03 November 2010

just call me angel of the morning

Brooch. Brooch. Brooch.
One word, one syllable. So much more.
Yes, it's a little sparkle. But. It's also a throwback to another era...
It's class, joy, a ruby-lipped pout, a sepia still, pinned to a cardigan sweater.
It's beauty in a moment, and I'm thankful for that.

26 October 2010

in the wee small hours of the morning

I'm thinking about Sleepless in Seattle, and peeling an apple in one long, curly strip. Like magic.
You know my problem? I want to be in love in a movie. Houseboats and radios, tiramisu and teddy bears...bring it on. Let's catch that last elevator, shall we?

21 October 2010

how do I get you alone

I love this. I love its whimsy, its soothing tones...but most of all, its message.

06 October 2010

Thank you India, thank you frailty...

Honestly, the last few days have not been easy. I've alternated between poles of feeling fine and comforted, and then utterly depressed and despondent. I've gone between thinking myself beautiful and admiring my independence, to bemoaning my failings and looking at his profile...with a relationship status and wall postings that he's still (still!) neglected to tell me about. Thank you, social networking newsfeed, for messing with my mind.
But no matter. I've forced myself to start completing daily gratitude lists so that I don't forget that even though some big aspects of my life have strayed from the desired path, there are still plenty of daily joys. I am lucky, even though I may not acknowledge it sometimes.
I'm reading Our Town with the ninth-graders right now, and I can't help but see its applicability to my current circumstances. On the surface, my life may seem mundane, but it still has unique jewels that shine through; I have attempted to relive the past, but like Emily Webb, I've come to learn that there is beauty in the present: "Do any human beings ever realize life while they live it-- every, every minute?"
I have to believe that things will get better, a faith in the future which may negate my attempts to live in the present. This mixtape illustrates those hopes, so I call it "Better."

1. "Better Things" by The Kinks
2. "There's Gotta Be Something Better Than This" from Sweet Charity
3. "Today Will Be Better, I Swear" by Stars
4. "Good Times Gonna Come" by Aqualung
5. "This Is Where It Gets Good" by Eels
6. "Better" by Regina Spektor
7. "Feeling Good" by My Brightest Diamond
8. "It's Gettin Better (Man!)" by Oasis
9. "The Good Stuff" by Schuyler Fisk
10. "I'm Gonna Make It Better" by She & Him
11. "Pretty Good Year" by Tori Amos
12. "Closer to Fine" by Indigo Girls
13. "Daydream Believer" by the Monkees
14. "Nobody Does It Better" by Radiohead
15. "Be Good to Yourself" by Journey
16. "Beautiful World" by Coldplay
17. "Good Heart" by the Mynabirds
18. "Better Days" by Goo Goo Dolls
19. "For Good" from Wicked
20. "At My Most Beautiful" by R.E.M.
21. "On Top of the World" by the Carpenters
22. "They Can't Take That Away From Me" by Ella Fitzgerald and Louis Armstrong
23. "Don't Dream It's Over" by Crowded House
24. "Up on the Roof" by James Taylor and Carole King
25. "Darlin Do Not Fear" by Brett Dennen
26. "Don't Look Back" by O.M.D.
27. "Learnalilgivinanlovin" by Jens Lekman
28. "What Me Worry" by St. Vincent

What songs would be on your "Better" mix? Please share! I need as much magical music as I can get.

"you always said I was a dreamer
but now I know who's dreaming deep"

04 October 2010

We have no past, we won't reach back, keep with me forward all through the night...

