She giggled, “I don’t like to travel alone”

And from that moment to now, the giggling continues.

Space and Place – I was first introduced to the idea of “place making” by my sister, a modern dancer who in college created “space based” pieces – in museums with works of art, in campus spaces, and in old factories in North Adams, Massachusetts. At the time it sounded like some foofy-academic stuff made up by artist and ivory towers.  I love my sister and her dance, but really?  Conversations about space?

As I moved into teaching space took on far greater importance.  What is a good “learning space”?  How do I set up a room to encourage open dialogue?  How do I make this room feel different for this afternoons fun-activity than this mornings workshop on sexual orientation?

My capstone presentation for my Masters was in my favorite room on the SIT campus except – the last time I had been in there was to mediate one of the most intense conversations of my time with the youth programs.  Each time  I walked in the room my heart started pounding, I got hot and dizzy, theroomshrank – I felt like vomiting.  The room, that space, held all the emotions of that conversation.  It held my students stories, their pain, their confessions, my reactions and sense of helplessness. The room was memory as real as any connections my neurons could fire.

Space holds meaning.  There are spaces that feel safe, places you can let your guard down, places that are home – be they your favorite swimming pool, or best friends couch, that basketball court around the corner, your wood shop, the third stool from the end at your favorite pub or the boulder on the end of a Cape Cod pier.

I’ve been thinking a lot about space and place in Delhi.  Who has rights to it, power over it, decision making authority, what are its cultural, economic, political and caste implications?  With such a huge population every inch of space, every sidewalk square counts.  I am working on a more personal, indepth look at space in India, but for now…

I turn your attention to my collegue Mellisa Garcia Lamarca.  She writes for an international blog called polis, as has just published a concise and illuminating article on the issue of space and state power in Delhi.

http://www.thepolisblog.org/2011/02/space-and-state-power-in-delhi.html

Enjoy.

 

 

100 Thousand Ants
all so busy on your hill
you move though out the city
never holding still

Dear 100 Thousand Ants
an embarrassment for all
your dirty, needy, shameful
there behind our shopping malls

the Ant it does what you will not
it gathers for its house
it carries away your discards
picks through and sorts it out

Dear Indian little Anties
taking care of global waste
30 thousand tons of old twin towers
all asbestos laced

efficient little Ants
your organized complexity
the weighing out of garbage
is a precise economy

Ant communities and livelihoods
Ant families, children, schools
but Big Business sees a money maker
and it can’t stand to lose

look at the little Anties
with their matching vests and chants
they gave themselves a name
made composting plans

They sort out your recycling
make clean earth for your neighborhood
but the municipality tells us
what their doing is no good

Dear Bangladeshi Anties
with your dirty muslim ways
go live inside our trash
which is the cities, by the way

make your illegal living
for as long as we’ll allow
some day we’ll come and pack you up
and ship you out of town

we’ll formalize your process
with our mechanized new ways
our public private partnerships
see trash as money these days

A new environmental mission
it’s good for all, you see
this new fangled incinerator
earns Carbon Credit for Delhi

Race in India
The group examines themselves
Uncomfortable shift

*

Learning outward, theories find  too comfortable a home within.

She explains. Wet eyed and full of grace

A breath.  unsure of itself, wavering

Like Indian dust her realities settle in slowly.  On our skin, our clothes, in our lungs.  Tonight we wrestle with it coughing, tossing in our beds.

 

 

 

A sato ma sadgamaya

 

 

Tamaso ma jyotirgamaya

 

 

Mrityur ma amritamgamaya

 

 

Om shanti shanti shanti

 

 

From untruth to truth lead us

 

 

From darkness to light lead us

 

 

From death to eternal life lead us

 

 

Om peace peace peace

 

.

Welcome to Delhi.

“Cities in the 21st Century”

The next four months will be spent in cities, learning about cities, exploring, wandering, eating, sleeping, breathing, teaching, learning, and existing in and through cities.  A daunting idea for a country mouse.

As the faculty fellow for this study abroad program I’m something of a TA for three courses: Urban Planning & Sustainable Environments, Politics and Development, and Culture and Society. This means I’m in class with my students everyday.  I get to take class!  Everyday!  And not have homework!  Exclamations! (!!)  (!!!)

