Days of Sheringham: Part 3

When I arrived at Heathrow Airport, Kathryn was waiting for me at the gate.  She insisted that picking me up from airport made the most sense and that it would get me to her house the fastest, helping me adjust to the time change. Since England is 8 hours ahead of California, I gladly accepted.  Ten years ago, jet lag never fazed me and I would’ve insisted on taking a cab, bus or train… but times have changed (AKA I have aged), and now jet lag is crippling.

We met about five years ago in San Francisco when she was visiting her son, Jon, a good friend of mine and roommate at the time. We bonded instantly.  Jon took us to his favorite brunch spot, then for a few afternoon cocktails in the Castro. Almost Halloween, the bars were packed with fabulous gay men in costumes and some of the best drag you’ve ever seen. A few drinks later, we’d made friends with an adorable young couple (one of which became my beloved hairstylist) who had us laughing so hard we cried. Later at dinner, we shared stories of heartbreak – we were officially friends – and Jon was officially embarrassed by the two women sitting at his table, crying in public.  It was beautiful.

When I first mentioned that I was looking for a cozy getaway spot for a make-shift writing retreat, Kathryn instantly offered her vacation home in Sheringham.  After searching the town on Google-image, I knew it was the right place.  A small coastal town, with just enough to keep me occupied, but not enough to distract me from my mission.  This was it!

The plan was to spend two nights with Kathryn and her husband at their home in Essex, then drive out to coast where they’d help me get settled for my solo adventure.  As it turns out, this was an excellent plan.  It gave me just enough time for a day-trip to London and to recover from the flight over.  By the time we were in the car on our way to Sheringham, I was rested and ready.

Once we parked the car and unpacked our luggage, we took a stroll around town so that I could get acquainted.  First, a walk to the seaboard, where we were pelted with wind and hail (and doubled over with laughter)! Then, a walk about town to point out the local market, pub, and theater company.  After the tour, we settled into a local café for a cappuccino and crumpet. Now, I consider myself to be a pretty social person, but Kathryn has me beat.   Everywhere we went people recognized her and stopped to chat.  The café was no exception.

While sipping cappuccino and stuffing my face with crumpet, one of the owners of the café casually mentioned that they were hosting a Live Harp and Poetry Reading Night the next evening. Kathryn jumped at the idea, asking him what time it started and strongly encouraging me to attend. Poetry, wine, and harp music in a small seaside town? Sign me up!

The only problem was that most of my poetry lives in a notebook, back in the States. So, I could attend, but wouldn’t be able to share any work of my own.  As fate would have it, that night the jet lag kicked in and I awoke at 2 AM and couldn’t fall back asleep.  Annoyed, I reached for my phone to launch a meditation app in hopes it might coax me back to sleep, when I remembered – I’m here to write. There was no need to force myself to sleep. Time was on my side and I could write to my heart’s content.

And so I did. That night, I wrote two poems: one that I’m quite proud of and planned to share at the poetry reading, and another that is for my eyes only.  Some things aren’t meant to be shared.

One of the first to arrive at Harp and Poetry night, I took the opportunity to chat with the owners and scout out a good seat.  I sat next to a man named Gerard. He was originally from France, but had spent the last few decades in England, now calling it home. Poetry night was something he greatly enjoyed.  Having been a part of the group for years, he’d acquired the role of translator: translating French poetry to English and English poetry to French. Not because it was necessary, but because it was lovely, and everyone in the group appreciated it.

As the remaining guests arrived, I realized this group had been meeting for years. They had a rhythm and cadence and routine. And yet they welcomed me with open arms. Nothing was awkward.  At first I was afraid that I might not be up to the challenge, but they made me feel so welcome, I didn’t even hesitate when it came time to add my name to the list of readers.

Among those who read were a retired architect, professor, published author, preacher and others I didn’t have the pleasure to speak with. The topics were varied: wildlife, longing, sex, politics, anatomy, gardening, war, loss. Oh, and one man was FUNNY. I mean, stand-up-comedy kind of funny. Who knew that was even possible? Who knew poetry could be hilarious? Probably the same person who knew how captivating a harpist-storyteller could be.

poetry night

When it was my turn to read, I stood up, shuffled my way to the front of the room, and read my soul and words aloud. I’ve grown somewhat accustomed to writing about my deep-dark feelings, but reading them out loud and in public is a completely different story. I’m not sure I’ll ever get used to it. My heart was pounding, my face was red, but I did it. Once I’d settled back into my seat, I turned to Gerard who looked at me and said “Very good. Your face is red.”

