Every year at the end of August a temporary city pops up on the alkaline sand in the middle of Nevada's Black Rock Desert. Folks trek across the country, some from other corners of the world, to participate in its creation. The population numbers vary, but in recent years it's been in the range of 48,000 - 60,000. With planned infrastructure and unplanned whimsy, this is not so much a festival as an alternate reality. The weather is harsh. The stars are brilliant. Time of day is measured by the sun and moon. Time of week is marked by large installation artworks being set on fire.
Back in my East Coast days I'd sometimes hear mention of Burning Man. Maybe the word's spread, maybe it's the advent of Facebook, or maybe it's just because I live on the West Coast now, but it seems pretty much everyone knows a thing or two about it. That said, if you want to know more you can read more about it here or here or here. Or, if you want to just know about the ticket fiasco that happened this year, you can read about that here or here or, for a summary and also an excellent lesson in public relations, here.
I've only been once, and had ambivalent feelings about it. I was giddy in love with Darby and we celebrated our 1st year anniversary there. We stumbled into circuses, live music, strange art, inspiring people. It was our first week-long vacation together and I wanted to be perfect. I wasn't perfect. The last two days I had a headache from the almost-constant dust storms. It was exhausting. It was an adventure. I was in grief.
Planning for a week on a different planet -- that is what it feels like -- takes some forethought. When we decided to go again this year we also began looking forward to the summer months of creative preparation. In this Year Of The List I jotted down some Burning Man intentions:
#36 - Contradance at Burning Man
#38 - Drink a beer at a Burning Man theme camp
#52 - Give gifts of food at Burning Man (cook pancakes on the ashes?) (vegan s'mores from our bike baskets?) (middle of the night vegan hot dog stand?)
I suppose everyone has their reasons for wanting to take a journey into the desert. There were many reasons for me, but this year the two biggest were:
#85 - Go away for a week with Darby
And, to go back to the Temple.
Burning Man is bigger than a song, it's like a symphony. It is built, thrives, and then is burned to the ground. Ashes to ashes, desert to desert. It is like life, only smaller, so you can see the whole picture, or at least a whole picture. For everyone it's different, but it is always temporary. Like music. Like life.
The Temple looks different every year. I suspect, however, that the feeling around it is generally the same. It is a sanctuary, it's a wedding chapel, it's a wailing wall, it's a grave stone. The walls are filled with love, release, anguish, and hope. There are Sharpie marker dedications to lost loves painted on the walls. There are angry notes folded into cracks. There are witnesses and wedding vows. There are platitudes. There's a hush in the air, a respect for the grieving. And then, like so many of the other structures built for Burning Man, on the last night of the week, the Temple is released in flames and ash into the desert night.
That last cold night of our first Burning Man together, I huddled with Darby as the Temple ignited. For the first time that week, everything was silent. 53,000 people stood in a wide circle around the Temple, and you could hear the flames. With the love and loss that had been graffitied on the Temple walls all week, I released my own well of sorrow that had been building for some time. The columns of smoke swirled into the night like souls being released. Tears ran down my face and my stomach tightened. I felt the baby that I had long dreamed about finally release into the dust and stars of Black Rock Desert. I was never going to have a child of my own, I had known that for awhile. But as I stood there in the dark with the man I knew to be my soulmate, I sobbed in grief. The man I loved was the best father I could imagine, and he already had two wonderful, beautiful, fabulous girls. I knew we wouldn't be having another. That night in the desert I buried the baby I would never have.
A week later, back in Los Angeles, I still felt shell shocked. I walked around numb, and then drove out alone to Joshua Tree -- a different desert, with different people. There I spent a quiet few days amid the celebration of a music festival my band was performing in. While I was there I reached out to a friend who had lost her father. How could I grieve for something I never had? She helped teach me how to mourn. I reached out to another friend who had never had children. How did she release her desire? She helped me find peace. When I got home, I reached out to Darby, my sweet man who I know wishes he could fix any sadness I have, but who I knew couldn't fix this. I learned how to ask him to hold me in sadness, without trying to fix anything, and let it work its way out. It took a long, very long, time, but eventually it did.
About ten months later, Darby and I moved in together and started creating a home. Now I have kids every Monday, Wednesday and Saturday. There are school events. There are camping trips. There are holidays and hard questions. There are sick days and cranky days and happy days and goofy days. Little by little I am learning how many ways there are to be a mother.
