Isn't It Pretty To Think So?

A wanderer's dispatches on life, love and the human condition


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My new home…finally!

It took me more than a year to make this happen but I’m finally living in southwest Portugal full time — at least for the foreseeable future. I’m currently staying with my friend D, living in a mini-apartment above her house in Burgau, on the south coast, for the month of February in exchange for doing some work for her.

This is a view of my balcony on a sunny day — which there haven’t been that many of since I’ve been here (damned La Nina year; February is not usually this wet!).

I’ve been here more than a week now and have been busy trying to get my life going. I’ve also been working a lot, both for D and also an every-day freelance gig for Informationweek writing stories about government and technology.

But so far I’m off to a good start — I bought a used Fiat Punto yesterday, and I looked at an apartment for rent nearby today and am looking at two more tomorrow. I have a lead on a job for the upcoming holiday season here, and I already have some friends who make life here fun. I’m trying to be patient and know everything will eventually fall into place.

I’ll be posting more as things progress. Until then, enjoy my new view of the world…I certainly do.


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“One Lexington, Two Cities”

Several years ago someone broke my heart into a million pieces. I’m not exaggerating — I think I am still trying to locate some of the fragments that exploded in every direction. (Some of them remain lost to this day.) The end of that relationship sent me into a deep depression the likes of which I hope never to feel again.

But as these things go, I eventually got over it, and I know he wasn’t entirely at fault. Yes, he did some terrible things to me. Yes, he lied and treated me poorly and all around did me wrong.

But as we are all ultimately responsible for our own feelings, I didn’t have to fall apart so badly when all was said and done. I did, though, for a lot of reasons. There were other losses in my life at the time — the deaths of my mother and my ex-boyfriend, the latter still my most significant intimate relationship, book-ended the time in which I knew the man who broke my heart.

At the time I was in love with love (I still am, I think, a little bit), and set my expectations so high for this man and our relationship that there was no way either could ever have met them. I realized I was as much to blame for what happened as he was, and after a time I stopped feeling sick to my stomach when I thought of him. I stopped blaming him for my own inability to make a relationship work. I felt no more ill will toward him and in my heart wished him happiness.

So time passed — two and half years, to be exact — and except for some emails and text messages, we did not speak.

I had other romantic entanglements — skirmishes, I like to call them — but no one ever really affected me the way he did again. Or maybe I just wouldn’t let anyone affect me, so protective I was of the sanity I worked so hard to reassemble during that time. Except for one person last spring, who in too many ways reminded me of him, i didn’t meet anyone I wanted to have a relationship with, not really.

One morning in late October in Portugal, as I was hurrying to catch a bus from Aljezur to Lisbon so that from there I could catch a flight to Morocco, I got an email from this man, J. By now we were Facebook friends, and a couple of weeks earlier he’d wished me a happy birthday. I’d emailed back, and it was his response to that I read just before dashing out of my little house to catch my ride to the bus station.

He asked me for a poem, a love poem to be exact, for a piece he was to cast in bronze for a show that asked artists to combine text and visual art to create “books” of love. The sculpture itself would be a book, and my words would be typecast into it.

I was a little hungover from drinking too much wine the night before, so didn’t think too hard about the e-mail beyond being excited at the notion of collaborating on an art project. Even during our worst times, we shared the same aesthetic, and were a good team creatively.

So I sent him quite a dramatic poem about love and longing and distance that I’d written about him about seven or eight months since the last time we physically spoke, which incidentally was the conversation that more or less ended our intimate connection with each other. It was pretty emotionally raw stuff. There were direct references to our time together, and where he lives (which was never where I lived), and events that took place during our relationship.

The photo at the top of the page is the work of art that came out of our collaboration. It’s called “One Lexington, Two Cities” after the poem’s title, and it is now appearing in the show The Art of the Artist’s Book that opened last Friday at the Oakland University Art Gallery in Detroit.

In some ways, it’s a miracle this piece was ever cast. Emotionally, this person and I (and I hope if he reads this he will agree) went pretty deeply with each other; I am not sure if I would dare to ever go that deep again with someone. We knew each other pretty well, even the darkest parts of ourselves, the parts that I’m pretty sure now that we should never show anyone. Some things should be kept secret, I think.

There was a time I thought I would never get over our relationship and how I felt about him. Of course I did, and now I am glad we are in touch, even though we still have not actually spoken to each other — only through e-mail, text message and now art have we communicated.

