28 April 2007

The wonderful world of Oz

On the way home from Australia the Tasman, 36,000 feet below me, is black like the sky. On the way to Australia, I flew above the sea in the daylight, white clouds below me reflecting off of a surprisingly-smooth ocean surface, so that the clouds mirrored in the water and joined with the clouds in the sky to form white pillars stretching from sky to sea. It was astonishing.

It has been a lovely trip. Paul and I have taught well together and have done good work. Perhaps I have met part of my goal of making connections with people in this hemisphere so that I can begin to do the work I want to do. I have walked at sunset and at dawn in the Australian bush, smelled the eucalypts, seen the deep azure sky and the olive lacy foliage that I associate with Australia (but which I only really know is true in Canberra). There have been parrots in the trees, flashes of rainbow in the lorikeets, huge snowy white wings of cockatoos. And I have watched the kangaroos, in mobs, eat, walk slowly using feet and tail, and bounce across the horizon.

Today, in case all of that weren’t enough, today Paul and Khia and their girls took me to a wildlife park outside Sydney. There I got a sense of all the native Aussie creatures—the magnificent birds (who knew how many kinds of raptors they had here? Or about the several varieties of black cockatoos?), the terrifying reptiles and insects (all of the 10 most poisonous snakes in the world are native Australian), and the magical marsupials. I saw a Tasmanian devil for the first time, watched an extremely prickly echidna (other than the platypus, the only egg laying mammal) scratch herself. I saw fairy penguins play.

And then the most glorious parts of all were not so much about seeing, but about touching. I ran my fingers through the fur of a koala and looked soulfully into her eyes as she blinked sleepily at me (these creatures are always sleepy). And then there was the area of kangaroos, roaming around, eating feed from visitors’ hands (well, from the ice cream cones we bought with the feed inside). I felt the difference in fur varieties in the different breeds, had one try to put her head up my sleeve and nibble on my watch band, and another throw her head back in delight as I scratched just the right itchy spot on her chest. I found out that koalas have little brown eyes with no eyelashes and fantastic lovely noses. And roos have enormous brown eyes with model-ready eyelashes the better to draw me in and make me love them even more.

Now, I'm home and the pictures are downloaded. The children are filled with questions about Australia and worried that their soccer games will be cancelled because of the rain. I still get a thrill from coming through immigration and having the person there say, "Welcome home." It's good to be home.

(FYI for those of you who don't get the title of this--the nickname for Australia is "Oz" and while that mostly comes from the Aussie inclination to shortening words, there is something Ozish about Australia...)

25 April 2007

A longer video clip for those with broadband

For those of you who can't get enough in the shorter clip below, here's a longer kangaroo clip.

Guess where I am

Here's a quick video from a walk I took tonight. There'll be more from this trip soon, but tonight a picture is worth many thousands of words...

22 April 2007

Home and away again

Here are pictures from yesterday in Napier--a trip to a magnificent vineyard restaurant for a 2.5 hour lunch, a long walk on a Pacific Ocean beach, the drive home through hills pulling mist up around them in the sunset. Magnificent. There'll be stories tomorrow, about a trip through New Zealand, written on a plane to Australia. I'll be in Australia the rest of the week, working with Paul. No rest for the weary right now...

20 April 2007

Napier, day 2

I’m writing this from the hotel room, two sleepy children resting their heads on my shoulders. It makes my arms heavy to type.

