Thursday, 26 December 2013

Rubbing Stars

"To live without roads seemed one way
not to get lost. To make maps
of stone and grass, to rub stars together,
find a spark." 
~from "Spark," a poem by Naomi Shihab Nye

Sometimes it is in the wandering that we find ourselves in the most perfect of places. 

Just now, I am curled up on a couch in the lounge of a college in Vermont, happily tuning in and out of conversations around me; tuning in to hear discussions of publishing, of writing styles, point of view and audience. Tuning out to reflect on the day, on the last few days, on the end of last year. Last year when I came to this place of wonderfulness at the very end and after too long in transit. Tuning out to think of the next few days and the future smiling at me. 

To settle back into a small city, even if just for this period of 12 days, is beautiful. Walking everywhere--20 minutes down a slushy slide of a road to the downtown, dumptrucks loaded with snow driving past, clearing the way. On either side of the main streets quaint shops, local and proudly green or organic or handmade all. Espressos in honey-wooden rooms, crepe cafes and mad tacos and the most alice-in-wonderland sort of thrift stores. A sweater I have hunted for 8 years! Late night viewings of Les Miserables with my roommate at the old cinema by the capitol building and a taxi ride back through the night. 

Engaging in lectures on all sorts of wonderful subjects; of craft and of creation, of theories and possibilities and fascinations of all kinds. Readings that make you hold your breath, unable to breathe for the beauty of the words, of the particular arrangement of those precisely chosen words one after another in art and in meaning (and are those the same, afterall?). Losing yourself in workshops; reading and thinking and sharing--this wonderful back and forth--dialogue to take a work from what it is to even better; to impossibly better. Beautiful.

I love the new faces, the new stories, the new friendships being made. The fact that this place is obviously a community that exists across space and regardless of this particular place; the understanding so crystalline that when we leave this particular here we will still be together talking and sharing and exchanging. Pushing and encouraging each other and continuing these dialogues. Continuing this lovely engagement. To not only go out with a group of friends, of fellow students, but with professors you cannot wait to work with; have so much to glean from. 

I love that in all my wandering without roads, I am found here, in this perfect place. Ready to wander some more, ready to make maps of stone and grass and to find a spark--to make a spark. To write. 

Thursday, 19 December 2013

Bellydancing and Translation Lessons

When I first packed up my beautiful apartment of the last five years--five years!!--I knew I had chosen to enter a season of suffering in some form. I remembered from growing up and studying across four fascinating continents that every change of place and abrupt altering of routine means not only exquisite adventures, but also ache and longing. It is the great dichotomy of my life; this love and hate of movement.

It has been two months now since my arrival in this city--it is in fact my seventh capital city in which I have resided in some measure of permanence rather than transience. I love it and frequently wonder why and how I lived so long in a rural area before coming back to a place that plays like music through my being, though I know the answers well and do not regret the choice.

In addition to glorious happiness, however, has been the pain. Firstly, people--people whom I grew to know and love over the years and expect to see every day, many times a day, on weekends. Fixtures in my life whom I must now live without their promise of regularity. People whom I miss dearly, who are now added to the Hall of Wonderful People I Have Known Around The World.

Past people comes everything else. The learning how to live and be and move in a new place. Building your reputation anew. Learning the culture and choosing what to embody and what to find a way around. Deciphering the webs; transportation networks, organization networks, friend networks, job networks. Where the best coffee is and how a dishwasher works. How you cannot get a post office box without a signed lease or car/home insurance or car/home ownership papers. How to calculate risk. How to write cover letters and obtain interviews and listen and talk. How to introduce yourself--here that experience is so different than the introduction of myself I have shaped the last five years. Here I am learning myself anew and determining what facets of myself to show and what to tuck away.

When I first came here, and found no one to smile back at me, no one I knew to feed me a hug or wish me good day; when I had no job to learn and no work to pour myself into, I found myself fading in shadow. I jokingly say to friends I am like a dementor (Harry Potter reference, if you don't know), feeding off the souls of others. (Don't worry, it's not quite like that...) In order to hold onto myself, I decided I needed to find a way to connect. For the record, connecting in a city is significantly easier than connecting in a rural area. All I had to do was chose what to connect with and decide it was monetarily an affordable investment. I chose: bellydancing.

Now bellydancing immediately afforded me a number of things: my first friends, my first group (think of this as a circle of people to come home to in a way), positive endorphins from the exercise, a reason to get out, discipline, and something wondrously fun and new. It was a perfect choice. The learning of bellydancing has also paralleled my own experiences moving here.

