A New York State of Mind

Tomorrow I head into the city and I am SO EXCITED. I love that place, it’s a deep home for me; when I first went there I felt the peace of home and knew that it would always be mine, no matter what. The noise doesn’t bother me (except once in a while when it does, and that’s usually when a car parks in front of our building and blasts the stereo, especially the bass, for an hour), the crowds never bother me, the pace is too slow if anything, and the grit and dirt just feel like they’re of a piece. It’s my home too, in addition to Heaventree. And I’m also relieved that going from one home to the other can be done in a short car trip instead of a long flight. I don’t have to take off my shoes, endure the elbows of some stranger who has no concept of space, overeat out of some misguided notion that it’s a “treat” because I’m “at the airport,” and spend all that time and money in transit.

Riverside Park, MY park. You can have Central, I’ll take Riverside

Walks in Riverside Park. The Saturday night concert at the tennis courts along the Hudson River. The Hudson River! Sunsets, which I can’t see here at Heaventree. Concrete all around, I actually love that. The subway rumbling under my feet. We have a lot to get done while I’m there, including visits to a couple of furniture stores and a trip to Ikea in NJ, and lunch in Chinatown on Saturday, and dinner with my stepdaughter Anna on Sunday, and I’ll head back to Heaventree Monday morning. A whirlwind trip for sure, but it’s a sign of something that I’m ready to get back in the car and drive again — a sign that I need civilization, maybe; a sign that I really miss the things I can so easily find there; a sign that the city girl in me is still alive and kicking, as I knew she was.

Some folks like to get away, take a holiday from the neighborhood. Hop a flight to Miami Beach or to Hollywood. I’m taking a Greyhound on the Hudson River Line….I’m in a New York state of mind. Makes me cry just writing those words. How I love that vibrant, beautiful city.

The view always helps, whether it’s sunny (yes, this is what it looks like when it’s sunny) or rainy (the only difference is that the deck is wet ūüėČ ).

A quick journal log here on my mindfulness project — not so mindful, yet, but making it to the yoga mat every single day, which is a relief. Some days it’s a relief because I didn’t let myself down, but other days it’s a deeper relief, a physical and emotional relief. My body feels better, more alive than it did. It’s still much too difficult, I’m still struggling to get back into the poses with any grace, and I’m still too quickly out of breath, but those things will change as long as I keep showing up. For 10 straight days I have unrolled my mat, I have met myself there and for 10 straight days as I lay in savasana at the end of the class I have felt deeply grateful for it. Centered within myself again, at least for that while.

For 10 straight days, when I finish a yoga class and the teacher offers his¬†namaste and I return it, I touch my hands to my forehead, mouth, and chest and offer kindness in my thoughts, words, and heart, and then I lean over and offer kindness to the earth. I wish I could carry those hopes and wishes farther out into the world, and I wish they weren’t so easily whisked away by my violent response to the news, but I’ll keep at it.

For 10 straight days I’ve also eaten well, eaten the way I’ve been wanting to eat. Somehow I’ve started thinking of my vegetarian diet as eating ‘living’ food — eating meat feels like eating dead food — and every morning my green smoothie goes right into my bloodstream, out into my cells, filling me with energy. Gosh I love that way to start the day. My late-afternoon meal is a pleasure, though I’ve had a relentless headache the last three days (it has felt like my brain is swollen and pushing against my skull, ugh) so cooking hasn’t been as pleasurable as it usually is but the food has been wonderful.

It’s good to be heading into the city; I have hermit tendencies, and the longer I stay in my house the harder it is to leave. Yesterday I drove to Margaretville, which is ~20, 25 minutes west of my home, to get my NY license stuff done. It almost felt scary to do that, to go to that new place, to interact with strangers. I remember feeling that way in Austin too, and I think it’s not just agoraphobia/hermit tendencies, it’s also the way I am with new places. I want to just dip my toe in and run home, and the next time keep my toe in a little longer, and then a little longer. I’m not like that in a pool — I just wade in all the way and get used to it all at once — but with new places I’m pretty timid. I’m that way when we travel too, and I’m always grateful that Marc is a dive-in person (even though he is timid in the pool, so funny the way we are crossed, like that).

