Thursday, December 29, 2005
Here in NYC on vacation -- supposedly vacation. From my life, from my thesis, from my self, maybe.
And it's all here waiting for me. Now, I admit, I may have helped this a bit by arranging to stay with my high school boyfriend for the duration of the trip. So it's been all about -- how was I then and how am I now and what more do I know? He's exactly the same and says I'm exactly the same, and like that -- poof -- any work either of us has done in the past 10 years is reduced to rubble. To so much talk. Am I really who I was at 15? And if so, and I like who I am for the most part, isn't that a good thing that I've been a person I vaguely like for my whole life? Doesn't it mean I've been working pretty fucking hard for an illusion of progress? Doesn't that mean it's time to let go and accept more than I fight to change?
And the other mess was waiting for me, here, too. A certain someone who fits old pattern who's here to test my resolve to live fully and refuse to be treated less than I demand. Deserve. One playing into the other...
And he shows up. Ex-girlfriend in tow. In the town of 7 million where I just happen to be. The nightclub I just happened to have made plans to visit. The precise entertainment I went to enjoy.
And this is subtle? This is life's gentle lesson?
And part of me cares. Part of me wants to care more. Part less. A whole lot of me is just watching.
And it's being in the city of nameless souls. It's being a tourist not a person. Writing other people's words and lists of artists I like instead of the words that come from me.
It's reacting to others instead of knowing myself. As usual.
Watching myself try to relate to others. See their needs. Manipulate to meet my own. Not speak them out loud.
Gabe says he feels/felt there was so much of me I just never shared. That made him sad. Made him feel inadequate a lot of the time. Something he struggles with anyway. What a pair.
And I wonder how much that is true of me. My own fear that asking for anything will make him leave because I'm not worth giving anything to. Better not to be a burden. Do it myself or let go of the need. Or resent. Hmmm.... who does that sound like? What pattern did I learn?
I'm wondering whether to send my father the Daddy's Dealing poem for fathers' day. Jayson called on Christmas morning from the airport. I talked to all three of them in a record 2:21. Anne says she has my birthday present. Dad says he wants to see me. Jayson just says, I love you. The rest is a conversation a foreign country away.
Strange to feel so grounded and so out-of-body all at once. Maybe this is grace? Paralysis? Transition? Hard to say, but I hear the echoes of words to come barreling down the mind shaft. Soon, my hands will be black with coal dust. Me, the miner's daughter.
Thursday, December 22, 2005
Last night was a party at Mark Rudd's South Valley haven. So many great people there! Had a wonderful conversation with Demetria Martinez about Cornell West and bell hooks, as well as the happy news that her most recent book -- Confessions of a Berlitz-Tape Chicana -- went for emergency second printing because it's been flying off the shelves!
Had a great chat with State Senator Dede Feldman, whose new blog is reviewed on Duke City Fix. We talked about her start as a journalist and her philosophy that all politics is communication, which is troubling because so many politicians are so bad at it!
Had lovely talks, too, with a soon-to-be-ex-employee of Quarters who has recently decided that he, too, like his parents, is a socialist. His girlfriend works in public health, and we had a conversation about how health care delivery in NM compares to socialist countries in Europe.
Just a whole party of thinking, creative people! What could be better? I love feeling the strong progressive community in the Q.
Monday, December 19, 2005
Lynch Analysis of Place Elements
When Lynch performed analysis on places for his book Image in the City, his method was to gather cognitive maps drawn by city residents that were then compiled and analyzed. The underlying question of one of the image people have of the city, not necessarily one of identity or how well the city works for them, or how well it works in general, for that matter.
The question here goes beyond the image residents have of this place toward the question of what to do to make it better. While residents had four separate categories of interventions they would like, this analysis proceeds through the screen of identity, which was one strategy identified toward political and physical improvements to place. As such, the results we look for through the Lynch analysis supersede his original purpose, necessitating an adjustment to the analysis itself. This analysis will attempt to look at the physical elements drawn or described in the maps to get a sense of how this place works for its residents and other participants at Workshop I.
The seminal Lynch elements consist of district, path, edge, and landmark.
In the sense of district, this area is surrounded by districts that stop at its edges. Los Ranchos to the north, the Westside to the west, Downtown to the south, perhaps the shopping center beginning to take shape on the west side of I-25 and Montaño. The area as defined by the visioning boundaries does not operate as a district in the sense of holding together or being self-sufficient, despite several residents describing the Village or small-town feel of their community. These comments are not associated with any boundaries but rather describe a lifestyle that incorporates open space, trails, and agricultural lands on as daily experiences.
