I Need A Latitude Adjustment

Alarm clocks are inhumane.  I’ve better ideas on how to be roused from dreamland, and they don’t include whirring or obnoxious bells and whistles that’re better suited to the arcade or some Monty Hall dealmaking.  Only an early morning flight to somewhere the tomatoes are luscious or the hot springs are bubbling warrants setting it.  I’ve long been perplexed why anyone would want to be jolted out of blissful slumber at all, much less for the sake of getting to a jay-oh-bee.  My body knows when it’s time to rise, even when I’ve abused it by going to bed in the starry wee hours, but I probably fell into bed with the ringing of the P*Funk All-Stars in my ears anyway.

Indeed, the body knows.  It knows when the moon’s glow is full again, when I need protein, when a 10-minute nap will revive me.  Often I can even tell time by the sun’s slant and shadow.  I guess I’m just keyed into natural cycles, and my geography: I’ve lived most of my life around the 40th parallel. But I’m wondering if this corporeal keenness is on the fritz lately.

fiddleheads It was only 6 weeks from seed to sprout – from deciding the most peaceful state in the union would harbor me for a spell to trading in my Brooklyn apartment for a four bedroom farmhouse on the midcoast – and it was there I found myself in March, unbundling from the snowiest, most glorious winter I can remember – but…something was off.  My internal guidance system’s controls were spinning and I couldn’t get my bearings.

spring lambs South Thomaston, MaineI’ve been totally kerfuffled by the Maine spring, what with global warming, the extension of Daylight Savings Time, and the fact that this was the longest transition from winter to summer ever.  At 4 weeks away from the longest day of the year, it was a balmy 48 degrees.  And today, 3 days from the solstice, I am scarf-free for the first time in 8 months.

It’s been tricky syncing up on the 44th: I cash out-of-state weather checks and they bounce.  The northeastern spring sauntered instead of sprung, and the sun rises a few degrees differently here.  Like a blindfolded child trying to pin the tail on a spring lamb, I fumbled around, grasping for signposts.

asparagus spring greenDo I pick fiddleheads, asparagus, and rhubarb or break out the sandals?  I’m used to sunny evenings happening later in the season, not in March when it’s still cold.  The cherry blossoms, forsythia and daffodils of late April are more familiar when they’re poking up through a last snow dusting and I’m not used to May nights that dip into the 30’s.  This June, I christened 2011 as the year of my Cashmere Spring.  Who knew that moving 400 miles north would result in such discombobulation?

So I pull that woolen cardigan tight and recalibrate my inner compass, scoping for environmental clues, seeking time’s relativity in the external: the groundhog who’s sniffing around the side yard, the sailors in Camden who raced to see who’d get their schooner in the harbor first, the riverside fields getting their brown winter coats burned off.

Once I equipped myself to navigate instinctually, it dawned that it’s not a monologue, it’s an intimate conversation.  That spring cleanse revealed both my body’s intelligence and its blind habits far more than what I knew existed.  I’m adjusting my interior thermostat these days, acclimating to Mother Nature’s seasonal stimuli and the ways we manipulate it to accommodate our modern busy-ness.

Now if I can only get those bustles out of my hedgerows.  (don’t be alarmed, it’s for the May Queen.)

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Another one of my change-of-season musings: Everything Is Illuminated

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Failing? Fabulously!

Selling Your Soul – that entrepreneurial shindig in NY this month whose scholarship I was anglin‘ for? I didn’t get it, but I’m not letting it stop me from building on my dream!  In fact, the 10 winners (The Hula Hooper is my fav!) were so inspiring that it’s sending me right back to my fire-starting desk to get even clearer on what I want and why I want it.  I must give thanks to Danielle Laporte and Marie Forleo for igniting my drive to create when I was merely smoldering – sometimes it’s not the ‘thing’ we’re pursuing that we really want, it’s the lessons we gather along the way.  I haven’t failed; I’m refining my focus and discovering my resilience.

