A Week and a Day

As much as I’ve struck out into the wild yonder (of whatever color — green in this case), I still get nervous at this stage. I head out in a week and a day.

I’m a little more relaxed about it than I was before this morning, though, because I just got a big bonus, putting me barely over the official “Cost of Attendance” (CoA) for a foreign postgraduate Writing student at NUI Galway. I had a moment of panic a week or two ago when I realized that the CoA had the total at more than $36,000 because it had calculated the exchange rate at 1.20: .12 over my initial estimate according to information I had at the time. That put me way short: I’d have to charm or luck my way past border control, which only sort of worked last year — and that was for a couple months. This’ll be a year (at least!). But with this bonus, I’ll have upwards of $37,000, all things considered: my savings, the biggest loan I could get, and two scholarships. I’ll still need to be careful, and I’ll still want to find work, but at least now I can breathe easier about Immigration.

So, in a few days, I should once again be running barefoot on Irish soil. (Ohmygodohmygodohmygod!) Maybe I’ll even go for a swim in Galway Bay, before it gets too cold.

I have the traditional consternation about what to take, but even moreso than usual, because whatever I can carry will be the seeds for starting a new life. Before, I’ve traveled. This time, I’m moving. It’s a fun process, once I get going on it. It whittles everything I own down to the very most essential and precious of what I can take. Funny how I have few enough things that they fit comfortably in a treehouse, and they still seem like a lot.

When I went to Ireland last year, I thought I might stay (and desperately wanted to), but things felt unfinished on both coasts of the U.S., as well as a bit in eastern Canada. Now it’s all about as resolved as can be. I’ve spent time with all but one of the friends and family I most wanted to see (and that one is a special case). Serendipity the unicorn and Spider-Planty (the spider plant) are now fostered in Washington, and most of the last bits of my other stuff have been collected and suitably reassigned. The half-dozen boxes of keepsakes and memories that aren’t coming with me are either at my parents’ place or slated to go there in the fall. All that will remain of me in California, other than the impressions I’ve left, will be my bank account.

I’m down to just a box and half of copies of my book left to distribute, having given an entire box to a delighted goddess in Oregon (who, incidentally, was the book’s interior layout designer), and spread other copies far and wide . . . at least around northern California and middle Oregon. I’ve gotten a couple emails from people who have found them, including one that came while I’ve been writing this post. Fun!

I feel scattered and excited. Books to read, knitting to finish, people to see and things to do one last time . . . ! Hey, is anybody heading from Sonoma County to SFO next Saturday?! I could take the bus, but a friend would be more fun. Wheeeeeeeeeee!

Inklings of Ireland: Brody, Snow, Fish, and Bull

With less than three weeks to go until I’ll have moved to Ireland (!!!!!), dreams of it are coming thick and strong. (I’ve hardly dreamed about it since I left, I think because it hardly seemed real even when I was there and I hardly dared hope that I might live there. But now that I’m getting close, its spirit-tendrils are reaching out.)

Last night, I was traveling in England or Wales, I think, and hanging out with some people who were all well and good, but I was ready to go to my host somewhere on an Irish coast. (His location felt northeast in the dream, but it wasn’t in Ireland’s actual northeast — dream landscapes being weird, as you know.) I had never met the guy before or even talked to him on the phone, but I had his number and thought to call him before I headed out. It would be at least a three-hour journey to get there and somehow it had already gotten to be 9 p.m., so I would be late and might need to find other accommodation.

His name as given wherever I’d found the listing was Brodwick. When his voicemail picked up, he sounded like a jovial old lad: “Oi, this is Brody!” He went on like that a moment and then switched to speaking Irish, saying a lot more in that language than in English. I found myself grinning and crying a little. Hearing such good cheer in so beautiful a language was food for my starving soul.

In the middle of it all, a woman picked up: “Hello?”

I explained that I was the American girl who was scheduled to stay with Brody that night.

“Oh! Right.” She sounded quiet and distracted and said some things I didn’t catch.

