Wednesday, December 31, 2014

Time Zones Notwithstanding...

Happy New Year.

This is sort of premature, but not really.

I have friends and loved ones all over the planet, in at least 7 different time zones (ballpark number but probably fairly accurate).  Some of them are already in the New Year (hence the not-really prematurity), others are moving fast toward it even though it's only 9 in the morning where I am writing this.  I love you all.

I know that I have been rather absentee this holiday season.  To recap?  I was not able to help decorate my family's Christmas Tree, even though I launched a Norwegian Christmas attack on an unsuspecting Scrooge.  I neglected to send cards, I neglected to send my address to the people who wanted to send cards.  I spent most of Christmas Eve on a plane, crossing continents, oceans, and those oh-so-pesky time zones.  I was so sleepy when I got home that I fore-went the wrapping of gifts for my family and instead collapsed into my bed.  I then spent Christmas and the following several days in a state of 'she's passed-out cold' jet lag.

Absentee might be a bit of an understatement.

Here's the thing, though, I know how lucky I am and I know that a lot of my luck comes not from me, but from the people who populate my crazy crazy world.  I do love you all, each and every one of you.  I love you for what you bring to my life;  I love you for you; I love you, selfishly, for me.  Last year I made a few resolutions… I'm not sure that I can top those this year.  But I can try to keep up with them.  I can continue looking forward.

If you know me well, you know I am not one for this holiday.  It is a self-imposed grinchy-ness that I practice.  It has been ages since I've gotten anything but a puppy-kiss at midnight- and that's assuming I'm awake at that point.  BUT.  This time of year does always seem like an appropriate time to pinch myself and remind myself that I am awake and alive and living a good life.  I am living a good life, sharing it with good people, and discovering more wonder in the world all the time.  For that I am grateful-

And to that I look forward (Daddy, if you give me any shit about the hanging hyphen up there… oh man… game on).

I look forward to the wonder and goodness and the discoveries yet to come.

And until Next Time-Zones Notwithstanding, I do so love you all.  And I do wish you the Happiest of New Year's Eve and Happiest, most Wonder-full 2015.


Sunday, December 28, 2014

Grand Gestures

Sometime close to this time last year, Mom and I stood in the kitchen and talked about some holiday party we were putting on.  I had, because it is in my nature to be outlandishly inclusive, invited people who really had no reason or means to come nor a mode of transportation.  Still she looked at me in the way that all mothers look pointedly at their daughters and said 'What are you going to do if he shows up?'

'He won't,' I responded, 'it's too far.'

'He might.  You don't know.'

'I do know.. and I'm too old to be waiting for the grand gesture.'  And that was pretty much where the conversation ended.  I'm too old to be waiting for the grand gesture; the sweeping moment; the heart-in-your-throat instant of emotional enormity.

That has not changed in my mind- not really.  What has changed, for me, is the notion of grand and the notion of gesture.  This most recent round of travels hit that change home hard.  The grand gesture…. the grand gesture- by dictionary definition it is necessarily a rather big thing.  It's the unexpectedly huge thing that changes the rules of the game.

But the gesture, and it's grandeur, as I have finally allowed to filter through my knuckle-headed skull, need not be big.  It's not the size that matters, it's the sweep of it- to you.  Because the small things have a power unto themselves: the remembered phrase; the inside joke; the smile that, even though you've been with a person for 30-plus years, is still only yours.  Small, but grand enough to melt my heart.

These past few weeks I have people-watched and -witnessed a lot.  In a lot of different countries (see my previous post).  I watched a young Latvian couple at a spa go out of their way to NOT talk to each other (forking smartphones) over dinner while not two tables away my partner in crime listened to me (consider that!) prattle on about everything and nothing important.  I watched mothers hold the hands of their children as they toddled up to meet Santa Claus on his most holy Christmas chair.  I watched as a busking saxophone player cracked the biggest smile I've seen, and nod to me with his heart in his eyes, when I applauded him in the middle of a crowded square.  I was the only one clapping.  It was not a grand gesture- but it was a grand gesture to him.

I listened to a young Sami man sing to his reindeer, utterly unaware of his effect on the rest of us.  I followed an older Norwegian woman to a concert which meant more to her than I could know (both the concert and her ability to explain it to me, translate it for me).  I watched a man buy a candle shaped like a Christmas tree.

I watched a couple, sitting across the aisle from me on some flight (again, see the previous post), treat each other as they were absolutely the sun and the moon.  Somewhere in their mid-to-late sixties, I watched this couple gaze at each other.  I watched them talk to each other, watched them engage each other, watched them appear to genuinely adore each other.  I watched him whisper in her ear and her smile and answer in kind.  And even as I dozed off to a light sleep, I watched them hold each other's hands.

Later, deplaning in who-knows-where, I noticed that he took her backpack out of the overhead bin and helped her put the straps over her shoulders.  And instead of seeming seedy and patronizing, it seemed careful and loving.

That one gesture, that one moment, that one instant… I thought, that's it.  It took me all this time, all this distance, all this experience, but there it is...

That's the Grand Gesture.

So maybe I am too old to be waiting for the dictionary's version of the grand gesture, in fact I'm sure that I am.  But maybe I'm not too old to hope for and to be waiting for that.

And until next time, I do hope you aren't either.


Wednesday, December 24, 2014

On Codes

Over the past 21 days I will have been in eight different airports, spanning from North America to Northern Europe to the Baltics.  I will have taken 14 flights in total; I will have been in six different countries.  The life I chose to lead is vast.  And not without complication- but what reward is riskless?- that would be boring.

A couple of flights ago, I wrote this in the pages of my ever-present travel journal (and forgive the whispy language- it was very early and tend to wax kind of idiotically profound when I am exceptionally sleepy):

'On another plane.  So very very many planes- up and down and up again.  

I can't begin to recall how many sunrises, sunsets, sun-somethings I have seen from a plane.  How many tiny windows I have gazed out of, watching the sky slide by.  

This morning to my right is pitch black-blue.  To my left the sun is turning the lowest part of the horizon into a peachy-mango which lightens into a pale-lemon then to a too-pale blue.  It is like watching Easter happen in the December sky.  

