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

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

Migration

I have been transported by rubber and steel and tar and and gasoline – by focus and NPR and thumbs and Mexican horns blowing harmonies like locks fit with their keys. I detoured from I-95 before I hit D.C., driving the slightly longer and certainly more scenic route through Pennsylvania. No sign of snow or ice was on the roads as I navigated through the flat-ish farmed valleys framed by mountains that have been tamed by time and ice into aggrandized hills that remind me of my childhood home in the Ozarks.

It is the last terrain to be covered before one returns to the urbanity of the great Metropolis I left about a month ago. Strange to think how much has changed since then. When I left New York in December, I thought I felt the winds of change – I just didn’t realize quite the direction they were blowing. Or how chilly they would be.

But being in my happy place – my grandmother’s sculpture studio – reminds me of other cold Christmases I’ve survived: it never fails to be a time of challenges for me, it seems. As the years have gone by, once-close friends have fallen out of my orbit, though I know they’re circulating in their own spheres not far from my own. I choose not to intersect with the old boyfriend who works downtown – the former friend who frequents that particular bar. Instead I spent many nights in the company of my oldest friends in Sarasota: John the Fireman and Lara.

Lara entered my life through my sister Erika and over the years, the two of them began to include me in the friendship.

Erika and Lara several years ago

Erika and Lara several years ago

We went out for dinners and drinks and nights dancing to coverbands in smoky bro-filled bars. Every year, we’d have a dinner together at Lara’s house where we would watch a silly movie and eat and drink and generally be merry. Lara and I have kept up the tradition, though it has become a Trader Joe’s feast and I now read Lara’s tarot cards, too.

A bit of this year's feast

A bit of this year’s feast

This year we watched Boyhood, the Richard Linklater film about a young boy and his sister growing up with a single mother in Texas. It was a really insightful movie, but it went only half watched before Lara needed to go to bed – I packed up and headed over to John’s house.

John (the Fireman) entered my life over ten years ago when I graduated from college and came to Sarasota for my sister Skye’s wedding. I believe Lara introduced me to him, but I might be the only one who recalls. Over the years we’ve gone to shows and watched bizarre art films, he’s visited me in New York and been with me at strangely crucial moments. I’ve watched his house change over the years, reflecting his string of live-in girlfriends and changing interests.

John is like a jester – it is hard not to laugh around him. And he does have an uncanny ability to find himself in awkward situations, like driving a truck loaded with a massive pedicab sticking straight up like a totem pole.

We went to an open mic on one of my last nights in town and I enjoyed watching him play his de-tuned bass – what I think of as his performance art.

John rocking out

John rocking out

Playing music in Sarasota - Growler's Pub

Playing music in Sarasota – Growler’s Pub

I am lucky to have great friends – fortunate to have weeded out the old from my life, though I can look back with fondness. Truth be told, I hardly think about those old boogeymonster relationships anymore – the ones that caused me such seemingly interminable pain in bygone eras. I walk on the dust of those old ghosts and they disperse beneath my every step, without a sound – without my noticing, most of the time.

My grandmother’s house can not be tarnished by the memories of pain born there, because it is such a safe and cared for place. A place that changes slowly and subtly and with intention.

The last weekend I spent in Florida, mom and I drove up past Tampa with the truck loaded up with kayaks and camping gear to claim a site near the river where mom had planned to take us kayaking the next day with my sister and her family.

Campsite in Silver Lake

Campsite in Silver Lake

We pitched our tent from the back of the truck and mom made us some cozy little beds. We drove to the projected end point for the next day, to scope it out, and took a wee detour on what looked like a road on Google maps, but turned into a sandy track down which we proceeded warily, though we only, luckily, met one other vehicle on our way.

The road less traveled by. . .

The road less traveled by. . .

We eventually made it out of the woods, despite mom’s kayaks shaking loose several times, and found the restaurant at the end of the kayak float, where we ate onion rings and I had a beer and then we headed back to the site.

We took Sprite for a walk into the cypress glen near sunset and then returned to camp to make the evening’s fire and food.

Cypress Glen

Cypress Glen

Sunset through the trees

Sunset through the trees

I made gumbo with veggie sausage and okra and plantains. We had it over brown rice that mom made over the fire. After dinner, it was pretty cold so we retreated relatively early to our sleeping bags and read for a while.

Gumbo cooking

Gumbo cooking

In the morning, mom made breakfast burritos with eggs and cheese and salsa and toasted the wraps in the skillet, making it crispy outside. Mmmm.

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breakfast burritos!

Mom making brekkie

Mom making brekkie

Shivering Sprite

Shivering Sprite

Skye and her entourage arrived: Cameron, Cate, Charlee and Brent – her fiancee. We packed up lunches and I stayed at camp with the two girls, teaching them chords on the guitar, as they unloaded the boats at the put-in and mom drove to the end-point to drop off her truck and return with an additional kayak.

After a quick delay when mom realized she’d left Sprite at the end-point (oops!) we were off!

Setting out on the Withlacoochee

Setting out on the Withlacoochee

Cam in command

Cam in command

Catelin paddles

Catelin paddles

Sprite resting comfortably

Sprite resting comfortably

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panorama with Mama – credit Cameron Pifer ūüėČ

Cameron, Catelin and Charlee each took a small single seater boat and Skye shared a boat with Brent, while mom and I partnered, Sprite co-piloting. We paddled a ways up the slow, tea-colored river and the day warmed up slowly as well. We stopped for lunch and Cameron warned me just before fires ants engulfed my feet – sparing me from even worse injury than I got.

Cam spying the angry ants!

Cam spying the angry ants!

After lunch, mom got in a boat with Catelin and Charlee got in with her dad – Skye, Cam and I got our own boats and we paddled through cypress swamp, punctuated with red swamp maples.

Mom and Cate

Mom and Cate

dark reflections

dark reflections

Cam free-legging it

Cam free-legging it

Brent

Charlee and Catelin

It was a lovely, if exhausting day – especially for the girls. Catelin snoozed as we finally arrived at the bridge which marked the end of the trip.

Exhausted Cate

Exhausted Cate

Back at the camp, I made veggie chilli and we had it over Fritos with cheese and salsa and some very spicy jalapeno and the meat-eaters added grilled sausages to their plates.

