a very real winding down

my creeks down below

I’ve never lived in a place like this — a wilderness, a solitude, a mountain valley, a quiet aloneness. And I’ve never had the luxury of a daily witnessing of the world closing up shop, shutting down, pulling inward, retracting. I’ve never had the joy of watching all of my visible nature shifting and changing from the abundance of summer to the quiet inwardness of autumn, heading inexorably toward the iron of winter.

It’s kind of astonishing to look back at my daily 1-second videos over the last few months, to see them mashed together into a 90-second video of time, of change, of seasonal shifting. Seeing it happen before my eyes in the video, seeing the mountain suddenly appear through the trees, seeing the leaves finally all fall away, seeing the bare branches presenting themselves, is a source of real wonder. I’m waiting to see the landscape buried in snow, and the brilliance of animal tracks, and being able to spot owls in the trees, and I hope the surprise of seeing porcupines in the trees, too.

Without a doubt, I’m in one of my right places in the world. I’m a person with a lot of “right” places in the world, because New York City is also a right place in the world for me — the noise of it, the closeness of it, the loud life of it. Hanoi is a right place in the world for me, so like NYC except in size. Paris is a right place in the world for me. And more like Heaventree, Laos is a right place in the world for me. I’m at home in noisy, crowded bustle and I’m at home in pure solitude. In both places, you can just be completely alone. I think that’s what I need.

my house up above, shot from the middle of the closeby creek with Marc’s beautiful steps placed in the creek for me
my chairside table — books and knitting needles and coffee, the stacks growing and growing until I have to sweep them clean and start anew

I wear this hat I knit every waking minute. ūüôā Isn’t it cute? It’s not my design — I just followed a pattern — but how I love it.

What’ve I been doing? I’ve been knitting a lot. Learning how to build good fires. Learning about the birds on my property — the black capped chickadees, the tufted titmice, the nuthatches, and now all joined by the dark-eyed juncos — learning about how they arrive, how they feed, how they share space, the rhythms of their days. Learning about the creeks, how they ebb and flow. Learning about the landscape of the Big Indian Wilderness that surrounds me, and how the end of my private road turns into this glorious path.

If I go to the end of the private road I’m on, and hike around a little jog, it turns into this — which is also the road I’m on, according to the map. WOW.

Almost every day, I walk down to my creek. If the weather is icy, or if there are hunters in my valley, I don’t — but on those days I feel a real loss. I love going down to my creek even before I’ve had my coffee, even before I’ve built a fire. I record a little video of greeting to my friends, I share the wonder of my surroundings, and then I go back up the hill to my home. Every single day, I pinch myself in wonder that this is my life, now.

Every single day I read poetry. Every single day, in this season, I build a roaring fire. Every single day I watch the birds and learn more about them. Every single day I watch the sun enter the valley behind my house, and every single afternoon I watch the long shadows as it leaves. As the weeks pass, I watch the moon wax and wane, appear and disappear. On cloudless nights, I watch the sky in big-eyed wonder — all those stars, cold and bright, shining into my eyes. All those stars, waking me up on cloudless nights. In the hard cold nights, I imagine I hear them ringing — not like bells, but like chords.

Over the weekend I put up my Christmas tree and thought about my poetry group friends in Austin, because for the last four years, I put up the tree specifically for them. Marc and I would come back home from SEAsia, I’d get back to Austin and quickly put up my tree and make a bunch of food for the Christmas get-together we shared. And so they were with me as I put up the tree, and I miss them very much. But aside from that communion with them, and aside from regular time with my daughter Katie and her kids, I don’t feel alone, here. I don’t feel lonely, here. I’m grateful for my years in Austin, where I learned that I love my own company, where I learned how to be alone, how to sleep alone in a silent house and understand the various sounds. Marc is here Friday nights through Monday afternoons, and my time with him satisfies my need to be in the physical presence of someone.

I’m happy, friends. I sit in my sunny, large, happy space and feel like it’s all come together in some way. All the roads I’ve walked, all the heres and theres, all the losses and gains, they’ve all brought me right here, to this chair, in this valley, in a place I never could’ve imagined. I know it’s not yet New Year’s Eve, but this song just so perfectly fit my mood today so I share it and hope you can hear it too.

