When I can no longer remember my dreams upon waking,
I will make my waking more dreamlike.
Last night the snow fell, heavy and wet.
It was the kind of snow that bows the tree branches
and makes tunnels of narrow back roads.
It was the kind of snow that makes me want to drive nowhere in particular.
It was the kind of snow that makes me want to walk somewhere, anywhere.
So I drove the roads un-plowed,
headlights cutting through the night
and everything was white as far as the eye could see.
I walked a line of footsteps to the top of the hill
and ran the full length of the orchard through a row of sleeping apple trees.
I can still see the blur of fruitless branches, like a dream
as I ran, snow flakes hitting my face.
It felt good to run free without the fear of falling.
It felt good to fill my lungs with the cool air of a January snowstorm.
And for a little while the only sound in the world
was the beating of my heart
as I lay in a blanket of snow
watching snowflakes fall from the pitch black.
January 18, 2017
It’s 5:00 AM. I woke up an hour ago, went to the bathroom, came back, had a sip of water and lay my head back down on my pillow. I told myself that I could just close my eyes and fall back to sleep; it happens, sometimes. I listened to the crickets for a few minutes, wondered if Ameera had brought Troy inside like I asked her to, heard the faint yelping of coyotes in the distance, and thought how amazing it is that I live in a part of the country where I can hear these beautiful creatures calling out into the night or that, on occasion, I glimpse the tail of a fox pouncing gracefully across the garden in the long grass.
As my mind wound it’s way around the landscape, remembering spottings of bears and wild turkeys and foxes and moose, a clear voice came to mind from the edge of the forest of my thoughts and said, “Have you read my blog yet?” It was Carrie Grossman. I still had not read her newest entry. I pulled out my laptop and went to her Facebook page, looked at her newest photograph ‘tags’, read a few wall posts, and moved on over to her website, thelightinside.org.
The first thing I read on her blog was a poem by Mary Oliver called, ‘Of Love’. I was fortunate to spend a weekend with Carrie down in Connecticut at her family home recently and, as always, when I am around this very special friend of mine, I must be prepared for the unexpected. This particular weekend, the leela of the divine would have it that an amazing woman named Shakti Durga, on her first trip to America from Australia, just so happened to be staying in one of the two houses on Carrie’s parent’s property that they rent out. And so goes Carrie’s life and path that a teacher with such clarity and truth should find herself at Carrie’s front door—well, within sight of Carrie’s parent’s front door—where yours truly, daughters in tow, happened to be staying that weekend.
And so goes my life and path. We had a beautiful two days there in the Grossman’s lovely home, lots of tears and laughter as we ended our summer, swam, walked through a small forest of bamboo, ate the famous Pink Cake of New York, and listened to the teachings and songs of Shakti Durga. The Mary Oliver Poem reminded me of this healing weekend and I knew where Carrie got the inspiration to post that poem.
But that was not the entry that she had asked me to read. I think what Carrie wanted me to read was, “At Home In The Abbey (at least for now).” Having given in to the fact that I was now awake with no hopes of returning to dreamland (at least not with eyes closed), I read her words. She spoke of being okay with being single. I have known Carrie for ten years‑she is a very beautiful, intelligent, spiritual woman. Anyone who does not know her half as well as I do would wonder why she has not found her soulmate, but one thing I know about my dear friend is that she is in search of something far more meaningful than just a companion or a boyfriend to fill some cavity in her life. Her life is very full of divine play and it keeps her busy enough.
I also read about how she came to release her first Kirtan CD, Soma-Bandhu. Somehow her beautiful words and stories, which I know so well, made me feel heavy and reminded me how stuck I feel in my own life. I have been avoiding writing—writing of any kind: poetry, lyrics, blogs, emails, even the simplest of the simple…Tweets!
I read through a few more of Carrie’s blog entries and decide to shut my laptop down and get one more hour of sleep before it is time to wake up and begin the day. Without skipping a beat, in walks the monkey of my mind. So much for morning dreams! I am on a thought train and have no idea where my monkey friend and I will end up.
I don’t need to drive Isobel to school today—the first day; Ameera drives now. I bought Ameera her first car primarily to give myself mornings without 7:00 AM drives over the mountain but I will drive Isobel to school because she asked me to. I don’t really want to take a walk at 7:05 AM, but my friend Pia has asked me to meet her on the railroad trail so I will, as long as we talk about her problems and not mine.
And so it goes. I line up one distraction after the other to help me avoid what I would prefer to be doing at this hour: writing. What am I afraid of? What does writing mean in my life and, by avoiding it, am I avoiding my life? As I journey deeper into that densely wooded part of my mind, I realize that I have not only been avoiding writing, but I have also been avoiding phone conversations and email exchanges with friends that remind me of writing. I have been avoiding anyone who reminds me of music as well, because music reminds me that I am not writing. One of my greatest joys in life is driving and listening to music, which I have been avoiding as well. (I am sincerely sorry, Jill Scott; I promise to get to your new album when I can beat back this fear.)
And so, with a great deal of reluctance (like a certain ‘someone’ finally breaking down and cleaning her room), I pull out my laptop, open a blank page, and just start. Not knowing what to write about, I start to write about not writing. Writing is similar to cleaning a messy room, organizing thoughts and putting them on shelves.
