Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Holiday Lists

On the update I just sent out with a holiday greeting plus my workshop and retreat listings for 2009, I also included a few prompts. Here they are:

Below are a couple of ways to get you writing over the holidays. Let's take a minute - yes, a minute will do - to make lists, to engage in some reflective writing.

Prompt 1
Make a list of your family of origin's holiday traditions. (Maybe you'd like to invite others from your family to join you in this exercise.) Now make a list of your traditions today. Hmm, contrast and compare. What have you kept? Pitched?

Prompt 2
Now that you're warmed up, take one item from the list and write about it for ten minutes.

When I first wrote the copy for the update I took myself through the prompts. I did a list of holiday things that were unacceptable in my house growing up. First on the list was tinsel. Then came lights on the house, followed by any outdoor decorations. And the list went on from there, including buying new Advent calendars (we recycled ours every year), and ended with celebrating Christmas on December 25. My family celebrated on January 6, Epiphany. I picked that item to write about in detail--how my friends would ask me what I got for Christmas the first school day after the holidays, and I would have to say, "We haven't celebrated yet." And I would turn as red as Santa's hat, etc.

I asked my older daughter, Olivia, who is home for Christmas to listen to what I wrote before sending it out.

"Mom," she said, when I finished reading, "that is so Debbie Downer. Why don't you just give the prompts without writing your own responses. Nobody wants to hear all that right now."

She's right. I'm going to redo the exercise and find some good stuff to mention--stretch for fresh material, bust out of personal myths and familiar old stories.

Right now, I'm going to go celebrate--add some more tinsel to the tree.

Friday, November 28, 2008

Is this it?

For years my two older sisters and I have stood at Susan's kitchen sink in Georgetown--cleaning up after a big family dinner--and said, "This could be it," meaning this holiday get-together with our aging parents might be our last.

For many years, Nancy accompanied our parents from Philadelphia to Washington for Thanksgiving and Christmas, first in her car, but recently--as getting into the backseat of a two-door VW Golf got harder for Mother--on Amtrak. My family and I drove up from Chapel Hill, North Carolina, with our fresh-baked pies. Susan's brownstone easily accommodated all of us, including our dog Daphne--the last surviving canine in the extended family, after decades of dogs.

Our parents started staying in a hotel a few years back. Susan's elegant sweep of staircase became too much for them. Nancy and I would drive over to their hotel early in the morning and pick them up for the day. They were always ready in their big coats and hats--Dad in his trusty fedora--until last Christmas, when we helped them get up, showered, and dressed, and Dad wasn't entirely sure where he was. But he still insisted on wearing a coat and tie, and still refused to use his walker in the house.

Our old dog Daphne loved my dad. She lay down on his feet, rolled over, and squinted in bliss as he rubbed her belly. She too had trouble with the long Georgetown staircase but there was no keeping her on the first floor, not when her people were asleep upstairs.

Last Christmas we said it again, washing dishes and straightening up after a big festive dinner. "This could be it." And I think we all kind of knew--this was it. Everybody was there--grandparents, three daughters, four grandchildren from around the country with their significant others, minus one who was with his family in Michigan.

Yesterday, Nancy, for the first time, drove Thanksgiving dinner over to my parents' retirement community in Philadelphia. Susan is putting her Georgetown brownstone on the market this weekend (her employer enforces early retirement) and couldn't join the others in Philadelphia. In recent years my husband, children and I have been going up only at Christmas. This is our first holiday in twenty-five years, without a dog. Staring at the Thanksgiving giblet and liver simmering on my stove made me miss Daphne, who died over the summer, even more.

No way will my parents be able to travel to D.C. this Christmas. They only leave their community for doctors' appointments. With any luck Susan will have sold her brownstone to an incoming Obama appointee and moved to a one-bedroom in Manhattan. We'll never sit around that long table again as a family, raising our glasses in a toast to being together: Mother, Dad, the three daughters, as many grandchildren as could get there, the dog under foot, waiting for turkey droppings. My sisters and I won't wonder at Susan's kitchen sink, "Is this it?"

