Sunday, September 30, 2007

It's been a while.

Last night I went to a blogger's party in West Asheville with a co-worker. The gathering was made up of local bloggers from all over the city. It was an interesting event because everyone there was tied together by the internet. Writing online created a small, intimate community. 'Friends' who have commented on each other's blogs for months met for the first time.
In someones back yard, with stringed lights wrapped about the garden post, with a small fire blazing, people got together and talked about their writing. Most there were writing about their relationship with Asheville: how it's changing, how to have a stronger political presence on the community, and how to drink well and play hard in a mountain town.

Everyone introduced themselves with a question: "Are you a blogger?"
My answer was yes. But my blog is not political, argumentative, or necessarily trying to create community change. I couldn't help but reflect on why I began a blog in the first place. And, though there is no single answer to any question, I managed to find one. I started my blog to write. That's it. To find a space that's more than a journal. A place where I can share something about myself and my life in an informal way. And, to be honest, the small practice of sitting and writing, of telling a short story, does make a difference, if only to me.

Last night was a surreal evening for many reasons. But like every experience, lessons are learned, either about oneself or about others.

The journey down. I have been in Asheville for a month and I've been working here for three weeks. Most of the challenges I face are ones that I'd expect anywhere else: adjusting to a full-time job, learning how to branch out and find a community outside of school. How to make money, how to support myself financially and emotionally . Those are things are part of life and they happen no matter where we are. My choice to be here has changed so much for me on a day to day level- and yet I'm asking the same questions that I always have. This is Aiyanna in a new place, asking the same questions in a new way: learning slowly and everyday, who I am and who I want to be.

Cheers to the blog!

Tuesday, September 18, 2007

A quiet night at my desk. I finally got a desk! I realize now that I am deeply attached to the idea and practice of sitting down, spreading out my work on a clean surface, and writing. I look out of my window and see a dark green valley. Avery does his homework behind me on a small green couch decorated with colorful tapestries and we fight over what music we should listen to. I can’t get over how much I adore this little routine.

And so I’ve started to write and edit my work from last year.

And I am learning each day both the pleasures and challenges of sharing my life with someone else. It’s a wonderful place to be with many lessons to learn. Communication, support, time apart, time together, are much harder to navigate and figure out then one might think. But tonight, with Av’s music playing, with the cool night air, and this wonderful desk, I realize how lucky I am. Our duo is strong. And I am celebrating my first night of writing at my desk!

Wednesday, September 12, 2007

Fall is creeping in on us. Seasons change on the mountain before anywhere else. We've started to close the windows at night.

I've started work at the newspaper. I'm working in Arts and Entertainment and am learning about the eclectic weekly gatherings here in Asheville; everything from Medieval re-enactment groups at the Botanical Gardens to local band listings and music venues. It's a good job and hopefully, with time and confidence, I'll be able to make it a more creative one (one that will including more writing). Writing. Another mountain in my life. I seem to have found a routine here, and now I need to find writing. Stories, slowly, about a momma I met who's raising a beautiful boy all on her own. He raises his fists into the air and shouts, "Love". Stories about a family in the middle of great change, about fathers across the sea, about a woman finding her way, somehow, up a steep mountain-side. About new faces, slow car rides, fires and rituals, women and men; about a slow sense of acceptance. And the list keeps going. It grows each day, even from behind a desk. Reflection, thought, fuel. And the greatest lesson of all: slowness is careful. As my father always says, "We have eternity."

Another blanket. Fist to the sky: LOVE.

Friday, September 7, 2007

Watching the sunset over the rolling Carolina mountains and shooting stars at night, discovering small town coffee shops, hanging out with a new group of people, and sampling the home brews, have kept me busy in the past few days. I am enjoying Asheville immensely.

Our house is coming together surprisingly well-- one dusty corner at a time. We eat dinners as a 'house family' and I'm learning how to cook dirty grits, dirty eggs (dirty meaning all the grease from fried sausages-- which is probably only new to me) biscuits, spicy shrimp.