I feel as if this work of art was a gift. So bereft I was at one point about the end of our connection that I doubted it was even real. I doubted that this person had ever cared for me at all, and I thought I had somehow created in our head this connection between us. At one point I even feared I was delusional and had made the whole thing up

Somehow collaborating on this piece set right any lingering misgivings I had about our relationship. Even before he asked me to work together, I had pretty much come to terms about why it didn’t work out, and I sincerely did not have any bad feelings toward him nor did I want to be with him anymore.

So it surprised me how much it meant to collaborate, and when I saw photos of the finished piece, I was thrilled. I felt validated in a way I never had before. And best of all, I felt free — free from any lingering doubt about my own ability to judge the feelings that exist between two people.

In 11 days I will leave New York, possibly for good, to start a new life abroad. I’m really looking forward to it, and I feel that finally I have learned to trust myself, to be who I really am without shame or remorse, and to be proud to wear my heart on my sleeve, no matter how painful it can sometimes be.

And while I’ve been flirting with the door to this new place of self-confidence for some time, this collaboration more than anything else helped me turn the knob and cross the threshold.

So thank you, J, for this gift. Thank you for respecting me enough as an artist to ask me to collaborate. Thank you for respecting me enough as a person to let me share my deeply personal work with you — something that I know could not have been easy for you to read.

Finally, thank for giving me the experience that allowed me to write these words, the ones that are cast on your beautiful work of art.

__________________________________________________________________________
One Lexington, Two Cities

Tonight the hair on the back of a man’s neck
drives me to deep longing in a city that
never lies nor easily gives up its
borders . I am alone these long nights
it’s just turned winter, the season’s first snow
a sign of things to come. Long
months since I’ve held someone close
the way I held you, since we put our foreheads
together in the shower and something moved
between the thin skin separating our gray matters.
Oh, what you did to me that day, that hotel in
St. Charles, Missouri, things the river outside could carry
for miles if its ancient tongue could wag.
A dog that river is and dogs were were—
it’s been seven months and still can’t shake it,
you haunting me in same defiant dreams:
I beg, travel long miles over dark land and waters,
get the same story from you every time.
Go away, now. It will never work.

There was a time I thought it could.
Now I inhabit a new concrete world,
me without you. Only meant to be an experiment,
this big city, but has turned, surprisingly, into something
that looks like life. Pity me, pity the four
seasons that change and limp along gasping for air
amid exhaust and vermin. Back now again to winter,
the trees that are scantily clad even
in the best of times now bare, the dark
slush of morning snow chill my feet in twilight.
These are not the days of true love,
not even the days of like, and certainly not
the days of intimacy–your big hands encircling my waist
as I wash dishes, the way you shift gears, know
the history and country of people who
sing your favorite songs. I would give it all up
for another week–no, another day alone with you,
however and wherever you want me, your mind, mouth
and thick fingers mapping your beloved
Red River across my body.

We’re an old story, true. Lamenting you is
a habit I thought I lost but forgive me,
it was a day full of reminders lighting
like flies on decay–the poet in Brooklyn
told tales of the state where you live,
where I have traversed with you, your captive.
When stripping tobacco leaves came up
I thought of that day in the cold with your tall father,
his patient hands showing me how to pull leaves,
grade them into piles according to desire.
I worked beside poor Junebug
looking for the green that would make us all sick,
wanted your father briefly that day, a comfort
knowing it meant I would also want you
when you are old. I thought I would get that chance,
beside you old on some piece of that tobacco farm,
ghosts of ancestors wandering through walls
as we slept in our ancient bliss.

But you are long gone now, my lost Kentucky home.
Somehow today these memories–
visions of those windswept hills, farmhouses
and barns rolling far out to the horizon–
don’t drive me to tears. Today I am
grateful for having loved you, even
for a short time; for having sat in the warm
Kentucky sun holding a coffee cup, a beagle in my lap;
for miles on an old, tired bicycle, those lazy
country roads with you, my love,
beside me. I am grateful for horses against cerulean
and last bonfire sky of day; for falling-down milksheds,
their cows out to pasture; for slipping snow
at Red River Gorge and soil of an uncommonly
warm February marking territory on new shoes.

All of these live somewhere inside of me,
are turning from painful to fond. Been told
time would do this, turn you into a poltergeist
nuisance that can do no real harm, not anymore,
no more than noise can travel through mountains
and make new history between us, give me
back what I lost. About time you haunted me proper,
reminded me of love I was lucky enough to find,
not foolish enough to have lost. Now
rattle me to sleep, you old and tired memory.
I will carry the earth under your feet as my skin,
keep you alive somewhere in bones
where my past lies dormant like cancer,
silent, waiting for its chance to surface.


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Reflections on hunger, happiness and the Big Apple

I’m back in Brooklyn now, and as if returning to the dead of winter after my lovely time away wasn’t enough torture, I’m on a three-day juice fast to cleanse myself of all the toxins I ingested and inhaled in Morocco, Portugal and over the holidays.

I’m nearly to the end of day two of the fast. (The days are shorter if you go to bed early; it’s 8pm and I’ll probably be asleep by 10.) I am actually feeling pretty good right now, but that’s probably because I’m on a sugar high from all the fruit juice. (Note to self: juice some veggies tomorrow.)

I haven’t eaten food — as in chewed and masticated something edible — in 48 hours now, and it’s been something of a revelation. I’m not as hungry as I thought I would be; don’t get me wrong, I get hungry, but when I do, I take a sip or two of juice and my hunger pangs go away instantly.

I’m a little weak physically — I went into Manhattan today to run a few errands and elderly people dashed past me as I climbed up the subway stairs. I expected that, but it’s not really as bad as I thought it would be.

It’s really what not eating does to the mind that’s proven most interesting. I feel slightly loopy and confused, and yet strangely clearheaded about things. The world around me feels unreal, dissolved into the background, yet my emotional reality is in hyper-focus.

It’s hard to explain, but I am having moments of enlightenment about people and situations that I haven’t had before. It’s like by removing the distraction of food, the mind is stripped down to its most basic level, and intuition and instinct become paramount. It’s a pretty cool feeling, to be honest, and I’m hoping it really is clarity and not hunger-induced delusion that I’m experiencing.

At the very least, my body really needed to cleanse after all of the rich food, alcohol and other toxins I put into it while I was away. My return to the states just in time for the December holidays added a whole new level of impurities to the equation. So it was time to flush it all out, just in time for the new year.

Being back has been difficult, I must say, but luckily seeing my family and friends has eased the transition. I’ve had some really lovely moments with people I love since I’ve been back, and I feel that much more grateful for them having been away, and knowing that I plan to leave again very soon.

Even before I started fasting, I felt more clear upon my return on a very basic emotional level. And the first thing that struck me when I returned to New York (and Philadelphia a little bit, too) is how unhappy everyone seems.

Granted, it’s been ridiculously cold way early for winter here on the East Coast (usually these frigid temperatures don’t happen until late January or February), so I’m sure people are none too pleased about that. (Hell, neither am I.) Winter in cold climates is a very bleak thing indeed, and I know that has something to do with the feeling in the air. But still, I feel this general sense of misery emanating from New York, something I felt even before I left.

I know it’s a broad generalization to be sure — some of my friends are actually pretty happy to be living here, and I know plenty of other New Yorkers who also love the city and wouldn’t want to be anywhere else.

In my opinion, though, they are in the minority — an opinion backed by research that New York is number 50 on the list of states where people are happiest — and more people than not are unhappy in New York.

Or, rather, they’re just unhappy in general, and they happen to be living here, quietly radiating unhappiness. I’m feeling that very strongly since I’ve been back, and I am trying to maintain a positive attitude despite that energy.

Even if I’m way off base about the general unhappiness of people here, I know one thing for sure: I don’t want to live here anymore.

Don’t get me wrong — it’s a great place to visit or to live part time. (Perhaps in the fall and the spring, my favorite seasons here; I was a fool to return in winter).

There are amazing things you can experience here that you can’t experience anywhere in the world, and I am so grateful for the time I’ve spent here, the friends I’ve met and the stories I have to tell about one of the greatest cities in the world.

For the first couple of years that I lived in New York, I would say that my greatest love affair here was with the city itself. I really loved the city as a tangible, living, breathing thing, as a character in the movie of my life, as my best friend who was always there for me when no one else was.

I loved New York when I lived in downtown Manhattan and would run on good-weather days at dusk over the Brooklyn Bridge, the Empire State Building in the distance reflecting orange from the setting sun.

I loved New York when I would walk down the streets of SoHo and NoLIta in the early hours of the morning on my way home from some urban adventure with my best friend who lived around the corner, and we would sing songs off-key not caring who heard us.

