Thursday, November 11, 2010

The Burial of a Saint

Quite a while since I “Blogged”. I’m not one to Blog you to death- but the adventure continues in odd ways which may hold meaning for others along similar paths.
Back in Rhinebeck, the leaves are pretty much off the trees now. Daylight Savings had thrown us into early darkness, and everyone seems stunned, and mumbles about the winter solstice in December- and how we just have to make it until then. Hunh. This reminds me of the phrase “ I can make this work” – which always makes me wonder why something should be work when it could be…joy or at least neutral. I realize that the phrase doesn’t mean that the outcome will necessarily be less than satisfactory- but it still gives me pause.
9 a.m. and I feel like the sun is already setting. It is low and dull in the sky, but at least with the leaves down we get all there is of it. This is one of the lovely paradox of autumn and winter- less light-more light. The world opens up. Long vistas appear where a wall of green stood before. Nice.
This summer I bought a little statue of Saint Joseph to bury in my front yard. Apparently this helps a house to sell. Real estate around here is slow in these economic times. Friends on the southern side of town also have an old farmhouse on similar acreage for sale. They are both designer/architects, so you know what shape their house is in…compared to mine that is. They too have had lots of lookers, no nibbles- just like here. I’m in no hurry- and find myself settling in for the winter without too much complaint.
But back to St. Joseph. I bought the statue on-line somewhere, in August. It continued to sit on the shelf in the Adirondacks all fall, and now it sits on the kitchen counter here. I have said the requisite 9 days of prayer before burial…and still it sits on the counter…not underground. The prayer that accompanies him says- be careful what you wish for: it always works. Hmmm. I think I am just too tired of moving around to get an offer on the house right now. In fact, I took it off the market yesterday – will put it on again in April. It isn’t that I have changed my mind about moving; I haven’t. Flew out to San Francisco last weekend to see my daughters (one played Hamlet- on Alcatraz at the old prison!) and as we flew over southern Utah my face was glued to the window and my heart ached at the sight of the landscape below.
Here is what I know:
1. I don’t want to take care of the exterior of any more houses.
2. I don’t want to have to find someone with a tractor to mow the fields.
3. I want to be able to walk out the front door into a neighborhood.
4. I want to have the option of hearing live music at night.
5. I will still have my cottage as an east coast roost- so I should stop worrying about seeing old pals here.
6. I am unhappy about upcoming ice and sleet. I have already seen trees coated with ice on Monday up on Rt. 90. Not happy.
7. Even though I dreamed about skiing last night- I’d rather do it in Santa Fe, and be home in ½ an hour.
8. I could make Rhinebeck work.

There it is again. It dawned on me this summer that Rhinebeck is great! Terrific in fact- for all kinds of people. There is no reason to badmouth it (especially if I want to sell my house!). I wrestle with feeling spoiled that I just want a different something. Novelty. Another pair of black pants, a different blank book, a different set of towels, another tea kettle, a different ____________ and I ponder whether it all boils down to a feeling of “lack”. Pema Chodron talks about both fear and hope coming from a place of lack. Am I hoping for a new life? Am I afraid I’ll miss something that happens here? or miss a life that might happen there? Or is this a brave thing? an interesting thing? an adventure worth pursuing? and a longing for balance that seems to pull me there- as it has since I was 15.
I’ve been dragging myself over the coals for a year now- maybe longer. Soon the ground will be frozen, and the trees will bow with snow and ice, and another year will have passed. Am I just a coward? Is that it?
Did I just say the ground will soon be frozen? Wait- I have one last bit of gardening to do- a certain statue needs to be planted- head down, facing the street. I’ll take the plunge, cross my fingers and see what it all brings. I go back to Pema- whose husband once told her she was the bravest person he knew. “ME?” she said- “I’m afraid of everything!”
“Yes, but you do it anyway.”
Going to get the shovel.

Thursday, April 29, 2010

Shift in the wind

Remember at the beginning and end of Mary Poppins, the Captain in his crows nest down Cherry Tree Lane notes a shift in the wind…and knows some big change is in the works? Today, my last day here, the infamous spring winds came up in a serious way. We’ve had some windy days before…but not like this. You can’t see the mountains at all- in any direction. The whole city is masked in a red fuss. The car door nearly flew off its hinges when I went to run a last errand.

