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A Day in the Life of a Writer (presumably, me)

Posted by Cecilia Leger on 10:57 PM

A little while ago, my friend Robert (who is writing a children’s book) described for the rest of us what a typical day looked like for him, living out his dream in his chosen profession. Now, I am not writing full time; however, I thought I might give you, my adoring public, a glimpse into my life as you peep through the keyhole in my front door (you voyeurs). I will relate to you the activities of this past Sunday (yesterday), a day carefully chosen and set aside to pursue my own writing endeavors.

8:00 AM
It’s a brand new day! I make a determined vow to forget how I procrastinated yesterday (and the day before that). So what if I was unable to reach my 2K word goal? I’ll just make up for it today! That’s right…. I’ll write 4K words. And, hey, why stop there. I bet I can get 6K, or even 8K….. I’m unstoppable!!!!!

Which is why I should stop and have breakfast.

I realize that I must go out of the house in order to do this because the only thing that’s edible in the entire apartment is the frost in the freezer and I don’t have any chocolate syrup to pour over it.

Anyway, it should only take me, like, 10 minutes to go grab some McD’s for my Breakfast of Champions meal.

10:37 AM
Time to turn my computer on so I can get started. While the computer boots up, I start to wonder about my belly button. Well, more specifically, my belly button lint. Actually, lest you think me self-centered, I start to tackle this mystery for the benefit of the entire human race.

Seriously, where does it come from? Does it come in peace? Is it influenced by diet?

The computer has finished its various morning exercises and is fully connected to the Internet. Which is great because I’ve got a lot of research to do!

Anyway, it should only take me, like, 10 minutes to find some answers.

12:43 PM
People! People! No need to panic! Turns out belly button lint is completely harmless, and requires no corrective action. Now we call all breath a collective sigh of relief.

Well. No more distractions. Time to wwwwwwrrrrrrrioiiioiisifsiofjs’dfisdj’ofjs’dofgjsd skdfsodisjoisd psofjspdovskx pefus09ihvxokvn popfos j’opsv;lk cvspiefwis pfosjovis


1:52 PM
Kitty climbed up to the keyboard looking for someplace warm to lay down. I’d have moved her but I felt so bad about having neglected her so much lately, what with all my writing getting in the way of running away from her in abject terror.

Of course now the morning’s gone. Still. I’m not panicked. It’s not like I’m a morning person anyway. All I need is a little inspiration. Since I’m writing a love story, it occurs to me that the reason I haven’t been very productive is that I’m not listening to the appropriate music. I need a song. No, I need The Song. You know, the one that just melts your heart because the guy says exactly the right words and promises just enough to make your heart soar, but not so much that you’re like: what kind of idiot do you take me for? Yeah. That one.

There was this song I used to listen to when I was in high school. Something about cactus in the spring time and fog… I think there was fog. Darn! What were the words again? I must find out because my brain has suddenly decided that it cannot live through another day without this song.

It’ll just take me a minute to find it on YouTube.

4:06 PM
Annie’s Song by John Denver.

I knew I’d find it!

Of course, now that I’ve listened to it for the first time in about 20 years, I’m not sure why I liked it to so much back then. It’s kind of depressing. Wow. What a waste of time. I need a break. I’ll just watch TV for a few seconds.

8:39 PM
No way!!!! I almost missed the Giants v. Chargers game… I can’t believe I’d forgotten that was today. Well, to be completely fair to myself, I didn’t really know that they were playing today, but boy was I glad I got to watch that blood bath.

Ha! In your face, Eli! The New York Giants are completely out of the running for Division leaders now, and with both Dallas and the Eagles doing so well right now, they’re not even looking good for being the Wild Card team. I’d be so psyched if they didn’t even make it to the play offs. :) Sweet!

See? NOW that that’s settled, I can sit down to write in peace. Oh, I know I didn’t get to write the whole day, like I’d planned. But I’m a night owl, so it’s all good! The night is young… Wooo Hooo!

11:19 PM
Wow. I must have drowsed off there for a minute….. The cat is sitting on my chest, licking my face so I gather she missed dinner. Hmmm…. Incredible. I can’t remember the last time I fell asleep so early. I must not be entirely over my cold yet. Maybe my body is trying to tell me something.

I should go to bed right now and start fresh in the morning. I know I didn’t reach my 2K-word goal for today. But I’m sure I can write 4K tomorrow.

