Tuesday, January 08, 2008

Breakfast at Bishop

After a month together, a luxury for us in our conjugal cross-country life, Ted and I had to say goodbye this morning, probably our one hundredth "goodbye" at Bishop Airport. We know that sweet little airport inside and out, our own little Sydney Opera House. Today our route was rainy and dark, the brightening snow long gone in the spooky thaw, and at 7:30 a.m. there still wasn't even a glint of sunrise behind us driving down I-69. At that hour there's rare "rush minute" traffic in Flint, the headlights glaring, and I found it nerve-racking. (By the way, my spellcheck program insists that "nerve-racking" is a proper way to spell this word, not just "nerve-wracking" as I've always spelled it. I guess I owe about a thousand students an apology. Go figure) Anyway, I decided I wanted us to park so I could go in with my husband instead of just dropping him off, and then after our ardent departure hug I figured I'd buy a coffee and a New York Times and wait out the dawn; driving in the dark, especially a rain-slicked dark, wreaks havoc on my night blind eyes.

I'm saying all this to get to that 45-minute wait for solid daylight. When you're in a marriage like mine, where from time to time your beloved is pulled away from you and walks down that long hallway and into the skies for weeks at a time of absence, you get used to these moments of reflection, when you suddenly realize you're alone again. It can be jarring. But I've learned to embrace the comings and goings. You look up from your intense dyad and begin noticing the rest of the world again, seeing it anew. It freshens the spirit.

So I bought a mocha from the friendly coffee guy at the cappucino place, and accepted his jovial offer for an extra shot of espresso. Bought a NY Times at the gift shop and didn't mind when the clerk called me "honey." I think I looked a bit disheveled and might have had some "Hillary Clinton"-style watery eyes.

At a table in the cafe, I stretched out my legs and took a deep breath, then a sip of coffee, and then a good long look at the paper. An editorial by Gloria Steinem, predictably griping about how "women are never front runners." Another by David Brooks, usefully comparing Obama and McCain: "One man celebrates communitarian virtues like unity," he writes, " the other classical virtues like honor." And a bonus by poet Donald Hall, a onetime UM professor and former U.S. poet laureate, describing the scene in New Hampshire on primary day today -- not in the booths, but in his barn, "My barn roof bears a yard of snow, which is beautiful but worrisome. Can a barn built in 1865 withstand the weight?" he asks. It's a good day whenever poets make it to the NY Times editorial page. "On days when it doesn’t snow," he continues," the sun’s brightness bears down from the sky and flares upward from the ground." Settling for Michigan's oatmeal skies, I'm jealous of that sun.

On the cafe's big flat screen TV, CNN reporters interviewed wholesome looking people seemingly enjoying their limelight in some local diner, and then a cut to the midnight voting at tiny Dixville Notch. This is fun -- the most fun of any campaign I can remember.

So, I savored my hour until daylight. I looked outside finally and saw that the pole lights in the parking lot had finally clicked off, a milky blue light seeping through the electronic doors along with the travelers.

I'm "alone" again, but still in an very interesting world.

P.S. At the parking booth, the guy who took my two bucks said it had been an extremely depressing morning already -- about 200 soldiers leaving early today for tours of duty in Iraq. (From tonight's Flint Journal, I see that they were likely from the lst Battalion, 125th Infantry Regiment of the Army National Guard.) "All morning I've been taking money from women crying their eyes out," the parking guy said. Damn. Here's to their safe return. Let's hope we get out of this horrid war before everything and everyone we love is lost.

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