It Goes In And Out Like Anything

night walk To be melancholic is to wake up at 5 in the morning to the sound of the street sweeper and notice the entire town bathed in deep, grey fog, and to worry about the cold and the lack of sun, while simultaneously basking in the glory of clouds traveling in and out of your windows as the moments of the early morning pass quickly by.

Also, it is to feel a pain in your heart that makes you leap toward a pond and find the baby frogs peeping on a late summer afternoon, or notice the multitude of colours in viburnum flowers that race toward the sky, pluming from branches of a very tall tree outside a tea house with a newly-built, Japanese-style water garden.

It is a palpable sense of love: one that you hold in your hand as if it were a roasted chestnut on a cold day, keeping it safe inside your hands, warm, suspended in animation, knowing that love is multi-layered, a palimpsest without limit. trees 2 Melancholy is noticing the light of late spring sunsets cast behind maple leaves, transforming them into a glowing mass of golden-green light that shifts in the wind, that shafts of sun pass through, temporarily blinding you in glory as you drive into the sunset instead of away from it.

Melancholy is the feeling of joy and poignancy that comes when the beauty of the natural world is so overwhelming you wish you could just bottle it, pour it into a cup and send it to the ones you love the most just so that they could see it and feel it, too. tool barn Melancholy is cigarettes smoked late in the night, in the morning really, while walking along a path on the shore, gazing out at fogbanks that cover up islands all in a row, breathing out, into the rain and fog, walking home, staring at the lights of houses and boats bobbing in the water, and hearing foghorns and the deep clanging bell noise of the buoys.

Melancholy is unlocking the door: a sideways glance at all of those who enter, wondering who will stay, who will go, who will sit and talk, who will break your chairs or smudge your walls with emotional fingerprints, and whether those smudges are dark and greasy, or golden, gilded and everlasting.

Melancholy is rhubarb and sweet peas, exploding with growth in spring sun, reaching ever upward against gravity, deep green, pungent, earth black, filled with earthworms, and the echoing call of wind chimes hanging in the branches of an apple tree.

Melancholy is sitting on an upholstered sofa that was brought in through the windows in the 1920s, and realizing how many people have sat here, just like you. tool barn 2   Melancholy is an antique vise, a ball peen hammer, a plane that exemplifies craftsmanship and care and engineering and appreciation and art, all at the same time; old locksets that turn with skeleton keys, and the stillness of many pieces of antique steel, all in rows, organized against the entropy of the outside world.

Melancholy are the crows: hopping and flying from here, to there, calling and cackling to all of us as we walk along, under them, noticing all the things that make life so beautiful and dark, so colorful and raw, so lovely, so visceral, and that passes us by so quickly, in the blink of an eye, blinded by the beauty of a sunny day. trees

Endings and Beginnings

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“I keep turning over new leaves, and spoiling them, as I used to spoil my copybooks; and I make so many beginnings there never will be an end. “

– Jo March in Little Women

A year and four months ago, I moved to the small town of Northeast Harbor after a month-long trip around the country. In two weeks, I will leave Northeast Harbor for the much larger town of Bar Harbor. Twenty minutes away and boasting a population of almost 1000, my new town is the big city of these parts.

I am conflicted about leaving this little town, because I love its quirks and characters. I love its beauty and its quiet.  I met several great friends here who have since moved out, too, and soon I will go and move into an old house and still be able to see the ocean. But my new ocean will be facing north, while this one faces south.

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New directions and opportunities have to be the themes of 2014 based on all the tumult and tumbling going on. For Valentine’s Day this year, I made flags spray-painted with red hearts. There are ten of them, and I installed them on snow mountain: the pile of dirty snow that sits beside my house in the parking lot. The snow plow guys scoot all the snow over here during every snowstorm, of which there have been many this winter. The flags were flipped and flapped all day yesterday by gale force winds, but maintain. This morning they wave more gently in the winter sunshine.

