The way I operate

Leaving + Lucky by Christina Rosalie

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I feel so unbelievably lucky. Thank you to everyone who snatched up artwork. It was the fastest pay-what-you-can studio sale I've ever had. So fast in fact, that I had no chance to open it up to everyone. The good news: I'll be offering another sale this summer with lots more bird paintings (so much love for those, and so many requests!) and, just as soon as I get settled I'll be making a sweet postcard pack with gorgeous glossy prints of all the birds. That should be available at the end of May. I put some work up here, just for you to take a peak if you'd like.
It's been a week.
Wrapping projects, saying goodbye, and planning for things to come. I've been listening to this playlist on repeat, and periodically bursting into tears. The moments collide. Everything possible. Everything lost. Everything new.
Saying goodbye sucks. There are people here who are a part of my heart. People who make me smile every single time I think of them. I want them all to come West with us. (Maybe they will. A girl can hope.)
Because of the way spring break happens for the kids, yesterday was their last day of school. We've been the luckiest with their teachers. So good. So intuitive and skilled and heartfelt. The boys came home with goodbye cards and treasures from the year. They'll land in a new school, find new friends, chart new paths of course. They'll find their stride in summer camp. All of it. Still.
Their last day at this school felt precious and abrupt. Like it wasn't real. Like it didn't happen. Except there it is: a book from Sprout's class and teacher, "To the boy with the sunlight in his eyes." They know him well. Whenever he talks about moving he refers to our new geography in it's entirety. "To Portland, Oregon." It isn't a real place yet. The only place that's real is here, amidst boxes. He's found the packing paper and has turned it into a wide drawing surface: tall castles and taller trees.
Bean is off with his friends, saying goodbye in his own boyish ways. Playdates one after the next: biking and tree forts and inventions. Exchanging addresses. Mailing pre-emptive letters. It's only pretend-real to both of them.
"Mommy," Bean says with a playful gleam in his eyes. "I know that you and Daddy are the Easter Bunny."
I look at him: tousled hair, black and white checkered Vans, his skinny shoulders in a soft grey sweatshirt, his hands full of electric circuit board equipment. How is any of this possible at all?
The inevitable flow of time.
The way we move on: grow, and outgrow ourselves over and over again.
Here we go.

The biggest adventure: forever, then all of a sudden by Christina Rosalie

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The winter stayed and stayed. Snow came, then fell again with a vengeance, white, whiter, small hills gathering curbside. Softer snow layered with frozen rain and sleet. Our own glacial record, keeping the things we lost: A single mitten, pocket change, our sense of permanence, the feeling of home. It was the coldest year on record. Biting. Sharp. I spent from November until April in Sorrel boots; wore my grey woolen beanie hat indoors; stopped smiling at strangers (not for lack of interest but because it required too much exposure of cheek and neck). The days grew longer, but the cold lasted. And along with it, a growing, restlessness, a gradual anxiety; a realization that this, here, might not be enough anymore for many reasons. Some more complicated than others. The least of them being the weather, but the most acceptable to share about here.
In retrospect the universe was probably conspiring. In the moment it felt like everything skittered right up against the edge. Things happened slowly, then all of a sudden. It felt like it feels when you almost fall on black ice, but catch yourself just before and walk away, your heart still beating hard.
Everywhere else spring arrived. I watched on Instagram. People had cherry blossoms, camellias, daffodils by the arm-full. Here, it was snow or days of spitting sleet. Temperatures in the low teens. Hunched shoulders. Worry. The feeling of having outgrown our circumference. Uneven footing. A flirtation with change. The idea of moving West. An inkling. A passing remark here. A half finished sentence there. What-ifs showing up in my morning pages; the words “spend more time on the Pacific” in my 37 before 37 list; and then we started looking in earnest. Then we flew out, fell in love with the city of roses and bridges, saw friends, ate so much good food, interviewed many places, and T landed his dream job.
Or something. Something like that. Sort of. Minus the hundred thousand anxious moments. Minus all the things beyond our control. Minus the anxiousness stitched together to make days, and the logistical conversations we had over and over again on repeat.
Now of course we forget it all. We forget the way we hunched against the cold because today there is sun, and sun, and sun. People are using leaf blowers. The neighbor's parakeets are flirting. Cardinals are making nests. The lake is melting, and the are is warm enough finally to sit in shirt sleeves, grinning.
And We’re moving.
Bittersweet. Wildly giddy. Thrilled beyond words. Tired. Heart-achy. Delighted.
And it’s all happening now, this very minute. We leave in 2 weeks. Hello Portland.
Finally I’m moving back. The Pacific is whispering. A new bungalow on a new street. A city to fall in love with. New paths to chart. New stories to tell.
And before that, goodbyes and then a cross-country road trip. The boys. The dog. A route mapped through Chicago and Wyoming and Idaho to see some of this big country for the first time. I can’t wait and I’m not ready. I’m over the moon, and I’m sad to be leaving friends behind.

Needless to say: I have added incentive to make the studio sale happen. I'm finishing a few pieces, and scanning them all. Fingers crossed it will go live tomorrow. Maybe Tuesday. Like always, it will be a pay-what-you-can sale, but I'll be setting a minimum this time just to offset materials and handling. I make all items available to my newsletter list first--then open up whatever's left to anyone who happens by this little blog after 24 hours. (Fair warning, last time everything sold in less than 12 hours.)