Campfire food

Campfire food

Brent with chilli dog

Brent with chilli dog

Cam and mama

Cam and mama

We got the fire going and made s’mores and played games and music around the fire. The girls went to bed and Cameron stayed up with us, hanging out and being awesome. I played Under the Boardwalk for him and eventually we all went to bed: mom in the truck bed, me with the kids in the tent, and Skye with Brent in their vehicle. A comfortable night was not exactly had by all, as there were not quite enough beds to go around, but we survived and made it to breakfast where we made cocoa for the kids and coffee for everyone else. Mom made french toast with almonds and we went for a walk in the woods before Skye et al had to head back to Tampa.

Charlee and Sprite

Charlee and Sprite

Morning walk

Morning walk

Charlee and Cate

Charlee and Cate

Cam playing

Cam playing

Cate and Sprite

Cate and Sprite

Mom and I drove back to Sarasota, agreeing it had been a good trip.

And suddenly, it was nearly time for me to leave. We had some lovely weather the last few days I was there. Mutti returned to her gardening after several days of enforced stillness and bad weather kept her inside. I had an appointment to get my tattoo touched up and expanded a bit and I dropped off some items at the thrift store. I was waiting for my car to get a clean bill of health after getting some work done and then it was time. I packed up my car Thursday evening and headed up to Tampa for one last night with the kids and Skye.

We played guitar and I helped Cam with his homework (though I also spilled ink on the carpet like Bad Mousie. Sigh. Do we ever grow up?).

I waited around for the kids to go to school the next day before heading out of town, north, into the second half of winter. But it got sunny and warmer as I drove, the front dissipating. I made it to Durham in time for dinner and rejoiced to be with friends again.

The next day we went for a morning walk and enjoyed what passes for winter in idyllic North Carolina. Then we went to a baby’s first birthday party where I got to see all manner of other people’s children and play with them, likely contracting a cold from one of them, unfortunately, but I like baby-time. Mary Caton’s baby is especially adorable.

MC and Eric with the traditional coconut curry

MC and Eric with the traditional coconut curry (and my Manhattan)

We walked back to the house and spent the evening watching Boyhood (so I got to see the ending – hurrah!).

I caught up with another friend in town and then, poof, time again to move. I left around noon Monday, after one last walk with MC and her little one, and arrived back to my little corner of Brooklyn as if nothing has changed.

I so love the cozy camp-out feel of my grandmother’s studio that I forget how much I love my little room – how nice it is to have a space – a room of one’s own. I love my family, but I have always felt restricted by old notions of my personhood. I am not the same person I was two years ago or even two months ago. Two weeks seems like an eternity.

Sometimes it is hard to see the point of the trials we put ourselves through. I’ve always believed in the power of love to heal, especially after appropriate doses of time and space. A case in point: last night I met up with my cousins and my Aunt Susan – who was married to my Uncle Flip. Despite all that she went through with my uncle’s illness, which was a prolonged and hard, she didn’t lose faith that she could and would find love again, that everything comes in time.

With Laura and Kate and Aunt Susan in Brooklyn

With Laura and Kate and Aunt Susan in Brooklyn

The merry-go-round of emotion may spin, but we can choose to embody love instead of fear – to express love openly and honestly when it stirs in us. It is hard to quell the voice of fear and loss, as I well know. It laid me low three years ago, and I refuse to go back there again – it isn’t because I don’t love deeply, or because I think there’s nothing left to say, but I realize this time around that there is nothing I can do or say to “earn” love, if it is mine. I’ve spent my life trying to overcome any Scorpionic tendency to manipulate others, so I’m taken by surprise when others have no problem manipulating and controlling those they purport to love. But I don’t want love that controls, or lies, or attacks. Love that hurts.

I don’t want compulsion or force or manipulation. It is all just drama – theater.

But I am no stranger to the transformational. These times rear their hydra heads of difficulties – things beyond my control – some things I have no wish to control. Some things that must be controlled, lest they control me.

I have been delving into my personal history of late, trying to decode the oldest imprints left on me, the deepest ones. There are only so many ways of accessing the psyche – especially the parts we didn’t have words yet to process when they made they’re mark. Trauma takes many forms and creates many echoes through our lives. I was listening to a journalist discuss the effects of PTSD, and realized that all traumas affect us like PTSD, only smaller traumas might make smaller waves – more manageable ones. But places where our lives touch death – those places make the trauma into a tidal wave that threatens to overwhelm us, because it changes our entire landscape. And anything that brings up that old loss is met with panic, fight or flight reactions that far outweigh whatever triggered them.

It takes courage to face down ancient trauma – it disrupts and uproots all that has been built on the old scar tissue. But the alternative is a life frozen and lived through vicarious fantasies. A life which eventually petrifies and closes up – which forgets how to love and be loved and remembers only how to reject and annihilate.

I’m desirous of change, but for now, I’m just content to be still. But I know others feel it too: my dad finally decided to close down his business and move on to the next phase of his life. If he can release his old patterns, so can we all.

Love and miss,

Kira

A New Day

My mother has been remarking lately on how fortunate she is to be able to return to the house where she grew up – to sleep in the same bedroom she slept in as a child.

It is a remarkable thing that my grandmother and her house – which is an extension of her aesthetics and personality – are still here to be savored and enjoyed. My mother and I can have the pleasure of making her meals and re-staining the siding on her house – doing the little things for her that, at 92, she has trouble doing for herself.

The same little lake that my mother used to play in as a wild child with her brothers and sisters is still there and mom and I have taken to taking the little kayaks she inherited from a family friend out on the lake around sunset. We paddle around, exploring, disturbing ibises and other waterbirds who are unused to having their calm lake rippled by humans. Diminutive ducks and tall herons eye us warily as we sip our “sundowners” and mom’s little dog, Sprite, fits perfectly into the hold in the back of mom’s boat.

Mama embarking

Mama embarking

Mama with her cargo

Mama with her cargo

The other day, as we made the rounds, a friendly contingent greeted us from the shore. Mom went over to strike up a conversation and it turned out that they were a German family from Wurtzburg – which happens to be where my grandmother (on my dad’s side) relocated once she moved out of Bad Neustadt, where my dad grew up.

We also docked our boats near a new house, still being finished, and went to peek in the windows and check out the design of their dream home. Ah yes, it just isn’t the holidays without a little light trespassing.

Ibises evading us

Ibises evading us

Beautiful sunset

Beautiful sunset

For the full moon two nights ago, we decided to have a little bonfire in the back yard. Mom made my sister Erika’s famous radish crostinis and I made her recipe for bbq jackfruit and even whipped up a key lime pie from limes we picked. We invited Erika’s friend, Lara, over and toasted to my sissy with pink bubbles – her favorite beverage.