The plan was to write an eloquent synthesis of what I’ve learned about New York in these two weeks but I have no clean underwear and breakfast meeting – so you, dear readers (and by that I mean: Hi Dad!) will have to wait.

In its place here is Radiolab’s hour-long episode on Cities, with a focus on NY. Some things are better left to the professionals.

To come:  “Transportation Justice” – Never thought of it until I did. Now I can’t stop.

Delhi on Friday.

I have been afraid of this entry.

I have been scared to write the realities and compelled towards full disclosure. I have been avoiding you, blog, in favor of students and adventure and other things I could write about then what’s really on my mind.

The fact is…I’m Single. I have been since the last Big Thing ended in 2007.  Single, free, available, actively dating, sometimes in multiples…but capital S Single – solo, self sufficient, solid, satisfied, stupid, scared, strong, stubborn, and single – for a very long time. In many ways I wouldn’t and couldn’t have it differently.  In many ways all I want is a partner, a dog, a fire escape garden and a sense of “home”. Stability in the form of a place and a person.  Someone that is safe, stable, supportive and always there.

I fear that over time I’ve forgotten.  That I misunderstand enough, I’ve become stubborn enough, I am compelled to wander enough that I won’t find someone willing to do this with me. Someone willing to put up with me going, who is willing to wait, or willing to come, or who makes me want to finely hold still.  I want to hold still to have community, to have home mean something greater than 2 weeks, to have the possibility of love.  I worry that I’ve forgotten how to compromise, how to commit, how to communicate, how to WORK ON IT, with one person.  To choose the challenges over the freedom.

I have met amazing men, have allowed myself confusion and connection – and then I’m gone.  It’s always been “hey, your wonderful, I’m here for six weeks”.  I’m scared I wont know or wont be willing to do what it takes.  Relationships are work; its easier to work with my kids than work on it.

I love my job but  it’s clear path of work or bust:

Flash back, 2007:

Mr. Marry:  “You chose the idea of this job and students over the reality of us”.

Boy on a Boat: “You couldn’t do your job if you were really with someone, could you?”

2008:

Mr. Coffee: “I’m not ready to do long distance”

“I think I love you but this is who I am”

“I’m not there”

ouch.

2009:

Radio Silence

2010:

Mr. So Close to Amazing “A few years from now we could be great”

Mr. World Bank. (Really, what was I thinking)

2011:

Mr. “If  You Were Around We Might Have a Chance.”

There was a moment in a tent in 2008.  Probably my biggest moment of total singledom breakdown. In the arms of one Ms. “Operations Manager-in-the-Form-of-a-Good-Friend”, who whisked me away from a group of Iraqi students when she realized I was only  barely holding my shit together under those really big sunglasses. She let me sit in her arms under the veil of a camping canvass – and cry –  extensively, loudly, full-on-body-wrenching-my-abs-hurt-for-days-Ugly Face Cry.  For a long time.  It was pathetic and healing and one of the few times I let myself address the feelings of total singleness and the non-reality of self-sufficiency.

All I could think was “When I have given all the care I can, when I am empty and sad and have nothing left to give, when I have cared for them for months on end, when I am emotionally tapped…how will I take care of myself.” All I could say was “But who will take care of me?”

It’s pathetic and it feels selfish and stupid and crazy, and still so real.  I had given it all.  An Olympic Sprinter who collapses at the finish line exasperated.  I had given  E-V-E-R-Y-T-H-I-N-G I knew myself to be to students and staff.  I would feel like a bad director if I hadn’t.

My job, then and now, is to care.  I am a professional mama, a nurturer, a sister, a counselor, a safety net, a healer, a make-everything-ok-er, a source of comfort.  I love providing that. It makes me feel like I’m doing something, it makes me feel my most human and complete.

Now 27, the age my mother was married, I’m choosing a job and an incredible opportunity over the idea of maybe, possibly, someday, re-figuring out how to meet someone or have a relationship. It keeps feeling like a choice – love or work, the possibility of love, or the reality of these amazing jobs.  I remind myself that holding still holds no promise of love.

My father in his carefully doled out but infinitely accurate wisdom has said “do what makes you happy and you’ll find someone whose happiness fits with yours.”  I have to take solace in this idea.  It’s the star I’m stringing my swing on.

For now I focus on my students; focus on this experience I have been granted, and I am thankful for what is in front of me: an incredibly understanding community of family and friends, women who make me proud to be a woman in every way, travel experiences that will turn my current understandings upside down, the opportunity to take college classes and not have assignments, and the ability to eat humble pie as I transfer from the person-who-knows-how as Assistant Director to the person-who-has-so-much-to-learn as the youngest and least traveled of a faculty team.

This semester feels like its going to be amazing.  I feel lucky, truly lucky and blessed and fortunate to be with these students and faculty on this trip.

But

Universe,
It would be nice to feel love again, maybe some day sooner rather than later, OK?

Cheers,

Melanie

Today, my cousin who is volunteering in Tanzania wrote this on her blog:

Far away

I’m feeling a little lonely and sad today, frustrated by the hugeness of the challenges we have facing us, angry at the world for being so unfair to these wonderful kids, missing my family and friends for the holidays and my birthday (in five days).   Any ideas for feeling closer to home when you’re really, really, really, ridiculously far away?

Becks – I know the feeling well.  And while I have no advice to offer, I do have this.  I hope it helps.

We all love you.

Sending oversized “we’re here”-vibes and ridiculous family singing-around-the-table-after-a-meal-just-like-we-always-have affection your way. (And yes, those are light-up turkey hats.)

Pausing at my parents house.

– – –

Each morning around 3 the door makes its sandpaper rub along the carpet.

A nose and two eyes sneak knee-height into my room.

Always the same – two steps, two breaths, a huff, and he is gone.

I sleep feeling loved and protected.

– – –

 

Snow Day.

 

Dog Park.

 

Mudded Bliss.

 

– – –

 

Seamus Foster

Welcome to the Family

 

(You’re so friggin cute.)

The tiny alarm clock drop-kicks me into wakefulness. 7 AM.  Saturday.

“You think, in your head that you make sense right now, but really, you have no idea.”  My sister’s wisdom tumbleweeds through the vacuum left by  black-out sleep.  Eyes closed I pry the batteries from the alarm clock springs.  No sneak attack from the snooze button.

According to The National Sleep Foundation two factors make up our sleep needs: our basal sleep need is the average daily amount of sleep we need to be happy, healthy and well. Our sleep debt is just that, the accumulation of sleep not had. As if sleep hours are fireflies spread across a night field with no body to collect them.   Each night they commune, they gather, they multiply untamed until night is so bright its one endless, sleepless day.  A trans-Atlantic flight. You are free to move about the cabin.

11 AM, late morning light meanders into the room and crawls into bed with me.  Palms pressed againt headboard, my toes find mattress edge. Back reaching skyward my body whispers and pops with new movement.  A sigh, a heave and I’m upright.

11 hours of sleep.  ELEVEN hours. Do you know what eleven hours feels like?  I dance with joy – do the shimmy-shake of successful slumber.

Ladies and gentlemen, I had hit burnout. I had hit it hard and I had no idea. 3 moths of straight work, 13 flights (6 international), a zillion students,  one (amazing) whirlwind solo-trip, a house moving, and a grandfather passing later – I arrived in DC a week ago. A walking mass of human needs and confounded mental processes.  At work I stared at screens unable to process receipts, or even effectually field emails.  Social engagements were kept short and with the sympathetic.

And so….this weekend…..I slept.  and slept.  and slept.  I woke up,  weeded the  garden, went on a walk and went back to sleep.  I tried a new recipe, watched a movie, talked to my roommates and went back to sleep. In two nights, I clocked over 22 hours of sleep.  That’s a FULL DAY of sleep.  Good sleep. Deep, dark, drag-down, knock-out, if-sleeping-were-a-sport-I-just-bagged-the-gold-medal kind of sleep.

I have reclaimed logic from the lost luggage lounge.  Dug reasoning and stability out of the backpack pouch meant for keeping wallets safe. I unpacked my clothing and found a sense of balance. For the first time in months it feels like all my parts are on one continent.

I caught me some real pretty fireflies.

 

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