Sunday, January 11, 2015


I've been thinking a lot about Boulder lately.
My year in Colorado was like a life hiatus, my sabbatical from a largely-undefined life arch. I stopped worrying about where I'd end up, and spent time being in the present.

As it so happens, Boulder was the perfect place to do that because despite being surrounded by legions of grad-school students paying higher-educational dues, the overwhelming vibe of Pearl Street is, "Who care's about tomorrow? Let's live today." (Unless, of course, tomorrow was going to be a powder day.)

Living in Boulder, my life consisted largely of coffee shop mochas, afternoon coca-colas, blogging, reading, movies, and music. It also consisted of learning to ski and to rock climb outside. It took my self-conscious East-Coast psyche a while - too long - to understand that nobody out west cared if you were an amazing skier or climber or anything-er. People just took you for who you were, no judgement; all encouragement.

I remember heading to A-Basin with my friend Wendy once.  Wendy was the nicest, most unassuming person, and a lifetime skier - she could shred any run. And yet she ran the greens and the blues with me over and over and over again. I felt so self-conscious that she was sticking with me, taking wide, slow, scenery-catching turns. Once or twice, she'd say, "I'll meet you at the bottom," and she'd jet off on some double black diamond - like watching a bunny rabbit suddenly attack a pit bull. Then she'd be waiting for me at the lift, and we'd ride up the mountain again, and she'd give me some advice on my form like she was commenting on the weather.

I miss that. I miss the friendly meet-you-where-you-are nature of the Rockies. I think so many new acquaintances start with a silent measuring-up, a lurking "what-do-you-bring-to-the-table?"  I wasn't in Boulder quite long enough to cement that non-comparison self-confidence into my brain, but I think it's a worthwhile resolution: to learn to appreciate people for their humanness instead of their accomplishments, and to say, "Take me as I am," and mean it.

Saturday, January 3, 2015

Dive Deep for Dreams.


I dreamt last night of men diving into a lake to recover shining, shimmering skipping stones.

It was nighttime, and the water lapped quietly as they slipped out of sight into the deep blue sky speckled with stars. They were quiet, like they'd worked dream recovery a million times, just as pearl divers retrieve pricelessness with a casual familiarity.

Then I dreamt of a wedding banquet (not mine) that was put on for show. The guests and gift were there because they were supposed to be, and not out of celebration. But much as in life, we often do things as we're expected to.
Then I dreamt of a Cathedral with fine relief sculptures, and beneath them was the name of the man who had created them, and the name of the man who explained why they were created.

Then I dreamt of working hard in a field. It was blistering hot and there was hay everywhere, but I was side-by-side with good friends, and we were laughing like it was just another day together. I collapsed on the ground to take a rest and looked at my swollen feet from standing all day in the heat. And I found myself thinking, "And I have to stand all tonight, too, when I'm at the altar getting married! But that's okay. I'll make it." I shouted as much over my shoulder to the man I was meant to marry - but I didn't see him.

Recovered dreams.

They make you remember there's something out there for you.

Friday, January 2, 2015

Begin Again.

It's hard to begin when you can't imagine the ending.

Sure, we can never know the ending until we get there. Life isn't written like a comfortable novel or a familiar song. And while days may line up in a predictable pattern of painfully progressive chords, every now and then there's a key change or a plot twist or an unintentional abrupt ending to a chapter, like the final scene of a French film, utterly unexpected and existential.

But what if, beyond not knowing the arc of your fairy tale, you find yourself unsure even which direction to take?

Forgive me.  I'm thinking of Cinderella in Into the Woods, stuck in the pitch on the stairs.

You think: What do you want?  You think: Make a decision!  Why not stay and be caught?  You think, well, it's a thought.  What would be his response?  But then what if he knew who you were when you know that you're not what he thinks that he wants? And then what if you are what a prince would envision? But then how can you know who you are 'til you know what you want...which you don't.  
Well, hell, Cindy.  I don't know either.

Because it's a good question, Mr. Lapine. 

