Tuesday, December 19, 2017

Venetian blonde

I come from a family of redheads.

For quite some time, we were four. And yes, we would turn heads as we would bop down the street together, each of us adorned with their certain hue of ginger. You can almost hear the musical soundtrack accompaniment can't you? Bop, bop, bop, bop. There we went.

It put us apart this, made us slightly "other", reading special, save for schoolground torments and blissfully, I did not get too many of those. It was and is a defining part of who I am.

Even today at my current work in Avignon, I will gather the two - far, far younger than I - fellow creatures of the flame to proclaim us L'Équipe Roux and banter about facts that leave them blinking. "Do you know that redheads bleed more than other people? That we feel pain more accutely? That we actually have more Cro-Magnon in our genes than other people?" I can go on endlessly in this vein. Pride, swinging its invisible tail like a whip.

Of course, we rare birds have long been a matter of taste, hotly debated. We have been banished and burned or depicted as Mary, the height of magnificence. I remember one of the guides during an expedition in Mali, the one who drank hot sauce, telling me casually, "You know, because of your hair you are ugly. At least we all think so." And yet there were moments in Manhattan when the taxi drivers would shot out, "Yo, Nicole!" thinking I was a Kidman, a compliment if ever there was.

It was impossible to move around anonymously for so long because of the banner of my hair. But no longer.

You see, apparently, now, I am blonde. Un blonde vénitien. 

"What do you mean?" I snap at those who label me so, despite it being a statement always offered with admiration. "I am a redhead," I insist. If Team Red happens to be standing by when this happens, they tend to say nothing.

The white in my hair is copious and earned, the tips are indeed blond and I find that odd, this despite having seen my Mom's hair lighten too. I had a momentous (for me) lunch with my ex as of late and it was the first thing that he noticed. This change.

So you see, in everything that I have lost over this past year or so, it would seem that I have also lost this too - an incredibly important part of who I thought I was. It is all up for grabs these days (and seriously? I give up. I surrender). Because - and this is crucial to impart - I love my hair the way it is now. Strangers stop me on the street - as I bop in singular - with a compliment for its strange uniqueness.

That is me. Whoever, whatever that me might be.

I came to peace with this new definition utterly when I realized with a gusty laugh that my color - translated as Venetian Blonde - links me to Venice, one of the greatest gifts, one more than I could have imagined, during this time of losing. Something eternal gained. Now, wherever I go, I am literally living with my dream not only in my heart but on my head. The beauty in that lesson is not lost on me. Hope/trust is patient, waiting for me to remember her at any moment.

Thursday, November 23, 2017

Shifting traditions

I went to church for Thanksgiving. 

Now, that might sound odd to those of you who are aware that I am more spiritual than religious, but I felt a really strong call to go to the Église Saint-Pierre yesterday evening and I listened to it, hurrying across the cobblestones as nights cape draped gently over my shoulders. 

When I walked first through the ornately carved entry, so many centuries old, and then pushed open the padded leather doors in place to protect the silence, I wondered if there would be that rush of relief that I had felt upon my first visit. Or had I been digging into dreaming, willing it so.

Clock-wise I moved from altar to altar. They had been so ornately painted. And now the patina fell away like shards. Yet the beauty pulsed from within. In the far left corner, in the chapel for the church's namesake, a woman sat praying in such stillness that she could have been sleeping. Sleeping peacefully with her God.

A communion.

After spending a few minutes marveling at the gilded nave rising, I turned and nearly ran into a priest with grizzled hair, who avoided my gaze, stepped aside to let me pass so that he could continue on his path towards the Confession box. 

I paused under a statue of Mary Magdalene, barefoot and draped in the simplest of clothing, before heading towards the exit, full-circle. I knocked gently at my heart. Yes, I felt connected again. To family, my own and of the world. I don't know what it is about this space that makes me feel so, but I acknowledged deeply my first springs of Gratitude for this Thanksgiving.

That was last night and admittedly, I had to push a bit to conjure up that feeling today upon waking, alone in my bed. Soon, I will get ready to go to my job - to return at midnight - and it is most likely that I will find out my schedule for December today and how many days I will be working through the holidays. 

Everything is different. But there are other scales that exist besides "Better" or "Worse." With today, and the festive days that lie ahead, I will have to figure out how to shift the traditions of the past so that they sing for me once more. Or anew. Perfection is nothing but a greedy shadow. 

The love that I feel...can take many forms...from having bought a tiny string of Christmas lights after leaving the church...to the yoga that I am about to do for my body and spirit. All thank you's, all a Thanksgiving. 


Of course I am extending that Love to you as well. Thank you for your many ideas and emails about the possible blog title change. Please forgive me if I haven't responded. We'll see where things go.


Please be really kind to yourself today and - hopefully! - to those around you too.


Wednesday, November 1, 2017

Sitting in seven

So I have been living in this space for seven years now. Some of you have been too. Seven years. It's a long span of time but of course it has passed so quickly, the beauty and the jagged all together. My heart is full.