Someone told me once that in Sweden a step-mom is called a "bonus mom". It doesn't resonate with me. I was never one for extra credit, I never cared for add-ons. The fairy tales all show step-moms as wicked and unfair. That is not the story I carry in my heart. I have no template for how to do what I do, how to be what we call "a step-mom". From my own fragmented upbringing, in a way this is a blessing. I cannot turn into the models I had, because I never had this model.
Well, this is Burning Man week. We tried to get tickets several times earlier this year, but after a few months of frustration we decided to let it go. The ticket fiasco complicated our plans, and although many available tickets popped up recently, we'd already let our desire to go slip away. Over the months of the fiasco evolution I rewrote The List, nixing Burning Man for the year. We are here in LA.
This weekend is the anniversary of our first date -- the most wonderful first date in the history of humankind -- so instead of the desert we're heading to a little cottage on the beach to celebrate. We will ride our bikes along the boardwalk, hunt for seaglass, toast over cocktails. My sweet man and I will write our love and our hopes in the sand, and release them to the Pacific tide.
I have been reading Ernest Hemingway lately. He writes in "A Moveable Feast" that he would go to great lengths to think about writing only when he was actually sitting down with pen in hand. The rest of the time he'd allow his subconscious to do its work by distracting himself with social engagements and the books of other writers.
I understand the subconscious, or at least the theory of the subconscious. Oftentimes I wake today with the solution to yesterday's elusive idea, or emerge from a yoga practice with the clarity I had been missing all day. I've resisted this blank page all morning because I have two thoughts swimming around and I haven't been sure which one to explore. The result, of course, is that I have been mining the internet for articles to read, looking for complete distraction and hoping that while my back is turned one of the two ideas will emerge dominant.
During this year of The List I have also discovered that running and writing have been consciously and intrinsically linked. I'm fairly new (again) to them both as a disciplined practice, and The List has entwined them as both near-daily practices. During my solo runs I often turn my mind to a story that I am trying to work out. The thumping of my feet on the pavement somehow loosens my mind to ideas. Throughout the Odessa months I walked through Texas conversations while running my route here in Los Angeles. I'd write in the mornings, run at noon, and sometimes write again in afternoon or just let it go till the next day. For better or worse, about 2 months ago, just around the time Odessa was finished, I found a running buddy. This has helped immensely with my mileage increase, but now many of my weekday runs are spent in conversation instead of quiet contemplation.
So, the two thoughts that are swimming around in my mind today are Time and Running. Running, because I have already posted here about writing (and will surely continue to do so), and as I said, they are intrinsically linked. Time, because earlier this week I received this email from a friend:
I woke up in the middle of the night thinking this: you have a full-time job in addition to cooking, blogging, singing, teaching yoga, writing, et cetera, et cetera, et cetera? Where do you work full time and how do you do that, if you don't mind me asking.
While I slept and allowed my mind to soften into subconscious problem solving, my friend was losing shuteye over my schedule. And so here we have it, it looks like today I am writing about Time.
By the way, have you seen this poster?
This manifesto is on one of those magnets I see at Whole Foods or on a friend's refrigerator. Maybe it's on your refrigerator. Our fridge is a jumble of report cards and drawings, but if I were to find space for a reminder-type magnet, this might be the one I put up. I generally hate being told what to do, especially when it brings up that "no duh" reaction, but this is one of those calls-to-action that I love to read in the checkout line, partly as a reminder and partly as a positive reflection of my own life.
It's that line in the second section that really speaks to me.
If you don't have enough time, stop watching TV.
And the one before that, about the job and quitting.
With all due respect to my friends who work in the entertainment industry (I'm included in that group, actually), and with all recognition that there is some excellent programming out there, TV is useless. Unless you are an actor or some other creator-type who can learn from active TV-watching, it is a waste of time. Most of us tend to watch TV passively, so when I say it is a waste of time I mean it in the big sense - TIME. Our precious 70 years. Our 25,550-some-odd days as humans. The divine gift of life. The likely one chance we have to exercise our true nature as creators. The active choice of how to live. The act of being alive.
Who cares about life after death. Let's talk about life before death.
Now I must pay attention to one of my chatty inner voices. This one wants me to apologize:
I don't mean to insult you. What do I know? I get up on my blogosphere soapbox and think I have the answers, but perhaps I am just a different bird. This is the way I choose to live. We all have to make the right choices for ourselves, and truly I do not judge someone for watching a show. But then, you did lose sleep over my schedule last night, and you did ask the question...
