Sunday, February 28, 2010

I love train travel for so many reasons - not only because, against all realistic statistical reassurance, I'm scared of falling out of the sky in an airplane - not of dying, but of the horror of the fall. It doesn't make sense but it's there, that fear.

But there is more to my love of train travel than fear of flying..Sunday morning early I stirred in my sleep and opened my eyes to a scarlet moon set, full and fat falling beneath the western horizon. I cherish riding contained within a little traveling microcosm of human life. As the train moves through deserts, mountains, cities, the Great Salton Sea, and wind mill farms, I wander the cars, or sit quietly typing in the lounge car and watch people and overhear their conversations.. A sleekly dressed, elegant lady in her eighties regales a scruffy self proclaimed recovering compulsive gambler with tales of train routes, accomodation and service past. She remembers elegance of train travel in the forties and fifies (nineteen, of course) but still enjoys traveling by Amtrak. Later, as we watch a flaming sunset from the lounge car, the recovering gambler recites by heart a truly moving poem he wrote about the loss of his loss of his marriage and family, a poem in which he claims his responsibility but doesn't attack himself. He says his healing comes form his God, and I hear that kind of spiritual connection in his poem. Back in my chair car, I hear a three way conversation between three Americans of Hispanic heritage talk about their lives. The lawyer from El Paso, the charismatic, opinionated lady, who strives to stay as feisty as her ninety six year old mother, and the quieter widowed lady who is making this trip to try to decide trying to decide whether to together as we see the Texas Mexico border through the train. They talk about growing up poor on frijoles and rice, how it's too bad the train has to serve "baby" food because grin goes can't handle spice. One woman shares, in a matter of fact voice, that her father was shot by accident because he was mistaken for an illegal immigrant. They talk about the price of giant jumping balloons commonly rented for birthday parties (tinka tinkas - never seen one, but they sound like fun). The charismatic lady picked grapes with the migrant farmers to pay for ballet lessens when she was thirteen, talks about it like it was a lark, and is grateful she was able to learn the lessons she coveted. Their conversation floats back and forth between Spanish and English, seamless, and glad I get at least some phrases of the Spanish.

I share lunch (community seating in the dining car) with a young man from a wealthy Brazilian family who loves to explore the United States by train. he tells me about the Amazon River, with it's alligators, the monkeys in the rain forest, how odd brown flat west Texas looks, how the Amazon is so big that when it flows into the sea you can see from space, the brown brackish water entering the blue salt sea. He says he got a good education in Brazil because his family has money, but that poor kids don't get many chances. Argentina he says is worse than Brazil, more dangerous, and so is Peru. He asks at least thirty questions about Native Americans in the UInited States, how the white settlers treated them, how they live now. I could anser at least a few. He repeats several times that Portuguese simply killed everyone they found when they settled Brazil, so there is no indigenous influence. There are flukey settlements in Brazil though, like a large city called America which was settled by Confederates after the southern loss of the Civil War. I learn so much on trains.

Saturday, February 27, 2010

Bob drove me to San Antonio right after the symphony to put me on the train. I worried about him, just getting over a major infection, maybe pneumonia, but he insisted and seemed fine. At least he got to nap at the hotel where we stayed ( free on those magic Marriott reward points) I'd been so busy with work trying to get out of town that I had barely packed - kept calling Bob throughout the work day to get him to add things I didn't want to travel without - especially my soft gray night dress(from Ruth)_ and my jewel town chenille blanket (from Marie) food for the train, I hadn't managed to buy food in advance so we found a 24 hour Wall mart, which I still don't love but am no longer boycotting, and bought fun snacks. I felt so loved - even opened my bag later and found that Ruth had slipped in two favorites, freeze dried okra and garlic puffs. Yum.! Stumbling onto the train at 5:00 in the morning drastically sleep deprived, I was sorely disappointed that the last sleeper compartment had just been sold ( I was counting on getting one at the last minute at a discount. Poor Bob had to put up with my moment of spoiled princess dismay. It really is goofy that I feel like I won't be OK traveling "regular" and that special somehow is what I am supposed to have and won't be OK without. Turns out my chair car adventure was just fine, delightful even, and I even slept well. This princess complex is something I really could live without, and I know it's my responsibility to get to the point that I do.

Friday, February 26, 2010

Symphonic Send off

I am going to Palm Springs to meet with my writing group, Skywriters. I am going even though I'm tired and overwhelmed at work and not sure if spending the money for travel is wise right now. because I love these women, many of whom have had hard years. I skipped the retreat last year because Liam and Andrea had both just been born and I felt too vulnerable about their newness to leave. I still believer I made the right choice for me, but I know I was missed and I'm a little less connected to my sisters in writing because I made that choice to stay home. Also, one Sky sister, Dolly, who was there last year in Florida, died last spring. I don't think I ever let her know how much I respected her life and her poetry. So I'm going this year, whether it's a smart decision or not.

