Riding Metro North. With Law & Order.

train-subway-motion-rails

Tuesday evening. Downtown Manhattan. I’m hailing a cab. Rich food swims in Chardonnay. Wind bursts chill the bones: Winter.

I flip on Waze with an eye out for a cab – 16 minutes to Grand Central.  The 8:36 train departs in 18 minutes.  Unlikely, but possible.

“Be great if I can catch the 8:36.” This is NYC Cabbie code – a much larger tip in it for you if you giddyap.  It’s the American Way: Proper incentives = desired behavior.  I buckle my seatbelt, grip the armrest and hope for the best.

“8:36?”

“Yes.”

He bolts through traffic – Rabbit with lock on the Carrot. Think bumper car or go cart sans contact, with the same weaving, bobbing, braking and jarring.

We arrive at the station at 8:36.  I run to the gate, hopeful for a train delay.  I watch the fading red tail lights down the tunnel, wheezing, trying to catch my breath. Damn!  Next train, 30 minutes.

I walk to the next gate, board the train, find a seat, and get comfortable. Chardonnay burns off. Fatigue rolls in, eyes are burning on four hours of sleep. I pop in my ear buds, turn on soft ambient music, lean my head against the window, and close my eyes. Just 10 minutes, please, just 10. 

The smartphone buzzes in my pocket, a text message. Let it go. Just let it go. [Read more…]

Trail Therapy: Watch. Just Watch.


Steve Fugate lost both his children–his son committed suicide, and his daughter overdosed. Sixty-four years old, Mr. Fugate has walked across the United States seven times to raise awareness for depression and suicide and to inspire people he meets to “love life.”

Stick with it to the end…This Man is something special.

Happy Bird Father’s Day (Miracle, all of it)

bird-father-feed-nature

Excerpts from Jennifer Ackerman‘s: Why Bird Fathers Are Superior:

They are attentive parents, building nests, feeding chicks and even showing their young how to sing.

Tally up the good dads and the bad dads in the animal world, and mammals come up surprisingly short. Males provide direct care of their young in less than 5% of mammal species. Some mammals, like grizzly bears, are notoriously bad dads, known to kill their own cubs…most mammal fathers are deadbeats with a “love ’em and leave ’em” approach, sticking around only to mate.

Then there are birds. For our avian friends, attentive care of the young by both males and females is the norm. True, females shoulder the full parenting load in a few avian families, such as hummingbirds. But in some 90% of bird species, the males stay around to help: They share the duties of nest-building, incubate eggs, feed brooding females and the chicks, even train their young for independent life. Birds, in short, have a system of parenting not unlike our own, despite being separated from us by some 300 million years of evolutionary history…

How could creatures whose brains are so much smaller than ours and so different from them possibly be clever? …In the past two decades or so, we’ve learned that some species of birds have relatively large brains for their body size, just as we do…Birds teach. They learn. They solve problems. They make tools. They count. They remember where they put things. They deceive and cheat. They argue and console.

And they parent—most often together, with an equitable division of labor between nest and “office.” Many birds share incubation duties. Male and female double-crested cormorants swap that role about once an hour, so that the stay-at-home parent gets a chance to forage for itself. Woodpeckers relieve one another during the day, but the male alone incubates at night.

Some male birds go to extraordinary lengths not just to find food for their young but to participate in the actual feeding. The anhinga, or snakebird, which is found in the southern swamplands of the Americas, puts his whole mouth and neck into it, creating a kind of feeding tube to efficiently deliver partially digested fish down the throats of his young. (The chicks are soon shoving their heads down their dad’s beak to speed up the process.)

The Namaqua sandgrouse, which lives in the driest regions of southern Africa, acts as a living flask for his brood: A male bird flies up to 20 miles to find a watering hole in which to soak his belly feathers, absorbing a few tablespoons of water—then flies back to his chicks to let them drink from his feathers… [Read more…]

Ruth & Eve

art-painting-mother-daughter-mothers-day

Artistic collaborations can happen in unexpected ways—just ask Ruth Oosterman. She has found a unique, creative partnership with her 3-year-old daughter, Eve. Together, they produce beautiful works of art. Through Eve’s vivid imagination and Oosterman’s talent, the colorful paintings are a mix of unrestrained creativity and small, intricate details. The Toronto-based mom calls the ongoing project Collaborations with my Toddler.

