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!

Super You on the SuperMoon

There are a lot of articles circulating about the SuperMoon and how to harness the energy for personal growth and the highest self. I don’t follow astrology much, but I can tell you that I personally have a connection with the moon and pay attention to its phases.

Regardless of what you believe, it’s always a good idea to pause and reflect. To contemplate what is working in your life and what is not.  What you want to stop, start and continue.

The past few months have brought about a lot of change in my life.  I had a romance end, a new career opportunity rise to the surface, the illness of a loved one and many loved ones in my life struggling with changes in their own lives.  Any change can trigger past hurt and insecurities, but many changes taking place at once can really put you through the ringer.

This is exactly what happened.

With the help of my therapist, my yoga practice, mindfulness, meditation, journal entries, talking to loved ones and a whole host of other self-care techniques, I have done my very best to process all of this change and look for areas of growth.  What do I want? What is important to me? What would I like to change? And perhaps most importantly, what would I like to release?

moon

Since this SuperMoon is all about release, it’s no shocker that today it has come into sharp focus: I want to release my intense desire to control the outcome. While this serves me in many ways, it also really holds me back and keeps me from experiencing the beauty that is found in letting go.

Now, I cannot promise I won’t be a plotter and a planner, always working toward the next big idea (that’s just who I am), but I can relax into the journey more.

I want to release the need to analyze every situation in my life and what it means, relaxing into the gifts it brings, without always questioning its greater purpose.

I want to release the fear in my heart and lead from a place of love and acceptance.

I want to release the idea that I am anything less than completely whole.

I want to release the belief that I know best and live from a more humble place.

I want to release the fear of failure and judgment and pursue the life of my dreams without hesitation.

I want to live fully, with an open heart, an open mind and to love with a sense of wild abandon.

What would you like to release?

Your truly,

Erin Terese

 

 

The Act of Letting Go

Well, I did it. I released him.  I won’t call it “saying goodbye”, as I had previously written;  I will simply say I released him.

I went to say goodbye.  I walked his ashes down to the water with the intention of saying goodbye, but as the ashes scattered in the wind and drifted down to the waves below, I knew it was just me releasing him, and that he would always be there whenever I wanted to visit and say hello.

A few weeks ago I went on a trip to Europe.  This trip was planned as part of a personal quest to get to know myself. This trip was something I wanted and needed.  Something to push me outside of my comfort zone, test my character and give me the time alone to explore who I am, what I want and where I want to go in my life. And to have some fabulous adventures along the way, of course!

I knew the trip was going to be special. It was not going to be be just an average “holiday”, but rather a turning point. A new chapter.  Perhaps even the beginning of a new story all together.

With this in mind, I knew it was time to let him go. The morning before I boarded my flight to Stockholm, I took the small wooden box containing his ashes down to the water.  With my black leather boots protecting me from from puddles and my polka dot umbrella shielding my face from the rain, I rounded the back of the pier. Luckily there were only a few fisherman out that day, so it didn’t take me long to find a corner to be alone with him.

I stood there in the rain. I had my ear buds in and listened to a sweet, slow melody as I reached into my purse and removed the small box. The wind calmed and the rain slowed to a drizzle. I collapsed the umbrella, resting it against the metal guard rail and held him in both of my hands. Then the tears came. But these were new tears, not the same I had shed for him time and time again.  This time, the tears were letting him go – releasing him. The tears leaked out, rolling down my cheeks, salt kissing my lips and continuing down to pool around my neck.

let-gooooo

I held him tight it my hands. I felt the box, the ridges and grooves where the inscription was carved. I slid back the cover and removed the small packet of ashes.  I snipped the top with a small pair of scissors, looked inside and saw the pale gray dust start to move in the breeze. I held the bag out over the railing, tipped it upside down and watched as he caught the wind and gently floated to the waves.

***

I returned from my trip this past Monday.  It was everything I had hoped it would be and more. Still basking in the glow of time spent reading on the beach in the South of France, meeting a psychic in Amsterdam, meditating with Deepak Chopra in Paris and all of the people I met and realizations I had along the way, I spent this week slowly integrating myself back into daily life, trying to carry with me all that happened while making sense of some of my personal reflections.

Today was the first Saturday in three weeks that I woke up in my own apartment.  Instead of rushing to get out into the world to explore or be productive, I took it slow. I savored the morning, just as I would have if I was on holiday. I declined an invitation to meet up with a friend and opted for a day of solitude, choosing instead to read, write, stretch my legs in the sunshine, take a long afternoon nap and have a quiet night at home.

