The New Now - mobile, telegenic, tele-transported, tele-networked. And yet... I have had several recent and intriguing conversations with friends and acquaintances - parents, professionals, pathological communicators - and I am just amazed how many are NOT tele-connected! That is, they aren't on Facebook! Is it me, she who used her parenting therapy group last Fall as a stage for confession during the discussion about how much is too much for our kids - I stood (unbidden -- who among them didn't confess, I still wonder): "I am a Facebook Fanatic!" I confessed with raised Blackberry in hand, yes, Facebook is my homepage.

I do not go so far as to say that Facebook is where I live, but those of you who meet me there know that my profile picture is not infrequently lit green to say "I'm here" when you sign on. I don't always type back when you attempt to chat (and I know you don't either), but there's something about seeing other lit-up profiles that makes me feel a little closer to home - even when the lit-up face is someone I have only met once. We are friends, nonetheless.

When my children were babies, I'd have them up in Maine in summer, weeks at a time. I'd look out my upstairs window and see kitchen lights in the distance. I was up at midnight for a final feeding - and someone else was up, too. That's sort of how the green light below profile pictures on Facebook makes me feel. Not alone, not too far away.

I just Googled: "Facebook, concerns". The volume, overwhelming, and I could have written each diatribe and its rebuttal. Instead, I'll take the opportunity to fall back on the great words of a sage of our generation, Lindsey Lohan: "My motto is to live everyday to the fullest - in moderation." Um, what?

Here's where I am on Facebook, my last words before I email around this post (so it hits my most fervently anti-Facebook following). If there is a clear and definable reason for your use of Facebook, write it here. And if you haven't caved, answer accordingly - what would be a perfect tool for this new age, the New Now?

Was your response easily articulated? Live it and love it, join me here in the New Now.

Facebook is my bridge to all the lives I've left behind me. It's how I get my music (WFUV) and my news (the New York Times). It's where I hear from my favorite personalities (Brian Lehrer on NPR and Clotilde Dusoulier of Chocolate & Zucchini) and watch my favorite TV shows (The Big C). I know you all better because of Facebook, and when we see eachother again in person, we'll have so much more time for fun as we've never actually lost touch.

Just a couple good ones popped up recently on my Facebook page - thanks Kersten and Susie!



Where did the Facebook app go that chronicled the books we've read, the ones we're reading and the favorites (and otherwise) of our friends? I can't find it, and have just read such an astounding book, I'm not sure where to go to tell you about it.

I read "The Bad Girl" by Mario Vargas Llosa for a new book group. What a textured piece - on friendship, on beauty, on aesthetics -- a story told via sex and submission and being dashed time after time by one single very bad girl! The crazy, lewd debauchery, over the top - is this real? Such a closely depicted life story, must be a morality tale - so how do we avoid the relinquishment of self and sanity in our own lives? And in the lives of, particularly, our boys?

In fact, this novel is inside out... it's reality-based fiction alright, but about the secondary characters. They are rational and sane and have the kind of command over themselves we recognize - they command power over reality in a way that the primary character, our Ricardito, he who is enslaved to a woman who hates him, cannot manage.

And it's a travelogue!

Most exquisite about this book written by a Peruvian master of literature is the insider portrait it paints of - Paris! "The Bad Girl" is a guide for my favorite city - the exhibits were real, the glitterati make cameos, the restaurateurs (some of whom I've known myself, like Jean Pierre Court of the unparalelled 7e bistro Auberge d'Chez Eux where I have basked in just the meal Ricardo and Soloman ate, down to the detail, probably with some of you!) -- the walks in the Tuileries. They taunt the reader - like :"hey you think this book isn't a real life tale?" Vargas Llosa's Paris is as immediate as if we were there this afternoon, so how can the life story of Ricardo NOT be real as a result? This is what I mean, it's inside out. Everything auxiliary is as plain as day, from the restaurants and cafes to the perfect, messy, real people Ricardo has propping him up. These are what defines Ricardo, not the woman who abuses him, manipulates him, lies to him, crazes him.

I finished The Bad Girl yesterday afternoon at 4:00 -- as one does when thoroughly taken with a novel, she reads while her kids are stationed screenside. The first place I went to find myself was the Errant Aesthete, which as its main concern brings hedonism (Paris) home. I can count on my errant blogger friend to walk me through coming back to earth after this fantastic read. Here's what the Aesthete leads off with, a quote from Plato:

"Everything that deceives can be said to enchant."

Perfect, the Errant Aesthete's salon, Crazy in Love -- here I have my conversation about "The Bad Girl".



In this mobile society, "where do you come from?" is a hard one to answer. Lay that on pushing 50 and it becomes even harder.

I used to say I come from North Carolina, but that feels a stretch, as I left there before I'd ever even kissed a boy. The interim stops were not much more than places I lay to write in my diary and listen to my parents in deep philosophy with smart people downstairs. Then there were dorm rooms and rent shares, journeys afar and sprints back to wherever my parents were at the time. I still do that by the way, I find my parents, who, too, have never kept an address longer than a couple of seasons.