Hey, I say to everybody I know. Enjoy your time together. This may be it.

Saturday, November 15, 2008

Home Again, Home Again

Somebody commented on my last post--about my love of the billboards in Qatar--did you survive the trip to the Doha airport? We haven't heard from you since.

Having lived and driven in Boston and New York City, I'm not upset by the Doha drivers, though I haven't actually driven in the country. And yes, I did make it to the airport but was appalled by the hideous traffic jams at each roundabout along the way.

I am an erratic blogger. I tend to want to blog when I can show pictures of faraway places. And I tend to write more when I'm away--every day when I'm traveling, always. But I am home now and not writing daily, on my blog obviously, or even on my two books in progress.

I heard an interesting talk last night, given by the keynote, author Ron Rash, at the North Carolina Writers' Network fall conference. He talked about perseverance being one of the most important qualities in a writer--that and writing daily and reading deeply. He wrote for 17 years before publishing his first novel. Somebody in a workshop the other night quoted the author Max Steele, who said that it takes as long to make a writer as it does a doctor.

Having been a writer for the last thirty years, I agree. I persevere and read deeply but writing is something I have always done in spurts. When I'm writing daily, I feel whole. So why don't I? Clearly, I need to travel more.

Saturday, October 25, 2008


I am leaving in a few minutes. This has been an amazing week--lots of different teaching venues and experiences. I'm still in love with the billboards and the construction, but the driver is arriving any minute so I'll post more later.

Sunday, October 19, 2008

Qatar: Around the Compound

So far on this working trip to Qatar, I've had the compound spa to myself for early morning and late night plunges. 

The ocean is my preferred venue, but this pool, mosaic-ed in shades of blue, takes me into a watery, ripply dream. So glad I remembered my goggles.

The coffee scene isn't quite as charming. 

As you can see, I'm brewing in the blender. It's the only container large enough for my funnel. 

And coffee filters? Not available at the compound supermarket (below).

The writing workshops are going great, despite two mid-writing electrical blackouts but, hey, everything can be a prompt--including darkness--once the power is on and we're not scribbling by cellphone light.

I wish I could borrow this supermarket bike. Unlike absolutely everywhere else in Doha, there is little traffic in the compound.

More later.

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Why I Love gchatting

I got into an email exchange with a client this morning. We were both hitting "send" every five minute or so.

Finally, I emailed him: You should use your gmail account, I wrote. Then we could have quick little chats and check-ins. And you could have them with . . . too. I keep up with my daughters with gchat and one or two friends.

It's so fast that you write in your talking voice. And, ah, what a voice. Sounds just like you. That talking voice is one we want to hear and readers do too--it's natural, spare, slangy. It's YOU, writing what you would be talking if you weren't gchatting but were, say, on the phone with this person. Talking is writing on the air, says Pat Schneider. OK. So, consider this: Writing is talking on the page.

The chatty voice in your head is going directly onto the screen, while your gremlin nods on your shoulder--unaware there's something happening that he could tear up and spit on.

All chats get saved, automatically. I would suggest you not dwell on this--thinking about "saving" might wake up the gremlin. He'll have a good belch, then smell fresh coffee brewing in his little dark kitchen full of knives.

Prompt: Have a dialogue with your gremlin. And if you don't know what a gremlin is, you're lucky. But you probably do have one and just call it something else--the censor, killjoy, &%$*$#!

In the following quote, replace 'say' with 'gchat':
"If you say what's on your mind in the language that comes to you from your parents and your street and friends," writes Grace Paley, "you'll probably say something beautiful."

And real.

Wednesday, September 03, 2008

Grief In its Own Time

I wake up with blog post ideas. Yes, that's a good one, I tell myself. And I can use the photo from . . .

Over the past month I've considered lots of entries, but somehow when it's time to open the blogger dashboard, my fingers freeze and I stop.

