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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Of Gods and Men

achilles“The gods envy us because we’re mortal, because any moment might be our last. Everything is more beautiful because we’re doomed. You will never be lovelier than you are now, and we will never be here again.”

After I finished reading Song of Achilles, I watched Troy. Achilles recited these lines to Briseis. A friend had recommended Song of Achilles and I dove in headfirst into the world of Homer, as perceived by Madeline Miller. Her language is poetic, flowing and honest to each character. The relationship between Achilles and Patroclus although controversial, I suppose, for some readers is the most beautiful love story I have ever read. Miller portrays each icon true to themselves in language and being. Achilles is the warrior, but also a beautiful and true partner to Patroclus. Patroclus is the loving, kind-hearted healer, and ultimately dons Achilles armor to find greater peace. This gorgeous book moved me in ways I did not expect and by reading it I learned lessons in loving from two Grecian men. Being in your own power, being true to yourself, and sharing the toughness and the sweetness is a state of mind that was familiar to Grecian warriors as well as this present day blond haired Aries. Here are some of my favorite bits –

He held up his spear as he spoke and shook its gray tip, dark as stone or stormy water. I felt sorry for other kings who had to fight for their authority or wore it poorly, their gestures jagged and rough. With Achilles it was graceful as a blessing and the men lifted their faces to it, as they would to a priest.

It was a strange time. Over us, every second, hung the terror of Achilles’ destiny, while the murmurs of war among the gods grew louder. But even I could not fill each minute with fear. I have heard that men who live by a waterfall cease to hear it – in such a way did I learn to live beside the rushing torrent of his doom. The days passed and he lived. The months passed and I could go a whole day without looking over the precipice of his death. The miracle of a year, then two.

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wild blue yonder

graysonI happened across a book this summer that gave me a beautiful and helpful nugget of insight. It stated that each decade of your life is either introverted or extroverted, starting with the 20’s being extroverted, 30’s are introverted, 40’s back to extroverted and so on and so forth until the end of your days. Which helped me to understand why at 35 I haven’t felt this introverted since I was 15 years old. Hence, there has been a lot of inward journeying, cutting of cords, and alone time. But this hasn’t stopped me from reading about or wanting to take my own journey, specifically The Camino in Spain.  But for now I’m reading about other women’s adventurous trailblazing.

First I read Lynne Cox’s tale of swimming with a baby gray whale in the Pacific Ocean. Grayson is filled with gorgeous descriptions of the sea and what it feels like to let it envelop every pore. Lynn is training, at 17, to swim to Catalina, and finds herself helping a lost baby gray whale find his way back to his mother. This book felt like a dream, the kind you’ve had where you wake and say did I really just swim with a whale? Here’s a little bit of Lynne’s sea writing . .
Come on Grayson. Let’s swim out there and see if we can find your mother,” I said, encouraging him, knowing he couldn’t understand a single word, but hoping he would somehow understand the thought. Words are sometimes too small, too confining to convey the depth of thought and strength of emotions. How does a whale communicate love, hope, fear or joy? He looked so small in the enormous sea and I wanted to protect him somehow. Maybe you communicate with your heart. That is what connects you to every living thing on Earth. Use your heart. It is love the surpasses all borders and barriers. It is as constant and endless as the sea. Speak to him with your heart and he will hear you.

After Grayson, a co-worker gave me Wild to read. A book I had been loathe to read for allwild it’s hype, but we decided to be cliché’s together – women in our 30’s reading “Wild.” Hooray for the cliché, because I loved every bit of it. Every stinking, sad, Snapple Lemonade-obsessing, funny, open moment of this journey.

As I stared at the flames I thought about Eddie, the same as I did just about every time I sat by a fire. It had been he who’d taught me how to build one, Eddie was the one who’d taken me camping the first time. He’d shown me how to pitch a tent and tie a knot in a rope. From him, I’d learned how to open a can with a jackknife and paddle a canoe and skip a rock on the surface of a lake.
There’s no way to know what makes one thing happen and not another. What leads to what. What destroys what. What causes what to flourish or die or take another course. But I was pretty certain as I sat there that night that if it hadn’t been for Eddie, I wouldn’t have found myself on the PCT. And though it was true that everything I felt for him sat like a boulder in my throat, this realization made the boulder sit ever so much lighter. He hadn’t loved me well in the end, but he’d loved me well when it mattered.

And a dreamy song and soundtrack I listened to while reading  . .

 

 

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just about a moonlight mile

I’ve been obsessed with “Moonlight Mile” by the Rolling Stones lately. All things 70’s became highlighted for me this year. I was born in 1978 so maybe that’s it. But suddenly I am nostalgic for things comforting, for people who are reliable and for things relatable.  My reading has been a bit scattered but I’m finding the same themes pervading; comforting, reliable, relatable. Joshua Beckman is one my favorite poets. His words are magic to me. I’m never sure how to write about poetry other than to say this one makes a piece of my soul fly around the room. His newest book, Inside of an Apple;  the cover as simplistically perfect as the poems inside. From “The Plant” here are a few favorite bitsinside apple

Fall asleep and dream you are a droplet
of pretty natural sugars condensed and spherical
then go get hid in someone’s mouth like candy
(maybe the groove in a tongue would be a nice place to stay)
and when they open their mouth for a raindrop
you’ll get a raindrop too

Yeah, well
my heart’s a bean
wind/clanking
windows/ and in the air
again I hear
thin happy music/about being alone

maid woodrellAnother one I’m pouring slowly over, The Maid’s Version by Daniel Woodrell. I thought I’d tear threw it, but each chapter is to savor, each moment in these lives of this 1920’s Ozark Mountain colony is to contemplate. A tragedy ties the story together but each character carries an individual pain and joy that resonates beyond it’s own time.

Alma touched all twenty-eight and kissed them each, kneeling to kiss because there was no way to know which box of wood held Ruby, or if she rested in only one, had not been separated into parts by crushing or flames and interred in two or three, so she treated every box as though her sister was inside in parts or whole and cried to the last.
The Town was represented from high to low, the disaster spared no class or faith, cut into every neighborhood and congregation, spread sadness with an indifferent aim. The well-dressed and stunned, the sincere in bibs and broken shoes, sat side by side the hymns they had in common.

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Post Modern

Summer reading is there anything more glorious? The one summer I worked at the Harvard Coop we had a “tome table” upstairs in the fiction section. A whole table full of 800 page plus books. If cheesy summer reading was not your cup of tea, there were many options for indulging your literary geek all season long. This summer I’ve been trying to do both. Indulging both my literary geek and sneaking in the guilty pleasure or two along the way. A little fun a little serious keeps everything in check.

book of memoriesLast month I wandered into a used bookstore high on caffeine. Always a bad idea for me, but fortunately this time Péter Nádas’ beautiful book A Book of Memories jumped out at me from a bottom shelf and I was saved. I am working my way very slowly through this 700 page tome reading one chapter at a time. I’m blown away each time I pick it up and it may be December before I want to end this love affair with my Hungarian writer. Here’s what hooked me while I was reading in the bookstore,

Experiences related to my past, but the past is itself but a distant allusion to my insignificant desolation, hovering as rootlessly as any lived moment in what I might call the present: only memories of tastes and smells of a world to which I no longer belong, one I might call my abandoned homeland, which I left to no purpose because nothing bound me to the one I found myself in, either; I was a stranger there, too, and not even Melchior, the only human being I loved, could make me belong; I was lost, I did not exist, my bones and solid flesh turned to jelly; and yet, despite the feeling of being torn from everything and belonging nowhere, I could still perceive myself to be something: a toad pressing heavily against the earth; a slimy-bodied snail unblinkingly observing my own nothingness; what was happening to me was nothing, if even this nothing contained my future and, because of the successive autumns, some of my past as well.

I just finished reading Frances and Bernard. Reading letters, even fictionalized letters is one of my favorite guilty pleasuresfrances & bernard. I would read a few before bed each night, savoring the communication between two writers finding their place in love, in work and contemplating the questions of life. Loosely based on the letters of Flannery O’Connor and Robert Lowell, here’s a little taste of Frances writing to her friend about how she is dealing with her new found feelings . .

He was right. I make him bread. I make him cakes. Pies. And it’s summer. I am behaving the way I behave at home: standoffishly, and pies to offset the standoffishness. The bread and pies are beads on a rosary, paces to go though because I can’t think how I might love of my own accord.

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summer’s children

elba swimmingWhen I was young I adored Anne of Green Gables. Thankfully I had a great friend who also loved Anne. We thought of ourselves as kindred spirits, much like Anne and Diana in Lucy Maud Montgomery’s tales. In all phases of life kindred spirits are necessary, whether they are friends, lovers, or companions. It can be essential to have someone who speaks your language, who “gets” it, and understands the world you interpret. I’ve spent the past week reading Swimming to Elba and Just Kids. Although seemingly opposite these two books are about kindred spirits, finding love in odd places, and transforming in a shared, loving space.  Swimming to Elba, by Silvia Avallone, translated by Antony Shugaar, is a novel about two young girls, better than their harsh, steel-working, Italian circumstances. They are discovering what it means to be women from working-class families. Their friendship and love for each other holds them together and tears them apart as they attempt to grow and change beyond the limitations being set for them. I devoured Just just kidsKids in two days. Patti Smith pulled me into her and Robert Mapplethorpe’s world. I swam in the sea of 1970’s New York, poetry, photography, sexuality, and discovery. Two souls devoted to their art in love and friendship, fueled the ride of reading, and Patti’s gorgeous flow of words.

Here is a bit from “Swimming to Elba”

What does it mean to grow up in a complex of four big tenements shedding sections of balconies and chunks of asbestos into a courtyard where little kids play alongside older kids dealing drugs and old people who reek of decay? What kind of vision do you get of the world in a place where it’s normal not to go anywhere on vacation, not to go to the movies, not to know anything about the world, to never read the newspaper, to never read a book and that’s just how life is? The two of them, in this place, sought each other out, chose each other.

An excerpt from “Just Kids” –

On other days, we would visit art museums.  There was only enough money for one ticket, so one of us would go in, look at the exhibits, and report back to the other.  On one such occasion, we went to the relatively new Whitney Museum on the Upper East Side.  It was my turn to go in, and I reluctantly entered without him.  I no longer remember the exhibit, but I do recall peering through one of the museum’s unique trapezoidal windows, seeing Robert across the street, leaning against a parking meter, smoking a cigarette.  He waited for me, and as we headed toward the subway he said, “One day we’ll go in together, and the work will be ours.”

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