I’m 59. Fifty-nine years old.

No matter how old I get — or maybe it’s just true the older I get — I don’t think I’ll ever understand why people are unwilling to say their real age. (Or why they dye their hair to hide grays, for that matter, though dyeing your hair for a cool color really is loads of fun.) FOR ME, every day that I get to keep living is a wonder.

I’m 59 today: thirteen years older than my dad ever got to be; decades older than I ever imagined I’d see, since I never thought I would make it out of my teens alive; decades of life I got to live despite a couple of suicide attempts (thank God for guns that misfire and for other saviors); and today celebrating in a place I never could have imagined even if I’d tried.

Last year on my birthday, I thought we’d have our first female president a couple of days later so I was filled with excitement and hope for that. And then two days later — while I was still celebrating my birthday fortnight — the world crashed and burned around me and this past year has been its own kind of hell, that all of us around the world know, and we in this country are suffering through. It ruined my birthday joy last year, although that was certainly the least significant aspect of it that one could possibly imagine. It has been a brutal year. I’ve gained 22 pounds from stress eating, even though I’ve been essentially hiding in the mountains for the last few months and I have not watched anything on television since the election because there doesn’t seem to be any program that doesn’t include clips of him speaking.

SO, to happier perspectives. I’m 59 today. I have three glorious, glorious grandchildren, and my daughters are the light of my life. My son is still hiding from us all, and it hurts as much today as it did from the beginning, but he is alive and so there remains hope. My husband and I are enjoying our lives together, in this way we’ve fashioned that works so well for us both. I live in this glorious place — never would’ve imagined such a thing! — with my beloved creeks and bench, and mountains and forests all around, and beautiful solitude. I can also live in Manhattan whenever I wish or need, with my beloved Riverside Park just right over there, and people and buildings all around, and beautiful noise.

My mind still works, and as long as this sleep remedy works, my mind is working a little better every day, I feel the sharpness starting to be visible in the distance, at least. My body still works, and if I can just re-establish my yoga practice it will return to its strength and flexibility that it had before the election. My health is fantastic, not just in terms of the absence of illness, but in the robustness of life. I’m extremely lucky, and I thank whatever combination of genes and good fortune for it, and promise to try to help keep that going. I want to be around a very long time, until I’m just a dusty little bag of bones that hardly makes an indentation in the bed, where I hope to die peacefully in my sleep….decades from now. (I’m now only 5’8″!!!! I was 5’11” so this is startling, but I guess I’m on the path to the dusty little bag of bones. 😉 )

The state of my inner life is perhaps the best it has ever been. Getting older really does do wonders for you — at least, it has for me. It’s kind of hard to parse this, since the trauma of this Republican nightmare is an ongoing source of stress and awfulness for me, but if I pause and let that sit off to the side (as if you can do such a thing), I am more at peace with myself than I’ve been yet in my life. I’m at peace with my dad, I got to ‘thank’ my darling Big Daddy for what he gave me, I’m comfortable with my physical self, I can accept the good things I recognize about myself, and the bad things about me feel less stabby and hateful. Maybe this is an aging kind of laziness; when I become aware of my weaknesses and my flaws, I just kind of shrug — ah, well, maybe next time. And it’s hard to figure out why I’ve spent my life trying to act like I’m not an intelligent and serious person, but I have and I don’t feel the need to do that any more.

In my last year of life, we traveled to Indonesia, and we bought this house. We drove the 16′ truck from Austin to Heaventree, and I started an entirely new way of living. I visited my wonderful Marnie-family in Chicago three times (once in March, once in July en route to Heaventree with my car, and once in October), and I went back to Austin to see my marvelous Katie-family once in October. I had countless drinks and dinners with friends who keep my life filled with laughter and connection and our shared hearts. Lynn came to Heaventree, our very first visitor. I read a bunch of great books (the best being Her Body and Other Parts, by Carmen Maria Machado; Antigonick, by Anne Carson, Human Acts, by Han Kang; and House of Names, by Colm Toibin). For the very first time in our lives together, Marc and I didn’t take a fall vacation and I grieve that a little bit, but we bought the house and sank a lot of money into it so that’s the balance.

