Reader, forgive me, for I have sinned. It’s been 20 days since my last post–the longest I’ve ever gone without posting since the inception of this blog. My head has been spinning with event both glorious (much celebration surrounding the launch of my novel, Other Waters) and less so (my outpatient surgery became inpatient surgery as I had to stay overnight in the hospital and recovery is always slower than one expects). But the most glorious news of all is that my ovarian cyst was completely benign. I am so grateful and pleased about that. I don’t know a benign result ritual (although someone should invent one, hospitals are so sterile they could use a little ritual) but I did light a candle in church the weekend after my procedure, and I also drank a s’mores milkshake from Five Napkin Burger, a treat I allow myself after each surgery (the last time I had one was when Amalía was born).
So there has been a lot going on in my life over the past 20 days, but, as always, there has been so much happening folklorically as well.
First came Valentine’s Day on the 14th. My parents were still in town so Emilio and I took advantage of the free babysitting to try a restaurant we’d never been to, Vita by bâoli. There were chandeliers hanging from the trees and longstemmed red roses on the table and the name of the restaurant spotlit on the wall; it was fun but very sceney, the kind of place I think people imagine we dine all the time when we say we live in South Beach, when really dinner out for us means a stroller pulled up to the table at our favorite little Italian place. It was fun to visit the world of people with vomit-free, blown-dry hair for a night, and in between reveling in the good test results, we relived our Valentine’s Day dinner last year, when we didn’t need a babysitter, but I had pregnancy-induced bursitis that caused me to hobble from a candlelit table to our car as other patrons stared at me in horror wondering what was wrong with the poor girl with the swollen abdomen and the impaired mobility. I teased my husband about sickness and health, but I also wondered why it seems there’s often something wrong with me at this time of year–this surgery, my last cystectomy, the bursitis, they all happened in February.
I discovered one reason why two days later on the 16th, when we launched Other Waters at Books&Books in Coral Gables, one of my favorite bookstores in the world. The event planner is a friend of mine and I had emailed her I was having an outpatient surgery but didn’t specify why, so she hobbled up in a cast and said, “what happened to you?” I asked the same thing (she’d tripped and broken a bone in her foot) and when I mused that something always seemed to be going wrong at this time of year, she offered a reason why that might be. “I practice Tibetan Buddhism,” she told me. “And the period before the New Year, known as the Dön Season, is a particularly dangerous time when obstacles are thrown your way.”
This year the Tibetan New Year is February 22, so my surgery technically fell right before Dön Season started, but it struck me as an interesting theory nonetheless. I’ve done a little bit of googling about Dön Season, and have seen it described both as a “karmic blizzard” and a “spiritual flu season”, but most people seem to agree that the glass half full interpretation of this time is that it’s meant to slow us down, to force us to acknowledge what’s important.
Dön Season, my surgery, and even Valentine’s Day did that for me–made me focus again on health and my family. But life speeded up again almost as soon as it was over. I’ve been in book launch season ever since, reading in Coral Gables, Manhattan, Worcester, and, tonight, Boston, with a few more dates before I’m through, and guest-blogging and being interviewed all over the web thanks to the wonderful virtual community of writers out there. I’ll include links below in case you’re interested, but what I find most fascinating about this explosion of opportunities for “virtual book tours” is that, as far as I can tell, it’s all sprung up since my last book, North of Ithaka, came out in 2005. A whole new set of rituals, largely centered around interacting with readers through blogs, twitter, Facebook, etc, has developed around book launches and I love how it makes writing a less solitary, and more interactive process. And from a reader perspective there are sites such as GoodReads, LibraryThing, even Amazon and Barnes&Noble where readers can review what they’ve read, note what they plan to read and generally “read out loud” instead of alone. It’s all very exciting.
My BFF, Katherine, also came up with a genius gift to give at a book launch–she had a onesie for Amalía made up with the title of my book on it. So now I can put the little lady to work as a PR machine; who can resist this face?
Which brings us to yesterday, “Clean Monday”, when Orthodox Lent starts and in Greece people fly kites to symbolize the soal soaring closer to God. I started my blog a year ago talking about kites, and, a few weeks later, Clean Monday, and the responses I’ve gotten from readers have kept me soaring year round.
I’ve been googling “nursing mothers and Orthodox Lent” and have learned that those of us who are breastfeeding are exempt from fasting, which is practiced not as deprivation but as a reminder that this is a special, sacred time of year. “My priest said nursing is our fast,” one mom wrote, which I think is a nice idea. I’m going to drop meat from my diet, as I think I can get enough protein from eggs and fish, but I’m keeping dairy. And if that doesn’t work for me, I’ll re-think.
That’s one thing I love about folklore–its flexibility, the way we can ammend it to fit our lives as they change. In times of stress, as in times of celebration, I get by with a little help from my (real and virtual) friends. That, and a ritual or two.
And here’s a little of what I’ve been up to: