Not sure why specifically but I guess it’s the whole stinking pot of shit news that’s got me remembering icons. The great ones, who touch down for short snippets of time to do good for the planet. You know the type, those who cure, not infect. Not as almighty as the Christ or as grandiose as an übermensch, but ordinary folks who strive and march and work tirelessly for the betterment of other ordinary folks. I don’t know if those people just don’t make the headlines anymore or can’t yell over the frenzied hype, but I am desperate for their comfort, their strength and their vision. Desperate for those who can lead us out of the status quo state of collusion, corruption and chaos.
Chapter 3 you say? Wait, what? Thought I’d be weighing in on the Christine Blasey Ford allegations against Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh, what she revealed to the Senate Judiciary Committee and his indignant rage over even being asked or Trump’s claim that the whole story is invented by the con-artist Democrats? That circus? Nope. Couldn’t do it tonight.
Thought I’d return to a world I love, where complex characters are round and full, and I really care about their trials and joys. Don’t worry. I will not shy away from my civic responsibilities for long, I just need to dip into my own internal drama, and take a break from the one playing out in Washington. It’s not that I’m not sympathetic to Ms. Ford either. My heart breaks for all survivors. I just am also thinking about Dale’s mom tonight. Who’s Dale you ask? What’s happened to his mom? Chapter 3 starts to really heat up this story line. Wait, you haven’t read any of my novel yet?
Missed Chapter One which was posted on June 28th? Or Chapter Two posted on July 5th? Well, catch the wave of excitement for this yet-to-be-published novel of mine, Crazy String, and straight away read those chapters. The funny part is that if Crazy String had gotten published by that first editor who contracted the novel to her agency for a year, but then dropped me when the contract ended, I would never have crawled into a non-writing hole, and long desperate months later emerged as Nine Cent Girl. My blogger self would never have been born! And oh, I love her.
Chapter 3 is a tease, I mean really, this chapter sets up plenty of questions, but answers are miles ahead. Please let me know what you are dying to find out about. I promise to let you know when the entirety of Crazy String hits the shelves as I’m shopping the manuscript around once again.
During this very first week of January, I hold off the temptation to look too far ahead, in order to pause in the threshold for a short moment and savor the past year. Looking back though my weekly blog posts, I am reminded of the small moments that make up one’s grand life: the way we keep ourselves present, fluid, and in touch with the important stuff. I offer the following tidbits, photos, and links from 2017, as a reminder to you of all we have been through, and just how resilient we all are despite the difficulties. 2018 may present challenges, but with the strength inherent in our past, what can we not overcome?
In no particular order, here are 5 posts I am glad I revisited. Hope you will be too.
After a blue sky day, when the sun drops behind the ridge and our mini-fire-pit reaches a heated pitch, we glimpse heaven on earth as snowy yard goes from blue to pink to purple. We stand witness and declare, weekends are the best! Afternoons outdoors, chatting about nothing, sitting silent for a few fleeting moments. Living beyond the work week is all we’re really after, right? Fire and sky, feet on the earth, with time on our side, now that’s a Saturday worth remembering.
4. Guiding Star
Find yours. Whatever it is. Your yoga practice or your rabbi’s words, your divining rod or your guardian angel, regardless, set a course toward your best self, and use your own spiritual beliefs to glimpse what that just might look like. Solo or with your congregation, catch a glimmer of those hopeful and healing and healthy and divine rays with regularity.
There are moments in one’s past that stand the test of time. They shine while all the rest muddies. They remain as beacons which illuminate all your future achievements. Sometimes you know in advance, other times it is only in reflection, but those moments grow roots throughout your life and cannot be disentangled from who you are, ever. Receiving my MA from Middlebury’s Bread Loaf School of English is such a moment for me. One for which I read and wrote and thought and worked harder than anything to reach. Of course there are many people who steered me to that pinnacle, but there was one woman who did so through her own extraordinary passion to enliven and enrich the learning of every student, whether we were in her classroom or for those in classrooms we would return to in the fall, she supported me to be my own teacher-researcher, to gather my own anecdotes, all in the service of being a better teacher. This notion seemed novel at first, the idea that a teacher could guide herself and use her own students’ feedback in such an endeavor, but Dixie Goswami’s commitment empowered me more than any educational program I had been in before, or since, and continues to direct my practice even now, two decades later.
