On The News of bin Laden’s Death

The last six days of my life have been, for lack of a better description possibly due to the overload, extremely eventful,  on a personal , national and global level.  I want to pause to focus on the global for a moment, and offer up a quick personal reflection on the news of Osama bin Laden’s death at the hand of an elite American SEAL team, the CIA and the command of President Obama.  There is a part of me that is quite satisfied that the last thing he saw was an American bullet hitting him in the left eye, but mostly I am in deep thought and throwing out a few prayers in my own way.

First, I offer up my sincere and humble gratitude to the military and intelligence community for their service and tireless efforts to protect all Americans and in fact, most citizens of the world.  The sacrifice involved in making that kind of commitment to a duty is one that I have not pondered enough to fully grasp, but know without a doubt that it is deeply honorable and deserves respect.  So, I thank you again and again, and support your service that keeps me and our country safe.

Tonight, after the speech from President Obama declaring that we had killed bin Laden, I watched the reports of crowds in front of the White House and then took a look at Facebook to see the reactions.  For the most part, I felt dismayed, not by the genuine release of emotion at this news, but by the semi-thoughtless way in which people were basically celebrating his death.  I felt strongly it was not the time to break into chants of “USA!” but instead to gather for humble reflection at what the symbolic power of his death is about.  Yes, this perhaps brings a sense of peace for those who lost family and friends on 9/11 and in the ensuing 10 years of war, but mostly, it should be time to find that strength and unity so palpable immediately following the attacks.  I know this is idealistic and some would say naive, but I know it is possible, because I experienced it in the months right after… before it became a quagmire of politics and war.

On the anniversary of 9/11, I have often shared the following photos of my brother and me on top of the World Trade Center, or as we liked to call them, the Twin Towers.  They were taken on a hot July night in 1983, on a sunset trip to the viewing deck with our aunt.  We were on a  month long vacation to visit our family in New York and hit all the biggest and best NYC tourist spots.  We are wearing tee-shirts that we had gotten at a make-your-own shop in a mall in Albany the week before, mine is emblazoned with a decal of Duran Duran, also the same photo that hung in a massive poster on the ceiling above my bed.  Oh, to be 12 again.

In this photo, we are horsing around on the pay phones, and undoubtedly were looking in all the coin returns for forgotten dimes.  My brother has the visitor’s guide book in his back left pocket.  The copy reads, quite chillingly, “The closest some of us will ever get to heaven.”

Next is my favorite photograph, one that makes me tear up and smile nearly every time I see it.  My grandmother wrote on the back of the photo, ” …doing cartwheels in the sky.”   I actually have a memory of doing  that row of cartwheels, down one side of the deck, seeing the sun setting and the city lights brighten.

My thoughts and prayers are with all Americans today, especially those directly affected by bin Laden’s hateful attack.  Let us rise up together, with all our myriad opinions and backgrounds and stories and go forward, if for no other reason than  to honor those who died that terrible day.

Days 29, 28, 27, 26: The (Long) One With 9/11

From Thursday to tonight I have only gotten in two runs and one unplanned made-me-miss-the-ferry nearly two-mile walk (at least I had a beer buzz).  Considering the amount of food I consumed this weekend, not to mention the wavering emotions, I am a little frustrated I did not get more mileage in to counteract all the carbs and stress. I’m going to make like Rudy Guiliani and blame 9/11.

My mom was visiting this weekend as it was my nephew’s 2nd birthday.  Nothing makes time go faster than watching a small human grow, mostly because they change so radically in such a short period of time.  I am glad it works out that change becomes glacial once we hit our adult years otherwise we’d all be having nervous breakdowns trying to keep up let alone stay present.  On Thursday, Day 29, my mom came with me on the 3-miler.  She walked and I ran with the dogs ahead and then back to her so she could see me and forward and then back.  It seemed like a really good idea at the time, except that the dogs were totally confused and I was short-fused (I mentioned my mom was in town right?) and so what is normally therapeutic and fun became tangled leashes and jerky starts and stops.  Also fun was the moment that a confused Rocco decided to take a dump right in the MIDDLE of the blindest intersection on the entire route causing a halting back-up of a moving truck which blocked all cars behind him, my mom to blurt out the oblivious question, “What’s going on?!” and me trying not to killed by surly, entitled suburban drivers as I picked up the stinky logs of poo.   I admit it: part of me wanted to throw the bag of turds at the glaring drivers, but I tend to have bad aim.  Once we got to the trail, mom took a few pics of me running ahead.

Looking west.

Sleep was elusive on Thursday night too.  Although I have one helluva comfy couch, I think I only eeked out about four hours.  Friday Day 28 workday was fine, beers came early, but the trains were running late, so I walked superfast all the way to the ferry building but still missed the good (aka high-speed) boat.  I sat down and fell promptly to sleep for a good 40 minutes.  There would be no run when I got home.  Sorry doggies!  I did manage to get a look at the spectacular  fingernail moon and Venus in the western sky just above the horizon of Mt. Tam.  Um, wow.

