Sunday, June 29, 2008

I have lately found myself fallen into that peculiar twilight between talking and writing, and come out on the losing end. Given most situations I can talk the fuzz off a peach, but when it matters most words fail me, and I look around to realize that I am on the verge of losing something important because my words have run off to the south of France with my common sense.

What I need to learn is to say what I would write, plainly, without relying on the synesthetic magic tricks of my everyday vernacular. Cannot talk about the smell of cucumbers and the burning in my eyeballs twice a day Monday through Friday, can't mention how the base of my spine tingles on reflection like waking up in the midst of a field of softly stinging nettles, because none of this is what is required. Anywhere. Ever. I have painted myself into a corner with all of these feelings, and I am not sure how to talk that paint dry.

I have recently learned, though, that you cannot take back touching with palms, no matter what information surfaces that makes you wish you had kept your vulnerable places to yourself, at least until you knew the nature of the cliff you were standing on the edge of. I walked home in the dark last night from a friendly patio, scaring myself with my own shadow at each step, holding fists in my hands trying to make diamonds out of this touching, but no go. The only real option is to keep walking this path I have started down. The way back has already grown over behind me.

Thursday, June 26, 2008

I have been spending amounts of time wrapped around bones like skeleton keys and touching with my palms, and the rest of my time thinking about that, so you can see that I am very busy. I get the feeling that I may soon be taking more trains, but I am waiting for life to prove that it actually has my best interests in mind. Sometimes, I wonder.

When I was a kid I had a rock tumbler, a red barrel that turned and turned some rocks together with ever-finer grit to smooth all of their edges, so that I could glue them on to things and make profoundly ugly jewelery. We had to keep the machine in the shed because geology in action is incredibly loud, but at the end of a few weeks I had a handful of shiny stones, all covered in a nice thick coat of metaphors about the passage of time and elements and the disappearing of rough edges.
Or maybe that's only in retrospect.

In whatever case, I admit that I am slow to warm to change, especially when everything is so pleasant without it. The grit that makes things shiny also hurts, and I don't particularly want my skin rubbed off. I want change to sit in the corner and think about what it's going to do for a while before it rushes into anything, but I don't actually get to pick. What is about to happen will, regardless of how much time I would like to spent examining as many angles as I can get my eyes on. Knowing my flaws and changing them are two different walks in two different parks, and I suspect that that means things are going to get a little grumpy around here in the near future. So much is already different.

Monday, June 23, 2008

I might have said, "I have a sneaking suspicion," but that was a lie. I don't have suspicions that sneak. I have suspicions that come to town with a parade miles long, a parade replete with elephants and fire breathers and a million coronet players. I think that this is why I get so worked up about news that I haven't even been given yet. Everything that I should be thinking under my breath is thinking itself at the top of its lungs, and it has to borrow trouble from towns miles away in order to pay for the costs of that parade.

We have many of us come through the lately and the now-and-again shattered sadly on the rocks, broken into fragments like the bones and shellfish dropped from high by birds of prey looking to snack on the tender meats within. I always forget to notice the claws gripping around my midsection and instead marvel at my own cleverness, flying like this, right up until those talons release their hold. I forget about the cracking because I'm too busy patching myself with slivers of stained glass, making sure that none of my bases are covered, taking the long way around right back to where I started. Variations on a theme. Being wrong takes just as much energy as being right.

More and more I want to cover my neck, to swathe my vulnerable throat in chain mail and barrels and ancient Roman lead. I have a sneaking suspicion that I mostly want what I can't have because it looks so fetching from so far away, as it sits there among the rocks.

Sunday, June 22, 2008

It has been a beautiful weekend, except that over in Yelm my friend Brandon had to go to the funeral of a boy who would have been 10 today, given another week. It is nearly impossible to make meaning out of grief, but if anyone can make the saddest things exquisite, it's Brandon. No one should have to lose their best friend at 10 years old, but life is often cruelest to the youngest. Perhaps because they have the luxury of ignorance about the weight of the passage of time. They heal faster from the blows they still should never be made to suffer.

And all that I've been able to think about is Raymond Carver's "Lemonade," a poem about a boy who drowns in the river on his way back to the car to fetch a thermos of lemonade. The boy's father blames himself--"A man who, having seen everything now--his dead son rise from the river in the grip of metal pinchers and turn and turn in circles flying above the tree line--would like nothing more now than to just die. But dying is for the sweetest ones."

He would have been 10 today. Is he still 10? Do we stop ageing, or do we keep going as long as there are still people to remember us? It is unbearably tragic, and I hate that there is nothing that I can say to make the burden easier on my friend and his son. It's more than anyone should have to take.

