Tuesday, September 27, 2011

A Double-Decker Train Misadventure

 The Kinzua Bridge  --- a place I hope to visit this fall or winter

Steamboats, Viaducts, and Railways

"Motions and Means, on land and sea at war
With old poetic feeling, not for this,
Shall ye, by Poets even, be judged amiss!
Nor shall your presence, howsoe'er it mar
The loveliness of Nature, prove a bar
To the Mind's gaining that prophetic sense
Of future change, the point of vision, whence
May be discovered  what in soul ye are.
In spite of all that beauty may disown
In your harsh features, Nature doth embrace
Her lawful offspring in Man's art; and Time,
Pleased with your triumphs o'er his brother Space,
Accepts from your bold hands the proffered crown
Of hope, and smiles on you with cheer sublime."

--- William Wordsworth, 1835

Last weekend, I rode a double-decker New Jersey transit train to and from my cousin's house in North Jersey...it was amazing! I rode on the bottom on the way there, and on the top on the way back. The top is definitely the way to go......it's like flying very shallowly: barely coasting above the ground as you pass through urban desolation, graffiti, trees, into suburbia....and back.

In other news, it is fall! Autumn snuck her way through and especially over the last few days it feels different here. The season is quieter, somehow. I am planning a trip out of the city soon to look at the trees as they change. I haven't seen it in so long; but my memories tell me that the switch happens fast...

Another view of the Kinzua, before the 2003 tornado came and knocked most of it down.

Saturday, September 17, 2011

Musings on Saturday Evening

I just discovered this wonderful knitter's site and read this off a posting of hers. It rings true for me, so true it's pretty painful.....but a good kind of *ouch*:

“Whatever it was, the image that stopped you, the one on which you
came to grief, projecting it over & over on empty walls.
Now to give up the temptations of the projector; to see instead the
web of cracks filtering across the plaster.
To read there the map of the future, the roads radiating from the
initial split, the filaments thrown out from that impasse.
To reread the instructions on your palm; to find there how the
lifeline, broken, keeps its direction.
To read the etched rays of the bullet-hole left years ago in the
glass; to know in every distortion of the light what fracture is.
To put the prism in your pocket, the thin glass lens, the map
of the inner city, the little book with gridded pages.
To pull yourself up by your own roots; to eat the last meal in
your old neighborhood.”

--- Adrienne Rich

A New Jersey Transit Misadventure

Codex by Radiohead

So here I am, on a train to visit the family in New Jersey….I am somewhere an hour and a half or so from Philadelphia, listening to the song that reminds me most of Philadelphia. There is something about this song that resonates so completely with my Philly mental state….when I first moved to the city, listening to this song would make me cry as I walked around. Now it makes me wistful, smile a little, and at least be aware of how I feel about it.

Seawall at Sunset

All I can think about is Maine. Maine Maine Maine….on the brain. Every moment of every day I think about living there and as yet cannot decide if that is just a romantic escape from a present situation that is fraught with complications and chaos, or if the pure resonance of the idea means that this move to Philly was to direct me to the place where I really want to be. When I think about it, all the trees and the water and the calm and the people and the snow and the ocean and the birds and the mountains and rivers and streams and beaches and rocks and pebbles and and and….

An old postcard of Great Cranberry Island

So there it is. Maine……the only place where all my insanity gets some rest. But it is very cold there in the winter, for a long time. And jobs are hard to find. But surely I would find something? And I could rent a house on the Crooked Road, or on a smaller island…or something.

Little girls playing in a field of flowers, Great Cranberry Island, 1913

What is the dream? The dream kindled by this past summer and a lifetime of summers and winter visits up there. A desire for a different way of life more akin to what I like to do with my time and what is important to me. A dream kindled by a trip on the mail boat to Great Cranberry Island, and a reading of the book “We Were an Island” about a wonderful couple who lived on Placentia Island from the 1940s through 1980s. A dream kindled by the idea of teaching in a small island school, teaching all ages of kids together in one room, each day commuting to work on a boat instead of in a car. 

The main pier at Great Cranberry

Each day commuting through dark blue, green, purple, copper, black ocean. Lobster buoys, boats, gulls, clouds, fog, ice, sunshine, the wake of the boat would be my viewpoint instead of the tracks of an elevated train and the burnt-out hulls of ancient factories.

