Tuesday, December 20, 2011

With or Without Wings

It's been coming down all day. Fat, fluffy snow. Tiny flakes of snow. Sometimes sideways snow. Today I feel like Christmas, and it's all the better because I get to be home all cozied up, until later this evening, anyway.

I've been missing get-togethers lately with friends because time has been so short when it's come to getting things done. Christmas shopping for friends and 19 seven-year olds aside, I've been working on a short story that will be one of three sent off to artist Kamil Vojnar as a little Christmas treat. My friends and fellow writers, Kirsten Carlson and Nancy Carroll, and I decided to each write a piece inspired by one of Kamil's amazing works of art, then bind them up into books. At the moment, these books are for us and for him, more of a personal keepsake than anything else, but we'll see where the world takes it, and us.

I met Kamil in St. Remy, France a couple of springs ago while Chris and I were traveling through Provence.
(Need a recap? http://thehouseofcole.blogspot.com/2010/04/provence-day-five.html) While talking about my own writing and desire to work in mixed media, I told him that many of his pieces made me itch to write. He told me that if I ever did write something inspired by something of his, he'd like to read it. This is how this project was born.

Our stories have been written, revised, picked apart then loved back together, and ready or not, on their way to becoming something else. A little collection of our own to love, and hope Kamil will enjoy, too. It's exciting because we're actually doing something, rather than just talking about doing something, but it's slightly terrifying because by doing something, we're sending a little piece of ourselves out into the world to share, having no control over how it is received. That's tough.

Although it sounds completely ridiculous after years of workshops and giving and receiving writing critiques this had never happened before, I nearly came undone when I had to sit and listen to someone else read my writing. What? I know. Ridiculous. But it's true, I'd never heard anyone else read something I wrote. I know that if I put it out there, somebody reads it, just like I know that when I share something I've written at my writers groups, people are reading or listening to my words, but it's something entirely different when someone else's voice is speaking your words. Out loud. Within your earshot. It's terrifying, and I even got a little nauseous listening. But I calmed down, comforted by the fact that this story that I've put so much into was being read by someone I not only respect as a writer, but trust as a friend. She read with love, whether or not she meant to, and that helped ease the muscles that tensed entirely on their own when she uttered the first words. As writers, we know there is a little bit of ourselves in everything we write, fiction or not, and therefor nothing is entirely one or the other, fiction or not. It's a difficult thing to let something you have created, nurtured and loved, go out into the unforgiving world, but it's a necessary thing if that little piece of you is to ever sprout wings of her own and live. Knowing that I cannot control how the world perceives her, or how she is treated beyond my grasp pulls tight in my chest, but I know this is the way. I've given her life, now it's time to let her live it, with or without wings.

And then I think, if it's this hard to let go of a little story I wrote, how the hell am I going to do it with a human grown-up child one day?!

Tomorrow I will get together with Kirsten and Nancy, and we will bind up our little darlings and create something together. They are both amazing writers, and I am honored to be grouped together with them in any form. As for tonight, I'll actually be making it to a get-together with the people I keep missing lately to do a little talking, a little eating, and enjoy the people I'm lucky to know here while they're still around. It'll likely be the last chance I have to say hello and goodbye to my friend Sara, at least in this stretch of life in Germany.

There seems to be a lot of letting go going on around here, but such is life, right? All we can do is open our hands and let her fly. And if we're lucky, we'll see each other again. All the best, Sara, to you and your whole family.

If you're interested in looking at Kamil Vojnar's work, visit his website:

Thursday, December 1, 2011

A Ramble

There are so many posts I want to write. Trips we've taken, things we've seen. This Thanksgiving in Lisbon. (Last Thanksgiving in Istanbul.) But today I just feel like letting my fingers go for an unguided walk around the keyboard. I've been letting everything else step between me and writing, writing this blog, writing a short story that will be a part of a slightly larger project that will end up as a gift to a fellow artist. (I hope he likes surprises.) As much as I try not to feel obliged to follow some kind of schedule, it's my nature to make lists and work in a methodical way. This, however, works completely against the need to be creatively untethered, allowed to leap out and land wherever I happen to land. It's been a while since I had a proper ramble out in this very public little spot of mine, so let's wander through my thoughts, shall we?

It's cold out, but for the time of year that it is and the place where I am, not very. Today the sky has had a particular pink hue to it all day, even when it was mostly covered in clouds this morning. I'm wearing my favorite red, wool coat, but I'd rather be wearing my snow jacket. I can't say that out loud here because I'll be cursed for wishing for cold. When the cold arrives here, it hangs around longer than even the most seasoned snow-lover would like, and the grey days outnumber those with any glimpse of the sun so much, you start to wonder if your memories of that warm, bright light were all in your mind. But it's December and Christmastime, and I'm ready for some cold, anyhow. And now I've said it, so I can move on.

