Christina Rosalie

Posts from the “A Manifesto For Showing Up” Category

Like magic

Posted on April 4, 2015

Processed with VSCOcam with c1 preset Processed with VSCOcam with hb2 preset Processed with VSCOcam with f2 preset Guster | Christina Rosalie Processed with VSCOcam with f2 preset Processed with VSCOcam with m3 preset Processed with VSCOcam with f2 preset Processed with VSCOcam with a6 preset End of day Big bean reading Little Sprout Leaving work | Christina Rosalie Processed with VSCOcam with c1 preset

Today I found myself standing in various rooms, having walked there from other rooms without knowing why, on auto pilot. I opened the bathroom cabinet, then shut it again, forgetting to take out the hair dryer. I opened too many browser tabs and crashed Chrome. I forgot obvious words in the middle of sentences. Basically I ran out of words. Every single word squeezed out into sentences for presentations in which every word must be the exact right word. It’s been a doozy of a week.

On Monday I gave away my cat. Bean is allergic, terribly. I stayed up with the friend I gave the cat to, drinking wine until nearly midnight. When I left the cat followed me to the door. We had her since our first apartment together, T and I. We had before 9/11. We had her from the advent of Web 2.0. Remember when email was a novelty? Remember when we had Hotmail accounts? Remember Ask Jeeves? My friend who took the cat is gorgeous and smart and loves brass figurines. Together with her husband I think they may love the cat more than we collectively did, seeing as T never really loved the cat, only grew accustomed to her. Still, to look back and remember getting her from the shelter together, baby faced, just out of college, and then to see our lives now? Time flies like magic.

On Tuesday I stayed up till nearly midnight, at a Guster show. I remember how much a friend in college adored their band, though I never listened to them much. Turns out, one of my sweetest writer friends in VT is married to the lead singer, and our families became friends. It was a kind of surreal to watch him perform. He was so exactly himself, and yet so much larger than himself, and then after the show, hugging him, he was just regular again. Like Magic.

On Wednesday I stayed up until midnight, working on a presentation for work. As a strategist, I basically start with the broadest and most complex challenges, or ambiguous data sets, and then distill them gradually. Often pages upon pages end up being a single page, so obvious that it doesn’t look like it’s anything at all. This, in fact is the mark of good strategy: to distill to the point where something is self evident. Where it’s so straightforward and intuitive, there can be no mistaking. The work to get there is often arduous, but invisible once the answer becomes evident. Strategy is all about process. Thinking about that this week, I thought of the Tibetan monks I once watched making sand mandalas. They bent over their work for an entire week with intention and focus, creating something splendid, and then sat back to let the wind blow it away. Magic.

On Thursday before I collapsed into bed the minute the kids were in bed, which is late these days because of spring vacation. My mother in law is to watch the boys for the two weeks they have off which is a boon. She makes soup and takes the boys on adventures, and her love, unconditional and abundant, is a gift. Yesterday they did tie dye. So far all I have seen as an outcome is that my ten year old’s hands are somewhat permanently dyed blue. His grin when he announced he was a Smurf was perfect.

Today I missed two coffee dates with two different sets of people because of the work. I said goodbye to one of my favorite designer friends who’s moving on to a rad new show. He is one of the zen travelers I know. I had the fortune of taking a trip with him to Chicago for a conference last year. He forever changed how I think about travel. Worry less. Just show up. That’s basically his approach. Its good for life too.

Now, looking ahead to Saturday, there will be Easter egg dying and coffee drinking and bike riding and writing.

I write every saturday, slowly but surely on my next book, or more realistically, on a single story that will be in my next book eventually. Each weekend I wrestle the piece back from a feral state. I write sentences. I delete them. I grapple with the way everything seems to come back to my mother, even though the story isn’t about my mother at all. I sit in a cafe a few blocks from my house and I write, and in between I watch people come in. One couple comes every weekend. They spend the entire time taking selfies, and photos of their coffees. She wears incredible stilettos. He wears one of those baseball caps with a flattened bill. Another is a guy who is also writing. He takes smoke breaks out in front and fiddles with his wait length dreads. So far we haven’t said hello. It seems like a matter of time.

Tomorrow, the weekend. How grateful I am every week for the interlude. It’s like code switching. Right brain left brain. On the weekend I exhale. Sometimes I fall apart. Sometimes we argue. Sometimes we fall harder in love. Whatever happens there always magically seem to be enough moments to reconstitute me for another week. Magic.

Happy weekend, friends!

Be in time.

