Wednesday, November 25, 2009

A thankful heart...

I believe it is a rare gift to live a good and happy life. I also believe that living such a life is largely a matter of choice. That being said, I must also say that I have been extremely blessed; there is no measure of the bounty that has come out of the windows of heaven. I have had trials and heartaches. I have been lost and sad. I have been lonely. I have also felt the sun on my face painting on warm cinnamon freckles. I have felt the cool dark of freshly turned soil, the quiet joy of laying on the grass on a summer afternoon beneath tree filtered light, the deep blue of my feet in the water, the soothing sound of the moving sea. I have had the love a good family and good friends. I have been given talents abundant. These gifts have filled my days with beauty, contentment and peace. I have been given the chance to think, learn, feel, imagine, dream, and grow. It has been a good life, not in the absence of sorrows, but maybe because of them. I am grateful.

Friday, November 20, 2009

A few words from Uncle Walt...

I have many favorites from the world of words, specifically poetry. Picking a single one as the only one, would be like picking out a single star to light the night sky; it would be a very dark night indeed. I love my favorites for various reasons. Some paint beautiful pictures. Some sound musical and magical when falling from the tongue. Some warm and comfort. Some give to words wings that are so beautiful they cannot be read without tears. And some tell the stark grey truth of this world. Their truth adds color to drab, not with flowery images or optimistic stanzas, but with the beauty found in the honesty of the human experience.

There are few poet's who do this as well as Walt Whitman. I heard once that the beauty of his poetry occured because he took us to the kitchens of America and made us want to stay when we arrived. Leaves of Grass is the most stark, and yet seemingly beautiful, presentation of the human world. If you haven't read it, you should try. It is a lot to read at once and it requires patience while acquiring the rhythms of his language, but it is worth the work. So, for Friday, a few words...

"This is what you shall do: Love the earth and the sun and the animals, despise riches, give alms to every one that asks, stand up for the stupid and crazy, devote your income and labor to others, hate tyrants, argue not concerning God, have patience and indulgence toward the people, take off your hat to nothing known or unknown or to any man or number of men, go freely with powerful uneducated persons and with the young and with the mothers of families, read these leaves in the open air every season of every year of your life, re-examine all you have been told at school or church or in any book, dismiss whatever insults your own soul, and your very fleash shall be a great poem and have the richest fluency not only in its words, but in the silent lines of its lips and face an between the lashes of your eyes and in every motion and joint of your body..."

...and in case that wasn't enough...

A Clear Midnight

This is thy hour O soul, thy free flight into the wordless
Away from books, away from art, the day erased, the lesson
Thee fully forth emerging, silent, gazing, pondering the
themes thou lovest best,
night, sleep, death and the stars.

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Singing in the stairwell...

I work late on Wednesdays. Usually the evenings pass uneventfully, a little filing, a few chart notes, and not much else. Tonight, I went to get my car earlier than usual and parked it in the terrace closer to the hospital. I came back into hospital through a back stairwell that is rarely used. As the door clicked behind me, the stairwell was filled with music--someone was singing on the stairs above. The voice wasn't magnificent or impressive, some of the notes were off key, but it was an honest voice and its song was brave and uninhibited. I'm sure the woman thought she was alone. She picked a unfrequented stairwell, sat down on the steps, and started to sing. Her voice echoed around her and it must have sounded different to her as the source of the music.

I stood on the stairwell floor and listened for awhile. She continued to sing, one song after another. Maybe she sang because she thought no one was listening. Maybe she sang because the melody hummed around her as it crossed the cement, circling the stairs up and down. Maybe she sang simply because she had a song. I'll never know, but her singing was a moment of quiet joy for me. Where the world was filled with the beauty only an honest voice can bring.

Manipulations of a four year old...

My niece has recently become obsessed with money. She wants it...bad. She scours my bedroom floor for loose coins, which up until now I have willingly relinquished. Last week she informed me that she didn't want any more change...she only wanted real money, paper money. I asked her why she needed paper money. "To buy things," she replied while giving me the wow-you-are-really-dumb-face. She's four! What does she need to buy? Being the nice aunty I am I gave her a dollar. Since then she asks me for a dollar every time she sees me. It is funny...well...sort of funny.