Saturday, June 21, 2008

In Venice I spent most of my time getting intentionally lost. Venice is a good town to get lost in, since you're pretty hemmed in by water, and even my not-so-keen sense of direction was able to keep me in line. Venice was the midpoint of my trip, and a climax of sorts, and being lost on purpose and on foot nicely mirrored the whole point of the vacation. I was wandering the crystalline forests inside my own head, trying to find my way back to some place better at the same time that I was stepping softly in the rain down the streets of this grandly decaying city. And in Venice, each turn leads you farther away from the Rialto--San Marco corridor, closer to the alleys where damp laundry hangs against the pinks and yellows of the buildings, where cats prowl lazily along the edges of balconies, where people sing next to open kitchen windows. Closer to being a small dot on a big map, a total alien in a place unfamiliar and yet the opposite of hostile. Venice, for all of its disapproval of my solo trip, was beautiful and welcoming.

Eventually, I turned enough times that the noise in my head quieted to match the gentle lapping of the water next to the streets.

Lately, I have been thinking a lot about the sounds in cities under water. Floods happen in dozens of ways, covering whole towns under feet of water--dams are built or break, things cave in. And all that's left is sometimes the spire of a church that breaks the surface when the summer is especially dry. Pompeii taught me that a place that was once bustling leaks silence from its stones after being buried long enough, and I wonder how water muffles the sounds that used to ring through those damp streets. Does a city under the water still sound softly of laughter and shouting and gunshots and traffic and cooking and crying? Or have the ghosts of those noises quieted to match the soft silence that surrounds them? I have been wondering what it would be like to stand on top of that church spire and listen down.

Thursday, June 19, 2008

I know that I have been standing very still lately, but I am in the middle of the beginning of something that I didn't think would ever start, and I am afraid to move too quickly. I am remembering as hard as I can, letting seconds sift on to my shoulders like dandelion fluff, scared to turn lest everything sift off of my skin and to the ground. There's too much that I don't want to forget because the next steps are all so uncertain. I am off-balance and frightened and thrilled, and trying hard to keep myself planted in this right now. Over-planning and -thinking will be the death of me someday, unless the end of the world happens first.

I am getting myself into trouble, but then, getting into trouble is what I am best at. This summer is going to be fun.

Tuesday, June 17, 2008

I read today that I should be touching my tomato plants, because brushing their leaves with a hand stimulates a growth hormone that promotes stockier growth. I am fine with this, and not just because I love the smell of tomato leaves, although I do. Mostly, though, I love that a little bit of touching is all that a tomato plant needs to grow thicker and stronger at its base, to make it grow happier and better.

This should come as a surprise to exactly no one.

Saturday, June 14, 2008

One of the worst side effects of having fair skin like mine is the blushing. I blush easily and deeply, and it makes it very hard to hide exactly what I'm thinking.

The main problem with all of the blushing, actually, is that it tends to snowball. As soon as someone notices and points it out I blush harder, turning bright red, visible from space. Like Rudolph only in cheeks instead of noses. I think that this is part of why I prefer to do all of my delicate social interaction in dark bars at night.

Wednesday, June 11, 2008

Times New Viking was loud enough last night that I still don't have full use of my ears. Who knew three people could make so much noise? I keep meaning to invest in earplugs, but I always forget.

My momma is coming to town tomorrow for the weekend, which means that I get to spend the next few days playing tour guide. I love this town, so it's always fun to drag people up and down hills, pointing at Columbus and the new library and Sylvester the mummy. Plus, the food is so good all over the place.

If only the weather would cooperate. Please, weather?

Tuesday, June 10, 2008

I'm not doing much that's interesting right now, just a lot of holding up bars and eating duck in various places, but Steph and Ryan are in the process of walking from Georgia to Pennsylvania along the Appalachian Trail. This is a totally foreign idea to me, spending three months in the woods. I spoke to them yesterday on the telephone yesterday, and they have not been eaten by bears or taken up wearing overalls or been hacked to pieces by a serial killer, or fallen into a ravine and gotten stuck since they refused to take a first aid class before they left. I've been concerned.

They've been sending postcards to the internet via me, and I have been scanning them and posting them to their website for them. They seem to be having a pretty good time, now that they've gotten shoes that are either fixed or a correct size. It's not something I'd ever plan to do, but I'm glad they're having an adventure.

Monday, June 09, 2008

I have a skipping record sort of feeling lately, like I have been listening to the same guitar solo so long that the vinyl is about to wear through. I think that the noise on the other side is going to be something quite different from the noise I signed up for when I put this album on.

Walking home tonight the winds kept punching me in the chest and stealing my breath, and something turned at the base of my skull. I wanted badly to just go home, tired out from too many late nights and a rich, delicious dinner, but I couldn't. Not straight away. Something vital had gone when my lungs were emptied, so I turned instead and walked down to the water.

