Pure As the Driven Slush: Heather Corinna's Journal and Diary, Online since 1999

Archive for the 'island life' Category

Monday, July 1st, 2013

Last night, we had the extreme pleasure of hanging out with a small group of people on the island at the most divine home.  It was set right on the water, with a space in the back; covered, with beautiful tufted chairs, no walls closed to the scene around.

I took a break from the group to go sit there, and quite out of nowhere — looking at the water, feeling the breeze, so happy to have been having warm days here in the Pacific Northwest where there are never enough of them for my liking — was momentarily overcome by this feeling of profound gratitude for my life.

Specifically, and without much eloquence, my feeling and thought was that this has just been one hell of a life so far, and I’m grateful for all of it.  Earnestly, all of it, including the parts of it that have been hideous, traumatic and so incredibly hard and painful. Grateful that only in the middle of my forties, it has felt so tremendously full of all there can be to living, grateful that I’ve been able to experience so much of what it is, and still be around, feeling whole and full and challenged, for sure, but not bitter or jaded or so emotionally tired form all it’s involved I’ve lost my hunger for more.

It was one of those solitary moments where so much thought and feeling and reflection is packed into such a small fragment in time, where everything just kind of comes together and makes itself clear and known. Where who you are and all your life has been unionize themselves, and become inseparable. One of those moments that sometimes you struggle to get yourself to, but which don’t tend to happen so clearly and freely with intentional effort as they do when those efforts over time stack up and then all come to fruition at once without trying, without expectation or want.

Monday, November 21st, 2011

I wound up getting a pretty invaluable takeaway from the Staycation-that-wasn’t.

When it was over — or not over, really, since it didn’t really happen, but you know what I mean — I realized that I had stayed off my personal Twitter without even noticing.  Then I realized that going back on filled me with some level of dread. So did the prospect of doing pretty much anything that involved promotion or standing out from the madding crowd in any way.  While I didn’t get the time off I wanted, I was at least able to get a handful of days separate from my larger work world of late and away from its constant din. In a word, anything potentially extroverted or which carried the pressure to be extroverted made me feel highly anxious and depressed.

Growing up, music, writing and teaching were always my big loves, as they are still. Unsurprisingly, my musical abilities tended to be the ones that got the most attention and focus from others.  Some of that was just because I loved to make music, but I suspect a larger part of it was that making music tends to involve a level of performance that writing (well, until fairly recently) and teaching, especially when you do it the way I’ve always liked to, do not.

The thing is, I never liked performing. I still don’t. What I liked was making music, being a part of music, or even more to the point, being so much a part of music that what I was in those moments was music itself, separate from myself, invisible as myself.  My favorite part of any kind of art has always been the process, not the product, and really being able to get lost inside that process. Before I went to the arts high school I did, I was always in the choir at every school I attended. I remember people feeling very invested in getting solos or not, but that was never my interest. Being in the choir — in it –  was my favorite part.  I especially loved those moments when you’d be singing with everyone else, and all the harmonies would be just right: even though you were still singling just as clearly and loudly when your own voice was more audible, you’d blend in so that you couldn’t distinguish your voice from anyone else’s anymore. It was like you opened your mouth and everyone’s voice came out, and yours was only one part.  It’s the same reason I loved being in the mosh pit during my high school years: things were loud and intense, sure, but everyone was part of the crowd, it required going with that flow or people would wind up underfoot.

I loved being at the arts school. Being able to focus on my writing was fantastic, but I was there primarily to study music, and I loved that, too. At the end of senior year, everyone needed to present their own project, and I was so happy to be able to form a band and be able to collaborate with a group, rather than playing alone. But by the time graduation was coming up, I,d realized that a life in music would probably mean a life performing. Making my living as someone who only stayed in the studio was not likely to be doable (I should have learned a brass instrument, I know). If I wanted to sing, I’d need to learn to like performing. I tried. During my gap year, my friend Joe and I would play open mikes and at a couple bars and I literally tired to see if I could learn to like performing if I just sang and played my dulcimer with my back turned to the audience.  (Yes, really.  I did like it better, but audiences, as you’re probably not surprised to hear, found it a bit odd.) What about street performing, I thought? Maybe that would work. Nope. Also? Fucking brr.

So, when I started college, I decided to stop studying music and focus instead on literature and sociology, and on writing and teaching. There’ve been two decades between then and now, and a lot happened in my life and in the world in between.  And of course, silly me, I decided to write and teach about and subjects that seem perfectly normal and relaxed to me, but also wonderfully complex, so never boring, but which most of the world finds provocative and feels the need to yell about a lot.

But over the last couple of decades, the biggest thing that happened around my little epiphany I’m about to talk about is that it seems to me that our culture has become a culture of constant and en-masse extroversion to the exclusion of all other ways of being.  A “look at me” world. If how a lot of the world seems to be going right now was a kid in class, it seems like it’d be the kid who always has their hand up for every question, even though half the time, they don’t have the answer or weren’t even paying attention to what the question was.

Everything seems to involve marketing. Everything feels like it involves making yourself louder and louder and louder and bigger and bigger and bigger. If you don’t want to be on television — or, if you’re like me and that kind of visibility sounds like a circle of hell Dante would have invented if he’d written the Divine Comedy in the 21st century — it must mean you’re not really motivated to do whatever it is you do. Hell, we have reality television, and people who aspire to be on reality television as a what-I-want-to-be-when-I-grow-up. If you just want to quietly do your own thing, it’s often assumed you must not want to involve other people or make an impact on the world, since making an impact involves being seen as widely, as largely as possible, even if what you have to offer when given those opportunities is less than the best you’ve got to offer. I can’t express how many times over the last year or two I have found myself arguing with colleagues who just don’t understand — they’re not being assholes, they just clearly don’t get it –  why I don’t self promote more, more, more and how I can be highly dedicated to doing what I am without wanting to spend more time marketing myself and my work than time doing my work. It’s gotten to the point where if anyone around me even starts the sentence, “You know, you really should promote yourself better by….” I feel on the verge of tears or shin-kicking, sometimes both.

And in the subject I work in, in sex, I feel like it’s just gotten really bad — and maybe it always was — to the point where the promotion and marketing schtick has gotten so fever-pitch that even smart people I know with great intentions frequently sound like snake oil salesmen to me. I ran from two professional email lists screaming in the last year because where I had been looking for educated community to deepen the actual work we all do, most of what I found was what sounded like a nonstop infomercial from hundreds of people at once, some of whom, it seemed to me, spent more time marketing than actually doing the work, because when they did ask about work-related things, the questions they asked were so rudimentary it made it obvious how little time they spent doing the work they were promoting.