In a smaller sense than Lynch normally used in defining a district, the area to the west of
Paths by foot and bicycle are well-defined by acequia trails, which also serve as an important setting for informal interaction with neighbors. In order of importance as measured by times mentioned during Workshop I, the acequias are as follows: Gallegos Lateral, Harwood Lateral, Gallegos Lateral/Alameda Drain,
Interior residential streets do not work well as paths because they are not connective. They tend to work as dead-end subdivision spurs to connect houses to main arterials for cars. They do not work well to connect residential to residential streets. Cars move quickly on them, undermining their use by children or non-car traffic due to safety concerns. Solar and Gene Avenues are important east-west streets that connect neighborhoods north of Montaño. Douglas MacArthur performs the same function for neighborhoods south of Montaño. East-west streets west of
Montaño does emerge strongly as an edge in this area, separating neighborhoods to the north from neighborhoods to the south. Pedestrians and bicycles cannot cross safely, which was mentioned again and again as residents decried the lack of access at
There is no strong sense of an edge to the north. Lee Acres is a distinctive neighborhood, whose character of large lots and non-vernacular architecture sets it apart and therefore may serve as an edge to some residents. The next large shopping center north, where _____ terminates, may function as the next conceptual boundary.
There is no edge to the south, as the (strip-retail and chain restaurants) character of
Landmarks are sparse and not universally accepted/perceived.
Los Poblanos is a landmark, but it has limited visibility to all but those living nearby because of its location insulated by residential neighborhoods. It can be seen from Montaño, but residents rarely travel on Montaño, as stated above. Still, community events such as the corn maize and the existence of the community farm give residents reasons to go there.
The mosaic sculpture – the Tree of Life – on the southeast corner of 4th and Montaño was mentioned several times by residents, although they also described it being overshadowed by the new carwash immediately to the east. A nearby “Tile House” on one of the Los Alamos Addition streets was also described as a landmark, and together, these two landmarks establish a character theme for mosaic tile for some residents.
Perhaps the most important landmark is the intersection of 4th and Montaño itself. When asked where residents live, it is often this intersection that gives the identifying reference point. Its scale and integral-ness to the community cements its status as a landmark, however hated.
Los Alamos Addition, with its idyllic, tree-lined streets, functions as a landmark for some residents who know it’s there. Driving on
Model for Map Analysis
The method to analyze the maps was based on Kevin Lynch’s approach to analyzing conceptual maps of particular areas, such as he collected for his seminal book, Image of the City. Predominantly, this analysis counts the frequency of particular items on a map, which he found fit into one of several physical elements that constitute city form: district, path, edge, landmark, or node. The concept of a node is nebulous and ultimately not so helpful, so for the purposes of this study, it has been disregarded. Lynch’s analysis groups the frequency of these individual city features, assigns them a particular scale, and then maps them, with thick and dark lines or marks indicating higher frequency of responses.
The step of mapping the results has not been incorporated into this study, but it would be valuable for the community prior to the next stage of design toward establishing identity. In the discussion below, the initial results are described, and then the narrative proceeds with an attempt to categorize the physical elements in Lynch’s terms.
For each map, both written and drawn marks were tallied in an Excel spreadsheet. The rows represented individual items mentioned by any one of the small groups. The columns represented the small groups, which were either one of the geographical areas, the seniors, or the business owners/developers.
Group 3: South of Montaño
Group 5: West Guadalupe
Group 6: Gavilan/Guadalupe Village/Los Poblanos
Group 7: Seniors
Group 9: Montaño South
Group 10: Lee Acres
Group 11: Business Group
Group 12: Outside the Area
Rows were added as new items were mentioned by different groups, and as much as possible, the spreadsheet was queried via the “find” feature in Excel to determine whether the item was mentioned but overlooked by groups or maps previously tallied.
Any written comments accompanying the item were added to a combined comment column for each map category, whether Special Places, Good and Bad Happenings, Utopia, or Priority Actions. The maps were tallied in the order of group number for the most part. Other than this loose progression, no attempt was made to attach the particular group to the particular comment, since ultimately, the goal was to study the discussion across areas and subject positions in order to determine possibilities for the next action toward identity.
