Last weekend was existential and a little surreal. I collected my sister and niece from the sidewalk at Reagan airport and we drove straight to Philly. That wasn’t the original plan, but life happened in between the purchase of tickets, and the eventual flight. The traffic on I-95 was abhorrent. That Great Saphenous Vein buttressing the Atlantic seaboard of our Motherland pulsed with traffic, clusters of cars clotting like platelets, each jam actually a stream of contiguous embolisms. Any evidence of a pandemic paralysing the hands of the clock this past year was absent. Did it even happen? Looking past our noses can be difficult, but it seems envisioning the trail behind us is even more so. Out of sight, out of mind. Maybe this perceived weakness is actually one of our superpowers.
Life goes on.
I pushed Susie and Sophia out of the car at the hotel, continuing my trek into the country. Another funeral. Maybe it was a memorial instead. The distinction is irrelevant. They are both celebrations of life. I drove down the long gravel driveway to the Quaker stone house, a centurion bulwark, perched in the clipped field of Timothy, hundreds of acres, the jewel at the center of its crown. They erected a starched tent behind the house, a canopy shielding the heat of the sun, two rows of whitewashed collapsable chairs at the front, and small round tables draped in linen assembled under the remaining space, each adorned with its own vase of purple and yellow flowers. The service, informal, was moving. The man’s wife, his sister, his daughter, and his best friend, all spoke about him. What more can any human ask for, than to be loved and cherished, by our family and friends? They shared wonderful stories and memories. I had only met him once, but I wished I had known him better. He loved fine wine, and travelling in style. He also loved hot dogs. Now that is my kind of human being, someone who enjoyed both the high and the lowbrow. When the service was over, a glass of wine in our hands, the caterer served hors d’oeuvres of duck-liver pate on crostini, topped with a cornichon, and hotdogs, halved, with kimchi. I will never look at a hotdog again in the same way. Not only is it delicious at the ballpark on the 4th of July, but you can dress that frankfurter in a kimono and take it out on the town too.
I spent the night in the country before returning the next morning to Philly. I met Susie and Sophia at the college where Sophia is attending her summer program. They led me up the stairwell to her dorm room. Our soles squeaked against the waxed surface with every step. The feeling of being 18 again, embarking on this exciting journey, flooded my thoughts. What an exciting time in a young person’s life! We kissed Sophia good-bye and Susie and I headed to the car to leave.
“I parked in front of the Rodin Museum. Did you know it was here?” I asked my sister.
“No, I didn’t. Do you want to go?”
“Do we have time?” We were headed to a suburb of Baltimore to visit my sister’s friend from Cranbrook before we arrived in D.C.
“Sure! Let’s go!”
I’ve always loved Rodin. Yes, he’s a renowned artist, but there are many, arguably more skilled, more prolific, or more whatever. But I love him because I have always loved The Thinker. I do not remember the first time I saw The Thinker, but I do remember how it made me feel. Thunderstruck. Speechless. Weak at the knees. My heart threatening to explode. My mind a blur of thoughts. Every time I spot The Thinker, Detroit—Baltimore—Philly, I am swept by a current of those same emotions. I had no idea The Thinker originated from Rodin’s The Gates of Hell. This context, this complication, only makes me love The Thinker more. The Musée Rodin outside of Paris is on my list of places to visit.
We drove to the suburbs, succumbing once more to the stifling traffic of the interstate. We arrived to discover they live in bank as stated in the stained glass window above the front door. Listed on the Historic Register, the front of the house is the original bank building. The teller window was still intact, as well as the free standing vault resembling an antique icebox of dark grey steel, just with many drawers and narrow shelves inside. They used the original space as their office, sitting at the built-in wrap around desk, behind the glass shield. The back of the house was the recent addition to the bank containing the bulk of their home. We celebrated their new baby, only two months old, so tiny and perfect.
Death, college, Rodin, and childbirth. The weekend unfolded like a trumpet flute emerging from its bulb, the horns squeezed and creased at the start like origami paper, before billowing wide, stunning yet poisonous. The experiences were beautiful, pendulous, inspiring and transient. It’s a cliche, but life moves at breakneck speed. Like the pandemic of our past, it’s easy to forget how fast the earth is actually spinning, and us with it.
Yesterday I received a Slack message. Richard said he met with other gentleman I introduced him to on LinkedIn. They are both expats living and working in Singapore. I have not met either person in the flesh, but we are all Section4 alums. I thought they might be great support for one another, and if nothing else, they could network on the other side of the world, so far from their homes in North America. Richard said they hit it off over a cup of coffee. They discovered they are located only five minutes apart from one another. The world is so big, and at the same time, it is incredibly small–one of humanity’s greatest paradoxes. It’s hard to fathom the polarities sometimes. But with complexity comes connection. We are all truly intertwined, traveling the same murky path of humanity, in this place we each call home.