Perhaps pink bubbles are her spirit animal ūüôā

After dinner we burned the “ghost of Christmas past” as my mom called it: last year’s sad little skeleton of a tree. I played some songs for them on the guitar and then Lara and mama lit a flying paper lantern from the end of the dock, in honor of Erika. We watched it soar away to the north, crossing the full moon and flying higher and higher till it was out of sight.

Mom and Lara lighting a lantern for Erika

Mom and Lara lighting a lantern for Erika

Takeoff

Takeoff

Then we burned this year’s Christmas tree, which mom thought was too green, but it went up in a blaze of glory that was beautiful and bright to behold.

Mom with the bonfire

Mom with the bonfire

Flaming up good!

Flaming up good!

We lit another paper lantern for my uncle Flip and my grandmother came out to the dock to watch it launch.

Flying lantern ignition - for Flip

Flying lantern ignition – for Flip

2011 and 2012 were hard years for my family. Especially hard on my mother and grandmother, because they each lost a child in those two years. Erika’s death was so unexpected – sudden. It was like a flash of lightening that came out of nowhere and changed everything in an instant. Strange to think that she was the same age I am now: 33.

Erika and me with friends - Rio - New Year 2011 - Erika's last

Erika and me with friends – Rio – New Year 2011 – Erika’s last

Flip’s passing was expected, since he’d been suffering from early onset Alzheimer’s for several years. But still it is hard to lose someone so young: he was only 58.

Uncle Flip - Philip Wellford

Uncle Flip – Philip Wellford

We finished the bonfire with a little more music. I played the Rainbow Connection, a song mom and I associate with Erika, and then we went in, leaving the large moon to illuminate the night without the help of our little fiery contributions. Lara headed home and mom and Mutti and I settled in for the premier of Downton Abbey.

The holiday melee of family is drawing to a close – one by one, obligations are finished and family members head back home. Dad made his way back to Arkansas on New Years Eve, after a nice daddy-daughter breakfast. Mom and I dropped him at the airport and went up to Tampa to spend the festivities with my sister and her sweet kiddos. We made food and put together puzzles and set off fireworks and toasted with champagne. It was imminently better than a bar.

Mom, Catelin and moi - NYE

Mom, Catelin and moi – NYE

Skye and baby Cate getting snuggly

Skye and baby Cate getting snuggly

The next day we all went for a walk through one of the wilderness parks near their house before the kids went off for a few days with their dad.

It has been a blessing that this year we were all together in Florida: for the last several years the kids left from before Christmas till after the New Year to be with their dad in Kentucky, but since he’s moved back to the state, we can all be together a bit more.

Soon it’ll be time for me to head back to the chilly north, but I’m getting the feeling that it’s time to start planning my next move. My beloved nephew will come for a visit in the spring, and aside from that, my reasons for staying in the city seem to be disappearing one by one. I’m ready for a change of scene, that’s for sure. And I’d thought I had an inkling of what might come next – the ghost of a plan. But turns out is was more ghost, less plan, so it’s back to the drawing board for me.

It’s a new year, full of possibilities. My heart is full of love and family and hope for a future I can’t yet see. But I have faith.

Love and miss,

Kira

My Heart on My Sleeve

I must say, I was pretty nervous for this year’s batch of Spring eclipses. Last year’s packed a wallop that reverberates for me still, and just when I thought the world was rosy with possibility.

So far no terrible event or news has materialized. The winter hasn’t yet fully loosened its grip on the city, but what else is new?

My sister Erika’s birthday came around again on Tax Day. She would have turned 36.

 

with Erika and Claire in Brazil - New Year 2011

with Erika and Claire in Brazil – New Year 2011

 

It is strange to think that this year I will turn the same age that she was when she died. Three years. How swiftly time flies. How I wish I still had her companionship, her wit, her personality and sweetness. She cultivated her tender heart and opened it to everyone she met. She is so loved and missed by those of us to whom the world is a far less magical place in her absence. I have learned much about death through losing Erika, as I learned about life through growing up with her and emulating her.

I realize I never unveiled my new Erika tattoo or mentioned it here. I suppose in part because it isn’t really finished, but then, I’m not certain it will ever be finished, really. In the same way that I will be recovering from and coping with her physical absence from my life for the rest of my life, I will always wear a tribute to her on my arm. It is a part of me now, and as we approach the third anniversary of Erika’s death, I know that my grief will evolve and continue evolving for as long as I am on this earth, and though I can’t sit down with her or hug her or get a phone call from her, I can be reminded of her at all times.

 

Erika tattoo after 7-ish hours of work

Erika tattoo after 7-ish hours of work

 

People tend to think that it is Egyptian, I think without looking closely at it. In fact it is mostly inspired by Alfons Mucha – the art nouveau pioneer who designed many beautiful posters and whose graphic style I certainly admire.

 

Mucha's Spring

Mucha’s Spring

 

Erika was born in the spring and since that is the season embodied by this work of Mucha’s, I thought it was appropriate as the starting point for the design.

 

a little closer

a little closer

 

I wanted to frame her with the phases of the moon, as I have a strong association between her and the moon. I also wanted to show her love of animals, so I inserted her kitty, Rosie, into the flowers she is holding and with her other hand she is stroking the head of a fawn. We grew up raising deer and goats and the deer also represents her love for nature and wild animals, while Rosie represents her love for strays of all kinds, but especially cats.

Next to her is a stack of books, because she always loved books and read voraciously – almost compulsively. There is also a glass of wine for Erika’s love of and dedication to learning about wine and making it. It was in many ways a creative outlet for her, I think. All her powers of language and description were put to use in her studies of wine. In the background, vineyards represent her time in the wine country of California and behind that, the mountains and lakes of the Ozarks represent our upbringing in nature. On the other side of her, the background is the desert at Burning Man, with the Man as he looked in 2011, the year my sister died at the festival.

Spanning both sides of the background is a rainbow, which represents so many things: the miraculous in the quotidian, the natural, the ephemeral, the beautiful. Erika was the first person I knew to express strongly and proudly her support for the GLBT community. She was radical in many ways but it was always with an eye for fairness and equality and love.

After Erika died, when my parents and I were driving back across the country from California with the bulk of my sister’s belonging’s in tow, there was a solid 15 minutes where we were driving straight into a rainbow as the storm before us continued apace with our progress. Mom had already started to associate Erika with rainbows and we all felt it was her way of letting us know that she was ok.

I think that over the years I will color more parts and even add more to the design. I have my whole life to build on it, to remember her, to ritualize my grief through physical pain, transmuting it into beauty.