It's just that until I left home for college, I watched way too much TV. By my senior year of high school I was already feeling the crunch of time and the regret of wasting my early years with something that distracted me from my real work. The work that my spirit longed to do. My soul path. My creative life. I don't know how to say it any other way, and I can't get more specific than that. It has less to do with specificity of project and more to do with intentional living. As I packed my bags for college I wondered how much better of a musician I would have been if not for the sitcom-squandered early years. Time is all we have, I knew that at 17. I left home with 2 duffels, a trunk, a new laptop, and my trusty clarinet. I never regretted leaving that old black and white set my folks had saved for me. My dad still doesn't get it, but all I can say to him is that I love my very full, but very creative, intentional life.
So, here were my thoughts as I answered my friend's email:
1) WHAT TELEVISION?: Everyday I look at the clock and know that I will spend 8 hours at my office day job, exchanging precious time for peace of mind. I run for an hour during lunch. At 6pm I will get in the car and either drive to teach yoga, and later do my own yoga practice, or just get right to a yoga or spin class. Afterwards would I rather sit in front of the TV, or read aloud to the girls, connect with Darby, work on songs, edit photos, tweak recipes, read Hemingway?
The weekends hold endless soul-filling activities, some of which I get to almost weekly like the farmers market, some of which happen only occasionally, like gardening or visiting the arboretum or hosting a party at our house. Would I rather watch a movie? Yes, about six or twelve times a year, I would, and I do, snuggled up with Darby on the couch with a big bowl of popcorn and a bottle of hot sauce.
Luckily all we have is a flat screen and a DVD player. Have I mentioned how Darby and I are perfectly suited for each other? It was almost seamless when we merged our homes.
2) FINANCIAL VERSUS CREATIVE NEEDS: Since my post-college days I've been trying to find the balance between my creative and financial needs. I've bounced between the walls of creative endeavors (with no income) to financial endeavors (with no creativity). During 2006, when I was a full-time touring musician, I realized how my peace of mind and dependability of income are related.
The salary from my day job is, shall I say, not a hellavulot. As it turns out, that's been somewhat of a blessing. It only meets my basic financial needs, but along with the company health insurance, that's a pretty good foundation. It meets my foundational needs -- financial well-being, physical health, food, and shelter. My other three careers - writing/performing music, teaching yoga, and personal chef/catering - are all creative and bump up my income enough to satisfy my cravings for buying gifts for the people I love, taking little holiday escapes with Darby, and good olive oil.
I don't have a lot of unscheduled free time. I prefer generosity, but for right now I parse out my time carefully. Big projects take longer. The relationship between creativity and financial satisfaction is a balance I am still trying to work out, but there's an energy lately that I dig. This period of my life is the first in which I truly feel both creatively fulfilled and financially stable. Eventually, as more of my income is derived from creative sources, I will be able to find more balance in my schedule.
3 ) WRITE LIKE A MOTHERFUCKER: I'm dedicated to writing for a couple of hours a few times a week, at least, which means getting as efficient as possible with my work. I've always been a morning person, and my best writing happens at 9am. My intention is to write Monday through Friday. Sometimes I can organize my day-job work to allow for some writing time, sometimes I cannot, but most importantly I strive to not allow the internet to become what TV used to be. Even on a day like today when I have been a bit scatterbrained, I consider a day spent writing, time well spent.
4) KEEPING THE VISION: when I feel exhausted and a bit overwhelmed, I try to keep my vision on an upcoming short getaway with Darby. It helps on the weeks that hold tons of cooking, teaching, and music gigs. They are all things I love to do, but when I'm a bit low on sleep and quality time with Darby, it helps to have Big Sur on the calendar.
5) WORK THAT BODY: I exercise at least once daily, often twice, with a 5 mile run during lunch and/or a spin class/yoga practice in the evening. The running thing is a direct result of The List, but even before that I always went for walks. On the weekends I usually just get a long run Saturday and a good yoga practice Sunday. Our bodies were meant to move, and being a writer/musician is sendentary work. Our minds work better when our bodies work well. Also, despite the time commitment, I find that in general I am more productive when I am getting regular exercise.
