NYC: Hurry Up and Wait… and Like It!

I’m not too sure why people say that New Yorkers are among the most impatient and rude people in the world. I know that mine is just an outsider’s view, but to this outsider, being a New Yorker seems as though it would be a constant exercise in patience.

Immediately upon our arrival to NYC at the Staten Island Ferry—which would carry us swiftly across the New York harbor, depositing us at the southern tip of Manhattan—we waited.

First we waited to board, then we waited to de-board, next we waited in line to purchase unlimited subway passes and then we waited on the platform for the train that would take us to our hotel. We waited to board the subway, to get off the subway, to walk up the stairs to street level… and of course we waited for our turn to cross lest we be run down by a cab, bus or bicycle messenger on a mission.

Welcome to New York City. Home to over 18 million people in the metropolitan area — it is an overwhelming, endless rush of humanity. And believe me everyone is rushing somewhere, everywhere, all the time. Hence, the “hurry up” part. Hurry up to get a place in line. Because this tidal wave of beings can only move as fast as transit and commerce will allow. Transit and commerce (I might add) that are also operated by and reliant upon other human beings. Thus, the “wait” part.

I quickly learned why Lee, my fearless-and-informed tour guide, told me to quote: “… travel light and wear comfortable shoes.” By the time our visit to the Big Apple concluded we had waited in line(s) not only for constant transport around the city, but for coffee, bagels, hot dogs, beer, pizza, pastrami and pickles. We waited in line for events, for elevators, for escalators, for public attractions, for bathrooms, for boats, for shopping, for a cashier, for a good view, for a good picture and even for a bench to sit on and rest from all the waiting.

Perhaps the “impatient” brand that has been seared upon New Yorkers only comes into play when they are, say… forced to deal with thousands of versions of some clueless tourist (like myself) on a daily basis who may or may not know the exact and proper ordering procedure for a pastrami on rye. For they are not afraid to show you their displeasure with your non-new-yorker ignorance.

I can’t blame them. That’s just the way it is. Therefore, you’d better like it. Take your $20 deli sandwich, your $7 slice, your $5 dog or your $12 cocktail and drag your bumbling-photograph-taking-aimlessly-wandering-map-studying @$$ and get out of the way. Quickly. After all… someone else is waiting.

NYC: A Much Needed Break From… Absolutely Nothing

So I took a little blogcation for a few days in order to get away from the hectic pace that is my life these days. The so-called hectic pace being largely comprised of job hunting, unpacking sweaters and tuning in to watch The View every morning. During this blogcation I am excited to say that we took a real vacation to the very place that embodies the truest of hectic paces — The Isle of Manhattan.

I have never been to New York City (since I am told that my little pass over the GW bridge last summer doesn’t count) and it was an amazingly adventurous and eye-opening treat! I hopefully gathered a bit of fodder in which to share with you here as I jotted a few things down… at the hotel, on the subway, while my pizza cooled in Little Italy and in my seat at the Garden—waiting for the Rangers to take to the ice.

As incredible as it was to finally visit the famous, fabled, pulsing, living, breathing city that never sleeps… it has also been refreshing to come home to a world where I need only hop in my car to get anywhere I need to be and enjoy a bathroom in which I can actually turn around.

I hope you’ll check back in the days ahead as I promise to do my best to share a few little bites of a very Big Apple.

Fetching Stanley… and the Keurig

I know, I know… for crying out loud when is the moving going to be DONE already? At least a few of you readers may be asking that question as I use this post to report that one, final trip must be made to gather the remainder of my things from my old house to bring them to the new one.

One of the items I need to collect is my Keurig coffee maker that I carelessly left behind. I have been without it for over a week and would be experiencing withdrawals were it not for the Starbucks right across the street. But the most important thing I left behind last week that I absolutely MUST return to fetch would be Stanley, the cat.

