So sometimes we are confronted with the pain of others and its raw and its hard and it hurts, both them and us. You know, we make choices in our lives and sometimes, I think about those choices and it’s hard to see the path linking them through time… that golden filament weaving through the events and moments of our lives, driven forward fast and inexorably by time’s arrow darting forward ever forward and our decisions behind us and our minds somewhere in between trying to grasp and compute what happened, what’s going on and where the arrow might be going to land.
The train just passed over a bridge that forded a river of black glittering water, like polished obsidian in the night. There was a light from a factory on the riverside, lights making a flickering pattern like gold brocade on black velvet fabric, stretching out like a ribbon across the land, leading away from the train and city and into the darkness of the faraway night full of mystery and dreams and the future and the past.
I noticed an armada of geese or ducks — I couldn’t tell ’cause I was far away looking down at them from the window of the train, like polished black figurines again the altnerating gold and oily black of the water below.
I’ve been thinking of how a friend had a moment where she was weak and succumbed to that pinprick sliver of time and now regrets and doubts and hunches her shoulders when she walks, worrying that carefree days may never again be hers.
Her mind is trapped in the dark lake of memory and reminding and the half-remembered thoughts of that black ribbon tracing back into her past and through a Moebius strip into her future, making her worry and doubt. I was thinking as I look out and feel the cadence and shake of the train that whatever bad she had in the past led her to something really good now and that something to celebrate and be joyful about. I told her that being around folks who care now is a blessing not to be taken lightly and if it took a dark passing to get into the light, then that’s a good thing and focusing on the old grumpy dark of the past only casts shade on a sunlit present.
Her eyes teared up and she said that it was a kind thing to say but I just said that it was the truth, simple and obvious. It was a moment of mutual understanding and it was pretty good.
I wonder though if words and pictures don’t objectify our feelings and the misty tangle of our memories which are complicated but sublime and so reduced when we we fit them to a word or a drawing or even a photo.
I am on the train from Ottawa to Toronto when I will take a bus back to my city, Hamilton. Whether it is silent and sleepy lights of the train at night with the murmuring voices of folks on their cell phones talking to people that it sounds like care about them or whether it is the rumble, rumble of the wagon and the feeling of being in pulled through the countryside… I feel the jerky calm of transition as I move over the kilometres.
I have learned to find a separate peace on the move, particularly on the train because of its rhythmic cadence and the diffuse focus of the other passengers: some on their laptops absorbed by the blinking rectangle, others by their conversations longstanding or newfound, and yet others on their cellphones with family and friends or lovers lost or losing like the man sitting across from me who is making a last desperate attempt to convince someone hat he will be more available…
The train is a microcosm of life and I think about it while I sit here comfy and a little groggy after a long week in Parliament and some train wine behind me. I’m tired in that delicious way that makes you think about the next step.. a cold walk across union station to the bus and then a dark and cold walk from the bus to my car in Hamilton. And the cold stark light of the LEDs in the car and the trip home after midnight. In the cold and black of the night illuminated by the car beams and lit by my flickering memories of the week.
I woke up today to fluffy snowflakes floating down, softly and silently, on a slant because of the wind. I had woken up with a beating heart and some fear because I guess I had gone to bed worried about things.
I felt a little out of sort, nervy and out of sync. I almost knocked over my coffee cup when I reached out to grab the jar in which I keep my coffee beans. I didn’t feel good about that, it made me feel like I wasn’t up to the day.
And then the snow.
Large flakes, floating sideways in the grey morning light, a screen that brought mystery to my backyard, making the trees seem faraway as if in a dream. As I looked at the trees though the snowy mist I felt my heart rate slow, warmth come back to my limbs. Slowly I felt control return.
Slowly I felt control return. I noticed my breath again and felt the warmth of the coffee cup in my hand. Breath after breath, my muscles unclenched and I regained the smoothness of my movements.
I don’t know how long I gazed out the window, watching the snow slant silently – couldn’t have been longer than a minute or two – but it felt like time stopped. My day’s course was reset. It went from being a troubled day to smooth, calm one.
