Archive for ‘Home’

Do One Thing

March 14th, 2010

Do you ever get driven to distraction by your inability to follow though on anything? Distraction is the water I swim in lately, but in one of the many books on writing, resistance and change that I’ve been reading, I found a good piece of advice: Pick one thing and do it. Doesn’t it sound simple verging on simpleton? Not for me. I obsess about everything, which keeps me in a constant spin. The spare room is still a mess, my bedroom doesn’t induce calm or serenity, and I keep accumulating piles of things that don’t  get put away, dealt with or thrown away. So yesterday I picked one thing that needed to be done in my life and did it. My books have been making me crazy, with stacks of them covering the coffee table, spilling out of the bedside table, rising in teetery towers up available walls. I spent most of the day filling bags with books I want to give away and then shelving what was left. Just getting them off the floor and every other available surface made me feel I’d take a small step toward clarity. I know there are even more titles I need to let go of, but I’ve made a good beginning. The key for me was not getting diverted by a postcard I might find in an old book or siting down to read a page I’d marked with a sticky note. I’m easily diverted and tend to leave projects midway through. Admittedly, I did I hare off to try and replace a bathroom faucet at one point in this literary mayhem, but luckily I didn’t have the right screwdriver and was forced back to my main task. “Do one thing” is my new Zen-ish mantra.

Fridaville Friday

March 5th, 2010

Moving into a newly designed web site is daunting…my words seem to rattle around and disappear in so much white space. I’m used  to the happy shack above, all neon-soul and prayer flags and twinkle lights. And that’s the Fridaville I want to preserve because that’s where my imagination rents a room. In the color of the cherry blossoms in spring, the smell of the rosemary bush by the gate and the songs of the wind chimes on a blow-your-house-down winter night. A Fridaville Friday means latching the gate behind me, going through the mail, pouring a glass of wine, putting on the softest rattiest pajamas I can find, reading poetry or People magazine, eating cheese toast with fig jam for dinner and watching a cheesy true crime TV show. In Fridaville, Friday night is a holy  threshold between work time and rest time…the best time of the week.

Morning Meaning

February 28th, 2010

Do you ever get tired of the morning routine of wake up, shower, shampoo, brush teeth, dry hair, moisturize and maybe makeup?  Sometimes I wonder how to be more awake to life when I walk through the same monotonous steps over and over every morning. There’s one morning ritual that I almost look forward to though — using the squeegee on the glass shower doors. I love being enveloped in hot steam and water and then wiping the slate clean before I step back into the world. While I’m in the shower my wanders lazily and daydreams furiously about projects I’ve started or want to start. From the inside looking out, the room, the day ahead is a blur, a mirage. Taking time to clear the shower doors with the rubber blade prepares me to cross the threshhold into the day, to take those ideas and dreams out into the world where they might gather shape and form and color. A tiny meditative practice that adds a bit of meaning to my morning. Do you  have a ritual that prepares you to meet the day?

Empty Chairs

January 6th, 2010

When I go back home, the people and places I knew are like the heat shimmers on an August road. Something you think you can touch it until you get right up on it and then it vanishes. My mother, my husband, my son, all my grandparents, my sweet cousin, all my greataunts and greatuncles. My first love. My mother and father in law. All my aunts but one. The second cousins, the spinsters and distant branches of family whose names I can’t even remember. Best friends. Boyfriends who broke my heart. Teachers. The old brick school building in the center of town. The erasers I cleaned after class. The sounds of basketball games in the gym that no longer exists. The wrist corsages and back seats. The smell of Sunday dinner and reading the funny papers in front of the fire at my grandmother’s house. Summer afternoon shadows.

A Sea Change

December 29th, 2009

My daughter and son-in-law own a big-bottomed broad of a boat…stable, cozy (even a little gas burning “fireplace”) and curvaceous. During the holidays, we went out in Puget Sound looking for orca whales, and even though we didn’t find any, it was a spectacular experience. Freezing, but the sunset and Twin Peaks moody landscape made it magical. I hate cold weather and I’m afraid of water, but I piled on hat, gloves and lots of layers to sit outside in the bow until I finally lost feeling in my face. What I rediscovered was that when you surrender to being in the moment, the moment gradually overcomes your misery. I was without my constant companions — cell phone, books and laptop. No one to chat with because they were all wisely staying warm in the cabin. It was just me and smoky sky and deep silence, except for the sound of the boat and the waves we made. I don’t think I would ever be able to live in the Northwest (or Northeast), but winter in all its spareness and solitude is not possible to experience in the same way in the south. Just as I could never live on a boat but I can understand the relief of paring down your possessions to stow in a few cubbies, the freedom of drifting from island to island, the notion of pulling up anchor for the next best place. For a few hours, my life was unmoored … untied from Costco, CNN, the Comcast bill, dry cleaning, deadlines and the sadness of post-holiday sales (which it seems to me to be a bit like post-coital tristesse). We were messing about in boats and it was good.