When I’ve been trying to figure out why I’ve felt so burnt out and tired, I kept finding myself very perplexed. I love the work I do. Working with teens and young people, especially when they’re in crisis, can be very challenging, but it rarely wears me out: it tends to energize me instead. I never get tired of writing: I still love the process. Same goes for teaching: I still love working as en educator.  The money stuff is always tiresome, so I often look there when I’m trying to identify a source of stress, but that’s not it. I wish I had more time for my life, still, and for my own creative work, but I’ve been working on that with some measure of success. I keep being asked for things from too many people who seem to forget I’m just one person over here, but as frustrating as that is, I can let mostly those annoyances go when I experience them. I’ve wracked my brain with all of these puzzle pieces and more, trying to find out where, exactly, so much of my stress seems to be coming from.

Then I realized that I somehow have managed to often fall into working in this extroverted mode that doesn’t work for me at all. In fact, it keeps me from doing my best work; from my best self, even. From who I am and the way that I do things best.

I’m gragarious, sure. And very open. Sometimes loud and boisterous. But I’m not extroverted. I’m introverted. It’s one of the reasons I always loved writing. It’s one of the reasons why I’m always much more concerned with getting enough time alone than with getting enough social time, and why I always feel completely perplexed when people ask me if I get lonely now that I live on the island or if I get bored out here. When I was in the UK early this year, Blue took some time off and was home alone for several days.  When he told me on the phone he hadn’t seen a single person in days, I said, “I know, isn’t it AWESOME?” (I think it is. Blue, on the other hand, was a little freaked out by the experience.) It’s one of the reasons I fell so in love with Montessori when I discovered it, where the teacher isn’t the focus, the students are. It’s one of the reasons I still love making music, and tend to save it for cherished, quiet times when I’m alone. It’s the main reason why it’s been very hard for me to have to adjust to the fact that semi-regularly now, I have to do public talks for big groups, something I’ve gotten decent at doing, but am always most thrilled when it’s over. My introverted nature is not news to me nor is it to anyone who knows me well.

And yet. Because — and really, I can’t believe how unaware of this I have been — it seems like the way things have been around this is that this, this high-key extroversion, is The Way you do them, I have tried to do them that way. I have tried to keep my own personal and professional din at something resembling the level of what seems like everyone else’s. I have pushed myself really hard to perform the way a lot of my colleagues perform. Heck, I can actually track this back to way earlier in my life, to times even as a kid where I forced myself to learn to be loud because I so badly wanted to do things, and the only way it seemed I was going to be able to get a chance to do them was if I acted like I was extroverted.

And that, my dears, is what I realized has been making me so incredibly worn out, above and beyond all else.

For an extrovert, see, that stuff obviously feels energizing and exhilarating. Not for an introvert: it gives me an intense desire for a rock to go hide under where I can take a long nap or listen to my records alone all day. An extrovert loves to be in the spotlight. We introverts generally can’t stand it, especially if we’re not at least sharing it, ideally with someone who wants that spot right on them, far, far away from us. My sense is that for extroverts, being constantly visible and in the middle of everything helps them focus. For an introvert, especially for this introvert, it feels like trying to watch one screen while 50 different screens with different things on them are on at once. It’s distracting. For me to see out clearly, I have to start by seeing in: and I can’t do that very well if I’m trying to be extroverted. It’s like extroversion puts a flashlight in my eyes.  Not only does it just feel wrong — wrong like you feel when you’re trying to get somewhere, and someone tells you you’re on the right street, but you are 110% certain you’re utterly turned around –  it makes it really, really hard for me to even remember what I’m supposed to be doing, let alone enjoy it.

The thing is, I — and my other fellow introverts — should be able to be who we are, the way we are, and do what we want to do in life and in the world in our way. It’s no more wrong or right than the other way: these are both ways of being. Not putting out a constant, flashy, look-look-look outflow doesn’t mean I don’t want to do things that have a big impact, nor that I don’t think my work has value: it usually just means that I want to be in the work and focusing on the work itself, and focusing on myself in such a way that I’m the vehicle for it, rather than the other way round.

I thought a little about some of the people I’ve admired most in the world who were clearly introverted: Blake, Goodall, Thoreau, Ghandi, Woolf, Bronte, Curie, Einstein, Dr. Suess, Jung, King, Van Gogh, Chopin, Yeats, Joni Mitchell, Georgia O’Keefe, Remedios Varo, nearly every writer and artist whose work I find most visionary and my father. Then I started thinking about how they’d fare in the world right now, and how hard it might even be to find them and what they did if they didn’t shift to an extroverted model. I mean, would Virginia Woolf really be like, “No, srsly, everyone, COME SEE MY ROOM! Pls RT!” Would Thoreau have a daily photoblog of Walden Pond? Why? How the hell would Chopin have composed anything with one hand on a cell phone? How on earth could activists like King and Ghandi have done what they did as well as they did with the kind of reactive urgency we have right now?

Then I realized that all the people on my list were brilliant people, very self-possessed and visionary people who I feel certain would have found a way to be who they are, and to do things the way that felt right to them, without taking on a way of being that would be more likely to stand in the way of their work and their lives than it would be likely to enhance it.

I am, at the moment, without solid answers about how to do this differently. At the same time, it’s not like I’ve ever really thought about it before: I only, and quite foolishly, just hit upon this awareness last week.

But I’m so very grateful to have gotten to that awareness, even if what got me there mostly seems to have been a lot of deep annoyance, a ton of new grey hairs, distraction from all of the things I actually want to do and which need a level of full attention tough to come by anymore for me to do them as well as I can, and feeling very misunderstood pretty much constantly, all unpleasant things.

For now, I’m just going to start thinking about this. I have a few strategies to start with, though, like staying away from social media I can until I figure out a way to manage it that really works for me, taking baby steps to ask the extroverts in my circles to accept I’m different than they are, doing things more quietly, even if it seems like a gamble to do so, and just reminding myself that the way it seems like everything has to be done isn’t the way everything has to be done.  There are other ways to do things than whatever the predominant model is or seems to be at a given time, something I know and have always applied to near everything in my life and my work, something I tell other people at least several times a day, and something I used to do all the time, so there’s no reason I can’t apply the same here with this, starting now.

Tuesday, August 30th, 2011

Last night, I was finished with work, getting started on cooking dinner.

I had the 70s radio station on. I was in my bare feet with an apron layered over a long, cozy skirt, pulling my long hair into a knot to keep it out of the food.  The dogs were lazing around, being a little silly.  I was looking into the forest while I made a beautiful meal with fresh, wonderful ingredients.  I was enjoying a nice glass of wine. I was dancing around a little while I cooked, just kind of grooving out, feeling mellow and satisfied and happy with relatively simple things.  Feeling, as I often do anymore, like I’ve landed in a place and space, literally and in a larger way, in my life where I have pretty much what I need to be happy, and where what all of that is is within my reach.  In a place where thoughts of further attainment — as in, this is awesome, but I really still need that, or that’s great, but it’d be better if I had this — are often far from my mind, even though there are certainly some things that are pretty basic I remain without. In a place where what happens in downtime are things like reading a good book outside in a cozy chair, walking through the forest, hula-hooping in a wide open space, playing instruments at night, lounging in a tub until my fingers get all pruny, tending to the plants, baking delicious things, screwing, talking for hours, getting to know local characters who are as weird as I am in the few local haunts there are. I live somewhere where it’s considered a given that people share things and are kind to one another, where there are peace protests on the street even though the people standing know they’re preaching to the choir. I live somewhere where wearing mismatched socks isn’t just about not giving a crap, it’s about there being something joyful and hilarious in mismatched socks.

