Thursday, May 13, 2010

The road less traveled

1) See kids to bus
2) Swim
3) Eat
4) Get to the office
5) Schedule dental appointment
6) Alter dress and pack for the wedding
7) Meet kids after school
8) Homework, etc.
9) Dinner
10) Bed

That was my morning's mental to-do list, which was blown away somewhere between #2 and #4. THANKFULLY.

As I flew into the locker room, blasted open a small-cubby door, I noticed a flash of aqua nylon and flowing light-red hair. Didn't need a second look to recognize Svetlana, my Russian friend, had shown up for laps at the same time today. That has not happened in ages and is how we first met several years ago. In a frosty December when the pool's heater was malfunctioning, we were the die-hards who still chose to swim.

We became fast friends and it has been so absolutely fascinating to know someone the same age who grew up in the communist Soviet Union. We're really not that different and she has dispelled so many propagandistic myths.

She was raised atheist as an only child of engineers in St. Petersburg, is more cultured than anyone I know, well educated, raised her son alone as an economist until Perestroika, when she got by as a tour guide. She remarried and moved to the U.S., but could never get a job in her field. For awhile, she scooped ice cream.

Seems a shame, but maybe I wouldn't have become her friend otherwise.

After our swim today, she invited me over for tea – which we used to do with some regularity. Until I thought my life got too crazy. Tea turned into fruit, cheese, yogurt, cucumbers, Russian cookies and tomato. [She's very aware of my food allergies and only tempted me with the homemade confection.] Accompanied, first, by the birds in her backyard, then her fingers interpreting the theme from Dr. Zhivago, Stephen Foster, Puccini, Dubussy and Jules Massenet. Even the birds chimed in.

Later she was expecting the wife and toddler of an out-of-town friend here on business (she wanted them to escape the hotel for her haven) and preparing dinner to take to another friend. Feeding me on the fly just flowed into her usual rhythm.

Her apartment, from where she walks everywhere, is comfortably stuffed with symphony and ballet programs, Russian and Indian textiles and pottery, a Sahaja Yoga shrine, artwork (including the pastel I gave her one Christmas), assorted sewing projects and her beloved piano. It's such a joy and so peaceful. Somewhere to linger, not rush.

When it was time to leave, she cited a Russian adage about how those who get up early and get their work done, get the blessing. She was referring to the blessing of my company. Yet, all I did was show up at the pool and nod yes when she uttered the invitation.

Still only on #4, but somehow the day seems more special than it started. I was the recipient of the blessing.

• How often do I let my to-do list control me?
• What happens when I don't?
• Can I remember a time when I was pleasantly rescued?
• Now, do I even remember what didn't get accomplished?
• How often do I remember to find joy in my day?

on a mission
this morning

no time
for dawdling
or screwups

cut to
the chase
and stick
to the plan



until a
thin whisp
of something
or someone

makes me
ask who
the orders

what will
if they're

joy or
a blessing?

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