Here is my year in people-pictures, and seeing each one makes my heart swell to nine times its size. I’m not even going to try to put them in chronological order, and they don’t represent everyone I was lucky enough to see, but scanning through them shows me how very lucky I’ve been. (hover over a photo to see its caption, or you can click to see them as a slideshow if you’re interested.)

I also started doing my little daily “creekside chats” on Facebook and that has been an unexpected joy and growth experience for me. I’ve become so much easier with myself, as a result. I feel differently about my mouth, as a result, and those decades of shame seem to have crumbled and fallen away into dust. I have the deep feeling of having started my day with people I love, seeing your faces and saying good morning, and sharing my view of the world around me.

Thank you for your friendship, your comments, your presence here and in my larger life. Thank you for your well wishes, and for your care. Thank you for the various kinds of help you’ve given me over the last year, and most especially for the way you share your lives with me, however that may be. You definitely help make my life the full joy that it is.

So here’s to 59! May I gather myself together and lose the dreaded T-weight that signifies my trauma. May I continue to have good health, and may my children and grandchildren do the same. May you stay healthy and happy, and in my life. May I read good books. May I relish my solitude at Heaventree, and my noisy happiness in Manhattan. Happy birthday to me.

(And looking ahead to my next birthday, I put in my gift wish list now, so you can prepare. I turn 60 ON ELECTION DAY, the mid-term elections. I just want one thing, and for once I’ll ask everyone for a gift. Just vote blue. Just vote blue and that’s all the gift I need.) (Think about it, I’ll ask again a couple of days before the date.) <3

What is it I need?

If you are my Facebook friend, you’re probably at least aware that I’ve been doing little “creekside chat” videos every morning, whether you watch them or not. I started making the little videos for a few reasons:

See what I mean? This is the view from my kitchen window. WOW.
  • My new home is so very beautiful and most of the time I’m here alone and really just want to share it! I sit on my little bench and look around, wishing I could say to someone, “Look at that! Isn’t that amazing!”
  • My friend in NZ, Kirsten Duncan, said something to me that hit me right in the most vulnerable spot I might have — and I mean that she hit me with love, and started the process of changing something for me. My whole life I’ve been so ashamed of my mouth and teeth and she said, in passing, that she loved to watch my mouth move, and friends in Oz and NZ always say they love my accent — so that’s a twosome that wrapped love around the things I feel most vulnerable about. I first just made a tiny video sitting in the car waiting for Marc one Saturday, and their comments were so loving and encouraging that I got the idea to do more of them. They began as an exercise in courage and vulnerability and forcing myself out of that little shame prison.
  • Starting my day saying hi to the people I have in mind when I’m talking has just been the best gift. Whether they watch (happen to watch a specific day, or watch at all) isn’t even really the point. The point for me is that I’m seeing their faces when I talk to my phone, even though the literal face on the screen is my own, and so I get to speak directly to people I love, and share my place with them.
my humble little bench, where I sit by Hatchery Hollow Creek and record the chats

I generally keep the videos at five minutes or less, because it feels silly and self-indulgent to just ramble on and on and on – and since I’m just talking extemporaneously, talking for longer than that doesn’t even really feel possible! Most days I don’t have the first clue what I’ll say, when I’m approaching my bench — I know I’ll start with good morning, but then the rest is a mystery to me.

SO what has surprised me so much is how deeply those brief chats have satisfied my need to talk. I think this is why I haven’t been writing here — I already said what I had to say, and after that I’m content to be here in silence, happily alone with my thoughts. Who’d have thought? Who’d have thought that talking to myself out loud — with an assumed Other — for such a short time is really all I need?

My first husband, Jerry, was/is an almost completely silent man, and not emotionally expressive (at all) and also not very affectionate or connecting. I know I’ve told this story before but it’s so heart-breaking; I told him once that I knew he could be affectionate, I’d seen him do that with the dog. He told me that the dog didn’t demand it, and then later that he could be that way with the kids because they did demand it. It was so lonely living with him. Another time he said there was no point in trying to be that way with me because I was just a bottomless pit, and however much he might give would never be enough anyway. I still wince at the cruelty of that comment. But it turned out that my needs really aren’t that big — maybe I learned to thrive on just a little — and this talking thing is another one like that.

