Independence

It is hard to believe we are already half way through 2017! Time does indeed move fast and each beautiful day lately is sunnier and warmer than the last.

The last weekend is worthy of writing about. Friday and Saturday evenings were spent, comme d’habitude, at the Triple Door. We had a fun campy burlesque show there (literally summer camp-themed acts).

On Sunday I had the day to do laundry and tidy up the house and my little garden patch before going to see one of my favorite bands from high school, Ween. They’re such consummate musicians and I’d hoped to see them last year – even had a ticket – but then my companion for the show ditched out and I wasn’t prepared to go it alone at a massive NYC venue. This time, I met up with my friend Peter and a group of his Ween-loving friends at his place in the International District (Seattle’s mishmash of China/Japan/Korea etc towns). Then we piled into his vintage Chevette and drove out across the great Lake Washington and to Marymoore Park, shrouded in trees of deep soft green. The sun sets late here in the summer and it glinted through the looming pines throughout the show. I sipped rosé and enjoyed the show immensely.

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It was over rather early and we all headed back to the International District for a little karaoke.

Or rather, a lot of it. I rolled out my greatest hits, as the place was empty and turns at the mic were frequent.

Unfortunately, by the time I got home, I was rather toasted, as dinner never happened. I say unfortunately, because as I climbed up into my loft, I lost my balance and fell from the ladder to my carpeted concrete floor. I knew instantly that I’d hurt myself, but I was so tired that I just crawled up to bed and hoped for the best. But the next morning, Sarah and I were going to Victoria, B.C. where much walking would be required.

The drive to Port Angeles was just a couple of hours, but I was hungover and carsick and once I looked down and my phone had butt dialed an ex-boyfriend to whom I’ve not spoken in 5 years! Christ, that took the blood from my face!

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Sarah got me an ACE bandage and I wrapped up my foot and hobbled as best I could onto the ferry where I was again wracked by nausea from the rocking of the ferry. Finally, we went to the upper deck, which was much more pleasant and I napped until I felt better and we disembarked in Victoria.

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Beautiful Legislative building – lights up at night like a carnival

It is a cute little port town, both European and American in feel. We visited the Natural History Museum and then went for drinks at the Empress Hotel (they serve a high tea there for $70 a person) – we got rosé and nachos! It was the first and last food I was able to eat for a while!

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Wooly Selfie with Sarah

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Rosé at the Empress

We took a cab to our Airbnb, a cute little apartment with a cat named Wednesday in residence. After a shower and a change of clothes, I was ready to hobble around some more!

We meandered south, sipping some wine Sarah had brought along, thoughtfully. It always makes me think of Erika when I drink wine al fresco from paper cup or water bottle. We crossed through the little Chinatown (one street, spangled with red lanterns) and looked for an open place, but many we tried were closed on Mondays.

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Finally we went to an Italian restaurant, very quaint, and they served very interesting food, but I lost my appetite again and wasn’t able to eat much. Frustrating!

After dinner, we tried briefly to find a bar to inhabit, but we decided to go home and cuddle the cat instead (not a euphemism).

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In the morning, we walked toward downtown for breakfast on Antique Row (and of course some book and antique shopping) before walking to a Victorian copy of a Scottish castle for the local coal and iron barons, the Craigdarroch family.

We spent the afternoon learning about the chateau and its long history as a music school and military hospital after it was no longer a private house.

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Then it was time to get back to the ferry. We caught a cab and made it just in time for boarding. I felt much better on this crossing and my foot wasn’t too bad. We got back to Port Angeles and then decided to check out Port Townsend for dinner.

There was another fabulous bookstore to be explored – full of treasures (and I was reading aloud to Sarah from a book of Joseph Campbell’s lectures about the Goddess as we drove, so we were quite inspired). Dinner was unfortunate again, as I ordered something far too rich and regretted it – it was drowned in a blue cheese sauce that overwhelmed me and killed my timid appetite again. Damn my car sickness!

Sarah and I made it back to Seattle just in time for darkness to set in and the fireworks to be set off! It sounded like bombs going off over my head and made me stressed and annoyed until it finally ceased. Ah, sweet silence.

I am still waiting to hear back about getting into school in London, but I am already looking forward to missing out entirely on the 4th of July celebrations. Not my bag atall. I’ve never been crazy about the English climate, but if I can handle Seattle, I guess I can try London!

Meanwhile, it was back to work for me yesterday, and luckily, my foot feels much better, thought it still definitely stings a bit and I might need to take it to a doctor. The best news is that Peter let me borrow his Chevette while my car is broken (if I don’t go to school, I might as well get Erika’s car fixed, especially as it isn’t likely to sell for much). So much up in the air at present.

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The Chevette

My garden is growing and I divided up my baby lettuces so now it is survival of the fittest. They are from a package of seed (from Walmart, no less) which once belonged to  Erika. I’ve had them for the last six years, though I never had anywhere to plant them before. Lo and behold, they’re growing!

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My sprouting garden

Strawberries were ripening more and more each day, enough to get a handful for breakfast each morning, but now they are slowing down.

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Despite my foot, I walked to my local farmers market on Wednesday and brought home fresh raspberries, blueberries, apricots, carrots and flowers to brighten up my little home.

My landlord is finally clearing out some of his art from the “groovy cottage” as he calls it – it was jam packed with objects and paintings and postcards when I moved in. Not that I minded – our tastes are pretty similar. But it is certainly more spacious- feeling in here, despite the piano!

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For last night’s full moon in Capricorn, I set all my crystals out for a sun and moon bath.

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Today, I met up with Sarah around noon and we got dolled up for a Steampunk Promenade around Green Lake with strangers! It was right up our alley, since we like playing dress-up! I’d say we both did a great job of finding Victorian-looking get-ups on short notice. We met people and drank tea and ate goodies in a lovely breezy afternoon, dressed like weirdos!

Mom and dad are planning to drive up to see me in early September, and I look forward to what adventures we might have!

By then, I will be without Sarah in Seattle 😦 What will I do?

Well, time will tell. All for now,

Love and miss,

Kira

Summer At Last!

Lately the days have been stacking up onto each other in layers of sunshine and blue skies at last, after a long and rainy winter in the Pacific Northwest – my first outside of the East Coast in nearly a decade. The flowers are still making their extended spring displays, popping up in turns like fireworks in a well choreographed display of purple, yellow, magenta, white, lavender, and pink. The gardens around my cottage are in bloom and I harvest flowers to decorate the house.