It has been a magnificent day here in Napier. We spent the morning wandering around, playing at the park as Michael went to have a meeting at the DoC office here and Rob went to finish the novel he’s been reading (part of the Ender’s Game series—very hard to stop once you’ve begun!). Then, after lunch, we all headed to Te Mata Peak (where Keith, our trusty travel agent) had directed us. Ahhhh, more of the spectacular New Zealand. We scampered up cliffs covered in sheep poo and over ridges that were both so magnificent and also so dangerous we knew we weren’t in Kansas anymore (Rob kept saying what I had said on our first bushwalk—that they’d never allow this in the US because the odds of getting sued were just too high in the US when someone walked over the edge). We watched two paragliders get their equipment just right and then jump off into nothingness and have the air hold them up—and bring them higher, circling and circling into the blue. We drove down the hill and hiked around the bottom. There were lots of native birds and plants in a trail that wound its way down past sandstone caves and up through the green towards the burnished straw colour of the higher elevations. We found a stand of redwoods dwarfing the native trees and then, after reading the plaque, discovered that those trees were 4 years younger than me (which made me feel like I’d been needing to take more vitamins all these years as my mother always told me).

There are things to say about the wineries, about the turning leaves, about the hills which give way to the blue Pacific. But tonight there’s just a glass of wine and a Jacuzzi, and all in all, it looks like a pretty good life.

Pictures from yesterday

Here are the pictures I tried, without success, to post yesterday. A curling fern frond in a ray of sun, the family in the foreground, walking to Cape Kidnappers in the background, and the sun setting over Napier. There will be more pictures tonight. Magnificent.

19 April 2007

The problem with New Zealand

"The problem with New Zealand," our friend Rob* tells us, "is that everything is so stinking beautiful all the time." If that's true, it's been a day fraught with trouble. The five of us (4 of us plus Rob) are in Napier, after driving yesterday from the west side of the North Island (where we live) to the east. We arrived after a meandering and magnificent drive to our pre-arranged hotel which turned out to be a depressing pit. We five went straight to work in the frigid and ugly lounge room of the nasty hotel, Rob with the yellow pages, Naomi and I with the guidebooks, Michael with the cell phone. An hour later we were ensconced in lovely semi-luxury at a motel up the street. A huge improvement.

Napier is known for its fantastic art deco architecture, which it has because of a massive earthquake in 1931 which levelled the downtown area and killed scads of people. Now it’s a time capsule, the storefronts done up in cool pastels, the wide streets filled with cafes and meandering tourists. Today we wandered into food shops and ticky-tacky tourist shops (for Naomi’s pleasure), and stayed a long time to play at the playground which perches alongside the sea.

Then we grew tired of looking at the light on the distant lovely cliffs, and we decided to make our way in that direction, and we drove towards Cape Kidnappers which is much much more beautiful than it sounds. After a brief visit to a winery where, in addition to the grapes on the vine, we saw avocados and lemons and olives growing from the trees, we found our way as far as our car could drive out to Cape Kidnappers (which is still some distance from the cape). We walked along the shore, watching the sunlight move along the limestone cliffs, hunting for shells along the shoreline, and listening to the clacking sound of the Pacific ocean moving over the large, smooth rocks which lie in the place of sand along these beaches. Then back into Napier for a magnificent dinner in one of the Victorian houses along the ocean front which escaped the earthquake. A day meant to treat all the senses.

Although Rob jokes about “the problem” with the beauty here, there is truth inside his joking. There is just about no option for someone who wants to escape from the natural beauty of this place. Today, in the cloudy chilly afternoon, we saw a fat rainbow dipping down into the sea, and tonight, in the slanting evening sun, the autumnal grape-vines turned from pale yellow to deep gold as the sun turned the sky a brilliant fuchsia. There wasn’t a place to rest my eyes that wasn’t remarkably beautiful—on the ocean reflecting the clouds, on the rows of fruit trees heavy with fruit, on the distant layers of hills which catch the clouds and hold the light. All beauty, all the time.

The pictures are from today and yesterday and aren't as plentiful as they should be because of internet problems. Sorry. So there's the gang in the minivan getting ready to go, and Naomi and me up a tree in the Napier public square. There'll be more pics that are more beautiful tomorrow!

*For those of you who haven’t been following closely, Rob is one of our oldest and most spectacular friends who has come to live with us for a while from the US. We’re not sure when he’ll go back but the lobby is pushing for his immigration.