Together, they produce beautiful works of art that display both the vibrant, unrestrained creativity of a child and intricate details that could only be done by a talented artist. The tag-team style paintings are often started by Eve who doodles on paper with a pen or paint. Then Oosterman takes the lead, transforming the abstract marks into animals, landscapes, or portraits. With both of their contributions visible, the results reinforce the idea that two heads are better than one.

For Oosterman, the artistic journey is more important than the final product. “Through collaborating with Eve, she is teaching me how to paint all over again,” she writes on her website. “I treasure this bonding experience more than words can express.”

For more Oosterman Mother – Daughter collaborations:  Ruth Oosterman


Notes:

And he reads to them, as he does every night, as if watering them, as if turning the earth at their feet.

read-reading-book-children-night
And he reads to them, as he does every night, as if watering them, as if turning the earth at their feet. There are stories he has never heard of, and others he has known as a child, these stepping stones that are there for everyone. What is the real meaning of these stories, he wonders, of creatures that no longer exist even in the imagination: princes, woodcutters, honest fishermen who live in hovels. He wants his children to have an old life and a new life, a life that is indivisible from all lives past, that grows from them, exceeds them, and another that is original, pure, free, that is beyond the prejudice which protects us, the habit which gives us shape. He wants them to know both degradation and sainthood, the one without humiliation, the other without ignorance. He is preparing them for this voyage. It is as if there is only a single hour, and in that hour all the provender must be gathered, all the advice offered.  He longs for the one line to give them that they will always remember, that will embrace everything, that will point the way, but he cannot find the line, he cannot recognize it. It is more precious, he knows, than anything else they might own, but he does not have it. Instead, in his even, sensuous voice he laves them in the petty myths of Europe, of snowy Russia, the East.

~ James Salter, Light Years


Notes: Photo: zinegrrlReading

Siblings.

safe,parent,

She’s 23.  Her Brother, 22.

He orders a Tom Collins, and gets carded.  She, a Zinfindel. Dad, a tall ice water. “Sparkling, or Flat for you Sir?”  “Tap, Miami’s finest please.” After dinner cocktails in a hotel bar, with of-age children. Embrace the memories, block the melancholia. I fail, it seeps in and then overwhelms me, water around stone.

It’s a quiet Friday night. The Sushi Chef leans on the glass case and flirts with the cocktail waitress. She’s wearing a smart black skirt and jacket.  On the other side of the bar, middle aged lovers huddle, whispering.

A one-man band blows on an electronic wind instrument, alternating with a brass trumpet with a black trumpet cap.  His supporting cast, multi-colored bars flashing on a laptop and pumped out of tall, thin, floor standing speakers.  He sways to and fro, lips pursed on reed. The Chill music hangs, a sweet fine mist over the valley.  One could drop this, all of this, in Ramblas in Barcelona, in Gastown in Vancouver or the Dièse Onze in Montreal.  Vibe, Same.

The eyelids are heavy, barbells. The body, from its all day soak in the sun, the wind, and the ocean salt, aches for rest.

I watch them leave together, bar hopping. She leans into him with her shoulder, they laugh. How many times in their lifetimes? Hundreds of times where Mom, and Dad, the Heavy, broke up skirmishes, and worse. Salter’s Light Years: “Passing of life together, a compact that will never end…lives formed together, woven together.”  And Parents stitching, braiding, weaving it all in the hope of This. Look, This, a tapestry. Full body warmth rushes in.

I ride the elevator up.  Melancholy, a Tsunami now. [Read more…]

A small, sweet, plosive sound comes from his lips, after each entreaty the same noise, a breath out and a consonant mixed with spit.

baby-drawing

Four days later, Ev starts to talk. His sounds have been buffering at meaning for weeks, but now they emerge as his own handiwork and he sets them gently one beside another in lines. […]

Children are born into language. They understand the nuances of speech at birth and Ev has been listening to our ceaseless chatter for months in the womb. He has been read to and sung to and laughed at. He knows the pattern of our voices and by its cadence he knows too that something is happening. My face signals it, and the sudden sparks of urgent conversation, the gaps that follow.

