in the middle of the night – as i lie awake – i can hear the trains. not just the haunting whistles of freight chugging by or a late passenger railcar, but a train or two in the yard, idling. the sound hits me at just the wrong frequency – i am hyper aware of its rise and fall, the pulsing of it. once i hear it, i cannot un-hear it. it stays present and i stay awake.
nevertheless, the tracks hold sweet mystery and, each time i see a train, i wonder its destination, i wonder its journey, i wonder its freight or its passengers. i had not ever stood in the middle of a rural track, bent down – almost kneeling, photographing, until recent years. the track – a classic portrayal of perspective, narrowing further away.
i stood in the middle and looked both ways. south and then north. the south curved into the woods, the north was a straightaway. i turned back south.
in the right-now there seems no straight path, no tight focus, no horizon point that is clear. the tracks curve into the woods, beyond my sight, beyond my imagining. i meander. it makes me wonder.
we seek next and idle in our thoughts in the night, not-knowing. it’s liminal space, a diesel engine that needs to be kept warm for the next day, a time to be present on the tracks, bent down, looking for classic perspective. we are attendants.
i hear the haunting whistle in the wee hours and consider this journey.
(to the tune of “the old gray mare”) sing: a good night’s sleep just ain’t what it used to be, ain’t what it used to be, ain’t what it used to be. a good night’s sleep just ain’t what it used to be…many long years ago.”
yiiiikes. no kidding. a whole night of sleeping – like from late evening when you lay your head down on your sweet pillow all the way through the wee hours of the night to sunny morning when you wake blissfully rested and dreaming of a hot mug of coffee in your hand and zero aches and pains – is elusive. how utterly annoying. and a repeated pattern. over and over.
middle age, hormones (or the lack thereof), medications, angsts, the world, too little water, too much water, d snoring, me snoring, leg cramps, foot cramps, shoulder twinges, a pillow too flat, a pillow too puffy like one that makes you feel like your head is on top of the empire state building and your body is in the lobby, a full moon, the neighbor’s motion light, the wind, a skunk somewhere out the window in the ‘hood, sirens, the trains idling on the tracks for hours on end, wishing for midnight pancakes…the list is endless…reasons to be awake.
and we had a conversation most of the night – the waning moon and i.
right outside my pillow window it invited me as it moved from one glass panel to the next to the next. it wasn’t full wolf anymore; its pull was less intense. but it was present and bright and we were both awake, the moon and i.
we talked about time and life and breakfast. we talked about children and moving and empty nests and career. we talked about friendships and family and my parents and loss. we talked about being 19 and being almost-63 and meaning. we talked about legacy and dust and snack-time and happy lights. we talked about winter and the fireplace and the bathroom faucet. we talked about this town and decades and northport harbor and beaches. we talked about dogdog and sleep-running and we talked about babycat and empty space on the quilt. we talked about the pandemic and quiet and distancing and confusing questions. we talked about filling in the moments between spending time with others. we talked about horses and donkeys and lakes and cantering-land. we talked about mountains and porches and houses-we-know-well and courage and change. we talked about pianos and blogs and cartoons and value. we talked about grey hairs and jowls and pounds and wrinkles. we talked about gluten and dairy and glasses of wine and achy mornings. we talked about hiking and dreams and the pacific crest trail. we talked about decisions and successes and regrets and things-that-won’t-ever-make-sense. we talked about people and betrayal and forgiveness and remorse and sadness. we talked about plans and intentions and indecision. we talked about how laughter feels. we talked about gratitude and random texts and the littlest things.
and, again, we talked about time and life and breakfast.
and then we both slipped off into sleep…me – into my pillow, and the moon – sliding past the last windowpane.
i sleepily rub the dreams from my eyes. coffee helps. and the snowy world outside comes into focus. no longer immersed in the land of nod, all things rush back: the casts, the worries, work task lists, bills to pay, the world around us. before i peruse the news and the weather, though, i mind’s-eye blow my children a kiss and wish them good days, i hug the dog and the cat lying by my side, i thank sweet d for the coffee with the ernie straw. it all starts. the day has begun.
this past week has been extraordinary in so many ways; more on that another time. i’m buoyed by a hopeful spirit, by connecting with people, by sheer love and the sureness-of-foot taking one step at a time, moving forward; the tide is predictable – it ebbs; it flows. i am wide awake now, thinking.
