We were driving back to Amherst today and stopped at a rest area to pee, the kind that has a McDonald’s, a convenience store, public bathrooms, and some other places to get fast food, plus a little outside seating area.
Mani had already dried her hands when I came out from my stall. She told me that several of the sinks’ automatic sensors weren’t working; sure enough, several other women were hunting for which faucets worked. One woman advised me to try waving both hands under. Finally some hot water sprayed out.
Yesterday in Hudson, we walked through an incredible exhibit by a photographer named Jacob Elbaz. The photos feature searing, intimate portraits and real-life moments in Crown Heights and Israel, as well as stunning images from 9/11 and its aftermath in the City. We definitely experienced this description of his work, from Wikipedia: “His own work focuses on tension between communities.”
I wondered about tension between communities as I wandered around downtown Hudson, where modest and run-down-looking homes sit alongside newly restored beauties. The racial and ethnic diversity of such a small town (pop. 6.713), the charming farmers’ market and mash-up of stoop-sitters and hipsters made for an interesting place to explore a bit. I have no idea what the local vibe is when it comes to how these different communities interact, but I can only imagine it’s complicated.
In the foreground is life happening. Kids back and forth between my place and their dad’s, various summer camps and activities, loving my clients and writing peeps, watching Queen Sugar with my baby, and appreciating the beauty and meaning in everyday life, where it’s literally everywhere. We’ve got a couple other things planned before September really hits: Pearl and I are headed to a family camp in a couple of weeks, and Mani and I are taking an early fall trip to southern Maine to celebrate her 40th and our third anniversary. Aviva starts high school at the end of the month!
And all the while, the news — think “locked and loaded” — is in the background, kind of like a terrible radio station you can’t seem to switch off. Like everyone else, I’m uneven when it comes to how closely I’m paying attention to every last tweet. On the one hand, you can’t exactly make a difference if you refuse to stay informed, and on the other, I’m not sure the kind of difference I’m capable of making has anything to do with the latest asinine assault on humanity.
Driving along the Taconic Parkway in New York State on Tuesday, I felt teary for no particular reason. The same sensation washed over me again today as we headed north. Lupines and Queen Anne’s Lace billow the lengths of the wide median between directions; everything is so green, so lush, and so fleeting. Sometimes the veil feels thinner than others, and this week I’ve been intensely aware of how big the love is, how impermanent our lives are, and just how much I want to be here for all of it.
Walking back to our Airbnb yesterday at the end of a run, sipping my iced latte and nibbling on a muffin, I felt an inexplicable surge of love for everyone I saw. I asked myself, “If you saw a neo-Nazi skinhead right now, would you still feel that surge of love?” Not so much, I answered to myself. Not so much.
Which brings me back to the rest stop today. As we exited the bathroom and headed back towards the parking lot, I told Mani how I was thinking about how, if some shit really went down — a shooting rampage, a bomb dropped — these would be the people we’d huddle next to and pray with. Would we pause to ask, “Who did you vote for?” Would someone try to help us any less if they knew we were married or Jewish? Not so much.
No, just like on 9/11, just like in every fucking horrific shooting, just like when a plane goes down, we would all be mere humans, terrified and wanting nothing more than to live to see another day, to tell our loved ones how much we love them, to keep being here. We would weep for the dead, not ask if they were red or blue. Or at least I’d like to think so.
Maybe this is idealistic on my part. Maybe it’s fatalistic. Maybe I’m just tired and need to unplug for Shabbat. A woman who has been writing and coaching with me continuously for nearly two years now and whom I adore is in Massachusetts (from Oregon), and she’s renting a car tomorrow just to drive out to Amherst for a visit. We’ve never met in real life, and I can’t wait to give her a hug and have one of our marathon conversations — over actual coffee. Pearl and I may ride on the bike path Sunday to get ice cream. I open a brand new 2-week writing group on Sunday and get to welcome 12 beautiful humans to a zero-pressure writing practice.
Life is so many things. To say there is “tension between communities” is an almost laughable understatement. And yet — in the rest stop, we all just have to pee and figure out how to get those wonky sensors to work. We’re in hot water here, folks, and not the kind that comes out of those cheap faucets.
As usual, I offer no answers. Just these rambling thoughts, and love. Thank you for reading, for caring about the world as much as I know you do.