I'm going by train because my sweet Bob, who understands me and the depths of my anxiety about making arrangements and buying tickets, and who accepts but does not understand my aversion to plane travel, made all the arrangements to go by train. He also sent me off in glory and on a high. He took Friday off from teaching and drove to Austin to take me to the symphony - and what a symphony, and then to drive me to San Antonio and put me on the early morning train. The symphony started with Rachmaninoff's Vocalise Op 34 No 14 and then the same composer's Piano Concerto No 3 in D Minor with Barbara Nissman in regal scarlet silk as soloist. WOW!! My mother loved and p[ayed Rachmaninoff, and played his music well, but this performance just soared. I don't see how a person can make an instrument sing like that. I struggled so hard just to get the notes right (even half speed) in much simpler pieces. Brilliant musical performance seems at least as "paranormal" to me as any sixth sense intuition,

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

I feel tired and disorganized. I know I'm working too much and my room is messy and I'm having trouble finishing tasks I start, even tasks I love. Got to breathe here. I think the mistake I've been making is scheduling appointments too early in the morning, especially after days I work late. There just isn't enough time between, and the self discipline to put edges around my availability is shakier lately. I repeat, got to remember to come up for air here.

Purim is the Jewish holiday of the moment and it is a holiday that fits my mood, a reminder of humilty and not to take ourselves too seriously. Purim is about balance I think - taking curageous action but knowing it won't always be effective,
being able to relax, laugh, have fun anyway.

On the bright side, Ruth and Chris have been baking hamen tashen for Purim and passing out baskets to neighbors and friends. The little triangular pastries stuffed with various preserves and fruits are tasty and fun, garnering smiles.My favorites are apricot and lemon curd.

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

I sit wiggly and excited,
hop up and press nose to
plate glass as snow falls.
I sit again, check email,
crane neck toward window,
track flurry of descending
white better than words
on screen, rush down stairs
coatless to catch flakes
on tongue, watch them
stick, flake by flake,
to leaves, blades of grass.
Those unfortunates which
land on pavement vanish.
I climb stairs laughing.
Sit again. Glad I didn't sit
through rare Texas snow day.

Friday, February 19, 2010

Terrible feeling in town tonight. A disgruntled (crazy?) man burned down his house not far from here and then flew a plane into the IRS office building we often drive by - protesting taxes suicidally. My first client was distressed by having driven by the flaming exploded glass office building. There were two people injures, on unaccounted for (hopefully didn't go to work or had stepped out? Only the perpetrator is known dead. It strikes me freaky. On the bus tonight I wondered how much anger the people riding with me were carrying. How much hurt. How much potential to do harm. So important to keep on doing the next right thing.

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Happy birthday Andrea! Thing one and thing two are both one now. It's been a fast year full of change. I sleep in a different room, have a totally different wardrobe thanks to Ruth's generous closet, live with three people I love during the work week rather than alone. Joanna and her family live in Ruth's house. Liam and Andrea walk and talk. Bob still teaches at Menger, but he hopes to change that next school year. Only my work really seems to stay the same, and that by its very nature is never really the same from day to day.

I'm enjoying the Winter Olympics, fondly remember going to the Salt Lake City Olympics with Joanna. I'm so glad she encouraged that adventure.

Olympic Memories

I've watched the Olympic Games, winter and summer
since I was a child, watched with delight and awe
feats of physical strength, speed, grace, persistence.
The passing of the torch, generation to generation,
nation to nation, hand to hand, flame to flame
brings tears, hope, determination even on television.

I did not cry when I stood in the snow in Salt lake City
beside my pregnant daughter and watched the torch
change hands so near that my face felt its heat.
Inspiration, magic, are cheap at any price. Our trip to
the Winter Olympics months after terrorist atttacks
is a choice I'm glad we had foolish courage to make.

Sunday, February 14, 2010

It's not unusual for me to hear people talk about Valentine's Day as a "Hallmark holiday", kind of silly and trumped up to get people to buy cards and flowers and build up expectations. As a therapist I've dont lots of post Valentine's day first aid over the years. And yet, I enjoy having a holiday dedicated to all flavors of love and sweetnes.

This Valentine's Day weekend was just perfect, sweet and tender and full of connection with the people I'm closest to. Bob arrived yesterday with arms full of roses, peach and yellow just like at our wedding. Bob really is the holiday go to person in our marriage, learned it from his mother. When he and I married Ruth was seven and Joanna was ten (or something like that) and he made a point of creating holiday traditions with and for them. For Valentines he gave them big baloons each year (and he still does, and the grand children too - and all appreciate and cherish this tradition). It was fun going with him to the store last night to choose the balloons, making paper valentines to affix to the strings, and delivering a backseat full to Joanna's house this morning. Everyone was thrilled, and I even got to take an excited Andrea for a stroller ride with her two brothers walking along and talking, beforfe winter blew in again.

I just feel tremendous sweetness, and it is good to feel that.

Friday, February 12, 2010

I sometimes think about mortality and how I have fewer years left than I've lived. All of that is true. But also true is that I'm thankful I'm no longer thirteen. K.K. is delightful and full of promise, but being thirteen, even beautiful and talented, is hard - managing the world of boys, auditions, assignments, injuries, trying to be responsible and still have fun, is hard. I remember how it felt, all churned up and insecure. I just went in and kissed her, sound asleep on the couch with Duffy curled in her arms and whispered "Hang in there kid. It get's better." And it truly does.