It’s been a very odd day. Since I was particularly efficient yesterday, most of the cleaning up and packing was done. I was at loose ends. Chantana arrived at 9 am to help me clean the place. Chantana- what a piece of work she is! From Thailand, and 45ish. She came in wearing high-top black sneakers, dark blue "distressed" tights, denim bloomers with a little ruffle at the edge, a long, black lacy shirt with a high ruffled collar, under a vest of some kind. I think there was yet another layer…. Kind of of Sassoon-ish hair. Totally great. Climbed right up on the kitchen counters and started in on the tops of the cabinets and light fixtures. I just let her have her way with the whole place- and kept out of her way! She came here from San Francisco 15 years ago to visit and never left. We have identical cars, she loves to hike, and according to Bobbie, my landlady, she is a fabulous Thai cook! Definitely someone to keep on my list of folks to call for an outing next time.

Chantana was gone by 12- and again I was adrift. Too difficult to hike or even hit the dog park til the wind settled down. I could have stood out side and got free micro-abrasion on my skin- but the house is now spotless and I’d have tracked sand in. So I just sat with impatience to leave, reluctance to leave, and just noticed the quality of those emotions. There was nothing to fix- didn’t want to distract myself really, so I just sat with it….until I got too bored and antsy, and found a copy of G.I. Jane with Demi Moore and watched that. Ha!

Late this afternoon when the wind finally settled down, Tooky and I walked the arroyo all the way up to the highway and back. The birds were out from under cover, celebrating the quiet evening with a lot of song. A big raven flew right down over my head, cawing at me. When I first got here- the ravens followed me for days when I walked out there. Made me nervous (Hitchcock) until someone reminded me that they are a symbol of change, or transformation. Today I was glad one came back to say goodbye.

Tomorrow night in Liberal (KS), then Independence (MO), then Terre Haute (IN) then to Oberlin (OH) to stay the night with friends. I e-mailed him to let him know when I was coming. Told him I liked the progression of Liberal, to Independence, to Higher Ground (Terre Haute). Asked him what Oberlin means??? He responded… “Shitting near the rose bush.”


Saturday, April 24, 2010

Scenes from the wild southwest

Took my pal Juliet up to Ghost Ranch and Abiquiu yesterday- stopped in here for some trout tacos- great- on the way over to Ojo Caliente- where we soaked in the hot springs while the wind whipped around. That's Ojo on the left. Little tan house is the soda spring, to the left of it - outdoors at the foot of the hill is the lithium spring, and to the right of the house- outside- is the iron spring-with the rock walls. My favorite is the arsenic spring- much hotter- OW hot- which is off behind me. This is the only spot in the world where those 4 minerals springs come out of the ground at the same place.
Juliet heads home tomorrow, and I get ready to begin getting myself ready for the drive East. Looking forward, actually, to 5-6 days of the hummmm of the road, and just quiet. A necessary transition I think from this world to that world. Next Saturday I'll be pulling into Terre Haute for the night. But tonight it is dinner at Jinja, then off to the Lensic Theater to hear Puerto Plata- a Cuban band of the Buena Vista Social Club caliber. Nice Saturday night in paradise!

Saturday, April 17, 2010

Many Buddhas

I guess the reason to have a Blog is to Blog…which I haven’t been doing. Today we have a grey day- the first rain I’ve felt (except for 17 big fat drops the other day that blessed me while I was pumping gas). Seems like a good day to write a little, since hiking would be soggy.

I’m in my final 2 weeks here in Santa Fe. The 30th my faithful dog and I will hit the road for “home”. Not quite sure where home is, anymore, though. There were many reasons for spending the winter out here. The first was to get out of New England’s ice and sub zero cold. Second was to have an adventure. Third was to see if I might want to move here. I escaped the harsh winter, had many adventures, and am, in fact, seriously pondering the move.

I am totally between worlds right now and trying just to be here, now, while I am here. Thank you, Ram Dass. I am one of those people who multitasks. Or pretends to. Neurology shows that when we “multi task” we are really just bouncing back and forth between different activities/thoughts: they are not happening simultaneously. It is actually much more efficient to stick with one thing at a time, as a lot of wasted energy spent is spent in transit, so to speak. Try convincing any mother of small children of this…good luck. When I catch myself figuring out how to pack a particular clock, worrying if friends will visit, or imagining the negotiations with buyers for my house (which isn’t even on the market yet), the Buddha I wear around my neck gets to chuckling. I hear him, but boy is it difficult to let it all go. Sometimes I feel like I am being irresponsible if I haven’t covered every possible problem before it happens. And come up with a solution.

