Sunday, February 26, 2012

inspiration finds us when we need it

For some reason I've been drifting around in a bit of a funk since I got back to my home life on Wednesday. I guess, and maybe I articulated this before, I felt an absence of something when I arrived back home. It was an absence that I wasn't aware of when I left, but seemed almost blindingly clear upon my return.

And I've found that even with many moments of true joy this weekend:

one of the best films I've seen in a long time, a friend's sleepy dog, a dinner party, an engaging read, a walk with sunlight

I've still found it hard to shake. Maybe that's to be expected - that there are times in life when we feel like we are just sloshing through muddy waters, not quite sure why. We're desperately trying to find the place we know exists, the place where the waters run clear and with it comes our own clarity. (I am suddenly transported to a ship deck, I am 15 years and many months old, and I looking out at Maine and the ocean surrounding, and my friend is reading me this poem and it seems so sad and so happy and so everything true and I know I will come back to this moment many, many times in my life.)

But back to today: Twenty-eight years of age and sometimes so certain of the path I am on, sometimes not. In the midst of a not, I think about whether this is just another version of the struggle I often face: the struggle of a young, single woman who feels strong because of her independence, but at times comes to rely on that identity in ways that weaken her. I often find myself pushing away from places of vulnerability and tension, places that are vulnerable because they prove I have the same needs and desires of my peers who are a little further along than I am. Kind of. I'm thinking I'm on the verge of needing to redefine a little about what it means to me to be a single woman because that's not exactly how I feel...

Strangely, as I myself got distracted from this wondering and rant, I went to etsy and saw this on the homepage, almost as a wink wink from the universe:

Be strong, yes, but at the expense of what? I am realizing that at times I've put preserving my strength (or the appearance of it) at the expense of taking a risk that could have big payoffs (and, of course by its very nature, be extremely risky). So now I am seeking strength that admits the times it feels lonesome AND the times it feels empowered. It's not all or nothing, it's both and everything. I created this project, as I tried to articulate in the beginning, as a way to address the needs I feel that aren't being met. As a way to push myself and push through myself into places that are scary or uncomfortable or new (or all of the above).

But maybe I'm also realizing I created this project as a way to be honest with myself about the parts of myself that already are fine but that I've convinced myself are warped. This sense of myself as a single woman in a sea of couples has the ability to bring me way down. I think, strangely enough, it brings me down partly because I know that I actually kind of love being single. And I'm afraid people find that weird. Why can't I just embrace being a....what do I call myself? What is this state of being I live within? Is there a better way to talk about being a single person who is totally fine being such, while also not being opposed to the possibility of a healthy partnership?

And then a friend sent me this: go ahead, I dare you to click.

It felt so timely:

Quirkyalone stands in opposition to saccharine, archaic notions of romantic love. It stands for self-respect, independent spirit, creativity, true love, and confidence...Out of that community comes a new social category beyond single, coupled, married or divorced. In the future, when you check quirkyalone on your W-2 form, you will be indicating that you are able to live a fulfilling, rich life whether you are coupled up or not.
This year I am trying not to do anything that feels like a "supposed to be," in my romantic life and beyond. This group of people seems to resonate with this part of myself that is coming to the surface, struggling for air, shouting: "The only life I'm living is the one I am inspired to live! I will do nothing just for the sake of being like the others! But I will do everything with the intention of being honest with myself about what I need to have a fulfilling life, with myself and with others!" 

A quirkyalone is a person who enjoys being single (but is not opposed to being in a relationship) and prefers being single to dating for the sake of dating. Quirkyalone is not anti-love. It is pro-love. It is not anti-dating. It is anti-compulsory dating. A quirkyalone can be a man or a woman, gay or straight, teenage or elderly. It’s a mindset that you can come out of the womb with or discover later in life.

Saturday, February 25, 2012

disregard that it's no longer morning

A Morning Offering
by John O'Donohue

I bless the night that nourished my heart
To set the ghosts of longing free
Into the flow and figure of dream
That went to harvest from the dark
Bread for the hunger no one sees.

All that is eternal in me
Welcome the wonder of this day,
The field of brightness it creates
Offering time for each thing
To arise and illuminate.

I place on the altar of dawn:
The quiet loyalty of breath,
The tent of thought where I shelter,
Wave of desire I am shore to
And all beauty drawn to the eye.

May my mind come alive today
To the invisible geography
That invites me to new frontiers,
To break the dead shell of yesterdays,
To risk being disturbed and changed.

May I have the courage today
To live the life that I would love,
To postpone my dream no longer
But do at last what I came here for
And waste my heart on fear no more.