6) THE TOP: Darby. He's the pirate's booty. He's the treasure chest of gold. He's the top, he's the tower of Pisa, he's the smile on the Mona Lisa... I deconstructed my life with the tiny glimmer of hope that there was a relationship like this for me in this lifetime. There is. I have it. I know I've won the jackpot, and I do not take it for granted. Darby is the single most important priority in my life. He and I both know that essential to having a healthy relationship with each other is having a healthy relationship with ourselves. Together we support each other in finding and creating our individual visions of the lives we want as individuals and as a couple.
All that said, we have just booked a one-night getaway to the beach. Sure, the beach is only about 15 miles from our house, but we rented a little cottage in Venice Beach for one night next weekend. Completely unscheduled for one night and the two days on either side of it, we will lose track of time, soften our gaze, and breath a little deeper.
#57 -- spend a lazy day at the beach
Sometimes it only takes a 15 mile drive to get a world away.
I've been trying to write for the past four hours and all I've got are scattered thoughts and jumbled sentences. It's after 1pm now and I bargained with myself hours ago that I would go out for a run just as soon as I wrote something worthwhile on the page. I got nothin'.
Some days are like this, all the great writers say. They say, just show up. While you're waiting for inspiration, inspiration waits for you so be at your desk, they say, everyday, pen in hand. You've got to write to clear a pathway for the gems. The only way to learn how to write is to write.
Anne Lamott, so often comforting to me, your birds do not comfort me today.
People tend to look at successful writers who are getting their books published and maybe even doing well financially, and think that they sit down at their desks every morning feeling like a million dollars, feeling great about who they are and how much talent they have and what a great story they have to tell; that they take in a few deep breaths, push back their sleeves, roll their necks a few times to get all the cricks out, and dive in, typing fully formed passages as fast as a court reporter. But this is just the fantasy of the uninitiated.
Okay fine. But sometimes I feel like I spend my whole life just clearing pathways. I wonder, where are the gems. On days like today I wonder if there are any in me.
Today I've been hacking through the woods once again, trying to get somewhere. I hope against proof that I will emerge through these blogs, journals, letters, and stories with something worthy of standing dog-eared and tattered on a bookshelf in a stranger's home. I'm not sure why I want this.
What I do know is that long after "lights out", I used to lay with a book at my bedroom door, halfway into the glow of the hallway light, halfway in darkness. If I heard footsteps on the stairs, I'd scramble back to bed. The story was worth the risk. I feel like this is where I am again today, halfway in the light, halfway in the dark. The light is my spark of determination to find some narrative in my own life. The darkness is my doubt, ready to scamper back to bed at any creak.
#70 -- revise "Odessa" (story)
The fact that Odessa is #70 does not mean it almost slipped away. Like the kitten who is right now meowing at my feet, it has been calling my attention for years. I jotted the first ideas of Odessa down in 2006 while sitting on the edge of the Chesapeake Bay in Maryland, after 6 months of playing honky tonks and coffee shops across the country with my band. Of all the places we went, there was something about the folks I met on our one night in Odessa that tugged at me. These past years I've just kept circling around it like a satellite, never touching it but never leaving it alone.
This was the year, I decided, that I would open the files of my memory and write about that night. I don't usually show up everyday for anything, but in March I started showing up everyday at the same time every morning for Odessa, writing for hours. I surprised myself with my commitment, but then, that's pretty much what this whole list has been about. As I wrote I'd send sections to Darby to keep myself accountable. When the first draft was finally done sometime in May, I wept. It'd taken six years and the urging of The List to get me back into that one night in West Texas.
Odessa was 9350 words.
I re-read and revised countless times. I summoned my courage to ask Darby for his feedback, and then re-read and revised again. Darby was the perfect editor, pulling my own themes out and reflecting them back to me so that I could hone and clarify. When I felt I was ready, I tested the waters one at a time, asking my friends to be honest but gentle in their feedback. As each one read and responded, I'd dig back in, spit and polish. I checked off #70 in June.
#72 -- send Odessa (story) out for publication
#72 was exciting. I found a deadline for the Narration literary journal contest for emerging writers, circled it in red, and set that as the cutoff to my revising. I needed an end-date to what had become near-obsessive analysis of every phase in the story. The day came and off Odessa went, along with a brief bio and prayer to the wind. It felt like my kid's first day of kindergarten.
#73 -- get 10 rejections for Odessa (story)
Well, Narration sent me a nice note of rejection. They didn't use the "R" word, in fact the letter was quite pleasant about how my story Odessa "does not meet our needs at this time". #73, despite how comparatively little time it demands, is the hard one. Definitely the hard one.
