Heidi's PenWriting my way home, from longing to belonging
omewhere in the world there is a snapshot of me hitching a ride on the back of the red tricycle that my brother Karl is chauffeuring: I am standing tall on the bumper, paper doll-wrapped-in-blanket firmly in my arm. I am probably 4. Grandma has just come to visit us in rural Southern Chile and she’s brought with her lots of Stateside presents, including a plastic blow-up Winnie the Pooh chair, a baby doll whose hair I promptly washed and ruined, a doll blanket she had knit, and a doll carriage to push the baby around in. But very best of all were the paper doll books: you’d punch out the dolls and their clothes, which had little fold-y tabs to keep them on the doll.
I loved the plastic 3-dimensional doll, as evidenced by the hair washing—or was it a baptism?—that I gave her in one of the watering troughs in a field on my friend Rosi’s family farm. But I also loved dressing up my paper dolls with their tabbed clothes and carrying them around with me outside.
Something about imbuing a flat piece of paper with life… Maybe meaning is made in the caring and the carrying. I don’t exactly know. But I do know that I care about and carry many things.
At some point rides on tricycle became rides on airplanes, and paper dolls became notebook pages on which I scribbled letters home. At some point a thread called homesickness also began to weave itself into the fabric that is now a half-century of life.
But while homesickness has been a kind of longing that has made me close my eyes, writing is what has made me keep opening them to notice, among other things, what poet Mary Oliver calls: my “place in the family of things.”
Welcome to Heidi’s Pen! (It’s the opposite of homesick.)
FREE Download of Volver a los 17
In spring of 2020, I received an email from Isabel Allende’s editorial assistant at Penguin Random House. Ms. Allende had found my translation of Violeta Parra’s famous song “Volver a los 17” (Returning to Seventeen) and asked if I’d grant her permission to quote it in her upcoming book, The Soul of a Woman.
My first response? Unintelligible shrieking while jumping up and down. Because OMG! Isabel Allende, whose books I’ve been reading since my twenties, read and liked my translation! Later, after finding my words, I replied, “Of course!”
Here, dear subscriber, is the full translation. To hear and read it along to the Spanish song, I recommend listening to the heart-melty recording included with my original blog post. It’s Mercedes Sosa and four other, incredibly talented Latin American artists. (Be warned, you’ll probably put the song on repeat for the rest of your life after hearing it!)
My first crush ever was my best friend's brother. This was in southern Chile. His parents were farmers whose parents hailed from Germany. We--my friend, my crush, my brother, and I--played in the hay bales in their barn. My next noteworthy crush was a visiting...
(Or: Thoughts as I Walk to my Temporarily-Closed Office) Walked to my office this morning--May 29, 2020--to pick up a fan which was going unused there. Passed people wearing masks. A few not. Stopped at drugstore for a prescription. Hear man six feet in front of me...
This old guy started coming to my yoga class a few months ago. A complete beginner, I thought, based on how he’d look around to get his bearings and figure out from his neighbors where his feet should be, say, or what it meant when our teacher said “hips facing forward” for warrior one, and then “opening your hips” for warrior two, “as if you were pressed between two planes of glass.” [Continue Reading]
I have crushes on many people—Leonard Cohen, Pablo Neruda, Mary Oliver, Rilke, Rumi, T.S. Eliot, Billy Collins, to name just a few. My blog is peppered with posts inspired by things they’ve said. That, and wishes for them never to die, which of course they will. And have. (R.I.P. Leonard Cohen). But it excites me no end that my crush list is ever-growing:
To think that there are a thousand and one artists I’ve not yet discovered, a thousand and one things I’ve not yet read, and a thousand and one fantastic songs that at this very moment I don’t even know exist… To think!
Like just yesterday when I discovered a song I really liked on a Spotify playlist called “Chicas Indie.” This morning I looked up more music by this one chica in particular. She goes by “Niña Tormenta” and what do you know: she is from Chile, the place many a homesick thread of mine traces back to. And now I can’t get enough of her comforting, soothing, one-of-a-kind songs.
To find that there is someone else in the world that puts into words—or melody, or paint, or clay, or movement or really any of the endless ways we human creatures find to express—something I have felt or thought or dreamed, well, that right there is some kind of something like love.
Writing helps me notice what I’m carrying. To care about myself kindly and fiercely, in all my smallness and in all my bigness, in all my outstandingness and in all my failure, in all my naked truth and in all the ways I’ve hidden from it, at noon and at midnight, in calm and in upset, at any weight, at any size, at any age, in any company…
Writing brings me home, wherever in the world I am.