Ok.So enough about that. Tell me everything you know about moving. Cross-country trips. Portland. Everything. Love, C

Learning to exist at the edge of the unknown by Christina Rosalie

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DSC_9935 I wake up wanting wildness; wanting the long view; wanting to be somewhere at the edge of what I know. I can't explain it. It's feels exactly like hunger, and even after breakfast it is still there, gnawing in the pit of my belly, and so we go, all four of us.
We take chocolate and walnuts, and chai marsala tea. We wear boots, and layers and our warmest gloves. We drive North, to the Champlain islands, to where lake meets sky, the water frozen into a smooth wide sheet till it blurs, yellow and milky at the edge.
The boys have the right approach. They pile into the car ready for adventure, and climb out when we park, curious, wide-eyed, already running towards whatever they will fine. The unknown is an invitation, a lure, a wild promise.
For T and I it's harder. It requires effort to shake off expectations and preoccupations, and the ground is icy and uncertain beneath us.
My breath catches where my breastbones join.
The boys run ahead, propelled by innate curiosity and instinctive balance. They run out onto the ice following sled tracks, unafraid, reckless in their abandon to know whatever this is, this ice, this world at the edge, this day, this newness of now.
For them, sliding is play. Falling too is it's own wonder: a flirtation with gravity. A chance to be airborne and to come down again, hard and certain, but without the pain of height and the thud of inflexibility. I watch them as they fall, over and over on purpose. Running, they hurl themselves knees first toward the ice, then slide out ahead in a graceful uncontrolled arc, yelling with glee.
I yell warnings after them unheeded, and feel afraid I am of this. Of what I can't control.
Without planning, I've arrived exactly at the wild edge of the unknown that stirred me from sleep like a hunger, though when we left the house I didn’t for a moment picture it like this: ice as far as the eye can see, with fishermen dotting the horizon. We slip-slide past the holes they've left, drilled drilled down into the quiet dark, where Lake Perch swim slowly through still water without sun.
The boys want to poke their booted toes in; I imagine hypothermia. My voice snaps fiercely in the cold air. They look surprised. And when we come close to the shore, they walk along the lake’s broken lip where the cattails rattle, and as the ice cracks and bows under their weight, they laugh with glee and stamp harder. I bark warnings, imagining them sinking under.
So here I am, learning to exist at the edge of the unknown, where my fears rise up again and again. I am afraid what I can't control, of the things I do not know, of outcomes that aren't certain, of edges I don’t know how to trust.
It takes a long time for me to realize why I am here, skating on dark ice; how these these moments are exactly the metaphor I need.
My breath catches. I release it.
Out there, on the wide open of the icy lake the fishermen silently sit on over-turnned buckets, not moving at all.
Their stillness is a kind of knowing I must learn. Their patience quiet and long.
Wearing thick parkas with fur close to their cheeks, they watch the small hole at their feet for signs of life. Sometimes there is a flicker. Once, twice, they pull in a fish. But the point isn’t that quick action; that flick of wrist and tug of line. Waiting is. Waiting, until even that ceases to be the point, and they simply are. Being. Hearts beating a steady thunder under layers; breath gathering in the stillness above them, signaling a silent gracious prayer: to be alive. To be alive.

Learning things about self care by Christina Rosalie

Wholeness-ChristinaRosalie In these weeks between the 1st of the New Year and my birthday on the 26th, I always strive to clarify my intentions, and imagine what I want to manifest in my next year’s journey around the sun. This year that's looked like going back through all the notebooks I kept: five moleskins in all, and several smaller ones too.
I feel a bit like an archeologist, sifting through the artifacts of my 2013 self; tracing the plot lines and inner narratives that in the moment never appeared connected, but from the vantage point of a year out, there are evident constellations.
I've found notes that, like the most distant stars, indicate the faintest outline of my new book. Each set of randomly scrawled sentences appear now in obvious relation to the others, like the shimmering Pleiades for me to pursue across my imaginations’ uncharted dark the way Orion does after the Seven Sisters each night.
And There are other notes, often repeated, where I tell myself to slow down, to rest, to listen to my core.
Yet I never listened, and followed instead the uncompromising rule of “should.” Pushing far past my limits because it was my default; the only way of being I'd ever known. But oh, there is so much to that fine phrase:

Less doing, more being.

And with the diagnosis of adrenal fatigue and a gluten sensitivity finally answering just exactly why I’ve been waking up as exhausted as I went to sleep for the past year, I found myself faced with a new urgency to take a different course of action:
Saying no at least as often as I say yes. Protecting downtime like the sacred thing it is. Clearly mapping the expectations for projects, and only doing as much as necessary, even if more could be done. Going to bed early, when I first feel tiredness come on instead of letting myself slip into the loop of aimless Internet wanderings, or pushing to finish a project. Coming face to face with "good enough," and letting that really be enough. And then sustaining my body by eating gluten free, without coffee, and instead of running hard daily as I once did, doing yoga first thing every day after writing morning pages.
It feels unfamiliar and strange and terribly vulnerable to be attempting these daily acts of kindness towards myself. And it takes everything to quiet my monkey brain that tells me it is weakness to need this kindness, this self care. Yet I do.
I taped this David Allen quote to the bathroom mirror as a reminder:

You can do anything. Just not everything.

And still. I’ve had the hardest time trying to write about this journey here. Somehow it feels both tender and silly and yes, weak; as though I am in some way admitting defeat. I’ve begun a hundred posts, only to delete everything and start again. Yet I also feel like sharing this work of reclaiming balance and learning to live less forcefully will be useful. I learn from the process of reflection, and also from what you share in return here at the page.

Tell me about self care. Teach me what you know.

2014 : The Year Of The Horse by Christina Rosalie

Hello friends!
I'm so happy it's a new year! 2013 was hard in so many ways, and filled with bittersweet moments. ZEBRA_CHRISTINAROSALIE_2014 2013 was one of the most exhausting, turbulent years I've lived through. I felt like we were all at the fragile surface of our lives; so many of us anyway. Reminded of our mortality, pressed to ask hard questions, reach for new horizons, and confront limitations real or imagined.
I always feel like I get a secret extra window of time to set intentions every January, with my birthday happening at the end of the month. I've been cocooning, and dreaming and quietly working my way through all the notebooks and journals I kept over the last year, to find the plot line that lives below the surface, and set goals for this new year.
2014 is the year of the horse, and for me the zebra particularly comes to mind: as symbol of individuality and balance. Yes, that’s the kind of year I’d like 2014 to be--one of individuality and balance. As such, I’ve chosen the word CORE as my word for this year.


