August 30, 2011
I dedicate this blog entry to the residents of Ulster County who survived Hurricane Irene and are working hard to repair their property and their lives. I was there, cat, dog and chicken sitting for my daughter and son-in-law while they went up to a wedding in Maine. My husband had returned to the city and, once he was gone, my plan had been (and notice the tense) to enjoy some end of summer fresh air, take long walks, read, relax, and write. But first the kitten jumped onto the keyboard and chewed on the wires, then there was a minor earthquake, then a bear attacked the chicken coop, foxes arrived, and my son-in-law’s deterrent—a spray and motion sensor light—went off continually, disturbing my sleep. Of course, the dog barked and barked and barked. I thought of my artist-cousin who recently went up to her home in Martha’s Vineyard for a week of solitude to think and work. She was so distracted by the obligations of house maintenance she couldn’t get started and ended up painting the stairwell a robin egg blue. Ever since, she’s been dreaming of Matisse.
My daughter and son-in-law drove through the night after the wedding ceremony and arrived at 4 a.m. The power had gone out around 2 a.m. and, to say the least, I was glad to see them. The rain was sheeting and smelled like the sea where it had been born. I was curled up on the bed with the dog and the cat reading the first of the Trollope Palliser novels on my Kindle with a micro-light. Cozy, but I was still uneasy until my family returned safely. And they drove into the storm so I wouldn't be alone in the house.
It was the tail of the Hurricane, a tornado-strength wind—that caused the most damage just as the power line crews were beginning to get to work the following afternoon. Of course, we knew this wind was coming but it was hard to imagine how strong it would be so far inland.
Fortunately, the damage on the property was minimal, and no one got hurt. Only one chicken died when a large branch fell onto one of the coops. Others in the area were not as lucky.
I am now back in the city after a six hour journey in a convoy—two SUV’s and two excellent GPS’s--with two savvy self-confident Canadian women. I left my small Honda upstate knowing I wouldn’t be able to get through water or over downed branches. I was also feeling skittish and did not want to travel alone. One of the by-products of natural and man-made disasters, I find, is that community coheres instantly.
I think we crossed the Hudson River three times in search of clear roads though we eventually lost track. Towards the end, we passed through Bear Mountain State Park which looked untouched, as did the city.
August 9, 2011
I have moved into my (second) childhood neighborhood. I have not thought about it very much because I have been so busy, but Sunday morning, on the way to the gym, I walked down West End Avenue and saw the apartment building—895—where I lived from the age of 4 until I entered junior high school. We lived in the high-ceilinged first floor apartment where my mother, an obstetrician-gynecologist, also had her office. We occupied the back bedrooms and the living/dining area. Our maid had a small room off the kitchen. Of course there were several such maids/housekeepers/nannies to look after us while my mother and step-father worked. It was unusual in those days; most moms were stay-at-home moms. My refugee parents never had the luxury. Nor do parents today.
I walked slowly and then snapped an iphone picture which I immediately posted onto Facebook with a short caption. But, unexpectedly, there was more to say, more to write about: This is where I lived when I was a child. This is where I played handball, roller skated, jumped rope and played jacks. My friend, Diana, lived next door at 885. Her mother did not work and she lived in an extended family—grandmother, aunt, cousins—while her father worked. I thought the set-up sublime and ate lunch there whenever I could. And so on.
So this may be the beginning of another memoir. It certainly feels as though it is. And though I have writing plans for the next month—the fifth novella in a new collection—I may take a detour, it’s hard to say. It is very pleasant to let the mind drift, to allow the images and ideas to surface, pen and paper (or computer) at the ready.
August 3, 2011
I moved last Friday and, though today is only Wednesday, I am at my desk, in my new atelier, eager to write a blog or anything else that will elevate my brain out of boxes into other, more creative thoughts. In search of a café to sit and read, I missed my old, familiar neighborhood and retreated back to my apartment which is so high and bright and cool that I don’t really need to sit in a café to read. Except that when I am here, there is always something to do: a box to unpack, a picture to hang. Getting back to a project after an enforced hiatus is, therefore, a matter of discipline. So I went to a yoga class this morning at my new gym, picked up some lunch, ate the lunch with my husband, discussed the dimensions of a kitchen table we need to buy, and got to work, sort of.
First things first, email. Then more gadgets for my iGoogle. Then I hung another painting, lay down on the bed to read, and fell asleep. Now I am back at the computer writing this blog, a warm up, I suppose. I added the New York Review of Books to my gadgets and read an article about postcards which was well written and interesting. I have tossed away every postcard I have ever received except for one which I have in front of me now. It’s hand painted, a detailed, delicate color drawing of Sarajevo circa 1908, before bombs shattered the city. It was sent to me by a relief worker friend after the most recent war had come to an end, and two mutual relief worker friends returned to the city to get married. Carefully written in a steady hand, it tells a story in twelve succinct lines about the occasion and the city itself, quite different than when the writer was last there. I cannot remember the last time I wrote a postcard. Oh, yes, I can. It was two years ago when I traveled to Alaska. I will not be traveling this summer and I have not, as yet, received a postcard from other travelers. Of course, I have received emails and Facebook postings. In their distillations, they are similar to postcards, and environmentally correct, no? Please advise.
For anyone interested, here’s the New York Review article by Charles Simic, a fine poet: