Notes From a Sabbatical

Notes From a Sabbatical

Photo Credit: Sonya Lea Mostly it’s the time I’m after. The slower mornings, the lingering cup of coffee, pajamas sometimes until 10 am. It’s waking up and trying to remember what day it is. It’s paying attention to my stomach – where the anxiety lives. It’s noticing how even though I’ve given myself some time to take a breath this fall, the stomach still gets tight and I ask myself, “What is that? What am I afraid of?” It’s the list I made back in June where I wrote down all the things I could do during the sabbatical; take the online photography class, travel to Greece, get in my garden, complete a draft of the book I’ve been working on for three years, create that piece of art I’ve been seeing in my mind.  It’s noticing right after I made the list, that I moved toward none of those things – it’s how I got curious about that. The reluctance to fill empty space. The reluctance to get busy, to make another list. It’s how a friend commented that if I have nothing to show from these four months off – no draft of book – no piece of sculpture – no pictures from Greece – that I may have actually, I don’t know, accomplished something. It’s spending time with my 24-year-old daughter who has moved back home to find new work. It’s making coffee for two in the morning, then juicing celery because my friend Lisa told us it’d keep us alive. It’s doing jumping jacks in the living room together and making obnoxious faces as we...
Lost in a Sea of Humanity

Lost in a Sea of Humanity

A few years ago I found myself running alone down a trail in the Himalayas, Nine Inch Nails playing on my headphones, rain lightly falling around me. I’d left my friend Sunny and our Sherpa, Raja, on the trail behind me. We’d been hiking for five days on a route that took us to a town called Namche Bazaar – which is on the way to the Everest Base Camp. Curiously, the landscape smelled and looked a lot like the Sierras back home in California; the dirt under our feet was rust colored, the trees smelled like pine, and there was a fast flowing, white water river a thousand feet below the trail. My arms were stretched out like wings as I flew down that trail in the rain – just because I could – just because I was completely happy, and because I’d come to love the freedom of being on my own so far from home. Travel has been an incredible surprise to me in the last bunch of years. Almost immediately after the kids and Mark left, I started getting invitations to go places – but really far flung places like Nepal and Bali – which is funny because up until then I’d been a complete home body – didn’t travel – loved nothing more than making a nest on the couch all weekend surrounded by paper and books. If you asked me where I dreamed of going, I had no idea. And then overnight I’m running the streets of Ubud, in Bali, at sunrise – running through early morning markets where I’m the only Westerner...
The Radical Sabbatical

The Radical Sabbatical

“It’s important to stay busy.” That’s what I said to my 24-year-old daughter the other day, and as the words were leaving my mouth, a wave of sadness swept through me – as though I was giving her very old, very crusty survival tips – pretty much my lifetime prescription for how to stay on the right side of things – how to stave off sadness and loneliness – how to respond to feeling small or adjust yourself when you have no idea what you’re doing, when it appears that the rest of the world is having a lovely time and you are back in your house on a Friday night surrounded by silence. “Stay busy,” I warned. Marie Howe, the beautiful poet, once told me in a class to never use clichés, but what is another way to say “don’t throw the baby out with the bath water?” Maybe if I said it in French it would sound more exotic. Because getting busy, being busy, putting one foot in front of the other, making sure you’ve got your list and you know what your priorities are has really served me all these years, and it’s not a bad thing at all. I make shit. I’m a mother of a manifestor. Give me a shovel and I’ll dig. Definitely more of a do-er than a be-er. There’s a huge identity around it, can you feel it? Much pride. But still, this wave of sadness I felt as I spoke to my daughter – my daughter who has recently been through heart break, my daughter who doesn’t love her job...
Anything Worth Doing is Worth Doing Badly

Anything Worth Doing is Worth Doing Badly

A couple of weeks ago we had a party at our house for our dear friend Garner, who had just turned 70. Garner made it happen, handled all the invites and the food, the set up and the cleanup. All I had to do was open my front door. He even left me with house cleaning money to soften the blow of 85 sets of feet coming in and out of the house, 85 sets of feet on the living room turned dance floor. The party was bustling. People bumped into each other on the porch, little pieces of quiche flew from plates, there were lots of kisses and hugs, people who love Garner, who is one of those people who, when he sees you puts down what he’s holding to give you the biggest hug you’ll get all week. A lover, a builder, a friend – 85 of his friends seemed like a mere slice of his big life. As we like to do, we pulled all the living room furniture – the couches and chairs – out into the yard and set them around the fire pit, which we lit and tended late into the night, and where Garner and his drummer friends did their hubba hubba drumming thing around the flames. At one point a woman in the crowd started singing this rap beat song to Garner, and as she came to the end of her song she invited people from the group to join in, to make up a song and sing to Garner, but no one did. Silence. 85 people who love this guy...
Such a Big, Bright Star

Such a Big, Bright Star

“It’s hard, it’s hard, it’s hard. Work harder, work harder, work harder!” That’s me chanting to my friend Jen in the car the other day after a delightful lunch of pea shoots and hummus at Standard Fare, in Berkeley. I was explaining what running on the treadmill was like for me. “It’s hard,” I’d said, “I don’t love it, but I do it, and as I run I think, ‘it’s hard, it’s hard, it’s hard,’ and then I say to myself, ‘work harder, work harder, work harder.’” Jen and I looked at one another, and then we both burst out laughing. “Oh my god,” said Jen, who has been my good friend since we were 13 in Los Angeles, “you need to put that on a t.shirt. You need to write that shit down.” And not because it’s an important anthem to live by, god no, but because I have lived that mantra since I was 15-years-old when I used to run up this super steep hill in my neighborhood – the one we called, the Wiggly Waggily – a hill that was tippy top and breathless, a hill I ran because it was the hill I deserved on account of my thighs, which I knew were too big. How I’d do it is I’d stand at the bottom of the great hill and I’d wait until I heard a car coming down, and then I’d start running up so that whoever was in the car – even if it were some old grandma who couldn’t even see over her steering wheel – wouldn’t see me standing there or...
A Woman in a Parade of Puppets

A Woman in a Parade of Puppets

Would you like LAURIE to read the piece to you? Click below. https://27powers.org/wp-content/uploads/2019/03/parade-of-puppets.m4a   Sometimes, when I don’t know what to write about, when I don’t have a big story and I mostly just want to stay in touch, I shake my pockets loose for the small moments that are still with me from the week to see if among the scrappy change and crumpled wrappers there might be anything worth remembering, something with a little glow, a little light… Like… Walking down the streets of San Miguel de Allende last week with my 23-year-old daughter Ruby, how she was wearing that billowing yellow dress with the black cowboy boots I’d just bought her, how alive and free she looked, blond hair flying, new boots clicking on the cobblestone. And that woman, the tall English woman with the bad teeth and kohl dark eyes from too much drink and too much smoke and too many late nights, the formerly gorgeous, henna haired beauty who had gone to ruin – how she stopped Ruby on the street and shouted, “Never! Never! Never doubt yourself!” she practically yelled. “And if somebody says something that makes you worry, don’t listen! Never, never doubt!” she screamed, and stormed off. Ruby – who came to the workshop broken-hearted, who’s boyfriend of many years told her that one of the reasons he wanted to break up with her was so he could be with girls with bigger breasts. Ruby, who as a teenager had bought cream on the internet that promised to make her breasts bigger, Ruby who has one of the loveliest bodies I’ve...