My last post is a tribute to Daphne, my 14-year-old golden retriever, who died on July 23. I haven't wanted, been able, to consider supplanting her muddy face with another post, until now. I pause, ready to leap into my new idea, but . . .

Many times I've walked down to her grave at the end of the yard, by the compost bin, and chatted with her. "Hey girl," I say, "I miss your impish energy, your wiggling up out of a deep dirt sleep to trot around the yard with me and tease me when I dump the vegetable droppings.

"Oh isn't she being a conscientious citizen," you would say--if you could talk, jerking your head back in a challenge, your black lips parting in a smile. "You're such a good girl, unlike me, the wolf dog." You would bark and invite me to chase you or play a game with you. You'd drop a ball or a stone at my feet. "Throw it," you'd say. Whenever Bill came out, you would try to block him when he shot baskets in your yard--try to get into the game with him. He swore you laughed when he missed a hoop.

Yesterday, without you at my side, I strung a clothes line out back, something I could never do when you were alive. For a day or two you would have ignored the damp prey. But then, on a lazy afternoon, a pillow case waving in the breeze would have been too much and you would have ripped it down, shaken it to break its neck, and dug it into one of your mud holes. Next a sheet, a t-shirt, anything you could reach.

Now I have a line up. I have a screen door since you're not here to paw through it at the first threat of thunder--the change in weather you always sensed long before we did. Our TV room no longer smells like a vet's office. There are no clumps of golden hair clinging to our kitchen chair legs. I can take a brisk walk and not feel guilty for leaving your rickety self at home.

I set out to write a post about something else, thinking I was ready. But you have taken over. That's how grief works--it has its own timetable, surprising us.

I choose this picture, looking up the driveway from the Wildacres resident cabin. At the top of the slope, light bursts through but down here we are in a darker place.

Thursday, July 24, 2008

Daphne: In Memoriam

Daphne's mud facial after digging in the creek for a rock

With the help of our vet, the sublime Dr. Adriano Betton, Daphne died peacefully last night in her yard. We buried her--along with a collection of her beloved rocks and Rosie's ashes--not far from the shed out back. She's in the company of the many cats, dogs, hermit crabs, and pet mice who have graced our home.

Daphne was 14 and a free spirit right up to the end.

She would have had a good laugh at our final moment together. And the dog did laugh--and smile.

It was dark by the time we wheeled her down to the end of the yard in my trusty barrel. I just couldn't bring myself to dump her into her grave, like a load of compost. So I gathered her now-skinny body in my arms and tried to lower us both in. I couldn't see and didn't realize the depth of the hole. Together, we tumbled into the grave. My husband Bill, who has a bad hip and couldn't lift her but had offered to get a flashlight and I refused, watched in horror as dog and wife disappeared into a cloud of lime dust. (We had lined the hole with lime.) I was lucky, suffering only a few minor scratches and a knee bruise. With Daphne, we always expected the unexpected--and got it.

To Tina, Daphne was Mom.

Dosing on the screened porch with Lucy

Rest in peace, friend. You had a full romp.

Prompt: Write about a pet that is no longer here.

Monday, July 21, 2008

The Poplar Grove

When I took a writing group to France in June, we walked from the chateau to a poplar grove. This was as close as I got to the trees. Others wandered through the swampy grass--you wouldn't know it was there by looking--and tried to get into the grove. At one point the trees had been surrounded by a moat and finding a way in was almost impossible. Only one in the group succeeded.

I was content to lie in the grass and write, from afar. Sandra, who sat with me briefly, said: "I'm having explorer envy." I wasn't. And when the others came back, shoes ruined or as somebody with an artistic bent called them, "distressed," Sandra was just as glad she had stayed put.

So was I. I don't usually care about going the extra distance. I don't have to pitch a tent and camp to get the feel of a mountain. I'm happy to spend an hour or two on the trail and then return to the comfy hotel.

Same with museums. I can spend a morning in one gallery and be perfectly happy. I don't want or need to take in the entire collection.

