Thursday, April 6, 2017

An Evening in Paris

Ah, hello, old friends..this is not the grand return post I had planned (there are three or four drafts of blog posts I've written and been waiting to post), but all day yesterday and today I've had the itch to write on here again and say hello.

Today has been surprisingly pleasant in that I on this early April (!) day to breezy temperatures of 57 which meant layering for work today, a delightful nip in the air as I strolled in, and the perfect day for an iced latte.

I'm home now, full of stir-fry and wrapped in an oversized, soft, white, fluffy bathrobe, having successfully polished off a chocolate chip cookie, taken out all of my trash, swept my kitchen, changed the lightbulbs in my bathroom, and am about to make myself a cup of tea,

Suffice to say, I feel like a thoroughly modern, domestic woman.

And yet now, the lights are low and cup of tea sits on my bedside table, and I am reminded of Paris.

Ah, Paris.

The one sprawling, teeming, beautiful, dirty, glorious, messy city I love and could live in happily.

I think of Paris nights...of the soft, evening light and balmy summer air. How the narrow, cobblestone streets looked in the blue-grey dusk of twilight and the glimmer of cafe lights appeared, the French clustered around tiny tables on sidewalk cafes, the clink of wine glasses mingling with that of keys as one by one, those of us in the city came home. Home - around the corner after a steady walk, for everyone walks in Paris (from le metro or l'ecole) - then hands in pockets or bags, and the delicate clink as the outer courtyard gate is unlocked, and we slip within, up several stairs, and past the landing into the tiny apartments.

Then my nightly Paris routine, after our host family is in bed and there is only a faint light in the kitchen: a cup of tea. Simple black English Breakfast tea with two cubes of golden sugar and a splash of milk. Tea meant to be savored quietly in the small white kitchen with my housemate while velvet blue-and-black shadows paint the rooftops outside the window.

Carrying our mugs back through the labrynth of a pitch-black hallway, attempting to navigate it without tea splashing over the rim of our mugs or giggling so loudly we woke our madame or monsieur. Then, finally, silent triumph and much tea-savoring when we made it back to our wee shoebox of a room and huddled on the narrow beds beneath our sheets while we listen to the sound of Paris falling asleep.

That is what tea in soft light and white sheets reminds me of.

Wednesday, September 7, 2016

This Strange Thing Called Grief

Morning light spills into my tiny kitchen, painting ripples of light on the cottage walls -- the benediction of a new day. In my bedroom, over FaceTime, my boyfriend sleeps soundly beneath the companionable silence of long-distance love. Coffee drips slowly, punctuating the soft rumble of Josh Garrel's Break Bread. My cat, still a wide-eyed kitten, peers around my laptop as I type. Sunrise and thoughts of the future have raised me from sleep. Instead of classes and reading lists, jobs and new pages are the new rhythm of my life.





So much has changed. In only two months.

It's strange how one can blink and home, friends, setting, even the you one once knew seems like a lifetime away.

It's a strange thing, this sense of fleeting oddness. Of permeating displacement. Of bittersweet melancholy. Of a quiet ache that slips quietly in during an ordinary moment that suddenly overwhelms. So much has changed. So much is different. For better, for worse.

Grief, I think, is the name for it.

The boy and I went for a midnight stroll on campus one night, beneath the softly glowing lampposts and canopied trees. Everything was hushed, still, and dearly familiar as ever. The occasional laughs and snippets of conversation from over-eager freshmen carried over the breeze as they too wandered with older students, part of the summer experience before their first semester begins.

In comes the new. The young. The bright-eyed.

We stopped almost immediately, he and I. The old. The ones who had come and gone. The quiet-eyed. Our hands linked, yet pausing.


Reduced to strange silence as we stood in a place that had been our home and that now, without our permission or even desire, was no longer ours.

This is strange, he said quietly. I looked up at him in the night shadows and lamplight mingled with moon + star light, and said nothing.

There was nothing to say.

How does one say goodbye to a place that has already forgotten you? To a life that is no longer yours? To a world that keeps moving without you?

We stood there for some moments, in the hushed darkness, silently paying our respects. Passing lampposts like lit candles by pilgrims, aware that no longer were we parishioners but merely visitors, moving through the leafy cathedral flanked by brick and stone, steps and benches.

It felt like a dream - one that tasted sad and sweet on my tongue. We continued walking, hand in hand, and I shivered. Understanding at last, that my time there had ended.

Time. So long and quick. So short and far.

I understood, too, finally, that time-travel was indeed real. We stood in the same place, upon stone and earth, and yet time was different.

Perhaps we were different. We're not young, the boy said, quiet thoughtfulness in his eyes. We are and we aren't. Not that young. Not young enough to belong anymore in the place that had been our home for so long. Time and space are different for us now.

We left hours later, quieter. Yet at peace.

It's funny, this strange thing called grief.

We mourn what was good almost as much as we mourn what was sad. Bitter and sweet. Change and solidity. Isolation and togetherness. Shadows and lampposts.

My cat curls on the toaster oven, basking in a patch of sunlight. So much seems different and unfamiliar to him. My boy sleeps on the screen of my phone, peaceful and dreaming. Two months ago we were merely friends.

So much has changed.

Thursday, September 1, 2016

Of Rain and Beauty

It is raining again...prompting soft thoughts of beauty and loveliness. 

There is a reason, I think, why museums are so delightfully crammed on grey, stormy days. Art, simple and complex, muddled with colors and caressed with strokes of a brush. Oil and color and vision swirled together in a swath of emotion and lines and life, made all the more vivid on days of gloom and dampness. 