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

you can't go home again

Apologies for the long hiatus. I have been attending to a certain special nephew:

He's precious, truly the sweetest little man I know, and I feel lucky to have had the chance to disconnect from my regular life for five days and just focus on his new life. To say that being around a baby fills you with a sense of wonder at the world doesn't even start to explain it. You really get to see things through their eyes, and because most every experience is a new one for them, you get to remember what that feels like. Suffice it to say that every cliche thing I could say right now is begging to be said, but I'll spare you.

Now I'm back in my small, blue house feeling many conflicting emotions about "being back." Going home gets increasingly more strange the older I get. Talk about seeing things with "new eyes"! I am not sure I've ever fully acknowledged how charming my hometown it is. Almost all the homes are beautiful brick structures.  Sturdy, classic architecture fills the town. Driving through town is almost serene, definitely relaxed and easy.  I could never see myself living there as an adult, but I am now struck by what a charmed childhood I led. Biking around the neighborhood with my little gang of other children; playing kick-the-can and hide-n-go-seek; catching fireflies in the summer with my bff down the block. I may have grown up in a suburb, but when I think back on my childhood I realize how much I was a "free-range kid." I had the freedom to explore and dream and flourish.

I think I really realized this even more when talking with Colten's mom (my future sister-in-law) about places they could raise Colten. My brother and Nicole don't want to stay in Arizona or have him go through school there, but they are having a difficult time deciding what place would have the community they desire. The community they desire, I realize, is a lot of what I experienced growing up.They want to be friends with their neighbors (like we did), and feel safe letting Colten take off on his bicycle down the block (like I did). They want good schools that they can walk to (yup, I did that too) and activities that are family-centered (I just think on all the days I spent at the park or the pool or the rink or the...) They want so many things that make the place you live your home and not just some place on a map that you belong to. I hope they can find a community and town like the one I grew up in. I hope it still exists.

So now I return to the home I've created, which is quite a different thing than the home you are born into. And, I admit, whenever I return I can't help but question if I've chosen well. I returned feeling a little lonely, aware my community has changed a lot in the last few years and that I was longing for something I wasn't finding on my return, but that wasn't so easy to put into simple terms.

It's something to think about. It's something perhaps to inspire a few goodbyes, a few hellos. In my way of speaking: there are more robes yet to be unearthed and, perhaps, replaced.

Thursday, February 16, 2012

gratin of my heart

First of all, many of my pictures this week have centered around food. Tonight's for instance:

This captures the start to an excellent, hearty, warm creation from one of my most beloved food blogs, Smitten Kitchen. I had a potluck tonight with my kickball/broomball team, and the sweet-potato-chard-gratin disappeared quickly. I'm a little sad I didn't get leftovers out of this, but it's a cook's dream to watch their food be gobbled down...and then to watch their housemate literally lick the pan. Yes, it's that good.

I will have more to write on besides what food I am devouring these days, but it's been a busy few days and I only just kicked the cold that arrived last week, so I have been prioritizing sleeping over writing. To be continued...

Saturday, February 11, 2012

it's so hard to say goodbye

Truth be told, I didn't go through with my new robe purchase yet. Ack, I know what you must be thinking, I know this doesn't bode well for the heart of this project. But, in my defense, I got to reading reviews of the robe I had in mind, and it felt like a lot of negativity was surrounding a robe that, with shipping, would come to almost $100. Which felt like a hell of a lot of cash for something subpar.  So I have stalled on this simple task, though I have continued to hunt and hunt for my non-ugly robe.

Let me tell you, this is no easy feat!

This first option I found seems a little ridiculous. I mean, do I really need a robe nicer than some of my dresses?

If you have a high-fashion function in the near future, this robe might be perfect

That is not a robe! That is a very cute wrap dress! All it needs is a smart pair of shoes and proper accessories.

Then I found a robe that is on sale for $150 (on sale for $150!!) that just fills my head with questions:

If you prefer sheer robes, check it out here

Of course, the only actually important question is: how is this better than being naked?

Next, on a whim, I decided to do a search at a store I don't frequent, entirely out of curiosity I swear!! First of all, take a look at the page dedicated to robes: oh my.  I am particularly frightened by what I will now only think of as "satan-eyes robe":

If you want to do a seance this might be the robe for you

But if the final robe I found had been available in the traditional flannel pattern, rather than just "Alpine Trees," we may have had a winner:

You too could wear a robe outside, by clicking here
Which is to admit that my best option thus far is to embrace my inner masculinity...on a seashore...with a dreamy look in my eyes.

So the search continues...