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I still sometimes get snatches of the city in my mind’s eye. Familiar corners pop up as if I might see them again soon. I miss the subway and the Beauty Bar and pizza by the slice. But I also think fondly of things and times and people from years past in the city – not so much great loves, but incidental friends – my time working in the design department at my catering company, my old roommate and apartment in Williamsburg. But both have moved on. My old room is gone and Josh moved to Paris. The gas station right outside my window will persist no doubt, its owner tromping about with badly dyed hair and matching red tank top and shorts, gold crucifix glowing from the forest of his chest hair. That corner bodega I used to visit, owned by Yemeni men – I wonder about them and how they are doing. I miss all of it in a way. That French cafe down the street with the open mic where I met my North Carolinian friends.

The years pass swiftly – it all seems so recent.

But here I sit on my little porch in Seattle, the sound of planes resonating above me – accelerating engines echo from elsewhere, but it is otherwise quiet except the sound of Teri Gross’ voice on the radio.

I cut my hair recently – in part to fix the layers which got screwed up by someone else. But I was also ready for something new. So I gave myself long bangs – or fringe, as the English have it.

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Things are really shaping up in my tiny house, which is such an absolute pleasure to live in, especially now that the rains have stopped and the sugar ants which invaded me over the winter have left me alone (encouraged by poison and some intense caulking sessions around the cottage). I just bought a little device called a HooToo NanoRouter which is tiny indeed and has solved my one persistent issue: weak wifi. Now I have a solution which allows me to use my little laptop on the porch or wherever without constantly refreshing the connection. It is also highly transportable and the sort of thing I might have dreamed of while traveling in years past.

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It is hard to believe, however, that nearly a year has passed since I got to Seattle. I guess the fact that I didn’t settle down in one spot till January made it seem like I had recently arrived. But from three months here to 10 months here has gone by in a blur!

I have been playing music – my piano and of course the guitars in my life. Trying to get back to writing songs, which seem to have been hard for me after working on my memoir for so long. It’s been nice to start writing in my journal again and learning songs on the piano after not having one for years is such a pleasure! I am so glad I bought the darn thing, or rather, paid to have it brought to me! I learned Stevie Wonder’s “I Believe When I Fall In Love” and Nina Simone’s “Feeling Good” – therapy songs of power and joy.

I guess I have realized – or perhaps admitted – that I have been depressed. I haven’t put that word on it till recently, perhaps because I am finally starting to come out the other side of it. I hope. I don’t think I’ve been truly, deeply depressed since I was a teenager, though I did experience a time in college when I was very anxious. And my anxiety does always seem to be centered on the topic of love. I get squirmy and rather nervous around relationship. Very fight or flighty. I seem to search out psychologically troubled people, or they respond to me – probably both. I have to at least ask how that is reflected in me.

One aspect of my low spirits has been increased anxiety around my creativity – song-writing specifically. It’s funny how something can flow so effortlessly at times and suddenly be stanched. But I think I know what happened: I put my heart in a song – all of my love and talent and spontaneity. But it did not win me what I wanted. I’ve written songs since, of course. But the problem with writing from your heart is that it sometimes feels like wallowing. So when things didn’t work out with someone I’d thought longingly of for years, I didn’t feel like writing about it. I couldn’t. I was exhausted by grief. For my sister, my lovers, myself. I couldn’t face writing my sadness into songs and then having them in my brain as evidence of how wretched I felt.

Anyway, the point is not to go on about depression, but to say that I think perhaps I am starting to feel better. Though I loved New York and miss it in some ways, I am happy to be out of there and living a different life. Happy to be considering my next steps. I’m applying to a program in London and perhaps I’ll also go to Mexico at some point – especially if I don’t get into my London thing. I hate to think of leaving my little casita so soon – and I also enjoy the Triple Door and the friends I have been making there. But I am not sure I have found anything – or anyone – to stay here for. Once my dear Sarah has vamoosed, will I feel at sea in Seattle? Who’s to say, but I recall how strange New York seemed without my dear Nora. I do so appreciate having close friends nearby. In the absence of a reliable male partner, my girlfriends have been my closest friends and partners. Companions of heart and intellect. My sisters.

For now, we are still together and Seattle is at its most beautiful and verdant, the gardens all over the city are full of flowers and plants strange to me, mixed in, of course, with recognizable things. Strawberries are ripening in the patch of earth I weeded out and I planted two types of basil last week and today, a third, plus two kinds of tomatoes, some pickling cucumbers, Thai chilies, and lettuce. Hooray for growing things!

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Last week I went for a hike up to Rattlesnake Mountain in one of the first truly glorious days of the year. We puffed and sweated all the way to the top for the big payoff: views of the valley below, Rattlesnake Lake and tree-covered foothills stretching out for miles in the distance.

On the weekend, I had a rare Saturday off and went to the Folklife Festival in Seattle’s City Center.  We had a fun evening, drinking beer and listening to music before the festival ended and we went to a park for more beer and then walked up to Kerry Park for a view from the hillside of Queen Anne, giving a gorgeous tableau of skyline and Space Needle and the Sound.

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The cherry blossoms are done blooming, but other flowers and plants still take their turn to blossom in yards and at roadside parks. I do like all the green things growing in this Emerald City.

I’ve put this blog off for so long, I think I’ll wrap it up!

Love and miss,

K

Sisters in Seattle

I was sad upon leaving Sarasota in January: sad to say goodbye to my family and sad because I hadn’t gotten to spend much time with Skye over my two weeks there. With a continent between us and only a once-a-year reunion, it was enough to make me tear up when it was time to fly out.

So Skye booked a trip to come out to Seattle for a visit. Unfortunately, Florida in March is much nicer weatherwise than Seattle, but at least it didn’t snow!

I picked her up on Friday night and we had plans to go out to a fancy club (her former favorite past time) but she was tired and after we came home and drank some pink bubbles, we instead went to Pioneer Square and met up with the fella I’ve been seeing at the bar where Nirvana apparently played their first show: the Central Saloon. It’s got a kind of seedy old school feel and I introduced my sister to my favorite cheap local beer in a can (the equivalent of PBR or Gansett on the East Coast), Rainier, usually served in tallboys. We had a couple and headed home at a decent hour, her day having been very long.