Tonight another snowstorm descends upon us, another 12-18 inches of the white stuff will drop downward onto the ground and into the branches of trees. My friend just told me that she has never seen anything like this winter, and I have to agree. In moments it is beautiful and inspiring and scary with its stark nature, and in other moments, it is somewhat defeating. The winter is so powerful here, just like the summer was in Texas. The difference is that the summer in Texas was just hot. Winter in Maine is dark, cold, snowy, icy, windy, and very, very long.

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I am trying to motivate myself to take care of business, but have a case of the Februarys. This is why I made the flags over the last couple of weeks, when I was working on two Valentine’s Day commissions for clients. I learned today that one of the pieces that I made with an old typewriter ball was met with tears and love, because said typewriter ball was found in my friend’s mom’s house shortly after she passed away. I love that there is so much love in the things that are important to us, even if those of us who transitionally handle those things don’t know the back story.

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The flags to me mean love for Valentine’s Day for everyone in my town: they are a prayer of sorts. The town seems to be changing but no one can see what the changes will look like. As the year round population shrinks again, as I move and a few others do as well, this town needs love and brightness. The flags mean appreciation for my friends here, for the family that I have found. They also mean gratitude for the safety of the four of us who were in the accident two weeks ago. The flags also mean focusing on endings and beginnings and being aware of the give and take of transitional times. I, historically, do not like change and have a hard time accepting that endings actually exist. I try and try and try to keep energy flowing in my spheres of influence so that life is a creative process rather than a destructive one, even though I acknowledge that creation and destruction, like the sides of a coin, are a yin-yang of sorts; you cannot have one without the other.

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Right now I am sitting in my bedroom, my favorite space in this little house. This room reminds me of a train car due to its size, cramped nature, and lack of windows (there is only one). My house is steadily being taken over by boxes. The funny thing about moving out of a tiny house is that there is nowhere to put the things you are packing. The tiniest of houses begins to feel absolutely small when stacks of boxes are pushed up against any nook or cranny of (non-existent) extra space.

When I look out my front window, I see those small flags coursing in the wind: red against the white and blue and green of their surroundings. I remember moving here two autumns ago, when I knew nothing of living here or of its people. Now, I know more, and am beginning to understand life here. But just beginning.

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A Tale…A Tail

owl by arthur rackhamIt was late October, and a girl was carried in by the currents and tides through dark blue water; washed ashore on the rocky beach. Eyes opening in the autumn light, she noticed large rocks cracked by glaciers, and tall fir trees growing up like jagged teeth along the horizon.

Naked she was, and alone: scared and not just a bit mystified. Under her pale body and dark hair, flat on the beach, was a grey, furry skin, as if she lay upon a blanket. But of course, this was no blanket but one aspect of her true self: a seal skin, a selkie, she was.

Gathering her skin around her like a shroud, she peered up the hillside and into the town. The fog was curling around the boats, the trees, and herself as she gazed and wondered at where she was, and how she had come to be there, anyway. Above one eye was a large, red mark, as if a tentacle had stung her across the left side of her face, or she had been hit hard by something long and wooden. Her head felt heavy in her hands; holding it just so, the early morning light stung her eyes, and she began to cry, knowing that she was alone there on that beach.

undine_by_rackhamThe pebbles dug into her skin and so she stood up after a while, again shrouding herself in her skin against the cold, against the light, against the unknowns that, no doubt, were roaming unchecked in that tiny town of white houses, grey roads, black, sea-striped stones.

Out of nowhere, as she stood, a prince arrived in a strange carriage. Black and silver it was, and he was like a rainbow. He seemed to appear out of nowhere, for all of a sudden, she found herself in a flower garden, and he in the middle. He seemed to grow out of the flowers, as if they were a part of him, but yet he smelled of sawdust and strange Eastern songs echoed around him, in the autumn light. He whisked her into that carriage, taking her on a long drive through windy mountain roads, through trees whose leaves were changing from green to red, orange, yellow and brown. Suddenly, there was a bonfire in a granite fireplace, and people stood around her, everywhere. She was shrouded again, in another costume: this one of a sprite unknown to them, with antlers growing from her now longer hair, a cape of ivory, face sweet, lips parted to drink and eat intoxicating things from a long and dusty table. A small woman out of the crowd stared and asked: “are you real?”

