August 16, 2010- The Last Day: Part Two-Lunch

Kate Murr

To report our lunch experience at the Blue Scorcher is to recognize something full and hallowed. On a busy day of doing for the finishing of our adventure, this pause of being (dare I say) transcended the finishing and caused me pause then as it does now. Lunchtime was a huge gift.

Hope and Annie asked us our story when we sat down at the table next to them. We were wearing our vests and removing our helmets, after all, and the kids had run off to the play corner to dinosaur wars, muffin making, and dress-up. We told them ours and asked them theirs and learned they were healers, massage therapists. Annie had been practicing in Astoria since 1979, the year I was born. Hope had not been practicing that long, and she watched Annie, her mentor, with deep sparkle and marked reverence.

On one of my attempts to exhale and relish my gorgeous plate of food, Annie offered to rub my shoulders. Hope offered to massage Stuart. We accepted heartily, sloughed our safety vests, and attempted to sit in semi-relaxed positions at the restaurant table while the Mermaid Chef Princess and Scuba Diver Dinosaur Prince intermittently granting us brief audiences.

We may have blissed out for a few minutes. Annie “oohed” compassionately more than once at the rows of knots along my spine, and I told her she was finding exactly all the sore spots. She laughed and said, “Of course. I have a body, too.”

Her thin body was extremely strong, it turned out, and as she massaged me, she also expertly used it to greet friends when they came into the restaurant. She had a way of intimately greeting people with her eyes, with the extension of her cheek for friendly kisses, with her smile.  The Astoria cross country-coach bounded in on sinewy calves, cracked a joke and gleefully kissed her cheek as she paid special attention to my neck and shoulder muscles, especially the muscles at the base of my skull.

I started to melt and relax as Annie worked and noticed how everyone seemed especially glad to see her. Hope was taking excellent care of Stuart, and when I popped up from my seat to chase Brady out the open door, Hope continued to talk with Stuart and massage his forearms, wrists, fingers, and head. Annie excused herself when I returned with my protesting child in tow, and went to the restroom, met on the way by three or four people who greeted her with hugs. Hope—did I mention her presence? (Her warmth like all the mothers you’ve known with nothing hard to her, only roundness but still something straight like knowing)—looked at me then, when Annie was gone, and swallowed. I think she might have fanned or wiped her eyes if her hands hadn’t been busy. I didn’t ask what was wrong. Annie returned. Annie said she was going home to rest. I imagined her a grey cat in a sunny window. She said goodbye to everyone in the restaurant then kissed Hope square on the lips. The women hugged and said I love you’s, held hands, planned their next date.

When Annie left Hope gushed. She said there are some people you just love. When you’re in their presence everything inside you is happy. Their joy envelops you. She feels this way about her friend Annie—Annie who has cancer again; Annie who just started expensive experimental treatments; Annie who hadn’t massaged anyone in years before me. Annie is so special, she said, every time I get to be with her I am abundantly grateful. Hope was scared of loosing Annie and all the warmth their relationship had become. She set her sadness heavily on the table and didn’t cloak her immense fear; instead, she let the light of her gratitude outshine it.

Hope cried then, but happily. I fetched a napkin and we sat together. Then Stuart and I gathered the children, who immediately warmed up to Hope. They kidded one another, between our several trips to the bathrooms and the now-familiar tug-of-war that comes with preparing children to get on the road. She bought Jane and Brady a Ranger Rick Magazine for the ride to the coast, then said gratuitous goodbyes to us on the sidewalk.

Hope said she would see us again, that we were special, that she was delighted to have met us, that she loved us. We rode away from lunch more relaxed. Timelines and deadlines blurring into the recognition that our path was currently here in Astoria and leading west to the sea, the reachable sea, and a big bronze statue of Seaman and his human companions that marked the trail’s end.

More than a month separated from these experiences, I’ve had time to identify the friends in my own life who fill me with the sense of joy Hope recognized in Annie. They are the great teachers whose stories have somehow intersected with mine, who have shared with me some tremendous state of soul that is profoundly radiant, elevating, and connection making. Or perhaps the condition I feel with these friends is more of a connection sharing, because surely such intrinsic connections exist on their own, without our affirmation, but then glow according to the attention with which we nurture them.

I am awed and thankful now as I was then, but maybe more completely, at the myriad lessons generously demonstrated for us in a single hour of interaction and in the briefest moments of relaxation and sharing. Here’s what I was thinking then, though I didn’t have the words for it, as we shouted “Onward!” for our journey’s final leg as Diana Krall sang “Jingle Bells” (again): “Love is misunderstood to be an emotion; actually, it’s a state of awareness, a way of being in the world, a way of seeing oneself and others.*”

*David R. Hawkings

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