It then occurred to me that I had kind of lost my sense of exactly when it was, in the grander scheme of things, and in that, I realized that right now, in a whole lot of ways, I’m basically living the life my father really wanted when he was young and I was wee (soundtrack and all).  This life I have going right now is kind of his low-income aspiration to an almost-middle-income life, where basic needs are met, the luxuries are simple ones, and there’s a level of off-grid that’s still clicked in enough to avoid some major struggles. These are the kind of daydreams my father was having about his life and my life in the midst of Woodstock; the kind of respite he imagined he and I might be able to have if and when the kind of revolution he worked for and wanted — and ultimately, didn’t see happen — took hold and then settled down.

I am essentially living my father’s early 70s dream life, a life he also dreamed for me.  And it obviously was a very good dream, one would think, because I’m really loving my life this way.

Of course, when I think back to college, I realize it was my dream, too, even though it may still be one I inherited or was primed to, at least in part.  There was a while there where I was pretty dead-set on ditching the whole works and trying to buy an old school bus I figured I could somehow renovate to work just fine as a mobile home and use to find a place and a life…well, an awful lot like this one.

I really need to get him up here for a visit. Not only has it been over a year since I’ve seen him, and there’s the given that I always want to get him away from the hell that he lives in, I also want him to be able to experience this. It’s bittersweet, of course, as I know this is a life he’d still like for himself in some ways, and one I don’t have the means to provide for both of us, nor one where he feels up to the adjustment anymore.  But I figure there has to at least be something lovely and satisfying in seeing your kid living the kind of life you’ve dreamed for both of you, right?

I’m not sure, though I’m sure we’ll talk about it at some point, hopefully while taking a lovely walk here sometime soon or being delighted that you can get a $3 drink in an unpretentious pace without also having to suffer the company of racist assholes insulated by a crappy tiny place instead of a wonderful one.

But in the meantime, I’m just going to keep on relishing what I have here right now, what I’m able to be part of, and the time I can spend in this life that feels like such a beautiful dream sometimes.

Monday, April 18th, 2011

Not only am I not dead, it’s my birthday today.  And unfortunately for me, I’m sick as a dog.  Blue caught some nasty cold/flu thing last week that put him down for days and never one to want to be left out, I had to pick it up myself yesterday.

So, I can’t work, because the fever and malaise has made me stupid.  And I can’t play, because I’m not the kind of stupid that’s any kind of fun.

But I said to myself, as I was resting in the bedroom, “Self? This really is not so bad.  You’re sick, but you’re sick in this beautiful floaty-looking room with some beautiful sunlight streaming in. This bed is seriously cozy. That bagel you just ate was fresh and delicious. You don’t have the Black Plague, you’ve just got a bad cold.  And you can take a day or two off without the world coming to an end, or worrying about getting fired or winding up unable to pay for food because you got sick for a couple of days. You have a bucket of muppety-looking stuffed flowers from your sweetheart, who loves you, and would take care of you tonight if you actually would let anyone do such a thing. You can hear birds chirping (and your old cat yelling, too, but when you’re that old, you’ll probably be whining nonstop yourself). You’re just having a less-than-awesome day in what remains a presently wonderful life.”

Then I realized the light was so lovely, and I was unable to do so little else that I could at least take a few snaps to document my entry into my 41st year, despite being without a tripod right now since I misplaced the plate. And so I did. Even sick and tired both, as it turns out, I’m holding up pretty darn well for being an age I never even thought I’d reach some of the years of my life. Getting older remains more exciting than scary. I still have the freckles over my eyes I like so much, even though sunlight remains a rare commodity here in the Pacific Northwest. I like the lines I’m getting still. I heart the grey at my temples. I’m clearly getting my parental grandmother’s mustache, but that’s okay, especially since if I’m ever out of a job, maybe I can cultivate it and join the circus as the bearded lady. I look contented, how weird is that? All mighty swell.

I know, I continue to be pretty quiet over here, and I think the fact is that I learned all of my arts during crisis and turmoil. I’m one of those walking cliches who only seems to be able to really churn out the creative work when I’m unhappy or scared or in some kind of serious crisis or distress. Since I refuse to turn that situation into its own crisis, I decided a while back, when it became clear I had been happy for a good long while and it seemed to have become a trend, that I was going to just give myself whatever time I needed to get to a point where I could learn to create things when I was happy.

It’s not like I get nothing done: I put in 60 hour workweeks mostly helping other folks with their own scared/unhappy/fearful/crisis. I churn out a ton of work-work in my field just fine.  In fact, I seem to do that work far better in the space I’ve been in over the last… you know, I can’t even clock it, actually, which is kind of super-amazing. So, it’s okay if I do less creative writing, less art, less of what has most often been the way I out parts of my spiritual life and practice into tangible form.  It’s even entirely possible — and I don’t think I’m just telling myself this to rationalize it all — that I’m finally learning to make the work I’d always thought of as the least creative of everything do its own art; it’s own spiritual practice.

My days anymore go something like this: I wake up, I get some coffee, I have a smoke on the porch, maybe stretch my legs outside a bit. I listen to the sounds of the island.  I go to my desk, I get a couple hours of work in. I go outside again. I go up to the loft, do my yoga while looking out into the trees. I take a hot shower. I go outside again. Then I do another bunch of hours of work, now and then take an afternoon walk somewhere in there. My workday ends anywhere from early evening to a little later, with some hangout & a lovely dinner with my sweetheart. Then we vegetate in some way or another. Then we go to bed, and more times than not, I sleep like a baby.

On the rare days when I don’t have to do any work — though I have been doing decently at taking one day off a week — they tend to start the same, though now and then, they start with sex, which is even better. (I’m of the mind one has to start the day with something productive, after all. And yes: that totally counts.) On Saturdays, we go into town, see the farmer’s market, do our errands, sometimes take a drive somewhere lovely, which is pretty much everywhere on this island. Some days we stop by the beach, where I find too many things to bring home. Then we’ll bake or cook or make a fire, or, when the tub outside is working, have a soak or work the dirt. Blue has taken up the ukelele, so now and then we’ll both play together in our new home-only band, Tiny Instruments.Often enough, some friend or another will make a pilgrimage to come visit and we’ll spoil them to pieces because it’s fun as hell to share what we have here right now with the people we love.
I think if I hadn’t lived a life that was nothing close to so provincial up until now, I might even feel a little embarrassed at how much so mine is right now, but I’m not.  I’m constantly grateful for the peace and the solace, and the small, quiet joy that’s pretty much ever present. I never really saw anything like this coming for myself, and some days I don’t notice, but other times I’ll get whacked upside the head with the wonderful surprise of it all and remind myself not to take any of it for granted.