Sunday Solitaire

October 18th, 2009

When the marsh begins to change color in the fall and it’s a chilly Sunday and there are candles flickering on the coffee table while I read and the wind shakes the porch chimes all day, I might get a little homesick. Not for a particular place so much as for things barely remembered, the whatever that’s always just over the next hill or beyond a distant stand of trees. Maybe my soul is homesick, longing for something it can’t name, something sensed but unseen. Sometimes when I’m meditating, a piece of music like Satie’s Gymnopedie No 3 or Ayub Ogada’s Kothbiro (which sounds like a vast lonely blue sky seen through a tall window) almost puts me in that place without a name. But then the timer chime sounds or I start wondering about what to have for dinner, and then I land back in my life with a gentle thud. Still me, still earthbound, still happy to be here. But always looking for home.

Late NIght in Fridaville

September 29th, 2009

Coming home in the dark, catching a slice of moon through the branches of the cedar tree, turning the key in the lock, dropping the suitcase, closing the door — home after days away. Home to boxes of new books from Amazon on the porch, mail from an old friend, piles of newspapers past with dire unread warnings (and yet the world kept turning), holy sanctified crisp clean sheets on the bed, the voluptuous curves of the overstuffed chair by the door. Did the house miss me as much as I missed the house? My tiny slice of home, snugged under the cedar tree with the red birdfeeder in its branches. Taking out the trash, I stand in the dark front yard and admire the lighted windows from the outside, the way I’ve often done passing by strangers’ houses in the night. But this time, they shine for me. Coming home in the dark.

Barefoot Weekends

September 11th, 2009

I used to want to go out on Friday night simply because I was released from work worries, and it was a relief to shrug them off and go out to play. I could have done that tonight and sometimes I like to go to the restaurant down the street from my office, sit at the bar by myself, have a glass of wine and write and watch people. But instead, I left the office and went to Whole Foods, bought the ingredients for a bison burger and sweet potato fries, came home and changed clothes, went for a power walk/jog, took a shower, put on my pajamas and walked around my house barefoot and pregnant with possibility. I could work on an outline for a journal course I want to teach; I could start a novel that just arrived from Amazon; I could watch a true-crime mystery on Dateline; I could lie on the couch and finish the NY Times crossword from last Sunday. Whether I do any or many of these things is beside the point. It’s Friday and I’m not expected anywhere, nothing is expected of me and I have no outsized expectations. I am barefoot until Monday.


August 24th, 2009

When I lived on an island at the edge of America, I don’t think I appreciated it enough. Yes, I loved the funky, stoned lifestyle. I loved knowing everyone I ran into at the post office or the convenience cum wine store. I loved the feeling of being cut off from the world of ambition, striving, getting and spending. I loved taking a jug of Bloody Marys to the beach on Sundays and sharing gossip, drinks, sun and sand with my friends. I loved living in a tiny two-room apartment that came with a cat and a wacky, legally blind landlord who at one point drove around the southeast with a round table in a trailer that swirled people around to adjust their chakras, chi or something ch-ch-ch-ish. But I didn’t fully realize how magical that time was until it was over. Until a big hurricane blew down the hippie era rentals and ushered in the McMansions that insurance payments built. Until the doctors/lawyers/trust fund babies took over. Until the last old-school, gritty bar closed down and a child-friendly restaurant moved in. I could have stayed on, struggling to find rentals I could afford, but I didn’t. Now I live two miles away — inland, as a friend of mine who still lives there says with pity. It’s no longer the island I loved, and I’m not exactly the person who once lived there. But every now and then, sitting on a dock in the evening with palmetto trees against the darkening sky, hearing the chink-chink of sailboat rigging in a breeze, it all rushes back like the tide. And it reminds me that sometimes we have to release the things we love in order to hold onto them forever.

My Old Kentucky Home

July 11th, 2009

When I was wandering around my hometown on a recent visit, I chanced upon folk artist Marvin Finn’s crazy, colorful chicken sculptures in the waterfront park. They remind me so vividly of my long-dead grandmother and her ongoing battle with her hens. She had a cantankerous relationship with them, because they were usually ornery and unmanageable and hid their eggs in the highest bales of hay stored in the barn. My grandmother was a devout and gentle Methodist, but she waged a lifelong war for her flock’s eggs and souls, all the while reproaching them for being a stubborn bunch of heathens and hussies. I hated reaching under an old biddy for an egg and getting pecked on the arms and hands, but even more I dreaded watching my grandmother chop off their heads for Sunday dinner. I still find it difficult to eat chicken without remembering the real blood and guts involved in getting it to the table. But these cheery sculptures also brought back the memories of fragile chicks keeping warm in a box by the kitchen stove, of the comforting cluck and shuffle of the hens as they went about their daily business, and of the ordinary beauty of their color and shapes. Returning “home” is always a similar mixture of warring elements for me–the blood and guts of the painful episodes in my life that took place there mixed in with the beauty of the landscape and the memories of people I once loved. I’ve finally given up trying to reconcile those two feuding family ties that bind. Like the chicken and the egg, the sweetness and the sadness are all part of the same dish.