Monday I had a migraine. I woke up from my phenergan induced coma and needed to visit the bathroom. I was looking for my pajama pants when my niece came in. "Oh you're awake," she says. "Can I have a dollar?" "No you may not. You have enough dollars," I reply. Then I sneezed.

I'm sure it has happened to others, but since I turned 30, sometimes if I have a full bladder and then sneeze, more comes out than just the sneeze. If you know what I mean, then you understand. This happened to be one of those special sneeze times and I ran to the bathroom to remedy the situation. When I came back to my room, my niece asked what had happened. I was honest and told her about what had happened. "Hmmm...." she said looking thoughtful.

Five minutes or so passed. I was laying down and my darling niece was lying on the bed reading. Just as I'm about to go back to sleep, Olivia says, "Um, Sissa?" "Yes?" I say. "How about you give me a dollar or I go tell my mom you peed your pants."

Monday migraines and manipulated by a four old, what could be better?

Monday, November 16, 2009

A love list...

I will finish the New York Chronicles, complete with pictures, but in the interm I wanted to publish a little something else. I stole this idea from another blog I read and love. So, since imitation is the sincerest form of flattery...

Sunday's Love List

~sleeping in a room of cool, quiet dark
~waking up without an alarm
~snuggling under a heavy quilt
~french toast with lots of butter and maple syrup
~bare feet
~re-reading a book you love and realizing why you still love it
~listening to Eilen Jewell
~playing the piano
~cathedral concerts
~peacock blue
~finishing a scarf, including all the loose ends
~letting go
~the blessing of a cheerful heart
~the delicious feeling of being snuggled in bed and knowing that at any moment you will fall gently to sleep

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

The New York Chronicles...

Last month I went to New York. I've wanted to write about it, as I have been so obviously absent from my blog since my last trip. Please note that the Portland Chronicles still only have one day. That's what school and life will do for you. Oh, how pleasant the time will be when I have time. With that being said and behind me, I can now focus on the job at hand. Come with me to New York City...

I had never been to the famed city until June when I was invited by my darling school friend, Meghan. Shea (another friend) and I went for the weekend and had a marvelous time. We bummed around Central Park, visited the MoMA, shopped in SoHo, and met the only star for which I am starstruck, Lauren Graham. I bought a cocktail ring, a scarf, three beautiful photographs, and a giant hat all from street vendors who were not also selling knock offs. It was was beautiful whirlwind weekend. Since then I have been in love.

This time my trip to New York was to visit my two friends, Steven and Loren, who are adventuring there. The trip was different, but good. We did all the touristy stuff and Steve really out did himself to show me a nice time. It all went something like this...

Day One--I took the red eye and landed red-eyed. Then I bravely took the subway by myself to the boys' apartment. (This made my mother insane with nervousness, but I'm in my thirties...time for us both to grown up). Steve had to go to school, but we met in the street, hugged, and said hello and goodbye in one quick breath. Loren was waiting for me at the apartment, graciously carried my suitcase up three of the five stories, and talked to me until he had to leave. We had almost an hour together and it was so nice. (Side note--I am pretty sure Loren is my soulmate. We are perfectly aligned in interests and intelligence. Plus, he is just a darling boy. I mean darling)!!! He kindly let me sleep in his bed and got down his down comforter so I would be warm enough. Very sweet! Iwas tired, but I felt quite swoony as evidenced by my tripping over the rug when I hugged him. (Not really...I justed wanted to use the word swoony).