17 April 2007

God bless America

This morning Aidan and I walked Perry to Campbell park, because the pounding surf had taken over the beach at high tide. I threw the ball down the field that was nearly misty from the salt spray off the waves as Aidan climbed the steep hill and slid down on his back, his laughter echoing into the empty morning. We came home, not seeing a single car along the road (but several people walking their dogs) and I found out from the GMU email about the shootings at Virginia Tech this morning. I am more than a world away from that place, and yet just yesterday (or how ever you figure it), I was in the raucous world of the US. What is it about the US that makes it take up so much space in the world? As someone who lives with one foot in that enormous place and one foot in this little one, I’m constantly puzzled by which differences are the most central ones, which differences make for the power distinctions, which ones mean some countries rule the world and others don’t. Once Rome ruled the world, and once England did, a country roughly the same size as this one. And Canada, which is huge, never has. So it’s not all about size. I’ll give you a glimpse of the US I’d never seen before, from my dinner reception Thursday night. Maybe there are clues here.

Mom and I had both been invited to a reception (at different times and for slightly different reasons) for a bunch of fellowship recipients at the Center for Public Leadership at the Kennedy School of Government at Harvard. Mom was keen to go, and I was dutiful. And so we met, me in a cab after class day and a dinner out with my teaching team, Mom in her car after a full day. We parked her car on a street packed with limos and crawling with men in dark suits talking into their sleeves. I figured there was more firepower surrounding that house than there were in some Civil War battles. We walked past the various guards, hoping they wouldn’t shoot us, and into a mansion in a part of DC I’d never been to before, and we discovered a place so over-the-top American that I knew I wasn’t in Paekakariki anymore. Here were the power elite—a big-wig admiral, the leaders of industry, a supreme court justice. Screwing up our nerve to enter into the parlor where the power people were talking, Mom and I decided that we would walk in casually and then find a space in the room to talk to one another so that we wouldn’t look like friendless losers. But to get in the door, we had to walk past the smartly-uniformed Admiral, who stuck out his hand and said warmly, “I don’t think I know you ladies.” No, I don’t think he did.

And he was warm and inviting, and so Mom and I found ourselves deep in conversation with the Admiral. When the Fellows joined us (from a meeting they were having in the other room), one came right up to me and said, “Hello professor. You were my teacher at Harvard on Monday,” and then and over the course of the night, we had a lovely talk about Kegan and development and doctors (this guy is a surgeon who will try to revamp the teaching of surgery, in part using adult development techniques). We stayed in the Admiral’s circle, as he talked about his days as a midshipman seconded to the New Zealand Royal Navy and the lovely places he’d seen. He told us about the shame of the NZ people’s decision not to let nuclear weapons into the harbours here, and shook his head in disbelief or sadness about how even once the warheads were removed, still the US couldn’t come because the NZers wouldn’t allow nuclear engines, either. As he talked, others joined the group and he smiled and took their compliments with real pleasure and grace. And when one of the fellows, an Italian woman who might have been just a little tipsy already, asked if I was the Admiral’s wife (the 30 year age difference between us being fairly standard in that room anyway), he smiled, shook his head and continued on with the New Zealand context, about how he was meeting with Helen Clarke a few weeks ago about this very issue. “The New Zealand people are only hurting themselves,” he said sadly, “by not allowing us to protect and partner with them.” I shook my head with some unidentifiable emotion, thinking about all of the dreadfully sad Kiwis who are crushed not to have US sailors walking through their cities, despairing that the US won’t come to their rescue when New Zealand faces its inevitable conflict with, er, one of its many enemies. But I digress.

