a little bit of housekeeping

to get to my place, turn left at the big Indian.

SO. As I said before, I am wanting to pay extra close attention the first year in our new home, in Heaventree. My husband suggested that I start a blog for it, as I would for any of our vacations, so he could read it (he does not read this blog). I’ve done that on a blog in a subdirectory of my pillbug queen site (http://www.pillbugqueen.com/heaventree/), and if you follow my blog page on Facebook you’ll see that posts on that blog are automatically feeding there — so if that’s where you find me, on Facebook, it should be invisible to you which blog you’re reading. All you see is a new post.

BUT if you don’t follow me on Facebook, you won’t know about the Heaventree posts; I mean, I’ll still write here too of course, but this blog is more personally personal, if that makes sense, and that blog is looking closely at my first year here. If you are an email subscriber to this blog, I’ve made it possible for you to email subscribe to the Heaventree blog too, so head over there and you’ll see the email subscribe option in the right sidebar.  (EDIT: I was having trouble with the feed, sorry, try again! It worked for me……let me know if it doesn’t work for you please.)

I won’t be flooding both blogs with words; if you’ve been around the Palace for long, you know that I typically blog in bursts, with long fallow periods — but never more than one post/day. Even with both of these blogs up and running, I seriously doubt I would post on both blogs in a single day. And you can always unsubscribe with a click of a link, if you like.

I’m getting used to the soft shushing of the trees all day — not so used to it that I no longer hear it, but just used to it so I don’t think it must be raining. This is truly one of the most beautiful places I’ve ever seen. xoxox

three things: 12/31/16

1)  Well, an end to this year and a face turned toward the next. God almighty. I don’t need to say all this again; it’s been present to varying degrees in my last posts, but it’s the last day of the year so I have to include it. I’m scared of the future and grateful as hell to have my arms linked with others in the resistance. We’ll lose more battles than we’ll win, but we’ll pull each other up and keep going. I have never dreaded a coming year more than I dread this one.

2) Thank you for sticking around with me, for coming to my little cobwebbed corner of the Internet. Thanks for reading, for commenting if and when (and where) you do, for accepting the little things I offer, and for accepting me, which you do by returning. If I offend, I’m grateful that you don’t bail on me but instead leave space for me to have my own view of the world. I hope I do the same for you. (Unless you voted for Trump, in which case I have no space for that.) (None.) (Whatsoever.) (But otherwise, you do you and I will be damn glad of it, whether we agree or not.)

3) Here is a wonderful year-end/new-year poem:

BRAND NEW ANCIENTS (by Kate Tempest, surely a pseudonym)

See – all that we have here is all that we’ve always had.

We have jealousy
and tenderness and curses and gifts.
But the plight of a people who have forgotten their myths
and imagine that somehow now is all that there is
is a sorry plight,
all isolation and worry –
but the life in your veins
it is godly, heroic.
You were born for greatness;
believe it. Know it.
Take it from the tears of the poets.

There’s always been heroes
and there’s always been villains
and the stakes may have changed
but really there’s no difference.
There’s always been greed and heartbreak and ambition
and bravery and love and trespass and contrition –
we’re the same beings that began, still living
in all of our fury and foulness and friction,
everyday odysseys, dreams and decisions . . .
The stories are there if you listen.

The stories are here,
the stories are you,
and your fear
and your hope
is as old
as the language of smoke,
the language of blood,
the language of
languishing love.

The Gods are all here.
Because the gods are in us.

The gods are in the betting shops
the gods are in the caff
the gods are smoking fags out the back
the gods are in the office blocks
the gods are at their desks
the gods are sick of always giving more and getting less
the gods are at the rave –
two pills deep into dancing –
the gods are in the alleyway laughing

WOW. Right? I’ll end this post with some pictures that make me just so very happy, in the hopes that they give you a smile, too. Y’all be safe, and hope to see you next year.