There is something phenomenal about transitions and changes. Adjustment slips by, the unfamiliar somehow becomes comfortable. I wake up in comfortably in my new room. I've discovered a side of myself that takes great pleasure in waking slowly and eating breakfast at noon. Av and I sat out on the roof and watched the stars last night. We saw a beautiful, long shooting star. In the past six months the closest thing to stars that I've seen have been on the ceiling of Grand Central Station. We watched the sky for so long that I felt as if I could see the constellations shifting overhead. It's amazing to think that this kind of quiet coexists with the noise of New York.

I also have some exciting news: I got a job working on the editorial staff for a local newspaper. It's an awesome newspaper called the Mountain Xpress and I'll be working on the Arts and Entertainment section. I interviewed on Tuesday, had an orientation meeting on Wednesday, and begin on Monday. I am overwhelmed with happiness. My mom always told me that when you make the right decision things will come to you. I thought of that after I was offered the editorial position and as I waited for Av on the UNCA quad. I know I made the right decision. And I feel as if this job found me because I'm meant to be here. Not only can I live with the love of my life, but I can be in an exciting work environment in a field I'm interested in.

I begin Monday and plan to stargaze every night until the heart of winter.

Monday, September 3, 2007

I’m not sure which is harder, moving or moving in.

I’ve discovered that I hate cleaning, washing, folding, and scrubbing. I cleaned our bathroom the other day. In the process of bleaching the bathtub, I was filled with a deep sense of injustice. Though the feeling was irrational, I couldn’t get over it and grew increasingly angry every minute I spent wearing yellow gloves and holding a sponge. Two hours later, with my eyes burning from the fumes of the washing liquid and my clothing soaked, the task was finally done. And now, day three of cleaning, I have a newfound appreciation for those who stay home and take care of the house. Though it’s a job I never want to have, I respect it.

I’m adjusting to Asheville. I feel more and more comfortable in this space and with my roommates, who are truly wonderful people. I’m learning to appreciate the Country music they play in the morning and I’m grateful for their patience when I can’t stand anymore.

But the hardest part in being here is finding my independence. My life in New York was, in many ways, a solitary one. In learning to find my way around the city I was also learning how to be alone. Here, in the mountains, I’m struggling to find confidence when on my own. The silence makes me question what I’m doing, or what I should be doing. I went for a run the other day and not a single car or person passed me. There are so many winding roads that we easily miss each other. We can go on and on till we’ve run clear to the bottom of the mountain. And though the quiet is a beautiful change it also generates a feeling of loneliness. In the roundhouse on a mountain, I’m trying to adjust to the silence. I’m trying to sit with it and breath.

I am getting to know the hillsides, constantly reminding myself to breath.

Thursday, August 30, 2007

I made it to Asheville today.
The air in the mountains is so damp my hair has turned into a curly mess. There are crickets and critters (Avery says tree frogs!) chirping outside. The lullaby of the valley. We live on Blue Ridge, and this mountain is called Beaucatcher. The round house looks down and into a green valley. It is literally a round house. There are fireflies and insects singing in the rain.

Transitions are the hardest part. Flying on a plane is the most convenient way to get from point A to point B, but I'm not sure that's always a good thing. Traveling is an interesting space, between departure and arrive, and that space, to me, is an acclamation time. I often feel that there is great value in lugging your suitcases, leaving one place bound for another and in turn sacrificing a day to the Gods of journey-making. But planes can move too quickly. You could be in New York at 9 am clinging to your best friends shoulders and two hours later be in a completely new world. I feel as if I should have been on a plane for hours and hours- just to feel as if I was really going somewhere. I said goodbye to Harlem this morning and said goodbye to the best friends I've ever had. This goodbye, like many others, means that the routines of one life transform. I am here and welcome the change, but the goodbyes I've said are lingering in my body: I will miss my Harlem routines, and I will miss the routines that linked me to my friends on a daily basis.

Transition is the time it takes for the mind to catch up with the body.