It’s not quite the compliment I was hoping for, but hey, it was honest. And I’ll always take honesty.

What stood out the most to me about that evening, was the passion in the room. Here was a group of people, united in their love of words. They helped each other grow, in confidence and skill. Month after month, year after year, they gathered to share their personal work or their favorite work by other poets. Not for profit, not for agenda, but for passion. For love.

We should all be so lucky to be part of a community like that.

Yours truly,

Erin Terese

P.S.  This follows Part 2.  Each part in this series is written by whim, not necessarily in chronological order or any order for that matter.  Enjoy!

Days of Sheringham: Part 2

Sunday, November 25, 2018

Perhaps it was overly ambitious to think I’d spend my time in Sheringham writing.  It’s been a busy year, to say the least.  Actually, the last five years have been a bit of a whirlwind. I’ve desperately needed some downtime.  Case in point: my New Year’s Resolution for 2018 was to chill the f*ck out. I failed by epic proportions. This year has been anything but chill – it’s been a year of growth and change and progress, but nothing about it has been “chill.”

Now that I’m here in East Anglia, my body wants to sleep.  I’ve been sleeping between 9 and 11 hours a day. Every day. Yes, you could say that I’m tired.  Yesterday I woke past noon and begrudgingly dragged myself down to the water to enjoy what little daylight was left.  Instead of walking the coastal trail as I’d done each day prior, I walked along the shore – my boots in the sand and stone. And it was gorgeous.  Absolutely breathtaking! The tide was rising, but I couldn’t stop walking.

Rather than get stranded on the beach (on a particularly chilly day), I stopped an older couple as they passed by and asked if there was a way to access the coastal trail from the beach.  This way, if the tide got too high, I’d have a safe way out.  Luckily, the man and woman were extremely friendly and confirmed that yes, there was in fact a pathway to the trail, which incidentally was not far off from where we were.

sheringham_beach

I made my way along the shoreline and eventually crossed a long stretch of stones to reach the coastal trail.  It was a brisk, but beautiful walk back to town.  Out of town by sand and stone, and back into town by a winding trail along the cliffs.  To call it picturesque is an understatement. As I exited the trail, I was surprised to see the couple I’d met earlier on the beach heading toward me.  They waved hello and stopped me for a chat.  Not only had my American accent given me away, but they could tell I was traveling solo and kindly invited me to join them the following day for their weekly walk into a neighboring town. We decided to meet at their house at 10AM the following morning.

*  *  *  *  *

This morning I set an alarm.  Since I’ve been binge-sleeping, I didn’t want to risk missing our 10AM start time.  Arriving promptly at 10, I rang the doorbell and was quickly greeted by Susan.  She brought me into their home, introduced me to their sleek Tonkinese cats, and escorted me over to a table containing a map of the area.  Prior to my arrival, she’d mapped out areas of East Anglia I might want to explore.  Not only did she show me each location on the official map, but she’d hand written (drawn) a map on a full-size piece of paper for me to keep – with details including bus routes, restaurant recommendations, and inside-tips only a local could provide.

This.  This is the magic of travel.  This is the warmth and kindness I didn’t even realize was missing in my life.

After a cup of delicious pour over coffee, we bundled up and began our trek to Waybourne.  We discussed politics: what it’s been like in the US with Trump as president, and what it’s been like in the UK after the Brexit vote.  We discussed careers. Travel.  Food.  Pets. Architecture. Death. Grieving. Creativity. Art. Psychology.  Somehow, as if by magic, no topics were off limit.  Maybe it’s because I’m just passing through town or maybe we realized that we’re kindred spirits.  Susan and Trevor have a subtle joie de vivre. The kind of joy that’s tinged by sorrow – much like myself.  The soft smile of someone who appreciates the beauty of life, because they know how hard it can be. They’ve lived it.  And yet they – we – choose to stay soft and loving.

You’d think by now I’d get used to the ways of the Universe.  That I wouldn’t be surprised by the people that “just happen” to cross your path at exactly the right time, right when you need them the most. And yet, I’m still amazed.  Still grateful at the magic that draws such people near. I am so grateful for fated friends, tucked in all corners of the globe, waiting to be discovered.  I only hope I offered them an ounce of the inspiration and kindness they bestowed upon me.

To be continued… Part 3.

Yours truly,

Erin Terese

P.S.  Here’s Part 1. Each part in this series is written by whim, not necessarily in chronological order or any order for that matter.  Enjoy!

Days of Sheringham: Part 1

Thursday, November 22, 2018

Once upon a time, not very long ago, a rogue puffin was spotted on the east coast of England, in the county of Norfolk.  This may not sound very exciting to your average person, but to me, learning this was like finding out Big Foot had just moved in down the hall and was going to be my new neighbor.

I adore puffins. Something about them feels magical to me. Shaped like a penguin, but smaller and more colorful, these beautiful creatures bring a smile to my face every time I see one. Seeing one in the wild has become a bit of a bucket-list item for me.  So to arrive in Sheringham and hear that one was seen not far from here just a few months ago, made my heart skip with delight. Far from home and away from its family, this puffin made its way to Norfolk.  It wasn’t supposed to here. It went rogue. Clearly, we are kindred spirits.

Puffin overlooking the ocean while perched

It’s Thanksgiving and I’m thousands of miles away from my family and friends. Needing time to write and reflect, I booked a two week vacation in England. Much like this rogue puffin, I’m not supposed to be here.  I should be back in the US with loved ones, over-indulging on high calorie food and counting my blessings.  But here I am, on the east coast of England, eating fish and chips and indulging in the gluttony of time-spent-alone.

In a world that moves so fast you can barely remember which version of the iPhone is the newest, taking time to yourself is the ultimate luxury – a betrayal to our role as women.  A woman my age should be married with kids, struggling to pay the mortgage and trying the newest fad diet to lose weight. A woman my age should be recently divorced and worried she might never marry again. A woman my age should be wondering if it’s too late to run away and start over as she sits in the waiting room of yet another job interview, in a field of work she hates. A woman my age should be devastated that she’s single or angry that having children and a family isn’t working out like she planned.  A woman my age should have it all figured out and be happy.  That’s a lot of shoulds.

One thing that’s true in all of those statements, in all of those shoulds, is that women (this goes for men too) are not supposed to slow down and evaluate our lives. We should be this and we should be that, but we are never taught that what we really need to do is slow down and breathe.  Slow down and take stock. Slow down and get to know ourselves and figure out if all the shoulds in our life align with what it is we really want for ourselves.  Who is deciding the shoulds?  Is it us or is it them? And if it’s “them,” who gave them the right?

I’m 35 years old and for the first time in my life, I feel like I’m starting to really understand myself.

The majority of my life I’ve felt like a fraud. A failed version of who I’m supposed to be.  Not really sure who I’m meant to be, I’ve gone from one situation to the next, trying to figure it out. It’s only now that I’m starting to get at the truth:  I’m not supposed to be a certain way.  I’m supposed to design my one life to the best of my ability, and squeeze every ounce of joy, pain, loss, and gratitude from each new experience.  I’m meant to feel.

That’s all for now.  To be continued… Part 2.

Yours truly,

Erin Terese

P.S.  Each part in this series is written by whim, not necessarily in chronological order or any order for that matter.  Enjoy!

How Do You Say Goodbye Without Saying Goodbye?

I wish there had been a funeral or a memorial service.  Something. Something ceremonial or commemorative.  I feel like maybe that was the plan at one point, but the way that everything unfolded was too unpredictable and bizarre.  I don’t think anyone knew how to handle it, or wanted to handle it, or wanted to really face what happened and how much was left unknown.