 Is the dream realistic? Well no dreams entirely are, and I guess this is why we pursue our dreams: at least they give us a goal point and maybe we drift slightly along the way while we approach the dream. Is it possible? Yes. Does it matter if it looks exactly like it does in your head? Well, more or less like the image in my head would be nice.

A painting of the Preble House by artist Marshall Ginn

So. The dream. The risky business. Taking such a huge risk, leaping off into the unknown. Moving to a place where life is much different, where the winter is much longer, where the possibility of getting the same job I have now is much more limited….I may have to wait a long, long time……

The mail boat! This boat, or another one like this boat, would be my ride to work if I was to teach on the island!

The last time I took a risk like this was when I became a teacher. The year was 2006, and I was working for IBM as an event planner. At the exact moment when my friend Brennan called me on the phone and asked if I would like a teaching job, I was in a hotel room in Port O'Connor, Texas, drinking lots of tequila on 4th of July weekend. 

It was raining incessantly, it was very hot and there were, quite literally, mobs of millions of mosquitoes flying around everywhere. Needless to say, our 4th of July celebration was inside the confines of a small, humid hotel room at the Tarpon Inn. When he called, I said yes I would love to be a teacher but I had no credentials. He told me not to worry about it, that it would work out. So I went in for an interview when we all got back to Austin,  and the next day, I was offered the job. When I quit IBM, my boss told me that the world needs angels, and that he really couldn’t complain that I was leaving IBM to become a teacher. I took a $13,000 paycut immediately but just didn’t care. I hated the IBM job and was already considering quitting and going back to Whole Foods, but this came up instead.

So is Maine my risky, life change of 2011-2012? I feel young for my age, but at the same time too old to be making decisions that are in the ultimate benefit of anyone but me. And a move to rural Maine would be a move only because I wan to do it. It would be a decision made for me, by me, and therefore, only I could blame myself for the consequences. But, the beautiful hopefulness of this idea is that if it does work out, I will be able to celebrate a decision made for my own happiness. It seems selfish to say things like that. I feel like I have made decisions for the benefit of others for many years, and put myself second. The braggadocio comes out when I just say to myself, who cares? Something will just work out….

Famous last words? Or a famous step in the right direction…..finally?

When I think about living and working in Maine….I think about doing more art, spending more time outside, cooking more, more of the meaningful, less of the dismal steps one takes when one is just going through the motions of a life less than enjoyable.

All of these thoughts come to me as I am rocked and lulled by a train ride through the darkness: a ride from Trenton to Newark Penn Station, in an old, chrome train car populated with brown nagahide and chrome seats, stainless steel luggage racks, and a quiet sense of relaxation on a Friday night...I love the train and I love this time to relax and think and be in the moment for a moment. When caught up in the day to day, I forget to take this time just to be. 

Going back to winding yarn balls, 


Links por vous:

I will be starting a Guernsey (or sometimes known as Gansey) sweater for my brother for Christmas. This is my first big-time sweater project!!! 

I am winding yarn balls at the moment for the Carlisle Scarf from Loop Knits...it is really beautiful! I am still in yarn-shop withdrawal, being that nowhere is exactly like Hill Country Weavers (btw, please take a look at their fiber drive and consider sending something to a fellow fiber fiend who has lost everything in the wildfires), but I am adjusting to the acceptance phase of loss and beginning to embrace my new LYS!

Also, please consider donating $10 to the United Way of Central Texas to donate funds to families who have lost their homes. Luckily, I think, everyone was able to escape the fires, but many have lost homes and possessions. It is hard to be so far away and think of all the help that is needed in my old hometown!

And in polar-opposite land, otherwise known as our neck of the woods, click here to donate funds to Vermont Aid and help people with flood relief. 

Sunday, September 11, 2011

A Fairmount Park Misadventure

Old postcard of Fairmount Park

Yesterday, my increasingly ever-so-lovely coworkers and I went on a picnic to Fairmount Park. This idea was borne out of a nice happy hour on the stinky and flora-filled Delaware River on Friday afternoon. I was complaining about how South Philly is almost treeless, and my friend suggested a day in the park.

