three things: 1/18/17

FEED: Long, long ago, my son introduced me to the eerily beautiful photography of Robert and Shana ParkeHarrison. All their work is fabulous, worth gazing at and letting it settle in you, but it’s the images my son loved that stay with me the most. Here’s one I always associate with him:

“Burn Season”

Check them out — not just in the link above, when I first mention them, but I also linked the image to the specific collection for this one, all of which make me think of Will. So for me, it’s a melancholy kind of soul-feeding, looking at these images, but there is also a resonance with the world right now, and resonance is also valuable. Looking at their larger body of work, though, is lifting in the way art lifts.

SEED: My New York therapist, Elizabeth, always told me that dreams are really just showing you how you are thinking about something, how you are processing it. Dreams use a range of personal imagery, maybe, relate to personal themes, other experiences, etc. Last night I had a nightmare that couldn’t be more obviously related to how I’m thinking about the forthcoming nightmare in our country. I was in our NYC apartment, and Marc and I were packing to flee — and it was urgent, we had to go immediately, something absolutely terrible was about to happen (not specified within the dream but I think I knew what it was). As he always does when we have suitcases, he was leaving to go get the car and pull it up to the curb, but he came back immediately and said, “There isn’t time, we have to run now!” And so we fled, in terror, with a sense that we couldn’t outrun what we were fleeing. If that isn’t the most obvious nightmare you’ve ever heard, I don’t know what would be.

I think constantly about why this feels as destructive and scary as it does, why it feels so all-encompassing. After all, I’m a straight, white, well-educated, middle-aged woman beyond reproducing years. All the hate that he spews, and that his administration is ready to enact into law, won’t affect me personally, at least not in the loudest, most hateful ways. Of course living in a society permeated with that kind of hate will affect me. Living in a country determined to build a wall, remove families, block immigrants, remove access to health care for all but the wealthy, with the greediest sharks directly from Wall Street in charge of Wall Street, and people who want to destroy schools in charge of education, and people who have no idea what they’re doing in charge of the rest will affect me, even if it’s largely indirectly. And a big part of the tremendous upset is that I live among millions of people who voted for him, who weren’t bothered by his mocking the disabled reporter, his gleeful boasting of assaulting women, his harassment of ordinary people, his egging-on violence, etc etc etc. Not bothered by voting for the candidate endorsed by the KKK. Just not bothered by that. My fellow Americans.

The nightmare of his impact on global politics is likely to affect me, and I just hope we all survive. Except for our Civil War, we’ve never had war on the ground here, thanks in large part to the simple fact of geography. The terrifying thing is that with him, absolutely anything [bad] is possible, and the unimaginable — like him being elected in the first place — will be our actuality. Hence my dream, hence my constant despair which arises from the need to be ready for any nightmare.

Resist. We will resist. I will resist. We are stronger together, and as long as he doesn’t destroy the world (whether through war or his idiotic ignorance related to climate change) we can start over when he’s gone.

READ: One reason Obama always felt like my president — and this is a huge (yuge) distinction with the incoming not-my-president — is that his solace and ground is in books. He is a writer, and he has all the talents and skills of a novelist: a keen ear, an eye for the right details, an ability to observe, and an understanding that fiction has the capacity to tell the deep, sustained truths of human life. I can’t even process how deeply I’ll miss him, yet. My beautiful friend Deb directed me to this article in the NYTimes with/by Michiko Kakutani, their chief book reviewer, titled, “Obama’s Secret to Surviving the White House Years: Books.” I may have enjoyed the transcript of their conversation even more, because there is a lot more of his voice. If you like books and/or our beloved president, you’ll enjoy the articles too.



dreamsDo you dream very often? I go through periods of intense dreaming and then periods of no dreams at all, usually due to not sleeping except in 5-10 minute spurts, or to sleeping too long and hard.

I love dreaming, and love my dreams, even the extraordinarily frightening ones. Maybe especially the frightening ones, once I’ve woken up and realized they were just dreams of course. Dreams show me how I am thinking about things, and taking that perspective on them I can learn a lot. Sometimes my dreaming mind must assume that I am dense, or a moron, because it seems to consult the Dreams for Dummies guide, Dreaming 101, with the most obvious symbolism. Sometimes I’ll have the same dream over and over: this time in red! Now in green! How about blue! Do you get it yet, dreamer? Oy.

