Thursday, April 16, 2015

A Stone for Pause



In one year, I will be thirty years old. In less than two months, I will be a wife. These impending milestones have me looking toward the future with a reverence, a kind of cautious awe.

Because becoming a woman, I am finding, is a complicated thing. My twenties turned out to be more turbulent than I could have imagined, a kind of swirling ship wreck I never could have seen coming. I entered my twenties with a brightness and a burning optimism that I didn't realize were dangerous. Until my mid-twenties, I lived like a fiery star, a fucking supernova, a child vibrating with potential genius, without future aim. I should have seen how fragile I was. I should have known that supernovas are bound to burst. But how could I have known, really? How could I have predicted my own plummet from space to salt water? What child knows she can fall so hard?

Thank god for strong hands and fierce love. These are the things that saved me from the fall. I am smaller now, and I hope more solid. In any case, I feel my identity shifting.

When I picture my thirty-year-old self, I imagine her to be poised and confident, a calm collection of pastels and neutrals and sunlight. I imagine her sitting next to open windows with her hair swept up, with her hands full of books and her heart beating quiet, quiet. At least, this is the woman I hope to be. This is the woman I am working toward. I am curious about her. I wonder if she and I can be the same.

What I know is this: I am learning to be gentler with myself. I am learning to forgive myself for the things I have broken. I am counting the things I have learned and keeping them like smooth stones in a jar. A stone for pause. A stone for remembrance. A stone for imperfection.

Friday, September 5, 2014

A House, A Home, A Chair



The teal chair cost me five dollars. A couple of college girls in a small, third floor apartment were selling it on craigslist, and when I saw it, I knew I had to have it. It was huge: about as long as it was deep, and about as deep as it was tall. Its wide arms were flat, perfect for a stack of books, like a table-chair hybrid. The fabric was horrible and torn, but that could be fixed eventually. The chair had good bones, and I wanted it.

As I handed over my five dollar bill, I realized--I didn't know how to get it home. Eli and I had brought his parents' hatchback to help in the move, but it hardly seemed sufficient to hold the beast in front of us. It took three of us to maneuver the blessed thing down the stairs, a great, hulking cube of upholstery and wood. If possible, it looked even bigger when we got it on the sidewalk. Ever the optimist, Eli wedged the chair halfway into the back of his car and we set off. I clung onto it from the back seat, as if my small hands were going to stop it from tumbling from the trunk and into the street behind us. Thankfully, my strength wasn't tested, and with only two more flights of stairs and minimal cursing, it found a home in my own tiny apartment.

I hadn't remembered any of that--the buying, the moving--until a few weeks ago, when I asked Eli to help me move the chair out of the basement and into my art room on the second floor. We've been in our house for a little over a year now, and all that time, the teal chair has been waiting for me to find the right spot for it. This time there was a lot more cursing, and I'm sure I said "This was a terrible mistake" about ten times per stairwell.

But now here it sits in my art room, the perfect perch for a shy, sleepy kitty in front of a sunny, open window. It's still teal, and torn, and will probably take a little more time to air out its musty basement smell, but it's perfect. Perfect for reading and daydreaming and sketching. I have dreams of reupholstering it someday, when ambitions and endorphins and delusions of grandeur are high. Until then, it's a happy reminder of where I've been, and where I'm going.

Because corner by corner, our things are finding their place in our house. The books are settling onto the bookshelves, and a newly adopted cat (who won't sit on the couch) has found a favorite spot in a teal chair. We are remembering a few dreams we put on hold, and believing we can work toward them again.

Saturday, February 8, 2014

Take My Waking Slow

I wake to sleep, and take my waking slow.  
I feel my fate in what I cannot fear.  
I learn by going where I have to go. 
                                       --Theodore Roethke, "The Waking"
I've been having a lot of trouble sleeping lately. For various reasons, I find myself waking in the early morning and staring into the darkness for hours before my alarm sounds and sends me off to work. Lately, I've been trying to embrace it rather than fight it. And a few mornings ago, these words by Theodore Roethke tiptoed into my mind like a mantra.

"The Waking" is a villanelle. It's a difficult poetic form to use skillfully, and I'm not usually drawn to poems that stick to a strict rhyming pattern. But this stanza has stuck with me since college, enough to appear in the half-light of my early morning musings. While scholars will say that the poem is about the interaction of life and death, it most reminds me of the power of cycles, of steady growth and a connection to the earth. Even more than that, I feel the importance of the calm discovery (and acceptance) of personal purpose.

And therein lies my problem as of late: I've been on a search for personal purpose, but my search has been frantic and forced. I have been making choices with a desperate need for control, which has only led me to anxiety and chaos. I learn by going where I have to go, Roethke says, and it reminds me to learn from the journey, instead of always trying to dictate my next steps. I have time. I can wake slowly. I can go where I have to go.

I used to believe very strongly in fate, in the idea of things happening for a reason. I let go of that for a while, but I think it's time to return to middle ground. I still believe I have choices, but I think I need to start letting those choices breathe--instead of always watching for the moment that will prove I made the wrong decision. I learn by going where I have to go.

I am finally starting to listen to my inner rhythm, and understand what I need in my professional life to achieve the balance I crave in my personal life. It's about listening to my body and nurturing my mind, and letting go of the things I can't control.

I wake to sleep, and take my waking slow. Roethke reminds me to take it easy--that even when I wake, I will return to sleep before long, and in the mean time, I should move slowly and deliberately. I feel my fate in what I cannot fear. It is easy to be afraid of the future, but if I want to move forward, I cannot fear it. If I "wake slowly," if I embrace the path I'm on and loosen my grip on its direction, I just may be able to find the inner rhythm I've been looking for.

And maybe then, I'll remember how to sleep.

Wednesday, November 6, 2013

November: Small Things




I started a series called "Small Things" and then quickly dropped it, because moving and stuff. But I'd like to start it back up. So, without further ado:

30 Small Things to do in November

  1. Go for one of those twilight walks around the new neighborhood.
  2. Weed the front yard.
  3. Read 2 books.
  4. Paint a little watercolor with your spiffy new brush.
  5. Watch Funny Face.
  6. Have a house warming party.
  7. Do something in the art room. Anything.
  8. Make some chicken noodle soup.
  9. Light a candle. Or two.
10. Watch Saturday Morning Cartoons.
11. Pancakes. Make them. Have them.
12. Stay in bed until noon.
13. Print some photos--real ones, on paper.
14. Borrow a drill.
15. Use the drill to finish that project in the kitchen. Yes, that one.
16. Have an Irish coffee when you're finished.
17. Go down to Penn Mac and buy some really good cheese. Ask for samples first, of course.
18. Have a dance party in the living room.
19. Have some friends over for brunch. Include #11.
20. Learn how to up-do your hair.
21. Buy a new pair of boots.
22. Frame that art you've been meaning to frame.
23. Read a book of poetry.
24. Jump in a pile of leaves.
25. Copy some recipes into your binder.
26. Pick up the knitting again?
27. Drink all the apple cider.
28. Smile every morning.
29. Don't be so worried.
30. Play it again. Just one more time.

Photo: Plants from the Boothbay Botanical Gardens in Boothbay, Maine.