Last year I read this story about Kathryn Stockett who took 5 years and received 60 rejections for her novel The Help. Of course we all know what a blockbuster hit the movie became, and the novel itself was on the New York Times Bestseller list for 100 weeks. When I finally got around to reading it - about 6 months after the rest of America -- I found The Help to be a beautifully written novel.
So, with Kathryn Stockett's 60 rejections in mind I created #73. As of this writing, I've still only sent Odessa out exactly one time -- to Narration. If I can find the courage, nine more rejections will keep me sending it out at least through the end of 2012. Where is my lionhearted determination now?
I am reminded of this David Whyte poem:
I want to write about faith,
about the way the moon rises
over cold snow, night after night,
faithful even as it fades from fullness,
slowly becoming that last curving and impossible
sliver of light before the final darkness.
But I have no faith myself
I refuse it even the smallest entry.
Let this then, my small poem,
like a new moon, slender and barely open,
be the first prayer that opens me to faith.
-- David Whyte
I don't have the pluck to receive 10 letters of "your story does not meet our needs". But maybe this little blog entry, this baring of my fears, will be the quiet strength that I need to send Odessa out again.
by Arielle Silver
There is nothing pretty on the cracked four-lane blacktop
between Abilene and Odessa. Once you cross over Route 83 and
leave the Abilene city limits, for three endless hours it’s
wide open country, bone dry and spotted with prickly brush. We
left central Texas with its antique stores and population
signs of under 500, and traded it for the oil pumps and jagged
terrain of Big Bend Country. The low rumble of hot air blew
over the windshield as lonely tumbleweeds tangled in barbed
wire fences along the side of the road. For as far as we
could see, it was open grassland, occasional rust bucket
carlots, and countless oil pumpjacks rocking in the heat like
thirsty birds sucking deep from the earth.
I’d never been to oil country before, but I traveled
those West Texas roads in the dog days of the oil wars.
Schools held bake sales to support the troops, and the other
drifters we met at truck stops along the way grumbled at $4 a
gallon. We stopped for water refills and to stretch our legs,
but my traveling companions and I rarely pumped any gas. Our
tour van had been running on the filtered oil from Chinese
food restaurants and doughnut shops since last autumn in New
England. We drove the Vegmobile, our black vegetable oil-fueled
Chevy van, along I-20 with the other travelers making
their way across the West Texas summer....
This is a little video shot by a friend in '06, just after I got back to Boston from my cross-country travels. It's funny to me to see my baby face cheeks. How much my face has changed in six years! But why not? It feels like my whole life has changed along with it. Six years ago I would never have guessed about even the tiniest aspects of my life now. Anyway, if you care to see the cheeks and a little ditty at the end, here I'm telling about one man we met that night in Odessa - "Mr. Handlebar".
2009 flipped my life inside out and shook out anything that wasn't super-glued down. It started with an angel card in a yoga class on the first morning of the year. Of course I pulled the birth card, and of course I interpreted it in the easiest way possible - a baby. I wanted one. I wanted to go through pregnancy, childbirth, babyhood. The man I married said he wanted the same thing, and I suppose it was a true gift that he never stepped up to the plate. We never had enough money, he said. He wasn't ready yet, he said. We'd be ready when his music career finally took off, he said.
Meanwhile I began to prepare my body. By the end of '07, I'd nixed all refined sugars, flours, animal products, and non-organic foods from my diet. I ate mindfully, I exercised more. I practiced meditation. I found a yoga studio and went to classes every day. Quietly on my mat I sweated out the toxins, let my breath expand my lungs and heart, let my body dance so that I would be strong enough to carry a child. Then on New Years Day 2009 I pulled that birth card and my heart fluttered around in my chest as my breath caught in my throat. Was this the year?
They say that as we deepen our yoga practice, things that no longer serve us begin to fall away. I became stronger, more flexible, more balanced. But just as they say, the things that were no longer serving me in an positive, authentic, healing way began to fall away... like my marriage. After 8 months of untangling a nagging feeling that had started as a funny feeling and then permeated every waking thought and sleeping dream, one day I looked over at the man I had married and realized that I did not want to raise a child with him. I did not want to navigate life with him. I did not want to wake up and go to sleep with him for a lifetime. My life with him - the life in me - had shrunk smaller and smaller until I felt like I'd been painted into only the tiniest spot of light. My inner light was still shining, but it was like a candle in the darkest of nights. He was a good man but not good for me. I was too young to settle but old enough to appreciate how precious life is. I could not write the next 40 years or so away for a tarnished ring and a misplaced vow.