Right before we left for our Thanksgiving holiday I made a sad discovery. As I said goodbye to Heidi, or rather, her photo on my night stand, I picked up her favorite toy and buried my nose in its disgusting, dirty belly. My eyes popped open and immediately teared up. It was gone. My last little bit of her, the residual stink of her famous Death Breath that covered this little toy mouse had dissipated. Look, I know how gross it is, but it was something I could sense of her, something that was, while revolting in life, precious to me in death. I held that nasty toy and let the tears come for a minute, then placed it back by her smiling face and left. So it's started. Since I was 14 years old, this will be my first Christmas without her. I'm missing family a lot right now, and why not - it's the holidays. It's easy to ignore how much I miss every single one of them when there's work to go to and trips to plan and life to live so far away, but when it's that time of year when everyone pulls together to pay a little extra attention to those they love, how can I not envision them every single day? I can feel that old familiar tug in my chest, and this is usually when I'd scoop Heidi up and force some cuddles, despite her attempts to wiggle free. But not this year. And her stupid mouse doesn't even smell like her anymore and I could cry every time I see it now. It's not like I can throw it away, either. Jerk.

I found out something really exciting recently - there is another liberal in my family! (Like that shift?) Debby is my mother's cousin and found her way to my blog. I suppose my views are apparent in my ramblings, because I received a message from her a few weeks ago that included this little tidbit. It's always so nice to know that someone is enjoying what I write, and even though I'm sure I'm offending at least one person by not always feeling this validation automatically because I know they enjoy reading, feelings of validation about my writing are fleeting. I want to always feel like I'm awesome, but that's not me, so notes from happy readers really make my day :) And add to that that we're related AND both liberals, and I was giddy! You see, my family is conservative, at least in comparison to me, and even if they were to object to this descriptor, I'd still say they're more conservative than liberal. By saying this, I'm making no judgment, just merely pointing out the difference I generally have in opinion with everyone I'm related to. There are some things we know not to talk about and that's fine. We love each other. I have the best family in the world because we support one another regardless of our differences, even if that support looks more like criticism sometimes. At any rate, it was just kind of cool to find out I'm not the only one in the lot who thinks like I do about the things conservatives and liberals tend to clash over. So thanks for reaching out, Debby. It totally made my day.

Speaking of family, we'll be going home for a visit in the spring and I can't wait. By the time we go, it will have been nearly three years since our last visit, and that pains me. The time will go fast, as we'll try to spend as much time with as many people as we can. Chris' older brother is getting married, so this trip we'll be getting more family members added to the mix. We're excited to meet our new sister-in-law, as well as the family she comes with since we've heard such great things, but this trip is already exhausting to think about. What a thing to complain about - we have too many loved ones to spend time with - woe is us! But I do wish we could spend more time, like every time we visit home. We're taking a couple short trips before then, but still,  spring time can't come quickly enough in my mind.

I can't wait to sit on a plane for 9 hours, because that will mean I'm going to see my God-daughter for only the second time in her life and spend a couple days with my very best friend and pretend we're roommates again. I can't wait to not get enough sleep because I'm up half the night talking about anything and everything on this earth with another person who can talk like I can because we share the same blood. I can't wait to sit in a car for 12 hours because that will mean time to talk, nearly uninterrupted, with my sister while we make our way up to the mountains where the whole family will be spending a week for all the kids' Spring Break at my parents' house. I can't wait to wake up to crisp air on the top of a mountain in a house full of my family, hearing the early morning sounds around me, like kids talking and spoons clanging as coffee is stirred. Although I'll only be able to spend a couple days there, I'm glad I can get there at all. I can't wait to meet my new sister-in-law and help celebrate a very happy time in my brother-in-law's life, as he truly deserves it. I can't wait to sit around in the evenings talking about whatever with my brother and his wife, or running errands with him during the day. I can't wait to take each of my nieces and nephews out to do something special, just the two of us. This is really big to me, especially because I live so far away. I want to know them better, and I want them to know I love them and miss them, that spending time with them is important to me. I want them to have something to remember when they get older and busier in their lives. I can't wait to have a regular old barbecue with my family, where people are scattered about the house, inside and out, and it's busy and noisy and smells like home. And we'll see Chris' parents, too, and I'm excited to spend time with my little brother-in-law to see how he's doing as he gets ready to finish school and really start his adult life. As I think about being able to casually sip coffee in the morning with my mom and dad, hang out with my best friend, brother and sister and their families, actually hug my gorgeous God-daughter, Addison, and share meals and conversations face-to-face with everyone else we will see, it's difficult not to think about the people we won't be able to see this trip. But plans are still formulating and I'm trying to find a way to squeeze some more hours out of the day - and days out of the week - so we'll see. I'm just lucky that the people I love the most all understand how hard it is to pack it all in, given the limitations of time, distance and resources.

USA, here we come - in another few months.

Cold - Christmas - Family - huh, I guess there was some kind of logic to the progression here. Cool.