Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Thoughts, Questions, and Wishes

I took this photo of a small portion of an installation in an empty Philadelphia storefront called "Ribbon Vault on Arch Street" (2009) by Robert Chambers.

Now that Christmas is over, and I'm back from the conference I attended in Philly, I am facing my house--my real house--for the first time since we returned from the island.  Leaving a place alone for nearly five months, then suddenly dumping clothes and food and books back into it before rushing off again for family Christmas and a conference means that what one returns to is about as tangled as the photo above, although not nearly as pretty.  The whole place is a pile of boxes and bags and gifts and wrapping and inexplicable sprinklings of glitter here and there.

And then there's New Year's Eve to contend with.  I've never been a good new year's reveler.  I don't feel it in my bones the way I feel Christmas or Halloween or Thanksgiving.  Maybe it's because come the single-digit temperatures, I want to pack away my high heels and curl up with books and tea and blankets.  We are heading back up to Maine to celebrate the holiday with my mum.  I'm thinking, make some amazing pan-seared scallops, toast the new year together, and hang out watching movies.  I don't know about anyone else, but as we stood in Penn Station yesterday waiting for our connecting train to Boston, watching the timetable register delay after delay, and feeling like we were living in a scene from Trains, Planes, and Automobiles, it suddenly dawned on me that I was bone-achingly tired.  People were grouchy, understandably, especially since that damn station doesn't offer benches to anyone except Acela riders.  Talk about classist!  Plus, the numbers of homeless folks looking for a dime are way, way up this winter.  I read the IRS statistics about incomes in America this year, and if the cold doesn't chill you, those numbers will.  People are in desperate need. Far too many.  Philadelphia, Boston, my own city of Lowell--they are full of people without a place to sleep or a crust to feed their babies.

Please forgive me for being so real and not very fun-blogish tonight.  I'm trying hard to feel the cheer, but as I walked through the beautiful old Art Deco train station in Philadelphia, watching people trying to beg money, watching the guards armed with machine guns as they led bomb-sniffing German Shepherds around the station, watching the homeless woman who had set up a makeshift desk on the diaper-changing station in the filthy women's bathroom, I asked myself again and again, "What are you doing to help?  What are you doing to make a change?"  And I couldn't answer those questions.  

I don't write this because I want assurance that I am making a change.  Besides, no external assurance I receive will suffice.  I simply must do more to help others.  Period.  I started this post by talking about our possessions--how they are in post-Christmas, post-moving stacks and piles all over our house.  These things are lovely, and I am grateful for them, but my mind keeps going back to that woman in the bathroom.  She was bent over a worn notebook, and she wrote quickly on its pages, intently, never looking up, mouthing words as she scrawled them, words that obviously needed to come out, be on the page, even if no one else was ever going to read them, even if they made sense only to her.  Tonight I am typing, typing, spilling my own words onto a screen, because I cannot contain them.  I must not, even if they make sense only to me.  They, each of them, are more precious to me than any possession I own.  The fact that I have the privilege--and I do mean privilege--to share them with you is something that I will never take for granted.

I am wishing you blessings and health in the new year.  I wish for you a warm bed, a vocation you love, and the comfort of being needed.

xo Gigi


  1. i love reading your words. especially the plans for the scallops! : ) and i am so glad you don't contain your words. i appreciate them all.
    i send you love, my friend. happy new year!

  2. It seems to me that you have another turning point in your life Gigi...whatever it is going to be, I wish you the best~
    I'm quite confident that it's going to be inspiring & giving~ Happy New Year*
    xo as always

  3. It's hard. New York, too, is rich in these scenes.

    Thank you for those wishes.

    Perhaps it's true that everything we take for granted is a blessing, and only seen as such once we are deprived of it.

  4. Thank you, Christina! I always know I can speak my mind with you. That's why I adore you!

    Lenore, I went over and took at peek at your most recent post. Thanks for the new year's joy. You always, always make me smile. How do you do it?

    Yes, Marie, I think often the things we take for granted are, indeed, the true blessings. When someone we love is sick or in trouble, we suddenly realize how true this is.

    Happy New Year, friends!

  5. Dear Gigi,

    Your images from the train station are only too raw and real. We past by these people everyday, and try not to look or feel or get involved.

    Locally, there is an bearded ex-vet who lives in the rough. He takes the shells from abalone fishermen, cleans them, arranges them into small collections of graduated sizes, and sells them on the streets of Carmel and up the coast. He has quite a following of customers, and what he creates is so beautiful. One day I will get up my courage to talk to him.

    Oh you've given me much to think about.


  6. We have quite the same scenes in Los Angeles. I have volunteered over the years with my daughter and her friends for an organization called The Giving Spirit - they put together bags for the homeless and they also partner with a few women's shelters take these out and meet and talk to the people that you are giving the bags to and it's an incredibly humbling experience. My new years wish for everyone is to BE THE CHANGE YOU WISH TO SEE IN THE WORLD...! I have found my calling with my elder organization and it makes my heart soar! Happy New Year, wonderful Gigi! xxoo

  7. Happy New Year!
    May all your vishes come true!


  8. Gigi, your words make perfect sense. The glimpse into this side of you makes you all the more endearing. Happy 2010 to you! May it be a healthy, joyful, peaceful and loved one.

  9. Oh, your words touched my heart, Gigi.

    I find with little, and not so little, ones in the house the Christmas focus tends to be on the magic and material. And for me, having our loved ones around us. But this year I am all too aware of the misfortune of others, though not in the way you mean here.

