Browsing Tag

portland

Family, Guest Posts, memories

Future Past

December 18, 2021
portland maine lighthouse

by Casey Walsh

I’ve been craving just one good beach day all summer, nothing to do but lie in the sun and gaze at the peaceful horizon. There’s something hopeful about looking out at the sea, as though you can see the past and the future, all there in the shimmering expanse of blue. Beyond the children on the sand and in the shallow water, past the more capable swimmers and surfers and the small vessels, ocean kayaks and canoes and catamarans, farther even than the cargo and cruise ships miles out, there is, at some point, nothing but sea and sky, no hint of a destination. No end in sight.

I’ve finally had the day I dreamed of—two of them in fact—at Good Harbor Beach in Gloucester, MA. My husband, Kevin, and I spent a couple of days there and two more in Newburyport, just what we’ve needed as fall closes in.  Now we settle in for a meandering drive home, including a planned detour north along the coast.

Leaving Newburyport’s historic downtown, I assume my role as navigator to Kevin’s as driver. When we first began this alliance, my task typically involved paper maps. Now, though, it’s a dance of devices. As we drive over the Merrimack River on Route 1, I plug the address into the dashboard GPS, and while it calculates, I alternate between checking the Maps app and the radar on my iPhone. Glancing up to admire the boats in the inland harbor, I plan our route and hope the weather will hold while we explore Portsmouth, NH.

For the past few days, I’ve been focused on local treks, how to get from our hotel into town or from one hotel to the next. But as we turn off onto 1a—the scenic road along the coast—I take a broader look at our surroundings. It surprises me we’re so close to Hampton Beach, the crowded honky-tonk seaside scene my first husband and I had thought was fun back in the dark ages, before kids, when we still believed we’d be together forever. It won’t take Kevin and me long to reach Portsmouth. We’ll get a feel for the city, browse the shops, and grab a bite to eat before heading home to Albany.

Scrolling up on my phone as we drive, I see the places where my high school friends spent yearly summer vacations with their families: Kittery, York, Ogunquit, Wells, Old Orchard Beach, places I only dreamed of. I scroll still more, farther up than I remember, and there it is: South Portland.

Suddenly, it’s fall 1997 again, and I’m driving east across Massachusetts, then up into New Hampshire with my oldest son, Eric. We reached the outskirts of Portsmouth, then ventured on into Maine, past exits for beach towns, and finally arrived in South Portland. I was instantly enchanted by this small city, with its cobblestone streets and cyclists and parks, as we drove along the mouth of the Fore River. I pictured Eric here in the fall, riding his bike to a job in town, making a little cash to keep him afloat.

Eric and I drove out of downtown and out toward the water, where the Spring Point Ledge Lighthouse marks a dangerous obstruction on the west side of the main shipping channel into Portland Harbor. Like most lighthouses, its distinctive beam patterns, varied sequences of light and dark, not only warn sailors of hazards but help them find their position as well.

Beautiful as it is, the lighthouse was not our destination. We were here to see the campus of South Portland Technical College, where the lighthouse is located on a breakwater at the tip.

Earlier in the year, I’d ventured into Eric’s high school guidance office asking for information about colleges for him. While the counselors offered personalized support to top-tier students, they paid little attention to kids like my son—those who had caused more headaches than pride for faculty in recent semesters. Screw ups…I believe that was the technical term. I was fairly certain the only way we’d figure out the right direction was for me to show up in person, put my best intelligent, efficient foot forward, and ask all the right questions. Essentially, I would stand in for Eric: patiently navigate the information, lay out his options, and apply just the right spin to help him see all the world could offer outside of Cambridge, our small upstate New York village.

Predictably, the counselors were busy, busy, busy, but they could steer me to a computer with a program that allowed a filtered search. Carefully, as though his life depended on it, I entered my criteria, channeling Eric as best I could: Industrial Drafting and Design. Dorms. Intercollegiate soccer program. Bingo. South Portland Technical College it is, I thought, within driving distance yet far enough to allow him to see what’s out there.