I have the most loving, generous, encouraging people in my life. Dear Mudd has suggested that I create a YouTube channel for the chats, and that’s on my list — in that case I could add them here. At the moment I have plenty of work, and as a starving freelancer, work takes precedence over everything else when it’s available. If you follow this blog and are on FB, but aren’t yet my FB friend, click this link and then send me a friend request! At this point, my feed is generally photography, poetry, stuff about books, stuff about my grandkids, and these little daily chats. I had to stop posting about politics (though I slip once in a while, increasingly rare though) because it was keeping me too angry. So I hope my feed is mostly about beauty, and my little daily visits with my friends.

I’m not saying I’m abandoning this blog — perhaps I’m just in a fallow period, as happens to all of us who blog. This is just a little note of explanation, and a waving to you. <3

Letters as a Meditation

If we are friends on Facebook you might be aware of my daily “Creekside Chat” videos. I’m really enjoying making them — just a few minutes of conversation about something, and a reading on Sundays — because they give me a feeling of conversation with friends. This morning I talked about something that I thought I’d mention here, because I had a lot more thought about it than I mentioned in that short video. (I do try to keep those short, three minutes or so, but sometimes they stretch to five and I don’t want to push that.)

I’ve mentioned this here before, too, so I’ll just briefly mention it and move forward. Several years ago in the context of a personal restoration project, for 40 days I wrote an email to a different person in my life, telling them what they meant to me. It turned out to be a much bigger gift to me than to the 40 people who received surprise emails, although their responses showed me what a gift it was to them, to hear what they meant to someone . . . and that’s a gift I know too, from the times it has happened to me.

But you know, there are all kinds of people in our lives. When I was talking, in my Creekside Chat, I started thinking about my dad when I talked about the importance of knowing what we mean to others. For the briefest moment I had the automatic cliched thought we have about suicides — oh, if only he’d known what he meant to us maybe he wouldn’t have killed himself. But so quickly on the heels of that thought came the truth: he was a nightmare in my life. I was pregnant with my first child and knew that I couldn’t allow him to be alone with her, ever, and that was going to be awful, handling that. He wore me out, calling me drunk in the middle of nights ready to kill himself, me dancing as fast as I could trying once again to talk him out of it. His not-at-all contained rage and fury, terrorizing all of us. He broke his wife’s arm in their last fight. He spent his entire adult life trying to die, and it often felt like he wanted to take out as many people as he could in the effort. I very barely survived him, and it took me more than 30 years after his death to recover from the 23 years he was in my life.

As we drove the five hours from Austin to Tyler, the day he killed himself, his sister and I were complaining bitterly about him because we knew he was going to ruin their mother’s birthday (and of course he did — he killed himself on her birthday, a second act of cruelty to go along with the note he left blaming me). We said we wished he’d just go ahead and do it. We meant that. I meant that.

And of course he is the most extreme example of what I’m getting at, but the fact is that I couldn’t possibly write a letter to him that would feel good to him, and be honest. It would be a kind of ‘damning with faint praise’ thing. When my stepfather was dying, in prison, I was able to write a letter to him, a very brief one, and I thanked him for sneaking a milkshake to me once when Mother forbid me to have any food because I was a fat cow. He did that at great personal risk. Since he had written me a note asking forgiveness for the years of rape, and he gave me a small gift he’d made in prison, I found it (shockingly) simple enough to forgive, and to write that letter. It felt like quite a thing, that out of the 20+ years of knowing him, I had only one very small thing to say thanks for, but it was very heartfelt, my gratitude for that milkshake. I had remembered it for decades.

In a much more ordinary way, there are people in our lives whose friendship is fraught in ways that would make it harder to write an email of gratitude — like the no-longer-friend who relished my trouble and resented my happiness. Because, you know, we all have friendships of varying depth, or varying closeness. We have friends we count on in times of trouble, friends who really see us, friends who are just light and somewhere between acquaintance and friend, friends who we just expect to listen to because they have no interest in listening to us, friends whose gifts come with such very long strings that you want to refuse them. I’m thinking about taking up my daily email project again, and thinking about this more difficult category of friend, in particular — thinking about how hard it would be to find enough of substance to say in an email. But maybe there is greatest value in writing those emails, in particular. Maybe for me, having to really dig deep and look, and think; having to search a little harder; maybe that will help me value those friendships more. (Or maybe the effort will help me let go of the relationships!) And maybe for those individuals, receiving an email that came from a deeper search — that will locate those core gifts — will be more meaningful than the easier emails that relish the loud, visible gifts. I don’t know, but I’m thinking about it.

