My son and I found this piece of bark on one of our long beach walks. It is completely whole, round, having fallen off and come apart from a tree without breaking. I imagine the log tossed in waves, smashed against rocks, water massaging and tearing at the bark little by little until it unhinged itself and floated back to shore. 

I’ve been thinking a good deal about memories now that the time for our next move is coming nearer and nearer. How we always have to start over, reinvent, find our footing, find our lives again and again and again. How this island that has been a stadium cry will become but a whisper. 

Moving from country to country, continent to continent, I have memories that have left me, others that have burrowed into my skin. I have felt like I was shedding each time, with each move, letting go of yet more things, saying goodbye to smiles that have touched my heart, and wanting so much to carry some of what I found with me, to not forget. 

Maybe it’s not a shedding we do when we choose to let go of something or have something taken from our hands.  Maybe the things we take off from, the people we leave behind, the lives we turn away from, the things lost, stolen, found are still there in the ocean of our life completely whole, surrounding us closer than we think, waiting for us to gather them up, piece by piece, slide ourselves right back inside of them. 

Maybe, even if we don’t find them again, it’s enough to know they are still there, floating by, perhaps to even catch a glimpse of, so that we can smile and wave and say, oh yes, I remember that so well. 

“But every memory is turned over and over again, every word, however chance, written in the heart in the hope that memory will fulfill itself, and become flesh, and that the wanderers will find a way home, and the perished, whose lack we always feel, will step through the door finally and stroke our hair with dreaming, habitual fondness, not having meant to keep us waiting long.”  –Marilynne Robinson, Housekeeping

Pieces of me



Who am I? 

Who are you? 

Who are we? 

A dearest of my heart, a dear dear friend who knows all of my secrets (shhhhhh) told me today I seem so strong in these posts. 

Am I this strong woman on the mountainside? 

Am I the scared woman under the bed in Uganda? 

I am all of that.

I am all of this.

I am all of me.

I am the woman you see at the store with a smile on her face and a longing in her heart.

I am the child with a dream to make it somewhere, somehow, some way. 

I am the mother happily sacrificing it all for her children.

I am the artist in search of expression.

I am the person reaching out my hand to lift you up. 

I am me.

I am all of me.

I am happyI am sadI am contentI am restless. 

I am so very alive…

….and full….

And searching and living and loving and laughing and crying and yes yes yes, hide me under the bed, perch me on a mountain, let me live it all. I am no longer afraid of much these days because I am so busy embracing wonder. 

How lucky we are to be weak, to be strong. To need help, and then to give it. 

Be all of you. 

” But the time came when I understood that I could no longer deceive myself, that I am alive, and cannot be blamed because God made me so, that I want to love and to live.”

–Anna Karenina, Tolstoy 



The Unraveling

Uganda was familiar yet so much had changed. It still remains running in my blood, when I look at my daughter I am there, she wraps the county around me so I can still smell it and feel it, even long for it. I see in her the people I knew for 4 years, the people on the street, in the shops, walking along the road. I see them all when I look at her. And miss them.

How lucky I am to have lived in the country my daughter is from for 4 years. To know that part of her.

The city is choking. Day after day I found myself unable to breathe. When the rains came it was perfection and I loved it and then the dry would come and with each minute, day, week, month, as the moisture left the air turned brown, then grey, then dark.

My daughter started to get asthma.

My son seemed pale.

The dry season slammed us.

I started to pull in, worry. Shut myself up. Wait for the rain.

And in that waiting…

…there was the horrible food poisoning that laid my son and I down for weeks.

…the middle of the night emergency room run where no doctor was available.

…the yellow fever outbreak running through the villages coming closer to the city.

And then the election.

The president of Uganda, Museveni, was running again, his  86th term (or there about) and word was his main competitor was not going to let the election be “stolen” again.

I was hanging on when I heard phones might be shut off. I was hanging on when I was assured the UN would evacuate us if need be. I was hanging on.

And then my dear English friend who raised her children all over Africa, my dear friend who thought nothing of being in a car in the worst neighborhood without a cell phone, my dear friend who seemed to have no fear said, “Oh no, but darling you must evacuate. It’s not going to be pretty.” And then she left.

That’s when I heard the opposition was planning to burn the city down.

By the day of the election, with most of my friends gone, I was no longer hanging on.

Me, to my husband, “But how will we get out if we need to?”

Husband, “Don’t worry, we will.”

Me, “But if the city is on fire how will we get to the airport?”

Husband, “The UN will get us to the airport.”


Now I know my husband would have never let us be in a dangerous situation, but I no longer heard him. I had let go and 8 years of wandering came flooding out of me….

And then we heard the gun shots.  The walkie talkie comes on to tell of riots. The government shuts off all social media. We hear the opposition has been arrested, the streets are filled with soldiers, more riots, an occasional yell pierces through the deep silence and I felt adrift and lost and terrified! I ran to my bedroom and crawled under the bed and called my neighbor who was thankfully still there. Through sobs I told her I needed to know there was a way out. She told me she had the Irish ambassadors helicopter as her escape plan and no matter what the children and I would be on it if need be. She promised not to leave me behind. I will never forget her kindness. Those words soothed me, saved me and buffered me as we stayed by the walkie talkie and listened to it all unfold, my heart pounding in my chest while I clung to my children.

There were no fires.

The riots were very small.

I can safely assume no one else crawled under their beds with fear.

But it was clear that I needed a break. It was clear there was something more going on. It was all too much, too wonderful, too scary, too full of adventure, too much chaos to find a new center after I’d left all I’d known so very long ago.

I needed a break. I needed to go home. I needed clean air, and good food, and to just catch my breath, to feel connected. I needed to rest.