Speaking of giving thanks, that oh-so-powerful fireball of gratitude is shooting through my hemisphere and I want to share some of my recent good fortune.  The more I dare, the more I am rewarded – it’s as simple as that.  Throw in some appreciation, and I’m unstoppable.  These past few weeks have seen my cuppeth overflow.

La Prairie Spa At The Ritz

Right before I left for NYC a few weeks ago, I found a gift certificate for La Prairie spa in the Ritz-Carlton given to me by a woman I helped a few years ago when I was working in the restaurant at the Museum of Modern Art.  Yay for me!  I look at the date: expired.  Boo for me.  I decide to call anyway, and ask if they’d accept it. (I still have a gift certificate for the Russian & Turkish Baths on 10th Street from ’96.  Note to friends – I promise to start using these more timely – hint, hint.)  Long story short, after explaining my situation to Linzee at La Prairie, she said they’d be happy to honor it – for ANY spa service I wished!  So I scheduled an hour and a half massage for the following week and tried not to feel like I was cheating on my regular massage therapist (who’s on break, pregnant with twins). I walk into the Ritz-Carlton, never touching a door (love those white gloved doormen!), and the next three hours are indulgent bliss:  Would you like a glass of Champagne?  Here’s your plush robe and slippers.  Strong hands, aromatic oils, custom music chosen from a 2-page menu, then a steam with cucumber slices for my eyes and a plethora of pampering to doll me up for the rest of the afternoon.  Ahhhhhh.  As I head back to reception to settle the gratuity, Linzee informs me that I’m “all taken care of,” that even the tip for my masseuse is included.  Nothing is more gratifying than being on the receiving end of such gracious and generous hospitality.  After years of working for Danny Meyer, I appreciate anew what he meant when he taught us – If you’re going to give, give graciously.  Everyone should have such good fortune to give this way, and to receive so, as well.

Another wonderful day I spent was with a dear friend who lives on the most glorious block in the city, 10th street between 5th & 6th, in a light-drenched apartment that’s beautifully and lovingly appointed.  She prepared a delicious vegetarian lunch for us that tasted of Italy and as we feasted, we caught each other up on our futures that are moving ever-so-gratefully towards us.  It fills me with happiness to see people I love turn towards their power, their voice, their truth.  As we emerge into our own best visions of ourselves, and leave behind the agendas of others, our unique beauty is unleashed.  To be witness to another’s hatching is wondrous and humbling.  (And I got some good puppy-lovin‘ in there, too.) There’s not much sweeter than a curled up animal on your lap to coax forth our gentleness, nor an environment of friendship and safety to acknowledge those softer, more vulnerable sides we keep hidden.  So much gratitude…

It’s where those soft places meet the fiery ones, where success meets failure, when we allow our strengths and weaknesses to inform each other and collaborate, that wholeness begins.  Sometimes I need that push to define my desires more clearly, that poke to unearth my shy tenderness…and sometimes I need to be reminded to both give and receive fully.  For all the clarity I pray for, I’m thankful each time it materializes.  That it appears in the form of failure is a surprise, but I’m embracing it.  Besides, some of the greats, like Einstein, Edison, and Churchill were both successes AND failures.  Not such bad company…

Success is the ability to go from one failure to another with no loss of enthusiasm. ~ W. Churchill

Many of life’s failures are people who did not realize how close they were to success when they gave up. ~ T.A. Edison

Elixir

Snowbound.            

Housebound.

Tired-of-these-four-walls-and-I-don’t-watch-TV-bound.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m loving the whole start a new life, follow my bliss, Bergdorf-to-Bean existence, but really now.  There’s only so much Thoreauian solitude a Brooklyn girl can take.  Where’s the spicy hand-pulled noodles with cumin lamb?  The millenia-old South Pacific sculptures? American Museum of Natural History, SculptureBeth Orton singing at the Bell House?  Oh, what I wouldn’t give to be pushed around by a sweaty hipster drinking overpriced PBR in Gowanus right now.  Hell, I’d even poach a shift at the podium.  (Blasphemy!)