I loved New York, too, when I would bike around Manhattan and Brooklyn on sticky summer nights, on my way from one unexpected moment to the next, the breeze I made with my bicycle the only thing that cooled the still night air.

I loved New York every time I had a celebrity sighting, or saw an amazing theatrical production, or live musical performance, or an art exhibit that moved me, or an indie film that I knew hadn’t opened anywhere else in the country yet but was open here because New York is something special.

And even as I prepare to leave New York for a good long while, I still do love this city. I think it really is one of the greatest cities in the world, and that if you have the chance, you should come try on living here for awhile.

But now I know that doing that — living in New York full time — is a tough slog. While it has been one of the most amazing experiences I have ever had, it also has been one of the loneliest, and it is definitely not something I want to do anymore.

I know now my decision to stay only a short time before I leave again is the right one for me, and I look forward to returning to warmer and more cheerful climes very soon.

And it will be with the fondness I might feel for an ex-lover who I knew, in the end, just wasn’t right for me, that I will bid adieu to the Big Apple.


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Flight risk?

Tonight I saw “Up in the Air,” a film that has left me a bit emotionally rattled.

The film is about a man who travels for a living, and about the toll it takes on his personal life.

In the film, the main character travels around firing people for a living. A bleak job, to be sure — but he enjoys it because it allows him to not have any personal “baggage,” so to speak.

He doesn’t have to be connected to anyone or any place permanently, and he’s happy to be that way and has even become a motivational speaker of sorts advocating this lone-wolf philosophy.

But then he meets someone that he begins to fall for, which leads him to question the way he’s been living his life.

I won’t say any more about it, but I will say what could have been a typical Hollywood-ending type of film really surprised me in the realistic way it handled its material.

The film, among other things, has really gotten me thinking about what it means to be single — and not just unmarried, but really and truly single, as in living alone without a partner.

The traveling element of the film is also relevant to me right now as I consider my next move — whether to keep traveling or try to settle down in one place, whether that be New York or Portugal, for awhile.

Seeing the film was also a bit weird because someone I know co-wrote and co-performed a couple of songs in the film — and this someone and I were nearly-but-not-quite involved personally for a very short time last spring.

The whole situation at the time was a disappointment to me because I actually really liked him, but to him, in the end, I was a fling.

I still see him around sometimes when I’m in Brooklyn, and we’re on civil terms now. But the rejection I felt is still there sometimes in the background. (For the record, the songs in the film are really beautiful and fit perfectly, and I’m actually happy for his success despite our history.)

So within the context of a film about someone who lives a solitary life in which he travels all the time, I — a single woman of 38 who has spent a good part of 2009 traveling myself — was reminded of one of my very own romantic disappointments.

And as I watched this character grapple with his own decision to live his life alone without personal attachments, I began to wonder about my own relationship status, or lack thereof.

The other day when I had to choose security questions to sign in to an online banking site, several of them had to do with a spouse.

“What is your spouse’s name?” and “Where was your spouse born?” were a couple of options I could have chosen as my security questions to back up my password on the site.

It struck me as a tad presumptuous to assume that everyone wanting to set up an ID and password on the site would have a spouse, and I had a fleeting moment when I felt a little sad about it.

Having lived as a single person for some time, I know I’m certainly not the only person in the world living alone in my late 30s or beyond. And some of the people doing so actually do it as a conscious choice, and say they prefer life that way.

However, I’m not one of those people. I would rather be with someone than single — but not just any someone, the “right” someone, whatever that means. For whatever reason, I haven’t figured out that part of my life yet.

And sometimes I wonder what is wrong with me that I am this age and not just unmarried and unpartnered, but have never been married.

I wonder how — when so many people can make a long-term relationship work, even if it’s not one that ends in matrimony — my last significant relationship officially ended three and a half years ago.

It’s not going to do a whole lot of good to dwell on my single status, and I have a lot of love in my life thanks to my family and good friends. I am not lacking for love or company, and I feel blessed and lucky to have all that I have.

But both the film and the incident of the spousal security questions suggested that I might be missing something unless I have that one person in my life who is committed to me, who is there to watch my back as I watch his, who chooses to go through life by my side.

These days I am mostly happy with my life. And why shouldn’t I be? By anyone’s standards, it’s a charmed one.

But I would be lying if I said that I didn’t often feel that there is something missing.

