Posts tagged " life "

On the Road Constantly Traveled

June 27th, 2017 Posted by Tabula Rasa No Comment yet

For two years, twice a day, at two different ticks of the clock, I took a twenty minute drive along an identical route. I wasn’t always aware of my surroundings, rarely paying attention to what was going on outside my window, mostly answering my son’s questions, ranging from “what is god?”,  to “where was I before I was born?”, to my favorite “are we there yet?”.  It was repetitious, boring, a chore. I no longer drive along those roads, and now so clearly remember what I saw.

The smell of an aromatic cigarette in the elevator, and the plump lady that smoked it every day, lighting it outside her door downstairs, walking with it to the bus stop down the street.
The old man, in the garden of the building next door, oxygen tank in hand, cigarette in mouth. Sometimes I’d see him in the cab always parked in the same place, without license plates, sitting in the driver’s seat with the engine on.
The Pakistani man walking through the line of traffic at the lights, selling tissues, cutting flowers for my son from the weedy sidewalk. The first year I was cautious, afraid, uncomfortable. My son would roll down his window, smile, say thank you, and wonder where the “nice man” was on rainy, cold days. One day in spring, I saw him hand out daisies to an entire school bus, little hands sticking out the cracked windows, and my fear turned into warmth.

The trucks and bulldozers that we’d count on the road when he was only two-and-a-half, terrified of the new, strange place that took him away from mommy. The counting grew into the number of pigeons resting on the electricity cables above our heads, then red cars, and finally into sing-a-longs to favorite songs on the radio.

The posters randomly stuck on the streetlights before our final turn, changing in accordance with the political climate, weekly call to strike, local concerts; they layered them, one on top of the other, glue on glue, a medley of Greek society.

The amazing boy, almost a teenager, being lifted on and off the school bus for kids with special needs. Paraplegic, happier than any child I’ve seen, especially when his father scooped him up from his wheelchair every afternoon, cradling him like a baby, holding him close. I teared up every single time, reminding myself of how lucky most of us are, holding on to the moment as if a reminder of that beauty, tenderness and love are the most important thing in our routine, they keep us going, steer us down the same roads, bring us back.

The little boy, that after a few months of crying “mommy, don’t leave me,” ran through the doors of his preschool with glee, and dove into the box of plastic insects with his best friend.

The old, sick woman that was placed on an uncomfortable chair on the balcony of the house next to which I’d park. “Hey! Come up here!” or “Hey, throw this away!” she’d yell every day, either motioning me to the chair next to her, or throwing a bag of garbage onto the curb.

“Be quiet, Fotini, leave the woman alone,” her caretaker would say.

The peace, sometimes magical, sometimes lonely, as I gathered bits of breakfast and legos from around the house, estimating the hours I had before I’d have to go on my journey again.

 

On Soil and Flowers

November 2nd, 2016 Posted by Tabula Rasa No Comment yet

I don’t know if it’s the age, or the fact that I have a young child, but at a funeral today, for a moment, I became frightfully aware of my mortality. I stood there, behind the crowd in front of the open casket, black coats waving in the autumn breeze, the sun shining on the white hair of the deceased. His full head of hair was all I could bear to see from where I chose to stay, blocked by the ebony flock, even though I did not know him.

I’ve never been afraid to die, I don’t think anyone really is until they have some responsibility other than themselves, until they reach an age where it becomes a possibility other than a random accident, a terrible illness. I’ve never really even thought of death. Until today.

There was soil beneath my feet from nearby graves, I shuffle my feet to spread it out, the cemetery is crowded, busy. I know other people buried there.

The funeral is serene, it flows in ways few Greek funerals do. A man hands out flowers to everyone in the procession, he gives me some white ones. I immediately pull out my phone and take a photograph of it, aware of but at the same time, oblivious to my disrespect, knowing that I will need it later, that I will have to say something that may need an illustration, I need it to be real.

The casket is lowered into the grave by two workmen, their clothes dirty, dusty, not black, some bright color, I think there was green and white, maybe yellow. We walk by the grave and throw in a handful of soil and our flower, one by one. And we walk away.

I remember my grandmother, who has been claiming that she is old and dying tomorrow for over thirty years. I suddenly understand her fear, but I don’t want to speak of it. I want to go, quickly, to do things, what things I do not yet know.

Shortly after, in the safety of my car, the fear is a memory. I look at my hand, there are traces of soil and it smells of flowers.

On Awareness

September 8th, 2016 Posted by Tabula Rasa No Comment yet

On my thirtieth birthday, my friend Whitney Phaneuf gave me this card. Thirteen years ago I was still rather daft and dumb in the ways of the world, mistaken in many of my beliefs, a baby crawling up the dirt path of life. I doubt that either one of us fully understood the meaning of Henry Miller’s words. Nevertheless, the quote triggered something in the back of my mind, so I stuck it on my fridge, and went out to party till I dropped.

It’s been on every fridge I’ve had ever since, and my constant search for a place and a space has taken me to many different kitchens with refrigerators I did not own.

This one is mine, ours. Matisse’s “Dancers” hold Miller in place, my favorite painting simply because it always made me think of togetherness, truth. I imagined they were naked strangers holding hands, dancing to a silent music, bodies flowing out of unison but into a serene understanding, aware of their surroundings, yet uninfluenced by them.

I turned 30 in New York City, completely unaware of my surroundings, but defined by them. I left the City a few short, blurry years later, leaving behind a career, a life that I so desperately tried to build, friends, and the energy of a place that I was cursed to be obsessed with for the rest of my life.

Awareness comes late in life, sometimes in waves, maybe one each decade, maybe one each time something happens in our lives to shift our minds, be it love, death, disappointment, joy. From the day that I read those words, whether drunk, joyous, miserable, or at peace, I strive to be aware, influenced only by what seems real and true, as I mold, transform and flow in the dance of life, together now, strong hands hold mine, as we float towards tomorrow.

Pieces: a novel

“Pieces” is the winner of the silver medal at the 2017 Independent Publishers Awards (IPPY), and a finalist at the USA Best Book Awards and International Book Awards.

When Clouds Embrace: a children's book

All proceeds from the sales of "When Clouds Embrace" will go to Giving for Greece, a foundation that works to help the hundreds of unaccompanied refugee minors in Greece.