September 12, 2013

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I flew to New York yesterday, on 9/11.

I do not like to fly on 9/11. I especially do not like to fly to New York on 9/11. And while some would say it’s the safest day of the year to air travel, I don’t know, I felt a bit too cavalier about the act of boarding a plane yesterday. The fact that any of us has the self-possession and optimistic confidence to strap ourselves in to another’s machine and take off into we have no control….well, the fact that there’s a flight industry at all says a lot about us as humans, doesn’t it?

Like that flimsy safety and security belt is going to make any difference.

I guess one could argue that moving through modern life at any sense of speed and confidence brings with it the same bravado. Optimistic at best, ignorant at worst. I say both, and I would agree. It’s super dumb. But then what’s the alternative, really? Caution? Safety? Fear? It’s all the same.

I guess it’s days like 9/11 that make us remember those things. Days like yesterday force us to face our childhood fears and cautionary tales and to remember their actual possibilities. Their real life probabilities.

In the end, we remember how fragile we are.

But then of course, as thing happen and time passes throughout the days or months, in time, in distance, inevitably we build on that foundation of fragility with either guarded fear or with defenseless hope… not hope for a different result really, but the hope for a better experience along the way.

Exactly twelve years ago today, I had a dream that I had a little boy named Harry, who had a sister named Harper and a brother named Simon, with a littlest sister called Sylvia. And as vivid and specific as this dream was, I realize now that it wasn’t prescient in any way, it was really just dreamscape born from hope. However as things happen, those last three hopes were never born. I know they didn’t happen not because I didn’t try… they didn’t happen because I was unable, or helpless, or afraid. And while I do not love those qualities about myself, I do love that I try… I can sleep knowing that I try.

So now, instead of thinking about moving forward in life with either a sense of impending doom or a sense of ignorant bliss, I’m going to move forward with a simple sense of trying. Trying more. Trying different.

And yes, of course, the end result is the same result….maybe in different circumstances, perhaps a few years earlier, but the end result is the commonality, the certainty. It’s what happens before that’s interesting… the cocktail, the wild card, the ride. It’s what happens before that makes the difference.

So yes, it felt dumb to board a plane on 9/11.

It also felt dumb not to.

But on the evening of 9/11, as I rolled my suitcase into Brooklyn to celebrate another year with friends, I was so glad I boarded the plane for the ride.

And before I fell asleep, only five blocks from the Tribute in Light, I looked out the window and into the twin beams of hope. The close proximity view was haunting, and peaceful, and filled with hundreds of small objects moving around in the light.

At first I thought it was paper…which made me think again of the millions of papers and lives which were displaced on this day. And then I thought maybe the gliding objects were doves, which was a lovely thought, but as it turns out, they were songbirds.

Here is a video of them and this is exactly what they looked like. 

Angelic. Symbolic. Trapped momentarily before they moved on.

They swooped and floated and soared through the spotlight before migrating to what’s next. And this day’s end vision gave me hope. A group of songbirds, caught in the tribute together, trying different ways to move through it. I watched them for about an hour, and I imagined that once they found their way out, they soared ahead, blissful, unafraid, moving forward into the dark.

Soundtrack: Songbird by Eva Cassidy

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  • Reply Charlotte September 13, 2013 at 4:51 pm

    This is beautiful. Thanks.

  • Reply UpsideUp Laurie September 16, 2013 at 12:34 am

    Oh amazing.

  • Reply Barchbo September 16, 2013 at 8:24 am

    And I always think of you when I hear the word “songbird” because I always think of you when I hear Eva Cassidy. My love to you, friend.

  • Reply Stacey September 16, 2013 at 12:53 pm

    Lovely. Thank you!

  • Reply maile September 17, 2013 at 10:03 am

    This was amazing. And so are you.

  • Laura Harrison Mayes
    Reply Laura September 17, 2013 at 10:21 am

    Thank you, guys. This was a hard one for me to write. I started it on the plane and finished it right before I fell asleep on 9/11. In retrospect, the whole day felt foggy and bittersweet. Sorrow and hope are so connected for me…and I felt oddly vulnerable posting this, so thanks for your lovely words.

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