    For the New Year I can hope, and I can do what I can. Because I've come to realise that that is all we can do!

    Every warm blessing to you and yours for a wonderful New Year to come.

  10. I would like top echo the words above and wish you a warm, happy and secure New Year.

  11. I love the picture of her words, unstoppable, spilling onto the page.
    I love that it created its own unstoppable spill in you.
    I love that you are effected, impacted by others.
    I love that you have a great, big, open, loving heart.
    I love you, my friend.
    Happy new year.

  12. There is a man here in San Luis Obispo, CA that is homeless..I see him almost every day. And running alongside him on his bike is a dog. So skinny. So sad. They are both so makes my heart ache. I have given him money. I wonder what he does with it.I hope he buys food. I hope he feeds his dog. I know what you mean about the woman in the bathroom. Sometimes seeing that...well, it's hard to get out of your mind.

    On rainy nights I lay in my warm bed, snuggled in Garnet Hill english flannel dog Buddy curled right by my side...sleeping with a full tummy and a warm bed. I look up through the window over my bed and see the full moon...the dark clouds racing by...and wonder about the man on the bike..and his dog.

    It has been a pleasure to meet you this year, have brought much happiness and inspiration to me and I look forward to more in the 2010.

    Wishing you a peaceful New Year, my friend.

    Love to you,
    Kary and Buddy

  13. such a sad image and way too common and i think to myself after 10 months of unemployment how close i could have been to that if i did not have a safety net like my family. it makes me both grateful and humble. my heart goes out to those.

    never hold back - it's real and honest.

    i hope you have a beautiful new year.

  14. My dear friend, Gigi,
    You are so right to voice these sentiments tonight of all nights.
    There's a quote that I know 'IF WE ALL THREW OUR PROBLEMS IN A PILE AND SAW EVERYONE ELSE'S, WE'D GRAB OUR'S BACK...... and how true is that ?
    Hopefully, in 2010, we can all do a little bit more to help those that are more unfortunate than we are.
    Wishing you and your family many magical and happy times in 2010. With much love. XXXX

  15. I so missed your posts when I was away from blogging!....I have had an enjoyable time catching up with you:)

    Your image of the homeless woman writing at the changing table desk will haunt me for some time...but I must tell you of Mr O's and my fun experience in NYC on Tuesday...the same day you were in Penn Station:)...We left the Met Museum just as it closed...with hoards of other vacation week culture was freezing and windy and we knew we would not find a cab near the museum. As we were crossing the busy street a woman of a certain age approached us to ask us our opinion on cabbies not accepting her...eventually she joined us in walking to a subway stop and riding to Grand Central where Mr O helped her find the right train to Times Sq. and where we caught our train home...I fell in love with this little philosophy professor from VA and I'm so happy she stopped to ask our help...This little episode turned out to be my favorite part of a busy day...people in need connecting with each other...She will never know how she made our day...

    Happy New Year to you dear Gigi...May it be a wonderful adventure:)

  16. beautiful Gigi,
    I am so very glad to have come across your gorgeous bloglife & absolutely love visiting to see your gorgeous pics & read your beautiful words.
    i wish you all the very best for the new year, with much laughter & well deserved hugs.

  17. oh gigi, i love the way you put your thoughts to "page"... how you share so openly... and beautifully...

    wishing you blessings of warmth and rest....and continued love and hope...

    xxo, kim

  18. Darling Gigi, I like it that you say what's on your mind and what you are feeling.

    Sometimes this world can be overwhelming and the problems just too large...but in our everyday life if we bring peace, love and happiness to others that is something ~ and for those who are able, to give materially, monetarily or of their time.

    May 2010 bring happiness to you and yours,
    love and hugs DJ

  19. I do understand your feelings. The need and the pain in the world can be overwhelming. It is, often, to me. I see a homeless man on the street as I sit at a traffic light and want desperately to put him in the back seat and take him home for a hot meal and help. But I know I cannot. How I wish we as a people would begin to focus on what really matters in this life.

    Important thoughts for a new year my friend.

  20. I think we reflect much about the state of our world when we have a new year. Or a special holiday, or anything or any occasion where we tend to self indulge. It makes us pause to realize that others are in a much different plight than we are.

    I worry that I don't do enough. I worry that the simplest of gestures should ripple out and make a difference.

    We cannot change the world, but we can change OUR world. Do one small act of kindness a day. It will change everything. I think.

    For what it's worth.

    Love ya Gigi xoxo
    Thank you for the postcard...xo

  21. This touched my heart, I lack words, but thanks for sharing, you do it so well.

  22. it is true that other peoples realities sometimes shake us....we do have so much to be grateful for. Have a happy and helpful 2010

  23. You have such a big heart, so full of thoughtfulness. I felt the same way for a man I passed on the street last night. I came out of a movie theater with a friend and there he was, quite young, asking ever so politely if I could just stop for a moment and help. I looked him right in the eyes, and felt such a sense of hopelessness. I was drawn to him in a way I can't describe to you. I felt a protectiveness over him and I don't know why. But I was pulled away quickly by my friend as I kept looking into this man's eyes. I couldn't stop thinking about him all evening, and hope that he will eventually find his way. I wish I had stopped but I admit, I was scared to stop and help...not knowing what I was getting myself into.
    But reading your post has drawn me closer to him yet again. And perhaps next time I will stop and offer what I can.


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