I live in the future

Cambodia and Thailand are 11 hours ahead of home. I live the whole day before the people I love have even woken up. So I wrote this poem about the way I feel here in the future.

I live in the future
And in the future
I lean out of windows
Gazing into the heat
Letting my hair cascade into the past
For my friends to use
As a ladder into my mind

In the future
I go fast
Kicking up the dust in my lungs
And the tuk tuk drivers
Make me feel safer
Than my last love ever could

In the future
My heart is steady
It doesn’t get dressed
Or put on makeup
It simply is fully loved as herself
Warm and beating
Basking in the sun

 

In the future
I am so free
And the whole wide world
Will watch the sunrise alongside me
And the sunrise
For all her heat and struggle
Will let me through the clouds of doubt
And she will hold me close
Letting me love her
In my broken way

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Somewhere I Never Thought I’d Go

Writing this on my flight from DC to Tokyo. Isn’t that dreamy? In about 21 hours I will be in Thailand where I will be pushed into the culture, language, religion, and heart of a place that I know next to nothing about.

I’ve had a lot of anxiety leading up to this trip. Life has been so full of all the good and all the bad and all the in between. There is so much new in my life and it has been rubbing up against the old, and that doesn’t really feel that great. I imagine Thailand is going to feel that way too. I’ve never been to East Asia, and honestly, I’ve never wanted to go to East Asia. And yet, here I am.

This feels like the theme of my life lately. Doing things I never wanted to do or never thought I’d have the courage to do. Moving to New York was like that. Going to therapy was like that. Even, in its own way, falling for someone has been like that. And plenty of tiny things that are now part of my daily life are like that. I’m sure there are things like this for all of us, and it’s hard. There have been plenty of times where I refused to leave my apartment, skipped appointments, picked fights, and just generally closed off to anything that felt too different.

My fear is that I will build walls, shut doors, miss opportunities. In this trip to Thailand that is my fear. In my life back home that is my fear.

But I have learned (in therapy and elsewhere) that if I don’t at least attempt it, if I don’t open myself up to a new experience in love and light and adventure, than I am going to miss out. I will grow cold and hard and lonely. In Christianity we often talk about “looking for where God is already at work”. Buddhist monk Thich Naht Hanh would describe this as looking for the light in people, looking for the light in the experience or the moment. And as I’ve been pressing into this thought, I’ve begun to describe this as looking for love that exists around me. In a person’s eyes, in a father and daughter holding hands, in a group of friends laughing.

So I’ve made that my mission for my trip to Thailand, hoping it will become the mission of my life, a habit so engrained within me that it’s as natural as breathing. Each person in this world bears the image of heaven. Each person carries within their spirit pure and holy light. Each person has spaces in his/her heart still capable of giving and receiving love.

I am challenging myself even in this moment on an airplane to Tokyo to look for love. Even when I don’t feel like I carry it within me. Even when my heart is so tired and afraid. Even when I feel lonely and abandoned.

I will look for light and love in the spaces around me, in the people who I see only for a moment.

 

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Three Cities and a Poem

 

I recently went traveling through three cities in Eastern Europe and it was magic. Here are some photos and adjectives and a poem I wrote on a train.

 

Bratislava, Slovakia

Alleyways and early mornings

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Vienna, Austria

Palaces and colored lights

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Budapest, Hungary

Glittery views and sunshine

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I walk through cities you have never seen

and may never see.

Palaces are my living room.

 

I make my bed

out of a window sill

and a city skyline.

 

Do you envy me?

Do you wish you saw

everything through my eyes?

 

When I wander

through back alleys made of stones

You are so far from my mind.

 

It is only when I stop moving

that I think it would be nice

if you were here

 

What if you saw

everything through my eyes?

Would you understand then?

 

Instead of beautiful winding roads

I see a maze of bones

and strangers voices whispering through the cracks

 

I walk into my palace living room

and the prison door slams behind me

nothing can get in, I hope

 

I make my bed

in a room full of people who don’t care

I listen to emptiness drip from the ceiling.

