Sunday, December 10, 2006

Not knowing when the dawn will come, I open every door.
—Emily Dickinson

When I got overwhelmed this fall I would fall back on two diversions: I'd search the web for work and real estate in the Pioneer Valley. But then, as the actual move date grew closer the idea of looking for a job at the same time felt like too much. So did my online snacking on houses, instead, all the while reciting my "first things first" mantra over and over. We sold; we moved; we settled in.

And now, as we begin our third week here, with first things first still reverberating in my brain, looking for a paying job with benefits is again a high priority. The Pioneer Valley is a big place but the feel is still very small-town. I've been advised to tell as many people as possible that I am looking for work and what my general skills are, because so much comes about by word of mouth.

My latest mantra is, stay in the day. Be present and try to take the appropriate action in front of me -- email requests for an informational interviews, copy my clips, go on interviews, write thank you notes. And pray.

Speaking of copying my clips, that became another problem on Friday. I took two of my LIFE stories to a copy shop and the clerk took one look and said nope, he couldn't do it, that the store was being sued by publishers and so they would not reprint copyrighted material. I explained that I had written the articles, that this was my livelihood, that I had an interview Monday morning. I pleaded. But to no avail. I am proud that I was very polite and calm and did not start swearing until I had left the building. The library's photocopy machine works okay, incidentally, but the reprints of those oversized LIFE stories look terrible reduced and in black and white. This was never a problem in Brooklyn.

The day ended lovely, though. In the early evening the three of us went to the Merry Maple celebration on the Amherst green. I'd worked hard to bundle up, too, two pairs of socks, long johns, wool sweater, gloves, hat, scarf, but it was so cold my teeth were numb. You know you're not in New York when you find drive five minutes to town and find a parking spot two blocks away from the event. It was legal, even. The town gave out free flashlights that the kids played with on the green, as well as hot cider. We listened to the children's choir and stamped our feet trying to stay warm as we waited for the UMass marching band to arrive. They came, finally, followed by Santa riding in the ladder of the fire engine. True to New England preppy form, I saw a couple of people in shorts and not just students; one was a gray-hair. But I always wonder if those are the same people who eat kangaroo eyes or some other weird food: Are they just doing it to make a point or do they really not feel cold in 20 degree weather?

Well, I felt cold, and so did Lily, who had refused to take my strong suggestion to bundle up and her dad's strong suggestion to eat something before we went. When the hay ride pulled by the gorgeous workhorses snorting in the cold took its last turn and she wasn't on it Lily burst into tears and begged to go home. We just said we told you so and stayed another half hour listening to brassy Christmas carols, all the old favorites. As we were getting ready to leave we ran into three generations of people from last summer's family camp at Farm and Wilderness. They were pleased to see us, asked if we had finally landed, and I said yes, and thank you for the inspiration to move to Amherst. Small town, indeed!

We ended the evening at Dave's college friends Jay and Louise eating pizza and looking at the Orion Nebula through Jay's telescope. A friend of theirs who moved up here from New York City five years ago came over with his daughter, too -- more small world: The daughter is in Lily's class. The kids watched Laurel and Hardy while we talked about education and community, and New York versus the Pioneer Valley, and public versus private. This evening is a perfect example of why I wanted to move here. It had everything in it for me, and I felt so at home and happy, even though I was frozen.

Yet another example of small worldliness: Lily has a new friend, Jade, another third-grader in her school whose mother is the sister of Lily's third grade teacher at PS 261. She played over at Jade's house on Saturday afternoon, while Dave and I celebrated Emily Dickinson's 176th birthday at her home on Main Street. They had birthday cake from her own recipes and a great hammered duclimer and fiddler playing dance tunes. We saw her bedroom and imagined her writing at her small table in a corner on the street between two windows. Lovely.

After we got home, more of Dave's college friends, Lonnie and Erika came over the river and through the wood from Northampton to visit for a couple of hours while their daughter went to a rollerskating birthday party in nearby Hadley. Dave made us Thai food, a green chili dish with tofu and vegetables and basmati rice that was great, and dumplings from one of the two local Asian food stores. Almost all the food we eat now is food we've prepared, unlike in Brooklyn.

Today the weather is gorgeous again, and a bit warmer, and we went to the Mullins Center, home of the UMass Minutemen hocky team, to skate. We got a little lost trying to find the place, which means it took us 15 minutes to get there, rather than 10. The rink was only open for a couple of hours; often they host birthday parties in the afternoon. It was not crowded by either Amherst or Brooklyn standards and we skated for about 45 minutes before we all putzed out -- Lily had invited Chapin, the next-door neighbor fourth grader, along -- and had pizza at Antonio's in the center of town. Antonio's is a college-town chain, apparently, that specializes in designer pizza the way Bruegger's specializes in designer bagels. Dave had a beef taco slice and I had a salad pizza with olives and artichoke hearts, among other things.

Now the kids are upstairs playing, Dave is out buying groceries, and the Sunday Times is calling my name from the living room (warmest room in the house). Wish me luck with the interviews.


  1. luck, Sash!!! Keep on writing whatever happens! bizarro on the clips, btw. I want to call you to chat more personally, but I'm under the gun with deadlines. I'll give you a ring next week!! xoxoxo kim

  2. FYI the freelance interview was postponed until Friday but the info interview went great!

  3. Hi Sasha--

    I've thought about you guys many times since we saw you in Bklyn for Lily's birthday. Sounds like you're in great shape up there in the north country. Now we're both NYC ex-pats, right? Who woulda thunk it when Grace and Lily were Puffins and we schlepped them around Brooklyn in their little strollers. Keep writing -- I like being able to keep up with your new life in great gloaming wilderness. Good luck w/ job searches & have a great holiday season.

    Love, Anne, Jamie, Grace & Sarah

  4. hey, btw, I bought that Feeding the Whole Family book. It looks great--can't wait to cook from it. k xoxo


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