Outside, the sun beat hot upon my face. San Francisco is known to be overcast, with autumn-like weather the majority of the year.  Today was unusually warm. On a day like today, the water beckons and you must obey.  Heeding the siren’s call, I made my way to the Bay and stood there thinking Do I go left or right? Left or right? I chose left.

I chose to go and say hello to him and see how his new spot was.  Today it was bright and sunny and hot – the pier filled with people.  There were men fishing and families picnicking.  There was a man sitting on a bench, playing his guitar and getting lost in the sound.  A couple leaning against the building, taking shelter in the shade and giving their dog a bowl of water to drink.  And right in front of where I spread his ashes, two men sitting on a bench drinking beer out of glass bottles – no brown bag. Proud and happily defiant. He would have liked that.

I squatted down to look at the aqua water and snap a picture of the beautiful day. The woman standing about twenty feet behind me, watched me closely.  When I turned to leave, she didn’t even attempt to avert her eyes, she just watched. Her observing me, me observing the others, and him floating along the water, watching it all with a smile. There were no tears today, just peace.

This is the first time I have written about him without crying. I have finally let him go. I have let him go both literally and figuratively, evidenced by my sense of peace and lack of salty tears.  He will always be a part of my past.  Knowing him and loving him has shaped who I am today which will certainly impact who I will become in the future.  But this next chapter is mine. Mine to write as I wish, carrying with me all that I have learned and all that I wish to experience.

And should I ever wish  to say hello, I will simply walk my feet down to the Bay and watch the waves lap against the pier, where he dances on the water and observes the passersby – just as he always has.

Your truly,

Erin Terese

P.S.  Thank you for taking this journey with me. Your readership, friendship and support makes all the difference in the world. xo

 

Ghosts of He

Not while we dined, but long after she told me, I thought of him, snuggled by his mother – his little hands in hers, holding them tight while she cried, both of them seated on the couch.

There was an afghan crumpled at the foot, which he spied out of the corner of his eye. He slid off the couch, plumped a pillow for which she could lay her head and motioned for her to lie down. Bending her knees as she did, he placed his palms on the back of her calf and guided her legs into a straightened position, better for her to rest and relax.  Then, grabbing the blanket, he pulled the worn and faded corners over her body. Almost as if he were tucking her in at night, he wrapped the ends tightly around her shoulders, thighs and feet, so that she looked like a newborn in swaddling.

In that moment, he placed his hands on her face and looked into her eyes.  Sweeping the hair from her brow and tucking it behind her ear, she remembers the weight of that moment.  In his death, those moments of innocence seem swept away, and I can see where it weighs heavily on her.

Without that memory she so graciously shared, I had loved him and would love him anyway – but folded with the gestures of care and comfort, his light shone even greater.

As he gazed into her eyes, wiping away the final wisp of hair stuck to her dampened forehead, she said “Oh, honey, I’m so sorry.” His response came ever so sweetly, past his little boy lips, “It’s okay, Mom.  Just please don’t do it again.”

Our coffee mugs were dark that morning, with grounds in the bottom we hardly noticed were there. The bitterness of each sip, rested hot and heavy on our tongues and burned on the way down.  His sudden death lingered for us both and served to bring us to this table.  “What was he like when he was a boy?” I asked. “He was so sweet,” she said, “sweeter than I deserved.”

*note from Miss Erin Terese*

P.S.  The short story above is the third piece I have written for a 10 week Writers Workshop I am participating in.  The exercise was to pick a mood and depict the feelings through the action (and scene) of someone else. The primary goal is to reveal the narrator and get a feeling without having to tell it.

In the interest of growing in my writing technique, style and tone, I will be sharing my pieces here.

I hope you enjoy!  xo

When My Hands Find Their Way

When my hands find their way to you, they are instantly home. Words cease to matter since I can feel you now. Your words are beautiful though.  When you speak, they hang thick in the air and wash over me like the fog pouring over the bridge in the crisp dark of night.

They envelope me.

They seep into my pores and come to rest within my soul and every piece of light that shines within my darkest corners. And yet, even with the force with which you bring me to my stillness, the words are unnecessary, really.

Once my hands are on you, I know everything I need.

Your breath and warmth speak more into the soft of my palms, than your syllables upon my ears ever could.

I feel you. I hear you. I understand.

You are home.

hands

Yours truly,

Miss Erin Terese