So over the weekend, while I’m away from my beautiful Heaventree, I’ll be around on FB and IG. I’m working a poem that started bubbling up inside me yesterday, which is a strange and new experience for me so I’ll keep at that. And looking ahead, for the month of August I’m going to try to participate in Susannah Conway’s August Break photography project, so I hope that will give me a way to focus my attention very quietly once a day. Here are the prompts, in case you want to dip in once in a while:

The horrific Republican world we’re trapped in is so noisy and chaotic and destructive, and I’m needing all the quiet ways to focus and be present that I can find. I’m really grateful for you. I’m grateful you’re there, whether you comment or not, whether you let me know you’re reading or you don’t. I kind of feel like you’re in this thing with me, and that makes me feel so much less alone. xoxoxoxoxox

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. ūüôā

xo

lesson learned (again and again and again….)

learnYou would think a 55-year-old woman who pays close attention ‚Äď like me ‚Äď would learn things. And of course I¬†do, I’m not being ridiculous about this, but there are some lessons I just have to learn again and again, and it annoys the crap out of me.

There are all kinds of lessons I learn over and over, but if you dumped them into categories, the biggest category¬†by¬†far¬†would be the “Taking Care of Myself” category. Sheesh I am just not good at that. I’m better than I have ever been, but it was a very low bar. I dash out the door and never pause to think¬†Take water. Grab a bag of nuts. Do I¬†have kleenex? What might I need, a sweater?¬† I might have brief periods of doing this and I always feel so proud, so grown up, but then I forget.

I think,¬†Oh, it’ll be OK. I think,¬†I’ll make it work.

The lesson I’ve just learned [again] is that I cannot be away from home for so long. I like to think of myself as flexible, as a person who can just¬†go with it, who doesn’t need everything to be just-so, and those things are true but I also have a limit. And six weeks out of pocket pushed me to my limit. Actually, I think I got here at the start of four weeks (*note to self). I’m feeling very irritable, on edge, crying easily, feeling a bit frantic and tired of waiting.

Marc’s place, the apartment that used to be mine too, has never looked or felt like my home. There’s nothing about it that looks like me, that feels comfortable to me. Even when I lived here, I felt like a visitor for a whole lot of reasons. One small ongoing reason is that the bathroom cannot be really lived in, because of his patients. Since his office is here in the apartment, the bathroom has to be kept perfectly empty when they are here, so there was always this dance: every morning, carry out all the bathroom stuff; after the last patient leaves (sometimes 9:30pm), carry it all back. The weekends were glorious because we could just leave our stuff in the bathroom the whole time. (But in plastic bins, of course, because they’d have to be carried out on Monday.) It was a strange feeling to realize that I felt so much more at home at Sherlock & Peggy’s house — a place I’d visited just once — than I do here at Marc’s. That feels very sad to me.

Ordinarily I don’t have a suitcase, as I do this time. Ordinarily my travel bag is just my backpack holding my laptop, and my purse. I have toiletries and clothes here, in my one drawer and section of the closet. This trip, though, with clothes for two weeks in Greece, and clothes for the writers’ conference, and extra shoes and stuff, I’m just living out of the suitcase. And whatever I need, it seems I have to dig through the whole suitcase to find it. And the suitcase takes up precious floor space — precious because there is NONE — so it’s always in the way.

o I cannot wait to make this again...
o I cannot wait to make this again…miso and soba noodle soup with roasted sriracha tofu and shiitake mushrooms. click the picture to go to the recipe.

My sweet little home is clean (unlike Marc’s place, which hasn’t been cleaned since the last time I cleaned it, September 2012 don’t.get.me.started), and quiet. I have silence around me for thinking. I am uninterrupted. My morning routine is my own¬†and beautiful, and important for me. My dinners are a pleasure to cook (in my clean little kitchen) and eat.

I have seen friends here in New York, precious friends I adore, and I miss them terribly when I don’t seem them for extended periods. So my “seeing friends” need has not been neglected, but my “seeing my Austin women” need has been starved.

So lessons learned, Queen:

  1. You need silence. And the little birds outside the window.
  2. You need your own little pleasures — morning routine, for example.
  3. You need a bit of space of your own.
  4. You need your home. Don’t be away from it for six weeks ever again except for dire circumstances.

