Four days until I head for the green mountains of Vermont. Which, “Vermont oh my gawd it’s so beautiful” and VERMONT-holy-crap-I’m-going-to-the-middle-of-NOWHERE. Yep, that sums up the wild swings between excitement and terror, and there’s no curing it, it just is what it is. But I exaggerate. These are not so much wild swings as continual low-grade oscillations that I’m more or less ignoring.
Meanwhile, I’m staying sane by making lists (they soothe me, even if I never do look at them again), taking several walks a day, networking my buns off, getting in my last visits with Valley (that’s what we call this place I’ve been living) folk, petting the cat, finishing up a copywriting project, and generally exercising various creative muscles. Like taking photos of the neighborhood wild-life.
Also, reading a couple of interesting books on my – what do you call the people you’re house-sitting for? If I’m the house-sittER, does that make them the house-sittEES? As in opposite really from employER and employEE in terms of directionality of work and pay. Anyway, those people I’m housesitting for, I’m reading a couple of their books. In particular, The War of Art: Break Through the Blocks and Win Your Inner Creative Battles, by Steven Pressfield. Have you read it? You should. Really. I mean it. If you want to write, or do whatever it is that resistance gets in the way of, you should read it every day. Make it your bible.
It’s an inspirational book, yes. But it sticks with you the way other inspirational books don’t. It makes you want to sink your teeth in and never let up. It outlines the nature of resistance, and then how to combat it. Some of my favorite excerpts:
Resistance’s goal is not to wound or disable. Resistance aims to kill. Its target is the epicenter of our being: our genius, our soul, the unique and priceless gift we were put on earth to give and that no one else has but us. Resistance means business. When we fight it, we are in a war to the death.
When I lived in the back of my Chevy van, I had to dig my typewriter out from beneath layers of tire tools, dirty laundry, and moldering paperbacks. My truck was a next, a hive, a hellhole on wheels whose sleeping surface I had to clear each night just to carve out a foxhole to snooze in.
The professional cannot live like that. He is on a mission. He will not tolerate disorder. He eliminates chaos from his world in order to banish it from his mind. He wants the carpet vacuumed and the threshold swept, so the Muse may enter and not soil her gown.
It doesn’t really work to pull out excerpts, except to see his style – eloquent, and brutally to the point. It does, however, work to find a word for this week’s challenge. Your word this week, my dear word-nerds, is:
Work it well.
I am house/cat sitting for two weeks in my old stomping grounds of Northampton. This is the town I came to when I left Vermont, so it’s fitting that this is where I’ll be when I leave to go back to Vermont.
After all, where else do you find a glowing John Deere on a side street in a tiny yard, where not three minutes ago you passed a young woman sporting a mohawk, and two streets over you can’t walk 10 feet without gourmet food smacking you in the face.
After a week and a half in the roaring quiet of Vermont, the steady noise and human activity of this place is at once jarring and energizing. And if Family Camp was a close call to Utopia, this town is as close as it gets to living free. Solar, organic, permaculture, human rights – these are all part of every day life here. The history of two renowned women’s colleges and a once thriving commune set the stage as they released their citizens into the wild of the Valley.
It can be pretentious as hell. There are more highly educated freelancers here than anywhere I’ve ever lived, and they all spend their days haunting the local cafés (of which there are several), gobbling up the wi-fi and looking busily important. It’s a luxury many people in this country can’t afford. I won’t lie, I’ve been one of them – toting my laptop to bookstores, pastry and coffee shops, or just sitting near the fire or on the front porch. In my move to Vermont I may continue the freelance, or may take on a full time job, or both. I have to wait until I’m on the ground there to feel it out. Either way, it’s an adventure of discovering opportunity.
Interestingly enough, this was not the blog post I intended to write. I meant to write about this quote from Annie Dillard:
The reason to perfect a piece of prose as it progresses — to secure each sentence before building on it — is that original writing fashions a form. It unrolls out into nothingness. It grows cell to cell, bole to bough to twig to leaf; any careful word may suggest a route, may begin a strand of metaphor or event out of which much, or all, will develop. Perfecting the work inch by inch, writing from the first word toward the last, displays the courage and fear this method induces.
It seems so apropos to the 100 words exercise, and I love the poetic, lyrical quality of it. At least I can pull this week’s word from it, and that is:
Go forth word-nerds, break your own hearts.