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Time passed, and sometimes she found herself in Italy, sitting at an old wooden table eating olives and garlic and drinking red wine through dark cold nights when the Moon hung in the sky, glowing brightly like a frozen pearl. The nights grew colder, crisper, and one morning, as she went walking, she saw hoarfrost upon all the plants by the roadside and she stopped to see the landscape glitter. The day came when it was time to mark time, and the prince whisked her to a beach and told her stories that made her feel disoriented, fascinated, and protected, in a way. In the light of a campfire, she wondered if she saw the real him, as sometimes his eyes would fill with tears, and then away he would run, again. His carriage changed from silver to black and back again, and picked her up and took her from place to place like the princess he told her she was. After a bit of time, so intoxicated she was with his flowers and his scent and the fortress in which he lived, that she almost forgot where she had hidden her shroud. Many months before, she had taken it and folded it ever so thin, like a delicate piece of origami, and tucked it inside a secret pocket. When she became afraid, she made sure she could feel it, touch it, know that it was still there; she was afraid that someone was trying to find it and take it for their own. She knew, but hoped herself unique, that once her skin was taken, she would stay, trapped, forever.

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Over time the chariot began to rust, and the flowers faded. The rainbow cast over the prince became thinner, and she began to catch glimpses of someone else, as if an image was held under dark water, as if she was catching the silhouette of a tree in a puddle on a rainy day. She stayed quiet most of the time, watching and listening, and he liked her that way. His rainbow slipped away, but his beautiful hands gave gifts and his icey blue eyes laughed and she was held in their spell.

One early morning, they were driving through Russia and the snowbanks were piled high on the sides of the carriage tracks. The ocean water, teal and tossed about by wind, was pulled into meringue-like peaks as the carriage was pulled forcefully along another windy road. Above their heads flew eagles, dark against the white sky, and more and more snow fell, spinning in huge spirals, buffeted by a strong Eastern wind. That day his colors were orange and grey, set apart from the white, swirling background of an almost Eastern landscape.

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Over time, the snow melted and she found herself living in a tiny fishbowl on a ledge. The fishbowl was very small and in fact most people thought she was a doll living in a dollhouse, and still doubted whether she was real: still wondered where she had come from. Safely inside, she stared out the walls of the fishbowl and watched as people found her, and waited outside to see what she would do. Guarding the now hidden mark above her eye, she ventured outside and painted the veranda a deep green, like the color of the water from which she had come. When the ice left, she kissed the wind and flowers appeared below her feet, and suddenly she found herself living not on a ledge, but in a town, alongside others who wished just to know her, wished to laugh with her, eat dinner, and go swimming, which of course, was her favorite thing to do.

The prince, now old and wizened and thin, no longer a rainbow and full of light, for he had betrayed his mask and shown her his true self long ago, one night while they were dancing, would not let her go, and did everything in his power to give her beautiful things and talk with her about wonderful ideas, and in one moment, even tricked her so as to think that he loved her truly. She slipped, and her precious seal skin flew out of its pocket and later, she found it in a pile under the kitchen table, tethered into place by the leg of a blue wooden chair. Promises of love were circling her head and she was drunk on confusion and bewildered at the prince, for she knew him yet he was promising her the world. Gathering her skin around her, for the first time in many months, she stood upon the veranda, and stared out at her ocean, now a lighter green as the summer sun shone down upon her pale skin. The flowers were every color and curled in great vines through the garden, protecting the spaces that she had made whilst alone in the early spring.

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The prince arrived and tricked her again, denying that he had ever promised her anything, that she had misheard him, that she was lying, that she was being cruel. In bewilderment, she cried and saw her face in a mirror, saw the damage above her eye reappearing as her tears fell. She lay under a striped blanket in a train car, and could see, finally, his face, his poor, sad, confused, and afraid face, his body, drawn, his wrist hurt from years of steering that carriage against the tides, his throat sore from lying to himself, his light fading, his hope just barely alive. She looked at him, gathered her skin around her and smiled a perfect, understanding smile, as he lay beside her, battling with himself.