I miss seeing Katie and Oliver, and Trey. I miss my bed. I miss my shower. I miss my kitchen, my morning coffee, the little birds. I miss my leather chair. I miss my sweet neighbors/friends, Nancy and Bob. I miss happy hours with girlfriends, lunches dinners walks whatever with them. I miss knowing how they are doing in a see-their-faces way. I miss turning out the lights and checking the locks and walking back to my bedroom. It turns out that I made myself the¬†home I’ve longed for my whole life, the space where I can just be, and be comfortable and safe and myself. It’s past time to get back there.

snips and pieces

Kalimera! That’s the greeting Greeks offer each other throughout the day — it’s a kind of warm ‘good morning’ thing, and it’s usually accompanied with hugs and kisses. We got back late Sunday night and honestly I don’t know where Monday went. Ordinarily I unpack everything and put it all away (and into the laundry) as soon as I get back, but I haven’t done that yet. Kind of scattered and lagged, I guess. Greece was magnificent, if you were following along, and I need to update and finish that blog — maybe later today, maybe tomorrow. There are a couple of posts still to write, the one about the Palace at Knossos and our time in the mountains, and then the concluding finishing-up post, and I need to organize my photos and get them all tagged and uploaded to flickr, and then I suppose I’ll feel like that trip is finished. What a wonderful country, what a wonderful people, what fantastic food, what beauty.

About all I can manage today is a set of snapshots of random stuff, and a hope to be more collected and together tomorrow:

  • As we were boarding the ferry on Santorini for our fast trip to Crete, my husband said, “I hope we’re not on one of those infamous sinking ferries.” I laughed so hard I had to pull out my phone and write it down. He is so strange sometimes, and sometimes he’s strange in a funny way. He does all the cooking for us and is a very intuitive cook, and tuned in to smells and tastes, so he was thoroughly delighted by the wild oregano and thyme growing everywhere, by the enormous bushes of wild rosemary. Walking anywhere took a long time because he’d have to stop and grab some oregano (which he insists on pronouncing oregana) and pinch and smell it. We drove everywhere with the windows down because the air smelled like these herbs. Finally he said, “I wish we could have our country smell like this.” I pulled the car over the side of the road to write that one down too. Me too, honey, I wish we could have our country smell like oregana.
  • We were having dinner in Rethymno at a harbor-side taverna. I had my Mythos beer, we were nibbling on tiny wrinkly black olives and dunking beautiful bread in olive oil, the air smelled like oregana, and the music playing was “Solitaire” by The Carpenters. This disconnect always cracks me up. When we were in Oaxaca and when we were in Phnom Penh (a year apart), Lady Gaga’s “Poker Face” was everywhere.
  • Yesterday he came into the house after walking to the bank with a big story to tell me. He asked if I’d heard the guy shouting and ranting (I hadn’t, because that’s too ordinary an experience in NYC to register as something unique). He said there was a very tall, 20-ish black man, nicely dressed in shorts and a shirt, not looking at all crazy but shouting and ranting and waving his arms around. The rant was a series of complaints about something but it was vague enough and random enough to seem like maybe the dude was crazy. A 20ish black woman, dressed professionally, was walking towards him and as she got near him she said, “Want a pear?” and handed it to him. And¬†all at once¬†he shifted and became a normal dude. They didn’t know each other, apparently. Who knew the magic of a random pear?!
  • After breakfast, before heading to the Heraklion airport to leave Greece.  Sadness to leave underneath those smiles.
    After breakfast, before heading to the Heraklion airport to leave Greece. Sadness to leave underneath those smiles.

    On our last morning in Greece, we quickly grabbed some coffee and a final gorging on Greek yogurt with honey before racing to the airport. The hotel started serving breakfast at 8 and we were there waiting, along with a few other couples and a small family. Ordinarily we got to breakfast around 9:30, so we were seeing a different crowd. (The hotel was small, a series of cottages with a B&B-style breakfast provided.) As I sat at a table in the sun, drinking thick black coffee and fresh OJ, smelling the oregana in the air, I looked at the others on the patio and thought how different it is to see strangers eating breakfast than to see them at dinner. They’re raw at breakfast, dressed in very casual going-out clothing but they haven’t dressed their faces in the same way, they still look sleepy, their hair is messy and just awake even if they’ve run a comb through it. Seeing couples eating breakfast together makes me feel like I know something different¬†about them, about who they are together. I see their comfort and silent ease (or not) together. It seems very intimate and I just loved all of them. There were two British families in the bunch, and both were particularly interesting. One family was a young mom and dad of a 4-year-old girl, maybe. As they walked into the patio, the little girl ran up to the cat that wanders around the restaurant to introduce the cat to her Minnie Mouse doll. She held the doll right into front of the cat’s face and said, so seriously, “This is Minnie Mouse.” She stood there for several seconds to be sure the cat saw the doll, and then turned to join her parents. SO adorable. The other family was larger, and included the grandparents. The young boy kept draping sliced ham on his face in various ways (once he tried to hang it from his chin, calling it his meat beard). The grandmother said, “Grandad wouldn’t like that, and neither would Grandmum.” It was bizarre, her speaking of herself in third person like that and with conditional verbs, in the moment. The little girl at the table spoke up with the poshest accent and I nearly turned around to see if she was kidding.