Why music, soft and haunting, fills the spaces and moments of quiet. The aching strains of a violin and deep throbbing of a cello that touch the air, the soul, with a gentle, discernible mark. With a stain of loveliness so sweet and secret that tears almost form. Breath catches, spirit stills. And wonder fills, swells, rises beneath our skin. 

Why the verdant green of trees and leaves becomes more lush, more magical, more deep somehow, keen and fresh in the feather-soft grey of an overcast day. 

Why we turn to tea and coffee and chocolate, in frail cups with thin petals of china, and sturdy mugs of solidity and warmth. Finding comfort, and strangely enough, the sense of home and belonging in the warm stain of pale brown clouded with creamy milk or deep and dark and rich, secure in a bitterness that is curiously sweet to our souls. 

Why books, the dearest and oldest friends for so many, beckon and embrace with the gentle weight of words. Words that enfold us, fill our mind and senses, flowing across the page and into our fingers, imbuing our blood with story and hues, songs and poetry -- flashes of feelings and places that perhaps we have known, or only dreamed of. 

Beauty so curiously and wonderfully marks our souls. Stirs us. It moves and changes, always for the better, our understanding of creation and even ourselves. Beautiful things...lovely things. They are so precious and small. And yet --like all lovely things, like all of creation-- so much grander and larger than themselves. 

Mozart's Requiem is always bigger when you return to it. Time is leaven to lovely things, writes Joshua Gibs. Beautiful, gentle, lovely words themselves that settle and warm deep within:

"There are certain substances (maybe all substances) that can be so rendered, affected, touched, furnished, submitted— loved, really— that they do not break against the heavy leaning weight of time, but grow as time pours into them. When you taste a fine Pecorino, you are not merely tasting milk, but milk and time. Time is powerful and violent and terrible, but love can tame time. The Acropolis is stone which has tamed time. The blue in the windows at Chartres Cathedral is a color which has tamed time. Wine is grape juice which has tamed time. The Nicene Creed is a poem which has tamed time."
Joshua Gibs

There is something haunting, something humbling and awe-inspiring in that...what I find beautiful and lovely, what moves and stirs me, has been found beautiful by, has moved, has stirred countless other souls, before me, and will, after me. Time passes and leans and grows and deepens, and still these things of beauty, of loveliness, go on. 

Time is leaven to lovely things. We must hunger after them, after the beautiful and the good, as George Eliot says. 

I sit, hushed and silent, notebooks piled near, cup of coffee a dear companion, facing a window --always, always a window and clear, soft light -- to see the rain, filling my ears with gentle quivering notes of Ennio Morricone coaxed into air by Yo-Yo Ma. 

And keeping my heart, my mind, my soul open to receive these lovely things that are beautiful and good. 

Monday, August 29, 2016

Monday, August 8, 2016

Butter and Solitude and Cats

Because sometimes you make the pasta and eat the pint of ice cream and watch the rom-com and play the song by Jacqueline Fran├žoise that always makes you think of Paris at Christmastime*, and miss the boy.

Because even three hours is too far away. 

So pet the cat. Spoon the ice cream. Boil the water. Squeeze the lemon juice. Sprinkle salt + pepper. Slice the butter. Put on the slippers. Pull the blanket tighter. Curl up with music and words for comfort. 

This is life. Good and hard. Full of joy, deep and full, and solitude of long nights with looming questions. 

*Noel Blanc

Saturday, July 2, 2016

Be Where Your Feet Are

'Be where your feet are.'

That's what growing up is, I think. 

It's learning to love vegetables. To choose of your own free accord to buy mushrooms and turkey and kale and balsamic. To get up at 4 a.m. when you've been tossing and turning instead of staying in bed and waiting to fall asleep like your mom always told you. To make midnight eggs and look your lions of anxiety in the eye and tell them, "You do not get to speak louder than me."

To call someone babe for the first time in your life and to smile unsarcastically when you say it. To not caring what your life looks like on Facebook any more - or even wanting to have a FB account, even.

To realizing relationships are about compromise on your part just as much as on the other person's and that sometimes you have to give up something.

It's learning how to do life well alone and then learning the even harder lesson of how to let love in.

To remembering what you laughingly said to a friend months ago, "I want a pet because I need something or someone to love," only to understand later on that you had someone to love - and that person was you, and damned if you didn't finally start doing a fine job of loving yourself after twenty-three years. 

It means falling asleep safe in someone's arms and understanding that home can be a person, not merely a place. That as Bea Taplinn says, sometimes 'it has a heartbeat.'

Monday, June 20, 2016

One Small Fact

Ghosts, contrary to belief, exist.
They are everywhere.
Writers are just the ones who see and name them.

"I suppose we're all ghosts when you really think about it," he said. "We become something different, never again who we were during this exact moment...just ghosts of our old self."

 She wrinkled her brow, looking around at the golden November light falling on the crisp winter ground, melancholy and sweet all at once. Quiet surrounded them, and for a moment, she could see all the faces passing through the years who had come and gone, who had walked that very path stretching before them and stood in the very sun they now sat in...nothing had changed. And yet nothing was the same. She, too, would leave with no visible mark that she had ever been here. A slight shiver of wistfulness ran through her. 

She looked at him. "What about when we leave places and people - when we move on to different ones?"

"I think all they remember is how we were then - who we were in that exact place during our time with them. All they have of us are memories..." he finished softly. "Ghosts."