Let’s get one thing out of the way: I didn’t go to Miami. The flu won. I’ve since discovered what “My Wallet” funds are for in my Alaska Airlines mileage account. This is where the cost of my ticket now lives, waiting for me to reassign the dollars to a new destination.
Laying in bed Tuesday night when I was scheduled to board the red-eye flight to Ft. Lauderdale, I considered what it meant not to go on this trip. The travel-fatigued part of me was relieved. Another part was disappointed. My inner judge rained disapproval: I hadn’t fought very hard to make the trip happen, squandering a VIP pass to Art Basel Miami. I should have toughed it out; I am a wimp.
The rest of my mind was observant: with non-refundable fees and a cancellation penalty, I spent $100 to stay in Seattle… but had I actually gained something in return?
I could have stumbled forward, exposing the other passengers as we slept, as I had been infected on the flight from Auckland. I would have spent a brief four days in various states of misery, chugging cough syrup and sleeping in, missing parts of the show before tripping through afternoon exhibits at Art Basel or taking solitary walks on the beach. I wouldn’t have stayed up late with Kirstin and Scott or attended the wild parties for which Miami is known. I wouldn’t have been able to practice yoga in the sand at 3rd Street Beach Yoga as I had planned. Even though my body would have been there, I couldn’t have embraced Miami with the same gusto with which I’ve approached other cities.
And I wouldn’t have written a damned thing, which is how I spent the last week in between naps and work. The impact of my trip to New Zealand would have been lost.
I wondered if this wasn’t the universe telling me that it’s time to come home and see how these adventures have altered my perception of life in Seattle. Thanks to Maggie Kaplan, I also remember the lesson of invoking a pause to stimulate my creativity. That’s what characterized my time in Civita, our CityLab7 brainstorm session in Portland, and each and every one of these trips. At some point, though, one must choose: which is real life – the pauses or the rest of it?
The challenge as I see it today is to create this kind of mental space for myself at home—to learn how to invoke a stage for the muse to play without needing to run off to find inspiration every time I want to write. Fucking Dorothy should have taught me that long ago.
As I click my ruby slippers three times, beginning a much-needed Pause in Seattle, I can’t help but make a countdown of unforgettable moments on my extended journey home, beginning with my NIAUSI fellowship in 2010.
August 2010 – Climbing the Bridge to Civita: I began my first solo trip abroad with countless unanswered questions. Sleep-deprived and disoriented, I will never forget the exhilaration of barely catching the train to Orvieto or the moment that Tony’s eyes found mine on the platform—even though we had never met, we knew each other instantly.
After he dropped me off at the bottom of the footbridge, telling me to seek out Jonathan the intern in one of the stone houses, I paused. Looking up in wonderment at my new home, I timidly hoped that I’d be able to fulfill my task. Those were my first steps into a larger world.
September 2010 – Walking with Iole in Venice: We paused on the Rialto at 2 am to take a photo of ourselves on the walk back to our hotel in the Cannaregio Sestiere. Neither of us wanted the experience to end. “When there are places like Venice and Civita, what does the rest of it matter?” I demanded with a measure of despair.
We couldn’t answer that question with any satisfaction then, and I wrestle with it today. But what a beautiful memory—the two of us walking arm and arm, sharing secret thoughts and feelings like sisters, talking about the future and expanding into our few moments of freedom away from the work-a-day world.
October 2010 – Invoking the Pause in Santa Rosa: back from Civita one day, off to the Pause Convocation the next, I found myself nearly fainting on the street in the aptly-labeled “No Gravity Zone.” Coming together with my CityLab7 partners in Northern California was a reminder of the power and fidelity that our collective once commanded—and the importance of art and soul alongside science.
An emotional weekend with a group of brainy, caring strangers-turned-friends made the world a bit easier to face. It also began my friendship with Maggie, with whom I share a cosmically similar background that begins in Detroit. In February 2012, we finally built our working mushroom farm.
March 2011 – Rediscovering My Roots in Motown: Staying with Uncle Buddy a month before he died brought a fresh perspective on my parents’ lifestyle and my origins. I began to consider ways in which I might examine my life as a Detroit native and an American, as a Seattle resident and as a woman who had outlived her mother. Though the idea began as a spark the year before, this trip galvanized my desire to write Hidden City Diaries.
Winning a cool grand in bingo didn’t hurt, either.
August/September 2011 – Civita and Venice a Year Later: Coming back on my own —really on my own— helped me close a wound left open by my departure the year before. I realized how precious those magical windows are: times in life when we let loose our attachments to constraints and embrace only possibility.
Though my experience in Venice was exactly the bittersweet romantic conclusion that I hoped for, there was no reunion at the train station with Tony in Orvieto. I spent my time in Civita reconnecting with Gaia and Bernardo, Marcella, Maria and Jose like old friends. When I found my old home in Il Nuovo exactly the same, as if a year hadn’t passed, I realized that my adventures were meant to continue elsewhere for the time being.
November 2011 – Giving Thanks for Friendship in Austin: With my Jack Straw application turned in, I left Seattle to spend Thanksgiving with Jess and Aaron. Cooking together in Aunt Stephani’s kitchen —including hand-made gnocchi— and eating dinner with Aaron’s family reinforced the importance of the dear friends that I’ve made over the past six years—and my place at many tables in cities far from home.
After a seemingly innocent handshake with singer/songwriter Slaid Cleaves, I went back to Seattle incubating a devastating case of pneumonia.
December 2011 – Sometimes You Can Go Home Again… At Least to LA: Embracing my tradition of Jewish Christmas with my Auntie Ellen, Uncle Darrell and cousins Zipper and Alix, there was no place that I would have rather been than with them at Old Tony’s on the Redondo Beach pier drinking Fire Chiefs as I recovered from a month-long illness.
As we dozed the night before Christmas, I realized that I’ve always had a safe harbor there—since I was born, they have been a respite for me, even more so when my cousins came along. For all the twisting, turning roads I’ve traveled, I had actually come home to my people.
To be continued…