Going into this year with a wee bit of adrenal fatigue, I'm committed to focusing on building my core literally and metaphorically. To being selective and smart about the projects and partnerships I take on. And keeping a clear-eyed focus on the things that are most essential, that sustain, and fund creative energy rather than drain it.
It took me a while to find just the word to act as a guide, a focus point, and a filter: helping me to zero in on what matters most.
So glad to be back. I've missed this space so.
Tell me: what are you focusing on this January?

A Year In Pictures by Christina Rosalie

A look back at what 2013 looked like for me in pictures.
I'm so glad Elizabeth inspired me to take time for this reflection. Looking back for a few iconic photos from each month made me remember so many forgotten moments; so many bright glimmers and funny circumstances and laughter and adventures.











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A loss for words by Christina Rosalie

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On the way to work, after dropping the boys off at school, a piliated woodpecker lifts out of a tree and flies across the road above me. Its flightpath is a zig-zag. It swoops softly through the cold morning air to alight on a tree on the opposite side of the road. The light is fiery and gold with early morning. It makes the bird's crimson head flame.
In the night it snowed a little and ice crystals decorate the fence wires and broken grasses poking up from the dusting of white across the fields. The lake is frozen at its lip, and birds gather at the jagged line between open water and frozen water.
Such things still amaze me: that water can be solid, liquid, vapor. That birds can fly with inimitable grace. That the light is golden with a new day.
Like the birds, I'm treading the line between. Between stasis and flux, between now and what will come next, between here, and wherever there is. There: the future. Tomorrow. The next day.
The boys are counting down the days until Christmas. I am counting the days. But I can't say for what. For knowing. For certainty. The past few months have felt a lot like this. For the first time in a long while, I feel at a loss for words.

Inward Glimpses by Christina Rosalie

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The day we raked leaves, the air smelled like snow. We lit a small fire in the circular pit and gathered round it, warming our hands. Sprout couldn't stay away from the leaf pile, but Bean, suddenly older and just recovering from being sick, moped about the yard, wanting the reckless play of burrowing into leaf tunnels, yet scorning it too. Above us, the sky was that bluest blue of high altitude and cold weather. Later the snow came at dinner time. T had picked up fresh Bluepoints, and we shucked them by the sink together listening to tunes we'd picked up while in Louisiana this time last year.
It was a weekend of ups and downs. Enough time to read through the VOGUE that's been sitting on my coffee table for a month. Good coffee. A look at Dominique Levy's new gallery online. A trip to the new, big library we belong to now that we live close to town. A trip to the book store for another Molskine, and often, the collision of wanting time together voraciously and wanting time alone with equal hunger.
How was your weekend?

Just showing up by Christina Rosalie

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It's been a long time, hasn't it? Too long really to go back pick up the lost stitches of whatever came before right now. Too long to catch you upon all the where and what that was October.
Now, it is November. The light is ample while it lasts. Most days golden with a long slant to the light towards afternoon.The first hard frosts have come, shaking down the last of the gingko's golden leaves. On the mountains: snow. White on blue.
November is the season of sticks. God's architecture laid bare in the trees. Suddenly the back yard revels neighbor's yards and the topography of the adjacent hill covered with the fallen finery of golden leaves. The world feels naked and fragile now, before the snow. Everywhere the reminder: we are mere mortals.
A beautiful boy died in Sprout's kindergarten a few weeks ago, unexpectedly. Then the mother of a girl in the high school died too, trapped in a house fire. A friend tells me his marriage is falling apart.
We are all here briefly, this I know. And my prayers become profound in their simplicity: Hold us. Hold us with grace.
Sprout, with his big dark eyes keeps asking me to tell him about death. Bean asked the same kinds of questions at his age: tender, utterly unguarded, matter of fact.
"Will you die, when we're big, Mama?" Sprout asks from the back seat on the way to school.
Yes, then, or yes whenever. We're only held by a fragile thread.. The world calls us, we arrive, stay for a while, and if we're lucky, do good work.
And I've been pondering what doing good work means to me, with my heart on my sleeve and my holistic mind. I love to be consumed by my work. I love the single-minded focus of having something big and incredible to work on and work towards. And I love being a part of things that are greater than myself.
What about you? What does doing good work mean?
I keep circling around these questions as the the days grow brief.

In the stores shelves are cable knits and icelandic sweaters. Gift catalogs come in the mail.. The boys come in from out-of-doors with rosy cheeks. We light fires and gather close, celebrating St. Martin with our lanterns.
The year feels worn.
It was a year, wasn't it? For me at least, and for many of the ones I love this year brought radical change. Unexpected turbulence. The loss of things held dear.
I've been inward lately. Guarded. Quiet. Working on connecting the dots of next moves, and also on the work of self care. And yet I miss showing up here for the connection and solace and inspiration that I find from all of you.
I think for the rest of November I'd like to show up here each day with just a few photos and a handful of words.
I always want to do that, but then feel compelled to share the stories that go with them, and so I don't. But I'm wondering: Is it enough for now to just share that? Do you want just the glimpses? The haphazard sentence or two; the snapshots of work in progress in my studio; the messy lantern-lit post-dinner table; the boots in a heap by the door; the boys with their legos in a sunny patch on the floor?

You are not in control by Christina Rosalie

Gull Any time could be the last time. The last hello-goodbye. The last drink. The last caress. The last giggle, macaroni and cheese dinner, yelling match, email, orgasm, inspiration, idea, breath. Anytime could be your time. To leave. To arrive. To become. To cease becoming. Whatever way you think of it, whatever you believe.

 Any instant could be your last.

We’ve been talking about this often, since our lives brushed against the raw edges of this truth, and its tremendous, unavoidable evidence has given rise to both panic attacks and wonder.

“How can I have spent five months running through it, and not known I was that close?” He asks, wondering about the doctor’s matter of fact sentence:

“You had a week or two at most.”
We are all that close.
The world is cruel and beautiful; the gods are splendid and irreverent; the odds and science are what they are; and the truth, a secret dervish twirling just beyond.

