Raw, adjective: 9. disagreeably damp and chilly, as the weather or air: a raw, foggy day at the beach.


Sunday morning back at the ranch. A quiet one, an unfamiliar few hours of stillness after several days' of maelstrom. Good yoga-shaped, Osha Thai-shaped, Bryan Kest-shaped maelstrom, but maelstrom, nonetheless.

Was due for an adventure in Point Reyes with my dear friend S this morn, but woke feeling the impact of a week's worth of flu-denial making itself doggedly known. So this stubborn one finally listened to that bodily cry for rest, and the morning has instead offered a measure of literary quiet that I didn't realize how much I needed.

Sunday mornings once (well, for years, really) looked like [pastor's kid-mandated] church, and then for awhile turned into hours lost over the Grey Lady and the Sunday Chron, and of late have been mostly asana-shaped. But this under-the-weather one marked a return to the NYT and all her glory, and in it I've found an unexpected urge 1) to chuck it all and move to Vermont to live as an artist in a house with a bridge to my beloved offering me plenty of the space I crave, alongside a 2) sudden need to haul ass to London and conduct a few European symphony orchestras, or even just to 3) saunter around as an opera-loving socialite divorceé in 1980s New York City.

You have those moments, too, no? When you look at your life and all other possible lives and go Awwww, fuck, I should've stuck with the physicist option or the musician option or the artist-in-rural-New England option? Sometimes the variety of possibilities for right turns and left can become overwhelming. And I want to do it all at once, every bit, every potential reality, here, now, yes.

And then you remember that it's short, and geographically-limited, and might end soon, so you sure as hell'd better be in it now, whichever variation that might mean. And that's when my morning of NYT Arts- and Style-section inspired alterna-lives turned to Joan Didion, a creature who's been popping into my consciousness more and more of late. I've made mention of her often here, she who is such a model of brisk intelligence and sharp writerly iconoclasm, and I've been returning to her work again, remembering, admiring, wanting to reflect even the tiniest approximation of her great light.

I revisited Shambhala Sun's 2008 piece on the Zen of Joan Didion this morning, and in it was reminded of the rawness of Didion's writing on grief. Seeing Mary Oliver in person the other night reminded me how important (and how admirable) it is to be unapologetically your own; she's a hermit of a brilliant writer, the kind who protects her space with great care, and who'd rather be alone in nature than accompanied by the legions of admirers who'd gladly follow her around. I adored her: her simplicity, her humor, her self-deprecation. And was comforted by her iconoclasm, her matter-of-fact self-knowing, her own shared sense of intrinsic need for solitude.

Read Joan. Remind yourself that this life is short and only ever what we make of it: artists, conductors, poets, all. So we may as well be in it all the way, eh? And don't be surprised if I up and move to NYC for a life of words and art and symphony orchestras and, uh, socialite divorces. It's never too late, you know?

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