But you are the only person alive who has sole custody of your life. Your particular life. Your entire life. Not just your life at a desk, or your life on the bus, or in the car, or at the computer. Not just the life of your mind, but the life of your heart. Not just your bank account, but your soul.
~Anna Quindlen, A Short Guide to a Happy Life
I’ve been working on a bucket list of things that I’d like to do. It’s a crazy list, ranging from easy to impossible. But it seems worth putting it all down in writing somewhere, to refer to when I get a hankering to pursue a new goal. If you’re interested, take a look.
So many of the things on this list I would have written off as impossible a few years ago–for example, I can remember when I was 28, telling a friend that I’d never ski again. Because I was already too old.
Perhaps the gift of turning 40 is the realization that it’s now or never…and simply not letting impossible enter into the equation.
From the “Impossible Manifesto”
Excitement comes from not quite knowing what’s coming next. When you travel the road that everyone else paves for you, it’s fairly easy to know what’s next, because they tell you.
When you pave your own, you have no idea. No one has ever done what you’re about to do. You can have reference points from mentors but for the first time in your life, no one is telling you what’s up ahead.
There’s bad news and good news:
The bad news: Nobody can tell you what’s next.
The good news: Nobody can tell you what’s next.
You get to decide.
This is why I’m headed to the High Country this weekend. It’s about time…
(From “The High Country” by Bernard DeVoto):
I wish that everyone could know the high country….[where] summer is, like all brief seasons, passionate and intense. The crest has passed by the middle of August, and then there comes a period which I find the most poignant of all. A new brightness comes into the air and the colors. The underbrush is splashed with scarlet, poplar and cottonwood leaves are gold, and the aspens have reached a high, shining silver. Mist hangs blue and lavender gauzes across the canyons and the distances almost till noon; twilights are early and long. There is a hush, an expectancy in the air–a portent of winter, a premonition of death, but the world is resolved to reach its fulness first. There is an illusion that no one is here but you, and you respond to it with a delight so deep, so moving, so complete that it is wrapped round with sadness. Above all others, this is the time to visit the high country.
Why, yes, I did hold one of my classes at the Orange train station. Trains + teaching + awesome students = WIN! 🙂
It also helped that we were discussing the impact of the trans-continental railroad on the environment of the American West as the trains were whooshing past us on the tracks.
A few years ago, whenever I was faced with a situation where I would typically insert deity into my thinking, I started inserting the ocean instead. It seems something worth worshiping (whereas God was no longer something I could worship) because it is vast and ineffable and powerful. I find it easier to surrender to the currents and ways of the sea than I do to anything else in my life right now, and find that time out on the water also seems to put everything into perspective.
Perhaps that’s why this song struck me so powerfully when it came onto my Pandora playlist recently…
And it’s peaceful in the deep,
Cathedral, you cannot breathe,
No need to pray, no need to speak
Now I am under.
And it’s breaking over me,
A thousand miles onto the sea bed,
Found the place to rest my head…
And the arms of the ocean are carrying me,
And all this devotion was rushing out of me,
And the crashes are heaven, for a sinner like me,
The arms of the ocean deliver me.
Though the pressure’s hard to take,
It’s the only way I can escape,
It seems a heavy choice to make,
Now I am under.
I loved Clotilde’s post about her proposed “Twelve Hours in Paris” trip and thought I’d play along and tell the story of what I did last summer in the twelve hours that I spent in Paris…
A bit of context first: Paris wasn’t our main destination, it was a mere ‘stopping point’ on our way from Avignon to London via the TGV. I’d always wanted to see Montmarte and it was a good excuse for a short stay to accomplish that goal…
We arrived in Paris at around 4pm and rushed to the hotel that we’d booked right next to the train station so we could drop our luggage, change out of our grimy travel clothes, and get on to the city.
Note: if you book a hotwire.com hotel the day before your Paris arrival. And if you decide to go with the one closest to Montmarte to ease your plan of getting to see the sun set from Sacre Coeur. And if you just close your eyes to the awful reviews and book that $99 hotel. Well, maybe you’ll understand what happened next…
We arrived at our hotel, only to be told by the proprietor that we’d been moved to another ‘nearby’ hotel because they were overbooked. In some broken French he explained that our new hotel was “just around the corner” and gestured randomly towards the door.
I didn’t care. Because I was in Paris.
We started walking and consulting our phone GPS. It was not “just around the corner.” It was a mile away. But, wow, we arrive and find we are closer to Sacre Coeur than before. A good omen, to be sure.
Our room was on the sixth floor. No elevator, of course. And every step of those staircases was a different height and a different angle. The handrails were…not much better than the stairs. Our room was, of course, the highest and most remote.
The rooftops of Paris! What could be more exciting!
Though most of the windows looked out onto some dreary brick walls, the view from the window in the bathroom was perfectly spectacular if you were sitting on the toilet and looking up.