And while it's tempting to think the centrifugal motion of your early twenties will just spin you around and around the same climactic destiny-coated point-of-your-entire-existence until you hone in on that sucker and pounce on life-fulfillment in a glorious moment of revelation, that doesn't really happen.

Okay, half-glass-full Chesley thinks, but maybe life is more like a skipping stone skimming the pond surface, dropping in for amazing moments and tiny touch-downs of meaning?

But what if you're one of those stones that starts off skipping pretty well, only to disappointingly and prematurely lose momentum and plummet to the bottom of the pond?

Okay.  Perhaps that's a bit dramatic.  But doesn't it feel like that sometimes?

Because sometimes you can't even dream yourself forward in ANY direction.  Sometimes you look around and you swear EVERYBODY GOT A ROAD MAP BUT YOU. 

So shake out your hair, pick any direction, and go.  Right?

Do you ever get too old for that?  For weighting the hunch or the inkling or the fluttery wings of hope with just as much importance as the sober, pensive, down-to-earth pragmatic consideration?  Can't I do both, simultaneously?

Here's my problem: I've always relied on the hunches and inklings and winged hopes.  I've always leaned hard on serendipity.  She's rarely led me wrong.

The problem is, she's certainly made herself scarce lately.

Hello?  Anyone?

And I can't figure out if I've scared her away - folded up that flighty devil-may-care daring like an old sheet and stuffed it in the back of the bureau - or if she's lying in wait somewhere, ready to whisper, "POUNCE" in my ear when the right opportunity finally shuffles under the snow.

And I hope
And I hope
And I hope that she is. 

Because I'm not quite ready to give up dreaming my life into existence.

And I think there is cause for hope.  It's silly.  (I'm silly.)  But in the past 24 hours, three maybe-we'd-be-friends-if-we-lived-in-the-same-city-but-we're-really-more-like-ships-in-the-night kind of boys - very different men, actually - have said to me (or to a friend of mine): 

I like that Chesley.  I feel like this is her year.
You're getting more and more beautiful and are always good company.  I think 2015 will be a good year for you...
You're the most confident, poised girl I know. Stop doubting yourself - you're amazing.

I know. I know.

Right, I know.  Glorious me, praised by the world of adoring peons.  
But the point is - these gents know enough of me to know if I was a phony; but they aren't close enough to say nice things just because that's what friends are supposed to do. Nor are they angling for a batted eyelash.  (Trust.)

Besides, I give those for free.

The point is: it's nice to have someone you think is interesting, someone you think is driven, someone you respect, look at you and see the very thing you hope you truly are.  
So what's in store?  What's the key change?  What's the plot line?  What's the wonderful that's waiting to happen?

I don't know yet.  But I think, if I'm true to who I am, it's gonna be good.

Tuesday, March 26, 2013


"Spring, go home.  You're drunk."
This is the prevailing thought in most Philadelphian's heads lately.  Indeed, in the heads of pretty much anyone in the Midwest/Mid-Atlantic/New England areas of the U.S.

The groundhog is a liar.  The equinox was a false finish line.  The crocuses are laughing at us.
I'm so ready for Spring, it hurts.  Go away, winter wind.  Go away snowy slush falling from the skies.  I just want to wear peep-toed heels and sandals.  For now, though, I'd settle for being able to walk out of my apartment without a parka, hat, and gloves.

Come, thou long-expected springtime, come to give new life to earth!

Sunday, February 10, 2013

Life: 3.0.