Dixie (and her mother) calls this “giving flowers to the living,” which is the whole idea in five simple words — why I’m not a poet, I need hundreds when five do the job so beautifully. That’s a great aim for today. You don’t have to do the deep hard work of finding words for the more difficult person today. Just today, just with an easy person, maybe, tell them what they mean to you. Tell them the gift they are to your life. Tell them in writing, so they can keep it. I’m still glowing from the note I found waiting for me when I woke up, and I will glow all day long. When my memory fades, as it’s guaranteed to do because ME-NOW, I can open it and read it again.

Yep. I think I’m going to start writing those letters again. I’d love to have your email address. If you don’t have mine, there’s an envelope icon in the right sidebar (in the “Find me elsewhere!” section) you can click on to email me.

xoxoxo

thin perils

a kind of average of my size and shape then

When I lived in Austin I had a large friend group of women, and we often included their boyfriends and husbands in group events (their choice, never mine, and not because my husband lived in NYC . . . I wanted to be with my women, and when the men were there things changed a lot). During the period I was at my thinnest, one woman told me every single time her partner attended, “Don’t you sit near him,” and then she’d look me up and down and position them at the far end of the group from me. I never could figure out which one of us she wouldn’t trust:  me, as if I’d try to lure him, or him, as if he were not in control of himself.

Throughout that long period of my thinness, I heard similar comments from other women. I also heard all kinds of mean things about my size and shape, catty things, insulting things, things that derived from a kind of jealousy. I know women internalize misogyny, and I know a lot of it centers around physical appearance, and I know I’ve made my own share of such comments and judgments about thin women, and I know that for myself, they came very squarely out of jealousy. Cut that bitch down so she doesn’t ….WHATEVER.

around the time a couple of friends told me I’d gotten too thin

Still, it surprised and hurt me when these comments were directed at me, and especially by women who were my friends. I tried always just to smile back — for they were always smiling at me with all their might, and adding in nervous laughter too — and I knew I was no threat to any of them because I don’t like men and I really don’t like attention from men. Nothing makes me dash to the other side of the room faster. But more than that, I was no threat to them because they were my friends! I did have friends who were supportive in a number of ways, and some who pulled me aside in concern that I became too thin for a while, but the one(s) who saw me as a threat never saw me as anything but a threat.

It always made me so sad. It made me sad for myself, and for the jealous (or whatever) women, and about this stupid culture. But I’m thinking about it again because I think I’m back on track. Today marks one complete and uninterrupted week of daily yoga and walking and eating better. The scale is moving but the part that matters most is that my relationship to those things feels like it has found its groove again. I do look forward to having my thin body back; golly did it feel good. For me, feeling light physically went so beautifully with feeling light in my mind. I felt so good in my clothes, and no matter what anyone else thought, I thought I looked good for the first time in my life (misogyny directed at myself all those heavier years). I want that physical feeling back, so light that I can run, so light that I can pull on my skinny jeans and Converse and bounce lightly out the door. I want that feeling where my breasts were so much smaller and lighter that I could sleep easily, and clothes looked better and felt more comfortable. That body was just for me. Like many women with profound trauma histories, and especially profound sexual trauma histories, when I felt threatened I raced back into my fat body where I felt safe from men, so when I feel heavy, it drags along the implication that I must feel threatened. (And of course I DO, we have the Pussy-Grabber-in-Chief who is an existential threat to us all, and to the whole world.)

It can be disheartening to find myself out of breath 10 minutes into a level 1 class, when I could take a 90-minute level 2 class without even breaking a sweat, but you work with who and where you are, and you work with the body you actually have. I need to be in better shape when winter comes and my daily wood-hauling work begins. But this is the eternal lesson of mindfulness: drop the story and be where you are. Child’s pose if I need it. The discipline of showing up on the mat is the biggest point, not what I do or how long I do it. I haven’t yet found the inner quiet, but I assume that will come. One thing that occurs to me that’s very different this time than the last time I started this path is that we now have a nightmare government. When I started my last mindfulness reboot, we had President Obama, and now…..well, we have this terrifying country.