Truth is, I miss people.  I’ve spent more than 5,000 days working in rooms brimming with gourmands, celebrities, friends, tourists, drunks, malcontents, striving artists, movers & shakers…and now all I have keeping me company are pesky squirrels scratching around the chimney and whatever four-legged nocturnal critters left these tracks last night.  It’s a bumpy transition for a social creature to make.  And it’s not even February yet.  What’s a scribe to do?

Animal Tracks in the SnowI knew going into this the whole rural writing life would be in sharp contrast to my life formerly known as a  globetrotting sophisticate… and I know that it was ME that broke up with New York, but criminy!  Zen’s only gonna get me so far; then the rum will have to take over.  And that won’t be pretty.

Phew.  I’m glad I got all that off my chest.

Because this morning, I threw a down vest over my flannel pjs, plunged outside, and was confronted by heavenly paradise ~ and all is right with the world once more.

Winter Sunrise in Maine

Finding I Ching In A Bowl Of A-L-P-H-A-B-E-T Soup

Read a poem.  Everyday and out loud.  Watch it blow your mind wide open, seeing an icicle or grief or a creeping, crawly insect for the first time.  Poems never fail to introduce, to transport.

In the mornings, on my way to the coffee pot, I pluck a book off the poetry shelf, flip the pages and randomly stop.  I read, aloud, revelling through the author’s imagination.  My day takes on a lyrical hue, balancing out my lists and paragraphs and the order I’m imposing in my daily routine.

What I’ve yet to do in this ritual is pen my own.  I used to.  Often and with passion.  I took classes at the New School in New York, crafting words from the recesses of my mind.  I dreamt of standing on stages and performing at poetry slams.  I went to readings and pined for particles of courage that I heard before me, but was too shy to overcome.

I found one of my poems today, probably written a decade and a half ago.  I restrained myself from updating it, choosing instead to share the words of a younger self.

Finding I Ching in a Bowl of Alphabet Soup

She throws her sticks and starts her day
to the gods she begs
for relief, for resolution
of her retreat from life.
vain preparations begin
vibram soles not gripping
the earth underfoot, skidding,
she lives in a melting ice age.
probing ancestor’s maps on shredded handmade paper
no floral gift-wrapped starter kit
for a lady-in-waiting.

The sky pitches a tantrum, wailing
its legs on the earth’s green carpet
screaming for her to understand.
does she miss the day?
burrowing into paperback romances,
into dirt analyses,
crawling the subterranean labyrinth,
lingering in line
for a license, a blood test, an endurance
test,
reading the myopic letters,
missing,
ignoring neon proclamations:
Now!
Here!
she glances down at tomorrow’s soup
at last, startled by the Ouija broth,
a message of what her life is not:
e-n-g-a-g-e-d.

Words By Anonymous, Jenny Holzer, And Sarah Palin

Construction Wall, NYC

I’d like to get to know a little about you, dear reader, so here’s my version of a Rorschach test:  What response does this picture elicit?  What’s more significant, the words or the format?  Is this graffiti or art?  Do you care who wrote it?

Portland Museum of Art, Jenny Holzer Exhibit, 2010

We now live in a world where remaining anonymous is easy – there are many outlets to express ourselves without revealing our identities. Do you demand an author take full responsibility for their words?  Are there instances,  perhaps in the comments section of the New York Times or some other online forum, when you don’t own up yourself?

And when we do sign our names, where do freedom of speech and personal responsibility intersect?  Can we place blame for how words and messages are interpreted?  We cannot deny the power of our voice.

What is truth and what is propaganda?  And who among us is innocent?

Poetry by Wisława Szymborska, Projection by Jenny Holzer, 2010, Portland Museum of Art

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