I would not give up a heartbeat of any of this.  I would not give up one shade of color, one instance of aura.  Not for the fear of the inevitable, not for settlement. 

I would not give up the loveliness to cure the loneliness- what is alone for so many is alive for us few, alive certainly for me. [Insert random factoids about landing times in Riga here]

There is a beauty that comes from living this way- an exceptional beauty gained from constantly exposing myself to the rest of the world.  It is the wonder of it all.  I know that I have considered this before- but one of the reasons that I travel how I do, that I live how I do, is because of how much of myself I give to it.  I like to think that I open my whole heart to a place, a time, and a people.  And whatever comes of that is whatever comes of it- but at least I've opened myself.  At least I've tried to give myself up to somewhere new, different, away.  

I want to give as much as I take from these places.'

And then during my first flight this morning, I did this:

'CLT/JFK/CDG/SVG
SVG/OSL/TOS
TOS/OSL/SVG
SVG/FRA/RIX
RIX/FRA/SVG
SVG/CDG/JFK/CLT'

It looks like alphabet soup- or a toddler playing with those jumbo, colorful magnetic letters.  It feels a little different.  These call letters have become the code of how I live- the complicated, sometimes risky code of how I live. These are codes that correspond to the colors of the sunrises, sunsets, sun-somethings that I have seen.  Color code, country code, area code, zip code.  Airport code.

Numbers,

Letters,

Life.

One Christmas Eve flight down, Two to go.

So much love, Dearests.




Sunday, December 21, 2014

First Impressions: Baltic Nations

What hit me yesterday, gazing out the window of our rented car, was the starkness outside of Riga.  We left that slightly off-kilter metropolis (more on that in a moment) to go south to Vilnius.

Once you leave the major city roads, which takes longer than you would expect- trying to navigate against other drivers is like trying to win an argument with a fundamentalist (have you tried?  I have- not the driving, it's a stick we have, but the arguing.  It doesn't work and takes way more effort than any reasonable person should expend)- you come face-to-face with countryside.  In December at least it is dark countryside that spreads out away from the road like a sadness.

First impressions?  Stark.  It is dark and cold here.  But it is not the starkness of the far north cold or far north dark.  It is the starkness of recovery, a sensation I know well.  Anyone with a long illness knows that sort of bleakness.  It is the tunnel that almost always seems lightless.  The illness here?  Sovietness. It lingers today, appearing even in the young whose eyes shift too nervously and too suspiciously.  It pervades in the older generations, short tempered and sparing with their kindness.  (So far the nicest man we've met was the vendor who sold painting next to one of ten-thousand Christmas markets in Riga. And he's (sort of) paid to be that way.)  It bullies it's way into the structures of buildings.

The lights in the Tunnel of Baltic Starkness are the very odd, very sweet old towns and cities.  There was something rightly magical about wandering through Old Town Riga, hearing the faint echo of a cellist who is nestled in some doorway, hoping for a tip; something achingly happy about watching children in their hats and mittens running through those market squares, excited and expectant.  The yellow-gold lights scattered around the city- reflected off of dark, cold, wet cobblestone- makes the world look warm (the mulled wine helps, too).

These tiny moments of wonder are balm.  They soothe the savage process of nations and people reclaiming their identities.

And until next time Dearests, I sincerely hope I have not offended any Soviet sympathizers.  If I have, well, put on your big-kid pants and deal with it.

Thursday, December 18, 2014

The Trouble With Norway…

Today is my last full day in Norway- whatever posts follow will either be from airports or one of several Eastern and Central European countries (remember this is me… I don't half-ass much in this world).  I write this knowing full well that I have written a lot of end-blogs; many countries have kept me captive in my travels.  And yet this is not as difficult a final post to write as the final one from Iceland.  But that is not because I have had any less profound and humbling experience here as I did there.

Not at all.  If anything, this Norwegian adventure has been more profound, more humbling, and more startling than many of the others.

In my life I have been called worse than a 'nomad.'  Much worse, in fact- and it's not like my accusers are wrong, when they wonder if I even have the gene in me to be settled in one time, in one place.  I have been on the move, on the hunt for expansively confounding deep breaths and open spaces, for longer than I care to remind you.  Indeed I have worked incredibly hard to avoid the responsibility of 'place': except for the four-legged blonde boy (no one fear, Henry is happily at home with Mom and The Bob, stealing socks and terrorizing the Christmas Tree), I am largely lacking any component of adulthood as it is categorized by home-ownership, mortgage, and, well…. tethers.  I generally run hard and fast from those things.

But Norway is messing with my head.

I have experienced, here, something I did not think would ever be within my range of experiences- a place I could stay.  A place that fulfills me- the birds, the boats, the wild places that go on into the horizon.  Yeah, that horizon- the one that keeps stretching out and out and away suddenly seems closer.    And despite myself and my patterns of bolting, of staring into the future and considering exit strategies for all possibilities I see before me, despite that I am not scared or nervous.  I am not worried.

I am saddened, bittersweet, because what I found I have to leave behind.

I may never come back to Norway.  I may never see the blue-violet-orange sky again or watch the not-sunset.  I may never slip on this particular ice again or walk through this range of precipitation.  I may never breathe this air, or gaze at these ferries and make up stories for their travelers.  I may never wander in the woods and try to decide which green hue is my favorite.

But I know, now, that it is here.  That even mine- the most wayfaring of souls- has a mate.  The place is perfect.

But the knowledge is enough.

And until next time… if you don't hear much from me… Does anyone know how to say 'Bail' or 'Extradition' in Latvian?


Tuesday, December 16, 2014

Norway-By-Color

This past weekend, in the far north, I found myself watching a sunset- even though the sun had not risen.  This is one in a series of natural events that don't seem natural but supernatural- otherworldly- impossible to really describe.  In this instance, the colors were alive.  Literally sentient.  

And so for your hopefully exceptional viewing pleasure… I give you colors from the far north. 