 

Erika on one of her last days at Burning Man - airbrushing and showing off a real tattoo - a butterfly

Erika on one of her last days at Burning Man – airbrushed and showing off a real tattoo – a butterfly

 

Erika was brave and beautiful and I can never really capture her brilliant personality and spirit, her fierce grin, her silliness, her sweetness.

 

To paraphrase Tenacious D, this is just a tribute to the real deal.

 

Tonight comes the second eclipse of the month and though it won’t be visible in this city, I wonder if it will be felt. For now I’m living with the allergies that are a product of this slow-in-coming spring,but I’ll take it, if it means weather warm enough for me to be out on the fire escape enjoying the out of doors again at last.

Love and miss,

Kira

 

Strange Days

Well, my time in Sarasota is over and I find myself back in my warm bed in Brooklyn. The other night I saw the huge scoop of the waxing crescent moon hovering above lower Manhattan, looking almost as if it would graze the antenna on top of Tower 1 at the World Trade Center Site. Now there’s one building I wouldn’t mind not having a view of: it has no panache – no style. But that moon, on the other hand, is a reminder of how piddling our little works are – how pale our electric lights, by comparison. What cares the moon for the barking of dogs?

Were it not for the moon’s changing and the shifting of the seasons, I wonder how we humans would keep hope alive. Were each day just another day for the sun to rise and set on its rigid parabola, were there no such thing as Summer, Fall, Spring and Winter. I think we do not know how blessed we are to bear witness to the cosmos through our little window into it. We evolved western types are taught to look down our long noses at our forebears and at any who continue to believe that there is significance, importance, power in the celestial bodies that fill our night sky. Because science has helped us understand the chemical makeup of stars, we believe that we understand their essence. But is a human no more than a conglomeration of molecules? What, then, makes us any different from those burning bodies in the ether? Or from any other bit of matter? A rock, a lake, a jellyfish, a leaf?

It is difficult, sometimes, to practice what I preach. I have such high ideals of love and forgiveness. And yet, I sometimes have to face down old demons. Can we love our demons without embracing them and letting them run amok among the hills and valleys of our strange lives? Can we protect and respect ourselves without building walls around our hearts? Can we forgive, though our memories are tenacious and our tendency to chew on old bones is strong?

One late night in Sarasota, my phone rang and a ghost of friendships past spoke up from the other end of the line. My old instinct to repair and forgive kicked in and I found myself dressing in the unseasonable cold we had, preparing to revisit a relationship long dead. It started off ok, but then it spiraled down quickly and suddenly we were sorting through the ashes of the past for old reasons and explanations, placing old blame, and I realized that there was no point. Forgiveness, in order to be bestowed, must first be asked for, and apologies made, and it was clear that no such request would be forthcoming, so I said goodbye again and closed the door on that crypt for good.

It seems to be that old loves were on the menu right as Venus wrapped up her retrograde, and I drove across the state and through and enchanted bower of old Florida forest and finally found myself in the company of someone who once might have laid claim to my heart, but in my years in New York, he chose another heart to call his own. Though time, I thought, had shown us how to be more than simply former lovers, years also reveal where things break down and old bonds, once their forging is forgotten, oxidize in the atmosphere of other attachments and desires, of conflicting goals and comprehensions of what it means to be bonded to another, even in friendship. This is something harder to close the door on, but what do you do when the hinges begin to rust and no one is getting what they want from the old bonds anymore?

I had another scare two nights before I left Sarasota: mom’s dog, Skeeter, followed me outside and didn’t seem inclined to go back in, so I let him ramble in the front yard for a bit, thinking he’d tap at the door as usual when he was ready to go in. But an hour later we couldn’t find him. Mom was in a panic because he is elderly now and can’t hear well. Earlier in my trip, when mom and I were visiting my Aunt in Miami, my grandmother called to say Skeeter had wandered off and she’d found him under a bush, seemingly unable to walk.

I had planned to be headed back to New York by now – what if my thoughtless action led to Skeeter’s death?? That night it rained lightly and I climbed down from my studio tower to call to him, in hopes the drizzle would entice him to the porch, but he didn’t show. I envisioned mom finding his still golden form curled somewhere the next morning and prayed for his return.

The next morning – another grey day in Sarasota – I awoke to find that Skeeter had returned, tired, but safe. He snoozed in the living room that day as I finished my submission for a creative writing MFA in the city.

I headed north the following morning and drove back to New York with a pit stop in North Carolina, to see my friend Mary Caton and her husband.

dromedary cloud en route

dromedary cloud en route

I took blue highways through Pennsylvania and marveled at farmhouses and rolling fields, snow-covered, all the way back to Manhattan, where I parked eventually on the west side of Midtown and joined my friend Silvia’s birthday party in progress at a Cuban restaurant with a live band.

The next day I modeled for a drawing session and then pulled my usual shift at the Beauty Bar. In between, I went to my cousin’s apartment in Brooklyn Heights, where we celebrated my soon-to-be second cousin – or is it first cousin once removed?¬† Then I had a few days to recover from all the traveling before Fashion Week saw me working long hours in the Lexus Lounge – which I heard got a write up in the New York Times.

runway show at milk studios

runway show at milk studios

All week I was with a tight crew of coworkers and clients – many of whom I worked with in September at the last Fashion Week.

the boys of the lexus lounge

the boys of the lexus lounge

The final night culminated with a late runway show and a party, after which I was totally worn out and it was all I could do to get myself home, though I did allow some time to shake it with a curly-haired Chilean coworker at the underground party in the basement of Milk Studios. Meanwhile, snow shows no sign of stopping its dropping upon us, and gusting winds forbid wanton wandering out of doors. I caught my customary post-fashion week cold like clockwork, but this time managed to frighten it away with loads of water and bed rest.

Now one must simply wait for winter to exhaust her supply of nastiness and let spring begin to unfurl her pale green tendrils and bring us all back to life.

A few nights ago, I awoke from thirst at some point in the early morning and saw the huge peach moon again peeking in at me, this time clearly in the act of setting, throwing her faint orange glow onto my window frames, the light before dawn, pale but beautiful in its delicacy.

I didn’t want to stop staring, but sleep again overtook me and escorted me through the dark underbelly of the night and produced me into the light of another strange day.

Love and miss,

Kira

Turn the Page

I mostly eschew New Year’s Eve. Although I am a sucker for the culminating scene in “When Harry Met Sally,” in which Billy Crystal runs across Manhattan to find his lady love by the stroke of midnight and ask her to marry him. But aside from movies – and even including most of those – New Year’s celebrations are a shit show, if you’ll pardon my French (do the French know we associate them with blue language and tongue kissing? Not to mention cute little bulldogs? I wonder.).

