Thursday, September 18, 2014

I opened my poetry spinner this morning and it thought for a second and then gave me 19 poems on joy and youth. This is a little joke the poems are playing on me, you see, since I have been feeling so tired and just all worn through with holes, markedly less youthful and joyous than I probably should be. Too small for my skin and lightly blue.

One of the offerings was Whitman's "On the Beach at Night," which is the story of a little girl learning astronomy with her father while a storm rolls in and upsets the girl by covering the stars. He tells her not to cry, saying,
The ravening clouds shall not long be victorious,
They shall not long possess the sky, they devour the stars only in apparition,
Jupiter shall emerge, be patient, watch again another night, the Pleiades shall emerge,
They are immortal, all those stars both silvery and golden shall shine out again,
The great stars and the little ones shall shine out again, they endure,
The vast immortal suns and the long-enduring pensive moons shall again shine.
 So, fine. I am not one to ignore the universe when it is telling me something, and evidently this is one of those times. We will weather this dimness the way we have weathered all the ones in the past, with soups and deep breaths and all the jokes that can fit in two hands. I don't have many skills, but I do have that one.

Friday, August 29, 2014

Perhaps it is only natural in the summer, but I have been thinking about that Mary Oliver poem about peonies, the one that goes,
Do you also hurry, half-dressed and barefoot, into the garden,
and softly,
and exclaiming of their dearness,
fill your arms with the white and pink flowers,
with their honeyed heaviness, their lush trembling,
their eagerness
to be wild and perfect for a moment, before they are
nothing, forever?
I have been thinking about looking back and about going forward, about the traps that we set in our memories and the hazy islands just over the horizon. Thinking about turning 32 next week, I guess, and how much better 32 is than 22. 

Peonies are omens of good fortune, so it's lucky that they're everywhere. Other lines of that poem say, "Do you love this world? / Do you cherish your humble and silky life?", and of course the peonies stand there, nodding sweetly yes. The thing about peonies is that they are perennials, and can be wild and perfect and rest, before coming back to do it again. No flower is nothing forever, and the next beautiful thing is just as lovely as the last. Maybe more, I have been thinking, because the next one is filtered through the last one in kaleidoscopic beauty, shattering and reforming and expanding. Forward, I think, is better.

Tuesday, August 12, 2014

Outside the hotel

If you ask the locals about the whales, they all have a different story. It's because of the barnacles and the shallow depth of the bay, says one. The whales come there to scrape off their barnacles, and that's why one whale has kept worryingly close to shore all morning. It could also be that the large number  of seagulls that spend time on the aptly-named "seagull rock" nearby produce a scent that Orcas find off-putting and which therefore makes the bay a refuge for mama whales teaching baby whales the mysteries of the sea. It could be both! That's the thing about whales; whales don't feel the need to tell you all of their secrets.

A few days later, up on what used to be a mountain, we saw a forest fire starting in the near distance. The clouds that had passed off in the distance had dropped lightning in among the brush, but we had just driven through all of those forests and seen the ways that the trees were ready for them, how they created layers specifically to be burned off. A hour later we drove straight into that storm and it gave us buckets of ice, thrown down so hard we worried for the integrity of the windows.

Monday, July 21, 2014

Cape Flattery

I have lived in the Northwest for 11 years now, but the thing I have noticed is that there is always more Northwest just behind the Northwest I was just looking at, even for people like me who do not even remotely qualify as outdoorsy. (Although I did recently buy hiking boots and a raincoat, so there's that.) A couple of months ago we wandered over to Cape Flattery, the northwesternmost point in the continental US, which goes along with my vague notion of going to all of the most places that I can get to comfortably.

Cape Flattery was named by Captain Cook in the year before he got himself killed because it flattered them with hopes of finding a harbor, which is not the least interesting way a Washington place was given its name.

Anyway, there is a lot of this West Coast that I have not seen, so soon we're going to see a bunch of it--down the coast to California and up again by Crater Lake. Crater Lake is a most--it's the deepest lake in the US--and the redwoods are the tallest, so we're covering some significant Northwesterly ground. I don't love the woods like John Muir did, and I don't particularly wish to, but I do agree with him on a lot of counts and mainly this: "Everybody needs beauty as well as bread, places to play in and pray in, where Nature may heal and cheer and give strength to body and soul alike."

Tuesday, May 06, 2014


I have been trying an experiment and waiting to write something until I felt like writing something, which is simultaneously the long history of this particular space and a new way of going about it. Forced/notforced. My brain is full of thinking but not so full of thoughts.

Through a complicated series of unfortunate events we found ourselves in the nonhours in the LA airport, which was not a place I had intended to be. It was there that I sat through my first earthquake, too tired to be anything but tired, rattling slightly and exchanging exclamations with the people around me. I have spent so many years waking in the night hallucinating earthquakes, waiting for the car alarms to start and the ceiling above to give, that it's only appropriate it happened this way, with a whimper. In most things, this is the case.

E.B. White was a great writer of letters, and his response to main who felt bereft of confidence in his fellow humans was thus: "Sailors have an expression about the weather: they say, the weather is a great bluffer. I guess the same is true of our human society — things can look dark, then a break shows in the clouds, and all is changed, sometimes rather suddenly. It is quite obvious that the human race has made a queer mess of life on this planet. But as a people we probably harbor seeds of goodness that have lain for a long time waiting to sprout when the conditions are right." If you were to guess at my activities recently--and I suppose, always--a guess at the watching therewith would be right. Thinking thinking, if not thoughts.

Tuesday, March 11, 2014

We are heading back to my alma mater tonight for a few days, which is great because I sure do need a break from all the long hours and leaking shoes. I haven't been back in nearly 11 years, and it is funny to be planning to be a tourist in a place I take so for granted. As though it isn't where I learned how to learn how to be a person.

There's a gift in those years, one that I was too eager to leave behind because as fast as possible is for a while the only way we know how to run. But for a while everything was still and time stretched forever and in hindsight I'm pretty sure that all we ever did was laugh and write poetry. (To be fair, that's essentially all we do now as well.) All of which is to say that I am very much looking forward to seeing my friends, and my old town, and eating a Cuban sandwich, and introducing this girl now to that girl then.

Monday, February 17, 2014

A few weeks ago I started folding origami hearts for Valentine's Day with no real purpose in mind, figuring that once I folded enough a plan for what to do with them would show up. In a way I suppose this was a devotional act--I was making them to transform some moment for one person somehow--but mostly I was just folding. If we try a little most of our motions are devotional anyway. It's one of the best parts of getting to be people.

My friend passed away this weekend, and I am feeling a familiar jumble of things. It is sad that she is gone at the same time that it is a relief that she is free of so much pain. It is sad that she has left behind a family and would have been sadder if she hadn't. She died a month before her party, and this is perhaps the thing that is sticking with me the most--how often she asked everyone to dance with her, how completely she defied her disease and all that it tried to take from her. I've been thinking about a lunch, just before we knew for sure that she was sick, sitting on some steps in the sun.  She was on a cleanse, eating nothing with flavor, but all she wanted to talk about was things that would make us laugh.

She's been on my mind a lot the last few months and I though about her now and again while I was making all of those hearts. It was a gesture she would have approved of, going forward with more love than plan. It is just one more way of thinking that we had in common.