Archive for ‘Senses’

The Poetics of Reverie

August 13th, 2016


“Even a minor event in the life of a child is an event of that child’s world and thus a world event”
― Gaston Bachelard

I borrowed the title of this post from one of my favorite writers, French phenomenologist Gaston Bachelard, because that’s what I feel I’m in the midst of right now. I’m on the 67th day and the second notebook of writing down 100 childhood memories, a project I’ve embarked on with a faraway writer friend, a project that has no purpose, no lofty goal, no intended outcomes. The memories themselves are not as important as the side roads they take me down. I find myself drawing diagrams of the house where my soul was sheltered and nurtured and maps of the small town I grew up in. The rudimentary maps I dash off lead me to want more detail, more annotating of sacred spaces where insights or illuminations or wounds occurred. Some days I wish I had a whole wall on which to draw that map. Here is where we gathered bittersweet and milkweed pods. This country road is where I lost my virginity in an old blue Chevy. This fireplace is where my brothers and I huddled the day my father abandoned us. Here is the creek that would one day flood and drown two of my cousins on the same day. Just down the road is the old church where the farmers stood around outside in their clean white shirts and Sunday trousers while the women and children worshipped inside. This field is where I rode the hay wagon with my grandfather and ate sugar and butter sandwiches that my grandmother packed in a brown paper sack. I’m swimming backwards in time, and I need a map to lead me to all the forgotten memories and names and scars. A map that exists in child time, that never changes, where the brick schoolhouse has not yet been demolished, a Walmart is still in the future and I am always on the verge of becoming.

Spring in a Jar

December 22nd, 2014

 ren salt web

Homer called salt a divine substance, and in various religions, it was thought to repel evil spirits and used in purification ceremonies. I’m a salt and savory person and find sweets cloying after the first few bites. I love salted popcorn, chips and nuts. I love the way tequila is downed with a lick of salt, and the lingering taste of salt on skin after a swim in the ocean. Our tears are both the seasoning and cleansing of grief and heartbreak, rubbing salt in our wounds and healing them at the same time. No wonder, then, that when I was coughing, sneezing and feeling alternately chilled and fevered recently, I was drawn to a salt rub the same way wild creatures made their way to the old salt licks deep in the wilderness. In winter, my skin is wrapped up in layers and craves the rough slough of salt balm, the repetition of scrub, scrub and rinse, the ceremonial preparation for rebirth in the spring.

My Kind of Time

December 16th, 2014

DUSK 1 web

I love dusk. Movers and shakers, early birds and go-getters recommend greeting the dawn if you’re going to develop the Truly Boring Habits of the Highly Successful. But I love the winding down time when the day is taking off its bra, putting on its pajamas, having a cocktail and curling up on the couch to read a book. If Dusk had a voice, it would sound like Lauren Bacall. If it had a theme song, it would be by John Coltrane. If it had a perfume, it would be called Wood Smoke. It’s liminal time, when the earth is holding its breath for a few heartbeats before eventide rolls in. Dusk — the magic hour.

Enter Here

July 21st, 2013

web hibiscus jun13

This morning, I went to Starbucks for my coffee and as a man held the door for me, I realized I’d left my card in the car. He insisted on buying my coffee and even upgraded the size. It was a gentle and kind way to wake up to the world. The rest of the day seemed to follow in that stranger’s footsteps. The night before, disgusted with my inertia, I’d made a list of 6 things to do that I could  choose from.

-Create some Skirt! Pinterest boards

– Sketch out a design for a linoleum block

-Start my XO page for next month’s Skirt!

-Do as many planks as my arms would allow

-Make a little digital quote board for my blog

-Post something here in Fridaville

After I came home with my coffee, I did 1 and 6 with no psychic turmoil or dragging of feet! For a change, I gave myself gentle choices instead of marching orders that I would ignore and then feel guilty about later. I spent the rest of the afternoon trolling beauty on the internet: exploring music leads like John Taverner and John Coltrane; looking at breathtaking photos; reading quotes and tracking the most haunting ones to the original source material. Hunting beauty down is close to an ecstatic experience for me, and I started wondering why it’s the last thing I allow myself to do. As if it’s wasting time. As if it’s not “productive.” As if it’s not quite grownup. And that’s probably why I’m so drawn to it. It’s the closest I come to that feeling I had as a child when I immersed myself in worlds I made up, in which time had no meaning and the inner life eclipsed outside reality. So here’s a glass of cold fume blanc and a toast to Wings of Desire by Wim Wenders, “Cristo Redentor” by Donald Byrd, a cracked china plate that is the essence of wabi sabi, “Encounter” by Czeslaw Milosz, a Japanese woodblock of a street at night in the rain, the word “dusk” and the colors and sounds and smells it evokes, a journal cracked and bent and stuffed with clippings and pasted-in quotes and ticket stubs, paper-thin petals that bloom for one day only. Here’s to all the lovely fleeting things, to the furnishings of an inner landscape that is always waiting for us to visit, to days like this that we spend doing nothing at all but chasing beauty.

Green Beginnings

March 30th, 2012

In April, the local Farmers’ Market reopens and as usual I’ll’ splurge on vegetables and herbs and most likely not be able to use them before they go bad in my refrigerator or die from neglect. But I can’t resist ,and I already have a small pot of basil on my kitchen counter, less for cooking and more for the perfume of it. When I crush a leaf and inhale, I’m breathing in summer to come. Silky gazpacho, big smiley-face sunflowers, dusty feet, screen doors, sweet tea, a burst of concentrated sunshine in a cherry tomato, cold Prosecco, peaches eaten over the sink so the juice can run down my fingers. “Sumer is icumen in…” and I can’t wait.

