Meditation on Mother’s Day

4 Min read

On mandalas

On Kansas City

On life in the middle

*

*

It’s wet and dreary here. And, in spite of the multitude of Mays that I’ve lived through, I continue to forget how busy this month is with graduations, weddings, parties. And, funerals.

What I want to tell you about on this busiest of weekends has little to do with milestones.

It’s this image that’s stuck in my mind, this Midwest Mandala.

If you’re not familiar with a mandala, it’s a circle with inscribed square. Buddhist monks create them in varying levels of detail and color, with geometric patterns to represent the cosmos, the interconnectedness of all things. They are often made of sand to represent impermanence and the ephemeral nature of being. The mandala and the art of creating it provides a focus for meditation. It reflects the harmony between the individual and the cosmos, the balance and unity between small and great.

On a warm night this April in Kansas City, Missouri, I had eaten al fresco in the Power and Light District and headed back on Main Street towards my hotel. As I walked onto the bridge spanning over seven train tracks before Union Station, two girls were leaning against the sidewalk pedestal. I had to cross in front of them.

They looked like teens in high school and one had just cracked open a beer, the can sitting atop the concrete pillar. I realized they were watching the tracks, talking. The air was unseasonably warm and I could hear their voices, but I was caught up in my own story, my own scene. I had been looking down the street, when I glanced in the direction they were facing, west into Kansas and at the tracks below the bridge.

The tracks were empty at the moment. They were waiting, set up to see, hear, and feel the rumble that would pass beneath them. They were watching trains, enjoying each other’s company.

*

Back in the hotel room, a dozen floors up, I watched trains go by as I worked, feeling them shaking the ground, slicing through the middle of the window. The white FedEx train moved beneath the bridge. Looking away from my laptop, I counted cars: 5, 10, 15, then 100, 115 train cars, moving parcels and packages across the country.

Trains moved in opposite directions, dizzying to see, like the multitude of ants in a mound. Kansas is the geographic midpoint of the lower 48 states, its nearly rectangular borders, equidistant from the Atlantic and Pacific oceans.

The trains crisscrossed from here and outward beyond where I could see, a mandala of tracks stretching to the four corners of the country, reaching ever outward, a hive of human endeavor.

I picked up postcards on this visit, old-fashioned cards with photos of the area. At the end of my stay, I walked to the post office at Union Station to mail them, envisioning their trek from Kansas City, from this node to the next, connecting me to the mandala and its symmetry, its geometry fanning outward to friends and family, to the cosmos.

*

Back home it’s morning and the leaves are filling in the empty spaces on the trees.

And it is Mother’s Day which is singular possessive, written with an apostrophe S, because today is not about ALL moms. It’s about YOUR mom. And I will trek across the Hudson River on my own train, my personal Iron Horse, to see my children. And I’ll come back to visit my mother.

Out and back. A circle in time–from then to now; in physical space–from there to here; in generational distance–from child to mother to grandmother.

Call your mother. I imagine she wants to hear your voice.

*

Kansas City Union Station bottom left and a train moving on the track in center. The white sails of the Kauffman Center by the four Bartle Hall Sky Stations at top left are distinguishing features of the skyline. Photo taken from hotel room in Crown Center

*

*

*

FOOTNOTES

The Kansas commerce page boasts: Move it in the middle.

With more than 140,000 miles of roads and top-ranked interstates bisecting our great state, you can get to the Pacific or Atlantic in four days or less from Kansas. If the open road doesn’t suit your needs, we have plenty of modern-day iron horses ready to whisk your goods to the port of your choosing. 

Kansas is served by four Class I and 11 Class III railroads on the sixth-largest rail network in the nation.

Kansas Commerce Logistics and Distribution page

*Kansas City, Missouri is a few hours east from the geographic center of the lower 48 States in Lebanon, Kansas, which has a marker with this inscription.

The GEOGRAPHIC CENTER of the UNITED STATES
LAT. 39°50′ LONG. −98°35′
NE 1/4 – SE 1/4 – S32 – T2S – R11W
Located by L.T. Hagadorn of Paulette & Wilson – Engineers and L.A. Beardslee – County Engineer. From data furnished by United States Coast and Geodetic Survey.
Sponsored by Lebanon Hub Club. Lebanon, Kansas. April 25, 1940

*Union Station Kansas City is located at Crown Center and while no longer a functioning train terminal, it houses a wonderful array of shops, cafes, halls, working post office, and museums. Until 1977, much of the country’s mail moved through this epicenter.

*

*

*

May 12, 2024

0 Comments

Submit a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

About the Author

Mylinh Shattan is a writer who has lived on three continents, served in the Army, worked in corporate America, and taught in college. She loves adventures, in the world and in the mind. Literature is relevant and learning is a lifelong pursuit, so you might as well have a bit of fun along the way.

Stay Up to Date

Rise above the tedium with the TreeHouseLetter. Always learning with a bit of fun.

Latest Posts

That Teacher, You Know the One

5 Min read Poetry for Emergencies: E.E. Cummings On music: J.S. Bach Commencement speech * * Let's take a moment for teachers. That teacher, you know the one. Because, I have a confession to make. In the lottery of life and learning, if you're lucky then you have one,...

Semper Fidelis

4 Min read On patterns On Vietnam and Memorial Day Operation Frequent Wind 1 Book rec * * We had not met before though we had met in other ways, I suppose. We laughed in short order, having teared up moments before. But, first let me say this. The third time is a...

On Poetry, Spring, and Transition

4 Min read Poetry for emergencies 2 Poets Mary Oliver on things Lao Tzu on excess * When I moved from one house to anotherthere were many things I had no roomfor. What does one do? I rented a storagespace. And filled it. Years passed.First lines of "Storage" by Mary...

Small Delight: the Unexpected and the Good

3 Min read 1 Book rec * * I suppose it is the unexpected and the good which sustain us. The package arrived as media mail and I set the used copy on the counter. A week or so later, I began to read it, The Bookshop by Penelope Fitzgerald. What I discovered in its...

Dirtman and Dillard on Signs of the Apocalypse

5 Min read Earthquake Eclipse 1 Essay rec AVAILABLE ON PODCAST SPOTIFY * “And I beheld when he had opened the sixth seal, and, lo, there was a great earthquake; and the sun became black as sackcloth of hair, and the moon became as blood;” Revelation 6:12 * Earthquake...

The Blue Hour

3 Min read Phases of twilight 2 Book recs 5 Regrets of the Dying * It is the darkness which gives that first burst of light its brilliance. * This weekend my daughter returned from spring break. Sitting in the TreeHouse very early that day, I read with a booklight on...

Deez Nuts*

5 Min read Nuts Nonsense Homage to a classic film Wordnerd alert Contronym AVAILABLE ON PODCAST Spotify * One secret of life is that the reason life works at all is that not everyone in your tribe is nuts on the same day. Anne Lamott * I was organizing the pantry...

Topics

Inoculate yourself against the absurdity of life with a dose of the best ideas and writing. Always learning with a bit of fun.