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Wednesday, May 16, 2012

Ripples and Repercussions

Saturday evening I was heading north on the Silver Star, a passenger train crammed with a mishmash of adventurous souls traveling over the Mother’s Day Weekend. It was surprising to me how crowded the train was. I assumed that half the passengers were suffering from aviophobia, while the rest were either eager train enthusiasts visiting the Tampa station to celebrate their 100-year anniversary, (which I totally enjoyed) or those whose budgets couldn’t handle the price of airfare. For me it was a combination of two: plus the thrill of being lost in a tangle of strangers, experiencing a certain freedom reserved only for the anonymous.

The train car rattled over the tracks, beating out a rickety rhythm, rocking me to sleep, next to my hushed seatmate, who just that afternoon was still a complete stranger to me—a face with no story, just an extra in my life-movie. But after being sequestered together to a space no larger than a coat closet for fifteen hours, a sort of forced intimacy occurred, bonding this writer to a retired New York City cop with a prickly persona and a heart the size of humanity.

I’m a people watcher; I get my cues and clues watching how people speak to, and about, one another. My defenses rise like steely porcupine needles when I see things that I don’t like: negativity, prejudice, hatefulness, pettiness; all these traits cause me to withdraw into my silent shell—protecting all my soft spots.

Warren was easy for me to read. Initially I could tell that, like myself, he had already withdrawn into his shell; although due to sheer necessity his vulnerable neck and head were poking out, looking around for his seat. His voice was set to “gruff” warning others not to screw with him, stashing his fleshy heart, warm with blood and kindness, safely away within his own shell.

Perhaps it was fate that had decided that Warren and I should meet, although I did kind of initiate things. At first he was behind me looking a bit confused over the seat numbers, but then I invited him to sit beside me, figuring he looked harmless enough. It’s a crapshoot on the train, and the last thing I wanted was to be seated next to Mr. Stinky or Mrs. Crabapple.

We sat politely side by side, both of us taking turns sharing our stories. Two chatterboxes who also happened to be good listeners, creating a give and take as rewarding as an exchange between a kid and an ice cream truck on a blistering August afternoon.

The more we chatted the more I liked him. He spoke with a disarming honesty about himself, and the lessons and rewards he had gleaned from life’s experiences. He expressed immense gratitude for his family—his incredible wife who loved and understood him, and a treasured daughter, smart and beautiful, as he stated, “his best contribution to society.”

We decided to have dinner in the dining car. I guess on trains space is pretty limited because we found ourselves sitting across from an austere looking couple, straight-laced diners, possessing a no-nonsense air about them—Mr. & Mrs. Behave Yourself. Of course at this point Warren and I had sped beyond common niceties and splashed headlong into puddles of silliness. We were like a couple of slap stick comedians sitting at a properly set table, stuffing our nervous giggles beneath our linen napkins, desperately searching for our adult faces—and our table manners.

Watching Warren adjust himself to this couple was like watching the destruction of the Hoover Dam—first the cracks (wine was involved in this stage) then the leaks (humor) and then the flood. No filter “be yourself and screw them” Warren was in full form, and I, being a proper lady, followed his lead until Mr. & Mrs. Behave Yourself morphed into Mr. & Mrs. Life Can Be Fun, and the four of us sat laughing and talking until the waiter poured our drinks into “to go” cups, and shooed us out of the dining car for closing.

We said goodbye to our new friends, who now sported “yes” faces for the entire world to admire, and then we found our seats.

We sat and talked about how alike we were and how much pleasure we found in cracking up Mr. & Mrs. Behave Yourself. We theorized that fate had accidentally thrown the two of us together, causing a rift in the time continuum, thus allowing us to see beyond the cosmic curtain for a brief moment. We saw that we were secret agents from the other side, strategically placed on earth as crust busters for those who take themselves, and life, way too seriously. We had the same life-tasks and the two of us together were—well, pretty efficient, but perhaps a bit much for one small train.

