A Writer’s Life

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Today I contemplate the nature of the word “writer”. For most of my life, I have written things, many things, but found myself somehow too scared to label myself as a writer. It felt large and consuming, the kind of title you give to a piece that you’ve been working on for a long time or something you’ve been dreaming of since you were a child.

So, yes, I am a writer. I am a writer simply because I write. I pick up my pen and jot notes on paper pads and I work my fingers over keys on my laptop to interpret life around me.

To write is to move; move through time and space in a way that calls to you and your wildest, most extravagant yet earthly, beautiful thoughts. For me and probably most writers, writing is the act of expression that allows for margins and errors and still gets to basis of something critical.

Though, this wouldn’t be a true writerly post without the mention of edits and peer-review. This is perhaps the real reason why I sat down today to draft this post. I have just received edits and comments and feedback on an essay that I thought was genius in some spots and immensely personal overall. Some people simply didn’t understand it, they wished for more explicit thought that led their own to conclusions. Some people enjoyed it and gave few comments that made it hard to decipher which response was true; the good or the bad. I believe that is the point, there isn’t a good or bad response. The writing itself is the truth. Those who make comments are just trying to rearrange those truths to flow better.

Writing is like this buttercup. Bright, potent, pigmented and small. A part of a larger whole, a larger field of buttercups that create a sea of yellow. Writing is the act of stringing together words and buttercups to make phrases and reality.

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The Fleeting Home

via Photo Challenge: Temporary

Recently, I have been struck with a sort of homesickness and longing for my deepest, most beautiful memories. Memories of a once and fleeting home that I found in the west of Ireland.

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The short-lived home is one that seems to last the longest in our hearts. There is a sense of the unfinished, untied, loose ends that will forever beckon for us to return.

Sunsets are, to me, the most perfect embodiment of the word “temporary” as they last for mere minutes, burning so strong their light into our minds eye. They have the strength of a full, raging fire yet dissolve lightly into the horizon, kissing the sky goodnight, gracefully, gently.

This particular photo of a sunset is temporary in all senses of the word. It existed in that one split second where the camera was able to capture the action of the road passing by against the concreteness of the moving car. It is also a representation of the moment in time that I existed in Ireland. A time when I lived and learned, woke and slept with the rising and setting of the sun. It is lastly a moment of movement and transition as the car moseyed on the bumpy back road, shuffling me between two equally remote places. A one-road town and a country house set against a backdrop of roaming wild horses.

In the words of Welsh poet Dylan Thomas but the spirit of rolling Irish hills:

do not go gentle into that good night./rage, rage against the dying of the light. 

The Immensity of the Little Things

It seems to be the little things. The little things that spark the most joy and grasp our attention to the point of fixation. We are generally obsessive, habitual beings who enjoy a good routine and its always the little things that comprise most that routine. In the chill of the winter that has begun its ascendance and is setting in, I start to focus on the small things more. Warmth on cold, windy skin. Plush scarves. Candle flickers.

The never-ending search for the perfect cup of coffee in the morning. When I find it every couple of somedays, I savor the sips of warm, dark brew with the just the right amount of creamy finish. Or a tiny, tiny to-go cup of sweet espresso.

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The raindrops on the windows. When I know I don’t have to go outside, I enjoy the rain. So on Saturday mornings when I’m inside and dry and the beautiful rain is outside raging, I smile.

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The sun streaming in through the window on chilly day. Somehow the sun has the power to remind us of its presence at exactly the right time.

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When stress overwhelms and chips away at my sanity, I find it glorious to soak in the little things. Go out and find them. But also be aware of all the little things in your daily life already, right now. Where can you focus your energy even for just a few minutes and take a breath?

What’s your favorite little thing?

xo Zoe

Spanish Daydreams

Olive oil and orange sunshine call my heart today. In 40 degree weather, the sting of the air reminds me of my longing to return to the spray of the rocky Mediterranean sea drawn into the Costa Brava. This post is less about the words than it is about the pictures, images of time once slowed by lapping water and sweet rioja. 

Time lapsed on, of course, as I sit here now in a chilly, dark-by-6:30 place. Though, I close my eyes and bask in golden rays and devour chewy sea creatures and sip cerveza especial.

