The lineup to snag a taxi outside Santa Maria Novella train station stretches from the regular cab stalls beyond the station's main doors. Just one of many scenes of chaos generated by the one-day train strike. More than one couple wrestle large suitcases. Murmurs erupt when a single man with no baggage other than a briefcase slips into a cab. The eyes of those in the queue oscillate between phone screens and the back of the taxi line.
Jostling and chaos define the scene.
My wife and I require more than a moment to discover the end of the line.
We have scarcely pulled our suitcases into the established order when a commotion stirs near the head of the snake. People emerging from another exit distill into the beginnings of a line from the other direction.
Brows wrinkle, faces frown, and words not usually spoken in the presence of the Queen flash. Patience evaporates under the heat of 30 degree weather and the uncertainty of disrupted travel.
"I've been standing here waiting," said a woman, perhaps in her twenties. She stamped her foot down as she raised her chin.
"Well, too bad, the back of the line is there!" A man near the front, his face red, raises and straightens his trembling arm to signal the appropriate direction. He ignores or fails to see the child at her side.
Her shoulders sag as she hitches one backpack strap over her shoulder. One hand reaches for the handle of her suitcase as the other clasps the hand of a young girl.
The woman begins to move down the line, eyes searching for kindness, if not compassion.
My wife steps back to create space. Her look challenges any objection that tiredness and frustration might muster.
No words needed.
In my previous life, that challenge to create space usually revolved around the calendar.
This openness, call it kindness, is soul work and requires loosening the grip and taking a step back rather than clinging to place and stuff.
What other kinds of openness will this next chapter require?
Will new interests and opportunities be as apparent as a child and her mother seeking a place? Or will I need someone like my wife to open the space? Do I have the courage and strength to loosen the grip on my place?