Poor Stanley has been living it up at my parents’ house where he is utterly and obscenely spoiled. In fact, I’m certain that after seven days he is certain that I’ve abandoned him and am no longer his human. He is probably operating under the false assumption that my parents are now his rightful slaves.

I’m afraid he has no idea how his world is about to be rocked.

Anyone who owns a cat or is owned by a cat (the latter probably being more accurately stated) knows that they are not fans of change. ANY kind of change. So, while I AM looking forward to having him with me in my new home… I am NOT looking forward to the production of bringing him to it. And IT WILL BE a dramatic production.

He will cry and cry and cry (even though he is mute he still makes the most pathetic, airy, squeaky sound you ever heard) until he is exhausted because he HATES riding in the car. And the crying will make me feel bad and I will worry myself into a frenzy.

Upon arrival at his new pad, he will slink around, belly to the ground, for a day and a half sniffing everything in sight and looking terrified. Around day two or three he should be relatively chill about the whole thing and find a nice place to sleep it off for the next three days where he’ll either reluctantly accept his new fate or plot some sort of revenge.

My only hope are the “herbal” calming chews that my father bought for Stanley at Christmas. I’ve given them to him before and it really does chill him out… This is, of course, assuming he doesn’t just eat around the chews—when I hide them in his food in order to trick him—or try to trick ME by pretending to eat them and then spit them out when I’m not looking.

Wish us luck and if all goes smoothly… I’ll live to write about it. And of course… OF COURSE I’ll be subjecting you sharing it with you just as soon as possible upon our return.

September 11: 2,000 Miles Apart

I wrote the following story around September 11th of this past year—the 10th anniversary—but have not had the luxury of time to finish it until now. Although I know I could wait until September 11, 2012 to share it with you all… I feel like it doesn’t really matter. We all remember where we were that day. It is a topic that enters many, many conversations that I have with people to this day… on any given day of the year. It is an event none of us will soon forget and there are as many accounts of this infamous day as there are people on the planet.

This one is mine.

And hers. Thank you Jan for allowing me to share just a part of your story…

I was so proud of her for moving out of Ohio and embarking on an adventure all her own. With no job she decided to roll the dice, take a chance and move to New York City.

Brave girl, I thought. I admire her. I envy her. This experience will change her life forever… even if she winds up right back where she started… in the Buckeye State. She will have had the time of her life.

In the summer of 2001, she and a friend took an apartment in the heart of Manhattan’s financial district. Two blocks from the World Trade Center. Two blocks from what would soon become the site of the worst attack ever to occur on American soil. But of course, during the long, sunny days of summer in the city, the events of that fateful day couldn’t have been further from her mind.

Though job hunting, she still found plenty of time to go shopping and enjoy some big-city glam. I still remember the new clothes and trendy haircut she showed me once while we were both back on our home turf, visiting our families at the same time. She was a New Yorker now. And, as Carrie Bradshaw would say: She looked fabulous.

On a random, mid-September, Tuesday morning the sound and vibration from the first explosion woke her from a dead sleep. Eventually she made her way to the rooftop of her building to see what was happening. Not long after, another collision convinced her this was, indeed, not a dream. Fire and smoke and chaos reigned.

2,000 miles away in southern New Mexico it was a little after 6 a.m, Mountain Standard Time. I had gotten up like every other day, set my feet on the floor and flipped on the news. A plane had hit one of the World Trade Center towers and, like many others, I thought it an accident and hoped no one had been seriously injured. That was, until I watched—on live television—a second plane smash into the other tower. I was immediately sick. I knew this was no accident.

On the drive to work the news informed me that a plane had crashed into the Pentagon and another into a field in Pennsylvania. Reports were also coming in that people had been spotted jumping from the twin towers. And it felt as though the sky was falling. In many ways… I suppose it really was.

My thoughts immediately turned to her.

I had no cell phone in 2001, so I began driving faster to the office to use the phone. Miraculously, when I rang her apartment, she answered—practically hysterical. Because of the news coverage here and the power outages there I quickly realized I was more aware of what was happening from a technical standpoint. She, much more aware than I of what was happening from a sensory one.

