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

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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

 

 

The Rites of Spring

I have news! Not only is it the beginning of a new year, with the onset of Spring, but I finally finished my book!

Technically, I wrote most of it by January, but I’ve been working since then to get it down to a reasonable number of pages, since it was 480 at its most bloated.

My book, “Dust and Light,” which is in some ways the culmination of this blog, is about my sister Erika’s death in 2011 at Burning Man, about her life before that point. For the last year, I’ve been incorporating sections of her journals into my manuscript and I finally completed that challenging task, producing a book which, I hope, manages to conjure some of her spirit.

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Erika dancing with abandon in Uruguay – January 2011

It is strange being done with it. To have time that can be turned to other pursuits. Other story ideas have come flooding in of late and I’ve had more inclination for strumming on the guitar again. A couple of weekends ago, I managed to break a glass at my apartment and step on it, barefoot, slicing up a couple of toes and bleeding impressively. Yesterday, on Easter morning, the worst of the cuts decided to heal up and rejoin with its separated skin, which is a relief.

This year, as last, I celebrated Nowruz (nav-ruuz) or the Persian tradition of the spring-time New Year. Still celebrated throughout Iran, Afghanistan, and India, this festival probably predates Zoroastrianism and it bears many similarities to the “Christian” tradition of Easter eggs and candy: the Nowruz table holds symbols of the earth’s bounty. Potted plants, flowers, fruit, sprouting lentils, even eggs can make an appearance, though I haven’t bought eggs in some time, so I skip that bit of tradition.

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Nowruz (nav-ruuz) table, featuring a copy of Shahnameh and symbolic plants, fruits, and other produce of the Earth

I add another more ancient tradition, mixing a dough from barley syrup and spelt flour and honey. It is a variation of the honey cakes devotees used to offer the Goddess of the earth – Bona Dea, Magna Mater, the Great Mother. In our lust to create a more advanced world, we have forgotten our Mother Earth. We talk about climate change in the abstract, but the truth is that we began down this path the moment we decided to sacrifice the sanctity of our earth for the production of human works. We chose to live at odds with the earth, rather than in harmony with her. We are in the process of destroying the very fertility of our planetary home in order to “progress.”

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My table morphed for the full moon / eclipse – but the message is the same – the Star card is featured because the star goddess has always been associated with Spring.

So it is important, I think, to give thanks to the new fertility of the Earth, reborn in the form of eggs in nests and blossoms on trees. The doves on my fire escape have made their nest in an old pot, left to crumble with only a bit of moss growing on the hardened soil inside. But still, a safe haven for young chicks till they grow big enough to emerge on their own.

In a similar way, New York has been my haven as I completed my book (which no doubt could still use some edits) but it is time for me to start thinking of my future. Music, which has been on the back burner, bubbles up again, along with my passion for fictional tales.

I’ve also been spending time with a 5-year old girl named Eve, which is a lot of fun. As the weather improves, I’m excited to have a good excuse to play in a park, and good company.

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Eve did my makeup and I did hers – kinda looks like I have a black eye and def have lipstick everywhere. That’s a flower on my face. Proud of the unicorn princess I made her into!

I also got to meet up recently with a friend and former collaborator who switched coasts, the lady Evangeline. I wish we’d taken pics, but instead we ate vegan dim sum and caught up on each others’ lives. She told me she’s started praying to the Virgin Mary – she was raised Catholic, so that is the apparition of the Goddess with which she is most familiar. I was raised Methodist, so we didn’t have the same emphasis on Mary. I told her that Mary, called the Queen of Heaven, resembles in many ways the more ancient goddess forms like Inanna and Ishtar. I observed the ardor for the Virgin Mary expressed in Greece and in France, and I see how natural it is for us to revere a mother figure.

So happy New Year, happy Spring, happy Easter – celebrate your inner goddess and the outer forms of fertility and growth we can observe in the Earth!

Love and miss,

Kira

Someplace State of Mind

It took me a little longer than anticipated to get back to Brooklyn. Dad and I decided to drive down for a visit with my aunt in Miami and I didn’t mind indulging in a few more days of sunshine before returning to New York winter.

I stopped through North Carolina and visited with Mary Caton and her crew for a couple of days. Already, the weather was bitterly cold.

Since returning to the city, January passed quickly and I have been up to my neck in my memoir. I finally got to the end, and then began the process of refining, shaping, editing. It is painstaking work and occupies my endless days while the wind howls outside and the snow visits some mornings, blanketing the world in white for a while and then melting away in the next day’s sun.

I feel a bit like a madwoman at this stage, fiddling compulsively with my manuscript. But I know there is much to be done. Step by step, I’ll help this story emerge from the stone and dust of daily toils.

