Norsk Frustration

imageEverything had become nothing and nothing is everything. This is the statement that came over me while traveling in Norway last autumn. A deep sense that all I was seeing had such deep meaning but was also a bit hackneyed. And yet I have always appreciated the sacred in the mundane. The practice of washing dishes to quiet the mind, a walk at dusk to appreciate the change over from day to night; I believe these simple acts can change perspective. Because so often they change mine.

Norway was mind blowing to me. My girlfriend and I spent days driving through the fjord lands. As each hairpin turn swiveled round we found ourselves eyeing navy blue seas, gray cliffs, moss and craggy rock outcroppings, and finally came upon a famous stave church. Medieval and magical, sadly with a locked door, I stood in the bitter Norwegian wind and admired this landmark. Tucked in a tiny valley, the place of worship and comfort for so many Stave churchthis building had stood for centuries bringing the sacred to the hard working people of this little village. My admiration came to a close when we realized there was no restroom. My girlfriend adopted the stance, I call, the hard lean, which means I need to find a bit of nature or a bathroom pronto. So off we wandered up the street to the local grocery store. Still a bit lost in my reverie, we walked through the automatic doors into the fluorescent lighting and bored faces of local life. After we used the facilities, bought something to eat for dinner, and were walking back to the car we turned to each other with astonishment. Do you think they know they live in such a gorgeous place? We talked and agreed, it’s someone’s every day. It’s often how I feel working in Santa Fe in the summer; I’m not on vacation. Some days your world is beautiful shining so brightly there is nothing to distract your attention away, and other days, the car needs an oil change, your father’s dementia is worsening, it’s snowing in April, and your kid needs help with homework you barely understand.

My girlfriend and I put up a lot of happy pictures on social media but our trip was also full of hard moments and tough talks. Our perspectives were constantly shifting. One moment beautiful the next not so much. I learned more than ever that the sacred is in every moment of the mundane. I could change my perspective, take a deep breath, practice patience, and loving – kindness. But I also realized it is a practice and sometimes I cheated. I was quick to anger and held onto frustration. And my girlfriend cried and then we tried again. Life is mostly about trying again. Everyday there is the intention to wake up and move it forward, to write something worthwhile, to run an extra mile, to excel at work, to fall in love, to be the open hearted person we know ourselves to be.

Throughout my travels I read My Struggle by Karl Ove Knausgaard. Here is a man who has put his struggles down in deep detail and beautiful prose. For some, their own struggles are enough, but for me there is always admiration for those who put it down on paper. The thing I appreciate about struggling and suffering is it’s unique and universal qualities. Everyone has their own story but we all relate to the feeling. While I don’t always relate to Karl I deeply appreciate his fearlessness, and the moment when the struggle becomes the work.

He raised his coffee cup to his lips and took a sip. I didn’t know what to say. What he said was not prompted by the situation, except that I had just arrived from Norway, and it was formulated in such a way, came in a coherent flow, that it seemed prepared.  . . Whether his assertions were right or not I didn’t know, my intuition was they were driven by frustration, and he was actually expressing what was causing the frustration. It might have been Sweden. It might have been something in him. It didn’t matter to me, he could talk about what he wanted, that wasn’t why I was sitting here.”

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The Whale Inside

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” As I say, it is never not beautiful here.” – The Sea Inside ~ Philip Hoare

  • This drawing from “If You Want to See a Whale” by Julie Fogliano stayed with me from the moment I saw it. I was waiting, waiting for something I couldn’t quite fathom. And I tried to stay calm as millions of ideas swirled through my head over the years. Offers from friends to go to Italy and other far- reaching places never felt right. And I remained in the desert and stayed close to the people I loved. A life of adventure was calling to me under the surface but I remained in my daily routine; work, hiking, making dinners, running to dance class, and soccer, spending time with friends. In the past six months I noticed as ideas starting becoming realities. Flights were booked, plans were made, and people I love left our country within a country (Northern New Mexico) for Spain and Ecuador. On Wednesday I will leave my home in the desert for New Zealand. An idea that has been with me for 15 years will come to fruition. And my heart strings are tugged by the beautiful faces, gorgeous spaces, and places I have called my home. But the wait is over and I’m ready for the whale to surface.
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mi scusi

other languageI have been accused of being a my way or the highway kind of girl. And as long as we’re talking cliché’s I’ll say I’m also an I’ll believe it when I see it and what you see is what you get kinda gal. The cliché is tough. It’s an exaggerated way of looking at anything, putting someone or something in a box and not allowing it room to change or breathe. I’m not a fan of clichés, boxes, accusations or anything that takes away my freedom. Lately I’ve been going for long drives out into the desert trying to breathe as much freedom into my lungs as I can possibly get. My heart knows that no one can take away my freedom. Even if I was trapped in a small room, a jail cell, every moment of every day I am allowed to choose my thoughts. In the spring it seems, choosing freedom is more important than just about anything. In choosing what I think about myself, about others, and about life I like to allow us all wide open spaces to breathe, change and evolve.