I gathered materials and made my pitch. Eric was surprisingly enthusiastic, devouring the catalogs, and soon we were planning a visit. I remember the tour, Eric realizing he’d had such good preparation at Cambridge, having already taken many courses in high school not available to some of the other students on the tour. And the coach was bursting with enthusiasm for what Eric would add to the team. All spring phone calls and letters arrived from the college, encouraging Eric to keep up his grades and updating him on who had been recruited, what promise lay ahead.

“By the time I graduate, I will have made so many new friends, snowboarded on the toughest mountains, and played college soccer,” he’d said with his trademark grin, slipping into the future past tense that swelled with optimism.

“Ah, but first you have to do well on that chemistry exam,” I’d teased.

From Eric, in characteristic form: “Thank you, Captain Obvious.”

After years of guiding him through life closer to home, it seemed he, too, was ready to broaden his view to a world that just might include South Portland.

None of this would ever be. In the end, Eric settled on a local community college rather than leave his on-again off-again girlfriend, who had somehow completely drowned his ability to imagine a future on his own. That semester was a bust; partying and killing time killed all of his focus and enthusiasm for life. Afterward, he floundered for a while, searching for a path until he chose the Navy. He scored so well on the ASVAB that he was selected for aircraft technician school in Pensacola, FL, following completion of naval basic training in Illinois. If only he would stay the course.

Yet each of these options was somehow part of the tornado of trouble, the huge disturbance that had already begun its wreckage and was simply too big to fail. Though they offered brief glimmers of possibility, it was obvious even then that they were never to be. There would be stressors of a divorce that no amount of my own intelligence or efficiency could allay, adults who let him down, bad decisions and bad luck. There would be factors even I, the better part of two decades later, couldn’t begin to understand. Ultimately, a tragic crash would end his life.

Still, I remember so well how South Portland, where it all began, had a different vibe entirely. It seemed its lighthouse—which had protected seafaring travelers on Casco Bay from all sorts of dangers for more than a century—had the power to keep my son safe as well. But first he would have had to get there. Once Eric had turned away from that beam of hope, he lost his way. With nothing but sea and sky, no hint of a destination, there was no end in sight.

I squirm in my seat next to Kevin, who is oblivious to the places I’ve gone in my mind. Staring out the window at the sand and the waves, I feel the lump form in my throat, feel the tears form, hot and insistent. I let them wash over me. I’ve learned there’s no use in the fight, anyway. It’s a mystery to me, how I can feel so resolved at times, accepting of Eric’s life and of his passing as what was. What is. Then come days like this one, when everything is so present, invading my thoughts, refusing to share space with my current life, teasing me with visions of the life he never had.

I think of something I heard years ago—how sadness is missing what has been lost, but sorrow is missing what will never be—and I’m overcome with a rare wave of anxiety, something I haven’t felt in quite this way since the day Eric dashed out the front door that one last time. If only I could reach back and change one little thing, it all so easily could have happened for him. He’d been so damn close. I picture Kevin and me driving to Maine to visit Eric and his wife and outdoor-loving, risk-taking kids living out their happy lives in an idyllic seaside town. It tortures me.

I sit silently for a while as we drive along the coast, wallowing really, and fantasize about the student Eric could have been—living in the dorms, playing on the soccer team, making new friends on campus and in town, enjoying the ocean views that might have inspired him as they do me. Caught in the past, I’ve been exercising my best Google-fu, frantically searching for the online home of the place that had once drawn us in, frustrated that SPTC seems to have vanished along with the life I imagined for my son, and for me. Using the lighthouse as the beacon it was meant to be, I finally locate Southern Maine Community College on the web, the same campus anointed with a new name, another entity entirely. How like my own life, it strikes me, completely rewritten, though some of the old remains in different form. Still, the college will never again be what it was on that day, at that time.

And neither will I.

I notice we’re about to reach Portsmouth.  Kevin and I are on vacation, after all, and I owe it to him to at least attempt to come up for air. “Hey, listen to this,” I offer, feigning enthusiasm, hoping the feelings will follow.  “They even have a comic book on their website describing the lighthouse and its origins.”

Step Into History!  the title commands.

If only it were history, I think, not a future imagined but never fulfilled.

