On the train - my happy place. I love traveling on rails, watching the world go by at ground level - even the rickety-ass, diesel, opposite of high-speed rail trains that we have in this infrastructure-challenged country. There is the strange way in which nature meets with a gutted-out manufacturing base (empty buildings, glass smashed in or in some cases old factory buildings converted to use as software company headquarters). Today is a light green and blue day.
The light green of new trees and leaves...some bright buds in trees, many cat tails, ponds, lakes, rivers, sky a pale blue with cumulus clouds, some white, some grey...the route is from NYC to Waterbury Stowe, VT, via Connecticut. One feature of route has been going through the town where I went to high-school for the first time since the earl 80s. It looks the same, and that was a surprise. But New England has that genius for some kind of odd stability even within all the changes of fortune of this country, various sectors, etc...I am from New England - all over New England - so most places have some resonance. And most places look the same. The exceptions are the cities, like Providence, Portland and Boston, all of which were falling apart in the 1960s and 70s and now are swankier, artsier, hipstery-er...richer. So poorer people move out further and further...don't want to sully the Views.
The forests look the same, many of the buildings were gutted out already by the 70s, the train runs no faster, perhaps slower. The one place I have spent very little time is the place I am going: Vermont. Home of our One and Only progressive candidate for president...Bernie Sanders...
Speaking of which (and as if on cue going over one)....a moment to acknowledge the ancient, rusty bridges. The ones built - I'm guessing - during the 1930s (the last time there was any infrastructure money spent on the country as a whole - and which probably need maintenance, but I do hope stay the same structurally). I forget at times how Connecticut - even Connecticut, when outside either NYC suburbs or certain factory-heavy areas - can have a mysterious charm. It reminds me now of Girl Scout camp (dreaded Girl Scout camp) where we would go on endless canoe trips along rivers and streams...me somehow rowing us into the branches of swamp-trees - having as usual a tenuous relationship to my physical reality...I think that's changed, but then...Oy. I did get glasses when I was 13, so do wonder how long I couldn't see properly...or perhaps it was just being dissociated or perhaps I'm not wired right...all of these things are possible.
Just put on Eno's Another Green World, which is kind of like a movie sound track for this kind of journey. Damn, I do love traveling.
I am on my way to the writer's retreat. This train ride is my sacred transition time. This is why I like trains. You can think, write, see, read, walk...you don't have to drive or be stuck in a car seat or a plane looking over everything as if the world were a toy board game. And - as mentioned prior - in the US, they take a lot of time...which for a journey like this is kind of perfect.
I was sad leaving home and leaving my beloved John and Ugo (my cat). I was glad to feel sad, because it makes me realize that I finally Do have a home. A place to which to return. Someone I will miss a lot and who will miss me. This means I am finally connected to the world somehow, not just an untethered being bouncing around like a random electron or whatever. To be connected but to be able to travel and do something I need to do, both, seems like impossible bounty. A true gift. I think this is something normal to most people, so my saying it this way probably seems odd...but growing up people left me behind or took me to different places many times, so anytime I left a place, there was a good chance I would not return, or - if I did - it would have changed a lot. So, my first relationship as an adult was basically a mutual hostage situation wherein neither of us were allowed to move. That was doomed to fail and it did. My second one was in response to this and involved both of us moving here and there and not being together enough, which was also doomed to fail - and did. My current relationship, my lovely, unexpected, late in life, glorious marriage with John is the final Goldilocks one: "just right." We are connected always but journeys are possible.
I do feel lonely in moments, though...but I think that is part of the writing process. Loneliness. There's no way out of that bit. I am fairly certain if there was, I would have found it by now. It's like a sound barrier you have to walk through to get to the place where you can focus in the way that is necessary to do the deep sea diving necessary. Sometimes I can do that in crowds, sometimes I need solitude. Sometimes when alone it can feel like I'm surrounded by others, so it's not even about physically being alone, it's about being willing to BE alone.
I am hoping to get a lot of work done on the book in the two weeks in Vermont. I kind of wish I had the full month, but the timing of this retreat was perfect in terms of being smack in the middle of the editing process. In terms of being separated from my beloved man and much-loved cat and home, it'll be about the most I want/can cope with right now. I get so locked into the past as it is in this book - and New England is nothing if not My Past (though not northern Vermont, so that's good) - that at times I really need a tangible reminder of my present.
We are stopped in Springfield, Massachusetts now, where I believe my good friend Dave lives...another blast from the past.
Which reminds me.