Heck, why stop there, I could probably do 6K… maybe even 8K….

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Medea

Posted by Cecilia Leger on 12:56 PM

Medea tilted her head back and allowed the spray of water to hit her face full force. The sound of running water had always soothed her, but she hadn't stepped into the shower today to be soothed or comforted today--she was beyond all of that now. What she hoped as she had made the water scalding hot was that she could scrub away the thin layer of cliché that clung to her pores.

Jason's betrayal had done more than deceive her; it had changed who she was. She had become a shallow grave, a faint memory, a déjà vu. The archetypal (her detractors would probably say stereotypical) woman scorned.

How many would ever understand what she'd done today? Would anyone?

She knew that she'd be vilified, but a strange sense of calm had overtaken her.

For Jason, and the ones who'd come before him, she'd been nothing more than a rag to be dirtied and then tossed aside. She had facilitated that by making excuses for them: he's tired; he's under so much stress; he hurts. I can wait. My needs can wait. And so, one after the other, they'd only scorned her, ridiculed her, used her.

But this time was different; she'd made sure of it.

There would be no next time, this time.

As she washed the blood from her hands, she felt an endless nothingness in the place her heart had lived. She had killed her hopes, her dreams, her future. She should have been weeping. Instead, she felt relieved. And in control of her own destiny for once.

There would be no next time, this time.

After her shower, she dressed in simple robes, then walked out to her balcony where the chorus was already assembled. She could hear their wailing and their cries.

"Jason is gone. The children are gone. Oh, Medea, you are left desolate. What is left you?"

She surveyed the crowd stoically. "What do you mean what is left? I am left. Everything is left."

1

My Thoughts on Writing Well: Step Aside, Zinsser!

Posted by Cecilia Leger on 2:07 AM

Every so often (every 784,467,901 words to be precise—-but, hey, who’s counting?), I write a phrase that is so beautifully, well, phrased and so accurately punctuated that I amaze myself with my own talent because this phrase, this thing of beauty and perfection, was brought forth from some hidden spot inside my creative brain without any actual work on my part.

Because of this admittedly uncommon happening, I make the very logical, realistic assumptions that (1) every word I write must rise to this level of genius and (2) unless this genius is achieved effortlessly, I’m not really a writer. The natural consequence of this particular line of reasoning is that I give up the minute my writing does not live up to those two self-imposed conditions.

Oh, don’t get me wrong: I’m not a slacker. I don’t give up easily. I mean, there’s a whole routine.

First, I read and re-read the Wonderful, Beautiful, Awe-Inspiring Phrase to remind myself how brilliant I am.

Second, I read and re-read the Wonderful, Beautiful, Awe-Inspiring Phrase again because now I’m beginning to think that maybe I could have written it differently.

Third through infinity, I meticulously pick apart all the other words surrounding the Wonderful (if you’re willing to overlook some things), Beautiful (or at least better looking than average) Phrase.

All this work is tiring. And time consuming.

It’s little wonder I can’t get any writing done!

Anyway, some time within the last few weeks, a weird little thought occurred to me: maybe, I heard it whisper, maybe writing is a craft that can be learned and practiced. And, maybe, the biggest obstacle of my writing career is finding and challenging all my preconceived notions about writing.

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Miguel and I

Posted by Cecilia Leger on 6:55 PM
In my defense.... it's raining.


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Deadlines

Posted by Cecilia Leger on 10:24 PM

Love them or hate them, most of us have to live with deadlines. Considering that the word's origin refers to the line beyond which prisoners were not allowed to cross on pain of being shot dead, I can completely understand why most people consider deadlines negative inspiration at best and a noose around their neck at worst.


Personally, I find that nothing focuses the mind better than panic, so I find that a looming deadline (meaning one that is only hours from now) is the only thing that can almost keep my attention trained on only one topic. This means that I can spend my time actually doing the work at hand instead of running after my thoughts like a child chasing dandelion seeds on a summer afternoon (this being my most natural state of mind!).


So, my new favorite quote comes from a blog I came across while reading about the reforms on banking that the Obama White House seeks to establish. The blogger was addressing the concern that the executive wants Congress to pass legislation on new regulations within a few months, which many believe to be an impossible deadline.


And so the blogger quotes this perfect line: "A deadline is optimism in its most kick-ass form."