My friend Louise hit it right on the nose today: I live in the past instead of in the present.
On one level, this is good for my career: after all, a literature teacher has to not only understand but appreciate the past, not only understand context but live in it by loving it. However...
I remember too well. I hold onto memories like they're sign-posts, like life-preservers. I stay still instead of moving with the current. Every story that I tell, every reference point, is to college, or England, or New York, (or ex-bf). I haven't formed any new stories in the last three years. Well, I'm not exactly sure how to go about it...but it's time to take care of myself in more than one realm. My entire life cannot be my career. And honestly, I think I've used exbf as an excuse to avoid moving forward, and now that he's moved forward-- for real this time-- it brings my pathetic reliance on him into too-harsh light. My anger's not at him for being happy: it's at myself for not doing enough to make me happy.
How do you let the sign-posts and life-preservers go, though, when you've gotten used to being stuck? I can't even picture myself doing something crazy, like dating, or like re-structuring my life so that a boy who got it wrong a lot of the time is not the locus of my romantic orbit. I really have fallen into a rut: my life resembles Our Town not just in its simple joys but in its supreme absence of risk and its reliance on routine. How do I start? How do I get back some of what I was in the past without dwelling in it, but while propelling myself forward to the future? I just don't want to be Blanche DuBois, fictionalizing and falsifying, dwelling in a beautiful dream of yesteryear at the expense of joy, sanity, and the foreseeable future...

"And the seasons they go round and round
And the painted ponies go up and down
We're captive on a carousel of time
We can't return, we can only look behind from where we came
And go round and round and round in the circle game."
~joni mitchell~

"Can't repeat the past? Why of course you can!"
~the great gatsby~

"I was blinded from the constant looking back: Lot's wife. I only ever saw the gathering clouds."
~the poisonwood bible~

26 September 2010

like the cactus tree...being free...

I bring it back again-- the metaphor of the cactus tree, full and hollow, according to lovely Joni's words. I hope that you've had the chance to listen to the song, but in a nutshell, it's about a girl who avoids commitment in favor of self-actualization and freedom. I always come back to it: the idea of the beauties and treasures relationships can bring, but the paralysis they sometimes cause; the competing tensions of security and wanderlust. A heart that's full and hollow, indeed.
This image has borne down especially heavily upon me this weekend. Without revealing too much about myself, I'll say that this weekend marked the nupitals of one ex-best-friend from college, a toxic friend who caused me much insecurity in the past and is the major reason that I've resisted having an all-consuming "best friend" ever since. In college, I was the one who dreamed smaller and pictured myself settling down sooner rather than later; she dreamed of Ph.D.s and shining seas, a successful career and exotic locale. Then I introduced her to her now-husband. Then we had a falling-out when I realized the crushing nature of her friendship and her sabotage of several of my romantic relationships. Then I went abroad and grew and thrived, moved to Manhattan, then to DC, then back to the midwest, all the while dreaming about new lands to conquer and new adventures to be had. I loved and lost and finally loved myself more. My need for adventure outshone my desire for marriage, while she moved to the suburbs, abandoned professorship, taught the lower grades (when she'd always rebuked my desire to teach high school), got engaged and now married...to the man she would not have met were it not for me. Odd, huh?
Three things have preoccupied me in the last few days and have led to several soul-sucking nightmares. First of all, if I consider my wanderlust and dedication to my career a choice, than why do I consider her marriage a "good thing" that happened to a "bad person"? What does that say about me that despite everything I've achieved, I still consider my life to be incomplete because a ring "gives a woman's life value"? Second, assuming I've reconciled the "good thing" question, why do good things happen to bad people? Whatever happened to karma, and when will I get my due? The last few years may have been exciting, but they have never been easy or stable. Third, is a desire for adventure and travel and self-reliance incompatible with security and marriage? I keep having these nightmares that I get married but I know intuitively that it is wrong: either I can't fathom "forever," or I know I've chosen the wrong person, or I feel like I'm being untrue to myself by allying myself with somebody else. Still, despite these anxieties, I still find myself peering at other women's engagement rings and wondering if others judge me to be deficient in some way because I don't have a man. My best friends are all either married or in a serious relationship that will lead to marriage, and I often don't fit in with their discussions or gatherings. It's a tough battle to face, especially alone. And then I wonder whether my life is really that free...most of the time, my head seems absorbed with other people's concerns and more and more demands pressed upon my energy.
I wish these thoughts weren't on my mind. I wish that my ex-best-friend had gotten her karmic dose and fooled fewer people (even though I then feel terrible for wishing someone ill). I wish I found someone who would allow me my freedom. I wish that I were less drained of energy and could therefore force myself to see the beauty in my life. I wish that sleep soothed me instead of plaguing me. I just wish for answers and for a semblance of resolve that I have made the right choices and that good things are in my future.