Sunday, December 14, 2014

It Is a Long Way Back to Bethlehem

The past few days of my trip to Norway have been, believe it or not, even further north than I initially planned, in the Far North- in a place called Tromso.

When I arrived up here, I decided to treat myself to something I saw in a magazine in Oslo (way down there)- a free Christmas Concert, featuring the Arctic Philharmonic.  Yeah…., about that…  Sometimes when you go to places like Norway, you get news of the entire country- 'What's on In Norway!'.  It's like getting to New York City and finding a magazine called 'What's on In The United States!'- that just doesn'thappne.

Attempting to find the Tromso Culturehouse for the concert was laughable- I had been up since 4 o'clock in the morning, off and on various flights, and was not exactly coherently reading my tourist-bureau map.  So when an elderly woman- who I later deemed Grandma Norway- approached me and asked if I needed help, I readily accepted.  Not only did she offer to take me to the Culturehouse- where she was also going- she sat with me at the concert and translated all of the Norwegian language I faced.

Her most profound translation came from a line in an old Northern Norway Christmas song:

It is a long way back to Bethlehem. 

It is a long way back to Bethlehem, indeed. She translated without pretense or expectation that I be moved nearly to tears hearing that.  How fitting for me- that as far as we have come, there is always a longing to return.  That for the motion and expansion and constant connectivity, we want a stillness, an ancient, spiritual stillness.  That for all of the experience there is still desire for grace.

And grace is what I got tonight.

Tonight, for the second time in my life, I witnessed the Northern Lights.  For the second time I watched an entity descend from the heavens- this time pink-tinted white against clear black.  It was like watching a grand, universal piano played from beneath.  Or like lying beneath a glass table and watching the most beautiful glass of milk spilled onto it.  They are symphonic and breath-taking and have an awareness unto themselves, these lights.

But here's the thing- in my time, I have not seen white.

I have not seen the aurora appear white.  White ribbons, white lights like electricity, white.  White.

Oh and did I mention that all of this happened on a Reindeer-drawn sled?

Yeah.

That happened.


And until next time, may your nights be merry and white….


Thursday, December 11, 2014

Winter-Washed

I am on my second long-distance train of this trip to Norway.  The kid next to me sleeps; the one on the other side of the aisle eats a banana and watches ‘Catching Fire.’ 

I, in the meantime, will take entirely too long to write this blog because I can’t help pausing every few words to survey the world on the outside.  It just began to snow, big flakes that look ferocious but only because the train moves so fast.  The route from Oslo to Stavanger passes through a landscape that is a study in greens and whites with the occasional burst of color from a red or beige house, or a lightning fast snatch of blue blue sky.  The greens are moss, fir, pine, evergreen, an odd brownish-mint.  The white is the reflection of snow, frost, smoke from the fires burning in those red or beige houses, a salty deposit on the big rocks that form the walls of the valley through which I travel.

It is breathtaking.- it is making gluttons of my eyes  If I could feast on the scenery, I would.  I would gorge myself on this place; forever fill myself on it.  I can’t actually bring myself to picture what it will be like in the spring and summer, I don’t want to.  Instead I want to absorb this winter into my bones.  I want to burn it into the backs of my eyelids and pull it around my heart- like a cold cloak that protects this beating beast.

Why did I decide to go to Norway in the middle of winter? 

I did not know it when I booked my flights; I could not fathom it when I paged through the guidebooks, dog-earing this page and that one.  But this is why- this primitive combination of sinister and pristine.  The cold is callous but it is innocent, as well.  And old as time. 

Norway in the winter is a slap in the face of complacency and complaints. 

Norway in the winter will put anyone in his or her place- real fast; it’s size will remind you of how small you are; it’s cold is a testament to how fleeting.  The few moments of sunshine dare you to look away. 

And I cannot.


Until next time, I am far too captivated to keep writing.  




Tuesday, December 9, 2014

Once again, traveling has left me unable to decide upon an appropriate title.

Every country I have been to has something uniquely unto itself.  Something that sticks in my mind and my heart and that I carry with me always.  I cannot count the number of times I have described Australia as Gold, Belgium as Perfectly Pastoral, Iceland as the Most Profound Combination of Man and Nature.  I cannot count the number of times I have called up memories of those inexplicable intangibles and sat with them- clear as the day I met them.

Norway… Norway, at least in winter, Sparkles.  I know- I sound like an over-Frozened five-year-old getting ready to belt out 'Let It Go.'  But bear with me.  Because I am not.  I am categorically not.   

On the advice of a charming Norwegian lady I met on the bus yesterday, I made a quick trip out of the city (the conversation, by the way, started with me asking 'If I were leaving tomorrow, what is the ONE thing you think I should do in Oslo.'  Her response?  'Oh, you must get out!'… I love it…, a gal after my own heart.).  I took the Number 1 Tube out to Frognerseteren, sitting on the left side as she suggested, and watch the crowd of Oslo disappear into the hills of the suburbs.  I watched the city retreat in to the far-far background of the country.  

And something like a mile can make all the difference in the world:


Above the fog-laden streets of Oslo is a bright, sun-washed series of hills.  

And I mean bright.  

The first thing that struck me as I stepped out of the tube an into the fresh air was the shine- the glimmering, glittering, near-blinding shine of it all.  

When the sun comes out to play in the Norwegian Winter Wood,  it's as though the world is made of diamonds.  Everything sparkles.  The trees, the roads, the little-berried plants that have somehow survived all of the harsh cold with their plum and raspberry colors intact.  After a while you forget that it is ice you are walking on… until, of course, you (me) slips and goes ass-over-tea kettle down a steep incline.  

Good thing this portion of my trip is solo- otherwise there would have been robust laughter aimed in my direction.  

Of course I wasn't watching when I planted that ill-placed footstep.  Nope, I was witnessing.  I was thinking.  I thought of all the different descriptions of nature that I have heard throughout my life, trying to pick out the one that most appropriately fit the vista that I saw.  And here is where we veer from the 'sparkly'.  