Luckily, I have a couple of ‘reverse-Buddhas’ in my life. You know the type- the well-meaning friend who will ask “But what if your son gets hit by a car??? Can you get there in time???” or ‘Aren’t you afraid of plague? I hear fleas out there carry it!” And the truly subversive one… “Gee, it’s so expensive to travel, I probably won’t get to see you much….” These questions (some of which I ask myself) bring out the healthy side of me, thank goodness. Some questions I do need to cover; Can I get to family and friends in a reasonable amount of time? Is Santa Fe a community that will support me in many ways? The rest can wait. My job is to put one foot in front of the other, and be present with all of it- my emotions, fears, hopes, responsibilities- all of it. There’s a lot I haven’t figured out yet. I don’t need to.

There’s this man- Swami Satchidananda- who founded Integral Yoga. He says “You will never find everlasting peace: you already have it, if you just stop disturbing it.” I love that. I think of all the plague, looming death, potential loneliness, etc. that I could surround myself with, and I think I’ll choose not to!
The sun just poked out, and my new friend Bobbie called to see if I wanted to go out for lunch and then hear some Cuban music at the Museum of Folk Art. And my friend Juliet is coming to visit this week. AND I haven't seen a flea yet.

I rest my case.

Saturday, February 27, 2010

Snow and Community

We had a pile of snow early in the week, and right now the poor East coast is getting pounded. Friends write and call to say their homes are without heat or electricity, sometimes water as well. My great friend Juliet was supposed to fly out here for a visit on Wednesday- cancelled. Disappointing.

My pal Laurie reminded me of the April 1st storm many years ago- about 16 years I think- when we all lost power for a week or more. My then-husband and I heated with wood, and had a gas stove- so Laurie’s family moved in with us. My husband went into NYC for most of the week, as his mother was in the hospital, and he deposited his 90 year old aunt with us, as she was a bit forgetful, and leaving her alone at the shared apartment wasn’t a good idea.

Both Laurie and I, her husband, and all 4 kids remember the week with a big smile. We put 6 garbage cans with big garbage bag liners on the deck, and the kids daily job was to fill them with snow. Laurie’s husband’s new identity was Vlad, the water bearer. His job was to take grey water from the cans (it was above freezing) and bring it in to the toilets for flushing. We all had our jobs, and our little community thrived. Even Aunt Rosie, with her inch thick glasses, had a job; to ask in her thick New York Jewish accent “So when do ya think they’ll turn the power back on?” every half hour or so. The kids could play outside for hours, as it was in the high 40’s. No TV : Legos. Charades. We were very happy in our little cocoon.

After about 6 days, Poughkeepsie, to the south of us, had power. Laurie called a big motel and got us a room for the day, and a dozen extra towels. We hauled everyone down there, including Rosie, and we scrubbed the boys clean, then the girls, then Rosie got a turn, then the 3 parents. The TV entertained the clan with I love Lucy and other benign shows. Clean and refreshed, we had a meal out and returned to the commune.

When the power was restored, there was a not so secret desire to pretend it WASN’T. Maybe it’ll go off again! We were warm, happy, clean-ish , but the real world beckoned. Refrigerators and freezers of rotting food needed to be cleaned out, school was back in session, and work called. None of us can remember anything remotely terrible about that adventure.

I hope my friends back East find some fun in the snow- although Juliet and I are feeling thwarted and disappointed.

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

I’m getting in the groove.

I’m getting in the groove.

Growing up a Yankee in New England, I think there must have been an unspoken understanding that life was tough, you don’t usually get what you want (at least don’t count on it) and so you should just clench your teeth and push on. Conversely- life actually was pretty good, compared to what 95% of the world’s population suffer. So in comes the guilt when life is good.
However….I don’t think there’s a person here in Santa Fe who feels that way. Every person I have talked to so far is a transplant: no one grew up here. Every one of them chose to be here because they love it; the lifestyle, the pace, the landscape, the food, the arts, the music, the culture, the friendliness- and the great mix of people. No one has said this is just where they ended up- so they make the best of it. I do know people who visit and are glad to go home. The vast space, the dramatic contrast of desert and mountains, the muted but rich color, and the seemingly scrappy foliage are too severe for many. The horizon might be over a hundred miles away. You’ll see a snow squall to the north, blue sky to the south, and a rainbow in the east. All at the same time. Nothing cozy about this state. Unless, of course, your heart and soul just fill up and warm everything around you. I have yet to see any evidence of Botox or cosmetic surgery. Dressing up means clean jeans, pointier boots, and some fun jewelry. Everyone seems to be content with things just as they are- the whole range. Besides, the sun will be out tomorrow, the mountains are beautiful, and there are many good hiking trails right there….
So this girl is getting her groove on! All the things I love to do are right here, and when I don’t feel like ‘doing’, it is a spectacular place to just breathe and look around.

