Sunday, January 15, 2012

Sabbatical Sunday—Airports (and other in-between places)

I travel a lot for work, which means I spend a lot of time in the Seattle airport. Often I'll have at least a two-hour layover after the short puddle-jumper flight from Bellingham (beats spending those two hours in Seattle traffic), and so I've come to know the best place to get coffee (Diletantte), the best place for a snack (Dish D'lish), the best place for a quick manicure (Butter), and the best place to just sit and do nothing at all (in front of those windows you see above.)

But it's hard to do nothing. Since SeaTac now has free Wi-Fi, I inevitably find myself hurrying to a table, frantically flipping open my MacBook to see what has transpired in the  world during my 45-minute absence. Everyone around me is doing the same thing, either looking at a screen (more likely a phone screen now) or talking on their cell phones. 

Sometime it makes me feel desperately lonely; I rarely use my cell phone (a bottom-of-the line Tracphone, the dumbest phone in existence) but I'll check it anyway just to see if anyone might have tried to reach me. I confess that sometimes I'll put the phone to my ear and pretend to make a call, just so I look the same as everyone else: needed, important, connected. (Okay, now you know how dorky I really am, just in case you missed that before...)

I'd like it to be different. I'd like to remember to simply look out those windows and clear my mind before the next stage of the journey. Once, when I pulled my gaze away from the computer, I saw a team of window cleaners carefully polishing those myriad panes. They dangled in harnesses, moving in a predictable pattern, spraying soapy water, then scraping clean with giant squeegees. By the time they finished, the first windows must have been dirty again, but they kept at the task anyway, so that those of us inside—oblivious as we often are—would still have a clear view when we decided to look up. 

Sometimes I'll remember that an airport makes an excellent arena for walking meditation. I'll gather up my things and walk at a steady pace through the central terminal and into terminal A, where they've displayed all the best art.

I'll synchronize my steps with my breath, noticing my footfalls on the carpet, the weight of the rolling suitcase on my arm. I'll notice the mosaic pillars, the photographs, the artifacts in the plexiglass cases. I'll notice the people hurrying by, the full range of human emotion displayed—from fear and frustration to excitement and love. The children are the best; they look up at me and smile, or solemnly gaze back at me from the shoulder of a receding parent.

After a few minutes of this I feel connected again, though all my connective devices are safely tucked away.

It's good to remember the in-between places (there are so many after all—the gaps between here and there), and how we're always offered this opportunity to take a breath, re-connect, simply be in the world again. I love this quote from Gunilla Norris: 

Help me to love a slow progression
to have no prejudice
that up is better than down or vice versa.
Help me to enjoy the in-between


  1. Brenda, wouldn’t you know, while you were blogging yesterday, I was up in the air--or not; maybe I was twiddling my thumbs in Albany Airport or in Chicago (at O’Hare), on my way home from Vermont--and wouldn’t you know we were delayed and delayed and delayed? And what if I’d thought of the time and place as “in-between”--as an opportunity, that is. Instead I got up this morning in LA, all piss and vinegar, to write a letter of outrage to United Airlines, as if, as if. Your way is better. Next time I’ll remember. I hope. And thanks for writing...

  2. Thanks Dinah; I could feel your presence! So many of us are zipping by each other in so many ways these days..

    Of course, this blog post describes the "ideal" state of in-between. Last month, I was certainly not the embodiment of ideal when my flight to Palm Springs was cancelled, rescheduled, delayed three times, etc. But we do what we can. Thanks for being here.

  3. I have always loved airports for a period of time. My max is 4 hours, then I get antsy. But in those first few hours, I like that I know I am either going somewhere new, or returning home from somewhere. I love to travel, and airports are just a part of it that is necessary. I take that time to plan my trip, or jot down the experiences I had on my way home. Or I read a book, finally read an entire book. And I love those windows at SeaTac.

    1. Thanks Kacie! Yes, 4 hours seems to the max that I can appreciate anything!


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