We’re back from Ithaca. Got home last night around midnight, not a bad hour except that we’d gotten up at 6:45 AM Eastern and spent the entire day in transit or waiting in airports. I’m dizzy from getting up too early but want to maintain a habit of early rising, so I’m sitting here with a pot of green tea and my leftover late-night meal from Daimo. After reading Julia Child on the plane ride home last night, what I really wanted for breakfast was soft-boiled eggs and bread with butter and jam, but it’s too early for the Natural Grocery and I’m too tired for La Note, so tossed noodles will have to suffice. As they do, very nicely. How I’ve missed good Asian food!
We were away from home only five days, but it feels like weeks, and before that, things were topsy-turvy and harried enough. It’s going to be an interesting transition getting back to our routines. I am not looking forward to this adjustment, but I feel very badly the need to work and work. And my laziness about getting back into exercise only indicates the necessity of doing so, though at the moment I feel sitting upright is strain enough.
I had hoped to do more work while I was away, but in retrospect this seems foolishly optimistic. I spent all my time either with Al alone or with Al and the parents, and neither situation was conducive to work. When with Al, I of course wanted to devote my full attention to her, and when with the entire family, I found it very difficult to marshal my thoughts and focus. It’s not so bad in the house in San Jose, but both my parents crammed into one small suite somehow manage to take up all the air in the place, even when they’re not actively fussing. I was scarcely able to get my morning pages done and those were usually done in little increments of forced concentration throughout the day. Still, I consider my doing them at all a mark of progress both as an artist and as a meditator — would have been so much easier to just ignore them for the duration.
The only drawing I did during this time was ballpoint-pen doodles on letters to Sophie and Tina. Ballpoint pen is not a subtle tool; I’ve always found it so, and have preferred it for writing and not art. But it does gratify me that I was able to do this little bit of art, even when I felt I was going without; it shows that these creative practices are now habit enough with me that I do them even when I think I’m not doing anything. And I’m glad to have finished Sophie’s letter and begun Tina’s. I have put their letters off for a shamefully long time and I found while writing that I missed both the intended recipients and the letter-writing process. Next time I won’t wait so long.
I also read three books and three magazines while on the planes, a gift indeed. Glamour* and Via were for fun, but the other readings were unexpectedly work-enhancing. I already wrote about how much I loved Emma, and now I am thinking I should read more Austen as part of my work; I feel that reading Austen’s precise prose brings my own words into greater specificity, and that is no small thing. Pema Chödrön and spiritual training in general become a greater and greater influence on my creative life, the more I explore these all. Was it the writing and meditation workshop at Spirit Rock, or was this a process that was already underway before then? I don’t know, but I’m grateful for this new depth I’m discovering in both spiritual and creative process. The lessons of meditation are so valuable for art-making, so incredibly indispensable even, to keeping sane while trying to create! You know I said I wanted to start a regular meditation practice; I tried it while I was on the plane yesterday, and managed to sit for almost an hour. This is a good start. Reading The Sun is really good for my creative and spiritual practices too; the writing is so good, the sentiments so profound, I always feel myself a more thoughtful person after one issue. I must remember to read it more regularly; right now I’ve several issues backed up on my to-read shelf. And I’d like to try writing for the magazine too, either in “Readers Write” or by submitting pieces once I’ve got anything to submit.
Here’s something from The Sun that I’d like to remember: “Jung said it is impossible to achieve an intellectual understanding of the psyche. The intellect is a part of the psyche and is not in a position to understand and manipulate it.” This is from an interview with Stanislav Grof, who developed and now facilitates holotropic breathwork workshops. I’ll have to remember this to remind me that my thinking, analytical brain isn’t everything, even though it thinks it is!
The last book I read on the trip was Julia Child’s My Life in France, which was not only a complete joy, but tremendously inspiring (as Julia’s story always is to me). I already knew that she felt aimless and unproductive during her college years, but in this book she wrote that she was still discovering herself in her late thirties. She recounts her post-marriage life: her first steps to her independent adult self, her transformation to woman with a purpose and eventual force of nature! It amazes me to see how surely she charts her path, even while she did not know exactly what the path was. She wrote that she lacked self-confidence, but one can have strength of character without it, and she demonstrated that tremendous power throughout her life: bucking her father’s conservative values and lifestyle, throwing herself into French life and community, not backing down from what she wanted, and finally dedicating herself completely to the writing of the book that became Mastering the Art of French Cooking, in spite of disagreements with her co-authors and pressure from publishers to make the book more commonplace. Julia may have claimed to be a very immature person, but I feel her choices show a remarkably mature sense of self. Of course she wrote My Life while she was in her 90s I believe, after the death of her beloved husband, so it’s undoubtedly colored by nostalgia and fond reminiscence. To me she’s like a wholly positive Virginia Woolf. Both of them had a room of their own and a very supportive partner; both found themselves late and gained worldly success and renown in middle age. Both have wide-ranging interests but are highly dedicated to their work, and both explored various kinds of work within their own spheres. Maybe women of genius just have a lot in common no matter what they do? They have both inspired me so much, and reminded me not to fear getting started late, trying out lots of different things, or taking a long time to get legitimate in the world’s eyes.
Besides all the reading, I was finally able to get to some of my other work at the airport yesterday, tapping into a vein of focus after so many days spent trying to gather together my own head amid the noise. I did a little bit of novel brainstorming and updated my syllabus.
I think I may need to return to bed. I am getting so lightheaded I feel almost nauseous. Perhaps my early-to-rise habits will have to begin tomorrow!!
*I find the more I pursue art and meditation, the less interested I am in Glamour. I am not even excited by the fashion editorials anymore. But I know this is also a phase I go through; the time will come when I will pick up the magazine again and desperately want to go shopping, I’m sure. Also, I still like the magazine’s coverage of people and events… but as a whole it’s no longer the thorough treat it once was.