Saturday was spent exploring Pike Place Market and the shops on Post Alley, shopping for souvenirs and checking out the funky stalls and shops. Then we moved on to Pioneer Square, where we found some South Indian food (miracle of miracles!) for lunch and then did an underground tour.

In the olden days of Seattle, the downtown sloped off toward the Sound in a way that meant the streets were often inundated by the tide shifts and roads had massive potholes, large enough to lose a horse in! Logs cut from the steep hills above were skidded down to the water on what was colloquially called Skid Road. After a fire destroyed the city, they decided to build up the low lying areas and diminish the slope of the hill, but in the meantime, they built new buildings with two first floors: one for the interim before the ground was raised, and the second floor also equipped with a front door and storefront windows in preparation for the day when the new streets would be constructed.

We had hoped to dine at the revolving restaurant at the top of the Space Needle, but it was all booked up, so we satisfied ourselves with a visit to the gift shop and then went to the bar at the Edgewater Hotel, which I didn’t realize was made famous by The Beatles and Zappa.

We met up with Sarah and went out dancing at Havana till we were done, then we followed Sarah to her salsa dancing club and watched her cut a rug in her element there.

We didn’t have much left on our list by Sunday, but we visited the Volunteer Park Conservatory and met up with Sarah for dinner and drinks. Somehow, I neglected to take Skye to the place where I work, The Triple Door, and instead we went to a place called Vito’s with live music and a swanky vibe.

Skye left the next afternoon and we made a few last stops before I took her to the airport to return to Florida and her family there.

I went back to work and back to trying to earn some moolah to make up for all we spent on our adventures.

I’m finally starting to feel ready to play music out again, after a few years of being rather retreated from the limelight. And I am trying to put my heart out on the market again, though it is hard to trust total strangers! Spring has started to unfurl her tentative shoots and sprouts and I again celebrated the Persian New Year, Nowruz. I had the day off, so I went shopping for the essentials: hyacinths, apples, dried fruit, an orange to float in a bowl of water. I found some fake pastel eggs at Target (perfect because I’m not that into real eggs lately) and Sarah and I each painted one for the hast seen table, which we set on my piano.

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The Nowruz spread on my piano!

Skye’s ex-husband brought back this amazing collapsing basket from Afghanistan and we used that to display several of the traditional items on the table: walnuts, garlic and figs. Sarah found us some sumac and I had some sprouting lentils ready.

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Sarah found a perfect recipe for a soup of lentils with pasta and spinach, combined with a yogurt and mint sauce – a traditional dish for the New Year in Iran. It came out really yummy, if I do say so myself!

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It was nice to have someone to celebrate the festival with instead of doing it alone. Funny to think what I was doing last year at this time: in Brooklyn, in the snow on the first day of Spring. And now here I await the awakening in the Pacific Northwest.

I love my tiny house, though it has recently been inundated with sugar ants from all sides. They seem to have decided to nest in the walls and crawl in to bug the shit out of me. Literally. God, they’re on me now. Die ants. Die. Sigh. What have they driven me to?

The sun shines weakly through the crack in my door, but it’s welcome – the end of winter at long last. Hopefully with the end of the rains my ant problem will also dissipate like the grey skies and the shadows of the past. I don’t want to let bitterness creep into my heart. I have always been something of a nostalgic, but I don’t want to be so backward looking that I neglect the present or the future. I sometimes feel that danger. So I must keep creating and moving and loving. Lately I keep thinking of the Chinese proverb: “If I keep a green bough in my heart, the singing bird will come.” This spring, I am garlanding my heart with green. I want to release the old flames that’ve burnt up and burned out. Those people I loved, those shining lights were sparks, not the sun itself.

I realized recently that my trip to the netherworld of myself and my psyche has scraped away so many layers of my external being that I must rebuild. It is a marvelous chance and a massive undertaking to recreate oneself. I have done it before, but it’s been a while. I recall how it feels. The pain and tenderness of new eyes, new skin. We Scorpions shed our shells to stay alive – to grow. Perhaps that’s partly why I’ve stayed single so long. It has been a decade of transformation for me. And it is hard to keep anyone close at such times.

But of course I don’t really ever plan to stop transforming. So here’s hoping I learn how to be with someone while I change!

All for now –

Love and miss,

Kira

Snow Days

I need a Carrie Fisher in my life. Specifically, Carrie Fisher as she appeared in “When Harry Met Sally” – the one who tries to set you up and keeps a rolodex of men-folk to send you on dates with.

I fell in love with “When Harry Met Sally” as a teenager and watched it again and again. It was a sort of security blanket: an affirmation that love, indeed, exists. Teenagerdom was hard on me, romantically and otherwise, but somehow I was comforted to watch these youngsters transform into adults, friends, and lovers. That love would eventually find me in New York City, on New Year’s Eve – or at some other place and time – I was certain.

It was a thing I never doubted – my favorite mystery to puzzle over. Whom would I find –  who was meant to find me??? Right at the culmination of my Saturn return, I thought I found out the answer. I practically buzzed when I was around him. I glowed, I smiled, I was happy. He saw me, in some ways I think more clearly than I saw myself. Observed things I took for granted in my persona. I wonder what he saw but didn’t say.

But even while I dreamed that this was “the one,” unseen wheels turned, lies and unspoken things spun out and around us, filled my head with visions of what we could be as I spun like a top, off to Europe with my living sister and then to Burning Man to memorialize my departed sister, thinking that surely I’d be returning from the trip to claim my love prize at long last.

Of course it wasn’t to be. Hard to believe that was four years ago already. Time passes swiftly and maybe I stood still in New York a bit when I came back around. I immersed myself in a new life and it was bearable, though I feel I got it flipped backward. I wish I’d lived that free life in my twenties instead of working in offices all that time. I just thought too conventionally, I suppose. It’s taken me time to break free. C’est la vie!

Anyway.

This year I missed Christmas with my family for only the second time in my life. The first was 2006, when I was in India. Then I spent Christmas on a beach in Kerala. This year I was working a Nutcracker-themed burlesque show on Christmas Eve and the day after Christmas. For the holiday, Sarah and I had planned to go to a local hotel in a converted school. Our friend Marie joined us and we had a yummy dinner in the hotel restaurant and then proceeded to drink various drinks at the various bars on the premises.

