A Conversation at 400 Miles per Hour

Luke and I went to Seattle and got lost every day.  When we were trying to find a movie theater, we asked a Seattlian for directions, who said: "This city is laid out like someone got a few wads of spaghetti and threw them down in different directions."

That was the night we didn't get to see a movie because we drove for an hour and never found the theater on so-called 7th.  That was after we went to the wrong theater at the wrong time and before we got lost looking for one of 300 sushi restaurants we also couldn't find.  That was after we talked so long and saw so many boats and bars we forgot to care about the whole being lost thing.

Everyone we asked for directions looked both ways with their mouths open and then produced stand-in answers for their real one, which should have been: I have no idea how you get there because no one knows how to get anywhere here.  But I'll give Seattle this: everyone there seemed to be moving.

I was impressed with the angles of houses and churches on streets so steep I didn't think our rented Suzuki SUV could climb up them.  Also of note: delicious authentic Mexican food being heaped on hot plates by quick-as-lightning mole'-making women (at the only place we could consistently find), impressive houseboats alight with dinner and candles when we finally found them our last night in town, and more jumbled up diversity in general than I had expected.

Between the twinkling of Puget Sound and the shore we finally found for an afternoon of local cheese and Belgian beer at Lake Washington, we kept making our way back into low-income neighborhoods or Chinatown, and I kept staring at the different-colored masses of people all making their lives work on crowded streets and fishy markets.

When I got home last night, I was attempting to move my body for an hour, very slowly, very tiredly, and listening to this podcast on the faith of Rumi, a 13th century Muslim poet, who believed that humans should be in motion all the time, even if we don't know where we are going, because everything earthly is quickened and spinning with love and beauty.  His quest was to find "a way to stay centered while moving."

I met a couple on the plane back to Denver who were celebrating their 60th anniversary on an Alaskan cruise, and the wife, with skin above her eyes like a brown paper bag, said:

"We just moved back to Wichita from Colorado because it's where all our kids and their kids live."

"Do you miss Colorado?"  I asked her.

"No," she said.  "Not a bit.  We're still moving all the time even though our bodies are slower.  The best decision we ever made was to move back to the people we love."

I showed her a manuscript about thrift stores I've been editing for my class and we talked about how people today seem less willing to give and more willing to take. I wondered if that's true.  I was thinking about the poetry between strangers on planes and how much I don't know about growing old.  We exchanged impressed glances while her husband finished a gigantic sudoku, and she agreed that games involving numbers are like torture to people who love words.

I wondered what "giving" is, and if talking can be it.