Good Morning America, How are ya,

So I will be posting the next two poems for my 31 in 31 later, but for now I am just going to try and post a blog about my ride on this magic carpet made of steel.
The most important thing I have learned is to love America’s Native Son even more than I did before the trip. Best movie I’ve ever streamed has passed by this windows. All my views have justified my lifetime love of trains, 

The food is tasty, most people swear by the Train French Toast, it was good, but Iam stuck on their continental breakfast with oatmeal and berries for breakfast, a  square croissant for midmorning coffee and later a yogurt snack. All three of my Hobbit breakfasts (1st, 2nd and elevensees for under 10$ when I am in Coach and delivered free in 1st class (except the tip). Dinners are presented as pretty as the food is delicious. My favorites are the tender and perfectly seasoned Southwest Chicken Breast and their vegetarian plate.

As to my beverages on the train, just say choices are many and their best quality, including coffee (sigh) is, well, they are ample.

 Train travelis comfortable! The reclining coach seats are wide enough for my fluffy butt and I sleep pretty well there, the bed in the sleeper car is like being rocked gently in Momma Earths arms. 

Overall the service has been excellent, and fellow passengers, both local and international,  are friendly and kind.

Crowfae says when its all about the destination, fly; but once or twice in your life, slow down and make it about the journey  and take the train.

Day 6: 31 in 31

Thoughts while waiting

I keep the TV off at home

Sheltering from Hurricanes, mass shooting, hateful raves of small and disrespectful men debating lives they wish to rule

choose not to understand.

We are what we consume, and the news will infiltrate my dreams, squelch my natural courage and compassion.

So I shelter my soul beneath chosen silence.

But,

The TV in the station is perpetually on,

I drown in repetitive fear and hype

even through the barrier of music and my earphones

spewing from Fox on one side

Across from CNN.

No escape for those who wait.

My adrenaline levels

long for legs that always work when I will them.

No shelter in this culture of fear

And hyperbole

I wait to evacuate.

Day 3:31 in 31  Front Porch Epiphany

It started in the west, behind the break of trees

A racous caw of alarm,

“Coming, coming, coming!’

Other corvid voices adding “Closer, closer, closer!”

“Coming! Coming coming!”

“Flee, flee, flee!”

Innocent of cause, I watch and listen.

I cannot hear the engine noise carried on the breeze

until long after the Chikadee aand whipporwhill, the finch and jay

join the siren song.

“Evacuate-ate-ate, Evacuate-ate-ate!”

“Fleeeee we will! Fleeeee we will! Fleeeee we will!”

“Go, go, go; hope, hope, hope”

“Fly fly, why?”

“Not me, not me, not me”

“Shhh,”the mother sparrow says to her late brood, “we stay stay stay.”

“Danger! Danger! Danger!” the murder echoes through its ranks.

Even the donkeys on the next door farm begin a warning bray.

The mockingbird, city born, makes siren sounds as it flit from tree to tree.
Then I hear the engines south of me, and see them come

the metal beasts that eat the trees.

The roads needed clearing, a man a house,

and every pen a page.
I understood the need they met, these ripping, gripping teeth of steel

but never understood before, how those who live there feel.

What would you do if I sang out of tune…

So my last blog mentioned a third person in Connecticut to thank for keeping me alive, but this will not be that story. For one thing, so much of that story is their story, and for a second, two stories are more than enough to establish the fact that my guardian angels wore very human faces.

I did thank Grace face to face, and we talked of her daughter Marie, who died of breast cancer as an adult, and who I knew and loved as a child. Grace and I reminisced, shared stories of our lives and current paths. It was lovely, I was thankful for a chance to say thank you.

Gratitude is the theme of this rock star farewell tour.

From Connecticut I took the train South to Georgia, my foster mother Connie met me at the station after the train paused an interminable 2 hours just 10 minutes from the station waiting for freight trains to pass.

Staying breathing, heart beating is not enough, I needed to learn how to live. I needed to finally experience the foundational Maslowian need of safety, unconditional love. Connie and Ed met that need for me.

Connie loves to quilt. Nothing is trash in her scrap bag, and color studies of otherwise incogruent prints bow to the will of her quick fingers and become a warm and cozy work of art.