“It’s in my control now, to do more,” he says, committing with renewed vigor to diet and exercise and all the other proactive things that indicate clear arteries and a long life. 
And there it is, the sly and foolish word control, which has come to mean some kind of power over outcomes. Assurance, even, that the outcome we intend is ours.
But watching the gulls on the lake, I am privy to a different truth.
They have gathered at the edges of the rocks. Some have hunkered down, their white feathered breasts against the rocks. Some stand on a single yellow leg, the other tucked beneath feathers for warmth. Others tilt and pitch gently in the steel blue waves.
When I arrive they turn their lidless eyes in my direction, watching for the unknown of what my intrusion might mean. When I move slowly, they turn back. They have no illusions of control. No ornate or predetermined accounting for the way their life unfolds. What they know innately is attuned attention and response. The waves come and they rise. The wind tosses their hollow bones aloft, and they soar in flight.

We too, have only this, as puny as it seems. As much as our desires and egos and legends paint a different, grander backdrop for the stage upon which our life unfolds. Of course we think we do. It is our myth, spiraling back to the epics at the beginnings of time, and to the sagas of god and man grappling over the outcome of fate on Mount Olympus. It is our human striving to tell a bolder narrative, with us at the helm. 
We wage wars, with ourselves with each other over control. Over achieving some unswerving, undeniable guarantee that we are the makers of our destiny. That control is ours.
We think, “If I just...”
Just whatever it is we bargain for in our heads. Whatever illusive thing we believe that if we do we’ll have control: exercise every day, lose weight, say I love you, get the job, live closer to town, live away from it all, be discovered, become rich, eat a paleo diet, get elected for office, eat local, buy organic, pass that law, get eight hours of sleep. Whatever.
But even if you did each thing, even if you did everything, your life is still a gift; slight and rare in a tremendous universe. In an instant, it could slip. A blockage, a tumor, a fluke accident, a brutality. There are a thousand ways your life could end this instant, in spite of our best efforts. You are not in control.
So what can you do then, with this truth?
You can show up with intention for this life. You can attune your attention. You can choose your response. Still, no outcome is assured. The raft of your life is buoyed up by some grater force.
For the gulls, every intruder, possible threat, devastation, predator, or darkening night is simply an offering of life. Just as the sparkling tides, the pale crabs, the twirling yellow leaves that scud across the skies, are also only life. What is theirs, are wings, and wind and days.
What is yours is the way you meet the turbulence as it arrives: with grace or terror, with gratitude or anger, with openness or clenched fists, with focus or distraction. Your life will find you, no matter what you plan. Be here then. Be of this wild, brilliant new day. Respond as truly as you can, and know this life is made both of your breath, and of the wind you breathe.
Of an instant the gulls take to the air in unison, and their harsh calls are carried upwards with the sudden wind.

Falling in love: to Jamaica and back by Christina Rosalie

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We leave before dawn, and watch the world grow light from above. A thin red line between the black of earth and the blue of heavens: dawn happens like this. And the moon, a waning crescent, a celestial hangnail bright and silvery against the softening sky.
By New York, the sun is a ball of the brightest red, and then the world turns gold and then finally blue with day and we lift off again to cross the continent southwards, and then across the ocean, the world from above taking my breath away.
When we land the air is thick with humidity and fragrance. Our pants stick to our legs and my hair blows into my face as we wait for our driver to show up to take us the hour drive to where we are staying in Ocho Rios.
"I've just had a nice Red Stripe, mon" our taxi driver says, after we've loaded our luggage in and are off on the highway. "They're refresh'n, mon. Have you had one yet?" He glances back in the rearview where we're fiddling with seat belts that have no place to buckle.
"Not yet," we laugh.
"That's how I start my day, mon. I smoke a splif and have a Red Stripe. That holds me through the day, ya know?"
So here we are, under the equatorial sun, driving on the left side of the road with a laid back cabbie who might be both high and buzzed. Somehow he drives as straight as everyone else is driving. Everyone swerves. They "overtake" drivers up ahead by encroaching until they're near enough to kiss bumpers and then just sort of sidle to the right, oncoming cars be dammed. At least though, they honk a warning. In fact, they honk for everything.
After a while our driver begins telling us about the way he's using his hand to signal if there are cops where he's just been, or if it's an all clear to other drivers. His hand floats out the open window into the warm, sweet air making upward and downward waving gestures. There is a code. There are lots of codes. Their patois is a code. A pidgin of English evolved by slaves to evade plantation owners. H get's dropped from words recklessly and added to others with precipitousness. Ocean becomes "hocean" and hotel, "otel."
The island is teaming with code, with secrets, with myths, with ways of being that emphasize things that are entirely different from whatever it is we're hell bent on here, in northern New England (with our rational predilections and our perpetual industriousness and productivity.)

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The stories he tells are about about the owners of various huge houses who are cursed, about the delicacy of Conch "that is a man food, and too strong for the lady," and about the ganga and where the best of it grows. What matters is "living a good life, mon, ya know?" Happiness derives from simple pleasures: fresh-picked sweetsaps, papayas, breadfruit roasted over the fire, saltfish, jerk pork, ganga, music.
At the edges, hunger shows itself. There are shacks everywhere, belonging to squatters who "capture the land" and sell fruit, or fish or conch or carwashes from roadside stands rigged out of whatever they can find. There is both an ease and a desperation here, on the North side of the island where the economy depends on the tourist hustle of cruise ships coming to port, and people like us arrive at the small wind-blown airport amongst a thousand bougainvilleas.
When we arrive at our hotel, we slip into another world entirely. A gem from the 1950s, a throwback to the jet-set life. It's a gorgeous, sprawling blue-walled affair that was once a coconut plantation on the sea. Marylyn Monroe came here; T.S. Eliot; Ian Flemming; Winston Churchill. Our room overlooks the beach, with an open verandah that we slip over sidesaddle onto the sugar sand, and, upon returning, step into a steel bowl of water to rinse sand from our feet. 2013-10-02 18.20.34

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It feels like a dream. I've never been on a vacation like this. Nothing close. We never took a honeymoon trip, and this, we decided would be ours. Except when the day came for our flight, which was also our anniversary, T and I were pacing cafes in NYC, waiting for referrals to go through so his insurance would cover his surgery. and feeling very much like the HMO was playing a game of roulette with his life. Trip insurance is worth it sometimes, and this time it's why we're here. Standing a little awe-struck on the verandah, watching gentle blue waves break beyond the palms that make gorgeous feathery silhouettes on the sand.