You start out simply, moving your body in ways that make you laugh, moving your body in ways that are so basic you think, that's it? really? But then as you continue learning, you discover some of the moves require you to forget muscle memory; that the particular muscle you are trying to use for a move is the wrong one; you need to forget it, and you need to learn to move all over again through a different muscle. The differentiation is fine, but significant. You also begin to discover muscles you never knew existed. I had no idea about some of the ones the teachers tell me to use. "You need to use this muscle, here," they say, pointing to a place on their belly that moves. I look at myself and try to move that area. Nothing. "Um, I don't think I have muscle there," I say, sheepishly, trying again. "Oh no, you do! You just aren't used to moving it!" And we all laugh. Now my body aches in places I never felt anything before, and the tiniest success I have in making a twitch thrills me. As we have progressed through the class, we have begun layering. Instead of working on just one move at a time, we combine two, or three. It's like on piano, the first time you play with both hands, and then the first time you play two different, complimentary notes on those two hands.

And it is exactly like starting out in a new place. You are back in many ways to the basics, to one step at a time and it feels so elementary it makes you angry at times. Things you should be able to do, or to handle, that you just cannot. How some things you did before still need doing, but with a tweak. You have to forget the old way and teach yourself the new. I feel as though after two months here, I am finally starting to find some of these new muscles, to reteach some of the old muscles, and to tap into muscles I used to use back in the day, when once before I lived in cities and capitals around the world, though never as an adult and professional.

So many new things.

Which brings me to translation. This is certainly something that I know a great deal of. How many languages have come through my ears? How many cultures and idioms? I remember in college days, I was still troubled by this idea that I had to be all of one thing and that meant none of another. For those like myself, global citizens and nomads, to deny one of our cultures in order to be fully the other is sto destroy or anihlate part of ourselves. A sort of ethnocide of self. But we just need to learn how to translate ourselves from one culture into another. We will pick up things, as actors keep a piece of every part they play, and we take all of these things and translate them throught the cultures in which we live and move. It is beautiful. It is a work of art. And like a baby growing up, it is the most natural thing in the world.

Monday, 9 December 2013

Just a Day's Reflection

One of the things I have long loved about city living is the anonymity, and more particularly; finding within the anonymity your common humanity with the strangers around you. In my current employment, I get to interrupt the lives of people rushing past me, seeming to see only the next thing on their list, the lineup of their day, a driving goal they must reach in time. I interrupt them and speak for those who cannot, working for the chance to be heard and to connect them with someone completely outside of their world. Interrupting other people's lives is fascinating; watching the effect of these encounters on my life is no less so.

Today I met a man from the Czech Republic. It was so much fun to get to speak with him in a mixture of Czech, Slovak, and English. Earlier in the morning I met a man and stumbled through a brief conversation with him in Spanish. It was like dragging words out of a dream for me, so long since I have used that mind and tongue. I love that I can find here people in whom I can find an echo of life I know, but whose personal experiences in life are so incredibly different than my own.

I spoke with one gentleman today, a friendly and brief exchange that made me smile--only to have him come back an hour or two later and blame me for losing him a contract. He spoke hatefully, commenting derogatorily on my appearance, tearing apart our conversation from earlier and it was shocking to see the transformation. I lost him nothing, in all honesty. I was a scapegoat to his bad morning and nothing else, but watching him rage there at me, at my coworkers, at the man whose conversation with me he interrupted--it was sad. It was as though he was dismantling his humanity and baring beast teeth and no one was impressed. "He is a sick, sick man," someone commented to me, shaking his head and then apologizing to me for what the man had said. "Don't you listen to that man. And you're beautiful, don't even think about what he said."

I hope I will never see that man again. I struggled with anxiety the rest of the day, wondering if others I meet would be like him, wondering if the whole world is like him, wondering what hope we have for ourselves when in reaction to our own disappointments we go out and deliberately crush and attempt to humiliate those surrounding us, people who are our neighbors for a second and our fellow humans for our lifetime. I wonder what it was he was hoping for and why his disappointment so devastated him; is his mind already sick, or did he have so much hinging on this one possibility that the disappointment of loss maddened him and lost him to himself?

The rest of my day was filled with fascinating encounters; a man who was homeless and on the streets at fifteen and sixteen who is now passionate about helping homeless children. My Slavic smile of the day. People who love to travel as much as I do, who love people and hold hope for humanity. Riding home at the end of the day, I saw a woman wearing a Santa Claus hat with "Bah Humbug" on it (like one I own but alas, is in storage this year). She sat down behind me on the metro and I turned and asked her about her hat--resulting in our chatting the rest of the ride to my stop. We just talked about Christmas, about giving gifts to our friends, about our families and life. It was beautiful.

Here in this city, there is so much opportunity to do things and so many people who like me, come from all over the world. I am reminded often of my days studying in London, when I first felt as if I could be in one place and experience all of my homes again. I love it. Walking home tonight, I stopped first at the grocery store and then wandered back laden down with oranges and wine and firewood and I was just overwhelmed with how completely happy I am to be here, in this city, in this place and time despite all the difficulties, despite the upheaval of perpetual transition, despite the continual unknown. I think how many things I am going to have learnt at the end of this, and I find myself slowly adapting to the continual feeling of being off kilter and unsettled. Though I have only been in this apartment now for a week and my room is a disaster zone, I can call it home and feel at home.

