A couple of weeks ago, I got to learn and participate a little in an African drum circle. Which isn’t something I would have ever sought out myself, probably, but I’m really glad the opportunity came my way. The man leading us made sure we understood that a drum circle is just that–a circle, a community. You can’t just take a drum and go off in a corner by yourself (because that would clearly annoy your neighbors pretty quickly); you have to be with a group, practicing a rhythm and beat together. It’s about belonging to something larger than yourself, and connection.
The African word he taught us is “ubuntu.” Which, as he explained it, means: I am me because of you, and you are you because of me. So simple, and yet . . . not. In a time of year when ads want us to believe that love and connection can be shown with things–things as superficial as a mass-produced necklace or an overused saying–I think ubuntu stands out as even more real and solid. A day, a life, has meaning because of the people who are connected to it and to us. The memories, traditions, gestures, and affections.
I am me because of the writers who have shared their stories with me; because of my family and friends; because of my teachers and mentors; because of the people who have loved me, and the people who have hurt me; the people who are here, and the ones who’ve gone; the ones near and those far; those I’ve known forever and those I’ve known only briefly.
One of the other things being part of a drum circle, even for only a few minutes, highlighted is that I have absolutely no rhythm. (Which isn’t a new discovery at all.) Think about it too much, and I completely lose the rhythm of drumming (or dancing or clapping or . . . well, anything). But if I stop thinking, and just listen to everyone around me, I can totally stay with them. With them, I can find the beat. Ubuntu.
The first year I lived in the city, whenever I went back to my small Pennsylvania hometown for the holidays, I would hear from high school classmates, “Didn’t you move somewhere crazy?”
On one hand, sure, I guess I did. I got run into by an old man in a wheelchair the other day (being pushed by a teenager) while I was standing perfectly still on a street corner. Which is only the most recent in strange things that have happened in the last eight years–and one of the most mild.
But New York, and especially Brooklyn, most of the time feel even smaller than my hometown. Even though there are millions of people in this city, and even though I see so many different ones every single day, I also see familiar faces. I can get on the subway and it’s not all that unusual for one of my best friends to get on the same car. Walking from one of my favorite indie bookstores to the B&N down the street, recently, I ran into another friend and we stopped to talk books and art until we both got too cold. And, of course, children’s publishing is an even smaller world, where everyone knows everyone, and you’re never at an event by yourself. Occasionally even when that event has no relation to publishing (but of course everything to do with good taste).
I always get a warm glow when I run into someone I know. It leaves me smiling. Seeing friends when you expect them and when you least expect them makes this vast city cozy. And surprising, and familiar, and, yes, strange. And it makes it home.
Cue Cheers theme song.
The best chocolate-covered pretzels in the world
Eating is a big part of Easter for my family. It’s just what happens when your dad’s a grocer and your mom majored in home ec in college. So here is a look at my Easter weekend.
The Easter basket
Hrudka and homemade horseradish
I am thankful that I woke up to the smell of the turkey cooking; that both of my siblings and I were all able to come home for the holiday; that we still put the Macy’s parade on while we make coffee and help around the kitchen and generally putz around; that everyone still stops for a minute when Santa comes at the end; that my cousins and their kids joined us; that we sit around, talking and listening to each other; that Thanksgiving is a day to slow down and catch up with life; that my parents’ home is a warm, inviting place full of life shining in a dark, snowy, starry night.
I am thankful for a job that I believe affects people and makes the world better; that I help to bring kids and teens the kinds of stories that will stick with them and help them figure out life, choice, love, school, friendship, independence, and so many other things; that I get to know and work with awe-inspiring, creative people; that what I do is all about connection.
I am thankful for amazing friends who are funny, smart, passionate, giving, strong, and generally incredible people.
I am thankful.
When does being a bookish person and having a kickass library have a drawback? When you’re moving to a fourth floor walk-up. Sigh. Luckily, I also have kickass friends.
My move in numbers:
2: times I bumped my head in the same place
3: pizzas eaten post-moving
10: friends helping move all those books
16: boxes of books