Isn't that awesome?!


PS I found this article as I was researching early education for a grant I'm trying to write. What? Early eaducation, banking reform .... you don't see the connection? Huh. Oh, look, something shiny, gotta go!

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Modesty Forbids Me Nothing .... She Knows Her Place

Posted by Cecilia Leger on 11:01 PM
(Just in case someone who doesn't know me actually ends up reading this: please know that it is meant as satire.)

Speaking as a writer, I'm in a unique position to tell you that….

Well, something that we writers have always known is …..

Oh, I understand now…. You’re not a writer, are you?


Don’t interrupt. I’m practicing condescending lines to use at parties and other social gatherings. Puritans, romantics, and my mother have warned me for years about the perils of putting others down or acting like a snob. But did they ever stop to consider my feelings on the matter, I ask you! I’ll also answer you (because I can tell from the way your shirt’s on inside out that you’re not the sharpest knife in the drawer): No, as a matter of fact, no one stopped to consider my needs or feed my delusions of grandeur.

I’m surprised Child Protective Services didn’t get involved, for there was little Cecilia, superior to her peers in every imaginable way and yet forced (yes, forced!) to blend in so others wouldn’t be quite so keenly aware of their own mediocrity. Oh, the horror.

Well, no more of that!

I'm using every once of determination and self-discipline to finally become the megalomaniac I was meant to be. Because I’m better than everyone else, and smarter than all of you idiots, and doggone it, who cares if people don’t like me!

Beginning today I’ll follow a carefully designed training regimen:

10 reps of “Disdainful Eyebrow Raises”
5 barely concealed yawns to be used when others are speaking
45 minutes of deep breathing so I won’t have to stop to take a breath while speaking
Humming lessons (to protect myself from people who will insist on talking to me)

You see, now that I’ve written a whole four pages (double spaced, two-inch margins all around) of a novel, I know for certain that I’m the only one with anything important to say. Isn't that what being a writer is all about?


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No Shoes, No Shirt, No Helium Balloons

Posted by Cecilia Leger on 3:23 PM
So it wasn’t a fluke.

Last March (I think) when I went on my spur of the moment pilgrimage to the Outer Banks I had dinner by myself at a restaurant in Kitty Hawk, and –much to my surprise—I enjoyed the experience. The food was excellent, which really helped, but I mean that for the first time I didn’t feel awkward or self conscious or on display while dining alone. I’ll have to check my blog from that day because now I can’t remember, but I don’t think I even opened the book I took along with me as my date.

(Isn’t it funny how memory works: I can’t remember if I read the book while being in the restaurant, but I can clearly remember that the book was … uh…. the one about how robotics are changing the way we fight wars – the title had the word “war” in it, I’m sure of it! You know, it was written by that guy that was interviewed on The Daily Show and who works in some think thank here in DC. He’s the one who was the first to write a book on the use of child soldiers and another on the use of mercenary armies. Yeah, that guy!)

Anyway, I was very pleased with myself because this meant that I could now go to that jazz bar in the top floor of the Kennedy Center and have dinner there even if none of my friends wanted to join me (not that I’ve gone yet, of course).

I was worried. I worried that my Kitty Hawk experience had been a one-off and that I’d panic the moment I had to tell some over-friendly twelve year old hostess that, yes, I needed a table for one. What if when I sat at the table and she started to take away the other place setting, the last flimsy string that attaches me to some semblance of sanity suddenly snapped? I’d float away like a dollar-store helium balloon, leaving behind my mental health and a slightly bewildered pale, brunette (“don’t you want to hear tonight’s specials?).

See? Perfectly reasonable concerns.

But last night I went to see The Importance of Being Ernest at the Center Stage in Baltimore; before the show I had dinner by myself at the overpriced café in the theatre. (Green salad, re-heated veggie lasagna, piece of stale bread, and pumpkin and curry soup. Boy you people are nosy!) The café hummed with the sound of conversations and laughter from fellow theatre-goers. My heart was full of anticipation for the evening ahead.

I sat down at my table for one, and I didn’t float away once.

2

There's No Such Thing an Accident

Posted by Cecilia Leger on 11:08 PM



I’ve only ever had one car accident. By my count. Which means I’m not counting the time I skidded on ice at the intersection of Shady Grove Road and 355. I don’t think it counts as an accident because all I did was slide off the road a bit. And slam into the median. Hard enough that my car did a 180. And the axel broke. But it’s not like I hit anybody!