I am so excited for the perpetual possibility here for involvement and the motion picture of humanity playing around me every day and bumping into me. These make it possible to dream, and wondrous
 to exist as a being. So here's to humanity, and to possibility to renew and transform ourselves and the world around us even one small moment at a time.

Tuesday, 29 October 2013

Moving Pictures: A Motion Study

I am sitting today outside a Starbucks, ostensibly to take time out from writing job applications to write stories, to create outside of my life through the experiences in my life. That is something I deeply love about this idea of writing fiction; that it gives me the opportunity to be greater than the simple sum of my parts by leaping into the vast sea of humanity and the human experience: a dissolution of self into so much more.

But right now, everything in my immediate life is so intense and vivid that it overwhelms, that I jump off the diving board into the recesses of my mind only to be brought back up again by another wave of my reality, another pressing thing I need to do or consider.

Moving, I think, to a new location takes hardly anything at all. You simply go from point A to point B. To make a successful transition, however, that takes so much more. There are things to do:
--Get a new address
--Update your address with every subscription, card, service, membership organization, and friend. (That, by the by, takes not one, but more like four hours, and may need repeating should the post office reassign your box)
--Find new hangouts where you can be refreshed
--Create a new health routine to suit your new situation and schedule
--Build a new social network
--Find out how to integrate your past social network into your new situation and schedule. Because while you can cut off your friends and end relationships when you move from A to B, why would you? Friendships are those things which ought to be able to not only rise above circumstances, but circumference  differences and changes and geography. They may need reimaging and reimagining, but they are such a beautiful and wonderful and vital part of our lives. I would not be quite myself, this self, without the friends who have poured their lives into me through the years.

There are things required:
--courage to explore and find these new things
--boldness to accept an image of yourself that you may not feel confident in, but wish to move forward through: the sort of idea where you step into a pair of shoes which are too big for you and find that they give you the space to grow into them and expand your being
--energy to try and try again, or to step a little further, or to again wake into a day that is full of the unfamiliar, that brims over with strangeness; that has little or no comfort zone for you to curl up in and hide away within
--forgiveness of your mortality, of the humanity of yourself. Of the fact that you love having your life filled with people that you love, people you have gotten to know through the years starting with a smile at a stranger or a hello, and then built into the regular features of your life and now have to live without that regularity. Now have to start with ten million new smiles and hellos to a small ratio of returns
--joy that you get to have this. That you get to wonder and wander and try and try again. That you get to meet SO MANY NEW PEOPLE every day and you never know who might become wrapped into the future of your life, what might come next, what to expect at all
--a vision that helps you see how the many pieces of your life are not, or need not be, fragments. How they may all be so different and even clashing but still have worked to make you yourself--and in that way of being your self, you make all of them one and whole and not broken fragments at all. And this vision helps you with grief, because you know that what was still is, and what will be already is beautiful for that, too.

Wandering last week around Portsmouth (Pronounced "port's-muth"), Maine, I found my eye captured by this beautiful combination of colours; a yellow on a blue. It was just simply these beautiful berries of yellow and orange against the backdrop of the stony blue sea and I was swept away with the thought--my room at home (now gone), where i painted blue sea and stony sky and curtained rising yellow light from my childhood. That room is not lost for being gone; those colours are something I carry with me, carry everywhere. The splashes of what and who we love, of the tiny things which shape us echo about us, everywhere and always. Even when we are quite alone or cut off and apart from the particularity of what shaped us, their resonance remains, sounding like a song through our lives, note after note of meaning winding together and creating this most beautiful harmonic and perfectly unique piece which we play out.

I am reminded here in DC of how I first fell in love with London: it was the first place I had been to, since discovering that life can shatter us or give us the experience of fragmenting, where I felt whole and complete. Where I could walk around the city and hear languages in all my tongues . Where I did not need to choose between what part of my life was real and what might not be or had no space to be. Here in DC, I again hear so many languages, the ones I know. German, clearly from Vienna, speaking, and I remember riding around on the u-bahn going to and from school. The laughter and the homework and and the beautiful long trips. I bought these recycled beer earrings off a Kenyan man in the market Sunday afternoon. With him I got to connect and talk about Kenya, about the places one should see there and what did I see while there? And I thought, how funny it is that when I first travelled to Kenya, I  never imagined that this "insane adventure" would echo so far into my future as to be part of my most solid reality.

Vertigo affects some people; I for one am deeply affected by it. I look over a cliff's edge and I experience motion. I struggle going down AND up escalators because the tedious motion of the steps and I think I might faint or collapse from it. This is not an issue of height, but of a particular manner of experiencing motion. Wibbly wobbly bridges. Rope ladders. Ice skates and skis. What I struggle with in moving is perhaps another form of vertigo; of everything being thrown into some strange suspension and this sensation of instability. But I adore the expanding of my universe, and the way that out of place and the definitions we lock onto in our lives, reality becomes reborn and we, with it.

