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Entries in intention (11)


The Word: A Story

I pull the wool cap down over my ears and knot the scarf.  Swallow the lump in my throat, jam my hands deep into my pockets and step out into the searing blue sun of a late winter afternoon.  It is time, finally, to be honest with each other, something I don't always believe in, the truth being so slippery and easily obscured by obstacles in our own hearts and minds.  It is hard to see things as they really are and to name them correctly in the moment.  It is hard to hear each other well.

I let this wash over me, stinging my skin like ice crystals: You didn't do it right.

Draw back the arrow and release: Why did you change?

Frozen ground crunches under our feet and there is one truth I believe as it swims up in front of my teary eyes: you are you and I am me, and there is no talking either of us out of that.  I can see my breath.  I see our story stretched out on a gossamer thread, behind us and before us.  Every story has a beginning, a middle, and an end.  This is only the middle, I see. 

So we do this:  accept, and keep creating our story.


This is the word that keeps coming up for me, as I contemplate what to set as intention and guide for 2013:


This is a year to own my own story, and to receive others' stories in nuance, acceptance and fullness.  It is a time to study the elements of story and to improve my facility with them.  I aspire to strengthen my storytelling both in my professional life and here, in my personal work.  I will return to my reading life, my bedside table stacked high with books waiting to be loved.  I will write and shoot in an effort to illuminate the threads that hold us together. 

I am afraid to make any claims about honesty but I believe there's truth in the story, and I hope that will guide me through the coming year.


New Year, New Superpower

I was a scrooge on 12-12-12.

That special day, that once in a lifetime, that creative convergence when it seemed like everyone I know had a project going, fell on a day when I was busy being ground into fine dust between the mortar and pestle of work deadlines. I was in a bad mood about not being able to participate in the project that much of my creative community had devoted themselves to that day. I felt sorry for myself, and I grumbled well, it's just numbers. It's not any day that's more special than any other day. I could just pick another day to document.

And I was right, I could.

This week I've been walking in the snow. Last winter we dutifully came to the mountains because we love it here, but it rarely snowed. This winter on December 9 the snow started to fall like it's supposed to and everything is blanketed in a beautiful downy white.  There are igloos to build, snowshoe trails to break, the lightest powder to ski through. The tracks of each day's adventures are covered by the time we emerge in the morning.  

I've also been making lists this week, scraps of reflection on what went right in 2012, what didn't go so well, and what I hope for 2013.  What will I accomplish?  How will I be better?  But in the midst of the lists I hear a small voice in my ear, telling me that this New Year's Day is just one day, and every day is a new day.  Every day brings with it the possibility of renewal.

So this I intend for myself, my superpower of 2013: to make it snow in my head at will. In the moments when I need a fresh start, to camouflage my tracks, to cover the blemishes in my path, may I find the peace within me to bring down a psychic snow that covers everything and gives me a chance to start again, anew, with the understanding that every day is a special day.  Every day is once in a lifetime and every day holds infinite possibilities for growth, love, and creation.


Happiest of New Years to all of you.  I hope 2013 allows each of you to tap into wells of strength and power within you that you didn't even know you possessed.


Lost and Found

artifacts of a former lifeOther than Will, the roommate who tolerated me the longest was Loren.  Last week she sold the condo we lived in forever and in the process of cleaning out the storage unit unearthed a collection of boxes that I was too lazy to deal with when Will and I bought our house seven years ago.  I considered taking the boxes straight to Goodwill, on the operating principle that I hadn't missed their contents in the past seven years so I probably don't need whatever is in there.  But yesterday I gave in and looked.

I did indeed set aside three of the four boxes to be donated.  But the fourth, oh my.  The fourth was a forgotten time capsule curated by a former self.

Inside I found maps of cities and towns all over south Asia, annotated with my chicken scratch, a guesthouse here, a suggestion of a river trip there, a recommendation of the best fruit shakes in Laos.  On those maps I could see my backpack-clad self boarding a bus, tracing that line of highway up the valley.  I could remember that hot spring or the garden where I played backgammon or the awful flea-infested squat where I stayed trying to cross that border.

