Monday, August 25, 2014

Ways to Be in the World: Notes from Past Lives

When I was 17 or so, I started going to a physical therapist for my scoliosis. Unlike the typical physical therapist, Analea McGarey held her appointments in her house that was situated on a rising hillside in Glen Ellen. You had to cross a bridge to get there, over the wooded Sonoma Creek, and loop up a steep hill where you'd park by her overgrown garden and enter where the cats stood licking their paws in welcome. Her house always smelled like lavender and multivitamins. 

Aside from being a remarkable therapist and the woman who was greatly responsible for the majority of my back healing, she was also a great source of advice on how to exist in the world.

One appointment, when were were sharing our joint anxieties about our futures (I was in my late teens and she was in her mid-40's) she told me that her new routine was to wake up every morning and say, "Today, I will love myself." We laughed at how obvious it was, and yet how hard it was to do. Shortly after my appointment, I vowed to do the same thing. I'd start every day, I promised, with "Today, I will love myself."

When she died of cancer in 2007, I remember thinking, "Well, f*ck it. What good is loving yourself if you're just going to die anyway." Because that's how I looked at death back then. "She died anyway," was my initial thought. Then, of course, after I recovered from losing her, I went back to saying it and, this time, I kept in the back of my mind, "because I will die anyway." And we will, won't we?

This is a long introduction to the poem that just recently came out in The New York Times T Magazine. The poem is about that choice to love yourself, even when all the outside world (or maybe just your inside voice) says you shouldn't. I don't know why its publication made me think of Analea, but it did and she's always worthy of honoring. And today, like most days, I try to love myself. 

You can read the poem and hear my read it here. It's paired with a beautiful piece by the artist, Pae White. Many thanks to the editor, Meghan O'Rourke for publishing the poem. 

Sunday, August 24, 2014

Buenos Aires: To Be Remembered

I am trying to remember what has happened over the summer. Do you remember? What did we do? Picnic? Break hearts? Write poems? Eat cherries and sleep on the cold hardwood floor with the air on? Did we dance in the small bars of Buenos Aires and sip on caipiroskas? Watch the moon rise and cross our fingers for more of them. Yes. Some of us did.

After a whirlwind of a trip to California, then to Buenos Aires, then back to California, then off to Chesapeake Bay, VA and then home, I was both exhausted and ready to melt into the couch of my own mind. But, it’s hard to return to reality, when your reality is a country (and a world) torn apart by so much rage and violence. It was as if the elevator dropped me off at a floor that had no floor at all, but a sheer drop down into the abyss of my god, we humans are really messed up.

A kiss on the wall
Some of you may know that I struggle, like many writers and artists, with anxiety. I worry about things. A lot. And sometimes that means I don’t sleep or it means that I get odd stomachaches or brain aches or need to be alone for a long time at the bottom of a well. Still, I am always trying to find the way out, the ladder thrown down so I might find my way back in the world. For me, that’s always poetry, both the writing and the reading of it. Poetry and the return to the microcosm. To remember love in the midst of everything terrible. To remember love in the midst of everything terrible. To remember love in the midst of everything terrible. 

Let me first remember Buenos Aires for a moment, before it is lost forever in some scrim of vagueness that we call memory or nostalgia. Each day began with café y medialunas and drifted into discussions of poetry and ended with raucous dinners with rogue poets and fiction writers. I was often enthused and ignited. I was also often tired. It was winter there, and there was so much to read and see and eat and drink and soak up. I was the overwhelmed doll in the window watching the world go by. I was both small and large at the same time. Infinite sponge, infinite hard glass, I was both.

Day 2: We explored La Boca and ate our first alfajor (Argentinian cookie that is now my favorite food).

Day 2: The railroad tracks in La Boca.

Day 2: La Boca

Day 4: Evita, Evita, everywhere Evita.
Day 4: At Cafe Tortoni, toasting to Borges. 

Day 5: I shall only eat empanadas forever.

Day 7: En Estancia La Porteña de Areco. We ate these things.
Day 7: En Estancia La Porteña de Areco. We sat in the winter sun.

Day 7: En Estancia La Porteña de Areco. Where writer Ricardo Güiraldes wrote.

Day 7: En Estancia La Porteña de Areco. The dance of the gauchos. 

Day I don't know: En Palermo. The streets! The streets!
Day I don't know: En Palermo with Sangria. We ate these things.

Day 10: En Palermo, I signed my name in the cement of Buenos Aires so as not to be forgotten.