Posted on January 4, 2015

“You will be told that ‘time is your greatest enemy, time is your greatest possession. Hey, you better be careful with time because time don’t come back’; “Time flies” “Time is of the essence” “Don’t waste time” “You must control your time” and, above all else, “Be on time – Be on time.” Well, friends, in the words of the great Louisiana jazz trumpet man, Enute Johnson, “Son, don’t worry about being on time, be in time.” Because when you are “in” time, you can accept and experience a much larger slice of life as it unfolds. Instead of imposing your will on every situation, you focus on including everyone else, and just that little adjustment of attitude gives you the space to understand where and who you are.”

— Wynton Marsalis at my college graduation forever ago.

Patience is the destination

Posted on November 24, 2014

Processed with VSCOcam with f2 preset Processed with VSCOcam with c1 preset Processed with VSCOcam with f2 preset Processed with VSCOcam with f2 preset Processed with VSCOcam with hb2 preset IMG_4034 Processed with VSCOcam with f2 preset IMG_3570 Processed with VSCOcam with g3 preset Processed with VSCOcam with c1 preset IMG_2828

Hello friends. I’ve missed this little corner of the world. Missed the routine of showing up, of documenting simply, day by day. Of taking notice, and hearing in turn how your worlds align and turn. I like that asynchronous connection. The moments of inspiration and reflection that come of shared moments across time. The stories that find their way into the comments. The wayward emails I get, reminding e we’re all connected, and my words find their mark in New Zealand or Sweden, Buffalo, under feet of snow, or in Burlington, where my muscle memory is still strong, and winter has already gathered close.

Here, autumn slips towards winter gently. The rains have started, but each day there are moments of brightness, and in them we rake leaves, look up at the sky and find rainbows, or walk to the cafe among the rose gardens for chai tea in the afternoon at work. Still, it’s taken until this month to feel a gradual settling of routines, and a steadiness in orbit here.

In the cafe yesterday while writing, I overheard someone say, “Patience is the destination.”

I couldn’t help thinking that they’ve got it exactly right. Flannery O’Conner only ever finished three pages in the three hours she wrote each day, and Gertrude Stein even less, though both I think understood the secret is just showing up steadily for something. Stein said, “If you write a half hour a day, it makes a lot of writing year by year.” The accumulated truth of persistence. The evidence of patience on the page.

All this to say I’ve begun writing again, stories this time, slowly. I write for three hours on Saturdays, and find that with this routine I’ve begun to be increasingly able to just sink in and write when I get to the cafe and order a coffee. In between times the story lives with me. The scenes find me vividly and sometimes I’ll write notes, like today while running on the treadmill I could hardly wait to finish three miles so I could jot down what I’d worked out.

I’ve stopped expecting I’ll finish anything with any kind of speed, and with that release of expectation I’ve found a new kind of focus for my work.

Still, it takes commitment. To showing up. I’ll be working on this new material at the Tin House winter Writer’s Workshop in January, staying in the Sylvia Plath Hotel on the Oregon coast for a long weekend, and for this opportunity thrilled. It’s a way to remind myself of who I am. Of putting a stake in the terrain that is my life, as a writer, even as I am also other things.

What I remember + what I know

Posted on July 1, 2014

Processed with VSCOcam with f2 preset Processed with VSCOcam with f2 preset Processed with VSCOcam with f2 preset Processed with VSCOcam with f2 preset Processed with VSCOcam with f2 preset Processed with VSCOcam with f2 preset Processed with VSCOcam with g3 preset Processed with VSCOcam with f2 preset Processed with VSCOcam with f2 preset Processed with VSCOcam with f2 preset Processed with VSCOcam with f2 preset Processed with VSCOcam with f2 preset Processed with VSCOcam with f2 preset Processed with VSCOcam with f2 preset Processed with VSCOcam with m5 preset Processed with VSCOcam with m5 preset Processed with VSCOcam with a5 preset Processed with VSCOcam with a5 preset Processed with VSCOcam with f2 preset Processed with VSCOcam with c1 preset Processed with VSCOcam with f2 preset IMG_1102 Processed with VSCOcam with m5 preset Processed with VSCOcam with f2 preset Processed with VSCOcam with f2 preset Processed with VSCOcam with f2 preset Processed with VSCOcam with f2 preset

Processed with VSCOcam with f2 preset
I didn’t mean to stop, only, there it is. Life has a way of finding you, amidst your best intentions. I love what this small challenge inspired. A rash of brilliant posts by my friend Amanda; photos to take your breath away my other dear friend Hilary, who always needs to be nudged to document; and a handful of other daily glimpses from friends and readers I don’t know, but feel like I know just the same.