"You don't want to love-- your eternal and abnormal craving is to be loved. You aren't positive, you're negative. You absorb, absorb, as if you must fill yourself up with love, because you've got a shortage somewhere."
~d.h. lawrence~

"Let yourself fall in love, if you haven't done so already. You are wasting your life."
~d.h. lawrence~

"I want to live my life so that my nights are not full of regret."
~d.h. lawrence~

22 August 2010

catch a falling star (don't let me fall, stars)

I can't sleep, so I feel the need to hide in the poetry of it all.
I long for gold shimmer glinting off smooth canal waters and soft words whispered in my ear.
Hands clasp my waist and suspend me, Phoenix-like, off railings and over ripples.
You may turn me to ash, but I will rise up in renewal and joy.
You may break me, but my ruins will be my rebirth.
Raise me up: let me gaze upon you from on high and let all traces of soot fade to cool green.
In reflection, upside down, my world makes more sense to me; an inverted hourglass under the bridge.
An undying balance, acres between me and raw and cruel.
I am and will be the center of my story.
"Let the world forsake me,
Let them do their worst,
I shall withstand it all,
They will not break me."

...And so it is
Just like you said it should be
We'll both forget the breeze
Most of the time
And so it is
The colder water
The blower's daughter
The pupil in denial...

31 July 2010

You won't get too far from me believing everything you read

Leaving for Amsterdam tomorrow! It's going to be rainy, but I'm sure the old stone streets reflected in puddles will be doubly lovely. Pia's photographs have been providing welcome inspiration and excitement.

29 July 2010

I saw the best minds of my generation destroyed by madness, starving hysterical naked

I can't wait. September 24th.
"angelheaded hipsters burning for the ancient heavenly connection to the starry dynamo in the machinery of night..."

On another intellectual note, I have not yet met my summer goal to finish reading Lolita, and it's almost back to school time! (and I'm woefully underprepared) It's a good thing that I have 9 hours on a plane on Sunday.

That's right, dearest readers-- I'm going to AMSTERDAM! I've never been before, and I'm so excited. It will be a whirlwind trip, because I have to go to a wedding in Poland after, but I'm hoping to absorb as much culture-- and a bit of obligatory tourism-- as I can in 3.5 days. Do you have any words of advice, suggested itineraries, or "must see" places? Or phonetic pronunciations of Dutch words?

28 July 2010

we're all the same, the men of anger and the women of the page

I promised to publish the second "manifesto" that impressed me. Now, forgive the writing; I will say that the sentence structure leaves something to be desired and sometimes have the philosophical wordiness of an art history textbook. (Have you ever tried to read one of those? Pure torture.) However, the sentiments ring pure: sharing the joy of the written word, recreating the fleeting nature of poetry through their own mobility, spreading the self-improvement institution that is the library, and growing wisdom throughout the world. I'm talking about the Itinerant Poetry Librarian.

In terms of the project’s philosophy: it touches on so many things that to try and sum it up in one neat sentence just isn’t possible. But now that we’ve had some time to sit down and collate our thoughts, if you will, we can tell you that the major issues we touch on, and are seeking to negotiate, are: the idea of poetry as a unique form of human communication, and thus a unique form of knowledge; and the idea of the public library as both recycling-knowledge space and civic space – concepts which we believe can also be used as models for sustainable growth in order to oust ourselves from the current cul de sac that is consumer-led, maximum profit-centred culture.

