Sunday, April 5, 2015

E: Elderly Woman on the Train

Every morning I put a silver bracelet engraved with the word "savor" on my wrist. A gift from an amazing friend who survived cancer, this precious bangle is my continual reminder to savor each day, each miracle and muddle of the ordinary. 

I think one day I will be the woman Brian Doyle writes about in this uncommon prayer, as this is akin to the way I hoard eat chocolate. I purchase bars of fair trade chocolate and eat only a few squares at a time. My husband cannot fathom this. But I have found that if I eat things slowly and sparingly, I appreciate them more. Last night I devoured a piece of my favorite cake--our family's traditional birthday cake, Tunnel of Fudge--before I knew it, it was gone, too quickly! The only way to savor things is to go slowly. 

Thanks to writers like Brian Doyle who help us see the wisdom in this process. Are we not blessed?

Prayer for the Elderly Woman on the Train Eating One Almond Every Five Minutes for Two Hours for a Grand Total of Forty Almonds and Believe Me I Counted, Fascinated

Partly because she was about eight inches away from me and the intricate process of getting the bag of almonds out of her vast carryall and then choosing exactly the right one and then chewing that single almond as carefully and slowly as any being has ever in this blessed world chewed a single nut back to individual atoms is driving me quietly bonkers; 

but I am fascinated too because she has slowly and silently reminded me not to be an arrogant idiot. Maybe this is all the food she has for her journey. Maybe she is a bodhisattva who is trying to remind me to savor every instant of this wild and lovely life. 

Maybe she is a saint who is saying to me gently, Assume nothing, the exterior is a disguise and a costume, and I am a holy being also formed by the Imaginative One, and here we are together, younger brother, on a train with almonds! Are we not blessed? Are we not graced beyond words that no one is shooting at us, and we are rushing magically through the countryside without effort, and our bellies are not shriveled from starvation, and we are alive and breathing and there is the redolence of almonds between us? 

And these things are true and she is right and I grin and feel a tinge of regret when she finishes the bag, which must have contained exactly forty almonds; did she count them out one by one last night, staring intently at the small russet oblong glory of each, before sealing the bag? 

So then I pray for each of us, that we stare intently at the wilderness of miracles around us every moment, so very many of them savory. And so: amen.

Here's more information on why I chose this focus for the A to Z, and you can read all my 2015 A to Z posts here. I hope you enjoy the celebrations of the miracle and muddle of the ordinary! 

You can buy the book at Brian's favorite local bookstore, Broadway Books, at Powell's Books, or on AmazonBrian's work is used with permission of Ave Maria Press.


  1. What a great story and a great reminder to us all to savor every moment. Thank you for sharing this. - Happy A to Z!

  2. Exquisite! Thanks for this wonderful story. Visiting from A to Z,

    Drusilla Barron

  3. I know what I'll be doing the next train journey I take...