Yesterday, I was walking under the canopy of cherry trees in Central Park, watching the pink petals rain down in the gentle breeze to carpet the dirt path. I was supposed to go Do Things, but I just stopped. Just plopped down on the ground and sat and watched the petals fall. I felt so peaceful, like I was touching a place I first touched when I was 17 and at the summer program where I met my friend Dave. One day, near the end of the 5 weeks of the arts program, I was on my way to Do Something, and instead of Doing whatever it was, I just took a turn and walked in a different direction. I looked at what was around me, the trees, houses and such. I had no idea where I was, and I didn't care. I was surprised to find that I was high on the fact that I had Diverted from The Plan...I associate that walk with the beginning of my real life, my adult like - the one where I get to make choices.
Now, for me anyway, it's easy to lose track of that part of me and get sucked into Plans to Do Things and forget to just turn in a different direction, walk somewhere unfamiliar or just stop, sit, watch and wonder. I wasn't lost yesterday. I know Central Park pretty well these days, but I stopped the course of pre-planned events. Sometimes a shift in time is as good as shift in space.
I felt like I began my retreat right then, in the middle of Manhattan, especially when I lay back and my head had an accidental yet oddly comfortable pillow made by a root of one of the cherry trees. I felt connected again to this deeper self, the one I can hear when I am quiet enough; the one that when I let it lead, things work out better than when I ignore it, yet because it's invisible and appears to have zero to do with the practical, it's easy to overlook.
This was also a good reminder that while going to Vermont will be lovely and helpful, I have Access to that part of me always. It is not site-specific (!)
OK, we're leaving Springfield now, to Northampton next...think I'll wrap this up...
Time to sink into the book...
Welcome to my blog..
"We struggle with dream figures and our blows fall on living faces." Maurice Merleau-Ponty
When I started this blog in 2011, I was in a time of transition in my life between many identities - that of Artistic Director of a company (Apocryphal Theatre) to independent writer/director/artist/teacher and also between family identity, as I discover a new family that my grandfather's name change at the request of his boss in WWII hid from view - a huge Hungarian-Slovak contingent I met in 2011. Please note in light of this the irony of the name of my recently-disbanded theatre company. This particular transition probably began in the one month period (Dec. 9, 2009-Jan. 7, 2010) in which I received a PhD, my 20 year old cat died on my father's birthday and then my father, who I barely knew, died too. I was with him when he died and nothing has been the same since. This blog is tracing the more conscious elements of this journey and attempt to fill in the blanks. I'm also writing a book about my grandmothers that features too. I'd be delighted if you joined me. (Please note if you are joining mid-route, that I assume knowledge of earlier posts in later posts, so it may be better to start at the beginning for the all singing, all dancing fun-fair ride.) In October 2011, I moved back NYC after living in London for 8 years and separated from my now ex-husband, which means unless you want your life upended entirely don't start a blog called Somewhere in Transition. In November 2011, I adopted a rescue cat named Ugo. He is lovely. As of January 2012, I began teaching an acting class at Hunter College, which is where one of my grandmothers received a scholarship to study acting, but her parents would not let her go. All things come round…I began to think it may be time to stop thinking of my life in transition when in June 2012 my stepfather Tom suddenly died. Now back in the U.S. for a bit, I notice, too, my writing is more overtly political, no longer concerned about being an expat opining about a country not my own. I moved to my own apartment in August 2012 and am a very happy resident of Inwood on the top tip of Manhattan where the skunks and the egrets roam in the last old growth forest on the island.
I am now transitioning into being married again with a new surname (Barclay-Morton). John is transitioning from Canada to NYC and as of June 2014 has a green card. So transition continues, but now from sad to happy, from loss to love...from a sense of alienation to a sense of being at home in the world.
As of September 2013 I started teaching writing (composition and rhetoric) as an adjunct professor at Fordham University, which I have discovered I love with an almost irrational passion. So blessed for the opportunity and hope to find a more permanent job doing same.
I worked full time on the book thanks to a successful crowd-funding campaign in May 2014 and completed it at two residencies at Vermont Studio Center and Wisdom House in summer 2015. I have done some revisions and am shopping it around to agents and publishers now, along with having written a rough draft of a new book and some other projects.
Not sure when transition ends, if it ever does. As the saying goes, the only difference between a sad ending and a happy ending is where you stop rolling the film.
For professional information, publications, etc., go to my linked in profile and website for Barclay Morton Editorial & Design. My Twitter account is @wilhelminapitfa. You can find me on Facebook under my full name Julia Lee Barclay-Morton. More about my grandmothers' book: The Amazing True Imaginary Autobiography of Dick & Jani
Recently, I started a website Our Grandmothers, Our Selves, which has stories about many people's grandmothers. Please check it out. I will be blogging there, too, now.