And when I'm in a foreign city, I'd rather walk the streets and sit at an outdoor cafe, soaking up the ambiance, than tour the famous sites.

Some would--and do--call me lazy. Maybe they're right. But I like to say that I enjoy letting my mind fill in a lot of the details. I don't have to experience everything up close and personal.

And I try to tell writers that too. Give enough details but leave room for the reader's imagination to fill in with its own vast vision.

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

My Favorite Writing Tool

When I'm stuck and can't budge on a writing project--when free-writing, list making, journaling from the kitchen sink's or my dog's point of view, clustering--when all these tools fail me, I put on my knee high boots and head out to the back shed for this . . .

my blue wheel barrel. I dig into the loamy mulch pile, toss the soil, splat, into the sturdy steel bowl of blue, and haul a load to a needy shrub--enjoying the quiet roll of the wheel barrel--up the drive, across the yard, into the ivy--my fingers holding the wooden handles, shoulders back, body balanced against the wheel barrel's weight.

The Red Wheelbarrow
so much depends

a red wheel

glazed with rain

beside the white

--William Carlos Williams

Friday, May 09, 2008


Here is the farm where my client Bill spent summers as a boy. It's up the fields from the original homestead. The barns and many other buildings blew down in a tornado 15 years ago.
Bill is writing a history of the homestead.

Bill revisits the chicken house, where he fetched eggs every morning. It was easier to look out the chicken door back then.

Clothes still hanging on hooks in an abandoned house on the farm.

The moldings are still intact.

Giving a good profile.

Head on stare.

These cows lead the good life.

A cemetery on top of a hill. The wind never stops blowing up here. I'll send more photos soon.

Monday, May 05, 2008

Berkshire Hathaway Annual Meeting: What a Scene

Greetings from the Midwest. During the Berkshire Hathaway Annual Meeting, the Qwest Convention Center in Omaha, Nebraska morphs into a fabulous display center for Berkshire companies.

I wanted to get on the long-horn steer but they told me I was too old and, well, too big. This little girl came all the way to the meeting in her finery for this picture. I should have worn a dress and petticoats.

I could have sat on this but the line was too long.

The artist Michael Isreal painted a portrait of Warren on the spot--at 6 AM on Saturday. (Note his paint-spattered tux.) The portrait will be sold on eBay later this year--

to benefit a fabulous organization called Girls Inc. that encourages girls to be strong, smart, and bold. Here are a few members:

Fruit of the Loom is another Berkshire company. Some big grapes.

You can always tell when Warren Buffett is approaching--he is surrounded by no-nonsense body guards, with little curly wires in their ears, and photographers with huge cameras and boom mikes. I was able to take many pictures of Mr. Buffett but none with him, except this one, with his cardboard image. Incidentally, no photos or video are allowed within the meeting arena--or even of the video broadcasts throughout the Center.

Warren Buffett has written a chapter in the book I edited, Foods You Will Enjoy: The Story of Buffett's Store.

He and his partner Charlie Munger took questions from the floor for six hours at the Annual Meeting. Jon Stewart's writers couldn't have come up with better material. And these two guys were improvising.

Warren Buffett told about being so afraid of public speaking that he avoided college courses where he'd have to pipe up in class. He'd get physically ill at the thought. While at Columbia in an MBA program, he took the subway downtown to a Dale Carnegie program and wrote a $100 check to enroll. When he got back uptown he immediately stopped payment on the check. Eventually he forced himself to get over his fear and now he speaks brilliantly, with no script.

In response to a question about the current candidates Charlie Munger said something like: Politicians are never so bad that you don't want them back again in your lifetime. Buffett's response: Charlie's a Pollyanna.

Buffett also said: work for an organization or an individual you admire--many people become self-employed.

Your best asset in life is yourself, he said. Too often, our potential exceeds our expectations. So, go for it! And he said that those who can communicate well--speaking and on the page--have a huge advantage. Keep working on the writing everybody and have fun. Put on a CD from the The Quebe Sisters Band . . . and keep in touch.

