Airport, Pandemic, and Gratitude

In Flight

Passing through wind currents above the clouds, I thought of the ancient Tibetan prophecy from the documentary When the Iron Bird Flies, that the teachings of the Buddha would travel far and wide when the iron bird flies west.

It was shocking, and not a little dreamlike, to experience going from a very small social circle that included my nuclear family, my sisters and niece, and a few very good, close friends and suddenly finding myself in Memorial Day travel at the Atlanta airport.

We were traveling to Oak Park, Ill to see my mother-in-law, more than likely for the last time, or maybe not. She is quite old, infirm, and suffering from dementia. She remains tied to her body by a silken thread, and so we plunged into the stream to be with her.

At the airport we moved in a steady stream of humanity, all of us wearing masks at all times, and I couldn’t stop staring at the sea of faces. The masked chins, the necks, the people wobbling like bobble heads with their neck pillows and luggage.

Driving on 285 toward Camp Creek Parkway was it’s own kind of anxiety spiral, with rows of trucks jamming up the lanes and stop and go traffic from an accident that appeared, when we passed it, to have incurred no injuries. People in the breakdown lane were smiling with their cars bashed from behind, relieved to be alive. I was relieved for them.

The Pandemic has made me much more conscious of my mortality. At 60, I’ve retired from public school teaching with a small pension, and I try to spend evenings on the back porch watching the sun set through the poplars and pines.

I’m so grateful to be alive, to have survived thus far, for breath, community, and connection. I want to dwell in these moments. My body and mind bask in the peace I feel under the trees in the evening air.

Even though the sea of masked humans was a jolt to my nervous system, I’m grateful to have survived the worst of Covid19, and I try not to live in the future. I practice acceptance of what is, to let my hopes and fears linger “out there” somewhere. I try to let my desires float like clouds, and I kiss their as wings they fly.

Today’s Walk

I’m in the Berkshire Mountains now, soaking up the fresh air. SA and I have taken his mother to her place here because she needs the help, and since I’m in this beautiful part of the world, I’m taking advantage of the country roads for some longish walks.

From West Stockbridge on Iron Ore Road I went up Cone Hill Road, turned right  on 41, and entered Richmond, about 6 miles.

Before leaving Iron Ore I walked around the neighborhood to see if anything had changed since I was here a year ago, but the same tidy houses with the same tidy lawns greeted me as I passed.

People here have lovely gardens of perennials–tiger lilies, Black-eyed Susans, sylvia, Queen Anne’s lace.

On highway 41 I picked up a menu at a barbecue place called Lakota, across the street from the Richmond fire station.

Crossing over the train tracks reminded me of a book I just finished called Bold Spirit, the story of Helga Estby and her daughter Clara and their walk in 1897 across the U.S.  from Spokane, WA to New York City. They walked most of the way along railroad tracks so they wouldn’t get lost.

They faced tremendous criticism for even going on such a walk because women were supposed to stay at home to raise their children. This was before women had the vote, and many men thought women were too weak to endure such an arduous trip.

Helga accepted the challenge to walk because the person who completed the journey would receive 10,000 dollars, money she would use to save the family homestead from bankruptcy.

I didn’t face one tenth of Helga’s hardships when I made my pilgrimage to Santiago, but traveling alone in Spain was not exactly easy. Women have to be on their guard while walking alone, even if we are no longer young.

On my way back to Katherine’s house I went along Furnace Road where former Governor Duval Patrick has built a home. He built on plot of land next to Mud Pond, an old quarry where we used to swim. Patrick bought up all the land around the quarry, so now there’s no access to it. Our sons would swing from a rope swing there along with many other locals. We would also swim out to a fallen tree floating in the center. It’s sad that now no one can swim in the cold, clean water just because one person wants privacy.