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Peace During Flight-time

Indira Ganesan, Afternoon over Bay, 2013

Indira Ganesan, Afternoon over Bay, 2013

It begins with my car whose battery light keeps flashing even though the battery and alternator are fine. So take a plane to teach, because the only bus to Boston gets me there ten minutes after my first class begins. I  plan to take the bus back.  I arrive at the station, and get in line, with fifteen minutes before my bus departs.  I wait  for one slow transaction to end, try to quickly to get a ticket, try being important, run, and find the bus departed two minutes earlier.  The only bus to my destination.  Maybe the next bus driver will drive you there, the ticket seller suggests when I return. I calculated the chances of a bus driver driving an hour and a half out of her way, three hours total, called the bus station to make sure, and decided to catch the last plane to my destination.

From the bus terminal, I went my favorite cafe, where after telling the story, I was rewarded with a coconut macaroon on the house.  This is why this is my favorite cafe.

And why I love to fly.

Taking the little plane to the Cape from Boston is the height of a certain kind of luxury.  I have been taking this flight so long, I wind up running into friends.  At the end of the flight, the pilot says thank you, and we say thank you back.  We are all in it together.  Twenty minutes over the bay, looking for whales or dolphins, sometimes falling asleep, despite the noise of the propellers.   Just when you feel ready for the trip to end, which given your attention span these days, is truly ridiculous, you sight land.

This is peace during flight-time.  privileged peace, to be certain, but peace.

An examination of war in domestic plane travel

Indira Ganesan, New Hampire Dawn, 2013

Indira Ganesan, New Hampire Dawn, 2013

It began on a plane, but it might have begun at the security, when I was too slow to unshed for the inspection, and a guard scolded me roundly for selfishly holding up the line.  In my defense, I was waiting for the person ahead of me to finish, but I took three baskets from a nearly empty pile, and to be truthful, one basket too many to hold my coat, my shoes, my purse, my scarf, my sweater, my book/laptop bag, and the person behind me readied their basket to begin unloading before I had begun.  One should in Newark, have everything ready to go yesterday. One should remember, even if one had been up at four am, that people didn’t sleep at all and had flights to catch earlier than mine.  I had allowed an hour, and checked my big bag earlier, and was offended.

I boarded the plane, greeted the cheerful stewards with a big smile, and looked for my seat, 4D, window.  A man held up the line while rearranging the contents of a bin to fit in his roll-on.  A good feat of engineering, but also creating no allowance for my book bag.  This was my seat companion.  I sat down, tucked both of my bags under the seat, and unbuttoned my winter coat when the arm rest separating us was forcibly slammed down, with a “Thank you,” hitting me in my thigh, trapping my coat, my seatbelt and coat, and leaving me, once again, quickly offended.  I slipped the seatbelt over my coat on armrest side, under the coat window side, and proceeded to enjoy the view outside, while claiming half of the armrest deliberately.

“Can you move your coat?” asked my neighbor when we were taking off or having just taken off.

Here was the turning pont.  I could have quietly acquiesced, and readjusted.  Instead I replied curtly, saying, “You did not give me time to adjust.”

I proceeded to raise the armrest dramatically, unbuckling my seatbelt, removing my coat, rolling it up and –damn, my scarf had been in his seat as well– and placing them both under my seat, joining my two small bags.

“Take your time,” he said, possibly horrified a brown-skinned plane passenger displayed anger of her own.

I could have backed down at this point. I could have apologized.  I could have let him have his armrest.

It was a 43 minute flight.

The dawn appeared, spectacularly.  Other window seaters began to take photographs, and I did as well, enjoying an incredible expanse of dawn sky, orange sun, and below, islands making up New Hampshire.  I pulled out my notebook to write. Later, I pulled out my work, and became absorbed.

“Could you shut the window shade?” he asked.

I turned slowly to look at him, silently, both astonished and offended.

Without waiting, he reached over and violently slammed down the window shade.  I felt a true flicker of fear in my belly as he did.

I became very still and continued with my work.  But I am a fighter.  Three times offended and really, I should have gracefully admitted defeat in this game of human vs. human and withdrawn.  But I was at a window seat with a spectacular dawn occurring, on the last legs of a twelve day mostly business trip, and I would not be silenced.

“Can I just open it a crack, without the light shining on your eyes, please?” I asked.

“If it doesn’t hit my eyes.”

“Is this okay?” I asked, opening the shade three inches.

“Amazing,” he replied with generous sarcasm.

I looked out the window at a still-beautiful view.

Finally, trip over, and I waited until he was safely off the plane before I began to gather my things.

Expecting a common look of sympathy from the stewards, I found them smiling tightly, arms crossed.

This is when I realized that what I had indulged in was shameful.  My tug of war, which had no need for me to participate, involved innocent bystanders.  I had participated in a war that was meaningless, a waste of energy.  In the taxi to work, tears sprinkled as they must.  I remembered my yoga teacher who I hardly have the right to address as such, given my lack of practice,  remarking, after watching kids shrieking and tussling at a party, “It will end in tears.”  All such skirmishes must.

I tried tell the story twice verbally, and once on paper.  This is my fourth attempt.

The ending came much later when I cleared my purse last night.  My seat number was not 4D at all, but 3D.

I had literally sat in the wrong seat.

Because smilla’s sense of snow was so good

I woke to clumps of snow clinging to the tree branches. I am in Boston, and I know I am in Boston because the snow-blower began as soon as I made my first cup of coffee. I have been listening to live streams of poetry and sweet fiction and -non all day, and I had to come home and settle down with a grilled cheese sandwich. I bought the German thin sliced raw spelt bread, instead of the brioche loaf I eyed at first, thinking to be healthy. Yes, this is a post on bread and cheese. I wish I had pickles, east or west, to go with it, but I added tomato, and thought very hard about adding baby kale leaves, but opted not to. Of course I wondered if I should have by the second half. This is still a post about making a sandwich, though not as eloquent as eating oatmeal with Keats (see Kinnell, G.) I wanted to write about Smilla( see Hoeg, P.) and the rattle of the snow removal, but twelve and more hours have passed. I have heard the brilliance of Jeanette Winterson twice, which leaves me exhilarated and lonely, too, because she spoke of the simplicity of if having decided to admit one must write, one then shapes a life to fit around that notion. I heard a praise song to Muriel Rukeyser in this day of International women’s Day. I met new friends, and I went home, and made a grilled cheese sandwich. Writing can be the very stuff if not staff of life, even if one writes about toast(see Slater, N.)



March, Mud, Madness

Indira Ganesan, June Geese, 2012

Indira Ganesan, June Geese, 2012

Actually, there is no madness.  For the past week, the wetlands behind my yard have transformed into a pond, and two families, one of geese, one of ducks, have found their home there.  The horses graze in the narrow fields left to them, but it is the waterfowl that take precedence.  How regal the Canadian geese look, dipping their long necks to sip water, while the ducks spend time with their tail feathers on display, washing or splashing for fun.  I have been felled with yet another flu bug that my first- time- ever flu shot did not ward off (apparently, this year was an off-year for prevention) and my flu lingers.  Endless cups of tea, endless boxes of tissues.  But there are good things, like the geese and ducks, and my book, swimming along.  If you get a copy of this week’s People Magazine, the one with the headline Wedding Countdown, there is my book, featured as a pick!

The book I should be cooking from, Plenty by Yotam Ottolenghi, as well as Super Natural Everyday by Heidi Swanson, which I received as a thank you present from Brookline Booksmith!

Indira Ganesan, Plenty, 2013

Indira Ganesan, Plenty, 2013


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