Eventually we nodded off, our heads silently bobbing in sync with the bumps, as we passed the dimly lit hubs of sleepy unknown towns, their soft yellow lights glowing on yesterdays fashions, mom and pop eateries, and neighborhood thrift stores.

My reasons for traveling north were as varied as my thoughts, a little business—a bit of pleasure, but mostly because I felt an unction drawing me northward. I had to go and find out what life had to say to me.

I had never met Warren before, but by the time my trip was over I felt we had become sure friends, and that our meeting was a sort of divine appointment, the repercussions of which will ripple to the corners of the world touching unknown hearts—forever.

It’s an exciting thing to follow your heart—opening yourself up to an innumerable amount of unknown possibilities, and betting on yourself to find what it is that you need. This trip has provided for me a sparkling opportunity, thus wiping my slate clean in order to write something fresh—creating for myself a new chapter as a woman, author—and friend to Warren.

I’ll keep you posted on my discoveries as I walk, with eyes wide open, into the vivid blue of each Tarheel day. Life is good. Tough. But good.

36 comments:

Martha J. M. Orlando said...

Oh, Leah, once again your words have captured my imagination, touched my heart, blessed my soul. You made me feel as though I was right there on the train, sharing laughs and wine with Warren (by the way, my son's middle name given in remembrance of my friend, Warren, who passed away at an untimely 35), and convincing Mr. and Mrs. Behave Yourself that life, and living it to the fullest, can be such marvelous fun!
Now, you have convinced me that I need to bump up your book before some others to read. I'm sure it will be as delightful and rich and flavorful as the most decadent dessert and just as memorable.
You are such a blessing, my friend. May our God of love and serendipity bless you!

Cheryl said...

Yes, your writing is so spot on that it places us aboard the train with you. What a gift you have that you can read people, draw them out, and create a bond with those that were total strangers just minutes before. Actually, a double blessing that you can write so beautifully and share it with us.

Leah Griffith said...

Martha, you are so sweet. I love that you were transported—on that train meeting wonderful Warren.

I'm looking forward to you reading my novel. It's a work of heart for sure.

God of love and serendipity...I love that. Thank you for gracing my blog with your sweet spirit. It's always a joy to find you here.
xoxo

Leah Griffith said...

My dear friend Cheryl,
Thank you for coming here to read and allowing me to take you places. I get so much joy from writing...
Sending a big hug to you Cheryl.

The Loerzels said...

It's amazing how a train ride can change us, and how reading your beautiful account of it makes me happy. I think you changed the course of my day. I think it's the ripple effect...

Chris said...

This was so much fun to read. I crossed my arms in my comfy sweatshirt and leaned back as the carriage wheels took me up, up and away northward with you.

There was confidence in who you are and contentment with yourself in this post. There was anticipation and something jittery, too. And a certain heaviness. I hope you find what you're looking for, because you deserve it. I look forward to talking to you soon ;)

Susan Deborah said...

First off: Loved the details.
Leah, coming here after a long time and what a treat you had for me. I enjoy watching people as well but don't know whether I can describe it half as well as you. The whole episode unwrapped in front of me and I was there on that train.

Lots of love.

Joy always,
Susan

Karen Wojcik Berner said...

Isn't great when you meet complete strangers who, in a very short time, become friends? I really enjoyed reading about Warren and your train adventure.

Leah Griffith said...

Marie, I love the ripple effect when it carries goodies to every shore. You must be near the time to leave Morocco and return to beautiful Colorado with her curvy mountains and clean-cut neighborhoods. I'm glad that you're coming back. It will be fun reading about your adjustments and new adventures;)

Leah Griffith said...

Chris, I am a cocktail of so many emotions. Hmm...if I were a cocktail what would I name myself? I got it, the mind-bender! LOL!
I can't wait to talk to you. It's been way too long and so much has happened since our last talk. Soon my dear.
xoxox

Leah Griffith said...

