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.)


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


The Metrics Of Procrastination

oooOOH!  I get it.  To be a writer means to actually, like, you know, write.  Right?

Some friends have reached out lately making sure I’ve not been moose-trampled or otherwise met with unfortunate Down East ends.  Not to worry, I’m still breathing.  Labored, maybe, but like my chiropractor noticed when he was massaging my diaphragm last month – there’s deeper breaths to be taken, if I’d just looooosen the heck up.

So, I tried.  Formally.  The result?  Breathing exercises, my ass.  Who knew Dirgha Pranayama and Ujjayi would be so challenging?  Couldn’t I just run a 10K instead?   I’ll huff and puff my way ‘cross the finish line.  I promise.

It’s not called practice for nothing.  Yoga, writing, meditation.  Practice, practice, practice!  Argh.  Can’t it just once be about the destination?

Well, March-May was hard, seeing as my measure of springtime are those glorious, manicured days in New York City, but here its name is M-U-D, aka the longest damn ending to the snowiest winter EVER.  No sun, mostly in the forties, and relatively leafless until, pretty much, yesterday.  While the rest of the country is smouldering already, I’m still in long sleeves.  And a scarf.

I DID have a moment of spark, post-cleanse, when the muses started dancing.  It looked like this:

Bret Michaels
Look what the cat dragged in.

Yeah, kickstart my heart!

It’s not all for naught.  Many words have materialized on the pages of my memoir-in-progress and I’ve researched some communist (and capitalist) propaganda for my Soviet-era play that’s been rattling around in the pinball machine of my imagination, but clearly this blog’s been the white elephant.  (True. I’ve stubbed toes and peanut shells as evidence.)  Each passing day the ant hill morphs into sheer rockface.  Where did I leave those crampons?

Maybe someone snuck in and let the air out of my oxygen tank.

Which reminds me:
“A little bird told me that jumping is easy and the falling is fun, right up until you hit the sidewalk – shivering and stunned.” ~ Ani DiFranco

…like those little finches that fly into the floor-to-ceiling windows at my sister’s house, I’m comin’ to and shakin’ it off.

Then I was waylaid while overcome with Multi-Entrepreneurial Disorder – which, when infected, causes the patient to want to start myriad businesses and collaborative ventures – all under the delusion that she wants to actually work for a living, which I don’t.  What a rabbit hole THAT was.

So, the mania is ebbing and I got myself an $8/hr gig to see how the other 95% live. All in the name of fact-finding and experimentation.  Or… after the snow-pocalypse, then the mud-apalooza and months of solitary scribbling, I know if I don’t get out of this house and talk to other humans, live and in the flesh, I’m gonna commit harikari.

Yeah, the writer’s life. Be careful what you wish for…

Meanwhile, in a parallel universe ~ the writing’s fabulous!  Everything’s goin’ swimmingly!  I’m endlessly inspired and well-disciplined.  I’m churning out magnificent book after book and my publishers keep advancing me enough to buy that charming island with the tricked-out Cape in Penobscot Bay.  Oh, the life – just like Dr. Seuss predicted: all the places I’ll go!  As well, I just won the Booker Prize, and James Franco hired me for a consult.

Or maybe I should keep channeling my inner Bret Michaels and go find myself some groupies.  They say sex tames the….oh, never mind.


Another inertia-trouncing approach: Acknowledging A Year Of Triumphs

Sea Smoke & Mirrors

What do Mainers do when the thermometer starts to dip below zero?  They start rooting around the back of their closets for winter coats.

Or, like the couple at 9:30am this morning, they sip from steamy mugs on the porch of their Rockland harbor house, yes – outside, stocking up on Vitamin D and waving at bundled up passersby like me.

And so the hardy-soul anecdotes roll in, like sea smoke on these brisk and windy mornings out on Penobscot Bay.

I only saw the ocean for the first time at fourteen, so this foggy phenomenon remained unknown to me until now.  A late sea bloomer, I’ve come to adore  the water, sailing on it, swimming in it, and climbing up mountains to gaze back down on it, yet its mystery still remains.  I’ve ventured both to near and far off seas:  the Adriatic, Caribbean, South China… and there will be more, I’m sure, but I forget I live so close now I can contemplate the sea smoke and other vagaries of life from its shoreline daily.  Without fail, my breath intakes sharply as Route 1 veers down along inlets and coves while blue-green vistas open suddenly, generously, before my eyes.  Like a Buddhist goldfish, I am all presence and no memory each time, reverent and new.