We spend the week relearning things. What it means to go slowly. What it means to go even slower than that. What it is like to make love whenever we want to, without children underfoot. What it feels like to watch a sunset from beginning to end, while lying on a raft in the warm ocean. What reading feels like: the slow kind, in books with paper pages and pens to mark the good lines. To dog-ear pages and sip mojitos made with the best Jamaican rum and the sweetest Jamaican sugar. And above all else, relearning what we feel like, just the two of us, together.
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It felt like falling in love for the first time: that crazy high of giddiness, that perpetual desire to be close. Yet better, with the easy laughter and easy quiet of knowing each other for 14 years. We went some places: up the Blue Mountains to see coffee farmers; into the farmers and crafts markets to hagle over prices; and into a shanty town/cafe that served the best fish, where everyone was high and hawking wears and dancing even though it was only mid afternoon. But mostly we swam and read and swam and made love and lay in hammocks and watched the stars.
It's strange, the way the past two weeks happened, back to back: the former, one of the worst I can remember and the latter, one of the best. Returning feels headlong. Reality arrives and we're still moving at a different velocity entirely. Let-down isn't quite the word, but it has stunned us both nearly to tears to realize that the mundaneness of life still makes us act like idiots and assholes, even after all that bliss. We still argue over stupid things like dinner, and how to encourage/enforce Bean's cello practice, or how to get out of the house as a family on time.
Still, the wonder from that trip is indelibly bright.

Grateful feels like this by Christina Rosalie

Grateful - By Christina Rosalie The doctor, after the surgery said, "Well, he had about a week." He said it casually, the way you might tell someone the weather forecast in passion: relaying obvious facts that are, of themselves, barely noteworthy. He had gentle eyes and an experienced hand. One of the best doctors in the country. This news, is the news he shares every day. Ninety-percent blocked.
And now, just a handful of days later, you wouldn't know looking at him. The microscopic incision in his wrist where they sent the catheter in is healing beautifully. He's back to his usual shenanigans, kissing me awake before I'm really awake; making breakfast for the boys; building our commuter bikes from vintage frames up.
The past couple of days we've spent just being normal, and that feels tremendous. Going to work, bringing the boys to school, eating dinner by candle light, and taking walks after dinner. The weather has been unbelievable: day after day of the bluest blue contrasting the warmest vermillion, the firriest red, the sunniest gold of the maples and sassafras, hickories and gingkoes. It's so beautiful, just being alive, that I catch myself, tears wet on my face.
Also, reading your comments in my last post I was moved to tears often, not just by your kindness, but by the stories you shared revealing your courage and wonderment and devastations. I am so honored you come here and read. Thank you.

We are heading off on a long, long-awaited trip to Jamaica. Just T and I. We were supposed to go last week, but he ended up in surgery instead. Now, I can think of no better way to recuperate than to sit on the beach with my love in the sun. I'm bringing books (yes, I still believe in lugging the real things around in my luggage) and a fresh new notebook. I can't wait. I'm sure I'll be posting regularly on Instagram while we're there. If you're inclined, follow along.
xoxo, Christina

The day as it was {More than Just One Paragraph 23/30} by Christina Rosalie

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I didn't write last night because I came home and completely crashed: chills, swollen glands, headache. T wondered, "What about Lyme?" and so today I went and got blood drawn. I have nearly all the symptoms. But who knows? It could be anything, everything, my body on a collision course with the reality of moving, which we are in just four short days.
Bean came into bed this morning, his hair a shock of alarming curls, his grin sleepy and sweet. "How are you feeling, Mama?" he asked, spooning perfectly into my arms. And then he lay with me and we dozed and talked about things and imagined what the future will hold. He seemed to get it, my little aquarian kindred. That this is big, what we're about to do. "It's our last weekend here," he said softly, nestling in.
Then came Sprout who has the heartiest of laughs. His dimples cause an uproar of delight in my heart. He bounces instead of snuggles. His sturdy little body burrowing for a second before he springs back up, and kisses my cheeks and nose and forehead and then dives off the bed to go play with matchbox cars.

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boy and dog

T leaves for work. It's my day with the boys. Bean and I linger in bed, imagining where we'll explore downtown, what colors we'll paint their room, how we'll have friends nearby. Then, slowly we get up and while I'm untangling my hair and finding jeans he goes downstairs in underpants and a sweatshirt and starts making french toast. He's got the first round frying by the time I head downstairs, and is perched on the stool by the espresso machine, teaching Sprout the steps. He pulls a perfect shot. "Iced or hot, Mama?" he asks.
We eat mounds of french toast and it's perfect: eggy, with just a hint of vanilla and cream. Then, after unloading and loading the dishwasher and packing all the cookbooks that seem to have mounded themselves on the kitchen table, we head to the car with a lab slip for blood work.
Sprout watches the practitioner closely as she cinches my arm and draws blood. Unlike Bean who wants to know how everything works, Sprout wants to know if I'm okay. If it hurts. If I flinch. (I don't, just for him.)
They took such good care of me all day.

