2011:  The first year of the sec­ond decade of the 21st cen­tury.

I wanted to find a way to record time and decided the only way was with words.  It had to have a spe­cific time con­straint, and so I chose to write some­thing each week, no excuses per­mit­ted, for the entire year.  Or per­haps, because I’m a writer I chose a weekly sched­ule to record these impres­sions because.  …  Frankly, most writ­ers need deadlines.

The artist Geor­gia O’Keefe said: “Since I can­not sing, I paint.”

There are times when being a writer is so frus­trat­ing and iso­lat­ing, I’ve won­dered if I write because I can­not paint.

I see the world in col­ors and dimen­sions but the paint­brushes I’ve used are those of a writer, first pen­cils, then pens, mov­ing through the typewriter’s advances, to desk­top com­put­ers, and finally the mir­a­cle of the lap­top. Today’s lap­top is a mag­i­cal paint box.  I open it and paint with the key­board.  Some­times the pic­tures are not as clear as I would wish or as vibrant. I hope they con­vey a feel­ing, a mem­ory, a scene, or a dream. What will be assem­bled over these twelve months are glimpses of expe­ri­ences, actual and imagined.

The chal­lenge I’ve given myself is to share some­thing about liv­ing in each week. The ways I per­ceive and mea­sure time are dif­fer­ent from the way oth­ers might.  As many read­ers know, I’ve been chron­i­cally ill almost my entire life.  I have an atyp­i­cal form of an inflam­ma­tory autoim­mune dis­ease.  Because of this, I weigh each moment as a sig­nif­i­cant and valid unit of time unto itself.

In our min­utes – years … is a phrase I use often to remind myself of reality.

From This Ter­race expands the time zone:  In our weeks — a lifetime …

I moved to Man­hat­tan from the hills of the East Bay of North­ern Cal­i­for­nia. My inten­tion and the plans I made were to stay just one year. That year ideas and inde­ci­sion zoomed around in my head.  I had a daily debate with myself about whether one year was enough, places, peo­ple, states of mind and heart blurred together. But noth­ing brought clar­ity. And then, the year evap­o­rated in a “New York Minute”.  The overused cliché was both accu­rate and descrip­tive of those first twelve months.  I stayed another year and another and then a decade, and another and another. I talked to a good friend and he said it was a tough deci­sion for me to make but that “Man­hat­tan is a candy store; the streets and the avenues are the aisles. Choose freely, but choose wisely.”   New York became my sec­ond home­town; it turned into the New Home­town. At some point and with­out fur­ther cal­cu­la­tion, I real­ized I had become A New Yorker.

I live in the same apart­ment where I first began. The view from this ter­race pro­vides the back­drop where I write most of the time.  In decent weather I do so sit­ting on the ter­race, where I catch a sliver of activ­ity on the busy East River. The rest of the time I’m in the small room fac­ing this ter­race. Out­side or inside, it is from this ter­race I see a por­tion of this city I’ve cho­sen and that I cher­ish. I also dream worlds I will never see and remem­ber those I once knew.  At first I ques­tioned how I could exchange the view of the San Fran­cisco Bay and its bridges for a strictly urban view of glass and steel. But quickly under­stood that although it was an urban beauty, it was no less won­drous. With time, I found there was much to observe that sat­is­fies eye and soul, beyond the glass and steel, bricks and mortar.

Although I had lived in Berke­ley before com­ing to New York, I grew up in South­ern Cal­i­for­nia.  The Greater Los Ange­les area is my orig­i­nal home­town.   Both places belong to me. Noth­ing can or should change that.  My life is a geo­graphic ver­sion of Anaïs Nin’s mar­i­tal dual­ity.  She was mar­ried to two men, loved them both, in dif­fer­ent ways.  One man was in New York and the other man in Sil­ver Lake, Los Ange­les. I love two cities inti­mately, Man­hat­tan and Los Ange­les. Oddly and pre­sum­ably ran­domly, it turns out I love the part of L.A. where she lived with her “other” hus­band, Rupert Pole.  And it was to that neigh­bor­hood I fled when weary of Met­ro­pol­i­tan Monogamy or if sea­sonal extremes got me down.

In the end, I couldn’t pull it off — couldn’t move back and forth between cities the way Nin moved between domes­tic rela­tion­ships and res­i­dences.  Fidelity to one place had to hap­pen.  I chose this ter­race, located within the glo­ries and impos­si­bil­i­ties of Man­hat­tan with a stone lion guard­ing me. Los Ange­les endures inside me — peo­ple and places I loved then and now.  I miss so many things in addi­tion to friends — the scent of night bloom­ing jas­mine and the pow­er­ful fra­grance of orange blos­soms, Jacaranda trees in bloom, the hills on three sides of The L.A. basin and the ocean as the fourth wall, the gen­tle rus­tle of palm trees in evening breeze.  Los Ange­les didn’t really need Hol­ly­wood; the region itself is a nat­ural movie set.  I brought a vividly remem­bered Los Ange­les to the New Home­town.  I can call it to mind and senses when­ever needed.

I invited Michael Markham to join me as we cre­ated this addi­tional web res­i­dence and to stay on as my guest as we move through the cal­en­dar.   (Some peo­ple have coun­try homes, bi-coastal lives, mul­ti­ple dwellings, but I now have web-homes.) Michael is a fine actor.  But it is in his other artis­tic suit of cloth­ing that you meet him here.  Michael’s pho­tographs and designs are paired with my words. Through the lens of his cam­era and his designs, he enhances words and thoughts.  He has helped me through rough times and too many episodes of writer’s angst. Although the graphic and pho­to­graphic cre­ativ­ity is his, we are collaborators.

Join me, week by week, wher­ever you are and how­ever you’re feel­ing. –Whether you too see the world from a ter­race, or some other place entirely — from a hill­top, in a desert or a woods, by a body of water, or in a yard, on a patio, a porch, in a high-density apart­ment com­plex, in a large room, a tiny stu­dio, in a hotel while trav­el­ing for work, in front of the fire­place or beside a swim­ming pool, in your bed unwell—recovering from ill­ness and when you’re not feel­ing any bet­ter, and even if you’re in the hospital.

Let’s gather up our days together, not cross them off the cal­en­dar, and never count down the year.  Time and all it affords us in what­ever incre­ments allot­ted is far too pre­cious to dis­count or take for granted.

The Lion who lives on the ter­race has been with me for a long time, and has trav­eled through my life and across miles to stay with me.  My friend, the artist Susan Springer Ander­son, decided he should have a name; he is quite a char­ac­ter.  (And becomes the sole actor on the win­ter stage.)  Susan named him the Stone Sage Lion, as he often pro­vides a point of depar­ture for reflec­tions in these weekly impres­sions.  Please visit her at SusanSpringerAnderson.com.

Wel­come to From This Ter­race and to the First Year of the Sec­ond Decade of the 21st Century.

©2011 Alida Brill FromThisTerrace