My sweet Katie and her beloved family
Our darling Oliver, so happy with his big Christmas gift because it has numbers on it
beautiful, glowing, angelic Lucy
This one is so great because it’s my Katie’s sense of humor. I crack up every time I see it, even out of the corner of my eye. That girl.
My beautiful Marnie, and her beloved family
I love this stage, where they turn their heads completely sideways to get a new look.
Wonderful, glorious Ilan, how I miss him.
Such a happy, photogenic little guy. And a genius, I’m pretty sure.
bamboo rafting in Yangshuo, in southern China
Lijiang, China, so special
so happy in Shaxi my lips and gums dried out from all the insane grinning
and all the happy boat rides on Manistique, in the Upper Peninsula of Michigan
That wondrous snow storm we had in January, can’t forget it!
or lying in a hammock next to the Nam Ou, in Nong Khiaw, Laos
enjoying the beach on Koh Mak, in Thailand

So many other pictures I’d need — holding Ilan for the first time, holding Lucy for the first time, walking slowly while Oliver collects acwons, time spent with beloved friends, waiting with Marnie for Ilan to be born, a meeting of my poetry group (why don’t I have a single picture of that!) — but these will do.

Love to us all, and solidarity, sisters. xoxoxxo

I just like to share!

Through the terrible stress of this everlasting nightmare of our presidential election, I have relied on a number of ways of coping — some have been good, and some have NOT been so good. And I’ve been inconsistent in using the good ones, perhaps because the benefit isn’t immediate and my stress is begging for immediate relief (even though they help me more, and without causing trouble). Yoga, walking, cooking beautiful and healthy food, meditation, those have flickered in and out of use.

My less-good ways of coping have filled me with junk. Other stresses. And even though I know this, going in — as I eat another donut, or another BLOCK O’ CHEESE — I often feel completely unable to stop myself. In New York especially, since Marc keeps a fridge just about as opposite mine as possible, and since he makes things for me like gravlax, my stress eating is less good for me than when I’m in Austin. After I inhale a pound of cheese, let’s say, I feel very crappy (to say the least, and I’m trying to say the least, here).

Another way I’ve been dealing with this stress has been a constant consuming of social media. I am on Facebook non-stop, and while I am reading and responding to posts that present the same political position I share, and that help me feel less alone, it also keeps me stirred up. But it’s become a compulsion, an impossible-to-resist response to stress.

It’s also true that when I’m here in Austin, I sit alone in my house day in and day out. I will have a little social activity here or there, but I sit in silence all day and night, and without anyone else to interact with at all. And I like that! It’s not that I don’t like that. I really do, especially in the days after I’ve been in New York and feel overwhelmed by people and noise and non-stop interruptions. The silence and solitude are wonderful! AND again and again I’ll think about something, or read something, or see something, and turn to share it with…… ah, no one. There’s no one here. No one to say, “Hey, listen to this!” to. And so that’s another reason I hop onto Facebook. Wow, look at this. Hey, you won’t believe this! Ah, read this beautiful thing. Look. Listen. Read. Wow.

I’ve missed my blog. My absence from it has been due to a lot of reasons; I’m doing other writing, long-form writing, and trying to spend my time in that manuscript, and otherwise I’ve been kind of blanked-out with stress and fear. It occurred to me that I could help myself with two of these things in one fell swoop: Instead of machine gunning Facebook, I can collect the things I want to share with someone and put them in a post here. That will have the benefit of making them easier for me to find again, too. Aside from political stuff (which I will not share here because I just really need to avoid it all completely for my own sanity), the stuff I share will fall into the ordinary categories of things I share on Facebook: book recommendations, interesting articles, poetry, images, family stuff.

And so, here goes:

  • Do you know Hélène Cixous? I hadn’t heard of her until I read a quote about her by Lidia Yuknavitch, so I looked her up and now I must MUST read her. This quote seems especially relevant in the United States as we are teetering on the brink of living under a Christian Taliban: “But I am just a woman who thinks her duty is not to forget. And this duty, which I believe I must fulfill, is: “as a woman” living now I must repeat again and again “I am a woman,” because we exist in an epoch still so ancient and ignorant and slow that there is still always the danger of gynocide.” ― Hélène Cixous, The Book of Promethea
lidia
read Lidia.
  • The quote from Lidia Yuknavitch that sent me to Hélène Cixous was from The Chronology of Water, which I highly recommend: “With Hélène Cixous you must close your eyes and open your mouth. Wider. So open your throat opens. Your esophagus. Your lungs. Wider. So open your spine unclatters. Your hips swim loose. Your womb worlds itself. Wider. Open the well of your sex. Now speak your body from your other mouth. Yell corporeal prayer. This is writing.” WOW.
  • Have you ever read May Sarton? I’ve always wanted to and somehow never have, yet, but yesterday Sherlock sent Peggy and me this BrainPickings post about May Sarton and the use of anger in creativity. That’s a thing you hear, right? “Turn your anger towards your work.” Transform that energy into creation. I need to carefully read that piece and think about it, because I hope it has something for me. I am swamped by the experience of anger, overwhelmed by it, and often paralyzed by it. So when I feel it, I become scared that I’ll explode, that I’ll express it awfully, and often I do, and it’s just tough, and especially tough for women. I once asked members of my book club to write about a time they were angry (we were tentatively trying these writing sessions), and one member became absolutely enraged at my suggestion, saying she doesn’t get angry because it’s not useful. The time didn’t seem right to point out just how angry she was. 🙂 But I am in desperate need of learning how to manage anger! It’s my oldest lesson I have yet to learn, so I’m hoping the BrainPickings post and then reading some Sarton will help. Any words you might have on either Sarton or anger will be appreciated.
  • The idea of living in Australia or New Zealand has become kind of irresistible; a thread developed on a Facebook post by a friend who originally shared this video:

[embedplusvideo height=”450″ width=”640″ editlink=”http://bit.ly/2f42PPI” standard=”http://www.youtube.com/v/9v97xH6Bof0?fs=1″ vars=”ytid=9v97xH6Bof0&width=640&height=450&start=&stop=&rs=w&hd=0&autoplay=0&react=0&chapters=&notes=” id=”ep7574″ /]

[First…I mean, RIGHT????] One friend responded to the video by asking me what it’s like to live here right now, and in the ensuing conversation, I got invitations to move to all the major cities of Australia, with explanations of their great aspects, and a bunch of bids for life in NZ, which is not just gorgeous but is also lacking in snakes. 🙂 They were just so adorable, every last one, and every time I woke up during the night, mid-Trump-panic, reading that thread made me grin so hard.

  • Today’s poem: Carpe Diem, by Jim Harrison:

Night and day
seize the day, also the night —
a handful of water to grasp.
The moon shines off the mountain
snow where grizzlies look for a place
for the winter’s sleep and birth.
I just ate the year’s last tomato
in the year’s fatal whirl.
This is mid-October, apple time.
I picked them for years.
One Mcintosh yielded sixty bushels.
It was the birth of love that year.
Sometimes we live without noticing it.
Overtrying makes it harder.
I fell down through the tree grabbing
branches to slow the fall, got the afternoon off.
We drove her aqua Ford convertible into the country
with a sack of red apples. It was a perfect
day with her sun-brown legs and we threw ourselves
into the future together seizing the day.
Fifty years later we hold each other looking
out the windows at birds, making dinner,
a life to live day after day, a life of
dogs and children and the far wide country
out by rivers, rumpled by mountains.
So far the days keep coming.
Seize the day gently as if you loved her.

Happy Saturday, y’all! It’s going to be a great one for me — birthday lunch with a friend, and the lit crawl tonight with poetry group friends. Also: It’s my BIRTHDAY EVE YO! xoxoxoxo

TODAY"S PHOTO: Marnie is in Seattle to exhibit her new book, and she sent me this picture, note the caption. :)
TODAY”S PHOTO: Marnie is in Seattle to exhibit her new book, and she sent me this picture, note the caption. 🙂

rumbles

Tectonic plates shifting, that’s the image I keep getting as I think quietly about this change I feel — a change you aren’t aware of, but you are if you come back here to see if I’ve posted and then see that I haven’t. For people with my particular struggle, going dark like this might mean depression is lurking around in the dark corners, but this has nothing whatever to do with depression. And thank heavens for that. I mean it, I’m so grateful not to be depressed.

Instead, I’ve been going through a tremendous shift that has very much to do with telling on/about myself. It has mattered to me a lot to tell my own story, which I’ve done relentlessly for more than a decade, now; I can’t remember exactly when I started blogging, but it was in the LiveJournal days….oh, wow. Anything you want, and everything you’ve ever done, can be found online, and I just found mine. I started my LiveJournal on March 3, 2004 (here’s my profile, wow, that’s amazing, and my posts here). No need to look at the posts, because they cover the same major themes and topics back then that I still write about. My kids and I all started them at the same time, because the girls were off in college and we figured it was a way we could easily keep up with each others’ lives, and then when we spoke on the phone we could talk about the big stuff, with the little stuff already shared and covered.

