9:00am 1/26/08 – Montpelier, VT
And so it begins. I board the Greyhound in Montpelier, on a beautiful, bright, snowy Saturday morning. Annabel drives off as the bus pulls out. In my pockets are my ticket, gloves, $20 and a packet of instant miso soup. Zara left me the soup & a pear this morning outside my door with a little note that said, “I thank whatever fellow, breeze or star that brought you to this program. – (heart) Z.”
I don’t know how I have been touched so deeply in so short a time. As I sit on this lumbering beast, rolling south through Vermont’s winter wonderland, I see cars fender-deep in snow in the median. Windows down, driver at the wheel… trying in the morning light to figure out “What Next?” Busses off the road, traffic backed up ½ mile, and one peaceful stopped commuter walks his dog among the cars that make up the parking lot that is I-89 South.
I am deeply melancholy. Bittersweet. I text Zara a goodbye, and a warning about the roads. She replies, “The wheels of the bus gonna take him home, Love gonna follow wherever he roam. I will pass on the slippery message.” And again, I am touched.
So many small kindnesses. So much Connection. Synchronicity. It’s amazing how alive you can feel when you share yourself with people.
And these people… So remarkable.
1pm and it already seems too far away. It’s growing distant and the pang of close connection lost is fading. I look at Zara’s note now and try to remember how it felt when I first read it. Like someone had taken my very heart in their hands, gently held it, and planted a kiss like a breeze on its most tender part. It was a sweet and tender pain. I don’t know why I have been so acutely aware on this trip of consideration. The kindness & thoughtfulness of others. But I have several times been touched in this way. Made mindful that my life has connected with, and affected another, and that that life was responding to me. This is good.
And Now I Ride. Leaving New Britain, Connecticut. It’s a hazy, sunny day in new England. I can’t stop listening to Ray Lamontagne’s “Till the Sun Turns Black.” BE. BE HERE NOW. BE HERE NOW. In Massachusetts we passed people out ice fishing and skating on a frozen pond. The bus was quiet and contemplative. Morning. Outside the frosty morning cold felt reverent, even from the highway. But now, as we slowly make our way toward New York City, the bus fills up. The silence is broken. In Northampton, MA about 10 people get on. That still morning peacefulness fades into the tension of people and space and confinement. People are on their phones now. The noise floor rises. With the sun rises the temperature on the bus. Along with the new travelers come new smells. Fast Food. Colognes. Body Odors.
And with all this, my memories slowly, imperceptibly, slide into the background. And when I try to remember Zara’s sweetness, it’s faint to me. When I try to recall Jai’s ebullient laughter, or Megan’s wide eyed innocence, or Annabel’s luminous intensity…. they are all ghosts now. I see them only from the corners of my eyes. And the precious, acute sadness of leaving is replaced by a malaise. A film of self-protection. The bus is no place for that kind of openness.
I want to write about my friends, but I can’t. I wish I had done so four hours ago when her the text messages were fresh and I could remember sad & tender hugs goodbye from new and dear friends. Somehow over a week or so, a few apples to apples games, a couple of walks downtown, rehearsing & performing Charlene’s “Elsewhere Blues” at graduation, and “Love me Like A Man” at Ragu… somewhere we connected.
I’m suddenly struck by a sense of melodrama. That I’m making too much of it all. And a fear that the same is inescapable in the memoirs that I’m to write for my study. Ray Lamontagne sings “Yesterday is gone, yesterday is dead, get it through your head” as I write. But there is life in this. It is not dead, and it remains meaningful. It was and is a “Quality Event” in my life. A bright light casting the dreary days of Just Getting By into sharp relief. And it is good. For at least two reasons: 1 – these friendships are real, and these people wonderful and worth knowing and loving. And 2 – it reminds me how I should feel every day toward those I love, and how valuable – essential – that feeling of consideration is. On both sides the awareness that your small acts of kindness can deeply affect another; pull them from the depths. And that it’s circular. Cultivating awareness and appreciation for those acts of kindness helps me act out my own more. These are valuable lessons for me.