Thursday, February 11, 2010

Liam's birthday was great fun - lunch at Phil's for the only hamburgers I actually like (and Liam seems to too) and his very first ice cream - lots of hilarity and picture taking and a sweet warmth inside the restaurant on a day rainy and just above freezing outside. I kept thinking that Liam will be as different next year from how he is today as he is today from how he was on the day of his birth. It has been a year of so much change. I wonder what changes will come in the next year.

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

A year ago Liam was still unborn, nestled inside Ruth, C section scheduled, me nervous. He was a mystery, an unknown, and I hoped so for his safe arrival. I worried about Ruth and C section recovery. I so much wanted Ruth and Chris to have a beginning of parenthood that was especially sweet. They had tried and hoped so long, and suffered the death of Mira, and a year ago tonight they were rigth at the edge of having a son to hold and come to know. Well he's here now, a year later, walking, talking, tickling, laughing, climbing into the dishwaser, putting away toys and pulling them out, obsessed with mop dust pan lawnmower and other household tools, cheese-loving, pea hating, funny, cuddly, scared of the smoke alarm, dog loving, blue eyed,amazing. I never dreamed a year ago that I'd get to live with Liam in the house, a full family member, a joy which exceeds not only expectations but imagination. Probably the happiest years of my life were the years when my own girls were little - that special bubble time of being so focused on a developing new person. I love it just as much as grand mother as I did as mother.

Tuesday, February 09, 2010

I'm still thinking about mortality and change - how fast and without warning life can shift or end. I really do think I've been more afraid of suddenness than of ending. Those who know me well know that I have trouble with transitions, even simple ones like getting out of the house and into the car, so it's not really surpriseing that being overtaken by change scares me more than loss does. Loss I know I can accept. Somehow I do feel more peace about the possibility of sudden death since lois died on Saturday. The change in me really doesn't make sense, just a new level of acceptance.

Out of the Blue

On a cloudless day
twin towers crumbled,
biopsy screamed malignant,
heart stopped, earth opened.
We cannot count on warnings.

Monday, February 08, 2010

Crazy weather day, wild temperature swings, pouring rain, sunny, then pouring again, and now cold and windy. The trees, bare and brittle, are swaying and dancing in the night and the music of wind chimes enlivens the darkness. I'm happy with myself tonight, mostly about having made some significant progress with family letters and other memorabilia - finally easier to make decisions and have a system for pulling things together that works better than before.

Sunday, February 07, 2010

I've had a thoughtful day, though also joyous with uproarious Liam laughter. I think I'm at a new place about death. I've felt for a long time that I could accept death on certain terms (that the older generations died first, that I had some warning, time to say good bye, no sudden death). Of course death sets her own terms and we don't get to choose. My friend Lois died suddenly yesterday and the words that her husband and son have written about their experience of her unexpected death - the pain and shock and yet their ability to be there for each other and do what they needed to do, somehow strengthened me. It's like when we had our house fire and I managed in the terror of the flaming night to do what I needed to to get sleeping three year old Ruth out safely. I had been terrified I would freak and freeze if faced with fire in the night, but I didn't. I've been equally terrified of sudden death, my own or someone else's close - not the death but the suddenness. I seem released from that fear tonight, and very thankful to Lois' family for sharing their experience. We never know who we touch and help, even in our darkest hours.

Saturday, February 06, 2010

I just learned that a woman I've known for years through an on line community died suddenly last night (or maybe earlier today?). I don't know what happened. I know she was on line yesterday playing Farmville. I know she had heart surgery in the past, but if she was ill this winter, I didn't know it. I really didn't know her well - liked, respected, enjoyed her - knew bits and pieces of her life story as she knew bits and pieces of mine. I know she leaves a husband, son, grandchildren who she loved intensely and spoke of with great warmth. I know they have to be in shocked grief right now and I don't know them at all, not enough that my comfort would be significant.

Another member of the same onlind community died last spring.

We're in our late fifties and sixties now, my contemporaries and I. There will be more deaths and they will come closer together. All I can do is be as good to everyone as I can and work harder on family pictures and stories so I will leave less undone that only I can do if I'm next to die. And anyway, it's good to get the stories shared. Tomorrow will be a day that allows me time for that kind of project. Tonight I think I'll take a bath, remember my friend, try to let her death soak in. Denial is so wierd. I don't even want to go out into the living room and tell Ruth and Chris she died, because I don't want it to be true and telling people anything always makes it seem more real.

Thursday, February 04, 2010

We have a new dog at the house, Duffy, a rescued Lahsa mix who is totally sweet with Liam, even sleeps in his bed already. So much is good - sustaining friendships and family, the presence of support when I feel vulnerable, work I love and believe has value and that I do well, baby kisses. This is just one of those periods when the fragility and difficulty of life seem more striking than the sweetness. Usually for me it's the other way around. Life is hard AND life is good, which ever side of the and feels more real in the moment.

Wednesday, February 03, 2010

Wednesday Prayer

World needs day
I stop midweek
what the world
needs from me
angle my footprint
renew my effort
to contribute.