I Exam

November 10th, 2011


For the last year I’ve been pissing and moaning about moving, getting away, running away. I’ve felt as if  I was through with this city, bored, boring and chafing at the bit. Never mind that I didn’t have any other place I wanted to be, no other place to call “home.” I mentally rehearsed living in Hawaii (too expensive), London (too expensive), going back home to Kentucky (too emotionally expensive), anywhere but here. I can’t say that it’s been a bad year in the sense that so many people are having a bad year by losing jobs and homes and hope, but it’s been a bad year in the sense of being lost, wandering, wondering, wishing I could get out of my skin and be someone better, fiercer, happier, less invested in loss. I’ve been working hard at understanding why I feel this way, so flat and foreign. I went through years when I lost my inner ear for music; I just didn’t feel it or hear it or want it. I was like those people who  suddenly lose their ability to taste because of some sort of illness, and when my craving for music returned, I realized what a big hole its absence had left in my life. Now I can’t get through the day without a soundtrack. Rock anthems on the way to work, jazz to rock me to sleep. Just as recently I’ve been able to see again, really see the beauty that I swim in daily. The moon riding high and pale in a blue morning sky, the russet autumn marsh grass, the ruffled water of the harbor, a hidden pond on my drive to work where an egret lives, the in-your-face sunsets that winter bring. Leaving work as the days grow shorter, I suddenly notice the neon theater sign that has always been just across the street, clouds stained candy-cotton pink at twilight, ordinary buildings made mysterious by the coming night, the small but intense satisfaction of plugging in my strings of porch lights when I come home. I’m not ready to say I’ve made peace with where I am, that I’ll never leave, that I don’t long for some nameless More, but like my ability to hear music again, my eyes are opening to what is exquisite all around me. And that is enough for now.

No Complaints

November 23rd, 2010

All too often, I find myself bitching about where I live, chafing at the known-ness of it, the social boundaries and perimeters, the maddening political climate. But last weekend I went to a Guerrilla Cuisine dinner, a mobile supper club staged this time on the edge of the Lowcountry marsh as the sun set and oysters roasted over a fire and shadows stretched from the oaks down to the water. Later, seated at long tables, there was the buzz and fizz of conversation among strangers, plate after plate of amazing food, plenty of wine and laughter. I don’t think it’s altogether bad to kick against the pricks, to want to push against the predictability of place, but I needed to be reminded also of the briny liquid in an oyster shell, the bite of homemade hot sauce and the plunge of a porpoise making its way up the creek as we toasted the remains of the day.

Sweet Old World

November 2nd, 2010

I probably have every piece of cheap jewelry I’ve ever bought, every objet de junk I’ve dragged into my house over the years (that plastic Buddha, the Day of the Dead skeletons, the squeaky tin bird), every impulse buy I quickly hated–but the things I treasure I always lose. The silver ring that matched the gold one above that I bought from a jeweler off Portobello Road in London, the expensive bracelet made of porcelain beads painted with Chinese characters that I wore for luck, the leather envelope purse from Il Bisonte that no other bag can replace and that I didn’t appreciate until it was gone. I have searched frantically through my house for the missing items and  through the universe for people I’ve lost.  I can’t wear the gold ring without its mate, and I can’t replace the man I loved with another one, but losing things and people is a lesson in letting go, one I need to learn before I leave this Sweet Old World. Why? Because some day I will have to let go of life, let go of sunsets, Champagne, foot massages, Chopin, Bach and Lucinda Williams, bookclub dinners, skinny dipping, dolphins feeding at dusk,  Fedoras, ballet slippers, salt, twinkle lights, cruise control, dishwashers, sand in my shoes, 411, down jackets, lucky charms, the color red, my friends, my family, my  biker jacket, pears and cheese, clean sheets, hot showers, gardenias, glue sticks, homemade pasta sauce, pomegranate seeds, morning glories and so much more. But facing that encourages to me to open myself to color and sensation and compassion and sadness and embraces before it’s too late. It makes me want to be honest with the people I love. It makes me feel urgent about having conversations that are real and revealing.  It makes me realize, when I’m able, of  the beauty that the world offers, like a woman opening herself to a lover with nothing withheld, nothing calculated, everything free and priceless.

Surprise Package

October 25th, 2010

The world still has the ability to take my breath away, especially when I think I’ve become immune to hope or expectation or enlightenment. Not just by throwing out sights like this one, but also in revealing gaspy insights long after I thought I’d learned all there is to know about myself. Like lessons in letting go. At the same time the sun was disappearing in a last golden gush over the marsh, a giant pink moon was rising like a hot-air balloon above the tree line on the other side of the road. The world gives and it takes, sometimes in the same instant or the same event or the same love. I’ve just never been quite able to trust that if I open my hand and release what I’m holding so tightly, the world will have other gifts to offer as fine. Not replacements, but replenishments.


October 13th, 2010

At dusk, the setting sun bathed us in an opalescent light, like the lining of an abalone shell. For a breath-holding moment, the sky and wavelets along the beach turned pink, and the ocean-bound container ship took on the glamour of a tramp steamer in the mist. Maybe headed to China or Fiji or Easter Island or back in time. I wanted to be on it, going anywhere but here, being anyone but me, feeling anything but sad. I wanted to lean on the railing and watch the land disappear and not know my destination but be deep-down sure it was going to be life-changing. For just a minute. Then the light changed, and night began to move in on our picnic and Prosecco and my soul fell back into my body. But for a beautiful brief moment I was between Here and There, just dreaming.