I open my sliding glass door
Feel the slightly cool wet air from outside
And smell the dampness.
My first thought
And more a flash to my body than a verbally articulated idea
Is that I’m like a child
At a summer program
In the morning
Feeling nervous about being away from home
But excited to see what might happen
In this new place.
It’s weird because I’m home
But home is a new place too.
Every day, every hour, even every second
There’s a cool slap of surprise
Other times, more a quick smack of shock
Its impact growing as it settles in.
With that first shot of coolness from outside
My first impression was homesickness.
How sad that so many kids have to leave their comfortable homes
Braving gritty cabins and social dynamics
During their few, precious months off from school.
But then I thought:
Wow! I had this exact feeling when I was a child!
That same gust of air speaking a deep language
Of fear but also anticipation.
You see? I can still be a child
In circumstance, in feeling, in mind
Even in soul.
And soul will always, always transcend age.
Eat the mu shu vegetables with care, ease, and pleasure
Slowly, slowly, slowly
A bit of plum sauce on each piece of pancake
A small spoon of vegetables
Carefully mixed to get the right ratio
Of cabbage, egg, mushrooms, and string beans.
Chew with full awareness
Enjoying the conversations around you
But not letting them distract from the taste.
Consider how exquisite this experience is.
Consider how amazing it is that the pleasure here
Does not diminish even slightly
As you continue to eat your lunch.
Every bite is a revelation.
One moment is filled with a string bean
The next with a delicious, spongey piece of egg.
If one forkful of vegetables is wrapped in a pancake
The next will be mixed with rice.
The perfect lunch
Each moment different from the last
But similar in this respect:
And beyond that, peace
Because nothing exists in my mind
Throughout my whole lunch
But mu shu vegetables
And a bit of outside fun.
Yes, there are entertaining discussions throughout the restaurant:
A son arguing with his elderly mother
Because the son wants to order the beef teriyaki
And the mother says she never really liked beef teriyaki:
She just pretended to like it for all these years
And now she is finally busting out with the truth
That she would much rather get the chicken wings.
Stop paying attention as soon as you’re bored
And focus on — wow! — two businessmen discussing a hundred-million-dollar deal.
They’re casually dressed, one in jeans and a dark blue sweatshirt
The other in sweatpants and a short-sleeved T-shirt
Emblazoned with the name of a local private school.
They’re kind of like nerdy kids, laughing awkwardly at each other
Showing off a little about the deal.
Nerdy kids who are now maybe 55
Stomachs bulging a bit, wrinkles beginning
But still, at heart, kids
Showing off to each other
And looking uncomfortable.
“Sam said it wouldn’t be worth it to him if it were, say, only eighty million,”
The guy in the sweatpants says to the guy in jeans.
You remember that you’re in Chestnut Hill
And lots of rich people live here.
This isn’t bad and it isn’t good.
It just is
And it’s intriguing to someone like you
Who doesn’t normally hear about this kind of thing.
You stare, fascinated
But do not lose sight of your mu shu vegetables.
They are at the center
Filling your mouth
Attracting your complete attention.
And just think: they were on the spa menu.
Supposedly, they are healthy
Whatever that really means.
They won’t hasten your death even slightly
If you want to believe the spa menu’s claims.
And you should believe those claims
Because they make you happy
And happiness is one sixtieth of heaven.
People are bragging about all kinds of things
But you also have a reason to be proud.
You found your seven-dollar sunglasses! You did it!
They were hanging on the handle of your sliding glass door
And finally, after a whole day went by, you thought to look there.
It took ingenuity to think of checking there, of all places
But you had what it took.
You got your prize.
And the prize wouldn’t have been a prize at all
If you had never lost them.
Now you can feel grateful
About something seemingly small and seemingly old
But now, in a key way, brand new
And that is the strongest reason for pride
Because you see it
You understand the gorgeousness
Of sunglasses you picked up years ago
At a Walgreens in NJ
Because you’d forgotten your “good” sunglasses.
Now the “good” ones are broken
And these others, once lost
Are strong and whole
Ready to accompany you on adventures
And walks through local streets
A reminder that what was lost
Can be found
Even after you had almost given up.
Just don’t totally give up
As long as you hold onto a thin slice of hope
Everything can shift into glory
Or, at the very least
A comforting tinge of gray as you enjoy the warmth outside
And remember that, while loss is always possible
So is recovery.