Saturday, April 19, 2008

Time to Think

The May/June issue of Poets & Writers Magazine carries an article by Frank Bures called, "Way, Way Too Much Information," about the overload we're all processing and about how he was inspired by an essay called "Thinking about Earthworms," by David Quammen. Published in the early 1990s, the essay encouraged readers to dwell with their own minds, to avoid the pull of global-mind, to think about things of interest to them and perhaps them alone. Turn off the television, etc.


So I think about how much harder that imperative is now, in the 21st century--with cells, texting, blogs, email, TiVo, etc. Bures includes staggering information about the amount of data we're churning out each year and then he goes on to talk about writers who cut themselves off from the world, live in remote areas where they aren't so constantly connected.

I can't live out there, but one of the many things I like about offering writing workshops--especially those where we write to prompts--is that during the precious writing time we allow ourselves to drop into ourselves and think, let bubble up what will on the page. We can follow our thoughts, without distraction. Meander on the page. Meander is my favorite word. The silence that falls over a room when people are writing never fails to thrill me.

I don't give out hand-outs until the end of a session because people will read them during that precious writing time. I tell people that when they're through writing they can just sit there and think. That too is a privilege.

All my life, I've craved, needed, time alone, when I can just sit and stare out a window or take an aimless walk--without cell or headset. It's hard to ruminate if a book on tape pounds your eardrums or even a friend's voice.

I loathed Quaker Meeting as a child. How boooorrrrriiinng,dreadful, to sit there . . . in SILENCE. For a whole hour. I so didn't get it, couldn't bear it. Put me under the front-yard privet and I could stare at the clouds, silent, for ages but at Meeting I felt like I was on steroids--wanting to jump straight out of my skin, through the ripply-glassed window and onto the green lawn beyond . . . where I would roll and tumble away from that place, forever.

Speaking of rolling and tumbling, I've got to go. I'm closing my computer and heading out the door for a walk--with birdcall, traffic, and the crinkling of breezy tree leaves for company.

And my own thoughts.

Sunday, March 23, 2008

Coming into Bloom

I love working with writers, obviously. And right now I'm excited; as the season shifts and the ruminating deep underground work has taken root, buds are bursting into bloom. Everybody has been working really hard and beginning to reap the rewards. Three writers I've been working with have books coming out, five writers are appearing in newspapers, and one poet just heard that three of her poems have been accepted for publication. She's waiting to hear from several poetry collection contests. I'm looking forward to reading, this week, the final draft of another writer's memoir about which I have high hopes. And the collection of essays by women living in Qatar that I co-edited will also be published later this spring, in English and Arabic.

Those blissful six weeks in Qatar spoiled me. Being surrounded by only my own clutter was a rare gift. I could write at all hours of the day and night, my papers and research strewn everywhere--no one but me ever disturbing them. I worried about how I would write on my return, having to again share space, and my life, with others.

On the way home from the airport, my husband said, "The place looks pretty good right now."
When I walked into the kitchen, this is what I saw:

And our communal dining room table:

My spirits, and my resolve to write regularly, dropped several notches. No matter. There are no excuses for not writing--other people's clutter, not having a proper "room of one's own," commitments. In a client's cluttered house, I stumbled on a slim little wise volume that will bust your every excuse. Dip around in How To Write a Lot and I'll be surprised if you don't come up with a writing schedule you'll stick to.

And here's a rather lengthy closing quote about getting to the desk, from Vivian Gornick's essay collection: Approaching Eye Level

Work, I said to myself. Work hard.

But I can't work hard, I answered myself. I've barely learned how to work steadily. I can't work hard at all.

Try, I replied. And try again. It's all you've got.

The first flash of feminist insight returned to me. Years before, feminism had made me see the value of work. . . I saw what visionary feminists had seen for two hundred years: that power over one's own life comes only through the steady command of one's own thought.

A sentiment easy enough to declare, the task of a lifetime to achieve.

I sat down at the desk, as though for the first time, to teach myself to stay with my thoughts: to order them, extend them, make them serve me. I failed.