And tonight, after seeing that film, I am wondering if the decisions I’ve made and continue to make about how I live my life — to keep moving forward, always moving without looking back — has kept me from filling in that blank.


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Another sunrise, another continent

Yesterday I woke up after an uneasy sleep in the early hours to wind and rain on the southwest coast of Portugal and watched the sun rise as I drove through the sleepy green hills of Alentejo. Today I woke early (jetlag) to the snowy suburbs of Philadelphia and watched the sun rise from the window in the bathroom of my dad’s master bedroom.

I am strangely still high, my energy vibrating from some crazy positive frequency, from my beautiful last day in Portugal, and don’t feel nearly as uneasy as I thought I would about being back.

It was great to see my dad, who still pretty much rules above all dads (don’t even try to fight me on this one). I changed the game plan on him and instead of arriving in Philadelphia on an Amtrak train at 7:42, I arrived in Trenton, New Jersey, on a NJ Transit train at 5:00. (Yes, NJ Transit was my first stop after landing at the airport. One day you wake up in one of the prettiest places in the world, the next day — after traveling for 15 hours — you are riding the commuter train from hell.) No matter — he still showed up to pick me up, battling last-day-before-the-Christmas-holidays traffic and a brewing sinus malady.

He barely flinched when I told him I planned to stay in the U.S. for only about a month before heading back to Europe, when I told him I planned to just pick up work here and there and travel for about another year. For a man who spent his whole life in his hometown and still, at 76, goes to work every day, it’s somewhat of an alien concept not to work a full-time job and live in one place your whole life. But my dad has the heart of a traveler (we have traveled together in Rome and Sicily), so I am not entirely surprised he was cool about it, and the fact that he will be my home base/freelance check casher while I’m away.

My first greeting on U.S. soil wasn’t nearly as warm, but more or less solidified my plan to get out of the country again as fast as possible.

When I had my passport stamped at immigration, the officer asked me how long I had been away. I told him two months; he then asked if I lived in the U.S. or in Europe, and if I was on vacation or working while I was away.

Wanting to just get out of there — immigration always makes me nervous, just like seeing cops make me nervous, as if I’ve done something wrong (a throwback from smoking a lot of marijuana when I was a teenager, I think) — I said I was mostly on holiday. (As an aside, I’m glad I got rid of the weed I picked up in Portugal, where having a small amount is legal, before I left the country. There were drug-sniffing beagles in baggage claim.)

Then Mr. Important Immigration Guy asked, “Don’t you work?” which I thought was pretty rude, because what if I was one of the thousands of people who lost jobs in the U.S. — people who, unlike me, have major responsibilities and kids and bills and are in seriously dire straits. I responded, “Sometimes” and then “I’m freelance; where I am, the work is.” He smirked, handed me back my passport and sent me on my way.

His whole attitude reminded me exactly what I don’t like about the “American” way of life, which generally puts more value on making money and working even a dead-end job than life experience, traveling, creativity and a solid spiritual path. We all know which side I root for, and yes, I know I’m lucky that the circumstances of my life and the hard work of my father have, to a certain degree, allowed me this lifestyle.

But honestly, I think that more people could live a different way here if they didn’t buy into the whole American value system in the first place, so I didn’t appreciate having someone question my lifestyle, and certainly not some power-tripping government cog.

It didn’t ruin my day or dampen my spirits, though, nor will it ruin my Christmas. I’m here at my dad’s now, and looking foward to seeing my sister and her kids today. I talked briefly to my 2-year-old niece last night on the phone and that little girl was jabbering away (god knows what she was saying, but it sounded super-cute; she wasn’t talking that much last time I saw here).

Hope you all have a beautiful holiday and take a moment in between sips of wine and food-gobbling to count your blessings this year. I suspect you will find you have many more than you think.


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Portuguese driving directions will get you there eventually

Today I got my bi-annual directions from here to the Lisbon airport from my Portuguese friend, David. On paper, they look like this:

Odeceixe
S. Teotonio
C. Branca
Milfontes–Brumheiras (direita) Porto Covo (esquerda)
Sines
Grandola
Lisboa

Spoken, they go something like, “You go Odeceixe, and then you see sign for Sao Teotonio and you go Sao Teotonio, then you see sign for Casa Branca and you go there, and then you see sign for Milfontes and…”

Well…you get the idea.

They’re nearly identical to the directions he gave me the night before I left in May, except his friend Ricardo, who witnessed the directions-scrawling today, corrected him about what happens when I follow signs for Milfontes.