Even though The Bad Thing in the BackgroundTM reared its head again yesterday, my dreams last night were the most ordinary in the world. I dreamed that it suddenly hit me that Katie needs a diaper bag! Ah! Get that for her! (I don’t think she really does, though.) I dreamed that my husband and I were talking about what to have for dinner. I dreamed I was sitting on the couch with my laptop, working. Quotidian stuff. I wonder if those dreams are suggesting that I’ve come to incorporate The Bad Thing in the BackgroundTM as ordinary too. (I don’t really think so.)

At some point in the night my husband thought I was having a nightmare. I must have been moving fast, maybe whimpering, probably seeming distressed. He gently shook my shoulder and told me not to be afraid, that he was there, that he would take care of me. I drifted back into my sleep feeling so loved and watched over and cared for, and appreciating the deep pleasure of having him there. As much as I enjoy my dreams and even my nightmares, having a nightmare when you live all alone is a terrible and lonely feeling, waking up with the fear, sitting alone in the empty house trying to comfort yourself and remind yourself of where you are, reassuring yourself that the dream was just a dream.

My kids have also been vivid dreamers, and their dreams were always a topic of conversation. “How did you sleep last night? Have any dreams?” Is it that way in your house too? Do you mull over your dreams with others, or even by yourself, or are they just nocturnal noise? Do you have a recurring dream? (I do, and I wrote about it here.)

Winter cold has returned to us here in New York, after a beautiful weekend. No snow on the ground, no flurries in the air, just raw cold. I check my weather app and see that it’s going to be 69 in Austin today, and feel a twinge of envy, and then I see that it’s going up to a high of 19 in Chicago and feel sorry for Marnie and settle into acceptance of my 32-degree high today. Wherever you are, I hope your dreams are happy and you are warm. xo


In my line of work, I get the impression that everyone is writing a book. And if they’re not actually writing a book, they could write a book, they have a book in them, but they’re just too busy. As I’ve written here repeatedly, I hold writers in the highest esteem of all, along with other artists. And excellent writers — especially writers of literary fiction, who transform specific stories of life in a way to enlarge my own little life, in a way to make me understand my world better — well, those people live on an Olympian plane, as far as I am concerned.

The bad thing about exalting writers, this art form, is that I keep it so far out of my own reach. I long to write something more than my little indulgent blog posts. I long to transform, elevate, share. But unlike so many of my clients who have the ballsy courage to write whole books despite having a minimum of talent (beyond the perseverance it takes to write a whole book, which ain’t nothing!), I do not have that kind of courage or belief in myself.

But this isn’t anything new. I was talking with my friend Dee about this on Tuesday, about longing to create something new in the world but feeling too clenched, too restricted. I’ve always been a great copier, a greater follower-of-directions. In pre-school, while all the other children played, I sat in the shade and embroidered pillowcases, flowers and butterflies stamped with iron-on transfers. The first quilt I ever made followed a pattern and it was very well made, technically (I am an excellent technician); my handstitching was small and uniform, the whole thing was hand pieced and hand quilted and I didn’t know I shouldn’t start with a pattern like this:

my quilt
I showed this at my monthly quilt guild meeting and the women said, “You can’t make a quilt like that for your first quilt!” so I named it “Ignorance is bliss and I am in hog heaven.”

It’s a bad picture, taken in the early 1980s with a cheap camera, but it was a really beautiful quilt! Not my design, because I am “not creative.” I’m a very good follower. I knit beautiful things, like the shawl I knitted for Marnie when she got married:

here it is, blocking
here it is, blocking

I’m great at following a pattern. I am creative — or rather, I have a creative impulse. I used to make all our clothes, I handsmocked little dresses for the girls, I had a couple of big looms and a gorgeous spinning wheel, I spun wool and cotton and used natural dyes to create beautiful yarns that I’d knit or weave into various things. There’s almost nothing I can’t do with my hands. I made bobbin lace (and made the bobbin lace pillow too), tatted, crocheted. Assembled a very nice woodworking shop in the garage and made small pieces of furniture and stuff with Will when he was little. Really, I have a good creative impulse.

