Running. With Potpourri.

I’m off. Running. 6:05 am and it’s 76° F, already. Humidity is thick, legs are heavy, body is huge, mind is resisting, all of it groaning under the pressure of NO.

Scenes of the last 3 days flicker by.

pot·pour·ri (n) a mixture of things

In a small patch of grass, with Holly Pond on its right, a guard rail on the left, and Post Road to the North, is a flock. Not of a like-kind. But 2 adult geese, 3 toddlers, a mallard and a sparrow. All quietly feeding as I approach. Mother Goose, protecting her young-uns, approaches, neck fully extended…tall and fierce with her wings spread wide…hissing. This luncheon is human-free, and I was not welcome. All these creatures, peacefully feeding, and yet we, a higher level of intelligence can’t seem to sit in a room and have a civil conversation.

I’m in the dentist chair. Not flat, but with feet higher than head. Hygienist is wearing a face mask and magnified eye goggles. Poking, scraping, suction, flossing. I’m lolling in and out of nausea and claustrophobia. Overhead lamp beams down. I’m Dustin Hoffman in the scene from Marathon Man. Blood rushes to my head. I swallow, shift my legs and grip the arms of the chair. Hygienist notices the discomfort and withdraws. Breathe DK, breathe. I regain my composure.

Feet and legs have been hurting after my runs. Time for new shoes. I’m third in line, waiting to check out at Dick’s Sporting Goods. It’s late afternoon on July 4th. I’m watching one of three check out clerks. She’s large boned, broad shouldered, and tired. I walk up and hand her the shoes – with an intense desire to see what shoes she is wearing. She’s been standing since 10 am on a statutory holiday. She places the shoe box into a plastic bag, drops in the receipt and offers an obligatory “Thank you.” I’m walking out the door. Should have tipped her. Should have. Should have. Should have. [Read more…]

Summer afternoon—summer afternoon

“Summer afternoon—summer afternoon,” Henry James wrote late in his life, repeating the phrase with evident relish, as if to squeeze the full pleasure out of it, “to me those have always been the two most beautiful words in the English language.” It’s easy to see his point, to follow him into the meadowland that those two words conjure effortlessly. Surely “summer afternoon” suggests a lovely aimlessness, with time as a friendly spirit guide, not a haunting, hectoring ghost. Lemonade, ice beading the glass, comes to mind, and a fat 19th-century novel that you’ll never actually finish but can drift into, and then let fall open on the grass, as you get lost (you’re in a hammock under a big shade tree) in a drift of clouds passing overhead, shaping and reshaping themselves. That’s “summer afternoon” for you. It gathers you up, paradoxically, when you give up hunting for it. Keep it simple: Walk the dog, let her sniff to her intelligent nose’s deep content—no rushing her along to get the job done. Pausing, gazing, staring idly—this is the odd discipline of leisure. Let it find you on a park bench, with a bag of stale bread for the ducks in the pond…A nap occurs somewhere in the midst of this summer afternoon, the kind where you don’t really fall asleep but glide around in your mind, surprised by a memory, a moment, a regret, maybe your mother’s hands, her rings swiveling, your father and his deep frown, or that bully in second grade you kicked in the groin, glad to hear him howl and stop teasing you. Now you’re smiling. Your mind floats among these drifting bits that suddenly seem intensely worthy of attention, valuable. Just pause over these lost details, the collection you didn’t even know you’d amassed.Maybe that’s the way to practice for the launch of a successful vacation—not with a plan for two weeks freighted with expectation but with a single afternoon at full and indulgent ease. Call it a summer afternoon, not quite vacation time. It leads you past the fretful workweek into this sweet shimmering season you’ve been waiting for all year long.

