Sunday, June 23, 2019

Moody

I'm so out of sorts. Summer is oppressive. I feel as if I should be out doing things, not hidden away inside, working. I think I sometimes work so much so I don't get bored. So I don't have to figure out how to entertain myself. My life is so small, my days so contained. Also, as long as I live, I will probably never get used to not knowing the shape of my children's lives, what their days are like, the things they do with their friends, their daily ups and downs. It's so odd, the way we are their world when they're small, we know everything about their days, their friends, the moment to moment shading of their mood, and now they are these grown separate people, and hopefully all will be well, but if ever it's not, I can't protect them anymore, I can't make it better, they have to do that for themselves.

My aunt Grace, the last surviving of my mother's five sisters and three brothers, was in the hospital in Toronto this week. She's 93 on her next birthday in August, and fluid is collecting around her heart. She's back home now, and her daughter who lives in Nassau flew to be with her. She told me this morning that she's decided to give up her apartment in Toronto at the end of the year and live with her daughter in Jamaica, visiting with her daughter in Nassau sometimes. Both her girls live in large, airy, art-filled and beautifully appointed homes with pools and manicured grounds and views, and she has a dedicated space in each place. I had often wondered why she preferred her two-bedroom apartment in Toronto. It was the independence of course. She has many friends in Canada, people of all ages whom she calls her angels. But now, the fact that she is moving in with her daughter says so much about how she is feeling. Are you in pain, I asked her. Of course, she said. All the time. But it's just pain. Her voice sounded like music as she said it. There is always a smile in her voice when she speaks, which breaks into a full laugh that sounds like the tinkle of wind chimes. I believe her determined optimism is the secret of her high-functioning longevity. She has many medical issues, yet she moves through the world as if they are minor considerations. She keeps on.

I dreamed of my Aunt Winnie last night, my mother's oldest sister, the one who lived across the courtyard from me in New York, and for whom I was the primary caregiver at the end. The dream was so vivid. I walked into a room and she was standing there. She looked wonderful, the way she looked when she used to visit us in Jamaica in the summers when I was growing up. Aunt Winnie! I said with a rush of joy. She opened her arms and I stepped into them, and she folded me close, and I rested my head on her shoulder, and felt comforted. That was it, the whole dream. I woke up right after wondering my time was at hand, and Aunt Winnie was coming to get me. But it didn't feel that way. I kept thinking about Aunt Grace, and that I should call her. I shared the dream with her when we spoke this morning, and she said, Winnie came to tell you she's coming for me soon. No need to rush things, I told her. My dear, she said, I am in no rush, but I am ready.


Saturday, June 22, 2019

Summer in the City


I went to dinner at that restaurant with two dear friends last night. We dined on the sidewalk, right where the waiter is clearing that table. It was a perfect summer evening, the air clear and soft like a caress, not too cold, not too humid.

Here's something ironic. I went downtown yesterday for a meeting with the new boss lady of the magazine I do editing for on a freelance basis. A magazine I worked with for many years full time. They laid me off during a cost cutting period in 2013. Truthfully, I was devastated, though it turns out to have been a good development for me. Last year, after the editor in chief who laid me off was laid off herself (magazine publishing can be a brutal business) they called me and asked if I would top edit for them, one issue at first, and then it turned into an extended relationship, month after month, issue after issue, steady and paid. Best of all, I could work from home. Yesterday, the new boss lady asked me to come back to the magazine full time and run the editorial operation on the print side. I can't, I told her, I do book collaborations now. (This woman is ridiculously pretty in person, by the way. Even though she looks stunning in her photographs, they don't begin to do her justice. It's kind of mesmerizing looking into her face. You wonder how anyone can be that beautiful.) 

I was thinking how life is so weird and circular. For now, my freelance gig continues, except she asked that I come into the office once a month to go over the story lineup and give my input, rather than everything coming to me blind at the end. This I did agree to do, though I will have to take care that it doesn't turn into something more. The office is on the other end of the city, in far Brooklyn. Since I take cabs everywhere (my wonky hip) I'll go broke going there more often. Plus, I still have to get the book work done.

In other news, we almost went to war with Iran this week. What the fuck? Trump had actually ordered the strike and then changed his mind. I don't know what reasoning prevailed but I do know it wasn't his concern for the Iranians who would have died in the attack, as he said. He must think we're idiots who will buy that crap, when he goes to court to deny children in for-profit concentration camps on the southern border basic sanitary needs like toothbrushes, soap, sufficient food, blankets, clean clothes, medical care, legal oversight, and basic protection from being abused.