Unfortunately, the saltwater swimming pool was closed, due to a fog which formed in the enclosure.

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Sarah, Marie, et moi.

We had fun, regardless.

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At McMenamins – priestess style

I spent New Year’s Eve packing my things to move, at last, to my permanent residence in a small converted garage – a cottage or tiny home – with a lofted bed and my own four walls. I was excited about the change, but hadn’t intended to have so little time to move my things between houses. Though I travel light, I bought some furniture that made this move a bit more intensive than the last. I finished moving what I could, met a friend out for a glass of bubbles at midnight, an drove home in rain that was turning to snow for an hour of sleep.

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Spangled for New Year

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With Marie on NYE

Early on New Year’s Day, I awoke and got a cab through two inches of freshly fallen snow to the airport. Despite the early hour, there was mucho traffico on the route, so the driver dropped me off near the train to the terminals rather than waiting in the backed-up lanes.

It took our plane three hours to take off, due to the unexpectedly inclement weather. Fortunately, I don’t have claustrophobia and none of the 6 babies onboard freaked out. By the time I got to DFW, my connections had been missed, so I had the pleasure of hanging out in the airport for several hours. At least there was booze!

When I finally arrived at Tampa it was after 10 pm, but still mom and dad and my sister Skye all came to pick me up at the airport, though it was past their bedtimes. The weather was especially warm this year, ominous, but not something I minded terribly after the sunless winter of Seattle (I say, a bit unfairly, as the sun shines here even as I type).

I had nearly two weeks in Florida to spend time with family and friends. Skye’s kids were with their dad for the weekend when I arrived, but we went to pick them up and I got to spend a few hours with them before heading down to see my grandmother in Sarasota.

Spanky the dog on guard at Mutti’s

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Spanky the dog on guard at Mutti’s

I was pleased to see that Cam was enjoying the keyboard I gave to him and his sister just over four years ago. Cate’s bedroom had blossomed into unicorns and rainbows. She looks remarkably like my sister Erika, though my mother and I both noted that Cate is solid muscle where Erika was bird-like and featherlight.

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Catelin and her Aunt Kira

Mom and dad and I (accompanied by Spanky the spotted hound) headed down to Sarasota to spend the week with my grandmother, Mutti, now in her 94th year. We got in time at the beach interspersed with dog walks and and hanging around the house with Mutti.

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Daddio

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The back yard looked verdant and well-tended, as usual. A new tenant took over my former stomping grounds in the studio above the carport, so I no longer had my separate space to occupy. My happy place. But one benefit of arriving after the holidays was that an actual bed was available for me to sleep in – not one of the ancient twin beds my mother and her siblings slept in in the 50’s.

I got in some good time with Lara and her entourage of dogs – and John, my oldest friend in Sarasota aside from Lara. I love being with those beloved friends from my past. It makes me feel grounded. Unfortunately, the passage of time seems to remove once-close friends, one by one. So many of those who affected me the most are no longer in my life at all. Just last year I reconnected with an old friend and was heartened to think that sometimes the shedding works the other way around and friends come back. But then it all went sideways or backwards. Anyway, I realized I’d been wrong to think that this was a renewal. It was a farewell.

I feel I’ve really said all of the farewells that need saying at this stage. I’m exhausted by it, and frankly, a bit scared to go out into the world of people again. Funny, there is this trend in the last ten years or so toward “positive thinking” among the American zeitgeist. Suddenly everyone advises us to just be positive and ask the universe for what we want and it will “manifest.” As someone who has tried to increasingly put this notion into practice, I can tell you that life does not work quite so simply. Perhaps for some, it does. They manifest the future as they want it to be.

Somehow, for me, envisioning happiness does not make it so. People change unexpectedly. I am not so inclined to change, emotionally anyway. But then, our patterns in relation to love and emotions are formed very early. In the last several years, I have explored my own inner psyche and early emotional formation. Indeed, I’ve found that the roots of my own attachment tendencies are deeply mangled.

Looking into the abyss of one’s own dark places is heavy work. And, as I have learned, it is a journey one must take alone.

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With mom and Spanky at the St. Pete beach before my flight back to Seattle

I sleep well in the lofted bed and I finally have a piano – since I don’t have any stairs to cramp my style! I found one for free on Craigslist and just paid a couple of guys to deliver it. My landlord has lived in this little cottage for years, so it is full of his things, but I packed away what didn’t please me to make room for the piano and my other rearrangements.

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I can’t wait till summer comes, but meanwhile, the cottage is cozy and it was kind of enchanting when it snowed yesterday and doused the garden and my bamboo with white.

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Snowy yard

I stayed home and painted, avoiding the Superbowl hullaballoo on Sunday, though I was grateful I went to Trader Joe’s before the snow so I could nestle in and paint yesterday.

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Part of my cute little house

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Sunflower watercolor

Yesterday evening, I met up with my dear friend Sarah at Capitol Cider, where I sang with the improv jazz jam that happens every Monday night.

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At Cap Cider with my Saddah Diva

Sarah and I have been doing a good job, if I do say so myself, of getting out into the world. We have been to live music, storytelling and theatre since I’ve been back, in addition to some yoga and dancing.

And I feel like maybe – just maybe – I’ve been able to make it through the darkness and I’m emerging out the other side, despite my lack of a Carrie Fisher to drag me back out there. It can’t rain all the time, or so said my favorite 90’s goth movie, The Crow (to mix my movie metaphors).

Working as a waiter in a fast-paced theatre environment is stimulating and living in my tiny house for cheap rent is a dream.

So far 2017 is a good year, despite our disgusting political situation, which is barely worth writing about.

Love and miss,

Kira

Homage to a part of her

The other day as I left the house, the sun cast a rainbow onto the sky, arcing high over trees and mountains and bruise gray clouds. Rainbows are my sister’s calling card, ever since we drove into one, chased it into the rain on the highway heading back East from California the day after Erika’s memorial. Her little kitty Rosie was in the car with us, tucked scared and dazed in her little carrier next to me.

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Rainbow in Seattle – Erika’s calling card.

After I spotted this recent rainbow, I called my mother and she told me that she had just been in the process of writing an email to tell us that Rosie died the day before.

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Sister Skye cuddling Rosie in Erika’s condo the week she died.