On the last evening, he whisked her away to a castle in the woods, a wooden castle painted of blue with gardens of moss and a small path that led to a lake. He took her there, installed her in a room, and went to sleep. As he slept, and he looked so peaceful for one of only a few moments that she could remember, she kissed him upon the lips and silently slipped out of the locked door: escaping locks had always been a skill of hers, for as long as she remembered. Walking softly over moss, she stopped to pay attention to the curved branches of trees, to listen to the calls of the loons on the water. She walked into the woods, and with each step, pulled her skin in closer, moving back into the body she had lost many months before. After what felt like hours, or maybe days, she reached another beach, this one calm and warm in the early summer morning. She slipped into the water, silent as….

A seal.

2adf6f232cc145973fd211204f499687Swimming through warm, summer water, in the early morning, she began to realize that she was not just one or the other, but both, entire. She reached that beach that had once been so cold, so grey, so uninviting and alien, and pulling herself up onto the land once more, basked in sunshine, folded her shroud away again, touched her face, remembering her past injury with her fingers, as if it was a tattoo of white, hidden from all but her. She stood up, saw the fishbowl above her on the hillside with its gardens and train car, and walked. Walked and walked and walked: home.

A Sense of Place in Time

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This was my house, until about four years ago. My house, the Haney House,  was the last place that I felt home, a place where I didn’t have to run from one thing to the next. It was a house in which I could stay, and paint the walls, and build gardens, and raise chickens.

Whilst driving home tonight after dinner with my family, the almost full Moon was shining huge and bright through my windshield, and I realized with the pain that only nostalgia can bring, how much I miss my house. And yes, I miss the brick and mortar of that house, but mostly I miss the feeling I got when I walked inside at the end of long days. I miss waking up on weekends and going outside to work in my gardens. I miss the rustling-squawking of the hens in the mornings, and how they waddled towards me to get cracked corn through the fence. I miss the dark purple walls of the laundry room and the sun I painted in metallic gold paint on the ceiling of the hall bathroom. Although I don’t think I would ever paint another house with each room being a different, deep colour, I loved each room in that house, most especially the craft room with its dark orange walls, blue ceiling, and silver trim.

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Four years ago, in the spring of 2009, I was planting more native species in the bed in the front of the house, and building a raised bed in the side yard. I was hanging lights in the old Elm tree, and sitting outside at the blue table with elephants for legs. I was on the back porch with its sagging roof, surfing the Internet for tickets to Mexico and England, rubbing my hands on the old cotton tapestry that covered the plastic table, swinging in the Mexican hammock, building a house for grapevines out of re-bar.

So. Nostalgia: the pain of remembrance. Conveniently, we remember those things we wish to see in our minds eye, and forget much. This is perhaps a function of survival, of resilience, or perseverance. I remember the Haney House as the place in which I was married, in which I worked to make a home for my family; it was the house in which I expected I would have children, or at least, further expand my life from the point at which I found myself when we bought it in 2006. It wasn’t meant to be, because the box of life I found myself within did not make me fulfilled, and I chose to step out of it, into the harsh air, on my own.

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Tonight I sit here, in my little house on the ocean in Maine, and all is not perfect, and sometimes I get inconsiderate and impatient with life’s imperfections. Sometimes I wish for that sense of stability again, for a future that could be mapped out. But of course, even when we can see down the road, we cannot predict all of life’s curves and challenges, and even when we have what society calls stability, we have only the things that we can really hold in our hands, and everything else can be taken away in the blink of an eye, the movement of someone out the front door, or names signed on the lines of forms produced by the State of _________.

I have had a beautiful life, and each day, my life becomes more so. It is hard to see oneself through the eyes of others: in fact, it may be almost impossible. I have had so many adventures in such a short amount of time, and sometimes, I judge myself based on the failures, whether actual or just perceived, that I have encountered along the way, even though, to others, those failures are insignificant, or not failures at all.

