Tuesday, October 30, 2012


The hurricane spread south of us here in central Vermont and I'm relieved to hear about the safety of things and people in NYC... now knee-deep in clean-up from my own brand of natural disaster here on the eve of another departure.

Part of adventuring of course means you uproot your roots and give up your home and-- have no place to put your stuff. So save a suitcase and odds and ends, I locked up the rest of my belongings in a storage space in July and ran off to the next thing. Yesterday my brother and I headed over to said space to put away some things and pull out my winter clothes and favorite boots...

You can imagine where this is going. Without delving in to the gory details, suffice to say that we found lots of water, mold, a dead mouse, most of my furniture destroyed by mold and water, many of my winter cloths and two favorite pairs of boots ruined... the good news is the books are safe. Photos, dishes, even the bed frame weathered the proverbial (or actual) storm. But here I am with many hundreds (thousands? I can't handle it) of dollars of destroyed furniture and clothes, mountains of laundry and dry-cleaning, lost items of nostalgia, and a totally new sense of vulnerability.

The vulnerability, honestly, is the hardest part in all of this. I love, I really absolutely love, that I am packing a suitcase and a backpack and heading to the New Mexico dessert in two days. I've never been there, I have a whole month to explore, and then on to the next months to explore. I love not knowing what comes next and waking up to a brand new city and the possibility in each change. But I also do love my cowboy boots and my antique dining room table and my books upon books upon books. I love my stuff and I want to know it's safe and to be able to unpack it one day when I settle in to the next place I call home. But who knows. Nothing is really safe from the elements and, in truth, you can't have it all. When you make the decision to move and then move and move again, stuff gets lost and broken and... moldy. Does the gypsy in me mean I need to give up the nesting instinct? Does the sense of adventure mean I have to let go of the sense of home? Or re-define it?

There are the details-- getting reimbursed, fighting with the storage space, finding a new place to put my stuff, doing all of this laundry, getting rid of what is ruined, all of this before climbing aboard yet another plane in 36 hours. I am beyond lucky to have my family here to help with this, but I'm not sure they can help me let go, find a way to get angry, negotiate, mourn the losses and move on-- that's all up to me.

And, did I mention the laundry...

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

The invisible second novel

I know I'm not supposed to say this out loud, but sometimes I wonder if publishing a book actually made it harder for me to be a writer. Because this starting over from the digging of the garden phase, and yet, with the second book, the second season, in a way it's harder and sadder than as if it were the first book-- the disappointment more potent. You don't have the sexy allure of a debut novelist. And yet you don't have the crushing success of a debut novel. The true thing is, having a book out there in the world does not make it any easier, necessarily. It sometimes makes it impossible.

So, before I sold my first novel in 2008 I didn't think about where a story would end up after I wrote it. I just wrote it because I had a story to tell. And that happens, of course, that is in me and its why I write. But I'm also caught up in the cloud and chaos and competition and chaos that is the publishing industry. And it's a lot like high school. The mean part of high school.

If you want to make your living as a writer, which is something I've never managed, and I'm not sure I ever will, you need to be ready to sell yourself, to be out there and pushy and then... patient. You need to share your ideas and meet people and charm people then you need to wait. And wait and wait and wait. To see if someone likes your ideas or your voice. And then even if they do, well then is your project a fit, is the time right for it... will you get invited to the party on Saturday night? Do they have time for you? I published a novel once, another lifetime ago for all intents and purposes, but that doesn't mean I'm not starting over with each new story I write.

As a writer, you can't let all of this get to you. You have to remember the story you want to tell. And if agents don't like your work and if editors don't get back to you and literary journals reject you and if reviewers don't review you... that's not why you're writing. You're writing because you're filled with a story and maybe that story, once it is told, will mean something to someone.

You can't think of it as one bad date after another. You can't take it personally when your stories, stories you've bled over, sit languishing and gathering proverbial dust in the interiors of your computer. You have to remember how much you loved writing stories before one of the stories caught on, before you got a tiny glimpse of what it felt like to have your work recognized, because that can disappear just as fast. As writers we need to build the thickest of skins, we need to know that most of the time it might hurt to hear the truth, or to not hear anything at all, but to find a way somehow, in all of it, to keep writing.

Friday, October 19, 2012

Even when it rains...

Today it is raining for the first time since I've been in Vermont... and even this cold downpour seems comforting from the table where I write. I've settled in enough to feel like I've been here for weeks, it feels natural and like home, though on certain corners or at certain store fronts or with the scent of certain coffee, I'm immediately transported to some moment of teenager-hood, twenty-something-hood... This city is filled with nostalgia and history, some that I'd rather forget and some that offer me comfort. But the best part of this month has been imagining myself here now, as a person who has lived a hundred places (or so), has run from the familiar at every chance I get, only to be tempted by that very  same familiar. I get to have my mom over on a tuesday afternoon and cook lunch for her...