Perhaps the problem with New Year’s Eve in North America is that it has no deeper association than the purchasing of a new calendar (those who are still archaic enough to use paper products) and the consumption of lots of booze (people are rarely too old-fashioned for booze). As much booze as possible. After all, it is a New Year and a new chance to sleep with a stranger or get in a drunken fight with your best friend or blackout at some point. It is definitely a chance to walk in uncomfortable shoes and wake up with a mouth that tastes roughly like you sucked on ticker-tape marinated in the juices of Times Square at midnight. Not that any of those things ever happened to me. . .

There is nothing holy about this holiday in modern western culture. Other cultures have a more ritualized and spiritualized approach to the New Year – as in Brazil, where I admired their true enthusiasm for the holiday – and I just discovered that the ritual is for a goddess. On December 31 in Brazil, they celebrate not only the New Year, but also the sea goddess Yemena – a transplant who came with Nigerian slaves to the New World – to whom they throw garlands and for whom they wear white and light candles. It all makes so much sense. We have no god or goddess for the New Year. The closest we get is a cartoon of Father Time, skeletal, scythe in hand, and Baby New Year, rosy cheeked dressed in nothing but a red sash. In ancient times, it was Inanna, who was rebirthed after her holy journey at the solstice, her voyage to the Great Below. One of the longest observed and holiest of times of the year, and we let it pass with nothing but a superficial nod to improving our health. Although I do think that a yearly review of what we have done and accomplished is its own ritual of sorts.

I chanced across a movie last March (2013, how full of hotel rooms you were) in a hotel room in South India. It was a rainy, humid night and I was minimally clothed and keeping still so as to sweat less. My windows were open, despite the fact that I’d seen a family of athletic looking and sharp-toothed monkeys not far from my balcony earlier that day. And suddenly on the opposite side of the world I am watching “New Year’s Eve” or some similarly called tripe of a movie on an ancient TV set. It was made in the style of “Love Actually,” not my personal favorite format for a movie – too many plot lines and too many actors and a weak script and shallow, predictably zany characters who fall in love with each other at a word and then don’t meet again until – you guessed it – NYE. But strange nonetheless to see New York, the home I’d left nearly eight months before, looking so very familiar and foreign all at once. It didn’t make me want to be there for New Year’s eve, (it was already past, anyway) but it did make me miss it a bit, and think about going back. Pine for those I’d left behind there and all the trappings of the life I changed when I left in 2012 to follow my sister’s memory to Burning Man and beyond. In truth, it was something like dying myself. I took very little with me, I traveled (mostly) alone. To paraphrase Inanna, I turned my eyes to the East.

There are times in our lives when one door closes and leaves us to wait for another to open, like when you get to subway platform just in time for the doors to close in your face. What might that 5 minute difference have meant to you? Some people think that each choice we make creates another version of reality in which we’d made the opposite choice – if only we could visit those other realities and taste the strange flavors of different decisions. Until a couple of months before I left New York – more like six weeks, really – I had no intention of coming back after my trip. I’d move elsewhere – maybe the west coast. But then I unexpectedly met someone who made me reconsider. My plan to leave had been in place since April and I’d been planning to quit my job for two years and to go to Burning Man since Erika died there the previous year. And yet now something pulled me back to the city like a magnet, a moth to a flame. I made my way back, eventually, but turns out the flame I found so irresistible had been snuffed. Do dreams have a statute of limitations? Do cities? Do hearts?

This year I happily abstained from New Year’s Eve in the city for the sixth year – which is every year I have lived in New York. I don’t mind missing the frenzy of partying that happens in NYC at the drop of a hat, anyway (never mind a giant crystal ball), which I participated in to some extent at Halloween this year. (I missed blogging about Halloween, because it was my birthday and I met an amazing artist visiting from Spain, Juan Zamora, and we went on an impromptu adventure to Niagara and Toronto just in time for the Rob Ford to get caught on video smoking crack. It was all very memorable).

So I stayed in Sarasota again, where I’ve been keeping to my old quarters in my grandmother’s sculpture studio. I have spent many years in this town having anticlimactic NYEs, so this year I stayed home with my mother and grandmother, aunt and uncle, and we had a bonfire in the back yard and I played some songs for them and we drank pink bubbles in honor of my sweet sissy. My stint with the Elysian Fields’ goddesses is finished for now and now the real vacation begins. Mom and I will go for a camping trip in the Keys and a visit to my Aunt Elisabeth next week and in the meanwhile I am playing music and writing and enjoying the weather. I see my friend John and my friend Lara and otherwise, feel no great need to socialize. I’ve barely seen my sister, Skye, who is off with her boyfriend, and the kids are still with their dad for another couple of days before they come back to town.

It turns out it takes a long time to return to the land of the living when you’ve descended to the depths. It is hard to believe it is a year and a half since I left New York and now it has been 10 months since I returned. What happened to the other me, the one who stayed behind in New York in a parallel reality? It is hard to imagine. I am reminded of so many stories of subterranean depths: Inanna, Persephone, Orpheus. In all of them, a price must be paid for the insight earned: one does not enter the gates of death and leave them without leaving a part of oneself behind. Frequently, the price paid for re-entry into the Great Above is to lose someone beloved. For Orpheus, his trip into the underworld after Eurydice is successful in that he emerges alive, but her soul is the price of his inability to follow directions – to act on faith. While in Hades, he meets Persephone, who was similarly stolen away from the bright world to the underworld by the lord of that realm. It is her sympathy that convinces Hades to allow the lovers to leave – on the condition that Orpheus goes on ahead and doesn’t look back to see if his love is truly behind him. Guess what he does?

In Inanna’s case, she dies and is revived by the water and food of life, but death will not be cheated and demands that she send someone to take her place when she returns to the upper world. She will not send away those who were loyal to her, but then she sees that her husband has not mourned or missed her, but has taken her throne and seems oblivious to her absence. She decides that he will go to the Great Below in her place, though his sister, out of love, asks to split the time with him, so that he may return for part of the year, to bring back fertility in time for spring, symbolized by the two lovers’ annual reunion.