~ Patricia Hampl, from “All of Summer In a Single Afternoon” (wsj.com, June 21, 2018)


Photo by Ali de Niese titled Lemonade (“I have a great love and admiration for the paintings of the Dutch master Johannes Vermeer. I love the combination of yellow and blue with a touch of white which is used in some of his paintings (e.g. Girl With A Pearl Earring, The Milkmaid). I’ve tried to create my own version of a yellow and blue still life, ‘after but nowhere near Vermeer’, if you like.”

Riding Metro North. With Four.

5:40 am train.

Full.  How can this be possible?

I stand in the vestibule, irritated, and then remember that the 5:40 am train is a Peak train, and further remember that I’m paying a Peak Fare rate to Stand. Irritated.

I set my bag down on the muddy floor, irritated, and wait, hoping for someone to get off at the one and only stop on the express train to Grand Central.

I see a commuter to my right zipping up his backpack. I grab my briefcase, block the aisle (and the commuter who is waiting on the other side of the vestibule) and grab the open seat.  Commuter code: You snooze, you lose. Smiling. I’ve become a New Yorker.

I pull down the bench, a handicapped seat which flips up.  There’s an awkward shifting of knees and legs to avoid all contact. There will be no man-touching.

Two men across from me. Two men to my right. And me.

  • Sleeping. Reading. Reading. Sleeping. Reading.
  • iPhone. iPhone. iPhone. Not visible. iPhone.
  • Earbuds. Earbuds. None. None. None.
  • Sneakers. Loafers. Lace up. Sneakers. Lace up.
  • Baseball cap. Balding. Full head of hair. Hoodie. Balding.
  • Backpack. None.  Backpack. Backpack. Briefcase.
  • No watch. No watch. Wristwatch. Unknown. Smartwatch.
  • T-shirt. Business casual. Suit. Jeans. Suit.
  • Nails (grimy). Nail biter. Manicured. Unknown. Nail biter.

The train car is silent but for the rocking of the car on rails.

We pull into Grand Central and exit without an acknowledgement of the other.

4 head right. I head left.

I walk alone, down the tunnels, with the sound of my footfall on concrete and with Patricia Hampl (again).

“There may be no more solitary location in America than a New York subway—take a look at the faces of those commuters, their heads bent to their open books like monks at their breviaries, little glowing screens casting an otherworldly aura onto their intent faces. They are elsewhere. They are alone. Alone with words as much as any writer at a notebook or screen.”


Notes:

Monday Morning

Today I was a believer. Perfection was very near. I could touch it…

This early day in May was very windy, overcast, clouds bundling their way from window to window in a big troubled hurry, the windows clattering.

Today we begin again.

Patricia HamplThe Art of the Wasted Day (Published April 17, 2018)


Photo: Kuplenko (via newthom)

A Wasted Day. Not.

kindle

I downloaded a sample from Amazon during my week off. Patricia Hampl’s The Art of a Wasted Day.

I skimmed a chapter and then another.

I couldn’t build a head of steam. And with one finger poke, it was gone…leaving a blank space on my Kindle app.

Not a chance I’ll be guilted into turning pages that don’t have wind at their backs. Midlife isn’t the Muscle Car. It’s Ruth Baumann’s Diagnosis: “Days like clocks tick. As do I. Quietly.”

And, yet, there She was. A slow, low murmuring. Her voice calling me back.

I’m back to Amazon, one-click, $12.99 in the till, and it’s done. Back to the Kindle.

It’s more like a basket of shards, her word, not mine.

Verbose (for one who likes to get there as the crow flies). Wandering. Catenated religious references. Historical events. Biblical passages. Notable geographical sites. BahWho cares?

Eyes glazing over, skipping words, jumping sentences, leaping paragraphs.

And then a few words catch the eye. And then a flock. Of Finches. Of Barn Swallows. Of Juncos. All landing softly. They too murmuring…slow down Friend. Be still. There’s something for you here.

And there is. And there was. And she wouldn’t let me go.

Would you recommend it?

No.

Did you love it?

Absolutely.