There were speeches by famous people and by the fellows and several times I came quite close to giggles. I was taken back to years on Harvard admissions committees, where it became mind-numbing to read the applications of people who had not only done brilliantly at school but had spent their summers working to isolate key pieces of the DNA in breast cancer and their weekends making brownies to deliver to homeless people. It isn’t funny, of course, really it’s very impressive and wonderful, but it always makes me ask about whether it is at all possible to be too accomplished. While I was thinking these scandalous thoughts, a tousle-headed handsome man in front of me tried to push his way to the back of the room, but found himself trapped in the front. Finally he turned and whispered for me to switch places with him and afterwards thanked me and said he felt too exposed. My friend Loren (who had invited us), explained that this fellow was a writer for the New Yorker, working for the last 6 months on a biographical story about the man who had funded the fellowship. This impressed me even more than the story of the fellow who had been one of six in history who had won highest honours at West Point for both leadership and also scholarship and then had gone to Iraq and come back before using this fellowship to get two degrees from Harvard. I love the New Yorker—those guys can write!

Then I found myself standing in line next to a beautiful young woman who was laughing that it was way past the time she and her kids usually sit down for mac and cheese for dinner. We began talking about her kids and about how mothering has changed her life. I asked what she was doing here instead of at home reading to her daughters, and she said that she and her husband, George Stephanopoulos come to parties like this sometimes. I said I supposed that would be true.

I sat down next to Mom at a table set up in the library, and found myself wondering who the old man was at the table—knew he must be famous or rich (or both) to be in this crowd surrounded by eager Harvard fellows. There were lawyer jokes and jokes about how distinctive his organization must be with just the 12 of them and all, and I realized that here was the Supreme Court justice (Breyer, as it turned out). He was a lovely man, gracious but without the ease of the Admiral, and offered the fellows helpful pieces of advice like “You never know what’s going to happen next so stop pretending you do,” and “Everyone always looks for his own name and ignores yours, so don’t feel so exposed like you’re the centre of the world.” He talked about buying his grandchildren too many toys and getting in trouble with his daughter. He talked about keeping a moral centre in difficult circumstances, and about how you’re always from where you’re from. And we talked about adult development (because the surgeon who had been in my class Monday wanted to talk about it) and about the law about business and random things. And then we went our separate ways and had—and I kid you not, and this is really saying something—the best brownies I’ve ever eaten in my whole life.

These were the richest, most powerful people I have ever spent time with, and I began to get clear that they actually inhabit a world as different from the US world I used to inhabit as DC is from NZ (only with less travel time). The social rules are different, the whole question of what is possible is different. The scope and scale of everything is different if you can pick up the phone and get an admiral and a supreme court justice to your house for dinner. Zowie.

And somehow this relates to the shootings at Virginia Tech in a way I have not yet begun to understand. There is something about the existence of people and parties like the one I went to on Thursday that is connected to the fact that in the US, people are so frustrated and crazed and powerless that they sometimes walk into schools or post offices or McDonalds and begin to shoot people. I do not understand either extreme. And so I walk on the beach here and think about my life there and the lives in the US I do not understand and how they change me even by their existence. Today those who love students or faculty at Virginia Tech will be terrified and some will be mourning and many will point fingers and talk about how it should have been prevented. And in other places, people will go to McDonalds and go to school and hug their children and work too many hours and live their lives unchanged, but somehow a part of all of these forces. And the tides will come in and the sun will rise and set and the clouds will form, fill, and empty. Today I will bake cookies and pack for a holiday with my family and calm sibling feuds. And I will wonder how I contribute to these systems too, in my presence and in my absence.

16 April 2007

Writing on a jet plane

It’s 2am Monday New Zealand time, 6am Sunday in DC, and I have no idea what time or day it is right now right here. We have just passed over the first thing I’ve ever seen on this flight over this vast and mostly empty ocean—Apo (?), an island ringed with lights, an even smaller light ring to the south of it. after so many hours of black sea and star-studded sky, seeing the ring of lights below looked otherworldly, like I was seeing a secret alien colony. And I think New Zealand is isolated!

The long trip is nearly over now. I left GMU and my students and colleagues at 1:30 DC time Saturday afternoon, rushing out for Mom to take me to the airport as she did last time I made this journey. It was hard to say goodbye, even though to the students I am almost not gone at all—have missed only two classes and will miss only one more before we’re all together in the summer again. To my colleagues’ eyes, though, I miss every weekly meeting, and that’s a significant factor in the way we all do our work.