For the same reason, the tally was kept within one worksheet so that the relationship among groups and among maps would be preserved regardless of the way the information was sorted during data analysis.
For ease of entry, items were loosely separated by thematic categories as helpful, which were subsequently removed before the data were analyzed. These categories were “Green Things,” including any mention of parks, open space, acequias, trails, landscaping, trees, or other vegetation; “Housing;” “Neighborhood Stuff,” including specific mentions of neighborhood names, churches, schools, or other specific items to be found in neighborhoods; “Recreation,” including biking, walking, bowling, horseback riding; “Retail/Commercial,” including all mentions of particular businesses and/or business-related areas; “Roads,” including specifically referenced roads and streetscape elements; and “Values,” which operated as a miscellaneous list of non-place based items, such as qualities described, population groups, community events, or action steps. Again, these categories were not retained for the purpose of analysis, but they may have influenced the tally in as much as they tended to separate or group individual items.
Once the tally was completed for each map across all the groups, the rows were re-examined for consistency. Some rows were collapsed when they seemed to describe the same item or if they were actually part of a larger category. For example, three locations of flooding that were separate rows during the tally became part of the category “flooding” as part of the data analysis when it became clear that it was the mention of flooding itself, not necessarily the separate locations of flooding that was important. This process of categorization is quite important, since the analysis is primarily a frequency count.
One important example is access. Items that affected access – whether vehicular, pedestrian, horse, or bike – were counted in the access category, even if the word “access” was not specifically mentioned. For example, “No turn off
Other basket categories were not treated in the same way. For example, the category “acequia trails” does NOT include a tally of every time any acequia or trail was mentioned, but rather only when a generic reference to acequia trails was made. Similarly, 4th Street businesses is not a combined total of all mention of any 4th Street business, but rather a particular count of generic references to 4th Street businesses. [Problematic?] It was felt that combining each individual reference would have resulted in such generic categories as to dilute the analysis of individual elements in the area.
The difference between treatment of basket categories was based on whether the emerging story required the separation of individual items or the category. Access was important as a category, as was vegetation.
One critique of this method might be that a more aggressive grouping of particular descriptors might have elevated the tally count, and therefore shown a greater importance of the category than the current method reflects. The full tally is provided in the Appendix for those with an interest in different category groupings and resulting analysis.
Results by Map Categories
The top items for each map category were compiled and are shown in the tables below. The tables are sorted by total and then alphabetically by descriptor. As close as possible, the top ten items were chosen. Lists were abbreviated or lengthened to match natural number breaks to accommodate repeated totals. Happenings has 11 items; Priority Actions has 9. Complete lists can be found in the Appendix.
Several items appear in multiple map categories, underlining their importance. Access,
What is clear from the maps is that resolving the issue of the 4th and Montaño intersection is of utmost priority. Secondarily, when thinking about things they like about the area or what they would ultimately like to see for their area, open spaces and recreation rise to the top of the lists.
For Special Places, participants were asked to discuss and indicate on the map the places or qualities in the area that are unique or special to them. This map category should indicate what residents value about the area and what they would like to see protected or enhanced in future planning efforts. In terms of identity, these items may begin to illustrate they types of qualities that already serve to make the area special for its residents that can be referenced or added to in identity-building efforts. It can be assumed that to some extent the items listed below are already working well for the community, even though in many cases they could be strengthened to work even better for more residents.
Table 1: Top Items for Special Places
As noted above, mature vegetation is a basket category that includes trees and landscaping. The sense of greenery is referenced more often than any other item, although predominantly by the business group. Additionally, three items mentioned by eight out of the nine groups – Los Poblanos and Gallegos and Harwood laterals – underscore the importance of greenery and a system of open space.
Although many residents talked about walking along the laterals, biking emerged as the most important means of using the trail system and providing a viable alternative to automobile commute. Included in the pedestrian-friendly category are streetscape improvements allowing safe access to businesses, safe play for children on residential streets, and improvements to the acequia system to allow access for pedestrians throughout the area – including safe crossings of 4th and Montaño. One resident said one of the special characteristics of the area was the ability to “exist without a car.” For an area within
This description is separate from more general descriptions by residents of liking the “rural feel” of the area. The rural feel is connected to physical aspects, such as the greenery, but also details like the absence of curb and gutter and “roads that curve.”
Also slightly different is the benefit listed by one resident from south of Montaño that area provides the sensation of “Escape from the City” while residents “still feel and live in the City.”
