While we wait for whatever’s coming next, here is a story I wrote in 1988 while living in Washington D.C. It was published in the journal “Mildred.”
There is nothing more important than human emotions–for other animals,for plants, for one another, for the Earth itself. Nothing. We must allow ourselves to FEEL or we will be left with nothing.
Caring, compassion, fear, sorrow, love, hate, anger, desire, passion, remorse, yearning, loneliness, they’ll visit us in their turn. Don’t be afraid to feel them!
And don’t be afraid to reach out. We are all in this together.
Did I ever tell you about the train trip I took in April 2015 from Emeryville, California to Tampa, Florida? Please bear with me. Last night I awoke around 3 a.m., thinking about Donald Trump saying how “appropriate” it was for his supporters “to swing back” at people who had shown up to protest at his rally in Chicago last night. I’ve stayed up thinking about the lines he keeps crossing, lines we never noticed were there. We’re getting a glimpse of what our country might be if he were elected. Would he grab more and more power and call in the police, even the military to silence those who disagree with him, meanwhile urging his supporters on to violence? Would we become a police state? I’m remembering a man I met on the train from Chicago to Washingon D.C., an overnight train. Traveling coach, I was delighted to be assigned a seat all to myself in an empty car. I soon found out why the car was empty when the attendant ushered on two French high school rugby teams, their exuberance and energy overwhelming.
Then my own seatmate joined me, muttering about what a useless waste of time rugby was. He began a conversation, more of a discourse really, which was to last during all his waking hours. He was 68, he told me, and had been at a convention in Chicago. He was trained and employed as a nurse which together with his acute business acumen and superior intelligence would make him a million dollars in the next year. This would be the year. Then he could have any woman he wanted. He admitted not having had longterm success with women. His ex-wife and ex-daughter hated him. I interrupted to ask how it was possible to have an ex-daughter. “She won’t speak to me,” he said, “or have anything to do with me.”
I should tell you how he looked. Dark hair, somewhat dark complected, wearing a suit that seemed much used, polished dress shoes. Of stocky build, he took up a fair amount of space, and when he fell asleep for the night he snored, moderately but steadily. He was half German and very proud of having grown up on the streets of Detroit and being a “street fighter.” He had a rather pugnacious countenance and appeared ready to take on anybody who got in his way. (Except the rugby players.) He was a student of history and told me he had especially focused on the rise of Hitler.
He seemed vaguely amused by me and my occasional comments, questions. He felt utterly alien to me and I’m sure had no idea of the extent to which I was holding back. He never asked me anything about myself. He did exclaim once in surprise, “You know, you’re not stupid!”
This is his plan: to take over a hill in New Hampshire. “You can defend a hill,” he explained. “You can see people coming.” He will settle there with “like-miinded friends,” to create a self-sufficient, well-armed group with a huge supply of water, food, guns and ammunition. They’ll be ready when disaster inevitably comes. They’ll be the ones who saw it coming.
The next day, knowing we were in West Virginia and would soon arrive in Washington D.C., I asked him to please be quiet for a while because I wanted to do my 20-minute morning meditation.”I love West Virginia and hate to miss any of it but I always practice transcendental meditation twice a day.”
“Oh that’s great,” he responded enthusiastically. “I’ve heard that helps a person focus and be more successful in business.”
I closed my eyes. He kept talking. I opened my eyes. “You can’t talk to me while I’m meditating,” I said.
“Oh, are you doing it right here, now? I thought you’d go somewhere else to do it.”
“No, I’m doing it right here.”
The still sleeping boys around us were quiet. When I came out of meditation he said, “You missed a sign that said: “Meditators are missing this.”
It took me a moment to realize he was making a joke. He seemed happy when I laughed.
I’m wondering now who he’s supporting for president.
I have been busy with edits of “Flight to Ohio, from Slavery to Passing to Freedom,” due to be published by Tayen Lane Publishing in the spring. I still don’t know how the publisher defines “in the spring” but we shall see!
I am going to give you again the link to the webpage the publisher set up for the novel because it now contains the four-minute video my son-in-law helped me prepare. I was asked to talk about what motivated me to write “Flight to Ohio.” This is not material that will be in the book itself, which is a work of fiction.
The hope I see for humanity is for each of us to look into ourselves and be the best we can be. These are times that call for searching deep. What does it mean to me to be the best I can be?
It means doing the best I can at any work I’m lucky enough to have to do. My mother always said it’s a blessing to have work to do, and to be able to serve others and I think she was right, though at the time I may have wondered what she even meant.
And certainly it means striving to meet other people with kindness, getting a little beyond the surface. A simple question like “How’s it going?” can be enough, then listening to the answer, looking into the eyes of the person I’m talking with to show I see him or her as a human being who matters.
This morning I have done some rewriting of Chapter 50 of “Woman at the Window.”
Soon I will be removing several of the last chapters of “Woman at the Window” from the website, so anyone anxious to finish reading it should get busy.
Tayen Lane Publishing has added the video I made to the website they created for “Flight to Ohio.” Above is the link. Just click on it.
My heart bleeds for you, la France de liberté, fraternité, egalité.
We are trying to add a few photos to the video that will appear on Tayen Lane Publishing’s website for “Flight to Ohio, from Slavery to Passing to Freedom.” Maybe by next week it will be there. In any case, I am publishing again the link to that website, above.
Have been very occupied preparing a short video for my publisher, Tayen Lane Publishing, about my motivation for writing “Flight to Ohio.” I hope the video will be up on the website they are creating for my book by the end of October or shortly thereafter. And I hope any interested readers will be able to find and view it. Go to their website and try! But not quite yet.
http://www.tayenlane.com/flight-to-ohio Here is the link.Try it and see if it works.