Last week I checked off my last have-to on my to-do list. Last, for now. During the other 11 months there is almost always a frantic side to me. A rushing. An inability to breathe deeply. Racing from bed to shower to work to workout to errands and chores and stuff to more work to finally bed for months on end. Doesn’t most everyone live such a manic pace? But this week, this July first Monday morning came and drifted into afternoon then into dusky evening, and besides lacing my sneakers for a hilly hot mid-day run, deliciously meandering, I did nothing that felt like a job. Just flitted from one spot to another following sunbeams like a roadside daisy. By evening my lungs were tired from use. Oh July, you are a glorious celebratory month of lazy hazy daydreams.
Church was like my foot. It was always there and my mother made sure we were properly scrubbed up for the event. Nothing prevented our going. Even when my father announced that until the Catholics returned to Latin he would not attend mass, we did. Even when the entire hour became an uncomfortable ritual of handshakes and peace kisses, we went.
Sure many folks live in the same town as their grandparents and a parcel of aunts uncles and cousins, but we weren’t that family for my parents decided to cross both the Brooklyn and George Washington Bridge to raise us up in New Jersey. Sure, we made the journey back over those bridges, back to Flatbush, back to their old neighborhood on Christmas and Easter. But corralling us six wasn’t a spontaneous occurrence. It took the grandeur of a holiday to make it happen.
Summer was a different story, however, for there was a history that went back generations, before even my parents, that anchored us to the north shore of Long Island, inside the gates of Belle Terre. My great-grandfather built his three story Victorian on a bluff overlooking the bay. From his vantage he could see all that came through the breakwaters, including his fleet of working tugs. His ten summered under this roof, and many made sure, once married, to continue the tradition by bringing their children there; and so it was for me summering there too. Sandy roads zigzagged between colossal homes each holding various generations of relatives, and children wandered with much freedom between them all.
The rocky beach was the constant. At any time of day, one could find a relative there to chat it up. My generation arrived into this well-established summer community without missing a beat. In my deepest memory I barely remember seeing an parent the whole of August as I ran about in that sanctuary. My mother was finally within walking distance of both her parents and her best friend and stole away with all the freedom we too enjoyed.
The two, Eileen McAllister and Barbara Rice, met while in elementary school in Brooklyn, and soon became fast friends. Friends who became related when Barbara married my mother’s cousin. Throughout my childhood, I knew she was my godmother, and my Aunt, but Barbara’s role as my mother’s best friend took precedence over any other. Those two would hide away in each others’ bedrooms, speaking their special invented language if we children drifted within earshot, and for the entirety of their years, this special relationship never altered. Children? Between the two they had 14: Barbara had 8, while my modern mother only 6. But the responsibilities we 14 brought into their lives never stopped them from laughing up a storm year after year. In my memory, the only time my mother did close her bedroom door was when Aunt Barbara arrived.
And so we drifted from house to house, until we were summoned. Corrine wasn’t a fan of our August retreat. Not a fan of bugs or beaches or being removed from all her friends back in New Jersey, but she endured with a few rituals of her own.
One such ritual had become a practice, an event that we squealed for: to ride on top the big station wagon back from the strip of rocky Long Island Sound beach that held our August afternoons to the wooden cottage where she swore she saw the ghost of Mr. Crystal rock in the big pine rocker next to the fireplace.
Flying flat on the rooftop I lay pinned between the cool luggage rack metal and my second cousin once removed, who even more importantly than that, was my mother’s best friend’s daughter. From our youth we watched with envy our mother’s retreat behind closed doors, a flurry of secrets being shared, none of which we were privy to but we too bared our darkest corners till long after childhood ended. As Corrine drove the car tree branches whipped and tickled our arms and legs while the early evening air shot cool on our sunburned skin.
The sandy windy roads were narrow and overgrown with lush vines twisted around the dense trees which we somehow memorized from our horizontal perspective and could calculate the precise location on our speeding wagon. Corrine was our ferry our shuttle our only retreat from walking as she piloted my mother’s station wagon back and forth between the wooden houses in this summer community filled with family at every turn. Days were spent making food for the galloping hordes while mothers laughed and fathers disappeared with golf clubs and children wandered along windy narrow tree lined sandy roads only called home by their own growling stomachs.
Sometimes we would wedge my sister between Lizzie and me to keep her from flying off the top of the wagon and into the thick growth that harbored ticks. We ran along those overgrown paths during the day on our way to the rocky beach, but ticks hid at the end of many a pointed finger and we were checked from head to toe before our evening baths. Our Yorkshire terrier, who ran always on our heels, seemed to attract more of those blood sucking bugs than we could keep track of, but our Corrine pulled them off like a skilled surgeon and while it was frightening to see the blown-up blood-filled bodies, it didn’t stop us from lying in the soft leafy beds deep in the dark undergrowth and along the sandy narrow paths we cut with our bare hands and constant wanderings.