Friday, 11 October 2013

Not All Who Wander Are Lost

It's funny how life happens sometimes. One month ago, I never imagined that today I would be sitting by piles of red rocks staring out across the Atlantic Ocean from a portico on Prince Edward Island--and I have a pretty wild imagination! Yet here I sit, watching the clouds gather grey overhead and the ocean resting so very still. Across the way, the black of trees on an outcropping of land silhouettes itself against blue rolling hills further aback and the blue light falling from the sky beyond and above.
For three years, I have fruitlessly lain plans with friends for roadtrips or plane-trips to this island, and each year they have fallen through; even this very summer! And now without a plan at all, with only a breath and a whim and a great big woosh, here I am.

It fascinates me to think what has been lost and what not? I no longer have a job; but I am still a professional. I no longer have an income, but I'm still existing and doing and eating and going. I no longer have my beautiful, perfect, and first apartment ever; but I have lots of couches and spare rooms and homes opened up to me for a return, for a visit, for a trip home. I am still a student and I am definitely an artist. I'm still a traveler, even if I have to let go of studying in Puerto Rico this winter because I cannot reconcile yet in my mind how do I pay for that when I have no idea of how my living will look? And I am doing and being what I do and know best right now: living a nomad's life and running to the sea. Crying and laughing with friends. Watching, writing, thinking.

I love that I have come to an island to think when I come firstly from an island. I love that the rocks and the dirt (or is it sand?)  hidden here is red-toned, like earth I remember from childhood. I love that I have friends across the world and am never quite gone from home despite being where I have never stepped before.

Though not new to me, it is still odd to think that I will not be "going back" after this adventure. That I will instead be going on to something newer yet, more unknown and that the picture ahead is not littered with the faces and smiles of people I have come to expect to see every day, whom I already miss, dearly. That the picture ahead has very little at all that I can expect to know.

What I do know, though, is that I can read signs. I can get to Prince Edward Island by myself. I have navigated countries not my own, spoken languages I do not know the names of, and have yet to not enjoy an adventure I meet with. I know that I love challenges and that I crave a rawness in life and well, I've certainly got that ahead of me! These are exciting and wonderful times, however strange and hard and tiring they may also feel. This is how I love to live; walking on an unmapped path surrounded by wonder and heading into a great and beautiful mystery I will get to explore and learn.

Friday, 24 May 2013

Mid-trip Happy Quip

I don't know how, but somehow in the absolute madness of the last few months I forgot just how much I love to travel. Not that I thought I didn't love it, but I forgot how ridiculously and completely happy I am when in motion, when lounging in an airport, when sitting in a place I have never sat before and perhaps will never again.

Right now I'm working at a coffee shop in downtown Portland, OR, and my sheets of paper and files litter the table while I stare out at a red brick building, a tree, and weather that changes rainy to sunshine to rain, etc, about every few minutes.

For the three nights of being in town, I rented a sailboat. My very own, whole, just for me sailboat. And it is wonderful. Last time I came out this way my friend Chloe and I roadtripped up to Friday Harbor from Portland and back again in the span of 24 hours. Now she is adventuring with me on my sailboat. It is glorious. Though I am tired and jetlagged and worn out from so much busyness and behind on my writing for school I am so happy I cannot stop smiling. My mouth hurts from defying gravity and poking up at the corners.

And then at this coffee shop, there is a piano. So I played piano for a while. Minutes. Not quite an hour. I'm not sure how long. But it was wonderful--such a deeply rich-toned piano that sounded like it would be friends with the boat if they could meet.

There is no doubt in my mind that one day I will have my own crossbreed of a sailboat/yacht and that there will be a piano in the cabin. And I will sit for hours on the deck and eat chocolate and cheese and listen to the wind and watch the expressions of the water change, and I will fall asleep to the lapping lullaby of the water again.

Tomorrow I head off to Seattle and then next week I head "home" again to London. I will be a jet-lagged wreck of a very happy person!

I love the random meetings with people you don't know at all. Love the walking past a boutique and finding the most perfect dress that fits just right. Love the sitting down to poetry and philosophy and the deep questions about life and the connections that make life so electric and eclectic. Love the live piano music in the airport and the man who tips you at the coffee shop to show how much he appreciates  you sharing your music. I love that I'm sitting here on the other side of a continent doing work with a friend I haven't seen in two years as if we come here every day. Like I live here. Because I do, in a way. I live everywhere. I live most when everywhere. When in between and out of place. My place is the dandelion in the crack in the sidewalk. The boat frequenting new harbors. The plane stopping in around the globe. The girl on the bus or running along the river or riding out into the sea. Where every surrounding has a friend that I know, that I'm about to know, and that I love knowing. That I love, simply.

Right now I am so exquisitely happy. And this is how it ought to be.

Sunday, 28 April 2013


The sun finally begins to warm up the world in this cold northern area, and I don't remember the last time I was this glad of that. It has been a long winter, and as much as I can still enjoy the snow, and prefer the shades of brown and grey to all these shades of green, I have missed the warmth rather desperately this year. Missed being outside all hours of the day and night reading or writing or just sitting and thinking. It's a bit too cold to do that all in the wintertime.

