Monday, July 20, 2015

The "Gathering Time"

I'm back in Kentucky at last and the big barns are doing their thing and the rain's been making the grass grow so fast it's a jungle of new electric greens every day. This year has been, what to say of it, very lifey. This has been heightened by the fact that over the past 6-7 months I've been suffering from vertigo which I believe is finally getting better. It's been a strange illness. To be spinning. All. The. Time. I envy those walking around without the world threatening to bring them to their knees at any moment. I want to shout, "It must be nice just to walk around without someone holding you up!" But finally, I think, fingers crossed, birds wished upon, I am getting better. (And my MRI shows my brain is way cooler than I thought.)

Living in New York from January through May was wild and hard and wonderful. (Though
navigating the streets (even familiar streets) of New York while dizzy gives a whole new meaning to "feeling off kilter." I missed seeing many people I wanted to simply because I didn't have the balance or the energy to go much farther than my own small realm of Brooklyn bodegas. (It doesn't mean I didn't want to, I was lying in bed watching the world twist.) 

Teaching at NYU was marvelous. Teaching at Columbia University was a joy. And then I taught at the Queens University of Charlotte, then for the 24Pearl online for the Provincetown Fine Arts Work Center, and then at New Harmony (WOW, AMAZING) in Indiana, and now at last I have been home for a whole three weeks.  I haven't had a real summer in so long. The sort that allows you to breathe and travel and NOT travel and laugh and eat ice cream. This has been all I've been doing lately. I haven't written. Well, two poems. And I haven't worked (well, freelance work, but the fun stuff). And mainly I've been allowing myself 3-4 mile walks with audio books and no distractions. Finally my health and my balance seem to be returning. It's such a joy to just be in your body and let it move and not have any particular push in one direction or another. 

This I believe is the "gathering time." My ideas for new projects are coming together as Bright Dead Things arrives in a month or so. Waiting for a book to arrive is strange. I've never had a child, but I can imagine there is something of an anxious anticipation that might be similar. I want to hold it in my hands, but I'm also terrified. This book is very personal and a bit different for me. It's both more aware of joy and more aware of rage. But it will arrive when it arrives and in the meantime I walk and plan and think and meditate and listen to music and love and breathe.

I've been spending time with new books from friends: Rebecca Lindenburg's The Logan Notebooks (which contains this aphorism: "Sometimes the only way out of the rain is into the river."), Dawn Lundy Martin's Life Inside a Box is a Pretty Life (a poem here:, Jon Pineda's Little Anodynes whose poem "Umpteenth" is just such a quiet portrait of fatherhood and strength, "& I stupid me would not climb the stairs & hold her No I thought we didn't do that kind of thing anymore." And a fresh new arc of Gisele Firmino's first novel The Marble Army--set in Brazil during one of history's most unforgiving regimes. To spend your time with good writing from friends is such a good way to pass the time. 

Oh and not to mention the new play I just read from Trish Harnetiaux which damn near murdered me it was so good. It's called "Weren't You in My Science Class?" and can I tell you how refreshing it is to read great female characters in a play that's not--at all--about men? One scene in particular might rival any scene I've read in theater so far (including the toaster scene in True West.) And then there's Corey Stoll of course staring in Ant-Man (a thrilling performance). So even when I'm not reading work, I get to SEE the work of my nearest and dearest. This is what a summer break should be. A chance to indulge in READING and EXPERIENCING the works of the badasses you've chosen to walk beside (and behind). All this, and finally having read both The Fault of Our Stars and Paper Towns by John Green (as I work on--or at least think about--my YA book)...and no one told me he includes so much poetry! I loved them both.

The "gathering time" might be my favorite time. Less leaning forward and more sponging. I am imagining myself at the river's bottom. Letting it all just do its thing over me.

Is this a long way of saying I am not writing? Perhaps. But it's more of a long way of saying, I am loving not producing right now. I am just here to listen, to nod, to sway at the words of others and to stop by the farm stand and make potato salad. Let this be enough. My friend Stephanie Hopkins said once, "I don't want to be insatiable, how horrible, I want to be satiable." And that's what I want, too. To be, for the moment, satisfied.