Spain is abundance, fragrance and warmth. Spain is fruitful, peaceful and lovely. Spain is place where inner strength comes from energy gained by siestaI will forever hold this multi-colored corner of the world with me and allow it to wash away the chill in my bones and worry in my soul.

La buena vida…

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On Nostalgia & Longing

As fall rolls in, my Irish summer feels farther and farther away in memory each day. Each new sunrise means another day removed from the lush romance of Ireland and those sweet summer travels.

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A window into the past. The Rock of Dunamase, a true “castle on the hill” in Co. Laois.

It seems easier and easier to forget the beauty and grace of such rich landscapes as time slips through fingers and days roll off fingertips. How can we reclaim and grasp onto what was once ours? How do we keep it ours as we plunge forward into the future?

Simple.

Go back. You must go back, you must do it again. See the world again. You must keep seeing the world, again and again, to ensure a beautiful future. The past happened and now you long for it. Maybe in the winter months you long for the warm breeze of Majorca in May or in the sticky summer you wish for nothing more than a crisp Irish vista. That’s you’re motivation. Your strength to get up and go each bone-chilling, snow-filled day in December and rainy, humid day in August. When you yearn for your past, you can plan for your future.

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Somewhere on the road between Galway and Dublin.

My eyes drifted shut as the rhythm of the bumps and divots lulled me to sleep on the drive from music-full Galway to cozy, cosmopolitan Dublin. Grassy countryside turned to little town, then bigger town and finally big city on the way across the island country.

Oh, Ireland. You will always be mine.

Green peaks and dewy ground. Dark beer and dynamic song. Weaving in and out of consciousness on that ride from the west to the east, I willed my brain to take in the scenes passing by as much as I possibly could.

In the words of  Ed Sheeran:

We keep this love in a photograph / We keep these memories for ourselves…

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Carrowkeel, on the way up the mountain side. Golden hour. 

What I like about nostalgia is its ability to make you feel bigger than your body. I am the heroine of my own story. I am the punchline. One windy day I ascended the tower at Blarney Castle and made it through the claustrophobic staircase to the opening at the top. I followed in the line that moved inch by inch, closer and closer to the magic stone. My palms start to sweat just thinking about it. It feels higher than it looks once you’re actually at the top. Needless to say, I did it. I kissed the Blarney stone. Today I have this picture that I remember taking at the bottom after feeling so accomplished. Looking back, I just see a brave-hearted girl ready to take on a fun adventure for the thrill.

There is pride stuck in nostalgia.

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Blarney.
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Way out in the countryside. Somewhere between Ballintubber and Castlrea, Co. Roscommon.

This morning I woke from a dream starring this view. A deep view of simplicity. Such warmth and abundance in such a far away place. This view is nestled between two small towns, in a land of nothing and everything. A semi-dirt road. Horses pastures. Telephone poles. Life was simple and life was fun. One really doesn’t need much more than this view, food, shelter and spirit.

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Ballintubber, Co. Roscommon. Sunset.

I keep and hold these memories close to my heart on good days and even closer on bad days. Memories of travels past are my lifeblood and motivation. The people and places of my past are my story, my geography. A map to my life. These memories are me.

xo, Zoe

 

Weekend Escape to Washington D.C.

My recent travels took me to the nation’s capitol where I explored the city by foot, soaked in the neoclassical architecture and basked in the glorious art scene.

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I woke up early each morning to get out and catch the aquamarine sky and breath in crisp air and sip some coffee.

💡Must try:

  • Fruitive, 1094 Palmer Alley NW, Washington, DC — this juice bar and natural food stop is perfect if you’re a fruit and veggie fanatic or if you like a good acai bowl to start your mornings

I stationed myself close to the action at a less-than-friendly hotel (more on that later) on a NW crossroad of Pennsylvania Ave.

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A trip to D.C. without a visit to the monuments wouldn’t be worth it, so I strolled down the mall with a stop at each beautiful vista. Pictured here is a view of the Washington Monument from the Lincoln Memorial.

💡Must do: 

  • Visit the National Gallery of Art! — the home of Monet’s and Manet’s, Vermeer’s and a Pollock’s, the National Gallery is free to the public and packed full of beautiful art that transcends time. As an art historian in-training, I reveled in the full collection that boasts examples of pointilism, tenebrism and impressionism. Ranging from medieval Florence to 19th century France to modern day America, our nation’s gallery is most definitely worth a visit.

