Sunday, June 30, 2013

Summer Black



 Cool

I can’t back this up with hard data, but I do believe New York City is the only place where so many people so stubbornly and proudly wear black in summer. All over the world, people make sacrifices of comfort for the sake of fashion, and vice versa, but there will always be New Yorkers, even during a heat wave, who will refuse to give up their dark uniform.  This past week, on days when the humidity was not far behind the 90 degree and rising temperature, I saw more than one woman giving up makeup, high heels, and a stylish hairdo for a more sensible ponytail and sandals, but not the chic little black dress that says “summer in the city.” I guess sometimes cool is more important than cool.

 Soul

So what did I do on the hottest day of the week? I bought a straw sunhat of course. And what color was it? Black of course. And what did I do with the photos I took on my excursions? Sucked the color out of them as soon as I had them downloaded, of course.  NYC  is a bright and beautiful place, about as colorful as it gets in all senses of the word. But it’s soul is pure monochrome, as if all those decades of being captured in black ink and black and white film went to its head and it decided – black suits me best.  

Roses of Yesterday
 
My photographic aesthetic sense was born in this context. There is very little you can put in front of me that I will not prefer in black. If I break up my color scheme with a dash of non-black, it’s either because there was no black available, or I was talked out of it, or I figured the rest of the black would look even blacker thanks to the contrast. At any rate, living outside of NYC for the past 11 years, I’ve let my devotion to black lapse a little. Maybe I am not as much of a defiant individualist as I used to be, or decided I don’t need to literally wear my black on – or as – my sleeve, or maybe I just got tired of being a few degrees warmer in summer than everyone else.

Who I Am

So, maybe to remember who I am by honoring who I was, I bought that black hat, a summer hat which will seem inexplicably unsuited to the season to all but the natives of its city of origin. And the day I wear it, with a sorta chic not-so-little black dress, and someone asks me where I’m from and I say New York City, they will reply “of course you are.”

 Escape 
 
All of the images in this post are from my visit to NYC this past week, from either the Brooklyn Botanic Garden or the High Line, which, after only two brief visits is becoming a very close second as my Favorite Place on Earth. The garden is a sanctuary in the midst of urban grayness. But the High Line, which, for all who are unfamiliar with this new attraction, is a park built from an old elevated train line running along the west side of Manhattan, along with the improbable accomplishment of creating a place of protected natural beauty as the BBG does, has retained all its connections to the urban life for which it provides relief and escape. 

All the Worlds of the City
 
The old tracks have been left in place, either embedded in the wooden boards that make up the pathway, or planted with trees and grasses between the ties. For the full mile of its length, you are almost never out of view of both the picturesque architecture and neighborhoods of lower Manhattan and the not so pretty areas of decay and reconstruction. It is the best and worst of all the worlds of the city, an oasis, a contradiction, magic. Of course I’d love it. A green space – with a rail motif? I am writing this post in a moving train with trees whipping past my window. Did the makers of this place eavesdrop on my soul during the planning phases? And it gets better. The southern terminus, now under construction, will be the new offshoot of the Whitney Museum. Nature, trains AND art. Sigh.

 New growth

One final note. Some weeks back I made a quick trip to BBG to consult a tree about my future. I was told to keep to my circle and feed myself. On this visit I returned to the hemlock to return the gift it made me the last time, a small piece of bark with a red center like a heart. I kid you not – that piece of bark broke in two a few weeks ago right around the time it became clear I was no longer a couple but a single. So I brought back and buried the pieces under the hemlock and asked for a new message and a new gift. I received a miniature cone.  This species seems to create cones in clusters of twos and threes, but this one was a single.  Then I listened carefully and while I was waiting to hear some words of tree wisdom, I saw that all around me the dark evergreen branches of this tree were sprouting bright light green spines. And I heard it : new growth is possible. As much as I love black, sometimes I need green. And that is why the twin muses of my soul are the two end points of the Ethan Allen line, Rutland VT and NYC, between which I hope to travel for many years to come.

