Frozen

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It is hot in New York! But this photo reminds me of the cold old days, not many months ago. Doesn’t it look refreshing? I’m posting in response to Cee’s Fun Foto Challenge, as water and also whale, because even though there isn’t a whale, the frozen water reminds me of one somehow. Thanks, Cee!

 

 

 

I’m bad at Good-Byes

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“I’m no good at good-byes.”

Have you said this before? I certainly have. And I’ve chosen a life-style that, until recently, had me saying “good-bye” every few years as I moved my life around countries and continents. In every new city I fantasizing about starting a home there, but soon I knew (even if I didn’t admit it to myself) that I would be leaving. “Good-bye” became a part of every interaction, every experience, every home, even if the actual leave-taking was months or years away. When I finally left a place, I mourned the life I abandoned. I dreamed of a victorious return. But then I moved on. My real home was my parents’ home, and it was potent enough for me to feel content with my dozens of makeshift ones around the globe.

I’ve now lived in New York for longer than I ever lived anywhere besides my parents’ place. Time, relationships and maturity have helped me start a real home here, a home of good friends and layered experiences. I am making this home with someone else, and we have decided to leave it. The “good-bye” we’re planning is a temporary one (we will return!). Somehow, though, this leave taking is dredging my soul in an unexpected way. I’m just no good at “good-byes!”

We plan on leaving for 6 months. We will be traveling around the globe, together, being a home for each other in the midst of new places. But I am sad to leave what we have here: The home of our routines. The home of our proximity. Leaving is scary in a way it never was when I was in my twenties, when I hadn’t let myself commit to anything yet. “Good-bye” for this temporary leave-taking looks like a mishmash of hasty coffees and dinners with friends I only see occasionally. It looks like a party we haven’t planned yet, and trips, canceled and undertaken, to see my beloved parents and my far-flung friends. It looks like a real good-bye, a messy one. The kind I’m good at.

I feel like I am losing something because of this good-bye. We are losing jobs. We are losing that comfortable rut that we’ve carved to bind the weeks of the past with the weeks of the future. But these are things we want to lose: that it why we are making this jagged leap in a new direction. Is it possible this feeling of loss is simply a by-product of all of the bad good-byes I have said before, both the heart-wrenching and the flippant? Maybe there is a ghostly raft that floats deep inside of me of all the people and places I said good-bye to and left behind forever. They are mad at me for taking leave so dishonestly (“I’ll be back!”). This time I mean it though. I’m just no good at good-byes.

 

Self Portrait

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This is a self portrait I have been working on. It is oil on a medium-sized canvas. I like painting self portraits because it’s interesting to look at myself this way, with such intensity but also without judgement.

Looking at the painting, though, I can see that there’s a lot of work to do, especially on the nose!

Friends 2

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“I was a little girl once, just like you,” my Granmi tells me. It’s fall, and we are sitting together on the front steps, sharing the woolly blanket my ma and pa keep in the truck of their car. It smells of gasoline and scratchy crumbs are stuck between its matted fibers.

On the street, fall leaves pile up against the fences and gather thickly in the crook of the roots of trees. I want to shrug out of that too-hot blanket and fly down the steps. I want to find a good stick, and I want to poke at the leaf piles. There are worms and rolly-pollies hidden in their damp centers. I like to collect them in jars.

“When I was a little girl, we lived in New York City. I used to play with my dolls on the sidewalk in front of the house. I had a little pram where I could fit them all in, and I’d roll them back and forth.” My Grandmi tugs at the blanket and pulls me closer to her bony leg. She smells of dusty flowers and pennies.

If I were alone, I’d take of my shoes and find some mud. I like to watch it ooze between my toes. If the mud was thick, it tickles a bit between my pinky toe and the other one. I would mix the worms and the role-pollies with mud, and sticks and leaves. I would feed my potion to the trees, to help them survive through the winter.

“And wouldn’t you know it, I was shy, too. Exquisitely shy. Just like you are, my dear. Do you know that you are shy?”