Picnicing outside this morning with my breakfast, I keep remembering the beautiful days growing up in the Caribbean. How my older sister and I would climb up into the boughs of our flamboyant tree, and curl up in the branches there to read all afternoon. Later on, we put wooden planks between the branches so we could stretch out. And still later on, we made a fortress on the roof of our already 2 story play house and would lie there between the earth and the sky and look out over the sea which lapped at our backyard; would look out across the bay to the town and to the hills and watch the dolphins go by and the pelicans and seaguls fish. I would give almost anything to go back to that space in time even for just an hour or two.

I remember how my grandfather, visiting from the States, would stare out at the sea all the time and tell us it was a million dollar view, or tell us we didn't know what we had. I think we just didn't know that the rest of the world didn't have it, too.

We spent all the time we could out-of-doors, in our "secret gardens"--little nooks and crannies of the yard where no one else went and later, no one else was allowed to go. She, my older sister, actually grew things in her garden. Beautiful flowers, lots of periwinkles, and a cantaloupe plant to list a few. My garden was of rocks. I displayed the gorgeous rocks I would find around the island on the lids of buckets tucked in between every branch that could possibly bear the weight. And one wall of my garden was lilies, and the door to it was a pale pink bouganvillea tree that bent just right so I could sit in it like a reclining chair.

Besides our gardens, we had a special area of very loose dirt in which we liked to play--out in the back yard up agaisnt the cliff edge that dropped down into the sea. We played hours in the red swirling dirt, moving our toy cars and trucks (the miniature ones) around and imagining cities and towns that now I think must have rather resembled the dwellings of Tatooine.

I am so happy right now to be able to sit outside again and read and write and eat and play in the dirt--though now I too play with plants instead of with cars and trucks. Even if these birds still sound so different to my ears and I miss the callings of the parakeets and the cheeps of the chibi-chibis and barika-hels, and even though I live now beside a creek and near a river instead of by the sea. Outside is just a glorious place to be.

Sunday, 10 March 2013

What's A Little Uproar, Anyway?

A week ago was the first day in about a month and a half where I woke up and actually felt good. I was beginning to think I'd never recognise that feeling again if it ever tried to show up, but I did, and I welcomed it back wholeheartedly.

This week has been full of much much work (that still didn't all get done!) as well as some happy fun. I don't have much to say on the matter, because right now I need to either be sleeping or working on story revisions... but I just have to tell you this one little anecdote.

Saturday afternoon my dear friend Cherith and I met up for a few hours visit. We used to have a girls time once a week at least back when we lived about 3.5 minutes apart. Now, though, the 1 hour drive dividing us makes that a little harder to swing. So it had been a while. Too long. And we decided to fix it with a late lunching at Applebees.

Well, with apologies to the vegetarians and vegans among my friends, I wanted meat. Badly. Like a starving carniverous dinosaur, in fact. Enough that every cow I passed on the drive there (and believe me, there were a LOT of cows!) looked like big juicy flank steaks just waiting for me to go bite into them. So when the waiter came around to collect my order (I just had to take enough time to see what kind of seasoning and sides I cared about, if i cared about them at all), I ordered a steak. Nice yummy 7 oz steak (just enough to leave you wanting more...)

And how would you like that served?

What? I questioned back. The din in the room was a little loud.

How would you like that served?

For some reason I thought at first he was meaning what did I want it brought out on, or maybe how it should be cut. So i stared rather dumbly at him, I'm afraid.

How do you want it prepared? He asked, patiently changing the word for me.

Well, I don't know about you meat lovers, but I like my steak so raw that it's practically like the cows I passed on the way here, still moving around on the plate. The more red, the happier I am. It is perhaps a more Gollum-esque turn of mine.

But I was really having a bad day for languages. I mean, all this writing and delving into your worlds and stuff, it's all tapping into these langages that I've never let mix in my head. They're flapping around there like a bunch of liberated girls from the 20's now, shaking it up and giving me mental wiplash.

So I said to the waiter, I'd like it rawer.

Can you say that out loud, please? Just take a second. Do you hear what it sounds like? A roar. A nice catty little claws out badly sexy RRRAaaawrrrr!

The poor waiter just stared at me. So I tried again.


Rare? Cherith (I think) ventured to verify.

Yes. Rare. More rare is better. More raw is better. Rare-er. Raw-er. RED.

So yeah. Saturday is the day I Raaawr'd at a waiter. hahaha!
It's nice to be out and about again!

Sunday, 17 February 2013

Adventures of a Recuperating Winter-bug Woman

Far too many days have passed since I last stepped into this space, and I'm sorry for my absence!
These past few weeks I was first terribly busy for a few days, and then horribly and utterly miserably sick for a solid two weeks. I'm practically all better now, just more tired than usual. So, apologies--but know I'd much rather have been on here than be stuck sick in bed!