February is here.  
With what hurried tenacity life rushes on.
As much as I try to keep things organized and simple, the chaos always sets in.  Best intensions of well-planned scientific execution always abandoned for the alchemy of chaos.  
Chaos breeds inspirations.
Best-laid plans are instead laid to waste.  And life, I think, is found not in the perfect order of a faultless filing cabinet, but by diving into the mess.  So whether you're surrounded by coffee cups and scattered papers in your favorite coffee shop, 

or by a tower of PBRs in your favorite dive bar, 
life comes in the living, not the planning.  
Those are my wise words for this week.  I turn 30 in four days.  FOUR DAYS.  And I've decided to forgive myself for being 30.  I've got to thwart the real feeling of guilt that comes from who-knows-where that sometimes leaves me thinking "am I doing what I'm supposed to be doing?  Have I lived enough life in 30 years?  What have I missed out on?" But I left the classroom curriculum and the pre-ordained grading scale many years ago, and one of the real benefits of living in my generation, and one real gift from parents and teachers who raised me to have free thought, is that I don't have to measure my life against anyone else's.  
I have been born and bred and sent daily into the world with the understanding that my independence and originality and interpretation is worthy and wonderful.  I just forget it from time to time.
And isn't it the most empowering realization, to see that what you once thought was broken isn't really unusable... it's beautiful.
So, 30, you shall not be characterized by anxiety and worry and self-recrimination.  

You will be fabulous.
And flirty.  

And full, to the brim, to the spilling point, to the absolute max... of inspiration.

Sunday, January 13, 2013

Speaking of Music...

There is some auditory GOLD that has been hitting the airwaves so far this year.  I hardly know where to begin, but my 2013 discoveries are stacking up.  Want to know what's on the playlist so far?
Of course you do.

Let's start with a bit of an anthem.  This one has definitely made the soundtrack of my life.  I can think of several applicable moments for it.  It's Only the Brave by The Last Royals.  Great anthem.  Great.  Makes me want to dance and fall in love just because.

Did you like it?  Because here's another mover-and-shaker.  It's Youngblood Hawke's Stars (Hold On).  A little atmospheric west coast feel-good music.

 We've all got the sun to follow.  Hold on, hold on, the stars are bound to change; hold on, hold on, wait for another day; hold on, hold on, the future's not that far away....

And now, one to grow on.  Sweater Weather by The Neighbourhood.  It's just a bit mellower, but very catchy.  The lyrics paint pictures.
It'll grow on you...especially that chorus.
And that is all for now!
I can't give away all the gold at once.  You'll have to come back for more.
Happy listening!

Friday, January 11, 2013

We're All Stargazers.

Last Sunday was Epiphany.

December's half of Christmas was all about the miracle of Christ's birth and the humility of a Child born in a stable and the awe and disbelief of shepherds gathered around a shining bundle of Joy, Joy enough to fill the whole earth.
But I love Epiphany, because it's when the wise men show up.  Kings of the Orient.  Esteemed magi who studied and thought and taught.  It is when these three kings arrive in Bethlehem that humankind's Epiphany happened - the realization that this is a miracle, unlike any ever conceived before; here is our God come to earth for man (and by woman!).  And what a realization that is.
But enough theological posturing.
What gets me every time is: The Star.

Star of wonder, and star of might, and star of royal beauty bright.
We're all Stargazers.  We're always looking toward the bright and the joyful.  We're looking for things that will light up our lives.  We're dedicating our lives to following those things.  But isn't it all too easy to set our sights on the stars that shine bright but burn out fast, or the stars that are in the fashionable part of the sky, or the stars the move quickly and disappear behind the clouds forever?
The trick is to find the start that shines brightest for you.  The star that fills you up with light, so that you, too, shine for others.  The star that lights your way, and lets you light the way for others.  The best Stargazing is about finding your Joy.
So when was the last time you did something that made you feel truly wonderful?  Was it writing or singing or teaching?  Was it healing or helping or creating?  Was it learning or sharing or leading or supporting?  Was it just loving?
Think of all the stars in your life, and then think of the one that makes you burn brightest.  
Have you thought of it yet?  

Good.  Now don't let it out of your sight.

Did you know that Twelfth Night is Epiphany, and that Shakespeare wrote Twelfth Night as a celebration of this day?  That it's an entire holiday dedicated to embracing the joy and merriment of Christmas, enjoying every last drop of Christmasness, before the season ends?
Next year: Twelfth Night party.  For sure!