I close the app, drop the phone into my bag, and turn my eyes to the road ahead.

Casey Walsh is a writer and former speech-language pathologist living with her husband in West Sand Lake, New York. She writes about life at the intersection of grief and joy and embracing the in-between. Her work has appeared in The Good Men Project; Fresh.Ink, The Under Review; Circulation: Genomic and Precision Medicine; Barren Magazine; Brevity Blog; and ModernLoss, among others. Casey’s essays also appear at TheFHFoundation.org, an organization dedicated to the genetic cardiac disorder that affects her family. Learn more at www.caseymulliganwalsh.com.  Casey is currently seeking representation for her memoir, The Full Catastrophe.

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Dear Life., depression, Guest Posts

Dear Life: That Happened To You? F*ck That, That’s The Worst!

January 5, 2015

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Welcome to Dear Life: An Unconventional Advice Column.

Your questions get sent to various authors from around the world to answer (and please keep sending because I have like 567 writers that want to answer your burning questions. Click here to submit a letter or email dearlife@jenniferpastiloff.com.) Different writers offer their input when it comes to navigating through life’s messiness. We are “making messy okay.” Today’s letter is answered by Eva Hagberg, who is attending my Writing + The Body retreat in a couple weeks with author Lidia Yuknavitch! I am so excited to meet Eva, especially after reading this.

Send us your questions because there loads of crazy authors waiting to answer ‘em. Just kidding, they aren’t crazy.

Well okay, maybe a little. Aren’t we all? xo, Jen Pastiloff, Crazy Beauty Hunter. ps, I will see you in Vancouver in a couple weeks! My first workshop there! 

 

Jen Pastiloff is the founder of The Manifest-Station. Join her in Tuscany for her annual Manifestation Retreat. Click the Tuscan hills above. No yoga experience required. Only requirement: Just be a human being.

Jen Pastiloff is the founder of The Manifest-Station. Join her in Tuscany for her annual Manifestation Retreat. Click the Tuscan hills above. No yoga experience required. Only requirement: Just be a human being.

Dear Life,

I’m writing this to ask for some help….guidance, advice, maybe a miracle, anything to help this lost little girl (actually 35 and feeling old already) find her way.

Jen Pastiloff’s quote “Live with intention, with love, and with passion…” really struck me-mostly because I’m NOT doing that, I don’t know what makes me come alive or thrive(?) I’m 35 and feel like I’m barely getting by, existing. I’m trying to make a change in my life right now so that come 40 I won’t be on the same, no light at the end of the tunnel road.
You seem to have such a spark and are so connected to what you do and what you love and are so HAPPY! I want that.

I’m trying to reverse years of negative thought patterns and a long long battle with depression. It’s kind of like trying to stir cement as it begins to harden, not easy.

I need to move as I’m not in a great situation and am so torn over WHERE???? It really shouldn’t be that hard but I feel like at my age I can’t “F” it up again if you know what I mean? The couple places I’ve thought about are completely different. I’ve pro’d and con’d them to death and meditated and prayed and I just don’t know what to do.

Did I mention indecisiveness is a strong point of mine :-/

I don’t want to ramble on because I know you are crazy busy and actually hoping you might have time to read this was a long shot, but I desperately need some help getting this weight off my chest and a better life going.

Any response would be greatly appreciated!! Even if it’s just some prayers. I feel depressed, stuck and confused. Where do I begin?

Thank you!

Love,
Barbara Continue Reading…

cancer, Guest Posts, healing

A Doorway To Love: 2014

December 26, 2014
A doorway to love

beauty-hunting-jen-logo-black1-300x88By Lavinia Magliocco.

This is not a piece about victory over cancer.

This is not to talk about fighting. This is the way I found through a thorny path. With gratitude, I dedicate it to my teacher, Shambhavi Saraswati.

There’s always a test. A scan, biopsy, and of course, the waiting period, during which time you try to pretend you’re not waiting. You try not to think about it. Cancer’s scary for many reasons, one being that both disease and cure decimate the body. sometimes, it’s not certain which is more fatal.

