journal

I am not Emily Dickinson

In this moment I am, in fact, typing on a computer, sitting in one of those ergonomically designed chairs with the knee rest. I'm at my mother's desk. The house is quiet, and I suppose that could be kind of Dickinson-esque, but then I draw the camera lens a little wider, and there is the dish detergent I need to get more of, and the pot I left in the sink to soak, and the glorious trip to New York a few weeks ago still ringing, and this new online class I'm taking from Patti Digh, which has me writing on paper bags and index cards, with Sharpies and crayons no less, and I'm thinking of how many Instagram photos I've taken over the past few weeks and how it's developing into a habit, and how I haven't written very much poetry at all except maybe the captions. And my own online teaching, where I fear getting slightly behind with my students, and the fact that I have been advised by a trusted source to begin the process of unifying all of my online identities under one roof because, as she said, "your online presence confuses me," and this is in the context of building more of an audience and finding more students and teaching more workshops and keeping up, in a certain sense, with the Joneses.

 

All of this while my latest book comes out and I enter into the strange and still unwieldy world of marketing, and then of course thinking about putting ANOTHER collection together of oh so many things - poetry from my blog, and then there's the volumes of "10-line Tuesday" poems to assemble, and little booklets of writing prompts, all in preparation of my upcoming teaching adventure at Squam Art Workshops. Which maybe is a little bit like Emily Dickinson after all, only there's also the part-time job I got recently with a senior relocation company, and the people I've begun to work with in their homes, sorting through their things, helping them figure out what to take and what to let go of. It's a fascinating, thrilling, complicated, bittersweet experience. In some cases, they are moving out of homes they've lived in for 30+ years and into an independent or assisted living facility and the incredible collision of emotions that that brings. I am going through years of someone else's history, and the layers of real and metaphorical dust that have gathered in the interim. It's an archeology of a life, the excavation of a thousand stories. It is humbling and awe-inspiring and it's giving me new and interesting thoughts about aging.

 

And all of this while I navigate the moonscape of love, following the throes and momentum of our newness and coming upon some unwieldy contours and shadowy places. I feel like I've reached the age when it is hard to be casual about anything. Not work, not writing, not sex, not life. Maybe it's the particular set of experiences that have brought me here - and the almost constant awareness that I am grateful beyond words to be alive and mobile and pain-free - and all of the auxiliary benefits that that brings. Attention to detail. Taking nothing for granted. Pleasure in the smaller landscapes of living. Color on a grey sidewalk. Gems among the ruins. The glow of light everywhere.

 

My sister left me a voicemail the other day, saying something like, "What's with all the cryptic Facebook updates?" and that was definitely not an Emily Dickinson moment. This is an age of a pummel of communication, status changes and instant photos and like buttons and our every move documented if we wanted. I saw a couple yesterday in the funny little town of Wilbraham, Massachusetts. I was meeting with a client and they walked in and it felt like a TV show. He was bulging with muscles and had tight cropped grey hair. She'd definitely had some work done, that otherworldly slope from the nose to the cheeks, the duck lips, how the eyes were pulled back as if they wouldn't be able to blink. She was wearing black leggings and a vaguely leopard-print tunic cinched tightly at the waist and had recently come out of a tanning booth. He was enormous, the seat he was in looking like a kindergartener's, his shirt tight around his chest. He was gripping the life out of a Coke bottle.

 

Why do I share this? I don't know. Maybe it's because it's been ages since I've posted here and the small, useless guilt of that, and the way that I need to forgive myself more for going off topic and stepping off the page and changing my mind about things and loving the way that I love and having some of the best days of my recent life spent doing headstands in Central Park and eating breakfast at Astro's and the cocktails at Rudolph's and laughing until my ribs ached, and listening to the most amazing concert right above Columbus Circle and wearing a dress that brought blush-inducing compliments, and walking in cowboy boots on a frigid January afternoon in one of the biggest cities in the world and then days later finding another center in the field across the street, glossed over in places by ice that wasn't melting despite the unseasonably warm winter weather, and then later still finding solace in a cup of tea and just one light on over the desk and a letter keeping me company. Which DOES sound a little like Emily Dickinson, I guess. Heck, we're living in same town now. I might as well get to know her a little.

 

And today is the second day of the second month of the year and I will leave in a few minutes to go through someone else's basement and later meet a friend for lunch, and deliver a basketball I took accidentally from the gym last week, and do more writing, and shop for ingredients for Saturday's crepe stand and start working on the retreat in April and submit my poetry manuscript to one of a dozen contests coming up, and let go of what needs shedding and invite in what is knocking at the door. And so, here we are again, this every moment: a sip of still-warm coffee, a quick stretch of the limbs, and the button that says "Publish."