  • A frequent topic of conversation for us was the huge difference in vacationing in Europe vs the places we usually go in SEAsia. Setting aside the incredible difference in cost (YIKES, for real), we were also so aware of being one of a horde of tourists. The places we usually go, we are often the only people who look like us, and the people who live there pay us no mind or attention. We like both of those things. Marc was imagining what people in SEAsia usually think when they see us and he said, “….and one is a GIANT.” That made me laugh so hard; I’ve shrunk to ~5’10” and there I guess I¬†am seen as a giant. A big, super white, always-grinning giant. We’re thinking about our fall vacation and will probably go back to Laos and Bali, two of my favorite places in the whole world alongside Vietnam. I’ll say more about this in my concluding post on the Greek blog, but Greece is now one of my very favorite places in the world but I’m pretty sure we’ll never go back. For that reason, leaving made my chest ache.

Oliver turned two months old a few days ago and he’s growing and changing so much while I’m away! Katie sent me this picture the day I arrived back in the US, captioning it “Wearing his sailor shirt because Pete is back in the States!” It made me so happy, and I miss them so very much.

sweet little boy. Ahoy Cutie, indeed.
sweet little boy. Ahoy Cutie, indeed.

To say I am glad to be back is a complicated lie. I miss Greece, I miss the very different feeling of that place, the gorgeousness of it, the rhythm of it. And the food. And the people. I am glad to be closer to my people I deeply miss, and maybe if I were back in Austin I’d be more simply glad to be back . . . but I’m neither here nor there. I’ll see friends here in my two weeks in NYC, and then I’ll stay with Peggy and Sherlock when it’s time for the writing conference — two huge happy pleasures, the conference and them — but for now I’m not gone and I’m not home, really.

Such a beautiful Tuesday in June, here in New York, I hope it’s beautiful where you are, and that you are happy to be wherever you are. Kalimera!

so many homes

My friend Dee ran my family tree for me and there were so many shocking and thrilling branches (and a horrifying one, a branch in Georgia who owned slaves iamsosorry). But otherwise, great great stuff, so interesting. I know that my father’s paternal line came from Bavaria, and I knew that a set of branches came from the UK. I’d been told we were Comanche, but actually we’re Chickasaw ¬†(one of the Five Civilized Tribes).

I am not Greek. I am not French. Of all the branches in my family tree, not even a twig ventures to those places, not even a twig on a twig on a twig on a tiny branch on a bigger branch. Nope, nothing. And yet both of those places are homes, of sorts, for me. Those places belong to me because of books.

It can be mysterious the way things resonate so deeply. I’ve read thousands and thousands of books (and thousands), why did the Odyssey get into me so deeply? I at least know why Paris is so deeply wound around my heart — the themes from Hugo’s two best-known books,¬†Les Miserables and¬†Notre Dame de Paris were huge books in my little childhood. The good man damned, the outcast needing sanctuary, I saw myself in those stories as if they had been literally written about me. I’d never seen myself so squarely in books until I read those.¬†I was Jean Valjean.¬†I¬†was Quasimodo. Hugo could’ve written my name in those books. Old Paris became so vivid in my mind it was in my dreams and my plans. When I finally made it to Paris when I was 42, I found some of the old wall and put my hands on it and stood there crying. I don’t know how often that happens in Paris.