I finally called one of the people on my “to call” list. This woman was brought out here after a messy divorce by some friends of mine, who had planned a trip to Santa Fe. After the vacation- my friends went home- and she stayed. Still here 30 years later.

Am I lonely- not knowing much of anyone here? Nope. I like my own company, but I know I can get kind of hermit-y. So I am cultivating a new m.o.- bolder, friendlier, more outgoing. I found a great yoga center and go 3 times a week. I found a great wool/knitting shop, started a sweater, and go to the knitting group on Sunday afternoons. One day last week, I went in to buy some stitch holders and got into a really nice conversation with the woman who was manning the store that day. I boldly handed her my card and said “If you’re ever up for a cup of tea- give me a call”. She looked at my card and said…”My sister used to live next to a poet…Chase Twichell.” My sister.
That same night, I went to see the Ballet Trockadero, and was chatting with the couple on one side of me during intermission. We decided to exchange phone numbers, and the wife looked at my card and said ”Are you any relation to David and Smoke Twichell?” My aunt and uncle. I mean- come on!

Monday, February 8, 2010

Sliding to a stop!

Landing and sliding to a stop.

In Oklahoma we stopped at the Cowpoke CafĂ©- a tiny diner in the middle of nowhere, just off Interstate 40. It was the only building within view…and out there the “view” covers a lot of territory- hundreds of miles. A wiry waitress made us a fresh pot of coffee, and while we waited, we spent five bucks in one of those machines that delivers a little plastic toy- and never the one you want. The contents of this machine were a variety of “Trailer Park” people- the fat guy in the Barca lounger with a remote in his hand, a boy with a banjo, a teenage girl pumping gas (the prize we didn’t get), a scrappy man with a mullet, and a wiry waitress with an apron, among others.
“My daughter says that’s me NOW, and the fat lady with the broom is me in 10 years! HA!” our waitress said with a cigarette-y laugh. “NEVER!” we said, laughing with her. She loved the little people too. My friend Bill Georgenes is an artist, here in Santa Fe, and creates these incredible wall hangings that look like little Hindu shrines. He takes all kinds of small found objects, wire, fake flowers, plastic soldiers, animals, superheroes, dinosaurs, etc. and makes these intricate 3D constructions with them- then spray paints them gold, or silver. They are roughly 12”x12” but are also a foot deep. He will love these little guys.
Cary and I get our coffee and head back out on the road with a big thank you to the waitress for the fresh java, and we head west. About 2 hours east of Amarillo we pull into a motel, where the dog stretches every muscle in his body, in all directions, and examines our quarters for the night. So far every “pet approved” room we’ve had has been clean, odor free, and with the exception of one bedspread covered in white dog hair, very nice. Traveling with a dog has improved in this country. It’s been a long day with over 7 hours on the road so we feed the hound, and kick back to watch the evening news and the weather forecast. Ahhhhh…the weather forecast. Cary and I look at each other. Apparently, at the New Mexico/Texas border the incoming blizzard will turn to freezing rain and ice. We compare notes: in 4 hours we could be at the border…getting stuck in Texas/Oklahoma means we’ll be stuck here for days and days. So we check out, pack up the car, and the dog dolefully climbs back in. Westward ho! Around 11 pm we pull into what turns out to be our home away from home for the next few days: The Quality Inn of Tucumcari, New Mexico. 3 Hours from Santa Fe.
By dawn the snow is flying sideways and the Interstate is a total mess. Along with a dozed Fed Ex drivers who’ve parked their big rigs out back, a young army family with a 10 day old baby, and an odd assortment of other travelers, we settle in for the wait. Luckily the motel has a restaurant and bar, and one snow shovel. Only about 3 employees and the cook make it to work- so everyone pitches in. It’s kind of like Gilligan’s Island! Everyone gives up trying to figure out when to leave, because now the Interstate is closed in both directions. A motel employee shovels the front steps, one shovel width wide, and out 2’ from the bottom step. After that it is a complete white out: Siberia. Hilarious!
There’s heat, food, WiFi, a bar, and a lot of fun people. There are 2 decks of cards that we know about…and there’s always charades…..