I inquired further. She responded with something else I didn’t understand.

This went back and forth a couple times until I heard her clearly: “He died.”

Oh, no.

All I’d heard was Brody’s voicemail, and already I’d felt him a dear friend, and lost him. “Oh, I’m so sorry. I’ll make other arrangements, then.”

“Yes, well.”

I awoke still mourning the loss of Brody, a man of whom I’d only dreamed . . . and only heard a recording of, at that. Godspeed, Brody.

My other dreams of Ireland have been just as vivifying. In one, it snowed! Peaceful white wondrous flakes. And I got asked on a date by a car salesman at a dealership where I was getting free goldfish. (I gracefully declined.) At first I thought I couldn’t have goldfish, because I was about to move to Ire– but wait! I was in Ireland! So I took them and bought goldfish accessories, too.

And I outwitted and outmaneuvered a charging bull in a grove of trees, in part by grabbing it by one leg or horn and holding on until I could escape into the ocean. And there was a sort of mermaid on the rocks — actually a girl in a mermaid costume — and an Irish male co-narrator of the whole thing who relished the idea that she might drop something down her costume and have to retrieve it.

Anyway, back to so-called reality, for now: it’s a foggy, almost Irish morning, but for the golden hills. Grandma is quiet. I have a warming cup of tea and a bursting schedule. I’m scaling back on survey-taking and sweepstakes entries and just doing as I wish. There’ll be time enough to make more money, and my finances are more-or-less settled for now.

I’m not so much excited as contemplative and filled with peaceful anticipation. It’s all comin’ around the bend, but there are a few things for me to do here yet: passages to honor, books to distribute, and friends to see one last time.

This Is That

I have two days off coming up again after my day shift tomorrow. I think I’ll use them to drive around and leave copies of my book everywhere. Anybody want a Superball drop-in? I could put a couple visits into the itinerary.

I’m getting a full refund from the airline booking site (Kiwi.com). Hallelujah! At least I can start from scratch and they don’t get any extra benefit from me for their lackluster customer service. I’m now waiting on Aer Lingus after I submitted a form today requesting their special student rates. However that pans out, I can now fly to Ireland sooner — probably leaving August 21 at the latest, at least a full week earlier than I originally planned! That is working out amazingly.

I doctored the broken tail and cracked leg of my unicorn, Serendipity, with rainbow tie-dye “Duck Tape” in anticipation of journeying north for a handoff in three weeks. Also going along will be my plant, Spider-Planty (for the second time — a well-traveled plant), and my magicalest little box of magical things. They will be looked after until a day when we might all come together again — once I become a rich novelist resident in Ireland and can afford to ship everything. Or something like that.

Even though all this is happening and I feel better than I did for a while, I still feel a bit glum. I guess it just doesn’t seem real yet, and it still feels like I have so far to go, with so many complete unknowns.

My selves keep having conversations about it:

“Of course I’m moving to Ireland. That’s just the sort of thing I would do.”

“Wait . . . but what am I doing? I don’t know what I’m doing!”

“Yes, you do. You know exactly what you’re doing: following your heart, same as always. What is this concern? You’re an adventurer! And you know you can’t very well stay here.”

“No, that’s true. There’s nothing for me here.”

“So . . . okay. It doesn’t get any clearer than that. The question is what we’re going to do in the meantime.”

“Isn’t it always.”

“We could do a blog post.”

“Sure, let’s do that.”

“What do we have to write about, though?”

“Oh, all the things. Thises and thats.”

“This is that.”

“Indeed.”

Solstice

This post is my first from the treehouse where I’ve been living for almost two months. I’m not sure what to say, which is often the case with these things, but I felt moved to write and I follow these impulses. Something always comes of them.