Writing like this stuck with me, and I moved away from LiveJournal to a blog called Out of a Stormy Sleep, which I then transitioned over to Thrums, and had to hide that one because of the creepy stalker who sued me, so I came here, to my pillbug palace. I’ve said everything I have to say, over and over and over and over and over.

But that isn’t why I’ve been quiet — because God knows, the mere fact that I’ve already said something several times didn’t stop me any of those instances, right? I’ll say it again. Instead, I’m having a big shift to wanting to hold my own thoughts and experiences for myself, and to share them in a different way, a closer way, a more personal way.

This change also goes along with another shift involving other people. I kind of atomize myself and spray outwards, falling on anyone who will accept my presence. I have a lot of friends in Austin, and that’s great, but it feels unwieldy, it feels like I can’t keep up, and because I’m gone so much, the connections remain relatively shallow. My “book club” has disintegrated because really, almost none of them wanted to read books, and absolutely not the books I want to read. Without that central pole of “book club” holding us together, I think we’ve drifted apart into our friend-pairs and that’s a change — but one that goes with this deeper change I’m feeling, too.

As autumn approaches, a time that feels more focused and ‘serious,’ the mindful focus I’ve been working on the last couple of years turns toward my social connections, and by extension, toward the way I share myself. I do want a book club, but this time I will create one from a thoughtful place instead of “hey I want a book club, everyone in the pool who wants in!” And to be fair, when I first moved to Austin and had to create a world from scratch, and didn’t know anyone other than my kids, I did the best I could — and my poetry group worked out beautifully.

And so I will be letting a bunch of acquaintances continue to drift away in their own streams and I’ll dig my own stream a bit deeper. I’ll share myself more discriminantly, not with groups (with one exception), but instead with a few very good friends and thus deepen those relationships. That just sounds so good, and less frantic.

I’m not sure what it means for this blog. I’m certainly not shutting it down, and I’m not making any claims for what I will and won’t be doing with it. I’m also feeling kind of social-media-fractured, between Instagram where I love sharing photos, and Facebook where I love sharing funny or moving things, or recommendations, and Goodreads, where I loving keeping notes on books I read. And in all those cases, I really enjoy friends’ photos, and friends’ posts.

Mostly, I’m leaving this post here by way of explanation. I’m still here and will still be here, I’m just shifting things around and trying to figure things out. Some of my friends are so far away I only share my life and keep up with theirs in this online way, and to lose these forms would be to lose those connections…..and that feels like a loss I want to avoid.

Anyway. Still here, still changing, still figuring it all out. xoxo

strange (for me) stability

stabilityOn June 27, 2014, I started something new. What I really mean is that once again, I decided to do something new — even though it was the same old “new” thing I’d been trying to do my whole adult life: lose weight. I always accompanied that with the little thought and keep it off, but I never even put that into my decision as a real thing because I didn’t think it was possible. Because this has been my life-long M.O.:

  • Lose 50 pounds by starving myself
  • Several weeks later, “slip” and decide what the hell I’ve ruined it now.
  • Gain 50 pounds because I don’t know how to lose 5 or 10, but I sure know how to lose 50!
  • A couple of years (or more) later, repeat.

When I took yet another stab at it in the summer of 2014, I had a different mindset. I had a longer view; I was thinking about what I wanted my life to be in this next stage, so it was a whole-cloth, decades-long (hopefully!) view. I wanted to take excellent care of myself because I do want a decades-long stage, and I’m 57. I wanted to feel differently inside, and that was the umbrella over everything else. Strangely, I didn’t decide to start “on Monday,” or “at the beginning of the month,” I decided to start right at that moment, 4pm on a Wednesday, I think. I’d already been eating mostly vegetarian, by which I mean completely vegetarian when it’s my cooking, and doing the very best I can when others cook for me.

