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the tube

5 Most Beautiful Things, Jen's Musings, travel

Jen Pastiloff’s London Adventures.

February 19, 2014

By Jen Pastiloff.

And did you feel it, in your heart, how it pertained to everything? And have you too finally figured out what beauty is for? And have you changed your life? ~ from The Swan by Mary Oliver

I took on a new private client in L.A., which I don’t really do anymore, and I gave her an assignment. Send me your 5 most beautiful things every day was the assignment. She said that she would but asked if I would send mine back for posterity.

I lecture about my 5 most beautiful things project in all my workshops and retreats, but I’d kind of fallen off the wagon of writing them down myself.

So here I am in London. Trying my best to be a beauty seeker. A relentless beauty hunter. What better way than to jot them down in my typical rambling fashion? So I will. I’ll post them. My musings, as it were. And it may interest you, and it may not. But hey, my eyes are open. Maybe you’ll be inspired in some way to look at that guy next to you, the one with the plaid shirt and the cane, the one with the really long fingers and bushy grey eyebrows and see something beautiful in him. But even more than how beautiful it is the way his right foot rests on the leg of the table and his hands cover his eyes as if he’s about to cry, it’s the beauty of the moment and how full it is and how it will never ever be again. Because look, already it’s gone.

So I will attempt to jot down my beautiful things everyday. I’ll do my best to post them somewhere. For posterity. Sometimes more than five. Five was just a number I thought was doable. Tweetable. A number we could all manage. Oh, only 5 beautiful things? Easy. I got this.

Shoes and tubes and kids. Here’s a beautiful thing (although it’s perhaps more than one solid thing): I was on the tube wearing my fancy-ish sneakers- the ones with the studs and chains. They’re blue leather, and besides the few coffee stains on them from too much wear, they make me feel good. The tube was crowded so I shared the pole with this little girl of about about 5 or 6 years old. She had on heart socks with gold-tipped sandals and I thought the contrast between her little fancy foot and mine, with the yellow pole in between, seemed artsy. And ironic. So I took a picture.

I showed her and she approved. I took a second photo. (Just in case.)

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She had a mini-pencil in her hand and started to write in the air. I asked her to write her name. She did, although I’m not sure what it was because from my vantage point it was backwards. Plus, I am not sure she could even spell.

I imagined her writing poems in the air.

She stuck the pencil in her mouth and hid behind her mom’s leg.

My husband noted that I was good with kids. “Pasti.” He calls me Pasti, short for my last name Pastiloff (which I kept,) “Pasti, you’re good with kids.”

“Yea, for 5 minutes,” I replied.

I said I was sort of envious of people who’d gone through it all already. Who had kids and didn’t have to go through the whole rigamarole and shlepping of being pregnant.

“We’re old,” I reminded him.

We went to a Whole Foods on Kensington High Street (so American of us!) and I ordered a jacket potato with tuna. The lady behind the counter opened the potato and stared blankly at me. “Tuna,” I reminded her.

“We are out of tuna. Have the beef.”

“I don’t eat meat. I ordered the potato because I wanted the tuna,” I said as she threw away the potato. (I would’ve eaten it if I would’ve known she would chuck it.)

I told her to make me a veggie burger instead.

“May I have mayo?” I asked.

I think I might have rolled my eyes a little when she said that they had no mayo. Anywhere. In the whole of Whole Foods. I felt very American again.

I wished to have the little heart-footed girl’s pencil with me at that moment so I could write my name in the air.

The veggie burger was old, like a hockey puck made from lentils.

I ordered a chardonnay to wash down the dryness as I watched for children with cute shoes or pencils and other beautiful things.

**

I tried to change my flight coming home before I even got here. I won’t have enough time I thought. Eight days is not enough. Which is absurd, really. It is enough but it’s like when food comes and I’m hungry- It won’t be enough to fill me up, as if I’m Oliver Twist or grew up as some street urchin who never had enough food. (To be clear, I always had enough food except when I was starving myself and that was by my own volition.) I’m not going to have enough: a common refrain. Virgin Atlantic told me that to change my flight to come home the day after I had originally booked would be 5,000 pounds. My ticket was only about 1,300 pounds so I could fly back and forth, LAX> Heathrow 4 times with that cost. I declined the switch. I tweeted Virgin Atlantic that I was terribly #disappointed in their #service and how #ridiculous it was (as if my tweet would make a difference.) It just seemed outrageous to me. 5k pounds!?! Anyway, we get this flight attendant and it was like the Virgin Atlantic gods were trying to make up for my dismay.

He’d walk up to our seats with this shit-eating grin and pull things from behind his back like some kind of magician in the sky. “Here, here’s the good stuff, from upper class,” he’d say as he handed my husband a tumbler of some very fine scotch and me a nice pinot noir. He did it a few times too. He kept coming over to chat with us and couldn’t get over the fact at how familiar I seemed to him. “Well, I’m famous on the internet,” I joked. He asked when my return flight was and when I told him February 23rd, he squealed, “The 11 am flight? I’m on that!”

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And so I felt happy and that things were right in the world again and that I owed Virgin Atlantic a follow-up tweet. And I kind of imagined that with him flying back and forth, LAX> Heathrow 4 times might not be so bad. He’d have kept me amused and liquored up on that 4 times roundabout. And that was a beautiful thing.

At my workshop on Saturday in Hammersmith there were a bunch of Americans and two of them were flight attendants for United. They said they always, no matter what, find someone to over-serve. I was happy we’d been those people on my flight. We made the cut!

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**

My workshop. More than 50 people in a city- Hell, in a country- I don’t live and have never taught. As I was talking about the 5 most beautiful things, a rainbow appeared and someone (it was actually one of the flight attendants) interrupted me to point it out. I tried to take a picture, but the minute I did it disappeared. That’s beauty for you, isn’t it? You can’t capture it. You’ve got to pay attention to it, yes. Let it move you, yes. But to try and hoard it or hold on to it? Well, you’ll stand there empty-handed and wishing for a ship that’s already sailed.

It was there though, that rainbow, and it appeared just as I was telling those 50+ people about the most beautiful things project like it was a nod to what I saying, an agreement- yes, there’s beauty everywhere, it seemed to say, and everyone saw it as if it only existed for us right then in that moment. Who knows, maybe it did?

It was a beautiful workshop. Who knew the Brits were so open? Maybe it was a sign- the rainbow at the beginning of the workshop? Or maybe it was just them. Maybe it’s just who they were. I guess not everything needs to be explained away.

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**

Last night after I sat in Le pain Quotidien off Kensington High Street for hours doodling This is the world. You are a person in the world. The world is full of pain. Each pain has it’s own singular kind of beauty and other weird poemy lines on the colored pieces of paper they had at the table, I stood on the sidewalk and tried to poach their wifi.

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They had closed (I actually didn’t notice they were putting chairs on tables because I’d been so into my work) and I had no way to get ahold of my friend who I was meant to meet. So I stood outside in the cold, in front of the closed café and stole their wifi. She’d said they were going to go somewhere near Sloane’s Square but I had no idea where nor how to get there. I finally gave up on trying to get in touch with her and decided to take a bus towards Sloane’s Square. I really really had no idea where I was going but I was happily lost, partially because I saw the Whole Foods I’d been at earlier and a bunch of shops that I recognized (as if that was somehow a compass) and partially because I felt the itch to write and what that happens I become like a thief, using anything for inspiration. So the man I asked how to get to Sloane’s Square? He’ll show up somewhere, here, or in a poem or story. Wait- here is.

He told me which street to turn left on then right then walk this way then, here is running after me. How sweet, he’s running after to me to tell me he’s given me the wrong directions. He goes on and on and I’ve lost him after about 4 seconds but I listen as best as I can with my deaf-ish ears and his accent and smile. He says, “Got it?”

