Once upon a time I thought that I needed a long weekend to really enjoy myself on a getaway from the city. Not true at all. A 24 hour visit to a nearby loved one is ideal. You can pack in 3 good meals and have plenty of time to chat. Especially if you don’t drive. Then you also have two hours to meditate on the gorgeous Hudson River views from the train, and you can read, sleep, or drink white wine as your preference dictates. After a day and night in Hudson, I arrived back in New York refreshed and ready to tidy my apartment before starting the week. Gosh the people are nice up there. Hopefully next time we will have a chance to catch up with Jesse and Sarah as well as my relatives.
My current effort is to pare my possessions down to what I would like to have for a month at a rental cabin. If I make my tiny home a restful retreat with plenty of space, time and ease of use to create new things and to focus on activities that are most important to me today, it will be like a permanent vacation. I think.
The disposal of an object, batch of papers, or ugly photos is accompanied by a lurch in my stomach as if I were throwing them out of a hot air balloon and each college binder or extra frying pan jettisoned lifts me higher. It is disorienting to no longer be anchored by a familiar thing that generates a predictable feeling. I think that the freedom I feel when traveling is partially freedom from old thoughts and habits stored in objects.
Anyway, I’m having a great time. This week was one of the best weeks I’ve had at work. This is largely due to a message I received from beyond the grave mwah ha ha. I had some of my mother’s old journals from when she was my age and I read a few pages and they were truly and completely indistinguishable from the angst filled selfdoubt that fills so many pages of my own diaries.
This led me to some conclusions. Firstly, it’s not a personality flaw that I think and act this way, it’s a carefully learned behavior that I have cultivated to be like my mom who I loved and admired. Secondly, this attitude is entirely optional. Thirdly, once you are gone, nobody gives a shit about how hard you tried at work. Totally irrelevant. What matters is how you make people feel and how you yourself feel day to day. There is absolutely no percentage in suffering, obsessing, perfecting, proving yourself etc. etc. My status, how other people think about me is irrelevant. What a relief.
It frees a persons time up to do stuff and consider other people whenever you can drop the selfobsession. Exciting. So, time to drop another box of papers into the recycling. I hope that you are having a great Labor Day weekend with lots of rest and love.
We had champagne and bagels in the park with caper (who ate a carrot) and toasted our first year of marriage. The morning I spent going through old papers, cards and journals that I have been schlepping for decades. The first week of august we decamped for Heath while builders fixed our bedroom wall that was damaged in a fire last year. The room is now beautiful, clean and calm and I am not bringing any books furniture or clothes back into it without carefully analyzing whether the item in question is truly of use.
As many people have observed, our stuff owns us. We must house it and care for it and think of it and worry about not using it and all those little thoughts brushed aside weigh on a person. So I threw out 15 years of journals so I can start fresh. I am not Jane Austen , no important sociological or biographical details were lost to posterity in this purge. It feels more like room was made for fresh work.
Today I am off to Staten Island on an epic adventure for work with my wonderful colleague Anna. This morning south ferry is cool and breezy, peaceful as possible on an August Monday the week before Labor Day.
Whenever I start a new job, I lose a couple weeks to the adjustment period. This job also has a completely different rhythm than my last 6 jobs. I am no longer personally responsible for a physical space and sizable staff. I leave work when the work is done, not when my shift is over or when the building closes to the public. I’ve also cut my commute in half so that I am home much quicker in the evening. So far so good.
Now it is summer and I want to do everything at once. It is hard to pace myself and focus on one project at a time. Nick and Caper spend most of the weekend napping, restoring themselves for whatever will come next week, but I am up at seven with a to do list, dreaming of getting everything done in preparation for delicious meals and a tidy home for the next 6 days.
I’m reading again, I’d given up in the winter, wanting only to knit and brew. Now I want to do all that and read real books in bed at night. The glow from the screen is not restful in the way reading oneself to sleep has always been for me. Ebooks are good for traveling, but I have reverted to paper for reading at home.
Jane Smiley has a travel piece in the paper this week about Northern England. We are planning to go back there next year for a Coasts and Castles bike tour. A side trip to Durham. Dreaming and Scheming for Sunday afternoon.
Another slow travel title. Ms. Horowitz explores city blocks with twenty different experts, seeing her neighborhood from new angles with geologists, artists, dogs, botanists, bird watchers and toddlers. Before I married, I was obsessed with long distance travel- the Appalachian trail, the Camino de Santiago, round the world bicycle adventures. I had a yearning to flee and to suffer while doing it. The stories of physical transformation and toenail loss seemed very important and I read perhaps a dozen, reading and rereading guidebooks and making packing lists for my future pilgrimage.
Now I am far more interested in how to bring all those fantasies home. Last week I visited Arthur Avenue in the Bronx for the first time and indulged my Italian pastry lust without a plane trip. Yesterday I worked on making our home more like my favorite Caribbean cottage. And today I did my Agriturismo by carrying 15 gallons of water out to my precious pin oak.
I do love to read about travel and the stories writers tell themselves about their personal transformations on the road. But it feels like I can have that Pacific Coast Trail feeling for an hour in Jamaica Bay and I am not sure that the long, arduous months long journey can offer so much more than that. At least for now.