But Greece? Homer? Why has that struck my DNA in the way it has? And while I love the¬†Iliad, it’s the¬†Odyssey¬†that sings to me so deeply. It’s Odysseus’s trials, it’s the places he went, his constantly frustrated effort, the breaking-down of his pride. Why does that touch me the way it does? It isn’t the storyline of Penelope, of Telemachus, it’s Odysseus. That book means so much to me and I read it over and over and over. ¬†(Robert Fitzgerald’s translation is my favorite.) The last time I wanted to kill myself (and by “the last time” I mean both “just the most recent time”¬†and¬†“the very last time that will ever happen”) I ended up in the hospital. My suicidal mind kept calling to me, pulling me, convincing me, trying to do me in. My therapist called me one night and told me to plug my ears with wax and lash myself to the mast. It still makes me cry that she did that because it reflected such a deep, deep knowledge and understanding of me, that speaking to me from Homer would be the way to reach me. I’ll never forget that.

On the rocky beach at Olympos. We could walk through that opening at the base of the rock, just to provide a sense of scale.
On the rocky beach at Olympos. We could walk through that opening at the base of the rock, just to provide a sense of scale.

When my husband and I went to Turkey, one place we went was Olympos. And of course I was reading¬†Odyssey.¬†And I will be taking it with me when we go to Greece in May, too, and even though we aren’t going to Ithaca I’ll be keeping my eyes peeled for Odysseus wherever we go.

I adore Dante’s¬†Comedy, especially¬†Inferno and a little less,¬†Purgatorio (and almost not at all,¬†Paradiso yawn). I’ve read those books over and over again, and will keep reading them over and over again. (I love¬†John Ciardi’s translation¬†for sentimental reasons — it was the first I read, when I was at home with newborn Katie, but the translation by Robert and Jean Hollander is just brilliant.) Although I love it, those books didn’t capture my DNA in the same way, those books didn’t make Italy a home for me. And it’s not that I couldn’t identify! The lost man, the various sins (especially the suicides, torn apart forever by harpies). My therapist spoke to me of Odysseus, but I referred to her as my Virgil, leading me through and eventually out of the lost dark wood. But still, the book has never been¬†home to me the way those others have.

I’ve been thinking about the complete originality of each one of us — chemically, biologically, intellectually, spiritually, every way. The thoughts that come into our minds…from where? You don’t “decide” the things that come into your mind. You can direct your thinking, but the unbidden thoughts, the results of the original and deep structure of your mind. And the longings of your deep heart, the urgency of your deep needs, the places and people that will immediately and deeply be home, original to you. You might come up with stories to¬†explain them, as I’ve just done, but somehow these things emanate from our deepest original selves. And I think that’s just so so cool, so fascinating to think about.

I’m off to my Katie-girl’s house to spend the day with her, cooking, cleaning, baby-prepping. It’s a drizzly morning here in Austin, maybe thunderstorms later today, a very good day to stay in and do happy things. I wish you all a very good Saturday! xo

blessed or lucky, take your pick.

Honestly, I wouldn’t even know where to begin counting the ways I am blessed, or lucky, or however you might wish to organize it. I wouldn’t know where to start, but without a doubt I’d have to start with people. In absolutely NO particular order:

kkHow lucky am I to be near Katie while she is pregnant with Oliver?! After having lived far away from my daughters for so many years, I never take for granted the riches of being so close to Katie that we can suddenly decide to spend a day together. Go shopping together. Eat with each other. Katie and I can spend a day making things for Oliver — another blessing in my life, little Oliver. And Trey, goodhearted, caring Trey, Katie’s husband. Whenever I go to their cozy home, Trey hugs me, a long, real hug, and he looks me in the eye and we are truly glad to see each other. LUCKY me.

mgHow lucky am I that Marnie reaches out to me and shares her life with me! When things go wrong, she writes me immediately. When things go well, she writes me immediately. She calls me every Saturday for a long catch-up, and if for some reason either of us can’t talk on Saturday, we reschedule. How lucky am I that her sweet husband Tom is as much my son (like Trey) as if he were my own? How lucky am I?