I heard somewhere, probably read it, clouds described as the sea: 'a sea of clouds'.  And here's the thing- I saw that today… well, sort of.  What I saw were clouds lingering in the valley above Oslo, but below Frognerseteren.  What I saw was the sea- if the sea were made of clouds.  If the sea were a diaphanous thing, made of ether and belief, instead of salt water; bracketed by forest and distant, wistful land, it would look like something like this (again, forgive a photo that does not do justice even a little):


I am not entirely sure how much time I spent staring at that- watching the clouds move like waves toward me, sipping a coffee.  I sat within and outside of time, warming in the bright bright sun and forgetting for a moment that the world was below me.  

But, as I sit in the hostel bar and type this while haphazardly watching a bison dissected on Norwegian tele…  yes, there it is-  

The world again.  

And until next time, Dearests, 

Hat De Bra. 




Sunday, December 7, 2014

Fjotoblog: Norway So Far...

Something about the Northern Europeans…  They seem
to get it right more often than they do wrong...

My adopted home in Stavanger.
What you cannot see in this photo
are the two Pavlovian Swans who
are nuts for an American bearing bread.

See above about Northern Europeans- when I was in
Iceland I posted a photo from Akureyri, where all of
the red stop lights are shaped as hearts… In Stavanger
they wear their hearts on their trees… or in them, rather. 

Lysefjord.  Yeah, I did that. 

Old Town Stavanger- a good walkabout to bring me
back to earth after the insane beauty of the fjords. 

Out near Sirdal.  I have, in all of my travels, never seen
anything as beautiful as this.  It's almost not worth posting
a photo because there's just no way to capture
what I saw.  Literally. 

You know I can't resist a close-up. 

Same Sirdal, a little later in the day.. what I noticed is that
white was never white here.  Instead it was arctic, icy,
pale blue.  And I'll be damned if it did not
wrench my heart in the most wonderful possible way. 

Thursday, December 4, 2014

Nor…What The F@%K?

I have a lot of What The F@%K moments- A Lot.

They usually come when I am being jostled, elbowed, poked, provoked by a stranger standing behind me in the TSA line.  Or when I am taking in my hundredth breath of stale air that smells of exhaust, good and bad anxiousness, and cigarette smoke.  Or when I am lingering, alone at the baggage carousel wondering… but where's my bag?  (All of those, by the way, happened to me at some point over the last 20-24 hours.  I'm not complaining... I mean, I guess I am technically complaining, but I'm getting to a much less bratty point in time.  Oh and my bag did make it.)

Which is to say that many of my WTF moments (careful now- that W can stand for many words) come at the airport.  Especially in the big International halls of JFK, Logan, CDG… What the F@%K am I doing here??

I have had that moment stranded in the middle of Beijing Airport, having missed a connecting overseas flight.  I have had that moment waking up after passing out on a flight from Heathrow to Munich, unsure of where I was, what I was doing there and how exactly I was buckled into my seat (the rather…ummm... handsy-looking German man beside me may have had something to do with that but I can never be sure) after having not slept for the previous 48 hours.  I have had that moment staring at the flight delay getting longer and longer and my next connection getting shorter and shorter.  I have had that moment getting straight Pissy with Customs Agents who were getting straight Pissy with me.

What the F@%K, Why the F@%K?  In all of these instances I find myself wondering just how much of a glutton for punishment traveling has turned me into.   I find myself thinking… What the F@%K is my end game this time?

And every time, every single time, it hits me all at once- all at once it makes sense.  Right now I am sitting at the kitchen (there's a distinct possibility that it counts as a dining room table) table of a man who I have not yet met but who was kind enough to let me in, in a manner of speaking.  In between the tap-tap-tapping of these computer keys, I can hear the beating heart of the harbor.  I sit here and I listen to waves that wakes of ferries make when as they pass by below me.  I can- well I could before- hear birds yakking.  And that's not even what made it make sense (although… it certainly has helped), not even the first AHA! Moment.. no, that moment looked a little like this:


After only watching clouds beneath the wing of my final flight to Stavanger, the final descent into the city's small airport yielded a break in them.  The surreal blue of the high sky was laced with the gold of the too-early setting sun.  And suddenly I could see this enrapturing country that I will call home until the end of the month.  I could see the sea, the land rising from it, and the larger land rising from that.

I could see it all and it was breathtaking.

It is breathtaking.

That is What the F@%K I am doing here- it is what the F@%K I an doing every time I follow my wandering, lusty heart to another place- to meet another people, to see another side of it all.  I am stockpiling those AHA! Moments, adding them to my spirit.

I collect them so that I may be better.

And until next time…. so much Love from such a Lovely place.

Tuesday, December 2, 2014

Tonight, North Carolina… Tomorrow Nor..wait what??

My last blog post detailed a rather timely musical discovery: 'Ends of the Earth' from Lord Huron.  And I believe that his Lordship may have been in my head when he wrote it...
Look carefully: Livonia?
---
This image comes from the Rand
McNally Imperial Atlas.  I found it in
my closet earlier this evening-
it has been ages since I've seen it.  I
stashed it away long ago in the annals
of my teenage years, not knowing
how significant the very idea of an
Atlas would later become. 

But here's the thing- there are no ends to this earth (unless you count the ends of maps, edges arbitrarily made to fit the cut of sheaths of paper.  Maps have merits, Atlases act like a bound North Star).  There are only horizons.  Horizons that push out constantly.  Tantalizingly.  Horizons on which the sun can set or into which the sea can endlessly flow.  Horizons marked by mountains, horizons made reachable in fracturingly fleeting moments.  

Tomorrow I set off to chase another horizon, to follow my heart (maybe a map?) toward another adventure.  From NC to NY to France to Norway… From Norway to Latvia, Lithuania and maybe Poland.  I have a fresh, new Passport, a packed bag and a puppy currently laying on top of my arm as I try to write this.  

Tomorrow I become a pilgrim for the umpteenth time.  By plane, train, and hopefully boat, I will roam flatlands, fjord-lands, the Far North, forests of people and forests primeval.  I will be far away from what I know- but at home with (or without?) that knowledge.  