I intended to keep on, but then the weekend came. Weekends have a way of filling up to the gills lately, and after the weekend, a work trip to Texas, planned to be short, but made longer by a cancelled flight and extra night on the way home in Phoenix, Arizona. So there it is, back to back days without a single chance to gather the moments here. To upload the images, or record the observations as they happened, though there are many notes scrawled in my notebook or jotted in the notes app on my phone. A chronology of circumstance. A record of the small things, and the big. Sentences that happened only in fits and starts, but never here.

What I remember is the heat in Texas and the rain that turned the sky to black. The century plants and cactuses that reminded me of my earliest years in Los Angeles. The heat of a blue sky filling with thunderheads, while down below we ate ate eggplant fries, and truffle oil reveled eggs, and catfish tacos.

Then non-time of the airport, reading Inc. cover to cover, and Elle, and also Fast Company, and feeling the ways something shifts in my brain when I have long stretches just to read and think. Ideas have a way of magnetizing then, like finding like; fragments converging.

What I remember is coming back so tired in the morning that after a cup of hot tea and checking email I took a nap, wakening hours later and not knowing immediately where the edges of dream ended and reality began. There, in bed with the dog curled by my hip, I let myself float in a way I rarely get to: between sleep and dreaming where thoughts are buoyant and things have wings.

There, and also in every waking instant, I’ve been thinking now about my new book. There are two actually. The ideas bookend each other. The narratives make a dialog, an equation, an equilibrium. I’m curious if I can pull it off.

What I remember is the sweetness of my boy’s when they came home from camp. Their hailstorm of yells and shouts finding me there at the doorway at the end of the day. Their arms around my neck, their kisses on my sounders, cheeks. Their fingers in my hair, and even still with them under foot, a different kind of kiss. Stirring, sweeter, finding T’s heat mirroring my own.

Then the weekend, dawning with rain. Making a raspberry crumble to share at dinner with friends. The biggest rainbow we’ve seen. The boys shouts. The first firecrackers for the Fourth echoing down the street. Twilight. Then Sunday morning bacon and good coffee. Painting the guest bedroom a fresh white. Baked chicken and mashed potatoes on the new walnut outdoor table T made by hand. White wine in handblown glasses. Watching the walnut leaves blow in the wind.

What I remember is this: to show up and to try is all it takes. To show up with the intention always is the start. I begin. I keep going. I go until I find my way. That, in the end, is all I know.

Now there is a reckless, rag tag folder now of drafts in Scrivner. It’s raw and new, but no matter. The beginning is here.

This is how it happens, friends. A book, or anything else. Any body of work, any essay, or dream, or plan begins with showing up; with training the mind to bow at the simple task of arrival, noticing the world.

Happening in between

Posted on June 11, 2014

Processed with VSCOcam with c1 preset Processed with VSCOcam with m5 preset Processed with VSCOcam with g3 preset Processed with VSCOcam with c1 preset Processed with VSCOcam with a5 preset

In between the time we come in through the front door and I drop my bag and the little one’s backpack on the couch, settle the heft of a grocery sack on the counter, and drink a glass of water, the tempo of story is sounding out a quiet staccato in my head.

In between the time I cut up the purple onion and sauté it with thyme, adding the other vegetables, sweet Italian sausage and hot pepper flakes; and the time I slip out the front door away from the sound of the vacuum and the banter of the boys (Sprout constructing Lego structures, Bean making origami ninja throwing stars) words begin to scatter like raindrops at the beginning of a storm. No plot line, no finished sentences, just the ideas arrowing down in quick succession.

In between the time I sit down on the front stoop, noticing the way the light filters through the big-leafed tree above me, and turning my lens to find its flirtation with shadow, the orchestra is tuning at the back of my mind. Discordant, but persistent. The timpani, the saxophone, the violins striking out, querying, querulous. Nothing makes sense yet but this much I know: a book is in the offing, as inevitable now as the predicted rain. Here it is, happening in between, even as the ordinary moments continue.

The challenge, of course, is to pin the ideas down. The challenge is finding the steadfastness to listen hard, and then to show up at the page.

To be at the beginning again, knowing almost nothing

Posted on June 3, 2014

“It makes me so happy. To be at the beginning again, knowing almost nothing…. A door like this has cracked open five or six times since we got up on our hind legs. It’s the best possible time of being alive, when almost everything you thought you knew is wrong.”
— Tom Stoppard (from Arcadia)

It’s taken me a while to write because every street, every ritual, every instance of who I am, and who we are as a family has been made new with this move. We arrived one month ago, chasing the sun across this wide country, and settled gradually into a wee bungalow with an arched doorway that’s just up the street from the original Stumptown .