But to face a piece of paper, blank, and have to bring something out of myself (that isn’t just some personal essay, a kind of musing about whatever I am thinking) scares me to death. I feel wholly inadequate, unable to get the first sentence out. Sure, I wrote a master’s thesis (~300 pages) and a dissertation (~400 pages), but those followed a straightforward form and I had research and data. The story was there, already, all I had to do was put it in the APA-approved sentences.

I’ve been contacted by a company about writing pieces that will be picked up by other (“major”) publications, and I fought myself to stop from saying, “No, but I will copyedit what you write!” “Yes, but sorry, not right now because it’s the holidays, sorry.” “Gosh I’d love to but I ….”  Instead, I said, “Yes, I would love to.” It’s non-fiction writing, and my deepest longing is to write literary fiction, but perhaps doing any kind of hired writing would tell my scared inner self that I can do it. My gorgeous friend Traci wants to publish some of my personal pieces in a book, and once the holidays pass I am going to get them together for her. I am. Maybe 2014 will be my year. Maybe I should decide that. I think I will.


workThis has been a long bit of silence from me, and not for the usual reasons (depression, being on the other side of the world or en route to the other side of the world). I’ve been in serious lock-down mode, trying to get through my mini-stack of work before I leave in a week, so the moment I open my eyes I start working and with only one pause for dinner, I work until it’s time to get into bed. It’s so strange how this has left me dizzy. I’ve been reading and writing so fast fast fast it’s like my brain has been running the NY Marathon or something and it’s left me winded and exhausted.

It’s also left me without much to say in that “all work and no play” kind of way, so boring. I’ve seen nothing, heard nothing, gone nowhere, done nothing. Talked to no one, had no spare space for my own thoughts beyond what I think about the work I’m reading. One reason I’m pushing so hard is that next week is very busy: a two-hour lunch with two girlfriends on Monday; Tuesday brings lunch with a dear friend and dinner with a different dear friend; lunch with another girlfriend on Wednesday; finalizing everything for our trip on Thursday and flying away on Friday. I’ve had completely uninterrupted days this week and I had to make the most of them.

But this other thing has totally blown my mind, partly because it ruins one of my stories. Dang it. For the last ten days, starting a few days before I came to NYC, I have been sleeping all night every night. All. Night. Every. Night. And over the weekend, when we were in Phoenicia, we both slept 12 hours Friday night and 12 hours Saturday night. Lots and lots of sleep. And not only that, I’ve been dreaming like mad, dreamingdreamingdreaming. Last night was the very best dream I’ve had in so many years, but Marc thought I was having a nightmare so he woke me up, and just at the worst possible moment because it would’ve been the best possible moment. I was in this beautiful landscape, a kind of desert, and the Spice Girls  ‘Say You’ll Be There’ was playing and I was just about to start flying. Literally just at the moment my foot was going to lift me off the ground, he woke me up. (And some of you know how much I love that song and become hysterical laugh-crying when it hits that one spot in the song. Oh, here you go:)

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I haven’t had a flying dream since I was a young girl, when I dreamed that I was walking through a carnival and decided to fly, so I pushed off with my right foot and flew into the air, soaring above the carnival grounds watching it all from above, the Ferris wheel, the booths, the rides, the people. When you dream you’re flying, where does the energy come from? For me it’s like I’m being pulled by my chest. For Marc, it’s his head, his brain. I think that’s so interesting, a more interesting but much less gruesome version of the difference between people who shoot themselves in the head vs the heart.

So basically, I am great just working working working and doing nothing else, and sleeping like a rock. Not even waking up once, not sleeping too anything, just beautiful wonderful regular sleep, regular enough to return to dreaming. I have no idea why. I still have zero estrogen, I have the same amount of stress, nothing different from the prolonged periods where I cannot sleep. It’s not about being in NYC, it’s not about having someone asleep nearby, warm next to me, because I was sleeping like this before I left. And I was not sleeping like this the last time I was here. Just utterly mysterious, but I’m not complaining and will take every night of it I can get.