There was no Fashion Week for me this year as I start to tear free of the ties that bind me to New York. The truth is, I moved back here with hope in my heart and this book on my mind. Now that the book is nearing completion, and the hopes I’d had for reviving lost love in this city have long since dissipated, I can start to see my next steps forward. In July, I plan to go west as far as the Great Lakes and Detroit, and I thought, why not go farther?

I do so love the freedom of the road.

It isn’t a life or a career. A journey rather than a destination and all that. I’m just starting to peep my eyeballs over the setting suns of days past and look into the future again.

It feels refreshing to be on the far side of the last few years. On the edge of newness again. The days lengthen by minutes and the light lingers longer in the evenings.

My freezer bulges with bread and fruitcake from my father, sustaining me through the chill of the still raging winter.

Love and miss,

Kira

Return to My Garden of Eden

And another year gone. I made my annual pilgrimage to Sarasota around the middle of December, driving down to Durham for a night with my bestie and her family in North Carolina before continuing on the next day. I got to Tampa and my sister’s house in time for dinner as Cam worked on his homework and the girls got ready for bed.

In the morning, I drove the last stretch to SRQ. The weather in New York was strangely warm when I left; the transition from north to south hardly deserving of the name.

That afternoon, I was back again in my old familiar haunt at Elysian Fields. It was same, same, but different, as the founding owners had left and so had some of my old friends there, but others had stayed. It seemed almost the same. I got to work, re-familiarizing myself with the spiritual bookshop and the crystals in the bins, their description cards. The checklist for closing and the new products in the personal care section.

I’ve been going back to Elysian for a few years now. Perhaps it will be the last time I return to the store where I learned so much about metaphysics and crystals, about how to speak softly and calmly, about a meticulous attention to detail as a sort of spiritual practice.

On my days off, I luxuriate on the roof, getting a little tan back before I return to the sunless north.

I’ve even made pickle from starfruit and key limes.

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Up on the roof


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Key Lime Pickle!

For whatever cosmic reason, Christmas seems to signify a time of challenges for me: last year, as I drove down from New York, I had the last ever conversation with the man I had, until then, thought I might be spending the rest of my life with. In 2013, an old friend resurfaced like a bad penny, bringing up memories of our friendship and how it had dissolved in Spanish Harlem in 2009. In 2012, just a few days before Christmas, I heard from the man I’d fallen for that summer: he told me he’d loved me, and I thought for a few brief, giddy seconds that my dreams were coming true, until it became clear that he was speaking in the past tense. He had already found someone new.

Somehow, just when everyone is celebrating togetherness, I tend to end up isolated and alone.

This year, however, was a year of keeping others at a safe distance. Turns out I was still smarting from last year’s slings and arrows. I try to be the sort of person who lets things roll off my back, but some injuries don’t heal cleanly: they leave scar tissue, and it’s hard to open up again – hard to let others in.

But the blessing is that I’m not the walking wound I was a year ago. My heart may still be raw, but things are smoother between my mother and me. I’m sad that the love I felt last year has come to so little – the relationship I thought I had, dissolved like so much sugar in the rain. It is as if he simply ceased to be, though he’s made overtures of friendship since then.

But I do not know how friendship can exist without love – trust – honesty. What is there to discuss when nothing is what you thought it was? I try not to be the type who burns bridges, but this time of year seems always to whisper (or shout) to me “let go, let go, let go.”

And so, here goes! I release the sides of the slide and let myself zoom into the future. I resolve that this is the year I get to the bottom of my fears and flush out that barrel till it’s ready to hold something new, without the bad apples of the past to pollute tomorrow’s harvests.

But what about that past? Most of my former loves have moved firmly into the friend zone – the odd ones are the exiles – but even rarer is someone I used to love, whom I’d still consider a potential partner. I honestly didn’t think there were any. But then an old friend rolls back in, and you realize, things never really ended between you two.

I’ll confess: I can get good and stuck on a man. It is easy for me to fall in love, at least initially, since I can be a bit picky. I’m holding out for that teenage feeling, to quote Neko Case – in its absence, my interest flags.

I still love my high school sweetheart, but I think we both feel it is too late to rekindle those flames. I’ve moved thoroughly through most of my relationships, attaining closure – moving on. I’d forgotten someone I used to love. He was my first boyfriend in college, and we went through that intense time of changes together, frequently drunk. When he broke up with me for a girl from back home, I was devastated: up till then, he had been my best friend at Trinity. We managed to stay friends, and eventually became lovers again, but we were never really “together” again. When I was single the summer after college, we’d hook up occasionally. Then he got a girlfriend and I moved away.

Now that it’s been nearly a decade since I last saw him in the flesh, I’d nearly forgotten our friendship entirely. There were some messy parts – bits I guess I’d rather not remember. But up they come, as we start to be friends again. It feels so familiar. Like finding something you used to treasure hidden in a forgotten box under the bed. But is it a lucky charm or a monkey’s paw?

I’m a sucker for a good love story, and how ideal to be with one one already knows of old? Love works in mysterious ways, but I’ve never really circled back around successfully to an ancient paramour. If they didn’t love me the first time, what can have changed now? Better to find someone new. I have certainly been treated better since then. But then, I was in a traumatized state when I got to college. Not to psychoanalyze myself too much, but I had been through a gauntlet of death, sex, and love in high school. I didn’t know how to be casual. I was intense.

Anyway, I begin a new year reconsidering old choices; old friends are the ones I seem to hold the dearest these days.

Perhaps I’m just clinging again to the familiar. This time, I can let it go for real.

New Year’s Eve, I built a fire in the pit out back and we gathered around the flickering flames. We lit a Chinese sky lantern from the dock out by the lake – the dock another old boyfriend of mine rebuilt several years ago, before we broke up not long after my 27th birthday.

My nephew held the bottom of the lantern and my mother held the top until it filled with enough hot air to hover on its own, and then it was lifted above the lake, the trees, among the stars, to disappear, a smoke signal to our loved ones in the sky: we have not forgotten you.

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Cam and Mama lighting the skylantern


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Almost to liftoff!


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Up, up and away!

Love and miss,

Kira

Comfort Food and Gratitude

The annual landscape in the United States is structured by those holidays that bring families together, since we are otherwise so scattered across this vast country.

Growing up, my family celebrated Thanksgiving at home in Arkansas with turkey and all the trimmings. My sisters and I would set the table with the nice silverware and glasses from my German grandmother. After the meal, we would take the dogs for a long walk, up our meandering driveway and onto the dirt road. Fall in Arkansas is usually somewhat mild and the smells of dry leaves and woodsmoke would fill the honeyed afternoon air.

As I went from middle school to high school, our tradition changed and we started meeting up with cousins in Memphis for Thanksgiving, driving the 6 hours from Northwest Arkansas to cross that big muddy river. My sisters and cousins and I would stay in a hotel, while the adults all stayed at an aunt’s house.

After the Thanksgiving meal, we would take selections from dad’s enormous pie buffet back to the hotel, where we would snack on pie for breakfast or whenever. We would get dolled up and go out in Memphis, those of us too young to enter borrowing IDs from the older ones.

The day after Thanksgiving was usually reserved for going to the mall, which was a rare treat for kids who grew up an hour from any decent-sized town.

When I went off to college in Texas, I would still come home for Thanksgiving, still make the drive to Memphis to see the cousins. That first year, my sister had her little boy, Cameron. It was such a joy to have this new light in our family.

Thanksgiving became something to negotiate with boyfriends – would we spend it with his family, or mine?

But for several years now, it is a holiday I don’t much mark. I’ll spend the day working on a project or go out to eat a nice meal. The last couple of years, I’ve worked on Thanksgiving, serving the moneyed folk of Manhattan.

Of course, it isn’t the hardest holiday for me to give up, since I’ve been a vegetarian for most of my life. I’ve recently started to consider how our emotional ties to food affect us in ways we don’t realize. I never thought of my vegetarianism as a rejection of others – it was just my individual choice.

I don’t prosthelytize or judge, I don’t mind looking at or even sometimes handling meat. Yet, I sometimes find myself feeling rejected because of what I don’t eat: boyfriends who act like they’re doing me a favor by cooking their protein separately, even my family will act as if I’ve just become a vegetarian to annoy them at holidays.

Sometimes I wish I was so inclined, and I could just give up the complications of vegetarianism. It isn’t very fun to negotiate at times –  an invitation to a restaurant with no vegetarian items; trips to foreign countries where beef’s what’s for dinner; soggy portobello mushrooms on a bun, etc.

Food is often something we equate to love on a emotional level. Yesterday I was on the subway when a toddler came into the car with his parents. The little boy was crying for no apparent reason, though he was snuggled safely between his two calm, attentive parents. His face was a picture of vague, undirected upset as he wailed. Quickly, his mother brought him to her breast and he became instantly calm.

My first thought was, that kid seems a bit old to be nursing – not out of hunger – but to find a sense of comfort. However, I wasn’t going to complain, since it had stopped his fussing. But it made me think of how we are  the same as adults, we’ve just matured to the point where we know it is no longer appropriate or possible to be comforted by mother’s breast, so we find other replacements. Drinking, smoking, eating and (my personal favorite) kissing are all ways we express this longing for comfort and reassurance.

Most of my boyfriends have been carnivores and it was never a problem for me. I did most of the cooking, anyway. But I begin to wonder: should I be looking for a vegetarian lover? Maybe that should be number one on my list, since my carnivorous paramours perhaps feel some deep need goes unmet by my lack of flesh-eating. How can I ever make mama’s famous recipes, thereby bringing back that sense of comfort only she could provide?

Truth is, these days I don’t feel like I fit in much of anywhere. If home is where the heart is, mine might be packed up in a box. I’ve got family, though they’re far, and friends (ditto), but my heart is still searching for a home. New York has been a good place to get to work on writing my book, but as that process draws to a close, I start to think about what will become of me. My cousins in this city have left or are leaving. Friends, too, have begun to disperse and move on and I wonder why I haven’t.

After I transferred to the L train last night, coming home from my Thanksgiving shift, a man walked through the car with a cane, bent forward and asking for change in Spanish. His spine was twisted and exposed, showing  an old wound that was horrific to look at.

I gave him what I could and he was a powerful reminder of how fortunate I am in this life. I know if I’d been born at another time or in another place, I might not have the luxury of being a vegetarian.

I recall how nervous I was when I went to Germany for the first time when I was 12, to visit my grandmother. I had become a vegetarian the year before and I was afraid she would be insulted, somehow, that I was rejecting my German heritage.

But my sweet Omi was so kind to me. She didn’t act inconvenienced at all, didn’t frown or chide me. For dinner we had cheese sandwiches on dark rye bread with sweet pickles, and I was very thankful, indeed.

Love and miss,

Kira

 

 

 

Happy Birthday to Me?

It’s strange. Last year when I was in London for my birthday, I learned a lot about myself, though I came to regret staying there as long as I did. While it didn’t do my relationship any favors, it did show me how I re-enact my mother’s rejection of me on my birthday, creating situations in which I feel somehow hurt or slighted, especially as it relates to food.

Funny, throughout my childhood, my parents would always make whatever sort of cake I wanted (they owned bakeries); I always had big slumber parties and lots of fun. My high school sweetheart and I kissed for the first time the morning after my 16th birthday party. I’ve had so many good birthdays. But last year was one of several I’ve had where I attempted to spend my birthday with a partner and things do not go well.

Once I flew to Sarasota for my birthday, to be with an artist I (thought I) was in love with, only to find it felt all wrong. He wanted the fantasy he’d built of me from a distance, and vice versa. In reality, he was shorter than I recalled, his voice more effeminate. I was not the submissive he’d imagined. I found out about his new gf on good ol’ fb.

A couple of years ago, I met a Spanish artist (pattern? ha!) and we decided to take a roadtrip to Niagara and Toronto together around my birthday. On the day itself, he sweetly brought me flowers and earrings he bought for me. But during the trip, we got in little bickering fights, which escalated on our last morning in Toronto. He didn’t like where I had left my boots. Sigh.

Last year’s brief but intense relationship – with someone I thought of as an old friend, perhaps erroneously – forced me to look at many issues related to my mother and myself. In most ways, I’d say I’ve been able to find a positive outcome. I’ve had to look long and hard at myself and examine what seems to set off my sensitivities related to my birth.

Last summer, I went to a hypnotist for the first time, wondering about a fearfulness and lack of confidence I sometimes felt. Through the course of the session, I remembered that it was the moment of my birth when I was emotionally wounded. I don’t, of course, have any conscious memory of the moment, but I think the scar from such an early, elemental trauma, stayed hidden underneath all the happy birthdays that came later. I don’t blame my mother, because I know there are times in our lives when we simply cannot control our reactions – when we cannot reign in our sadness at a reality different from what we’d envisioned.

I’ve not been a stranger to sadness in this life, though I’m certainly no Job. But depression hit me hard in my teens, and I felt it in college, too. As an adult, I’ve been fortunately even-keeled, though last winter was a test of my equilibrium.

This year, I’ve done little to ring in the new cycle of the sun. I worked at local costumed sex party, reading tarot cards as a gypsy.  I’m hopeful for a clearer future ahead, with the ghosts of the past laid to rest.

Regardless, I see the purpose of the past, or a glimmer of it, anyway. It isn’t at all like I once hoped, but then I wouldn’t have made the choices I did if the stakes hadn’t seemed so high.

I have now officially outlived my big sister, Erika, who died at 33. I always followed in her footsteps, but it’s been four years now, since she took a step. I’m older than she will ever be.

Erika loved “Little Women” by Louisa May Alcott. I wish, in a way, we’d grown up in those more civil times.

Erika was good at bringing that sense of magic into family situations, especially as she got older and Christmas became more about giving than receiving. I’d like to be better at bringing that magic home with me, sharing it with my family.

As a baby, I had no control over my situation and surroundings. It is common for Americans to assume that babies are unaware of their surroundings – that they can see little and understand even less. But we are highly attuned to facial expressions, eye contact, loving vocalizations, touch – it behooves us to realize how much these things affect a child’s brain development, if we ever think of having children ourselves, or if we want a greater understanding of our own makeup.

Here’s to another year of learning – let’s hope this year’s lessons are of the gentle variety.

Love and miss,
Kira