And how lucky am I in the friends department? HOW LUCKY?! Karyn invites me to her house by a river, in the hill country, for the weekend. Karyn and her husband take me into their lives, and with such deep love and affection. When she writes me I feel honey in my heart. Dee sends me my whole family tree, just because she is kindhearted, and pays attention: I’ve been blue, and she wrote me to be sure I realized it was a gorgeous day yesterday. Cyndi texts me and invites me to everything she does, and opens her heart to me and introduces me to all her friends, with a generous and laughing heart. Lynn calls me after hearing of a really crappy day, just to say¬†What the hell!¬†and commiserate with me. Debbie comes to my house for dinner and we talk for a few hours, comparing life stories and understanding each other in a very specific way. Sherlock and Peggy share their happiness and troubles with me, and it’s the trouble-sharing that makes me feel most part of the family. And I share mine with them. Faith sends me emails that make me smile, and I cannot wait to get to know her better. Lorrie writes me with an invitation for a fun and easy evening out, to distract me, and even offers to treat me. Paying attention, being generous and open-hearted. Traci is always in my heart and life, and responds to my trouble with an immediate warrior stance, and I know without a second’s¬†question that if something happened to me, she would have my back. And she would avenge me too, and our eyes fill with tears. Jeff was my health coach but is my friend, and we share a giddy love of Shakespeare and Moby Dick and how many people in your daily life can you geek out over that stuff with, I ask you?! And Nancy, my darling and brilliant neighbor, always looking out for me and helping me, and always with a dry dry sense of humor that makes me chuckle down to my toes. And then Dixie, my sweet and darling loved one, and her husband Karl — family with the biggest and deepest meaning of that word. I am loved unconditionally, and Dixie always assumes the very best of me, and gives me the benefit of every single doubt. We should all have someone like that in our lives. For a lot of us it’s our mother, and I never got that but instead I got Dixie and that’s a more than fair trade-off.

And my online friends, Kristie and Laura and Linda and Mary and Megan and Pamela and another Laura and Anna and Josh and Paula and Becci and knitting friends and book friends and people who comment on occasion and lurkers. How lucky am I!

The world is¬†full of beautiful and generous people, just longing to find other people. It really is. Obviously it isn’t only full of those kinds of people, but you are sadly missing the boat if you don’t realize how many people there are around you who are huge on the inside, and longing to find other people. Longing for¬†you, perhaps. It often feels to me like I can’t turn any corner without running into yet another person of depth and splendor. Lucky all of us.

And people come to my house each month to read poetry to me! Seriously! Another friend has a spare ticket to Billy Collins at the Paramount next week and invited me. Poetry! And I met Nick Flynn, let’s not forget, my most cherished writer.

HOW LUCKY AM I.

And through my work I meet people who care so much about words, which is my favorite thing in the world after my people. Traci brings me a new writer, Amy, and Amy and I click, and Amy is a wonderful storyteller and now she is my person too. And Ron, a brilliant storyteller, and Mia and all the rest. Not¬†all¬†the rest, a great many are just people who want to write their stories and that’s good, but in the mix are these brilliant storytellers, and they are in my daily life. Daily! I get to read all day long and make a little money from the reading. And then I read at night. When I was a girl I used to wish I’d get paid to read. I GET PAID TO READ.

lori mama elephant2And I see the world — I see the world! — and I ride in a boat down the Mekong River, and in a small boat on a nameless river in the mountains of Laos, and to an island off of Borneo, and I bathe an elephant in Sri Lanka and chase a sperm whale in the Indian Ocean, and I sit in a tiny boat in the middle of the Ganges for the morning¬†puja and later watch the ceremony where the Brahmin put the Ganges to sleep at night. I hold the hand of a tiny Hmong woman in the mountains of far north Vietnam — her as small as a child, leading me over rocks and streams. And I grin while panting for breath on Macchu Picchu and Lake Titicaca, and I cycle through Amsterdam and Enkhuisen, and I cry in front of Notre Dame in Paris and imagine Quasimodo, my old friend, and I drink a beer in Glasgow, and Katie and I eat in pubs in Ireland, and gape at the Giant’s Causeway in Belfast, and I watch the crimson-robed monks in Yangon, and I run from monkeys in the Sacred Monkey Forest in Ubud. I cry at the Hagia Sophia in Istanbul because I never dreamed I’d see it in real life. I eat figs off of trees on the coast of Croatia, I snorkel in Honduras, I eat¬†very well in Oaxaca. I make my way through the crowds in Phom Penh during the Water Festival a couple of days before the terrible tragedy that kills more than 300 people. I feed monks in Luang Prabang, and wave at them in Cambodia. I eat amazing food all over the world.

I AM SO LUCKY.

And I’ve come to accept and like myself, after all these years, and to appreciate the parts of myself that are most central. OK, I’m a smart girl, I’m fine with that finally. OK, I am open and I cry easily, I am OK with that. And guess what: my friends are smart girls! I LOVE THAT! And my friends are openhearted, and I love that!