In better news, my daughter and my niece, two adventurous Aries women, went kayaking on the Hudson River this afternoon. Their plan is to end the day at a winery downtown. Oh, to be young an footloose. As for me, I will be chained to my computer from now until July 15, trying to meet my writing deadline. I've hired my niece to transcribe my interviews with my book subject and her circle. I pay her exactly what I pay my regular transcriber, except I enjoy paying it to her much more—family economics is a lovely thing. And if anything on the tape is unclear, she just plays that part back to me and I tell her what was said, with the result that I now get one hundred percent perfect transcripts with no [UNCLEAR]s. After transcribing each tape, she invoices me for the work, and I remit payment right away. The two of us might be sitting at the dining table, but it's all very official. 

I don't really have very much of interest to share. I've been feeling kind of dull, like I need to do something spectacular like travel somewhere exciting and have an experience. But really, even though it's Saturday, I need to get back to work.

Tuesday, June 18, 2019

Life is full / of grace

My niece and her husband were here again this weekend, and so was another niece who lives in Jamaica, who had been traveling in Singapore and Malaysia, who I had met only once before at the last family reunion, but with whom I now have a warm relationship. I hung out with my millennial nieces on Friday, the one who lives here now, and the one who is visiting. We went to lunch at Freemans Alley, the walls an ever evolving street art exhibit, and the restaurant at the end of the alley like a place out of time, almost medieval in atmosphere, yet urban and hipster at the same time, the servers and bartenders just way cooler than I will ever be, but sweet, too.

After lunch, as we were snapping photos of the posters and street art adorning the alley walls, a man emerged from a gate in one wall and I asked him what was behind the gate. He said it was a place called Sister City, and that there was a rooftop bar inside that had the best views in the city, and maybe even the world. And then he invited us to come and see. Follow me, he said cheerfully, you'll love it, and we did follow this strange man into an unknown building behind an iron gate, and it felt like a grand adventure. The rooftop bar was as promised, 360 degree views of the city, and golden light at that hour of the day, heading toward sunset but not there yet, and my nieces and I sat and ordered berry margaritas that were as sublime as the setting and especially the company. We had, as they say, a blast. Here are a couple of pics for our Freemans Alley outing.





Then on Sunday, for Father's day, my husband decided he wanted nothing more than to have everyone around, enjoying a slow aimless day, and so that's what we did, the six of us who slept here, plus my daughter and her guy. My son joined us later after his shift at the firehouse. My husband rose before the rest of the household and made us four kinds of scones—vanilla raisin, tangerine, cheddar and jalapeƱos, and shallots and parmesan—and oh my God they were delicious! We all kept going back to them all day. He also made us passion fruit bellinis with a raspberry garnish, which were also yummy. He did all these things for us on his day. Though he would not cooperate with our attempts to pamper him or my attempts to take pictures, still, he was the center of all the love, "Uncle Dad," as my niece (below) called him. We ate and drank and did puzzles and chatted and watched World Cup Women's Soccer and dozed and it was perfect. I love my family. And I don't take this state of grace for granted. 




Here's a picture of me taken in the rooftop bar with the good light. A picture of myself that I actually don't mind. And below it, a good message for this day (given my previous post). All our guests left last night, and my husband and niece are at work, so the house is quiet with just me today. I just might stay in my indoor blue kaftan all day. 



Broken thing

There is a situation I can't talk about that has been unfolding over the course of years, and it is making my heart so heavy, and I just need to acknowledge that. It appears that nothing can be done to fix this broken thing, as all parties would need to be willing, and all parties are not, and everyone is righteously sure of the wounds sustained and insufficiently aware of the injuries inflicted—myself included. This morning, I'm thinking a lot about the wisdom of letting things be what they are, and the notion that suffering is often complicated by the belief that we should not suffer, and also the idea that suffering is caused and deepened by our response to what happens, the way we think about it, rather than the event itself. All this to say, I am trying to live with what is, to really absorb that it is, and to stop courting this crushing sadness by wishing it to be different, when it likely will never be. I have managed in the past to put it out of my mind for long stretches of time, and then it returns, and I can't ever quite shake it, because it hurts the ones I love most, and therefore I cannot be indifferent. I might be having a little trouble with the lessons on suffering right now, but this I have learned: The opposite of love is not hate, it is indifference.