I think that there is something to be said for communal grieving.  Funerals are not something that anyone looks forward to or wants to attend, but there is something about the gathering of loved ones to help usher and acknowledge the end of ones life.  I remember my grandfather’s and grandmother’s and uncle’s and cousin’s husband’s and friend’s brother’s funeral all vividly. I don’t remember what I had for breakfast two days ago, but I can remember those days like they were yesterday.  They are significant and something I know now to never take for granted.

The thing about my ex boyfriend is that he had been missing for two months.  You can’t have a funeral or service when you don’t know if someone is dead or alive. You have to hope and pray and wait. And then when his body was found, it was so badly decomposed that it was shipped from coroner to coroner throughout the state, each one trying to determine the cause of death.  I don’t think any of us expected it to take so long and everyone was hoping to find out why he died.  To know for sure.  Maybe that would offer some closure. But alas, it came back unknown.  Almost 8 months after he was found and 10 months from when he died, his remains were finally released.  Perhaps there should have been a funeral then, but there wasn’t.  And it wasn’t my place to push.

My most vivid memory is the day after his body was found. I took the day off work and went to his mother’s house.  I sat with her as she made calls to friends and family and as she spoke with the local coroner about next steps.  We drank tea. We went for a walk and sat on a bench under the elm trees in a nearby park.  We shared stories with his grandfather, and we also sat in silence. So much silence.  Later in the evening, his aunt, uncle and cousin came by the house with dinner. We all sat out on the patio, trying to make sense of everything and watched the sun slowly slip below the horizon.  Spoke logically about next steps and reminisced on when he was a boy and all the things we’d wished for him.  I didn’t cry much that day. Perhaps the hours of crying the day before or the countless hours to come kept them at bay that day. Or perhaps it was too real.  I left feeling exhausted, but at peace.  It was nice to have the warm embrace of those that loved him and to share our sadness and confusion.

But that was the only time we gathered in his name.  Nothing formal was ever planned.  When his remains were released, they were divided among his family and his sister graciously offered me some as well.  So now I have this small packet of ashes to spread. And I don’t know what to do with him.  Selfishly, I want that damn ceremony with his friends and loved ones where we can laugh and cry and share stories until the wee hours of the morning.  But we don’t always get what we want.  And I suppose it’s fitting, since I never knew what to do with him when he was alive.  Makes sense I wouldn’t know what to do with him now.  Keep him close or let him go, free to dance on the wind and the waves.

I will never again take for granted the opportunity to grieve together.  To know what happened.  To have a large group of people that want to celebrate and mourn you and mark the end of your brilliant chapter on Earth.

And I don’t mean to sounds angry or resentful that he didn’t get a life celebration or memorial or funeral, I just mean to highlight how beneficial it is in the grieving process.  It helps to look it in the face, feel it in your bones and share the experience with others.  There is a reason you find these ceremonies in most cultures and civilizations across the globe and throughout the centuries. Major life events deserve to be acknowledged.  This was just too bizarre and too painful and unfolded in a way that made it easier to put off, and off, and off. And so the grieving has been long, and drawn out, and long.

sand

I normally tie my writing off with a nice little bow and “here is the takeaway”, but there really isn’t a nice bow on this.  It’s still not closed.  I still have his ashes on my shelf in a box that says Love, waiting to meet their final destination. Now where-oh-where do I take him?  Where-oh-where do I lay him to rest?  Where-oh-where do I choose to take my tiny piece of him and say goodbye, in my own to-be-determined ceremony of my own?

This is life.

Beautiful. Messy. Real.

Yours truly,

Miss Erin Terese

 

 

 

 

Shooting Star or Soulful Encounter?

The world slows to a single breath. It lingers hot on my tongue and slow on the exhale. Time ceases to exist and our eyes lock across the crowded room.

There are few people in this world that draw you near, making your pulse quicken and your stomach leap into your throat; but he is one of them.

I remember the fist time I saw him. It was nothing special, really.  Well I suppose it was, but I didn’t notice it in the moment.  My friend noticed him before I did. I was facing away from him when he entered the room, so she leaned close to my ear and whispered that the guy walking in was “just my type.”

I turned on my heels to see him. No. Wrong. Not my type.

We made introductions and he quickly became part of our group for the night. Still thoroughly unimpressed, I made small talk with him, trying to be polite. He was interesting. Arrogant, but smart and could weave a captivating story with nothing more than confidence and carefully crafted body language.