Wiz(Ed) sits like Yoda, laughs like a Buddha and facilitates the most FUNctional outcome in whatever he is facing, whether it’s pruning a storm torn tree or picking the evening movie.

They are the seed source for so much of what is right with me. I worry that I am a disappointment to them. I have nothing to give them, not even the comfort of knowing we walk the same spiritual paths.

Which is how I am reminded that this is where I learned the taste of unconditional love.

I ask in my meditations for a chance to be a small service to this family that has been so much for me.

In the car with Connie that morning, Heather (third child) calls soliciting an adult to vacation with them to Orlando. Three children, all with some level of special needs; three adults pretty well necessary. Connie has prior appointment with soon to pop pregnant woman. Other Grandma has health issues.

I have no unchangeable plans. I may not be capable of full shifts, any real level of lifting, making the split second life saving decisions, or verifying med calculations anymore, but the rest of my job I am still pretty good at; the playing games, singing songs, observing and being present.

We negotiate my restrictions and I get my questions answered and suddenly two dreams, two more of my twenty wishes, are coming true.

It’s Tuesday morning. It has taken a whole week to complete and edit this entry, but one week ago I agreed to be here, in Orlando, being of service to Connie and Ed grandchildren and daughter at ( wait for it) Universal Studios Orlando aka Harry Potter paradise.

Sunday I sat in a church between Connie and Ed, unfamiliar with the hymn, the phrasing and notes escaped me and my voice carries because I love to sing, but nobody even flinched.

I am so grateful. I am useful, even as my skills change.

And today, I am seeing The Wizarding World of Harry Potter.

I am happy.

I more than get by with the help of my friends, I am high on the joy of this chosen family.

Who are these children who scheme and run wild…

Three is a magic number, three legs stabalize a stool, three points define a space and tragedy they say comes in three; there were three distinct times between the age of 12 and 19 when a small blip of kindness on the part of a person with no investment in my existence made all my crazy adventures possible.

My last blog told the story of the first, This is the story of the second, a time in my life where joy was as hidden as the sun this misty, moisty seaside morning. And very fitting for a second story, it involves two boys, well men now, and men we thought then, and I woman quite grown. Reality was we were merely puppies, rolling and growling at shadows; tumbling and rolling,  tugging at the seams of real life with our sharp milk teeth.

It was spring, and I was truly alone in the world, hungry for food, hungry for meaning, hungry for touch and thoroughly adverse to anything that looked like love. My heart had been ripped away by my mothers slow death and scattered to the tides by abandonment.

I practiced laying on the train tracks, rolling away as it hit the turn. I was afraid of hurting anyone else.  No, I could not do that to the conductor. No thought of razor blades this time, to risky that someone I knew would find me, and I wanted to be gone, but an accident would save anyone from the guilts and regrets that plagued me from one I loved’s suicide attempt.

Don’t understand why I am wired this way, perhaps the need to take on the worlds pain made my adolescence harder, but I was and am wired to be kind and to be useful, nothing more and never accepting of less.

So now I knew this ending would be a a carefully orchestrated accident. I would start swimming out from the shore as the tide turned and swim until exhausted, I was known for taking risks, and at night, sliver moon, I would not be visible.

The 24 hours passed, the deep mist in my soul had not cleared. I changed to jeans, their weight would make it easier to accomplish my goal. But then the phone on the wall rang, TC said he was home and bored. the sun was still up, I had time to go over, hang out with him, listen to music, make him laugh. And then there was his brother Danny. Adorable, funny and unpredictable as everything. 

The details of the late afternoon escape me except for a small collection of Emily Dickinson poems from Danny, Elton John on the stereo and lots of talk about death, life, a favorite snippet of lyrics, the meaning of beauty, whether this girl or that girl was hotter, and always a bit of talk of the ever enigmatic Carl Frye III. We would lay on our backs on the bed next to each other, usually more interested in the way our thoughts entertwined bodies melding. But we were puppies pretending to be dogs and just discovering the magic of libito, and I was so empty that the evening was inevitable. and for a moment I was real again.

