Yesterday I drove down to Union Station in New Haven, home to Yale University. You’d never know it from what the station looked like, empty, bare, food stores shuttered. The electronic monitor on the big screen of the waiting hall continues to show departures on Amtrak, Metro North and the Connecticut line, augmented by loud announcements, as if life continues in all its hustle and bustle, but life doesn’t. Very, very few people are waiting to board trains in Union Station.
I am aware there is terrible suffering, both in health and economy, from the contraction of all this activity. At the same time, we can’t look away from it, we can’t pretend everything is okay and just about normal. There’s nothing normal about what we’re going through. I have no brainy conclusions to present here, I treat this time as I do any other challenge that seems at first indecipherable: I let myself be there, listen carefully, watch, sniff it, taste it, be as fully in it as I can. Let my imagination work with it, because imagination is also an important ingredient here.
My sister arrived from Israel. I’d been looking forward to this visit for months. She did a covid test (negative} just before boarding a Delta flight from Tel Aviv. She had the entire row of seats to herself. Wearing a mask throughout, she landed in Kennedy Airport (“the greatest flight I’ve ever had!”), zoomed through Customs, found no buses or shuttles running to New York City due to covid, and took a taxi. Eventually left Grand Central onboard a train, 2/3 empty, to New Haven, where I picked her up.
What will we do together? Take Aussie for a walk and talk. Do some food shopping and talk. Drive around, look at the last colorful leaves of fall, and talk. Find some take-out food or eat outdoors in some restaurant (no cooking when she’s around—this is time off!) and talk. Watch a movie on TV this evening—and talk. I will be at the zendo tomorrow morning and not talk, but other than that, it’s talk and talk and talk.
There’s never an end to comparing notes about our lives, our family, the people closest to us. There’s never an end, even now, to talking about our plans. It’s all about shared experiences, shared views—What’s going to happen on Election Day (she’s here for it)? When will Bibi finally go (my brother is convinced that when Trump goes, Bibi will finally go, too)? What’s with that nephew, that niece? We talk a lot about our mother, who’s becoming less and less mobile, and for the first time didn’t recognize her son when he visited a few days ago.
Who would have thought that I would love my family so much! I ran from them as far as my first marriage could take me; I don’t regret it, I recognize the reasons. Now I depend on them psychically because geographically they’re so far away. Bernie and I had a big adventure; that adventure continues, but I find myself leaning on these visits from my family as upon a wall, stretching every memory muscle, taking in the psychic nourishment. Depending on my sister to call me on bullshit, to point out where I back away from doubts and fears, where I say something quickly and want to move on, and then she’ll say: “You know, I’ve been thinking about what you just said, and I think – “ and she’ll point out to me how quickly I can still slink into denial, away from facing every element of reality.
It’s that kind of trust, that kind of love, and I savor it. I clear my calendar (I finished up quickly what I had to do before she came), and now till Sunday, when she’ll leave again to see her daughter, it’s honoring a different space in myself: slow, deep listening, making coffee, running out for bagels, joy for joy sake.
So, I’ll leave this blog for now (she’s still sleeping due to jet lag) and return to you, to the world, on Monday.