I'm unpacking after the latest move and the transience translates to what I'm holding. The nested russian ladies have sat on many shelves. A best friend's painting of two beautiful dogs has hung at the foot of a staircase and in a child's bedroom, in northern Europe and in London. What do I do with the 99 crystal vases and the chaotic collection of Eiffel Towers? I am exhausted. I've been over this, I've been through it. These things have places, I just want to go home!

In the Home Stretch
by Robert Frost, 1920

SHE stood against the kitchen sink, and looked
Over the sink out through a dusty window
At weeds the water from the sink made tall.
She wore her cape; her hat was in her hand.
Behind her was confusion in the room,
Of chairs turned upside down to sit like people
In other chairs, and something, come to look,
For every room a house has—parlor, bed-room,
And dining-room—thrown pell-mell in the kitchen.
And now and then a smudged, infernal face
Looked in a door behind her and addressed
Her back. She always answered without turning.

“Where will I put this walnut bureau, lady?”
“Put it on top of something that’s on top
Of something else,” she laughed. “Oh, put it where
You can to-night, and go. It’s almost dark;
You must be getting started back to town.”
Another blackened face thrust in and looked
And smiled, and when she did not turn, spoke gently,
“What are you seeing out the window, lady?”

“Never was I beladied so before.
Would evidence of having been called lady
More than so many times make me a lady
In common law, I wonder.”

“But I ask,
What are you seeing out the window, lady?”

“What I’ll be seeing more of in the years
To come as here I stand and go the round
Of many plates with towels many times.”

“And what is that? You only put me off.”

“Rank weeds that love the water from the dish-pan
More than some women like the dish-pan, Joe;
A little stretch of mowing-field for you;
Not much of that until I come to woods
That end all. And it’s scarce enough to call
A view.”

“And yet you think you like it, dear?”

“That’s what you’re so concerned to know! You hope
I like it. Bang goes something big away
Off there upstairs. The very tread of men
As great as those is shattering to the frame
Of such a little house. Once left alone,
You and I, dear, will go with softer steps
Up and down stairs and through the rooms, and none
But sudden winds that snatch them from our hands
Will ever slam the doors.”

“I think you see
More than you like to own to out that window.”

“No; for besides the things I tell you of,
I only see the years. They come and go
In alternation with the weeds, the field,
The wood.”

“What kind of years?”
“Why, latter years—
Different from early years.”
“I see them, too.
You didn’t count them?”
“No, the further off
So ran together that I didn’t try to.
It can scarce be that they would be in number
We’d care to know, for we are not young now.
And bang goes something else away off there.
It sounds as if it were the men went down,
And every crash meant one less to return
To lighted city streets we, too, have known,
But now are giving up for country darkness.”

“Come from that window where you see too much for me,
And take a livelier view of things from here.
They’re going. Watch this husky swarming up
Over the wheel into the sky-high seat,
Lighting his pipe now, squinting down his nose
At the flame burning downward as he sucks it.”

“See how it makes his nose-side bright, a proof
How dark it’s getting. Can you tell what time
It is by that? Or by the moon? The new moon!
What shoulder did I see her over? Neither.
A wire she is of silver, as new as we
To everything. Her light won’t last us long.
It’s something, though, to know we’re going to have her
Night after night and stronger every night
To see us through our first two weeks. But, Joe,
The stove! Before they go! Knock on the window;
Ask them to help you get it on its feet.
We stand here dreaming. Hurry! Call them back!”

“They’re not gone yet.”

“We’ve got to have the stove,
Whatever else we want for. And a light.
Have we a piece of candle if the lamp
And oil are buried out of reach?”
The house was full of tramping, and the dark,
Door-filling men burst in and seized the stove.
A cannon-mouth-like hole was in the wall,
To which they set it true by eye; and then
Came up the jointed stovepipe in their hands,
So much too light and airy for their strength
It almost seemed to come ballooning up,
Slipping from clumsy clutches toward the ceiling.
“A fit!” said one, and banged a stovepipe shoulder.
“It’s good luck when you move in to begin
With good luck with your stovepipe. Never mind,
It’s not so bad in the country, settled down,
When people ’re getting on in life, You’ll like it.”
Joe said: “You big boys ought to find a farm,
And make good farmers, and leave other fellows
The city work to do. There’s not enough
For everybody as it is in there.”
“God!” one said wildly, and, when no one spoke:
“Say that to Jimmy here. He needs a farm.”
But Jimmy only made his jaw recede
Fool-like, and rolled his eyes as if to say
He saw himself a farmer. Then there was a French boy
Who said with seriousness that made them laugh,
“Ma friend, you ain’t know what it is you’re ask.”
He doffed his cap and held it with both hands
Across his chest to make as ’twere a bow:
“We’re giving you our chances on de farm.”
And then they all turned to with deafening boots
And put each other bodily out of the house.
“Goodby to them! We puzzle them. They think—
I don’t know what they think we see in what
They leave us to: that pasture slope that seems
The back some farm presents us; and your woods
To northward from your window at the sink,
Waiting to steal a step on us whenever
We drop our eyes or turn to other things,
As in the game ‘Ten-step’ the children play.”

