From the Middle of the Country

March 29, 2005 Newark, OH

I have two workout tapes with me on the road: the New York City Ballet Workout, and the Tahitian Hip-hop Workout. Both describe me.

It was a miracle I made it into Columbus, Ohio last. And it’s a double miracle that my suitcase made it. And I set an airport sprint record in Chicago O’Hare for “running while carrying two bags and pulling a third”. (That’s a different category than “running and pushing a stroller” or “running with a dainty little purse”—though the “running with a dainty little purse and high heels” is an advanced category. ) It was one of those days, one of those flights. We left LAX with a full flight. Not one empty seat. Everyone was already exhausted and stressed out when we backed out of the gate….We make it out to the queue then have to return because of a malfunctioning light. We’re in luck. The light’s replaced and we’re off, after an hour. The flight is turbulent the whole way, then air traffic control slows us down as we head into the Chicago field. I’m squeezed up against the window in the last row, which means it will take me even longer to make it out of the plane to run to my connection. When we finally touch down I have ten minutes to get from gate L6 to G 15 for my Columbus connection. I breathe deep. Strap my saxophone and a backpack on my back, and pull my computer bag. And I sprint. I wish I could say I kept my grace. I tried. I didn’t. I ran. My backpack opened and spilled. I picked it up. Kept running. My lungs made a racket and hurt, but I made it. After I took my seat I checked the time. I made it in less than five minutes. Then I smiled to myself, pleased with my sprint time, and something about that smile settled everything down. Then we flew into the dark.

Even getting from the Columbus Airport to the Courtyard Marriott via their shuttle service was problematic. The shuttle driver refused to take me to the hotel until some flight attendants arrived half an hour later. Bed was sweet. But I woke up after only four hours sleep to be picked up by 8:30 AM for a 10 AM class visit. So is life on the road. It was a coffee morning and I don’t even drink coffee. The sun broke through the rainy sky and I managed to speak somewhat coherently on a class on Culture and Environmental Knowledge at Denison University. Gladly crawled into bed for four hours then emerged to visit David Baker’s Poetry Writing Class. What a teacher of poetry! He’s dynamic, smart, empowering and tough. And he was easy on me, didn’t turn it all over to the visitor--me. Thank you thank you David. He knows; he’s been on the road.

Every small thing matters and you especially know it on the road: S. S.’s company at lunch, and the thoughtful basket that included soap, my favorite cookies and plenty of water. David’s inspiring class and friendship, Professor Tavakolian’s greeting and drive…

Voice practice, no horn.

In the meantime I’m mulling over the killing by a young Ojibwe, one of our beloved sons. This boy was the messenger of our forgetfulness, of our estrangement from our source. He went down in terrible pain. He needs our prayers as does the family and the community. All of our communities need our swift and urgent attention to these beloved ones, our children. This is our real work. We can do it through our art, but every thought, every small action matters.

So I will take this into consideration as I lay it all down tonight in this hotel room in the middle of the country, as I speak tomorrow, as I attempt to walk carefully through another day.


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