Times slowed down as the noise grew loud. I looked back at my mom, she was covering her ears with her hands. "Wow, that's a very loud truck," she yelled. Suddenly, I looked up and there was a plane right above us. "Look!" I yelled and pointed to what I was seeing. It looked like the plane was falling out of the sky. It looked like an old military plane I'd see in history textbooks in high school. Black with propellers on the wings. Time froze as we froze, unsure of what to do. It felt like it was there for longer than it was. The plane continued to graze the tree tops as it flew away from us. We paused and looked at each other. "Clearly, we would hear a boom if it crashed," my mom said. We waited a few seconds for a boom, but we didn't hear anything. We were close to the bottom of the mountain. We walked a little faster down the trail. People in the parking lot were talking about the plane. "Airplane, low. Airplane, low." A toddler repeated. Good to know we weren't alone, I thought.
Masks for COVID doubles as mask for very unhealthy air quality. I go to the gas station the day before a snow storm. In summer! It's supposed to snow and there are still green leaves on trees. It's early September but it's clear climate change doesn't care What time of year we're in. Early September! But whatever. It still blows my mind a sixty degree temperature drop is happening tomorrow. People are at the pool right now. On Labor Day. This year is weird. Anyway, I get out to pump gas and the smell of ash lingers in the air. It's so uncomfortable, it's difficult to breathe. I have my mask on, The guy pumping gas next to me has his mask on. I'm not the only one who knows there's more than one benefit to wearing a mask. Who knows where the smoke is coming from. We got a warning about it on our phones last night. Current weather: Very Unhealthy Air Quality!! 88 degrees. At least the sunset looked cool. I get back in my car and go pick up my medication at the drive-thru Walgreens. It's only when I get home do I realize the very unhealthy air quality gave me a headache! Headaches are triggered very easily for me these days. I drink a Diet Coke and swallow two ibuprofen. 11:00 AM on the first Monday In September. Smoke is heavy in the air, a snow storm tomorrow. What is now?
The one place I can find peace and quiet. Central Park, Deck 8. Above me, chaos ensues. Children screaming, parents yelling. The beauty of being on a large boat. I sit under the shade of a cabana With a Starbucks and a book. I try to write but I can't think of anything. Too much noise. My quiet place under The sun is surrounded by activity. I may not see it but I hear it clearly. People around me roam and chat. I sit in silence, turning to my phone, The only way to block everything out. Later in the evening, the chaos settles And musicians play as people sit and chat. I look up at the sky, clouds are faint in the distance. Golden hour on a boat is pretty spectacular.
After a long day of speech therapy and wandering around the city, I take a shortcut to return back to my hotel. 36th street. A random street. The sun has disappeared behind the clouds. The street is quiet, a welcomed change from Park Avenue. I'm halfway down between Park and Lexington when I notice a flag hanging from one of the homes. Out of all the streets I could have turned on, I think. I had been on this street before. I had taken a photo of this flag through a rainy window. It was pouring in October. Mom and I were leaving the city, as the reminisce of a hurricane was passing through. We were stressed and soaked from being caught in the rain And our flights being delayed. I took a photo when the car was stopped, not thinking much of it. Here I am, almost a year later, golden hour on an August evening, walking down the street. Tired and happy. Alone and content. I smile and take a photo of the flag.
When someone asks me Where my happy place is, I tell them it's on a lake In the middle of Maine. My aunt and uncle's camp. A beautiful view, right by the water, The camp has a cozy feeling With a screen porch facing the lake And an incinolet so you don't always have to use the outhouse. There's always a puzzle in-progress on the table And lots of quiet places to read. In the evening, we take the boat out To admire the different camps Around the lake while drinking wine. Then we roast marshmallows and share stories. When the stars come out, We lay on the dock And look for shooting stars. I'm reminded of how small I am compared to the sky.
The morning began with stillness. I watched as the sun rose over the horizon and filtered through the trees, still half asleep. My mother’s childhood bedroom, flower wallpaper, a quilt on the chair in the corner, two small vases on the window sill. I’d wake up most mornings I slept here and watched this view become brighter before rolling over and falling back asleep. A fan blowing air was the only sound in the quiet house I always felt was my home away from home. The place I went to every summer for twenty-five years. I will always cherish the memories I made here. I’m forever grateful for the stillness of summer mornings in Maine.
I wrote this poem last year on a park bench in Washington Square Park.
I carried an umbrella, walking down Fifth Avenue, waiting for the rain to fall. I held one of Patti Smith’s first books at the Strand. I admired Robert Mapplethorpe’s photographs at the Guggenheim. I told a man from Africa about Toni Morrison in Central Park. I was forced to cross the street due to security in front of the Flatiron building. I heard different languages in elevators and on sidewalks. I had a conversation about the weather with a girl from Jersey who lives in Brooklyn. I listened to a band play in Washington Square Park on a Friday afternoon. I endured uncomfortable benches because I wanted to stay outside for as long as possible. I tried to be productive while people watching. I noted every book I had read while roaming around the Strand. I explained to a woman the difference between the local and express trains going Uptown.
Can I stand up on this paddleboard without falling in? I'm not the most balanced person. But I can maybe try. Compromise! I'll get up on my knees for a while To see how I do. Genius idea. What a lovely morning. Very few people out on the lake. No strong winds To push me to shore or towards the dam. Second time paddleboarding, I can do this. One foot and then the other. It's not too hard.. I'm up! I'm doing it! Oh, there goes my friends. They look so small from where I'm standing. Why does this thing go so slow when I stand? I'm coming! I'll catch up! Hey! Jumping fish!! So many bubbles in this lake. I wonder what Kind of fish live in here. Okay, I'm going to go around These people who I don't know as best I can. Don't hit the people! Don't hit the people! What a lovely morning. Thinking something twice Just makes it true. And I'm coming up to my friends. Don't hit them. Slow down. How do I slow this... Well, I hit them. A small bump. It's fine. Wow, what a trek to get over here. How long has it been? Half an hour? It's calm out on the lake. It's great to enjoy The view and not be on my phone. The water feels nice on my legs. A little cold, But it's a refreshing cold. Perfect for summer. Oh, no! I'm too close to shore! Must paddle back out! How do I steer this thing? It just wants to go... I'm sitting backward. How did I not realize this? There's a clear way of which is front and which is back And I somehow got the two confused. Good job. I'm a natural at paddleboarding.
Ten months without you vanishes with your unexpected return in late July. I liked you better when you lived in my memories. You came barging in without warning. Your presence is most obvious morning and night. I don't know what you expect me to say, I literally cannot see because of you. I cannot read a book or look at my phone without an interruption from you telling me my eyes are changing once again. Well, the migraines already informed me, but I guess you're another messenger, a bonus I never expected to see again. But when I think about it, it makes sense. Your appearance in my life once again. If anything, you're a reminder to be patient with myself. A sign of hope that you will one day you leave and never return. The ten months I spent without you were wonderful. It made the year you previously spent with me seem like nothing in hindsight.
Rain begins to fall in late afternoon. The summer breeze is relaxing on my skin. Solitude to calm the mind as I sit outside is embraced like a friend I haven't seen in a while. A bee flies from one sunflower to another. I watch without fear comforted by the distance between the flower and my computer. Cicadas chirp softly, the dog I'm watching keeps watch on nothing in particular. I exhale a breath I didn't realize I was holding. It is quiet, both mother nature and my thoughts, soft and calm with nothing in particular to say.