Finding Your Core

I’m sitting in an apartment in Brooklyn that belongs to the fabulous Maria Dahvana Headley. I came down by bus on Saturday, and I’ll be going back to Boston again on Thursday. My schedule here has been very, very full. On Sunday, I had lunch with Ellen Datlow, who has edited so many wonderful magazines and anthologies, and then on Saturday night, Nancy Hightower and I went to a magical party. It took place in a beautiful apartment belonging to the artist Cynthia von Buhler, in Manhattan. The guests were some of the most fascinating women in the arts that I’ve ever met: writers, artists, actors, creators in various media. The apartment itself was gorgeous: high ceilings, antique French furniture, mirrors and crystals and candlelight. It will give you just an idea if I post a picture of the stuffed peacock:

Dangerous Tea 2

Yes, there was a stuffed peacock on the wall, and a lovely little dog so well-behaved that he did not bark at all at two white doves (not stuffed like the peacock, but performing doves that perched on our hands and flew around the room). It was like being in an enchanted palace for a little while. We talked about our lives and read from our work, and everyone there was beautiful and talented, and involved in such interesting projects. Here is me, underneath the stuffed peacock:

Dangerous Tea 1

I didn’t get back to Maria’s apartment until very late, around 3:30 a.m. Today, I had lunch with Asimov’s editor Sheila Williams. I have more lunches and dinners and coffees planned with writers and editors this week, and then on Wednesday night I’m going to the KGB Bar reading with Ben Loory and Mary Robinette Kowal.

It’s a very busy visit.

And it’s made me think about something that you learn in dance classes: movement comes from the core. Your core is the set of muscles around your abdominal area, the area from which moment in dance usually starts. When you move your arms and legs, you want to move them from the core. They don’t just move by themselves. They are supported by those strong muscles, from the hips to the middle of the rib cage. In order to dance well, you have to strengthen your core.

I think that over the last year, I’ve developed a strong core, metaphorically, in terms of my writing. I know what I’m doing and where I want to go. I have a clear vision of the sorts of stories and novels I want to write. What I need now is a strong core personally. I feel as though I’m still missing that, and when I travel, as I am doing now, I feel it: I can tell that I’m missing something. A sense of stability, a sense that I belong somewhere. If you don’t belong anywhere, all places are alike to you, which reminds me of a Kipling story but I don’t remember which one. Sitting here in an apartment in Brooklyn, I feel somehow rootless. I want to put down roots somewhere, so that when I go traveling, I always know where I will return to. Perhaps that’s the work of the next year.

That, and of course writing.

Writing this entry made me think of a sort of mantra: I am a ship made for sailing, and I shall not fear the storm. But I would like to know there is safe harbor somewhere.

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3 Responses to Finding Your Core

  1. Evelyn says:

    Wow, what an amazing apartment…a beautiful place in which to gather people who are doing fascinating work. Sounds perfect.

    I really like this line: “I am a ship made for sailing, and I shall not fear the storm.” That belongs on a coat of arms! đŸ™‚

  2. What a great visit you are having. At the corner of second Avenue and 22nd Street, at about 5PM I think, Saturday–I thought I spotted you emerging from a cab wearing red pants. We made a brief eye contact. You walked briskly West I was stopped to take snapshots of the Santa Con revelers roaming the streets of my neighborhood. Perhaps it was a doppelganger, or maybe it WAS you?!

  3. Thank you for that. Isn’t it extraordinary, that I had imagined, from your work, from the poise and self-confidence that the quality of your writing suggests, that you were very centred in your core at every level.

    I am sure that you will find that strong, centre point.

    It is interesting, reflecting on what you have said, that for a dancer to reach out and make the longest extension, the furthest reach, she must be anchored in that core, otherwise she will lose balance and fall.

    I know that I still need to find that point of balance and inner strength. I know it is there but I sometimes (oft-times?) forget or can’t find it or get so caught up in the peripheral activity that I lose contact with it. One thing I do think, however, is that the core is not something ephemeral, metaphorical, mystical: it must be something tangible, solid, strong. That makes me wonder if it is a sense of a place, of certain people, even certain things, rather than a ‘feeling’ or ‘sense of awareness’ ; that it is more concrete, definable in terms of space and time and personal relationship. I know many great writers such as Alan Garner, Barbara Kingsolver, Terri Windling and so many others, who feel very strongly rooted in a place or places. That could be the key.

    The Kipling story you refer to is surely ‘The Cat That Walked By Himself’ There is an interesting summary and exploration of the tale here:

    Thanks again for sharing your thoughts in such a fascinating way. On another note, core or no core, you must be doing something right to enjoy such fascinating luncheons with such wonderful folk!

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