Tuesday, June 11, 2019

Seventy years ago today


Happy 70th anniversary to my wonderful parents. This photo above was taken in 1994, the year my daughter was born, and on the morning after she walked across the den of their home in St. Lucia for the first time. It was Christmas morning, the second to last one my dad would spend with us. Though we didn't know it yet, his cancer, which had been in remission for almost a decade, had already returned, quietly infiltrating his spine. This is one of my favorite photos of my parents, an uncomplicated happy memory, when our babies were little, and everything was in a good place for a tranquil moment in time. My dad was 71 and my mom almost 73 in this photo. I reflect often that truly I am among the lucky ones, to have been raised by these two, who were deeply and romantically and playfully in love with each other until their last breath, and I imagine, wherever they are, even now. There they are on their wedding day, June 11, 1949, below.


Saturday, June 8, 2019

Something beautiful

My husband went down to the flower district bright and early this morning to choose blooms for his altar arrangements for Pentecost service tomorrow. He's very thoughtful about his arrangements, choosing birds of paradise to represent the Pentecostal tongues of flame, for example, and setting them off with red ginger lilies, which connote fiery passion and limitless prosperity in the etymology of flowers. I love these slow Saturday mornings when my man is patiently arranging his blooms and stems in our kitchen. After he's done, they sit majestically on our counter till late afternoon, when he transports them to the church, waters them anew, and sets them on the altar. I married a church man. Sanctuary arrangements are his art. 



Who are we now?

I said to my husband, "Why has the number of people seeking asylum at the Southern border become such a flood when this country treats them so cruelly." I had been mulling on this for a while. Hadn't the word reached the asylum seekers that the American president would deploy his border gestapo to steal their children and imprison them in tent camps where, as it happens, English classes, recreational activities like soccer and access to legal aid was cancelled this week by our government? Who is supervising the welfare of these children, who are in such danger of being trafficked? So many families have been irrevocably broken, with parents who will never see their children again in this lifetime. Also this week, three women were convicted of leaving bottles of water in the desert for migrants to find as they made their way across the parched borderlands. For this act of humanity, the women were punished by an American court of law. Who have we become? And so I asked my husband, "Why do they come? Why don't they know they will be brutalized?" His answer was illuminating, and really, I should have already grasped it. They come because our government has cut off aid to their countries, and the already poor can no longer survive in places where conditions have become increasingly desperate, and so they strike out for what used to be known as the land of the free, and there they find another nightmare. I am reminded of this poem by the Kenyan-born Somali-British poet Warsan Shire. The last time I pondered this level of desperation, when Syrian refugees were cramming into rickety boats on the nighttime shores of their war-torn country, and drowning at sea, this poem held an answer, as it holds one now.

Photo: Street art on the wall of Freemans Alley, New York City.

Life elsewhere



That's my niece, my other daughter. Isn't she pretty with her day 2 hair? She and her husband moved to Dallas and I miss them. But they'll be back in New York this Thursday to attend yet another wedding. All their crew are getting married, it seems. Last night she took her cousin Dani (who now lives with us and is starting to feel like my third daughter) and me on a Facetime tour of their new apartment. So shiny and spacious and fancy. With a view of the pool. People live so well in other parts of the country, unlike in New York, where space is at a premium and a bit of grunge is the norm. They say they're only there for a couple of years, but I suspect the ability to stretch a dollar so much farther than is possible in New York, and the comparative ease of life away from this concrete hustle, may seduce them to stay. At least when they visit New York now they bunk with us. We've actually seen them more often since they moved away from the city than when they lived here. Still. Last night, after we got off our Facetime call, my husband said, "When are we going to Dallas?"


Thursday, June 6, 2019

Little blue planet


Tut's Notes from the Universe are delivered daily to my inbox. Some of you know Tut. I've quoted his unironically optimistic messages here before.  This morning, he shared this idea of our earthly school:

"It's as if a band of amazing angels got together before time even began, to celebrate their common heritage, sense of adventure, creativity and savoir faire, and decided to meet in the distant future within the jungles of time and space, upon a distant little blue planet, to see how long it would take for each and every one of them to discover who they really are. A band of 7 billion angels, to be precise, which is not a lot by angel standards."

Substitute the word souls for angels and this just might be my theology, or at least some part of it, even if it does seem right now that collectively, we souls might be moving backwards.

__________

My son just called. He's getting off from a 24 hour shift at the firehouse and is coming over to hang here as he's supposed to meet up with a friend in the city tonight. I know he will turn on the TV and promptly fall asleep on the couch, and it will feel peaceful and good to see him there, and I will walk by from time to time and kiss his head. 



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