 

Saturday, June 22, 2013

Single



 Fountain of Tears

I guess it says a lot about modern life when you find yourself having some of your most significant exchanges via email or social media. There was a time when I was extremely skeptical about any communication happening with someone whose eyes (or heart) you could not look directly into – it seemed so strangely narcissistic - but then there were the amazing benefits of making friends with, or maintaining friendships with, people you might not ever be able to meet, or meet again, in person, and some of them quite unguarded, so I too lowered my guard.

 Futility Glove

In the really old days, people wrote. Letters whose urgency, and perhaps veracity, had expired by the time they reached their intended reader. Telegrams that were brief and impersonal, but important and effective. But people also talked. Vigorous debates, news and insights and confessions shared, and the person with whom they were choosing to share within their immediate vicinity. This required either consideration, thoroughness and forthrightness, or a crash course in dissembling and avoidance. In any case, most of the time, you knew where you stood with the people most important to you. They directly told you. Or they artfully deceived you. Or they vanished conclusively and left you to do the math.

 The Shadow Knows

But we are in a brave, or rather, craven, new world it seems. Recently I joined the Bandwagon of Evasion by resigning from a job by email. It could be worse, I told myself, at least I didn’t just not show up and let them figure it out when my Linked In profile suddenly showed a new employer. It does seem that the way to find out what’s going on in people’s lives, sometimes even people you count among your nearest and dearest, is to check their Facebook posts. This used to be called stalking. Now it’s called keeping in touch.

 Which of Us

Not to air dirty laundry – as if any laundry can be concealed for long living in the small town that is our virtual reality these days – but for the past several weeks I have been undergoing what in modern terms can be referred to as a change of relationship status. I have made great efforts to secure a confirmation or denial of this change from the other principal player in the drama, first in person, then via email. Granted, the man is not a talker. Maybe the five years between our ages represent that crucial generational shift in which people stopped talking and starting texting, stopped hugging and started “liking.” I eventually determined that the lack of denial was about as much confirmation as I was going to get. Then I joined Facebook. Then I found myself checking the status of the person I was still living with but not yet sure was my ex-boyfriend. Oh my God, I thought, I have gone over to the dark side. The Luddite Confederation will soon be revoking my membership.

 Soft Landing

Good thing the LC sends all its official notices out on vellum inscribed with a quill pen. It will take the Board of Revokers at least a month to assemble the materials and locate a willing and able carrier pigeon to deliver their missive, which will lie unread in a bird bath if I change addresses or they unwittingly choose a particularly wayward pigeon unsuited to its job, which, if it happens with people, why not pigeons? Meantime, back on Facebook, last time I checked, my maybe ex was still “in a relationship.”

 Alone in a Crowd

Until yesterday when I checked again and it was there – single. And then I updated my own profile, to which I have been slowly adding content since its launch only a week ago, and I also entered my relationship status as single. Then and only then did it feel as if the relationship had ended. After all, if it’s on Facebook it must be true. The eagle –eyed among my online acquaintance (and his), will notice this status change. For anyone else, there will be no other clue to the estrangement of two human beings, the disentangling of two lives once physically and emotionally intertwined. As long as we are each still posting, with the same thumbnail icons, all must be well. 

 Leaf Alone

Except that I am decidedly old school. Not that I am intending to play the woman scorned, but whatever role I embody, it will definitely not be the woman silenced. I plan on writing my way through this, in my journal, and in posts longer than Twitter or Facebook permit, and talking my way through this with actual human beings who can observe the emotions crossing my face like subtle ripples on a still pool, who can tell by my voice exactly how okay I really am or am not on any given day, and can lay a hand on my shoulder along with real words of comfort or welcome humor, all the time offering their own faces and voices up for scrutiny to determine the depth and validity of their character - and their sympathy. And the saddest thing is that even as I wrote that it sounded like an impossibly high standard for friendship, when really, it should be the bare minimum.