Standing at the cold and empty waterfront I thought about Lake Vostok, a lake in Antarctica that has been covered with three kilometers of ice for at least 500,000 years and supersaturated with oxygen, but which probably still manages to support a whole ecosystem of microbes. To support life, or what's closest to it. Lake Vostok is more similar to Jupiter's moon Europa than it is to the rest of earth, and we can't even really get to it because the pressure of all of those years would come leaping out of whatever holes we drilled, knocking over scientists and tainting what was once ancient and pure. So it stays there, under all of that ice, part of a whole network of subterranean rivers and lakes. A whole universe that we can't get to, even though we can stand on top of it. A whole universe still unspoiled.

Sometimes, I need to remember to just breathe.

Sunday, June 08, 2008

Sometimes it's good that I have this record. I'm working on a lazy case of the smash-everythings right now, wanting vaguely to break whatever I can get my hands on over my knee and then move to a village outside of Prague with a hermit crab named Claude. But I had the smash-everythings at this time last year, too, having come back from New York to find post-vacation life not moving in the directions or at the speeds that I had anticipated. Something in the air in June seems to make me impatient, but realizing that I am always impatient in June makes it easier to handle, because I know it will pass. It has to have passed, in order to have come around again.

And things are different this time around, too. Last June I reinstated the no-touching rule and currently I am pro touching. Last June I was sad and making bad decisions, and this June I am mostly happy and making no decisions at all.

Last June I had never cooked a duck on my barbecue, and now I have. Clearly, life is always improving.

Thursday, June 05, 2008

Seattle is having a hard time heaving itself over the line to summer. Normally I would fully support that--our mother star and I are not on good terms--but in my head it is already time for drinking outside and having barbecues and kissing inappropriate people. I also have a young tomato to worry about, a tomato that's not going to finish ripening without a little less rain and bluster.

I had too-optimistically put away my winter coats and thought through my wardrobe without tights, and in the last week or so I've had to reverse all of that thinking and put my legs back in microfiber. I've had a taste of pitchers of beer on the patio at Linda's and playing catch in the park and long, leisurely walks home, and I can say unequivocally that, though I love the rain, I'm ready for it to take a break.

Tuesday, June 03, 2008

I am a worrier by nature, and given enough free time I can worry myself sick, into a hysterical apocalyptic frenzy that gives me the vapors. Inside my head is an expert worst case scenario generator.

But that's not healthy, so I've been trying to break the things that worry me into bite-size pieces. I worry about skin cancer, so I keep out of the sun and wear sunscreen and live in a cloudy town and know more about direct vs indirect DNA damage than anyone should. I worried about car accidents so much that I quit driving and started relying on my feet and public transportation. I worry about chemicals and what they're doing to the environment, so I've replaced all of my cleaners and most of my toiletries with ones made of things that occur in nature and come in recyclable containers.

It helps me feel like I have a little bit of control, because the things that really scare me are ones I can't do anything about. I worry about my loved ones constantly, all of the things that can happen to them. I spend an awful lot of time fretting over the end of the world, and what the toxins that have been leaching out of plastics at me my whole life have done to my future children. I could tell you imaginary stories about terrible things for days.

It's the end of the world that I'm working on right now, though. Food shortages scare me, so I'm learning how to grow food on my balcony. I feel guilty about all of the waste I generate, so I'm composting in my worm box. I already don't drive or contribute many chemicals in the water supply, and I eat pretty locally, so that makes me feel better. But I buy too many things and have too many things delivered, and I write letters that are delivered by car. What I could be doing but am not is frequently overwhelming what I am doing, and I have not yet figured out how to break down my bite sized pieces into smaller bites.

So I find myself, lately, panicking again over the old things. Skin cancer. Car wrecks. My crooked nose and muppet head. Worry, worry, worry.

Monday, June 02, 2008

I can feel it sitting, just beneath my breastbone, humming. Waiting. The sun has darkened my freckles and the angry robot is there, powering up, trying to take over and shove those fists into my hands when I'm not looking, like a sneaky child with a bug.

Right now things are going too well for it to be much danger, but in wrong moments it surges, a lunatic at the bars. A wistful late-night walk home makes it throb, a failed conversation, one drink too many combined with not quite enough courage. Sometime here soon I'll make a decision that sounds like fun but, like closing my hand on the flower that conceals a bee, it will turn out to be the angry robot decision.

And then it will drink your whiskey with my throat, and capture all of your secrets in a bag, and kiss the wrong person with my lips. The angry robot leaves casualties wherever it goes, and it won't be satisfied to sit quietly all summer, no matter how pleasant life is around it.