 

When I am still

and floating in the sky

I feel the phantom of you in the space next to me

 

If you look through my eyes

you will see yourself

forever walking away down a city street

 

If you see through my eyes

you will see through the ache

and it makes everything more beautiful.

 

Dear California,

I woke up this morning with California on my mind, so naturally, I wrote it a letter.

 

Dear California,

You are magic. I bet all the girls tell you that. But it’s true, and I mean it.

I’ve been thinking about the first time I ever saw your Sequoias. I was only eleven or twelve, and it is one of the only things I remember about being that age. I was a small child and there was so much snow that I thought I would disappear into it. But that was nothing compared to how small I felt standing next to the trees. They were impossible, and yet I was looking right at them.

I think one of my favorite things about you is your transience, or my ability to be transient while I’m with you. I can have my pick of landscapes: desert, city, sandy beach, rocky beach, mountains, forests. You have all of it. You’re dusty and massive, quiet and dreamy, minimal and contrasting. I welcome every change of your landscape. It is an echo of the ever-changing nature of my own heart. We are both fickle in our own ways.

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When I was in university, I would sometimes tell people, “I’m from California.” A lie, of course. A nice thing to pretend, at least. At 22, I rented a car and drove up highway 1 in pursuit of clarity and romance. I don’t remember if I got either of those things, but I do remember that I pulled over every fifteen minutes just so I could run to the sea shore and stick my toes in the water.

The last time I was with you, I was heartbroken in my own small way. I stayed with you for a while and let your magic heal me just a little bit. There I was, traveling up highway 1 again, farther this time and not alone. With every turn there was something breathtaking. At times like that you have to be careful and make sure your heart’s still beating. We came to a cold, rocky beach near your northern border and I listened to the ocean flow through me. I explored caves and cliffs. I climbed up and down every rock that I could. And I discovered your redwood forests for the first time. I think you might be hiding fairies in there.

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It’s been almost two years since I’ve seen you. I don’t think about you every day, though maybe I should. But I think about you when it matters, like right now, on a cloudy Thursday. And I think about how we are both living lives of movement, and even with all the dust that shakes up, it’s a beautiful thing.

 

Hope to see you soon,

-ee

 

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Paris

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Ah Paris. You really won me over.

I’m going to start by saying something that will make you roll your eyes so hard and think that you cannot relate to me at all: I have never wanted to go to Paris. The only reason I decided to go was because it was on my way home and I wanted to check it off “the list.”

Let me explain.

“Paris is always a good idea,” said Audrey Hepburn, to which I would respond, “sure if you’re thin, rich, white, and own a lot of black clothing.” The movie Midnight in Paris is wonderful, but I couldn’t help but watch it and think how if Owen Wilson’s character was a woman, it would be a much different movie. Think less quiet strolls among twinkling street lamps, and more like Morroccan dudes yelling at you as you power walk to your destination with your hood on and head down.

I’m also just not a huge Ernest Hemingway fan, and he goes around claiming Paris is a “moveable feast.”

I know that you can apply some version of these anecdotes to any number of cities, but I had fastened them all onto Paris; and honestly, I just wasn’t in the mood.

For all of that, I must apologize.

As I walked out of Nord railway Station at 9 am, I was wonderstruck (to borrow the T Swift term). I spent 24 hours wandering through Paris, and in my short time there I found it to be beautiful and diverse and complex.

It felt like art and life, the intersection of the two.

I stayed in Montmartre at Vintage Hostel, which was totally lovely and perfect. It was just a five minute walk from Sacre Coeur so I walked up there first thing to see the view of Paris.

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I walked from there down to the Seine to see the Notre Dame Cathedral and the [outside of] the Louvre. I bought bread and cheese and sat in the sun by the river to eat. Then I walked along to the river till I reached the Eiffel tower.

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“A walk about Paris will provide lessons in history, beauty, and the point of life.” Bold claim, Thomas Jefferson, but I get it. Paris is so many things.