“Good boys they seemed, and let them love the city.
All they could say was ‘God!’ when you proposed
Their coming out and making useful farmers.”

“Did they make something lonesome go through you?
It would take more than them to sicken you—
Us of our bargain. But they left us so
As to our fate, like fools past reasoning with.
They almost shook me.”

“It’s all so much
What we have always wanted, I confess
It’s seeming bad for a moment makes it seem
Even worse still, and so on down, down, down.
It’s nothing; it’s their leaving us at dusk.
I never bore it well when people went.
The first night after guests have gone, the house
Seems haunted or exposed. I always take
A personal interest in the locking up
At bedtime; but the strangeness soon wears off.”
He fetched a dingy lantern from behind
A door. “There’s that we didn’t lose! And these!”—
Some matches he unpocketed. “For food—
The meals we’ve had no one can take from us.
I wish that everything on earth were just
As certain as the meals we’ve had. I wish
The meals we haven’t had were, anyway.
What have you you know where to lay your hands on?”

“The bread we bought in passing at the store.
There’s butter somewhere, too.”

“Let’s rend the bread.
I’ll light the fire for company for you;
You’ll not have any other company
Till Ed begins to get out on a Sunday
To look us over and give us his idea
Of what wants pruning, shingling, breaking up.
He’ll know what he would do if he were we,
And all at once. He’ll plan for us and plan
To help us, but he’ll take it out in planning.
Well, you can set the table with the loaf.
Let’s see you find your loaf. I’ll light the fire.
I like chairs occupying other chairs
Not offering a lady—”

“There again, Joe!
You’re tired.”

“I’m drunk-nonsensical tired out;
Don’t mind a word I say. It’s a day’s work
To empty one house of all household goods
And fill another with ’em fifteen miles away,
Although you do no more than dump them down.”

“Dumped down in paradise we are and happy.”

“It’s all so much what I have always wanted,
I can’t believe it’s what you wanted, too.”

“Shouldn’t you like to know?”

“I’d like to know
If it is what you wanted, then how much
You wanted it for me.”

“A troubled conscience!
You don’t want me to tell if I don’t know.”

“I don’t want to find out what can’t be known.

But who first said the word to come?”

“My dear,
It’s who first thought the thought. You’re searching, Joe,
For things that don’t exist; I mean beginnings.
Ends and beginnings—there are no such things.
There are only middles.”

“What is this?”
“This life?
Our sitting here by lantern-light together
Amid the wreckage of a former home?
You won’t deny the lantern isn’t new.
The stove is not, and you are not to me,
Nor I to you.”

“Perhaps you never were?”

“It would take me forever to recite
All that’s not new in where we find ourselves.
New is a word for fools in towns who think
Style upon style in dress and thought at last
Must get somewhere. I’ve heard you say as much.
No, this is no beginning.”

“Then an end?”

“End is a gloomy word.”
“Is it too late
To drag you out for just a good-night call
On the old peach trees on the knoll to grope
By starlight in the grass for a last peach
The neighbors may not have taken as their right
When the house wasn’t lived in? I’ve been looking:
I doubt if they have left us many grapes.
Before we set ourselves to right the house,
The first thing in the morning, out we go
To go the round of apple, cherry, peach,
Pine, alder, pasture, mowing, well, and brook.
All of a farm it is.”

“I know this much:
I’m going to put you in your bed, if first
I have to make you build it. Come, the light.”

When there was no more lantern in the kitchen,
The fire got out through crannies in the stove
And danced in yellow wrigglers on the ceiling,
As much at home as if they’d always danced there.



Creativity and intention. Yep, it's all that. What's the New Now, really? It's being surprised at every turn in the trail. It starts with saying "yes, we can do that".

The New Now brings us to Texas. Not whitewashed Texas, not Austin, the Texas city that everyone where I come from calls cool and liberal. But Dallas. We are in the middle, up and dropped. A place most Easterners don't consider because we don't have the slightest - we can't even picture it - we have no expectations.

What is more appropriate, in a new world, seeing from new lenses, than to be lifted and dropped in a place we can't even pass judgment on? Passive and real, acceptance.

Creativity in transition is a stiff challenge. It's hard to be introspective when there's so little stillness of mind. ADD, too much to manage. But so many of us are in motion now, there is no rest. Rest was a state enjoyed earlier this decade. But transition equals observation. We notice and note, we fold down the corners, people, places and things.

What better application for my very favorite exercise, Three Beautiful Things?

1 - You watch late summer rain in Texas change by altitude, starting with long ribbons, then it's thick droplets, and by the time it reaches ground it's just mist, which for the cross country girls we pass on our way to school every morning, is like running through a sprinkler.

2 - I meet the stunning octogenarian from the 16th floor ordering a Grande Misto at Starbucks every day, then watch her meet her caretaker in the lobby with a hand shake and a kiss before they ascend to their day.

3 - Our furnished apartment came with industrial lighting, hotel linens and an uncomfortable pull-out couch. But the painting in the living room is a pastel of the Prinsengracht. Amsterdam meets Dallas, in a high rise.