It’s a good thing, too — last time I nearly ended up in the Atlantic Ocean in Milfontes in the wee hours of the morning because I didn’t know I had to take a right at the roundabout in the direction of Brumheiras before actually driving into the town itself. I ended up on some road that, if I hadn’t been paying close attention, would have landed me in the drink.

So now I am nearly ready to go to sleep and wake up once again in the early hours for my three-hour drive to Lisbon, where I will board a jet airliner and fly to Newark, New Jersey, where I will board a train and ride to Philadelphia, where I will get in a car driven by my father and eventually end up in Oaks, Pennsylvania, for Christmas.

I am happy to be going home to see my family and the people that I love in the U.S., carrying with me all the joy and beauty and love that has been shined on me by my lovely friends here, and by this unbelievably beautiful place that has truly changed my life.

The last few days I’ve been thinking about the plans and expectations I had for this trip, even though I tried not to make too many plans or expectations. But I’m human, and a tad neurotic (some people may argue more than a tad), so I did have ideas about what might happen by this time.

Well, I haven’t fallen in love. I haven’t gotten some spectacular new job. I didn’t write a novel. I’m not some fantastic surfer and I still haven’t paddled out via the channel to the Arrifana right beach break. I can’t speak fluent Portuguese, and I still have trouble holding even the most basic conversation in it.

So if you were to ask me if I accomplished everything I wanted while I was here, or if my trip was everything I hoped for, I would probably say no.

Of course, my expectations were probably set a little high. Someone who’s reached her late 30s without writing a novel probably doesn’t write one in two months. I wasn’t really trying that hard to find a really spectacular job, and it takes people years of dedication to become a really good surfer (and I’m not exactly the most athletically inclined person in the first place).

As for Portuguese — it’s a notoriously hard language to learn, and it’s a miracle I can read and write convincing text messages in it in two months, much less speak conversationally. And when I asked a native speaker today (the aforementioned Ricardo) how my language skills are coming along, he said, in truly honest and deadpan Portuguese fashion: “It is good. I can understand you when you speak Portuguese.”

Trust me — when it comes to the language, that’s the highest form of praise you can around here.

But I’m an idealist. I’m a romantic. And I’ll admit it, I kind of live in a fantasy world.

The older I’ve gotten, the more grounded in reality and the here and now I’ve become. But it doesn’t stop me from having flights of fancy every once in awhile and thinking that just because I wish it so, that everything in my life will work out the way I imagine it in my head.

So in two months I haven’t suddenly created this magical new life for myself. I’m still more or less the same person I was when I arrived, with a little less money and a little more free time.

But somewhere in between not exactly meeting all of the expectations I tried not to have, some other really amazing things have happened.

I met some truly wonderful like-minded people who I felt I could be myself with, people who loved and accepted me as I am and saw the beauty in me, as I saw it in them. I saw astonishingly gorgeous places I’ve never seen before. I cooked meals for strangers and they cooked them for me, accepting me into their homes as if I was family after only knowing me for a few days or weeks.

I may not be a pathetically novice surfer, but occasionally I did really and truly ride some waves, and always felt the same thrill I had when I rode my first. And I did this on some of the most stunning beaches in Portugal, if not in the world.

Even outside of Portugal, amazing things happened for me. The most unbelievable of them all is that I will return to the states as an artistic co-collaborator on a sculpture that will be featured in a show alongside works by some notable contemporary American artists, namely Matthew Barney (Bjork’s boyfriend), Kiki Smith and Donald Lipski.

It’s a long story, but my ex-boyfriend contacted me right before I was leaving for Morocco and asked me if I had any love poems to use as inspiration for a romance-themed he was asked to sculpt something for. (He’s a metal sculpture living in Lexington, Kentucky.)

Without thinking about it, I sent him a poem I wrote about us, post-breakup, something that sort of looked back on it all and mapped out our relationship to the places we lived, spent time together and traveled to.

He ended up using it, casting it in bronze (the whole poem! in bronze!). The finished work is beautiful and undoubtedly took a lot of time on his part, and will likely travel with the show not only in the states but also in Europe. It has both of our names on it and I even had to submit an artist bio for the show. (A bonafide artist bio! With my name as the artist!)

