2011: The first year of the second decade of the 21st century.
I wanted to find a way to record time and decided the only way was with words. It had to have a specific time constraint, and so I chose to write something each week, no excuses permitted, for the entire year. Or perhaps, because I’m a writer I chose a weekly schedule to record these impressions because. … Frankly, most writers need deadlines.
The artist Georgia O’Keefe said: “Since I cannot sing, I paint.”
There are times when being a writer is so frustrating and isolating, I’ve wondered if I write because I cannot paint.
I see the world in colors and dimensions but the paintbrushes I’ve used are those of a writer, first pencils, then pens, moving through the typewriter’s advances, to desktop computers, and finally the miracle of the laptop. Today’s laptop is a magical paint box. I open it and paint with the keyboard. Sometimes the pictures are not as clear as I would wish or as vibrant. I hope they convey a feeling, a memory, a scene, or a dream. What will be assembled over these twelve months are glimpses of experiences, actual and imagined.
The challenge I’ve given myself is to share something about living in each week. The ways I perceive and measure time are different from the way others might. As many readers know, I’ve been chronically ill almost my entire life. I have an atypical form of an inflammatory autoimmune disease. Because of this, I weigh each moment as a significant and valid unit of time unto itself.
In our minutes – years … is a phrase I use often to remind myself of reality.
From This Terrace expands the time zone: In our weeks — a lifetime …
I moved to Manhattan from the hills of the East Bay of Northern California. My intention and the plans I made were to stay just one year. That year ideas and indecision zoomed around in my head. I had a daily debate with myself about whether one year was enough, places, people, states of mind and heart blurred together. But nothing brought clarity. And then, the year evaporated in a “New York Minute”. The overused cliché was both accurate and descriptive of those first twelve months. I stayed another year and another and then a decade, and another and another. I talked to a good friend and he said it was a tough decision for me to make but that “Manhattan is a candy store; the streets and the avenues are the aisles. Choose freely, but choose wisely.” New York became my second hometown; it turned into the New Hometown. At some point and without further calculation, I realized I had become A New Yorker.
I live in the same apartment where I first began. The view from this terrace provides the backdrop where I write most of the time. In decent weather I do so sitting on the terrace, where I catch a sliver of activity on the busy East River. The rest of the time I’m in the small room facing this terrace. Outside or inside, it is from this terrace I see a portion of this city I’ve chosen and that I cherish. I also dream worlds I will never see and remember those I once knew. At first I questioned how I could exchange the view of the San Francisco Bay and its bridges for a strictly urban view of glass and steel. But quickly understood that although it was an urban beauty, it was no less wondrous. With time, I found there was much to observe that satisfies eye and soul, beyond the glass and steel, bricks and mortar.
Although I had lived in Berkeley before coming to New York, I grew up in Southern California. The Greater Los Angeles area is my original hometown. Both places belong to me. Nothing can or should change that. My life is a geographic version of Anaïs Nin’s marital duality. She was married to two men, loved them both, in different ways. One man was in New York and the other man in Silver Lake, Los Angeles. I love two cities intimately, Manhattan and Los Angeles. Oddly and presumably randomly, it turns out I love the part of L.A. where she lived with her “other” husband, Rupert Pole. And it was to that neighborhood I fled when weary of Metropolitan Monogamy or if seasonal extremes got me down.
In the end, I couldn’t pull it off — couldn’t move back and forth between cities the way Nin moved between domestic relationships and residences. Fidelity to one place had to happen. I chose this terrace, located within the glories and impossibilities of Manhattan with a stone lion guarding me. Los Angeles endures inside me — people and places I loved then and now. I miss so many things in addition to friends — the scent of night blooming jasmine and the powerful fragrance of orange blossoms, Jacaranda trees in bloom, the hills on three sides of The L.A. basin and the ocean as the fourth wall, the gentle rustle of palm trees in evening breeze. Los Angeles didn’t really need Hollywood; the region itself is a natural movie set. I brought a vividly remembered Los Angeles to the New Hometown. I can call it to mind and senses whenever needed.
I invited Michael Markham to join me as we created this additional web residence and to stay on as my guest as we move through the calendar. (Some people have country homes, bi-coastal lives, multiple dwellings, but I now have web-homes.) Michael is a fine actor. But it is in his other artistic suit of clothing that you meet him here. Michael’s photographs and designs are paired with my words. Through the lens of his camera and his designs, he enhances words and thoughts. He has helped me through rough times and too many episodes of writer’s angst. Although the graphic and photographic creativity is his, we are collaborators.
Join me, week by week, wherever you are and however you’re feeling. –Whether you too see the world from a terrace, or some other place entirely — from a hilltop, in a desert or a woods, by a body of water, or in a yard, on a patio, a porch, in a high-density apartment complex, in a large room, a tiny studio, in a hotel while traveling for work, in front of the fireplace or beside a swimming pool, in your bed unwell—recovering from illness and when you’re not feeling any better, and even if you’re in the hospital.
Let’s gather up our days together, not cross them off the calendar, and never count down the year. Time and all it affords us in whatever increments allotted is far too precious to discount or take for granted.
The Lion who lives on the terrace has been with me for a long time, and has traveled through my life and across miles to stay with me. My friend, the artist Susan Springer Anderson, decided he should have a name; he is quite a character. (And becomes the sole actor on the winter stage.) Susan named him the Stone Sage Lion, as he often provides a point of departure for reflections in these weekly impressions. Please visit her at SusanSpringerAnderson.com.
Welcome to From This Terrace and to the First Year of the Second Decade of the 21st Century.
©2011 Alida Brill FromThisTerrace