It's the challenge, one that even the most celebrated authors and artists have made clear when in conversation with dreamers (like me) -- the creative life is work, hard work. It's not just making the art, it's making the time to make the art. Herding ideas. Capturing them to keep them when time is not at hand.

Who has the time, that elusive, crystal time? I have the time that ticks toward an end, ticks like an egg timer with a single, awkward "ding", saying it's all over. I always pictured the creative life as the writer possessed by idea and time, in the room designated "own". Artists in their barns. Gardeners, morning til night, coaxing flowers to bloom, boundless time to ward off weed and rot.

Summer Night, Winslow Homer, 1890

I just read a piece on Winslow Homer in Downeast Magazine, a study of the artist's studio, aloof (and precious) in its Maine Coast grit and ruggedness. Turns out there was nothing pristine about the spot, not in Homer's day. The Homers were loud and numerous when he worked in Prouts Neck; picnics were events, peopled with waving arms and flying retort. All this shatters my image of quiet productivity. And yet, Winslow Homer's paintings were tightly constructed, perfect, and no one but Homer lives in that iconic crash of Maine waves.

Surely, creativity must thrive in wide, empty space. I know empty space is an elusive thing. Here are some prompts, structure that could give permission to be fractured in these fractious and fraught times.

Keep Track of Yourself

Write it down. Different notebooks for different outings is my approach. Consulting clients in development have their own Moleskin paperback. When I travel, it's a Moleskin hardback, palm-sized. I keep my every day brainstorms in a series of orange elastic-banded notebooks. Journals come in every shape and size to reflect the chapter you're in. I just ordered my latest journal from Etsy. A genius creation by a Toronto artist, each hand-bound diary is inspired by a vintage publication, depicting the first edition cover on its hard and colorful binding, and including the first chapter of the book you choose. I chose The Luckiest Girl.

Create in Groups

Last week's Sunday Styles featured Dream Groups, gatherings often led by experts and sometimes operated autonomously to explore members' nocturnal activity of the mind. While the article posited the groups a bit scarily as channels for seeking intimacy, I like the idea of using dreams as writing prompts.

My dearest Maggie told me of her Journaling Group in Galveston. They meet weekly in the morning, artists and writers, non-artists and "never wrote a things". One particular member is plugged in, does research on journaling prompts, has a book or two and leads her group with 10-to-20 minute writing sessions. Journalers then "share" (if they want to) as part of the exposition and development of their art.

The Diarist Workshop is a resource for writing in groups, and has some great links for writing prompts and inspiration.

Creating the Space

Writing it down, no matter your medium, is where to start. Dani Shapiro wrote in her recent blog entry called "On Talking" that capturing an idea or thought or story, instead of talking about it, is what makes or breaks momentum as an artist. It's a spontaneity thing, and for sociable people, discussion is tantamount to life.

Good pen, right setting, best paper. An elastic band to snap shut around it. Capturing the moment. Maybe that's the art, itself.

Even the Icons struggled to Capture It

Virginia Woolf and Katherine Mansfield were literary friends in the early part of the last century; they were prolific writers, artists, diarists. In 1918, Virginia Woolf published Katherine Mansfield's great book "Prelude" from her own Hogarth Press. She and Leonard printed and bound the first 300 copies of her friend's creation, by hand. About this time, Virginia wrote Katherine about dealing with her own challenge with elusive ideas in a letter I found in archive at Smith College. These are truly journaling words:

Virginia Woolf writes:

“What is your ultimate desire—to what do you so passionately aspire?"

Then answers, for her friend Katherine, for herself.

"To write books and stories and sketches and poems.”



The screens we overlay before us can get thick with number. Screens of school (getting children through it), screens of marriage (getting life partners through it), screens of work (layered upon layer) with expectation for production and creativity and, work, seemingly the answer to survival. The thing about screens is that they are flimsy and they inevitably drop, one by one, they fall away - in answer to our call to survive. We're looking for Found Time, but in reality the falling away often reveals a crisis beyond proportion.

Found time. Illicits such a gorgeous soft landing. Found time to take pulse, to catch up, to read, to write. To sip slowly and to talk meaningfully. Or, Found time = now what?

Can you give yourself permission to not know? Can we hide here in the time we find, not just taking pulse but taking stock, and letting a day pass, surviving the passage, and just... breathing?
In my found time this afternoon, I reached out a little, to try and find myself. This is what was given back.

Praise Song for the Day
by Elizabeth Alexander

A Poem for Barack Obama's Presidential Inauguration

Each day we go about our business,
walking past each other, catching each other's
eyes or not, about to speak or speaking.

All about us is noise. All about us is
noise and bramble, thorn and din, each
one of our ancestors on our tongues.

Someone is stitching up a hem, darning
a hole in a uniform, patching a tire,
repairing the things in need of repair.

Someone is trying to make music somewhere,
with a pair of wooden spoons on an oil drum,
with cello, boom box, harmonica, voice.