Thursday, February 9, 2012

the life of a house

I've always had an abnormal relationship with inanimate objects, and a way of extending communication to those things that aren't normally communicated with.  I've had moments on mountaintops when a whisper of breeze through the trees seems to speak perfectly to the exact thoughts running through my head.  I've sang to bulbs and seeds and sprouts that grew into sustenance and never seemed to mind my chatter.  I've looked into a farm dog's eyes and known for certain he was thinking what I was thinking. And, for the last 2 and a half years, I've walked into my old, blue house nearly every day and said - sometimes out loud, sometimes internally - hello.

In two and a half years (nearly three) I've gotten to know this house pretty well.  Which is to say: well enough that I am not as surprised when this house completely surprises me. Like when I am sitting in the chair I always sit in at the time I always find myself sitting, and I look up and think I've never noticed the paint had undertones of gold at this time of day. Or any other thought that speaks more largely to the ways the places we inhabit can still continually amaze us.

And today is one of those days. I'm home sick and have been pretty much confined to my bedroom and not moving much from under the warmth of my comforter. Yet, all around me I have heard my house speaking. I've listened as the world around is making noise and my house, yes my house, seems to respond. Just a moment ago I heard a rather robust groan come from the depths of my house and I thought Ole Blue, I am yet to fully know you.  I've sensed since I moved in that this house has a life of it's own, with layers and layers of human lives it has held and stories it has known that I can only guess at, but today was the first time I really experienced the life it has outside of its inhabitants.

I realized that most weekdays from 8 am to 6 pm, I am out in the world and my house is sitting on this piece of land living its own life. Throughout that ten-hour block of time much changes in the life of my house, things I don't even know because I'm not usually here witnessing them unfold all around me. Had I not puttered down to the kitchen to make a bowl of soup, I wouldn't have known the way the light changes my house at 2pm on a Thursday. Or the way my house changes the light.

It's had 101 years to make a life for itself. I should have guessed it would have dimensions I would come to know slowly, some only by chance.

Monday, February 6, 2012

early february inspirations


feb 6

The moon tonight is gorgeous. If not for the near nose-dive I took on a patch of ice that just won't melt (despite unseasonably warm weather), my first gaze would have been perfect. I think the weight of my grocery bag is all that kept me upright. Thank you pumpkin quesadilla supplies for being just the right weight! After dropping off my ingredients on my back porch, I went and snapped february 6th's photo. An iphone really doesn't capture the beauty of this night, but it at least reminds me of it.

In honor of getting my butt kicked at the circuit class I took at the gym (too many planks, too many...) and being so physically exhausted, typing feels like exercise, I am going to keep this entry simple.

A few things inspiring me these days:

Those who have known real love, and can articulate it.
The mood this tiny artwork evokes.
A home/craft project I could possibly achieve, that also involves the much beloved mason jars.
Speaking of jars.
This house (and that garden space!)
Lists that are far from ordinary and speak to a life well-lived.
The challah recipe I will learn how to make challah with.
Everything this lady likes.
A poem before head hits pillow.

Saturday, February 4, 2012

february: in postcards and pictures

February is about doing.

It's about putting into action some of those little thoughts that just pop into your head, nag at your being, and linger by your side.

It's about saying "yes" to the silly ideas and the mad dreams. It's about not listening to the rude voice that thinks it's being logical and says, "That can't be done."

So I'm starting small yes, but a few things have been ticked off my list that relate specifically to this goodbye ugly robe way of being. (By the way, I am being a bit self-indulgent and humorous when I use this term, as if this is a mantra worth branding. Ha!)

1) I've reached out to two three "experts" in their fields and asked if they would teach me their craft. I got enthusiastic responses from the majority. Soon I will schedule and document the results.

2) I've resolved to take a photo a day, on my phone, not with the idea of being particularly artistic (these are phone photos after all) but with the desire to be intentional about the moments I want to remember. Maybe in the future these will be both nice to look at and intentional. First three:


 3) I've decided to send a postcard a day during the month of February. I'm excited because for the first three days of February, I've just found random postcards around my house, in drawers, tucked into a book...but I'm going out for some thoughtful postcard hunting today, with specific individuals in mind.

The postcard idea just popped into my head on the 1st of February, and then a blog entry I read while settling into work solidified it. Apparently there is this mysterious group called The Postcard Underground that sends notes of congratulations or overall good wishes for the receiver. I liked this spin on things, so I decided my postcards would be more specific notes of gratitude and love for the person receiving them. It's been really exciting to think of who I want to write and imagine the surprise when they get a postcard out of the blue from someone either across the street or across the world who just wants to say you're pretty fantastic, you know that?

The rest of these photos and postcards will be revealed throughout the month OR in one grand display at the very end. We'll just have to see how February shakes out.