Other than the goodbyes with my mom and my friends, it has been an utterly painless trip, although the general outlines of it don’t sound so good. On the way from DC I was in almost the back row of the plane, in a middle seat, between an Australian professor and a National Guardsman returning from training in Germany. The plane was packed with a middle school group coming back from a trip to DC, and with the other National Guardsmen, big and boisterous and exhausted from their travels thus far. But both of the fellows I sat between were warm and interesting, and the 5.5 hour flight seems like a short one since the 12:45 minute flight is to follow. So it wasn’t bad. And now this flight is coming to an end (only 3 more hours and I still haven’t watched a movie) and I’m just a stone’s throw from home.

The trip—which I absolutely would have gotten out of if I could have—was a real success. I saw dear friends and colleagues and family, I reconnected with pieces of myself that I had been away from these last months. And Michael and the kids and Rob were all fine at home without me—the videoskyping with the kids meant that I could see them almost every day and that I felt close to them even from so far away.

The biggest surprise of this transit time has been hearing my name called out in LAX after checking in for the Auckland flight. Susan, a professor from Christchurch with whom I work on an NZCER project, was on my flight across the Pacific. She had been presenting a paper I cowrote and talking to lots of people I knew at AERA in Chicago, and we sat and caught up together and it felt very very village-y. I expect New Zealanders to run into people they know on these planes, but I don’t expect that for me. Ah, now they’ve fixed the video screen at my seat and I’ll watch the movie I promised Naomi I’d watch on the journey.

Now I’ve breakfasted and landed, I’ve crossed through immigration (where I’ve traveled in the “New Zealand passport holders and residents” lane and the man has said, “Welcome home,” to me) waited endlessly for my bags, cleared through the quarantine control and walked through the Auckland dawn to the domestic terminal, where I’ve checked in, asked about which side of the plane has a good view (they’re not sure and it doesn’t matter as there aren’t any other window seats free anyway). And now I’m waiting in an internet free zone and watching the brilliant sunrise over the runways.

As I look back over the trip, the most wonderful parts were the conversations I had with people who are interesting, smart, and wonderful. The most nerve-wracking were the Harvard class and meeting with the editor.

And now I’m home, French doors open to the cool Autumn breeze, dog lying at my side, Michael unpacking the bag, kids having eaten their chocolate and shaken their snowglobes. There were long and tender hugs at the airport and then the drive back through the hills and along the sea. It is glorious glorious glorious to be back here and back with the family. I’ll write more about that Harvard reception with the bigwigs soon, but right now I’m off to do that most blissful of all post-travel activities…shower.

13 April 2007

Out of time

[Oops, this one was actually written on Monday, before the one which follows this, which was written on Wednesday (and now, in case you're watching, it's Thursday, and boy do I have things to write about from today when I had dinner with a Supreme Court Justice and was mistaken for an admiral's wife). So there'll be more to come...]

Sitting by myself at Burdicks chocolate shop in Cambridge, I realized that just as there is a part of my soul that only comes alive in the context of the beach and the hills and the sea—so is there a part of me that only comes alive in the context of Harvard Square and Burdicks and the fantastic conversations I have there.

I finished teaching the Harvard class this morning, and have wandered through the Square afterwards, buying shoes and touching sundresses that won’t be in season for eight months where I live.

It has been this Harvard part of who I am that has been most consistently fed over the past many years of my life, and it had gotten to the point where I didn’t even know that it was being fed, really. It was just the air that I breathed.

And the air that I breathe in Boston, so different than the air I breathe in Paekakariki, comes with a different kind of beauty, a human-made beauty. This is where the sense of age isn’t found in the glacier trails on the hills but on the ancient granite headstones from the 1600s. It’s where the sky is not endless, but is endlessly mirrored in the Hancock Tower, where the water is neatly bounded between tame and manicured banks. Nature is here, in postage-stamp doses, and held carefully at bay, caged and contained like an elephant at the zoo. This place is a monument by and to people, and it is people who are mostly worshiped here. But my soul opens here, too, and moves into the beauty of this space and the elegance of the buildings and the gilt of domed rooflines and gracious brick townhouses. And I feel a sense of fullness and possibility in a whole different way.

