I’ve written before about my terribly romantic life. By that I don’t mean sexual-hearts-and-flowers romance. Although I have occasionally experienced that too. I mean more the serendipity which I call God. The master quilter stitching together disparate pieces in a pattern I couldn’t even imagine.
Sometimes it is big and gorgeous and sexy. Like meeting a man who sweeps me off my feet and takes care of me at the exact moment when I’ve got nothing left. Who just happens to know my friends here but lives far away. Who just happens to be at the same place, at the same time, as me.
More often it is subtle. But no less big and gorgeous and sexy when I pay attention to it.
I am working through Chapter 11 of The Artist’s Way. Among the suggestions for the week, titled “Recovering a Sense of Autonomy” – walk 20 minutes every day.
“The goal is to connect to a world outside of us, to lose the obsessive self-focus of self-exploration and, simply, explore. One quickly notes that when the mind is focused on other, the self often comes into more accurate focus.”
I love to walk. It is one of the only things that made sense to me during my divorce – long, meandering strolls to nowhere in particular. Just to move. To feel movement.
I haven’t been walking as much since moving back to Chicago. Not on a daily basis, at least. I walk mostly for pleasure, when the sky is azure and the sun is smiling.
The temperature gauge in my car went into the red Friday night – quickly, without warning. I had the car towed to my mechanic and have been dependent on my feet, the Chicago Transit Authority, and the kindness of not-at-all strangers ever since.
I’m kind of loving it. Which is odd for a girl from Detroit who said the only thing she wanted in the divorce was the 12-year-old Honda Civic.
It reminds me of my first few years in San Francisco. I sold my red Chevrolet Beretta and boarded a non-stop flight to SFO, where my friend Brian was waiting to pick me up – literally scooping me off the ground — when I arrived.
It was a simple time. And a scary time. A major victory was getting from point A to point B without getting lost. I learned to purchase only the groceries I could carry home myself. And I took the bus everywhere.
To the Stud on Wednesday nights for 70s disco, spun by Andy T. To my friend Teresa’s apartment in Potrero Hill, an hour-long trek plus a transfer from my apartment in Haight-Ashbury. To a blind date with a man 17 years my senior.
After dinner he offered to walk me to my car. When I told him I didn’t have one, he asked how I got to the restaurant. “Bus,” I replied. He felt badly. Said he would have picked me up if he had known. It didn’t occur to me to mention it.
Everything took longer. But I don’t recall being in as much of a hurry. And when the bus couldn’t take me where I wanted to go, I called a cab. Or a friend. Getting a ride felt like winning the lottery, leaving me with an immense sense of gratitude.
It’s a lot the same now – being without a car. I’ve received rides from Pam and Michelle. From Kevin and from Sheila. Last night Sheila and I sat outside my house talking in her car while the engine idled. We talked about love and vulnerability. About mind reading. A conversation I’m certain we wouldn’t have had if we each drove away in our separate cars, going in our separate directions.
I’ve ridden the 49 down Western Avenue at rush hour, pressed up against students just leaving Lane Tech High School. Today I took the Brown Line to my Weight Watchers meeting in Lincoln Park. On the way to, I passed a consignment store I’d never noticed. Peeking in the window, I admired a Buddha head and a lamp with a leopard shade.
Coming home, I locked eyes with a white and ginger puss sitting on a green Adirondack chair in the window at PAWS (Pets Are Worth Saving). I walked past. Turned around. And walked in, asking for information about volunteering. (I’m not sure I want a pet again.) Then I went to the window to read his vitals.
His name is James. He’s 6, or 3, I cannot remember. And does best in an adult-only house. Hmm…..James. I tried it on. “Yes, I have a new love in my life. His name is James….. “
I left before I could get into trouble. I couldn’t take him home today anyway. I was on foot, and the rain-snow mix was pelting my face, soaking my down coat with the furry hood. But I didn’t really mind.
I talked with a Greenpeace volunteer who grabbed my attention, just as James had. I told him he was good. “Not that good,” he said. “Because you are walking away.” I laughed. And then I walked away from a Ganesh pillow and a silk meditation cushion I eyed in a shop window but couldn’t afford.
When I stepped off the train the streets were white. Snow blowing sideways. Car wheels beginning to lock up on the icy-slush.
I made some eggs. Looked at a cookbook and wrote a shopping list. I pulled on my wool long underwear and walked to Harvest Time Foods, stocking up with only as much as I could carry. Later, I’ll make curried rice and beans with butternut squash.
Standing with my bags at the corner of Western and Lawrence, I felt terribly urban. And lucky. In awe of being able to live my life as it is – mostly – without a car. I had forgotten.
Right there I made a vow: that I will always live in a place where I can walk – to a grocery store. A coffee shop. A Walgreens. At the very least.
I’ve lived like that for more than 20 years. In Chicago. In San Francisco. In Oakland. Seattle. Even Detroit. But more often than not, I don’t walk. I drive. I love having a car. I love its convenience. The speed with which I’m able to move through the world.
And yet, this time without it is a gift. An invitation to move more slowly. To consider a cat or a Buddha head. To have a conversation I wouldn’t otherwise.
It is typically Libran to look for the beauty in everything. And I do, in my saner, more sober, moments. This terribly romantic life of mine … I think it’s all in how I tell my story. Ridiculously optimistic and hopeful, heart wide open – looking for the good, for the God, in everything.
My phone rang as I hit the seemingly final stroke of this piece. My car is ready.
It is Go(o)d.