Saturday Day 27 was also 9/11.  Nine years since the hijackings and attacks.  Nine years.  I was up very early so I almost immediately tapped into the memories of of 2001.  We all have our stories.  Mine is similar to many I am sure, but my life today is so very different from that morning’s life.  As I cooked and cleaned my way around the casita with the memorial gatherings playing on my TV, I burst into tears.  I remembered seeing the 2nd plane hit and explode live on my TV and the chilling, nauseous adrenaline of shock and confusion wrack my entire body.  I knew something was very, very wrong.

I let myself cry, and then would pause from cleaning to listen to moments of Michelle Obama’s speech at the Flight 93 memorial service.  Then I would go back to dusting, trying to let the progress of going from dirty to clean be a small and normal triumph over the sadness of the day.  Completely weird, but it helped.  I switched over to the radio and there was a set of California themed songs playing.  When “California Stars” by Woody Guthrie and Wilco came on, I smiled and cried.  This was the song I played in my classroom the day after 9/11 for my students to try and explain how I felt safe that we were not at Ground Zero, but also the to feel the connectedness of all Americans.

When my family arrived we had a birthday brunch in the stunning weather of the late morning.  It felt good for us to  be together and eat and laugh and sing and blow out candles and watch hummingbirds and dance and pet the dogs and just be.

Here's how.

This beautiful, but understated day then took a frustrating turn for me.  Upon returning home with my mom from a trip to the mall I checked the mail.  I received a letter from the SF Transit Authority which was in response to a violation protest I had filed back in April.  It is far too irritating to re-tell the story here, but basically, the letter said my violation was valid and I was liable for the cost of the citation.  Right there in front of my mom, and I am pretty certain because of her presence, I completely lost my temper, began screaming, yelling and cursing, and then hurling my aluminum water bottle from the Marin Marathon across my kitchen impaling it into the cabinet.  Not my finest moment.  I don’t think I would have done that had I been alone or with someone else, which is sad to me that I think it’s okay to behave like a 12 year old in front of my mom.  HOWEVER, our story is long and sometimes brutal…

I realized I was not going to be able to recover from the abyss I put myself into, mostly because I was looking at spending the rest of the evening with my family.  It didn’t feel safe to me to be with them when I was in this fragile of a mood, so I drove her to my brother’s in near silence and mono-syllables.  She was kind and gave me something I needed and then I left and cried all the way back to my place.  Car-crying is big for me.

It was time to run.  I looked at the dogs and had to tell them they were not coming this time.  Poor Duke had had a seizure in the middle of the night on Friday and was extra-drugged so I would not have taken him anyway, but I knew I needed to go fast and long and alone.

I hit a nice stride at about mile 2 and let my mind get connected with my body.  I thought a lot about the Tough Mudder and the team and how I need to work out more and that I am not even really sore from a work out yet but that I also don’t want to hurt myself and I paid close attention to my creaky knees and my form.  I realized I was running faster and stronger, and had the sensation I like to call the “magic carpet” where it feels like I am floating and the road is moving under me.

And then the 9/11 memories came back.

I thought about how last year, I sent out an email to friends and family, expressing my love and gratitude for them.  Many wrote back with the same sentiments.  I also sent an email to my ex-husband, as it was our life I was living when the planes hit.  I had not communicated with him in probably two years, and none of what was going on then was of the positive variety.  I told him I was thinking of him and that I hoped he was well, which was true, but was not surprised that he could not even return that gesture of goodwill.  My thoughts came closer back to the present, but the emotions still near the surface.  I thought again of  “California Stars” and my adopted home state.  The music knew what to do, and “Como Ves” by Ozomatli came on, its marching beat and whistles shifting me into fifth gear.

And then, of course, Tom Petty with his song, “California.”

California’s been good to me
Hope it don’t fall into the sea
Sometime you got to trust yourself
It ain’t like anywhere else
It ain’t like anywhere else

It’s time to roll,
I’m all done.
It’s time we better hit the road
I got work later on,
It’s time we better hit the road.

California’s been good to me
Hope it don’t fall into the sea
Sometime you got to save yourself
It ain’t like anywhere else
It ain’t like anywhere else…

(Digression: I love this song more than most, but I also get homesick for Santa Fe whenever I think about how many years I’ve been in California.  There is a melancholy beauty to this tune that zings right in on my sense of the transience of my adopted home and many feelings of what is “home” exactly?  I am still searching for it… )

Even with all the visits of memory ghosts, I was both elated and calm as climbed the last long hill to this current version of home.  I still felt a pang of guilt for my temper tantrum, but I had called and apologized to my mom before I left on the run, and then decided to forgive myself.  I have had an extremely tough set of years, and 99% of the time, I do not throw things.  I got practical and looked to the fridge for hydration.

Looking for my Purity water.

Sunday Day 26 came and went, with a detour into some seriously delicious noodles and soup dumplings at a hole-in-the-wall Anthony Bourdain would approve of.  I did the airport run and drove home, easing into Sunday night with a lot of writing, cooking and reflecting.  I didn’t run, but thought all about the previous three days.  I thought about my nephew’s birthday celebration too, and how I danced and sang with him to The Beatles “Hello Goodbye” one of the best songs in the history of the world.  He kept saying, “Dance to The Beatles with Zia!”

Finally, I remembered yesterday’s run and how it healed me.