Saturday, May 27, 2006

Going uphill, steeply

A friend of mine recently returned from a trip out west, where he attended his son’s college graduation.

Today he writes to me that the trip went very well except for hitting the wall while driving up a narrow winding road to the top of Pike’s Peak. He says he has a big fear of heights, and between that and the altitude, he had to stop and turn around. He almost made it to the peak. He says his son was with him, but he'd been there before, so at least he didn't ruin it for him.

He says there were great views on the way down, but even then he needed to go very slowly and deliberately. It was quite a white knuckle drive, and he was glad to have it over.

I tell him I’m in an agony of a sort for him about the heights and the narrow winding road. I tell him that when I am driving up a long steep hill, I have a fear of the car tipping over backwards. This I blame on a dream I had as a child, but who knows?

This vague fear was with me in New York several times but more intensely driving over a suspension bridge into Savannah, GA with my brother. It was made worse because I felt stupid and didn't think I could tell him. I wanted to pull over and give him the wheel, but the bridge wasn’t that high; not Pike’s Peak. We crested the bridge in a few moments. I tell my friend that I guess I’m saying I feel the trauma.

Perhaps this strange fear of going uphill steeply is a metaphor for some way I’m feeling about life or some such, but maybe not. Maybe we're just two friends who didn’t know about the fear of heights thing about each other, connecting while going uphill, steeply.

Sunday, May 07, 2006

Happy Mother's Day, in advance

I’m in Corning, New York, where I’ve landed for the afternoon in the historic Market Street district while traveling home from a conference at Cornell. There are rejuvenated shops of all kinds, antiques, restaurants, and of course, glass shops. I’ve just been watching a glassblower and then moved on to a little shop called The Glass Menagerie.

The trip is great fun. When I see and tour the Cornell campus I think it is where I dream of being. I could spend my life there.

During the journey, people seem to come into my life as I need and am open to them, like Kim, who tells me the good Japanese restaurant in Collegetown and says be sure to take in the suspension bridge over the north gorge. With her directions I visit the Johnson Museum designed by I.M.Pei, see the exhibit “The Novel in Pictures,” and my favorite exhibit, “The Architect’s Brother.” I especially enjoy the photographs by Carrie Mae Weems, from the series "Not Manet's Type": The caption to panel 4 says I took a tip from Frida who from her bed painted incessantly--beautifully while Diego scaled the scaffolds to the top of the world.

There is a chance meeting with a museum security guard who explains the new media to me and directs me to the balcony for a fabulous view of the countryside. There is the driving while I process what I’ve heard at the conference: and what I end up with is, what can I do to live the most satisfying life I can, what does that look and feel like? That is what I’m thinking, looking through the windshield at the rolling hills of New York, off the southern tier expressway of 86 and 17, going west.

All of these adventures, and yet what happens next is a highlight of my trip.

I'm in Corning at The Glass Menagerie, my cell phone vibrates. I look at my watch. It’s 3:15. I figure it’s the office. Nice to be needed. I’ve told everyone I won’t be calling them, as my phone’s on the emergency plan and just about everywhere is roaming.

But no. Not the office.

When I flip open the phone the voice of my beloved older son says cheerily, hi mom!

By now I’m on the sidewalk. The Menagerie was a little oppressive, anyway.

He says he’s at Home Depot buying a grill and wants to know if I could use more mulch. He says he could pick it up for me. I smile. Sure, I say, and I tell him how great it is he called, and I give him a number for mulch bags. He wants to know what kind, and what color. We settle on cypress, red cypress.

He asks when I’ll be home and I say Sunday, maybe a day earlier, who knows? (No wonder people say I’m elusive!) and then we sign off.

I suppose you could say mulch is mulch, but the questions I heard were where are you, are you ok, how’s it going, haven't talked to you in four days, needed to touch base.

It is nice to be needed and loved.

Happy Mother’s Day, in advance, from New York.