Ultimately it was the nighttime dreams of shattered windows and dark corners that reminded me of the greatest relationship I would ever have - the one with myself. I could no longer settle for the least common denominator of good enough. My spirit wanted, needed, to be lived fully, to celebrate the gift of whatever may be left of my 70 or 80 years. My heart banged at the bars of my ribcage, begging to be set free. If I cut myself loose from my marriage, without a solid promise of romance or child in my future, at least my spirit would be free. I came to the point where I could not live any other way.
Through the months of unraveling the stitches of my life, I filled journal pages in self-exploration. What did I want from life? What did I want in a relationship? What was I looking for in a partner? What were my deepest desires, my hopes, my values?
As I unpacked the boxes for my new apartment, I embraced solitude. I spent quiet evenings curled up with my kitten, reading yoga philosophy and indulgent novels. I took photos with my new camera and sat in the glow of my computer learning how to crop, dodge, and burn. I cooked meals and poured crystal glasses of wine, just for myself, remembering how to nourish myself. I slowed my pace at the flower stand and brought home peonies and lavender, because they are beautiful and completely un-useful.
Darby and I met on July 4th that year, divine '09, and slowly invited each other into each others lives. We spiraled inwards for months with brief conversations at the yoga studio or online, until Sept. 3 when he came to my apartment for an evening of music exchange, conversation, cookies, and prosecco. We kissed that night for the first time. From the very core of my heart-wisdom, against the logic of my mind that told me we still barely knew each other, I knew that this man would be my deepest love. We moved slowly, toeing the edge of the cliff for weeks on end, but the gravity of love tugged at my cells and it was everything I could do to keep from falling fast, far, deep. We practiced yoga together, both on our rolled out side-by-side mats, and in our careful, conscious movements as we entangled our hearts and lives.
We spent the lazy day of New Years 2010 in each others arms until we laced up our hiking shoes and climbed some local trails. Darby and I made it back down the mountain just as the sun was setting on the first perfect day of a new year.
I do not know why today I am writing about those months of '09. This blog was not created for writing my life story, or at least yesterday when I began this I didn't think it was. I've never written about those last months of my marriage, except in my closely-guarded journals, but it feels right to me now, without knowing where any of this is going, to just write what comes and worry about the direction later. It feels somehow like that's where the story of my current life begins, so perhaps it is fitting.
Besides, I've been having only fits and starts with #98.
#98 - Embark on a new writing project
Maybe whatever comes out here will help birth the new project. Or perhaps this is the new project.
I began today's post about New Years '09. The List Of 100 Things To Do in 2012 also began on New Years. Forgive the abrupt fast-forward. There is no easy way for me to close up the entire unraveling that occurred in '09 and then quickly knit you the tapestry of what emerged later that year. Just know that Darby and I fell completely in love, and have entirely entwined our lives in a beautiful, sexy, conscious way. These past years I have grieved about not having a baby of my own, and I am learning about the other ways to be a mother, as step mom for two incredible girls who just this week began 3rd and 7th grade.
On New Years Eve, as the calendar flipped into 2012, Darby and I rolled out our yoga mats next to each other at the studio where we both teach and often practice. The NYE intention-setting class was the only plan we'd made for our holiday evening. We'd created a new cooking project that autumn - Love Them Apples - and we were entirely exhausted. What would 2012 bring? More of all the good stuff life had lately been sending, along with some extra sleep, I hoped.
I always have my journal with me on NYE, so I don't miss anything in case some insight on the past year strikes. Without any plan to do so, sitting on my yoga mat that night, I began this list of 100 Things To Do in 2012. Maybe it was the need for a vacation with my man, or the desire for a few quiet days in nature, but #1 surprised me.
#1 - go back to Big Sur with Darby
Last autumn, just after Love Them Apples started, we ran off for two wonderful days in Big Sur. We fell in love with the moody coast line and redwood forests. Neither of us had ever been there before, so Big Sur is entirely ours to share and explore together. We found a delightful place to stay on the south side of the region called Treebones and are smitten with the charming folks who work/live there, the magical organic garden that feeds the restaurant, and the quirky places to spend the night.