I’m happy. I’m hidden away from the terrible world, here, but connected to friends and beautiful people all over the world. My life is so good. <3 <3

better than ever

See the twinkle? This is at Millay's home, and he was tickled pink to be there.
See the twinkle in his eye? This is at Millay’s home, and he was tickled pink to be there.

I have a great friend in my monthly poetry group named George. First of all, George is the most knowledgeable person about poetry I have¬†ever met. Ever. And he can recite huge swaths at the drop of a hat. He’s older than me, I don’t know his age, but man I enjoy his ability to do that kind of recitation. Last year he took a road trip vacation to Steepletop, Edna St Vincent Millay’s home in Maine. That’s what he did for his¬†vacation. So George is definitely 100% my kind of guy. And his eyes twinkle and he’s very funny in a sly way that you might miss if you aren’t paying attention. (And he does yoga! There doesn’t seem to be much of anything you might¬†randomly mention that George doesn’t do.)

Every month when I see him and ask how he’s doing, he answers, “Better than ever!” I hadn’t noticed the pattern; last month in my delight at his answer, I commented on it and he said it’s always his answer, and it puzzles people. Once a grocery store clerk said, “I wish¬†I¬†could say that,” so George told her to stop what she was doing, immediately, and look at him. Then he said, “OK, repeat after me. Better.”¬†“Better.” “Than.”¬†“Than.” “Ever.”¬†“Ever.”¬†With his characteristic twinkly smile, he then said, “Now you know how to say it!” He said that it’s an important way he¬†helps himself feel good, and when he gives into the various troubles of aging, and dwells on them, he does not feel very good at all and starts going downhill. So “better than ever!” is not just a verbal trick, a magic mantra, it’s a way of orienting himself to this day of his life. His shoulder might ache, but hey — today he is better than ever.

That aspect of George resonates with¬†me, although I don’t say that phrase. What I do say, though, is “wonderful.” Oh, this is wonderful, that’s wonderful, you are wonderful, the day is wonderful, my sandwich is wonderful, that ice water is wonderful, YogaGlo is wonderful, my friends are wonderful (or gorgeous, or beautiful, or amazing, or magnificent). A lifetime ago, when I was getting to know the members of¬†the very large family I married into — and before I realized that ‘wonderful’ is my most characteristic word — I was talking to one of my husband’s brothers, and after a while he leaned down, frowned a little bit, and said, “Really, Lori? Is it¬†wonderful? Is¬†everything wonderful? ‘It’s just¬†wunnerful!’” And then he cackled. I still am not entirely sure if he was making fun of me, but I think he was.

This occurred to me as I was re-reading my last post about my. . .well, ok, I’ll say it. . .wonderful week. (But it was!) I saw what any editor would identify as the gross overuse of those words. Gross overuse. Anyone can see that, come on, it’s egregious. For heaven’s sake. Bad writing, leaning hard toward purple.

But here’s the deal, and I just mean this from the bottom of my heart. My friends truly are beautiful, and brilliant, and amazing, and wonderful, and gorgeous. My daughters truly are all those things, and magnificent, and loving. The sky really is¬†wonderful. The things I mentioned really¬†were extraordinary. I think I share the impulse with George, and I think it is probably why we are happy people. I don’t know if George has always been this way, but I have always been this way. My former brother-in-law commented on that when I was 21 years old and I’m still unconsciously at it.

So maybe it’s not your automatic way of being in the world, and maybe you 100% love the way you are in the world and so good on ya! Maybe you enjoy a bit of a grump (my husband in NY has a daily need to mope) now and then, and that’s just fine. I do too. But I think that if you just pause for a second and notice that sky, you’d see that it’s¬†wonderful. There it is, just doing its thing, putting on a dramatic, ever-changing show for you, and you’re probably not noticing it. And then I think you’ll feel a little spike of happy. I think if you paused for a minute and really tasted your food and thought about it —¬†wow (oops, another of my oft-used words, wow), that salad is really wonderful, so fresh and crunchy, and the pepitas just make it all work, and blue cheese ohmygod, it’s really wonderful — another little spike of happy.¬†Really¬†see¬†your friend when you’re talking to her, just really¬†see¬†her and you’ll see that she is super wonderful. Magnificent. There she is, being herself in your life. Wow.