Until next time… 

Which will be in Norwegian Time… 

Monday, November 17, 2014

Theme Song(s)

Both of my parents love music- and both know how to listen to it.  One of my greatest inheritances has to be this love and this knowledge that they passed on to me.  Without a doubt my taste wanders all over the place- old and new, soft and hard, classical and combative.  I do like to consider myself an equal opportunity listener...


Even though someone once accused me of having dramatic- or was it depressing?- taste in music.  He is not wrong.  Probably on either front.  But what I love most is music- lyric, songs, tunes, beats, whatever- that hits like battering ram.

Music- lyric, songs, tunes, beats, whatever- that is anthemic.

We all have theme songs (I must have tens of dozens of them on my own already),  if we allow ourselves to remember the moments they define- that song that summer; that song that played on the radio at that moment; that song that makes you cry every time; that song that you play in your mind when big things are or were happening.  Every theme song in my life has been something big and strong or wild or desperate.

I have had three songs playing to death over the past week and a half or two.  One I dig just because it is so bloody dramatic- big voice, big message, big moment.  And it is not a little depressing if you listen closely.  How could I not love it?!?

The other two are slowly becoming themes.  They are becoming big-time themes.

One, Ends of the Earth, is featured in a commercial for something- I'm not even sure what at this point.  It has a decently catchy chorus, nice hook.  But Hell, listen to the rest of it, and it is the theme for this blog- for what I am doing here… here on this earth, here in this blog.  Every single word I write, every trip I take, is in this song.  And yes, it is worth giving you the lyrics:


Oh there's a river that winds on forever
I'm gonna see where it leads
Oh, there's a mountain that no man has mounted
I'm gonna stand on the peak

Out there's a land that time don't command
Wanna be the first to arrive
No time for ponderin' why I'm a-wanderin' 
On while we're both still alive

To the ends of the earth, would you follow me
There's a world that was meant for our eyes to see
To the ends of the earth, would you follow me
If you won't, I must say my goodbyes to thee

Oh there's an island where all things are silent
I'm gonna whistle a tune
Oh there's a desert that size can't be measured
I'm gonna count all the dunes

Out there's a world that calls for me, girl
Headin' out into the unknown
Wayfaring strangers and all kinds of dangers
Please don't say I'm going alone

To the ends of the earth, would you follow me
There's a world that was meant for our eyes to see 
To the ends of the earth, would you follow me
If you won't, I must say my goodbyes to thee

I was a-read to die for you, baby
Doesn't mean I'm ready to stay
What good is livin' a life you've been given
If all you do is stand in one place

I'm on a river that winds on forever
Follow 'til I get where I'm goin'
Maybe I'm headin' to die but I'm still gonna try
I guess I'm goin' alone.

I literally gush with understanding; I bleed from it, I burst with understanding; this song is my wanderlust set to music and a howling honesty that tears at my heart that I try so often to simultaneously expose and protect.  I want to sail that river and climb that mountain and be, without time, in that desert.  I want to trust someone else to come with me- to hold my hand, fingers linked as we approach the end of the earth- and put myself out in the vastness with a partner in crime… but….  I hear it and I unhinge myself long enough to be overwhelmed: he gets it.  Look at this big world.  Look at our small selves.  Why the hell wouldn't we wander all over the place, and see the sights, feel the feelings, interpret the expanse… and then write about the life that we are living out there?

And sometimes you find the right Huckleberry to be on your raft down the river with you- and sometimes you're goin' alone.

I get it all.  I live it all.  I'm unabashedly where he is, or where he is going.

Goddamn.

Next up we have Hozier's Work Song.  This has come to refine a definition of love that has long been kicking around my brain.   It's a song, as I stated a couple of posts ago, that I would dance to.  I have danced to it, alone, in my kitchen while I was packing my apartment up north.   So that's part one: the dancing part.

Part two is what he is actually saying (errrr…singing).  No, this time you won't get the whole song, just the chorus- although the whole song is forking amazing-

When 
my 
time comes around 
lay me gently in the cold 
dark earth
No grave can hold my body down-
I'll crawl home to her


And that is it- the love that I want but cannot have because it does not exist.   Yes, it is morbid and odd and not a little off-putting to consider a dead lover coming back to you, especially covered in his own grave.  But a love that defies death?  A love that repeats itself over lifetimes to fulfill the pull of two spirits which are supposed to be one?  A love that makes words real?  Now that is something else entirely.

That's a theme song.

And until next time, I do hope you find some of your own.




Wednesday, November 12, 2014

I Will Grind His Bones* (Redux)

*To 

Make

My 

Bread.. 

This afternoon I got my eighth tattoo.  And short of me explaining it verbatim, it makes no sense.  Not a lick of sense, not to a single soul but own.  And even with an explanation, I'm not entirely sure anyone else would understand the value in it.  So on that topic, I stay quiet. 

But it never works the way I anticipate, this brain of my mine; these explanations of mine.  Because as the needle bit into my skin, ink staining nearly to the bone, I began to think about the nature of the beast.  

I feel fairly confident that- unless you have never met me or have only just begun to read this blog- almost everyone knows that I hate my body.  I hate it.  It does not matter if it is too thin or not too thin, there's no middle ground on this battle ground.  I constantly and consummately hate it.  I would give it up in a merry heartbeat.  I would hand it over in a split second, without so much as a glance back.  

And on that artist's table, laying on my side, giggling as tattoo gun knicked into the fleshy part of my tummy… I thought more about the nature of things.  Because it's not my body.  It never has been. 

It's my brain.  

It's my brain that revolts; my brain that implodes, explodes; it's my brain that hauls my body along with it wherever it goes.  And- also not a shocker- my brain is messed up.  Maybe not as much as others', but maybe also more than many's.

I have a hurt head.   

I have a hurt heart, too.  

And my body bends to the will of both. 

And until it doesn't…

Until then. 

Thursday, November 6, 2014

A Sort Of Two-Fer

The sort of twofer…

Thoughts on moving, Obsessions that help to quiet the thoughts on moving.