Next week I’ll be out and about in the city and if it’s not as wintry as it has been this week, I hope to be walking everywhere and taking pictures and having stories to tell.  It’s Friday, hard to believe — I hope y’all have a great weekend! xoL


a basic "dream" image because WOW the images that came up with other keyword possibilities!
a basic “dream” image because WOW the images that came up with other keyword possibilities!

Someone I know once told me that our dreams are showing us how we are thinking about something. That’s a very interesting idea, and when I think about my dreams like that, I frequently realize something that helps. The last two nights, I have had enough deep sleep to have a dream each night. It’s so strange, I must dip immediately into that stage because last night I saw the time twice in every single hour. But whatever — dreams! I love my dreams, and have had some amazing ones in my life. The dream I had last night was disturbing but interesting, too.

I dreamed I was in a conference room where I worked, and in my hand I was holding my sweater. I was so confused, couldn’t realize or figure out what it was, and slowly I realized it was my sweater and I was standing there in front of everyone in my skirt and bra. I rushed to try to get the sweater on as quickly as I could, but it was very hard and took me a long time. I was so disturbed because I couldn’t remember taking it off, I couldn’t remember anything at all. Later in the day I was called back into the conference room where all my colleagues were waiting around the table. They told me all kinds of other things I’d been doing — equally bizarre — and I had no knowledge or memory of them, at all.  Of course they immediately believed that I was an alcoholic and having blackouts, but I told them I do not drink, an occasional glass of wine nothing more. They wanted to hospitalize me, for whatever reason — alcoholic or crazy — and I was just in terrible anxiety because I had no recollection at all of having done these things.

When I woke up I was really upset because it had been so real, I woke up believing I’d been doing crazy things I couldn’t remember doing. I grabbed my phone, looking for email evidence, IM evidence, anything, people telling me things I’d been doing. Finally I settled down, realized it was a dream, and tried to relax. I’ve never had those “surprise I’m naked in public” dreams, and that wasn’t the important piece of this dream at all.

There’s a stream of thought about schizophrenia that believes the specific hallucinations and psychotic frameworks of each individual are important to that person in some way — they are not random. I doubt it’s as simple as a child with very religious parents becomes a schizophrenic who thinks he is Jesus; the terrible illness is much more complex than that. But still, the specifics are personal in some way. I think dreams are the same — they show you how you are thinking about something, but in your own unique vocabulary.

So what I think about this dream, here in the electric light of pre-dawn, is that it reflects the fact that I am opening myself up to friends here, ‘exposing’ myself, and it’s scary! At lunch with a friend earlier this week, I confided something about myself that was really scary to reveal, because people often think it equals crazy in some way. It has a very specific relationship to the vocabulary of that dream, so for me it all comes together and it’s about the anxiety of exposing my real self to friends, and waiting to see how they respond.

The funniest thing is that my girlfriends here — my four most important girlfriends — are people I feel thoroughly at ease with, as if I’ve known them for so so long. I’m not self-conscious when I’m with them. I kind of feel like I could just burp if I needed to and none of us would blink. It’s really funny. Two are Texans and two are transplants, so it’s not just a dirt-and-bones similarity. I can’t figure it out, but I do feel that way with them. They’re the ones I’ll reveal some of those things to, but that doesn’t mean it’s not scary to do that. We all have things we think may be beyond the pale, and some of mine are quite extreme. But so far so good. 🙂

LOTS of rain here today, y’all. Yay for the aquifer, one of my constant worries. I love our sweet aquifer, the Edwards aquifer. But really, flooding rains here today, so if you’re in Austin or surrounds, please be careful! Love all a y’all. xo


when a dream is realized

coverIn my book club in New York City, whoever hosted each month got to select the book we read. Tracy picked one called Another Bullshit Night in Suck Cityand I thought ‘hmph. What a title.’ But that book — a memoir — gave me one of the biggest gifts a book has ever given me: it articulated my own experience, but in poetry. He transformed so many aspects of my life into art. Homelessness. A parent’s suicide. Alcoholism. Violence. He gave me my own experience back to me, but made larger and deeper and I felt like he knew my life. It’s an incredible book, and the first of a trilogy of memoirs, including The Ticking is the Bomb (he considers his baby daughter and Abu Ghraib, and trust me it all fits), and The Reenactments, a memoir about the making of Being Flynn, which was the movie version of Another Bullshit Night in Suck City. META. When I read anything he writes, more than half of the passages are highlighted, he is just such a beautiful writer.

