Pieces of Life

Love Letters to Old Homes

home sweet home

It’s finally happening: by the end of this month, I’ll be in a new home. I’ll have packed up my cozy little one-bedroom, thrown out or given away old clothes, books and other possessions and carted everything to a new duplex closer to downtown.

It’s all very exciting, coinciding with big changes in my life: the shedding of an old home coincides with expansions of heart and soul and love, all that juicy good stuff. And at the same time: oy vey, so much overwhelming emotion at the same time! On the day I signed the lease, I remember feeling excited and happy. And then I got home, stood in my bedroom and suddenly my face got hot and pressured and I wanted to bawl like crazy. I hadn’t even moved out yet, and already I missed my old home so much. God, I’m such a Cancer, I thought to myself.

Astro-musings aside, I do feel a strong attachment to spaces, and when it come to major transitions like moving, I am a big-ass baby. The physical process drives me crazy, but it’s nothing compared to the emotional process underlying it. What puzzles people is that my current apartment isn’t amazing by any objective sense of the word — it would never end in Design Sponge or whatever decor porn floats your boat. There’s ugly carpeting, it’s old in a “non-vintage” way, and there are no bougie-charming details. It gets way too hot in the summer and for some.odd reason, only one window in each room opens.

And yet I loved it. I loved the light in the morning; after years of dark NYC apartments, I loved waking up to bright, even morning sunshine, which gave the apartment a nice glow even when it was cloudy out. It was small, but quick to warm or cool so it was actually pretty energy-efficient. It was in a convenient location, about five minutes from various family members. And closets! I had plenty of them!

But the love I bore for the place had very little to do with a list of features: it had to do with the way it made me feel, and the shell of warmth, safety and comfort it gave me to feel like myself fully. That’s the great gift of a home: it’s truly where you feel like you can be yourself, where you can embody yourself with the art on your walls, the books on your shelves, the food in your pantry. It’s where you dream and soothe and burrow and nourish and nurture.

home sweet home

Being a longtime New Yorker and accustomed to using a space as a crashpad, I had never felt this before…and now I’m so loathe to disturb and distress that. I never cared so much about the places I lived when I was in NYC, just as long as they weren’t expensive, were located in a convenient location and not far from a subway. I had my domestic “things” — I always made sure I loved my bed — but overall I knew my presence in a home was always going to be temporary and provisional. Now that I know how much energy and wholeness you draw from a home, sometimes I wonder how different my life would’ve been in NYC if I had had a true refuge and sanctuary to rest and regroup from my adventures — would I have made different decisions? Would I have fought harder to stay? I don’t know.

Of course I know my new place will feel lovely and wonderful once I invest time, love and energy; I know homemaking in the deepest sense of the word is a process that can only take place over time. Time gives the space for emotions, history and memories to invest a home with its emotional warmth and (hopefully) happiness. Until then, I can only feel a little sad and melancholy, feeling nostalgia and affection for a place I haven’t quite left yet.

home sweet home

“The bees are flying. They taste the spring.”


The title of this post is the last line in Sylvia Plath’s poem “Wintering.” It’s a rather dark poem, but the last line for me is always hopeful and optimistic — though, of course, it’s shadowed by Plath’s own biography and tragic end.

Still, let’s go with it. After a rather long, dark, dismal wintering, the hive of life is coming back to life. Around here the snow has finally melted in my driveway, and I can see…dirty concrete! After months of pure snow and ice, I’ll take what I can get. I finally got to drag out my pots of plants and mucked around, repotting and replanting, ready to see if my silly little gardening experiments turn out okay this time.

The days are longer, of course, and the sunlight itself seems stronger every day. The first relatively non-freezing day — a rather balmy 50 degrees Fahrenheit, whoo hoo! — I went for a walk by our local river, braving blustery winds that blew the hair elastic off of my French braid. Large broken-up sheets of ice floated on the river, which had little waves cresting because of the winds. Not a cloud in the sky, though, and everyone else on the path — hardcore runners, birdwatchers, others like me who just wanted to get outside for a bit — smiled and said hello at one another. I think we were all just happy to be out and about.

I’ve been riding more lately, trying to get back to the weekly schedule I had before. I worried I would lose whatever skill I’d built up painstakingly over the past year, but in a strange way, I feel more in control and powerful than ever. My seat feels secure, solid, like nothing can shake it. I can’t help but think that’s related to everything happening in my life earlier this year which can be summed up as just “AARGH TUMULT.” I take such real pleasure in the calm and focus of a good ride, as well as the unspoken yet deep-feeling connection with the horse I’m on. I’m looking forward to more rides in the spring. I’m thinking of going back to English riding, but I will be content just to canter lots and feel the wind in my hair.

Spots of optimism are popping up: new opportunities, new stories waiting to be told, new phrases waiting to be placed into poems, new spring dresses to be worn, new perfumes to try, new events to look forward to and new friends to make. I’ve temporarily started up NOGOODFORME again — time to freshen up a key part of my work portfolio — and it’s fun to use that serious-frivolity slumber party part of my brain again. There’s just a nice gush of creative energy happening in my life now, coinciding with a deepening of love and support. My novel is so close to being finished. Of course, that’s just the beginning of a whole other process, but it feels good to wrap up such a huge endeavor.