These descriptions are important windows in whether the area operates as a satellite town or village to
If, on the other hand, the area’s self-sustainability has been degraded to the point where it operates simply as another neighborhood in
Good and Bad Happenings
For Good and Bad Happenings, residents were asked to note what is happening or going on in the area that is good or bad. Residents were encouraged to talk about what has happened in the last few years to improve things or what has happened that has diminished the quality of the area.
Facilitators prompted residents to think about their concerns and also their successes. The maps were supposed to be color coded for good versus bad happenings, but groups were not consistent. Maps and the full list of items with comments can be viewed in the Appendix.
The top items listed below were all described negatively, which is consistent with the main motivation of the workshop in responding specifically to negative occurrences in the area. The predominance of
Table 2: Top Items for Good and Bad Happenings
Access is the top item, and overwhelmingly, it is associated with bad happenings, predominantly involving either 4th or Montaño for autos, pedestrians, and bikers. One group put it this way: “Access to
Poor access from 4th and Montaño negatively affects local businesses. Car access to shopping at
Car access to residential streets east and west of
Residents decry the lack of pedestrian and bike access north and south across Montaño at Guadalupe Trail and the Harwood Lateral, which would be the natural north-south connectors for the area west of 4th Street. Neighborhoods north and south of Montaño could be easily re-connected by providing safe crossing at Montaño. One group reported that when
Pedestrian access to shopping, even for residents immediately adjacent to
In addition to safety issues involving pedestrians and bikes, residents listed access for emergency vehicles as a significant safety problem. Because so many neighborhoods are cut off from access to Montaño,
Vacant properties along
For Utopia, residents were asked to describe what the area would be like if it were perfect, without limits to money, resources, political power, or time. The idea was to get a sense of residents’ vision for the area, without factoring in regulatory, legal, political, or economic restraints.
The results tend to show the preferred solutions for the problems listed in Good and Bad Happenings, but they also show ultimate goals for the area.
Table 3: Top Items for Utopia
* Streetlight as included here is usually referenced in terms of street lighting, a few references may be to traffic lights. See comments section in the full list included in the Appendix.
Access remains the top item. As included here, it responds to most of the complaints listed above in Good and Bad Happenings.
Biking, as in Special Places, becomes important as recreation and also as a secondary mode of commuting.
Business revitalization is also important to residents in their utopia, both along
For Priority Actions, residents were encouraged to factor back in political and economic restraints and assess what should be done first and most importantly. Given the utopia map, if the area is to move in that direction, what should the priority actions be? Where and how should the area spend its political capital?
Accordingly, the complete list of items included in these maps is shorter and represents a paring down by residents of their concerns to the items that should be addressed. This list can perhaps be considered an indication of what residents believe can be done feasibly, given political and monetary restrictions. In another sense, the list can be seen as a starting point to accomplish the things that will have the most immediate and important impact on the area.
Table 4: Top Items for Priority Actions
The top items on the list are remarkably consistent with the Utopia maps and reinforce the importance of those solutions, including easy and safe access to
Acequia trails, with the Gallegos Lateral mentioned the most often, reemerge from the Special Places maps as a priority for action. Residents described aesthetic improvements, such as cleaning up weed and litter, safety improvements, including the absence of transients, and access improvements, including the linking of all acequias into a trail system for residents north and south of Montaño.
Results by Small Groups
In order to analyze the results and gain understanding of how different neighborhoods within the area and different subject positions view the area and prioritize the actions for its improvement, results were also tabulated by small group.
Totals for each item in a row (descriptor) by map category within each small group (represented in separate columns) were added to come up with a complete total of how many time each item came up in that small group. For example, Group 1 mentioned access once on the Special Places map, six times in Happenings, six times in Utopia, and four times in Priority Actions, combining for 17 times across map categories, as represented in the table below.
This analysis aims to examine the relative importance of items from group to group. Do residents from different areas experience the same problems to the same degree? Do they prioritize the same issues? Do they have the same vision for this area? If not, how does it differ?
The total across all groups for all maps is represented in the following table, which can be used as one baseline against which to analyze each group in turn. The total figures represent the totals of the columns in the map analysis tables above.
Table 5: Group Item Totals for All Map Categories
The tables below list the top fifteen or so concerns of each small group across map categories. Some tables may have slightly more or slightly fewer items based on natural breaks between item totals. They are listed in order by small group number, which was assigned randomly at the first workshop.