Next day I sat down again. Again, I failed.

Three days later I crawled back to the desk and again I came away defeated. But the day after that the fog cleared out of my head: I solved a simple writing problem, one that had seemed intractable, and a stone rolled off my chest. I breathed easier. The air smelled sweet, the coffee strong, the day inviting.

The rhetoric of religious fervor began to evaporate in me, replaced by the reassuring pain of daily effort. I could not keep repeating 'work is everything' like a mantra when clearly it wasn't everything. But sitting down to it every day became an act of enlightenment. Chekhov's words stared back at me: "Others made me a slave but I must squeeze the slave out of myself, drop by drop." I had tacked them up over the desk sometime in the early seventies, and my eyes had been glazing across them for more than ten years. Now I read them again: really read them. It wasn't "work" that would save me, it was the miserable daily effort.

So, yes it's in the (sometimes) miserable daily effort that the writing gets done. To all of you who are heading to the desk, congratulations. I'll see you there.

Tuesday, February 05, 2008

Word Into Art: Artists of the Modern Middle East

This is an artist's book by an artist now living in Paris. Many Iraqi artists started working with artist books when it was no longer safe to go to their studios. They also wanted to be able to transport their work easily. We all remember the pillaging of the museums and libraries after the US invasion in 2003. The pages of this book are intentionally charred.

This artist's son is wrapped in Arabic poetry.

A refugee's suitcase, on paper. What would you grab if everything you took had to fit in a small suitcase? Text surrounds the silhouettes and appears in the suitcase.

This is a dictionary by a Palestinian artist, opened to the definition of "Philistine," surrounded by actual nails.

Phil·is·tine n. (fĭl'ĭ-stēn', fĭ-lĭs'tĭn, -tēn')
  1. A member of an Aegean people who settled ancient Philistia around the 12th century B.C.
    1. A smug, ignorant, especially middle-class person who is regarded as being indifferent or antagonistic to artistic and cultural values.
    2. One who lacks knowledge in a specific area.

Another artist's book. You can see its accordian shape in the lower right hand corner--above the big head of that person sitting in front of me.

This is graffiti the artist saw and copied onto paper. It says 'the envious shall not prevail."

I went to a slide presentation--at the Virginia Commonwealth University campus in Qatar--of this show; it's opening in Dubai and comprises art from the British Museum--better known for its mummies than controversial collections of Middle Eastern art, said the museum's Middle East curator, Venetia Porter. She's British but spend a good part of her childhood in Lebanon and is fluent in Arabic. After the presentation I told her this show should go to New York. The consensus seems to be that it's too controversial for the U.S.

All of the artists in this show work with transforming text into art--Linda Passman and I are fascinated by the interpaly of text and visuals. We play with a lot of ideas in the visual journal workshop we teach.

A full reception followed this free, open-to-the-public event--with falafel, hummus, chicken and vegetable pastries, grilled meats, dessert pastries, fresh fruit, fresh-squeezed strawberry juice. Quite a spread. "They always have these," my friend told me. Can you imagine such lavish spreads at a free slide presentation in America?

Not served--alcohol. This is a strict Muslim country.

Saturday, February 02, 2008

The Secret Garden

Most spaces between the apartment buildings look like this.

The secret garden.

Palm fronds and grape vines shade the arugula growing underneath.

I have fallen in love with my compound. At first I was disappointed. Some of the people I know here in Doha live in more established walled-in worlds, with palm tress and lush plantings and attractive street lights. Here there are still unoccupied, forlorn units and when the wind blows, it carries not only dust and sand but also stray plastic bags and candy wrappers. I found the place, well, kind of desolate and at night, dark--not threatening, just unwelcoming.

When I first lived in Los Angeles, and walked up in the hills above our neighborhood, I was disappointed. Where were the bright leaves of fall, the bursts of bloom in the spring, the ice and snow of winter? Over time, I began to notice the seasons--they are subtle and, in their own way, stunning.

