I’m writing from a small hotel room on the chilly edge of Lake Superior. I see seagulls swooping, the wooded shoreline that leads to Dylan’s famed Highway 61, the jagged rocks, the chimneys of the mansions from the steel industry that left decades ago. And I remember summers, heading North (and still further and further North) with my grandmother on the Grayhound bus to our rustic cabin on an island on the Gunflint Trail. Some years the trip involved a train + bus + car + boat. That’s how serious my grandma was about getting to the quiet.
On the windowsill there is one ti-leaf and kukui nut lei, for my dad, who turns seventy today. I am on a stealth mission to deliver this lei to him at his birthday dinner with his siblings. Until then, the news that I am on this continent is classified. This is the first time that I have surprised him this way, and I am a little jittery. I really hope that I do not give him a heart attack. As my grandmother would say, “For Pete’s sake, he did not survive five decades as a brittle type-1 diabetic plus a bout with melanoma just for that!”
So I have traveled 5,121-miles, because we have a lot to celebrate. I am also being held captive in my room until the party, which is another kind of celebration for me. As a mother with small kids, there is almost nothing I enjoy more than being trapped in a comfortable room with coffee, an iPad, and wifi. I enjoy my kids immensely, both for the experiences we share and for what they have taught me. But as Anne Lamott writes, “Having kids is like having a terminal disease…in a good way.” And my kids have deepened my appreciation for quiet. For me, there is almost no greater bliss than a few hours of quiet. I seek the quiet to see clearly what I can not understand in the midst of all life’s noise. It restores my appreciation for everything else: a new glimpse, a breathing respect, a sense, right now of what I what to remember and what I will carry away.
You Reading This, Be Ready
Starting here, what do you want to remember?
How sunlight creeps along a shining floor?
What scent of old wood hovers, what softened
Sound from outside fills the air?
Will you ever bring a better gift for the world
Than the breathing respect that you carry
wherever you go right now? Are you waiting
for time to show you some better thoughts?
When you turn around, starting here,
lift this new glimpse that you found; carry into evening all that you want from this day. The interval you spent
reading or hearing this, keep it for life-
What can anyone give you greater than now,
starting here, right in this room, when you turn around?