Yes, I’d say Sylvia had it right: “The bees are flying. They taste the spring.” I only wish she had stayed around to see the spring herself. But you and I are here, and I hope the new season unfurls for you in such a lovely, gentle way.


Winter Sunshine

20140308-102120.jpgLately I find it hard to wake up. My dreams are dense, deeply felt and vivid — I’ve been doing a little yoga before I sleep at night, just little videos I find on YouTube (LOVE YOU TARA STILES) and doing shoulderstands and plow poses to stretch out my neck and upper back. I haven’t done yoga on the regular since I lived in San Francisco, but working out those knots and kinks is really firing the synapses. They must be firing in my brain something fierce, because I wake up from my dreams feeling like I’ve lived a whole second life that’s pulling energy from my waking one.

Or maybe it’s because I’m in the middle of reading Eleanor Catton’s The Luminaries, and the baroque, sprawling, labyrinthine structure of the novels — where stories lay coiled within other stories, nested like Russian dolls — is kind of influencing my night-brain. I don’t know. I wake up and I feel walloped before the day’s even begun.

The days are getting longer, and the tumult of the past few months is smoothing out. I rediscovered my own “ways to beat the winter doldrums” post, and what do you know — the advice still holds. There’s a time in life to push yourself, to exceed your own self-defined boundaries — but there’s also a time to be kind and gentle to yourself. Now is one of those times, I guess. I mean, even if I wanted to push myself, outside there’s just piles of slush and snow, and it’s just a battle to get anywhere.

But I’m excited. I’m sitting now in a patch of sunshine coming through the window at the coffee shop where I’m writing. I kind of feel this itch in my fingers, and I’m just writing, and writing, and writing. The gift of going through tumult these days is that I realize now just how anchored I feel in everything basic: who I am, what I love, what I’m about. Not all of life’s mysteries have been illuminated, but the most central ones have. Not that I’m a static entity and I’m not married to the form and content, but if the self has a core — and I’m not entirely convinced as a Buddhist that it does — then my core is solid. It makes you realize that doing the hard work of sovereignty and self-reliance in the best senses of those words matters. Life is unpredictable, but you are always there.

I had more written here, but the crappy new WordPress iOS app somehow destroyed my previous draft, and the last 600 words of this post are somehow gone to whatever ether words go to when they disappear. The Island of Unexpressed Expressions? It doesn’t matter — those words and thoughts belong to the past. Some of those impressions remain: a smile from a handsome stranger, the sunset staining a horizon, the way my five-year-old nephew’s head emerged from the huge infinity scarf he tried on, grinning like Curious George. Right now a day lies ahead of me, waiting to be filled and savored. Have a beautiful weekend, everyone.

Sometimes Words Kind of Fail

Well, guys, so much for having a gentle, easy, peaceful year where I can savor and ever-so-thoughtfully and mindfully take in my experiences. I’ve drafted about five different entries to post in the past week and a half…and none of them quite work. They don’t speak to the truth of what’s going on in my life now, which is really just so much tumult. Work tumult, love tumult, health tumult: please, gods and spirits above, just keep my family out of it and I’ll be a grateful creature.

So I’ll just stick to minutiae now. I’ve taken to working at my kitchen table, so I can soak up the morning sunlight. The table is covered with books, a pot waiting to grow sunflowers, a lemon-and-mint candle. The shoe rack by my door is heaped with all the boots I own. I love my boots and coats, but I’ve been wearing them since November and I’m anxious to be wearing something new. I’m anxious for a new spring to start. In the mail I got a new American Apparel dress, and I have to admit, I’m excited to wear it in the spring and summer. It’s pretty hot.

There’s a college catalog within arm’s reach, and I have classes circled: a drawing class, a class on doing alterations, and a class on foraging in the wild for edible plants. I know I should be taking the classes on Javascript and other types of computer-y/Web-y things, but right now my heart wants things that feel concrete, that feel of paper and hands and honest labor. I want something new to learn, something where I’m a total beginner, unmoored yet excited by the open plain in front of me.

It looks really peaceful and quiet here, but the music is turned up super-loud. Music is kind of the subconscious of my life now, and I like anything with a super-heavy, slamming bottom end that makes the room rattle. Lots of old-school dub, still the Beyonce album (“Partition” on rotate, thanks), some crazy Juicy J song my sister sent me. I still got a riotous side to me. I guess it’s been pretty muted in the past few years, but I think it’s ready to come back out soon.

And writing. I’ve been pecking away at a novel since November, and it’s hitting that crucial last-quarter when the speed picks up and crashes towards the final resolution. I cheated on my novel and started a short story last weekend, and I’m about to finish it later tonight. In a way, I know there’s something right about everything happening, but it’s like some floodgate in me has been opened up and the imagination is gushing out.

You know, I do feel, strangely, that I’ve managed to hold onto my equanimity through everything happening — to find that still point in the turning world. Not to say that I don’t feel angry or sad or overwhelmed through it all, but underneath there’s a river of calm. A long time ago I realized what I loved most in my life, my purpose, and accepted within me the imperatives that I need in this lifetime to flourish and flower. Not much can unseat such things, which is why they are so worth discovering and accepting.