Only Connect

Lindsay Pontius and Mary Beth CoudalAt the end of August for her birthday, Lindsay (Pontius) and I began writing our seven rules for living at the Yacht Club, also known as the Bistro du Lac. We did this four years ago. At that time, our number one rule was Pile on the People. This time around? Only connect. This is from Howards End.

It is so easy to disconnect. As a writer, I always choose a seat on the outside of the circle. I have to consciously make myself sit at the table. (Reading Sandberg’s Lean In helped.)

I find the sidelines are a good place to watch the action. But do I really want to watch the action? Don’t I want to get in the game? I know I’m mixing metaphors here — a seat at the table and a play on the field. But you know what I mean.

I read Howards End in grad school or maybe I read it for book club. My book club’s been together for 10 years so sometimes I forget where and when I read what.

I do remember the Ivory-Merchant movie of Howards End. It was my first official date with Chris. We saw Howards End at the Paris Theatre. Oh, God, the Paris is like the Ziegfield — such a gorgeous movie theater.

It was my exhusband Jim who told me, “You’ll love this movie.” He was good at knowing what I’d love. Or maybe I was just good at listening to him and letting him tell me what (and who) to love. But with Howards End — what’s not to love? He was right.

Any way, on my first date with the man who would become my second husband, I went to a movie recommended by my first husband.

davidComing out of the Paris, I ran into Diana and David. And Chris was a little ways behind us. So David, playfully, suggested that we pretend he and I were an item.

He said it’d be funny to make Chris and Diana laugh And so, David sort of dipped me on the sidewalk on 58th street and we pretended we were making out. And now — how many years later?! 20? — David died last year, and Chris has Parkinson’s.

And well, it just goes to show, “Connect, only connect.” It’s the message of the movie and the novel and hopefully, this blog post.

Pretend you are making out with someone. Pretend anything. It’ll be funny. Take a seat at the table. Get in the game. Because who knows where you — or anyone — will be in 20 years?

I have digressed. Lindsay and I, over champagne, talked about learning this lesson from her husband Sandy who died of cancer more than ten years ago. She learned you must live fully while you are alive.

That’s why the last time Lindsay and I made rules for living, our number six rule was, “Live every day as if it were your last.” We were inspired by Sandy’s life.

What’s your legacy? What do people remember about you? Were you playful? Were you kind? Did you connect?

Only connect! That was the whole of her sermon. Only connect the prose and the passion, and both will be exalted, And human love will be seen at its height. Live in fragments no longer. Only connect… -E.M. Forster, Howards End

My Beautiful Bridge

I saw a performance piece “Bits and Pieces” at the Elizabethtown History Center museum a week ago. Then I saw the performance again.

The performance really hit me. Even the second time, I wept. Because the piece somehow captured it — the bridge, any bridge, is a metaphor for a woman. She serves, she links, she works, and suddenly, she is no more.

The Champlain Bridge, between Addison, Vermont and Crown Point, NY, the piece reminded me, can still be seen in the movie “What Lies Beneath” with Harrison Ford (who, like me and Hilary, grew up in Park Ridge, Ill).

I was not near Crown Point when the bridge came down in December of 2009. But a friend sent me the link on Facebook. It so shocked me, caused me to gasp. The destruction of a monolith, like the World Trade Center, is just unthinkable. Transfixiating.

Lindsay Pontius produced the oral history/performance piece along with school kids from Moriah. It gives a voice to the people who made the bridge, used it, watched it implode.

The 80-year old bridge was more than a bridge. But she was not cared for enough.

This year, there is no bridge: businesses suffer; folks reminisce. ‘Bridge Road is the Bridge to Nowhere Road,’ a performer says.

What lies beneath is her legacy. Soon another Mother Bridge will be put in place. We will feel the old bridge’s demise was inevitable. The unbelievable becomes inevitable.

Until the new bridge steps in, New Yorkers board the ferry and cross the narrowest point of Lake Champlain to get to Vermont.