In fact, the Jewish tradition of the wailing wall on the Temple Mount is handed down from the ancient tradition of weeping and mourning for Inanna’s husband on his descent into the underworld: Hebrew women in the bible were chastised for this practice, as it was a facet of the Goddess religion which was predominant in the land of Canaan before it was conquered by Kind David. But – voila – change it into “weeping for the loss of the temple” and no problem – keep on a-wailin’! (It seems to me that most Judeo-Christian traditions and holidays are just remnants of more ancient festivities: if you can’t beat ’em, join ’em (and maybe murder ’em, too)!

I digress. It is just that the older I get, the more western religious traditions seems hokey and made-up and self-serving, the more curious I am to peer behind the facade of modern traditions and into their ancient roots. I appreciate how pagan religions reflect and enshrine the earth and natural phenomena – as above, so below – rather than projecting man-made black-and-white constructions of Good and Evil onto everything. Even the dark Queen of the Underworld – Inanna’s sister – is a reflection of her: they are one and the same. Not only that, but pre-Christian traditions actually incorporate women! Imagine that – the “fairer sex” as more than a vile temptress or the virginal vessel for some more important dude. . .

Though I didn’t do much for the New Year this year, I celebrated the solstice by making lists of what I’d like to let go of¬† and what I want to bring into my life. I’m not much for resolutions, but one thing about rebuilding yourself from the inside out is, the original flaws in the old construction become obvious. I’ve lived in a sort of murky jello for the last 18¬† months – suspended between hope and fear, between mourning and embracing life again, between my old beliefs and the new reality.

I long for the old clarity I used to feel. I mourn for the me who ceased to be when I quit the city before. Perhaps this year’s return to New York has just been another step in my journey into the past and what was lost. Perhaps 2014 will lead me to greener pastures.

How little we know.

Love and miss,

Kira

Snowbird

Well, it’s official: I’m a snowbird. Tomorrow morning I’ll commence the journey southward, Florida-ward, not to return till January is nearly in the rearview. I can’t deny that I’m looking forward to escaping the winter for a time. It’s been a cold winter thus far in the city and I’m ready for vitamin D and family time. Tomorrow I’ll aim for Hillsborough, North Carolina and the charming little abode of M.C. and her little budding family. Then it’s on toward Sarasota, where I’ll work the Christmas week at Elysian Fields, to my delight.

I’ve been helping out at the design office, running Christmassy errands and gluing golden buttons and ribbon onto red toy soldier hats. In between that and modeling, plus the occasional catering shift and manicures at the Beauty Bar, I’ve been working away on illustrating the story I wrote about my sister Erika last fall in California.

erika soars

erika soars

the man

the man

spark

sparks

 

It’s fun to visualize the story and it is good to have an outlet for the powerful feelings that this time of year invariably engenders. The anniversary of my uncle’s death combined with the all-permeating lack of Erika makes the run up to the holidays something of a crescendo of mourning, though it is always mediated with the sweetness of seeing family and friends. Erika loved Christmas and we all feel her absence increasingly once the summer fades with Labor Day weekend – which was her last. As mom says, she never missed a Christmas with the family. I suppose I have yet to get into the spirit, though the season is all around. I can’t help but wish I was planning a trip to Brazil, as Erika and I did a few years ago, as it turned out, on the last New Year she’d celebrate.

sisters in rio - 2010/2011

sisters in rio – 2010/2011

Yesterday I went to the Beauty Bar to set up for my typical shift, when I realized the bar was colonized by a horde of santas, drunken, shoving into the already impossibly packed space. I managed to set up my table and do a couple of manicures before the end of my shift. I celebrated for one last glass (plastic cup) of prosecco in 2013 and headed home to work and rest and recover from all the santas.

The day has faded swiftly and I still have much to do before I leave tomorrow. I’m looking forward to a season of Elysian Fields, beaches, music, family. And I’ve already got an appointment with an artist about my tribute tattoo to Erika.

tattoo design

tattoo design

Well, I’d better get packing.

Love and miss,

Kira

 

Escape from NY

Ok, I’ve been on a little sabbatical from the blog, in part because I took some time off from the city at the end of June, and in part because I have had a lot going on! I’ll start with the sojourn I took back to several homelands, and finally back to the city I call home.

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my convoluted route

Just after the Super Moon of the end of June, I awoke before dawn to hie myself to the subway and then to the airtrain and finally to JFK airport. I cut it pretty close, since my flight was leaving at 7:30, but I got there in the nick of time to check my bag, grab a bagel, and board the plane for Tampa Airport.

My flight was direct, oh blessings, and my sister picked me up from the airport. We had quite the trip ahead of us, as we planned to go to Miami to visit my Aunt Elisabeth and take her to dinner as an early birthday present. We drove down to Sarasota for a brief pow-wow with my grandmother and then onward to Miami, about a 4-hour drive from SRQ. We got there in the early evening and weeded her yard and did the little things around the house which she can no longer take care of easily herself. Then we went out for dinner at a cute Italian place where they brought out the sugar-free cake we’d brought her¬† and we all sang “Happy Birthday.” Though she says she doesn’t care about birthday, we were glad to show her a little fun.

Aunt E

Aunt E

Aunt E with the Nieces

Aunt E with me n my sissy

We headed back to Sarasota that evening around 10 and it was a tough drive, since I’d only gotten a few hours of sleep the night before, but I made it with the help of gas station coffee and we got to Skye’s little beach bungalow around 2 am, where I promptly passed out on the couch. Unfortunately, I had to wake up early the next morning to help Skye return the rental car.

I had a couple of days in Sarasota to spend with my grandmother and sister, indulge in a little beach action, and go through my car, which was full of books and belongings from my last sojourn to the west coast in the fall of 2012.

beached on Siesta Key

beached on Siesta Key

I reorganized and repacked. Skye and I planned to go out with our friend Lara, who had been one of our sister Erika’s best friends for years. We went to the Ritz for happy hour and enjoyed a lovely sunset.

with my sissy and Lara

with my sissy and Lara

sunset over the bay

sunset over the bay

The next morning I finished my packing and made the rounds in Sarasota, stopping by Elysian Fields to see my former coworkers there before commencing part one (or 1.3) of my massive roadtrip.

me n Mutti - saying farewell for now

me n Mutti – saying farewell for now

I made it as far as Montgomery before I had to stop for the night and found a little locally owned hotel to stay in. The next morning I got up and continued on my way to Northwest Arkansas, the land of my birth. I made it sometime that afternoon and was happily reunited with my parents and my niece and nephew, who were staying with my folks for a few weeks before spending the summer with their dad’s parents in Ohio.