And so I signed up to volunteer at the Texas Book Festival because I hoped to meet him. I did some finagling and was assigned to manage his book signing, and today I will escort him to his poetry panel discussion. I’d been so wound up about it, practicing all the things I wanted to say hoping if I did it enough times I could do it without crying (nope). As the hour got closer and closer, my stomach was like a fist in my belly. I was very hot, red-faced — no breeze in the tent and I’d been there for 4 hours and helped set everything up — and my hair was frizzy. And then there he was, I saw him from a distance, and a chill came over me. I let everything go, all my planned things I was going to say, and decided just to be present with him. Just to look at him, talk to him, just be people together.

After the others got their books signed, I knelt in front of the table and talked to him. I told him what his book has meant to me, how very well I understood it, and my eyes filled with tears. He reached out and held my hands. He asked some questions about me and my life. He wrote in my book, and I told him I was assigned to escort him this morning to his panel discussion. He said, “Oh, so you’re meeting me at my hotel?” After we talked (no, we were all supposed to meet at the capitol), he gave me his cell phone number and took mine so we can text each other, and he took my email address and emailed me and the panel members to coordinate. So I guess this morning I’m meeting Nick Flynn at his hotel, The Four Seasons.

Yes, Nick. I do understand.

I’ll work out the details with the coordinator because I am not going to miss the chance to meet Nick again and walk with him to the venue. Nope. Not happening.

Nick and me -- and I'm trying to stay in my body.
Nick and me — and I’m trying to stay in my body.

I tried to tell him how much his book has meant to me and I thanked him for writing it, and then I told him that the chapter titled “Same Again” was sheer genius, and that I read it aloud quite often. He sat back in slightly open-mouthed shock. He said it’s meant to be read aloud, but people don’t see that.  He asked me how I knew to read it aloud, and I said it was obvious. It is an amazing little chapter — it’s nothing but euphemisms for drink and being drunk — here:

Nick Flynn, “Same again” (chapter from Another Bullshit Night in Suck City)