Those teenagers danced all the way across the bridge going over the highway. Maybe it was that wonderful sky.
Those teenagers danced all the way across the bridge going over the highway. Maybe it was that wonderful sky.

But really — just pause for a second. LOOK AT THAT SKY! Is it not¬†wonderful? (Also: George is wonderful, and so are you.) Right on.

the word is just too BLAND

“Happy.” It’s like “nice.” Both are valued things, of course, but meh. What bland, too-simple words. It’s just a word, happy, so maybe the problem is really how we’ve come to think about it. Smiley faces, a particular feeling of some degree of joy or contentment or pleasure, be happy, if you’re happy and you know it clap your hands, clap along if you feel like a room without a roof because I’m happy. Happy. I’m happy, are you happy? The happiness industry, do these seven things to be happy, here are the daily habits of happy people. Gratitude makes you happy. Happy.

Yesterday I was scanning my playlists, looking for one to listen to while I cleaned my house. There’s a lot of overlap of music on some of the lists, but the one I most reliably listen to for background music is one titled “happy.” I clicked it and scanned the list deciding whether to choose shuffle or the order they’re in, and busted out laughing at the songs on the list. There are some that most people would consider happy songs, but about one-third of the list includes¬†songs that no one would consider happy songs. And in fact they’re songs that fill my heart with melancholy, or pull up a very sad memory, and some are even associated with such a painful memory I have to sit down. That’s my happy playlist, and it reliably makes me happy, the whole thing.

weavingBecause happiness isn’t simply¬†a shallow thing on the surface. Happiness can be complex, happiness contains some sadness, some memories of loss, some melancholy, and the ability to hold those things as part of the complex experience of a lived life. That sad song that makes me have to sit down? It really kind of breaks my heart, and I can only listen to it once or I have to get in bed and cry. But as part of the tapestry of my playlist, it’s that dark shot of weft that deepens everything. The memory of love lost, or happiness experienced with a thrill and then squandered or shifted, those were happy too, I was happy then too, and so my heart aches from the loss but I also hold the greater memories of the happiness, the joy. I’ll bet you’ve had the experience of hearing a song connected to a loss and filling up with tears, but also feeling something good, some connection, some remembrance, a mixed feeling of happy/sad. Maybe even laughing and crying at the same time. (That’s so me.)

I do have blissed-out moments, and quite often, where I experience awe and have no words, or when the moment is just so present and I am aware of my life in a particular way, or when Oliver smiles at me, or when I’m with my beloved children and we’re happy together. Or when I’m making beautiful food, or my writing is going well, or I’m dancing and laughing in the park. I have those moments that are kind of purely “happy.” But most often, my experience of happiness holds the complications of the various kinds and experiences of happiness; they feel less fleeting,¬†and with an amalgam¬†of contentment, pleasure,¬†something, with the more complex experience of happiness. For as much as life really only happens in the moment, and as much as I strive to be present in it, the truth is also that I have lived a long life, filled with a staggering number of (and kinds of) experiences, and they are in me, body and soul. Some make me happy because I survived . . . but that happiness is real, even if it came out of darkness. So I sit in this present moment and feel my life resonating through me, in this present day. (Plus, as my daughter Marnie said about me in a Facebook birthday post, I do love to feel all the feelings. That makes me happy, being able to feel them all.)

I thought it was so loving and true in places that I saved it. :)
I thought it was so loving and true in places that I saved it. ūüôā

Maybe this is just me. I never have a clue if my experience is weird and deeply idiosyncratic, or if you feel something of it too. If you don’t, then here’s an explanation of one way happiness can be deeply felt. And if you do, you aren’t the only one!

Happy Sunday. I hope the sun shines on your face today. xo

teachers *everywhere*

I’m not going to name names, but over the last several days I have learned so many great things from some of the women in my life. …..Pause here for a big whoop! whoop! for the women in my life, and you do one for the women in yours. Amen, sisters. I have learned things and been directed to resources and cared for. It’s been a very rich time, even though this was a miserable week of excruciating headaches beginning Tuesday at 1am and finally ending this morning. Man. It’s been rough.