So, I’m sick on my birthday. Whatever. And sure, I still am way overworked and have way too much on my plate way too much of the time. So it goes. Because for the most part, I feel pretty awash in gifts pretty much all of the time, and I’m not sure what else a person can really ask for.

Sunday, January 30th, 2011

Sorry for another long silence from me, here, anyway.  I’ve not been silent anywhere else, just here.  Don’t take it personally.  Per usual, been busybusybusy with work, but also busybusybusy enjoying the time I’m not working.  Which isn’t enough, I’ll give you, but I’ll take what I can get.

I stopped by because I just had to write down something lovely that happened around a week ago here on the island, which was such an excellent representation of why I love it here so much and remain so grateful I was able to move here.

I was in the city for a visit with my sister (who moved to Seattle last year, oddly, more on that another time) and some work at the shelter. After a lovely, albeit brief, run-in with my friend Ben, met up with Blue and we headed back home on the water taxi.  We got to sit with some of his commuting friends, who were lovely and witty and wise, and when we all loaded off the water taxi, half the folks, including us, jetted it over to the bus in a rush.

So, there we are, everyone having finished their workday, tired, but still nice and chatty, something I found Seattle folks tended to lack, but island folks tend to make up for.  As the bus made its way down the length of the island, the sky started to get dark.  We were sitting near the front of the bus, where a teenage girl was also sitting.

All of a sudden, she yelled out, “Oh, wow! Look at the moon!” Before half of us could even start to do it, she was swiftly dialing friends on her cell phone to tell them, too, to look at the moon, a gorgeous, low-hanging, blazing orange harvest moon.  Everyone on the bus joined in in looking and admiring it, and for those who hadn’t heard said teenage girl, the bus driver used the intercom to advise everyone aboard to look at it.

So there we all were, moon-gazing, sky-sighing, all thanks to one of the charming, enthusiastic and kind of mystical teenagers we seem to have quite a lot of on the island, who I tend to notice other adults don’t take for granted, either.  All excitedly gazing at the beautiful moon lighting up the harbor and the rippling topography of our island.

Seriously cool stuff, that.  I grinned for days because of it.

This is a lot of what life is like for me here, save that it’s typically much more quiet.  I so appreciate the quiet and the solitude — with breaks for things like en masse moon-squealing — and the slowness.  I’m still dazed half the time just by seeing and feeling the forest and the water all around me.

It’s an interesting appreciation, too, for this time and place in my life, because it’s based both on the present and the past.  They don’t just connect each other, but my life in the past has been, I think, a big part of my enjoying my life now.  If it wasn’t for growing up in the city and being so urban for the majority of my life, I don’t think I’d appreciate being rural like this now.  If it wasn’t for such a fast and busy social pace at other times, I think the slowness and quiet now would feel boring, instead of peaceful and inspiring.  Narrowing my interpersonal relationships down is something that feels right and good, but likely in part because at other times, I’ve been so much more expansive in that area.

It’s such an exceptional and fantastic thing, loving where I am now because of where I’ve been before; not because what was before was not what I wanted, and this, instead, was, but because I’ve loved both parts and they kind of complete each other.  It’s like having had two cups for everything, where only one was filled, but the other is now also getting full.  It makes all of my parts fit together in really complimentary ways, and makes all of my journeys kind of make a lot more sense than they have before.

It is, however, also a strange thing for me to feel more quiet in my spirit and my energy.  It’s not breaking news to mention that it has been more often loud and frenetic, and also that it’s always been a challenge for me to find a quiet.  Figuring out how to balance that with the work I do, in which in so many ways, I need to still be loud, has been interesting, and an art I have yet to refine.  I’m still just starting to explore it.  I’d say it’s certainly had a notable impact on the way I’ve been working with people directly: channeling my compassion and empathy for them was always something I could do, but it’s become considerably more effortless.  It is a bit harder, I’m finding, to react and respond to anyone — in general — being really out of order or very angry or reactive, but slowing myself down to try and figure out how is easier.

I’m in the midst of some potentially major work choices and decisions, which could potentially change my life (and my org) for the serious better if all goes well, in an area I’ve never had a fast, serious-better change, ever, only slow, gradual progress.  Can’t say more than that about it for now, but this is one more way in which I’m glad I’m living here, because sorting out this decision feels like something I’m capable of doing well better here than I would have elsewhere.

Basics, I know, and little else, but, hey!  Look at the moon!

Saturday, September 18th, 2010

Life on the island is fantastic. I absolutely love it here. I feel at home, I feel at peace, and I find it very easy both to work and to relax, the latter of which is, was and always having been the bigger challenge for me. We’ve just had three days of nonstop rain, which hasn’t bothered me, but since the sun is out, I had Blue move my big blue easy chair out back so I could get some sun and some writing here in.

I didn’t mean to let a month lapse since I last wrote. I know this site of late (read: the last couple years) is something I’ve kind of neglected, or at least which has gotten far less of my time than it has in years past.  I want to just kind of sit with this today and thin — and write — about why.

When I started writing over here in 1999, Scarleteen was still in its infancy, the dot bomb hadn’t happened yet, and I was doing just as much work around sexuality and art for adults as I was doing sexuality work for young people. When it all comes down to it, I started this site, and writing here, not to long after I’d made some really major changes in my life, particularly leaving classroom teaching in order to make my work both online and around my arts and I’d moved to Minnesota after Chicago had been my hometown for most of my life.  I’d just come out of a few pretty damn dark years: of illness, of heartbreak, of almost winding up homeless again. I was 29 years old, in a relationship with my best friend at the time, and doing work that most people weren’t yet recognizing as work, or of anything of value, at all.  I was still doing some modeling for other artists, not just for myself (nor had I yet moved behind the camera, which is about 80 million times more interesting to me). I had a lot to sort out and suss out, very few supports in it and frequently fluctuated between states of intense inspiration and intellectual clarity and feeling totally, utterly lost, not knowing what the fuck I was doing in every area of my life. On top of that, very few women — or people, period — were talking about and working about the things I was. This site made a lot of sense then, and it makes less sense now, when so much of all of that has changed.

It’s so cliche, but I’m one of those creative people who tends to be most creative when I am hurting, angry, in a new emotion or in some kind of crisis or conflict.  I’d feel more stupid about that if there didn’t seem to be so many other artists and creative folks who are the exact same way.  All the same, it feels silly; lazy, even. I mean, if you can only artistically express a limited range of emotions, how creative are you, really?