The blush that reddens my cheeks feels just like a dirty scratchy blanket. There is a tree in Mr. Neilson’s yard that has a lot of eyes. I love to sit in that tree. If I were there right now the fall air would cool my cheeks and I would leave my muddy footprints on the branches. The tree would thank me for the potion, and let me stay there as long as I wanted. My Grandmi is old, and so is the tree, but only the tree is my friend.

Friends

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Irene thought it was Jacinta she saw at the market that Friday, but the other woman’s behavior was so bizarre that she couldn’t be sure. It was stir-fry night, and Irene was standing by the shiitake bin when, across the room, she saw Jacinta. Or, at least, the woman looked just like Jacinta. She had the same long hair, expertly curled at the ends; she wore the same colorful, conservatively styled clothing that Jacinta had been wearing every time Irene had seen her. She even carried the same purse. But this woman pushed her shopping cart so sluggishly that, for a moment, Irene worried that her new friend might be ill or, worse, under the influence of one of those sedatives that were becoming so popular among certain women.

It didn’t seem like a good time to say hello, so Irene was turning away to hide among the mushrooms when she noticed a man walking a few paces ahead of the-woman-who-might-be-Jacinta. He was middle aged, but wore his long hair combed into a ponytail. Wire-rimmed eyeglasses and a grey cardigan gave him the look of a librarian. He turned to say something to the woman pushing the shopping cart, it was something humorless, a command or a criticism. The-woman-who-might-be-Jacinta detached herself from the cart and moved towards a tall display of pears. Irene worried that the woman might chose one of the green pears at the bottom of the pile, and send the whole display tumbling to the floor. She worried that she’d have to help, and by helping she’d have to interact with this woman, this woman who might be her friend, but had none of the qualities, at the moment, that made her friend someone she’d want to be friends with. The-woman-who-might-be-Jacinta chose a pear from the top of the pile. She looked at it blankly, then dropped it into a plastic bag. Just as Irene was turning to push her own shopping cart away, the other woman turned. Their eyes met.

“Hello Jacinta, so good to see you! How are you?” Irene called across a display of red tomatoes. Her good manners saved her from freezing at this critical moment. Unfortunately, she couldn’t be saved from the cold fist of mortification when the-woman-who-might-be-Jacinta turned away without a smile, without even a spark of recognition in her dull eyes. The woman walked away with a pear sagging in her plastic bag. She handed the bag to the long-haired man, who held up the pear, glanced at Irene, and walked away. The strange woman followed, leaning heavily on the cart to push it ahead.

“How strange,” Irene thought. “Jacinta must have a doppelganger, right here in our little town. I hope I never have to run into her again.” And she wandered off to find the asparagus.

 

Spirit of the Day

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On my way to a somewhat business-y meeting, and I pulled an Elk card from my “Animal Spirit” deck. This means that, among other things, I have strong father energy, and that I can come off as pretentious. I don’t want to be condescending to the older woman I’m having dinner with (nor to anyone else in the world)…the card suggests that I eat and drink carefully to achieve balance. That might be a challenge with this particular dinner date, but I’ll give it a try!

The Moon and the Mockingbird

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The first time she noticed the mockingbird, Cassandra was getting ready for bed. As she brushed her teeth, Cassandra could just see a blood moon rising over the low pines that marked the edge of the yard. When the sound of the brush against her teeth no longer filled her head with noise, the house was quiet again. Downstairs, Cassandra knew, her father was drinking whiskey in the dark. Her mother had left for work hours ago, and she wouldn’t come back until the moon had set again, returning with the roar of the truck’s engine and the noisy energy of her exertion. Without Cassandra’s mother, the house sagged with quiet inertia, and Cassandra’s father, an extension of the house, did too.

The mockingbird’s call was so desperate that at first Cassandra couldn’t identify a pattern in the round, rushing notes. It was as though the bird breathed notes: trills on the inhale, trills on the exhale, until the air was full and there was no room for even the sound of the wind brushing the curtains across the window frame. The moon rose higher above the pines, growing smaller and brighter as it cleared some low clouds. The hallway to Cassandra’s room glowed. After she had tucked herself in, Cassandra lay awake for a long time, overwhelmed by the light and the song that filled her quiet night house.