Today I have stood up in front of 100 Harvard graduate students and a famous theorist to teach about that theorist’s theory. I have done just fine, and have held my own in difficult circumstances (and I’ll do better next time). I have walked through familiar streets in the Square, hearing the babel of languages that marks a US urban centre. I have sat at Burdicks where I have countless powerful memories to go with the powerful chocolate—it was here that my group of friends celebrated doctoral and life milestones, and mourned setbacks. I have drunk deeply of this life. I have remembered the ease and intimacy and intelligence of my friendships here and I remembered a way I used to be in the world, a way I pick right up again when I come back into this world. Perhaps I will come back to Boston in July. Perhaps I will not. In any case, I have the sense that when I come here again, I will find myself once again at home.

12 April 2007

Training to DC

We have passed through the blighted New Jersey landscape on this Amtrak train from Trenton to DC. Now we have reached pastoral southern PA, big fields of late winter straw-coloured stubble or early spring green fuzz. Where the trees in Boston were not yet giving sign of spring to come, these leafless tress have the reddish halo that points towards a future greenness, and, for Michael, the horrors of allergy season. I love that delicate tracing of red, like the internal sun working to break out of brown stillness, but for Michael it is the harbinger of anguish. I am suddenly glad he’s not here.

I am struck by the landscape, familiar and also strange now, in the grey early-spring light. This train is packed, each seat full of business people being busy, the conductor growling down the aisle after each stop. I have retreated into i-pod to block out the constant hum of people on cell phones and in real conversations. Outside the window we pass through rubbish-heaped urban misery, past endless freight trains, behind neat houses and slums. On the tall leafless tress, I can easily pick out the hawks watchfully waiting for prey, their silhouettes dark and looming against the narrow tree tops. In New Zealand, I can never find the hawks, who perch in the leafy, non-deciduous trees, and skim treetops for prey rather than diving into open fields. I hadn’t realised how much I missed the hawks. And then we’ll leave the fields and pull into the back of urban row houses, windows boarded up, postage-stamp yards piled with old tires and piles of building scraps. I did not miss that.

I have had a delightful two days in my partner meeting, with loads of laughing, some serious business development, beautiful storytelling, and a reminder of why we do this work together in the first place. And, of course, I have taught at Harvard, the pinnacle of stress for the whole trip. Maybe I’ll say a little about both those pieces.

Harvard went decently well. It would have been a delight to find myself at the very top of my game, but, alas, it was not to be. I was competent and I think I helped folks, but I had too many slides with too many words on them and I wasn’t as crisp as I need to get before I’ll be really satisfied with this presentation. I will be better next year (I say this every year, by the way). Students were grateful, and many stood in line to talk with me about things when I had finished. So I wasn’t a disaster, but have noted the room for improvement (in the 3 or 4 years I have taught this course, I remember feeling ebullient only once, and that may have been the first year. I don’t quite know what to make of that).

The Kenning partner meeting, on the other hand, has reached its pinnacle. In this group we think together, share ideas and clients and hopes, process through difficult things in our lives—and mostly laugh a whole lot. Boy have I missed the laughing. Each of us thinks of it as a key part of our experience that we laugh together, and the laughing is easy. And these are really smart people with diverse perspectives and life expereicnes and a whole lot to learn from one another. They were all clear that the reason we had gathered in New Jersey for these two days was entirely because I was in town, and because of the love and openness (rather than resentment) with which they said this, it felt like a gift rather than a slog for all of them. I take great joy in this group, and we ate and drank and planned and talked and learnt and laughed. Which made it weird that I got a migraine—or maybe it’s just exactly why I might have gotten one after the anxiety of the trip and the teaching at Harvard and all. But my meditation seems to be more effective than any drug at helping me make the migraine go away, so it turned out to have little impact on my life, and only the dullest reminder remains.