Not that hitting another car is the ultimate way I’m defining a car accident, since I’m also not counting the time I rear ended the Suburban with my Toyota Tercel. I figure that one shouldn’t count because my Tercel was only slightly bigger than a matchbox and it glided right under the Suburban in front of me. Besides, if he had just turned right like he should have, the whole unfortunate episode would never have happened. At least my car wasn’t damaged.

Not that damaging my car is the ultimate way I’m defining a car accident, since I’m also not counting the time I got my car stuck on the curb right outside the car wash near my house. I’d just gotten a used Eclipse and I was feeling very sporty and hip as I drove to the car wash. I gassed up, turned up the radio while going through the automatic wash, and got ready to take my baby out on the open road. I made a right as soon as I was free of the brushes. Why would anyone put a curb right there? I never even felt the tire going up on it; my first clue that I was in trouble was when I was no longer moving forward. When I got out to see why not, I saw the car perched securely on top of a cement block that divided the car wash exit from the rest of the parking lot. The passenger side front tire had climbed over the cement block and was free and undamaged.

Not that a damaged front tire is the ultimate way I’m defining a car accident, since I’m also not counting the time my front tire exploded when I hit a curb as I was trying to turn into the gas station (different gas station from the one with the car wash, you’ll be happy to know). That instance doesn’t count against me because, clearly, the fault lies only with the tire manufacturers for making something so flimsy that it falls apart just because it hit an object while going 50 miles per hour.

So, like I said, I’ve only ever had one car accident.

But it was about ten years ago and it happened before I knew I needed glasses to drive and before I had openly acknowledged that my night vision was quite so bad. So maybe that one shouldn’t count either…

Hmmm…..

2

My Own Version of Reality

Posted by Cecilia Leger on 7:51 AM
From the animals below, choose which are real and which are fake.


A)


B)




C)






D)





E)




F)



G)





H)











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In darkness....

Posted by Cecilia Leger on 11:30 PM
And I will give you treasures hidden in the darkness—
secret riches.
I will do this so you may know that I am the Lord,
the God of Israel, the one who calls you by name.

My friend Andrew introduced me to this text last year and it has since become one of my favorites because I’m well acquainted with darkness. And, often, darkness of my own making—a tempest in a glass of water. I over think things and then end up getting lost in my own musings and self doubt.

So I find compassion in the text in Isaiah. God’s purpose is not that I wallow in misery. But if that is where I find myself, then He’ll meet me there. He’s not afraid to go into the shadows with me; indeed, He’s gone there ahead of me. Without judgment.

In the quiet that comes after the storm of my pain, there has often been revelation and a renewed commitment to action. Such was the case this week. I walked into a labyrinth that I created and found myself caught in old habits of thought and in the grip of old emotions. It was frustrating to feel that I’d made such little progress in some areas.

One of the biggest treasures I’ve received from a time of darkness is understanding that it is OK to stumble, that today’s failures don’t have to limit the growth I can yet experience.

So where to from here? Well, I get up. I’m a little achy from the fall, but I can get up. And I’ll take as many steps toward health and healing as I can. I’ll take up the work again of learning to think along new pathways.

I am grateful. Not for the fall or the darkness, but for the God and the friends who don’t let me go through it alone.


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Squishy!

Posted by Cecilia Leger on 10:38 AM
I shall call him Squishy and he shall be mine; he shall be my Squishy!
OW!! Bad, Squishy!

For each animal below, decide which are real and which are fake. Good luck!

A)



B)



C)



D)



E)



F)



G)


H)


I)



J)



K)



L)


M)



N)


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Fact or Fiction?

Posted by Cecilia Leger on 8:04 AM
From the pictures below, can you identify which animals are real and which are fake?

A)


B)



C)



D)



E)



F)



G)



H)



I)



J)

K)


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Trust Me....

Posted by Cecilia Leger on 8:10 AM
From the pictures below, pick the animals that are real from the animals that are fake.

A)



B)



C)



D)



E)



F)



G)



H)


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When Little Boys Have Dreams

Posted by Cecilia Leger on 12:14 AM


Mila, in case this was too big for your email :)

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The Power of Stories

Posted by Cecilia Leger on 4:58 AM

Because stories are important.