I took the metro back up to Montemartre and went back to the Sacre Coeur to see the view of Paris at night. I bought a crepe on my way back to the hostel and ate it under a twinkling street lamp (and a good distance away from the yelling Moroccan men). It felt like life and it felt like fairytales. And I think that’s what made Paris beautiful to me. It’s magic, and it’s real.

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“The chief danger about Paris is that it is such a strong stimulant.” -T.S. Eliot

New Years + London

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I rang in the new year on top of Primrose Hill in London, England, shivering.

This year has been all over the map (see what I did there?)

I traveled to 10 countries, 4 of them brand new to me.

I wrote nearly 20 poems and 6 short stories.

I read 13 books (which is pathetic, my goal for 2016 is 30).

I cried a lot.

I stood on dozens of mountain tops.

I got my third tattoo.

I started calling myself a writer instead of a “writer.”

I let myself have some regrets.

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This was my 8th or 9th time in London (I’ve honestly lost count). It was the least magical, the most tangible. I got really sick my third day there and spent the rest of the trip coughing, sneezing, achy. I walked feverishly through oddly familiar streets.

I was with my sister. The last time we were in London together was 10 years ago. Then, London was sparkly dream. Now it was grey and hard. I woke up, I guess.

I love London. I visited 4 times just in the last year and a half. But each time it lost a bit of it’s magic, sort of like Christmas does as you get older. This last time was hard because of all the leaving. I spent the whole two weeks thinking about saying goodbye, actually saying goodbye, and wishing I hadn’t just said goodbye. This time around, London felt like people I miss. It felt like moments I wish I could have back or that I wish never happened.

Yet, it’s a new year, and even though I know calendars are arbitrary, it stills makes me feel hopeful and new. I think I’ve worn London out for now. Or London has worn me out. 2015 has worn me out.

My word for last year was grace. I knew that I would need to extend grace to the culture I had entered, the people I was around, and the place I now lived. But more than that, I knew I would need to give grace to myself, because I was trying something totally new, that I was completely unsure about, and I would mess up. One of the ways I messed up was by mistaking grace for passivity. Extending grace does not mean being a pushover. It doesn’t mean letting people hurt you. It doesn’t mean making excuses for others or excuses yourself.

So. In 2016 my word is brave. It feels sort of cliché to choose that word. People throw it at me a lot, simply because I’m girl wandering the world alone and that’s “a brave thing to do.” But what does it actually look like for me to be brave in my day to day? What would it mean if I was brave in my relationships? In my job? In my art? That’s what I want to find out.

I left London alone by train, heading to somewhere I had never been before: Paris. It was 5 am and I was exhausted, overwhelmed, and sad. A few minutes after the train crossed into France, the sun rose, and I made a choice. I chose to feel new. I chose to shake off the heavy things I had been holding onto. The fear and failures, heartbreaks and rejections. And I chose to look (bravely) towards something new. It’s a choice I will have to make every day. But I am so sure this is a year that will end somewhere different than it started.

Happy brave new year.

-Elizabeth-

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Balkan Adventures

A couple of weeks ago, I rented a car and drove with some friends to Matka Canyon in Macedonia and Rugova Gorge in Kosovo. It was glorious. Cars are wonderful things.

(Here are bits of a poem I wrote last week)

We shake too much.

That’s our problem.

My breaths

My knees

Your hands

The rental car

 

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There’s a canyon just outside the city.

“Let’s go” I said.

You wove the car through narrow roads,

following the Macedonian signs.

There was a mosque

(with double minorets!).

You braked so I could take a picture.

 

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The canyon was cold.

We walked the path along the water’s edge

stopping every few feet to gape at the mountains

“Around one more bend!” we said,

over and over again.

You like to have a destination,

I don’t.

 

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The rental’s tire was shaky

so we turn back too soon

before we reach the valley,

and before we reach the wild fields that slope out of Kosovo

and roll eventually into Montenegro

 

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But the canyon is enough for me,

Because it is just cold enough

to make me shake.

 

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I’m going to be traveling in England and a tiny bit in Paris over the next two weeks! Be sure to follow me on Instagram (@elizabeth_ee) if you want to keep up with my adventures :) Happy holidays and happy travels!

-Eliza

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