Ev’s vocabulary as he presents it to us is superlatively normal. He has no words for fear. He says Daddy to mean either of us, kee for monkey and Oh no! at all upsets. Ssss serves for snake, the letter S, and any linear thing like a belt or bit of his railway track. He says click for light and sta for monster, gakator for tractor and soon has a small handy clip of words like digger, apple, spoon, butter, cardi, eye, toast, brush. Seem means machine. He can do two, three and four. And in a way that is entirely normal too, we poke him and spur him on. This is what you do with children, goad them for your own enjoyment. Make a noise like a volcano, we say. Make a noise like a firework. Make a noise like a dinosaur. His eyes are merry. A small, sweet, plosive sound comes from his lips, after each entreaty the same noise, a breath out and a consonant mixed with spit. […]

He is the size of a cat; a thing of gold fur and whitened sunshine. His hands paw and pat the textures of the food as he draws each substance one by one into his mouth: sour, sweet, char, salt, pulp, oil and leaf.  […]

He goes at food with intellectual interest and straight joy in taste. It is bonny. If I had known how much pleasure I would get from watching my baby eat I would have thought it an argument for more babies. It is such a treat I can’t take my eyes off him and I mask my keenness in case it makes him suspicious that there is something more at stake. So I eat with him, or look out the window or pretend to read the paper. He spoons up lentils, snuffles through tomato sauce with basil and surges his pasta round in it, he dips bread in spinach soup till soup and bread are one and sucks it. He holds broccoli like a cudgel and stuffs one, then two, three, four trees into his mouth. He eats liver! He eats bananas and garlic and stir-fry! We goggle at him. We win and he wins. We all triumph together.

~ Marion Coutts, The Iceberg: A Memoir


Baby Drawing: Ben Connell

 

2015: Flummoxed by the Paradoxical Commandments

new-year-resolutions

If you haven’t read Kent M. Keith’s The Paradoxical Commandments, it’s worth a few minutes of your time.  If you were looking for the origin of these commandments and the connection to Mother Theresa, look here: The Mother Theresa Connection.

In my reflection of events in 2015, I do find the commandments paradoxical.  Let’s take a few highlights for a spin.

KMK:
People are illogical, unreasonable, and self-centered.
Love them anyway.

DK:   You are on a JetBlue flight. The woman sitting next to you in Coach removes her shoes, her stockings and then places her feet up on the seat in front of you. She wiggles her chubby toes to air out her dogs. (In case you were dying to know, she had a nice pedicure. The toenail polish was a pretty baby blue matching her fingernails. And there was no visible toe jam.)

KMK:
Give the world the best you have and you’ll get kicked in the teeth.
Give the world the best you have anyway.
KMK: Honesty and frankness make you vulnerable.
Be honest and frank anyway.

DK:

You come home from work, its late, it’s been a long (very) day. You are eating dinner, alone. Your head is down.  (Important to note: Head Down.)  Your spouse of 30+ years looks over from the couch, sees Gaps, and asks if you’ve considered Rogaine.  You lift your head, your mouth is full – you try to validate if you just heard what you think you heard.  You chew. You swallow, and then ask: “Excuse me.  I didn’t hear what you said.”  She repeats it crossing the “Red-Line” of no communication during the first 10 minutes of the King’s decompression zone. You reel from two scuds to the chest, elect to drop your head down with no response and finish your dinner. For the next 123 days, you start your day each morning staring at the mirror assessing the speed of the backward march of your hair line. [Read more…]

A Mother’s work is never done (85 sec)

A mother raccoon is teaching her cub how to climb a tree.

 

 

What do you mean?

Eric Rose

[…] The room is dark,
and the light is on her (Dr. Wendy Fried’s) face.
I see her eyes, moving around,
like she’s panicking.
I felt the blood draining out of my face.
My lips got cold.
“I’m so sorry, Eleni,” she said. […]
I barely got my words out, asking,
“What do you mean?”
She came over and she held my hand. […]

~ Eleni Michailidis

Read entire article here: A Silent Delivery Room


Photography: Eric Rose

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