Susan, I'm glad you enjoyed the train ride. LOL!! I have sort of fallen in love with traveling by train. Of course the best way to do it is alone. One can create any story they like when they're a stranger and with nobody around to question it;)
Thanks for stopping by sweet Susan. It's good to see you.

Corinne Rodrigues said...

It's been ages since I took that kind of train ride, Leah. I used to love to chat up strangers and connect in this way. In recent years, I've been more guarded in making new friends...Your post is a great reminder for me to go out and find my Warrens. Thanks for the inspiration ♥

Rimly Bezbarua said...

That was some journey, Leah. Everything happens for a reason, and I am sure your meeting with warren was just that happening. Who knows how this meeting affects you in your journey.

http://rimlybezbaruah.blogspot.in/2012/05/my-salvation.html

Irene @ Inspiration From The Little Things said...

Wow Leah, I'm amazed by the kind of bond you were able to establish with Warren at such a short time you were together! I enjoyed the train ride with you, Warren, and Mr and Mrs Behave yourself!

Take care and God bless! <3 :-)

janaki nagaraj said...

There was a time when I used to travel for 40 hrs from my home town to the place where me and my husband stayed...have wonderful memories of meeting many people...who were there for a reason and a very brief time. You brought back memories. Lovely.

Mary Hudak-Collins said...

I have never been on a train, but your story took me for my first ride of my life. I felt that I was riding right along with you and having a wonderful time. Thank you for sharing!

Jessica said...

This was such a great post to read! What a memorable, warm and totally unexpected encounter! One of the best kinds indeed. I loved reading about your experience. Thank you!

Dangerous Linda said...

Hi, Leah! ~

Such a delightful post!

I love the train. I took my son's on a 3 week cross-country train trip many years ago and you brought back all my favorite memories!!!

My favorite part is this: "It’s an exciting thing to follow your heart—opening yourself up to an innumerable amount of unknown possibilities, and betting on yourself to find what it is that you need. This trip has provided for me a sparkling opportunity, thus wiping my slate clean in order to write something fresh—creating for myself a new chapter as a woman, author—and friend to Warren."

Reminds me of my recent little road-trip to Duluth. I hope your trip is as refreshing and inspiring as mine was -- I feel confident that it will be! XOXO

Nikky44 said...

I'm usually not comfortable talking to strangers, but I loved your experience!

Leah Griffith said...

Corinne, I'm always cautious but also aware of those little promptings to spark a conversation. Up until last year I hadn't ridden on a train. Now I really enjoy it and maybe some day I'll take one of those fancy trains, the kind with woodwork, and sleeping cars, and head out to some place scenic...and really live it up.
Hugs sweet Corinne.

Leah Griffith said...

Rimly, you are so right. I just feel by meeting him that he has enriched my life. Our paths crisscross with so many souls. It's nice to take the time out to meet them.
I'm heading your way to read your lastest offering.
Love!

Leah Griffith said...

Sweet Irene, thank you for stopping by. I was surprised too. I don't usually feel such a connection so quickly, but it was more of a spiritual thing. I could tell that he conducted his life in a similar fashion as I do. I don't know that we'll ever see each other again, and that's alright. We are however connected on FB. So I see lots of meaningful chats in the future.
xoxo

Leah Griffith said...

Janaki, I love meeting people. There is only one thing that will last forever and that is the love that we give and receive from other souls. Meeting new people is a lot like traveling to new places. There is so much to discover and you never know what sort of treasure you might find. Glad you enjoyed the post Janaki.
Hugs!

Leah Griffith said...

Mary, I encourage you to treat yourself to a train ride. There is something quite soulful about the experience. So glad you came along on my little journey. Perhaps it will encourage you to buy that ticket;)
xoxo

Leah Griffith said...

Jessica, like you, I almost have to write about this stuff. It is after all what life is made up of...small details, smiles, smells, impressions...they all gang up on us and create stories for us to live out—and pen.
I don't know what I'd do without my writing.
Hugs to you sweet Jessica,
Leah

Leah Griffith said...