 Eyes of the Beholder

The thing about social media is that it creates a sense of intimacy that is entirely protected and controlled, which in my old school mind is the opposite of intimacy, which is messy, vulnerable and risky.  I am not unaware of the irony of my joining Facebook at a point in my life when I feel most alone, most like I could create any identity for myself, and would actually welcome a little intimacy of the protected and controlled sort. But anyone who really knows me - and at this point readers of this blog, some of whom I have met and others not, but all of whom I consider true friends, do know me – knows I am not about being controlled or protected. And I will look you in the eye and tell you so. 

 I hold a place for absent things

The images in this post are all from my archives. Images of solitary figures have always appealed to me, because they are so pure, so true, and so joyously alive, even in postures that suggest loneliness or loss. In 2011, I crafted a special post for Valentine’s Day, and in honor of being in what I believed to be a solid partnership at the time, assembled and presented every image I had captured of two figures together. They were not easy to find, but they were there. Now they are gone. But as long as I have eyes and heart open, there will be more.

This post is dedicated to the twos and the singles, and everyone in between. May you find love one way or another.

Thursday, June 13, 2013

Nice Place to Visit BUT...

The Seeker  

It says a lot about the state of your life, not to mention the state of the economy, when your job search targets half a dozen cities and a variety of institutions, organizations and positions you never thought you would consider. Apparently, the job situation is improving in that more people are finding work. Unfortunately, unemployed persons of a certain age like myself are most likely finding work they thought they had moved on from in their 20s, when anything would do to pay the bills – part time, unskilled, underpaid, whatever, whenever, wherever.

Harsh Reality

I am not a prideful person. Say instead that I am unapologetically proud of the knowledge and aptitude I’ve spent all these years acquiring, and which deserve to be put to proper use. But it turns out that an Ivy League education, post graduate degree and decades spent in a particular field prepare you for a lot of things in life, with the exception of a gracious acceptance of the harsh reality that you are pretty much back to square one in terms of making a living, and that any decent job that opens up will be pounced upon by a hungry horde of job seekers who are either older and more experienced or younger and more eager than you. And thanks to the Internet, and the desperation factor, and the general transience of modern life, those seekers are as likely to live across the country as down the block.

Potential

But this was not supposed to be a post about jobs. It’s about cities. It’s about my mother in New York City, which I left behind in 2002, saying just the other day “I want to see you happy and settled. Mirollos aren’t nomads. You can always come back, you have a home base and family here.” Let’s set aside the bittersweetness of any mother in her 80s offering welcome to her returning 50 year old prodigal daughter. Let’s set aside that positions in NYC have now become part of my online job search, which takes over an hour every day and parades before my eyes potential future lives so different and so equally possible and imminent, it makes my head spin. It’s about why I am not still, or already, in NYC living and working as I was 11 years ago.

Not Far Afield

Mirollos (and also my mother’s Di Tieri side of the family) are not nomads. My grandparents never left the city they arrived in as young immigrants. My parents occupy the same apartment they took possession of in 1971. My brother moved to the Boston area in the mid 80s and in spite of a few house and job moves, remains to this day. My uncles and aunts dispersed into the Greater Metropolitan Area and lived and died in homes they established there. Their children haven’t strayed much farther afield. The one aunt who left the east coast landed in San Francisco decades ago and has not budged.  Until 2002, I was honoring the family tradition of remaining on a short leash in terms of never venturing too far from some invisible but unbreakable central point of attachment. I went to school, and took apartments and jobs all within a few miles of my childhood home. 

Tryst

I left New York because I came to understand that, just like a man wonderful for a casual or long distance affair, but hell in a serious cohabiting relationship, it really was a nicer place to visit than to live. For all the amazing times to be had, living there was often sad and always hard, and was quite nearly killing me as a single working girl in her 30s. I moved to Boston, where the living was easier, but where I so completely failed to make a connection with the city, I only found happiness traveling around beyond it. Including trips back to New York, which turned into the ex-lover you still don’t want to live with, but are thrillingly and undeniably in love with, so much so, you can’t resist the occasional tryst, regardless of, or perhaps due to, your lack of desire to pursue it further. 
 