IMG_8997 IMG_9111 IMG_9176 Processed with VSCOcam with f2 preset Processed with VSCOcam with f2 preset Processed with VSCOcam with f2 preset Processed with VSCOcam with f2 preset Processed with VSCOcam with f2 preset Processed with VSCOcam with a5 preset Processed with VSCOcam with m5 preset Processed with VSCOcam with f2 preset Processed with VSCOcam with f2 preset Processed with VSCOcam with f2 preset Processed with VSCOcam with f2 preset Processed with VSCOcam with f2 preset Processed with VSCOcam with f2 preset IMG_9734 Processed with VSCOcam with c1 preset

Processed with VSCOcam with f2 preset

First impressions:

There are flowers everywhere. Bamboo grows like a weed, but I like it so. Whenever I go running, I find new paths and neighborhoods past enormous, ancient trees, bigger than any I’ve ever seen except for the Sequoias growing up. I run uphill, up an old volcano cone until I have a view of the city from above. On one side, Mount Hood lifts above the blue like a dream. On the other, bridges, so many of them, and a skyline I’m falling in love with.

It’s taken days, many of them, for my internal sense of direction to kick in strongly. I’ve oriented now, and there are more days than not (finally) that I can find my way around without help from my iPhone. Thankfully, someone thought to plan most of the city in a grid, with numbered streets running one way and named streets the other.

Our little home is the littlest yet, but I love it harder every day. The angled archway going into the breakfast nook. The gorgeous morning light in the bedroom, and the evening light that floods the living room when we come home. Upstairs, the boys have the “master bedroom”: a long rectangular room that was once the attic, refinished with lovely cabinets for all their things, and plenty of space to play. It’s made so much sense for them to be up there, where they can sprawl out and leave legos and shells and dress-up things about. And in turn, our bedroom downstairs is dreamy. I’ve always wanted a room just like this–with windows across two walls, and white floaty curtains that lift and flutter in the breeze.

In the backyard the boys spend a great deal of time in the hammock strung between a plum tree and apple tree. They tilt each other out and scream; they have tickle fights; they drag up quilts and snacks; the read books; they argue. They’ve both adjusted to their new school and routine with grace and resilience, but there are still there moments when so much change adds up. When things feel scary and big to them. When they fall apart. When they ball their fists. When they cry.

Bean, especially is growing into himself in new ways, and new moods and wonderments overtake him. Sometimes he is the sweetest, and other times morose. His long legs, coltish as ever, his eyes flashing with a new defiant light. Sprout, full of eagerness, tender-hearted, hot-headed. Last night, when things didn’t go his way, he stomped his feet and wailed, “I wish the world hadn’t been made this way at all.” Oh, to be small.

We live near the ocean now. Near food trucks and book stores and swanky restaurants and cafes. My creative mind is drinking it up, like someone thirsty after a long drought. How I love to be at the edges of things watching; or at the center, unnoticed, curious, smitten with beauty. I love the thousand faces I pass every day. The bikes, the blooming roses, the bumble bees, the baristas. I love the jumping rope that happens every morning, rain or shine outdoors at the boy’s school. I love the tiny studio T built for me, with just enough space for creating, floors made for spilling paint, and walls for thumb tacks.

And… I am still finding the tempo of life here. When writing happens; when work does; and also running, and painting, and kissing and friends and dinner too. One of the things I’ve missed the most, that this blog has always been for me, is a daily record. A few moments pause. A handful of moments of intentional observation. Sometimes the most effective way of reclaiming creative habits is to start with exactly where you are, and with the smallest actions, which build to their own momentum and greatness in time.

I’ve been thinking a lot about what that might look like, and I’ve settled on this simple routine for June: 5 photos + 5 minutes.
5 photos documenting moments throughout the day, and a 5 minute writing exercise: simply recording the immediate, the present, the now.

I’d love for you to join, if you’d like! (I’ll be posting more about this little challenge. Keep an eye out.)

Sojourn: The temporary state of now

Posted on March 2, 2014


sojourn |ˈsōjərn|

a temporary stay.

Since December I’ve been doing yoga every week-day morning. Just a short, half hour vinyasa routine that ends with a few minutes of meditation. Every morning I show up, bend and bow, and discover my hamstrings are still as tight as the day before. Every morning show up, find my breath and focus my attention–and then loose it; find it, then loose it again.

Some days it’s less of a struggle, other days it’s more so, depending on how willing I am to take this sojourn into the present; how patient I am to sit with non-doing. Sometimes I count slow inhalations; other times I really am just there, in my breath; but many times I’m impatient, bucking up against the uncertainty of the now.