A woman and her son wait for the bus.
A farmer considers the changing sky.
A teacher says, Take out your pencils. Begin.

We encounter each other in words, words
spiny or smooth, whispered or declaimed,
words to consider, reconsider.

We cross dirt roads and highways that mark
the will of some one and then others, who said
I need to see what's on the other side.

I know there's something better down the road.
We need to find a place where we are safe.
We walk into that which we cannot yet see.

Say it plain: that many have died for this day.
Sing the names of the dead who brought us here,
who laid the train tracks, raised the bridges,

picked the cotton and the lettuce, built
brick by brick the glittering edifices
they would then keep clean and work inside of.

Praise song for struggle, praise song for the day.
Praise song for every hand-lettered sign,
the figuring-it-out at kitchen tables.

Some live by love thy neighbor as thyself,
others by first do no harm or take no more
than you need. What if the mightiest word is love?

Love beyond marital, filial, national,
love that casts a widening pool of light,
love with no need to pre-empt grievance.

In today's sharp sparkle, this winter air,
any thing can be made, any sentence begun.
On the brink, on the brim, on the cusp,

praise song for walking forward in that light.

"Painting" by Maggie Taylor created with Adobe Photoshop



The times bring change whether we are ourselves in motion or just watching the flow.

Seasonal motion. Moving through time as our fundamentals have taught us. With early summer comes places to go, change to routine. Life's school thinks the calendar year nonsensical.

For us, it's simple sense. Our orbit has come full circle, school closes and progress is reported. There has been no real movement. 18 months ago I defined the New Now as painful rebirth, transitional to another plain. Thought I'd become good at it, given time. New Now seemed a momentary step to New Me.

Once at this time, the orbit ended and with it came the end of a contract. Now, I see change confront others, and into the winds they go.

And the news is - Get used to New Now, for it is the state of learning to spin on ones axis. It's the knack of spinning and not getting dizzy. Not new, the fouette turn is head stable, gaze on a fixed spot, body in motion, turning.

And then, Universal motion. High on our axis, not even a top whirls and twists quite like what our world is doing. The tides and channels are as intemperate as always, but sea birds in rainbow garb are in the spin with it, having not asked for it, having never expected it.

BP's assault, the spill, from space

"If only we might build an Ark." The Errant Aesthete, "where meaningful discourse, thoughtful utterance, amusing anecdote and enlightened chatter flourish and thrive". My model of all things close to the bone of style, Errant Aesthete writes of the assault on our blue jewel sea. Perhaps style arbiters are louche, perhaps they find meaning in satire. The Errant Aesthete has as her leading quote, this from Agatha Christie: "They tried to be too clever - and that was their undoing."

There has never been a time without suffering. It's where we meet our ingenuity, our God, call it what you like. For suffering we find antidote. Poetry in Motion is back on New York City buses and subways. Here is verse, which made me feel like someone, all along, will be watching.

Out Beyond Ideas of Wrongdoing and Rightdoing
- Jelaluddin Rumi (1207-1273)

Out beyond ideas of wrongdoing and rightdoing,
There is a field. I’ll meet you there.
When the soul lies down in that grass,

The world is too full to talk about.
Ideas, language, even the phrase each other
Doesn’t make any sense.



Life has overtaken me and I have fallen away, like a piece of fruit off its branch. Falling away hasn't been for distraction. Truth told, it's been an effort born of resentment. I haven't written a thing, for the place in line that writing has been relegated to. If I can't prioritize writing, I won't write.

Until this moment, when I cut into a nectarine and the scent overcame me. Better than the stunning scented candle, Beach House by LAFCO. Better than my new perfume, Infusion d'Iris by Prada. This nectarine actually said something, recited itself in poetic form. It said: we're almost there. Summer.

With summer, everything else stops and the real thing can start again - and I mean that figuratively. When it stops for me, I return to Maine and to the writings of Mary McCarthy and EB White, the poetry of Philip Booth and, maybe this summer, Rachel Carson. To drives along miles that only stop at the water. I will think about what I'm reading in the New York Times and tell you about finds and favorites. All of this will be in an effort to rise above the concerted distraction and reach up to that highest shelf, the one where we stick our journals once we write in them (no matter how long ago that was). That shelf's where the good ideas are stacked.



Apparently, life is about continuing to breath while living in limbo.

Because despite having access to every invention in the world to tell us which way to go (GPS, iPhone, apps galore), it turns out we have to cope and decide and dedicate ourselves to stepping in one direction vs another with no promises at all.

I sometimes think I hear the collective crinkle of a smile from the generations who went before us. It must contain a bit of relief that even with the coming-true of the Jetsons, life is still life, and no one is exempt from the ambiguity that comes with it.

Michelle Slatella asked yesterday in her New York Times column "Life's Journeys, a Lot Less Mysterious": "How does it change the way we experience the world, to know that nothing is unknown?" She's referring to the way we rely on our devices. The ones we buy to "make life easier" as well as the internal ones - our sense that we know everything there is to know, that we can get the information we need in a Google minute. Even the certainty that every corner of every vast forest and empty ocean has been plotted, mapped, committed to some service or other.

