About four feet to the right of this “STAY BEHIND” sign on the ground next to the tracks at the Amtrak station are the words “YELLOW LINE.” I found it interesting that they put them so far apart. Other people were also hanging out waiting for arriving family, so the platform was busy and all I saw was “STAY BEHIND” on the ground at the train station. The natural rebel in me looked around for schedules and destinations. Suddenly I had the urge to go somewhere, anywhere.
I was already ticking toward fantasies of travel. Train stations do that to me; whether it was the one on Long Island where trains left for Manhattan, or the rails running near my apartment at college, or the Siberian Railroad I am currently writing about and of which I have fond memories of traveling on with my son. “Everyone loves the sound of a train the distance. Everybody knows it’s true,” aptly acknowledges Paul Simon. I’m one of them.
So I stood and wondered if there is a benefit to “Stay Behind.” On an ethereal level, it is nice sometimes to let the world keep going while we step off the wheel for a while and enjoy the moment. I heard a scientist today on the radio say how the most dangerous problem afflicting humanity today is our inability to be “in the moment;” he worried we were getting too far ahead of ourselves. Maybe if we stayed behind a bit more we might avoid the supposed progress and advancement of day to day life and actually live day to day life. So many things, after all, make things more convenient, not better. We keep mixing the two up. I “stayed behind” when I built my house in the most insignificant way, which has taken on so much more meaning. You see, I never installed a dishwasher. I simply designed the kitchen wrong and didn’t leave room for one. So for twenty years now I have been washing dishes, and the truth is it takes less time to do that than to load and unload them, uses way less energy, and allows me the satisfaction of seeing something through. I live a life where the results of my efforts often aren’t obvious for years, and even then the urge to “redo” the work is strong. But when I wash dishes I can stand back a short time later and swoosh my hand and say, “Done.” Feels good, it really does.
I could go on about other examples of where the decision to “Stay Behind,” sometimes literally and other times metaphorically, has ended in adventures, friendships, job opportunities, and various other encounters. Even now a few examples which literally changed my life come to mind. We’ve all had those moments. But that’s not what this blog is about.
Obviously, it is about the weather.
There is a heat index of 118 here in Virginia Beach right now, late Thursday afternoon. The un-humidified temp is about 99. Either way there is some weather going on here. I remember it being this hot without the “index” when I lived in the Sonora Desert and my dad would say, “Yes but it is a dry heat.” A dry heat–kind of like a blow-torch.
Still, the heat doesn’t bother me. Nor the cold. In college in western New York the freezing temperatures were tempered by the dryness, and a ten degree day might warrant a mere sweater, whereas the humidity here at the beach combined with cold temps can be to-the-bone bitter. In either case, many people simply stay inside.
But I have a strange habit which makes me want to experience and absorb every degree of the extremes: I can already feel the absence of the strong sun on my shoulders or equally the cold wind on my face, my boots crushing snow on the walk. As early as mid-July I sense summer slipping into cooler temps and changing colors. And while I might claim autumn to be my favorite season, I miss summer before it has even half over. It is as if it is the only summer that ever was and ever will be again, and I want to suck the marrow out of it, drain it of every ounce by my constant participation, let my senses explode from the enormity of the very reality of feeling summer happen.
That’s borderline psychotic, I know.
But listen, when it is hot we want it cooler, when cold we want it warm. When it is dark we turn on lights and when it is sunny we wear sunglasses. We constantly temper reality. I have become more interested in being deeper into reality. That’s not to say I want to stare into the sun, but honestly, that really IS where the fun is.
Jay stands on the deck looking across the Bay to the green light at the end of Daisy’s dock. Nick stands next to him, the ordeal of the city behind them, and Jay says, “Summer’s almost gone. It makes you want to reach out and just hold it back,” to which Nick replies, quite non-nonchalantly, “There’ll be other summers.” Jay seems quite satisfied with the answer and thanks Nick for the insight.
My response is different. I’d have looked at Nick and said, “Yes, but I’m not done with this one yet.” What’s next people often ponder. What is down the line? Around the bend? I can’t wait to get there, they say. I can’t wait for fall, they say. Yes, that’s true. And it is coming, regardless. For now, I’m right here, and right here has always worked very well.