It’s not that I haven’t thought of dying. Truth is, I can’t stop thinking about dying.Years ago, my innards were ravaged with inflammation while skin peeled off my legs like strips of old wallpaper – I could barely walk up a flight of stairs. I had to give up the one thing I loved. When the future held nothing but more illness, I thought: maybe I’ll just slit my wrists, lie down in a hot bath, and die. Even so, thinking and strategizing how I might go didn’t prepare me for this: death may come not by my choice. Continue Reading…

Converse-Station, Guest Posts, Interview, writing

The Converse-Station: Elissa Wald Interviews Author Rene Denfeld.

December 9, 2014

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Welcome to The Converse-Station: A dialogue between writers. With the site getting so much traffic (my Facebook page is reaching over 18 million people) I can think of no better way to utilize that traffic than to introduce the readers to writers I love. The dialogues created within this series have stayed with me long after I’ve read them on the page. Enjoy. xo Jen Pastiloff

The Convere-Station: Elissa Wald Interviews Author Rene Denfeld.

He talks about the confused mess inside of him. He says everyone thinks sociopaths are super-smart criminals, but he is just a messed-up guy who doesn’t know why he does what he does. Except there is like a switch in him, and when the switch flips on, he cannot stop.

“If it made sense, I would tell you,” he says. “When you kill people, it is supposed to make sense. But it doesn’t. It never does.”

The lady nods. She understands.

With each secret he tells her, her eyes get darker and more satisfied. York can see from the precious slot of window that the rain clouds have lifted and the sky itself is dark. He has been speaking forever; he has told her secrets he has been afraid to tell anyone, secrets he suspects she knew all the time.

The look in her eyes is of a person who drank from the end of a gun barrel and found it delicious. Her eyes are filled with a strange sort of wondrous sadness, as if marveling at all the beauty and pain in the world. Continue Reading…

Guest Posts, Self Image, Vulnerability

Becoming My Own Midwife.

May 29, 2014

By Celeste Gurevich.

Let me share with you what it feels like to be loved back to yourself. To your True Self.

To live each day with a partner who loves and values every piece of you–even the ugly ones. Not in spite of them, but through them. One who has the integrity to point out when my inner child, still playing with fire, tries to self-sabotage the woman I strive to be. Or the ways I play out the story of myself projected onto me by others. Toxic overlays. I shred them piece by piece, his mirror reflecting the iridescent shimmer of my soul beneath layers of soot.

I learned to survive by quilting myself with breathe, blood, bones, and stories.

Panel by panel, saturated remnants of all of the Celestes I have ever been. The stitches laden with the scent of early Spring daphnes, garden-fresh basil a licorice-y labor of loving hands. The eternal tang of salty Pacific Ocean air. In the warp and weft of fiber, the scars, each with its own tale to tell.

Listen carefully and you will hear the music that moves me. You will feel the boiling momentum gathering in my root chakra, moving through my limbs with the notes, up through my arms and legs. The release, exquisite, of muscles moved to dance. Of vocal cords thrown open in song.

Mine is an embodied body. A body that was abused, and is still in recovery, rediscovery.

A body that brought life into the world without a pharmaceutical fog to separate me from my Pain. A body that has walked barefoot, childtoes in love with mud- thick, warm Mother Earth juices.

Mine is a body in flux, at the mercy of the dialogue between estrogen and progesterone, the interplay of ovaries and uterus. A bodymachine heaving herself in fits and starts toward cronehood. And I.

Am.

Ready.

Arms wide open to this New Self, it is time to embrace my failings, see them anew. To honor them as blessed teachers. To reclaim.

From this day forward, I transmute into power being told that I should NOT read in class my very first day of school. Shamed by the adult in charge for teaching myself to read. The embarrassment, guilt for being smart at six years old.

I’ll take being sexually abused as a young child, in a family drowning in generations of Othering, neglect, and addiction. Growing up dirt poor, getting teased for wearing the same clothes two days in a row: bell-bottomed denim jeans with rainbows embroidered on the back pockets, hand-me-downs from my cousin, a few years older, but petite, as my mother’s family tends to be, so they were only slightly too large. Lime green t-shirt, the 3rd place prize in a Mother’s Day essay contest held by the local newspaper. I still have the clipping tucked away in my mom’s leather briefcase.

