My Amtrak Residency Essay

Thursday, April 3, 2014

My friend Melissa told me of this great opportunity that Amtrak is offering writers. The Amtrak Residency program allows writers to write freely as they travel on a train for a few days in their own sleeper car. Of course, I jumped at the chance to apply. I love to travel and I'm a writer. Hello! 

Amtrak will choose 24 writers and as of yet, I have not heard anything but I have my fingers crossed. However, tons of people applied so I have already told myself to not be upset if I don't get it. Everything happens for a reason and I think this happened to get me writing again. The piece I wrote for Amtrak was probably one of the most vulnerable, genuine pieces I have ever written. I bared my soul in this piece. 

And just in time for the third anniversary of my dad's death on April 10. Many people have asked to read it so I wanted to post it here for all to see. Please comment and let me know what you think,

Daddy, this one's for you. See you in the sky. xo


I have been a cloud chaser for as long as I could remember. My love for clouds is deeply rooted in my soul. Clouds call on my love and yearning to be free and to explore as much as I can. As I watch them move slowly by, I think of how free it is to be able to move that way in a vast open space, in such a peaceful manner yet making your presence known to the world.

Taken 12/7/13 - I looked up and knew that my dad was watching over me
Cloud chasing is part of who I am; that thrill-seeking explorer who thrives on adventures. Adventures, for me, are simply moments where I am fearless and authentic. I am without self-criticism and fully let myself be vulnerable enough to let go.  My adventurous moments have been as small as dancing through the streets of London in the rain without an umbrella and as huge as climbing twenty flights of stairs in 105 degree weather to touch the largest seated bronze Buddha statue in the world at Po Lin Monastery outside of Hong Kong.

Clouds are the one thing that remains constant throughout my adventures. They are my faithful companions on my journeys throughout the world. They keep me grounded and remind me that I will always be free and it is always my choice on how I choose to live in that free state. I love staring at clouds because they are the most perfect puzzle pieces I have ever seen and I anxiously wait to see what beautiful piece of art they will form once the pieces have been put together.

Clouds took a different meaning for me almost three years ago when my dad died.

It was sudden. He went to work one day and as he drove, he didn’t feel well so he told his passengers he was pulling over to the side of the road to get some air. He died from a heart attack a few minutes later, on the side of the New Jersey Turnpike. He was 12 miles out of Port Authority Bus Terminal, sitting on the ground, leaning against the bus he loved to drive.

Another great cloud shot I caught by accident
My dad was also an adventurer. In looking back, I think I inherited that from him. He was a traveler at heart. His life had never afforded him the opportunity to be a world traveler as he had hoped. He became a husband, a father and a provider right out of high school and while his dreams got derailed, he traded one dream for another, having his own family.

That didn’t mean he didn’t travel and get to be free in his own way. Through his love of driving, he got to travel and have his own adventures. He would often tell my brother and I the story of how he learned to drive when he was 12 by his grandfather and never stopped.

When we were kids, my dad was a truck driver who was gone for long periods of time. He would come home with souvenirs for us but all I wanted was to hear of his travels. I didn’t know it at the time but he was feeding my adventurous spirit.

Whenever we took a trip, my dad would drive. The best trip we took was to Florida. My dad drove all the way to Orlando from Queens, New York. We would stop periodically and my dad would always walk into a wide open space, arms stretched out and inhale. I can still see the smile on his face. For him, it was about the journey, too.

A shot of clouds I took in July 2013 - Lower Manhattan
I think back to all those precious moments where my dad continued to feed my adventurous spirit and love for travel. Whether it was us sitting outside and watching the planes overhead, me accompanying him on one of his truck rides or hanging out with him at the airport, my father represented the ultimate adventurer. It made me want to see the world, just so I would have my own stories to tell him.

And I did, later on in life, when I started to go on my own adventures around the world. He started to live through my stories and be inspired. My dad traveled extensively within the US and Canada but had never been outside of North America. He would often talk about how he couldn’t wait to retire and visit Europe.
During his lifetime, my dad almost always held a job where he was involved in transportation. He worked as a train conductor, at the airport, as a truck driver (again) and lastly as a bus driver.

And that is the irony of my dad’s life. He died while at work as a Greyhound bus driver during a normal run to Syracuse, NY. He died doing something he loved. Sure, he was driving people to their destination but the power of being the person to transport them there and to also, be on that journey with them was what fed his love for adventure.

When I look up at my beloved clouds, they are not puzzle pieces to me anymore. They have a face and represent so much more. When I look up, I see my dad, smiling down on me. I can hear his voice in my ear saying, “Marce, the world is such a magnificent place with so many things to see and do. It is out there, waiting for you.” I can also imagine him cloud surfing with a big smile on his face and I can hear his laugh, so deep and infectious.

Sunset in The Rockaways, Queens, NYC
I love sitting in a window seat of a bus or train and being able to feel the sun beaming down on my face and looking at the wide open road ahead.  I look to the clouds now for direction, for guidance. I look for my father. It makes me feel like he is there with me, my constant companion on my travels.

In these moments, en route to my destination, is when I feel most alive. And I feel so close to my dad. The loss is so great, so deep within. The pain is always there. But the clouds comfort me. The journey comforts me. The clouds make each day bearable and help me to adapt to life without my dad in it. Just as Ralph Waldo Emerson once said, “Life is a journey, not a destination.”

Three years ago, I lost the best person I have ever known but I gained such a different perspective and appreciation for the journey and the adventures that come with it. That was and still is, the best parting gift my dad could have ever given me.


  1. This was absolutely beautiful, thank you for sharing this.

  2. Marcy, this was so beautiful.