Monday, August 27, 2007

A weekend of goodbyes. A long Monday.

Today was my last day at Folio. The summer is nearly over and it wasn’t till this afternoon, when I said goodbye to my co-workers and lingered around the corner outside of the office in Midtown, that I realized how quickly the time passed. I said goodbye to the people I’ve been working with for the past three months.

I read and edited a proposal on sexual selection, and then turned to the all-reliable slush pile. Did you know that the porn industry makes more in revenue than all of Hollywood? At five o’clock I found myself lingering… standing slowly, looking at the books on the selves… not wanting it to be over. My first day at the office, on the 1st on June, I filed contracts for three hours, and in the process asked about four dozen questions. That was the last time I filed anything.

As I stood around in front of Penn Station, I thought about how many moves I’ve made. All my life I have been traveling, packing up for a year or two, packing up for an adventure. You’d think that it would get easier with time— that, like anything, practice makes perfect. I’m good at packing up; I’m good at cutting down on unnecessary clothing and material stuff in my life. But goodbyes are another story. I lingered in the concrete park outside of the train station for half an hour watching midtown in rush hour.

I finally called a friend and we decided to meet downtown— we both needed a walk. Together we wandered aimlessly around the city— walked hard to move through the streets, to move through the day.

Leaving is a complicated feeling. Leaving is counting all the moments, faces, and people you treasure. Leaving is the chance to slow down and appreciate what is here, what is now. I have a complicated relationship with New York— a mixture of love and loneliness, a sense of overwhelming strength and independence matched by complete doubt. What if and what if and what if…
Leaving is a way to see who in my life will stay and who will fade away. Who will find me when I’m not a train ride uptown? Who will I find? The relationships I’ve made in the office, no matter how meaningful, are, in many ways, circumstantial. There are some people and relationships that will grow pale because of distance. There are some relationships that will end because of a move.

Leaving is slowing down, watching the rush hour; leaving is sitting on the fire escape with my friends, looking at the full moon over the Harlem Hospital and the 24 hour McDonald’s. Leaving it holding them close, leaving is watching time slip by.

Wednesday, August 22, 2007

I saw a man asleep in the subway at 42nd street. He was passed out with his head leaning against an elevator shaft and his legs splayed out in front of him in the shape of a Y. His shirt was folded and his stomach was exposed. His shoes were off and resting beside his head. Two cops stood over him. They marched around him in semi circles and prodded at his sides with their long black sticks. One of the cops reached into the man’s pocket and pulled out his wallet. They fingered through his identification and wrote him a ticket. They shoved the violation in his pocket. My train pulled in and the cops were still circling, sweating, and poking the man on the ground. They lifted him up as the doors to the 3 train shut and pulled me forward. I’m glad my train arrived when it did. I don’t think I could have managed to watch anymore.

It was a long day, but I have nothing but blessings to count.

Tuesday, August 21, 2007

A poetry teacher of mine at Sarah Lawrence told me that living in New York is like cave dwelling. After spending almost all day inside, I finally understand what she meant. You run out to get something, to pick up a paper, go to the gym, buy some ice cream, and run back to the cave where it is quite, where you can build a fire and cook your dinner. It rained all day today for the third day in a row.
Cave dwelling in Harlem: rushing past a group of guys wearing hoddies as they throw dice onto the steps for wrinkled dollar bills, past the wing and waffle shop, past bodegas selling the same brands of mango juice, past old men listening to music from a beat up boom box outside of Londell’s— and then home. Home to build a fire and cook Annie’s Mac and Cheese, home to watch more rain roll in.

To say I did one productive thing today, I applied for a job as a freelance writer for a local magazine in Asheville. Before sending out my job application, I rewrote my cover letter and updated my resume. At the bottom of my resume I have a line that reads “Interests”, which the counselor at career services strongly recommended. Today one of my interests changed from “getting lost in New York City” to “exploring Blue Ridge Mountain”. A few words that change everything: from being hopelessly lost in a grid system to being hopelessly lost on the mountain where I’m about to more.