With 24-hour news coverage, instantaneous broadcasting, cell phones and the internet, technology had shrunken our world in such a way that even from 2,000 miles away I knew what was happening at the very same moment she was witnessing it. A voice yelled down my hallway: “The second tower just collapsed.” As I simultaneously heard her cry out the same words through the phone lines.

As she saw it begin to fall, her voice was gripped with terror and disbelief. She would soon report that her windows and view was becoming blackened from the overwhelming billows of ash rolling through the streets, swallowing everything in their path.

I told her that they were reporting for people to grab what they could from their homes, including towels or clothing to place over their mouths and noses and get out—NOW. We said our good-byes and hung up.

Later that night—from a hotel room in Albuquerque where I had traveled to on business—I spoke to her parents and found that she had safely arrived at a friend’s beach house on the Jersey shore. They had walked all the way there, relying on the kindness of strangers along the way to give them masks and bottles of fresh water.

And I thanked God she was OK. And as I later learned of all the people who never got to speak to their loved ones, let alone KNOW whether or not they were OK or gone forever… I thanked God that I was fortunate enough to speak to her in that life-changing moment from 2,000 miles away.

Jan and I at an Ohio State tailgating party. November, 2011

 

Road Rage, Invisible Groundhogs and Hypocrisy

I am a self-professed tailgater. And I’m not referring to the tailgating that occurs before football games around here. I am referring to the riding-other-drivers-asses variety of tailgater.

My dad and Lee both get after me about this A LOT. As well they should. Tailgating is rude and obnoxious, not to mention dangerous. But being the extremely impatient narcissist that I am… I just can’t seem to help myself. I can start out on a trip with the best of intentions and before I know it, I’ve memorized every scratch, dent and ding on the bumper in front of me… and I’ve probably fantasized about ramming into it too.

Yesterday on the way to work I got “brake-checked” by the guy in front of me (YES, an individual I happened to be tailgating at the time) and I had to slam on my brakes because he literally STOPPED in the middle of the road. He didn’t just tap his breaks to warn me that I was beginning to annoy him… He STOPPED… In the middle of a 55 MPH zone! Now, unless he was stopping for a squirrel, cat or groundhog—that I for one did not see—he was clearly sending me the “get-off-my-ass-NOW!” message.

I am well acquainted with this form of non-verbal, vehicular communication because I am not just your garden-variety tailgater. I am what you might call a “hypocritical tailgater.” I WILL tailgate you… but don’t you DARE tailgate me… or I WILL brake-check you until you get the message.

I feel it also worth mentioning that the guy who brake-checked me today was also a hypocritical tailgater because after he slammed on his brakes for me and resumed his speed… he practically crawled up the tailpipe of the guy in front of him. I must have been in a fairly decent mood because after re-securing all of my belongings back into the passenger seat from the floor to which they had fallen at the time of the aforementioned brake-check incident… I laughed. HARD.

I just laughed and laughed and backed the hell off. I got his message LOUD AND CLEAR. And maybe, just maybe, I secretly hoped that the driver whose tailpipe the break-checking-hypocritical-tailgater was currently sucking on would also stop suddenly in the middle of the road for an invisible squirrel, cat or groundhog… and well, you know the rest.

Out of Touch

Last night I was perfectly content sitting on my couch and NOT multitasking. I was doing one thing and one thing only. Watching Seinfeld re-runs. I was not on the phone or the laptop Facebooking, Twittering or blogging. I was just sitting there—like a tree stump dressed in grey sweatpants and a weathered In & Out Burger t-shirt—and it was glorious.

It was at this point that I saw a commercial for the newest ipad. The commercial showed a woman about my age, in the Apple store, looking at the shiny new gadget the salesman had just presented to her. She cautiously grasped the ipad like it was the Holy Grail and the moment it was in her hands, she was immediately transported to all of these exotic locales.

