The Road Goes Ever Ever on, Even to Ossining

For a moment, I forgot what city I was in.

If you have ever been in New York City, you know how absurd it would be to not remember you are in New York City.  Too many places and faces in too short of a time was, obviously, taxing my brain.

The main purpose of my journey is to connect and to talk about connecting through sharing our stories, whether starting with A Man Without Words or The Boy Who Cried Wolf or the new story we are creating simply by being together and sharing. I now have far too many stories to write about.  If I wrote more, then I would have less time to share with others, making new stories – another balancing act while traveling through life.

Traveling is no different from living anywhere.  It’s just more concentrated. With a slower and more routine day, made up of mostly our well worn habits, I can process more easily the new places, faces, and stories.  I have time to reflect, categorize and file, then go to sleep and start a new day with mostly habits, and just a few new stories. Often, however, my habits prevent me from seeing, meeting and creating anything new.  It is easy to lull myself into the feeling of living a full life when I am mostly going through the motions on automatic pilot.

Traveling wakes me up.  I try to have my same old habits, but I can’t find anything or have to ask where something is that I need to get on with the habit. Or, I have to change – ouch!  Meeting new streets, transportation systems, houses, and all the new faces attached to different ways of looking, expressing and being does tax the brain.  I am forced to think and be open enough to learn in order to live through the day without getting lost, going hungry, and doing something besides avoiding getting lost and being hungry.  I am forced to live with my eyes, mind and heart open; I cannot rely on autopilot thinking or non-thinking.

In Berkeley, I know so many people.  Some of those people I have known for years and years. The difficulty – almost an impossibility – is to see a familiar face without all the assumptions accumulated through those years.  I change everyday.  I certainly have changed from year to year.  How could I assume to know the person across the table from me just because I recognize that face which looks almost the same as the one I saw across from me eleven years ago?  It is so much easier to follow the habit of assuming I know someone or something than it is to have an open mind and an open heart (e.g., being tolerant of someone having the nerve to change and make me think afresh).

One of the rude awakenings is having to learn just how to be in Chicago, just walking down the street or asking someone how to find the purple line, as opposed to how “we” do it in Berkeley (you know, the right way, and without purple lines). I actually have to be alert and open enough to learn new ways of acting in public (it was hard enough the first time). Chicago was not too difficult, but then this Western American found herself on the streets of Boston. This is where habits can be dangerous.  Walking out onto the street my first morning, looking for a nice cup of habit, I was operating on autopilot, behaving as if in Berkeley.  “Good morning,” I said with a smile, looking the unsuspecting Bostonian in his eyes.  The immediate tension in his body and eyes darting away from me as quickly as possible, after the initial glare at my offensive behavior, was a clue that I was no longer in Berkeley.  Just to be sure (after all, I hadn’t yet had my coffee), I experimented with simply eye contact with passersby, and a slight head nod of acknowledgement of passing a fellow human. After the third “who-do-you-think-you-are?” or the British “what-do-you-think-you’re-playing-at?” look, I, fortunately, spied a Café where it appeared they were exchanging money for cups of coffee in a somewhat familiar manner.  I hurried past the next two people with my eyes clearly on my destination.

I soon left Boston for New York City where I learned that it wouldn’t have mattered if I had sang, “Good morning” while staring at someone with a big grin only inches away.  My existence was not actually acknowledged in that constant stream of millions.  Also, it was too noisy to say or hear anything most of the time. It is perhaps the noise that turned off my brain for the moment when I forgot what city I was in.

Traveling, like life, is a challenging balancing act.  After feeling a bit traumatized by Boston and New York, I have been a recluse in a Takoma Park home of a dear and generous friend.  I have befriended three cats who act very much like Berkeley cats, offering respite from learning new behaviors.  I did venture out, yesterday, and bravely sat out in public scribbling some notes, reminding myself to work the name “Ossining” into my next blog post.  To my surprise, everyone who passed greeted me with a bright “good morning” along with a sweet smile.

I have no idea who they think they are.

 

 

 

 

Hospitality and Reality

The original Latin ancestor of “hospitality” referred to both host and guest. Our  French cousin (cognate), I understand (please tell me if I am wrong,) still includes both.  Recently, I read an inspiring description of “hospitality.”  First, however, I would like to thank my most recent hosts for their kind and generous hospitality (in chronological order from most recent). Thank you to:

1 – the Amtrak train conductor who performed his task with a warm smile, conducting more than a mere ticket scanning operation;

2 – Christine ______, a hard-working educator/ interpreter/community member who missed much of my workshop in Syracuse, yesterday, and asked me to breakfast to discuss our respective projects.  She graciously shared of herself, bought me breakfast and took me to the train station;

3 – Wendy, an innkeeper extraordinaire, who spoiled me with warmth, attention, beauty (a happy CROWD of African violets greeting me in many colors for breakfast, for example ), comfort, two needed long nights of sleep, well-presented (more beauty) homemade, nutritious and plentiful food, and the stories of her vicarious travels via her guests;