The house in Arkansas was about the same as always, dusty and full of life – all sorts of life, from dogs and cats to the multitude of spiders who had, rather disturbingly, colonized the trashcan right by the head of what was to be my bed. I slept on the couch, instead. Mom’s best friend from college had also chosen that day to arrive for a visit with her young grandson, Cade, and her troll-like snorting pugdog, so we had four dogs, two cats, and three kiddos – quite the full house!

That Friday night, I had plans to meet up with my good friend Dannelle, with whom I had the chicken pox when I was little. Her mom used to babysit me when my parents were hard at work at the bakeries and we pretty much grew up together until she moved to the next town over and we no longer went to the same school.  We had a fun night on the town in Eureka Springs and got some yummy breakfast in the morning.

Then I went to join my best friend from high school, Jake and his family for an outing on their boat on Beaver Lake, just outside of Eureka Springs.

me n jake

Me n Jake – Beaver Lake – I swear I’m wearing bottoms!

with Jake's sissy, Jessica

with Jake’s sissy, Jessica, and her daughter, Journey

It was a beautiful day on the lake, and great to be with people who were like my second family in high school. I’m not sure when I last got to hang out with the whole gang, but I felt very lucky indeed!

That night, Jake was playing a show in Fayetteville and my other best friend from high school was having a birthday party, but in the end I had to take a break from driving and just stayed home and caught up on sleep.

Sunday I went to church and saw all of my friendly church family and watched the kids put on their song and dance from Vacation Bible School, which my niece and nephew had attended the week before. Though we didn’t have a lot of real family in the Ozarks, we had no shortage of adopted family, mostly people at my church, and it is always a pleasure to see them.

We met up that afternoon at the King’s River with Gayle and Cade and my friend Dannelle joined us, too. The kids enjoyed splashing in the water while us adults waded in and then chatted on the banks about this and that, watching the youngsters frolic.

The next day mom and the kids and I set off for an adventure on the Buffalo River, one of northwest Arkansas’ treasures. We loaded up the kayaks with our camping gear and dropped off one car at the end-spot and then got on the river.

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luckily, the babies had hatched long before we disturbed this nest in one of mom’s kayaks

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IMG_2197set to cooking

It rained a bit, mostly threatened to, but didn’t follow through with it, and we pulled over on a nice long sand spit and Cameron and I found a good place for us to make camp and gathered wood for our fire. Cam and I worked on our stone skipping, but he certainly surpasses my skills. I remember the time when my uncle Flip taught him how to skip rocks when he was younger – maybe 5 or 6? Though Cam probably can’t recall him very well, it is nice to think that something of my dear departed uncle was passed down to the next generation. I’m sure he’d have taught Cam to juggle if he’d had the time.

Mom pitched the tents with our help and with our camp set up we set to making dinner. I built the fire and set to cooking dinner while the kids cavorted in the water and mom organized our camp. Dinner was delish – veggie burgers for me, sausages for everyone else. Mom popped some jiffy pop as an appetizer, with only a few minor setbacks, and she and I sipped her traditional “sundowners”: wine mixed with sprite and lime.

After dinner we cleaned up and played dominoes for a bit in Cam’s tent before I read them a bedtime story and we all trundled off to dreamland.

Cam got up first in the morning, apparently having been disturbed by a leaking cooler in the night. We set to making the fire back up and I cooked up eggs and veggies and sausage patties for brekkers. Mom made us some coffee and the kids had hot chocolate. Then we packed up our gear and got on the river.

brekkers

brekkers

our pretty plates

our pretty plates

lovely mama

lovely mama

It was a perfect day for a paddle and we made lazy progress down the green river, stopping to swim and explore whenever our hearts desired. We had lunch by a clear spring that feeds into the river and the kids enjoyed jumping off a rock into the water.

cute kiddos

cute kiddos

Cam n me, camouflaged

Cam n me, camouflaged

IMG_2232

IMG_2233

We got to the endpoint by the afternoon and mom and I went to pick up the other truck with Cate while Cam stayed to pull the kayaks from the water and unload them.

We packed them into the truck and started back to Green Forest, with a stop along the way for fireworks.

Cate and I dropped by Dad’s beer store for a visit and said hello to spotty hound dog, Spanky, who keeps him company there. Not to mention his multitude of birds. Then home we went, back to the house of my upbringing. I planned to leave early the next day and needed to spend the afternoon packing and searching for a journal I’d misplaced last November when I left Arkansas for Florida. I hoped it was there somewhere, but I was yet to find it. Finally, in my search for one of our childhood books, East o the Sun, West o the Moon, I found my journal on one of Erika’s old book shelves, camouflaged with other tomes. I was overjoyed, as were mom and dad who had been searching for it ever since I realized it was missing.

We made dinner that night and the kids and I set off fireworks on mom’s party patio – it has been her labor of love since Erika’s death, now nearly two years ago, which is hard to believe.

IMG_2237

sparkler

I got up around 5:30 the next morning for my eastward departure. Dad came down to check my oil and make sure I was good to go. Kissed him and mom goodbye and roused the kids just enough to say I love yous, and off I scampered, a full thermos of coffee and a cooler of snacks at the ready.

The drive to Hillsborough was long and arduous with rain. I didn’t make it there till around midnight, with the time change, but I made it without incident, which is always a good thing. Except my speedometer stopped working for a while, but that is just what it does sometimes. MC and her husband, Eric, welcomed me to their little house with snacks and beer and chit chat before we all succumbed to sleepiness and called in a night.

The next day was the 4th of July and MC and I spent a lazy morning having breakfast on her porch and catching up. I gave them their wedding present and they were both delighted with it, to my delight. After lunch we made our way to the house of some friends of there for food and fireworks.

me n Eric over the torrential river where we celebrated July 4th

me n Eric over the torrential river where we celebrated July 4th

MC and friends

MC and friends

IMG_3102

jammin

jammin

Everything went off without a hitch, except the grilled pizza, which MC and I were counting on, as vegetarians. Also it rained at one point and then darkness descended and no one had, apparently, brought lanterns. Efforts to cook were scratched and MC and I went hungry. (The chef got too drunk and tossed several nearly finished pies from the bridge into the swollen river below! Tragedy!). I also had a hot pizza tossed onto my hand, which left several burns on my wrist and hand, which seem to be scarring. I guess it isn’t the 4th of July without a few alcohol fueled injuries. At least no one died ūüôā

On the way home from that party we stopped by the Bevel Summers house (the band I met back in May in New York). We partied with them for a bit and MC and Eric went home, leaving me to chill with the band for the rest of the night, which was mucho fun.

