BootsnAll Travel Network

Waking up

I woke at 4 a.m. today, gasping in wonder at my privilege in being alive and here in this moment. I couldn’t go back to sleep and miss a moment of this. Will it ever feel “normal”? I sat up in bed and watched the traffic crossing the on-ramp and off-ramp to the Columbia River Highway Bridge; and I basked in the pleasure of (a) what is to come: my couch and chair will be delivered today and my new apartment will be fully assembled; (b) what just happened: a night out at the film festival with a vivacious new acquaintance during a total eclipse of the full moon; and (c) luxuriating: in my new adjustable bed with deep latex mattress that sucks me into its cushy stillness, in the view out the window, in the joy that keeps on coming. I could burst with so much happiness. Only my certainty that everything changes allows me to admit to it. This is as good as it gets.

The film last night was so-so. It’s called Unrelated and it sounded good: written and directed by a woman, “intelligent” according to the reviews, psychologically complex. But at the heart of the film is the main character’s deep suffering–spoiler coming here–because although she is rich, beautiful, apparently successful in the career department and well-hooked-up, with a husband she talks to on the cell phone every morning while running in the Tuscan countryside, she waited too long to have a child and now she’s entering menopause and can’t have one. Big boo-hoo.  So (tell me the logic here) she hangs out with her best friend’s young adult kids and gets sexually attracted to one of them (yuck!) who then rejects her. Somehow my deep well of compassion fails me on that one. What the film does well is create a good portrait of a woman who feels left out, “unrelated” to those around her–she’s bored by (what the kids call her generation) “the olds” and yet of course she doesn’t fit in the world of the youngs. So she’s peripheral. I know that feeling. It sucks. But it’s not enough to build a whole film on. The Tuscan scenery is nice. The cinematography, putting a camera in one place and shooting very quietly from that one angle for a brave long time, is different. Far preferable to the nauseating hand-held or short-shots so common to action films. But again. Not enough, in my opinion, to build a movie on.

However the small-bodied, curly-haired, smart woman my age who invited me to see the film is recently back from a month in India, where she and some other women from Portland and South Korea were studying Indian women’s survival systems, so that led to some good conversation. I was grateful for her willingness to invite a total stranger to spend an evening with her. I could have been really creepy; she didn’t know. She is a little shy, and I am a little shy, so we sidled around, nervously introducing ourselves to each other, observing the moon’s eclipse (Portland has been clear-skied and sunny as Texas in these ten days–I keep waiting for the rain I’ve heard about, but I haven’t seen any yet), and rushing off at 10 p.m. to catch buses going in opposite directions. It felt racy and very grown-up (you’d think I’d be accustomed to feeling grown-up, but no, it is still a thrill to me) to be walking around downtown Portland alone, looking for a bus at that hour. I saw an assortment of cool-looking other people walking alone under the eclipse of the moon, one with a cello-case strapped to her back, and one big white scary crazy guy talking to himself.

When the bus turned up NW 23rd Street, I saw that there are little white lights on all the trees going up 23rd, like Northampton used to have around Christmas time. Maybe it’s an all-year thing here. Very sparkly and exciting to my eyes. And people walking in the streets and riding buses and trolleys.  Definitely not Houston.

Then the grandest pleasure of the evening was coming HOME to my new apartment, warm and beautiful and full of familiar books and pictures and this amazing bed. Oh, that felt good. It was worth going out just to come home again, to look around me, and to look out the window at the glittering world and pinch myself to be sure it’s real. I finished reading Eat, Pray, Love in tears because Elizabeth Gilbert did the same damn thing I did: wrote all her friends asking for money to build a house for a woman she cared about in Bali. And that took me back to Lesotho and M’e Mpho and her house (in which she still lives, and to which all my friends contributed). Yeah, I have a lot in common with that woman. I like her observation, which she attributes to her Gurumayi, that human beings are born with equal potential for expansion and contraction. It seems to me that our lives are a kind of bellows of expansion and contraction. Blow, suck, blow, suck. Mania, depression. Dark, light. Yin, yang. It makes a wild music. And so I know I won’t always feel so tingly and excited to be here. But I definitely feel that now.

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6 responses to “Waking up”

  1. Pam says:

    Hello Friend! I’m so glad others talked you into blogging again. I’m delighted to have an avenue to keep up with your new adventure. From what I read, you ended up in Portland without a daughter.

    The halls of our little campus are not the same without your smiling face. I’m glad you are pleased with your new life and will read with delight as you explore your new world.


  2. Kathryn says:

    Welcome, Pam! My daughter stayed in Houston–for now. She has the option of moving to Portland if she wants to. At present she’s choosing to be in a familiar place. Who knows what the future holds?

  3. RetiredSyd says:

    I’m so happy to have discovered your blog. I, too, read “Eat, Pray, Love” recently and am disappointed to read all other books as nothing holds a candle to that book for me.

    But I love reading your writing and feel a bit the same way about it as reading Elizabeth Gilbert.

    Thank you for sharing your stories.


  4. Kathryn says:

    Wow, Sydney. Thanks. I’m ducking my head and blushing. K.

  5. Oh for heaven’s sake Kendall, calm down, you’re having one of your spells, you’ve just changed addresses again, nothing so remarkable for you, and this saccharine-tinged mania will end in tears I warn you. In the first place these faux-art movies, which you’d do better to avoid, are just up-dated women’s magazine fiction with glossy trimmings, of much the same calibre as Barbara Cartland; secondly, women who meddle in India for their own gratification are to be avoided like the plague and it’s not you, quite the contrary, who has to be “grateful” for allowing some misguided bore to ramble on grinding her own axes. The variations of the moon are inconsequential facts of nature and nothing whatever to do with any of us. And what about concentrating on one or two people caring for you rather than falling over backwards yourself for any stray you happen to run across? Retarded adolescence may have a certain charm, but don’t overdo it, wise maturity is far more attractive at any age. Just rest in your new bed and chair, think a little, and then proceed out with a clear eye, after all you have plenty of time now….

  6. The lights on NW 23rd are there all year round, I do believe. They come on after dark. There are other parts of town where “christmas lights” run during the night, too. As for the rain: The last five or so years, it’s been much drier and clearer than what I remember first moving here in 1992. Maybe it’s global warming; maybe it’s just a spell. We do tend to get a lot of rain in November, December, April, and May.

    I gained a lot of sunshine when I stopped working – precisely because I wasn’t inside of an office when the sun was most likely to be shining! I experienced a fair amount of confusion at the end of last summer when no less than half a dozen of my friends lamented that “summer never really came.” I had distinct memories of trying to beat the heat of my house day after day, and trying to get away from the sunshine pouring in through my giant windows.

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