Engaged but underwhelmed, I entertained the banter, trying my best to feign interest, all while scanning the room for a more interesting and like-minded person I could talk to.

I started to zone out.  We had just taken our seat, settling in for some performance art. He babbled on, about what I cannot remember, and I drifted into my day-dreamy world, thick with wonder and curiosity. As the lights dimmed and the music began to lift, our knees touched. Gently. Barely.  So slight he may not have noticed, but just enough to make my world come crashing in.

I lit on fire.

In the matter of a moment, the world stopped on a dime and he was all I knew. I could feel every piece of him.  Every fiber of my being and cell within my flesh, stood at attention. This man. Who… Who was this man?  I was hooked.  It no longer mattered that only moments ago I was mostly disinterested. My body knew something I didn’t.

I needed to know him. I needed to know more. I needed to who he was and why he unlocked something in me I never knew lay dormant.

PIC BY LINCOLN HARRISON / CATERS NEWS - Photographer Lincoln Harrison was really shooting for the stars with this spectacular collection of snaps. His unrivalled pictures of star trails were taken over a period of up to 15 hours in Bendigo, Australia over the scenic Lake Eppalock. Captured using a long exposure lens, the trails are created as the Earth rotates, giving the impression of the stars moving across the sky. Lincoln, 36, bought his first camera last year to take pictures of clothes he wanted to sell on eBay. SEE CATERS COPY.

Years later, this moment stays with me.  It is still palpable. I can remember the feeling of surprise and longing and sheer wonder.

What is it that draws us to people in such a way? Chemistry, pheromones or a soulful connection, perhaps? Maybe. Maybe all of those things. Maybe none.  Maybe it doesn’t matter.

It is rare to experience people in such a way.  Extremely rare. I don’t think you can lump this kind of interaction into a one-size-fits-all meaning or definition, but I do think these moments are important.  You are meant to bend a knee.  You are meant to pause and explore within yourself why you might be reacting in such a way.  And if you are self-aware enough, and the other person is open-minded and communicative enough, perhaps you can discuss it with them as well.

People that strike us like a lightening bolt enter our lives for a reason.

Because they are so strong and unique and awe-inspiring, we want to bottle them up and store them away and keep them forever, but we can’t. That’s not how it works.  What you can do is be as genuine as possible and explore what is it about this person that lights you on fire.

It’s beautiful.  And if you get to keep them, great.  If not, set them free like the comet and shooting star that they are – burning quickly, fiercely and brightly through your life. A beautiful memory to cherish forever and a small mystery to awaken the wonder.

Yours truly,

Miss Erin Terese

 

My Relationship With Silence

Silence can mean many things.  It’s not just the absence of sound, but can mean so much more.  A purposeful retreat.  A kept story.  Hidden truth.  Stifled memory. A chapter sealed shut or a precious moment locked away for only your viewing pleasure.

Silence and I have experienced all of the above.  For better or worse, Silence and I have shared them all.

I would love to say that Silence is good or that Silence is bad.

Don’t we always want the black and white?  The right and wrong?  The clearly defined choice?  But the truth of the matter is, Silence lives in the gray.  There is a time and a place.  It serves a purpose.  It can be our friend or foe, but just like real relationships, it exists in our life to teach us a lesson.  When we look back, we can see how Silence was there to help us.

I don’t even need to dig far back into the memory files to give you an example.  I can rewind just the past few days and examine the relationship I have with Silence.

Typically, I am a sharer.  I open myself to others.  I listen to their stories and readily share my own.  Many people struggle with sharing their deep and intimate thoughts, but I share them frequently with my loved ones and often with strangers or new friends that I consider to be kindred spirits.

And since you, dear reader, are a kindred spirit, I will share with you a few details about my relationship with Silence.

silence

Silence Example #1

I am currently in the beginning stages of a budding romantic tale.  A new love interest has entered my world and I want to share all of the beautiful details with everyone I know (and there are many), but they are mine. And his. Ours. And so it goes that I give the bullet-points and highlight reel to a select few confidants, and the rest stay sealed away for myself.  They are far too precious and too valuable for sharing.  Outside of he and I, those moments are silenced.  Kept fresh and locked away with the valuables – unwilling to let words or time wear away the gleam.