People think that stories are shaped by people. In fact, it's the other way around.

Stories exist independently of their players. If you know that, the knowledge is power.

Stories, great flapping ribbons of shaped spacetime, have been blowing and uncoiling around the universe since the beginning of time. And they have evolved. The weakest have died and the strongest have survived and they have grown fat on the retelling . . . stories, twisting and blowing through the darkness.

And their very existence overlays a faint but insistent pattern on the chaos that is history. Stories etch grooves deep enough for people to follow in the same way that water follows certain paths down a mountainside. And every time fresh actors tread the path of the story, the groove runs deeper.

This is called the theory of narrative causality and it means that a story, once started, takes a shape. It picks up all the vibrations of all the other workings of that story that have ever been.

This is why history keeps on repeating all the time.

So a thousand heroes have stolen fire from the gods. A thousand wolves have eaten grandmother, a thousand princesses have been kissed. A million unknowing actors have moved, unknowing, through the pathways of story.

It is now impossible for the third and youngest son of any king, if he should embark on a quest which has so far claimed his older brothers, not to succeed.

Stories don't care who takes part in them. All that matters is that the story gets told, that the story repeats. Or, if you prefer to think of it like this: stories are a parasitical life form, warping lives in the service only of the story itself.

It takes a special kind of person to fight back, and become the bicarbonate of history.

Once upon a time...


***********

The theory of narrative causality, found on page 2 of Witches Abroad by Terry Pratchett.

This is my favorite quote from Terry Pratchett, author of the popular Discworld series. Daddy introduced me to his writing and I think he has a very original voice. His writing is primarily considered fantasy, or at least comedic fantasy. He's hilarious and very creative.



3

I Want to be Supergirl When I Grow Up!

Posted by Cecilia Leger on 3:23 AM


My transformation was sudden, but complete. With absolutely no preparation or premeditation on my part, I became an athlete.

On Sunday.

During our six-hour brunch at Andrew’s house.

Together with a group of dear friends (and barring a return to my senses), a year and a half from now I’ll have completed my first triathlon. The purpose of our getting together on Sunday was to begin planning for it. We now have a team name (I Am Not With Them) and a logo for our t-shirts!

I’ve been a committed couch potato for the past 35 years (I say 35 because I’m sure my mother wasn’t doing much of anything during the last few months of her pregnancy). Yet somewhere between the quiche, the ice cream, and the movie . . . it happened. Buoyed by great food, laughter, and (of course!) Craig’s and Jonathan's optimism, I made the amazing discovery that I didn’t need to be afraid of my inner (ummm. . . quick, somebody name an athlete!). Apparently, all I’d needed all these years was peer pressure. Somehow I thought radically changing my life would be more complicated than this.

Today marks the beginning of Training Day Two. So far, here’s what I have accomplished (in order of importance):

  • Whining
  • Brunch
  • Starting a blog (newhopetriathlon.blogspot.com)
  • Bragging
  • Research (trying to find swimming lessons)
  • A few guilty glances at my bike
  • Rationalizing (“I could go to the gym right now, but then I’d lose my parking spot”)
  • My first sport injury (It’s my left pinkie; I’m not really sure why it hurts, but I’m positive there’s a connection.)
  • More whining (it’s part of my charm)

I was sharing this new adventure with a colleague yesterday (you know, so I could check off “bragging” on my list of things to do for training). I mentioned how much I hate running, how I don’t know how to swim, how I’ve only been on a bike a sum total of seven times in my entire life and she looked a little perplexed. Frankly, so did the cat when I told her what I was planning (although I must admit she moved from perplexed to indifferent in about two seconds).

So, why am I doing this?

Three years ago, I started the process of reinventing myself. I don’t know if there’s really an athlete inside of me or not (although that would explain the weight gain), but I do hope to learn to make a commitment to something that I’m doing entirely for me. For a variety of reasons, even contemplating the notion of working so hard for something that will not benefit somebody else makes me squirm uncomfortably. Others in my life taught me that putting myself first in any situation is selfish. And I taught myself that I needed to justify my existence by being useful.

I’m curious now to see what happens if I take on something is that is so far out of what’s normal for me. Maybe in a few months I’ll wish I’d have tried to reach my inner “knitter”! Maybe I’ll be able to definitively put an end to this runner’s high myth, this urban legend, this siren song that lures many innocents to their untimely cardiac health. Or maybe . . .

