Wednesday, December 16, 2015


DC Metro Red Line

"I check Uncmo frequently but no updates so I must assume you're living a life well at ease!" a friend wrote recently.

That seemed, to me, like a bit of a rush to judgment.

I took the picture above coming home on the Metro one summer evening. My biggest reservation about moving to the suburbs was giving up the trifecta: job, gym, and grocery store within 15 minutes of walking or (San Francisco only) driving distance from home. 

Most of my adult life has been engineered, to a perhaps absurd degree, around achieving this ideal.

Now, most days, I join the throngs of people braving a longer journey on a subway system so beleaguered that it's inspired multiple social network feeds dedicated to how much it sucks.

Moving into the Silver Spring house was a joyful experience, but the Metro part made me nervous. While living in London, and later in New York, being a subway commuter was utterly miserable to me. I remembered those train rides as dark, airless, dirty and depressing. They conveyed me through deeply lonely periods in my life, periods I was anxious 
not to revisit. 

I'd sit here all day if I could.
I still don't love commuting (does anyone?), but a series of small, unexpected blessings makes the trip from Silver Spring not only tolerable but even pleasant sometimes.

My stop is underground and dank, but far out enough that I can get a seat. Next, the train emerges above ground into the morning light. In cold or rainy weather I look at the people hunched at the outside stops and feel grateful I get to wait inside. 

For most of the ride, I can sit looking at the sky, reading a book or listening to a podcast, trying not to feel guilty for avoiding the news and email, because the news and email are my job

The train cars fill up as we go along. In crowded, small spaces like that, you can't think about the Paris attacks or San Bernardino. But you do. 

Grasping, I've started listening more to talks from Pema Chodron and other teachers who remind us that nothing can be taken for granted. I listen every day now, hoping for the message to sink in.

Lately I'm trying to go outside myself, do small kindnesses. Smile at someone or cede the way, even when it's hectic and we're all pressed. Maybe it's just my imagination, but it feels like I'm meeting more people trying to do the same. Trying to meet all the bad news with grace. Have these stranger-friends been here all along, waiting for me to see them? Or is it really that more of us are trying to unclench?

This fall has been warm—too warm, and I see pictures of gardens as confused as we are.

Music: "Shine"

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