I don’t know what I’m doing here. It’s bright and beautiful and full of people I love who love me . . . and I feel glum and stifled, like all I’m doing is holding on. I mean, don’t get me wrong: I have many moments of joy and beauty and all that. I’ve come a long way from living in utter despair. I love living in a treehouse. I love my family — though we are cut from very different cloths — and the beautiful trees and skies and knowing I’ll probably bump into somebody I know or somebody else friendly and interesting whenever I wander town. I love going to movies alone in a cool theater with kombucha and a small popcorn that has all the stuff on it. Just . . . the overall feeling is one of waiting, of slogging through. I’m in the meantime. It’s a kind of purgatory.

In slightly more than two months, I’ll begin a two-day journey back to Ireland, where I will attend school for a year and perhaps settle in for the long haul. I’m sort of excited, but it’s hard to be exuberant about a place that hardly seemed real when I was there, much less a year, a string of temporary abodes, and many thousands of miles later. It’s hard to see through all the fog. Will it be as good, going back?

(. . . Will it be even better?, she dared to whisper. . . .)

I’m curious about what academia will be like again — how I will prowl among that stripe of thinkers, dreamers, and passionate wordsmiths at this stage in my life and in such a land. . . . I think it will be better than the first time. Much better.

By the time I complete my studies — do you graduate again, with a graduate degree? — I ought to be ready to look for a regular job again, or some semblance thereof. I bet I could work full time at a desk again if I had to, especially in a place as magical as that, and chip away at my debts. Or maybe I’ll hole up in the wildest spot I can find there. With a cat. I could totally see myself as some small Irish town’s token crazy-American writer. Surely a town has lost theirs, or never had one and feels lacking. I have qualifications: I was a small Irish town’s pet Yank for six weeks last year. Those blissful weeks.

Speaking of cats, I went through a whole relationship yesterday: glances culminating in soft feelings, the tentative touches, the “this will never work” stage, followed by falling head over heels, the “surely this can work somehow” stage, and ultimately letting go with a broken heart. It was a kitten. I could have named it Solstice, I realized, being as how that’s the day this all happened, but I didn’t think of the name until today, so it got A354181. I probably still could suggest Solstice. Those people were nice. Maybe they’ll come to Solstice on their own, by the time A354181 is ready for adoption.

Anyway, this kitten had been among my grandma’s feral cats. It was by far the smallest, with eyes so goopy they sometimes stuck shut. Unlike with the other cats, you could sometimes pick it up and pet it. Skinny little thing. Wanted to play with the other kittens but always ended up on the edges of things, shouldered out, looking in. Often huddled face bent in the grass or on the patio, all alone when the others left. My cousin almost accidentally whacked it in the tall grass with a weedeater. It was probably one among a batch of tiny babies that barely escaped my uncle’s lawnmower not long after they were born.

Yesterday, after the weedeater near-miss, the kitten lay alone in the middle of the path to the back garden. It didn’t even seem interested in a piece of ham.

That was it: I called the animal shelter. Yes, they’d take a sickly stray.

I made a little nest in my second-favorite blanket for the baby and set it in the passenger seat. Off we went.

Within the first mile, the bugger of course crawled out of the blanket — luckily toward me, onto the emergency-brake lever. Grateful for an automatic transmission, I had a free hand with which to pick up the ball of . . . skin and bones. What was I to do? I plopped it onto my lap: where it stayed, calm except when we passed a lawnmower or when I fiddled with the controls. I stroked the baby almost constantly, reassuringly. It looked up at me with goopy hopeful-trustful eyes, as if to memorize the face of a kindness it had never known, and my heart melted right out of my chest, all over the kitten, and onto the floor.

I kept driving, though. The little thing clearly needed care I didn’t know how to give, so I couldn’t take it back to the treehouse just yet. Maybe the animal shelter would give me the lowdown on how to care for it.

When I got to the counter, I helpfully offered the intake girl my services in fostering the cat for up to two months . . . ?

No need, she said kindly. It would be fine.

But if it wasn’t adopted . . . ?

It would be adopted.

Oh. Okay.

I arranged my second-favorite blanket in a provided pet carrier and coaxed the little darling into it.

The girl took my number, and someone whisked the carrier away.