As of today, I recognize my value in my relationships. Off with the blinders of self-doubt. I see now that I was a woman desperately in need of affection, for someone to have my back, to hold me and say it would be okay. Settling for abuse or safe mediocrity because I couldn’t yet see that I could thrive, and not merely survive.

I reclaim my own experience of being a poor, struggling single mother in a generation of women who watched as socially guaranteed safety nets were yanked out from under our feet. Denying those of us who ached to elevate. Those of us who were willing to sacrifice, those of us who kicked and screamed against the System.

All we wanted was the opportunity to succeed.

I’ll take every shitty job, every small-minded, small-dicked tyrant boss.

Decades of working my body to chronic pain and injury for someone else’s profit.

I call to power my library and barstool education. I rose beyond the poor-ass school district I spent hard time in. Held my creativity close. Set my own curriculum. Pushed through being denied funding and support to continue my education. The thing I wanted most desperately.

I proclaim my diploma from The Global University of the Self-Educated and the Academy for the Ideal of Unlimited Potentiality.

I’ll even accept losing my mother, my twin self, my primary parent, in a car accident when I was 21 years old. She was 40 and ½ when she died (she always marked the ½’s, from her height to birthdays). I was suddenly a motherless child, with a baby of my own. My mother’s best friend fell asleep while driving 60 mph. Mom napping in the passenger’s seat, dreaming of waking to the majestic Grand Canyon. Her soul left her body in the Arizona mountains. Land of the First People. As she would have wanted.

I claim it all. Every piece invaluable. After all, until you fall enough, how can you lose your fear of falling?

It made me who I am today.

Healer, mother, writer, artist, empath, musician, wife, gourmet chef.

Grandmother. Matriarch.

Holding the line of my ancestors. Holding the line.

Heart wide open. Mind on fire.

There is wisdom, empathy and strength through suffering and pain. If you chose to look that motherfucker in the eye and not blink. To jump free-fall down into your stories is a courageous act, and they are the most crucial gift we have to give one another.

To say FUCK YOU to fear is the only way to creating new trajectories for ourselves. Away from abuse. Away from neglect. Towards loving ourselves as we are.

Knowledge, consciousness, and righteous outrage are my weapons.

Stretching, my mind and spirit are being pulled outward in every direction. Ocean size. To the nebulas. Far enough to hold the magnitude of abundance that is my life now. That is my love. Now.

Mind wide open. Heart on fire. Expanding, out and out and up and beyond, wide enough to hold all of the intensity and passion and pain and humanity and laughter and sex and joy and stories and stories and love and art.

 

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Celeste Gurevich grew up on the Central Oregon Coast and currently lives with her husband, Andrew, in Portland. After experiencing a trauma-induced decade-long writer’s block, she started taking writing and film classes at Mt. Hood Community College and experienced a literary rebirth. A Social Artist in training, her goal is to teach others about the transformative nature of sharing our stories with one another, and the collective healing that comes from revealing our deepest inner selves in community. Her work has appeared in: Perceptions: A Magazine for the Arts, The Manifest-Station Whatever Works: Feminists of Faith Speak, and The International Journal of Gender, Nature, and Transformation. She is currently a member of the Dangerous Writers workshop with Tom Spanbauer, and is working on her first book. Her website, celestegurevich.com went live just in time for Christmas. She can be reached via email at urbangoddess70@gmail.com.

 She met Jen Pastiloff at a writing workshop in Portland called The Writer’s Voice with Lidia Yuknavitch and Suzy Vitello.

 Jen Pastiloff will be in Vancouver (Jan 17) and London (feb 14th) next with her Manifestation Workshop: On Being Human. Click here.
Jen Pastiloff is the founder of The Manifest-Station. Join her in Tuscany for her annual Manifestation Retreat. Click the Tuscan hills above. No yoga experience required. Only requirement: Just be a human being.

Jen Pastiloff is the founder of The Manifest-Station. Join her in Tuscany for her annual Manifestation Retreat. Click the Tuscan hills above. No yoga experience required. Only requirement: Just be a human being.

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