Table 6: Top Items for Group 3 (South of Montano)
Much like the other groups, the South of Montaño residents are more concerned about 4th Street than Montaño in terms of immediate impact to their neighborhood.
Acequia trails are important for their historical, recreational, and connective aspects, but none specifically mentioned by name appear in the top list of priority items. The group south of Montaño expresses a desire to be reconnected to neighbors north of Montaño through reinstituting the Harwood lateral and
Important to the South of Montaño group is the idea of this area functioning as a district, partly from encouraging and bolstering local businesses, partly by capitalizing on the historical value of 4th Street, and partly by strengthening physical interconnection of divided neighborhoods (through trail connections and public transit).
Safety is mentioned in terms of drug dealing in the immediate neighborhood and slow emergency vehicle response time due to traffic issues on
Smiths is mentioned positively as a “close grocery store,” although access by foot should be improved with sidewalks and safety measures for
The concern with public transit and nearby shopping may indicate the importance of secondary transportation for families with only one car. Residents south of Montaño have lower incomes on average than residents to the north. The physical layout of this neighborhood, with smaller lots and houses closer together than the northernmost neighborhoods, may also encourage or inspire a desire for walkability.
Table 7: Top Items for Group 5 (West Guadalupe)
General access is the most important for the West Guadalupe group, specifically regarding the issues surrounding
Most items deal with green space or open space, including Los Poblanos and the park at
Table 8: Top Items for Group 6 (Gavilan/Guadalupe Village/Los Poblanos)
The Gavilan/Gudalupe Village/Los Poblanos Group shares many of the same top priority concerns involving
Parks, open space, and connecting trails are important to this group, much like Group 5, and more so than the South of Montaño group. Grecian and
Three acequias are mentioned specifically by name – Gallegos lateral, Gallegos Lateral/Alameda Drain, and Hackman Lateral – and walking along the lateral is an important activity. It is interesting to note that Hackman and not Harwood is the acequia mentioned, which again may be explained by proximity. This group is the only one to have Hackman among its top items.
The idea of this area as a district is mentioned more often in the Gavilan/Guadalupe Village/Los Poblanos Group than any other.
Table 9: Top Items for Group 7 (Seniors)
Seniors share the top concerns of the other groups, including
Gallegos and Harwood laterals are prominent concerns, along with other green attributes, such as Los Poblanos, trees and landscaping, and wildlife. Streetscape improvements involving pedestrian safety and pedestrian-scale lighting are also important.
Taken as a whole, the concerns of the seniors as represented by the list of items that appear on their map are narrow compared to other groups. Their maps focus on main thoroughfares, main laterals, and Los Poblanos field. This may reflect the relative limited mobility of seniors.
Table 10: Top Items for Group 8 (
Los Poblanos is mentioned next most often as a community asset, as was Guadalupe Village, although access for these residents is minimized because of the difficulty of crossing 4th Street by car and impossibility of crossing it by pedestrians, especially children.
These neighbors very much enjoy their tree-lined streets and would like to see the historic tree-lined
Los Alamos Addition is the only group to have the Community Farm in Los Poblanos among its top items. Gallegos Lateral/Alameda Drain is a top priority, which is not surprising given its immediate proximity.
As a whole, this group’s priority items seem to include more inward-looking items than other groups, although the South of Montaño group also has predominantly internal concerns. This may indicate the relative isolation of these two neighborhoods, who more than the others, have limited mobility within the area or even within their neighborhoods, relying solely on
Table 11: Top Items for Group 9 (Montano South)
Unlike the other South of Montaño group, the Montaño South group (which were separated arbitrarily during Workshop I because of the number of participants, not based on geography) mentions the Harwood lateral by name.
The rural feel of the area is important to this group, which was the only one to have this quality among its top items. The absence of curbs and gutters is indicative of the rural character of the area to this group.
Like the South of Montaño group, safety is a top concern, including traffic, emergency vehicles, and drug activity.
Speeding, which is a primary concern for the Montaño South group, does not appear in other groups’ top items.
Nearby businesses are very important to the Montaño South group, including
Table 12: Top Items for Group 10 (Lee Acres)
Lee Acres shares concerns with the other groups surrounding access and 4th and Montaño. Gallegos Lateral, which runs between Lee Acres and neighborhoods to the south, also tops the list, as does Los Poblanos which is close by. Acequia trails in general and as the location for recreational walking are also important.