Silence Example #2

Someone I hold dear to my heart contacted me the other day. We have a strange relationship, he and I.  Once lovers, now friends – but walking that fine line of how much is too much communication and what does friendship look like, post-romantic-relationship?  I was almost silent. For hours I rolled around whether or not I should respond.  Whether I should remain silent and seal our relationship shut (since this awkward phase frustrates me), or whether I should answer my friend and try to navigate this new terrain of friendship.

After hours of deliberating, I wrote him back.  For me, purposeful silence feels like punishment.  Not everyone perceives it that way, but I do.  And since I do, I simply will not do that to someone.  I either tell the person I don’t think we should remain in contact or I open a dialogue and work on mending the relationship.  But he is far too special not to at least try navigating this new friendship terrain.  Ultimately, we had a pleasant chat and made another small step down our new path as just friends.

Silence Example #3

My poor, sweet, patient mother has been dealing with my silence.  About six months ago I moved cities, changed jobs and all but altered every single facet of my life.  While this change has been welcomed, and wanted, and I am more than grateful for every ounce of change – it has also been extremely exhausting.  Unable to do any single daily task on auto-pilot, I was left drained and in need of more “me time” than I have needed in years.  Prior to my move, she and I would chat regularly and text often.  After my move, I all but fell off the face of the phone and went silent.

In reality, we exchanged a few texts a week and a brief phone call once a week, or every other week, but for her it was as good as silence.  We had a nice long chat tonight and I explained my silence and my gratitude for her patience.  I am well aware that silence can seem like abandonment, but I needed to retreat. My own personal silence was necessary to process all the change in my life.  So my personal silence, my walks in the park and books by dim lighting, resulted in a restful mind for me and worry for my mother. But she kept silent, out of respect for me and waited for my return and our lovely, silence-mending conversation we had this evening.

********

We all have a personal relationship with Silence.  We share different experiences and view Silence under different light. It’s amazing really – how something that seems like such a simple concept, can take on so many forms.  Isn’t it?

Yours truly,

Erin Terese

P.S. This diary-like post was inspired by the Weekly Writing Challenge posed by the Daily Post on “The Sound of Silence.”

The World We Live In. And How You See It. The Choice is Up to You.

It is an unfortunate part of life. Well, not so much unfortunate, as difficult. Challenging. Heartbreaking and gut wrenching. Tear jerking and mascara smearing. Stomach knotting and fist curling.

It’s tough.

But we are fortunate to feel it.

That which breaks our heart and pushes our mind to the brink, is that which builds our character and shapes the world we live in.

If you have fallen on hard times, you know this to be true.

If you have found yourself in a moment that you never knew existed, or in a scenario you never could have imagined.  If you have found yourself frozen in a moment where all you could do was remind yourself to breathe. If you know what I mean, than you know how lucky you are. Yes, lucky.

I am saying it again.

Lucky.

These moments. These awful, horrible, disgusting moments are what shape you. They bring you to your knees and show you what matters to you. Your heart breaks and your soul quakes because you are learning what you need. Growing your character, growing your mind and growing in compassion. By leaps and bounds, you are doing this. You are not learning by the slow tick of the clock, or turn of a page – you are learning from down in the dirt. Fast-paced and bloody. Beautiful and broken. You are on a crash course, on the high-speed track to freedom.

Personal freedom.

If you have yet to realize this, just wait.

It’s coming.

One day you will open your eyes and the world will seem bright and bursting with color. Faces will be beaming and arms will be reached out to you, offering a warm embrace. The world will spin and sparkle in a way you never knew it could.

But the leg work is yours.

You have to find the pieces to put together, and the roads to walk down.

You have to look in the dark corners, and seek out the light.

This is the nature of the world we live in.

It’s how you see it.

What you make of it.

How you let what happens to you shape your world.

And how you shape the world we all live in.

The World

That is all for now, my lovelies. Just a quick thought for you.  From the world, the way that I see it.

Yours truly,

Erin Terese