Surrounding these two core theories is the concept of liminality, both in the architectural sense: the conceptual, ephemeral relationships between people and spatial environments (installation and live performance art as a practice of liminality, library practice beyond physical building environments); and in the post-feminist (Luce Irigaray) and post-structuralist (Michel Foucault) sense of the hybridisation of forms of knowledge, experience and practice, that is, an exploration based on where and how ‘things’ meet, rather than where and how ‘things’ become ‘separate’ or are examined on the basis of differentiation. The blurring of borders and boundaries: that’s what we’re interested in exploring, the periphery of the periphery – or, as one recent new member of the library put it, the event horizon, in fact.

In terms of the ‘liminality’ of our library, this is essentially represented in both the library practice itself – operating without the confines of a building, so we literally install the library pretty much anywhere we manage to get to – and in the ‘liminal’ ethos of the library’s collection of items. The collection ethos – our acquisition policy, seeks to recognise and re-negotiate the ephemeral nature of poetry, in the sense of both its oralcy, and its continued existence in the outer realms of the ‘literature’ world. So, as you see, we’re back to the periphery of the periphery again.

Floating amongst all this are several further conceptual and literal explorations of sustainability: which centre on the core concepts of sharing and redistribution (of resources, knowledge etc.) and collectivity (working together, sharing together). These ideas have been generated, and expanded, throughout the project’s timeline, as we continued to explore, and find ourselves necessarily negotiating, these ideas (and thus their practical applications) in order to quite literally operate the project, in and of itself, and to maintain the ongoing growth and development of the project through time.

All of these ideas feed in to, and seek to help address, what we see as the key issues of our time: recognising the limits of our world’s resources, recognising that we may live ‘alone’ but that we share this world with others, recognising that the answers we seek are best addressed by a collective, civic-mindedness, that places health, education, lifelong learning, and ‘life experience’ above and beyond the pearly gates of simply making money.

Anyone can make money. It’s what you do with it that counts.

Essentially, we see that our work is about re-placing these notions of humanity, these values, back into our cultures: for if we do not, our cultures, our world – we – will not survive. Bertolt Brecht asked “What keeps mankind alive?” All the world over people have been answering his question, but the answers have been getting quieter and more and more subsumed by the burble of consumer-led culture.

It’s time to reclaim the conversation, and sing a song for (wo)mankind once again.

In homage to Brecht, our recent engagement with all things library-related and Germany, and our vision of the library as the curated collective mind and knowledge-space of our species, we’re christening this movement, this mindset, this concept and practice as:


It investigates human development from a systems analysis point of view, starting with the:

D (Data) ---> I (Information) ---> K (Knowledge) ---> W (Wisdom) model.

It encompasses:

Sustainability (Ecology of the Library)
Collectivity (The Commons / Copyright / The Library)
Recycling (The Library)
Alternative Distribution (Publishing / The Internet / The Library)
Redistribution (Publishing / The Internet / The Library)
Liminality (The Library / Poetry)
Civics (The Library as Civic Space / Democracy / Human Rights)
Civility (The Library as Citizen Space / Collective Social Minded-ness / Democracy / Human Rights)
Welfare (The Library as Knowledge Portal for Lifelong Learning and Development)
Society & Culture (The Library as Collective Cultural Archive / Knowledge Curator)

It is about exploring knowledge, and how we ‘attain’ or ‘acquire’ knowledge, as humans, from birth to death, and how this feeds and sustains our evolution, our development, as a species.

27 July 2010

hear my song, it will show you the way you can shine

Generally I am not a fan of the manifesto or "mission statement," if you will; they get too close to standing on a soapbox. Being polemical or belligerent, often being narrow-minded and damaging in their speech...it is impossible to argue with someone on a verbal rampage, because they never seek to learn, but rather seek to reassert their own "correct" opinion. Ad hominem, etcetera. If there's one thing that I think could destroy our world, it's human beings with reductive thoughts and hate in their hearts.
Phew. Excuse my own little manifesto.
Anyway, the point of this post is point out two people who get the manifesto right-- it's about what they believe, not what is. It's a way of life, a preferred way, but one that is still personal to the believer and anyone else who might self-elect into belief. It is not the only way; it is not denigrating to others; and most importantly, it comes from a place of love and beauty and learning. Anyone who seeks to be a life-long learner and purveyor of wisdom is a-ok in my book.
The first of these? Miss (now Mrs., officially!) Katie Armour, whose neotraditional style is after my own heart (although mine might have a bit more bohemia thrown in). It's a philosophy of loveliness and simple beauties:

We believe…

We believe in being glass-half-full sorts of girls.