Change is always this: A thin, perforated line between known and unknown{More than Just One Paragraph 20/30} by Christina Rosalie

Christina Rosalie
When I wake up still feeling out of sorts: achey headed, light sensitive, and all-round fragile, I feel betrayed. Who gets sick, I think, with just a week and a half left before moving for the first time in eight years? But of course, that's why I'm feeling off, as Elizabeth gently pointed out to me in an email today. My ultra-sensitive constitution is humming with the vibrations of change that all of us are trying to wrap our heads around. Processing.
At the kitchen counter drawing together before dinner Bean says, "I'll miss watching the snow falling from those windows on my birthday." He sits looking out the windows in the dining room where now the foliage is green and lush, but come winter, are the best ones for watching the snow fall. Each flake fat and white, while inside just there, you're always warm by the wood stove, the table golden in the pale winter sun.
After dinner the huge, pink cumulus over the mountain top gather, bigger than imagination, wider than a dream. "Oh T, look," I say, and he comes over, and the boys follow after and we all stand staring. The boys are in various states of undress getting ready for bed. T rests his hand on my lower back; presses his lips into my hair. The blue hunched shoulders of the mountain settle in the twilight. The clouds nestle in, the sun's setting turning their bellies to flame. This view, oh this view. Every day changing, yet every day the same. How I'll miss it.
Sitting in my studio later, the coyotes call, as if just for me. First one, then several, their wild, giddy yelps rising up among the night sounds of whirring katydids and crickets, tree frogs and owls. It's these things I'll miss the most. The way the natural world edges up close here; close and hungry, finding us at the door every morning: the small garden snake on the path; the moths by the lamp; the cedar waxwings in the lilac.
The move is what we need and want. I'm hungry for cultivation. For culture. For community. For the connectivity and ease of living just 2 miles from the heart of the city. But still, the actual process of moving: of heading face first into the unknown of it, feels daunting.
Isn't this always the way? The hardest part of change is the anticipation that comes before; the huge fractured maze of what we can't imagine. The particles of possibility are infinite. Any way might turn out, or no way. That's what our minds say, at the doorway of the unknown, and in turn, what's known becomes beloved. Familiar becomes nostalgia overnight. Not because it is right or true, but because the course is already set. Because the heart knows its way through, each turn familiar and made by habit.
Change is always this: A thin, perforated line between known and unknown; it's like one of those one-way metal grids in parking lots that prevent backing up. We've already changed. Crossed the line. Made the move to move. Now we're just catching up.

The hitch of course is kids {More than one Paragraph 16/30} by Christina Rosalie

airborne running
I was so intrigued by the comments in yesterday's post about shifting towards a morning habit. About writing then, and soaking up the world as the new day unfurls.
But here's the thing that I can't seem to get around--even though I want very much to go to bed earlier for all the reasons I mentioned in several recent posts... But the hitch is kids. Their existence in my world makes morning finite. There is no pushing on, if I'm in the groove. No additional hours that can be spent, past midnight if necessary if a project demands more time, or a story is taking me places.
When the kids wake up, they arrive: giggling, yelling, whining, squealing. They want things: snuggles, underpants, clean socks, cereal. They need things: undivided attention, clean laundry, reminders, mediation, affection. The hours hurtle on. Even if I awoke at 3am, I'd only have 3 hours until 6 when they typically wake, and 3am doesn't look nearly as interesting from the vantage point of waking up, as it does from the perspective of going to sleep, if you know what I mean. Nearly every parent I've talked to has said something about the "freedom" that night affords: the opportunity to exist with one's thoughts uninterrupted. And that is entirely what I love about the night: that it affords carrying on. Uninterrupted.
Earlier today Austin Kleon tweeted that this poem should be featured prominently on every creative's refrigerator. I think he's right. And I wonder, is my problem simply that I'm aiming for all three?
Is the plight of the modern creative that because we have such boundless abundance, we believe we are boundless? Our modern world offers so many choices, opportunities, options, mediums, encounters, tools, that in turn we tell ourselves we can do anything, be anything, all at once. I for one, fall for this story time and again. But time isn't fooled. And morning, wise and new, knows better too.
So, how to shift night to morning with kids. How then? Is there some middle ground, some secret strategy? Tell me, tell me.

Still paying homage to the night {Just One Paragraph 15/30} by Christina Rosalie

WingIt felt like fall today, even though we're at the height of summer. Crisp air, and the most beautiful bright bowl of blue up above. The weather has been anything but ordinary, and for that, I am glad I guess, though there is a part of me that longs for the familiarity of seasons; for the year broken into parts, for snow then rain, then sun then wind. At lunch, I walked the long way around the block just to catch a glimpse of it up above: blue, between hours working at my desk. It was a long day, all in all, though short on hours (how is this always so?) And now I'm heading off to sleep, while the night swims up to the edges of the house that sits like a raft at the edge of the valley, moored among the grasses wild and sweet. I love the way the air smells, not just here, but all over New England in the summer time after dark, as though the earth is exhaling sweetness. Rest rustling in the tall branches of the oak and fins out along the even, splayed leaves of the sumac whose leaves will soon be red. Owls calling in their secret owl language, silent wings stirring the air into spirals as they swoop. "The thing about getting up earlier, is going to bed earlier," I tell my friend. "Getting up isn't the hard part really, it's going to bed earlier that is."
I still haven't figured this out--how to flip flop the day and night. Start at the beginning rather than at the end. Write forwards instead of back. Explain this to me, morning worshipers, how does this work?