The next day I was meeting up with my friend Susanne to head back to NYC. MC and I had a nice breakfast together and I readied my belongings to take off on the final leg of the trip.

I picked up Susanne in the afternoon and we drove back to the city to commence our so-called High School Summer. The drive up was fun and relatively quick, compared to my other stretches.

We got to the city around 2 a.m. and I slept on her couch before heading home the next day.

Since I returned from my sojourn, I’ve been catching up with catering gigs, painting nails at the fabulous Beauty Bar, and occasionally figure modeling for drawing classes. I’ve recorded a couple of songs, which can be heard here and here.

It has taken some time to get all my odds and ends reintegrated: my book collection increased, with samplings from my big sister’s horde of paperbacks.

As part of the aforementioned High School Summer, Susanne and I have been going on some adventures, but that’s another blog entirely, and will wait for another day.

Love and miss,

Kira

home again, home again

i¬†made it at last! after the sweat lodge on sunday in crestone, we enjoyed a meal prepared by nicholas, another arkansan¬†far from his motherland. he’s even from the ozarks!

in the morning i¬†awoke to say goodbye to the kids and loaded up the rav¬†one last time. it had been so cold that all fluids and a bag of tomatoes had frozen – probably repeatedly – as had the power steering fluid, apparently. she warmed up, though and was just fine (for the moment – dun-dun DUN!) (that’s foreshadowing music). she’s a trooper. we said goodbye to chris¬†and andrea¬†and i was sorry to leave their lovely home, full of life: pet rats and mice, two funny kids, and a visiting puppy dressed in a jacket made from the end of a pair of sweatpants. aw!

i¬†followed deborah, the other woman who had been staying with andrea¬†and chris¬†that weekend, out of town¬†and into the mountains to the north where there was a natural hot springs. it was a clear day, but chilly and it was with trepidation and shivers that i¬†disrobed and tiptoed to the first pool. it was in the wood, steam rising from the water, diffusing the morning sunlight. submerged, the water was warm and comfortable and deborah¬†and i¬†chatted. she is about my mother’s age, but her way of life reminds me of my own: she has been transient, wandering, for four years now. once she lived in asheville in a community she helped to build around a sort of holistic lifestyle, but she had moved on and kept moving.

nice how one can feel an instant kinship when traveling, seemingly randomly, but not necessarily so. we tried out the swimming pool and talked a while longer, but i began to get antsy to get on the road and said my farewell.

i¬†was driving east toward oklahoma¬†when i¬†noticed that my car popped out of gear. strange, i¬†thought – did i¬†bump the stick? but no, it appeared that after 9,000 some-odd miles, the rav’s¬†5th gear had gone kaput. i¬†drove the rest of the way to oklahoma city in 4th gear, hoping everything would be ok. which it was.

i¬†got to my friend havilah’s house around 12:45 am – much later than intended, but all in one piece.

next day i¬†went to lunch with my friend angela¬†and caught up for the first time since i¬†moved away from okc¬†in 2006 to ramble around india. we went to the red cup, my old favorite spot. i¬†stopped back by havilah’s before leaving town for the final leg of this journey: the 5 hours back to green forest. i am lucky to have so many awesome friends scattered about the country.

i¬†am also one of those fortunate people who was taken home from the hospital when i¬†was born to the house that my parents still call home. this is a mixed blessing. on one hand, the adage¬†that you can’t go home again does not apply: clearly, i can. on the other hand, my mother and i¬†seem to revert to our high school dynamic of yesteryear, each ruffling the others’ feathers somehow moreso¬†than when we are elsewhere. this is just one of the dangers of being home, and perhaps why i¬†don’t go there more often. regardless, i¬†love being there, with mom and dad, the dogs, the cats. mom has been working on a new firepit in the back yard and we tried it out more than once. very successful!

i also got the chance to see my childhood best friend, dannelle, whose mother used to babysit me. it had been since high school that we had seen each other, but some people you will always get along well with. we had fun in eureka springs Рthe only place hip enough in carroll county to have bars one might actually want to patronize.

as nice as it was to be home, i¬†didn’t have a lot of time to relax there, since we planned to head out of town¬†for florida early the week after i¬†arrived. we had a party to inaugurate the firepit on the sunday night before we left. it was a lovely affair with tiki torches and yummy food and pleasant company – not to mention dogs romping and of course some boozy concoctions.

the next day was a whirlwind of packing and cleaning and the following morning, bright and early – or rather, so early it was still dark – we rolled out of green forest and made our way down that familiar sequence of highways toward alabama, where we would stay the night with mom’s college roommate and good friend, gayle.

we had a jolly pre-thanksgiving thanksgiving with gayle and her grandson, cade. next day we set off again, intent on making it to sarasota. my aunt and uncle were already there and thanksgiving was the following day. i visited my sister and her kids and we had a fun evening of watching netflix and just hanging out. i got to read my niece the book i bought her last christmas about a winged kangaroo!

thanksgiving was as festive and full of food as always, though we had a notable dearth of pies this year, compared to my father’s typical zest for making more pies than people in attendance. this year, he kept it under control with 4 pies in addition to the turkey and sides and his signature spaghetti bread.

but all those holiday preparations were just the tip of the iceberg, since we were planning to celebrate my grandmother’s 90th birthday on saturday. mom and skye¬†worked hard on the food and we all helped with decorations. my grandmother, mutti, likes bright colors, and we festooned her lovely house with garlands and colorful paper fans. the party was a big hit and mutti had friends and grandchildren, great grandchildren, a niece, a cake shaped like the succulents she loves. it brought everyone there joy to be with her to celebrate the first 90 years of her very special life.

saturday night i¬†went out to the shamrock, sarasota’s¬†current most popular hole in the wall, and was happy to run into some friends from my previous sabbaticals¬†in srq¬†(that’s the airport call-letters for sarasota and a shorthand for referring to the town). sarasota is, in many ways, the home town that green forest could never be for me. for one thing, most of my friends here are people i met as an adult. for another, most of them are still unmarried and as-yet childless, like myself, and therefore like going out to bars. i can only imagine going to the one bar on the green forest square. not that imagining it is something i would want to do.

sunday i got to meet up with my friend lara – a wonderful woman who was friends and coworkers with my sister erika back when she lived in sarasota for a few years. they always remained close and i am fortunate to have become close friends with lara as well. seeing her is always a treat.

so what now? that is the big question. i have crossed the country from east to west and back again. with christmas coming on, i’ll stay in the sun and hope to plot the next step of this adventure i like to call my life.

suggestions? ūüôā

love and miss,

kira