And now we head to the DC portion of the trip. If Cambridge is clearly the home of a piece of my soul, and New Jersey is clearly not, I wonder what DC will be. I will teach in my old classroom, having only missed two months of courses in my 4 months away (because I taught in December before we left and we don’t teach in January). Here is where my mother and brother live. Here is where my most recent work colleagues and friends are, and where my job at GMU still sits waiting for me. Here is where my mother in law sits in a hospital, recovering from surgery on her hip. Here is where I bought my dream house and then sold it to move around the world. Will I feel longing to return here? Will I feel anxiety about moving back? How to I make sense of my students and colleagues and the class I’ll teach on Thursday and Saturday?

Who knows. Not I. All I know is that this time in the US has turned me upside down as much as my time in the south has before. Wonder what comes next.

07 April 2007


I am home alone on Good Friday. I do not have dinner plans. I do not have a morning meeting. This next 18 hours is the down time portion of my trip to the US—the longest open space in two weeks.

I am weary, wrung out, and I am very filled with the delights of being here. I have not gone to my favorite second-hand clothing stores. I have not bought any new shoes or new earrings. It is cold and looks like it may snow again and I’m wrapped in cashmere and eating chocolate covered candied ginger from the Scheffenberger chocolate store in San Francisco.

The joys of Boston are not in the weather, and thus far they have not been in the urban experience. These joys have been in conversation after conversation with smart people that I like and admire. I have talked about the nature of God, about shifting identities, about how we might teach people to be more compassionate, more curious. These joys are in being with people who know my past, who think my kids are shockingly big in the pictures, who remember when I was pregnant. These are the joys of being at one of the world centers of intellectual power and meeting with the people who write the books that shape people’s thinking over the long haul. These are the joys of feeling my feet firm under me and knowing which way to look when I cross the street.

These last two days I have talked with extraordinary people who have made and are making a difference in the world. I’ve had former professors treat me as colleagues, and I’ve had big time book editors take me seriously. And I’ve taken myself seriously, talking about my thinking and my ideas with a variety of brilliant and potentially awe-inspiring people. And I’ve seen streets I know like the back of my hand, have not felt turned around or confused about where I am, and have felt myself in some deep way at home.

I ran into a former student in the street who treated me like a rock star and said beautiful things about me. I ran into a friend from Naomi’s preschool who is now a masters student at Harvard. I dropped in on a former mentor from my master’s program who looks almost exactly as she did 16 years ago when I first met her.

Yesterday, after a delightful conversation with Bob about his career and mine, his thinking and mine, I walked through Longfellow Hall, the center of my grad school experience and the place where I’ll teach on Monday (oops, guess I should practice that a few more times—there goes my free 18 hours!). There was a retrospective series of bulletin boards about the Harvard Educational Review, the journal on whose editorial board I sat for two years. I looked through the pictures—serious young white men in the first pictures, finally with a somber white woman or two as time went on, and then to the multi-colored, diverse boards of my time (funny to see the old pictures of white people in black and white and the color pictures of people of all different colors). Most of the newer pictures were of boards doing silly things—hamming it up for the camera. As I do not ham, I did not particularly look to see my face. And yet, there it was, hammy, even, a picture from our last night as officers, 6 women dressed in black velvet, draped with feather boas and dancing. And one of those was me.

Telling this story at dinner with Jim last night, before I described the picture in any way he wondered, “Was that the night you got drunk?” Well, yes it was. The only night in my whole Ed Review experience where I had perhaps one glass too many (which would be two glasses of wine altogether). We laughed about that night, about his remembering of that night, about the decade we have been friends.