One challenge I have now that I didn’t have when I lived in Austin relates to my husband. My experience with husbands is a common one, based on what I’ve read: sabotage. “C’mon honey, just eat some ice cream with me.” “You don’t have to diet this weekend, right? I’ll make us some lasagna.” Etc etc etc. In Austin, I had ~18 days to focus hard on eating only and exactly what I wanted to eat, to do yoga whenever I wanted, to walk when and for how long I wanted. When you live alone, some things are just simpler. Then I’d go to NYC for ~12 days and either give in and then regain ground when I got back to Austin, or struggle with him about food. His cooking is heavily based on frying things, and he uses gallons of oil. (I almost never use oil, except some drizzles of olive oil, and I never ever fry anything.) And his cooking is delicious! But he’ll accommodate me by making a big salad…..with glugs of his homemade blue cheese dressing. Or a Caesar salad and if you know what goes into that salad you know it’s not healthy. Or he’ll deep fry some vegetables for me. NOW, I am alone Tuesday, Wednesday, and Thursday for dinners. He gets here Friday afternoons around 4, and leaves for the city Mondays after dinner. We have a lot to figure out. I tend to walk more when he’s here, and I can easily roll out my yoga mat and do yoga whenever I want (plenty of space here, unlike in our apartment in the city), but the eating thing is HARD.

I want my most comfortable body back. It’s my body and it isn’t for anyone else. I don’t look forward to women’s reactions when I get it back. To be honest, I never noticed any different reaction from men no matter what I weighed; I’m older now and largely invisible to them which is also a relief. But it’s the women’s reactions that were the most problematic, and I have my own shaming self to deal with, my own jealous snarky commentary to grapple with.

Onward. It’s a rainy Monday here at Heaventree, but another beautiful day. xoxoxo

is it always just Groundhog Day?

So many crossing, parallel lines, so many coming-back-tos, it can be dizzying once you start noticing them. When I left New York in November, 2012, after a couple of weeks in Austin I had to fly back to NYC to pack up my books and ship them to Austin. I was sorry to leave my cozy new place that was still in pupa form, really, not fully created, not fully settled, not all the way mine yet, to return to a painful place that I had painfully left.

The emotion isn’t the same, at all, but I’ve been here a couple of weeks and today I fly back to Austin to retrieve my car — and I’m sorry to leave my cozy new place that is still in pupa form, really, not fully created, not fully settled, not all the way mine yet. The only difference is that I didn’t painfully leave Austin, except for the pain of parting.

And most disappointing, I’m only going to be in Austin for one full day (with a night on either side) and I won’t have a spare moment to see any of my beloveds except for Katie and family….so grateful to see them of course, and to spend as many hours with them, with Lucy and Oliver, as I possibly can. I am sorry I won’t get to see friends, and I will hold space the next time I come to Austin for a get-together. Since I just made the 2000-mile trip, making it again is just kind of mind-numbing, so I’m taking a different route for two reasons: first, to take a different route because for heaven’s sake; and second, to make a pit stop in Chicago to see Marnie and family, which will allow me to soak up a little Ilan and break the trip in half. All in all I will be gone a week, arriving late on Monday night back at Heaventree.

I’m sad to leave this beautiful place so quickly, and I’m so looking forward to hugging and kissing and soaking up babies, and to seeing my daughters and their husbands, and to spending one night with my dear Dixie, and to seeing a different part of the country — up and over to the right, instead of across to the right and then up. But then, when I finally make it back home, all my stuff will be in one place. Whatever I want, it will be available. There’s still some stuff at the apartment in the city, my big Nikon camera and a bunch of baking gear, but Marc will bring that or I’ll fetch it at an upcoming trip. My stepdaughter is coming to the city at the end of July so I’ll drive down for that weekend.

But y’all. Home. Quiet, beautiful home. Since I learned I would be moving here, I started following as many Catskills-related Instagram and FB pages as I could find, and yesterday a caption on an IG photo talked about how lucky the person feels to live in such a beautiful place — still, after all these years — even though it isn’t always an easy place to live. And it isn’t, I can tell already, for all kinds of reasons. I don’t even yet know what winter is going to be like, and I feel all Game of Thrones-ish about it (Winter is coming!!!!). I mean, if you do a Google Image search for ‘winter in the Catskills, you get shots like this, and I somehow think it’s gonna be harder than this great picture suggests:

oh sure, snowshoeing is going to be lots of fun!