She traveled to remote sun-washed beaches, gourmet, five-star restaurants, rockin’ night clubs, casinos and both National and International landmarks. And all the while, she never looked up from that damn ipad. Apple’s selling point being that this device can go with you wherever, whenever and you can stay connected.

WTF?!?! Helloooo!!! You're in P-A-R-A-D-I-S-E. LOOK AROUND!!!

I’m sorry, am I the only one who has the desire to visit remote and exotic sun-washed beaches, gourmet, five-star restaurants, rockin’ night clubs, casinos and both National and International landmarks for the sole purposes of getting away from AND staying OUT of touch with the world? I mean, there’s a reason that the freakin’ screen savers and wallpapers on these things have pictures of Fiji and Mt. Kilimanjaro on them. Duh.

Though perhaps that is the final irony here… The place in which we’ve arrived on the evolutionary ladder of man vs. technology… If you’re toiling at your desk… you dream of Fiji or of standing in the shadow of Kilimanjaro. But if you’re actually IN Fiji or standing in the shadow of Kilimanjaro… you want to be at the office?!

I don’t know about you, but if I had the time and resources to travel to far-flung corners of the globe and visit the types of exclusive destinations that this chick was inhabiting in the ipad commercial… I would take that flat, wireless, super-sleek, state-of-the-art, hi-speed, touch-screen piece of crap capable of keeping me “connected” 24/7… and fling it as far as it would go.

No Trespassing or “Dueling Banjos”

My dad tells me I watch way too many movies. And maybe he is right about that. Plus, I also have a pretty active imagination… But seriously, it did feel like a scene straight out of “Deliverance” at times. The woods were thick in every direction, the roads narrow and winding and the hillsides were extremely steep. Several of the houses and driveways were completely overgrown with weeds, and even though I was only a few miles from town… it felt remote enough that I was fairly certain no one would ever hear me scream.

<cue “Dueling Banjos”>

At one point I passed a boy driving a 4-wheeler, dressed in so much camouflage I almost didn’t see him. He had at least 2 cross-bows with him and as our paths crossed, he just GLARED at me. Come to think of it, everyone that I passed glared at me. Maybe because they knew I didn’t belong. A girl dressed in church clothes and heels, driving a silver Pontiac with the sunroof open and the radio cranked to Billy Joel, doesn’t exactly BLEND in with camo, ammo, tractors, 4-wheel-drive pick-up trucks and 3-legged dogs with one eye named “Lucky.”

But I was on a mission. There’s probably only one, maybe two weeks left of bright sunshine and glorious, leafy, green trees before everything drops to the ground, surrendering to winter. Full of determination and with the camera in tow, I headed out to the country. I was driving on some back roads to find the most beautiful photo ops. And the whole taking-my-life-into-my-own-hands-thing aside… I did manage to get some beautiful shots!

When I was satisfied that I had gotten all of the best pictures I could without my family having to send out a search party, I headed for home. On my way home I spotted these full, verdant trees along the edge of some water and knew that I HAD to get a shot of this. But I couldn’t just stop on the road because any on-coming traffic would not be able to see me. So I looked around for a place to park the car and walk to the right spot in which to shoot the picture. I noticed a little white house that looked harmless enough, and conveniently there was a place to park at the edge of the property, without blocking the driveway. It was technically on their property, and there was a “NO TRESPASSING” sign posted right beside where I parked… But I really didn’t think they would mind. Plus, I’d be so quick about it that they might never even know I was there.

I took my photos and began walking back to the car and was about to climb in when this dog comes out of nowhere and charges toward me barking wildly. Here we go. This is it. I’m in trouble. Either they’ve called the police, who will be here in no time to arrest me for trespassing, or I’m gonna end up in these people’s freezer. I cringe as the dog gets closer… prepared for the mauling I was sure was imminent. My mind flashing forward to the battery of rabies shots I was going to receive if I survived.