So, here’s one thing: on the whole, lately — as in, over the past year and change — I’ve just been happy. Not the screamy, high-energy kind of happy, but the quiet kind, the kind that soothes and calms and contemplates and doesn’t have a lot to say a lot of the time. The kind that doesn’t keep its mouth shut because it feels silenced or scared, but because it’s just contemplating a gentle hum and finds it has little to report back.

The kind — no sense in being dishonest — I really don’t know much about at all. I’m a newbie. I can think of very few times in my life I experienced this, and the couple times that come to mind, I was so certain I was mistaking happiness for settling or complacency or detachment that I overthought it so much I didn’t really fully experience it at all, and also ran from it in due course.

But right now…okay, here’s my right now: I can pay most of my bills. I live in a rental — but a house — that is both beautiful and not in any way broken. I am in the middle of the woods, every day. More friends visit now that I moved out here than I saw when I was in Seattle-proper, and when they visit, we’re very rarely in the position where one or more of us is crying or venting because our lives suck in some major way. My sister even just moved to this state, a sister I have never really had a relationship with, but who it looks like I finally can, especially with both of us being so far away from home. I’m partnered with someone I have dearly loved on and off for 20 freaking years, who is both a peace and a passion in my heart and my mind.  All the drama around that when it restarted has since subsided. I feel able to be myself pretty much 24 hours a day, every day, no matter who I’m around.

Work is often a lot to manage (I’ll get to more on that in a minute), but it’s going well.  I’ve been doing what I have been doing for around 13 years now, solidly, and I know what I’m doing, I have way more support for it than I used to, it’s recognized as an actual job, and as something of value.  While funding, as ever, is always an issue, it’s not as much of an issue as it’s been in years past, and even when the shit hits the fan, I can usually figure something out.  I’ve been able to do some work through my work — like working for the abortion clinics and the teen shelter — I really wanted to do.  I may soon be writing a second book, which will carry a ton of stresses, but is something I very much want to do.

I could feel better physically, sure: my health is still not anything close to a non-issue.  Some things could be a good deal more stable.  Work could be less stressful.  But I’m 40, an age I never thought I’d even reach as a teenager, a concern that was more than valid then. I’m sitting on an overstuffed chair in the woods on an island, with a nice glass of wine, birds flying around me singing away, the sun is shining, the air is clean and warm and I’m comfortable.  And happy.  And mellow. In a couple hours, I’ll go make a delicious dinner with my sweetheart, which we’ll savor leisurely, then wind down with some lovely way of connecting and chilling, and then I’ll sleep like a baby in the perfect black dark.  It kinda rocks, to say the least.

Not only am I just learning how to be like this, I have yet to learn how to do my own creative work when I feel like this. I’m determined TO learn, mind you, but I’m not there yet.  And I forget, just plain forget, about my own writing or making art a lot of the time because I’m all caught up in my reverie.  When I realize that’s happened, I’ll start to give myself shit about it, and then I just stop.  Because I don’t have to do any of these things if I’m not feeling it.  But what I do have to do is learn to just let my heart be happy and my mind be quiet, one of the lone areas in life in which I am a late bloomer, and something I am actually learning to do at long last.

(more…)

Sunday, August 15th, 2010

Several years ago, I worked on a sculptural piece about intimate partner violence. I wound up showing it in a gallery show, but installed it feeling like it wasn’t finished, and unsure of what would finish it.

It stayed the same for years, without any changes or additions being made. Both at the gallery show and in my house, people had strong, personal reactions to it, particularly DV/IPV survivors. In fact, my ex-partner and I made an agreement it wouldn’t be in a central part of the house because it was too hard for him to spend too much time with. Eventually, I felt like it would never be finished, or maybe it was finished, and I just wasn’t feeling it. If it was finished, it was such a large piece that it felt like it should be somewhere besides where I lived, especially if it was going to get relegated to a back room. The trouble is, anyone or any place where the topic matter would make sense, and where it would be the right thing….well, it would probably be the wrong thing. Donating something so triggering to a shelter, for instance, just would not work. So, it sat around some more.

As it got near time for me to move, I realized it shouldn’t move with me. Given the new space, it would just wind up unseen again. I still couldn’t think of the right person or place to donate it to where it could be shown. It also just really, truly, did not feel finished.

A statement of the painfully obvious variety: I’m stalwart. I tend to often be last man standing in many areas of my life, including with work and creative work. Attachment has really been my central area of challenge with Buddhism and life as a whole. Maybe it’s because so often in my life I had things or people snatched from me so much I never got to let something go of my own action and accord, maybe I’m just acquisitive, maybe it’s something else entirely, but I have a very hard time letting go of things, especially people, objects, work and communities. I wanted to engage in an active practice of letting something this big — spacially, emotionally, topically — go. I decided that I needed to let this go.

I enrolled Blue in the plan — it’s oak, and weighs about 80 gazillion pounds. On moving day, we went to put it in a local park that had seemed like the right place in my mind. But it wasn’t: not only were there people there at the time (you really aren’t supposed to just be leaving large artwork lying around), no placement felt right.

But on the way home, Blue stopped in front of a house on the block that I must have stopped in front of every day. It was the last remaining house on the block as old as ours, and had rather mysteriously been boarded up a couple years back, only to stay that way (and after it spent a year with the inside covered in tin foil, for some reason). It was sad, intimidating, dangerous, lonely and precarious; it felt like loss rendered architecturally.

It was where it wanted to go.

In thinking for so long about what would make it feel finished, it just never occurred to me that more didn’t need to be added to it. That, instead, it needed to be added to something else, then let go to be actively demolished, degraded and abandoned.

It went to where I felt finished with it, and where it also seemed to feel itself finished.

I had another once-gallery piece, or part of one. The window frame which was part of a larger collection within and around it; a frame once representing how I wanted both clarity in my own perceptions, and clarity from others in their perception of me.

That original piece had been dissembled because it felt like something that needed to change and keep changing. While it waited for its next life, though, I changed, too.

I stopped caring so much about being seen clearly, and started caring a lot more about my own clarity of vision, both in how I see myself and in how I see everything around me.

Which is why it lives here now, in the garden, in the midst of the vast green I get to sit in and with every day that has been nurturing exactly the kinds of clarity I have needed.

Thursday, August 5th, 2010

The last few days, work-wise have been so much less than pleasant.  And some shit has been going on that could very well become a shitstorm I get smacked in the face with, something I’m used to, but continue to find profoundly unenjoyable.

But I had a wonderful, lovely day on all counts today.  On the way home, I made a promise to myself that should any kind of shit fly, or even just anything mildly unpleasant occur tonight or in the next few days, I would let this day stay wonderful, and pull its wonderful through to at least the next few.

I also made a promise I’d come home, put on comfy clothes, pour a glass of wine, look into the forest, turn on the computer (NO email or internet checking yet) and write this day this down:

Waking up at 4:15 today wasn’t fun, but responding to a morning “I love you,” with a half-asleep response of “Love is a Battlefield,” resulted in several hilarious and uninvited humming episodes for both Blue and myself a few times today.

