Tuesday, December 26, 2006

making sense

I wake up, it's dark and still, I have to make notes. Do it this way. And make the following corrections. And consider this…

Great plans, hatched at wee hours of the morning.

Other times, ideas percolate elsewhere, then get thrown my way. (Sometimes it’s better to rely on the stewardship of another.)

And, of course, there’s a symbiotic relationship at play too, so that some ideas are bounced between others and myself and what comes forth has an impossibly complicated genealogy.

Oh, life.

In 1972 I am ready to come back. I am nineteen and I am antsy. New York? Go live in New York again? Such a grand plan! There may have been many in Poland who would be equally enthused about coming to NY at the time of politically challenging times, but my reasons are personal. I want a break from my university studies. I want a break from my boyfriend. New York promises changes in both worlds.

I am an au pair to a fantastic family. I am supported, I am introduced to a world where people make money off of ideas! [None of that entrepreneurial spirit rubbed off, not then and maybe never, but I took note of it.] And, my new New York family, they are of the world where tickets to Broadway shows get thrown their way whether or not they put in a request for them. Nina, do you want to see Candide? We have two tickets. Take a friend.

Friend? I have no real friends here. My real friends are in Poland. Here, in New York, I am a student by day, an au pair by night.

I go alone.

And let us try,
Before we die,
To make some sense of life.

I sit on a bench (how fun! prime tickets and we get to sit on benches!) and I tear up from the splendidness of it all. The story, the music, they pull me in so that I am, the next day, buying Voltaire in the bookstore and Bernstein at Sam Goody’s. Impressionable, she is so impressionable!

Two years later I move to Chicago to attend graduate school. If I was lonely in New York (dear friends in Warsaw, I miss you, love, Nina), I am super lonely in Chicago. I buy a parakeet. I give her freedom. She does not live in a cage, she flies up and down my studio apartment and I name her Candide.

We're neither pure, nor wise, nor good
We'll do the best we know.

She flies as if possessed. Mostly, she aims for the windows. Tall windows, with a beautiful view toward downtown Chicago. She crashes into them again and again until I can’t stand it anymore. It’s either a cage or a new home.

A sweet family comes and picks her up. They have a cage for her. Thank you! Just what we wanted.

Out of Chicago, straight into the suburbs of Madison. My father visits from Poland. You wont make it here, he tells me. What does he know – he is a city boy. His life is one huge adventure story. From war-torn Poland to the United Nations and everywhere in between, what does he know about settling down. We are purchasing our dream home and I am planting hundreds of perennials in every conceivable space, including some where nothing has ever grown before nor will ever grow again. Thank you, little plants, for trying so hard all the years I lived there!

We'll build our house and chop our wood

And make our garden grow...
And make our garden grow.

It is the day after Christmas, 2006. I have been legally alone exactly 365 days. I have crossed the ocean since then a half dozen times each way, I have scaled mountains and pushed every conceivable (travel) button. I have written and photographed and I have agonized over how poorly I have written and photographed and now here we are, 365 days later and I am a mite poorer but now with a year’s worth of experience.

Let dreamers dream
What worlds they please
Those Edens can't be found.
The sweetest flowers,
The fairest trees
Are grown in solid ground.

Solid ground. Am I there yet? Am I there?

No. Those lyrics must have been written about someone else’s life. Still...

We're neither pure, nor wise, nor good
We'll do the best we know.

I sit down to write a post. A small little tidbit from a walk along State Street. (You wish!)

december 06 215
state street display

But it happens that someone at home flips on the TV and the Kennedy Center’s tribute to the year’s greats comes on. I listen to the music that celebrates Spielberg’s work on, among other things, Schindler’s List. Bernstein's Candide.

See you in a bit, post-war Poland, parakeets flying, perennials pushing through clay soil, long lines at the airport…

We're neither pure, nor wise, nor good
We'll do the best we know.