That snow helped me find my flow. I am grateful.
It has been a good day.
Yesterday I picked a lemon from my lemon tree. It’s a Meyer lemon tree, and it stands quietly in the corner of my study by the window and the heating vent, looking outside and thinking of how much it misses summertime when it was on the porch bathing everyday in warm summerlight and the sounds of birds and chipmunks and squirrels and their friends.
I had spent time pollinating the tree, using a q-tip, stealing some particles of pollen from one flower and sprinkling them onto another. The effort yielded three four little lemonlings, which have since grown into lemons waiting to be plucked.
So there it was, my first lemon like a little sun at the end of a green stem. I plucked it from the tree and grated its rind making for a wonderful, lemon-tangerine smelling zest characteristic of Meyer lemons. Scraped and cut and squeezed, my little lemon contributed to a lovely lemon pasta, the recipe for which you can find here.
The last half of the lemon’s juice gave up a beautful red kale caesar salad with vegenaise. Bitter and juicy and creamy and sweet, the salad was a wonderful end to a lovely meal. I was glad to have turned my first harvested lemon into a scrumptious, simple meal. I was thankful.
Last night I went for a nice swim at the Westmount Pool in Hamilton on the mountain. It was lovely to swim again after being away from it for a couple of weeks. I felt renewed.
There is something really special about community pools. The energy of a legion of people doing aquafit or just families having a lovely time playing in the water is soothing and makes me think of how happy people can be when they just splash around and laugh and giggle and do things together.
The warmth of the lights, the din and the water lend a certain feeling of security and belonging, while the fact that it fades into a faraway hum when my head is underwater in a rhythmic cadence of din and then distant hum and din and distant hum is mesmerising and relaxing. I feel my tension muscles relax and my mind open with each stroke, with the movement forward and the repetitive nature of the whole thing.
Length after length, stroke after stroke, breath after breath.
It reminds me that I’m alive and that everything happens in increments, despite it sometimes feeling as though it is all coming at me at once. That with every step, I making progress toward a goal, even if that goal is just to swim another length, back to where I came from.
After the swim, I love the humid air of the pool and the cool down period standing under the shower, feeling my body’s muscles moving in a coordinated way after working together to propel me forward through the water. I get a funny feeling that I know my body better when I stand in the change room, drying off and moving. My actions feel more fluid, more coordinated.
Swimming is beautiful.
I recently had the pleasure of attending the 2017 MCM Reunion and Professional Development Day in Manhattan. It was held at Lubin House, which is the New York City Campus of Syracuse University.
What a wonderful few days it was. Thoughtful, interactive lectures and the chance to connect and reconnect with great colleagues and friends. All of this in the heart of NYC, one of the world’s most dynamic and exciting cities.
I heard many great lectures that I will comment on over the next few blog posts, but was most struck by a sentence uttered by Gary Grates, an MCM alum from the Newhouse School at Syracuse University.
He said, “Relevance is the new reputation.”
It’s a profound insight. We live in a world of instant access, dialogical relationships and media that has infiltrated every single corner of our lives. We exist, as Marshall McLuhan predicted, in the flow of information and pattern matching is our greatest asset and skill.
In a literate print-driven world, reputation is based on what has been written about you, what exists about you. Reputation is an inventory of assets and action catalogued as assets.
In a dialogue, media and information-driven world, reputation is the result of fit, of insertion, of a feeling of relevance.
I took the early morning train from Ottawa to Toronto today. It was dark when I started and I watched the quiet misty winterlight rise up as though from the forest floor. It was magical and made me feel like meditating but instead I read some of Kerouac’s Dharma Bums which I have been working through in stolen moments of free time.
I was struck that during breakfast in the train, one of the attendants picked up a baby girl of one of the passenger and walked her around the train whilst the young mom had her breakfast. It was natural and friendly and cheerful. No guile or pretence.
Life should be more like that, shouldn’t it? Trusting and helping each other in a brotherly or sisterly way should be a commonplace.
That would make for a better world, in my mind anyhow.