They had found her curled peacefully outside in her little enclosure, where it had been a warm day and she she looked like she had been napping in the sun.

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Plugged in to recharge!

Rosie was a troubled kitty. She was a lover – a tiny Siamese with creamy short fur and delicate diamond marking on her brow – but she was also a pisser – and shitter! My first encounter with her was when I stayed with Erika in San Fran in 2007. Rosie had gone into my suitcase and peed and pooped on top of all my things, befouling the lot of it. Her gaze registered nothing but sometimes I wondered if there wasn’t a shadow of defiance hidden behind her cloudy blue eyes.

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Rosie squinting happily.

But Erika loved her. And she was cute. Erika had such patience for an animal who might otherwise have been euthanized long ago. She was traumatized by an apartment fire before she came into Erika’s possession and we’re not sure now how old she was. She outlived her savior by a bit more than five years. She lived with me in New York for six months before I decided I needed to leave New York and Rosie returned to my parents in Arkansas.

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Erika with our niece Catelin and Mojo the cat.

I loved her, but her proclivities were maddening and my cat allergies were unfortunately raging. Still, it was like having something of Erika with me – this creature she’d loved and nurtured. I took her to the vet and bought her nice cans of food. I bought her a water fountain and mixed canned pumpkin in with her food. She often crawled under the covers of my bed or curled on the feather puff at the foot of it. She didn’t poo or pee at first, but then she stayed with my cousins over Christmas and pooped on my cousin while she was sleeping. That was the end of the good behavior.

She had a blissful period of living in Erika’s and my old room before she befouled it so terribly that she was banished to the basement, where they furnished her with cushions and all the amenities, plus an enclosed outdoor area. Her first owner had declawed her, so she was pretty defenseless. I know she missed beds, though. Whenever I was home, I brought her up to sleep with me and she was on her best behavior (though my cat, Ivy, who also lives with my parents, was not amused by her presence).

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My little Ivy kitty curling up for me.

She pounced and padded and rolled around on the bed and her enjoyment was palpable. When I brought her to the porch if it was sunny out, she only wanted to be in the bedroom! She had simple desires: a soft bed and yummy food and sweet cuddles.

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Erika was always sympathetic to the needs of the voiceless animals. She had such a heart full of love. I’m glad we kept Rosie the problem kitty, in the spirit of my kindhearted sister, who sent a rainbow to remind us she’s not gone – she’s just existing differently than before.

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Erika and Rosie forever in my heart.

My dearest sister is now riding the skies with her sweet celestial Rosie. She’s already a part of the tattoo on my shoulder, held in Erika’s arms. I think this year I’ll have her colors darkened when I get my tattoo touched up.

Love and cuddles,

Kira

 

Birthday Wish

It’s been a weird stretch of time for me, since September when I moved into my temporary but cozy home here in Seattle. I’m staying with a friend-of-a-friend in a house south of the city about 15 minutes (with no traffic, which is rare). It’s just what I was craving – a fireplace, a yard, laundry in the basement and cheaper than New York. I’d thought before moving to Seattle that it would automatically  be cheaper than Brooklyn, because, really, how could it not be? Imagine my surprise then, when I arrived to find a city with rents skyrocketing from the recent tech boom.

It was through the grace of my good friend Jenna, whom I met traveling in Rajasthan ten years ago (! My, how time flies), that I met Jenn, my housemate. Jenn is very fond of rosé, as am I, and I got to enjoy the back yard in full fruit – a massive grape vine full of purple grapes that hang in heavy clumps, more than we can eat, even with the birds and squirrels helping. I harvested some, as well as some leaves of the right size to make dolmas (dolmades, as the Greek say).

Jenn has clear blue-green eyes, not unlike mine, but bluer where mine go green. She’s blond and pretty, which makes an interesting impression on people, because she probably defies most presuppositions. I like people with hidden depths. We have spent several long chilled evenings by the fire, drinking wine and chatting, or sitting on the patio on pretty days. Traversing the beginning of September is always somewhat challenging, and then it’s gone and October is nearly done, now, too. But not before my birthday.

I hate to say it, but I think I’ve come to dread it. It isn’t my fondest anniversary, in fact. Age is immaterial – it isn’t the issue. Aging is better than the alternative! But since 2014 my birthday has become something of a painful reminder, where it used to be rather a joyous occasion. I loved my sleepovers and parties, dinners and gatherings.

I have to admit to melancholy. Maybe it is momentary – a sense that I was so close to having what I wanted. A sense of the passing of time. I’ve been immersing myself in ancient history of late. Somehow I’m as passionate about it as I am about this sham of an election, but I can’t even get into that here.

Funny, I just teared up a bit, listening to my new favorite local radio station, KBCS. And then the song “Can’t Cry Anymore” by Sheryl Crow comes on, taking me back to high school when I would drive around to her CD – I think I had the single. When you grow up in the styx (sticks?), you take what you can find.

I wonder if everyone has that one person they thought they would find eventually? That ideal person you kind of feel out there. I thought I met mine, 10 years ago or so.

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Fresh-faced moi on the train in India, heading north to Rajasthan with my three French boys, met on the set of the Bollywood film.

In fact,  I remember walking around in Mumbai, flooded with the feeling like I was going to meet the love of my life. I had no real idea who it could be, since I didn’t know anybody in Mumbai, but I guess you never know who you’ll meet before you meet them. That is the kind of magic of other people.

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The Bollywood recruiter who hired me for my first gig.

Someone did enter my life, the very next day. We met early in the morning, in front of McDonalds in Colaba – we’d both been dabbling as extras in Bollywood and were waiting for someone to come pick us up, but they never showed. Instead, the two of us wandered around Colaba and wound up by the Gateway to India, playing my guitar and talking till the early morning. Then we went 8 years without seeing each other again. I know we both lived in each others’ minds and hearts, though we both fell in and out of love with other people in the intervening years. In August 2014, we met again, and fell in love for real, or so I thought. Others thought so, too, and remarked on how in love we seemed.

But like all modern romance, it was complicated. Now it’s nearly two years to the day since the last time I saw him. An unfortunate memory to coincide with my birthday. I’m rather strong in the memory department, for better or for worse. It is hard to believe that it is just two short years ago – yet so much can happen in that amount of time.

I wanted so desperately not to be heart-broken again. It seemed such an ignominious ending after that magical Mumbai beginning. I wanted not to mourn as I am sometimes inclined to do. But of course I have. I lost him as a person from my life, but I also lost the fantasy I had that we would travel and explore together – build life into some new, exciting, complete shape. I lost the idea that I had found someone who unquestioningly, instinctively, chose me for me.

I suppose I was waiting to hear that it was all a mistake. That he regretted wedging me out of his life. That he still thought of me.

I guess it’s a good thing I didn’t hold my breath.The sad thing is, I’m not even sure what happened to us – he never deigned to clarify, so I am left to guess.

Meanwhile, one of my nearest and dearest is getting hitched in a week! I can hardly believe it’s nearly November, but I can’t wait. Nora and her Scandinavian beau are tying the knot in Sonoma and we’ll all be together soon. Life moves on.

Ah well, a new year is upon me. A new year to be more fully myself and maybe even find someone who appreciates me for it. Wouldn’t it be nice?

I’ll make that my birthday wish.

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Well, since my birthday is now officially over, I’d better wrap this up!

Love and miss,

Kira

Burning, Turning

As Fall approaches and Summer prepares to fold up her many-colored tents, Burning Man is mostly emptied by now. Five years ago I flew to Reno to say goodbye to my sister Erika. She was in the hospital after a catastrophic cerebral edema. She looked just as she had in life, but now her life was perpetuated by machines.

Just a couple of days before, she was doing yoga on the Playa with her boyfriend. She was cooking a curry, drinking a Corona, riding her baby blue beach cruiser through the swirling columns of alkaline dust – to the ethereal architecture of the Temple of Transcendence.

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Erika in 2010 at Burning Man

Erika’s edema coincided with the burning of the Man, occurring on the Friday night of the festival. As she was inundated with water, the man was consumed by flames. Now, every year as Labor Day weekend nears, we think of that desert and the flames and the celebration, which coincides with our memory of the day we got the news.

I’m living in Seattle now. Four years ago, I came West for Burning Man and stayed here for a time in the aftermath. Being here again, on the anniversary of Erika’s death, can’t help but remind me of all I was dealing with then. The specter of an old amour even reared his head not so long ago, but otherwise the past seems to be quiet. It is only in memory that I am haunted.

Friday night I was training for a new job as a server in a music venue/dinner theater. Saturday I took the day off, feeling tired and overwhelmed by all the movement of late. I had the feeling as the end of the month approached that I needed to find shelter and prepare for the coming storm of grief. Like a cloud of dust that swirls around one, causing time travel – whisking one away from the present and into the past.

Saturday night, I bought sparkling rose and cheeses. I bought dolmas, which I remembered my love for at Burning Man in 2012. Sarah came over and we feasted and toasted to Erika with the lovely peach-colored bubbles, of which I’m sure she would have approved.

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Erika the Red

In Arkansas, my mother made an effigy of a cat with arched back for her annual Burning Woman ceremony – she said the theme this year was “the year of the cat.” In Florida, Skye and Erika’s friend Lara burned a paper mache lucky cat in their ceremony. I was unable to have a proper burn, as a friend of a friend was using the outdoor firepit to burn a large pile of paperwork and prevented our making use of it. Ah well, at least some sort of purge took place!

The weather has already pivoted toward Fall here in Seattle and I’m staying in a cute little home south of the city. There are all manner of trees in the back yard: figs, walnuts, even a fruitful grapevine. The squirrels are quite numerous, as are the crows.

But this is just my home for September, as I continue to look for my forever home (or at least my “for 6 months” home!). I don’t like living out of suitcases. Sigh.

I’ve been getting the hang of Seattle, taking the lightrail downtown for work.

Plus I’m living in the same city as one of my best friends, Sarah. It’s been fun to spend time with her and see Seattle through her eyes.

Summer is gone so soon and time flies fast since July when I left New York. I drove through Cleveland and stopped to stay with the lovely Ziegenhagens before heading south to spend some time with my daddio. Mom was in Florida at the time, I’ve been so constantly consumed with “devoirs” – duties. But I had a few days off this weekend to wander some local parks with Sarah and we even went to a movie!

It might be a pattern I’ve set up for myself over the last five years: become exhausted in early September either from travels or fashion week or both. It is a sort of ritual, echoing the time after Erika died when I spent many nights wakeful in her little back yard.

Now it feels like things are clearing up a bit. The storm has passed. I heard the song “The Eye” by Brandi Carlile this year as I was driving back to New York from Florida, post X-mas, having hatched the plan to move to Seattle six months on.  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Wl_eNu4NUVI

I’m glad folk music is making a comeback. I’m hoping it makes a comeback in my own life.

All for now,

Love and miss –

Kira

 

 

Closing a loop

Since 2008 I have called New York my home. I’ve now had two separate lives here, with a hiatus of several months in between. The first four years were rather markedly different from the last. I stepped away from my former full time job and slipped into a different sort of life, writing full time and working odd jobs as a waiter, a model, a painter, a tarot reader.

My friends have changed in the last four years as well, as some left the city and others joined my circle. I have changed. Oddly, I have become more fearful, though I feel I’ve faced down so many challenges in the last five years, not at all the least of which being the loss of my sister Erika. This September will mark half a decade since she departed from us and it is hard to believe. So much has happened, and yet here I sit in this little apartment which I’ve now occupied for just over three years.

Funny, I’ve come so very close to the things I’ve desired, but did I ever break the skin of those dreams, or just rub up against them?

No matter. It’s strange how things have changed, but it isn’t sad. As Joni says, something’s lost, but something’s gained in living every day.

Four years ago, I was doing a different version of this same dance, though I was more distracted with goodbyes then. This time I’m taking things a little easier, trying to be more incremental than before. Selling off beloved items to new homes and packing up books and clothes. Luckily, I purged not so long ago and so there was not so much to get rid of as the last time, and no romantic intrigues to distract me from my task.

I think about all I once dreamed of doing in this city, and how it has been open to me in some ways and closed in others. I dream of other cities and other ways of living, now that I’ve had my fill of this one.

As a strange omen for my upcoming travels, I’ve recently discovered two dead mice in my apartment: one was stuck in my box fan and when I shook it out, he was just a hollowed husk. The other I found last night as I thought of inspecting a mouse trap (no kill) I hadn’t set lately. Inside was a dead mouse, already starting to smell, so who knows how long he was in there. I threw out the trap, mouse and all, and I hope no more grisly surprises await me.