It’s strange how we adapt and change, how we grow accustomed to our surroundings and feel comfortable in places we never knew we could. When I first moved here I was absolutely terrified. I got off of a plane form Maine, where I was visiting family, and, pulling my suitcase up Frederic Douglas Avenue, thought I had made an awful mistake. I wanted to turn around and go back. That night it was so loud I couldn’t sleep and every sound made me jump. But now, months later, I feel at home here. The men hanging out on the corners are familiar faces; I look forward to barbequed meat and cornbread on Adam Clayton Powell on the weekends. Slowly, this neighborhood has become home. Slowly, this apartment has become my cave. And just and I’ve learned to think in East and West, Uptown and Downtown, I am leaving.

Interest: learning to find my way.

Monday, August 20, 2007

At my internship I spend the majority of the day reading manuscripts. The formula goes as such: Query Letter, Synopsis, and the first chapter. The material itself is always different, and yet, after five hours of reading ‘slush’ they all seem to blend together— the chess champion falls in love with the archangel who is going to seduce the Scotsman who lives alone on a lake, and slowly, ever so slowly, the meaning of friendship and true love is defined. But honestly, the best part about this job is the reading. Whether or not a given manuscript is picked up for representation, I find an endless amount of inspiration from the people— the day-job working people— who make the time to sit down and write their story. We receive dozens of manuscripts a day; if they can do it I can too.

I realize that this is my third blog entry and I have failed to provide a Query Letter, a Synopsis, or any basic information surrounding my situation and the transition I’m about to make. The premise, as best as I can piece together, is this:

I am in entering a new stage in my life, where September no longer means signing up for classes, where student loans appear for the first time, where the reality of a 9-5 job sets in. But I want something first, I want stolen years. Years spent writing, spent believing in my work as much as anything else. Years to be young: to be in love.
The countdown begins, and after three months living in Harlem New York I have nine days to go before moving to Asheville North Carolina.

And the journey— the stolen years— begin.

Sunday, August 19, 2007

Joan Didion in her novel “A Year of Magical Thinking” wrote that having a notebook on hand made the difference between writing and not writing. The difference between keeping an idea and losing an idea.

I have spent two days away from my apartment and I feel as if I’ve been gone a year.

At three in the morning I found myself in Crown Heights Brooklyn lying on my best friend’s boyfriend’s couch. As I fell asleep I became overwhelmed with the thought that I am losing ideas. The thought grew into an irrational fear as I recited three lines in my head, as I wrote them in my imagination, as I wrote them on the walls:

Remember heavy metal chairs, small French menus, a rooftop.
Remember the smell of cloves, garlic, mussels, cologne.
Remember your friends.

I woke up tangled in sheets, my body wedged into the crease of the couch, reciting my three sentences. But the last line was all I really cared about.
These people, my dear friends, are stronger than ideas: they will not let themselves be lost. Words or empty pages, there are some things that will never disappear. Aiyanna, remember that.

Friday, August 17, 2007

Day One

It’s been three months since I graduated from college and I’ve been struggling to find the time and space to write. In June, when I first moved to the city, I tried to force myself to write on the subway. But, as I soon discovered, writing on the subway is nearly impossible: constant motion leaves my handwriting childlike and illegible, I’m lucky if I get a seat, I’m terribly susceptible to distraction, and, despite all code of New York City conduct, I can’t help but watch the people around me. I would have missed far too much if I had forced myself to focus on a blank piece of paper.
The little girl who painted pictures on the windows with her purple bubble gum.
The young man who stepped into the car and, “Instead or robbing and steal” was out here “candy dealing.”
A young couple a they watched their baby.
A woman who must have been my age sucking her thumb.
It’s amazing how alone we become on the subway. How a public space can create such an unexpected sense of isolation. How comfortable we become. Maybe it’s because we know we’ll never see any of the people around us again.

And so I want to begin. I want to start writing again, at least a little everyday.
August 17th. Maybe this will help.