*An essay a week in 2016*
I’m writing this in my new kitchen. It is Halloween. I spent the day moving yesterday. Me and my partner and my little girl and my family including my uncle and cousins and two very generous women I’ve met through the writing community. One I just met face to face the other day. She found my work online and has been following me since because she says my story resonates with her. She offered to help because she says I deserve it, “You give so much to the community.”
I am so blessed. And so grateful.
Last night, exhausted and in pain, I put a ThermaCare heat wrap on my back (thank God for these things!) and I laid in bed. I stared up at the sky through the branches and foliage of the tree outside my window. I feel asleep listening to my partner breathe while I said prayers of gratitude.
This morning I watched the sun come up through my window while I laid in bed. I forgot how beautiful trees looks when they’re sun dappled and aglow with light. Then I watched a squirrel scurry through the tree. A blue jay fluttered about quietly. She didn’t screech or chirp. It was like she knew that this moment required silence. I took in all of this beauty. I live here now. Wow.
I’ve been packing for what feels like forever. I spent weeks sieving through my things little by little. I gifted and donated tons of clothes. I threw out so much stuff. Furniture and knickknacks and papers, so many papers.
Found over the last few days of packing:
“On Homecomings” by Ta-Nehisi Coates. The line under the title read: “Everyone wants some place to retreat, to collapse, to be at home–but you can’t always go home again.” (Line under title in print out)
On being a woman writer by Lidia Yuknavitch
When your parent has an undiagnosed mental illness by Katie Klabusich published in The Establishment
A Gazette, the daily VONA newsletter during the summer workshops, from 2013…2 days after my brother died… I later found my folder from that year with all the Gazettes (5 in total), my writings and readings from the week.
A card my father sent me on my 8th birthday in December of 1983…he died 9 days later
Letters from my brother, from when he was locked up and after
A poem written for me at an event in Miami VONA while at a Books and Books pop up shop:
Wolf you howl
like wind looking for its shadow.
Wolf, you walk in packs
so the night is safe like day.
Wolf howl, but not softly,
so I can hear the moon
reflect off the wind.
By Carolina Souta
A note to myself in a small notepad full of to-do lists: “In order to grow the internal mother, you have to be willing to be good and decent to yourself. Accept your own love and respect for yourself…” a few lines down: “The darkest time is before dawn. The dark night of the soul.”
American Airlines Passenger ticket stubs to Santiago, DR for me and my daughter’s father from August 18th, 2003, just weeks after we first met. By November I would be pregnant with Vasialys. We didn’t last not three years. We broke up (or rather, I kicked him out) when baby girl was one and a half.
Information to Ramapo camp where I was a writing teacher one summer (96?) to the children of the very white and very privileged.
The journal a former student gave me where I started my 2nd novel.
- 1st page—new story line idea: woman takes hiatus from men, met a man after ? years of celibacy, past heartbreaks, scenes -> present, blood, gun; flashback to past lovers culminating to that moment–no longer being a victim
- 2nd page: “What better way to break in this journal than to brainstorm on a seed, a hatchling that’s stirring…a newly fertilized egg that’s only beginning to develop. Let’s see where it goes. Then there’s an arrow pointed to: “and so it begins.”
- I started the 1st chapter on page 3.
(This served to remind me that I am an intuitive writer. I surrender and let the story tell itself, then I edit.)
Two copies of my brother’s resume…with his Prince George Hotel address, Room 509, and his hotmail address. I did so many resumes for him over the years, when he was trying to clean himself up and promised he was ready to change his life.
So many sympathy cards from 2013
A card with picture of a girl telling another girl a secret in her ear. The girl receiving the secret is smiling. I bought this card for my sister years ago & never sent it. We are not this kind of sisters. We’re the kind that talk once a month about nothing much at all.
A copy of The NY Times article about Bushwick Open Studios, “The Latest Vibe Moved to Brooklyn” by famed Holland Cotter where I was mentioned by name as was the exhibit I co-curated with Meryl Meisler, “Defying Devastation: Bushwick in the 1980s.” Cotter wrote:
If you want some historical perspective, you can do no better than to conclude a tour with a visit to one last space, the Living Gallery, part of an indoor mall complex on Flushing Avenue.
The exhibition there, “Defying Devastation: Bushwick in the 1980s,” is the joint work of the writer Vanessa Mártir, who was born in the neighborhood, and the photographer Meryl Meisler, who taught in its public schools and took pictures of its residents, the young Ms. Mártir among them.
Together they tell the story of Bushwick long before the art wave got there, when, shattered by poverty, racism and civic neglect, it was seen by many as a ruin that would never rise. Now it’s rising, and art is helping it, just as it is helping art by giving its makers a place to go. Ideally such synergy would hold; it can’t, because it never does. Still it’s hard not to feel a tug of hope under those big, open Bushwick skies. NY Times
Every collage canvas I created at the 5 consecutive VONAs I attended as a student, including the one from 2013… a quote on it reads: “It’s expensive to fly. You burn out. You fry. Every creature on earth has approximately two billion heartbeats to spend in a lifetime. You can spend them slowly, like a tortoise and love to be 200 years old, or you can spend them fast, like a hummingbird, and live to be two years old.” Hummingbirds were everywhere that year and come to me every year without fail on the anniversary of my brother’s death.
Yet another quote in my script: “taking the heat off a cauldron of alchemizing energy that’s been boiling for a long time…” A few lines down: “you are either the creator of your world or you are its effect.”
I did ten loads of laundry on Thursday morning. I had to wash all our linens, the comforters I had stored for the winter, some clothes. The television was playing in the laundromat and I heard on The Real (a talk show): “There will always be someone who does not believe in your work. Just don’t let it be you.”
Later that afternoon, I went to Parent Teacher Conference for baby girl. While on the bus to work, I stared out the window as the bus made its way through Washington Heights and Harlem, and processed what I heard from Vasia’s teachers. They gushed. They always gush. Baby girl has been an excellent student since Pre-K 3, but something happened to her last year—she came out of her shell and became a leader. She has all this personality now, she’s funny and smart and compassionate and charming and I could go on, but I kept hearing her ELA teacher on loop in my head. The day before the teacher gave the class a free write prompt: What do people get wrong about you? Students said things like: people think I’m 10 but I’m 12, people think I’m lazy but I’m not. Vasia raised her hand and said, “Can I just talk?” Then she stood up and talked for 3 minutes about being a thick girl. She talked about how people judge her clothes and expect that she hide her curves. She said that for a long time she was ashamed of her body but she isn’t anymore. “I love myself,” Vasia said. “It took me a long time but I do now.” “It’s the most amazing thing I’ve seen in all my years of teaching,” the ELA teacher said. I confess I teared up. I was worried that baby girl would have trouble adjusting to her new school. I’m not worried anymore. I’m incredibly proud of her and since then I’ve been reminding myself that I did that. I often worry that I’m doing enough, if I’m setting a good example, if I am enough… During Parent Teacher conference I learned I was reminded that yes indeed, I am doing a good job, I am a good mother, and this young lady I’m raising is fierce and brave and the best thing that’s come from me. Of course I ended up in tears on the bus.
Last week I went for a long walk in Inwood Park. I wrote her a letter while I sat in the woods.
Imma miss you Inwood Park. You’ve been such a huge part of the past seven years of my life. Remember that time you held me in birdsong? What am I saying? You’ve done that so many times. I know your trails intimately, the paved and not. Thank you for all you have gifted me. Of course I will return to visit you often, and I will honor you for all of my days.
I moved to Inwood in my Jesus year. Seven years later I’ve left Inwood to start anew. I am so ready.