Hello. I am new to you. I moved here in February 2020.
I was just getting to know you, your hills and sidewalks, houses with yards promising flowers and decorated with fairy gardens, your cute shops and restaurants, your groovy movie theater, cafes, book store. I was hoping to grow my small friendship circle, have tea and go for walks with nearby friends, make my home a welcoming place for people to gather for board games and salons.
Then Covid struck, and I went inside.
Since March, I have been learning, or re-learning, stillness, and I am not good at it. In the early years of my life, I was still because my body demanded it. I was in a body cast, healing from hip dysplasia. After that cast came off, I could not stop walking, running, dancing, playing volleyball, climbing, jumping, skating, riding my bike. I was active for years. When I learned to drive and discovered train travel, I saw most of this country, 48 of our states. By the time I braved air planes, I had severe arthritis, my body once again demanding stillness to get through sharp periods of pain, but I prevailed, moving with a crutch and then a cane.
I wanted to experience cities in Europe, my ancestry, a kind of home. I wanted to see my family, attend my niece’s wedding, bike along the ocean in Delaware, hike among the trees of Vermont. I wanted to go. I didn’t think about gasoline, how my travel might affect other species, this planet. The urge to go was stronger.
I made the decision to have hip replacement surgery in 2018, and shortly after this, my body remembered easy movement, painlessness. I fell back in love with trails, back in love with distance. I took those first steps, and I vowed never to take movement and painlessness for granted, to savor every wandering step, bike pedal, flexible stretch and dance move.
So, while I know stillness, I prefer movement. I come from a family that likes to move. I am a newly able-bodied, middle-aged woman, former teacher, restless poet. I write from these voices, from this body.
Because I have been inside, I have been working quietly to confront and question who I am- my personal past mistakes, the collective horrors of my species. I am learning, listening.
As I do this, I hold a heaviness within me, but I also experience intense moments of joy. Most of the time, this happens in my kitchen, when I am cooking and listening to music. Waves of gratitude wash over me for the life I have had, for the privileges of food, water, shelter, love and art. So much art.
Yes, Village, within this stillness, I have been making art. I think this is how my body has responded to quarantine. Maybe this is my way of fighting back. Maybe I am creating to counter a destructive energy that could smother me if I let it. I don’t really know, but this is what I’ve been doing…
I’ve begun sending my novella, the entire manuscript, to small publishing houses for contests and during their open submissions periods. As many editors and agents advise, I need to find my kindred spirits, places that accept hybrid literature, presses that embrace poetry as well as prose. I know this will be a long process, perhaps years, but I am ok with this. Quarantine has been teaching me patience.
I’ve finished a collection of poems that has an audio element. Yay! It’s another hybrid! Within this collection, I’ve written in free verse, and I’ve played with poetic forms-pantoums, villanelles, sonnets, as well as a form I created, a form I call the altered minute. I’ve blended these poetic forms with Benjamin’s ambient and modern classical music. I love working with Benjamin. I love our duet, The Dwindlers. Quarantine has made me love deeper.
Quarantine has made me grateful for technology, for my access to the internet, because I can collaborate, share thoughts about poetry, music and art…
I’ve been meeting with my editor, fellow poet and dear friend, Athene. We’ve shared our poetry collections, and we are helping each other get our work out into the world. Athene is one of the strongest and smartest women I’ve ever met. She is a deeply intuitive reader of poetry, dedicated to the craft on a level that I cherish and need. Her collection is gorgeous! Within it, she honors her mother and grandmother, she questions time and memory, mourns loss and connects with nature. I can not wait for her work to be published!
I’ve been meeting with my friend, fellow writer and educator, Christine. She’s invited me to create interdisciplinary curricula, something I’ve wanted to do for a long time. Also, thanks to her, and as part of this curricula, I’m drawing and collaging, reconnecting with my visual work. Christine has helped me take a part of myself back. Her generosity and sensitivity are just a couple of her strengths. She writes with clarity and a witch-wicked sense of humor. I love what Christine and I are making, and I’m excited to share it!
I’m meeting again with my writers’ group from when I lived in Berlin, The Raumerstrasse Writers. Twice a month, we take turns coming up with prompts, and then during our video chats, we read our work to each other. When I see their lovely faces on the screens- Ralph in Berlin, Jen now in Bristol, and Christine in Amsterdam, I wish I could be in a pub or a coffee shop with them, laughing face to face. When I hear Jen’s voice, I fall into a poetic, rhythmic space that begins with the smallest details and grows into a wide landscape. When I hear Ralph’s voice, I am transported to parties, social gatherings where I laugh easily, where I feel delighted and a little naughty, like I’m eavesdropping on conversations between fascinating characters. And like I mentioned above, when I hear Christine’s voice, I experience a clarity, a keen, honest, vulnerable insight combined with a sharp wit. Thanks to all three of my friends, and our creative prompts, I’ve started my second book! My first book really took flight when I was with them in Berlin, so it’s fitting that this would happen. Christine, Jen and Ralph are my foundations, and I am deeply thankful they are in my life.