So today is fly day, and I remember that other fly day when my heart was crushed and my bones felt too heavy to keep moving, and I’m so grateful that today my heart is light and my bones are eager to fly, even though I will miss my sweet home.

* * *

A couple of PS points:

  • Thank you for your extraordinary kindnesses to me in response to my last post. I wasn’t expecting it, for some reason, even though I know you are always so kind and generous to me. Maybe the “Lori who?” made me feel so small and invisible that I had forgotten that others know me. I don’t know. Anyway. Thank you for all the love and beautiful words (that I insist mean much more about who you are than who I am), and for the big-hearted and very wise advice I got. I’m OK. It’s not echoing in my heart any more. xoxoxox
  • SO! You know how I’ve talked about bears up here, but I hadn’t seen one yet.  There is a house at the tail end of the private road I’m on, and we were invited to a picnic there on Saturday, something they organize every year. It was nice to meet them (excellent politics one and all, including some old red diaper baby connections). At the moment they are just here on weekends, but in a year or so they’ll be moving here permanently. They have a webcam on their house and they frequently catch wildlife on it, including this great shot of “the local big fella”:
a couple of weeks ago, right before we moved in! COME BACK, BIG FELLA!

I won’t be posting anywhere until I get back to Heaventree, but I’ll be around FB and IG once in a while, probably with pictures of grandbabies and daughters, knowing me. You know. 🙂

xo

goodbye, Texas

Oh gosh. How many times can I say goodbye to Texas. This is the third and, I hope, last time I say farewell to Texas. (“I wish I could quit you.”) I left first in 1987 when I was 28, when Jerry and I and our three kids moved to Connecticut; second, when I finished graduate school in 2003 and moved to Rochester, with Will; and this time, all alone, as I am en route to Big Indian, NY, 58 years old, thirty years after my first leaving. This will be the 82nd move of my life (they say the 82nd time’s the charm! I swear!), although honestly it could be more; I counted conservatively, because lots of those years are a blur and I just counted “homeless” as one move. None of the other leavings felt so heavy, so filled with something worth noting. I stupidly skipped away from New Britain, CT, without realizing that I’d meant something to people; away from Fredericksburg, VA, with my eyes only on the next place; away from Huntsville, AL, with regrets for leaving deep friends and losing my much-needed full scholarship, but with hope for my education; away from Fayetteville, AR, with anticipation of graduate school and a PhD; away from Rochester with excitement of a new career in publishing; away from NYC with the shattering of my whole life. So they were various degrees of easy or hard, but they didn’t feel so momentous and noteworthy and heavy as my leavings from Texas. I realized I have such a literal idea that my bones are made of Texas dirt, as if I think they are just compressed caliche, shaped into bone shapes. Old timey Texans can understand that. When I die, I want some portion of my ashes to be mixed back into the caliche. Sprinkled over bluebonnets. Drifted over a Texas river.

a couple of weeks after I moved here, when I’d just received the divorce agreement in the mail.

Thank you, everyone I met in Austin. Thank you for seeing me through. Thank you for picking me up and holding me while I learned a whole new way of being. Thank you for your openness to meeting this new person who was so shattered, to sticking it out with me until I wasn’t. Thank you for the friendship, the happy hours, the evenings in your homes, the times spent laughing in restaurants. Thank you for holding my hand when I needed it. Thank you for all the ways you let me know that you saw me, that you were here for me. Thank you for trying to right my vision. Thank you for offering me hope and your friendship.

Thank you, my darling Katie, for everything. There just aren’t any words. Oh, I have words, but they are pitiful, small, pale. I remember the day I moved into this house, and your presence with me then, and I’m glad that I’ll end my day swimming with you and your beautiful family, before I climb into the car and drive away. How will I be able to bear that, I have no idea.

Thank you, dear Trey, for everything. I will always remember all you did for me, always and forever. Always. Forever. Your quiet strength and care. Always.