But here are some of the things I have learned:

  • Spontaneous calls from down under are a blast on a Friday night just before going to bed. Highly recommended ‚ÄĒ¬†get one if you can!
  • The Wake-Up Project, based in Australia, shared with me by a true sweetheart when the world’s tragedies and troubles were weighing me down a little more than I could take. Check it out. The kindness cards they have are only available in Australia, but I can make my own and participate. The focal point of the project is mindful living and kindness — how great is that?
  • I’ve lost the weight I wanted to lose, I know how to eat now, so it’s time to figure out how to just maintain where I am. Where eating is concerned I’ve been an all-or-nothing eater my whole life — though I eat very differently now, all the fruits and vegetables and whole grains so maybe the whole game has shifted. I am nervous about being able to stay here, and a friend said, “Believe in your ability to keep it off.” !!!! You know, I’ve never done that! It was never in my head. If anything was in my head, it was an unarticulated¬†wonder how long this will last. What excellent and yet very simple advice. Yeah, I believe I will be able to keep it off. I do. Apply this to a problem you’ve struggled over for a long time.
  • prayersPray simply for divine harmony. I have the most unformed, uncertain beliefs of a spiritual nature. I hang on to certain principles ‚ÄĒ be kind, love others, help when you can ‚Äďbut I don’t have a dogma, a belief of any kind in an afterlife, no idea who I talk to when I say prayers (most of which are like Anne Lamott’s: ¬†help, thanks, wow). When someone I love is struggling in some way I send good thoughts, etc., but still have an impulse to look out to the stars and say their names. But usually I’m being bossy and deciding what should be done. Instead, my dear friend prays for divine harmony, and I just love that. Heaven knows I don’t know the best thing, and heaven knows some of the very best things that have happened to me were born out of the worst things. I don’t know, I really like it and find a kind of deep comfort from it.
  • It’s far too complex and detailed for a bullet point in a blog post, but a darling friend told me about a transformative and healing kind of writing. The metaphors in the approach made me cry and they feel so deeply true. I want to share it with a couple of people I know.

goodMy beautiful friends are going through life writ large: falling in love, planning trips, going to Italy, returning from a family memorial service, hoping for new jobs, waiting for boyfriends to arrive, enjoying the happiness of a healing partner, dealing with cancer in their families, too many of those, dealing with loss, being filled with pride in their children, adoring their children, worrying about their children,¬†life. I feel such incredible privilege getting to dance in the margins with them, share the hurt and worry with them. Such a privilege. And me, the back and forth traveling, a week of hard pain, lovely dinner with my children and grandson Friday night, weekly and reliable [wonderful] chat with my Chicago daughter Saturday morning, the final end of the lawsuit hallelujah, joys in my children and grandson, delicious food all around, gorgeous faces smiling at me, pleasure in my wonderful life, going to the theater with beautiful friends on Wednesday, and book club on Thursday. It’s worth pausing long and hard and noticing. My life is really wonderful right now and nothing hurts. Nothing is wrong. Everything is right, for the moment. It hasn’t been in the past, and it won’t be again, because that’s the nature of life — so it’s even more important to breathe and be mindful when it is.

I hope yours is. And if it’s not, your turn will absolutely come round again. Happy Sunday y’all. xo

it’s very nice being off the world!

solitude, so restorative
solitude, so restorative

Usually when I’m “off the world” it’s because I’m on the other side of the world, on vacation. But last Friday, when I finished work for the day, I stepped off all by myself. And it was wonderful. I wasn’t completely off the world, of course. I got a wonderful haircut Saturday afternoon (if you’re in Austin, this is the place — go see Natalie. Best haircut I have ever gotten, ever.). I talked to Marnie on Saturday, as usual; I had a bunch of back and forth with Katie; Lynn called and Cyndi called with good news.

Otherwise, it was just me alone in my house. The weather was kind of glum, needing to rain but it just wouldn’t, so I was happy to stay indoors. I kept the television off — usually it’s background noise, but it marks the time in such a fast way. Half-hour gone. Half-hour gone. Half-hour gone. Day, gone. I made a few playlists of quiet music for those times music would be good, but I spent a lot of time in silence. Boy did I need that.

