The Most Important Meal of the Day – January 2014
The marine layer is thick this morning. It softens the edges of buildings and dampens the morning sounds to quiet, muted undertones. No birds sing the morning into life, no ray of sun draws the outline of the treetops. The world sleeps an extra half hour, gently blanketed in the mist.
When I first moved to San Diego, it was such a new concept to wake up to what appeared be a cloudy day, only to discover it was marine layer that would burn off by 10 o'clock or so. As I got used to it, as I learned that a gray start to the day was only temporary, and that I could look forward to that famed California sunshine by mid-morning, I came to love the marine layer.
This is a new item on my menu, a new 'taste' sensation, so to speak. It doesn't rain much here, so the sea provides moisture in its own form. Yes, it's a desert climate, but not nearly so severely dry as places just ten miles inland. Here the ocean allows the land, and the people, to sip gently from her cup. Not every day, and not all year long, but it happens often enough to provide some relief.
Walking in the morning marine layer is like diving into the ocean without ever getting wet. I am completely immersed in the enormity of the sea, and at the same time I am safe and solid in my own environment. All of this was new to me eight years ago. It never gets old. It never becomes common place for me. I am excited and happy every time it happens.
This marine-layer morning is my breakfast for the day. It will stay with me, stick to my ribs, and set the tone for my entire day. I am satisfied, happy, and so very grateful.
Dining on The Road – February 2014
It has been my experience that finding good restaurants when I'm traveling can be hit or miss. Sometimes I find myself in a restaurant that serves mainly fried food and canned side dishes, when I really want a fresh, interesting salad. Or I find myself in a place that has all kinds of healthy choices, and interesting side dishes, when all I really want is some creamy pasta.
But on every trip I've ever taken, there has been at least one place that offered exactly what I wanted and needed. And it usually went the extra step of surprising me with something in the way of spices, added little extras to the meal, or service. Those places are the ones that stand out in my memory, and that I return to when traveling in that direction again.
My journey so far in this life has brought me together with a lot of people. Some have been thoroughly enjoyable, and although we did not stay in contact when I moved away, I remember them with a smile. Some have been people who I respect, and whose journey I honor, but who I will never be close to, for one or another reason.
But in each phase of my life, I have found at least one person who has been exactly what I wanted and needed. I have often been surprised by the things I learned from them, and by the depth of friendship they offer me. I learned how to be a true friend to them in return. Because I know them, because of how much I value them, I learned how to value myself. No matter how far I travel from them, or how much time passes between contact, we pick up where we left off, as though we had never been separated.
Each moment of my life is precious and valuable. Each person I encounter plays a part in making me kinder, more compassionate, more thankful. And yet, these special friends, the ones who are my confidantes, my therapists, my teachers, my poets, and my playmates, are the ones who stand out in my life, and to whom I return, again and again, with love and gratitude.
A Free Lunch – February 2015
One day I walked outside for lunch and I noticed it. There was a complete freedom of movement in my body and absence of pain. I looked around and the sky was blue, the air smelled clean, the breeze was soft on my skin. In that moment I had no unmet needs and no unfulfilled desires. The absences were so satisfying. I could have turned right around, walked back inside the building and continued on with my day, without missing a beat, even though I would have missed a meal.
I've been so in touch with my body's needs and desires on one level or another for so many years. It seems there is always something to attend to whether it is hunger, thirst, pain, hydration, sickness or fatigue. And I tend to get very caught up in catering to each and every bodily need or desire, feeling that it is somehow a measure of the value of my very essence that I not allow my body to want for anything.
Of course, my entire upbringing was a training in how to serve others through self-denial. It is ironic that I find myself once again serving this body on so many levels, never once giving thought to the fact that this activity alone consumes enormous amounts of my attention and energy. Once again, I find myself in a familiar pattern of tending to the trees without realizing I am in a forest.
That day, that moment, was so extraordinary! I felt so free! I just stood there in the middle of the driveway in front of my building so I could extend the moment into minutes. I realized I had stepped outside my normal pattern of thinking and I had noticed my true essence in an instant. I burned the feeling into my body, so I could bring it back up and remember it in my muscles and in my nostrils and on my skin and in my eyes.
I have wanted to write this blog about it for weeks, but either I felt I couldn't do the moment justice, or I couldn't get back to the feeling completely enough to really recreate it in words. Well, there are no words that do it justice, it just lives inside me. But it can't stay inside me if it is to truly have meaning. It has to be shared, and so today I felt compelled to finally write it out.
The old cliché says there's no such thing as a free lunch, but I know better. I know there are spectacular moments in my life when I am fully present, without thought, need, lack, or destination. I know there are moments when I simply am. And those moments are the main meal. They are the feast, the freest of free lunches. Because I don't have to earn them and I don't pay for them before or afterward. That perfection exists in every moment and all I have to do is walk outside and notice it.
A New York Minute – May 2015
The plane wheels touch down on a La Guardia airport runway. It’s my first trip to New York City and I am eager and excited for all that the next few days might hold. Yes, there will be business meetings for the most part, but it’s Manhattan! This isn’t television or movies or a book. I’m here to experience the shops, the landmarks, the sights and sounds for myself!
The ride from the airport to my hotel has me looking out the windows for a glimpse of anything I might recognize. And yet, what captivates me is the delightful conversation with my driver. We exchange stories about our families and we laugh at how similar our life experiences have been, even though we are miles and cultures apart.
My first evening includes a walk to Times Square where, with no sense of self-consciousness or shame, I take pictures like every other tourist on the street. I soak in the sight of street performers, blazing neon signs, and people of every imaginable size, age, dress, and nationality. And yet, what stays in my mind is the experience in the elevator when I was going downstairs to go out. Two men who entered after me, both stepped aside to allow me to exit before them. The unexpected courtesy astounds and delights me!
The next morning I’m up early and dressed for meetings, waiting at the bank of elevators to go out and begin my day. My elevator stops on nearly every floor to pick up people also dressed for the business day. On one floor, the elevator across from mine is also stopped with its doors open. As I look up, I see a man on the opposite elevator looking up and we make eye contact. We share a momentary smile, a friendly acknowledgement of each other, as our respective doors slide closed.
After the first day of meetings, I go to dinner at a restaurant in Grand Central Station with colleagues I have just met that day. Grand Central is huge, breathtaking, and there is more picture-taking. The conversation turns from work to personal interests. Two of us find we have such similar interests, so we go for drinks afterward to continue our conversation. An unexpected friendship is formed.
I’m home now. The meetings were successful and so productive. I have tons of memories and a phone full of pictures. The restaurants lived up to their reputations and the food was delicious. And yet I am feasting on the smaller moments. Laughter with a driver, gentlemen on an elevator, a shared smile with a stranger, the start of a new friendship: these make up the meal I will remember in a New York minute.