I get to wake up and write for two hours

and then walk just outside the door and be at the waterfront, to run along Lake Champlain on a cool afternoon

to be at my brother's on a Wednesday morning and hike in to the Long Trail,

be with my family,

to write some more and then browse squash at the Farmer's market on the way home

Making and sticking to a schedule has been the hardest part. It is a different kind of work I'm doing. Writing is a solitary, self-directed, internal, reflective, physically draining, yet of course infinitely fulfilling kind of work, but it is so different from most of my days for the past many years, immersed in the energy and chaos and constant fast-forward pace of a high school. I actually honestly do love both worlds, but this has been a tough one to settle into, though once I do, and I am lost in the writing, its an amazing thing. I've been hit with inspiration on a new project, unfolding my current project, and trying not to think about how limited this time is. But limited or not, it's mine. I'm working on a story I hope to post a piece of in the next few days. This rainy afternoon is perfect for it.

Saturday, October 13, 2012

Back where it all began... June to September

As I settle in to October and reach toward the bigger (and sometimes undefined) plans ahead, I find I want to stop and recall where all of this adventure began, with leaving my home in South Park Slope and my work in Long Island City in June... I had lived in my studio for just over two years and it was good to me and lots of guests and love. A place to host ladies brunches...

And nap times after brunches...

I had been with my job since 2008, where days began and ended in the dark in East Elmhurst and hours on the 7 train, and way too much time spent here

but it was an extraordinary adventure with some of the most extraordinary colleagues I will probably ever work with, so much brilliance in one place, and I can't believe how much love I have for the students who founded this school, who taught me so many amazing lessons and I take their strength still...

I celebrated the beginning of summer in Vermont, with a pretty big majority of my favorite human beings

And I still had time in Park Slope, on porches and beaches and sidewalk tables to say a slow (and maybe temporary) goodbye to Brooklyn, even if I was hauling butt uptown to work at Columbia every night. And I followed this work across the country to Berkeley, a place I'd always dreamed about spending time... and it was beautiful, a room and an office facing the Berkeley hills and a lot of long days and nights (and amazing laughs) working but morning hot yoga and class planning at this perfect cafe

I got to adventure with new and old friends at Pacific coast Farmer's Markets, outdoor story hour, late night cocktails, Mission district dinners, Dolores Park movies

It was hard to leave California, I felt, as I often do, at home in the foggy mornings and cool sunny afternoons and perfect pace of it all... but I came back and dove into another teaching gig, where I at least got in a gorgeous hike in the Berkshires and some time teaching and reading in a little house with a dear colleague... I left Great Barrington and actually drove a car home to Vermont to meet my brand new and perfect niece who was named after this perfect song

and then a few more Brooklyn days, because I can't stay away, before heading in to Pennsylvania... It was a close to perfect summer, if a little nostalgic and transient, because I got the best of city and country, east and west, family and more family.

Thursday, October 11, 2012

From mountain to city to lake (Champlain)

I have gone from Pennsylvania's low mountains to Manhattan's chaos to Brooklyn's comfort to Vermont's nostalgia since I wrote last. My last week in Pennsylvania was at once uneventful and exactly what I hoped. I took a walk at sunrise on my final morning and the path around the pond had suddenly become fall.

Thanks in part to an amazing faculty member, I was able to remember why I'd gone there, and acknowledge that what I gathered and what I learned had little to nothing to do with what I intended. I continue reading The Yoga Sutras of Patanjali and the Hatha Yoga Pradipika and even David Frawley's Yoga & Ayurveda which is a great simple introduction to the study of Ayurveda. I continue deepening my own asana practice and exploring further training programs but I do all of this in the interest, not of my personal, creative, spiritual development, but actually in service to my work as a counselor. That is where I think deepening my practice and training can really have a lot of meaning... more on this later, much more I imagine. But here are the things I took away from a month at an ashram.

A juice cleanse, true and solitary juice cleanse, is an amazing, strengthening, odd, important experience that I hope I'll do at least once a year because it makes my body and mind feel hollowed out and rejuvenated and strong, if a little weak and flaky in the middle, but three days is certainly enough

I DO feel better when I don't drink coffee or wine, when my food is fresh and unprocessed, when I don't eat meat or sugar, my skin looks better too-- I'm not ready to give any of these beautiful things up but I will remember this and work on moderation.

When I am in a place where I can hike or walk every single morning, I feel simply and exceptionally happy

Eating meals alone is not scary. In fact, it's pretty wonderful

Meditation is harder than almost anything I've ever done. And I like my brand of yoga with a lot of flow and a little bit of sweat, but Hatha yoga strengthens my breath and my center in a way I never expected

Yoga does not stand alone as a physical practice and I would rather not listen to Lady Gaga or even Portisehead while I am in practice. I would rather connect to the philosophical teachings and the motions and sounds of my breath because this makes me physically stronger

I am really bad at taking self portraits

"The path of yoga, as always, stresses direct experience over other forms of knowledge."
The Yoga Sutras

I still have no idea what I'm doing, this year or beyond, and I have not achieved total peace with this, but I have come through the first phase of my "sabbatical" year and it was an experience that moved me and challenged me in the best ways-- the ways, of course, I did not expect. Last night I roasted acorn squash and stuffed it with apples and walnuts and nutmeg so I am in Vermont and its Autumn and I'm trying to settle in to that for now.

So here is a final sunset on my Pennsylvania adventure. Can you see the deer in the field? They just stared at me.