Views from the Train

Then the road rises

By TOM CASKA
Posted 1/22/20

There is part of an old Irish Blessing that says, “May the road rise up to meet you. May the wind be always at your back.”

We start this New Year and new decade with great expectations …

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Views from the Train

Then the road rises

Posted

There is part of an old Irish Blessing that says, “May the road rise up to meet you. May the wind be always at your back.”

We start this New Year and new decade with great expectations of what may lie ahead. It’s time to take out the broom and sweep away the bad karma. The nice thing about a straw broom is that you can keep both the good and bad shards of the past in a pile to further reflect, mourn and learn. Most of the resolutions we promise to keep will be melting away with the snow come spring; life has a funny way of tripping us up. Rather than the road rising up to meet us, the road just rises and the wind is in our face.

At times, the uphill road we all face makes it harder to accomplish anything. We plan weekend getaways to visit grandchildren. We plan family gatherings, vacations during the summer. We do our taxes planning on a refund. Then the road rises: a snow storm cancels a trip to the grand kids, cars break down and families miss the gathering. The water heater breaks down and there goes our refund. The list goes on. The poet Robert Burns in his poem “To a Mouse” in 1786 said it best: “The best-laid plans of mice and men often go awry.”

During a decade of my life, I owned a printing shop in the garment district. I shared a space on West 38th Street with a company called Noah’s Ark. They would sew various pieces to make a sleeve or a part of a dress which would move down the line until the garment was completed. The employees arrived at their sewing machine precisely at 8 a.m. For the first six months, there was no wall between our printing presses and their sewing machines. They were as odd to us as we were to them. Over the hum of their sewing machines, the sound of the presses were of no bother to them. Noah’s Ark had 38 machines, yet 40 workers were called in; the first 38 got work that day. The last two would come over to see if we had anything for them to do. If not, then they would go door to door in the buildings looking for a day’s wage. For those two, the road rose and the wind was in their face.

Closing time was around 6 p.m. if Noah was not too busy, later if he was. As the various seasonal clothing lines were coming together, I would see the women on a late train with me. Once they were settled in, out would come the pieces and they would stitch them by hand. Years of practicing this art made the work so good that one could not tell the hand-sewn pieces from the machined-sewn ones. The next day, they would do it all over again. If the train was late, there was a good chance they would be knocking on doors that day. The delayed train rose up the road for them that day. For those immigrant factory workers, it seemed the road was always rising.

Walt Disney is quoted as saying, “I always look on the optimistic side of life, but I am realistic enough to know that life is a complex matter.” So yes, the road will rise up and the wind may be in our face, but we can wish ourselves some better luck, hoping that the road will rise to meet us.

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