Rootless

It was around this time that I became entirely rootless. In my 40s, I became the first Mirollo Nomad, experiencing a greater sense of peace and identity when I was on the move, belonging nowhere and everywhere. Planning future trips made my bleak present life bearable. I caught a glimpse of myself in a reflective shop window early one morning, alone on the streets, on my way to catch a plane or train, walking briskly with a broad determined smile on my face, and one thriftily packed duffle bag slung over my shoulder, and thought “that is the image of who I am, a traveler.”

Sharp Longing

The problem with exchanging a life of extreme rootedness for one of having no ties to the place in which you are supposed to be living, is that it eventually leaves you with a profound understanding of the good and bad in both ways, no decided preference for either, and a sharp longing for both. I want a home base in which I feel safe and surrounded by things and people and activities that matter to me. I want familiarity and permanence and being able to know with some certainty that my address, job and companions will be the same 6 months, or even 6 weeks from now. 
 
Discovery

And I still love the freedom and sense of purpose in being on a train headed somewhere, with only the essentials for a few days of existence in a bag by my side. I love discovering new cities, and rediscovering old ones. There are so many nice places to visit. But would I really want to live there? What would those cities reveal to me over time if I stayed there longer than a long weekend?

Not a Place You Need to Leave

As much as I love New York, and it is no flight of literary fancy that I characterize my relationship with the city in such intimately human terms, my heart has also always belonged to Vermont. When it came time to leave Boston in 2011, and put down roots, surely Vermont would prove to be a place I could live without needing to escape it every weekend. Like the man of your dreams you have been working and waiting all your life to meet, Vermont to me was a place you leave other places for, not a place you need to leave. I still believe that. And yet, my time here thus far has not done much to support or encourage that belief. Times have been often sad and always hard. Something has gone wrong. More and more I doubt my decision to move here. Is my love of this state just the fond memories of a visitor whose perceptions are based on a brief encounter untested by the daily realities of actually living and working here?

It Could be Anywhere

It may be that I am in the right state, just not in the right city. One thing is certain amidst all the uncertainty – if I am one, I am a nomad made not born. I want to be as happy and settled as my mother hopes I will be. But I am willing and able to keep moving to find that happiness. It could be any city in Vermont where I can earn a living and look up and get up from my bills and accounts long enough to enjoy the beautiful view, clean air and deep peace and quiet. It could be back in New York, which may by now have earned a second chance, as we are neither us who we were a decade ago. 
 
And it is of course the city to which all travelers, born or made, eventually return.    

Sunday, June 9, 2013

Now on Facebook



Well, folks, as I wrote three years ago when I joined the Blogger Bandwagon so late I had to sprint to catch up with it, (and two years earlier when thanks to me the number of people on earth without a cellphone dropped from 12 to 11) - look out for flying pigs and bring your winter coat to hell, because it is officially never, as in “I will NEVER get a Facebook page.”

I enter upon this new endeavor with a mixture of trepidation and eagerness. I am not quite sure it will increase my online connections in either quality or quantity – I am hoping for both, in the same measure. Like so many of the other popular things I have avoided (blockbuster movies, say, or a well-rated new restaurant) this is one of those things that I knew I would eventually get around to trying, when it felt like the right time. Up until now, it hasn’t felt that way, and now it does.

As those of you who still read this blog (and I know who you are and thank you from the bottom of my heart for your probably somewhat undeserved loyalty) must sense, I am at a crossroads. It seems as if I have been in transitions of one form or another since this blog began. I’ve moved from one state to another, one artistic focus to another, and one income source to another. I am grown weary of waking up each day not able to visualize or confidently predict the picture or pattern of my life in the next year, or the next month. What will be the structure of my days? My surroundings? My companions? What purpose? What goals? Once again, the answers could be just about anything, which may seem liberating, but only in the sense of having free will to open any door in front of you – when most are locked, and the rest could have behind them a tiger, an abyss, a desert, or home. And by the way, no do-overs. Do-overs are earned by spending at least a few months to a few years making your way back to the Chamber of Many Doors.