I have devoted much of my life — in some way no matter what else was going on or what I did to pay the bills — to creating something beautiful through art. So I am super-excited at the notion of this heartfelt poem that I wrote — and man, was it really a deluge of emotion when I wrote it — being featured in this way. (Stay tuned for photos and more details later.)

Now I know that all of these great things could have happened to me anywhere, and that I of course was instrumental in making it all happen, not the Algarve, not Portugal.

But I really do believe it is the energy I get from this place and the comfort I feel here to act intuitively and trust myself more than I ever have that has led to these modest achievements as a human being. And that is enough for me to want to spend more time here in the future to explore the possibilities.

So even as I look forward to being reunited with the people I love back “home” — and to losing myself in the frenetic energy of New York City for a little while — I will certainly miss this part of the world that has always been so lucky for me, and everything about it that I hold dear.

But hopefully, if all goes according to plan — one I am trying not to regard so rigidly or with too much expectation — I won’t have to miss it for too long.


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“My only advice is not to go away. Or, go away.”

In one week, I will fly back to the U.S. after spending two months abroad, mainly here in southwest Portugal.

When people here have said to me that I’m on holiday — by way of explaining why I should relax and not worry about working so much — I have responded that I don’t really feel like that. I haven’t treated this time here as a holiday per se; rather, I’ve tried to spend my time here as if I were a local resident and planned to make a more permanent home here.

This last week or so the southwest Algarve is really beginning to feel like home, and with my return to the U.S. approaching, I have some decisions to make and ideas to ponder.

One of the week’s most pleasant developments is that R, the stranded hippie surfer, has become a partner in crime of sorts.

Bonded by the fact that we’re two Americans in a place where there are few others — and with common interests like surfing, music, writing and romantic idealism in common — we’ve spent a couple of nights hanging out in his van eating, drinking and talking and have been driving in my car around the countryside listening and singing along to music.

R is sweet and earnest and funny, and it’s fun to have a bonafide guy friend here now — my Portuguese friend D hasn’t been around much, and the other men I’ve met I haven’t clicked with so immediately, or have seemed to want something more from me than I wanted to give them, and so it made being friends somewhat awkward.

The thing about R is he reminds me of people I’ve known in my life before — a combination of a couple of male friends I’ve known, one in Phoenix, Arizona, and one in San Francisco. He looks so much like the former — a musician I had a fling with — that I have to remember to call him by the correct name sometimes when I’m hanging out with him.

I’ve also introduced him to my friend D, for whom I think he’s harboring a bit of a crush. (It’s hard not to have a crush on her, lovely and kind as she is. I think I do, too, a little bit.) We all went out for pizza Saturday night at an amazing authentic Italian pizza joint in a tiny town called Petralva, and the three of us are cooking a vegetarian pre-Christmas friends dinner tomorrow night for 11 people. I also took him to her yoga class yesterday, after which we all had coffee at the usual cafe in Barao de Sao Joao.

R isn’t planning to settle in Portugal the way I am and of course doesn’t live here like D does — he wants to move his van, in which he lives (when he wasn’t living on boats where he worked as a chef) up to Amsterdam when the weather gets warmer. But he plans to spend quite a bit of time around these parts before then, so it’s likely I’ll see him if and when I decide to return in February.

But it’s these friendships and connections that are making this place feel more like a home than New York ever did, even though I love the friends I have there and feel blessed to have them.

So I have to figure this out. Right now I am hoping to spend a month in New York to settle my affairs (apply for my Italian passport, sublet my apartment again for nine months, try to rustle up more freelance work, set my freelance business up officially as a U.S. business etc. etc.) and then return here in February.

There is a lot to consider between now and then, and I’m worried that New York, that unrepentant siren, will lure me back to stay in the month I’m there.

I am pretty self-aware, and I know that I have a tendency to be flighty and can be pulled in whatever direction a particular life current takes me; commitments often aren’t my strong point (even when I make them, I tend to try to sabotage them, even subconsciously). If an opportunity arises in New York that I just can’t say no to, or something happens in my personal life to make me want to stick around, I may not return here.

But as always, the future is unwritten, and I only have now to worry about. After two days of freezing cold, it’s warmer again here, and the sun is shining after an incredibly stormy night. The possibilities of today are endless, and right outside my door. I am going to open it and take a deep breath now, and see which way today’s wind carries me.

And in case you’re wondering: the title of this post comes from one of my favorite poems. It’s by Larry Levis and it’s called “In The City of Light.” Read it. You will be happy that you did.