Finding balance at boundaries of work life + love by Christina Rosalie

InTheWilds_ChristinaRosalie Late spring has brought rain and more rain. Occasional thunder. Purple skies. Torrents. The air hangs heavy. Hair curls. Inevitably we leave umbrellas in inconvenient places: in the car, or at the office, wherever we are not when the rain hits, and it does. At home, on our quiet hilltop the storm clouds move off towards the mountains, leaving the green greener and the evening exhaling. The gloaming air air is soft and fragrant, filled with the vibrations of crickets and mosquitos, tree frogs, peepers.
On a walk after the boys are in bed the moon shows its waning face above the newly fluttering maple canopy. The dog smells rabbits in the hedgerows, her ears on alert, her wiry body quivering with expectation. The moon plays hide and seek with the clouds around it, and they turn radiant, iridescent, blushing each time she shows her face again. The gravel glints. And though we leave smiling, our conversation unintentionally slips. We bump up against each other. Words crossways, emotion at the surface.
It’s not on purpose. Not because there is anything awry. But simply because we’re both in the thick of things, both doing things we love, and our boundaries weak and permeable. Work has been carrying over lately, nearly every night.
Balance isn’t something you feel until you loose it. This is what strikes me, standing in the moonlight kicking at the gravel and feeling misunderstood. What we’re arguing about, and even the fact that we are, is purely product the way our work days haven’t ended with a clear edge, and everything from the day slides up against this moment like the small bits of riff raff and gem stones in a kaleidoscope.
Everything tumbling to create a bright, discordant geometry in the present moment while the frogs trill and the first fireflies lift and flit among the meadow grass.
We're both in the midst of big things that inevitably throw the balance, absorbing all available bandwidth. And then we turn to each other wondering at our own short fuses and quick tempers.
The truth is, we’re alike in the way we are both energized by action. Risk is something that has always connected us. Over and over we've leaped together toward the unknown, and for both of us, although in different ways, creative work is something that makes us feel alive.
Still, things feel off. And though at the end of the day neither of us are interested in the stasis of perpetual balance, so much as in with movement that comes finding it again and again anew. What's necessary is to acknowledge the tilting, and then make adjustments.
Things can kilter. Things can be taken to the extreme. The nature of doing work you love is that it consumes in this way. There is a voracity and hunger to it that belies balance. It's no accident we say we “fall" when we are in love.
But what makes both work and love sustainable is to knowing when things have slipped too far in one direction. It's about leaning in, and then leaning out again. Tilt, and then return. Sprint, then rest.
And to be honest, the hardest thing for both of us. The doing nothing part of intentional rest.
Both of us are inclined to throw ourselves into our work, without pausing long enough for gravity pull our bodies tumbling to the couch, legs and lips entwined. The velocity of forward motion becomes a force of it's own, and at the end of a work day, we're unskilled at letting the day come to a full stop, finding the white space between notes; pausing where newness germinates; lettting rest reclaim us.
Right now in the thick of making and doing and shifting our lives, the hardest thing is just going for a walk in the moonlight, and not talking about work, or plans, or anything at all.
I reach out and hold his hand.
We hold hands.
We breathe.

Eventually you will make a decision (or reminders to myself) by Christina Rosalie

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Eventually you will make a decision to stay indoors or to venture out, not letting the rain stop you. Pull on a rain. Rain pants for the kids. Boots. And go out into the smudged world, with its falling sky and imperfect roads torn loose with too much rain.
Eventually you will make a decision to give in to the sudden way the PMS creeps up and everything comes toward you like a thinly veiled jab, and the entire world seems to be making it personal; or you shake it off, pull on running clothes reluctantly, make a new running mix, and hit the treadmill hard. It will takes a while for the tempo to change you, but eventually it will. Your grateful pulse will remind you what it means to be alive, lungs raw with breath, feet pounding.
Eventually you will make a decision keep pushing yourself past your limits, or take care of yourself by asking for help. By drawing boundaries. By saying no even after you said yes, because in the moment that was easier and now you're faced with letting yourself down or letting someone else down. Because the truth is other people's disappointment isn't your problem, even though you've programmed yourself very insidiously to think that it is.
Eventually you will make a decision to forget your craft, or to zero in what you love most about it, truing to it fiercely above the urgent, the insistent, the loud demands that are yelling like a bully in your ear. Eventually it will be up to you to decide to turn a blind eye on the other things, and just pick this one thing. This one thing that feels important to you. That feels like the work you love, and just do it for an hour. Imperfectly. Even if it means you'll be up a creek later. Even if it means there will be hell to pay. Even if it means the sky will fall.
Because eventually it will. It will pour, and eventually roads will wash away. Eventually moods and hormones will catch up with you, or sleep deprivation will bring you to your knees. People will invariably be needy needy and self serving and impatient, and eventually to-do lists and deadlines and must-dos and should-dos will pile up like a angry, thumping, insistent mob inside your head.
Eventually you will make the decision: to let circumstance define you, or to define your circumstance.
And the thing is?
It's up to you to give in, or head out.

What will you decide?

The things we cannot know by Christina Rosalie

CalmBeforeTheStorm After the flood

"What’s your book about?" he asks, standing awkwardly at my side at a party full of writers. I’ve never met him before. It’s always the hardest thing for me to say what it’s about. How can a handful of sentences ever really convey the way everything I care about is there on the page. How to summarize something, when everything in my life went into its making?
Later I am standing with my back against the farm sink in the kitchen with a glass of rose in my hand, and I am listening to a friend talk about about her fear of dying. It occurs to me then that somewhere along the way I’ve stopped talking about dying; about what it means to me and how it's shaped me, although I don’t remember when I stopped. Now, suddenly, I know that the time is finally right to begin writing story of my dad the real way, in a book. Not only him, but everything. The way all of my life began with the convergence of theirs, and even what came before them. The way faith and timing, love and wanderlust all can be traced with a fingertip along the blue, slightly raised veins in my wrists, like rivers moving from the source. An inheritance of story. A torn roadmap of loving and believing.
I’m talking with a friend who has the most perfect bangs in the world. Straight across her forehead like Amelie, and I watch as she almost winces when she says, “How can it just be it? How can our whole life be a timeline, and then just nothing?” Then she says, "I'm terrified of dying because of that. Because of not knowing."
I nod.
The bigness of what happens after this is something we all must face. We become something or nothing. We feel the truth, or the absence of it. We know, or cannot know.
Our mortality hangs in the air. 

We’re fleeting. We're scraps, star dust, uncertain particles. That’s one way of seeing. Another is how my father saw it from his deathbed, hunched among the covers, pale, morphine patches on his belly as he said, “I’ll keep doing my work from the other side.” S glimmer of a smile, like sudden flight of birds moving across his face.
“I know,” I said without hesitation.
A lifetime of conversations with that man left me feeling held in the weft of spirit worlds. Still, I was too heartbroken to write more than the raw edges of story down. Too lost in the spinning of my own world without a North to know really where to begin, or that I would begin at all, some day, after a rainstorm as I am now. 