One thing I wanted to do was get my house clean. It was all brand new when I moved in so it was shiny and unspoiled, and while I’ve kept it clean and neat I haven’t really done deep cleaning. So Friday I hunkered down and got the whole house clean. By the time I was finished, it was late to make dinner so I had a glass of wine and some cheese and crackers. A nice finish to a busy day. Over the weekend, though,¬† I made some REALLY good food, boy:

Miso and Soba Noodle Soup with Roasted Sriracha Tofu and Shiitake Mushrooms
Miso and Soba Noodle Soup with Roasted Sriracha Tofu and Shiitake Mushrooms

Here’s the recipe for the soup; it’s very simple, but a lot of steps. ALL WORTH IT. That was my Saturday supper. Sunday morning I got up and made my dinner because it needed to spend the day getting all married and flavorful. At the last minute I added the avocados.

Black Bean Salad with Corn, Red Peppers and Avocado in a Lime-Cilantro Vinaigrette
Black Bean Salad with Corn, Red Peppers and Avocado in a Lime-Cilantro Vinaigrette

Holy cow did that have a lot of flavor. There’s a bit of cayenne in the salad (I added twice as much as the recipe called for). Here’s the recipe — just wonderful, and simple. The most complicated part was boiling the corn and cutting it off the cob.

I wrote a lot. I read a lot. I made things. I meditated. I did some yoga. I took a long hot bath with lavender salts. I made some little floor blankets and bibs for Oliver, since I loved doing that kind of machine quilting for his giant quilt. I ordered the little foot I needed for my machine and I was off to the races.

quilting in progress
quilting in progress
finished stack of baby goodies
finished stack of baby goodies

And then last night, as my weekend retreat at home drew to an end, I lit the fire, made a pot of tea, pulled out Gracie’s quilt which is unfinished, and watched Top of the Lake on Netflix. I’d been uneasy about finishing her quilt for a lot of reasons, but after talking to Katie and Trey I suddenly understood that I did need and want to finish it. And sitting there in the quiet, after my beautiful weekend, it all made sense to me in a deep way. I quilted her name into the quilt, and it felt like my way of saying goodbye to her and leaving some of my own beauty and love for her in the world. It’s my way of loving Gracie after being fully ready for our sweet Oliver, whose arrival is imminent.

handquilting, still and always my favorite handwork
hand quilting, still and always my favorite handwork

I heartily recommend taking a weekend just for yourself. Yours will look very different from mine. I feel like a new person as this busy week gets off to its start. Happy Monday, everyone. xo

work day

Today, no work for me beyond getting Oliver’s quilt top made, sewing a couple of crib sheets, and doing some writing. It’s another gorgeous day here, although not 82 degrees like we had yesterday (“only” 71, I’ll take it). A side-by-side comparison of my place in Austin yesterday and NYC yesterday:

Marc and I had such a Valentine’s Day blast yesterday. My day started with valentines in my email from him, and then a knock on my door and there was my daughter Katie, standing there holding a box of Krispie Kreme donuts and a container of chocolate milk. Ah, my sweet girl. I started making spaghetti sauce around 11am so it could simmer all day. At 6, I took my laptop into the kitchen and turned on Skype, and Marc and I made our dinners together.

that's him on the laptop, cooking in NYC while I cook in Austin. We talked to each other the whole time.
that’s him on the laptop, cooking in NYC while I cook in Austin. We talked to each other the whole time.

We both had spaghetti with homemade sauce and big salads. When we were ready to eat, I moved my laptop to the dining table and we faced each other and ate dinner. We actually looked at each other and talked more last night than we would’ve had we eaten together, because we usually watch The Daily Show or Colbert while we eat. It was so great. We cleaned our kitchens together, then we stretched out to watch a movie together. The timing was tricky because we both had to start the movie at the same moment but we did it. The laptops were there so we could see each other, talk about the movie. (We watched the Robert Redford movie,¬†All is Lost. Almost no dialogue, and only him on the screen. Amazing movie.)