The sun rose pink and purple-gold over the harbor, while we drove to the ferry. The always cozy experience of ferry-riding first thing of a morning.

Discovering the bliss that is a mocha at Stumptown coffee on Capitol Hill, doubled with a surprise Mighty-O donut appearance. Checking some crappy email and doing some online work during was not as blecky as it would have been otherwise. Reading loving gratitude made it all better.

Consulting for a patient at one of the clinics I do education for who really appreciated it. Having awesome, inspiring, political conversation about reproductive health dreams and ideals with the fantastic clinic manager.

Eating a wonderful middle-eastern lunch, but that’s not all.  Tasty lunch goodness with one of my favorite friends from my whole life where we lost touch and then couldn’t find each other for over a decade, just recently discovering we were BOTH here, not in Chicago. And having lunch not only be tasted, but gleefully shrieking and hugging and everything good there is about the best kind of reunions.

I met someone on the walk to the shelter in front of a dispensary who was short on money for methadone, and also painfully overdisclosing to me to ask for a whole five bucks.  Sharing a moment when I made clear I did not have to be sold on helping, nor should anyone else who had five dollars and watching an instant burden-lifted, the kind of exchange that tends to drive most of what I value most in living.

I had a great bunch of teens today at the shelter who were awesome to do ed with and for.  After the talk, one of the teens asked to talk to me privately, and I got to have the first relaxed, normalized, non-emotional and them-specific talk about their body that intersex youth seems to have ever gotten the chance to have until today.

Coming home on the ferry on a beautiful day, sipping honeydew green tea and nibbling on licorice, sun and wind and water abound.

Arriving home to pick up the phone, and have my newly-reconnected friend tell me she was just calling me to gab, because she finally could again.

Putting on comfy clothes, pouring a glass of wine, looking into the forest and writing this own.

Whatever else may come, be it the benign and typical daily frustrations, or the semi-occasional round of giant, steaming bullshit that gets left on my porch, today was a very good day.

Monday, July 19th, 2010

Even though when I moved part of the plan was to slow things down, I’ve been busy, busy, busy lately.

Mostly, it was just a matter of timing, that a lot of things happened around the same time as the move did, and that’ll be changing very soon.  Last week, the Scarleteen boards were closed to give myself and the volunteers a break from direct service, and during their downtime, I’ve been trying to catch up on some professional writing and a whole pile of administrative work.  I have a desk full of filing and invoicing to get done today, and several email boxes that need some serious cleaning and catchup. Being able to get this kind of stuff done with very little direct service work on my own part has been a lot easier, and I need to make that happen for myself more often.  It’s just really hard to make administrative work a priority when there are young people to care for with all manner of crises.  Especially since not only are they in need, I hate the admin work, which doesn’t help.

In a couple of days, I’m going to be taking a handful of days off so that I can finish unpacking and settling in here.  Then, towards the end of August, I’m taking a full week off.  I’ve been trying to remind myself that not only do I need downtime both to be effective in my work, but to retain my sanity, and as well, I may not always be able to be my own boss like I have been and even have the ability to do that. Considering how much of my life I have been self-employed for, I’ve really kind of blown it a lot of time time.  For sure, self-employeds do tend to work even more hours than folks employed by others, but there is a flexibility we should at least take advantage of.  And yet, year after year, I go weeks without a day off wake up early every day and work into the night, even at times I a) really don’t have to and b) really am not being compensated to.  I’ve just got to get better at that.  Thankfully, moving here seems like it’s going to help.

But I didn’t stop by here to talk about work.  Well, not really.  What I wanted to talk about was trees and their work.

Everywhere I look here, there are trees.  Outside every window, lining every walk. Pacific Northwest trees aren’t the wide, bushy trees I grew up with in the midwest before so many of them started going away to make more and more room for more and more buildings.  Some of them are as tall as city blocks.

I was laying in the hammock last week, gazing up at them above me, and was struck by questions for them I get asked myself about what I do all the time. Why do you keep doing the work you do?  What if nothing huge ever comes of it? Why keep plodding on, especially at times no one seems to be recognizing how hard it is for you to do what you do or why it matters?

Obviously, I can only guess at their answers: I’m not (yet) a tree whisperer.  But when I thought about it, and just kept looking at them, it occurred to me that the trees are self-accomplished.  Certainly, there are big ecological benefits to their being here and doing what they do.  But even if there were not, you look at trees like this and it’s clear that not only are they great just in the being, do they achieve greatness just by their slow, methodical and constant growth, they achieve absolute majesty.  We’re awestruck and humbled just looking at them, trying to grasp what they are, how beautiful and amazing they are.

But I don’t think they aspire to that.  In other words, I don’t believe that greatness or majesty is their aspiration, even though both are their achievements.  Instead, it seems to me that they simply have the desire, the patience and the persistence to grow and to never stop trying to keep growing.

… and that if that’s what any of us have going on, we get the same deal.  No matter what we may or may not achieve, how long we have to plod on without what look like results to ourselves or anyone else, even on the days no one recognizes all we’ve done, we’re at greatness and majesty because we grow and refuse to stop growing.

Tuesday, June 22nd, 2010

Amongst other things, someone called me classist this week. Normally, I’d just write it off as totally stupid: I’m just not sure how you can grow up poor, stay poor, have times of homelessness, have no health insurance your whole adult life, not have part of anyone else’s income to rely on (including your parents and from an age where that’s unlawful), be unable to complete or enroll in educational programs because of poverty, have a homeless parent, work in and around shelter systems, et cetera, and be a socialist and be classist.  The claim also came from someone I know has very little right to make that claim and who made it out of malice.

Mind, we can be whatever-ist within a group where other people can be the same kind of -ist to us. For instance, living in Hispanic neighborhoods in Chicago, I heard more than my fair share of racism from my neighbors towards Black people, even though both groups are deeply impacted and oppressed by racism. I grew up hearing my mother’s Irish family talk about my Italian Dad, and even myself now and then, in a profoundly racist way (which you and I know isn’t a race issue, but good luck explaining that to my mother’s parents). Both downtrodden groups/families because of poverty and immigration stuff, but that didn’t stop them from the slurs any. I have also met more than one misogynist woman in my day, to say the least. So, it’s possible, I know. It’s just one of those things where in my case, I have never felt like this one was an -ism I needed to watch out for taking part in myself, save when it comes to how I think of and treat people who live at incomes greater than mine.

But it crept under my skin all the same, most likely in part because I had some feelings earlier this week that were bad enough, though the realization about them was worse, and it fed into those feelings.

I’m in this place where the rent is basically the same my last rent was. My share is $600 here, after $400 goes for rent of the office. That’s even $300 a month less than the rent at the old place was about to be with an incoming increase. I also expect my utility bills to be substantially lower here than they were in the last place.

