One of us lives on the east coast. One of us lives on the west.

One of us lives in a rural community. One of us lives in a city.

Both of us wander. Both of us witness. Both of us write.

This is a record of what we find.

Thursday, December 27, 2012

The Landscape of The New Year

The week between Christmas and New Years is that liminal time—time between the past and the future. Yes, I know that every moment of our life sits in that space; it’s called the present, but somehow, this week more than any other time of the year feels to me like the rest stop between links of a journey, the biggest present of the year. It’s the time to look back over the landscape of the last year and forward to the terrain of the new.

And it’s the time to make New Year’s resolutions.

Last year during this week, I made three resolutions. (Because more than three just gets lost and forgotten by the end of January)

The first was to try to get my wild and crazy dog, Emma, to NOT go ballistic—barking and spinning and barking and spinning and spinning and spinning whenever a cable car goes by. (We live one block from the cable car line on one side and three blocks on the other, so it’s really hard to take a good walk without crossing one of them) I’m proud to say that with the help of about thirty pounds of string cheese, we’ve been close to 72% successful.

The second resolution was to find a new literary agent—now this is the kind of resolution that I know is not a good kind to make because it depends on so many factors outside of a person’s control, BUT I am absolutely thrilled to have signed with the wonderful Erszi Deak of Hen and Ink last September!

The third resolution was more general. (Also not the best kind of resolution because it’s too easy to fudge.) It was to get back to my ‘crafty’ roots and start making things with my hands again. I started out buying enough wool to needle felt a hat. (What was I thinking? I don’t wear hats and don’t have any close friends or family who wear hats…) The skeins are still sitting on the top shelf of an armoire waiting for their new form. Maybe this year I’ll make a shoulder bag instead. Or not. I did, however make seven crepe-paper tangerine surprise balls last week to hand out at Christmas dinner, so won’t beat myself up too much.

This year, I am going to keep my resolutions very simple. 

1) I will start each morning reminding myself to do my best by quietly reciting the last stanza of William Stafford’s poem, THE DREAM OF NOW:

Your life you live by the light you find
and follow it on as well as you can,
carrying through darkness wherever you go
your one little fire that will start again.

2) I will try and write a few brief sentences every day in my day planner, noting what happened each day, (so I won’t forget) something that gave me joy, and something I am grateful for. Here’s one for today (it’s old but always make me smile, plus I think we need more free hugs)

3) I will once again try to work more with my hands, because it’s good for my soul and my brain. I have a box of colored crepe paper on top of that same armoire and will see what else comes of it. I’m thinking owl.

So, tell me, what are your New Year's resolutions?

Take Good Care,


Thursday, December 20, 2012

Finding Light on the Second Shortest Day of the Year

Tomorrow is the shortest day of the year. Here in Vermont, the sun will rise at 7:23AM and set at 4:14PM. The light of the day will last for 8 hours and 51 minutes. I had planned on writing about the sunrise today. About watching the sun peek over the tree line that spans the sky east of the river trail, about how running on the trail at that time of day makes me feel a little powerful, like I am part of the process of tugging the sun up out of night and into day.

Last Friday surpassed the winter solstice, though. It fell dark even before noon. And I don't feel all that powerful anymore. In fact I feel somewhat helpless, and a lot vulnerable. Many of us do. So I am going to lift an idea from my friend, Jeannie Mobley, who writes at Emu's Debuts. Monday was her turn to post over there, and she focused on the people---the flames of light---in her community who have overcome the darkness. Small speck of light by small speck of light, they add up to a whole lot, she says. Perhaps everything. I agree with Jeannie.

Sunrise in the woods
So I want to share images of sunrises in many different landscapes and stories about the people who, this year alone, tugged on up a light for me just as powerful as the sun. And I would love to hear from you all about the people in your life who are the same kind of mighty powerful.

This is only a handful of images and, more importantly, only a handful of people. There are so so many.

Beth Kephart, who lit a path of connection with her lyrical novel, Small Damages. Her love of landscape, as well as her advice and support, have meant so much to me.
Sunrise over the river

My Running with Foxes/Running with Atalanta crew---Kara, Alice, Hannah and Stefani (and Winn-Dixie, Cody, Willow, Henry and Lucas)---who light the way along the trail every Tuesday, Friday and Sunday. The rhythm of my life would not be the same without you.

