Riding Amtrak 2151-2172: Baltimore.

Five days gone. 4 memories remain. Freeman Dyson’s memory: Unreliable. Selecting. Rearranging. Forgetting. Embroidering. Inventing.

Scene 1: 

My assistant. So grateful to have an assistant. So grateful for her. Two introverts in well plowed furrows. “Are you sure, you want to go there and back same day? 7 hours on train, in 10 hours?” I look up. She knows the answer. There. Back. Exhaustion traded for sleep, sleep in my own bed.  Book it.

I’m waiting on the platform for Amtrak 2151 leaving at 7:54 am to Baltimore. It was for Dickens, and it was for me:  “One of those March days when the sun shines hot and the wind blows cold: when it is summer in the light, and winter in the shade.”

Scene 2:

She boarded at Penn Station. Student. Maybe 20. She’s determined, bangin’ away on an old model MacBook Air. Wireless white earpods pumping in music, she’s bobbing her head. The cover of her notepad: Johns Hopkins University, Baltimore. Biomed? Engineering? Medicine? She snaps the laptop lid shut, turns her head to the window, leans back, closes her eyes and lets the morning sun warm her face. Confident. Ivy leaguer. At peace.

It’s Thursday, three days later, and I’m deep into Irvin Yalom’s Becoming Myself: A Psychiatrist’s Memoir. I wouldn’t be caught dead seeking therapy, but this, ‘this’ memoir is well within bounds.  I’m back on the train, Ms. Johns Hopkins sitting across from me, and me, I’m so Irvin Yalom, so wanting to repeat that trip: [Read more…]

Flying South Southwest to DFW. Non-Stop. (Not Really)

airport

7:39 a.m. I have an hour to kill waiting to re-board and I’m searching for a photo for this post. I find it on a site titled “Under Heaven.” Isn’t that a coincidence. The photo is a near replica of the skyline that I see from the waiting area at Philadelphia International Airport. A patch of bluest of blues. An orange strip lining the horizon. Sun beaming in through the floor to ceiling windows. A Monday Morning Wake-Up Call. I live. I live. I live. I live.

7:15 a.m. The flight attendant states the estimate for the aircraft repair is one hour. We are asked to take our luggage and deplane. Because 1 hour is an estimate and you know how these things go. But, no one, and I mean no one is complaining.

7:00 a.m. It’s silent in the cabin. I mean Silent. It’s a long approach to the runway. Back wheels bump bump on the tarmac. Front wheel taps to follow. Reverse thrusters slow this 183,000 pound Airbus A321 bird. Whatever thrusters are, I’m grateful. The passengers begin to whisper and the plane taxis to the gate. I’m grateful for Philadelphia. The Liberty Bell. Rocky. Steak & Cheese Sandwiches. The Eagles. All of it. 

6:44 a.m.  The Captain comes on the intercom. “I have control of this aircraft.” And he stops. WTH does that mean? As opposed to being not in control? Noted that he didn’t say: “this is a routine maintenance issue.” I steady my hands, both trembling. No! No! No! No! I’m not ready to leave yet. I’m not looking for a room at the top of the world tonight. Four Seasons. Westin. Marriott. Red Roof Inn, anything. But not there. Not now. Not yet. [Read more…]

Riding Metro-North. With Holy Cow.

Morning. Today. 5:01 a.m. First train to Grand Central.

Dark Sky reports 33° F, feels like 25°.  Feels like: Not Spring. March 5th.  Spring backward. Falling and stumbling forward.

I wedge myself into a two seater, nudging the occupant awake. (Same occupant who was sprawled across two seats).  He’s annoyed. I’m annoyed that he’s annoyed. I’m way more annoyed. 

I glance up at the few unfortunates standing in the vestibule. Now they should be annoyed.

But for the low throb of the annoyances, and the giant overhead heaters blowing through the vents, the train car is silent. No talking. No whispering. No paper shuffling. Nada. Silence.

It’s as if Jack Kornfield blew the whistle and yelled Go: “It was the silence, stopping and taking a breath, opening the heart, seeing that the whole planet, and everything on it, is holy.”

And at that moment, the lead-weighted shoulders are freed.

The soles of the feet, through the leather soles of my lace-ups, feel the vibration of the steel of wheels on the steel of the tracks, bumping along with the rhythmic skip of steel on steel at the ties.

The seat under me is soft and shifts with each rail tie.  The train car rocks, my body sways ever so slightly left and right and then back again. My knees gently knock on the seat in front, first right knee then left.

Feet, knees, palms, seat — sensations are elevated.

I close my eyes. Drift off, and float along on Kornfield’s holy train.

His holy car. Holy Cow.

I awaken to the conductor’s announcement: “This station is Grand Central. Please mind the gap between the train and the platform.”

Meditation? Nah.

Mediation is not for real men.


Notes:

Put your lips to the world

What I want to say is
that the past is the past,
and the present is what your life is,
and you are capable
of choosing what that will be,
darling citizen.

So come to the pond,
or the river of your imagination,
or the harbor of your longing,

and put your lips to the world.
And live
your life.

~ Mary Oliver, from “Mornings at Blackwater” in Red Bird: Poems


Notes: Photo “Lips” by sadpunkandpastaforbreakfast. Poem: Thank you Karl @ Mindfulbalance

Saturday Morning

Got up on a cool morning. Leaned out a window.
No cloud, no wind. Air that flowers held
for awhile. Some dove somewhere …

Let the bucket of memory down into the well,
bring it up. Cool, cool minutes. No one
stirring, no plans. Just being there.
This is what the whole thing is about.

