visible repair

January 8th, 2020 § 0 comments § permalink

“Ring the bells that still can ring

Forget your perfect offering

There is a crack, a crack in everything

That’s how the light gets in.”

Leonard Cohen

Two posts ago, I had just left the boat and had just arrived home. Home was Pittsburgh, New York and Georgia, which is to say that arriving home was no simple feat, and is still, in a way, happening.

In an attempt to think things through and hear some type of inner voice (and also, quite frankly, to absorb a portion of the sudden homelessness I was experiencing), I did a work-stay at a retreat center in upstate NY. The first snow of the winter came the day after I arrived, and I spent my time there shoveling snow as an “active meditation”. Between shoveling shifts, us workers could attend the meditation and mealtime activities, and co-mingle with the visitors, staff and full-time devotees. I was an interloper, just blending in, and I sat my cafeteria tray down in the rustic dining hall to a new group of stranger-comrades every day.

If there is one thing I can do, it is strike up a conversation with a stranger. It’s really just as easy as asking a question and then letting the other person answer for awhile. One evening I asked a dinner companion about his jacket – it was a heavily embroidered denim coat, tidy but also heavily worked, practically rendered. My hands drifted to my knees, feeling the satin patches on my jeans, stitched and re-stiched over the years with golden thread.

He appreciated my noticing the coat – “It’s visible repair!”, we said in unison. I showed him my jeans.

Visible repair is what you do when you are too stingy or nostalgic to let your belongings die of natural causes. On the boat, we were both. In Japan, sashiko embroidery in the style of high-contrast “little stabs” is used for boro, the patching up of tattered but valued material. On the Indian subcontinent, saris are recycled into blankets and cushions through kantha. Closer to home, industrious folx convert favorite scraps into quilts. His jacket was a calico denim blazer, in the sashiko-boro style. I remember the texture, as I ran my hand down the sleeve.

Your favorite soup bowl, accidentally dropped, may be repaired with gold powder, the walls around you with mosaic, colorful plastic blocks, or a lovely hunk of nature within reach. Accidents and erosion become the opportunity for artful care-taking.

So much of me right now is under repair. Sometimes I don’t know if there is enough textile for the stitches to bite. How much of me is me vs. the repair? Will I come out rough or smooth? In the groggy meanwhile I float above the operating table, hoping for this extended surgical procedure to take. If there is any lesson from my time under fiberglass, it is that everything is fixable.

year in rear-view

January 3rd, 2020 § 1 comment § permalink

Last year I took more selfies than in the previous 42 years of my life combined. Just checking out who is there, every day, what is this amalgam of particles at any given moment and how are they/we reflecting light? I wasn’t sure I would come back to this place of wanting to write here, and I had almost chucked it. Then…

About two weeks ago I started writing. Furiously! Like in a fever! Since this came over me I have been pawing at backs of envelopes, half-used legal pads, newly-nested folders on my laptop. If you have seen me in the past two weeks I have most likely asked you for a pen, pencil or paper.

But you haven’t seen me, have you? I haven’t been around. I myself am not privy to my precise location at all times. It is in the looking that one scoots away. Like that old butterscotch candy deep down in your bag, fishing around for it drives it deeper down through the tear in the lining, elusive.

Elusive and a bit sketchy. It has been a year! Everyone is going on about the decade and I am like hey now, can we just pause a bit and digest the year? It was a big bite. Bitter pill, just desserts, and ultimately just what the doctor ordered. Elusive and a bit sketchy.

So what now of me, here, where ever this is? Its time for JUBILEE. If the bags feel too heavy, set them down. If emotions become weapons, trade them for ploughshares. If you’ve been busy counting all the beans, cut it out already and plant them. I’m the one to talk, I’ve spent too long on trying to be seen as right and good. Enough, enough, enough. It matters less what you can give me/what I can give to you, and more what we build here in this time together. Is it peaceful? Is it beautiful? Fun? Does it just generate more transactions or does it build a nest, an ark, a space that grows and holds us all? Is it the ever sketchy and elusive “enough”?

 

ciao bacalao

December 6th, 2018 § 2 comments § permalink

I started this blog in the summer of 2013, when I was making the transition from land to water, coming undone and floating away. It has been awhile because these past months have been consumed by thoughts of return, rooting and rebuilding. On land. Not so planktonic.

I left the boat in October, left Panama, started a new plan. Since then I have been in Florida, Georgia, West Virginia, Pennsylvania, Massachusetts and New York. I spent a week in a Buddhist temple, I participated in a 5-week writing workshop, raked leaves, and shoveled snow. I am seeking out friends and family for conversations, meeting the whole entire children that have been created since the last time we met. Catching up but also remembering who I am in their reflection.

Temple offerings, Kadampa.

Something happened out there on the boat where I lost myself, somehow ran out of me. It is hard to nail down what thats like with a tidy anecdote, I know it is still unfolding.

Neighborhood Print Shop, Braddock PA.

Right now I am in New York City, walking around, researching, writing, archiving, and working. In the next season, I will start on some new path which is still emerging. From the outside looking in, I should probably be freaking out, worried, stressed. But I am somehow feeling very calm, moving slowly but moving forward. I am held and cared for by friends and family – even getting a bit fat.

Wonton Soup.

One thought, a radical outcome from my time on the boat, my one message to you, dear reader, is to consider needing much LESS. When your needs are simple, they can be more simply met. Having your needs met offers freedom from fear. Imagine a version of your life with no fear.

Shell collection, NYC.

Like anyone, I have moments of late night rumination, I go on social media and immediately feel sick with envy. But for some reason – I wish I could see it more clearly, and maybe in time I will – for today, the sense of nourishment and gratitude is just MORE.

Documenting art collection, NYC.

Right now F is out on the boat alone with Beta the cat.  I am watching his dot, and getting to know the experience my parents have had, waiting for news, watching the weather. Shore team.

I am taking a beat and looking back on my time as a planktoneer. I have savored these posts, working on them, sharing them, and returning every once and awhile to remember. But after five years adrift, I am taking root…or becoming sessile? Like a barnacle?