Lost in Translation Our beloved cat Sammy couldn’t leave the old neighborhood. When we moved a…
10 September 2023 | 9:22 pm

Lost in Translation

Our beloved cat Sammy couldn’t leave the old neighborhood. When we moved a couple of miles away, Sammy left us three times to walk back to his old home place. Finally, our former neighbor Nancy adopted Sammy and he lived happily next to our old house until he caught his last mouse.

After a recent trip to England and France, I’m beginning to understand Sammy a little better. 

On my way home, I spent two nights in an Airbnb in London. Something wasn’t right. My inner compass felt as if it was upside down. It was a perfectly nice flat with a garden, but I felt suspended in time and place. Much like Bill Murray did in Sofia Coppola’s “Lost in Translation.”

 Maybe Sammy had the right idea. Stay where you’re happy, love what you know. Or maybe we both resemble a box turtle which, if you move it, will spend the rest of its days trying to find its way back home.

Wanstead Flats
17 August 2023 | 2:42 pm

Wanstead Flats

Wanstead Flats is a 462-acre meadow in east London. It was originally a pasture for cattle being driven to market in the city. Now it’s a glorious open parkland of native grass and trees. Park staff recently removed a section from public access because skylarks are nesting there.

Saving a space for skylarks in a city of nine million people is not the only refreshing thing about Wanstead Flats. London has instituted a clean-air ordinance known as ULEZ – Ultra Low Emissions Zone. ULEZ reduces through-traffic in London’s neighborhoods, including Wanstead Flats. Streets are safer and quieter. Most importantly, the air is cleaner.

I’ve been visiting London on and off for over 50 years. I remember how the city used to be choked with coal dust and diesel fumes. Now the air feels fresh and clean.

I live in America where we name our cars after birds and wild places but the concept of limiting emissions and traffic is considered undemocratic. How ironic that, to breathe clean air, I need to go to London where it’s also quiet enough to hear a skylark sing.

A Short Pause and a RevelationWhen Mary Oliver says, “Stillness is an opening to the temple,” I...
6 July 2023 | 12:03 pm

A Short Pause and a Revelation

When Mary Oliver says, “Stillness is an opening to the temple,” I think of poetry, soft music, and meditation. Not of Amtrak.

If you ride Amtrak, you’re likely to make unscheduled halts to give freight trains the right of way. In America goods come first, people second.

I suffered one of those stops recently somewhere in South Carolina. As we waited for a freight train to have its way, I noticed a little hamlet of aluminum trailers and wood bungalows nestled beneath ancient pine trees next to the tracks. A cement-block car wash and a Dollar General were doing good business there.

I also observed that almost every pine tree grew out of a neat circle of mulch on velvet lawns. The late afternoon sun etched shadows on those lawns as people in the hamlet sat on porches facing the sunset. Soon the lights at a softball field came on.

How much have I missed over the years as I’ve rushed from one place to another?

The train finally bumped into motion and began to roll south. I was now 30 minutes off schedule, but it didn’t matter. I’d been to the temple.

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