We believe that often times, granny is chic.

We believe in peddling vintage Schwinns with flower baskets.

We believe in poetry, picnics, and piñatas.

We believe one is never too old to keep a diary, the secrets only grow more scandalous.

We believe in arranging fresh flowers unruly like an English garden.

We believe in adventure and traveling the globe, be it to Marrakech or Malibu.

We believe in mixing lucite with oriental rugs. Thrift store finds with heirlooms.

We believe in handwritten thank you notes, better late than never.

We believe in needlepoint, letterpress, decoupage and forgiving Martha Stewart.

We believe in piggy banks and cookie jars.

We believe in book clubs full of Fitzgerald, Hemingway, Austen and Woolf.

We believe station wagons are hopelessly chic.

We believe in recycling our Grandmothers’ names. Eloise, Jackie, Faye…

We believe in collecting: stamps, shells, books, big glittering diamonds…

We believe in marrying the boy that writes us the best love letters.

We believe in highly competitive board games—Chess, Scrabble, Chutes & Ladders.

We believe in spontaneous road trips and charming, chintzy bed & breakfasts.

We believe there’s something to fortune cookies, wishbones and 4 leaf clovers.

We believe in classics, shaken and stirred.

How can you argue with that? But the best part is, if someone does and peddles Philip Roth and Dan Brown, or even if someone differs slightly (like me) and wouldn't mind being the one writing the love letters instead of the other way around, that's just fine. Either we can shake our heads and marvel at the differences in others' tastes, or we can invite all the chipped teacups under the umbrella (that's a mixed metaphor if there ever was one!) and appreciate them for what they might be able to offer us. Maybe the manifesto will even change with time...
Check back tomorrow for the second manifesto-maker-made-good. I'm sleepy, and I have a meeting with Sir Department Chair tomorrow that will not permit me to laze the day away. Goodnight, dear ones...
Thought bubble: I'll take the ride, and you may not hop into the driver's seat, but maybe you'll be an occasional travel companion, or at least a slightly-unwilling-but-still-smiling-because-my-enthusiasm-about-randomness-is-what-makes-me-me listener to my tales.
"Of shoes-- and ships-- and sealing wax
Of cabbages-- and kings--"

25 July 2010

a moment, a love, a dream, a laugh, a kiss, a cry, our rights, our wrongs...

To know where you're going, you must know where you've been.
Seeing you last week...I knew that half of my heart is still yours. We fit together...like dessert spoons. Like pinkies.
But our lives will never be compatible. Nor can I trust you. Sometimes, though, I worry that I've exhausted my supply of love-- and then I tell myself that we are in the past, a different us ("not as we") is in the present, and I-- and someone special-- will be in the future.
What has been will be...but right, this time. You and I...we'll be fine. And in the meantime, I'll climb peaks and precipices and make masterpieces wherever I go..."like a cactus tree..."

"I want to speak with you in the round vowels
of your own language
to tell you how
I've named you myth and memory,
how I've made you a half-god."
~Patricia Fargnoli~

"The woman who follows the crowd will usually go no further than the crowd. The woman who walks alone is likely to find herself in places no one has ever been before."
~Albert Einstein~

"In Greek, nostalgia literally means the pain from an old wound. It's a twinge in your heart, far more powerful than memory alone. This device isn't a spaceship, it's a time machine. It goes backwards, forwards. It takes us to a place where we ache to go again. It's not called a wheel, it's called a carousel. It lets us travel the way a child travels. Round and around, and back home again. To a place where we know we are loved."
~Don Draper, Mad Men~

23 July 2010

"It would be magical. There'd be a tree fort involved. And Christmas lights."