I’m ready to say goodbye to New York, a place I have loved. A place I could almost call home forever. Perhaps I will realize I can’t live without it once I’m gone, but without the promise or potential of love to lure me back, I very seriously doubt it!

I am ready to enter a different phase of life. I’ve just got to follow this tide as it drifts.

My plan for the trip is remarkably similar to the trip I took to Burning Man in 2012, the year after Erika died there: I’ll drive to Arkansas (this time via Ohio instead of North Carolina) and from there up to Minneapolis and over to Seattle.

In fact, I’ve taken so long to finish this post that I am already in Arkansas, having moved my things out and said goodbye to the city. I feel surprisingly unemotional about it, but that could be a side effect of my constant motion of late.

I had a nice stop with my friends the Ziegenhagens in Ohio and made my way through several states to get home to Arkansas. In a couple of days, I’ll head north and west to find out what life has next in store for me.

Love and miss,

Kira

 

 

Cameron Takes New England

It is my moving karma to be set upon by other visits and trips not long before my other obligations set in, ensuring that I have to run a sort of obstacle course of fun while trying to take care of responsibilities at the same time.

I recently hosted, for the second time, my nephew Cameron. We could be a little more relaxed about New York, having done such a thorough job when we were last in the city. We went to a couple of comedy shows and ate exotic repasts – we even went to a Broadway show: An American in Paris, featuring Gershwin songs, which Cam is partial to.

On Thursday we made an excursion to the Edison Laboratory and explored it as fully as possible before heading back to New York for the second of our comedy shows, this one at Upright Citizen’s Brigade in the East Village.

When the weekend came, we drove out to Boston and explored the historic downtown in search bahn mi sandwiches, which we ate on the Commons before checking out the duck pond and the cemetery where Samuel Adams is buried.

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We found my friend Alexis’ house in Somerville and we got vegan tacos – delish! – before going to Cirque du Soleil.

The next day we made our way out to Provincetown on Cape Cod in time for a late lunch of lobster rolls for them and a veggie sandwich for moi. We walked out on the dock and explored the small town.

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We drove to Eastham, about half an hour away, where we had a room for the night. After a dip in the pool, we met up with some of Alexis’ friends who lived nearby with their three young sons. We had a typical Cape dinner of lobster and steak (for everyone else), potatoes, corn. Cameron loved it.

We drove back to Boston the next day and spent an afternoon there at the Boston Tea Party Museum.

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We dropped Alexis off and drove back to Brooklyn. Cameron kept saying “No sleep till-” and he read to me from the Oliver Sacks book I gave him, “The Man Who Mistook His Wife For a Hat.”

We got back to my neighborhood, parked, and had late night tacos at a nearby restaurant – I made sure Cam tried a tamale with mole, because that shit is tasty, and the boy has quite the palate.

In the morning, we got bagels and headed for the airport. They let me go through with him to the gate and I did my auntly duty and got him on board.

It was hard to say goodbye to my sweet boy, but it was another great trip.

Now on the the hard work of packing etc. Sigh.

Love and miss,

Kira

The Refugee Crisis in Greece – The Human Toll

My post from last September about my time volunteering on Lesvos has had so many hits, I thought I’d write an update.

Since 2011 and the beginning of the Syrian war, I’ve watched the news with horror as the Syrian people lost their homes and livelihoods, their cities and heritage destroyed: their lives torn apart. I felt that we, as Americans, were responsible for much of the conflict and terror which led to the crisis and I wanted to do what I could to help. I doubted if my presence would make much difference, but I felt I had to try.

Last August, I found myself driving towards a dusty intersection on the Greek island of Lesvos. I was the only American with three other volunteers – two Danes and a Norwegian – and we were nervous. We’d never seen the so-called “parking lot” at Sikaminia, but we’d heard that just the day before, the growing crowd of refugees there had rioted and surrounded a transport bus in protest.

Boats had been arriving more frequently from Turkey as the Summer came to an end and there weren’t enough buses to get everyone to the camps near the capital in Mytilene. Sometimes the mayor of Mytilene would say the camps were too full and stop all buses from making the trip, leaving people stranded for days.

We rounded a bend, and suddenly there were people in the skinny road, lying on bits of cardboard or their brightly-colored life jackets. Toddlers wandered dangerously close to traffic and men and women were stretched out, trying to rest in whatever shade they could find. Their belongings were scant.

Shoes and socks sat drying in the hot midday sun, other items of clothes hung from trees or fences. Adults and children alike gathered around the one source of water: a spring-fed tap where they washed and brushed their teeth. There was no toilet or privacy. There were no tents or tarps for shade. It was a shocking sight.

This was nothing like the comparatively organized transit point in nearby Molyvos, where refugees had access to a decent-sized town and its amenities. Sikaminea is a tiny village with just a few shops and restaurants. Its main industry is tourism, like the rest of the Greek islands, but its secluded location in the mountains and normally pristine landscape had been radically changed by the influx of refugees.

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The waystation at Sikimanea – empty of people for once

Two volunteers were already there, attempting to group refugees in order of need and arrival. Each bus could only hold about 50 people so the volunteers – from France and Belgium – canvassed the crowd and used markers to indicate which groups would be first to board the next bus. They’d been working at Sikaminea for several days with little rest and no one to relieve them, so they were glad to have another group of volunteers take over. They gave us the battered map they used to explain to new arrivals where they were and where they needed to be. They gave us the lists of which groups should be first to board the next bus, and they left us in charge.

It was obvious in looking at the crowd of around 500 people – at least a third of them children – that not everyone was Syrian. Some groups looked Afghan, dressed in tribal clothes. When we talked to people, they told us they were from Palestine, Pakistan, Somalia, Iran and Iraq. There were old people and babes in arms. We set to work trying to see who still didn’t have a number indicating the bus they would be on. Suddenly, a bus pulled around the curve of hill above the makeshift transit center and tried to turn around at the intersection. The bus was paid for by Medecins Sans Frontieres, but the driver didn’t work for them – he wasn’t a volunteer or a doctor, but a paid driver.

We weren’t prepared for the mayhem that ensued and try as we might, we couldn’t convince the clamoring throng to back away from the bus. People began to rush the bus, paying no attention to our attempts to keep order. When the driver saw that the crowd was out of control, he shouted that no one would get on his bus like that. He locked the bus and walked into the village.