Granted, you might be thinking, "Heather, you are baaaarely keeping this thing going." Et vous avez raison. I am not going to dwell on why, we have already crossed that Bridge of Sighs plenty of times together. But even when I am not actually offering up to you my words and photographs - Look! Look! Look! - I am with you still.

So, it is with that trust, strong like a golden wire, that I have a question for you.

Yesterday, I took the train to Arles to see some art. I miss my little town. So I sat on the banks of the Rhone and felt the 2500 years of history flow through me as the sun caressed my cheek. I climbed the worn stone staircases of what is now the Musee Reattu just as the Knights of Malta did and smiled as the floors creaked reassuringly under my feet. 

And I felt at home.

But then I started to do "the rounds," to visit those that I knew before. Every person to a one handled me so delicately, largely with well-intentioned pity. "How are you, Heather? Really? Comment ça va?" All with the same head tilt of concern. I felt so uncomfortable that I could not tell them that actually, I have a job now and my own apartment or that I am starting to make new friends in a different town. That pity hung heavy between us like a veil.

Because, we are not broken. And as beaten as I have felt during this past year, I was always and am still breathing, grateful. The Beauty of this Life is undeniable.

I am not the person I once was. But none of us are.

So I think that it is time to ask the question that has been brewing in me since the very beginning of January, maybe earlier.

If I am not "Lost" and definitely not "Lost in Arles" then who can I be? Because I don't feel Lost anymore. Struggling yes, often even, but not Lost. Everything, everything was and is completely meant to be.

This means that I no longer feel that the title of this blog fits. It is a hollow definition that is one of my last links to the past, but one that is starting to feel more and more like a chain holding me back from where I want to go.

As I am uncertain as to what that might be, I am turning to you. Community is always what I have celebrated on these anniversaries.

I am officially opening up the Suggestion Box for what new title this space may wear. Please feel free to leave a comment below or to email me at robinsonheather (at) yahoo.com if you prefer.

With much Love and Gratitude to you all,

Monday, October 16, 2017

Waltzing solo

It can be dizzying this rebuilding. I am shine bright proud of myself for simply showing up and advancing without too much complaint. I have been open to meeting new people - willing it, even, calling out to the skies while walking the streets of Avignon, "bring me someone today," optimism filled - and that too takes so much courage. Blowing patiently on the embers. I know it. I have kissed and my lips feel his sweet bruise, still.

And yet I woke up this morning and...I am crying without knowing why. More tears without noise. It started with missing Ben, his arriving just in my half-sleep upon waking and then just waves of longing for my old structure. The stone front steps where I always sat, the books stacked and frequently paged, the comforting illusion of a "forever," being held in the morning after not sleeping well or sleeping deeply, just as the first hello. I thought that I had moved firmly beyond that longing. I truly did.

Grief is so tricky, leaving me shrugging foolish at my youthful misunderstanding. But I know to be patient, to be kind, to go gently. And I remember well how fortunate I am, it isn't that.

It is just waltzing, myself in my arms. That old life. This new one. Turning, turning, turning.

In the dirty laundry buildup, my camera is gathering dust and that scares me. Admittedly, exhaustion clouds my eyes.  Perhaps these mysterious tears have come for rain? There is something of getting ready for what is next, always - trying to create a luxury of space - that is both joyful and truly tiresome.

Can I find the words? Am I just words? Or am I also air and blood and dust of the moon?

This humaness. I take it all and willingly but there are also moments where I just feel a deep need to curl up on time's carpet to rest.

Breathing through, I will get dressed and head outside to seek solace in beauty's kind balm.

*I did. And I feel better. Bought a sandwich for a young homeless kid that I like and food for his dog. Perspective.

To listen to:

With love and gratitude,

Tuesday, October 10, 2017

Go gently

Go gently now, my friends.
Glide, if you can, as if parting the waters in a gondola through my beautiful Venezia. 
What love there is in your hearts matters more than you can possibly know.
Can you send it out? 
But also carry it in?
In these challenging times, yes, but always, please be so kind to yourself for it is precisely what you deserve. 
No "good" will come from anything other, only second chances to relearn.
Or a third or a thousandth.
I am letting go of certain old ways because I have no choice and it shines the light of opportunity. 
Still learning, I stumble but then help myself back to standing, even crookedly with a crooked smile, through compassion. 
For that too, I seem to no longer have a choice, even if I still swat at the flies of worry.
To me, it seems as if this is where we are all at, collectively.
And perhaps individually too?
So I see you, I know you. I send you my Love.
Go gently, dear friends. 
We need you now.
This Beauty remains, ever present, in you and around, and yes, it is more than real.

To listen to in these autumn days:

*I have been carrying around these ideas for a few weeks now, they roll loose in my mind like pebbles in a pocket. They aren't perfect but I don't want perfect anymore. They might sound preachy, but that is only a result of their imperfection. Love is the idea. For me, I am able to connect through Beauty, in all its forms. And I have to search hard to find it some days, as we all do. But I do, eventually, if I look hard enough and easily, when I can do so with an open heart.

Thank you for being here.

With Love from Provence (while still holding dreams of returning to Venice),