Just as the dog reaches me, I see the owner. It’s an older lady, but not the just-got-back-from-church-and-baking-a-pie kind of older lady. No this lady was dressed in jeans and flannel and I honestly couldn’t get a read on her or her dog right away. Instead of fleeing (I’d never outrun the dog) I decided to face my fate head on. I said hello to her and the dog magically dropped to a seated position at my feet. Whew! Rabies crisis averted. She said hello but was definitely not there to make small talk. She’d come to check out the trespasser who’d had the nerve to park on her property. I could tell by the way she was looking at me that she was sizing me up (probably determining whether or not they had room for me in the fridge). And I also noticed that she walked with a bit of a limp. Oh for crying out loud! This was SO a scene from a movie: Nice, innocent girl slaughtered by old, limping, flannel-clad woman in Backwoods House of Horrors.

I introduced myself and explained what I was doing, figuring it sounded decent enough. I mean it wasn’t as if I was out there mutilating squirrels and other small woodland creatures… I was taking nature pictures. What could be more harmless than that? She asked if the photos were “just for me” and I said that they were. I explained how I grew up near there and had been away for years and was still quite taken with the beauty of this time of year. It was then that she said: “I have some lovely trees in my backyard, if you would like to see them. You’re welcome to photograph those.”

Sure, sure… I thought… this was her ploy to lure to me deeper onto her property, and once I was out of public sight in her “backyard,” the real nightmare would begin. But I knew that the polite thing to do was to follow her. After all, I DID trespass and now she was asking me to see her backyard… the least I could do was indulge her. Although I WAS certain that her husband or son would be waiting for me behind the house with a chainsaw.

As I followed her and her dog, I grew a bit more nervous when I noticed that we would have to walk through a little corridor between the house and the shed. The passageway was draped with a tarp and had only slits in the front and back in order to pass in and out. Oh yeah… I’m definitely a goner. However, when I tentatively pulled back the edge of the tarp and peered inside, I saw that the enclosed space was not full of bloody limbs from previous victims… but fresh, garden-grown produce!! All sizes and colors of zucchini and tomatoes with prices marked on them. She was not a homicidal maniac! This woman was just a produce-peddler! For the second time in 5 minutes relief washed over me. I was not going to meet with some horrible demise in the backyard of this sweet old woman’s home.

The view of the woods from her backyard was gorgeous, and she told me how she’s been sitting at her breakfast table every day watching the leaves transform. Her and her dog… Millie. Harmless little Millie… the sweet attack dog who was now licking my hands while I stroked her fur. I took some photographs of the view AND the fresh veggies and talked with her a little while before getting back in the car and driving away. She told me I was welcome to come back anytime to visit or photograph her property. I could park my car on her land and take as many pictures as I’d like. I waved good-bye to both her and Millie as I drove toward civilization.

Perhaps I do watch too many movies… but real life or fiction… you still never know how the story is going to end. Luckily, this one ended happily-ever-after.

<banjo music fades>

The Woman Inside My Phone

I hate the woman who lives in my phone. You most likely know her, as she is probably the same one that lives in YOUR phone. She tells you what to do and often her instructions are wrong. She misunderstands your voice and touch commands constantly and sometimes cuts you off when you’re in the middle of leaving a message. Like she thinks she knows when I’m done talking? Who the hell does she think she is?

She is also an easy target for the role of scapegoat whenever my phone pisses me off for any reason. If I have a bad signal, no signal, bad reception (whether on my end or the other person’s), a low battery or God forbid—a dropped call—it is all her fault. And I tell her so. Usually really loudly. And my hatred for her grows.

My drive home from work is riddled with shitty and spotty cell reception. I’ll be in the middle of a conversation and… GONE. The call has ended. Abruptly. And usually at a really crucial or pivotal point too. There are at least 4 places that I KNOW a call will drop. I can predict with almost 95% accuracy when this will happen but for some reason that doesn’t stop me from trying to communicate with people. If I have something to say, dammit, I am going to say it! Even if it means calling back 50 times and getting dropped 49 of those times.