When the movie ended, we talked a little bit and then wished each other sweet dreams and logged off. It was actually a wonderful Valentine’s Day, even though it was very nonusual.

Today I’ll open up my house so the fresh air can flow through, and in addition to sewing and writing, I’ll make a lemon cake to take to brunch tomorrow. Busy day for me, but every bit happy. Sunshine makes me happy. Making things makes me happy. Writing makes me happy. My sweet little home makes me happy. Daydreaming about Oliver makes me happy. My children make me happy, and my husband. My family, my friends, all of you “out there” living your lives make me happy.

Happy Saturday. xox


charmEven in my depression — perhaps because it’s mild-ish — I am not immune to the various charms of New York City. And perhaps my lack of immunity stems from the fact that I live in Austin. I remember being frequently exhausted by and pissed off at New York when I lived here, so knowing both places allows me to relish their different charms. I always want to share the wonderful things about both places so my friends in both places get to know each place, because both are important to me, part of me. So, to wit:

New York: Walking, oh the walking. Sure, you could go down the stairs into the stinky subway, stand on the crowded platform, get in the even more crowded train (sometimes boiling hot, sometimes freezing, sometimes reeking of the homeless guy or vomit or unexplainable liquids), and traverse the city with relative ease. The price of a trip has gone up, but it’s relatively cheap and easy, especially after you learn the different lines. ¬†Sometimes you have to do that. But when you can, it’s a walker’s paradise. Sunday night I walked from the area around Columbia University all the way down to Chelsea, about 1.5 hours, more or less, 88 blocks. I walked past ¬†Lincoln Center, Columbus Circle, Times Square (ugh), Madison Square Garden, and into Chelsea. There was always something to see, and I rarely had to stop except for the crowds in Times Square. I could’ve walked along Central Park West for a good portion, another fine walk. Last night I walked home from Columbus Circle, 55 blocks. Every day I take at least one walk in gorgeous Riverside Park, usually 2-3 miles. You can’t help but walk in New York, even if you take a subway. There are great places to walk in Austin — your own neighborhood, the hike and bike trail, various greenbelts, but mostly you have to drive to them (and often it’s sweltering). It’s an effort.¬†The NYC down side: You have to do this no matter the weather. In the summer the place reeks of pee and trash and homeless people, the subway platforms are dank and hot, and you still have blocks to walk to your destination when you leave the subway. The streets and buildings hold and radiate the heat. In the winter, you do this in ice and snow and bleak and whistling crosstown winds. Brrr.

the fruit and vegetable stand on my corner, one of several in a couple-block radius
the fruit and vegetable stand on my corner, one of several in a couple-block radius

Shopping: Of course you can get anything here. There are¬†districts¬†for things. Need a button? Go to the BUTTON DISTRICT. Yes, there is a button district. Want some fabric, some flowers, some meat, whatever? There is a district just for that thing. Want to do the most fancy shopping? Fifth Avenue, there you go. But even better, oh so much better, the daily shopping is just wonderful. Walking down Broadway you’ll pass table after table stacked high with used books. And usually small tables in between with people playing chess. Or table after table of handmade jewelry. Small stands selling clothing, hats, stockings, hats, scarves. In the winter they shift to warm gloves and scarves and hats. When it’s rainy, out come the umbrellas. One stand after another. Just need a fresh avocado, some bananas, lettuce, potatoes, cherries, ginger, garlic, tomatoes, anything? Walk over to the corner, this one or that one, competing fruit and vegetable stands. Pick your produce, the guy weighs it, you give him cash, he puts it in a little bag, and you walk home. Done. If you need regular groceries, walk to the other corner to the market. Sometimes you go to big markets, like Westside or Fairway or Trader Joe’s, giant places with everything. And “everything” (especially at Fairway) means¬†everything, every kind of ethnic ingredient or food you could want. ¬†Or, of course, you could go to Chinatown, or little India, or any of the multitude of ethnic neighborhoods for anything under the sun.¬†The NYC downside:¬†Sometimes you just need a mall! You don’t know what kind of outfit you want but you’ll know it when you see it, so you wander the mall and go in and out of all the stores until you find it. Here you have to walk around in the weather, and maybe you’ll find it in the shops in one neighborhood but maybe you’ll have to keep moving to other neighborhoods.

a range of very good Mexican food trucks!
a range of very good Mexican food trucks!

