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Lions Roar : November 2012
66 SHAMBHALA SUN NOVEMBER 2012 I appreciate with keener delight and observe more closely each fresh place. And when it’s time to return the key, it’s with a more transitory sense of regret, an almost bemused sense of the light- ness of being. How often I’ve emptied drawers of my possessions! Why act as if my happiness is suffused in these walls, interfolded with these books, dependent on the chirp of the particular bird who nests in this tree? Of course some part of me still believes that my happiness is all these things, totally synonymous with each place. But another part of me—brand new, marveling, even kind—gazes on and says, Yes, yes, of course. Get teary, if you must! But haven’t you learned by now, you naïf, the gift of this experience? Ah, yes: you see it for a moment, then lose track of it again! I nod to myself, blowing my nose, and do my best to fix my gaze out the cab’s front window, instead of at the receding image of my latest temporary residence. MY FIRST WINTER BREAK I found an apartment in Red Hook, near the Columbia waterfront—a loft owned by a graphic artist with a truly lovely eye. There was a Parisian kitchen with black-and-white floor tile and dangling copper pots, and a liv- ing room with dozens of seriously flourishing plants—a source of worry, since houseplants tend to wither under my care. I took pages of notes on when to water and learned to assess soil with my fingertips and notice the precise tinge of leaves. My first morning in that sequestered apartment I woke up and lay in bed, astonished. Opulent silence enfolded me, luscious as mink. Who knew the city could be this serene? I’d always lived in apartments that were more centrally located and that carried the city’s clang; one of them even jounced up and down like an elevator with each passing truck. I’d no idea the city also had such pockets of silence. The Red Hook artist’s space was so pretty that I was inspired to keep it neat, and that, in turn, led me to host a dinner party. I invited friends for New Year’s and ordered trays of pasta and chicken from Cucina Napoletana. My friends had never been inside any apartment with my name on the lease; I’m usually so messy that no one’s allowed in. Yet now I discovered the pleasure of trying to give a beautiful evening to friends. The shelves in that first apartment held a book with photos of Stanley Kunitz’s garden, accompanied by his poems. I read and reread the poems and gazed at the cobalt-blue irises and sheaves of lavender. The flowers rose out of soil that Kunitz had created himself from years of mulching seaweed. After decades of reading only prose, the rediscovery of the concision of poetry! And after a lifetime of asphalt, the revela- tion that soil itself is something you can grow! Gin stood poised on a high shelf in the kitchen of this apart- ment. If I couldn’t sleep, I stood on a chair and fetched the Beefeater’s, adding tonic water from the icy fridge. Yum! And then: blotto—a velvet sledgehammer delivered me into blank unconsciousness. I rarely drank gin. But the entire time I was in that apartment I allowed myself, if I woke up during the night, to sip. And to eat the crystallized ginger in the Mason jar. I was Goldilocks. What fun to try out everything! The very last day I replaced what I’d taken, and a hollow sad- ness shook me. I looked out the rear cab window, confused by PHOTOSBYATISHAPAULSON(L)ANDBRIAND.LUSTER(R)