I am profoundly thankful for another recent rekindling. I’m back making art with my dear friend, Kelly, an amazing film maker and musician. She and I were in a band and in grad school together in Chicago. Now we are back together writing songs, dreaming of performing and making installations again someday. Thanks to this sacred reunion, I’ve started singing, really singing. Thanks to conversations with her, I’ve been walking into my pantry (my witchy closet) opening my mouth and singing to the trees in the backyard. I feel so much joy when I do this, I cry. Kelly is supportive and empathetic. She reassures me about my voice, my ability to hear melodies. She’s been teaching me about harmonizing, teaching me to listen. Singing is a relatively new thing for me to explore at this level, and it’s a bit scary, makes me feel vulnerable, but with Kelly, I reach for fearlessness. And she is so funny! We belly laugh every time we talk. I am looking forward to the day when I can hug her and her lovely husband, Mark (or as we affectionately call him, Campbell). Kelly and I have ignited a fire that we have both needed and wanted for a long time. I am beyond grateful that she’s back in my life.
Also back in my life is the drummer from our Chicago band. Mark, or Hughes, as we lovingly call him, personifies love and loyalty. He is the reason Kelly and I are back together, because he started the conversation that sparked the reunion. We have video-gathered twice now and both times were epic! We get caught up on our lives, jobs and families, and then we talk about music and laugh for hours and hours. Kelly has made the analogy that we are like puppies, and all we want to do is roll around on each other. She said, “Or it’s like we are children in a bouncy castle, and we just want to jump around and laugh.” Yes. We are puppy children. Our conversations carry me for days. Just knowing my friend Hughes is out there, as a musician, loving husband and father, and principal of a middle school makes me feel reassured, hopeful about the world and deeply, deeply grateful.
I’ve been conversing with my lovely friend, Dara. Like me, Dara writes and sings and loves Patti Smith. I love Dara because she is such a balanced person- playful and driven, energetic and calm, funny and smart. She possesses a deep passion for the environment, dedicating her life to sustainability and minimalism. She’s my heroine and inspiration in navigating the often exhausting world of self- promotion. I can trust that whenever I talk with Dara, I won’t dread the business aspects of writing quite as much, in fact, I know I will feel renewed energy, and I will laugh with her too. I exhale, thankful Dara is in my life. And in the spirit of shameless plugs, I invite you to learn more about Dara and her awesome business, Less Equals More.
Benjamin and I are staying in touch with Rose, the singer from our trio, Born in Snow. Together we have written enough songs for an album we have loosely titled, Tree House Tapes. For this project, I write lyrics and add spoken verse. I am excited to hear from Rose because she has the magical ability to make her voice sound like flowers one minute and a Southwest desert the next. I’m looking forward to receiving more tracks from her. I’m looking forward to hearing Rose sing for our trio and for herself.
We have also kept in touch with Stephen, another most interdisciplinary artist friend of ours from Chicago. Stephen inspires me because he’s written several books, plays guitar like a bad ass, and he draws and paints. Watching his videos on Monsterology relaxes me, especially when he does plein air water color and ink. I love that he works from city parks, and I especially admire that he works in cemeteries. I look forward to every scotch and conversation with him. Benjamin and I agree that talking with Stephen feels like home.
Another friend who feels like home is Eric, or EB, as we call him. I wrote in my last post that both EB and Stephen understand the art of conversation, the give and take. They know how to listen and they balance humility with self-assuredness. I want to add to the list of praises for EB that he is a bass player. Yes, I surround myself with bass players and witches, and yes, I sing their praises. There is something natural, or nature-connected about both bass players and witches. It’s in the way they know rhythm, the cyclical aspects, how they can root down and stay in the essence of things. And bass players are just genuinely cool. It’s in the way they move and in their speech patterns. When EB greets me, he says, “Hey, girl.” This might not sound remarkable to anyone else, but to me, this is a comforting, Midwest kind of greeting. Also like witches, bass players are intuitive. When we were in Chicago last year, hugging EB goodbye after a day of hanging out, he looked directly at me and said, “See you when you move back.” Thank you, EB, that was in the pocket, and you know it.
Village, since March, I’ve only taken 3 or 4 walks, and while each one made my legs and hips feel good, I am not home. I don’t really know you, so the walks have felt strange, and people are still not granting the consistent space I need to feel safe. I miss the people and the land where I have a history. All nature inspires and informs my writing, and I’ve found some peace looking out my window, seeing bees and clover, songbirds, hawks, bunnies, squirrels and chipmunks, flowers, cedars, maples… but I am not home. I can’t lie, while you are very charming, I am dreaming of being in different places with people who really know me…
I’m dreaming of Florida- shopping and drinking coffee with my Mom, playing Scrabble and practicing Spanish with my Dad, eating fresh fish sandwiches with my brother, chatting and laughing with my sister-in-law, having an art day with my niece, chatting with her husband over a beer, biking at Flat Woods Park with my nephew and his fiancé.
I’m dreaming of Wisconsin- biking and singing with my youngest brother, getting to know all of my extended family better, having my body back on the land where I was born.
I’m dreaming of Colorado-talking, laughing and sipping with my mothers-in-law, chatting and hiking and playing board games with my sister and brother-in-law, my nephew and nieces.
I’m dreaming of Chicago-strolling arm-in-arm on those wide sidewalks, talking and laughing and sitting down to sip wine or vodka and talk more and more with my friend, Irina.
I’m dreaming of Virginia- cooking delicious meals, sipping excellent cocktails, laughing and listening to music and talking endlessly with our friends, Nick and Allen.
I’m dreaming of North Carolina- laughing and talking with my friends Mercedes, Jen, and Sophie, reconnecting with our friend Cat and her family, reconnecting with my poet friend, David and his lovely wife, Doris, and my dancer friend, Kate and her love, Dale…
Village, I can’t lie. I’m dreaming of wandering far away from you, but I want you to, as everyone is saying now, stay safe and healthy. Keep your charms and thrive again.
Until then, may you find peace within the stillness.