I know, it's been a while...but to make it up to you, here is a new mixtape tracklist! It's called "I Like Bikes."

1. "Don't Worry, I'm Yours" mash-up by DJ Dain featuring Jason Mraz and Bobby McFerrin
2. "King of Anything" by Sara Bareilles
3. "I'll Try Anything Once" by Julian Casablancas
4. "Tonight the Streets Are Ours" by Richard Hawley
5. "Touch Me" by the Doors
6. "I'm Into Something Good" by the Bird and the Bee
7. "Grace Kelly" by Mika
8. "Don't Stand So Close to Me" by the Police
9. "Better" by Regina Spektor
10. "Little Lion Man" by Mumford & Sons
11. "Last Request" by Paulo Nutini
12. "Rambling Man" by Laura Marling
13. "Haven't Met You Yet" by Michael Buble
14. "Nightingales" by Sondre Lerche & the Faces
15. "Bravedancing" by Rachael Sage
16. "Tangled Up In Blue" by Bob Dylan
17. "Islands" by the xx
18. "Kisses Over Babylon" by Edward Sharpe and the Magnetic Zeros
19. "Jungle Drum" by Emiliana Torrini
20. "Luckiest Guy on the Lower East Side" by the Magnetic Fields
21. "Say Goodbye to Hollywood" by Billy Joel
22. "Home" by She & Him
23. "Trouble Comes Running" by Spoon
24. "Caught Up in You" by .38 Special
25. "The Only Living Boy in New York" by Simon & Garfunkel

09 June 2010

A you're adorable, B you're beautiful

Did anyone else know that sloths were this cute? Precious.

05 June 2010

I'm trying to get down to the heart of the matter

I know I've been absent for a while, but...


I'm utterly exhausted right now and already missing my kiddos, and it's difficult for me to not dwell in everything I could have done so much better, but I know that the two months to just BE and to actually develop a life outside of my teaching will be vital.
Rejuvenation, here I come.

"The power is in the balance: we are our injuries, as much as we are our successes."
~the poisonwood bible~

21 May 2010

why does it always rain on me

How incredible! You can literally live in a shoe...in New Zealand. Tasman Bay, Nelson, New Zealand, to be more specific. It stirs up my wanderlust, which has been irrepressible lately. More information on The Boot, yours for $160 a night:

The Boot is a retreat ideal for romantic weekends and special occasions. Our private boutique bed and breakfast accommodation is a two storey cottage in the shape of a giant boot, furnished especially for two. It is located in the heart of the beautiful Tasman region, centrally between the Able Tasman National Park, Kahurangi National Park and Nelson. A perfect position for exploring the highlights of Tasman Bay, Nelson, New Zealand.

The Boot stands nestled within a grove of hazelnut trees. Outside, the courtyard, surrounded by a fragrant garden, offers sun loungers for relaxing on hot afternoons and an alfresco dining area for spending lazy evenings beside the outdoor fireplace. Inside luxuriate on the comfy couch in front of the open fire, or enjoy an early night in the comfort of the upstairs bedroom. In the morning your choice of breakfast will be delivered to the door.

Our relaxed, quiet bed and breakfast adopts sustainable practices without deterring from the luxury experience that we want all our guests to enjoy. We use organic produce as much as possible, including our own free-range eggs and fresh fruit from the orchard. Guests are welcome to wander the paths of our 2.4 hectare garden during their stay.

Whether in Nelson and Tasman on holiday, or for some special time together, the two of you will enjoy your nights of escape from the world at The Boot.

There are two chairs at the table, two champagne flutes, two coffee cups. There is space for two on the couch, space for two on the bed, space for two in the shower...

The Boot, with its unique shape and tranquil, secluded surroundings, offers the utmost of romantic, hideaway accommodation for couples. Be it a special occasion or simply time alone The Boot is the perfect lovers retreat.