Turns out it was the most perfect idea in the world: when I woke up, the day promised to be 85 and sunny with a lovely breeze. We met up at Whole Foods to gather lunch provisions and then set off to meet the others in the Park, at Lloyd Hall

Lloyd Hall is a lovely place where I actually had been before, unknowingly! It was the site of hip-hop rollerskaters last March, when I came to Philly to visit the city. We met there and then wandered over to the Water Works, an amazingly beautiful, shining white stone building on the edge of the river. The Water Works used to be a city facility, but now is a fancy restaurant and site of about 10 wedding parties yesterday afternoon (the weddings were also up on the hill to the Art Museum, but the sheer number was amazing!). 

 The Water Works

Leaf Composition, Parts and Types

Sitting under a tree whose species I could not identify, with bipinnate leaves and long, green, string of pearls seeds, we sat in the grass, in the shade, and mulled over the universe. One of my coworkers tragically had his car broken into on Friday night after our post-work get together, and I feel terrible that everything in his car was stolen and windows smashed. Philadelphia is a hard place. I am beginning to wonder what sort of energy vortex sits below or above this city....it effects many aspects of life here. 

The Schuylkill River is the site of an annual regatta....and is a beautiful river that runs beside the park!

The river is so high due to the amazing amounts of rain we have had here lately, and the pressure and force of the water going over the falls was amazing to witness. As a result of this, apparently someone thought there was a person trapped at the base of the falls (I think the theory was that someone saw a log and thought it was an arm), and so the entirety of the Philadelphia fire department and EMS showed up in Fairmount Park totally prepared to rescue the person who was really a fallen tree. 

At the base of the waterfalls was a miasma of urban and natural garbage: leaves and trees, rubber balls, and styrofoam twisted in the high-pressure fresh water gyre, constantly spun and twisted by the force of downward falling water. Soon after the arrival of the fire department, it became abundantly clear that there was no one in the water. We were joking about how apparently a log that looks like an arm will get them to come out, or in my case, a dog on a back porch, but when your car gets broken into, the police just aren't really that interested. This is when we as a group decided that if you want the police department to come out, you have to say "shots fired" or "someone is drowning!". 

The historic Fairmount Park bicycle guard....this service totally need to be re-instated

Historic photo of the Fairmount neighborhood, on 21st street. Now there are lots of trees here!

 Bad jokes aside, it was a great day. After the park, we went to the Belgian Cafe in Fairmount and had some tasty beverages as the sun slowly crept down the horizon. It was a beautiful day with wonderful people, and I decided that if I do stay here next year, I will move to that neighborhood to be closer to the park and more likely to live on a block with trees of its own.

Lately, I have been having strange thoughts. Philadelphia in many ways is so negative. It is hard to make friends here, people are tough, the city itself is tough, its as if it has a huge chip on its shoulder and is always saying, "What? It's a piece of crap! Whaddya want?" This is, at least, my observation after four months. I don't understand this attitude, which is perhaps why I have been so at odds with this place and things keep happening to break me down. I refuse to be broken down by this place and in fact hope to make it lovelier and better than it was when I arrived.

My strange thoughts start though, when I think about my life and where it is going and where it has been. I know that I need to be in more of a country-place, more rural, more naturally beautiful. I need to be around positive and happy people (this I do have at work, bien sur!), but ultimately, I need to make decisions that effect my life that make sure that I am happy. That have nothing to do with anyone else, but just solely for me. Right now, I am a one-woman show, so this is the perfect time for this realization to happen to me. All I have is me, and I am about to turn thirty-one. I have been married, and now I have been divorced for almost three years. I am just now feeling some of the acceptance stage of the grief of that experience, especially since another relationship has just ended, this time much better than my marriage. It is amazing how long grief can take to pass over. But here I am, almost thirty-one and a "free agent" as my roommate says.

At this moment, the idea that I am mulling over seems nuts. Crazy. Looney-tunes. Full of risk. A fundamental switch in the hope of happiness and a job, eventually. Something deep inside my heart tells me that this is a risk worth taking. I don't want to be a martyr for things not working out, for society being unfair, for anything, really. I want to be a light-being, someone who has wonderful friends, who eats dinner with those I care about, who can take walks outside in amazingly beautiful surroundings, one who risks stability and security for the risk of, finally, fulfillment......

Links por vous:

The Philadelphia Preservation Alliance is a great organization working to preserve the multitude of historic property here in the city of brotherly love...

Somehow, I never had heard of the World Science Festival until this morning....their site is fantastic! Go and check it out!

And here the lovely Verhext discusses just the dilemma running through my fair head these last few weeks...

Lastly, did you read We Were and Island yet? Well if not, hop to it!!!