I slept away the morning, then spent the afternoon reading and waiting. It was exceedingly pleasant to do nothing at all, but sit by the window, in the sun, reading. Such times are full of such quiet joy. Steve got home earlier than expected and our adventures began. We took the subway to Grand Central Station. It was a sight! I loved the old building and the masses of people coming and going; deep waves moving from one place to another. The windows were high and arched. The ticket windows were from another time. I wanted to be in that time. From Grand Central, we took the train to Broadway and walked in the rain to the theater where they had lottery tickets for In the Heights. While we were waiting for the lottery to start, I asked Steve if he was feeling lucky. He said he never felt lucky, but his was the first name called. Front row seats for $26 each was pretty lucky! We went to dinner while we waited for the show. It was a themed diner with terrible and really expensive food, but the atmosphere was good and we had a great time. Then we sat under a hotel eave and talked. There is something wonderful about sitting and talking with an old friend, someone who knows you completely, and feels as familiar as your own skin. We talked and laughed and it felt just like it has always felt...just like home.

In the Heights was amazing! The songs were so good and the dancing was incredible. If you're in New York and get the chance, it is worth seeing. After the play we walked around Time Square a little and then went home.

Day 2--Steve stayed home from school (I had nothing to do with this decision). We went to the cutest restaurant for breakfast called Penelope's. Steve said he walked by it one day, thought of me, and knew I would love it. I did love it! It was small and very old home with peacock blue wainscotting on the walls, white rectangular subway tiles, a wooden counter, and old glass jars in glass faced cabinets. We sat at the counter. I had the most wonderful french toast I have ever eaten. It was served with strawberries and blueberries and thick maple syrup. It was coat crusted thick with light batter hinted with vanilla and paired perfectly with the freshly sqeezed orange juice. I loved it! Just another perk of being with someone who knows you!

We walked to Madison Square Park and looked at all the buildings surrounding it including the famous Flat Iron Building. On the street near the park were a line of street vendors, selling fall time fares: hot cider, hot cider doughnuts, cinnamon roasted almonds, warm cinnamon buns, pumpkins, scarves, and everything fitting for the coming cold. We then walked back to the apartment so Steve could work on a paper. I read a little and he studied a little, but we decided the weather was holding out for us and we better use it up. We took the train to the Brooklyn Bridge stop with grand plans of walking the entire length.

Side note--A Story about Falling

I have a HUGE fear of falling. Not heights--falling. I don't know when it started or where it came from, but it is very, VERY real. As a result, I do not walk on anything that doesn't have earth underneath. I strategically avoid street grates, pothole covers, foot bridges, and anything with open slats or large gaps. If I can see down, it is almost impossible for me to walk on something ungrounded. I almost died of fright trying to walk across the Golden Gate Bridge, which makes the next part of this story almost miraculous...

The Brooklyn Bridge is a beautiful bit of architectural genius. It really is a magnificent sight spanning the bay between Manhattan and Brooklyn. It was the first bridge built that connected the Burroughs and its historical significance was not lost on me. Walking across it was my idea and I was excited! Steve and I were talking and laughing. The cement beneath our feet was firm and fall proof. Then...the cement ended and I discovered the entire length of the bridge is acutally made up of small wooden slats. You can see through the slats to the lanes of cars running below. The bridge hums with the movement of traffic. Essentially, it is one big street grate. I was immobilized and torn between my two options. On one hand was this deep, deep, almost paralyaing fear of falling. Walking a mile across a wooden, slatted footbridge was too much. On the other hand, was my longing to walk across the bridge and look and Manhattan from the Brooklyn side. I wanted to go back to the time where the bridge was part of people's daily commute. I wanted to walk on something historical because I wanted to be a part of that history. After five minutes of self deliberation, I looked at Steve and said, "Okay, we're going, but this is how it is going to work. We are not going to talk about. I am not going to think about it. We are going to make no references to how high we are or the fact we can see the traffic moving underneath. We are not even going to look down. We are going to walk across and everything is going to be fine." Steve just laughed and said okay. He did a very good job keeping up his end of the deal. He only asked once if I thought it would hurt more to hit the cement or the water. One careful looked was all he needed to remember what we weren't talking about it. We made it safely across the entire bridge with a little bravery to spare. See? A miracle!

The view of Manhattan from the bridge was worth it and I realized how often fear keeps us from doing things that turn out to be amazing!