Moon Not Over Miami

The walk to the station was striking this evening: a full moon straight ahead over the Boston skyline, and the calm reflection of the lights from several familiar sources dancing over the Charles River. On one side the steady beacon of the Prudential: a small creamy orb on a pole of non-wavering blue. On the other side, the dotted blue of the Zakim lay on the surface alongside glowing rectangles cast down from the Museum of Science, and, all around, were scattered squares of city lights from offices of folks not yet gone, but going soon, I bet.

Some of the lights were erratic: cars, bikes, an ambulance here, the subway roaring past or trolley pulling into view over there. These were just a bit jarring, and they made me glad for the constant gaze of Mr Moon up there, above it all, illuminating earth and sky and all its neighbors in the greater galaxy.

It was also easy to imagine lights behind the lights: I think of the lights on the Mass General helicopter pad and the trained persons in there ready to help others if needed. That makes me think of other lights shining,  I hope, to welcome others in far-off places. In turn I ponder how much we need light to penetrate the dark places. Surely I can ask, can’t I, that tonight one soul be preserved from oppressing darkness somewhere? Would light in the world or the Light of the World save one street, one city, one region, or even one nation tonight, right now? Can we continue to hope for some kind of path toward peace,  not only for this one moment but somehow in many, many more to come?

I am grateful on the eve of the eve of Thanksgiving, that I can write as I walk: under the Light, over the bridge, through the night.

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The Path Not Chosen

On this Monday morning, I wonder if you also feel that last week must have been a year or more ago, that surely more than 2 days have elapsed. Surely this is in part due to the terrible events of Friday’s violence in Paris, and the awareness it awakens in all of us that these tragic events unfold each day, even if not on this scale, in so many other places in our troubled world. My early Friday morning walk last week through the deep woods with dog granted me peace, and my appreciation of that when so much of the world lacked it came upon me afresh at a favorite spot on the walk. On the path that goes deeper into the woods, just before a slight left bend, stands a particular tree with one shelf fungus that protrudes from its trunk: half an umbrella for some forest creature. This tree is now surrounded by a sea of brown bracken, but in summer it is rich and green. Shortly after I passed this spot and headed up the steeper incline, out came a bounding deer, a buck with a respectable rack and he was followed, oddly enough, by a person-less Siberian Husky out for his own walk, seemingly alone. Little did any of us realize what horror would unfold in the distance of a few hours and miles.

Once I reached the hilltop, I was ready to ponder “the path not chosen” and how that compared to “the road not taken,” a natural poetic link given this New England locale. Path or road, chosen or taken or neither to both, in the end I decided there wasn’t much to ponder after all, and went into my day of mixed duties and commuting and all it held.

We are all on paths or roads and in the course of any given day we choose or take many forks. This way or that, now or then, we go about our lives, usually with hope and trust we will arrive at the end of it, whole and intact and, possibly, given how I see future train-mates now running for this car, on time. But whether we walk or run, are early or late, we depend on the goodwill of our unknown neighbors and fellow travelers. Surely what we have in common, even though unspoken, is enough to bind us to a small tryst of mutual respect with and for each other. I wonder if not only the pleasantness of our days, but our very lives, depend on this.

So on this Monday morning, knowing many are in mourning, that many were in grief before Friday and others sadly others will enter this in days to come, I cast off semantics about roads and paths. I look out the window, not at my keyboard, and write what I feel come through my fingers. I pray for you, for Paris, and for us, all of us, those I know and those I don’t. Somehow, somewhere, can we find a better path to peace?

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A Thousand Miles and Years

The usual routine after descending the stairs two mornings a week is to be met by an overeager Labrador very ready to head out for the Great Salt Marsh and ensure everything will be as he left it yesterday. But sometimes before being dragged out the door I’m able to catch a glance at the Wall Street Journal’s center headline and photo. Such was the case this past Wednesday; Headline: Afghan Widows Struggle to Survive the Long Shadow of War and Photo Caption: Alone.

The face of the woman was lined with war and worry and her piercing eyes drilled into mine from the flat page. That look would have been enough for me to do what I usually do with the evocative photos from this paper, that is, to pin them up on the family bulletin board for all to note. But because the caption went on to declare she was not filled with 75 years as I assumed she was, rather, she was my exact age, that sweet number just one shy of three score, I knew I had to do more. I will reach this three score ‘landmark’ next month, God willing, but in that moment and right now, as she steams across the marsh with me having come out of my backpack here on the train, we are together and yet a thousand miles and years apart.

Looking at her makes me want to do several things at once. I’d like to tell her someone is holding her photo and feeling a small part of the loss she and thousands like her must carry each day as they seek to survive a landscape I can’t imagine. War-torn, incalculable personal loss to so many people here and there, hope so dim and land so burned, we might wonder if any redemption is possible, let alone nigh. I realize I want to make more room in my life to think about these hard things, so many hard things going on in so many nations of the world at this very moment. I want to believe that I am a tiny part of some kind of solution through my work, my thoughts, my children, my prayers.

Now I must fold her up and put her back into my pack, climb out of this train and wonder, even if only for a moment, what her day and my day will be like. Will she find enough fellowship and food to continue to hold up her head in her grief and daily living? And will I find at my day’s end, I have hoped this for her more than just this once?[1]

[1] Photo: Paula Bronstein for The Wall Street Journal, November 4, 2015, page 1

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This is the word that came to me on my dog-led marsh walk today as we headed across the meadow full of autumnal colors. As one strides down the small foot trail and across the field to then walk the perimeter’s bottom, the view is vast, and the meandering river comes into the scene, snaking its way to the sea.