Because of who I am, I needed to monitor my “gains” (which means my losses), so I weighed every single morning. My day drifted into a rhythm: green smoothie for breakfast, nuts and fruit mid-day, an hour of yoga at 4, a beautiful dinner made for myself, an hour-long walk after dinner, and meditation before bed (and work in all those long spaces in between). I liked it! A lot! It was easy and it fit me. And the weight fell off, which surprised me.

But really, my biggest fear and concern came then, when I lost the weight. Losing weight, know how to do that, check. Keeping it off, complete mystery. And then my friend Megan said, “Decide you can do it! You can.” As silly as it may sound, that was transformative. Something shifted.

I’ve weighed myself every morning I could ever since, and that slight monitoring feels important. The coolest thing is that there were times I gained weight! During my month in Chicago, I gained 10 pounds; no surprise, given the kind of cooking and baking I was doing, and IPAs I drank. But the big surprise is that I shrugged, meh, who cares — because I enjoyed my time eating with the kids, and it felt like comfort and care. And I knew that I’d just get it off and get back to myself. When we travel to Southeast Asia, I want to enjoy the foods we eat and not be worrying, so when we return I always have a few pounds to lose so I can get back to myself.

Get back to myself. It’s just become “myself” now. There are times I can’t do yoga for a variety of reasons and I really miss it, so when I can do it again, it’s a sigh of return. Aah, back to myself. The weight slips away and I feel myself again. It’s a version of myself that never existed, a dreamed-of, elusive version, and now it’s just ME. And the best part is that I feel present in my life in a way I didn’t before, which brings the stillness I wanted.

How? Why? Truly, I think these are elements:

  1. I started immediately instead of waiting, even for the next day. Kinda caught me off guard! Oh, I’m already in it! One thing about that, I think, is that I’d already “blown” the early part of the day, surely, eating more or differently, which helped me think about those experiences differently.
  2. My perspective — the rest of my life was the whole point, instead of right now.
  3. A whole-life approach instead of just diet and exercise. And in fact, not even approaching it as “diet and exercise” but instead mindful eating that made me happy, and moving my body in ways that feel so good. I wanted to be calmer inside. Still inside. I saw all the changes I made as contributing to that goal, because that was my real, centering goal.
  4. Daily monitoring. For me, I really believe that’s important. It doesn’t come with inner nastiness, or critique at all! And my weight fluctuates, too — not just the big fluctuation of Chicago, or the semi-big fluctuations of vacation (which are usually 5 pounds), but up 2 down 1, etc. It just gives me a general awareness. I also have a number in mind that is my outer limit of gain, and if I hit that, I am just a little more careful with my dinners until I drop below it. More vegetables.

I love the way you can keep surprising yourself, even at 57. Once in a while I realize, with deep surprise, that I’m wearing the same size I’ve been wearing for more than a year. I don’t care what that size is, although I’m happy with it, but I do like that it’s the same size. And the stillness inside me, the way I more easily address the world and myself — not always, but more often and more easily — surprises me too. I am able to be present much more often, now. All that also feels like me now.

Today I’m flying to NYC and then we’ll be off to China at the end of the week. I hope it’s a good Tuesday in your life! xoxoxoxoxoxo

in my opinion….

thinking about things beside a glacial river in Norway
thinking about things beside a glacial river in Norway

My experience of being in the world is all I can write about, and I try always to be clear about that fact — that it’s just my experience — even as I am undoubtedly not always successful. Because I am imperfect, a surprise to no one, including me foremost of all.

I think about things a lot. I think about things I hear, things others say, things I have known for a while, things I just learned, things I see, things I do, things that worry me, things that make me happy. When I was sitting beside that river in Norway, I was thinking about so many things it was hard even to organize them into categories, much less sentence-ordered words.

My way of thinking involves writing my way through it. That’s why I write so many posts in which I say I’m trying to understand something. That’s how I find my way to understanding! When I try just to sit and think, it all kind of dissolves and breaks down, and I can’t find the through line. When I try just to think about something, it’s so loose and chaotic in my mind that I feel overwhelmed, but the process of putting it into concrete words, and putting those words in order, within sentences and then within paragraphs, and then within a piece of writing as a whole, carries me forward to a better understanding of the thing I’m grappling with. I usually get a sloppy draft written and then see that this paragraph goes up there at the top, and that these sentences don’t even belong in this paragraph — and maybe not even anywhere in the piece of writing! Maybe they belong to a different topic all together, and it was just my messy thinking that put them there. My understanding may still be fuzzy after getting it down in writing, but usually when I write my way through something I have at least a bit more understanding of it, and of what I think or feel about it. And the result is my understanding, for myself. Maybe you share the same take on it, maybe you don’t. I’m not trying to convince you, when I write here, and if you feel differently I am also not criticizing you. This is my take, my process, my 30 acres of Internet real estate, my thought as I understand it at the moment, and that’s all. Not just that — it’s all likely to change the more I think about it, or about another topic that relates even tangentially. Like me, my thoughts and words are works-in-progress.