This magical circumstance of hydrogen and hydrogen and oxygen, between floe and water, has me in its trance, and like a mirror it reflects back my own mysteries I realize I don’t need to solve anymore.  I think I prefer the hovering, an enigma balanced between earth and sky, of form and formlessness.

And until I earn a native’s wintry hardiness, I’ll keep buttoned up, and drink my coffee inside.

(photo courtesy of Elizabeth Henckel Poisson, Rocky Coast Ramblings)

Drag Racing In Vacationland

snow covered barn Maine winterSo THIS is Maine in the winter, huh?  I woke up earlier this week to find a few dents and scratches – overnight lows of -30F caused the kitchen pipes to freeze, internet service would be down for a few days, and I’ve (unknowingly) been driving around since November with no car insurance.  After four months of easy living, I was hip-checked by this sudden confluence of inconvenience.  At least I had heat, a stocked pantry, and my Blackberry.  But I’m a bastion of tying up loose ends, so what slipped?

Several years ago, I was driving north at night on the New York State Thruway, a notoriously speedy roadway, where the slow lane goes 75mph.  A friend was with me as we began to notice all the cars around us slow waaaay down, almost to a standstill, but there was nothing ahead to account for this bizarre occurrence.  I jammed my brakes and tried to find equilibrium, both of us worried and confused.  What the hell?  Suddenly, engines growled, tires squealed and several dozen cars sped off, as if at Watkins Glen, leaving me with white knuckles and a rapid pulse, as I tried to keep my car on the road amid the vehicular mayhem.

Later, as I reflected on the spontaneous drag race, a lesson crystallized:  how crucial it is to be ready when life unexpectedly speeds up.  Now, I’ve let up on the gas pedal for quite a while, with quitting my job and the recent move to Maine – a land where two pickups stop and chat across the double yellows – and I’ve developed a meandering pace: all carpe diem and proverbially rose-smelling.  But my insides have stirred lately.  I want more torque, more rev.  How can I ever get up to speed with my controls set at cruise?

What does this have to do with frozen pipes, you ask?  According to the Chinese system of energy alignment known as Feng Shui, when there’s a water leak in your house, there is a corresponding leak of money in your life.  I have experienced this, and believe it to be true.  I wonder then, if ice in the water lines is a sign of constipated financial flow?  And the lack of online access?  Plugged up information, perhaps?  And the unsubstantiated cancellation of (NY) auto insurance?  Maybe it’s time to consolidate my life, here.  A tune up is in order, so I get to work.  I spend a day going through piles of files, organizing, prioritizing, and eliminating what does not support my prosperous writing future (optimism counts, yes?).  I lay under the sink blowdrying the copper pipes until H2O gushes forth.  I turn in my NY Driver’s License and put Vacationland plates on my Toyota.

Afterwards I feel clear.  Detailed, waxed and gassed up.

I’m shifting into second gear now and already I’ve got some grip.  Income opportunities are coming my way.  I’ve taken on the role of Media Liaison at my local non-profit land trust.  I’m writing up my resume and pursuing a weekly column at a local paper.  My pulse is quickening and life is escalating, all with my hands firmly on the wheel.

Other than becoming officially a Mainer, nah, not too much going on here this week.  How ’bout you?

Life Is Not Measured By How Many Breaths We Take, But By The Moments That Take Our Breath Away

“Why do Americans love sunsets so much?” asked David, one of my university students back from when I taught English in China, a dozen years ago.

I furrowed my brow, tilted my head to the side and tried to understand exactly what he was asking because, really, who doesn’t enjoy the romance of a luminous skyline?

“Um, don’t you?” I responded.  “All those colors, the magnificence,  that moment when day ends and night begins.  Chinese people must like that, right?  They’re just so… so stunning.”

“The setting sun is part of regular life, there’s nothing…uh, special about it.  It happens every day.  It’s just normal.”

Einstein says, “There are two ways to live your life.  One is to live as if nothing was a miracle.  The other is to live as if everything is.”  Honestly, I can see the beauty and perfection in both perspectives.  I learned a lot from David and from my time working and traveling there.  Mostly how different we were from each other and surprisingly how alike.  I realized that many paths lead to the same place.

But as far as sunsets go, I guess I just like having my breath taken away.

Rockport Harbor, Maine

How do YOU measure life?

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