But then I noticed it was dark and I wanted to leave, your voice sounded a little hurt when I started dressing, and I said, “I’m done.” You asked my just to stay. And your brother came in and made jokes at us and so somehow I stayed.

And like so often happens if we just stay, for the night cares slittle about our faith, it just ends.  The morning dawned golden, the cold grip on my heart loosened, and as I lay listening to TC and Danny lightly snore, I was horrified how close to the edge I had come again, how they had saved my life.

I never told them thank you until now.  Actually admitting to planning a suicide isn’t something one does lightly, to admit it happenned 3 times, each three years apart, is well, crazy.

 When I entered the military I turned my back on my childhood, cut my ties that remained, and sought a new beginning. 

But whenever  another circle to close.  I have been trying to make this trip for 7 years. I guess it was time.

 TC and his wife hosted me here in Mystic with unequaled hospitality. A sincere thank-you and watching the two dogs are hardly a fitting reward for saving a life. 

 Monday I leave on the train. I am not sure that TC and Danny and I ever really understand each other, they are golden haired, silver tongued, blue bloods with wives and refined tastes, and I am a red-headed pirate who only loves her children, the road and the sea. And my friends. I love my friends.

and they are these.

I Am I Said….

Everyone says how little I have changed, I know I am 3 times older, and almost twice as large. ( A bit thrilled to see that with all my “OMG, I haven’t had this in 40 years” eating I am actually down another 3 pounds, actually thought I would have gained 10.)   I hope I am wiser, kinder and more careful of others feelings and more appreciative of their existence. 

I found that writing on the train was more spoons than I had in a day. (New readers, spoons are a measure of energy, just trust me, or google “chronic illness, spoons”) The travel and view was well worth all the drain though and I only fell once and luckily it was into another passengers lap. I was on the way to the bathroom when the train picked up speed. Embarassing, though that silver haired and silver tongued cowboy offerred to let me stay for awhile, I am sure he was more injured than I. He was in the other accessible seat, cane and brace, “thrown from a horse when m’ boys said I was too old to be doing that so now I ride trains to make em worry.” He was Albuquerque to the last New Mexico stop,

I met many, many wonderful people on the trip, but that is what made writing difficult. I love people, but they are a constant small leak in my energy and there is no quiet place in accessible coach seating. So I chose to use my communication spoons to elicit stories and share laughter and updated with a few pics on FB. My goal later today is learning how to connect my media to WordPress so my Blog followers can see with my cameras eye as my tongue becomes less and less an effective brush.

Now I am here. I drink coffee on a deck that overlooks the Mystic river. I wear fuzzy slippers and my Sarah (a Lularoe sweater style). I watch the leaves change shade. Each morning another tree has accepted the inevitable approach of winter. The squirrels tease the two jack russells and the crows scold us all. I have begun reconnecting with those to whom I truly owe the debt of my life, wishing to acknowledge, to somehow repay a debt they never even knew I owed.

I was frequently suicidal as a teen. Fully planned and prepped, but even then I had a 24 hour rule. Perhaps because of the part of me that has always believed in magic, perhaps the deep desire to cause no one else pain; when I would become convinced that all the world would be better for my absence, I would make my plan and set myself a 24 hour waiting period. Death was already real and permanent to me, a regular part of the family and libraries were my internet, so how knew how and where to cut and that I would be off in my woods even then seeing a possibility of then being of use to the crow and coyote. I would make my plan, write the entry in my diary to say goodbye, set a circle and talk to the earth, fire, sky and ocean, truly not knowing how deep a call through history that might be, tell me I would ask if this is the right choice.

In eighth grade Carla answered that question with a pair of jeans, The day before some of my classmates had given me a gaily wrapped present of dog shit and mouthwash, inside the jolly Santa Card were the time honored classic of “Die you ugly piece of shit.” Well to a seriously depressed teen-ager that was more of a directive than an insult. I set my circle that afternoon, out where Zack and I would go to do our best thinking and talking. Mind you he had long since crossed the rainbow bridge but when I was there in that circle, I could feel his fur beneath my hand, his tongue clearing the tears from my cheek.

