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being present

Compassion, courage, Fear, Gratitude, Guest Posts

Keep Calm and Carry On Being American: But Do We Remember How?

November 30, 2015

By Aine Greaney

One summer night in 1987, an American man I knew took me to one of those big-venue country music concerts.   It was just six months after I had immigrated here from Ireland, and the gig was somewhere south of Albany, New York.

Since my wintertime landing at JFK Airport, I had seen and enjoyed a small slice of snow-bound USA, but that trip to the country music concert was to be my first safari into big, full-blown Americana.

I may be fusing memory with nostalgia here, but that night, I remember feasting on those sights and traits that, back then, I tagged as “American.”  Though we were miles away from cowboy-country, many of my fellow concert-goers were in full regalia–lots of John Wayne Stetsons and red `kerchiefs and fringed jackets and pointy cowboy boots.

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Then there was that all-American smileyness—a party sense of shared bonhommie.  Also, before and after concert night, it was a very safe bet that, had I been hungry or thirsty or suddenly fainted, at least 80% of those folks would have turned good Samaritan and come to my aide.

That warm New York night, I would never have guessed that, 28 years later, I would find myself at another summertime concert at another outdoor pavilion–this time with my American husband and on Boston’s waterfront.

Of course, 28 years have brought lots of personal changes and life lessons. The first and best expatriate lesson:  The minute you think you’ve pegged America–this huge, polyglot country where many people’s grandparents were born in another country–you are already wrong.  It’s hard to say what makes Americans American.

However, last month in Boston, I would need to have been drunk or distracted not to have noticed that America has, to quote from W.B. Yeats, “changed utterly.”  For starters, we have all grown cautious.  We have learned to keep our mouths shut. We have learned new and sinister meanings for heretofore ordinary sights and phrases. Continue Reading…

Letting Go, Things I Have Lost Along The Way, writing

The Perks Of Being a Time Traveler.

December 18, 2013

The Perks Of Being a Time Traveler.

You wouldn’t forget things.

You wouldn’t lose things. Or people. That in itself is enough for most people. Never having the gut wrenching realization when you wake up in the morning, that Oh My God he is dead. Having been blessed with a certain forgetting in your sleep. Never knowing what that remembering feels like, that feeling of a limb gone suddenly missing, without warning. Never forgetting a book that you stayed up 3 nights in a row like a  lover only to realize 6 months later you don’t remember a single detail of those nights.

You would have an escape when all you wanted to do was close your eyes and slip into time and be part of the fabric of its wings. It would be like you finally knew what it meant to get somewhere.

My own time travel machine is a subtle bubble, fragile as a bird. When you climb inside it takes you back to before you were born even, back to when you were just a thought that hadn’t been thought yet.

It takes you back to moments of your life like the summer you spent in Lewisburg, Pennsylvania for a poetry fellowship at Bucknell University where you read poems in a beautiful old church and ran naked through a football field at night with a bunch of other young “fellows”. Back to when you ran through cemeteries that summer, and green green grass. It was July and humid and greener than you’d ever known green to be, and you ran because that was all you could do. It takes you back to these moments that when you were in them the first time, you thought you were unhappy, but upon revisiting them again in your time machine you realize that you could have never been unhappy running through green like that. How could you have been?

Unhappiness was invented along with the time machine and it is a matter of belief when it comes to being able to enter either.

Upon revisiting moments in your time machine you will realize that it was always better than it seemed, that you were never fat and that you could write your ass off. This is a perk of being a time traveler.

When you close the door to the hatch and tell it to go back to 1983, you can see your father carving sticks in the backyard at a wooden picnic table. The plastic on the chairs in the kitchen and how they stick to people’s thighs in the summer and you can take back all the things you ever said. You can un-say them. That is another perk of being a time traveler.

For example, if the last thing you ever said to your father was “I hate you” before he died, well, you can undo that. You just set the dial back a little farther and then get out and plant your feet firm on the brown carpet, your hands on either side of the doorjamb and remain silent. Or say I love you. Really, the choice is yours. Another huge perk of time travel.

You can go back to before you found out your baby was dying and either decide to not have a baby at all or to just go back to when he wasn’t so sick. To stay in the moment when he had a light in his eyes and could still move his body. Maybe you’d just stay there. You could, you know, with your time travel machine.

Any event that occurs in the universe has to involve both space and time. Gravity doesn’t just pull on space; it also pulls on time.

When we time travel we actually bend gravity so we become light sinewy things that don’t know what it means to be held down, that fly through space and back into the arms of people we thought we’d lost and grandparents we never even met. We can bend and alter and climb the walls of time, which is a huge perk of time travel.

There’s also things to take into consideration, like getting stuck in a moment of time. Say you go back to that May in 1982 and decide you want to stay. Fine. You have that choice. You do. But remember, when you go back, you are also still here. Your body is still sitting on the train reading a book, is still doing a backbend, is still having dinner with your husband. Only part of you will be missing. Part of you will be stuck in 1982 eating pizza with your father as you drink wine with your husband. Your eyes will reflect this missingness. There will be an emptiness behind your eyes that over time will turn into a deadening. Although you have mastered time travel you cannot master being in two places at once. So really you must decide if the perks are great enough.

How badly you want to be there. How badly you want to be here.

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**this is a re-post.

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