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Maybe I will never settle down again. Maybe I will always be a wild woman. Maybe I will meet someone who is a true partner and find love and companionship and team spirit. Maybe I will always travel. Maybe I will always have a sense of home not tied to physical place, but to friends and experiences. Maybe I will be okay, finally, with who I am, despite the fears or uncertainties of others, including my family, and myself. Maybe I will always relish newness: visiting a perfect replica of the Alamo in central Mexico, listening to the eerie calls of loons on a lake in Maine while sitting on a floating dock, running up and down sand dunes in England, illegally importing cars in Belize, driving a Ford F150 through narrow streets in Canada. Maybe I will always be me, uncertain, changeable, flexible, flighty, loving, loyal, colourful, creative and kind.

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Carousel

“I can only note that the past is beautiful because one never realises an emotion at the time. It expands later, and thus we don’t have complete emotions about the present, only about the past.”

– Virginia Woolf

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I recognize them by their trucks: the men of the town. Very few women drive trucks, but almost all the men do. Silver F-150s, blue striped GMCs, black and bright green Chevy’s, red construction and demolition Peterbilts. In fact, I live behind a demolition company and walk past their fleet of oversized red trucks every day.

Yesterday, I walked down to the harbor to have lunch and conversation in a truck. It was the blue striped GMC. Its interior was dusty and reflected the country life of its owner: green shotgun shell on the dash, Old Crow Medicine Show music playing from the tape deck, a pack of Marlboros shoved into a cubby hole, an iPhone, a can of Monster, old coats, older boots. The interior was that heavy carpeting of 1980s American cars: the stuff that binds upon itself over time and becomes softer but tangled, stands up from the floors and walls of the truck. As I sat there, I was struck by the memory of my mom’s Oldsmobile station wagon: our childhood car that had the same carpeting all over its interior, and velveteen and vinyl seats.

When we were kids, my brother and I would sit in the trunk of the car because there was a rear-facing seat in there and we could stare out the back window of the wagon and pretend we were driving backwards. I don’t think they make those seats anymore; I have a strong attachment to that memory. Houston, Texas, blue Oldsmobile station wagon, my brother giggling, my mother managing us, moving us across that landscape that was so alien to her. Streets of white asphalt that crunched under wheels and feet, dust, pine trees, humidity, intense heat. Pine needles turned golden as they fell off in the summer and fall, pine cone wars with neighbor kids, swimming, popsicles, Jello eggs.

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In high school, I spent much time in a town called Porter, Texas, which was about 45 minutes away from where I lived. Porter was home to my boyfriend’s grandmother, which is also where he lived most of the time. She lived on a few acres surrounded by a hurricane fence in an old, stationary trailer with an ornament of an eagle that hung off the pitched front window. In that kitchen I was served mashed potatoes and fried chicken and Kool-Aid and all kinds of other delicious things over about three years. There was a barn, too, and many, many rose bushes everywhere. She loved roses. There was also a large tree with a swing, a dirt road leading to the trailer, and whole lot of nothing else.

Porter, a town outside of Conroe and near Cut-n-Shoot, was in the piney woods of East Texas, on your way to Huntsville. The trees were tall and skinny, and shady. Despite the heat that seems to pervade all those memories, there was a calm in that shade, and I remember them moving in the wind. When it was very rainy, during the monsoons, sometimes, they would pop: literally explode from over-watering. They seemed to pop at different intervals, as if there were places in the trees naturally designed to expand into a large bubble of water and wood pulp. The smell of East Texas was strong, too: pine, and soil, and heat, and sweat. The sounds of trucks driving along the roads, lawnmowers, tractors, dogs barking, chainsaws. Raccoons lived there, in the woods, as well as copperheads and water moccasins in the rivers and streams. The sun streamed everywhere: I have so many patchworked memories of sitting in a patch of sun, on the dirt, on the ground, stirring it into designs with a stick, watching ants, playing with earthworms, drawing spirals and other shapes in the earth. I still do that, today.

