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Location: California

I love paper. Books printed on acid-free paper and bound in cloth turn me on. I'm crazy about bookmarks, and I buy too many stickers. I could spend hours in the build-your-own-greeting card section of my neighborhood craft store. My favorite thing to eat is bread, and my second favorite is fruit. (Mm, pineapple.) I read too much and too fast, and I watch too many food shows (two ways of looking at gluttony). Gloomy, rainy weather calms me and so I can't wait to move out of California, which will happen, sadly, too many years from now to count. I'm vegan, though I haven't managed to eliminate honey from my diet yet. I practice yoga; it's the only way I can keep fit. I have a better life than I ever imagined I would (or deserve to) have, but I do my best to enjoy it rather than feel guilty about it. That's my daily struggle -- and also to be thoughtful and observant and honest with myself.

Thursday, July 06, 2006

Back to Two

I've been beset by doubts about writing the last few days, the purpose and point and use of it. I kept asking myself questions that have no answer and feeling stupid and sorry for myself that I couldn't answer them. Then I thought: just write. I hate doing things I don't understand, and for me writing is like that; I can't comprehend this urge I have to put things down on paper, and the arm-wringing and doubt and sometimes exhilaration that come with it.

This is a picture of the floor in one room of the Chinese Garden in Portland. The pattern is meant to suggest ice breaking on a lake at the end of winter; the flowers are plum tree blossoms, a symbol of optimism in times of hardship, because the plum tree blooms first in China, even before spring has arrived, in February, even when there's still snow on the ground. There are symbols so ancient and evocative that I don't think they slip entirely into cliche.

It surprised me that I had to negotiate consciously the transition from being alone to being back with Husband. I loved being by myself in a big city, the freedom and slight chaos of it, the sense of responsibility for myself and no one else. I loved having the whole bed to myself to sleep in, eating when I felt like it no matter that it was at odd hours. I loved not speaking to anyone. I kind of fell back into myself and after a day or two of solitude words seemed irrelevant and unnecessary; looking as attentively as I could was what mattered, and smelling and touching and absorbing everything I could and remembering everything I could. I've heard of retreats where you are not allowed to speak for days, and I can see why they can be tempting -- frightening but tempting. I wasn't aware before of how much energy I waste by talking even about interesting things. And small talk -- I feel physical discomfort now when I'm chattering. It's still difficult, though, to stay quiet; the pull of words, of conversation, is just as strong as usual for me. But at least now I know that what's on the other side of it, stillness and silence and emptiness, can be good.

So I'm back to two and it's bitter-sweet. And I see again how essential the ability to be happy by oneself is if you are to be happy with someone else.


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