While I am driving—for safety sake—I do not wish to use the keypad (I’m such a good and conscientious driver) so I utilize the voice-command feature. Well, I should say that it is a safety measure for myself and the other drivers maybe… but for HER… not so much. She never gets the commands right. For example, I will clearly say: “Call Jan.” And she will reply: “Did you say: Call Ham?” <pause> “Did you say: Call Jam?” <pause> … my anger is building … “Did you say: Call Spam?” <pause> … I’m gonna lose it … “Did you say: Call Dan?”  And I snap. First of all bitch, I don’t have any friends named after food and I don’t even know anyone named Dan. To which she sweetly replies: “Please try again.”  Then she hangs up on me.

That’s when I let loose with a blue streak that could rival any sailor.

As a result of the terrible reception combined by her pure inability to UNDERSTAND ANYTHING THAT I SAAAAY… I cannot even impart to you the abuse this woman inside my phone has had to endure. Let me put it this way… If she were a real person, I’d be in prison by now.

I have been known to scream until I’ve lost my voice while raging at her. I have repeatedly smacked and poked her so HARD that her touch screen flashes all kinds of wild colors. I have thrown her. Also repeatedly. It is a miracle I have not tossed her out the sunroof and into a cornfield by now. Sometimes, after I have exhausted myself from violently cursing at her, I just leave her lying on the floorboard of my car—wherever she last landed—while the blind spots caused by my stroke-level blood pressure clear from my field of vision. I take a few deep breaths, loosen my white-knuckle grip on the steering wheel, crank up the radio and yell at her: We’ll try again later. After I no longer want to rip out your circuitry!”

Paper Treasures

I adore bookstores. Being a lover of language, I’m not sure if this is the due to the rush that I get from literally being surrounded by words… ensconced in words. Or perhaps I can blame it on the sheer excitement I feel being in the presence of so many lofty thoughts, ideas and stories.

And I have a particular affinity for used bookstores. You know, the kind of stores that are bursting at the seams with so many books that there are racks and bins of them spilling out onto the sidewalk, beckoning you like paper sirens to come hither and have a look a around.

If you’re someone like me, you’re almost immediately drawn in by the countless titles that call out to you from the various makeshift shelves that are haphazardly strewn outside. You begin your treasure hunt there, wondering what little literary gem might be buried beneath the stacks of trashy romance novels with paintings of exotic women in various stages of undress on the covers. Perhaps you find one—a shiny jewel that you simply cannot fathom how anyone else could have missed—and you tuck it under your arm.

With your curiosity piqued and your wallet burning, you venture inside. Instantly you are reminded of your grandmother’s basement, as a heavy aroma of dust, glue, aged leather and ancient paper envelops you. Stretched out in front of you are endless rows of leather and fabric-bound tales waiting to be discovered by just the right person. You see… each used book already has a new owner… they’ve simply not yet been introduced.

As you meander through the narrow aisles, head tilted to one side so as to read the inverted titles, your eyes pour over both familiar and unfamiliar names. So many books! It is incredible the shear volume of words that must exist under this one roof! A person could flop themselves down in a quiet corner for hours and travel to foreign lands, soaring through time and space to witness pivotal moments throughout history and experience wild and wonderful adventures all along the way! In the small span of an afternoon one could experience love and loss, danger and deception, death and dying, murder and mayhem, treachery and treason.

But as you navigate the passageways between the shelves of bargain masterpieces, you become aware of the presence of something far more valuable than the written works themselves. These books have stories all their own. I’m not talking about the words typed on the pages inside… but rather the silent stories of their previous owners. Over time, clues about them have begun to emerge on the covers, the spines, the margins and even in between the pages.

