Copyright © 2011 by Ralph Couey
Now three weeks into my new job and new city, some semblance of routine is finally asserting itself, although I don't know that I'll ever get accustomed to waking up at four a.m. Still, the new opportunities are exciting and the future looks like a thrill ride waiting to happen.
I've already written about the dynamics of my commute, so I won't bore anyone with more details about that. But one thing that I've discovered in my two-hour car-train-subway-bus journey is that I have time now to think. A mass-transit commute provides that, since sitting there waiting for the next stop is essentially empty time anyway. I do listen to music some times, but I find more and more that the best way to spend those hours is to gaze out the window and let my mind wander in whatever direction it desires. For a writer, these are truly precious hours.
I love the train most of all. It's less crowded, quieter and more contemplative. The landscape glides by the windows, sights of cities, towns, and back yards. A house will flash into my view, all lit up in the late autumn darkness. Inside, I catch a snapshot of someone else's life. A family sitting down to dinner, or just in front of the TV. One evening, I saw in a family room a pile of intertwined humanity engaged in a game of Twister. I smile, knowing that I am also headed to a place where love glows and I am embraced by the unbreakable bonds of family. There have been too many other nights when I was traveling for work, feeling lonely, and wishing that one of those lighted windows belonged to me.
It has been all rain and gloom here for several days. DC weather has been far too much like the Pennsylvania mountains. But this evening, just as the sun touched the horizon, the clouds began to break up and we were all treated to one of those spectacular sunsets you only get after a rainy day. The sky was glowing gold as the sun's rays lit up the underside of the clouds. I looked around the subway car to see if anyone else had noticed. Most were deep into their smart phones and iPods, some were sleeping. It seemed that I was the only one who noticed. Looking outside again, I felt that familiar feeling of peace and contentment I always get under the light of a pretty dusk.
Even as hectic an chaotic as things have been, I feel extremely fortunate, even blessed to be in my current situation. It almost seems like a dream, and I'm afraid to pinch myself lest I wake to a far more mundane life. There is that sense of dream-like unreality to these days, which the reassertion of routine will eventually dull. But for now, I wouldn't trade my life for anyone, although my stubbornly painful back is up for the lowest bidder.
While the past few weeks have been exciting, they've also been frantic with the tasks associated with a relocation, getting one house ready for sale, and finding a new one in which to live. Consequently, I haven't had the time to sit down and write at all, and I really have missed that. More and more, I look to writing as my way of finding a measure of contentment. Now I've discovered, in the hectic pace of my new life how much I need this time to sit and express myself. But I knew my time would be short, which is why I stopped doing my columns. I knew I wouldn't have time to do a proper job of it and I'm bound and determined never to give my readers short shrift. They deserve nothing less.
Thanksgiving is tomorrow, and even if I didn't have access to a calendar, I would recognize the approaching holiday by the excitement in the conversations around me. People were planning meals, activities, and plotting the best way to attack the shopping madness of Black Friday. I heard about families getting together again after too long a separation. One mother talked at length about her son, newly returned from Afghanistan just in time for the holiday, alive and whole. "I know he'll spend a lot of time watching football, but as long as I can look in the living room and see him there, I'll be just fine." Her joy permeated her entire being and even seemed to spread a little light around inside the car as well. She reminded me that this is the time of year when families gather, either for Thanksgiving or Christmas, or perhaps both. No matter that they gather from down the street or across the ocean, it's always a time of great happiness. It will be the light of those memories that will carry us through the long, dark, and cold tunnel of January and February.
I know these are difficult times. Economies are struggling, as are people. Jobs are still tough to come by and those who were able to hang on to their homes are so impossibly upside down that they couldn't sell even if they had to. Wars are being fought, politics are as crooked and nasty as ever. All over, people are looking for the clouds to begin to break, and the sun to shine once more. After shouldering so much misery, we're all just looking for a break. And just in time, here comes the holidays.
Perhaps this break is what we should really be grateful for.