An old boyfriend once commented that in my infinite and earnest college-aged wisdom it was a shame that I was never surprised, by anything. Did I really know it all back then? When I know so little now?

GPS can't get us where we really need to go, not even close. A dear friend is trying to decide whether to choose a radical mastectomy because she's predisposed to breast cancer. Another grapples with a relationship that reflects her hopes for the future some days, but not others. John and I live on in our beloved home, gambling like Columbus would have that the gulf between us and financial terra firma is only a month's sail away.

It's the gamble. The GPS would say "Remove the breasts. Pack your bags. Sell the house." But for what?

Michelle Slatella consulted a professor from U.C. Irvine who specializes in maps and early explorers, asking her that question, about how living on the assumption that nothing is unknown is effecting our generation. The Professor responded that in the olden days, explorers "know where they are starting from. And they know that there is something beyond what they know."

She said: "When you are lost, there are possibilities."



Sunday Styles in today's New York Times gave us more than one piece about love, today being Valentine's Day. What works and what doesn't in matters where "working" is an apt action word. Modern Love (always provocative), and something about Valentine's Day when you're alone, when you're wistful, when you're spending too much time on Facebook, when you're a gay or lesbian couple living in a State that tells them they're exempt from loving. Each story is short with a quippy "happy" ending, seemingly improbable for its too sensitive and personal voice. Like watching the wedding of strangers, the couple sharing their love in front of an audience of acquaintances throwing rice and clutching hankies-- and you & me watching from across the street, a vantage point that makes it seems a little put-on. That was my take on the New York Times vignettes. Call me a cynic. I'm happier doing my thing at home with my own cast of characters, listening to the ultimate in cynics, Rickie Lee Jones, sing about sad things on Valentines Day.

I've read so mcuh of late, about dreary February, and I just don't share the opinion. There's a certain recovery thing going on in February. Recovery, like coming up for air, or the day you know a flu is behind you. Snow comes, but it melts faster and is followed by incongruous flashes of a red bird or a round green patch. In North Carolina where I grew up there is a real and dependable February thaw. I remember dry and bright college mornings breathing Carolina lighter than air.

I love February, not because I have a beloved with whom I exchange a valentine, nor for the quick follow-up 6 days later of the day of my birth. It's that I believe in recovery, like forgiveness. February is over almost as soon as it starts, then March, and March is Spring. When color comes in longer flashes and the weight of dark begins to lift.



Time has come to bring it all together again. It has been a year of making and manufacturing, of building creativity in places it didn't exist. You can feel it, see it. There's new momentum for so many of us.

The Daily Now is moving home. May this archive of cool and creative prompts live on for you. Go deep in, find the writing and art, photos and songs that made you move, every day this past year. The archive will always be here. Remember it. Click here to save it in your favorites.

And from here on, you'll find it back on the New Now. We're picking up our own pieces, and when we come up to look around, holy cow, it's us - it's our turn to take the reins and lead this place out of the mess it's in!

If creativity and responsibility work at once, we'll make this the better world.

Crisis and change makes us new, makes us something we haven't been. The New Now is about finding it where it is, it's the juice to create. We're turning crisis into momentum.

The painting of the bus is by Morgan Blair, "freelance illustrator, fine artist, and desperado. Recent graduate of RISD, now living in Brooklyn and continuing to advance her interest in trees, legos and excellent music."


3 Beautiful Things, for February 1st

February brings a newness you feel but shouldn't believe. Rounding the corner, it's happening beneath our feet. Rebirth, growth, the tiny signs of thaw.

3 Beautiful Things for February 1st

1 - Waiting for the bus at 8 something this morning, we see a family come to their curb about 500 feet before our stop. Mom waiting with child, she walks out to the middle of our country road and dances a funny dance, legs akimbo. Child doubles over for her craziness.

2 - Reading Kathryn Stockett's "The Help", an eerily real novel about black maids and the white women they work for. Stockett's voice, she was sprung from the latter, is an innate memory, she knows the dialect, the love tinged with deep, faraway regret, the voice of a black woman raising white children. This novel is my chance to imagine what could have been, freedom and individuality for Dowdell, the black woman who "raised me". I salute you, Dowdell.

3 - At basketball practice for 7th and 8th grade girls, a perfect snapshot of 'before' and 'after'. Girls and women, arms entwined, jumping for the same balls. Before: the gangly beautiful pre-adolescents; childlike, blossom, unopened. After: full and free, an unnameable knowing. On one court.



I got my hope back.

I heard it last night, the call to collaborate. It was the creative spark ignited on a grander scale. We have been living a mired existence of late. So much static, agendas and misunderstanding, and obtuse misuse of power - these are things that have been alive in our Universe, it has made me worry. I don't know the people who fight, who scream profanity. I didn't elect the people who wouldn't listen to all sides of such deeply complex issues, when so much is at stake. We seem to be at a nearly Biblical crossroads, where forces of good and progress meet competition and selfishness. I may be the only one who awoke this morning having heard, but I was energized by the message: clarity, someone taking hold, saying we must "DROP OUR WEAPONS". If we, our generation (because, folks, it is our turn) can learn from this, if we can disarm each other, we may do something heroic. I think we can be heroes.