It’s been nearly six months since I’ve written a word for this small blog. Gone so long have I been that when “burnished” showed up, I wondered whether it was the sign of a post, and whether, still, a blog, readers or a writer still existed. Had they all fallen to Internet extinction? Where have I been, where might anyone else be, and what is burnished?

Some readers will know life has thrown a series of pitches our way that have made the family take new stances. I left off last spring with graduations, babies born, re-assignments in public service, medical situations and more marking the undercurrents of “life in all its fullness.” My writing was redirected for months into a 9 page letter intended to arc a 35 year career. A new research project got underway. My mind and heart felt spread everywhere in all directions. No words popped up on the marsh.

When ‘burnished’ did, I found myself pondering and composing, actions hardly recognizable actions! I unearthed a definition, expecting to find it as adjective for fall colors. What you see first, however, is “to polish by friction, to make smooth and bright,” with the noun given as “brightness.”[i] The origin comes a bit closer to encompassing a fall scene: “to make brown.” But pause, and never mind: it’s not the colors I am pondering upon this discovery. I think ‘burnished’ is where I’ve been these long months. Have I been polished by friction and, I hope, made smoother and bright?

And so this small re-entry ends here, where I sit in a familiar seat with fellow commuters, heading for the city on a warm, wet morning. The colors change, yes, and so do we. But in all this at least one truth remains: each day is a small miracle. I’m glad to be back thinking about them, and be able again to make time to write what is easily seen, and what is not.

[i], accessed October 29, 2015

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The Thin Film of Dust

It’s early Friday evening and the end of another week of tough commuting. Yes, some snow piles are thinning, and yes, we had Wednesday’s warmth to remind us that winter will abate. But when I ran my hand across the top of my dresser this morning I wondered: could the thin film of dust I touched have metaphysical counterparts? Would the snow as seen from space look like this dust? And do we, as we trudge into the station or crowd onto another overstuffed bus wear a dusty veil of winter weariness?

I’m wagering it will be easier to grab my dust-busting wand tomorrow, skirt around the picture frames, and give the flat surfaces the proverbial “lick and a promise” than it will be to peer at the grey skies and trees and imagine a full blooming garden. But that doesn’t mean deep down under the deep snow, those processes that bring the garden to flower aren’t happening. March in New England gives us the opportunity to seize hope and remain steadfast in it.

Cabin fever begone, I say. At the risk of what some might label false optimism, let’s fire up the paper shredder, find the embroidery hoop, mend the loops on the coats that have all come undone, and enjoy this colder-than-we-wish-it was day.

Besides, today’s paper (it’s now Saturday) includes a nice review of a new book that sounds like a great read. I’m going to find, or order Rust: The Longest War[i] as soon as I post this. And now that I think of it, (I sure didn’t plan it…) Rust rhymes with Dust…dust

and THAT somehow seems fitting for Pi day (doesn’t it?!)

[i] Petrosky, Henry. “The Weakest Link,” Wall Street Journal Saturday/Sunday March 14-15, 2015 page C8 reviews Jonathan Waldman’s Rust: The Longest War. Simon & Schuster, 2015.

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Deep and Crisp and Uneven

Yes, Bostonians are emerging from all the snow and perhaps in a couple of days, we’ll also escape this biting cold, though we are quick to acknowledge we are not the only ones enduring this aspect of winter. The inspiration for the title of this post came while walking the dog last week in-between sidewalls of snow higher than my head. Many of us were around for the Chicago blizzard of 1969, or in several other spots for the 1978 event. But I’m here to say I have never seen this much snow, and yes, it’s deep, and crisp, but very uneven.

The country knows other things have been uneven out here lately, most famously perhaps our beleaguered MBTA. Earlier today one of our long-time morning conductors was heard to say, “Well, your pass doesn’t say you’re entitled to lights, heat, wifi, an on-time arrival or power: you get a ride!” I tried that out on another commuter with whom I walk the last stretch onto campus. She thought those things could be included in an implied contract, but I daresay at this point, most of us will just settle for the ride.

But tonight we have a new angle on the situation. The traincar I’m in is completely dark except for yellow hanging glow sticks on the hooks at each seat row: the kind with glowing goo that you might wave about at a concert, just a bit shorter and stouter. There’s a peaceful, settled feel to the group in here: we’d rather be seated and riding, I suppose, than totally squashed or worse, left behind. I can see some light in other cars, and we’ve been invited to move there when we lose a few passengers at the upcoming stops. But my two layers everywhere, massive scarf, and laptop will make the ride seem just another day. It is a bit rough on the task to transcribe today’s meeting notes, though.

Stay as warm as you can all!

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“…And We Wait…”

…at the station for an update on the inbound 7:07 train this morning, but alas, no information streamed across the neon-lit sign, nor radio dial, nor tweet nor alert of any kind. It was as if that train did not exist.

Upon return home, for where else was there to go? We still learned nothing despite expanding our channels to television and the MBTA website itself, motherlode of commuter info, or we wish it were so.

I think that 7:07 train went to Platform 9 ¾.

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