Be Where You Are!

Having traveled mostly on my own for 34 years you would think I would have it down. But I don’t. Certainly not since 9/11. I did better before the World Trade Center came crashing down and changed our lives forever, especially our traveling life.

I can remember driving up to the airport in Toledo, O, and saying “hi” to the porter whom I knew by name. I would follow him into the building toward the desk, where, after handing my ticket to the agent, “Mrs. Stranahan” would be headed toward her plane.

When I moved to Long Island most of my departures were from New York, and, although there were thousands more people and longer lines, the moves were essentially the same: Check in: go to gate. No long roped queues; no removal of clothes, no X ray machines, no plastic bins. We just got on the plane. It’s a memory I want to hang on to. I don’t much care about remembering how life was before television—we didn’t miss it; we had radio--or automatic gear shifting or push-button car windows. I do want to remember how life was when I walked alone into an airport, full of easy, relaxed confidence and  excitement about flying somewhere.

 Nowadays when the driver drops me off at JFK, I turn toward the multi-entranced building with a kind of dread. I have a feeling of abandonment, severe disconnect, as if I were suddenly unplugged from home base and left dangling. A sense of jeopardy, like a grey fog, wraps itself around me.

In defense against this debilitating vulnerability, I pull way into myself. I realize how strange that sounds but it’s true. Entering the bustling, teeming building, I tuck so far inside myself--exactly the way a snail pulls into its shell when you poke at it--that I end up feeling numb, shadow-like, not quite real. It is in this numbed-out, not-there state that I maneuver myself through the layers of roped queues.

A year ago, on a trip I made from JFK to Florida, standing in the line, I had dropped sufficiently into my blurred-out condition that I failed to notice a security man signaling to me to come to his station. The woman behind me gave me a nudge and I moved forward toward his waving hand. I stopped in front of him and handed him my passport, something I find easier to deal with than my driver’s license.

He was African American and well into his sixties. Glasses worn slightly down his nose, a greying mustache. He opened my passport, looked at it, then looked up at me—as they do to see if you really are you—and looked down again.

“Cecily,” he said, looking up again right into my eyes and smiling, “We don’t get many of those.”

 He had seen me? He had said my name? 

The fog around me lifted as if a fresh spring breeze had blown through the airport. Suddenly I was awake. The TSA officer had catapulted me into what the Buddhists call, “the pure land of the present moment.”  Grateful, I smiled back at him, looking straight into his twinkling brown eyes.

“Wake up!” My Buddhist teacher used to shout. “Be where you are!”


Speaking of Being Here Now, on Saturday night I was totally in the present moment at the Klein Memorial Auditorium, held, in fact, in thrall by the Greater Bridgeport Symphony and its brilliant and completely engaging new Musical Director and Conductor, Eric Jacobsen. I have seen Jacobsen conduct before when he led The Knights, a group that the New York Times described as a  “consistently inventive, infectiously engaged indie ensemble.” 

I wasn't going to miss Jacobsen's debut with the Greater Bridgeport Symphony and I was thrilled. Jacobsen demanded much from the musicians in particular in the playing of Rimsky-Korsakov’s, Scheherazade, and they gave him everything that he asked for. At the close of the concert the audience was on its feet cheering.

If you are dreading the drear of the long winter, may I suggest that you open your life up to some music magic and click on this link, to purchase tickets for the remaining concerts of the season. I promise that you will not be disappointed.

Written by Cecily Stranahan, our companion on this journey of reflection and self-discovery. Visit Cecily's Blog at