Things are uncertain always in a world where physics apply. But what of spirit?
I’d love to hear what you think.

It rained all day in fits and starts; the clouds gathering in a rush, the sky suddenly dark. At the party people read brilliant prose that was raw and hilarious and heartbreaking all at once, and someone sang “Imagine” and someone else played the piano and I sat against the wall with my dying cell phone skimming through texts from T and wishing I be only right there without distraction. Then it became clear: our road was flooded out.
My cell battery was dead leaving the party, and the night was black without stars. Every dirt road’s neck seemed to be broken at the lowest point. Sudden flash floods had swallowed every stream bed; every culvert washed away.
You never really can imagine the future until you’re there. Until you’re standing at the torn edge of macadam where the road used to continue and now it doesn’t and instead there is a ten foot drop and a raging river in its path. I bite my lip. I’m freezing, still wearing flip flops from when I left the house in the morning under humid skies and temperatures in the seventies. Now the mercury is falling fast.

Two old men join me, shoulders hunched under slickers. They are neighbors familiar enough that we know each other’s silhouettes though we’ve never said hello; living as they do, a good two miles down the dirt road from where our house sits perched high and dry among dandelion fields and maple woods. Now they shine big flashlights at the raging river, share their iPhones, offer their houses to me for shelter, shake their heads.

I can’t get ahold of T. He’s already trying to meet me, likely at the place in the road where the service dips. I leave a message. There’s no way to cross. Nothing to do but retrace my path. Back to Burlington, the clocks closing in on a new day. Nearly every road I take becomes a back track; every low point is overwhelmed. The water rages like something hungry and wild. It devours the bedrock, tears away at the pavement, tosses logs and branches and old farm machinery in its wake.

Eventually I make my way back. Call a friend, show up at her doorstep after midnight. She puts clean sheets on the air mattress, hugs me, goes back to bed, and I spend the night fitfully, rain still falling.

The next day, I leave town in the afternoon. I buy groceries, and hope for lucky breaks. Bacon for the weekend, fruit, eggs, milk. At the place where the road was a river, the water is low now, and there are two huge excavators pushing gravel bigger than my fists into the wound. Truck after truck comes, backs in with precision, dumps another load, leaves. The men smoke cigarettes and wear steel toed boots and cotton sweatshirts. They use a sign langue specific to their trade: back her up, lower her down, all set, stop, go. Watching them work with little words and absolute efficiency I am beyond grateful. I want to cry. I want hug them and offer hot coffees and donuts. Instead, T meets me on a mountain bike, carrying the backpacks we used for hiking in college. He crosses in between the excavators, wraps his arm around my shoulder.
We fill the backpacks the groceries and my work bag. Cross back over, and in another handful of minutes I’m there, the fire bright, the kids hugging me, the dog licking my hands, and everything feels certain with the familiarity of home. I am exhausted beyond reason, as though the tenuousness of everything---us, and this, and life, and the gashed and then repaird roadway---is heavy with a weight I can’t perceive.

“Mama, what’s something no one can picture?” Bean asked me on the way to school earlier in the day when the sky was still soft, and the air was warm and damp and smelled of lilacs.

“I don’t know,” I said. “What?”
“Nothing,” he said, seriously, softly. “Nothing. You can’t picture that. It’s the opposite of anything. And every time we try to picture something--we’re picturing something. But nothing... we just can’t picture that.”

To seek balance, and find ourselves instead in motion by Christina Rosalie

closeLikeThis_back We're running. He's ahead of my by a half a stride, and I can feel the way this makes me run harder, then harder still, trying to catch up, to syncopate, to be in step. Finally I ask him, "Where do you see me now? Next to you or behind?"
"Next to me," he says, zero hesitation.
I sprint a step ahead so we're in line, his feet moving in time with mine now, our knees and feet matching in gate. "How about now?" I ask.
I put my arm out like the wing of an airplane, perpendicular to my side, it brushes lightly against his chest. We're exactly in line. "I'm beside you now," I say, "But I wasn't before."
"No way!" he's incredulous. A dozen small finches lift up from alongside the road where the yellow coltsfoot is finally blooming like hundreds of small suns.
We've been running together for years, side by side, more or less in synch, our strides matching save for this irregularity of peripheral vision. Him, just a little bit ahead. Because of the way I'm strung together like a lanky marionett, my legs are nearly as long as his (though his torso is a good 6 inches longer than mine.) I'm made of legs, then ribcage, not much in between. And because of this we've always run together more or less side by side, even at a sprint.
Still, this is the first time I've bothered to ask if that half a stride distance ahead of is something he's been doing on purpose.
Most of the time it doesn't bother me. I like the challenge. I like to run hard, feel my lungs burn and my quads heat with the sure fire of muscle motion. But there are some days, like this one, when all I want is for the effortlessness of togetherness. Neither behind nor ahead, neither pushing, nor being pushed.
He laughs now, his voice ringing out into the cold spring air. The sky is overcast but bright. The pebbles on the road gleam white and copper and ocher in between the soft places where our soles sink in the mud. The fields are greening. The shadows growing long in the gloaming.
For the rest of the run we try it. Side by side. It's such a subtle shift, if I weren't paying attention I might not have noticed it at all. They way my body stops pushing. The way things feel suddenly at ease, in balance.
It's so easy, to let habit become fact. To let inertia shape the channel through which your energy flows. To settle into the way things have always been, even if it no longer feels in balance.
It's easy for this to happen especially when you've been at something for a long time (13 years for us). When the days stack up full of things that need doing and work comes home for the weekend; when dishes wait on the kitchen counter and alone-time and time together are both in short supply.
Harder to bring attention to breath and pulse and heart. To take notice of the way things make you feel; to dial in and really listen. And then to ask, to reach, to wonder, aloud and together until there is a stirring of energy. Activation. Attention. Motivation.

What if instead of seeking balance, we found ourselves anew in motion over and over again?