Without a clock, just breathing, time does it’s own thing: Slowing to a maddening pace so that five minutes are an eternity of interruptions and distractions. The dog comes wagging. The boys wake up. The winter light glints through the chinks in the shades and flirts with my closed lids. Then all the worries I carry come crowding up, knocking their carpet bags and banging their shoes in the muddy entrance way of my mind.

If there were a clock, a countdown, a promise of what’s next I could be patient I think. I could let go, sink in, and sojourn into the temporary state of now. But with the wide expanse of temporariness stretched out before me wide without a way to mark it’s passing, each day I am challenged just to sit. To breathe. To be empty, and then to fill.

This has made me consider all the ways that I struggle with being in between, in the middle, in a temporary state of non-action, which is where I’ve been in my life quite a bit lately as we make plans and circle round them slowly, uncertain about a future that has yet to arrive.


I love this list of prompts so much, I’ve decided to join Amanda in writing every day as often as possible this month.

You are not in control

Posted on October 16, 2013


Any time could be the last time. The last hello-goodbye. The last drink. The last caress. The last giggle, macaroni and cheese dinner, yelling match, email, orgasm, inspiration, idea, breath. Anytime could be your time. To leave. To arrive. To become. To cease becoming. Whatever way you think of it, whatever you believe.

 Any instant could be your last.

We’ve been talking about this often, since our lives brushed against the raw edges of this truth, and its tremendous, unavoidable evidence has given rise to both panic attacks and wonder.

“How can I have spent five months running through it, and not known I was that close?” He asks, wondering about the doctor’s matter of fact sentence:

“You had a week or two at most.”

We are all that close.

The world is cruel and beautiful; the gods are splendid and irreverent; the odds and science are what they are; and the truth, a secret dervish twirling just beyond.

“It’s in my control now, to do more,” he says, committing with renewed vigor to diet and exercise and all the other proactive things that indicate clear arteries and a long life. 
And there it is, the sly and foolish word control, which has come to mean some kind of power over outcomes. Assurance, even, that the outcome we intend is ours.

But watching the gulls on the lake, I am privy to a different truth.

They have gathered at the edges of the rocks. Some have hunkered down, their white feathered breasts against the rocks. Some stand on a single yellow leg, the other tucked beneath feathers for warmth. Others tilt and pitch gently in the steel blue waves.

When I arrive they turn their lidless eyes in my direction, watching for the unknown of what my intrusion might mean. When I move slowly, they turn back. They have no illusions of control. No ornate or predetermined accounting for the way their life unfolds. What they know innately is attuned attention and response. The waves come and they rise. The wind tosses their hollow bones aloft, and they soar in flight.

We too, have only this, as puny as it seems. As much as our desires and egos and legends paint a different, grander backdrop for the stage upon which our life unfolds. Of course we think we do. It is our myth, spiraling back to the epics at the beginnings of time, and to the sagas of god and man grappling over the outcome of fate on Mount Olympus. It is our human striving to tell a bolder narrative, with us at the helm. 
We wage wars, with ourselves with each other over control. Over achieving some unswerving, undeniable guarantee that we are the makers of our destiny. That control is ours.

We think, “If I just…”

Just whatever it is we bargain for in our heads. Whatever illusive thing we believe that if we do we’ll have control: exercise every day, lose weight, say I love you, get the job, live closer to town, live away from it all, be discovered, become rich, eat a paleo diet, get elected for office, eat local, buy organic, pass that law, get eight hours of sleep. Whatever.

But even if you did each thing, even if you did everything, your life is still a gift; slight and rare in a tremendous universe. In an instant, it could slip. A blockage, a tumor, a fluke accident, a brutality. There are a thousand ways your life could end this instant, in spite of our best efforts. You are not in control.

So what can you do then, with this truth?

You can show up with intention for this life. You can attune your attention. You can choose your response. Still, no outcome is assured. The raft of your life is buoyed up by some grater force.

For the gulls, every intruder, possible threat, devastation, predator, or darkening night is simply an offering of life. Just as the sparkling tides, the pale crabs, the twirling yellow leaves that scud across the skies, are also only life. What is theirs, are wings, and wind and days.

What is yours is the way you meet the turbulence as it arrives: with grace or terror, with gratitude or anger, with openness or clenched fists, with focus or distraction. Your life will find you, no matter what you plan. Be here then. Be of this wild, brilliant new day. Respond as truly as you can, and know this life is made both of your breath, and of the wind you breathe.

Of an instant the gulls take to the air in unison, and their harsh calls are carried upwards with the sudden wind.