Linda, I love the image of you traveling with your children for three weeks on a train. They have an amazing mom and I bet they are amazing partly because of all the interesting things you have exposed them to.

I'm wide open to all that life has to show me. It's both exciting and a bit sobering;) Pushing forward, seeing the truth, applying said truth...yes. This is an interesting chapter in my life.

I hope to match Duluth! LOL!
Love!

Leah Griffith said...

Nikky, it is a crapshoot when you talk to strangers and I wouldn't recommend it if you are not comfortable with it. For me, it just seems to be a part of my nature. I can't help myself! LOL!! I'm just glad that it usually works out fine for me.

Jayne said...

"We saw that we were secret agents from the other side, strategically placed on earth as crust busters for those who take themselves, and life, way too seriously."

Heh heh heh! Leah! Oh I loved this, and I have to say, er, admit, I'm a little bit jealous of Warren! Especially, yes especially since I've had the pleasure of dining and chatting with you, and know, absolutely, there can be no better partner in crime than you, dear Leah.

That Warren's a lucky guy. And on a train, no less! (My favorite mode of transport.) What an adventure!

Following one's heart never disappoints. ;)

Leah Griffith said...

Karen, it was a sweet adventure—great fun and a fabulous memory!

Leah Griffith said...

Jayne, I believe you are correct...following one's heart never disappoints...it's a daring endeavor, but how sad to leave such journeys unchallenged.

You and me on a train would put a bit fat smile on my face;)

melissa said...

It's so vivid! It's almost like being there and having a trip myself... I'm not sure why, but of all the beautiful things you've written, I was so drawn with the 'divine appointment.' :P

Loved it!

Anonymous said...

Leah, That was a great true story & written so well. I don't know you but...I feel as if I do now. Funny thing is I know Warren !! He is a kind and gentle soul & has a truly amazing family. It's amazing to me the quiet man you sat with on the train had seen so many of the worlds ugliest ups & downs of people through out his life in his career as a police officer. It's a shame the train ride ended only after 15 hours !! The crapshoot you took talking to a stranger was well worth it !! I am blessed to have Warren as a friend in my life & blessed to have read such a beautiful story that made me laugh every single line written ;-) I am still laughing & I will pass this story along. Happy Trails !!

Anonymous said...

Leah, That was a great true story & written so well. I don't know you but...I feel as if I do now. Funny thing is I know Warren !! He is a kind and gentle soul & has a truly amazing family. It's amazing to me the quiet man you sat with on the train had seen so many of the worlds ugliest ups & downs of people through out his life in his career as a police officer. It's a shame the train ride ended only after 15 hours !! The crapshoot you took talking to a stranger was well worth it !! I am blessed to have Warren as a friend in my life & blessed to have read such a beautiful story that made me laugh every single line written ;-) I am still laughing & I will pass this story along. Happy Trails !!

Leah Griffith said...

Dear Anonymous, I don't know your name, but I'm thrilled that you stopped by and shared your heart about Warren. I was so blessed to have spent that time with him. We really had fun and also engaged in some deeply philosophical conversations. He's an amazing soul. I hope to someday bump into him again, but even if I don't, I shall never forget Warren;)
My best to you Warren's friend!

Anonymous said...

Hi Leah, My name is Patty I'm from New York but I'm not good w/ computers so I signed my name anonymous re: Warren .... I'm glad to have stopped by your story & I passed it along to all my friends !! You are also an amazing soul, you have the ability to talk to people even for a short while & write beautifully. I had to read the story again & i am still chucking to myself ! LOL - All the best to you always !! Patty (Anonymous) I still can't figure out the Computer

Leah Griffith said...

Patty, you did a fine job posting here. It seems your computer skills are improving! Thank you so much for taking the time to figure it out and for your kind words. I hope you find your way back here again;)
My best!!
Leah

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