4 – Wendy, again, for being so hospitable, she reminded me of my recent inspiration and gets credit for this blog post idea;

5 – Caroline, Robert and Catherine, who invited and took me to an entertaining, nutritious and over abundant dinner (will also be my lunch on the train), and shared their stories and one night of their lives with me.  I learned much about Syracuse, rural area nearby where they grew up, and all the horrid train accidents in the country, many caused from negligence. Thank you, Robert, for increasing my gratitude for every train I am on that is also carrying a responsible and vigilant crew working to arrive safely at our next stop. I am now celebrating my many, many safe train trips;

6 – Caroline, again, for taking me to my temporary home at Wendy’s Wellington Bed and Breakfast, allowing me to use the cab fare to buy another book/DVD set for the next teacher or parent;

7 – Tina G.’s generous gift to support Signs of Literacy. All gifts help me to continue to continue to go where ever I am invited to share whatever support I can give as a gift to teachers, schools, parents or community projects without money having to be the driving force or play more than a minor role in transactions.  All gifts go to the two projects of Trillium, a 501c3, emphasizing community building through sharing our stories to support each other to grow, educationally, and in hospitality (description soon to come); [If you would like to support Signs of Literacy and/or Signs of Life, push that "donation" button on the left or send a check to 1442A Walnut St. #139, Berkeley, Ca 94709 or write me - susan (at) susanschaller.com - to contribute as a guest blogger or set up a living room or community event];

8 – Tina G., again, for beginning the conversation, leading to the invitation;

9 – Tina G., Lisa, Kim, Caroline, Chris, Lyndsi, et al. who participated in the Solvay High School Teacher Training, introducing me to a dedicated and perseverant  team who know what teaching and community building is all about.  I know they taught me; I hoped I gave them something;

10 – Barbara B. who officially invited me, and helped organize the event;

11- Amtrak, my new host and “landlord” and office.  I gave up my room in Berkeley (fear not, my postal address above will forward your gifts to help continue renting my “office” and connection to the next invitation, if you prefer giving by check over supporting pay pal).  Simplifying my life and exercising frugality allows me to stretch dollars and emphasize community building over individual unhealthy consumerism;

12 – the countless persons who have helped me along the way and gave me strength and inspiration to launch myself on this journey without a visible end, and the practice of the gift economy; thank you all, even though I cannot name you all here;

13 – the CoS, Conspiracy of Sharing, who gave me the chance to practice and benefit from the gift and sharing economy, laughter and hugs, support, ideas, exploration and courage, for putting up with me and my weaknesses, and especially, for inviting an old lady into their very young community – my gratitude runneth over; [Long live the CoS !] and,

14 – honorable mention to my first two post-CoS hosts – Linda of Omaha, and Stephen the Brave of Evanston;

Thank you, everyone, for your generosity, and being the tremendous examples of hospitality, which has been described as (trumpets and drums and hand-waving. please):

The creation of an empty and safe place where we can explore our gifts to share.

May we all grow in our hospitality, whether guest or host, whether on a train, bus or traveling through our day, and thereby grow more into who we are meant to be.

And, a final note of appreciation to anyone who read this far, and ahead of time for any who comment or write me via this web site, and/or invite me to their living room for a screening of A Man Without Words or The Boy Who Cried Wolf (I must write my unfinished “Goldilocks” book to get my “ying- yang” balanced).

Let me know your thoughts, suggestions, ideas and feedback (including typos or inaccuracies).

For more hospitality and sharing stories,

Susan

Quick update

I am now in Evanston, Illinois, until May 3rd when I catch a train to New York.  I am scheduled to return to Chicago on May 11th and, again, on May 21st.  I am taking the train whenever I can, so I will be through hubs like Chicago and New York City quite frequently on this trip with no visible destination.  I will show up where invited for either Signs of Literacy – how multilingual story telling can revolutionize education – or Signs of Life – exploring the making of a full length documentary via book talks and the short documentary, A Man Without Words.  If you or any of your “hub” friends, would like to host a film screening or a demonstration of multilingual story telling, write me.

 

The Zephyr Blew me from SF Bay Area to Omaha, NE.

Just off the train, after two days and two nights.  Soon off to Chicago, then Syracuse, New York, to give books and DVDs and lesson plan ideas to a public school program teaching language and Englsih skills to deaf refugees with little or no language.

If you would like to support this effort, give a gift of any amount, on the left for books, DVDs and materials to give to the Syracuse project.  Contact me, if you want  A Man Without Words DVD (see below).  Write me, also, with any questions or ideas, as explore new ways of building community.

The day before I left, I was still giving books/DVDs to teachers who needed them – the movement will continue, one teacher, one parent, and one book/DVD set, at a time.

Thank you.  More, after I shower (very important for more interesting posts).