Goodbye, little Solstice. You will have a good life now.

I went back out into the parking lot. Hot day. Someone had written “Sadness” in the dust on the back window of the car next to mine. Right.

There was nothing for it but to drive away.

I ended up at the theater and saw The Book of Henry. It’s about a broken little hopeless creature who needs a new chance at life. I cried.

The Day After

Okay, so after last night’s flurry of feverish activity that resulted in my first blog post in years, I’m starting to identify inklings of what I want to do with this thing. I want to maintain a practice of candidly sharing my thoughts while I work six days a week and just want to go home and veg at the end of the day. I feel like I might be losing some of my ability to connect with people . . . although that loss might be a result of my new direction that’s forming. In any major life change, people are bound to fall away — or be moved away from — to make room for new ones on their way in.

You know, there’s a gem already: it could be that my problems with myself of late are not so much that I’ve become more judgmental or hypocritical (as one friend has suggested — although that might temporarily be part of it) as it is that I’m in transition. For example, I’m moving toward being more vegetarian again (for ethical reasons), but I’m not strict about it. So what might look like inconsistency from the outside is actually evidence of transformation. I am neither the old thing nor the new. I know in general how I want to live but not how to get there.

For another aspect of this page . . . sure, I would like my novel (U & I: A Wizard’s Quest) to reach people who will benefit from it, but I have the usual creative person’s hesitation when it comes to marketing and promotion. I fantasize about having “people” to do that for me, but then, I usually don’t like to be advertised to, so I want to keep all that in check and wait until people express interest before I talk about what I have to sell. I’m trying to find the best balance: ways to reach readers who really want to know about works like mine without blaring at people who don’t. Anyway . . . the book is set in a magical, somewhat fictional world and is based on some of my world travels. It’s highly allegorical and introspective, whimsical and humorous. I intend to use various quotes from it in the header for this page.

In the same vein, I would like to direct traffic to my GoFundMe campaign for getting back to Ireland for a Writing master’s program at the end of August. Ireland is the only dream I have left — at least the only one I can do anything about. It’s the main reason I’m working six days a week. More on that later, I’m sure.

Finally, for now at least, I would like to practice letting thoughts flow out of me without too much editing or wondering if they’re of value to anyone else. Perhaps everything that ever needs to be said has already been said, but no one has ever said it quite in my way or from my perspective. Even if none of this does any good for anyone else — though I hope it does — it will do some good for me. Helping 1 person, even if it’s just me, is better than helping 0 people.

New Freedom

I wanted to bang something out real fast because I got inspired to start a blog again, the first post ostensibly to be about my tendency toward no-dishes vegetarianism. (For dinner I ate two avocados out of their shells with balsamic vinegar, followed by Amy’s soup out of the can. Total dishes: a knife and a spoon. Not that I particularly mind doing dishes. I just enjoy a certain degree of minimalism.) Like the Virgo I am, I got bogged down in trying to make this blog all pretty and perfect, so I almost drained myself of the inspiration that got me started.

I’m letting go. For now.

So here I am! Blogging. I’ll weave some threads soon. For now, here it is, in all its tangled glory. I’m not scared!

I’m working on getting to Ireland at the end of August, to start earning a master’s in Writing at NUI Galway. Out of the $28,000 I’ll need for the year there, I’ve got $7,000 down ($21,000 to go). Piece of cake, right?! I’m working six days a week and diving into every scholarship application, paid-survey-taking arrangement, and sweepstakes I can find. I might end up taking out a loan, but I already owe $52,000 to the best ex-boyfriend ever (whom some of you might know as the Wolf Pirate), and I would like to decrease, not add to, that debt. Somebody told me they’d donate to my GoFundMe if I had an inspiring blog, so I’ll throw this out there occasionally for such parties: https://www.gofundme.com/writing-master-s-in-ireland.

It does feel good to write like this. I haven’t been inspired to work on my second book since I was in Ireland last year, but at least there’s blogging. I wonder what kind of insights might turn up.