Our challenge is to edit life’s choices, but not too carefully, and to remain fully awake in each moment to precious possibility.
That’s the last sentence of my first blog post, Lunch Hour, on September 19, 2003. Today is the 12th, not quite a year of blogging, but like a horse headed for the barn, I can see this arbitrary chalk mark and have begun to reflect upon its crossing.
Perhaps I am thinking of anniversaries because the third official “remembering” of September 11, 2001 occurred this weekend. We started flying again nine days later that year, first to Casper, Wyoming, then Minneapolis, Minnesota and then Glasgow — twenty different flights all between the 20th of September and October 15. I remember being happy to see the six burly young men at the gate in Asheville, North Carolina boarding all the way through to Casper. We wondered whether they were military guys, with their easy mannner and toned up mountain/farm boy look. Turns out they were volunteer fire fighters on their way to pick up two new fire trucks from a factory in Wyoming and drive them back to Hendersonville, North Carolina.
I remember sitting on the patio of the house we were renting on the Isle of Arran, Scotland on September 11 of 2002, an uncharacteristically brilliant blue sky day. I kept the sliding glass door open to hear the day long commemoration ceremonies for the victims of nine one one, attempting to write at the glass table, but mostly walking back inside to stand and watch.
Watched as thousands of white rose petals tumbled slowly down from the gallery in a shaft of light at St. Paul’s Cathedral in London, one petal for each life lost in that day’s terrorism in New York, Washington and Pennsylvania.
Watched as Yo Yo Ma played the Sarabande to Bach’s C minor cello suite in New York at ground zero as former mayor Rudy Giuliani began the roll call of lives lost.
Walked along the island’s coastline late in the afternoon and was moved by the sight of the Stars and Stripes waving on the flagpole of the small bed and breakfast owned by an English woman with whom I share a birth date. I call her June 25th.
In the Arran mountains that day, as Buck was hunting red stag during the annual management cull, he was accompanied by a stalker, ghillie and a trainee. Mid-day, when they stopped to pull sandwiches from their rucksacks, the stalker — a highlander — asked if they might have a moment of silence to remember the victims and their families. And there, in the heather and the bracken, three thousand feet above the surrounding sea, four tough men cried for the world.
Perhaps I am also thinking of anniversaries because I was married for the first time on September 10. Strangely, about ten years ago, as Buck and I were at the Orlando airport changing planes on our way to Bangor, Maine, I had just finished a phone call from a bank of pay telephones rowed up along one wall of the concourse. Walking back toward Buck, he called out, “There’s your ex-husband.” Sure enough, there was Ralph. We were about to collide, neither one reacting to the other. I called his name, and we had a pleasant weather-talk chat, and then he continued on his way, hurrying off somewhere. How strange. We were married for twelve years, yet in that airport could barely recognize one another. Writing about this today, I can conjure up eyeglasses and brown hair, but not much else.
I pay more attention to my life now than I did in the seventies.
Today I am packing for another trip. I pack carefully, editing, putting back, trying to lighten up. It’s not easy for me. Putting labels with my name and phone number in the case of my new sunglasses this morning, it occurs to me that I am preparing myself for travel as I would prepare a child who is going off to summer camp. Maybe I should hang a sign around my neck like Paddington’s “Please Take Care of this Bear,” in case of emergency.