I found a trekking permit for the Annapurna circuit in Nepal, an official government document made of yellow construction paper and stamped by every bureaucrat in Pokhara before I could set out on the trail.  I read in the New York Times last year that the trail has now been turned into a highway.  

I thought about throwing these things out - what do I need with them now?  But then I imagined Ezra looking through these when he has grown and having a sense of me as someone with a rich and adventurous life, even beyond my identity as his mother.

I found old letters inside the box, letters my brother wrote me when I was in college (Mom, did you make the 13-year-old Avram write to me?  Surely he didn't do that of his own volition?), love letters from an old boyfriend, from friends, from my parents.  I found an undated birthday note, presumably from one of those early-20s birthdays fraught with nervousness about how to be a grownup, that contains possibly the best three sentences of parental advice ever committed to paper.

Happy birthday darling,

Keep in mind when older people give you shit about career & earnings & security, etc., that not one older person who has strived & worked & accumulated would not give up everything to be young and poor.  Do what makes you happy.  That is the only measure of success.

Love, Dad

I laughed and cried sifting through these pieces of evidence, proof that I really did exist in those other lives, and so did the people I love.  Here are these tangible artifacts, held in my own hands 15 and 20 years ago, that remind me of the power of paper, of making things, of writing things down.

Ezra will probably never comb through my Gmail account, past all the decades-old Groupon offers and Linked In notifications, in hopes of finding the meaningful digital breadcrumbs left behind.  But he may look through these pieces of paper, covered in handwriting, and laugh and cry and know that I was really, fully here.


So to the growing list of things I want to get good at, I add this: write love letters.  On paper, in my often illegible handwriting.  Do it often and without the expectation they will be reciprocated.  Enter into the permanent record my high regard for the people who share my life.  Share sage ideas.  Use the postal service.  Choose pretty stamps.  Make proof of life, and proof of love.


Prop Love

Strange ideas come and go. Sequins and felt and needle and thread, so utterly foreign in my hands, occupied them for weeks, only to be forgotten when their intended unveiling rolled around.

This could mean:

This was a bad idea and I am being saved from humiliation.

Those hearts actually have another purpose.

I need to get better about making lists.

Abandoned props notwithstanding, my mind immediately started gathering other random objects. Strangely, I was carting around a yellow chair in the back of the station wagon. A wisp of an idea, wrapped in leather and suitably colorful. I ignored the nagging questions about does this make any sense? and What does it do? and Um, so what? and allowed myself to play, for the sheer silly joy of putting a yellow leather chair in the middle of a snowy bluff and dancing around with a remote shutter release.

I have no answers. Only a million questions and the intention to stop taking myself so damn seriously.


Useful Habits

The first four days of my new - dare I say it out loud? - 365+1 projectI've been resisting taking on another 365 project so fiercely for the past few months that the resistance has become an act of stubborn performance art in itself.  But I have so many other ideas.  A 365 will just get in the way.  It's too time consuming.  I already did that.  And on and on. 

So instead of doing a 365 project I've done a lot of thinking about ideas and not very much doing.  I've almost entirely stopped carrying my big-girl camera (to steal Meghan Davidson's phrase) and my shooting has ground to a halt.  Also, as I have reported here ad nauseum, I found myself in a long and enduring Bad Mood.

The book Art & Fear came to me at Christmas and one of the really wonderful observations that stopped me in my tracks was about how artmaking thrives as a result of developing a set of useful habits that support that process.  The author suggests that if your work becomes strained or difficult you might do well to look at what you changed and consider changing it back. 

I've been sitting with that little nugget for about a month.  Trying to ignore it, really.

But it kept returning to me.  And at the beginning of February I started shooting again.  I've given myself permission to keep it simple, shoot entirely with my iPhone, and post daily to Instagram (if you're so inclined, you can follow me here).  The intention, of course, is to keep myself thinking photographically, to practice seeing daily, and to leave some space for some of those other big ideas to grow. 

This is me, diving in.  Wish me luck.