The next morning, the moon and the mockingbird were gone. The day was sunny and full. Cassandra’s father mowed the lawn. Her mother sang as she hung the laundry. When the sun went down that evening, it stayed dark and quiet until Cassandra was asleep in bed. She woke, though, to the mockingbird. It sang outside her window, the only sound in the world, the sound of the moon rising, red, over the sea.

(Self)Soothing Airport Drawings

 

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I really like the different patterns of lines on the asphalt.

When I was a little kid, back before airport security intensified, my babysitter used to bring me to Logan airport in Boston, just to hang out. There they had a children’s play area, complete with a climbable airplane, and a Rube Goldberg machine. I loved watching the pool balls roll around this musical sculpture. I never knew which path they would take, and which of the percussive instruments they would hit. The abstract arrangement of bells, chimes, and drums was soothing to my young ears.

I’ve been doing a lot of traveling these past few months, mostly by air, and that calm feeling is gone. Despite the really impressive improvements of airports like Atlanta’s and San Francisco’s, that 2-hour wait in the terminal is never an enjoyable one for me. My childhood excitement of air travel is replaced with the frustration of incomprehensibly long security lines at New York’s JFK.

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Classic terminal view. (Logan airport, Boston)

As much as I like my iPad, I don’t think they make good waiters, nor do they make lovely table decorations. Unfortunately, most airport restaurants now feature tablets on every table. So instead of eating something that will inevitably make my stomach inflate against the airplane safety belt, I’ve found a new airport pastime: I didn’t realize I’d come up with this solution until I tried organizing my digital drawings. It turns out I have an interest in drawing airplanes and airports!

 

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An abstraction of all of the interesting lines of the airport ground. (JFK, New York)

Oysters

Happy Fourth of July! I’ve just eaten a bunch of oysters to celebrate the existence of this fantastic, adolescent country.

We eat oysters often: shucked by a waiter for $1 between 4 and 7 pm at a restaurant down the street; or unshucked, with a cold glass of white wine, all of us glowing in the low sun as it spreads, orange, through the south western pines. (I like to see the sun give way to the sky. It bows out in oranges and pinks, and all the while the blue, deep purple and finally black fill in its absence with other stars.)

When the oysters aren’t shucked, I hold the full shell in my left hand, which I protect with a pot holder. With my right, I push the point of a dull knife in through the earthy base, and jiggle my wrist to ease the blade through the flaky cups. I feel the oyster give, the shell releases, and I pry it open. Inside sits a little oyster, and I eat it with lemon and maybe a little vinegar and onion. It is cold, sweet and slippery, salty with ocean and gritty with a little shell sludge. I’ve heard oysters are only to be eaten in months that are spelled with the letter “r,” but I find them just as tasty in those that begin with “ju.”

Distant fireworks on Inkwell Beach

Rocks

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Rocks at Gay Head Beach (aka Aquinnah)

On the windowsill, we collect rocks. Here is a sandy orange one, fist-sized. And see how this grey slate is striped with milky quartz. In the sun you can see the garnets that sprinkle this rock’s surface. Aren’t they pretty?

My parents made friends with a housepainter named Jim. One summer he painted our rooms the colors of sherbert, orangcicle and melon green, and afterwards my parents gave him a beer on the porch. Jim saw our rocks and invited us to Aquinnah, far past the families camped with their many chairs and the nudes camofouging into the orange clay. He told us that there was a point on the beach where the cliffs revealed their secrets, the rocks spilling out over the sand, spread by fresh water springs that trickled towards the ocean. Jim showed us how to spot the clam fossils, dark and heavy with petrification. My father found a shark tooth four inches long. The clams and the teeth were prized. We kept them on the bookshelf, next to the shiny captain’s clock.

Is it possible that my mother is right? She thinks that Jim sprinkled those fossils on the beach for us to find. She thinks he tricked us. They aren’t friends anymore. The fossils are still next to the captains clock, collecting dust. We still collect rocks, and line them up on the windowsills to bake in the sun.