At the last place, I got to pay all that and go a winter with broken heat and everything else falling down on me. Even in summer, it was bitter cold at night from all the drafts due to 100-year-old windows and walls. I had to fix things on my own all the time, and things were constantly breaking. Often, in fixing or tending to things, I was not able to deduct costs from my rent. I probably don’t have to tell a lot of people here that’s hardly an uncommon experience. I, maybe like plenty of you, especially living in cities, have paid for broken or falling-apart places more than once.

In the new place, I’m paying a reasonable personal rent for something that is NOT falling down. Sure, it’s rural, so that’s part of the deal. The economy sucking is likely another part (otherwise, rent would likely be a lot higher, or the owner would be able to sell this house).  Not only is this place not falling down, it is AMAZING. It’s beautiful, it’s clean, and someone redid tons of it to the apparent specifications of James Bond.

Seriously, maybe living in old, run-down places all my life I just haven’t kept up with the times, and all newer places are exploding with gadgets like this.  But I don’t think so.

Here’s the gadget roster so far:

  • Lights, everywhere. The living room/kitchen/loft area alone has 18 different fixtures, all built in, controlled by  10 different switches, some with tiny dimmers next to the switch.
  • In-floor heating, with a thermostat you can program to go on and off at different temps at different times of day, including making a given setting for weekdays vs. weekends.
  • A stacking, front-loading washer and dryer, also with programmable timers.
  • Disability-accessible door handles.
  • Windows that open with nice, working levers, not with every ounce of energy you have in a day.
  • Drawers with back magnets so you only have to nudge them and they pull in (suffice it to say, this house is very, very well-equipped when it comes to my hand disability).
  • A dishwasher and fridge, both working, spacious and shiny.  The fridge makes ice and has a water filter, as well as drawers you can set for fruit or veg.
  • Hookups built into the walls for speakers, throughout the house.
  • Vents in both bathrooms.
  • A functioning compost bin (which sure, isn’t really a gadget, since it’s as low-tech as it gets, but I’ve never been able to have one I didn’t have to build, so).
  • A sprinkler system in case of fire.
  • A working and properly vented woodstove.
  • Outlets EVERYWHERE (that huge box of extension cords I brought will be gathering dust).
  • An in-wall vacuum cleaning system including a spot in the floor of the kitchen where you can sweep your dust pile over, move the switch with your foot, and it sucks it right up.  I am so not kidding.

I say “so far” because the property manager told us she’d come by soon and show us how to work the house.  That sounded silly to me until we started finding all of these gadgets.  There may be some we don’t even know about yet.

Anyway, when I was packing up last week, I got seized by this really intense feeling I can only describe as abject-stupid with a heaping dose of institutionalized guilt on the side.

I felt very certain I did not deserve to live here. I had moments of panic and worry that this was some kind of cosmic joke, and that I’d get here and it would be made clear I’d been punked, as expected. Even in saying this, and hearing how ridiculous it sounds, some part of me is still wondering when the other shoe is going to drop. Intellectually, I knew and know better, but my brain had little impact on my emotions.  In the midst of that feeling, I was seized with this equally foolish feeling of being a charlatan of sorts; of not only having something I shouldn’t and probably am just imagining, but having something that, despite costing no more, somehow makes me a traitor to the other people in my life and outside it who grew up the way I grew up and who live on the level of income I have and do.

Here’s one of the seriously stupid parts of this. Most places where I have lived before have been crap. In crap neighborhoods or crappy places or both. I have managed to make most places I have lived in, even the crappiest of the crappy, nice enough. I don’t tend to mind that, because I’m a creative person, so see it as a creative opportunity. But the thing is that none of that is free, either. It costs money, time and effort to do that. The pain and the brushes cost. The fabric costs. Whatever furniture you don’t dumpster dive costs.  Cleaning all the time because a place is in horrible shape costs. Spending days and days painting takes a lot of time. None of those things are free, and they all add to the “bargain” cost of a crappy place. As inane as it’s going to sound, for some reason, none of that resonated until now, which really is quite dumb, because it certainly always has had a palpable impact on my wallet which was impossible to overlook.

We came here and….well, nothing needs to be done. It’s already very clean. The pain isn’t chipping off the walls, the floors aren’t falling apart. There are light fixtures everywhere, making most of my lamps unnecessary. I probably have a good five boxes of stuff I just didn’t even need to move here: stuff I have accumulated over the years to makes places liveable that didn’t have what one needed in them to live there.

And yet, here I am, in this beautiful place that not only costs me around the same as other places, but which will probably wind up costing me less, sorting through these feelings. They’re going away fast enough, but that they take up any real estate in my mind at all really bothers me and makes me upset with myself, upset with anywhere I ever got any messaging to support these feelings. Particularly since what I’d like is to just be able to enjoy the place, my good luck and good fortune and have a chance in my life NOT to be stressed out about where I live, but to have a place of peace, solace and function to call home. I’d prefer not to have to keep telling myself that I got a two-year lease, and need to accept that after these two years, I may not be able to live this well again, that that’s okay, but that I also need to not take a second of this for granted or I’ll be a ungrateful (to whom?) asshole.

The big epiphany in all of this that has me really steamed? It seems entirely possible that I could have been living somewhere similar to this way before now, just like I am now without needing any more income than I have to make it happen. I realize that it’s been bred and manufactured into me to feel like I’m feeling, to be sure I can’t do any better, to be sure that this was simply beyond my means and my ability. Plus, I have been way too receptive to suggestions or accusations that I need to be keeping down with the Joneses, as it were, and living the way someone of my means “should” be living, which is to say, poorly. I’ve also had so many messages that so many other people had it as bad, or that someone else had it worse, and took those so seriously, this is an area of my own life I’ve not really allowed myself to sit with, accept and unpack, sorting out what from it I need to heal from and work to get past.

Mind, sometimes we just can’t do better than we think we can. Back in the mid-nineties when a few stupid choices and a really bad set of financial circumstances hit me, I was thisclose to being back on street or needing to be in shelters. A parent from the school I once ran offered me a place that was really pretty crap: no heat, cement floors, no security, the works. But not only was it kind, and what I could afford, I do think it was the best I was going to do at that time with no time to find other options, and no services available for me. I called around everywhere in a frenzy, including to social services, and was just shit out of luck. This included a phone call where a woman at social services suggested that if I got pregnant, I could get benefits I didn’t have, so that might be the time to consider that. I wish I were kidding, and also wish I were kidding when I tell you that when I asked if she had any sense of the impact statements and suggestions like that made on people on welfare, or of what kind of effed up suggestion that was to choose parenting, she was completely unconcerned.

I was also without the kind of freedom then I have now per flexibility in where I can work, which is a pretty huge freedom that makes a very big difference (though Blue reported that his commute yesterday was no big deal at all). I was locked into a low-paying internship I really, really needed to finish to get job training if I had hopes of not living that way anymore. Again, I had also made some idiotic and reactive choices that very much limited my options.