Sunrise over the desert
Jeanne, Portia, Marie, Rebecca and Dan, who light my little trio's educational and emotional pathways, each a little different (more treacherous here, more smooth there) from the other.

Sharry (oh luminous blog-mate), Sarah and Cindy, who light the way to my stories when, like a car in the fog, I can't even see a few feet in front of me.

Sunrise over the fields
Luke Reynolds, Soul-Wait-Mate of mine, who lit a path to breaking the rules.

Lisa, who lights a path between my house and hers, a path lined with just the exact right ingredient---for a bread or a cake, for a celebration or a heartache.

Sunrise over the ocean

Davina Morgan-Witts, who lit a path for me of work that I love. Which is an understatement. And Poornima Apte, who walks with me there. Whom I love. Which is also an understatement.

Diane, who lights a path between heart and head and body.

And of course, Jeannie Mobley herself, who lit a path for me today with regards to this post, and who is my light of inspiration on my path to publication.

Who lights up your life?

Let us all shine on. Despite the dark, or maybe because of it.

With gratitude,


Thursday, December 6, 2012

The Landscape of Lovely, Dark and Deep

This week has been noticeably darker than last. Perception is funny that way. Change gradually happens over time, but noticing it takes one studied moment. All of a sudden--but not so all of a sudden--the sky is so much darker in the morning. I look out the window as I get dressed and it feels as though I have made a mistake, as though it is the middle of the night. My running buddies and I begin our run in the dim, grey-black light of dawn now; that strange, sort of other-worldy time when eyesight is a secondary, sort of backseat sense, when my feet have more memory than my mind.

Its been a dark, otherworldly kind of week in other ways too. Lovely, Dark, and Deep, in fact.

I finished this haunting, lyrical story by Amy McNamara a while ago, but it has been bobbing in my subconsciousness this week as I get ready to write a review of it for BookBrowse. In it, Wren, the main character,  is struggling with the deepest, darkest kind of grief. She was in the car that killed her boyfriend. She has survivor's guilt, the horror of complicated circumstances, and a sadness that is so deep it renders her, for a time, literally speechless. She is also unable to motivate herself to do anything--except that she runs. She takes long runs through the Maine woods. Through the dark and cold.

Wren runs. She very specifically runs through the woods at the edge of the ocean. And I have been wondering about that. What allows her to run...when she simply can not function in any other way?  What is it about being in the woods and by the water that is tolerable, or familiar, or perhaps even comforting? What is it about the dark and the cold that has, at times, a startling warming and illuminating effect?

Wren says early on:

I came here because it’s pine-dark and the ocean is wild. The kind of quiet-noise you need when there’s too much going on in your head. Like the water and the woods are doing all the feeling, and I can hang out, quiet as a headstone, in a between place. A blank I can bear.

Oh wow, right?

The intersection of the woods and water with the cold and dark is that otherworldly place. It is a place void of the objects that are imprinted with your routine and your history, it is a place where your spider-brain can take a rest from sending out invisible threads of connection. You simply are in this place. Feet pounding, breath puffing, heart pumping.

All of this reminds me of my curiosity about this whole perception-is-funny and change-seems-to-come-out-of-nowhere thing from my first paragraph up there, and as I have been thinking about that, and about writing my review of Lovely, Dark and Deep, and also about a real person in my own life who has been struggling with grief and pain for a long time and who is only now, maybe, naming it and facing it, I have come to the (tentative, first-draft) conclusion that finding a ritual out in a natural landscape (running for me, running for Wren, walking for this real person in my own life) offers this very unique experience of connecting to a rhythm (of seasons, of sunrise to sunset, of waves and wind) that is at once a part of you and unattached. Of course the landscape holds its own deep histories and stories, and they matter to all of us (and we would be wise to listen up) but maybe what I mean to say is that those stories and those rhythms are not attached to our spider-minds as much as they are attached to our bodies and because of that we are forced to use those bodies--legs, lungs, hearts--to ponder our problems.

Oh boy. I don't know. Like I said, very tentative and first draft. But definitely swirling around inside me like mad.  I'd love to hear what you make of it all.