I know that my writing is not important in the bigger world, where real writers have more to say with a more colorful palette, but it is important to me in my little world here—tucked away in the woods where crickets and frogs and coyotes fill the late summer nights with a reassuring hum. It is important because it just so happens that writing is my savior. But truth be told, I don’t always want to be saved, and in those dark bottomless periods, no words come. It scares me because I begin to believe that they will never come again, and that the course I have been on for so many years will need to change to a path where words no longer measure my sense of well being. Eventually, when I am close to giving up, my back against the wall, the words always seem to come—at least for now—and I write my way back into a healthy space.
So, with summer on it’s way out and autumn at my back door, maybe my savior has returned to me. I can’t place a bet on it yet, but I am here at my desk tapping out words today, the first day. There is wood to be chopped and stacked, friends to visit, teenagers to tend to, dogs to walk, walls to paint, rooms to clean, and any number of distractions to keep me from this place, but, for now, I am here, facing my fear of writing down the bones. Thank you, Carrie, for the voice at the edge of the forest.
It has been weeks since I have had even a minute to sit here at my desk in my studio with the ten windows. It takes a snow storm to bring everything to a grinding halt and allow me the space and time to stop long enough to find myself here. I suppose it takes a bit of inspiration as well and snowy days always bring me home. This is where I always want to be but, the days slip away and before I know it weeks have passed with no time carved out for dreaming and writing.
As the wind whips against the old cape, she flexes her muscles and stands firm as she has done so for 263 winters, the old bones creaking and popping. We are safe from the storm within her walls, but is impossible on a day like today to keep the wind from finding it’s way into the tiniest of cracks, so we huddle by the stoves and wear hats and scarves indoors.
The plow trucks have been busy clearing the main roads but we will not be plowed out until the storm calms. Today we were meant to shoot the video for Escapology in a warehouse in the next town over but everything is being rescheduled for tomorrow. While we wait for the storm to pass, Marzio settles into his room to watch a film called, ‘The Rat Catcher’, Marco crafts a beat for a new song, Lola sleeps by my feet, dreaming her doggy dreams, Ziggy naps by the wood stove as yours truly sits here putting the moment into words. It’s a snow day, a dream day, a sleepy day here in snow country.
Hope Sandoval is streaming into my sleepy head through headphones. Listening to the songs from her new album is like having an old friend return after a long absence, catching me up on all the years that have passed. December came and went so fast I can hardly remember what I did, put up a Christmas tree, baked some ginger cookies, shopped online, loaded wood into stoves, shoveled loads of snow, took down a Christmas tree. Tonight the sleeping house is warm. The howling winds of the past few days have finally died down. All of the sounds that a house makes when the wind pushes up against it have quieted. The stoves are on a slow burn. I will wake once in the night and put in another log to keep the embers alive until morning. The winter’s night routine. Never let the fires die.
January is here. I thought that it would never come. The sugar maples are naked and the ground is a blanket of snow. Winter here is not for the faint-hearted. There is a strength in the people who choose to live in cold climates that I admire. I see it in my own children. They may choose to live in a warmer part of the world someday but they have this experience of braving the weather and pushing through in their character. They are stronger for it. We lived on the west coast for a few years and I knew that it was not my home. I missed the seasons. I needed that rhythm in my creative life. I spent those years putting all of my energy into raising my children as I couldn’t seem to get in touch with my own voice. At the time my children were my expression. Maybe I was just afraid to see what I was feeling inside, kept a blind eye to it, a slow death only to be reborn in the snowy landscape of New England. The path we are on in life is the only one we have so everything is in perfect time. This is what I believe. Intuitively, I knew where my energy needed to be because as soon as the girls were older, I found that I was exactly where I needed to be to begin writing again. I am still a full time mother and finding time outside of that responsibility has been challenging. The days begin early and end late to make space for myself.
So this is the month that A Flutter And Some Words will finally be released. Three years of my life wrapped up in it, two winters, two springs, two summers and one Autumn in the writing. It has been an incredible journey of remembering and taking back something that belongs to me that I thought I could live without and somehow be content. No regrets. I was busy making a family and if anything had been different, this record would not exist. No Time is lost. This is my best work thus far and the album that I am most proud of.
It’s getting late so I will end this here. It will be a busy month and I am feeling like it’s my season. They say there will be snow again Friday and I say bring it on.
There is wood to be stacked. No soft glow or warmth of a fire yet. How long can we go before the days and nights revolve around the wood stoves? Wool socks, sweaters and indoor hats, our only defense for now. Storm doors and storm windows sealing out drafts…gearing up for battle, winter is on it’s way. Lowering the body’s expectations for warmth…tomorrow I will light the fires, but tonight we will sleep beneath feathers and down and wake to a cold house. You have to be strong to live north of everything. I tell myself this as the winters take their toll.
Today I sealed the white swallow between the plastic sheet and the glass panes, looking out, watching the leaves turn from green to gold. From this window, she will watch the rain fall tomorrow and the leaves fall in the coming weeks and the snow fall come December. A quiet solitude I long for.
There are many beautiful things to come…winter songs born out of this place I call home, but for now… sleep is calling and I shall go.