It’s the wonder and the power of the “maybe” that compelled me to sign up.

I’m so predictable!


(Image by Erick Egon at DeviantArt.com)


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Dream Deferred

Posted by Cecilia Leger on 7:32 PM

What happens to a dream deferred?
Does it dry up
Like a raisin in the sun?
Or fester like a sore--
And then run?
Does it stink like rotten meat?
Or crust and sugar over--
like a syrupy sweet?
Maybe it just sags
like a heavy load.
Or does it explode?


Poem by Langston Hughes
Image by Jack Vettriano (In Thoughts of You)


3

Where are you from?

Posted by Cecilia Leger on 11:22 AM
"Where are you from?"

People ask this of me casually when they hear my accent or find out my last name is pronounced “leher” not “ledger”. I’m sure all they want to hear is the name of a country, but that’s the same as thinking that someone will know who I am merely because I’ve told them my name. Where I’m from is so much more than a place.

My childhood memories are a collage of music and food and giving. As a little girl, I understood that there were plenty of things we didn’t have because there wasn’t enough money; I just didn’t know we were poor! I lived in a house that Pato and his sons built by hand and that didn’t have running water or electricity. But since I knew the story all I felt was pride. I knew that my grandmother had been widowed when she was very young; she’d been left alone and penniless, with six little girls to raise. Somehow this woman who could barely write her name found a way to become a land owner; I knew that each piece of wood she used to build the house I grew up in came from trees that grew on her property.

I knew that each day my aunt Nina cooked more food than was necessary so that people who dropped by would never be turned away hungry. That my cousin took a plate of food each day, each meal, to the elderly man who lived down the street and who didn’t have any family left. And whenever visitors came, my aunt Maria went into the fields to gather for them whatever was in season: mango, avocado, limoncillo, cajuil, plantains, corn, beans, pineapple, guava, coffee, cacao, lemons, oranges, tamarindo, and whatever else she could lay her hands on or her guests had a predilection for.

In the U.S., it is customary to bring a gift when visiting someone; where I am from, it’s the opposite. Giving and service are not laudable acts, they are merely good manners. It is buena educacion, which has nothing to do with what books teach and everything to do with how you are raised to treat and respect others.

When I was thirteen, my mother and I had tickets to return to the U.S. via Puerto Plata (about six hours from my house) on the day of a general strike. As no public transportation would be available on the day of the strike we needed to go to Puerto Plata one day early, but not having any family there meant we would have no place to stay. No problem, the taxi driver she’d hired assured my mother: he had a cousin who lived near the airport. We arrived at this stranger’s house unannounced and were treated as honored guests that evening. I remember a lot of domino games, Presidente beer, and merengue that night—our visit was enough reason for a party. Our taxi driver had gone back to my little town that night and left it up to his cousin to figure out a way to get us safely to the airport the next day.

Two years ago, during my last visit, no one was available to pick me up from the airport in Santo Domingo. Times have changed and crime is running rampant, so my mother worried about how I’d get to the bus terminal from the airport without being mugged. When the plane landed in Santo Domingo, I asked a young man to direct me to a reputable taxi so I could begin my final journey home. When he found out I was traveling alone, he refused to let me take a taxi. His family was coming to pick him up and they would make sure I got on the right bus safely.

True to the promise he’d made on their behalf, his parents drove me to the bus terminal and waited to make sure I was able to purchase a ticket to Salcedo without any hassle. “If the last bus for the day has already gone, you must stay with us tonight. This city is not safe for a woman traveling alone,” my young hero’s mother emphatically stated. I have no doubt that I would have been welcome in their home if I’d been stranded in the city that night.

So, where am I from?

I’m from a people who never need to know my name as everyone from taxi drivers, to store clerks, to office receptionists calls me mami, corazon, mi amor, linda, muñeca, bebe, or any of many other terms of endearment. I belong to a people who color their lives with relationships and music (oh, and a LOT of alcohol!).

So, where am I from?

I’m from the Sosa’s and the Ureña’s who live in Palmarito, near Salcedo. You’ll have heard of them. Specially the Sosa’s—known for their bad temper and tender hearts.