Eating. Anything. ‘Nuff said. The most amazing restaurants in the world, neighborhood restaurants, any kind of ethnic food you might ever want (except Tex-Mex! Come up here, Chuy’s!). Flor de Mayo, a Cuban/Chinese restaurant, all kinds of fusions, little holes in the wall, neighborhood stalwarts. Just within a couple of blocks of my apartment there are a few Ethiopian restaurants, Korean, Thai, Chinese, Greek, Italian, Turkish, diners, Japanese, fried chicken, Lebanese, Cuban, Mexican (interior!), health food, those just off the top of my head. Within a couple-of-blocks radius, and my street butts up against Riverside Park so it’s not even a full circle. And then there are the little trucks; I prefer to get my Lebanese food from the truck on the corner than the restaurant. My old neighborhood Greek restaurant is pretty shady (we prefer to go to one in Astoria Queens), but Marc has been going to it since he went to Sarah Lawrence in the very early 1970s.¬†The downside:¬†Can’t think of one.

People. People in New York are generally warm and friendly — it just might not look, on the surface, like it looks in other places. But if you’re on the street and lost, you can ask anyone and they’ll direct you. If you’re on the train, you can just ask generally and all kinds of people will chime in and give you great directions. Sometimes the New Yorkers will start debating various options to give you the best advice. Once, before I moved here, I was on a train and lost, and a woman overheard me. She got off the train with me, walked me to the right place, and told me where to go. Then she went back to her own train, I guess. Yesterday Marc and I were walking in Riverside Park and I saw a key hanging by a ribbon from a fence; we guessed that someone must have dropped their key, someone else found it, and hung it on the fence post in case the owner came back looking for it, so they’d spot it easily. It touched me a lot. We all live in each other’s faces, in a way, and while we know how to erect a bubble around ourselves when we need to, we’re all kind of the same in some way. Women put on their make-up in the mornings on the train. In late winter, people sleep, heads back and mouths open, in their now-tired winter clothes, and it’s so easy to see the children they used to be. People talk and laugh, sing, sometimes cry, they read, they close their eyes, they look exhausted or happy or bored. I really love that.¬†The NYC downside:¬†Sorry, but New Yorkers are pretty parochial. Texans, you’ll get this: they think the world drops off at the Manhattan borders, and no place else matters. (I know. Texans think the same thing.) I actually love that about both groups, but Texans are more often open to New York than New Yorkers are open to Texas. In both places, when I mention the other place the response is “you must be glad to be out of there,” but in Texas they first say, “Welcome back!” ¬†But I love you both, and find people in both places to be real and warm and open and longing to connect.

711Everything else.¬†You have to learn how to tune your eyes, but it’s all there. That 7-11 is just part of the block, as are McDonald’s and Burger Kings and Dunkin Donuts, but they’re very easy to miss because the place is big and tall and dazzling. There are SO many churches here — synagogues and dazzlingly huge Catholic churches and Baptist churches and Korean Baptist churches and Methodist churches and Lutheran churches and mosques. It’s all here, but they’re kind of blended into the surroundings until you learn how to see them.

johnAnd in my very near old ¬†neighborhood is the glory of St John the Divine, a glorious Gothic cathedral. For a couple of years I went to the Winter Solstice concert that I’d listened to for years on NPR — a thrill to be in the audience — and one year I went to the Summer Solstice concert. One year I went to Christmas Eve services to hear the choir. The gardens around it are amazing, as are the various sculptures. I’ll take pictures sometime.

The deal is that everything is here, but you have to learn how to see it. It’s much easier to see in Austin, spread out as it is.

This morning I’m heading over to the Museum of Natural History to see the sperm whale/Moby Dick exhibit, and I cannot wait. Pictures to follow! I write this post so my Austin friends will learn why I love New York City so much (and know that many of you love it too, and may even come here when I’m here, which would be amazing!), just as I write about Austin so my New York friends learn about it (though they are almost all unwilling to venture into Texas, even to see me, which frankly annoys me a lot).

Happy Wednesday, everyone. I love you all. xo