Saturday, April 7, 2012

Don't Sweep for me, Balenciaga

When I decided I wanted to visit my friends here in America, I had no idea how extraordinarily moving meeting them would be overall, nor did I realise how much this journey across the Pacific Ocean and then the top of North America would change me.

I had considered my online friends and I could simply develop the friendships we'd at first stumbled across and then nurtured, in some way, because I appreciated the people (mostly writers) who I'd met in cyberspace. People here who I met online and stayed close with were so extraordinarily talented, generous and kind, even those who were cruel to be kind sometimes, (since we were after all, often and usually talking about writing, art, publishing and books). These people usually got what I was saying, I suppose since so much of my work is influenced by American culture, even if I also take in media from all over the world. They also didn't mind my hopeless wishes and stupidity too much, or the emotional outbursts, which let's face it can look entertaining written down, there's no noisy volume and I gave up throwing things years ago so that's a blessing. Their tolerance and comments also changed me then, while we corresponded online.

The different things each of us brought to the forum where we first met, (a couple of places really, but mainly centred around writethis, created a community with such vitality and spark that these friendships have lasted around 12 years now, heart-warming isn't it)? Those individual talents and ideas caused me to meet Christine de Pavilly in London years ago, (we had a code to say when we actually met, like we were super-spies. One would say, 'The eagle flies at dawn.'  Then the other would say, 'And the ewe looks nervous'). Then Christine also flew over here and met many of the others at one stage near or in Chicago. Now, here I am going from a cruise ship which crossed the Pacific Ocean, (lower carbon costs to use a ship rather than a plane and far more pleasant), then San Francisco to Seattle to Iowa to Chicago and New York.  I have to fly home from there due to time constraints, work's waiting for me to pick it up back in Auckland. Do enrol now in one of my classes, there could be some places left. They are small groups and there is a money-back guarantee if you do not enjoy the first session.  -

In Hawaii I was really pleased to meet up with Anne Kennedy, such a kind woman, a great writer and also really busy with her family and work there, (so I was delighted she could spare the time). We enjoyed dinner and a walk while talking at length round Waikiki. Anne and I share a publisher, Auckland University Press, While Adam Gillitt and I met playing Scrabble online, got chatting over the years and found a great deal in common. We both love to cook fresh food, and design books. Adam is a professional website and industrial designer too. He designed a book for my last project for BF Publishing, a small press I set up to publish people who I thought would otherwise find it difficult to go through the rather grueling business and marketing process. My methods of publishing are generally kinder than many in my experience I think, but still involve extra work I can no longer keep up if I am to get all my unpublished books onto Kindle. This book, Shamfeign I love for it's originality and content, the design is also superb. There are various poems about America in it, since Alice Hooton is a history buff with family ties to the USA for generations. There are a few copies left, just ask. Then there's Nigel Rowe who has shown me far more than something of Chicago, (and I see I still greatly alarm him occasionally, but then poets are a rare kind of creature and may say things others take a long time to truly understand as helpful). Nigel now works in IT and for a major charity in the centre of Chicago where he also lives with his wife. It was wonderful to see him so happy and knowledgeable as usual, just 'in love' with architecture, I'd say. More people should hear him speak about this fine city. Those three fine friends of mine were not people I met in the forums, Creative Writers, (or Creative Writhers as chi chi called them) and writethis, through msn groups.

So, I've grown closer to these friends. Now, I keep crying when I think of how the journey is almost over, because I will miss them all so much and this is such a big country, it was so difficult to cross it, the travelling took ages, (thanks for all the help too, everyone).

I'm a person who generally spends most of my time creative writing, editing, manuscript assessing, crafting and doing my consultancy work which involves massive amounts of writing and analysing data from interviews. Even though I can imagine doing this trip again one day, I also know my imagination can soothe me with all kinds of astounding things which are not exactly real, okay, sure, they're made-up to fool myself into happiness. So it is doubtful that I will ever see everybody again quite the way that I so astoundingly did this time. That is unless of course someone else organises all the travel, I have a companion with me, and I don't have to pay for it. Yes, that is a suggestion, ha ha, please do consider it (directed to anyone I get along with, that is, ha).

I think I may come back to visit one or two people at a time, anyway since I can't imagine staying away unless they tell me to sod off. More overseas travel, therefore I'll be planting more trees as time goes on to cover the carbon, so I don't feel like I'm destroying for my own pleasure. I reiterate that every time a person flies on an aeroplane, they use for each individual one tree's worth of carbon every 1800 miles.  Plant even one tree each time you travel and the world is assisted to be a better place, or plant more, these help ensure the future is safer and cleaner, where's the harm?

The world has lost half its trees since human beings evolved to be here. We can plant more, now.

Many of the places in The States where I visited did not need trees, one of Julie Payne's brothers had a wonderful septic tank area in his front garden, underground that was managed by grass and the earth. In every city, people took great pleasure in showing me lush mile after mile of gorgeous trees different for every area, or generally treed areas of city or city parks. The sombre evergreens of Seattle for instance where I saw so many glorious crows and fell in love; the pretty spring trees of Iowa, more delicate than up North. But in in Alameda, San Francisco Bay Area where there are spectacular gardens, also an entire street of trees has been chopped down without warning. Their local council apparently does not believe in telling people what's about to happen to their own road, ironically called Park Street. Then, here in Chicago I'm across from a beautiful, grand park. It leads to a lake and swathes of trees besides. While in the gardens of the Art Institute nearby I saw the largest crab apple tree I've ever seen, masses of white blossoms, delicately scented. So most of these places do not need trees, exactly, although they could all enjoy more. Tower blocks of trees now exist in many major cities, the trees on each floor serve to clean water and sewage as well, I gather.

