Life Between Floors

soft 2

I’d met her in the elevator 100’s of times, but never ever outside it.

We existed together in that small box of space but nowhere beyond it.

I once wondered if 2-minute conversations, Mondays to Fridays, for about 10 years counted as a kind of friendship and thought that one day I might do the math.

Not a lot of time, but still…maybe knowing how little we had forced us to the heart of the matter in seconds. Maybe that’s what made pretense and small talk so necessarily impossible.

Right from the very first, we clicked. She had a briefcase as old as Moses, a best friend who made her crazy and hair she said was bi-polar. We could have been sisters.

I think that’s another reason why we told our life stories the way we did: no holds barred – clipped and concise, punctuated by blinking numbers. Ground floor, capital letter – my floor, end of sentence. Done. We said what mattered most to us then and there and that was all – the way families do, or wish they could.

I remember the day she said, “I’m moving.”

It almost felt like shock. I hope I said I’d miss her. I know if I did it was true. We’d bared our souls during those rides and it felt strange to realize how integral a part of my life they’d become.

“One last thing”, she said, “don’t try so hard.”

I froze– stuck in-between “stop” and “up”, in one of those places where there are no numbers, no advance warnings – just sudden truths and unexpected reminders of what makes us human: the dreams, the fears, the things we think we hide, but never do…not quite, not really, mostly because part of us longs not to.

“You mean try soft instead? You have GOT to be kidding.”

“Start today.” she said.

Ottawa Shooting – A Long Hard Day

Oct. 22, 2014

Usually I walk the 15 minutes it takes to get to the parliament buildings or war memorial. Not yesterday.

Yesterday I took my car to get to a corner store that’s 5 minutes away. Somehow it felt safer than walking.

It was shortly after the shooting and it wasn’t clear if there was a second gunman still at large. What was clear was most of the city was on lock down and there were tactical teams with weapons drawn all over the street searching.

As soon as I walked into the store, I heard the news bulletins playing from a laptop and rushed to get my purchase so I could get back home.

But once at the cash, I saw it was Muhammad watching the bulletins. He was ashen and trembling.

I asked how he was.

Stupid question, considering what we were in the middle of, but I’ve been going into his store once or twice a week for the last 20 years, and it was the only “normal” thing I could think of.

I didn’t need to ask, not really.

His voice was breaking, he was near tears and only barely managing to stay composed, “ It’s going to be a long hard day. One extremist person, and a whole group of people bear the blame.”

“None in my heart.” I said. I tried to smile. I think I did, but my eyes filled and I know he noticed.

Except for that one moment, it WAS a long hard day.


An Unexpected Muse


I love this picture; it inspires me.

I have it scotch taped just above my desk. There’s something about it that touched my heart the instant I saw it and it took days to understand what it was.

It’s the spark, the spirit in her eyes. It seems at odds with the life written on her face and yet, it’s there.

I see a woman looking out at the world through her experience – with a fearlessly tender belief in her hard won wisdom.

I see her resilience and a raw sense of what being alive has been like for her. It hasn’t been easy, and I can only barely imagine her life stories, but I doubt she gave any thought at all to what’s called aging gracefully.

There wasn’t time, just necessity. Hunger, war and a life spent working the land do that.

And yet, the playful and carefree essence of the girl she was is still radiantly alive right behind her eyes for everyone to see.

I wonder how she did that.