William Stafford, from “Just Thinking” in Ask Me: 100 Essential Poems of William Stafford


Notes: Poem – Thank you Whiskey River. Photo Credit: Strandgut and Kulturmuscheln. Related Posts: William Stafford.

Lightly Child, Lightly.

I remember one morning getting up at dawn. There was such a sense of possibility. You know, that feeling. And I… I remember thinking to myself: So this is the beginning of happiness, this is where it starts. And of course there will always be more… never occurred to me it wasn’t the beginning. It was happiness. It was the moment, right then.

— Michael Cunningham, The Hours: The Novel


Notes:

  • Post Title & Inspiration: Aldous Huxley: “It’s dark because you are trying too hard. Lightly child, lightly. Learn to do everything lightly. Yes, feel lightly even though you’re feeling deeply. Just lightly let things happen and lightly cope with them.”
  • Photo: via Mennyfox55.
  • Prior “Lightly child, lightly” Posts? Connect here.
  • Related Posts: Michael Cunningham

 

Walking Cross-Town. With a Note to Todd.

It’s Sunday. Sun’s up and it’s warming. Squirrels are foraging, birds are pecking at the feeders, others chirp overhead in the trees, still bare and free of spring shoots.  Dickens had it right: “It was one of those March April days when the sun shines hot and the wind blows cold: when it is summer in the light, and winter in the shade.”

Day of Sabbath. Day of Peace (should be). Several hours remain, and they are leaking fast – Monday’s calendar is already bullying its way in.

So why go here?

Because it goes where it wants.

It’s Friday afternoon, and voila, the appearance of a fortituous gap in the calendar. The elevator is racing down from the 39th floor to the Lobby.  I check the train schedule, 1:04 pm departure, 24 minutes to walk across town to Grand Central. Doable.  Fingers, eyes and mind skitter from the Metro North App, to iMessage, to Work email to Gmail.  The mental box continues to drop, one eye is on the floor indicator, like it might not stop on the ground floor and keep going. The stomach does a wee backflip and settles. Otis Elevator Man has this under control. How all this sh*t works is lost on me. Best I don’t know.

I step into the lobby and then onto Times Square.  A ZOO, even in the drizzle. I glance right, left, and across the street, the scene is Same – the jeweler on break for a smoke, the Construction worker with his florescent vest, the driver of the double decker tour bus, the traffic cop pausing between lights – all have their heads are down inside smart phones, and outside the World.

Me too.

I wait for the Walk sign, and it’s back to Gmail.  I pop open a WordPress notification from Todd’s blog – Bright, Shiny Objects, with the post titled: “Why?” I click the link, wait impatiently for the cell service to catch up, thousands of others doing the same at the same time, the rain, the overcast, the tall looming skyscrapers block satellite reception – it clears.  I chuckle, and whisper: “Truth.”  I punch out: “Great“, hit send, and the gremlins grab it and race off to Algoma, WI.

The signal turns to Walk.

I walk.

Six minutes later, my phone buzzes, the gremlin’s have raced back from Algoma with a reply from Todd:

How do you do it?[Read more…]

Riding Metro North. With Both Thumbs.

5:40 am to Grand Central. Standing room only, 4 men stand in the vestibule. How is this possible on the second train of the day?

One of the four left standing, leans against the railing.  Italian shoes. Beats Wireless Ear buds. A snappy form fitted Canada Goose vest. Shirt cuffs unbuttoned. Stylin’. A Starbucks cup in one hand, a smartphone in the other, he flicks screens, grins, and sips his coffee.

Lady in the seat directly across reads the New York Times. Yes, like a real newspaper, a legitimate oddity on a commuter train. A glance up and down the rail car reveals no single other newspaper, just the hum of the air-conditioning and the silent flicking of hundreds of index fingers.

Lady next to her, a face white as snow, contrasting with her black coat, tall black knee high boots, and the white skin of the knee bunching out of a black knee brace. She grips a large, black, Samsonite wheeled carry on, with her black back pack resting on top.  Her makeup groans to cover darkening bags under the eyes. The dike is leaking, age is ready to break, for her, for me. Cat Steven’s tune drifts in: Morning has broken….black bird has spoken… [Read more…]

Riding Metro North. With Salamander’s moments.

sunlight

7 am to Grand Central.

The red under belly of the salamander is still close. I unfurl my fingers and let him scamper. Each minute, each moment whisked away along with the swish of his tail.

Two seats in front, a silver haired man flips open a large, hard covered book, dark navy cover – so rare to see a real book. His index finger slides down the page, followed by the rustle of the page turn, a sound produced only from something grown from the Earth.

A lady, across from him wears a grape colored knitted hat, fluffy pom-pom on top, backpack on her lap. Her head leans against window, she’s fast asleep, her mouth partially open, breathing softly.

Man down the aisle, his head swaying, large muffs cover his ears, noise canceling head phones streaming, perhaps a tribute to Chuck Berry, or something soulful, the deep baritone of Barry White with Let the Music Play. [Read more…]

Monday Morning Wake-Up Call

salamander, red

A red salamander
so cold and so
easy to catch, dreamily

moves his delicate feet
and long tail. I hold
my hand open for him to go.

Each minute the last minute.

~ Denise Levertov, from “Living” in Selected Poems


Notes:

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