Here are some of the indicators that have crossed my windshield today. For these too, I am optimistic:

3 Beautiful Things, written by a blogger in England, this short, 3-bulleted list is posted every single day. 3 things that open her eyes, 3 trivial things that together made a day to remember. I have followed 3 Beautiful Things for over a year and marvel at the writer's focus. It is more zen than meditation.

Pret a Voyager, a travel blog that picks you up and takes you there. Like Gourmet did. Not wistful, just hopeful. Every destination is just a decision away.

The Home section of the New York Times published a telling 3-page spread today, Best Sellers and Bombs. It is a beautiful, creative collage about what people like (and didn't like), what appeals to us, what we have actually bought through the final cycle of this windstorm recession. I love beautiful things. I collect ephemera and treasures, things that remind me of lighter times. This spread, which used to be published every year, hasn't been written since September 2007. It feels like we're raising our shades a little and letting some light shine in.

Buddhi Mat Yoga opened in our town. It is new and clean, and buzzing rather than funereal. It opened in what was only months ago a bank branch. It seems every new business that opened in the recent past were a tendril of yet another bank. Now it's yoga. Specialty food stores. Places of character and warmth.

Miss Whistle is a blog about life and culture and movies and poetry. This week she quotes Aldous Huxley, who said "it's a bit embarrassing to have been concerned with the human problem all one's life and to find at the end one has no more to offer by way of advice than: 'Try to be a bit kinder'". If we can all just embrace kindness. Sibling to sibling, Democrat to Republican, Boss to Employee just let go. If we can channel compassion, we will commit GREATNESS.

Photo art from 20x200 a Project by Jen Bekman offers limited edition prints, photographs, posters to people like me, seeking images to inspire. The small ones may cost $50. The larger ones, $500. First come, first served. This poster hangs in my kitchen and has been a catalyst for conversation between John and me, also between our children. We range from bad days when we "don't even get it" to better days when it elicits the inspiration for making pancakes. That's creativity. You first have to get excited, then you make things.



"Arrange whatever pieces come your way." - Virginia Woolf

The new year has happened, and I'm afraid it's receding fast in January's wake. New Years was when things were going to be put back in balance and I'd finish what I'd started, in a state of mind to set priorities and move forward with what is right for now. Leave the rest in good spirit.

My book, "The New Now", was supposed to have been started. The Artist's Way sits next to my bed. I initiated the Morning Pages back in the Fall, having identified the Artist's Way as my guide for this project. Yet somehow, everyhow, I've gone too many directions, and -- well, the Artist's Way sits there by my bed.

Inspiration is elusive, so say those who live their life in search for it. "The New Now" is meant to be written, for you, for me, to fill the widening void of support for how to get through a day once life has shown us it isn't what we thought it was.

I want to write like Virginia Woolf. Michael Cunningham wanted to write like Virginia Woolf too, he's the one who came up with The Hours which, in my mind, is so worthy of her they might have been in the same room when he wrote it.

I have emulated Virginia Woolf. I've followed her every breath, from Bloomsbury to Firle. I have camped out in the gardens of Charleston House and sketched the gatherings, so alive it's as if I sat amongst them. I've read Woolf's biography, I've speculated about her life, analyzed the essays and watched her story dissected on stage.

And now, I have a confession. Despite my dedication, or maybe because of it - I never, not ever got Virginia Woolf. Her words, they're so beautiful and perfectly pitched, but what they mean seem just out of my reach. Like a hanger-on at the cocktail party, nodding and laughing, I've been faking it. As if the language being spoken was one I boasted of, but in fact, only had through high school (a long time ago...)

This confession comes by way of closure, many thanks to Michael Cunningham's essay in Mentors, Muses & Monsters. Cunningham, who sits at Virginia Woolf's right hand, says:

"I was ready... or maybe I should say I was ready to be
ready - for Woolf's sentences. I had not only never seen language like that;
nothing I'd read had prepared me for the fact that a human being could do what
she had done, line by line, using the same ink and paper available to anybody. I
had neither read nor conceived of sentences that complex and muscular and
precise and beautiful. It may, perversely, have helped that I didn't quite
understand what the sentences actually meant. It may have helped free me to
better appreciate their tones and variations, the sheer virtuosity of their
structures and sounds. I remember thinking, Hey, she was doing with language
something like what Jimi Hendrix does with a guitar. Riffing, that
is, as only a genius can; finding over and over again an exquisite balance
between recklessness and control, between chaos and pattern."

So now I see. Virginia Woolf wrote not to be gotten. She is the true conduit, she provides life and truth, fulfillment and disappointment, bypainting them into a picture we cock our heads one way then the other to view. Long ago, she gave us the OK to leave the picture with our own interpretation, to apply it as our kind of beautiful to whatever we choose.

This is what I am trying to do in "The New Now". Provide the words for you to take and interpret. Onward, inspiration.