I am so very lucky.

at Nobu after our wedding.
at Nobu after our wedding.

And I get to keep finding my way with Marc, who I love more than I’ve ever loved anyone else, and he challenges me and we challenge each other and we have both grown so much. I get to be in two places I love, and it adds stress and hardship but it also gives me so very, very much. I am so lucky.

I am so lucky.

And so I don’t have much work right now, and friends and loved ones are having difficult times, and children starve and women suffer and men go to war and life is hard. And in the middle of all this, I am so lucky. I have a beautiful little home to live in, so comfortable and mine, and another home to visit on the Upper West Side (upper upper, as my friend Craig says with a snooty accent) in New York. I have not one home, but two!

I am so lucky.

scattershot

Oh, how many days I’ve been dreamy-eyed at the prospect of being home. I¬†do¬†love to travel and I¬†do¬†love being in New York,¬†and I¬†do¬†love love love my little home. I love the rhythm of my occasionally solitary life. I love getting to do what I want to do whenever (and however) I want to do it. It’s kind of hilarious to me just how much I love being the boss of my own life, since a year ago I had no familiarity with this. I remember feeling kind of paralyzed: what¬†do¬†I want? How should I know? Well, I have learned and it makes me happy.

love love my fireplace
love love my fireplace

Last night I was utterly exhausted by the time I got home, and when Katie and I were briefly chatting I thought I might just crawl into my wonderful bed when she left, imagining I’d be fast asleep before the covers even settled around me. I was hungry but didn’t have any food in the house, after being away just over a month, and had tentatively planned to run out to the market last night but bailed on that idea. Maybe some steel cut oatmeal, which sounded good because I was so cold. My house was freezing — the air and heat had been turned off the whole time I was gone, and the thermostat said it was 52 degrees in the house.

So I lit the fire and put on the oatmeal, decided to unpack everything, and then I ended up doing all my laundry and completely and totally unpacking and putting everything away. By the time I went to sleep last night it was as if I hadn’t been away on a trip at all. I love that too.

Now, a whole lot of craziness, things to do and things to figure out and get done enumerated here for my own benefit:

  • Breakfast with beautiful Karyn this morning, can’t wait to see her smiling face
  • FIND MY CAR REGISTRATION STICKER! I received it (it expired in November) and I have the receipt, but cannot find the sticker anywhere. I have a¬†vague¬†recollection of putting it somewhere I’d spot it but I have no idea where it is. Danger, Will Robinson.
  • A bit of grocery shopping on the way home from breakfast, just a bit, so I don’t have to live on oatmeal
  • Do all the Christmas decoration, set up the tree, in prep for poetry group party tomorrow night
  • Dinner with Jeff tonight at Beets, yay!
  • Tomorrow, haircut and color in the morning, shopping for the Christmas party, food and wine, and then ¬†the party
  • Friday, work work work all day and then birthday party thrown by Cyndi, cannot wait to see her!
  • Weekend in Dallas with sweet ¬†Dixie
  • Book club party Monday, lunch and Armadillo Christmas Bazaar with Dee on Tuesday, happy hour with Cyndi and gals on Wednesday, nothing scheduled Thursday and Friday (work! work! work!), and then Marnie and Tom arrive on Saturday.

I have a bunch of stuff to write about, notes I’ve been making while I was away, stuff I’ve been thinking about and comments on all the books I read while I was gone. I need to block and finish a darling baby blanket I knit for little Oblio — it looks like a giant green leaf, so so cute, and Katie and I need to shop for fabric for the quilt I’ll make for him. I’ve so missed writing here and can’t wait to get back into the rhythm.

love this sweater so much
love this sweater so much

Brrr! The great thing about this super cold weather is that I get to wear one of my handknit sweaters. This is one of my favorites, so comfortable and with a nice drape. I used to knit all the time, and I have a stack of handknit sweaters I thought I wouldn’t get to wear back in Texas. Plenty of days to wear them in wintry New York, but turns out there are enough days to wear them here too.

Always always more things to do than time to do them. Always always more things to explore, more things to learn, more things to make, more books to read, more connecting with friends, more (and never enough!!!) time with my precious kids, and always always too little time for it all. I wish there was a magic Santa who could do something about that for me. ūüôā

Happy to be back; missed you a lot, but thanks for following me in Sri Lanka!

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