Of quiet and longing

by lizhuston

It was a strange day in the gallery today. With so many people about and wandering in the bookstore, it should have been a lucrative day – but it was not. I imagine most of them are on vacation, and with their carefree holidays coming to an end, have no time or interest in the alternative worlds that adorn my walls.

In the absence of an attentive audience, I busied myself with the work of a business owner; balancing the budget, considering employee schedules, allocating funds for reordering supplies. Realizing I have not the funds for any of it, I turned a hopeful glance to the patrons in my space.

But I was invisible to them today, or at least it felt that way. They found my art strange and weird, a compliment on most days, today it was not. Some of them, teenagers, even giggled awkwardly. At one point, hurt in a way that I should not still hurt (doesn’t 5 years of this business of art give me thicker skin?), I attempted to take some control of the situation and closed my glass doors (with me inside) to prevent their entrance. That mattered not. The people were not there today to buy, and after the third fated, “what beautiful frames you have” comment, I closed early, walked to the train, and came home. But can one come home early on a day they are not scheduled? Why did I even go in on a day I did not have to?

Last night I ached for the earth. All I wanted was a place in nature to go – a private, quiet spot to park my car next to a natural haven to sit my weary spirit down and be with Pachamama (Mother Earth). But the parks had all closed, and there weren’t even any places to stop the car and just get out, to just be still for a moment. I drove for hours like a woman who has not had water in days looking for a well; a fevered desire for just one tree, just one tree…

I never found that spot. Returned home defeated, a little sick from the longing. My own slice of heaven, that is what I would like. Only heaven is not in the clouds, it is right here, right now. I know the original Eden is still here, it calls to me as I call to it. If I could just find it.

My adventure last night was a striking parallel to the realities of our harsh modern life. We move too fast, going nowhere in particular, and without a natural place to rest and regroup.

Constant motion, distraction, busy busy. Perpetually pushed forward in a fevered dream of commerce and commodity.

The elite buy up the land and lock it away from the rest of us, charging admission, creating hours of operation for a thing that is, by its essence, free and wild. In the suburbs, where does one escape the cold modernity for the wildness of nature?

On the train home today I started thinking about that search last night which led to a question of pleasure, of joy, of happiness. What gives me pleasure? I feel so little of it in this constricting life I’ve created. I’m suffocated by the pressure to do do do, to go go go. What is the thing that feeds my spirit and heart like nothing else?


That is my first and perhaps, truest answer.

I can no longer remember the details of what it was like to live steps away from the pacific shore, even though it was nearly 7 years, off and on. Perhaps I am protecting myself from the memories. I loved living in Venice so completely and was utterly heartbroken when I had to leave (which I did for my daughter, and only her, but that is a story for another time…)

My heart remembers Venice though, in the way only a heart can. It has some precious details, like the sharpness of the paint that was peeling off my fire escape perch. Or the rattling sound the fire escape made when someone walked up it.
Sometimes the memories are all about my neighbor, how we would talk for hours from our respective perches (my fire escape, his balcony); smoking cigarettes and tossing each other books to read into the wee hours of the night – night after night after night. Sometimes it’s remembering the early morning sunrise walks, when the sand was so cold I thought my toes would freeze right off. Or the way I always kept the windows open, hearing the ocean, smelling the saltwater, sometimes letting in magical creatures like a hummingbird or a dragonfly.
It’s the laughter of the women across the hall, so dear and precious friends, their laughter like gold. All of these moments and so much more, live inside a feeling in my heart. Tucked safely in a tiny space I rarely ever open anymore, for it just hurts too much.

There are times when the memories surface unsolicited. When the air is cool, and the sky is blanketed with thin clouds, I feel the person I was when I lived a life I loved, in a city I loved.

The memory-feeling goes as quickly as it came. Exhale heavily. What would bring pleasure in this moment, right now?

A book. I want to be taken by words carefully crafted by another that weave a tale of some extraordinary, yet ordinary life. I have books to read already, so many of them, hundreds even- but none of them are right. They are all so informative, which I enjoy, but am so tired of learning. Right now, I want to be seduced. And then I remember my plight, there is no budget for a new book…

The library is still open. I found 4 books that piqued my interest, plus a book on how to paint watercolors like Turner (I am a good student, after all).

The sun has gone down now. The air is crisp, cool and a little bit moist, which is strange for this desert. I look up and see that the clouds have obscured the stars.

Through the gate, walk under the overgrowth, up the steps, books in hand, I turn the key and step inside my warm and empty home.

It is empty from the lack of another body, but warm from the presence of something familiar.
What is this feeling?
What is this presence?

It is myself.

That life I loved in a city I loved? It’s still alive in me. The feeling arose and greeted me tonight in the silence of this pink room.

And I said aloud, “hello old friend…”