Thursday, March 29, 2012

I'm not embarrassed.

phone, 2012

One of those very scraggly, yet entirely confident, hipsters rang up my groceries today. She asked me if I was on my way home or to work. I said both. She said, oh, home and then work? I said no, home is work, although I do need a better chair. She very soberly said work and play should be separate. I said they are, mentally. She smiled disapprovingly and handed me my receipt.

I wondered if she had a point. Is working from home a bad idea, like driving a car while texting?

I do generally believe in doing one thing at a time. Earlier today I read this article (Thanks, Chris), confirming much of what I already believed.

After the article, and before the grocery store, I was pulling together a few things to go out for some coffee, writing, and a little Mark Strand (Thanks, Ann). No, not all at the same time. Well, actually I did plan to drink the coffee while writing. And I sometimes talk to my father on my cell phone while I'm walking. Nothing is ever black and white...

I do work from home, but I do not do all of my work from home. I also transform cafes, libraries, park benches, beaches, and community gardens into writing spaces. Sometimes I stand on a curb. And there is the corporate work, in the Financial District. But almost everything I do on my laptop is done at home.

So anyway, as I was preparing to do some work outside of the home I noticed my cell phone on the kitchen table and thought goodbye. I won't take you along today. I'll walk out the door without you, completely free from digital distraction. This relic of a phone has such minimal capability most would not see it as a devise qualified to distract. It has been out of date for quite some time now.

My husband has an iPhone. My parents are completely up-to-date with their shiny new phones. I don't think I know anyone with a phone like mine. Maybe this is why I like it.

A few years back I was out for cocktails with some friends when I pulled my phone from my handbag to check my messages (someone was late, possibly lost). A rather straightforward friend of mine yelped Denise! For God's sake. Get a new phone. That thing is embarrassing!

Embarrassment is not why I make purchases.

I didn't take my phone (yes, that same old phone) out with me today and I hesitate in buying a phone with more progressive technology because I don't enjoy constant connection. I don't want to be linked up with every single person I know at every moment of the day. I was slow to warm to the cell phone in general. I originally embraced it as a tool for emergencies, to be kept in my car.

I don't own a Kindle, yet. But I might, one day. I do read articles and poetry, watch movies, and do many other things on my laptop. I'm obviously far from being a Luddite. I tweet, I pin, I blog.

But I continue to write in pencil and transfer what I like to my laptop, later. It is what works for me, for now. I have no desire to tote my laptop around or confine myself to my apartment for peak efficiency. I feel a certain freedom and lightness when I walk out into the fresh air with only a pencil and paper.

That being said, it could all change.

I haven't shot film in ages. I really should finish that ancient roll of black & white film I have in my dad's old SLR. The last time I was in a darkroom shunning photographers using digital cameras, sheesh, it has been about five years now. And those days beneath a big black cloth, exposing large negatives, they are even further back.

I now treasure a banged up little digital camera I originally borrowed to make test shots before exposing large format negatives. It's not perfect, but it allows manipulation of film speed setting, lighting, and exposure. It has been good to me and has served me well as a camera for my thoughts.

I read this poem after writing the above, saw a connection, and thought I'd share it with you.

Old Man Leaves Party by Mark Strand

Monday, March 26, 2012

The March

Monday, 2012

There is a small San Francisco library branch with large arched windows and a very nice wedding cake like ceiling. I'm here right now. Four books I'd requested have arrived at once. This was not planned. Just a week ago I returned all but one of my library books. I believed it was a waiting stack of books that gave my reading that terrible marching feeling. I don't enjoy marching.

Shari has recently been sharing spring manifestos written by some of her friends. They've been inspiring. I like reading manifestos, but shrink at the thought of writing my own. It seems too grand, too serious. The moment I commit to something of this sort I seem to lose my will.

I tried, again, last year. I was very easy on myself. Still, the result was disappointing. Reading Lisa's manifesto yesterday, and her lighthearted attitude toward it, brought out the optimist in me. I started thinking that it wasn't such a big deal. I should just make it fun, like Lisa. Not take it too seriously.

So my idea (trying to trick myself by not calling it a manifesto) is simple, a subtle behavioral shift I believe will yield big results.

End the march.

There seems to be a nasty little march I break into, without warning. It can begin at just about any time -- marching up a hill with groceries, marching through email, marching through a phone call, marching through cleaning beneath the kitchen sink. I can even march while writing.

Clearly, the march does not always involve walking. It is a state of mind, an abrupt and determined way of moving and thinking.

Turning a task that needn't feel forced to be accomplished into a forced march isn't a pleasant way to move through life. It is a behavior that can suck the fun out of anything, and requires such laborious focus it removes me from all present surroundings not specifically related to the task at hand.

I know I won't be able to stop it from starting. It's too sneaky.

The good news is that I've found I only need to notice it to bring it to a halt and shift into a more steady and relaxed state of mind, see things through a new lens, slow my breathing, feel my jaw unclench, and peacefully take a look at what is around me. Seriously. This isn't dramatized. It happens that quickly.

I just did it now. The march snuck up on me as I was writing and I decided no no no. And there was the wedding cake ceiling, the trees and blue sky beyond the arched glass, the glowing acorn light fixtures suspended above, and the the shelves of books.

I read one of Mark Strand's poems and have decided to read one of Ms. Simpson's short stories, knowing I have other books at home, and much else to do today, but also knowing it can all get done. No need to bring anxiety into the picture. No need to clench the jaw.

Today I am one of only two library visitors without computers, yet I don't hear keyboards. I hear the distant sound of a paper cutter and a man turning pages of a newspaper.

Thursday, March 22, 2012

tiny discoveries (episode 2)

Morning, March, 2012

place noun

1 a : physical environment : space

I have found the following are what set the mood and create the infrastructure for how I exist in a place.


definition via Merriam-Webster

Saturday, March 17, 2012


The Pond, 2012

He wakes like toast. Straight up without pause. I am far more meandering, more of a slow-cooked egg.

I imagine his daydreams are closer to home than mine, related in some way to his task at hand. But I have no evidence. He doesn't tell me about them.

Mine are odd floating daydreams, frequently simple objects drifting above and past me, just skimming my peripheral vision. Often food. Yesterday I saw the Good Humor strawberry shortcake ice cream bar of my childhood pass by, and later a plate of poached salmon, green beans, and new potatoes with dill.

I told him what I saw. I don't believe it changed his opinion of me.

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

tiny discoveries (episode 1)

March 13, 2012

It is amazing how hand squeezing a single grapefruit for juice can make one feel centered.

Monday, March 12, 2012

I'm home.

Souvenirs from Guido's, 2012

Our suitcases are still full. Empty Chinese take-out containers rest on our coffee table. Chris left for his office in the early morning dark. I'm transitioning. Chris is so much better with transitions than I am. Evidence? I dipped ak-mak crackers into cottage cheese for breakfast this morning. My kitchen table is set with a generous handful of Sicilian oregano and a box of camomile flower tea. Two Italian imports brought to me via Scottsdale (Thanks, Mom). I'm admiring both and contemplating what's next. My laptop is lined with tabs of articles and recipes and bird identification sites I want to return to. There are characters waiting to be read and written. Everything feels out of order this morning, but it doesn't bring distress. I'm sure a good cup of coffee and some writing will help things fall into place, or at least allow me the temporary illusion that they are so.

What are you up to today?