And so sometimes I’ll hear something and starting thinking about it, and very shortly need to write my way through it, to try to understand. Perhaps I’m thinking about something you said! That does not mean that my writing about it is some kind of passive-aggressive attack on you or what you said, at all. It means I’ve been thinking about what you said and realized that I wanted to understand it better, that I didn’t quite get it in some way, or that it intrigued me. And maybe I even come to see it differently than you did, which — as far as I am concerned — is OK. My post is still not written against you. Even if the topic is stimulated by you, my thoughts are not about you. (Actually, it means that you said something that was so interesting, I couldn’t stop thinking about it.)

Because I read all day long, and from so many sources, ideas come in and mix around with other ideas, new and old, and by the time I start writing my way through something I likely don’t remember the origin . . . because it’s not about you! It’s not about your opinion as yours. It’s that you gave me something I wanted to think about, so I am exploring the thing to think about, not the ‘you’ part.

Ana Gasteyer plays the judge who requires attorneys to preface their comments with "In my opinion...."
Ana Gasteyer plays the judge who requires attorneys to preface their comments with “In my opinion….”

If you watch The Good Wife, you may remember the judge who has a quirk of requiring the attorneys to preface everything they say with, “In my opinion…” That’s simultaneously ridiculous (because of course it’s the attorney’s opinion) and kind of cool too, because it reminds everyone, including the speaker, that this is nothing more than his or her opinion. So perhaps I need to do that here, too, just to be clearer. Everything I say here on my little blog is my opinion. That’s all. It’s just my opinion, and it’s my opinion on the topic at hand, not on you. I promise it’s not about you. When it IS about you I say that, and if I write about you here, it’s only about the stuff I admire. In my opinion, it would be super shitty to write about you in a negative way, even in a sideways-glancing way, in a passive-aggressive “I know a person who…..” kind of post. Geez. That’d be really crappy. I can be crappy, don’t get me wrong, but I won’t be crappy in that way.

Lee Grant recently published a memoir (I Said Yes to Everything) and in it she writes, “One of the understandings I have gleaned in this most recent decade of my life is that people are almost always talking about themselves. That is, more than 99% of the time, when people speak, even when they think they’re describing or analyzing someone or something else, they’re really communicating an idea about themselves.” I could not agree more — both about others, and about myself. I see this all the time in the manuscripts I read, because no matter what a novel might be about, my clients are telling me who they are. It’s one of the most fascinating things I’ve learned in the last few years, actually. My daughter and I talk about this all the time.

So really. It’s not you, it’s me, even if I’m writing about something you may have said in passing. I think you are awesome.

hasta luego!

By the time you read this, we’ll be in the air on our way to Colombia. We’ll be visiting Cartagena, Medellin, and up in the mountains, Santa Fe de Antioquia and San Jeronimo. We’ll be driving from Medellin on, so wish us the best. (If you know us well, you know we need all the good wishes on that front we can get. Let’s just say one of us is directionally challenged, while at the same time he gets freaked out and believes he knows everything.) One thing that’s SUPER weird for us with this trip is that where we’re going is just ~5 hours away, and in the same time zone as Texas. Usually we’re dealing with a 12-hour time zone difference and a 30-hour-ish flight, so this feels like such a breeze, hardly going out of town.

Assuming I can readily get online, and it seems I’ll be able to, I’ll update the travel blog daily. I won’t post here until I’m back, but you can jump over here to see pictures and read stories:

colombia

Click the picture and you’ll go directly to the travel blog. (Or click here.)

The last time we were in South America was the late fall, 2007, when we went to Peru. That was a fantastic trip, and I hope the same is true for this one. Adiós amigos, hasta luego!