It’s difficult to start writing again. It’s funny to say that; since I write every day. I write in my journals. There are the endless emails of various significance. There is the writing that I do for work. And then there are my fiction writing projects — I always have at least one novel going. For me, the hard sorts of writing are personal correspondences and blog posts. These are the more immediate, more raw, forms of writing. They reflect the writer’s immediate emotional state (at least they do for me). And, in particular, they reveal the provisionality of thoughts and feelings. That is not always comfortable. So, sometimes I draw in on myself and step back from the more immediate forms of communication.
I’ve always been a bit of a brooder. I tend to think things over and over in my mind. Sometimes this is accompanied by melancholy . . . but not always. Thoughts and feelings linger with me even when I am happy and joyful. So, when I say I ‘brood’ I do not mean this entirely in the negative sense of the word (Webster’s dictionary on my phone frames the word in ways with which I do not completely agree).
A friend of mine from many years back used to tell me I was the perfect example of a ‘cancerian personality’ (she was very fond of astrology). ‘You sit there on the bottom of the ocean and brood.’ I smile when I think of her saying that to me.
I often stop writing for a while during times of joy, times of sorrow, and/or times of change. Even my journals are oddly thin during some of the most interesting periods and seasons of my life. So it has been for the past several months . . . more than a year, actually. It has been hard to climb up out of the depths and put my fingers to the task of recording words. This has been a long period filled with joy, sorrow — and a lot of change. So, I have been brooding; keeping to my thoughts and digesting reality as it forms around me.
I’ve gone a lot of places during those many months. I went to Seattle and loved it. I took their mass transit and walked up steep grades to my hotel. While I was there, I caught glimpses of the mountains and thought how easy it would be for me to live in a place near such beauty.
I went to Old San Juan, Puerto Rico and fell in love with the place. I love cold parts of the world — so I was amazed to find myself thinking, ‘I could enjoy living here,’ as I walked the cobblestone streets. The use of space is very different there. Most windows are shuttered — not covered with glass. Decorative iron bars guard windows and private corridors are watched over by iron gates. You walk by and hear intimate conversations, smell meals being served, etc. It is a different sense of public and private. Always the watcher of people, I treasured the things I observed as I walked down the narrow streets of the old city.
I also delighted in the massive stoneworks of the two castles. That they were fortifications designed as outposts of empire did not please me. A walk into the confines of a dungeon underscored that not everyone who walked along those walls was happy about being there. Nevertheless, the views of the Caribbean Sea were beyond words. The colours of the ocean, the waves, the sea air — I found myself content to be in that place, just breathing, looking, and listening. More than once I thought to myself that I could have stayed there all my life and been happy.
I have gone many places that I have considered beautiful. There are many places where I could happily live. Still, my four days in Old San Juan stand out in my mind as a time of extraordinary peace and contentment. All of a sudden, I recalled some of Ernest Hemingway’s writings . . . and his relationship with the Caribbean . . . and I felt a new connection with the mood he caste on the page.
During my months of brooding, I also moved to a different part of Brooklyn. I now live in the Bushwick neighbourhood (previously I was in Williamsburg). I went to Williamsburg because it was a community filled with artists. In just two and a half years, I watched it gentrify. Artists attract the ‘chic-minded’ who, well-equipped with money, surround creativity with their fashion-à-la-mode (like moss growing on the trunk of a tree). To the horror of some of my friends, I am not all that interested in fashion. I prefer seeing artists whose hands are covered with paint (artists who may have had to make the painful choice to buy a tube of artist’s colour rather than a meal). Bushwick is where the new artists are moving, now. Williamsburg is too expensive. Bushwick will be, also, very soon. But, for a short while, it will be the home to painters — some of whom have something to paint.
A few doors down from my new apartment I regularly see a man emerging from his place covered in paint. Sometimes I see him carrying stretchers, canvas, and other supplies into his space. He is not fashionably dressed. But he looks passionate about his purpose. I like that.
I share my new home with a friend who paints and does photography. Our living room is a painting studio. Actually, as things have evolved, almost the whole apartment has become a painting studio. He paints large — I still mostly paint small. I’ve begun work on some decent-sized canvases. Truth be told, however, I have always had a fondness for small paintings. In particular, I like painting small portraits that still manage to look very big. Since moving to Bushwick in April, I have continued work on my Blue Portrait Series.
Our’s is a two bedroom apartment. One bedroom is on the front and the other bedroom is on the back of the building. They are the only rooms with windows. Mine is the bedroom that looks out over the ‘gardens’ (in other places these would be called ‘back yards’) behind the buildings on the block. During these green months, it is a jungle of trees and vines. Beautiful. After two and a half years of living in a basement room with no windows, I find myself just staring outside for long passages of time. I watch the birds flit from clothesline to clothesline. Sometimes they land on the fire escape and I greet them with a smile and a gentle word or two.
It surprises me that I can be happy in so many different kinds of places. I love wild mountains, farmlands, seashores, . . . and even great cities. I am happy in New York (I never would have guessed that I would be). I am happy there because of the people and the bits of nature that claim their rightful place in spite of concrete, bricks, steel, and smog.
Right now, I am home in Michigan. I had a couple weeks of vacation. I’ll be here a while longer (working remotely). I can do my job pretty much anywhere. That’s a luxury and a joy. In fact, I often am more productive when I am away from the City. Still, I find myself thinking of Brooklyn and Manhattan when I am not there. I think of my neighbours playing in the spray of fire hydrants. I think if the constant noise and music — the ceaseless grilling of food and sharing of company together. I think of the neighbourhoods in Manhattan where I walk . . . of art galleries and the community that migrates from one gallery opening to another. I think of my mostly-Korean church home and my delightful ‘misfit’ status as a part of that community I have come to love.
I’ve said it before — I have many homes. I think I collect them. And, wherever I am, they all come together in my heart and mind. They are my treasure — the people and the places. I am ever so thankful.
So, this jumble of words, piled together in no planned order, brings me back to you. Each of you has been a part of the constant gathering of dear ones and wonderful places that live in my thoughts. Each of you have stayed with me in my deep-water brooding. Still, it is time, once again, to write.