Tonight is my last night in New England for this season.  It is pissing down rain- and I am hauling boxes out of my apartment into my car, listening to my dog whine, yelp, and puppy-weep at the top of his puppy lungs.

And in the midst of all of this… I'm trying so hard not to think about what is actually happening.  Another move.  Another upheaval just as my little world settles down.  Another series of bags packed and then packed into the back of the Jeep- it's a good thing I'm something of a fiend for Tetris otherwise my life would never never never work.

I am trying hard not to think of all of the things I am leaving behind- again.  I am trying hard not to think of how this place, no matter how hard I try to resist, heals me every time.  Every single time I am sick to death with the world, with my world, I retreat to northern New England.  So that I can breathe; so that I can sit with the me that is not me or maybe me- but really the me that I am most unfamiliar with- the comfortable one.  (I am trying hard not to think of the grammatical issues with my previous sentence- some things can't be helped).

This album helps heaps.  I downloaded it today, on a whim.  Andrew Hozier-Byrne has nailed what I like the call 'The Suzannah.'  It's straight blues and sex and wonder.  Homeskillet is an Irishman who sings like he's been through it.  Considering it feels like I've been through it lately… (Listen to 'Sedated' and 'Work Song' back to back.  Brilliant, bold, the series of songs that you dance to- sometimes with yourself, sometimes with someone else- in the kitchen, barefoot).

This song helps for sure.  It erupts with poignancy, sadness, and just a tiny frail inch of resignation.  Open Hands, indeed.

I am, of course, using the trusty MacBook Pro Chooks to watch all manner of horrid television on Hulu.

I am thinking of my next tattoo, of what it will only ever mean to me.

I am thinking of tomorrow.

Tomorrow.

Tomorrow.

Until Then-

Go on and drift away..



Wednesday, October 29, 2014

Don't Look Down

Lately I've been thinking about bridges.

And mistakes.

And hearts.

These lines of thought will come together, I swear.  Okay, they might not on paper or in this post, but they will at some point completely come together.

I frequently refer to myself as an idiot, as idiotic.  I have a litany of quotes about idiots- what it means to be one, how to act as one.  But I always circle back to the notion that an idiot repeats his or her mistakes- egregiously.  (Einstein's is more on insanity but works as well: Insanity is doing the same thing over and over, and expecting a different result.)  Like an Escher drawing constantly looping back on itself, the idiot goes up and down and winds around and around the same mistake over and over and over, thinking that that mistake will lead to different outcomes.

Escher may have well been drawing my idiotic mug.

Lately I've been thinking about the mistakes that I make with my heart.  There are one or two mistakes that I try valiantly to avoid- but seem to waltz myself right into each and every time I put my heart out there.  Maybe the first mistake is putting my heart out there?  Exposing the beating base of my existence to begin with?  But that is a different post for a different time.

This is about bridges.  And mistakes… and hearts and stuff.

It seems like I've been standing on one side of a very deep chasm for a while now.  Let's call my side… Hope.  Then there's the chasm (very deep).  Then, on the other side, there's… well… The Other Side.  It's not hopelessness per say- The Other Side is not the opposite of this side, it's just the other side.  The side over there.  I have stayed on this side.  Not because I'm fearful of The Other Side, but because I'm caught up in a web of mistakes on this side.  And because I'm afraid of the chasm- the free fall to the bottom of bad.  And because I am an idiot, because I keep hoping that this side, Hope, is going to work out.  (It's another one of the mistakes I keep making.)

But lately a new addition has appeared between this side and that side- a bridge.  A bridge called Resignation.  And this bridge is a bitch.

Because it simultaneously strengthens and weakens with each and every mistake that I make.  When I make a mistake- poof, it gets a little weaker, a little less, err, supported.  When I realize that mistake- imagine that! it's suddenly stronger, suddenly wider and seems so much closer.  There are times that I want to bolt across it, one foot in front of the other just to get across.  (Why did the Kate cross the bridge?  To get to The Other Side.)  Then there are times, times when I am still tethered to Hope, when I can barely set one foot on that damned bridge before vertigo sets in.  I shake and shiver and think to myself, this side is so safe, solid ground is so much safer.  And then I think, HOLD ON, you can do this, just don't look down.

Don't look down.

Down just gets you to the bottom of the bloody chasm.  Look ahead, look straight ahead.  One foot in front of the other, and maybe this bridge wasn't built by Escher.  One foot in front of the other, look so straight ahead.  Leave the same old mistakes with Hope, on this side.  One foot in front of the other, each step across Resignation is a step closer to realization.  One foot in front of the other and then you are on The Other Side.

And who knows what the Hell kind of mistakes exist on that side?

Until then,

With Hope and Love always and Idiocy.


Tuesday, October 21, 2014

Wings

I hate flying.  (Says the girl with the travel blog).

For all the miles I have logged airborne, for all the miles I have yet to log, I hate flying.  There is something essentially discomforting about surrendering your will, body, and freedom to another- someone else who will only take that will, body, and freedom and attempt to keep them all intact- at 35,000 feet in the air, going somewhere between 400 and 500 miles per hour.

Essentially.  Discomforting.

No thank you.  I will happily give you the turbulence, air pockets, steep banking, and hours on end of nerve wracking wondering 'is that noise normal?'  'WAIT. IS IT?!?!'

No thank you, I will take wings.

I thought about this last night after the frustration and out and out heartache of lost opportunity, lost chance, loss set in.  Wave after wave of 'what ifs' hit me like sledge-hammers or tsunamis to the solar plexus.  And in the middle of all that, I thought about wings (I must confess that I was listening to Birdy's 'Wings'- which was fitting for that moment).  I thought about big, wrapping, beating wings.  Ancient wings.  Wings like Renaissance Angels, dripping with feathers and strength and magician-like power.

I thought, I will take those wings.


There is a question asked amongst a group of friends I have- what major or minor superpower would you have.  Major for me has always been easy- telekinesis.  Moving things with your mind?  Making things happen because you will them to?  Duh.  Easy.