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I am experiencing a feeling of returning and it is very disorienting to me, as if I have been spinning on a carousel for a long, long time, and it is finally stopping; as if the blur of pictures that you see whilst riding a hobby horse on a carousel are slowing down and coming into focus. This place, the country of coastal Maine, not my town exactly, but the places around it, remind me so much of those country towns of East Texas. The people are similar, they drive the same trucks, they do the same things with their time. There are fir trees here, not pine, but the smells and sights are so similar. Of course, in East Texas there are no beautiful granite formations or islands or the ocean, but the feel is there. It’s as if I have returned after a very, very long time. And I suppose, in some ways, I have. Thirteen years away from your family makes returning scary and challenging: starting anew, again, for the third time in a few years, living in small towns in a place with such a long, long winter. Exploring options, trying to forge a path.

I was speaking with a friend about his new bathtub the other day, and how, when he took his inaugural soak, he was transported back to the bathtub in his parents’ house, a series of memories about forty years old. He said he remembered how it felt to be in the bath, how the walls in the bathroom looked, and the sensation of holding your breath under the water as long as possible. We all did that, didn’t we?

And yesterday’s lunch in the blue GMC, with its carpeting and velveteen-vinyl seats, transported me back to a childhood outside of Houston that, at many moments, I plain forget. I thought I had forgotten so many sights and smells and sounds and memories of growing up in the almost-country of east Texas, and yesterday all these things flooded back: the train track behind my high school where a friend of mine got drunk and passed out on the tracks and was run over, my best friend’s almost El Camino and racing boys in cars in it while smoking cigarettes and jamming to the Rolling Stones, my boyfriend’s 280ZX and sitting on his driveway in the afternoons after school. Driving to Huntsville to sit in the sunken rose gardens at Sam Houston State University, time spent at a strange lake house in Cold Spring when I was weeks away from graduation from high school. Camping in the woods in Nacogdoches, making forts in the woods with neighborhood kids, reading books on a blanket in the front yard and waving to the elderly lady who drove past me in her Cadillac each day.

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My parents left Houston about six months after I graduated, and so I never returned there as an adult to have these memories cemented into my mind. Funny how things come flooding back, as you sit talking about nothing in particular, on a cold spring April day, looking at the water move against the dock, in a 1980s beat up pickup truck.

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Six Houses in One Year

“We travel, some of us forever, to seek other states, other lives, other souls.”

– Anais Nin

Gypsy Caravan Simple Sue 2The tiny, less than 350 square foot-ness of my new house is making me think of the interiors of caravans. When I was a little girl, we would drive through the countryside in England and sometimes, I would be lucky enough to catch sight of these in fields. I have always dreamed of making one of my own…

I have lived a vagabond lifestyle over the past year; leaving my row house in South Philly last April started a path of moving every month or two, from house to house.When I move into the new house next week, it will be my sixth home in one year. A year ago, I lived on Rosewood Street, in between Broad Street and Mifflin Street in the Newbold neighborhood of South Philly. About one year ago, my house was broken into and everything I owned was thrown into piles of disarray in the living room, kitchen, and bedrooms. I remember walking through the door that day, into the darkness of the living room, darkness created by heavy velvet curtains on the front windows, and noticed the cushions of the couch, books, decorations were all jumbled on the floor, tumbled into a giant mess. When I walked upstairs into my room, my mattress was tossed in one direction, and everything in my bedroom was torn asunder, cabinets opened, shelves ripped apart, everything on the floor as if a tornado had ripped it all apart.

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I remember that night vividly, despite the tequila haze that clouded my vision. I spent the whole night on my leather couch, after putting it back together, calling everyone I knew and trying to figure out how this all happened. I kept walking upstairs to try to deal with my bedroom, only to see it again, and walk back downstairs. It took me 24 hours to be able to even go into that room.