We changed our clothes and set out to see the sunset. I wore my favorite “little black dress,” stockings and ballet flats, in anticipation of a nice dinner in Paris and because I also knew that I wanted whatever photos we took to look nice (not wearing the same grungy travel clothes that I’d been wearing through humid Provence).
And success. Stairs climbed, city seen from above.
Perhaps due to the long day of travel or due to any manner of something-else, my prosthetic leg kept twisting around sidewards as we walked the streets of Paris. It was the strangest thing to look down and see my toes pointing at my other foot rather than straight ahead. Added to that was the difficulty in walking I was having because of spraining two of my left toes the day before. It made for the strangest loping gait. I affected my best-possible imitation of a tipsy American walking the streets of Paris and just kept plowing forward. And we headed towards the canals to find a place for dinner.
Shortly after we ordered out dinner, the power went out in the restaurant. It soon became clear that it wasn’t an entirely uncommon happening–waiters wandering around opening various wall panels in an attempt to re-set the appropriate set of ancient fuses to bring power back to the kitchen.
By the time we finished eating and talking, it was nearly midnite. We wandered the streets for a few miles before returning to the hotel, making that climb to the top floor in the dark.
Morning came all-too-early as we left the hotel at 4:30am to catch the TGV to London. A brisk walk with luggage in tow and we made it just in time to buy a latte and a chocolate croissant for the train.
We didn’t see any of my Paris favorites while were in town. I didn’t nosh a macaron or wander in my favorite shops. And it didn’t turn out anything like the ‘fantasy’ Paris trips that one would read about in a novel (more mishaps than dreams-come-true, I’d say).
But I didn’t care, I was in Paris.
I will confess, I haven’t listened to Regina Spektor in a long long time, having removed her from my playlists over a year ago (the songs reminded me too much of my ex, and I had one spectacularly awful breakdown-moment when “Samson” came on while I was on a date–egads, I didn’t need that reminder). But….”On the Radio” appeared on my Pandora playlist this morning and I found it as utterly delightful as the first time I heard it. Perhaps even more so, because I think I understand even better now what she means when she sings “you’ll just do it all again…”
This is how it works
You’re young until you’re not
You love until you don’t
You try until you can’t
You laugh until you cry
You cry until you laugh
And everyone must breathe
Until their dying breath
No, this is how it works
You peer inside yourself
You take the things you like
And try to love the things you took
And then you take that love you made
And stick it into some
Someone else’s heart
Pumping someone else’s blood
And walking arm in arm
You hope it don’t get harmed
But even if it does
You’ll just do it all again
*It’s interesting to me, too, that I first met this friend while at a Regina Spektor concert two years ago, and she’s been such an incredible support to me ever since… 🙂
Lately I’ve been falling in love with Marge Piercy’s poems all over again…
An excerpt from “The nuisance”
I am an inconvenient woman.
I’d be more useful as a pencil sharpener or a cash register.
I do not love you the way I love Mother Jones or the surf coming in
or my pussycats or a good piece of steak.
I love the sun prickly on the black stubble of your cheek.
I love you wandering floppy making scarecrows of despair.
I love when you are discussing changes in the class structure
and it jams my ears and burns in the tips of my fingers…
I love you with my arms and my legs
and my brains and my cunt and my unseemly history.
I want to tell you about when I was ten and it thundered.
I want you to kiss the crosshatched remains of my burn.
I want to read you poems about drowning myself
laid like eggs without shells at fifteen under Shelley’s wings
I want you to read my old loverletters.
I want you to want me
as directly and simply and variously
as a cup of hot coffee.
To want to, to have to, to miss what can’t have room to happen.
I carry my love for you
around with me like my teeth
and I am starving.
Loving the acoustic rendition of this song (I do love me some piano), and the refrain…celebrating the warmth and brightness of my life.
We are young
So let’s the set the world on fire
We can burn brighter
Than the sun
Carry me home tonight
Just carry me home tonight
Carry me home tonight
Just carry me home tonight
The world is on my side
I have no reason to run
So will someone come and carry me home tonight
The angels never arrived
But I can hear the choir
So will someone come and carry me home
We are young
So let’s set the world on fire
We can burn brighter
Than the sun
So if by the time the bar closes
And you feel like falling down
I’ll carry you home tonight
I don’t bring a camera with me out on the ocean when I’m paddling. First of all, I learned from my few futile attempts to do so that you can’t hold a camera and a paddle at the same time. Second, you can’t stay still while you’re out in the canoe, so it’s near-to-impossible to take a photograph. Third, there are times that I want to look with my eyes and not with a lens–mostly because I need to see the full horizon and not just what’s in front of me.
But I did love this clip below, and wonder if I should try a little bit of video sometime (perhaps strapped to my head or the bow)? It would be amazing to be able to share the joy of having a pod of dolphins race alongside us, or the eeriness of paddling into a the harbor with bioluminescent creatures swirling around our boat…