I could have never imagined when we made that choice  for me to come back that I would end up not at home, but in another country, alone on a mountainside, on a tiny island with my 2 children and nothing else and it would be nothing like rest, there would be snowstorms and power outages, my husband a million continents away. I would be more cut off than I’d ever been, more isolated and more vulnerable than I thought possible, and that it would prove to be the best and most wonderful 2 years of my life.

From concrete to vines to mountains to sea

Summer is here. Storms hang in corners; windows are now perpetually open, as mosquitoes rest on my pillow waiting for me to sleep so that they can have their feast. I thought we’d left bed nets behind in Uganda, but this past week we found ourselves hanging them above and around our bed in Rome, so that once again night holds us in webs.

Construction is also in flower, and every corner and every window barrages the world around it with hammering and drilling, which pound and pierce into my every pore. My husband used to tease me that I didn’t know the world existed beyond the Upper West Side of Manhattan. It was as if I had a string that could only go so far, a tension cord, which would swing me back if it became too taught, too far away. But then we moved to Uganda, and as I’ve written it wasn’t easy, but slowly, without me even noticing it, I surrendered to silence filled with birds, and insects, and freedom. I remember going back to NY last summer and for the first time in my life found myself cowering and reeling back from the intense noise being hurled at me. That same feeling has sadly been felt by our daughter here. For seven months now she’s walked with her hands over her ears and asks me why it has to be this way. Yesterday she actually said, “Mommy, Rome is too loud. I think we need to leave soon and find a quieter home.” And then today, while walking her to school we took a different route, longer, but through a nicer street. For one moment the traffic calmed and my 4 year-old daughter stopped me and said, “Mommy, listen. It’s quiet. That’s so nice.” And then, of course, the light turned green and we braced ourselves again.

I write all this as I start to pack to leave the city for the summer. Yes, there will be concrete and steel and noise along the way, but mostly it will be vines and mountains and sea. I look forward to watching my daughter drop her hands back down to her sides, while my husband spreads his soul and being as far as the horizon can take him.

I won’t be writing as much. A good deal of the journey is as far away from technology as we can get. But I will try and post some stories and pictures along the way. I wish everyone a very happy summer.

Here are some shots of the Ugandan sky, which opened me up and spread me out so that apartments in cities can no longer contain, or sustain me.


The Sabine Hills

Just a 45 minute drive from Rome, you can climb up into the sky. Below you are cherry trees, olive trees, and apple trees, that you can stop and pick from along the way. As we drove back to the city, smog and noise welcoming us at the gate, it took all we had to not turn around and go back. We live in cities for work, for opportunity, connection, but I am starting to think it’s not worth losing the stars. I asked my husband last night if the next stop can be right under them.




The world is small. This past weekend, while out for a walk with my amazing family, I watched my past crossing the street, coming right towards me. Where I could have been startled, I felt oddly peaceful, as if this were exactly how life was supposed to go: the people we know randomly appearing throughout it. Here was a dear friend, from my early days in New York, one that I had not spent time with in over a decade, suddenly standing before me on the streets of Rome.  Here to celebrate a momentous birthday, she told me another old friend, an even dearer one that had played a starring role in my life for many years was coming as well.

Joan Didion, in her amazing memoir, “The Year of Magical Thinking,” wrote of marriage:

“Marriage is memory, marriage is time…Marriage is not only time: it is also, paradoxically, the denial of time. For forty years I saw myself through John’s eyes. I did not age.”

In marriage yes, but also I think in friendship. I felt this exactly as I looked into my two old friend’s faces last night, which while being beautifully lined with age, still retained all of the memory of what had once been. As we stood in front of the majestic Santa Maria church after a wonderful dinner and celebration, we reminisced about our crazy youth and all the things we used to do, all the trouble we got in and all the trouble we somehow avoided, and I was suddenly eighteen again and everything was still to come. Time stopped, then turned backwards and suddenly my life felt miraculously long and yet so succinct as if to be held in something as small as a bottle cap. And even as I walked back home at the end of an evening that I wanted to go on just a little longer and the shadow of my years started to reach up like weights to pull me back down to now, I could do nothing but smile at all we have done, at all we have been and will continue to be and how that young girl that I was, that seemed so far away from me, is right there under the surface, just waiting for an old friend to bring her out to play, to show me that she is still there, that I am still here.

Empire State of Mind

I feel the pull. I think it started with a picture. Or maybe it was just a word. But the roots I felt were slipping, slowly untangling and shredding have found a concrete barrier and tug me back towards them.

I don’t need much. Just a fix. Just to know it’s still there while we jump from place to place, circling the sphere like balloons.

I wonder where our daughter will find hers. Somewhere we happen, when suddenly she starts to grow downward, into the land itself.

I was born in Virginia, and then moved to Arizona, then back to Virginia till settling in Florida around age 6. For the next 10 years, swamps and moss and gators were my backdrop. But somewhere in the middle, on a trip to New York, I found the place I would first call home, and those last few years in Florida were nothing but waiting.

For my husband, it’s raw nature. As remote as can be, that is what he calls home. The place he can rest and sometimes dreams to be.

I know for some home is where they started, where they remain, and even if left for a little while, always return. Home for me was found much later than that, and perhaps I will never go back for good, but today it pulls and tugs at me. I am right back on the streets, with the smells and sounds that seemed to have no boundary with my body, as if the whole city were just an extension of my being and without it I feel a little less of myself.

Right before we left, before the boxes were packed and stored, before I would become a mother and before the world would become my backyard, there was a crazy afternoon when the sky of New York seemed to turn in on itself. I stood on my terrace and took it all in, memorizing it, inhaling it, so on days like today I could bring it out and stand back under it.

[photo taken by a friend from her apartment downtown]

[from my terrace, original light]