“I’m going to take a taxi,” I say.

He howls as if it is the funniest thing he has ever heard.

**

My taxi driver was lovely. He kept asking me if I was tired. “Long day?’ he asked. I was yawning a lot.

“No, not really. I was just staring at the computer screen for a long time.”

And I thought about all the pain the world, and how maybe I should put my seatbelt on as I slid across the backseat, and how maybe he had his own singular pains and how maybe they were beautiful.

The Battersea Bridge- the lights on the bridge lit up the sky and I almost took a picture, but then I remembered the rainbow. So I just held it there in my eyesight first, then in my heart, and finally in my imagination, where it will change a bit, with time, and perhaps with this beer I am drinking in this pub in Putney as I write this. Because things change once we claim them as ours, don’t they?

I put my seatbelt on. A few minutes later we arrived at the Overstrand Mansions in Battersea where I’m staying. I got out and muttered the words tube, beauty, taxi, lights, man, lost, bridge, and wondered what would happen if I tried to string them together.

 

Jen will be back in London for a Manifestation Workshop: On Being Human on Feb 14th. Book now as their are only a few spots left.
waiting for my beer in Notting Hill on Portobello Road today

waiting for my beer in Notting Hill on Portobello Road today

Jen Pastiloff is the founder of The Manifest-Station. Join her in Tuscany for her annual Manifestation Retreat. Click the Tuscan hills above. No yoga experience required. Only requirement: Just be a human being.

Jen Pastiloff is the founder of The Manifest-Station. Join her in Tuscany for her annual Manifestation Retreat. Click the Tuscan hills above. No yoga experience required. Only requirement: Just be a human being.

Jen Pastiloff is back in London for ONE workshop only Feb 14th. Book by clicking poster. This is her most popular workshop and space is limited to 50 people.

Jen Pastiloff is back in London for ONE workshop only Feb 14th. Book by clicking poster. This is her most popular workshop and space is limited to 50 people.

Inspiration, loss, love, my book

You Came to Ride The Train.

January 3, 2013

These vehicles vast like the hollows of a secret stuffed in a wooden leg ignite in me something. I can’t name it yet. But I’m on the train, I’m moving. Just because I can’t name it doesn’t mean it doesn’t exists. Beauty I’d like to call it but that seems simple.

The saddest family I have ever seen sits across from me. A man, Pakistani or Indian maybe, with each of his children on either side of him, an arm around the boy and an arm around the girl. He leans over and kisses the little girl’s braided head. She is tall and leggy, maybe ten, maybe twelve, hard to tell, she is so long. The boy is older. They both have downcast eyes. I make up a story. Their mother has just died. I want to fix it. I offer chocolate. It’s all I have. The girl looks up and smiles, and then they all smile, and with a semi-Birtish accent the father says she doesn’t take chocolates. I joke and say Good thing, you shouldn’t take candy from strangers anyway. Plus, I think to myself how the chocolate has brandy in the middle and what was I doing trying to get some kids drunk on the tube in London, anyway?

But I’d wanted to do something. What happened? Why were they so huddled and sad? my mind asked and searched and dug at their broken faces. The heaviness lifted when the father leaned over to kiss the girl’s head, and also when I offered my paltry alcohol filled chocolate. A spark of life flew into the girl’s eyes and the darkness faded for a moment. Not the kind of darkness you would associate with evil or even depression but rather the kind of darkness that comes from riding the train all night without your mother. The cheap black plastic comb sticking out of the backpack that used to belong to her no longer has meaning. It can be anybody’s comb. Get that comb out of here. I hate that comb. Where is my mummy’s comb? all vacillating at once in her face like they were all true statements and questions. (They were. They are.) The kind of darkness that comes with the realization that there is no point in your father carrying around that comb in his backpack except to feel like your mother might sweep down and grab it, and you could all see her one last time, even if it is one second, that would be enough, even one half of one second, while she grabbed the comb and vanishes one last time. So he keeps it sticking out of the backpack front pocket for everyone on the train to see and when no one is looking he picks it up and carefully wipes it down. There is even a darkness in the movements of his eyes, his hands, the comb itself even, the kind of darkness that says You can keep riding the train as long as you want my beloveds, I am never coming back. 

