It’s been a long day

It’s like watching a zoo animal circle its cage.

For the first time, she realizes that being alone is a contradiction in terms.

Even in a body’s most private moments, something else joins in.

~ Richard Powers, from “Trunk” in The Overstory: A Novel


Notes:

Saturday Morning

– You know what I like to hear most?
– What?
– Solid quiet. Perfect unbroken quiet.

– Tennessee Williams, from “Cat on a Hot Tin Roof


Photo: Anna Heimkreiter Photography with Give It Time. Quote: Violent Waves of Emotion

5 days. Solo in Paris.

Months before I arrived at the little hotel with its red geraniums, I was in Paris on an assignment for the Travel section of the New York Times. I had five days and a headline: “Solo in Paris.” The story was up to me.

To find it, I went walking. Each morning I left my hotel in the 9th arrondissement, just east of the apartment where Proust wrote much of Remembrance of Things Past, and didn’t return until I had gone some twenty miles in whichever direction whim and croissants (and olive fougasse and pistachio financiers) took me. It was April, and like any tourist I saw monuments and statues, naked nymphs, and gods among the roses. But alone, with no one at my side, I was also able to see le merveilleux quotidien, “the marvelous in everyday life”: a golden retriever gazing at a café chalkboard in Montmartre, as if reading the daily specials; boxes of pâtes de fruits arranged in grids like Gerhard Richter’s color charts. The city had my full attention; I was attuned to the faint whir of bicycle wheels and the scent of peaches at the street market.

Although I was traveling without friends or family, each day brought passing companions: bakers, maître d’s, museum greeters, shopkeepers, fellow travelers. The hours were unhurried and entirely mine, like the “limitless solitude” the poet Rilke described in a letter to a friend; “this taking each day like a life-time, this being-with-everything.”

Only, it wasn’t a lifetime—it was five days. On the last morning, I slipped through a gate on rue de Rivoli into the Tuileries. Sprinklers flung water into the air. A man with a wheelbarrow bent over a bed of long-stemmed tulips. John Russell, the British art critic, once wrote that the rue de Rivoli seemed to say to mankind, “This is what life can be . . . and now it’s up to you to live it.” That’s what those days in Paris said to me. I wondered when, or if, I’d see the tulips again.

On assignment, I would play detective; partake of everything, get up early, record the details, do the things that felt strange and uncomfortable. But the assignment was over. Months passed and back in New York, the days grew shorter. Yet my head was still in Paris. It wasn’t a matter of missing cream confections flirting in the windows of boulangeries. I missed who I was in Paris—the other me, Stéphanie with the accent on the “e”: curious, improvisational, open to serendipity.

Finally, I took a long weekend to think about why I couldn’t let go of that particular assignment, why alone in Paris time seemed to be on my side; why my senses pricked up; why I was able to delight in the smallest of things and yet failed to see and feel with such intensity at home. Friends loaned me their empty house near a bay on Long Island where on an autumn afternoon I stepped off a bus with a week’s worth of reading and Chinese takeout. Without car or television, I spent days orbiting between a bench on the front porch and an oversize pink wing chair at the head of the dining room table, like the one at the Mad Hatter’s tea party in the 1951 Disney film, eating vegetable lo mein and reading about different experiences of solitude. I plumbed newspaper archives and Gutenberg.org. I ordered used and out-of-print books. I wanted to know what scientists, writers, artists, musicians, and scholars thought about alone time, how they used it, why it mattered. Sometimes I walked a dead-end street to the bay. Other times I would lie on the wood floor in a patch of sun, staring at the ceiling, trying to deconstruct those solitary hours in Paris. There was something there; some way of living that I’d failed to fully grasp, let alone carry with me to my own city.

~ Stephanie Rosenbloom, from her “Introduction” to Alone Time: Four Seasons, Four Cities, and the Pleasures of Solitude (Penguin Publishing Group. June 5, 2018)

Lightly Child, Lightly.

In silence which is active, the Inner Light begins to glow – a tiny spark. For the flame to be kindled and to grow, subtle argument and the clamour of our emotions must be stilled

The word born of silence must be received in silence.

~ Pierre Lacout, Quaker Faith & Practise (2.12) in Twelve Quakers and Worship


Notes:

  • Photo: Patty Maher. Quote: Thank you Beth @ Alive on All Channels
  • Prior “Lightly child, lightly” Posts? Connect here.
  • Post Title & Inspiration: Aldous Huxley: “It’s dark because you are trying too hard. Lightly child, lightly. Learn to do everything lightly. Yes, feel lightly even though you’re feeling deeply. Just lightly let things happen and lightly cope with them.”

 

Lightly Child, Lightly.

“I can tell you that solitude
Is not all exaltation, inner space
Where the soul breathes and work can be done.
Solitude exposes the nerve,
Raises up ghosts.
The past, never at rest, flows through it.”