I have now lived in the U.S. many more years than in the Dominican Republic and I consider myself an American. But where I’m from guides my most basic impulses. I don’t understand why I should wait until help is requested before I can offer it. I don’t see the point in checking my calendar or my wallet before deciding what my contribution should be. It makes no sense to me that the things I’ve been graced with aren’t meant for public use.

That’s what I'd like to say when people ask me where I’m from.

2

I love a good story . . .

Posted by Cecilia Leger on 6:30 AM
Hunting

A hunter – a successful hunter – has a superior knowledge of the habitat and behavior of the animals he hunts. He stalks his quarry with unhurried confidence, relishing even the danger of the game. He is a master tracker who is able to blend into the background so he can observe his prey and pick the perfect moment for attack. Hunting as an art form is a test of patience and mastery over emotion; the expert hunter does not go on a mindless rampage. No, he hones his instincts. He waits. He pursues. He must have complete self-discipline.

A measure of blood lust also helps.

Simon raised the cup of coffee leisurely to thin colorless lips as his eyes trained on the woman and her brat seated mere yards away from him on another park bench: he had no doubts about his measure of blood lust.

That she knew she was being hunted was not an accident. He savored each time she looked behind her in fear, considered it a personal triumph every time a stranger bumped into her and she reacted by hugging the boy close to her, ready to bolt. He’d let her survive this long because she amused him. And he toyed with her because she was trapped—trapped while living in complete freedom, trapped as she fled from city to city.

A week ago he’d even held her in his arms. He had followed her to the neighborhood grocery store, a run-down building that had once been a warehouse and whose outdated ventilation system did nothing to diminish the sickeningly sweet stench of rotting fruit or the pungent odor of the exotic fish the immigrants in this part of town loved to consume. Her arms burdened down with purchases in paper bags, she had used her body to push against the doors. He had abruptly pulled one open causing her to stumble into him.

He’d kept his hands on her arms a fraction longer than was necessary to steady her and how he’d loved seeing the panic rise up in her eyes. But he’d flashed her an affable smile and used his most soothing tone of voice, “Whoa! I’m so sorry.... are you OK?”

And she’d relaxed then, thanked him even! She’d rushed off but he was sure she was probably chastising herself for being so jumpy. Simon congratulated himself again on his mastery of disguise. His was the face she must see in every nightmare and yet she’d looked right at him and had not recognized her personal demon.

Of course, people only see what they want to see, as Simon knew. Having donned a clean shaven face and business suit he hardly looked like a predator to be feared. Who would ever choose to look past that to see the monster lying beneath? Lying isn’t about misleading people at all, he mused, it is merely letting people see what they are already begging to believe.

Simon smiled mirthlessly now as he overheard the lies the woman was telling the boy. “We’re explorers, honey. Like Marco Polo or Vasco De Gama! It’s exciting!”

The boy furrowed his brow as he considered her words. “But aren’t explorers supposed to go places where no one’s ever been? They’re supposed to discover new worlds, aren’t they?”

She touched his face tenderly and leaned in close so that their noses almost touched. “Sometimes, love, there are new worlds where we least expect to find them. Now go on! Go make friends!” She turned him around and gave him a gentle shove toward the playground.

Simon was pleased by the whole exchange. New worlds, she had promised the boy. He sipped again from his coffee: they had no idea.


4

Courage in a Crisis

Posted by Cecilia Leger on 7:59 AM
In a time of crisis, we all have romantic notions about ourselves: about the courage and selflessness which will mysteriously be available to us “when it finally counts.” Movies and books are filled with this theme—the common man who becomes the unwitting hero when events thrust him forward and life demands the ultimate sacrifice. Often we are presented with characters who redeem themselves after a lifetime of cowardice and self-centered behavior.

I just finished watching Battlestar Galactica this weekend; in the final episode, Admiral Adama asks for volunteers to go on a rescue mission that might result in their deaths. Gaius, who has spent all of season four (I haven’t seen the other seasons, so I don’t know what he was like previously) being a sniveling coward who only looks out for his own self interest, has a conversation with one of the heroes of the show in which he’s confronted with the reality that he thinks and acts only for himself. Following this revelation he decides to become one of the volunteers in this suicide mission. And, although I appreciate that the writers kept him as a nervous, frightened fighter, I would have been more interested had he remained selfish and self-centered to the end.

That’s the darkness in humanity we don’t always like to think about. In times of crisis, there are a great many who do rise above the circumstances and surprise even themselves with their acts of courage. But that’s not the full story. There are those who are frozen in place and those who become cruel and malicious. When it’s “lay-it-all-on-the-line-time” can you really be sure which side you’ll be on? Can you really know who you will show yourself to be?

In Saving Private Ryan, do you remember the soldier who cannot make himself face his fears and shoot his weapon even though he can hear his friend being killed? In The Red Badge of Courage, young Henry spends a great deal of the book spoiling for a fight and then ends up running away in the fear and confusion of his first battle. He rationalizes that the battle was lost anyway and his sacrifice would have been meaningless, then fakes a wound to explain away his absence from the front lines when he realizes that his battalion has actually won. In both works, the characters get a second chance to redeem themselves. However, I’d like to see more time spent on characters who do not.

What about a guy who leaves a burning building to save himself and leaves behind his own child? The audience could never forgive or like such a man. Partly, it is that we find such cowardice revolting. But could it be that we don’t want to face that maybe—just maybe—under the right circumstances we ourselves could be that cowardly?

On some level, it’s great to think about what we might be able to do given the chance. It is unlikely that any of us will ever have to face ourselves in the midst of such a crisis. But what about the hints of who we really are that we see during a thousand small disasters that we face during the course of a week? When we’re cut off in traffic? When precious time is wasted in a long line? When someone has treated us unfairly?

I know what I am like. I know that I am certainly not heroic or courageous when things do not go my way. When I’m hurt, I become a hermit. When I’m stressed, I lose my temper very easily. In times of deep emotional strife, I take care of myself first.

Oh, I’d love to think that in a crisis, I’d rise above all that and do the right thing. But I don’t really know. And even if I did, would that one act of courage be enough to redeem the years of self-centered behavior that I rationalize with “well, I’m having a really bad day.”

It is more heroic to face the little irritants of life consistently with grace and compassion than it is to have that one moment of courage in a crisis.


1

I've Got a Peaceful, Easy Feeling

Posted by Cecilia Leger on 9:26 AM

This weekend was about beauty, music, and friendship. Oh, and a little self-discovery. Isn’t it always? My trip to took me through the Smoky Mountains in North Carolina and Tennessee on my way to the Biltmore House, where I was expecting to be enchanted by the opulence and splendor of the palace. And to be sure, it didn’t disappoint. But it was the mountains that took my breath away. If there are words to describe what I felt when I first reached the top of the range and looked across, I don’t know them. It was raining but I got out of the car and just stood there, in complete wonder and delight. And humility---for how can one stand in the presence of such majesty without gaining perspective? Whatever cares I’d brought along on my trip disappeared in that one moment of joy, of beauty.

I spent Saturday night with my friend Stephen in Crossnore, about an hour or so East of Ashville. He was working and could not meet me in Asheville, but he offered me a place to stay Saturday night so we could spend time together. He cooked Spaghetti; we played ping pong, watched TV and talked about books, politics, and religion…. And in the morning he gave something wonderful: directions back to I-81 that took me through the back roads! I drove through the mountains I’d lost my heart to and through sleepy little towns that didn’t market their charm and package it for tourists. It was still raining and the fog at times was so thick I could barely see in front of me. There was mystery and adventure in that drive that I could not have purchased elsewhere. There had been warmth and comfort in the simplicity of the evening shared with a friend.

I tend to throw open the doors and windows to my heart, a policy that doesn’t always work in my favor! I experience things first with my feelings and then with reason. It’s risky – and I do get hurt and disappointed at times. But I get to live life passionately and that more than makes up for the risks. After I’d been so moved by the beauty of the mountains and nurtured by kindness of a friend, I had no hope of remaining unchanged by the music on Sunday night, of simply enjoying the concert.

Nothing reaches me more deeply than music. I stepped willingly, expectantly into the rollercoaster of emotion with the first strains of the guitar. Right along with the songs I felt nostalgia, exhilaration, loss, love, excitement, and so much more! By the end of the night, I felt as exhausted as if I’d been on stage, playing and singing with the musicians.

I feel a little silly writing this. Admitting that so much of life affects me so deeply. I’m sure it’s more adult to be detached, to admire things from a distance. But I don’t want to do that: I want to dive in; submerge myself completely, allow things and people to move me, change me. I want to feel my heart expand as it takes in life. I don’t want to lose the sense of wonder and wildness that each day brings.


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