As I started creating and living through The List, Big Sur has been on the top of my mind. We did go back this past Spring. It was perfect, as I knew it would be. We spent our days jade-hunting on the rocky beach, hiking through golden grasses high above the Pacific, enjoying indulgent meals at Big Sur Bakery and Treebones, breathing in wildflowers everywhere, talking about everything and nothing, and holding each other through the chilly nights in the Sibley tent campsite.
Between the kids' school schedule, music festivals that we're playing, and yoga retreats we're cooking for, it looks like I won't get to cross off #85.
#85 - go away for a week with Darby
We still need a holiday though, so we may end up running off for another short 3 day/ 2 night trip to Big Sur this Fall. Perhaps in 2013 we'll get our week away. For now I'm not at all bummed about possibly having a few more days this year in what may be one of the most beautiful places on Earth.
Some time around 5th grade I read The Diary of Anne Frank, and someone gave me a little baby-blue diary with a lock and key for my birthday. At first I wasn’t sure how to use the diary. Anne Frank was eloquent, wise, and living in unusual circumstances. I was just a nine year old girl living in New Jersey, fumbling around, not sure of what could be exciting enough in my life to warrant writing about it. My first attempts read something like:
I brushed my teeth, went to school, came home.
I stumbled around with my schedule and logistic reportage for a while, and then meandered into expressing the emotional landscape of the heart.
I (heart) SK.
SK was in the grade ahead of me. The summer before 5th grade he would walk me home after summer camp, singing Survivor’s “The Search Is Over” and I thought it was the most beautiful song ever written. To be clear, when I say that SK walked me home, what I mean to say is that our houses were in the same direction and mine came first. He was not courting me, but nevertheless, each time I wrote in my little blue diary, I wrote in loopy cursive I (heart) SK. When the school year began, my heart couldn’t hold in my passion any longer. One day I took my love off the page and into life. I wrote a brief note on a tiny piece of notebook paper, and folded it up twice.
I (heart) you.
I grasped the note tight in my hand as I crossed the florescent cafeteria to the 6th graders’ side. With all my courage, I went right to the table where he sat with his friends and dropped the note onto his paper lunch bag, and then hurried away.
Years passed before I could look at SK without blushing. Much to my chagrin, we ended up in a high school Journalism class together. Oh, the embarrassing things I have done in the name of love. Of course by high school I had moved on - my early schoolgirl years were strewn with love letters - but SK was my first, and I don’t know if I ever quite learned how to look him in the eye.
The blue diary with the lock and key is surely somewhere tucked away, but I haven’t seen it in decades. That was my only attempt at keeping a journal until 9th grade, when I picked up a fuschia-covered 5 x 7 spiral multi-subject notebook to take with me on a trip abroad. The fuschia notebook was the beginning of a long line of volumes that I’ve kept ever since.
Around the New Year I’ve traditionally written pages of reflections on the past year, and thoughts on what I might be doing in the coming year. A week or so before the end of 2011 I stumbled upon this post by a friend of mine about a list she created of 100 things to do over the course of a year. It must have struck a chord because this past New Years Eve I pulled out my journal for my usual reflections and suddenly began numbering down the page.
1. Go back to Big Sur
2. Meditate on the 3rd chakra - yellow, strength, power, belly
3. Plant herbs and veggies in the backyard.
It took some time to fill in all 100 - months in fact - and there were a few drastic revisions as the year began to shape itself, but this list has been profound. Some of the things that ended up on there surprised me. That a trip back to Big Sur was my first thought on New Years Eve was surprising itself. Some things - Coconut Cream Pie - accidentally ended up there twice. Quite a number of my original items were dependent on a trip that didn’t end up happening, so I had to revise. Some things are frivolous, some take a lot of work. Some are playful while others have thrown me in the deep end. But all together, this list has been like a lighthouse light, keeping me on track for the things I want to do this year, despite daily busy-ness.
It’s now more than halfway through the year - only 4 1/2 months left. I’ve gotten to many items, but there are still plenty to go. I know I won’t complete all of them, but the ones I have already finished feel monumental. There are some things on there that I never thought I’d do - honestly, never had even considered before -, and others that I’ve been wanting to get to for 6 years.
In the dog days of summer - and it’s been over 100 degrees here every day for more than a week - I feel like I need a little push of inspiration to keep going. So here it is, the blog. This is my attempt to infuse new energy into this project, to keep me inspired. I’m taking the List of 100 Things out of my journal and onto this blog.
Wish me luck.