But minor superpower- that always trips me up.  Because what is minor?  I'd like to be able to speak and understand every spoken language, read and understand every written language.  But that's kind of big; all encompassing.  I'd like put my hand in my pocket and pull out anything I need (usually keys I have locked somewhere); pretty minor.

Lately, though, what I wouldn't give for a set of wings.  Pay days, play dates, lines, lists, moneytimeplace- none of it would matter because I could fly.  My minor superpower?  I will take wings.  It is not the same as having the power of flight, but I would certainly use them to fly.  Then distance would not matter, space would not matter.  I could get wherever I wanted to be, needed to be, when I wanted or needed to be there.

I could see the people I love.  Whenever the hell I wanted to see them.  Or love them.  Or be near them at all.

I will take wings that I want.

But until then I'll take the wings I can get.

And Until Next Time…

But seriously… is that noise normal?


Wednesday, October 15, 2014

Freedom of Speech

There is a blog post that has been kicking around my (sub)conscious for a long time, now.  And despite the fact that I habitually embrace the no-holds-barred style of confessional writing and openness, the post remains unwritten.

I have hesitated.

Every time I go to begin the post, every single time the black keys illuminate the white-slight blue letters which indicate MacBook awakeness, my fingers still.  Forefingers in place on the J and F, thumbs at the ready on the space bar, nothing happening.  Nothing at all.  The silence of the keyboard slowly becomes deafening.  My fingers still, I hesitate, largely because the post I want to write, the confession I want to make, will hurt someone else.

Not directly- there would be no names named or called.  Not obviously- there would be only vague descriptions of circumstances.  Not specifically- and never intentionally.  But it would hurt one person immensely- provided that person had the inkling to read it and the wherewithal to put two and two together.  It would hurt someone significant to me.

And that is beyond even me.  It is too much to ask of myself despite my desire for visceral, brutal, sometimes hateful honesty.

Which, lately, made me stop to think.

Where do I draw the line?

I believe, above every other fundamental freedom, in my freedom of speech.  I live and die by the freedom to speak my mind.  To write my mind.  To whit: I want to write that (unwritten) post.  I believe in what I am saying and in my right (write?) to say it.  I want the moment from that post.  But I cannot have it, nor will I take it.

I have written a lot, I write a lot.  I write things that terrify me to reveal.  I write things that terrify others to read.  I have judged myself in what I write; I have allowed other to judge me in my writing.  My chopping block, my personal guillotine is called qwerty.

I write and I write and I write- I have diaries, journals, blogs, Theses, articles, papers, promises, notes, comments, cards, messages, texts, emails- millions and millions of words have spilled out of me.  So where do I draw the line?  I have used my freedom to put out that I have an eating disorder, a disease.  I have made very clear, with free will and my freedom, that my brain is a bruised, fragile, skittish creature.  I have torn apart my own life, with words, innumerable times, under the guise and protection of freedom.  I have confessed to love.  I have confessed to loss.  I have confessed to every damned thing that has driven me to this keyboard.  Knowing that I could write, knowing that I would write.

I have upset so many people with my words, with what I write; I have angered them.  People have hurt, have been hurt by the things I write.

Where do I draw the line of what should or should not be written?

The simple answer is that I usually don't.  I don't toe a line or tow a line.  I don't draw one.  I have no use for lines.  I don't play along or color in them.  But here- in this moment, in this post- I draw the line at hurt, intentional hurt.

There will be no hurt, not on purpose.  Not from me.  Not by my words.  Not by the things I freely and wantonly write.

Until next time, and hopefully never after-

I will do no harm.  

And I sure as Hell won't publish that post.



Thursday, October 9, 2014

October Obsessions

I skipped September.  And I skipped for a very specific reason-

I wanted to lead with this.


Mom came to visit in mid-September and brought me a goodie bag of deliciousness.  Yes- as a matter of fact I do occasionally exhibit the spectacularly advanced palate of a 5 year old.  I love these.  Pure sugar, in fun little Happy Fall! shapes.  (An aside?  When Brachs added the pumpkins, and then later the little flying witches, I very nearly died and went to Happy Cavity! Heaven).  But there is a part of me (probably the same juvenile one with the obscene sweet tooth) that cannot bring myself to even look longingly at them before October.

Remember, mom gave them to me in September- helloooooo loophole.

Apparently my obsessive side, at least musically, has decided to revisit my college years.  The early 2000s are making an epic comeback on my iPod.  Even though I own all of their work and like it all well enough, these two albums played a huge role in my undergraduate career.

I used to nap (back when I actually could) to Rush of Blood.  It became Pavlovian, and still sort of is.  I cannot listen to it if I want to be at all cogent, aware, engaged (read awake).  I can listen to it on long plane trips- it will be one of the 'Soundtrack to Flights to Norway' albums.  Not to mention the fact that Rush of Blood to the Head (the song) functions as one of those weird, dark definitions of love for me.  If you are going to start a war for me, game on.

X&Y is a different story altogether.  I was a senior in college- or maybe getting ready to enter my senior year- when the album was released.   Three songs in particular endlessly stand out: Swallowed in the Sea (oh what good is it to live with nothing left to give?…. are the streets you're walking on/a thousand houses long/well that's where I belong/and you belong with me), Till Kingdom Come (for you I've waited all these years… just say you'll come/and set me free/just say you'll wait- you'll wait for me), and Fix You.

Fix you in particular… one night I sat and cried my eyes out to that song.  I put it on repeat and let it fly.  A friend of mine once told me that there were days when all she wanted to was fix me.  I told her I was better broken.  You can see how this song might be poignant.  You can maybe see how, on a dark night, when all I wanted was a magic carpet ride home and a hug, this song might make let me cry and release all of this pent-up blueness.

The Blacklist.  Judge me- I don't care.  James Spader has never been finer than as bald, post-middle aged badass Red Reddington.  And he delivers lines which could define one-liners.  I just rewatched the first season in an epic Netflix binge (Bless You, The Bob, for giving me that password).  The new season is on and rolling.  Yum.

