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Beginner's Heart

Beginner's Heart

#myAmtrakWritingRetreat reprised

imageI am now an official, seasoned Amtrak traveller: I have taken a coffin-shower bath. This is it: big enough to stand up   in, and w/ surprisingly good pressure. Considering I on this next leg from Chicago to Fort Worth for 24 hours, I’m just glad for the access!

In places where I’ve lived, running water — much less hot running water — is a luxury. At least, not a consistent given. I know about line heaters (they don’t make the kind I grew up with, now): the lighting of the match as you turn the gas on, and the tiny flicker of flame that was supposed to somehow heat the water passing over it in a copper tube. Note: this didn’t work very well.

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I know about turning the water on when there’s a water outage, so that when it does finally come on, you can get up & shower. No matter the time. And maybe bathe. In Algiers, where I spent my first year of married life, running water might be off for 10, even 24, hours. And in Thailand, down-country in the small rural areas where my father worked when I was in highschool, we collected rain water in big cisterns, where sometimes small gold fish swam to keep the mosquitos down. Dipping cups into it, we would wet our hair, shampoo, then rinse. Then bathe, all with rain water from a jug where fish swam lazily in the tropical heat.

In other words? I don’t take water for granted. :)

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via google

via google

There are so many things like this in our everyday lives — things we don’t see because they’re familiar. Like running water, or the space to stretch your arms out in the shower. And part of what makes a trip an ‘adventure’ is that it isn’t like everyday life. You sleep rocking to the rhythm of wheels over rail, lit by the thin light of Mars & Venus and a hundred other stars clearly visible in the Ohio darkness. As I did, last night, two seats folded into a good-enough bed. Not the luxury king of an international 5-star, but certainly good enough.

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Look around today. What in your life is everyday magic? What would my friend Tuli, who joined me from Botswana in a summer workshop, find incredible? Coloured pencils for students, picture books, air conditioning, men helping with laundry… Her list was long! Mine is, too — perhaps because I grew up minus many things Americans take for granted. It includes the magic of a shower — with hot water! — on a train. And on this train ride, with time to write & think, my childhood awe comes back. And everyday life is once again an adventure.

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chocolate, and my own #AmtrakWritingRetreat

the author's

the author’s

The first leg of my 2+ days on the train. Despite getting up at 4 in the morning (& not sleeping well before that!), I couldn’t sleep on this first 4-hour trip. Too excited.

Instead, I looked out the window, thinking of all the ways the landscape was like/unlike other landscapes. Of how trains are always metaphors (much darker ones in Europe…). Of how time is precious, and to have 2 full days of train, travel, & writing ahead is like a fat 401K.

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And maybe that’s not the best analogy, but it’s apt. Retirement requires prep, as well as feeding. The 401K does, as well. And a trip on the train? Despite my family teasing me that no one else would be excited over 2+ days alone on a train, I’m in quiet bliss. I’d be noisier, but there’s no one around who cares. Not to mention I’m in DC Union Station, where I probably could shriek and no one would notice in the chaos & cacaphony.

the author's

the author’s

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Drinking iced tea, writing this blog post, and looking forward to dinner w/ strangers on a train? It doesn’t get a lot better. You need to figure out your own ‘train trip’ bliss — something that will give you the time to pursue what feeds you. And then do it. Do it for your beginner’s heart. Like I told the girl at the chocolate shop: sometimes we need to give ourselves presents. It’s an investment.

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more on the home front ~

the author's

the author’s

Today was ‘look at houses’ day. Funny how pictures bear so little resemblance to the real thing.

When I taught, I used to give my students postcards from a local museum prior to a field trip. They were to write about the postcards before we went to the museum, then find the actual painting/ sculpture/ artifact once at the museum. Finally, they compared the ‘real’ (the signified object) to the ‘sign’ — the picture. It was always a huge revelation.

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So I know this, right?? ‘Real’ trumps ‘picture’ all to blazes. Still, pictures were the thing, until I visited the real places. Where 1st choice quickly became Nope. And 2nd choice (a distant 2nd, at that) jumped to Oh wow! Something about presence, and being here…?

the author's

the author’s

I bought our current house while my beloved was working overseas, but this is harder, somehow. In part because it will probably be (hopefully be? :) ) the last house we buy. Thus a lot hangs on it: room for a family dinner, a family Christmas. A room for my younger son to stay with us, or a sister to visit. A garden to woo new birds in, and set up a bee house.

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As usual, what the heck does this have to do w/ beginner’s heart?? All kinds of things! Real is what you see, what you feel, what you breathe & hear & touch. Not a ‘virtual’ reality. Real requires being present, in the moment.

We have to be willing to experience not the pictures in our heads (or even our hearts) but what’s real, however we define that. For me, it’s what’s in front of me — as unclouded by my own attachments as I can be. A very hard call. And excellent beginner’s heart practice… :)

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hunting for home

from fiddler's green, blacksburg

from fiddler’s green, blacksburg

Looking for a house is hard. Looking while recognising that this will be your long-term home — not a rental, not a summer vacation — is even harder.

You find yourself confronting unspoken pre-reqs. And sometimes, unfortunately, even the happiest of couples have different pre-reqs. Which makes for…interesting conversations. :)

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My beloved & I are finally on task to move to be w/ our son, DIL, & grandson. So obviously we need someplace to live (believe it or not, the ‘kids’ don’t want parents living forever in their basement!).

I want small — little to clean up, little to maintain. My beloved wants comfort, and a big garage. I’d just as soon sell my car & get a Vespa (yes!). He’s not down with that.

I’m fine w/ a fixer-upper: not structural changes, but maybe hardwoods, and new kitchen countertops. Possibly having to frame in a carport. He’s worried we’ll over-commit, and get a house that needs far too much fixing up. I like Mission & Craftsman bungalows; he’s fine w/ almost anything.

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via wikipedia

via wikipedia

The point to this is we carry around all kinds of unexamined attachments — to smaller houses, to our childhood homes, to work spaces. But also to far less tangible desires: success, pride, bias. Even if some are ‘positive’ — a work ethic is desirable at work, but may well interfere w/ home life if pursued slavishly.

So I’m letting go — as much as I can — of my attachments to a certain kind of house, hoping I can instead create a home. And that will — I hope! — be enough for both of us. Whatever our initial attachments.

Previous Posts

#myAmtrakWritingRetreat reprised
I am now an official, seasoned Amtrak traveller: I have taken a coffin-shower bath. This is it: big enough to stand up   in, and w/ surprisingly good pressure. Considering I on this next leg from Chicago to Fort Worth for 24 hours, I'm just ...

posted 4:28:24pm May. 28, 2015 | read full post »

chocolate, and my own #AmtrakWritingRetreat
The first leg of my 2+ days on the train. Despite getting up at 4 in the morning (& not sleeping well before that!), I couldn't sleep on this first ...

posted 2:25:47pm May. 27, 2015 | read full post »

more on the home front ~
Today was 'look at houses' day. Funny how pictures bear so little resemblance to the real thing. When I taught, I used to give my students postcards from ...

posted 2:36:27pm May. 26, 2015 | read full post »

hunting for home
Looking for a house is hard. Looking while recognising that this will be your long-term home -- not a rental, not a summer vacation -- is ...

posted 5:40:03pm May. 25, 2015 | read full post »

living through the unexpected (with equanimity?)
 This is how we spent two hours Friday: lined up to cross the French Broad River bridge. TWICE. (I've been calling it the French Bread River Basin since then; ...

posted 10:32:07pm May. 24, 2015 | read full post »

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