Léna is also a Regional Manager for Writopia Lab whose mission is to foster joy, literacy, and critical thinking in kids and teens from all backgrounds through creative writing.

"Well, the question is, what do you want to believe? Do you want to live in a world where things are possible, or in one where they aren't?" Cin, Edges.

Tuesday, June 15, 2010


Woke up, it was a Chelsea morning . . . I have had a hankering to return to Chelsea and the General Theological Seminary on the square block between 9th and 10th Avenues and 20th and 21st streets for years, but had heard that the grounds were difficult to penetrate. The fact that I had lived there from 1973 to 1985 would be meaningless in the face of security guards taking their jobs seriously.

I needed to get there, because I have a manuscript gathering dust that features the seminary, but a seminary circa 1978. Some of the scenes I had imagined would now be impossibilities. We want to be as authentic as possible in our fiction, don't we?

So when I heard that one of my childhood friends was now a student at said seminary, I asked her for a playdate.

Heather is a sculptor and a theologian, and also a PK (Preacher's Kid.) We hadn't really hung out since we were kids, but found that we have much in common. The fact that she is marrying a kind of artistic meditation and ministry together is very cool in my book!

We took the C train down to 23rd Street together, and walked over to 9th Avenue. The first thing that struck me was that they had torn down the squat, gray building that was known as the "the front", where people entered, and where I sometimes worked at the front desk when I was a teen. It is a much nicer building now, red brick to be in architectural congruity with the rest of the seminary, and is now the library.

Heather and I walked down 20th street and we came in through the gate between 9th and 10th Avenues. The Seminary is far more lush than I had remembered! Flowers and an abundance of green everywhere - in fact, the seminary is an historic New York landmark, undergoing continuous restoration and is committed to incorporating green technology.

Memories came flooding back as we walked around this magical place. Heather showed me the refectory where we ate dinner at least once a week with students and faculty. It is a huge Hogwarts-esque room that had been beautifully restored. (I did take lots of pictures with my sassy new Droid phone folks, but as I am technologically challenged . . . give me another month to figure this stuff out!)

Our best adventure was after we had gone into the Church of the Good Shepherd . . . (somehow I took a picture and successfully emailed my dad, asking him to guess where I was! He "got it" immediately! Good job dad - I sure wouldn't have!) . . . we sneaked up to the bell tower . . . I was never allowed up there without an adult (although of course I went!) and so I felt naughty and excited. The stairs have not been restored! They were very rickety, adding to our excitement and nerves.

Heather had an appointment, and so I befriended Frank, one of the maintenance workers wearing dark brown pants and a khaki shirt and cap. (The uniforms used to be blue.) He was very proud of the seminary's beauty, and thrilled to be learning so much about landscaping. And he told me that I could come back any time between 10AM and 3PM. Go figure, the Seminary is penetrable by civilians!

I was loath to leave, but I had to check and see which street and which building the characters in my WIP lived in. Two childhood friends, one PK, one not, can see in each others bedrooms across the street . . . they look out their windows . . .

I tried to write in my journal, but found I didn't have language. Perhaps I need to channel my sense memory into my fiction.

And I can't end this post without a shout out to one of the vocal goddesses of the 70's - Joni Mitchell. I've been singing Chelsea Morning all day. My favorite verse is the third one. Sing with me!

Woke up, it was a Chelsea morning, and
the first thing that I knew
There was milk and toast and honey
and a bowl of oranges, too
And the sun poured in like butterscotch
and stuck to all my senses
Oh, won't you stay
We'll put on the day
And we'll talk in present tenses


  1. Wow - Lena, you just triggered a memory from something your Gran said years ago. We were talking about 'moments of awareness' and she related how as a youngster she had looked out the window across from the apartment of a woman who was stretching, I believe, alone in her thoughts. Your Gran remembered that it touched her as a young person - just the knowing of that woman's moment. Do you remember her mention of that experience?

  2. Now that you mention it, yes! When I was a kid I always wondered what it would be like to be friends with the boy across the street whose window I looked into.

  3. Gorgeous post... though, as a reader, I'm most intrigued by the mention of your current WIP.

    "Two childhood friends, one PK, one not, can see in each others bedrooms across the street . . . they look out their windows . . ."

    It's intriguing... there are so many places and possibilities for the story. Hopefully one day it will be a finished novel and I'll get to meet those characters and discover what they're thinking as they watch each other from their opposite windows.

  4. P'sK should be an interesting sort of occupation! Anyway, you enchained my attention for a while)


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