All this driving, and fiery freedom-searching doesn’t allow a lot of sit still and read time, so I’m reading short stories. Francesca Marciano’s The Other Language. I adore her and all her writing but this one embodies just what I need right now. Stories that span the globe, an open way at looking at relationships and how we all attempt to interact, care for and communicate with one another. In the first story one young girl’s lust and longing for an English boy colors the choices she makes later in her life. On a small island off the coast of Kenya a woman reconnects with a former lover. She wracks her brain to meld the more exaggerated version of this man with the experience of her young lover. Marciano is brilliant, light, but never shallow, with a sweet way at looking at the world without ever being saccharine.

“We should have this conversation on the beach,” he whispered.  Outside it was pitch black, save for a sliver of moon high in the sky.  Nobody was around and the only sound was the gentle lapping of the water.  They sat very close on the cool sand, their shoulders and arms touching.

“Yes it’s much better out here,” Emma smiled at Luca, grateful that he was her brother, that he was there, close again.  They did need air, space – they needed darkness, to be able to talk about what they’d been avoiding for so long.

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Star-crossed lovers

goldfinchThis weekend I fell in love. And although this is the bookish kind of love that will nail me as a nerd for life, I fell in love with a book. I didn’t sleep, I didn’t eat. I read and I read and I read some more. While the wind howled, and the moon grew full, I consumed 771 pages. The Goldfinch by Donna Tartt has been so well reviewed. However, a handful of people I’ve come across have put it down, wished for it to be over, and not been nearly as enthralled with it as I. All I can say is I’m a fool in love. The magic in this story is the sheer force of words, relentless words forever propelling the story forward. Detail beyond detail displaying rooms, cities, gestures, inner dialogue, all creating a whole world that I willingly stepped into and never wanted to leave. Sometimes a book comes along and you feel that the words flowed through the author. They were the conduit, the scribe, the blessed one that book had chosen to move through. This didn’t feel like that. Craft and consciousness. An amazing combination of fine tuned craft and the ability to see people as they are and as they are perceived. Human nature not at it’s best or worst but in all it’s variations. The proverbial shades of gray. The place we all live in. The places where we live and the places where we hide. The human stage where we lay our scene, a pair of star-crossed lovers attempt to overcome PTSD. Theo, our hero, the young boy we follow as he looses his mother and gains a precious work of art one fateful day. On that day he becomes entwined with Pippa, a red-haired girl, also at the museum. Theo jumps off the page. His voice so strong, his experiences so vivid, his inner dialogue so constant, you are privy to his every thought, as clouded as it all may be. And so why is all this so meaningful? Why do we read novels? Because it seems to be the finest rendition of the human experience beyond the reality of life. And this particular novel is beyond fine.

Here are a few of my favorite bits:

And the fat summer moon shining white and pure overhead, and my love for her was really just that pure, as simple and steady as the moon.

And I add my own love to the history of people who have loved beautiful things, and looked out for them, and pulled them from the fire, and sought them when they were lost, and tried to preserve them and save them while passing them along literally from hand to hand, singing out brilliantly from the wreck of time to the next generation of lovers, and the next.

Though even when I couldn’t see it I liked knowing it was there for the depth and solidity it gave things, the reinforcement to infrastructure, an invisible, bedrock rightness that reassured me just as it was reassuring to know that far away, whales swam untroubled in Baltic waters and monks in arcane time zones chanted ceaselessly for the salvation of the world.

That first glimpse of pure otherness, in whose presence you bloom out and out and out.