Downstairs there is a comfy couch in front of the open fire, a kitchenette with mini-bar and tea and coffee making facilities, and a tiled bathroom equipped with toiletries, soft towels, hairdryer and a shower built for two. Up the spiral staircase is the bedroom with regal queen-sized bed, dark curtains for late morning rises, and a Juliet balcony with views into the courtyard and across the pond. The courtyard itself is a sheltered outdoor space surrounded by a fragrant garden, ideal for soaking up the Tasman sunshine on sun loungers or enjoying long evenings of alfresco dining beside the outside fireplace.

Fresh flowers, fine Nelson Art, candles, complementary chocolates, a stereo and no TV complete the romantic scene. Breakfast of your choosing is delivered to your door any time before midday.

11 May 2010

The wee small hours

I find myself up, nights, crossing my feet in creases of sheets and squinting at the ribbons of light cast diagonally from the window.
My thoughts twirl.
Wee small hours, solitary, can play tricks with our heads...
oh to roam the streets of Manhattan, find dog-eared creased-leather-covered books of poetry left like arrows pointing to someone else's story.
To visit Lady Chrysler's moon-dust glow again.

MAY 11, 2010, 4:13 PM

Insomniac City

All-Nighters is an exploration of insomnia, sleep and the nocturnal life.

Todd Heisler/The New York Times

I moved to New York a year ago and felt at once at home. In the haggard buildings and bloodshot skies, in trains that never stopped running, like my racing mind at night, I recognized my insomniac self. If New York were a patient, it would be diagnosed with agrypnia excitata, a rare genetic condition characterized by insomnia, nervous energy, constant twitching, and dream enactment. An apt description of a city that never sleeps, a place where one comes to reinvent himself.

I brought very little with me, in part because I wished to leave behind reminders of the life I’d had, but also for more practical reasons. My new home was a virtual treehouse, a tiny top-floor walk-up apartment at eye-level with the Ailanthus boughs. There was not room for more than a desk, a chair, a mattress. Nor, a need: You see, the place came furnished with spectacular views of Manhattan.

What I didn’t know when I rented the place was that the French restaurant located straight below my apartment had outdoor seating till 2 a.m. Lying awake in bed, I could literally hear glasses clinking, toasts being made, six stories down. This was irritating at first. But it wasn’t long before I discovered a phenomenon heretofore unknown to me: Laughter rises. Hearing happy laughing people is no cure for insomnia but has an ameliorative effect on broken-heartedness.

If you are lonely or bone-tired or blue, you need only come down from your perch and step outside. New York — which is to say, New Yorkers — will take care of you.

Sometimes I’d sit in the kitchen in the dark and gaze out at the Empire State and Chrysler buildings. Such a beautiful pair, so impeccably dressed, he in his boxy suit, every night a different hue, and she, an arm’s length away, in her filigreed skirt the color of the moon. I regarded them as an old married couple, calmly, unblinkingly, keeping watch over one of their newest sons. And I returned the favor. I would be there the moment the Empire State turned off its lights for the night, as if getting a little shut-eye before sunrise.

Here’s another wonder I discovered about life here: In the summertime, late into the night, some leave behind their sweat-dampened sheets to read in the coolness of a park under streetlights. Not Kindles, mind you, nor i-Phones. But books. Newspapers. Novels. Poetry. Completely absorbed, as if in their own worlds. As indeed, they are. I had never seen anything like this until I took a shortcut through Abingdon Square Park one night while walking off my own mild agrypnia.

First I saw an old man reading a newspaper from which someone (his wife?) had snipped numerous articles; it looked like a badly botched doily. I tiptoed past, as if wearing slippers, and he, as if at home in his La-Z-Boy, did not glance up.

Next I spotted a young man reading a paperback with a distinctive brick-red cover. I was pretty certain I knew what classic he had in hand but had to make sure. I fake-dropped my keys nearby and crouched down for a better look. Just then, the young man shifted in his seat, denying me absolutely proof. That’s O.K. I was left to imagine him imagining himself as Holden Caulfield.