I just can’t name people individually because it will be too hard and I’ll cry too much—but I hope you recognize yourself in these words:

Thank you, friends who passed through my life for a season. You gave me so much and I will remember you with happiness, even if our friendship had its time and moved on.

Thank you, true friends who saw me through all my ups and downs. Who listened to me. Who cared for me. Who made time for me. Who allowed me into your lives and shared yourselves with me, what a gift you have been. Who held my hand when my hand needed to be held. Who sat hard next to me when I was in trouble. Who laughed with me when I wasn’t. Who waited with me through the anxiety of the births of Oliver and Lucy, and shared and celebrated that tremendous relief and joy — and the simpler joy of Ilan’s birth. Who helped me even when perhaps you didn’t understand why I was wrecked by something, like the frightening reappearance of my brother. I’m thinking of you individually as I write these words, seeing your faces, feeling your hands, your arms around me, hearing your laughs and seeing your beautiful smiles. Thank you John Fivecoats for being the very first friend in Austin who gave me hope and deep kindness, and thank you Karan Shirk for being my last-made but not least important friend — my sister. Thank you all for the beautiful gift of yourselves.

Thank you, friends who were in various book clubs, poetry groups, cheese groups, and Meetup groups with me. You delighted me so much in our shared pleasures, and I truly hope you know just what you gave me in those contexts. I think of every meeting with a glad and light heart, and I see your faces with the joy of remembrance.

Thank you, dear sisters I met in the resistance; it was my tremendous pleasure to fight alongside you. You gave me hope, and that was the most precious thing. I will remember you with a tremendous jolt of strength, and we will keep fighting until we win. I will support your hard fight from NY, and I will share my fight with you.

Thank you, Nancy, for . . . your quirt. I can’t say more because I can’t even see the screen, my eyes are too filled with tears.

* * *

People outside Texas who don’t know about Austin often have the worst idea about us — our politics, our nightmare politicians, just so horrible. But I know you. I will carry every single one of you in my heart. I will talk about you, tell people who Texans really are, Texans with big generous hearts and good values, Texans who care about each other, watch out for each other, take in strays . . . and I was certainly a stray. You took me in, and forever, now, you will be part of my life and the stories I have to tell.

So I pull away from the curb tonight to drive off to my next adventure, away from you geographically but not away from you in my heart. You meant so much to me, more than you probably know, and will remain ever with me (for after all, you know how I do go on and on about things, and people and places from my life). You were my home, my life raft, my joy, my pleasure, my friends. If we are friends still, friends we shall be no matter where I roam. You have a standing invitation to stay with me at the Big Indian Palace of the Queen of the Pillbugs. We’ll sit on my back deck. We’ll drink coffee, wine, beer. We’ll make some delicious food, we’ll hike or snowshoe or toodle around the Catskills. Mi casa will always be su casa.

I love you.

I’ll let this picture stand as my last picture in Texas — the last one that isn’t with tears in my eyes, the last one that’s just me and not me with my extraordinary grandkids, or me with any one of you exceptional people. I hope you remember me smiling at you. That’s what I’ll carry with me on the long trip, and when I find myself alone in the Big Indian Wilderness; I’ll carry your beautiful smiles, looking at me.   xoxoxoxoxox

 

The Time of Big Days

Ordinarily, days are ordinary. You make the coffee and make the bed. Do your work. Interact here and there. Make meals. Relax however you do. Turn in for the night. If you’re a small-pleasures-seeking person, you seek them, you notice the moments, the clouds drifting, the shadow on the wall, the ladybug, the sound of the beans grinding and the smell of the coffee. You go through the day in a kind of emotional neutral, interrupted by small spikes of pleasure or frustration, and you’ve learned ways to manage the onslaught of daily trauma by the Republicans. (If you’re me, you’re doing that mostly by shutting out all forms of media that will put it in your face. Ostrich mode.)

My days aren’t ordinary now, and I keep thinking of how unordinary they were when I moved here. How for a month we’d gone through all the terribleness — the shock of the phone call from Katie, Gracie died, we didn’t know why; the horror of Katie’s labor and delivery; the disbelief of their homecoming without her; the numbing arrangement of a funeral; the funeral itself, and a few days later her cremation; everyone drifting home; me leaving and not knowing how I could do that; and then back in New York and the shock of divorce, and moving back to Austin within a month of Gracie’s death, and starting all over, and and and and and. Big giant days, unbearable emotions, each day a tsunami of such intense emotion it was exhausting. As someone told me during those days, you just get tired of feeling so much.