Being sick was a good reminder that my feisty independent self still can appreciate the care of friends, and I was touched by friends who came to watch movies with me so I wasn't alone the whole time (or skyped me so I could have a "change of scene" and actually croak to someone), or to bring me soup, a thermometer, medicines, juices, things I could actually eat now and then, and take me to the doctor. It also reminded me how much I hate not having words, because I was so sick I couldn't even think straight or get a string of words to work together. That was even worse than not having people around, I think--not being able to use words. 

I remember so many different times in my life when I've not had words, too; when it has been not sickness, but language that has kept me from being able to speak, to say, to express. Sometimes it's just complete muteness. You have no words yet in that language, you cannot speak if you wanted to, your body does not know how to shape itself around that sound--it can barely recognise it as sound at all! And other times, it has felt like choking--when I've had the words in my head, when my tongue feels them in my mouth, but the edge of them gets caught at the back of my throat and garble comes out instead, choking noises none of us can comprehend. But when you cannot even think words, not in any language, not even with the mind in your fingertips? I am so thankful for the ability of my mind. 

This last month, when I wasn't sick, and I wasn't going home early because of still being absurdly tired from having been sick, I was probably busy enough to make up for the sick time.

A group of seven members of a county leadership program (myself included) organized and hosted a silent auction, dinner, and mock trial to benefit the county youth court program. That was a really neat moment (a moment that topped like a cherry hours and hours of preparation and planning!). We had an overwhelming amount of items that we auctioned off throughout the day of the event, and then over 80 people who attended our dinner--raising about $3000. I go back and forth with this amount--is it a lot, or not that much, as a number by itself? But when I think of the significance of that number, when I think of the difference it will make to this program (ensuring the continuation another year of an amazing program of restorative justice for young people needing a second chance), then I think, wow, that really is an incredible success, and I am honoured to have been able to be a part of making that difference.

Our leadership class actually just came to completion this week: we had our graduation celebration Friday night, and the 14 of us got our certificates of completion for the program as well as a beautiful plaque to display and certificates of merit from our local state senator and of congressional recognition from our local congressman. I like baubles like that, I admit it. It's one of those "oooh, that's really neat" kind of things. But I want it to be more than just neat, and more than just a bauble or accolade to dangle like an earring or other accessory. I'm excited to be a graduate of this program now, and to go out and continue to see for the rest of forever all the ways I'm going to intentionally and unintentionally let this program affect my life. I love already being so much more connected to the greater community that I live in, and I'm so excited to go do something purposeful with that connection.

And finally (though not all-inclusively)...
Late yesterday afternoon, after hours of trying to write in the afternoon, I enjoyed taking a break to go "teach a cooking class." I'm not sure how much teaching really happened, but I did succeed in leading a group of about 15 college students to prepare a very yummy dinner of one of my favourite foods from the Caribbean--pastechis. These are delectable half-circles of fried dough containing some wonderful filling. Last night we made some with cheese and then some with a spicy beef. We topped that off with a very USA chocolate chip pie. It was fun. Fun to share this taste of home, fun to hop around a huge kitchen, and mostly just fun watching all of them chop, roll, saute, fry, mix, knead and interact with each other. I did go straight home and sleep after that, though! (energy is just not up to par yet...)
But then today, I went skiing again! Because yes, I really did love that first go. So I picked up a friend and off we went--her first time since a nasty accident 4 years ago that had her in a cast for about 5 months, and my second time ever. She took to the slopes like a fish to water, and I, well... I had a few intimate bonding experiences with the ground this time around. BUT, I had a wonderful time, and I made it up a whole new and super high ski lift (a feat because of my fear of heights) and down a big new swooshing slope--the hardest of the beginner levels. I'll definitely have a lot more rounds on the beginning slopes before I even consider going on the other ones, but it was nice to walk away with that accomplishment. And now, I am considerably exhausted and ready to sleep, dream, and anticipate all the wonderful things waiting in this new week. 

Sunday, 27 January 2013

Ski Lifts, Bucket Lists and Life

When I was a little girl, I remember climbing up the gate at our house to sit on the stone column next to it and wait. Wait for my sister to leave for and then come back from school. Wait for the car to take me to school later on. Wait for my dad to come home from work. There was so much eagerness in that waiting--the excitement of something coming.

Yesterday I climbed the pile of snow plowed up by my house. The last few years I confess I tunneled into these piles with pots and pans and so of course, I had to make sure no other person tunneled in yet this year. But no such thing, so up I climbed. It was like my own personal little mountain in my front yard, a wonderful hawk-eyed view of the streets, the passersby. Not so high as my magic carpet, but wonderful in the way of the tree fort, the hide-out. 