In honor of the overkill that is the heart and soul of the Facebook Phenomenon, I am launching my own private media blitz once I hit the publish button for this post by sending out a Newsletter via email to announce this post and my new Facebook page, where I will announce my Newsletter and this blog post. Then I will add a link on this blog to the Newsletter and probably spend the rest of the day adding the FB icon to all the virtual places to which I have never been able to add such an icon. 

Who knows, maybe next you’ll see me driving a car. No – that is the one case when Never Means Never.


Thursday, June 6, 2013

Attachments

Not as Attached to Things 

There was a time when choosing the word “attachments” as the title of a piece of writing would not involve any second guessing about possible misinterpretation of my subject. Let’s be clear at the outset – this is not about the computer files most of us connect to our emailed correspondence as part of our regular work and personal lives, although I’m sure the part of my private and professional life that involves staring at two buttons that read “attach” and “detach” every time I attempt to connect with someone and share information with them, certainly had a part in inspiring this piece. So too did someone at my last job who one day profoundly and casually declared “as I get older, I am not as attached to things.” It got me thinking about both the wisdom and sadness of this statement, and whether I considered it in general a good move.

When we are young, we often hear our elders warn us “don’t get too attached!” They witness our eagerness to define ourselves and our lives through our private and public connections with a mixture of hope and cynicism, wanting us to do better than they did at establishing a harmonious coexistence of the world outside and the world within, but knowing that not one of us has an easy time getting there, and in fact, most of us fall short. Still, I think attachments to persons, places and things can bring us more joy than misery in the long run, as long as they don’t take precedence over our primary attachment to ourselves.
  
Other People’s Energy Is Not My Energy

This is how getting older can at least in one way be a liberating not an inhibiting phenomenon. Most of us arrive at middle age having survived the consequences of becoming too attached to a variety of things – jobs, relationships, dreams, plans, expectations, standards of living that have outlived their usefulness but continued to structure our lives and self-images, or fallen apart and left us suddenly lost. We’ve let other people’s needs and feelings define who we are and what we do. We’ve given precious time dwelling on losses when we could have been rebuilding and renewing. Somehow, achieving a half century of living makes it okay to take care of ourselves for once, do what we really want, and not feel guilty anymore.

In spite of the more reckless and messy versions of what has earned the infelicitous phrase “mid-life crisis,”  I think this release from guilt, which often leads to release from all sorts of living and working situations way past their expiration date, and a second chance at some situations way overdue to be experienced and enjoyed, is a good thing. I think it is not just a function of rebellion, exhaustion, or even an entitled assertion of pride, but the fact that the older you get, the larger a picture your life becomes, and when you hit fifty, most likely more than half that picture is in the past, and less than half is still to be created, so being held back by any person, place or thing is no longer an option, and that includes being held back by your own fear, doubt or guilt. 

It’s a matter of quality of life. At twenty, one can risk bad alliances, missteps, putting up with circumstances that fall into the category of “paying your dues” or “learning experiences” or “sacrifices made for the greater good.” At fifty, most of your biggest sacrifices better be made, dues paid, and lessons learned, leaving you free to enjoy who you know yourself to be and what you know makes you happy, with no time and energy to spare setting that aside for anyone, or anything. Life is not only too short, but it’s getting shorter every day.
 
Just Detach

Which doesn’t mean being completely selfish and disconnected, just a little, just enough to do what’s right for yourself, which does require hitting the “detach” button occasionally. I’ve found it actually makes you a better person and more useful in the end to everyone and everything you are connected with, maybe because it clears the way to make new attachments or renew old ones in better ways. As someone in the middle ground between a period of detachments that have taught me to be perhaps a little wiser, but no less willing, in my future attachments, this is my story, and I’m sticking to it.