Front page and center, where for over a year our journals have told the plaintive story of plants shutting down and long and winding dole lines, the New York Times features this: "Fresh Arrival in Cul-de-Sac is Optimism". It's true, the thaw is finally reaching those who sat around the table with tears and fears, and the houses that were dark for foreclosure are lighting up again, albeit (I assume) with new families taking the place of those who were forced to move along.

These have been rigid and icy months, and we too feel the thaw. John has made it back into the workforce, in a new capacity, but utilizing the skills and experience he held fast to during the months when the phone didn't ring. He didn't have to take a hard left to avoid disaster, he stayed his course. I worried, wished for someone in the know to tell him what he had to do and how he had to do it; but his determination won the day. Karma, confidence, whatever. Incredibly, even on our particular cul-de-sac, spring has come.

Trickling back to work, fathers hand their stand-in duties back to Mom, or to the neighbor, or in some cases, to the kids themselves. Dads have been everywhere. They've served behind the wheel of carpools and as Orthodontics Negotiator. The Great Recession may have been what was needed to begin a shift toward shared home duties.

At our house, pizza from scratch was in the oven 10 minutes before the bus arrived home. On American Idol night, family-minus-me sat four abreast on the sofa, taking in what John billed as "an Evening of Performing Arts". New traditions. Already outlived.

And they miss their father. Recovery is now about re-redefining home life, responsibilities, the order of things. The next phase of the process is absorbing how we've grown.


He: "Now it’s scientifically proven: If Fathers educate children, they become more intelligent!"

She: "Who — Fathers or children?"



The wind whirled and threw snow up like the flour flung so liberally by my family's women in their Christmas bread making.
The winds blew hard this year, winds of time. And we buttoned our coats to it with some assurance that a) it's getting better and b) if it's not, we can survive it. Because we did, because this time last year we weren't so sure.

I've never before experienced this new year's synchronicity: Our resolutions match each others, almost word for word. We each vow to do what it takes to ensure better times. "Good riddance 2009". The headlines proclaim it, and when the ball dropped at 12:01, those were the words exchanged with handshake and cheek kiss. These exact words, almost to a person.

We share the deep relief that time has passed. Even in the age of the Search for Enduring Youth, we're a year older and happy for it. Good riddance 2009.

I hear the whispers of older generations. Saying that it was a lesson a time in the coming. Hardship is life, and we are strong for our hardships. We have lived blessedly, with little hardship on a global scale. We did not know the determination of generations before, who likely celebrated many such New Years, bidding adieu in the very real sense, to a period of time that required such dogged, gritty compromise. We hear these whispers and with some humility, step into the year that promises better things.

A dear friend and mainstay in the New Now sent me a road map for achieving our universal New Years Resoultion, a resolution for recovery. The best is when you come upon powerful words that share their heft with a little sense of humor. I couldn't renounce email chain letters more vehemently, yet I have to pass this one along, for I can think of no better way to say it.

Happy New Year, dear readers.


1. Drink plenty of water.
2. Eat breakfast like a king, lunch like a prince and dinner like a beggar.
3. Eat more foods that grow on trees and plants and eat less food that is manufactured in plants.. 4. Live with the 3 E's -- Energy, Enthusiasm and Empathy
5. Make time to pray.
6. Play more games
7. Read more books than you did in 2009 .
8. Sit in silence for at least 10 minutes each day
9. Sleep for 7 hours
10. Take a 10-30 minutes walk daily. And while you walk, smile.

11. Don't compare your life to others. You have no idea what their journey is all about.
12. Don't have negative thoughts on things you cannot control. Instead invest your energy in the positive present moment.
13. Don't over do. Keep your limits.
14. Don't take yourself so seriously. No one else does.
15. Don't waste your precious energy on gossip.
16. Dream more while you are awake
17. Envy is a waste of time. You already have all you need…
18. Forget issues of the past. Don't remind your partner or friend of His/her mistakes of the past. That will ruin your present happiness.
19. Life is too short to waste time hating anyone. Don't hate others.
20. Make peace with your past so it won't spoil the present.
21. No one is in charge of your happiness except you.
22. Realize that life is a school and you are here to learn. Problems are simply part of the curriculum that appear and fade away like algebra class but the lessons you learn will last a lifetime.
23. Smile and laugh more.
24. You don't have to win every argument. Agree to disagree...

25. Call your family often.
26. Each day give something good to others.
27. Forgive everyone for everything..
28. Spend time w/ people over the age of 70 & under the age of 6.
29. Try to make at least three people smile each day.
30. What other people think of you is none of your business.
31. Your job won't take care of you when you are sick. Your friends will. Stay in touch.

32. Do the right thing!
33. Get rid of anything that isn't useful, beautiful or joyful.
34. God heals everything.
35. However good or bad a situation is, it will change..
36. No matter how you feel, get up, dress up and show up.
37. The best is yet to come..
38. When you awake alive in the morning, thank God for it.
39. Your Inner most is always happy. So, be happy.

May the new year bring us the courage to ensure that the wind on the water will, indeed, carry us home. Listen.