For instance, I once picked up a book entitled The Art of Pessimism and opened the front cover to find the following inscription: “1989 – To my dear friend Patricia, this needs no explanation! Love, Anne” I chuckled to myself at the inside joke that these two friends must have shared. And this was just one book on one shelf  of one store that I randomly picked up one day. That same day, a copy of Seven Short Works of Modern Fiction (which I later purchased) had a small stack of index cards stuffed inside which came fluttering out when I picked it up. Apparently, they were someone’s study notes on the different themes of each novel.

It seems that names, dates, doodles, coffee rings, notes, inscriptions, dedications, even rips, folds and tears are present everywhere you look. To me, these parcels of paper, words, ink and glue cease being books and instead become tangible evidence of people’s lives. I consider the shelves they once sat upon, the hands that once held onto them, the eyes that once scanned these pages, the souls who were once drawn into the story. The bags and briefcases they traveled in. I wonder where they have been and what was going on in the world at that specific time? How many different people posessed this very book before it landed in my hands now? Oh, but if these pages could talk! What secrets would they reveal?

I realize that anyone can go to a museum of Natural History and see valuable icons and rare relics of previous cultures and lives lived. And perhaps you think it’s silly for me to consider such things about plain, old, used books. Either that, or you may think I just have too much time on my hands. But I actually think it is because they are so ordinary, so unremarkable in their existence that they are of such unique value! These used books… These hand-me-down narratives… These second and third-time-around stories… They carry with them the indelible marks of everyday humanity.

The Survivor Tree

In the middle of a busy city, surrounded by traffic, concrete and glass, stands a very special tree. To simply look at it, you would assume it’s just an ordinary tree. And if you did not know the history of it or the reason why it is so special, perhaps you might walk right by without giving it a second glance.

It isn’t a very big tree, it isn’t a rare type of tree… yet it stands humbly and proudly in the center of America’s Heartland serving as an icon of survival. People travel from miles away to stand beneath the shade of its branches and reflect on its sheer existence and resilience. Perhaps they gain strength, perhaps they feel the freedom to surrender to their emotion and weep, perhaps they receive healing, or perhaps their chests swell with pride to be in the presence of such a cherished natural landmark.

I have had the unique fortune of visiting the tree 3 times in as many years. And on each occasion when I stood at its base, examined the bark and gazed up at the sunlight streaming though its canopy, I have been inspired. Several times I have driven across this country, and while passing through I have never failed to stop in Oklahoma City and pay a visit to my favorite tree… The Survivor Tree.

The tree got its name by surviving the bombing that occurred at the Alfred P. Murrah Federal Building on April 19, 1995, killing 168 people, including 19 children under the age of 6 and 3 unborn babies in addition. The survival of the tree was quite amazing considering that the sheer force of the blast ripped most of the branches from it. Glass and debris were embedded in its trunk and fire from the cars parked beneath it blackened what was left. Most thought the 104-year-old tree would not survive. However—almost a year after the bombing—family members, survivors and rescue workers gathered for a memorial ceremony under the tree, and they noticed something quite extraordinary. In the midst of this field of desolation and despair… this tattered tree was beginning to bloom.

Drastic measures have since been taken to see that the tree is cared for and preserved in honor of those who survived that tragic day. A beautiful memorial surrounds it so that anyone who cares to may come and marvel at the wonder of the tree’s endurance. The inscription on the wall around the Survivor Tree reads: The spirit of this city and this nation will not be defeated; our deeply rooted faith sustains us.

As I look back, I am reminded that my deeply rooted faith has sustained me thus far. You see, each time I traveled across the country and took the opportunity to stop at the memorial, I was never really “just passing through.” In my case, all three times found me in the midst of a personal life transition and when I approached the tree, it was always with a burdened heart. Standing on the hallowed ground of such a place, one’s mind cannot help but reflect as it reels with doubts, fears and endless questions about this thing we call humanity. But each time… the Survivor Tree stood there for me as if to say: You WILL survive this circumstance, after all… more fragile things than you have survived much deeper devastation.