And again, I waited. Waited for some friends to come through so we could caravaan off to the ski slopes together. Tennis I wanted to play since I was a very little child. Skiing, though, I've wanted to try since I first left the Caribbean and got over the shock of the cold and winters. And though I spent so much time around skiiers, I was never granted that opportunity. These past few years, I've thought about it, watched it come around nearly in my reach, and then either slip away again or else I myself have chosen to grab some other opportunity. 

But yesterday--yesterday was my day for skiing at long last. Yesterday, in this marvelously surprising unforseen way, I got to go skiing and it was just so delightful. Learning this foreign feeling, this way of thinking with the muscles of my body, of hearing them in my head and focusing on their directions. The conquering the never-ending fear of heights to move up the mountain, shaking in the seat as I try not to look down, as I remember all the other things I have conquered in my life and how this is the least of them all. To glide down this slope of pure white, so intent on harmony and balance and the beauty of your surroundings and having only a sensory awareness of others on the slope passing nearby at varying speeds. The hilltops across the valley smiling back at me and the cold kissing my nose. It was wonderful. 

And it is the waiting for wonderful things like that, the eager climbing up a snow plow pile and watching for adventure, for opportunity, for pure beauty--I want to do that with this whole year, with the rest of my life which sometimes feels like too many lifetimes to me. I want to climb to this hill of new persepective, of bubbling childish excitement, stamp a spot and plant my feet solidly and wait, eagerly; expectantly. Wait and reach out and embrace all the wonderful new experiences that lie around, hidden from my sight til just that perfect moment. 

Today I ran away from home a while to start reading the next book on my school-list. Sometimes you just need to work from a clean slate, a new environment where everything isn't chatting away at you familiarly and intrusively all at once. I ran away to a coffeeshop where lots of strangers pass through; strangers whose lives seem oddly comforting and vaguely interesting, and it is not intrusive to tune in to their chatter. 

One huddle of women around the firepit near me, wealth sparkling off their particular clothes, their large rings and fancy materials and all; they were talking about their vacations, where they wanted to go next, when they were done this skiing holiday of theirs. Belize, the Caribbean, somewhere really exotic. 

From there, their conversation turned to bucket lists, to checking things off (one apparently is getting quite near to finishing her original list). And it got me thinking about my own list of things I want to do. Not much, really. I don't often sit around and think up adventures, or set life-goals or throw stones at the future in hopes that when I arrive there, I'll find the stone and recognise the significance of that place. But I do have a few things on my list, casual little ideas like flying a plane, walking across a country, seeing the northern lights, looking at the moon from antarctica. Higher education and telling stories that have little truths in them, stories that can resonante with something in all of us who claim common humanity. 

I know I don't value my life enough. I spend copious amounts of time imagining for myself beautiful deaths, epic ways to leave this life behind because I get weary of waiting for the unexpected, or weary of letting ago of another piece of life that I loved dearly. Dearly. And because there is some part of me that finds an aspect of death alluring--Peter Pan saying "to die will be an awfully great adventure," perhaps. But I am grateful for the luxury of dreaming, grateful for the wealth of opportunities that I can choose to take hold of now and, hopefully, over the course of my lifetime. I'm glad that my life is one that can afford even the idea of a bucket list, of langously floating through life coming up with new adventures to turn my rotor towards. I'm delighted that I got to ski yesterday, and that I might go again sometime. I'm eager, in spite of the worse parts of myself, for the adventures of the lifetimes I have yet to live before me. And I am grateful for my life and its many measures of wholeness.  

Sunday, 20 January 2013

The Intent to be Lost

"So many things seemed filled with the intent to be lost that their loss is no disaster"
~Excerpt from the poem "One Art" by Elizabeth Bishop

I was thinking a bit this morning about lostness. This week has been such a one for me, wandering circles in my mind, going nowhere, breaking down. Wondering why so many things get lost. Wishing I didn't always feel so lost, myself.

On my second breakfast of today, circling cereal absently in my bowl, I came into focus on the spoon I was using. I love this spoon. It's not gold or silver, and it isn't fancy at all, but... My older sister and I, sometime in our early childhood, were flying with our parents to the States for a visit. They had those handy take-out bags on the plane; most people called them barf bags, but we could see their true purpose. So we took our take-out bags, filled them with cookies (the flight attendants loved us, so we got lots of extra goodies from them), and then went up and down the aisle collecting cast-off treasures from other travellers. I'm not sure just when exactly our parents, seated somewhere else on the plane, discovered our entrepreneurial designs, but we did have to retire back to our seat eventually. Yet even so, when we got off the plane and offered up our treasures to our parents, they were surprised.

In addition to cookies, apples, sugar packets, towelettes, pretzels and some salt & pepper packets, we had taken several sets of silverware. Yes, real honest to goodness (not silver) silverware. They used to use those on planes, before it was just first class, before it was unsafe to have it at all. And it didn't occur to us that you were supposed to leave the silverware on the plane! So, we had this fine mini-collection of both of our sets of silverware--knives, forks, and spoons. Monogrammed with the airline's name, no less.

