Everyday Inspiration. Day Four: A Story In A Singe Image

*Note: this post is part of an Everyday Inspiration 20-day writing prompt program I’m participating in. Today’s Prompt: A story in a single image.

crowd-in-transit

“Promise you’ll save room for dessert in the Village,” she quipped, trying to keep the mood light, before unbuckling her seatbelt. Maurice squeezed her hand as confirmation before stepping out to help unload her bags. If anyone would celebrate her new life over a slice of creme brûlée, it was best friend Maurice, who’d insisted on driving her here.

Stepping onto the curb to face the eternally-revolving giant glass doors at Philadelphia’s 30th Street station, she felt a momentary wave of panic: am I crazy? Everyone, except for Maurice, who self-admittedly was a little crazy himself, seemed to think so:

“but you just got promoted!”

“you two seemed so happy”

“I thought it was just a hobby”

“what if you fail?”

Too late now. They were already interviewing for her replacement (seeking PR manager to nurture strong industry network, generate enviable corporate image…). She’d said it’s over and meant it this time to her ‘it was just innocent flirting’ boyfriend. Forked over (literally) two paychecks worth of tuition money to the Culinary Institute in NYC. This was no longer a hobby.

Once through the glass doors, however, her disposition changed. Dwarfed by 80-foot columns and a coffered ceiling nudging the Heavens, she wondered – how many other fresh journeys began here? Opulent marble floors amplifying the echoes of heels conjured images of nattily-dressed ladies in gloves and gents in fedoras (before the days of ‘Athleisure’) saying goodbye without a guarantee there’d be a future hello. Leaving the past in style to somewhere exciting and new. Cathedral-like windows allowed varying degrees of light that beamed possibility – maybe she would make it as a Michelin-starred pastry chef.

Or not.

“Swapping press releases for puff pastries, are we?” her snarky but lovable colleague joked as they clinked champagne flutes and nibbled on devil’s food cake (a subtle omen??) at last week’s going away party. She’d miss justifying the cost of a pair of Louboutins or Chloe pencil skirt as work wear. It was aprons and toques from now on.

And maybe it was innocent flirting. He was a TV sports anchor after all. Naturally he’d get attention in public. Was she being overly clingy? Didn’t matter now. She’d ended it clearly enough by moving her stuff out of his apartment into off-site storage. And sure she’d graduate, but what can a novice pastry chef, at age 45, honestly expect to earn?

Taking one final look around the lobby as the platform announcement came across the speaker, she relaxed. Confidence took over. I’m not crazy, and I’m ready to begin anew.

One rolling pin and pie crust at a time.

Describe a scene: a beach in north Seattle

One of my biggest fears with growing older is getting stuck on memory lane with no off-ramp in sight. Yes it’s a cliche, but the phrase going down memory lane gives me shivers. I’ve seen it imprison many a loved one, who begin every sentence with “do you remember when?” and end every conversation with “that was so much fun back then.” Or something along those lines.

describe a scene: a North Seattle beach

describe a scene: a North Seattle beach

But memory lane can afflict anyone, at any age, at any moment. Especially when visiting a long ago place from the past. A visit to my hometown of Seattle last week required a steely sheath of willpower at every corner: the marina where my ex and I once moored a boat I never felt welcome on; the tucked away neighborhood park with a backdrop of Seattle’s skyline I practiced cartwheels on; the dive bar that used to pour cheap strong bloody mary’s now turned hipster joint serving frilly overpriced whatchamacallits. Horrors…

So when I considered visiting a favorite beach of my younger years, I hesitated. Am I gonna cry? Pine for the old days of gossiping with girlfriends atop neon beach towels over who stole whose boyfriend and how did that space cadet ever make it into the honors program? Would I wish for a way to get back here more to watch my nieces grow and cuddle with my mama’s new 7-pound Shih Tzu? Stare at the distant ferry and reflect back on past training rides around hilly Bainbridge Island? Actually I did all that. But I also recognized exactly what I was doing: going down memory lane. And then I sought a way out. And what resulted has since inspired a new category for my blog, that aligns with my overall theme of And Pause Here:

Describe a scene: a beach in North Seattle”

nature's art

nature’s art

Getting present, or living life as it is happening, as opposed to playing dead by ruing over what already happened (memory) or anticipating what has not yet happened (future) and may actually never happen, requires conscious attention. Seeing what you see in front of you. Hearing what you hear around you. Smelling what you smell near you. Feeling what you feel physically. Yoga is an incredible conduit into presence. Through action in the flow of the poses, through conscious breathing and drishti (gaze). If you teach, through observation and giving tools to your students in the moment based on what you see.

drifting to wherever...

drifting to wherever…

But writing a scene as it unfolds in front of me is also, I discovered through this exercise, an avenue into presence. I didn’t have a pen and paper handy as I typically do, but the Notes app on my iPhone worked fine. The phrases that emerged through the exercise isn’t of much importance to me, because looking back at the result now is really just another trip down memory lane. But the very act of recording my experience got me more present than I recall being in a very long time, and for that I’m intrigued and inspired by how describing a scene can be a huge awakening into my life as it is unfolding right now.

 

see what you see

see what you see

Here’s what I recorded, and remember, the purpose here wasn’t to create some poetic masterpiece or generate any oohs or ahhs, but to simply describe life as I saw it in the moment:

  • dried seaweed mottled shades of pickled green underfoot giving off an odor most would pinch their nose at but made me flare my nostrils wider with remembrance
  • a familiar marine breeze tickling my skin on this late August afternoon – neither dry nor humid, something else entirely, specific to this northwest corner of the world
  • rogue doggy turds here and there that missed the scoop bag
  • driftwood turned sculpture via nature’s moods
  • small laps of Puget Sound waters curling at the rocky edge
  • giggly kiddos bent low foraging for interesting rocks minded by back packed parents not quite warm enough to ditch the sleeves
  • multi car freight train competing with the water’s symphony. Not sure who won…
  • pointy-topped evergreens providing the backdrop behind me
  • stiff bottom atop a splintered half log I can’t yet bring myself to leave…it’s become this morning’s silent narrator of the magnificent scene surrounding me, keeping me present, and protected from the past
  • off-kilter seagull happy to let the tide drift him to wherever
  • shadowy, ghostlike mountain range peering back at me, only revealing a silhouette of its soul
  • my own shadow reflected back at me through the meandering foundation of sand, seaweed, stones and wood particles – so that’s the shape of me knee, my elbow..