And the Lady snorting and re-snorting phlegm up her nasal passages. Is she swallowing it?

The Conductor breaks the silence on the P.A.: Good morning! I have an important announcement. He pauses. The heads in the car all bob up to listen. Today’s Danny’s last day after 20 years with MetroNorth. He’s covering the middle cars. Danny, we all wish you good luck in your retirement. God Speed. [Read more…]

Running. With AAA.

photography,black and white,tire,flat tire,
Yahoo Weather Update:
57º F. Humidity 97%. Visibility 4 miles. Areas of dense morning fog. Mist.

Mist. And Ambivalence rains. Mind says yes. Body says rest.

I gear up.
Red and Black shoes. Black running pants. Red top.
Red. Rhino. Run.
I’m out the door.

The Mind whirrs back to Wednesday.  We’re in the car on our bi-annual trek to pick up Eric at College.  It’s a 10 to 14 hour drive and we’re standing in wall-to-wall traffic on the GW Bridge. We’re tracking to the wrong end of the range and the horse has just left the barn.

We clear the bridge and I’m barreling down the NJ turnpike.  72 mph. OK, 78 mph. Making up time.

The Warning light flashes on dash. “LOW TIRE PRESSURE.”  Followed by a PHSSSSSST. And then, a WUMP. WUMP. WUMP. WUMP. (Blood rushes to head. Why is it so hot in the car? Tension fills the cabin. Co-Pilot has seen the Captain manage the unexpected. It’s not pretty.)

I pull the car over to the shoulder. (I come from a long lineage of handymen. DNA somehow skipped me. My fix-it depth consists of bangin’ on the Alt-CTL-DEL key.)

Susan calls AAA. ETA is 30 minutes. (30 minutes to show up. 15-20 minutes to put on the provisional. 90 minutes to 3 hours to find a service station to replace tire. Estimated 2.5 – 4 hour delay. Mood darkens. Migraine thundering on queue.)

AAA arrives. I get out of the car to car to greet him. He gives me a hand signal to stay off the highway. His lips mouthing “too dangerous.” A Semi passes by and kicks up a wind gust. Diesel exhaust fills my lungs.

[Read more…]

As long as there is one compassionate woman

penn-portrait-e-b-white

From Brainpickings: “In 1973, one man sent a distressed letter to E.B. White, lamenting that he had lost faith in humanity. The beloved author, who was not only a masterful letter-writer but also a professional celebrator of the human condition and an unflinching proponent of the writer’s duty to uplift people, took it upon himself to boost the man’s sunken heart with a short but infinitely beautiful reply, found in Letters of Note: Correspondence Deserving of a Wider Audience.”

Dear Mr. Nadeau:

As long as there is one upright man, as long as there is one compassionate woman, the contagion may spread and the scene is not desolate. Hope is the thing that is left to us, in a bad time. I shall get up Sunday morning and wind the clock, as a contribution to order and steadfastness.

Sailors have an expression about the weather: they say, the weather is a great bluffer. I guess the same is true of our human society — things can look dark, then a break shows in the clouds, and all is changed, sometimes rather suddenly. It is quite obvious that the human race has made a queer mess of life on this planet. But as a people we probably harbor seeds of goodness that have lain for a long time waiting to sprout when the conditions are right. Man’s curiosity, his relentlessness, his inventiveness, his ingenuity have led him into deep trouble. We can only hope that these same traits will enable him to claw his way out.

Hang on to your hat. Hang on to your hope. And wind the clock, for tomorrow is another day.

Sincerely,

E. B. White

[Read more…]

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