May Sarton, from “Gestalt at Sixty: Part 1″, in A Durable Fire: Poems

 


Notes:

  • Photo: (via Your Eyes Blaze Out) Poem: Thank you Beth @ Alive on All Channels
  • Prior “Lightly child, lightly” Posts? Connect here.
  • Post Title & Inspiration: Aldous Huxley: “It’s dark because you are trying too hard. Lightly child, lightly. Learn to do everything lightly. Yes, feel lightly even though you’re feeling deeply. Just lightly let things happen and lightly cope with them.”

 

Riding Metro North. With Four.

5:40 am train.

Full.  How can this be possible?

I stand in the vestibule, irritated, and then remember that the 5:40 am train is a Peak train, and further remember that I’m paying a Peak Fare rate to Stand. Irritated.

I set my bag down on the muddy floor, irritated, and wait, hoping for someone to get off at the one and only stop on the express train to Grand Central.

I see a commuter to my right zipping up his backpack. I grab my briefcase, block the aisle (and the commuter who is waiting on the other side of the vestibule) and grab the open seat.  Commuter code: You snooze, you lose. Smiling. I’ve become a New Yorker.

I pull down the bench, a handicapped seat which flips up.  There’s an awkward shifting of knees and legs to avoid all contact. There will be no man-touching.

Two men across from me. Two men to my right. And me.

  • Sleeping. Reading. Reading. Sleeping. Reading.
  • iPhone. iPhone. iPhone. Not visible. iPhone.
  • Earbuds. Earbuds. None. None. None.
  • Sneakers. Loafers. Lace up. Sneakers. Lace up.
  • Baseball cap. Balding. Full head of hair. Hoodie. Balding.
  • Backpack. None.  Backpack. Backpack. Briefcase.
  • No watch. No watch. Wristwatch. Unknown. Smartwatch.
  • T-shirt. Business casual. Suit. Jeans. Suit.
  • Nails (grimy). Nail biter. Manicured. Unknown. Nail biter.

The train car is silent but for the rocking of the car on rails.

We pull into Grand Central and exit without an acknowledgement of the other.

4 head right. I head left.

I walk alone, down the tunnels, with the sound of my footfall on concrete and with Patricia Hampl (again).

“There may be no more solitary location in America than a New York subway—take a look at the faces of those commuters, their heads bent to their open books like monks at their breviaries, little glowing screens casting an otherworldly aura onto their intent faces. They are elsewhere. They are alone. Alone with words as much as any writer at a notebook or screen.”


Notes:

Lightly Child, Lightly.

Poetry isn’t a cure, and it isn’t a miracle. It won’t jump your car’s dead battery or fix your leaky roof. It won’t feed your baby or save your dying grandmother. But there are words, phrases, whole poems that—in the grimmest, loneliest, most shattered moments of my life—have offered me a lozenge of light.

Anndee Hochman, in “The Poem Chooses You” in the March/April issue of Poets & Writers Magazine


Notes:

  • Photo: Sean Mundy via A Quiet Life Quote: via Lines We Live By
  • Prior “Lightly child, lightly” Posts? Connect here.
  • Post Title & Inspiration: Aldous Huxley: “It’s dark because you are trying too hard. Lightly child, lightly. Learn to do everything lightly. Yes, feel lightly even though you’re feeling deeply. Just lightly let things happen and lightly cope with them.”

 

Lightly Child, Lightly

patty-maher-first-it-whispers

i enjoy mornings that you wake up to silence

and no one is asking anything of you,

you’re under no pressure to exist…

~ imransuleiman


Notes:

  • Photo: Patty Maher, First it Whispers
  • Prior “Lightly child, lightly” Posts? Connect here 
  • Post Title & Inspiration: Aldous Huxley: “It’s dark because you are trying too hard. Lightly child, lightly. Learn to do everything lightly. Yes, feel lightly even though you’re feeling deeply. Just lightly let things happen and lightly cope with them.”

Saturday

sleeping-dont-wake-me

The best thing about the bedroom was the bed.
I liked to stay in bed for hours,
even during the day with covers pulled up to my chin.
It was good in there,
nothing ever occurred in there,
no people,
nothing.

~ Charles Bukowski, Ham on Rye


Notes: Quote – Schonwiener. Photograph: Aveline Gunawan with Don’t wake me up

 

 

3:45 A.M.: Yes, all that.

night-light-window

I need solitude.
I need space.
I need air.
I need the empty fields round me;
and my legs pounding along roads;
and sleep;
and animal existence.

~ Virginia Woolf, from The Diary of Virginia Woolf


Notes: Poem – thank you Beth (again) on Alive on all Channels. Photo: Mennyfox55

 

 

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