I was in a window seat on the 11:35 AM express into the city, absorbed in my book , as a beautiful morning rushed past unseen. Halfway down the page, I was distracted by a scolding thought. Head in a book is as bad as eyes on the smartphone. It’s all the same. You’re missing the life in front of your face .
I realized this rogue thought was right. I wasn’t any more present on this train than those people I rail against who are so absorbed in their phones. After all hadn’t two different people at the gym told me just last week that they always see me on the cardio machines but were loath to say hi because “your head is always in a book” They both said exactly the same thing! I now realized that my explanation about being in a book club and the gym being one of the few places I could get in a solid chunk of reading did nothing to set me apart from the phone zombies. Paper world, electronic world, neither holds a candle to the real world. I closed my book.
The Hudson Line of Metro North runs alongside the river from which it takes its name. I was seated on the land side so I set to admiring the trees in various states of losing their leaves, realizing it was a unique view , one that would never be seen again. I could take this same train the next day, and that some of the leaves could be gone, or more gold than green. It was beauty that would never repeat itself.
From time to time, I looked up at the houses set in the sloping hills. Homes I coveted for their view of the river, and imagines how the people inside were spending that particular moment we shared.
It was time for the Hudson. I couldn’t let that slip away. I looked across the aisle just in time to see the Tappan Zee Bridge zip past. A new bridge is in the works so this old bridge was a sight to be savored.
I marveled at a tiny lighthouse that zipped past. In all my trips to the city, I’d never noticed it, probably because my head was in a book.
Sailboats drifted dream-like down the river. Never again would we all be here together again.
And as I took it all in, a movement in my peripheral vision broke the spell. I didn’t give it much notice . Being a Saturday morning train, riders are often napping. I assumed it was someone rising from a slumped position. And indeed it was someone. It just wasn’t the someone I’d expected.
He just sat there, perfect posture, gazing out at the Hudson. He knew what life was all about.
I got out my camera and asked permission to take a photo, and when I inquired if he was always so good, the young man replied that yes she was, but that she was especially happy this morning, because she loved hiking and was tired out now.
And as if on cue.
“You’ve already been hiking?” I asked , amazement in my tone. He smiled and nodded.
Wow I thought, Now that’s getting the most out of life! And when they quietly exited the train at 125th street, one stop ahead of Grand Central Terminal where I was headed, I realized that had I been reading my book, I’d never have observed this slice of life!
Speaking of slices of life I came near to missing. Yesterday I noticed for the first time that I had some really faithful flowers that were still giving it their all. In my long rush to get out the door and to my car each morning I’d been neglecting to give them the attention their summer-blooming neighbors received. And so, to those who are toughing it out to the first frost, I salute you:
Now, all of you, go out and be mindful!