"little wing", or how jimi taught me mindfulness

last night as i finished class and headed down into the train for my usual thursday night commute, i was perhaps more tired than usual, more anxious to just be home in the warmth with my kitties.  the train came fairly quickly, which always brings me a smile, and i hopped on, sat and closed my eyes.  

the ride was easy, no glitches, no long pauses between stations.  at one point a passenger apparently skipped out of the train at the first stop in brooklyn, and as i watched the reactions of other passengers i noticed a man sitting further down the train where the passenger had exited smiling mischievously to himself, having witnessed the act of human joy firsthand.  in reaction to his smile, i had no choice but to grin harmoniously with him.  this made me remember, one more time (as i am reminded time and time again), how very available joy and beauty is to us in each moment, if we allow ourselves to fully witness the many textures and colors that life shows us.

as i got off for my final transfer to the line that takes me home, i noticed the platform was full, a good sign that a train had not arrived in some time and one was due quite soon.  i stepped to the other side of the platform and as i peeked my head around the corner, there was the g train in all her short glory taking the final turn into the station.  the momentary elation of a blissfully short commute was then superseded by the sound of a guitar and harmonica as i boarded the train.  

i settled in for the last seven minutes of my ride home, hearing what i finally registered as a tune by the doors.  the man singing and playing was really excellent and even mic'ed so he echoed through the car in which we all rumbled along.  

as he finished up the jim morrison tune, he started into the chords of a song i knew all too well…  that first screechy, percussive chord could only be hendrix.  and the song could only be “little wing”, and the memories poured in…  

back in high school, my friends and i listened to a lot of jimi, and at some point, one winter night while in a friend’s bedroom listening to music, one of my friends turned to me and said, “YOU’RE little wing, anya, that’s YOU”…  and from that moment, i was dubbed.  and so the song has taken shape to me over the years, it has molded to my being as a part of me, an echo of who i was but also a clear symbol of who i will always be, with the thousands of smiles i give for free and butterflies and zebras and moonbeams.

so as i sat on the train and listened, my eyes welled up with joy and sadness and nostalgia and with all of the things that “little wing” does not yet even mean because i haven’t discovered them yet.  each time i hear the song, i am in a different place in life, i have more layers of experience, and find myself in very different states of mind.  but each time, the song also shares something a little different with me, as if i didn’t hear a certain chord or note, or in this case, the way the musician sang was subtly different, perhaps a little less melancholy than jimi’s version.  all of the memories of being younger burst into my mind, but also were met with the sweetness of the evening, the gentleman’s mischievous grin, the unknown passenger’s skip out of the train, and the easeful and quick ride home on a tired night.  

this, to me, is how our practice starts to shape how available we are to the vividness of everyday life.  magic is there, always waiting for us to open to it, if we only allow ourselves…  and even in the moments that feel melancholy or nostalgic, we also must realize that whatever we remember, however painful or joyous, is also met with the opportunity of this moment we are actually in.  

we must open our eyes to our experience so that we can feel and see and hear the beauty and pain of everyday life…  and allow that to saturate our pores, the very cytoplasm of each cell.  in this way we dance with our path, we witness in stillness and move with grace to each experience as it approaches us in the great ballroom of life.  

i will always be “little wing”, and every time the song arises, i am instantly brought to the moment and the past simultaneously, and sometimes even the future as i wonder who i will be next time i hear it.  as i danced last night with time and sound and memory, the colors, faces and the sounds became hyper-vivid, almost technicolor…  and as we tumbled into my station i felt myself feeling a bit sad to leave before the tune played out.

but i also knew that i would travel on with that guitarist, even as the train doors closed, the sound fell away, and the train grumbled on.  even as i traversed the stairs and somewhere down below “little wing” played on, i would go and dance along with it.  

even as the night hit me with cold air and car horns, clear and pure and present, i danced on.