Boston is a lovely city. Spring is slowly emerging—daffodil heads and snow drops are in bloom and the tulips are budding. The places I have been—Harvard Square, the South End, Newton, Brookline—are gracious and lovely places, with old, brick Victorian townhouses, the occasional Revolutionary War-era single family home, turn-of-the-century grand apartment buildings. And I feel myself already out of touch with the rhythms of nature, the shape of the wind, the phase of the moon. I love it here. And I miss the beach and the hills and Michael and the kids.

So, I find myself weary and revved up. I have not slept six hours in a night for a week. And I have not had so many hours of good conversations in a row in as long as I can remember. The pulls of this place are as expected as the pulls of New Zealand, and the downsides just as clearly anticipated. Somehow the foresight of knowing these pulls doesn’t make them pull any less, though. How many life changes do we get to make in this lifetime? How many identities do we get to hold at one time? How do we balance the impossible things we wish were possible? Let’s see how I live my way through that one.

05 April 2007


It is 8:06 pm, New Zealand time, somewhere towards the beginning of our journey. Somewhere behind me on the plane, a baby is screaming. I am in the bulkhead seat in premier economy. The plane is very full, the fullest I have traveled on across the Pacific. The best news about the premier economy is the plug next to me. We took off into the night sky an hour ago, the full moon high in the sky. I have seen five full moons here now, and it seems strange to be going home as I watch this one. Home. Going back to the US, where I don’t actually live. I am thinking about what this trip means to me, thinking about how I mean to it.

It is 3:57 pm, New Zealand time and almost midnight in Boston, but I am still in San Francisco, where I landed nearly 9 hours ago. My scheduled flight would have landed by now, and I’d be at Joan’s house, tucked into a cozy bed. Instead, I’m here in the bright lights of the San Francisco airport. My hands are shaking slightly from lack of sleep and I keep feeling earthquakes, which I assume are the big jets taking off and landing and shaking the building. I landed after a decent flight, zipped through immigration, ground to a halt at the baggage claim waiting for Rob’s lovely suitcase (filled with my things) to finally creep off the plane. Then a zip through customs (where I had to fill out the “visitor to the US” section for the first time) and to the place to recheck my bag which they wouldn’t take because there was no plane to put it on. And, because it was the last flight into Boston Tuesday night, I have to take the first flight into Boston on Wednesday morning. This means another red eye, only this one on a crappy American airline with squashed seats and no service. Alas.

This is not me complaining. This is actually an interesting, surreal experience. I was scheduled to be on the ground in Boston by now, but instead am here. I have had a day that could only happen in transit—a day when it doesn’t matter that my teeth aren’t brushed or that I haven’t showered or that I slept in my clothes. I am uninhibited, feel invisible. There is something lovely about that, something special and magical. I am wearing the invisibility cloak of too many hours travel and too many hours to come.

1:33 am Thursday NZ time; 9:33 am Wednesday Boston time

I am here at Joan’s. I am a time traveler and I am crossing time now. I have left Wellington on Tuesday afternoon and arrived in San Francisco on Tuesday morning, after 14 hours in the air and 2 hours in Aukland. I have left San Francisco at 11:30 pm and arrived at 8 am after 5 hours in the air. I have lived in summer (NZ), spring (SF) and winter (Boston) all on two calendar days.

I am jetlagged and bleary. There was a moment last night (my watch said 3, but 3 where?) when I panicked. My arms and legs were asleep and every muscle in my body hurt and I thought I HAVE TO GET OFF OF THIS PLANE RIGHT NOW AND LIE DOWN FLAT ON THE GROUND. Then I did deep breathing and got myself back together and back to sleep. And I survived it. I am here. I have discovered that one of the most wonderful things in the whole world is brushing your teeth.

And I have been seen by someone. I am not invisible. Joan is here, her apartment is here, and I am sitting on a bed I have sat on before and am talking to a woman I adore in the cold greyness of a Boston winter’s morning. It may snow. I got out of the terminal at Logan and thought, “Ah, it’s good to be home.” I may feel that many times over the course of this trip. I will have to think a lot about what “home” means.