The usual I say. Blood of Christ I say. Essence. Spirit. Medicine. A hint. A taste. A bump. A snort. A sip. A nip. I say another round. I say brace yourself. Lift a few. Hoist a few. Work the elbow. Bottoms up. Belly up. Leg up. What’ll it be. Name your poison. Mud in your eye. A jar. A jug. A pony. I say a glass. I say same again. I say all around. I say my good man. I say my drinking buddy. I say git that in ya. Then an ice-breaker. Then a quick one. Then a couple of pops. Then a nightcap. Then throw one back. Then knock one down. Working on a scotch and soda I say. Fast and furious I say. Could savage a drink I say. Guzzle I say. Chug. Home brew. Everclear. Moonshine. White lightening. Firewater. Antifreeze. Wallbanger. Zombie. Rotgut. Hooch. Relief. Now you’re talking I say. Live a little I say. Drain it I say. Kill it I say. Feeling it I say. Slightly crocked. Wobbly. Another dead sailor I say. Breakfast of champions I say. I say candy is dandy but liquor is quicker. I say the beer that made Milwaukee famous. I say Houston, we have a drinking problem. I say the cause of, and solution to all of life’s problems. I say ain’t no devil only god when he’s drunk. I say god only knows what I’d be without you. I say thirsty. I say parched. I say wet my whistle. I say awful thirst. Dying of thirst. Lap it up. Hook me up. Beam me up. Watering hole. Hole. Knock a few back. Pound a few down. Corner stool. My office. Out with the boys I say. Unwind I say. Nurse one I say. Apply myself I say. Tie one on I say. Make a night of it I say. Dive. Toasted. Glow. A cold one a tall one a frosty one I say. One for the road I say. A drinker I say. Two-fisted I say. Never trust a man who doesn’t drink I say. A good man’s failing I say. Then a binge then a spree then a jag then a bout. Coming home on all fours. Rousted. Roustabout. Could use a drink I say. A shot of confidence I say. Steady my nerves I say. Drown my sorrows. I say kill for a drink. I say keep ‘em coming. I say a stiff one. I say as fast as possible. I say the long haul. Drink deep drink hard hit the bottle. Two sheets to the wind then. Half-coked then. Knackered then. Showing it then. Holding the wall up then. Under the influence then. Half in the bag then. A toot. A tear. A blowout. Out of my skull I say. Liquored up. Rip-roaring. Slammed. Fucking jacked. The booze talking. The room Spinning. Primed. Feeling no pain. Buzzed. Giddy. Silly. Glazed. Impaired. Intoxicated. Lubricated. Stewed. Tight. Tiddly. Juiced. Plotzed. Potted. Pixilated. Pie-eyed. Cock-eyed. Inebriated. Laminated. Stoned. High. Swimming. Elated. Exalted. Debauched. Rock on. Drunk on. Shine on. Bring it on. Pissed. Then bleary. Then bloodshot. Glassy-eyed. Mud-eyed. Red-nosed. Thick-tongued. Addled. Dizzy then. Groggy. On a bender I say. On a spree. On a drunk. I say off the wagon. I say gone out. I say on a slip. I say in my cups. I say riding the night train. I say the drink. I say the bottle. I say the blood bank. I say drinkie-poo. I say a drink drink. A drink a drunk a drunkard. Swill Swig. Faced. Shitfaced. Fucked up. Stupefied. Incapacitated. Raging. Seeing double. Shitty. Take the edge off I say. That’s better I say. Loaded I say. Wasted. Looped. Lit. Off my ass. Befuddled. Reeling. Tanked. Punch-drunk. Mean drunk. Maintenance drunk. Sloppy drunk happy drunk weepy drunk blind drunk dead drunk. Serious drinker. Hard drinker. Lush. Drink like a fish. Boozer. Booze hound. Absorb. Rummy. Alkie. Sponge. Sip. Sot. Sop. Then muddled. Then maudlin. Then woozy. Then clouded. What day is it? Do you know me? Have you seen me? When did I start? Did I ever stop? Slurring. Reeling. Staggering. Overserved they say. Drunk as a skunk they say. Falling down drunk. Crawling down drunk. Drunk and disorderly. I say high tolerance. I say high capacity. I say social lubricant. They say protective custody. Sozzled soused sloshed. Polluted. Blitzed. Shattered. Zonked. Ossified. Annihilated. Fossilized. Stinko. Blotto. Legless. Smashed. Soaked. Screwed. Pickled. Bombed. Stiff. Fried. Oiled. Boiled. Frazzled. Blasted. Plastered. Hammered. Tore up. Ripped up. Ripped. Destroyed. Whittled. Plowed. Overcome. Overtaken. Comatose. Dead to the world. Beyond the beyond. The old K.O. The horrors I say. The heebie-jeebies I say. The beast I say. The dt’s. B’jesus and pink elephants. A hummer. A run. A mindbender. Hittin’ it kinda hard they say. Go easy they say. Last call they say. Quitting time they say. They say shut off. They say ruckus. They say dry out. Pass out. Lights out. Blackout. Headlong. The bottom. The walking wounded. Saturday night paralysis. Cross-eyed and painless. Petroleum dark. Gone to the world. Gone. Gonzo. Wrecked. Out. Sleep it off. Wake up on the floor. End up in the gutter. Off the stuff. Dry. Dry heaves. Gag. White knuckle. Lightweight I say. Hair of the dog I say. Eye-opener I say. A drop I say. A slug. A taste. A swallow. A pull. Sadder Budweiser I say. Down the hatch I say. I wouldn’t say no I say. I say whatever he’s having. I say next one’s on me. I say match you. I say bottoms up. Put it on my tab. I say one more. I say same again.

How did he think to do that? The other chapters are ordinary-ish chapters, nothing like this. I’d be going along, thinking surely there were no more and then there they were, more. And more, and more.