Back from Family Camp and feeling a wee bit overwhelmed by the re-entry. “Camp” does little to describe the experience. I mean, yes, there are tents and campfires and sing-alongs and the great outdoors (771 acres of it), but there’s also 3 hours of meditation and teachings every morning for the parents, and even age appropriate meditation and ceremony for the children.
Let me tell you, there’s something incredibly transformative about spending a week meditating in a group for several hours a day. Think about it. If everyone at your work, or everyone in your extended family and all your friends sat down all at once to calm down their mind and open their senses…what would that look like?
When you mix that with something that falls somewhere between family vacation and a family reunion – it’s alchemy. What would normally be fun and memorable and dig into your heart later to emerge as nostalgia becomes something indescribable and heart piercingly tender and joyful. You fall in love with everything, and then your heart breaks in all the right places, and when you come back to “regular” life you want to squeeze everyone you know until their hearts break too. You want to tell the story of Family Camp, but it doesn’t come out right. “No, it’s not that it’s fun…”, and then your heart breaks some more because you can’t transmit what this is. It’s nowhere to be found in words.
That’s as close as I can get you to where I’ve been. Maybe I can edge you a little closer with this photo taken by my daughter, and a poem that the camp director recited on the last morning of camp as we sat in a misty meadow.
This poem, by the way, is attributed to Hafiz (sometimes spelled Hafez) but there has been contention and debate about the origins. Your word this week is:
You probably noticed I never got to that post last week. I decided to leave for our annual family camp trip to Vermont early this year (I needed it), and once here – well, it’s like entering an alternate universe for a week where regular work, and cell phones, and computers don’t exist. Instead there are new kinds of work, meditation, old friends, and a sky so close it seems quite possible that you could reach up and scoop a handful of cloud from it.
Here two of my favorite things so far:
I mean, as if porch-sitting wasn’t already blissful enough…
Yesterday I went into town with an old camp friend to go to the local bookstore to pick up some books for lakeside/porch/tent reading. I’m now reading Bel Canto by Ann Patchett on his recommendation. I’m only a few pages in, but it’s beautifully written so far. Your word from that book is:
Earlier today someone sent me a link to a feelings inventory. I’m pretty much having ALL THE FEELINGS, but specifically: terrified, dazed and torn, generally discombobulated and rattled, exhausted and weary, heartbroken, heavy hearted, frazzled and overwhelmed, fragile, shaky and nostalgic. But ALSO: open-hearted, tender, optimistic, empowered, appreciative, moved, thankful, and touched.
Maybe not all the feelings, but a lot of the feelings. My partner and I just split up after nearly 7 years. It was my choice, but I’m not sure how much that matters to feelings in the aftermath. You don’t get to walk away from that amount of time and emotional investment without feeling like the rug has been pulled out from underneath you. The earth even. Even if you did it to yourself.
“The mind of heartbreak is like a wild horse. You can’t just jump on and expect to ride. It will throw you again and again. So instead you hang around for a while until a sense of mutual trust develops.” ~Susan Piver
My decision was rather sudden, and horrifically ill-timed on many levels. And the logistics of the whole thing – the splitting up of this and that, who takes the cats, both cats? What about my daughter still living at home to finish one more semester at a local college before transferring? Where will she go? Where will I go for that matter? Will there be jobs there? Will I be able to swing this whole thing logistically and financially?
A U-haul load of uncertainties, worries, and tumbled up things that need to fall into place. Without too many emotional casualties please.
A lot is written about break ups, but it’s a bit unsettling that we don’t have any particular societal acknowledgment for it. No insurance coverage for it, no leave time from work for it, and to talk about it openly seems pretty taboo except amongst the closest of friends and family. Celebrities, politicians, bloggers, and social media personalities who thrive on the spotlight often go underground into silence during break ups. Yet marriage, new babies, loss of jobs, and even sickness are talked about without hesitation, and consequently a wider net of support is made available. What gives? It’s like we’re collectively ashamed and petrified of “the break up”.
Or like we’re collectively brain-washed into thinking this has to be done in martyr-like private agony.
I don’t know. Here I am, an ironically private blogger, feeling like it’s important for me to put out there. My life is going to be different from here on out, and it seems important that those who know me, even just a little, aren’t left trying to figure out what the catalyst was.
People break up, it happens. And so does the pain and confusion that follows. That’s normal too. So yeah, I’m going to be keeping company with a wild horse for a little while. And there’s your word, or words, for this week:
Keep it real word-nerds.