I'm now noticing more about my hood. Every afternoon, children from all over the world gather out on the streets to kick a soccer ball, ride bikes, and just hang out. They remind me of how American children used to be--unsupervised, bored, creating games out of . . . whatever. I hear so many languages coming from these straggly groups of kids. The other day two young brothers were running across a speed bump. The older in-charge one gave his squat brother a subtle shouldering, just as they crested the mound. The little guy went down hard--his tummy hitting the bump, his hands and arms badly scraped. An accident, the bigger boy told his mother, who came out to investigate the shrieking. He fell on the bump, the older boy pointed, gesturing. I couldn't understand the conversation but knew the story.

As I take my daily walks (several) around the rectangle and up and down the little side streets, I now notice potted plants in stoops and little postage stamp bits of greenery. I have a nodding acquaintance with some of my neighbors. Even if we wanted to chat, we'd be hard-pressed to find a shared language we were both comfortable with.

A desert cabbage!

The other day I discovered a luscious secret garden between two apartment buildings. I now walk up and down that path several times a day. One time I saw a woman staring at me from the villa across the way. I hope she didn't think I was stealing a cabbage or arugula (known to be an aphrodisiac here). I just like to look--have you ever really seen a growing cabbage? The broad-veined, big leaves wrap around the center and open out in an almost surreal pattern. I stare at the curlicued grape vines, inhale the summer-smell of the tomato plants and marvel that someone has cultivated this verdant garden plot, here in the desert.

Friday, January 25, 2008

A Space All My Own

The living/dining room. It's huge though you can't really tell here. I sit in that black chair and work at a small computer table behind it. The dining room table offers plenty of space for research materials.
I call this my yoga hall. When I lie on the rug and stretch my arms all the way out, they don't touch the walls. The kitchen is the first space to the right, my bedroom and bath the second right. If you come visit, you'll stay in one of the rooms to the left. Your bathroom is at the end of the hall.
My bedroom has vast closet space, shelves, and drawers. One reason I'm delighted by the 12 foot ceilings and huge rooms is that in the States, I live--with my husband and pets--in a shoe box. Overflowing with books, stacks of papers, magazines, and the other quirky stuff of life, our house doubles as office and workshop space--and a crash pad for our two daughters and friends, when they're around.

Virginia Woolf wrote A Room of One's Own. I've had a room but never a whole apartment of my own--with nothing in it except my writing and reading materials. And comfy couches, beds, and good table space. Nobody else's books, magazines, photos, trinkets, or clutter lives here.

Earlier tonight I was g-chatting with my daughter, Colette, telling her I heard people moving in upstairs. So far the quiet--I adore silence-- has been stunning, except during the call to prayer, which isn't getting me up every morning anymore. I still wake up but I go back to sleep, jet lag having faded away.

I wrote Colette what I was hearing upstairs--luggage rolling, loud voices speaking Spanish, and heavy feet on the tile floors. I have been so spoiled here, the only other occupant of this six-apartment building being a guy I never hear and have only seen when, as he opens his car door out front every morning at 7 AM, I sometimes peek at him out my window.

Colette said, "I wish I could see what your place looks like."

I decided to post a few interiors.

Saturday, January 19, 2008

In Dubai

Jumeirah Park.
Indoor skiing at the mall
The tallest hotel in the world
Old fashioned dhows (boats) used to transport goods.
Men going to work.
This place is growing soooo fast. They're creating islands in the sand to house 300 skyscrapers. Here are a few of the creek that divides Dubai. The boats are still used for export--out to the Persian Gulf and beyond. Dubai will soon boast the tallest building in the world. Already it claims the tallest hotel, pictured above--it hovers out over the water. There are no rooms, only suites, and they START at 3 grand a night. The place is booked solid. More than 80 percent of the world's cranes are here, and in use. At the soon-to-be-tallest building, a floor gets finished in between 1 and 5 days. There will be 158 floors--and the building is constructed so that if another country gets competitive and tries to go taller, Dubai can add more floors, easily.

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