Or maybe it wasn’t that at all. Maybe something entirely different happened. They all looked up though, when I got off the tube at Putney Bridge, and they all waved. I had wanted to stay with them and make it better. Whatever it was. There was a grief so stinking it almost knocked me out when I sat down across from them. I recognized it immediately. I’d known it before. I’d had that thickness of the throat, the turning of the stomach, the looking down for so long at a dead person’s comb that I forgot where I was going. The staying at the waitressing job for 13 years because I was scared to move in a any direction. The riding of the train all night. The clinging to someone, anyone really, so I felt like I hadn’t disappeared into the ether like people were capable of doing.  So what do you call that? 

That which tugs at your coat and scarf and all your winter England layers and says: Look at me. What do you know of this?

I know you, you say with your chocolate offering and whatever gesture you can muster, and for the brief moment before you get off the train, their world is safe. One stop and their world is un-cracked and whole. One stop. One milli-second. One half a second. Until  longer periods of time lapse and they are able to look up and get off the train for stretches of time they can’t even imagine at this point. Not during this dark hour.

What do you call this? Beauty? Humanity? Connection? Knowing?

Inspiration maybe?

Who knows.

What it was on that train exactly, I do know know. But I do know the pits of Hell when I pass through. And I can’t stay. But I can offer a chocolate truffle. I won’t stay. I refuse. Sorry. I may have to go there again in my own world (most of us do) but for this stint, I am not staying. I am just passing through.

I will offer what I can.

Today at the British Museum, my husband and I went and looked at some of the ancient Egyptian antiquities. There was this skeleton. I crouched down onto the floor and got up close, I mean really, really close, so I could see his eyes. His teeth (he actually still had teeth) and his fingers all curled up like he hadn’t been relaxed at all when he died there on the sand. The plaque said that it was the sand that had preserved him and that once tombs came along, bodies stopped being preserved in this way. The man looked so sad. He was in a glass display, curled up their on the floor and however many thousands of years later, he still looked so desperately sad. I crouched down and thought if I could only offer him chocolate he might get up and walk on out of that horrible box. His one hand up around his face like he was protecting himself and his other hand was curled up by his side. His whole body in a fetal position. Man, I get you, I wanted to tell him.

I’ve been there, curled up like that, in my darkest hour. I’ve been a ghost.

But I returned. To the land of the living. Here I am now. Look at me, I whispered, or wanted to, through the glass.

I didn’t get stuck in the sand or put in a box on display or have my pain frozen on my face for the rest of time like you did. And I’m sorry for that. Whatever your pain was. 

I guess that is what it boils down to. Call it what you will. Connection, inspiration, beauty, grace. It’s feeling what others feel as if you are one beating heart without getting your own me me me in the way. It is knowing something at the core of your being and being moved by that without having it define you or immobilize you. It is saying I understand you, Family On The Train. I get you, Dead Egyptian Man.

Maybe it is just called Understanding.

That’s all we ever want most of the time, isn’t it. Understand me.

Please?

Search trains and faces and coffee shops and your house and the blue sky and the grey sky and poems and people with their selfish hearts and their big What can I do for you hearts and whatever it is that you decide to call it, this thing which I cannot truly name, tell yourself that to become a part of it all, this beating mess, is what you must do. That to go out and touch the sleeve and the comb and the heart of another is what you came here for. You didn’t come for the pie. You came for the gut wrenching love and loss and joy and pain and when you see it in another, you get it. You recognize it.

You came to ride the train.

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