Here by the sea and sand

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This photo was taken at the Montauket during what would become the most brilliant sunset I’ve seen in quite some time. I have a feeling this couple wound up in many photos from that day. They were summer’s end personified,  and were it not for his unfortunate man-bun, they could have been of another era. Timeless.

We spent the week in Montauk, a perfect way to celebrate summer—the ocean and shooting stars. So many stars—Montauk is aptly nicknamed the end of the world and when you’re out there, looking up at the night skies and listening to the symphony of crickets and tree frogs and things that go chirp in the night, it feels like the most remote spot on the planet.

Then you drive past the Surf Lodge and realize it isn’t.

I did a lot of reading and a decent amount of writing while there—fell short of my writing goals but made progress, and more than that, I was inspired. I seem to have written myself into a corner in terms of the relative ease with which I write anywhere but home. My writing retreats to New Orleans, my time in the Berkshires earlier this year, Montauk … one of the speakers at the conference last month advised that we “not be too precious about our writing environment” — and that is good advice. It’s important to have sacred writing space, but it’s equally important to get words on paper when and where inspiration strikes.

To that end, I scrawled some notes on a piece of paper one evening while enjoying an exquisite sunset and a decent cocktail. I had just read The Alchemist on the recommendation of a very young man who, much to my delight, reads books. The kind with pages. I understand why this book is not to everyone’s liking, but I enjoyed it—and it’s a story, an allegory, about finding one’s true purpose in life and pursuing it, while remaining open to change. About trusting the process. So this is what I scrawled:

If we can remind ourselves how vast and unknowable the universe is, we can better enjoy the ride. We can weather misfortune, even the greatest of all, the death of those we love, because it is all part of the process of being alive. We are all on a pilgrimage toward the same place, and that is really the only fact about living that there is. Complaining, lamenting, manifesting conflict, all become futile, then. Let it wash over you and know that there is not a single experience from which we can’t somehow become richer and wiser.

I was reminded of someone I met shortly after college, when I was having a tough time and was overwhelmed by the responsibility of being human. This was long before we were bombarded with messages about “living in the moment” and “being present”. I met a friend of a friend at a party, a guy who happened to be deaf. I don’t remember much about the conversation, though I imagine I was dwelling on the malaise of “the real world” and the days I’d wasted, and he said, “No day is wasted. If I have a good conversation with someone, or see something beautiful, the day was not wasted.”

I try to maintain that outlook and I often succeed, but I do need to be reminded of it from time to time.

Autumn is a good time to be productive. I have another draft to revise by the time I go to my next writer’s conference in October. And then, soon, I’ll be calling on those of you who’ve offered to be beta readers.

Happy end-of-summer, friends.

When mountains crumble to the sea

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One of those internets thingies is making the rounds today – a scientific study on happiness, which purports to reveal the one tiny secret we all need to know. As I tend to do with these things I saw just enough to get to the punchline (have I mentioned that I figured out the twist in The Sixth Sense fairly early in the film?), and that is that feeling gratitude augments our happiness. Now then. “Happy”, as I’ve said before, is a fleeting concept. Content, tranquil, has better days than not – that’s, I believe, what people mean by “happy”. The gratitude part makes sense. What’s challenging is this – when I’m feeling blue (give me the beat, boy), I can appreciate and be aware of my gratitude, but I have a hard time gauging the degree to which I actually feel it. 

Overthink things? Never.

I’m grateful for many things and, much more importantly, many people. Like the vast majority of you – you know who you are. The people who see me and try their best to understand me and accept me despite my many flaws and missteps. Not feeling sorry for myself – we all have flaws and we all misstep.

I’m grateful that I can recognize beauty in the obvious and also in places where others may not, and that, as much as I might fight it at times, I am, at heart, an optimist. 

I’m grateful for past experiences and for getting through the dark times; this means I’ll likely get through them again. And my dark times have infused me with more love and compassion than I can handle.

I’m grateful for words and for language and for this forum.

I’m grateful for Louie. And I’m grateful for me. 

I’d build a road in gold …

Image…just to have some dreaming.

Actually, I slept beautifully last night – eight fairly solid hours – woke up once and fell easily back to sleep. However … you see one movie about a global war caused by marauding gangs of desperate flesh eaters, you have cataclysmic dreams for a week, apparently. Nothing I can’t handle – I eagerly await World War Z2 – but it’s been interesting. Last night’s featured explosions and falling buildings (no casualties that I can remember), but they were all part of films that I was watching. There was also a disturbing film about a little girl people were trying to save – that one felt far more sinister.

In the weeks and months after 9-11 I had regular dreams about things like this – and they weren’t films. I’d dream that buildings were exploding all over the city. I dreamt that I was in my parents’ old building and a Pan Am plane fell from the sky. These were much more literal. Although it still seems far too soon to delve into, perhaps the distance between that wretched day and today has enabled me to put a celluloid filter on my nightmares.

Going to touch the ocean this weekend and not a moment too soon. I learned to love it a couple of years ago (is six a “couple”?) – in Montauk, actually. Prior to that I loved the idea of it but found the execution to be overwhelming. Now it’s overwhelming in a good way. During my years with the wandering minstrel I had the great fortune of traveling on a relatively small budget – touring musicians of a certain level know how to do this like nobody else – and seeing parts of the world I might not have otherwise. When I encountered a body of water, no matter how cold, I at the very least waded in up to my ankles – and so I experienced the North and Irish seas. Some day I hope to encounter the Mediterranean and Adriatic. I’m very drawn to Croatia and I’m not sure why, but that’s on my list of places-I-might-someday-see. There are many, many others. As Andrew Marvell wrote, in a poem that was actually about getting the object of his affection to sleep with him, Had we but world enough and time.

Travel is good. It’s, to me, the best investment of time and money that there is. And so off to the Atlantic we go.