More in This Series

At the far end of the park, I found a middle-aged woman bathed in light Vermeer would have loved, reading what looked like a textbook. Was she a teacher preparing for tomorrow’s class, a student cramming last-minute, or neither of these? Perhaps she was simply teaching herself.

Of course, not everyone awake at this hour is an insomniac. The city is alive with doormen, delivery boys on bikes, street sweepers, homeless people, hustlers, prep cooks popping up out of trap doors in the sidewalk. I make a point of waving or nodding hello when I can. I have come to believe that kindness is repaid in unexpected ways and that if you are lonely or bone-tired or blue, you need only come down from your perch and step outside. New York — which is to say, New Yorkers — will take care of you.

One night not long ago I was walking down Hudson Street when I spotted a dollar bill on the sidewalk. Even at my age, 49, such a find seems magical. Free money! I leaned down to pick it up just as a woman opposite me was doing the same thing: “A dollar,” I heard her murmur, and our heads practically bumped. We both laughed. I happened to reach it first, but it seemed ungentlemanly to take it. “Here, it’s yours,” I said, offering it to the woman.

“No! No, it’s yours, you got it first.”

“No, I insist, you take it,” I said, but by this point, she was walking away, arm in arm with a handsome man; she already had her prize. Suddenly, inspiration struck: “I’m going to leave it for someone else!” I called back to her.

“Perfect!” she said, over her shoulder. “Good night!”

I dropped the dollar back onto the sidewalk. It was liberating: To throw money away or, more accurately, throw it to the fates, as I had with my life by moving to New York City.

I walked a few steps and, I kid you not, hid behind a tree to watch what would take place. One couple passed by without noticing the dollar, then another. Finally, a man about my age came walking in my direction. Hunched shoulders, troubled look, pulling on a cigarette. Definitely an insomniac,I thought. I want you to have it. It’s yours. You deserve it.

From my secluded vantage point, I watched as the fellow spotted the dollar. He stopped, looked around to see if anyone was in the vicinity. Perhaps someone in front of him had dropped it? No, the sidewalk was empty. He picked up the dollar and pocketed it with a small smile then went on his way. As did I, back to my treehouse.

07 May 2010

Only hymns upon your lips

"Just too unreal, all this..."
"Still you know they will fill your heart and mind
When they say, there's a way through this..."
"Another dream, another love you'll hold..."
"Had a sweetheart on his knees, so faithful and adoring
And he touched me, and I let him love me
So let that be my story..."

I don't do sadness.

03 May 2010

my heart is riding on your wings

You would have been 95 today.
I love you, Grandma.
P.S. I have a million dollar hat, too.
P.P.S. Your storm lamp turns my bedside reading aglow. Your needlepoint adorns my wall. Your handkerchiefs cover my countertop. You are missed, but still are very very present.

02 May 2010

where do we go from here?

4 AM. Awake, at turns amazed and disturbed by the inconsistencies in my life and in the world. Overwhelmed, by beauty and by ugliness and by my inability to fix it.

Somehow, art and music recover my missing piece. They resurrect my soul.
"I am folded and unfolded and unfolding
I am colorblind
Coffee black and egg white
Pull me out from inside."

"and miles to go before I sleep...and miles to go before I sleep..."

30 April 2010

There's a moment you know...

By Ada Limón

Maybe my limbs are made
mostly for decoration,
like the way I feel about
persimmons. You can't
really eat them. Or you
wouldn't want to. If you grab
the soft skin with your fist
it somehow feels funny,
like you've been here
before and uncomfortable,
too, like you'd rather
squish it between your teeth
impatiently, before spitting
the soft parts back up
to linger on the tongue like
burnt sugar or guilt.
For starters, it was all
an accident, you cut
the right branch
and a sort of light
woke up underneath,
and the inedible fruit
grew dark and needy.
Think crucial hanging.
Think crayon orange.
There is one low, leaning
heart-shaped globe left
and dearest, can you
tell, I am trying
to love you less.