“we should be wide awake.” yes. for all things. we should have our eyes open. we should monitor our response to the positive, the negative. we should be mindful. just as worry pervades our time, so does hope. we need lead with kindness. we need remember we are sharing this good earth with a hard-to-fathom 7.6 billion or so other souls. we can’t avoid the reality that the narrative we each individually choose must be deliberately and painstakingly vetted with the truth, with awareness, with sensitivity, with fairness. not sleepily, not uninterested-in-all-but-the-reactionary-anger-dramatics, not without due diligence. we must guard against the bandwagon of lackadaisical; we must avoid the geared-down rhetoric of hatred. we are human beings and we have a responsibility.
just as certain as the tide, it is predictable that the two factions in any division will aggressively forward their agendas. it is up to each of us to stay informed, to discern, to ask questions, to speak up, to make intelligent, educated choices based on civility, impartiality and honesty, equality, democracy and freedom. no matter the venue, no matter the place of division.
to be wide awake.
woke: increasingly used as a byword for social awareness.
i walked into the bathroom this morning and it greeted me. the scent of my sweet momma’s favorite perfume – estee lauder’s pleasures. it took me by surprise, making me stop suddenly. i stood still. i looked around, thinking maybe there was some other reason for this beautiful wafting ghost of perfume lingering in the air. i could see no other reason, no cause of any scent into which i might have meandered. so i stood there.
a few long seconds went by until i could speak and i stepped out of the bathroom to tell him that my momma’s perfume was in the air. he smiled and i could see he was moved. i went back into the bathroom slowly, wondering if i had imagined it. but as i entered the space again, it was there. most definitely – pleasures. the tears in my eyes weren’t tears of sadness. i spoke to her, telling her how much i missed her, how glad i was she had ‘stopped by’. i have been hoping that somehow she would show up, somehow she would make herself known to me, somehow she would let me know she was around.
so now i wonder – if this was her first wave from heaven. i imagine she’s been busy, her energy running high as she catches up with everyone she loves who got there before her. i imagine that she’s been talking up a storm, so to speak, and embracing all the opportunities she has to be with those she loves. so i am grateful for this moment today. this moment that – in an instant – made me feel like my momma is right here, just on the other side.
i talked to my sister during her lunch. i was sitting on the edge of the deck in unseasonable 65 degree sun and she was in her jeep at a favorite lunch spot. i told her about momma’s perfume. she said she had goosebumps. i told her, too, that the other day i found myself saying the words “betwixt and between”. now, who says that these days? we laughed when i said i was channeling mom. my sister said she had said something mom-esque a few days ago and i asked her if it was the word “irked”. again, we both laughed and we could both hear our sweet momma….
last night i woke in the middle of the night. i have no idea why or what woke me, but there was this one thought i was aware of as i made my way into awake-ness. the words – something like this – the more you have gratitude for every little thing, the more the universe gives you to have gratitude for. i woke him up. to talk about it. i’m not sure where the words came from but they were present in the air around me and my pillow. gratitude for every little thing – not just the good things. but also the challenging things. the things that make us weep. the feeling of being tired. the feeling of being exhilarated. with gratitude, the glass never has to be half-empty. it’s always half-full, waiting for the moment it spills over. our universe isn’t full of bubbles and rainbows, but they are there if you look.
my sweet momma’s perfume brought me a moment with my sweet momma. i look for the next time with great anticipation, wondering what this amazing woman will do to let me know she’s there. in the meanwhile, i am grateful for estee lauder’s pleasures in the air. a little thing? i don’t think so.
after working on projects, we played frisbee in the street. we never took a shower but wore sweats and sneakers. (we did brush our teeth.) we ate fresh strawberries and drank strong coffee.