Saturday, January 27, 2007

Being In Bardo

"We shall begin in exploration, and the end of all our exploring will be to return to the place where we started and know it for the first time." -- T.S. Eliot

I am told the Tibetan Buddhists, who of course believe in reincarnation, say that after you die you go to a waiting place, which they call Bardo, for 49 days. Then you are reborn into your new life. So this fall I was under the illusion that once we'd been here a few weeks I'd be released from Bardo. In fact, I am coming to realize that I will probably be in Bardo for some months to come, maybe years. How funny that New England, where I lived the first 27 years of my life, is now my Bardo.

The Buddhists also say that everything is impermanent, everything changes, and that's certainly true for our lives today. My older, wiser advisors are recommending that I just relax, stay in the day, and breathe. They remind me that I will be taken care of, that all my life the universe has been extraordinarily good to me and I haven't been brought me this far just to be dropped.

I am constantly off-balance lately, and struggling to right myself, usually through distraction, prayer, meditation -- sometimes even reading a good book helps. I've been enjoying cleaning house, changing sheets, doing laundry, which is very satisfying in such a small, cozy space. I've also been cooking a fair amount, mostly hearty vegetarian stews -- Angelica Kitchen, among my two or three favorite restaurants in New York City, has a fantastic cookbook -- but also some fabulous sausages from Whole Foods, and last night we made pizza. Cooking is satisfying in the cold weather.

I know regular exercise will also help, but it's a challenge in this kind of weather: It's been cold and windy, with no snow other than an occasional dusting. Just enough to make cleaning off the car annoying. That's frustrating -- we should have gone to Canada after all -- as snow was one of the reasons I wanted to move north, so I could enjoy the cold weather more. A snowy day is useable. You can ski in it, and sled, and walk and oo and ahh. If it were colder longer the ponds would be safer to skate on. Not to mention the plants and trees need some time under snow, and because there's no snow the air is full of topsoil and everything is very dusty.

Little by little, though, we finish researching some project and take some action and make decisions. We decided to buy a 2006 Subaru Outback that came with some extras, like heated front seats (don't tell Lily, she'll be jealous). We called our insurance agent, who called the dealer to set up coverage, and then he got the plates for us. Amazing! They do it all for you. We arranged to wire the purchase money to a local account. We were all set, and the car was supposed to arrive at the lot Friday morning, but ended up in New Hampshire, instead. So we're praying our 1994 Geo Prizm makes it through the weekend and we'll get the Subaru on Monday. It's both exciting and a relief to have that unknown now known. "There are known knowns..."

The primary focus this week was on real estate -- just assume that I continue to scour job listings and send out cover letters and resumes -- and we spent Tuesday looking at houses in north Amherst and nearby Leverett, and Thursday looking in Sunderland, Whately, and Deerfield. We're getting closer to identifying what we want, which is some vague idea of character, but no fixer-uppers, either.

Along those lines, we saw a terrific house, a well-cared-for 1900 Craftsman with loads of detail just off Deerfield Center. No land to speak of, so lots of neighbors very nearby, but the road deadends at a trail up Mount Sugarloaf. The little downtown at the other end has several cafes, a small grocery, an excellent bakery, and a library. It would be ideal for Lily, and I suspect Dave would also enjoy the proximity to town. Deerfield is also kind of central, 20 minutes each from Greenfield, Northampton, and Amherst, right near I-91, and just a half hour from Brattleboro.

This weekend we are looking at more schools. Today was an open house for the Common School, a lovely small school in Amherst. Tomorrow is the Greenfield Center School. Last week was the Smith College Campus School, which also seems to be an excellent school. All these schools stress education but also community and social responsibility, some to a greater extent than others. Monday Lily will spend the day at Bement. Once she's weighed in on what she thinks about all these places we'll see where we might want to apply -- it could be public school, too. And once we have a better idea about school she'll land in, we'll know better where to live.

Today ended up being a good day, although we all had our moments in the early afternoon. Last night Lily's first friend to sleep over went home at 10:00 p.m. because she was feeling ill. Lily was in tears from disappointment and exhaustion, and kept quietly saying, "I really don't want this to happen." This is just a lonely, hard time for her. So Dave suggested she sleep in the living room anyway, where they had camped out, and I got the bright idea that we should join her. She and Dave crawled into sleeping bags on opposite ends of the sofa and I slept in our bedsheets on the blow-up mattress below them. In the morning we all watched Howl's Moving Castle, from the incomparable Miyazaki, and Lily ate popcorn. She was much consoled.

Late in the afternoon we ended up skating on a small, local pond -- ponds, swimming holes, and walking trails are as ubiquitous as bodegas in New York -- with her new friend from skiing who lives nearby. The mom is a new friend of ours, too, and we ended up staying for dinner. They live in a house in a condo village, a simple but gorgeous Douglas Fir-beamed house with wood and built-ins and lots of that elusive stuff we've been calling character. "I know it when I see it." The 59 houses in this complex are located in a grove of old pines, and while the idea of living in a condo again does not appeal, this was a great space and there are lots of neighboring kids. We'd definitelytake a looksee if something goes on the market.

Lily got along really well with this new friend, who had another friend over, too. They both seem like the kind of kids Lily used to be friends with in Brooklyn. They are friendly and thoughtful and interesting, they still play pretend, and they welcomed Lily as one of their own. And she's coming over to our place on Thursday!

The skating was amazing and just made me want to learn how to skate even more. I practiced, hesitantly, until I fell and landed on my knees, which slowed me down. But the ice was smooth and clear and Dave kept commenting how different it was from rink ice, harder and more solid. Bubbles and dried grasses buried deep inside made me realize that frozen water is organic; the bitter cold and the dying light reminded me that I am alive. Any day above ground, as they say, is a good day. Or should that be, any day above ice?

I kept thinking of Hans Brinker. Occasionally I would watch Dave longingly as he skated out of the cleared area and across the pond through the light covering of snow. "I wish I had a river I could skate away on..."

1 comment:

  1. just love these musings. It's really making me pea green with jealousy. What a gift to have the time to take in all the changes -- to feel the Bardo -- with such awareness.

    don't see any time to connect on the phone this week. We're taking dad for his 75th to Vegas and leaving Thursday. I will call or sure upon our return the following week. love to all


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