Notes:

  • Inspired by: “Sometimes you read a book so special that you want to carry it around with you for months after you’ve finished just to stay near it.” — Markus ZusakThe Book Thief 
  • Photo: Getty

Truth

Here’s Pavarotti copied from an interview somewhere:

One of the very nicest things about life is the way we must regularly stop whatever it is we are doing and devote our attention to eating.”

Patricia HamplThe Art of the Wasted Day (Published April 17, 2018)

 


Photo: BonAppétit, Pappardelle with Arugula and Prosciutto

 

Oh my, I say

It is the season of the meruňka—apricot time. It’s unclear when, exactly, she had time to make the dough for the little pillows of these dumplings, when she managed to buy the apricots… She pours melted butter over the ivory lumps in our shallow soup plates, then a brief snowstorm of sugar and crumbled white cheese, dry and salty. We pierce the puffery of the dough with big dessert spoons. Out comes the yellow-orange fruit, melting from the dumpling’s creamy white, like a perfectly coddled egg. Oh my, I say. They both beam at me. You see, you see, Anna says, as if I have finally seen the light she keeps trying to show me. My pleasure is proof that, in spite of everything I get wrong, maybe I’m learning after all what matters in life.

Patricia HamplThe Art of the Wasted Day (Published April 17, 2018)


Notes:

Walking Cross-Town. With an unsorted heap.

Hampl is not far from this mind. Hampl was there on my train ride to the city on Thursday and there with me as I walked across Manhattan to the office. And Hampl’s here with me today, early Saturday morning, as I sit in darkness, in silence, but for the tapping of keys, with birdsong easing through the open window bringing in the dawn.

Life is not a story, a settled version. It’s an unsorted heap of images we keep going through, the familiar snaps taken up and regarded, then tossed back until, unbidden, they rise again, images that float to the surface of the mind, rise, fall, drift—and return only to drift away again in shadow. Call them vignettes, these things we finger and drop again into their shoebox.

He shifted his legs as I took the empty seat across from him. Early 30’s. Two to three day beard. He smiled offering me “Good morning.” I’m settling in. How startling it is to be greeted with a ‘good morning’, a smile, a greeting on a morning commute. 

She was on the right side of 50. Anxious. She had to go. I mean really Go. She paced in front of the toilet. It was occupied. She knocked on the door. She knocked again. She stepped back and stood in the vestibule, waiting. She lifted her right foot, and then her left, and quickly repeated the sequence. She then grabbed her mid section and grimaced. She walked back to the toilet and knocked on the door again. [Read more…]

Sunday Morning

Theirs was then and remains even more today the stranger passion, the one little understood—or even comprehended as passion. Not erotic life, but the pleasure of the mind filling like the lower chamber of an hourglass with the slow-moving grains of a perfect day—sky, carnations, walking, reading, writing, Toasted Cheese, the presence of another who wishes to be so still, so silent too… It is possible to feel the fact of being alive as it breathes in, breathes out. It’s a life. It’s the life.

Patricia HamplThe Art of the Wasted Day (Published April 17, 2018)


Image: (via Your Eyes Blaze Out)

Saturday Morning

clouds

Still looking for bliss in nothing at all, the cloudy mind moving over existence, outside time.

Patricia HamplThe Art of the Wasted Day (Published April 17, 2018)


Notes:

  • Post Inspired by Patricia Hampl: “Daydreaming doesn’t make things up. It sees things. Claims things, twirls them around, takes a good look. Possesses them. Embraces them. Makes something of them. Makes sense. Or music. How restful it is, how full of motion. My first paradox. I couldn’t care less what it’s called. It’s pure pleasure. Infinite delight…This is what is called the life of the mind. It’s what I want to do. It’s where I want to be. Right here.” (Patricia Hampl, The Art of the Wasted Day)
  • Photo by Mikael Aldo (via see more)
  • Related Posts: Patricia Hampl

 

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