This couldn’t be more different — it isn’t tragic, it isn’t permanent loss, it isn’t unexpected upending of anything, but boy are the days big, and filled with intense emotion. Last night I thought about how one of these days, when I’m settled into my Big Indian palace, I’d return to the more boring days, the kind where small pleasures are sought against a background of ordinary. But first, I have to touch all my places, sit across tables from people I have loved so dearly.

A farewell dinner with Lynn — at the same restaurant where we first met, so special to me that she thought of that. She is one of my DEEP sisters in the world, I have a few, and we will always know and love each other.
This picture was published in the Austin Chronicle, perfect with the capitol in the background. This protest was the most powerful protest I’ve ever participated in, and I’m still being affected by it. There is something potent about dressing in that costume, something very LOUD and yet also it’s self-negating. Protest is not about self, anyway, but dressing alike (and in THAT recognizable costume, especially) makes it even less about yourself . . . which contributes to the confusion I feel about how deeply personal it was, nevertheless. That’s me on the front, right.
Texas Republicans would put us in handmaid garb if they could get away with it. It’s unbelievable what they are doing. Thank God for these women, and all the others who will keep fighting.
We stood silently, pointing at each legislative chamber. Our silence was so powerful, and then we went to the rotunda and shouted SHAME SHAME SHAME for 10 minutes. I still shiver, remembering it.

My first protest as a Texas resident was in support of women’s right to choose; Wendy Davis had just completed her famous filibuster, and I gathered with thousands of women wearing orange, around the capitol. I am so proud that my first and last protest here was for the rights of women to self-determination. That fills me with pride and it means a lot to me that Marnie is proud of me. But oof a big day, because the handmaid protest was in the morning and then my poetry group gathered for what turned out to be a party — and I’m so gullible, and was SO not expecting it, that I believed them when they said the food was in the clubhouse for some other event. My place is in such disarray, and I sold my dining table and chairs, so George kindly hosted us in the clubhouse of his condo complex, a very beautiful setting filled with people who have enriched my life beyond belief. I just can’t even really talk about it yet.

Here we all are — starting from me, bottom center, and going clockwise: George, David, Marilyn, Rebecca, Hadiya, and Nick. These people. <3
Rebecca took some pictures and she just caught the spirit of our time together. Here are David, George, and Marilyn, reading along while someone reads a poem aloud. We really love poetry, and this kind of engrossed experience was our norm.
And here are Nick, me, and Hadiya, engrossed in the poem. Seriously. How much they have given me.

I’m glad Rebecca is in the group selfie since she’s not in the other shots. I wasn’t sure I could say goodbye to everyone, so I just kept trying over and over. A rambly, teary farewell to the group, a hug and goodbye to each person individually, and a clinging by my heart to the wonder of what happened with us, over the last 4.5 years.

Last night was the last meeting I’ll join of a new book club I’d recently formed a few months ago, women who share my politics and who I met in Pantsuit Nation. They will continue on, but it was my last night to sit among them and talk about the book (we actually did that! We talked about the books we read!), to rail about politics, to share information and support in this political insanity, and then to talk about other books we’re reading. It was such a great group, I loved every meeting and I will miss them so much. Today I am having afternoon tea with George, who has been such a good friend to me over the years. I’m sure I will find it hard to get in my car afterwards and drive away. We will always be friends, all these people, it’s not that. But it is farewell to a moment, to an experience, to a specific kind of connection that we had and oh how much it meant to me.

Then tomorrow I get to babysit Lucy while Katie accompanies Oliver on a school field trip, how precious that will be, and Saturday I have a late lunch with Deb, another deep sister. I will be so thrilled to leave this hateful state with its cruel politics, but oh the people. As I say on the About the Queen page, I am rootless, geographically, but I’m very rooted, people-wise. I will never lose these people, and they will stay in my heart with the same strength they have today — but oh it’s hard to have these ‘lasts.’ It isn’t that I mind the hardness; I’ll take it any day, because it’s evidence of the bond. Many still to come, some I can hardly bear to think about, but I’ll cross them as they come.

<3 <3 <3