People calmed down a bit after that and we were able to reinstate a semblance of order, but it was too late. When the driver returned, he drove off without letting anyone on the bus at all.

It was only my third day on Lesvos and my fellow volunteers were similarly new to this. People would ask us, “Can’t we just pay for a taxi to take us to the camp?”

“No,” we would answer, and explain that it was against the law for any Greek to give them a ride until they were registered at the capitol city of Mytilene. Many of the refugees had money at that point in their journey and couldn’t understand why they were stuck at this intersection instead of being allowed to pay their way.

“Isn’t there a hotel we can stay in?” Some women were pregnant or had very small children. While some of the refugees seemed accustomed to a nomadic life, many were clearly city people and not at all prepared for sleeping on rocks under the stars. Again, we had to tell them, “No, it’s against the law for the hotels to take you till you have your papers.”

When another bus came, we were better organized. This time, we made sure only those marked for that bus boarded it, convincing everyone that if they tried again to rush onto the bus, it would simply leave with no one on board again. It worked and we were elated to wave goodbye to those passengers, their faces happy and full of hope. We knew it wouldn’t be easy for them once they got to the camps in Mytilene, and harder still after that, but there was no point dwelling on that then.

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Vilde escorting refugees to the bus

After the day’s last bus came and went, we had to figure out how to distribute food and drinks to those remaining. It was a daunting task in the dark. We went around in pairs distributing cups and juice (or milk for the children). We had bags of turkey and cheese sandwiches and boxes of fresh fruit, which we also handed out to the children first. Once everyone had something to eat, we distributed diapers and emergency blankets. Some of the refugees decided they’d rather walk to Mytilene – a distance of about 35 miles – than sleep at this cold way station with no shelter and little to keep them warm. We showed them the way on our battered map and gave them food and water for the long journey on foot. Those who stayed over night built fires to stay warm and we tried to keep them small and controlled, as the villagers had expressed concerns.

Each day at Sikaminia was the same: we would arrive in time to get everyone organized for the first couple of buses, which usually got there around 7 in the morning. Then we would hand out nutella sandwiches and fruit and pour cups of juice and milk for those who were still stuck there.

“Thank you,” they would tell us, “Shukran.”

“Are you with the Red Crescent? What group are you working with?” they would ask. “There is no group here,” we would reply. “We are just regular people who wanted to help.”

We’d heard that Medecins Sans Frontieres and the UNHCR had a presence in the camps, but other than paying for the buses to make a few trips a day, we saw no sign of them where we were. The Red Cross was even less in evidence.

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I’d come to Molyvos because I’d learned of a local restaurant owner there who was helping the refugees and, like the other volunteers, I just showed up at her restaurant and asked what I could do. Her name is Melinda McRostie and she and her family have been helping feed and clothe the refugees since they first began to arrive in Lesvos.

In the two weeks I was volunteering in Sikimania, we helped 400-800 people a day and sometimes more. If we could spot the boats coming in, I would take a car to the bottom of the steep mountain and offer rides to the women and children and the elderly. A few times, we got so many people in the little car that it could barely make it back up to the intersection. Sometimes their relief at having survived the harrowing trip would overcome them as we drove and the women would weep in the car, thanking me and thanking god for their safe passage.

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A group of new arrivals to Lesvos, helped by volunteers

Sometimes we had time to sit and talk with the people who were stuck at our little way-station. We would share cigarettes and talk about what their lives had been before the war. One man told me he’d walked all the way from Iran to Turkey and gone directly to the United Nations in Ankara. There they told him that there was nothing they could do to help him, so he spent the next year working in Turkey to raise the money for the smugglers’ dangerous trip across the Aegean. One person’s passage might cost anywhere from 1,000 to 5,000 Euros. Another man had been a doctor and helped comfort and treat patients with what little medical supplies we had. I spoke with yet another man who had been an airline pilot and traveled the world, staying in luxury hotels in all the world’s major cities. Now he was sleeping on a roadside without so much as a proper blanket to keep him warm. Still, he helped us to translate and distribute food to others. These were not freeloaders or extremists: they were men and women with young children, grandparents, aunts and uncles, escaping from beloved countries which were destroyed by violence.

Now, six months later, the EU has closed its borders and left many thousands of refugees stranded in Greece – the last country in the EU with the money to handle such an influx of needy people. While other more wealthy countries, like my own, neglect to take in their fair share of these people, out of concern for our own security, the people of Greece have stepped up. The United States has offered to shelter only ten thousand refugees, while the mayor of Lesvos – a tiny island of around 90-thousand people – has committed to housing and caring for that same number.

While I questioned my ability to impact this massive, global crisis, the closing of the borders in recent months has meant that those I helped in August most likely made it to Europe, while those who arrive on Lesvos now will face a very different fate.

What I learned about the people seeking refuge in Europe is that many are educated professionals who just happen to be from countries where war made normal life an impossibility. These people are not our enemies, and yet the EU has now made a deal with Turkey – the same country that has been profiting off of UN money for the supposed housing of refugees, while sending newly registered refugees straight to the smugglers who then fleece them and wash them up on Greek shores. The smuggling of refugees is a billion dollar industry. Children have disappeared from detention camps and border stations, trafficked and traded like a commodity while the West shuts their eyes to the tragedy.

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A group of refugees who’d been saved from drowning, ready to go to Mytilene.

The group I worked with has since become The Starfish Foundation, which has scaled back its operations in Lesvos as the numbers of refugees arriving there has dwindled and focus has moved elsewhere. It seems to me that Turkey might be a place to volunteer, but those interested should do some research and perhaps contact the UNHCR to find out what areas might be next affected, as I did last May. Even people who’d come to Lesvos as tourists volunteered to help and made a difference.

I’m sure help is needed on the mainland, and it seems that most volunteer agencies have gone there instead of Lesvos. Eric Kempson of Lesvos is another passionate supporter and rescuer – he can be found on Facebook as well and might have some insight as far as volunteering.

I’m so glad I just showed up to help when no one was paying attention – I saw the best and worst in people, but mostly it showed me the human side of this very global problem. If you can spare even a couple of weeks, try to find the places in need now and offer your help. Two hands and an open heart are all that is required.

Love,

Kira