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walking away

30 girlsRain in winter always feels like the first sign of spring. Pavement and adobe walls are wet and tiny buds on trees are happy to soak up cold water. I’ve been taking long walks instead of running over the past month. Listening to books on audio. It feels so comforting to watch the world slowly come back to life while I walk along listening to a woman’s voice in my ear share her story or someone else’s. My body has been forcing me to slow down, walk, instead of run, feel instead of think, meditate instead of act. Taking it all in and observing, I’m suddenly the tortoise and not the hare. Though there doesn’t appear to be any race I’m in, I’m getting there slowly. Wherever there is. Today I walked along and listened to Thirty Girls by Susan Minot. A novel of Africa, a story of Uganda and specifically thirty girls taken by a rebel army. A story we know and can never know. And Minot gives us both perspectives, the girls and an American journalist in Africa writing a story about them. What prevailed as I walked along listening;  how can we ever know another person’s suffering? We know because we all experience it on some level, but what brings us together and separates us, are sometimes, the same thing.

Here is a moment with Jane, the American journalist reflecting on flying while watching a young man hang glide over the African savanna.

“In dreams when she was flying she could never make out exactly how it was working. She swooped over doorways, looped over trees but felt that at any moment the miracle might stop and down she’d plummet. She’d think in the dream, I better concentrate on staying up. But that wasn’t necessary, you just stayed up. You didn’t know what was keeping you up. It wasn’t in your control, it just happened. Like life.”

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i love new york

ageofinnocenceTwo bright stars have suddenly come into my life, different sizes, shapes, altering levels of maturity but equally funny and loving. It was a complete surprise to find my heart cracking open to let these two souls into my life. I find, now that I have, my life is filled with conversations about books outside my demographic, cartoon movies, and more art and inspiration than I could have ever dreamed. There are moments of panic when I want to retreat, when I over think everything, when I see red flags and obstacles on my path. Loving and being loved is scary, dangerous, and I tend to not go about it so well. Rush in and retreat has been a long time pattern. But being around children they don’t allow that type of behavior. Consistency is really the only option, and it has taught me to be consistent in my own life and now in my own style of loving. I never wanted children, and still don’t want my own. But one amazing little girl has stepped into my life and allowed me to open my heart consistently, honestly and with great tolerance for all the ups and downs that come with loving another person.
In the midst of all this change I’ve needed something grounding. I turned to Edith Wharton’s, Age of Innocence. One of my favorite novels that I have never managed to finish. Dear Madame Olenska, a fish out of water in her own city. I feel a bit like that lately. Unsure, unaccustomed to being in this same place, differently.

She shook her head and sighed. ’Oh, I know – I know! But on condition that they don’t hear anything unpleasant. Aunt Welland put it in those very words when I tried . . Does no one want to know the truth here, Mr. Archer? The real loneliness is living among all these kind people who only ask one to pretend!’ She lifted her hands to her face and he saw her thin shoulders shaken by a sob.

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time will tell you

subtle knifeEnd of the year. How did we get here? Growing up my father and I often made fun of my mother for saying “I can’t believe it’s . . insert holiday, season, birthday, etc.” As I get older I understand the quickening of time, the sudden feeling of days passing and seasons disappearing and approaching. This year has been life-changing for me, though not many examples of outward change but so many good changes on the inside. A year of ending friendships, relationships, and healing conversations. Time has brought me to a new place. And I am not the same person I was last December 28th. That’s the goal isn’t it? We get better every year. Aging is wisdom; there are new things to create, old ways to let go of, and some paths diverge while others remain.

And while I was working the craziness of holiday retail I continued on the path of Philip Pullman’s His Dark Materials golden compasstrilogy. The Subtle Knife is the second in the series. I fell in love with Lyra and her world when I read The Golden Compass. With witches named Serafina Pekkala and Iorek Byrnison, the armored bear and trusted friend, I climbed into Pullman’s world, making my everyday reality a little more magical. When I picked up The Subtle Knife and looked at the list of chapters, Among the Witches, The Tower of Angels and the Shaman, among others, I was sold. I’ve been living in Pullman’s world for the better part of December and it is a dream, sometimes dark and then filled with amazing wisdom and light. Here’s a bit of Lyra’s brush with danger in a world unlike her own.

It was much harder for Lyra now than it had been even in the Arctic, on the way to Bolvangar, for then she’d had the gyptians and Iorek Byrnison with her, and even if the tundra was full of danger, you knew the danger when you saw it. Here, in the city that was both hers and not hers, danger could look friendly, and treachery smiled and smelled sweet; and even if they weren’t going to kill her or part her from Pantalaimon, they had robbed her of her only guide. Without the alethiometer, she was . . just a little girl, lost.

And one of my favorite Nick Drake songs for the end of the year . .

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