    Be sure not to miss the neo-classical architecture inside and out of the museum and almost everywhere else you look in this city. Take a break and decompress after looking at all the art in this light and airy atrium complete with a water feature and cool marble floors. The atmosphere is “urban jungle” and provides a nice space to sit and take a breath.

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Probably the best part of this city is its walkability. The city doubles as an open-air museum of architecture as the streets are lined with classical orders and smooth, white facades.

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💡Must see: 

  • An easy day trip from the city takes you to Alexandria, Virginia where the architecture breaks from the revival of ancient tradition. The Pope-Leighey house, designed by Frank Lloyd Wright, and Woodlawn both offer tours. IMG_5165

The interior of one of Wright’s “Usonian” type houses that he designed during the 1940s. FLW used ideas of open space and complimenting nature to design this early take on a “tiny house”.

Woodlawn is an example of American architectural style from the late 18th, early 19th centuries.

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As the sun set over Washington D.C. and the awful, bed-bug ridden 2-star Hotel Harrington, my weekend was complete.  As for the hotel, all I can say is don’t stay in a 2-star hotel if you aren’t willing to risk the fact there may be bed bugs, dirty windowsills and sheets from the 1970s.

Until next weekend getaway,

xo Zoe

Where I’ve Been and Where I’m Going

“All the darkness in the world cannot extinguish the light of a single candle.” ~ St. Francis of Assisi

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You can count on the ebbs and flows of life as the journey navigates through good timing and bad timing, love and heartbreak, clarity and uncertainty. Sometimes, like recently, it seems the ebb is much greater than the last and everything converges at once. All of the sudden there are magnitudes of hurt spread ’round the world and the bad luck doesn’t seem to be letting up anytime soon. Right now, that’s how it has been feeling. Harvey, then Irma. Donald Trump plans to discriminate against citizens of the US as earthquakes in Mexico rage in the background. Villages burned, lives destroyed in Myanmar.

So, where have I been? Since my last post was a little over 2 weeks ago, I thought I’d share why. Life happened. The craziness of a new school year swept me up and sucked me in and I am just now getting the hang of a new routine and schedule to adjust. I quit my job and cried about it. I watched the news and wondered if the world will heal from all of this. Though, in the darkness there is light, as cliche as that is. There is really only light if you think about it because in the depths of sadness there is that flame that keeps you going. There is something that sustains the darkness long enough for you to see the goodness of the light again. That picture of Welsh rolling hills. The idea living of abroad. The independent spirit within you. Alas, your plans have been derailed. You work on new ones. Small steps, new plans. That’s exactly what I’m going to do.

This is a travel blog, so that’s what I’m going to focus on. How to get where I wanna go. Happily, I have a few trips already lined up for the coming months that I have to look forward to and which will spark that flame further. Washington D.C. is first up, then a return to one of most favorite cities, Philadelphia and perhaps a jaunt up into Canada to visit Montreal for the first time.

Onward and upward is the only mindset to have when, in the harsh reality of the current times, we need a bit more motivation to keep dreaming. And here it is, from me to me and you.

Mindful Travel

If you could go anywhere in the world right now, where would you go? Why? As a traveler, I’m sure you’ve heard that question more times than you’ve wished. Though, it is a good question. What is it about that place that you crave so much, that you need? Then, once you get there, do you stop to think and remember back to that very question, why you wanted to go?

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Sedona, Arizona, USA

Mindful travel is essential to personal growth. Mindful travel means discovering your destination, never actually finding it. There is always more to that place, that city, that street, that room with a view. When you look out at the view, what do you feel? Views are more than just what you see, they are what you experience.

When you practice mindfulness, or really just being present, you can feel the pulse of the place. You can hear sounds that will forever be associated with that site in your memory. Smells, too. Travel teaches you to live in each moment, to step back from reality and suspend disbelief for a few seconds. Travel teaches you to be vulnerable. When you tap into that and really recognize those lessons you’re learning, you will gain insight into your truest self.

