I love living in a second-story apartment. Having a view of Los Angeles, of the palm trees, the expansive sky, the distant mountains, and the city lights of downtown, makes life feel bigger, more full of possibilities. In the struggle of transitioning my life back to L.A., the view from my second floor apartment helps make me feel ok in the world. I’m in love with Los Angeles – the land, its topography, its sky, its desertness – and even its traffic. Beside the fact of sometimes being made to arrive late somewhere, I don’t mind being in our famed L.A. gridlocks – I don’t mind being in the slow moving flow of cars. I kind of enjoy being among the thousands of other folks sharing the collective experience of trying to get someplace. Traffic becomes for me a leisurely time when I get to do nothing else but enjoy the city.
Plus, the freeways – I love them! Have you ever driven on one of L.A.’s sky high on-ramps or carpool lanes? It’s like you get to fly. You get to be up in the sky among the top of the palm trees, with all the other cars and buildings off in the distant view. I would drive somewhere just to get onto one of our sky-high carpool lanes, I swear. Just recently I merged onto the carpool lane of the 110 North from an on-ramp I had not taken before, a magnificently long single-lane on-ramp that took me high up into the air, and I immediately thought, I need to remember this way so that I can drive it again sometime.
So despite the difficulty of my transition back to Los Angeles from Boston, where I lived and built community for eleven years, it is the city, the land/place of Los Angeles with all its idiosyncrasies that has been my stability and joy; and living in a second-story apartment has felt critical to that. I cannot, nor have I wanted to, imagine living on the first floor.
I couldn’t imagine waking up and not having my coffee by the 2nd story window where I stand and enjoy seeing my city first thing in the morning. Or, when I wake up extra early, getting to see the colorful morning skies right from my bed (another reason I love to live on the second floor – so I can always leave my curtains open). Every morning, as I stand before the view of my city from on high, it’s like it speaks to me and reassures me that – things will be ok, look at the expansiveness of life, it’s all going to be ok.
In the turmoil of transition, of trying to establish a new life in Los Angeles, it is the city that has been my comfort and stability. But of course, life moves us toward change, and recently I’ve had to think about the possibility of moving. And moving in itself is not a bad thing, but it has tapped into a fear…what if I can’t find a second-story place in my neighborhood that I can afford to live in? How can I live without my city companion in full view?
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I have been trying to slow down these days. In the past few months I noticed how destination-oriented I live. Always with my eye, energy, consciousness directed at the next thing. I noticed how I move constantly with an orientation toward the immediate-future and, worse, never with the experience of feeling that I have arrived. There’s always the next task/due date/place/or person I’m supposed to get to or meet. A continuous restlessness and anxiety of not having yet arrived…of always trying to, but not even sure how or to where, what, or whom I’m supposed to be arriving. I became more aware of this modus operandi of mine these last few months and I don’t like how it feels.
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I have a friend who is staying with me at my apartment for a few weeks. She is a poet and artist whose words you might have read here before, and whose work I have written about before as well, Edyka Chilomé. She is grounded, slow moving, and has a much more spiritual orientation to living than I do (an understatement of grand scale). It has been a gift to have her company and easy conversation. Being in her presence the last couple of weeks, and seeing how she moves in the world, which is so different than how I move, has been a learning experience. Witnessing her way has inspired me to practice slowing down and being more present.
So, one afternoon last week, as I was preparing for a speaking engagement, I decided to go outside and do my reading while walking around in my garden. It was early evening, and even though the sun was still out, it was a little chilly. So I decide to sit on the ground, on the mulch between my raised garden beds, knowing that it would be a little warmer there. I was reading Mary Daly’s “The Women’s Movement: An Exodus Community,” which I often read in order to get my writing juices going. Reading Mary’s words, as I sat on the warmth of the ground, I looked up and around and had a tremendous insight.
The earth is expansive. Being close to the ground, to the plants, to the green, the brown, the yellow, the orange of the earth, filled me with a sense of the fullness of life. Life on the ground is expansive – it is bursting with infinite possibilities.
I don’t just need the sky, I need the earth. And no matter where I live, I know I will have access to both, and I’ll be ok.
I have arrived
I am home
in the here
in the now
I am solid
I am free
in the ultimate
– Thich Nhat Hanh
Xochitl Alvizo, loves all things feminist, womanist, and mujerista. She often finds herself on the boundary of different social and cultural contexts, and works hard to develop her voice and to hear and encourage the voice of others. Her work is inspired by the conviction that all people are inextricably connected and what we do, down to the smallest thing, matters; it makes a difference for good or for ill. She teaches in the area of Women and Religion, and the Philosophy of Sex, Gender, and Sexuality, at California State University, Northridge.