Events are important to Lee Acres, many of which take place in Lee Acres or very close by. Specifically mentioned are faralitos at Christmas, trick-or-treating at Halloween, the corn maize at Los Poblanos during the fall harvest, the Lavendar festival in Los Ranchos, and fireworks at the 4th of July.
“Daycares,” specifically the conflict between pedestrian and car traffic, is mentioned exclusively by this group, perhaps indicating a higher number or percentage of families with children or working parents, or perhaps simply that one person in the group was especially concerned.
Table 13: Top Items for Group 11 (Business)
The business group has several unique top items, including diversity of population, kids, and neighborliness. This group describes the area as having a “small-town atmosphere and feel” and expresses a desire for the area to be a place where “grandchildren return to live.”
Many of its top concerns surround
Vacant properties near Alamosa and 4th, at the edge of the Los Alamos Addition, represent a significant opportunity to this group to create a community center that can anchor business activity and jump-start the revitalization of
Table 14: Top Items for Group 12 (Outside the Area)
Because this group is made up of residents and politicians who live outside the area, it provides a different perspective that can shed light on what greater
Like the other groups, access,
Events and Los Poblanos are reasons to come to this area. Trees and open space add to the distinct character.
 Lynch, Kevin. Image of the City.
Saturday, December 17, 2005
I am flooded with well-being.
The writing is coursing along. Writing's not hard; it's just tedious! But I can do it! One little idea at a time. Check it off. I don't know if you can possibly understand what a difference of mindset this represents for me. I have a thriving fear of writing, an absolute horror at the possibility that I might not be able to describe my ideas in words. And an ultimate fear that I won't be able to say anything important in this thesis and therefore FAIL to write it.
But today, all is sweetness and light, and I simply describe what's in all my insanely detailed and sorted Excel tables for each of the maps. What does it all add up to? Who knows! Who cares! That's tomorrow's task! Today is just paragraph by paragraph, topic by topic. And that' s okay.
Along the same lines, I've got a comforable booth at the Star, an endless (and free) source for coffee, a full glass of water with lemon, and the ultimate selection of tunes on my very own jukebox. The latest flood of elemental joy: Tori Amos' Sorta Fairytale. GodDAMN that's a good song. Up there in happiness: Ozo Matli and Manu Chao. And for variation, new (to me) hip-hop: the Chicago group Common. So good!
Keep it coming, world. I'm your scribe. Fill me up!
Friday, December 16, 2005
I'm feeling good. Gotta write like the wind this weekend, but it's doable. It's all doable!
Talked with my oldest sis yesterday. Crazy because the night before I'd had this nightmare where she refused to say hello to me, and I got murderously angry, but she simply refused to acknowledge me. Not an hour after waking up, she called. Just to talk.
Watched What the Bleep Do We Know, and since then, I've been aware of all the little moments of synchronicity that happen all around me all the time.
Like my friend in Chicago sending me music files that I loved. He was going to send me the rest but never was able to. He sent me a link to the music video, which I forwarded on to my friend here in town, because I knew he'd like it somehow, which reminded me of the stack of music he'd left for me to listen to, and low and behold: there was that CD. Crazy!
I thought about a friend I haven't seen in a year and a half, and there she was at Target.
It's the season for calling in big universal awareness, and I'm doing my best to pay attention and keep my life out of the way by staying open to whatever happens, not just what I WANT to happen.
And New York draws closer and closer. The best idea given yesterday: ice skating. Yes!
Friday, December 09, 2005
How can it really be December? Every year, more so the older I get, I have the sneaking suspicion that if I can just hold off shopping, Christmas can't really come.
Of course, that just means I'm one of those last-minute schmucks in the line that you people feel sorry for as you sip your lattes and laugh.
I'm running from task to task, telling myself those sneezes are just allergies. I'm spending all my "free time" working on the thesis. Work refuses to let me shake its grip. Public meetings 2 nights this week, 2 nights next week.
Starting Tuesday: a mad dash to grade papers.
All of this is very normal for my life. I'm used to being busy.
But it's Christmas! Or it's supposed to be, and yet ...
I want a long walk alone near the Bosque.
I want time alone with a good pen and my favorite journal.
I want big sky and new moon. A conversation that doesn't end in tears.
A season of peace.
Part of the disorientation is knowing I'll be leaving the day after Christmas to go to New York City, a mecca that I've not yet seen. It's weird to be leaving my family, but I found out that my sister is leaving Christmas MORNING to visit her in-laws, so now, it appears I have nowhere to be Christmas Day. Sure, I can go to my mother's, but at the moment, she thinks (mistakenly, and I'm not sure how she got this information) that I'm leaving for Christmas, too. So I have the option to stay home, sleep in, walk my dog, watch some movies. In other words: hole up before hitting the big city. I know the mass quantities of people and surge of activity is going to be hard for me. Maybe I should stockpile solitude.
Generally, I'm just disoriented. Not sure why. What I thought I knew I've forgotten. I'm not currently headed toward any change (other than graduation, but that's been a constant for about 10 years now, so it's more of a touchstone than a turning point), I'm not unhappy with any one part of my life, and I'm not itching. It feels suspened. A space walk. Silence and void. And me, stretching to fill my life.
Wednesday, December 07, 2005
Meditations on Love (Cause that's what I should be thinking about right now, right? Right. Shut up. Timing is Everything.)
I go to the things I love with no thought of duty or pity." -- H.D.
The Space Between
You need the space between Chile and here
to have enough room to love me.
With just you and me in a room
it's suddenly crowded,
and the tide of your breath
swimming out from mine
crashes against the waves of silence
that tell me the tale of your fear.
I am no shark in the water;
I have no teeth, no carnivorous plans.
I only want what is freely given -
the tangles of seaweed that float, unattached
because it has nowhere else to be,
and the space between waves and sand
is always enough.
I don't want love to be mediated -- through another love, through guilt, through another woman, through pain, or through fear.
Love is not restrictive. It flows. Where it is pent, it sours.
In my mind, our job is to find the space to love the people in our lives in the fullest way we can. When the outlines of the love you have do not include romantic relationship, then physical intimacy should not be part of the relationship.
When we interact on a level that's false, we set ourselves up for an impossible situation and promise (by continuing to be in the situation, even if not in words) to be what we cannot be. It's a lie and it dishonors our connections and their love.
He asks what he can do for me. Understand yourself. Free yourself. Free your love. You're trying to box in the love you feel into definitions that don't fit.
Love is not torture. Applying false restrictions to love is.
Doing what's wrong is really just about setting up the situation in your own mind, not necessarily any particular action or "sin."
Watching him go, the best way for me to help is to not help. For my own healing, I need to see him figure this out and understand that love with me will take a change in his paradigm about relationships.
I believe in connections. You have no idea how much I believe in connections! But they are each individual and unique, which is why I don't have a problem with jealousy. The only way I get jealous is when he tries to have the same connection with someone else that he has with me.
That's NEVER POSSIBLE. It is NEVER POSSIBLE to replicate the connection between two people with any other two people. When you try, that's a deep betrayal -- of the connection and of each other but also of reality.
What that means to me is that there are an infinite number of ways to be in relationship with others. I believe the work we should be doing is to figure out how to be the most you can to each other without trying to be MORE than you can to each other based on what your connection is, and what your feelings aren't.
The pain and fear of loss comes from the false dichotomy that if you can't be everything to someone you can't be anything to them. I simply don't believe that. That's what most people do, and it's very hurtful. It's the easiest thing, don't get me wrong. But I don't think we should factor what's "easy" into decisions about people we love. It is VERY difficult and VERY challenging to continually define your connection with someone and find a way of interacting that honors it fully. It takes a lot of commitment from both people, and from everyone else close to you in your life.
But that's the way I want to live.
That's the way my partner must want to live.
If that's not in the cards for him, or not something he thinks he can sign up for, then we should probably take the moment to figure out how we can honor our connection in friendship and leave the big love for another time.
But I don't want it until he comes to me freely.
I'm still half in, half out of the boat. As much, if possible, as he is.
I want a relationship in which we are both whole and wholly choose each other, understanding that that means a commitment to also find and honor the space for all the other people we love within our circle.
"Where there is no void, there is nothing to fill."
That's why you fill up your connections with each person as fully as you can. And then we all overflow.
That's why you define your relationships to fit the connection you have, because if you try to be more, there is always a void left to fill. And it fills with other people and other feelings that end up betraying and hurting everyone.
Guilt is the sign that you need to redefine the outlines of relationship. Re-examine and adjust the contract. And then honor the new one.