All these many years later, I wonder what drawers in what countries those forks and knives and spoons came to rest in, so far away from their airline home, so settled onto the earth instead of flying over it endlessly. And in fact, that airline shut down years ago. But somehow, I still have that one solitary spoon and it makes me smile every time I see it. Smile and remember two brown skinned blond haired girls going up and down the airplane aisle with barf bags. Smile and remember being told to NEVER take silverware off a plane again (though I'm pretty sure our parents probably muffled their laughter at our shocking actions). Smile and think how funny it is that such a small thing can still echo into today.

I think about that in terms of lostness. The fact is, I know that as bewildering and exhausting as the experience of lostness is, and even how frightening and overwhelming as it sometimes grows, I would rather live my whole life lost than ever walk on a road.

My youngest sister and I have a plan lying between us; our golden egg which we look forward to hatching. When she has a breath and I can get 3 months off in a row, we are going to walk from the bottom of England to the top of Scotland, and then ferry our way across the islands at the top to the highest one, to Unst. I dream of that place I have never seen. I dream of us wandering through all that land, wet and smelly and angry and perfectly wonderously content. They say that there are 3 ways you can do that trip--walk along the roads, travel from camp-site to camp-site, or wander by the stars through fields, hobbiting your way across the world. Can you guess which way we'll go?

I think of all the things I've lost through the years, the toys and the dolls, the pens and the keys and the books--so many books. The ID cards and tickets. The friends and the homes. Colours. Villages and cities and smells. Countries I love. Languages I now can only cry in.

But I think the fact is, we carry the truth of all these things with us still. I think someday, even if I am denied my freedom, denied my belongings, denied my dignity; I think even if I am cut off from my memories completely through cruelty or the naturally unnatural brokenness of the body, I think I will still be myself. And myself holds all these things, holds the image the imprint the timeless impact of all these things, of all the things which ever touch or shape us. So how can they ever be lost to us? And how can we ever truly be lost? Why should we ever despair in our feelings of lostness?

Maybe the experience of lostness is just tasting the wonderous expanse of the world that exists outside of time, and being perfectly overwhelmed. Perfectly.

Sunday, 13 January 2013

Happy Sleepy Warm and Fuzzy Thoughts from a GRAD STUDENT!

I think January caught the flu; we've had about 24 hours now of enjoying the heat of its fever. After the bone-chilling weather of Vermont which had been years since I had to experience, the exceptional warmth of these days in NY came even more shockingly. Sleeveless dresses? Picnics in the warm sun? flip-flops to cross the grass while piles of melting snow tug at the corner of my eye? So bizarre. But not at all unwelcome!

These days of being back home, of adjusting to "real-life" once more; these mornings of waking up with the refrain I'm a student again! singing in my head so happily (far too cheerfully for so early in the morning!!) and of loving it, loving every minute of it. Tracking my first few books (yes, paper books still--I have yet to submit to the nook or the firepad) as they make their journey through the states (I think, it would have been so fun if the pony-express-boys could have had little gps devices attached to them so the girls in their dresses tucked away at home could at least follow the adventures of their little missiles...). Sitting in front of the computer screen and teaching myself it's ok, it's alright--release the Krakken; let your imagination come forth and swallow you whole. 

Writing. Just the pure joy and the crystalline despair of writing. Of investing in myself in this one thing which I love most and above all else. So wonderful! 

It's terribly invigorating. Though I have so much less time, I've already done more cleaning and more cooking and more baking and more walking and more scheduled eating than I usually do in at least a month's time. (Well, excepting the walking. I haven't walked that much yet, not a month's worth!) But really. It's like being alive again. 

Watch me take that back next week, when I get swallowed up in the craziness of starting up a semester again and decide instead of being alive, it's drowning instead... 

Today I made the experiment of cooking Ethiopian food. I had some ingredients for it hiding in cupboard around my home, I think they must have been whispering to me. And of course, experience says that when you are about to embark on the tied-for-2nd busiest month of the year, you should always have meals available for a quick grab, so that you don't subsist on 2 shots of espresso a day, office chocolates, granola bars, and shrimp and spinach. Not that those are bad things. But they don't promise the best nutritional balance or the carousel of flavour which I prefer to indulge my taste buds in. So now i have a freezer full of daro-wat and kik alicha, as well as enough in my fridge for the next week of off and on meals, and some stock to make into a hearty potato stew (if I get around to picking up some vegetables in the market). 

I also indulged my nostalgia and made poppy-seed bread which I haven't made in about a decade. It still tastes just as good! And fresh out of the oven poppy seed bread with a nice mug of fresh-brewed double-shot mocha is perfect for a Sunday morning. 

It was all very good. 

I think tonight I am just so happy it is hard to even think about sleeping, hard to imagine that I might close my eyes on this well of joy and wake up tomorrow still with this thrill, still with this exultation. But I suppose if I don't close them soon... I will be too tired and grumpy in the morning to even care about exultation! 

And so, goodnight my readers. I hope you sleep well, or wake well, whichever timezone this finds you in.