After that day, I never felt safe in the house, and ceased to sleep well. It has taken until the last few weeks to be able to sleep well again. About a month after that, my roommate and I got rid of all but our most important possessions, and moved out: she to her brother’s house, and me to my friend’s. That was house #2, in Germantown. It was a beautiful house filled with a beautiful family and their many pets: I shared a room with a canary who sang. House #3 came about a month or so later, when I drove to Maine and landed in my parent’s basement. I took every sheet I could find and made the basement into a giant tent, in which I lived until August. In August, I moved into House #4 in Seal Harbor, Maine; a house with no cell phone reception. I had to walk one mile to the beach to use my phone, and spent many nights there sitting at the dining room table, facing my demons, writing about them, meeting them halfway. I spent nights sitting on the Seal Harbor beach sketching, and drank tea on the rocks in the waning summer sunlight.  In late September, I traveled across the country, and then returned to Maine in late October, moving into house #5, on Lookout Lane in Northeast Harbor. Here I have been, in the house that floats above the street, in this beautiful garage apartment, until now. Next week, I shall gather together the few possessions that I have in bins and boxes, and trundle across town to the new house. The house that I don’t have to leave, because, although I am still a renter, it is mine.

The little house that sleeps on the harbor, up on a hill, next to a day parking lot, and a tree-lined path down to the ocean. Across the street from a few houses, an art studio, a restaurant, and a jewelry gallery, behind a museum and a demolition company with a fleet of red trucks.

Photodiary — Snowshoeing on Jordan Pond

“Well, I know now. I know a little more how much a simple thing like a snowfall can mean to a person.”

Sylvia Plath

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Last week we had a huge snowstorm here. Nemo, we were warned, was the storm of the century, but it turned out just to be about two feet of snow and lots of wind. The wind woke me up that night because it shook the house. I dislike sleeping on the second floor of buildings: I am more comfortable on the first floor, and this apartment is very high off the ground. At some points it felt as if the whole building was twisting around its center point, and I remembered how, in the old days here, they used to bolt the houses into the ground using ropes and later, cables, that were driven into the bedrock to stop the houses from blowing away during the gales. The coast of Maine: so wild, so windy, with its daily changing weather and unpredictable light, dark, air, stars, water. Last week, during the storm, the seas were up to 30 foot swells and the boats stayed in the harbor, lashed down to the docks with nylon ropes. The sea roiled and boiled and changed color to a darker winter green as it swooped all around our island. A storm surge of 2 feet covered the rocks and froze the grasses at water’s edge.

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After the storm had passed, and I had dug myself out of the driveway, I went snowshoeing for the first time, down at Jordan Pond, my favorite skating spot that was now covered in snow.

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This place is a winter wonderland, and now that I am no longer scared of winter, and know what it is, and how long it lasts and how different it makes you feel, so reflective, I love to go outside and explore how it changes from day to day. Each day is distinct: as if the environment switches, late at night, when we are asleep, like the screens in that story The Veldt. Each morning when I wake up I see differences in the snow, in the ice, in the light; I hear different bird calls and the shadows on the rocks have changed. The idea of Earth as Dynamic is nowhere more true than here: where you can watch the landscape change almost before your eyes.

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Here I am, just past the point of no return for winter, when the first hints of spring are peeping in the tips of oak trees in the forests….when the birds are singing more than they have for three months. In other places, plants are bursting forth, but for us, we have a while yet to wait.

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While snowshoeing, I paid attention to the snow, and noticed how much it looked like sandstone in the desert. The wind had licked layers of ice crystals and made beautiful dunes that reminded me of being at the beach in England, or in the desert of California.

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After snowshoeing on top of the frozen lake, on top of the powdery snow, I took a moment to snowshoe into the woods at pond’s edge and look at the trees. So much like the setting of a fairy story, this wintertime; I am constantly on the lookout for wolves, or harpies, or secret, magic people dressed in capes, or….something. Mostly, though, I see no one at all.

snowshoeing16snowshoeing15snowshoeing17“The clearest way into the Universe is through a forest wilderness.”

John Muir