My friend Liz.  Yes, I putting my friend on my obsession list this month- no you don't get a photo or a link.  The thing about Liz is that she has wisdom beyond wisdom- she has intuition and strength.  And every single time I don't expect it, she blows me out of the water with it.   Her quote from today?  "It's a grand mystery, the whole goddamned thing."

The wind, in New England, in the fall.  If there is an embodiment of the fall for me, it's not the leaves, which are admittedly beautiful.  It is the wind.  The howling, tearing, wrenching wind.  The uncontrolled, untamed, wild wild wind.  It is cold and brutal and unforgiving.  It speaks when it sails through the mountains, trees and barely opened windows.  It fractures my soul into a thousand pieces that then go sailing with it.  I want to be this wind.

That's all for now.

(In two weeks this wind will have frozen me to near-death and I will be singing a different tune… But until then, dear ones..)



Sunday, September 28, 2014

12A

I don't actually recall what I thought the first time I drove south from West Lebanon, New Hampshire, on route 12A.

Maybe that it was going to be a long three months, maybe that I was already missing The Bob- who had helped me drive from North Carolina to New Hampshire and who I had just dropped off at the Manchester airport.


Maybe that I was in love.

I have since driven it so many times that I hardly give it even a cursory thought.  I could drive it with my eyes closed, I know the sway, ebb, and flow of the asphalt so well.

Today I drove it again, for what felt like the millionth time this year.  And as I watched the road happen, the drive pass... I was struck by what it must have been like that first drive and what it is like now.  How what started as a passing fling has grown into an enduring affair.

This road is part of my life here, my lifeblood.

I was struck by how much of what I have witnessed and witness here has become inherent to me.  There is something of my heart in each now-yellowing, now redding, now browning leaf.  There is a thought, a hope a wish, around every turn of that road.  I have buried secrets in the soil here.  I have cried myself to sleep here, squinting through the tears to find the Milky Way flowing just outside of my window, just outside of reach.

The sunrise and sunset, midday heat, early morning cold.  The river, the mountains.  The animals, the earth, the people.  Spring, Summer, Fall…

Over and over again this place has captured and held me captive- without my ever realizing it.  Until, that is, days like today when the last warmth of Indian summer mixes with the growing gold of impending fall.

And everything I have ever given of myself is given back tenfold.  I forget until I don't.

Until next time, I if I could give you this space, I would..

Monday, September 22, 2014

The Balance

Over the past few weeks or so,  I have essentially completed a task which I started in the early spring- a task which I have necessarily kept silent about save for a few very knowledgable, close people (read Mom)- the task of weaning myself off of antidepressants.  Antidepressants that were prescribed to me a little over three years ago, in the wake of events which put my mental and physical health into a bit of a landslide.  In putting me on them, my doctor had one goal in mind- get the defoggers in my brain to start working again.  Get the gears to move again- get something, anything, to trigger life or desire, want.

I do not put this out there lightly.  And I also do not wish to advertise what I am doing as something that everyone should do or should feel like they have to do.  I am the child of a nurse- I have undue medical knowledge simply from having grown and aged in the household that I did.  I know the risks that I take here.  I knew the risks when began dosing myself in incrementally smaller portions, when I put the pill bottle down, forgotten, when I put it out of sight, purposefully.

It was an enormous decision for me to take the pills in the first place.  I have described it as a battle of the wills, or an odd, cosmic staring contest- me versus the pills.  It was an equally enormous decision to stop- and even more so to confess to it.

And there are still moments of fear.  Especially right now in the newness of cold-quitting.  The drugs will not be out of my system fully for another couple of weeks, I am still riding the high of Celexa-laced blood and brain cells.  When they have filtered through my body enough without help from the happy pill… I have hope.  But I also have fear.

In particular, there is one thing that I am almost painfully and vigilantly anticipating with tick tock ticking clock fear of full detox.  And this thing that I am militantly watchful of is the return of lost time, the fog of disengagement.

Don't get me wrong- there is a great deal to be said of daydreaming and laying in hammocks, happily drinking sun and air and wasting time just being- totally disengaged from the world, from stress, from nonsense.

What I am talking about here is the terrifying hours, days, weeks, I lost to thoughtlessness- lost to staring out the windows, not daydreaming, not seeing, not even being, not really.  I am talking about the moments in the mirror when the I was one body and the reflection was another- the frightening and sickening and blind disconnect of carelessness.  I did not care.  I could not find meaning in that reflection- and I did not care to put effort into finding it- or effort into anything.

I do not want that back.  I have spent more time working around this post, figuring out what to say and how to say it, than any other of the recent past.  Because I have/had lost my mind; I have/had lost my body.  Because I have spent, and have had to spend, years (what many youthfully ideal people would refer to as 'the best years of my life'- my mid-twenties) cobbling both back together.  Distinct and sometimes heartbreaking moments of which have played out in this blog.  And because I...

I do not want to be on or dependent upon drugs anymore, but I absolutely do not want to suffer through loss of self again.

It is and has been a strange, evolving dualism of powerlessness and loss- and acceptance of both.  On the one hand, before the antidepressants, I was unhinged and unwell and so unwelcome to my own mind as to be powerless- powerless to commit to anything more than rudimentary life exercises (for those of you who follow this blog or know me- you know that I could not even execute those with any degree of success). On the other hand, on the antidepressants, I was powerless to the drug, powerless to having to remember to take them- same time, same action day after day- to having to rely on them.  And the heart of that powerlessness was that I never sat well with needing something… pharmaceutical… to make me me.  That I needed a pill, a drug, a dose to bring back or bring out the personality that had always been there.

Today is the Equinox and in two days I will turn thirty- it seems prescient to lay myself and my choices on the line again, out there for what feels like the ten thousandth time.  I don't know what is going to happen (with both the really big picture and all the little ones I constantly develop).  But I know that today is one of two days every year when the natural world balances itself: 12 hours of dark, 12 of light.  And I know that I am better balanced now than I have been in some time.

I am not without pain, sadness, grief.  But I am also not without my Self.  Not perfect- but not powerless.

And that, my loves, is what I want.  I will never be perfect.  But I will never ever again be powerless.

Until next time, Happy Mabon.