I don’t think there is anyone else I’d want to meet more. I don’t care about sports figures, celebrities, politicians. I just want to meet writers and artists, and he was at the top of my list, with the next person a distant second. Today I work 7 hours, a very long day, but it starts with Nick Flynn. There’s no way you can be having as great a day as I’m having, but I hope it’s extremely close. Lucky, lucky me. xo

the revelation of tiny dreams

For the first time in a long time, I got out for my walk early this morning. One thing that makes it enjoyable (one of the few things, especially this hot and muggy time of year) is that I get to listen to podcasts. This morning I was listening to an episode of This American Life (“Show Me The Way”) which was about people in our lives who are guides for us in some way. The first story was about a guy whose lawyer was having an affair with his wife — betrayal by a guide, etc. — and so I thought the stories would be that kind of story, betrayals of some kind.

But the second story was about a boy who was a big fan of Piers Anthony. The now-grown man was telling the story, and it was heartbreakingly familiar. A divorce. His mother’s remarriage to a man who was cruel to the boy, and his mother did not intervene. He was lonely, had not a single friend. Lived in his books (Piers Anthony and Stephen King, mostly, but primarily Anthony). Quit caring about everything, failed 10th grade. Apparently Piers Anthony wrote lengthy, rambling author’s notes in his books talking about the mundane ordinary aspects of his own life. It was those author’s notes that grabbed the boy more than anything else, so he slowly came up with a plan to leave his home in Buffalo and go to Piers Anthony’s home in Florida. He went to the bank and withdrew the money he’d been saving for years from his jobs (matched by his mother, with the intention of being college money) — about $1200, if I remember correctly. He walked to the airport, took him 8 hours because he didn’t really know where it was, bought an airplane ticket and dropped a postcard in the mail to his mom so she wouldn’t worry, and flew to Florida. When he arrived, he hired a cab and realized that he was doing it, he was on his own, and he had that envelope of cash. So what would any teenage boy do for a little treat? He asked the cab driver to stop at an art supply store and he was kind of drunk on that — he could buy anything, any art supply he wanted. He didn’t know exactly where Anthony lived, but he’d done some detective work in the books and thought he was at least in the right town.

The interviewer asked him what he wanted, what he thought would happen. I’d already been crying by the paucity of the boy’s life and what dazzled him, but then came the answer:

I thought he would offer me shelter. I thought I’d live with him, I’d get up in the mornings and make breakfast for the family. We’d do chores around the house. We’d have dinner together.

homeThen I really started crying, walking on the street. Such a tiny, tiny, impossibly tiny dream. The boy hoped he would be given shelter, that’s all. He hoped to have a family he could serve and work with. That’s all. Art supplies, whatever he wanted.

I know that feeling, and you know I do if you’ve read my blog for very long. My runaway plan when I was in 10th grade was to make my way to San Antonio where I would find a convent and bang on the door begging for sanctuary. When I was 10 I ached, wishing that Cher was my mother (shhhh….) because I thought she might like me, she might be nice to me once in a while. In my imaginings, we sat and talked to each other. That was my big dream. A safe place to live, and a mother who liked me.

Last week I wrote about a series of very tiny dreams I had, each filled with color. I told Marc about them and he felt almost unbearably sad when he heard them. I’d been struck by the vivid color in them, but what struck him was the smallness of them. And how thrilled I was by them — riding a red bike, a tiny little wish. (Of course, it was in Paris, not too shabby. Still.) I take his point, and it’s easy to look at my life and realize how incredibly small my dreams have always been — which is surprising, because I’ve had this enormous, adventure-filled, accomplished life. I’ve traveled all over the world, I earned a PhD, I raised three gorgeous children, I’ve lived in New York City and worked on Madison Avenue, how dazzling is that? I never dreamed any of it, I didn’t even know how. I didn’t have any of that in my head, in my frame, none of it ever entered my mind. It all kind of happened to me and when the opportunities came up I grabbed after them, but I didn’t dream any of them. My dream was for sanctuary and a mother who liked me — and both of those things seemed like pie in the sky fantasy dreams. No way I could ever get them.

Here’s to bigger dreams, wilder dreams, because you already have shelter and love. I wish no child had to have such tiny wild fantasies. And happy Monday y’all.