Take a breath and take it all in. Try a few simple mindfulness techniques and see how much your perspective changes the next time you’re away from home.

Dingle Do’s and Don’ts: The Irish Summer Pt. 2

From Dublin, I took a van down into the Dingle Peninsula to begin Part 2 of “The Irish Summer”. The roads rambled through the hills, jumping from county to county, finally spitting me out in the tiny town of Anascaul, nestled between even bigger, greener hills.

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The skylight in the B&B provided the perfect framing of the hills in the distance and the tops of the little village.

Using Anascaul as a jumping off point, Dingle was only a short ride away via car; and the drive is so worth it. Take the time to wander a bit, maybe even get lost between the two towns as you round the corners and verge the edge of steep cliffs while enjoying spectacular views on the Wild Atlantic Way. Do: find the pull-offs, and pull-off at as many as you can. Snap a picture or just stop and take a long breath of potent, fresh sea air. It’s good for the soul and calming for the mind.

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I was off along the WAW during the morning time, so the mist from the rugged coast mixed with the fog from the damp clouds and perfectly joined the heavens with the earth. It made for a wonderful shot and stunning view that can really only be described as breath-taking, without the cliche.

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Finally, I arrived in Dingle town. As an avid fan of the movie Leap Year, to say I was excited was an understatement. Of course, the town they used to film in the movie wasn’t actually Dingle as it looked nothing like the real thing, but I was still happy. Dingle is the kind of place that looks the way its name sounds. It’s bright and colorful in a way that doesn’t slap you in the face, rather draws you in. Do: walk up and down the main street in Dingle, walk slowly and window shop. After you’ve worked up an apatite, go to eat somewhere cozy and easy for lunch. Do: try a bowl of chowder and piece of bread at The Chowder Cafe. You can’t go wrong with the assortment of fresh, fish filled soups and stews. It’s never quite hot summer weather on the Dingle Peninsula, so you’ll want to warm up. Don’t: If you’re on a budget, don’t waste time or money at Murphy’s Ice Cream. It is hand-made local ice cream from Dingle, but a small, baby scoop cost me five euro. It was good, but not five euro delicious. A complete tourist trap.

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After lunch, stroll down to the water front and take advantage of the beautiful recreation area. Use the paved pathways to loop around the harbor and admire the boats and the area where the oceans comes in to calm down before flowing back out again. Sit on a bench or the rocks and gaze out at the many shades of green and blue. Don’t: expect much more from Dingle than nice views and nice people. It, too, has succumb to the boom in tourism that brings the masses to the south west corner of Ireland. Take it for what it is, with a grain of salt, and enjoy the time you have in little village by the sea.

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On a sunny day, the harbor is picture-perfect, a view that cannot be missed.

Media Monday #1: Contemporary Caillebotte

In a break from regular programming here on the LZ blog, I want to introduce a weekly post inspired by anything I’m loving currently — art, music, literature, film, TV. In hopes to spark my own inspiration for the week ahead as well as share some awesome pieces of work with my audience, I’ll share a work of art, an album or a novel that’s been stuck in my brain. With each different piece of media comes a different kind of analysis or way of sharing and that will (hopefully) turn into something interesting to read, energizing the soul.

 

Today, I begin with art. More exact, an artist, because I have been infatuated by his work for a while now. Every time I see something by him, without knowing beforehand, my eye is always drawn to stop and look. This is Gustave Caillebotte, an impressionist/post-impressionist. His work is muted, but vibrant in a way that allows the colors to dance across the canvas. To me, this collection of work evokes a simpler time, a romantic, nostalgic past. Though, it is also realistic and perfectly captures a time of transition, a slightly grungy, rough-edged period of time stuck between the old and new. Caillebotte paints Paris in the sun and the rain, reminding the beholder that life is both beautiful and blemished, equally necessary for a rich life. Le Pont de L’Europe contrasted with Laundry Drying shows rigid, man-made metal existing simultaneously with the airy, free-flowing scene of using wind power to dry clothes.

Perhaps the question is which is more important, which is better? The strength of steel or the loose happiness that a house by the sea, governed by the elements allows?

I believe that the same questions posed in these works can be applied to today’s fast-paced world.

[All photos and titles of works from https://www.artsy.net/artist/gustave-caillebotte]