My friend and eco-brilliant Janet in Tasmania tells me South Australia does need trees, so that's where I'll be paying to plant trees to cover the carbon cost of this one and a half month journey when I get home. Steve Smart et al in Fitzroy, Melbourne, when I read poetry there twice after an invitation from their group, (travelled with Shades of Pasifika), told me they wanted closer links between Australia and New Zealand. Part of the reason they developed their poetry project, inviting New Zealand writers over there was for better relationships. So in a way this tree planting project is a continuation of that connection and our friendship, too.

In a way, I feel like I have matured emotionally because of what America generally has given me, it is such a complex place to live. One or two people may not agree with that self-analysis, but just because I speak my mind and stand up for myself, does not make me immature. The generosity and kindness of the people I already knew and others has impressed me so much. My heart literally aches for what I am leaving behind when I go back to New Zealand. But I may have over-reacted to some difficulties or just been an ignorant foreigner, we are not all the same world-wide, everyone has their own culture and individual viewpoint. Also, I find almost everything here bewildering, at times. This then is also a blanket apology for any thoughtlessness or lack of consideration on my part, being just one Aotearoa New Zealand woman, highly sensitive, travelling alone with a lot to learn.

But o my friends I thank you so much and wish you all well. I hope you come and visit me one day. Just let me know and we can arrange things, well in advance.

My last stop is New York. I never thought I'd say that.

Once New York was top on my wish list of places to go, I believed it was the greatest city in the world and perhaps it is, but then after certain events which I certainly do not need to reiterate here I decided it could break my heart to go the Big Apple. Too much had changed from what I knew, from all the material I've read and seen, for me to really enjoy myself. Then again, friends at home convinced me otherwise and insisted I go, that I would love it, that New York would love me. I suppose I shall find out if these things are true in a couple of days.

Now, I have heard from my hotel, have that extra day booked at the beginning of the week, so I'm staying in OffSoho hotel from the 9th to 16th April, 2012, o yes indeedy deedo, dee.

Later, I fly back to New Zealand, gaining a day on the way and arriving home on 18 April 2012.  Back to the intense light and dense green of home, the wonderful people of Grey Lynn, funky town central Auckland city and my house, Blue Haven where the garden will almost certainly need weeding. Great. (Hi Jarrad, Marjorie and Bob, please do the vacuuming properly before I get there and clean the fridge, ha).

I hoped that if I wrote this blog, then I could stop crying. I wanted to stop thinking about how this journey is almost over with so much unresolved and also, so many wonderful memories. But that is all they are, memories, I will not be here next week, I will be crammed in a plane flying back and wishing I was on the ground, on a train or in a boat, flying is fast but not much else is good about it.  I do love taking off, however it's only a few seconds of thrill then the torture begins.

These are gentle tears and they involve my whole body. Strangely, it also feels good to cry this way again, since I think I've made myself rather numb and dumb with so much work and worry in New Zealand, before. I was also recovering from a terrible experience which took me ten years to resolve, then a few other disasters occurred along the way, (c'est la vie) but these soft tears without any drama could indicate I'm better.

I guess I could say the South Pacific and American people have made me come back to life.


Editing did bring a kind of peace too, like it may. Editing is a different pleasure to writing but it has some penetrating rewards, with broad effects. A kind of smoothing of the self results too, if I can suggest this without sounding idiotic.

So now I can look a little happier and feel lighter, stride down to this new cafe which Laura Lee and I discovered yesterday, after we got lost in the Van Gogh paintings and the Impressionists for long enough to refresh our minds at Yes, this cafe most American place I've been in so far to my mind (which is a ridiculous statement, but o well), I love it, retro cafe-style probably been there for 80 years or more, and I'll order some breakfast. Then I'll look out over the Chicago street, watch people walking by, and I'll admire the decor while waiting for my food and maybe draw wish-lists in my book, or send someone a text.

My button cellphone will be gone soon too, I have to think, it's only been for this trip. A storehouse of messages inside it, a time capsule of a to and fro.  But do I have to think?  Maybe now I just need to enjoy the short time left as best I can, and perhaps that's possible without too many tears.

I'm meeting Stephen Larson and his wife Amy today here at the hotel then we could walk to the lake and bus to the aquarium. Stephen managed Creative Writers and is a fine person, Laura tells me his wife is lovely. I look forward to seeing what we talk about and see.

Thanks for reading my blog any comments please feel free, I really appreciate your kind attention.


  1. a kind of smoothing of the self results.

    1. yes, editing has various effects i've found and that's one of them. not always but at times. it's soothing i guess, (afterward, but during it is like a kind of good-for-you torture, ha, maybe sportspeople would understand that)?

  2. Nice post. You might like this Wordsworth quote about little acts of kindness.