But when you grow up poor, stay poor, and absorb the messages you get poor and from other poor people who have clearly all also been institutionalized, you hear a whole lot more about your limitations than your options. Same goes double for growing up with one poor parent who was a social justice activist. (A la, “It’s fine we don’t have things we need.  Good people are the people who don’t have things. Only bad people who oppress other people have things.”) Out of necessity, there’s a solidarity that forms between everyone that in some ways can be very positive and supportive, but in other ways can assure everyone is kept down and stays down. People who try and reach a little further can be put down by others with suggestions one “thinks they’re better” than those who either are in a place of absolute stuck at the moment, or who have simply given up trying to claw and crawl out, which is a weariness I understand and have experienced. Again, if you grew up like this or around this, or within other systems of oppression, I’m saying things totally old hat to you.

Yes, there are also messages that if you just work hard enough, then you can move ahead.  But since those messages also sound a lot like “You’re only poor because you’re lazy…” or “If you just worked harder, you’d be doing better,” things we know often are simply not true, they’re not very effective messages. Plus, again, sometimes working more or harder works and does help you get a leg up. Other times, it only makes you more tired and just as poor, sometimes even more poor, depending.

I think a lot of this stuff was why my father was freaking out so much about this. Over the last month and some, since we decided to move here, it got to the point where I was having to spend an hour or two on the phone with him daily to assure him this was a good place where everything really was nice and not broken, where we’d be able to eat and be safe: he really didn’t believe it could be within my budget, either.  I had to tell him again and again how big the island was, how I could take a ferry or water taxi to the city, how we do have a downstairs neighbor, how I have my bike, a phone, how there is a grocery store and other people who live here, and so on. Considering we spent some of the poorest years of both of our lives together, including two years in a row where our ghetto apartment literally flooded with sewage from the drain outside it, that attitude and fear is unsurprising. Considering that more than once my father’s “good fortune” really WAS an illusion, I get it a bit more now.  Next time I call him, I’m going to bring all of this up: I think the two of us both have so much of this kind of baggage that we’d benefit from hashing it out together.

I’m not asking for reassurances with this, by the way.  In fact, I think it’s really important that I work on providing them for myself, rather than getting them externally. I also don’t have any grand conclusions here I can draw: mostly what I needed was to try and exorcise some of this, which I’m hoping will at least unpack some of it from my head.

It’s a beautiful day here. Given, even when it’s rainy and grey, it still looks beautiful here, but today the sun is out, the green is blinding and the air is warm.  I’m a bit behind on work because despite all the gadgets, the phone and ‘net didn’t work here for four days.  But right now, I think catching up some more can wait one more hour so that I can get outside.  My appreciation — the earnest kind, not the guilt-ridden variety — is not just about the indoor space here, but about where that space is, nestled so wonderfully into such lush woods just waiting to be explored.  I think it’s pretty obvious that this move, this space, this place all have a lot of lessons to give me that I need, around the issues I talked about today as well as others.  One of them it seems particularly well-equipped to assist is in my willingness to take care of myself and my making that a greater priority. I don’t have to pay a fee to go see the museum that is right outside, find a ride and hours or days to get to somewhere like this, or acquire something I don’t have.

I just need to put on some shoes, open the door and walk right out into exactly what I need. Which is what I’m going to go do right now.

Sunday, June 13th, 2010

Ugh, moving.  Always such a joy, especially for a disorganized magpie.

However, the last few mornings when I’ve woken up, grabbed my coffee, a smoke and the dogs to sit out on the porch as I do, I have been able to remind myself that very soon, my view will not involve asphalt, speeding cars and a ton of parked cars, loud sirens and garbage cans.  After the age of six, and up until now, this has been what I have seen every morning of my life, excepting the times I was able to go camp or otherwise escape to greener pastures very temporarily. That’s 34 years of urban life, my friends, which feels longer every day, especially the more urban starts to involve a lot of drywall and shiny-plastic-business and look more and more suburban in a lot of ways.

The knowledge that in a week I will wake up, go outside and see only forest sans asphalt, maybe a speeding chipmunk or two or a parked deer, or hear a bunch of loud frogs (the area of the island we’re living in apparently is chock full of frogs for a month or two every year) is DIVINE.

My coziest coffeeshop here in my current hood, where people were earnestly friendly, closed a couple months ago (RIP Mr. Spots Chai House).  The folks at the closest one to our new place, what’ll be about a 4-mile bike ride, which works just fine for me, already greet us warmly, even though we have only been in there a few times.  It’s also NOT across from a monstrously-sized condo development.  We already know our neighbor, and she’s friendly and hilarious and did this crazy thing where she said hello and talked to us, something the vast majority of my neighbors here, where I have lived for four years, have yet to do, even when I say hello first.  Half the time, given the reaction I get, you’d think I’d said “Fuck you, poopyhead,” instead of “Good morning!”

I’m looking forward to what I also hope will be the stretchier way time moves when you’re out in the mostly-middle-of-nowhere.  I just have had so little time for myself lately that wasn’t about work, and only work-work, not my creative work.  It’s also been so hard to keep up with calls and letters to friends over the last year, which I hate. I want some of that other time back, please.  I’ve also physically and psychologically felt very detached from the rhythms and flow of the seasons and the outdoors lately, which always puts me out-of-sorts.  Want that closer relationship back, too.

That all said, it is weird to be leaving this house and this city at the same time.  I’ve never lived in a city where I only lived in one place in it, for starters.  Even in only six years in Minneapolis, I lived in four different places. I also worry for this old place, clearly struggling to keep itself together with little help.  Vainly, I’m hoping the new folks keep a lot of the things I did to make it lovely intact, like the hand-painted wallpaper I did in two of the rooms and the bursting meadow our front. Of course, I have to let go of any attachment to that.  But still.

I’ve also had some moments of panic realizing that I have never moved where there is a boat involved. What if the ferry with our moving truck on it sinks, taking my piano, my photographs and all of my material life with it? It’s a silly worry, I know, but every now and then I get this vision of the next-to-last scene from Oh Brother, Where Art Thou in my head and cannot get it out.  Now that I think of it, it’s an especially silly worry since both sides of my family came over here on big ferry boats, too, even though they came from islands (or almost-island: the Italian side were living in Venice when they emigrated, so) TO a mainland, instead of the opposite way around. Maybe I just need to think of myself as following a family tradition, which could be good since most of our family traditions are not at all pleasant and should be avoided at all costs.

Between packing, moving and unpacking, possible hiccups in getting everything set up and connected, and the strong desire to just settle into the hammock once we get there and never come out, I anticipate a silence from me for the next couple of weeks.

Thanks to everyone who gave me some tips on professional no-saying, by the way.  Very much appreciated and highly helpful!  Also, if you haven’t seen them via my Flickr feed already, there are some pics up of the new place to peek at here.

Bon voyage to me!