That morning the razor blades were neatly taped down onto one of my text books under the paper bag cover and I had told my parents I was going to be helping someone for whom I often babysat.  The stage was set. A girl in my class, one of the cool girls in fact, blonde beautiful and smart brought me another present. I was honestly afraid to open it. Afraid to be again surrounded by the laughter of my home room and consumed by the shame of thinking that I had actually recieved a gift. Charlie Brown and I had a lot in common when it came to Christmas, Valentines Day and Birthdays. 

Inside was THE pants everyone cool was wearing, from D&L, a store I didn’t even consider stepping into let alone shop new. Brushed cordoroy hip huggers with wide, wide bells. They were simply the most beautiful thing I had ever seen. I immediately put them on, and I wore that kindness in one way or another for the rest of my life.

I am glad she was there that day, unaware of how big a difference her not so small act of kindness would make. I think of all the ripples of that one pebble tossed – my children, my patients, my foster children, my helping others go home. Of the ripples I know her generosity has reached as far as Africa, Vietnam and Guatamala. These are just the obvious, but we can never know how far our influence for good reaches.

And other lives aside, I am grateful to her,  I would have missed so much awesome. Perhaps that is the big thing that has changed in me. That emptiness inside has long ago let me go, and today even the chair hears me. 

Carla moved in high school, so I did not think I would ever get to see her again, one more circle I could never close. 

Then I was at my high school reuinion, feeling a bit of that outsider at 17 I was at graduation, and there was that face.  45 years ago that heart and smile had heard my cry of “I Am” when no one else was listening. I looked at her face, blurted out no hello just her name and  “I think you are the girl who gave me the pants in eighth grade.” I watched her as she reached for the memory and all evening I felt that same compassionate heart.  Frequently she saw me in the crowd and came over and hugged me, I often retold the story of her unexpected RAK, sanitized of my drama.

 I watched her exuberance and joy throughout the night. She was the first to invite me and my walker up to the dance floor. And it was her husband that drove me back to the Parker Palace that night, not an uber. 

I am thrilled to say that thanks to Carla I have had the opportunity to change much in the four decades between our hellos and goodbyes. But I am equally gratified to see that in all the important ways, Carla has not changed a bit.

All Aboard, ha ha ha ha. Aye.

It is never to late to heal mental wounds but totally hoping I don’t go off the rails, more interested in moving safely down the rails. But I am listening to my Train mix: The engine led not the Patrick Monohan led one. However, maybe Crazy Train is a perfect lead song for my first blog on an adventure some have even called fool hardy under the circumstances.

I have always said the only difference between courageous fortitude and foolish stubbornness is whether you agree with the goal. So my dear friends and readers, I hope that by introducing you to all the goals I am chasing on this one little adventure you will join me in spirit and see me as strong and brave, with only the kind of foolish that lets you laugh with me, not at me.

and there are lots of things to laugh at these days, pratfalls, puns and moments of pure innocence (since memory is required for guilt to exist. ;P)

Just posting a blog or FaceBook entry these days takes the same concentration as researching and composing a news article or writing a short story, but Iwill do my best. So yeah, my communication challenges may introduce some unique turns of phrase, but listen to my heart and you will probably land somewhere near the point I am passing.

Tonight I am sitting in Flaggstaff at a dear friends table typing.  My feelings are ranging from excited to nervous to grateful, because I am about to complete three of my current 20 Wishes.   I am about to take a long, long train trip because well, I love trains, I love travel, I love scenery so “Train Trip Across a Continent” is on my list. I want to go home to Connecticut and reconnect to a few friends, visit my mothers grave, close a circle, heal a wound or two and pull some frayed threads of who I was back into the weave of who I am now. Oh, and attend one high school reunion.

But its not just the goals, or the destinations, or my love of new environs for my RAK’s. Its about challenging myself, even as who I am becomes daily less familiar. I look forward to also blogging about what it is like to take this train trip with my walker, anxiety issues and occasional memory dumps.

Took way too long to write this and bet there are at least three misspellings and errors that would have brought out my old grammar nazi but even if practice won’t ever get me to perfect, Iam still having fun. So will post again tomorrow.

Be well. Be Brave, Be Kind and most of all be able to laugh at yourself.

NanaJo