Wednesday, December 31, 2008

2008, you were a total asshole, and I am not sorry to see you go.

I mean, of course I had some serious fun--I always have fun--and there were Tuesday nights and Sunday brunches at Linda's and shotter pops and laughing so hard my face hurt and making out and Elvis singing to a chicken and mustaches and going to LA and Delaware and Philly and hayrides and sledding and sewing and an ever-increasing amount of high fives. And there was Election Night, which was one of the greatest nights of my life so far.

But there was also all of the crazy and broken and crying in cabs, the getting dismissed and played and freaking stood up for the first time ever, and spending all of this time just sick and tired of myself. Man, am I annoying. Plus, 2008, you took my grandfather, who by all rights I should have had for years to come, or at least have been able to say goodbye to. I am pissed that you took the chance of knowing my grandfather away from my hypothetical future robot children, and I am really angry that you did this to my very important grandma, who has been grief-stricken and just got out of the hospital yesterday on what would have been her wedding anniversary. So, really, to hell with you, 2008.

But, whatever. After all, as Rumi said, "strong hooks hold you in this wind," and as always the only really important part is that I am surrounded by amazing people, healthy and mostly happy and definitely safe, and I really should just let the rest of it go and focus on being useful to all of the people that are left.

The only thing I did of real personal value was my solo trip to Italy which I pretended very hard to be cavalier about and which actually scared me silly. And in the end it turned out that I loved being somewhere foreign all alone for that time, feeling a very specific sort of brave and the same sort of lonely, and more importantly feeling all of my colors calm and shift. Even now I miss that quiet with an ache just below my breast bone.

in 2008 I wrote this and this and this that are all maybe not so bad. And from what I can tell, all of the tiny wrinkles appearing around my eyes and nose and mouth seem to be falling in smiling sort of patters. I think that all counts as victory.

Happy new year, internet! May your fireworks go off on time and the person that you kiss at midnight be prettier than you deserve.

Sunday, December 28, 2008

Stevenson said that Treasure Island started as a map, that he was drawing one day, filling in names and measurements and notations on a map, taken with the spirit of the map itself, and realized on looking at it that what he had was actually a book. And then that first map was lost, and he had to make another, but by then the story was written and the map had to be made to fit it rather than the other way around. And that second one was never Treasure Island to Stevenson, not in the way the first one was, even though it's the map that has been the adventure to generations of people since.

I bought calendars this weekend, for my apartment and my office, although everyone I know looks at me like I've just told them about inventing this great thing called the wheel when I mention it. I suppose that computers and telephones are supposed to have taken over these functions for me, but I love calendars almost as completely as I love maps. Calendars are maps, really, maps of each day of each month laid out in an orderly way, hung on the wall with my handwriting marking the spot. I know that if I follow what my calendar tells me to do--Saturdays here, dinners with people there, shows and brunches and doctor appointments in other places--I will come out of the month with some idea of where I have been.

And that's part of what's so magical about maps of all sorts, honestly, that they manage to place tangible points on which we can fix our memories. Maps give us both bigger and smaller views of everything we can and can't see, and if perspective ends at the tip of each of our noses at the very least maps let us remember that there are still other views beyond that. Other oceans and towns and tiny tiny galaxies. They point us to where we want to go because maps are smarter than we are and know those things even when we don't, and they're always waiting to tell us.

Books are the same thing, of course, with tiny maps hidden in the spaces between all the letters and words. Maps to the vistas inside ourselves that we wouldn't have otherwise realized were there, maps to the tiny ladders between our brains and the brain of the author and the brains of everyone else everywhere, too.

The map that I think I'm missing is the one to where the adventure has been all along.

Saturday, December 27, 2008

As a rule, 2008 has blown. In between all of the awful parts, though, there was a lot of fun and a whole mess of laughing. I'd say more, but honestly it's time right now for another nap. We'll talk about all of that later, I'm sure, but for now here is what 2008 looked like in pictures from me:

and in some of my favorite pictures from my pals (this one involves a whole lot of my big muppet head):

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

It is raining more than snowing now, and in the next few days both the snow and my happy snow face will be gone. All of the snow has caused a lot of trouble for a lot of people, but it has kept me almost completely out of work for a week and given me days and days of excellent crunching noises, and I will be sad to see it go. (Although I will not be sad to be able to finally leave my apartment after dark, when everything that melted during the day unmelts and turns my hill into a solid sheet of ice.) Between the snow and election night, there have been so many people smiling on the sidewalks lately, high fiving and helping each other out, and that is perhaps the best part.

Shortly I'll be on my way to trek through the slush up to a friend's house, to spend Christmas Eve and Christmas celebrating at the bars whiskey style and next to her fire watching movies. I hope that all of you have lovely quiet Christmases as well, snug and cozy and warm and full of tofurkey and lil smokeys and champagne.

Happy snow face

Sunday, December 21, 2008

Turns out, this weather in this town at this point in time is exactly perfect for my disposition. There is a crust of ice over the snow that makes the most satisfying noise in the history of noises crunching through it, and today I walked and walked in the snow to have brunch with my funny and attractive friends and later explore a new bar. And then eventually I crunched back home, alone on the streets and running through empty lawns shin deep in uncrunched snow, watching the gloaming settle over everything, listening to Billie Holiday sing "Stormy Blues" over and over and feeling exactly the right amount of melancholy.

I'm back to this tight feeling in my chest like something is about to happen, and though this feeling so often proves false I am still excited for the possibility of the next big thing. Maybe this is the next big thing, the crunching and the lightly blue and the sledding with strangers. Maybe it will finally bring entirely good things instead of bad things I have to remodel into good things. Maybe the snow is just going to my head. The anticipation makes me giddy, and the weather appears to be in full support of that.

Saturday, December 20, 2008

A few nights ago I ran home through empty streets late at night, lungs straining in the cold, songs of rebellion singing low in my ears. I only run when no one is looking, uncoordinated, elbows and knees moving ungracefully. Sometimes the feel of running is reason enough to run. Just as I hit the bottom of my hill the first flakes of the morning's snow sifted down from the sky and wetly kissed my cheeks.

On Thursday, waiting for my sledding companion, I turned a corner intending to get coffee only to unexpectedly nearly collide with my favorite tall-dark-and-handsome. Confused and flustered I immediately turned another corner and found myself caught in the crossfire of a knee-high snowball fight. It paused, considering, while the snow layered itself on my hat, and then the smallest combatant shrugged and threw the snowball in its hand at my shin and then ran. I gave chase, staggering through the snow, until we both fell into a little drift and lay there, laughing. When we stood we were both white from head to toe.

Yesterday afternoon I stood at my door and watched the dark and the calm sky. A crow flew up and perched on a branch on the other side of the fence, and almost immediately another crow landed on the branch directly above it. The branch bent and shook a large clump of snow right on to the head of the lower crow who shook himself indignantly and flew up to the branch above his companion, sending a clump of white down on to his back. Both crows cawed loudly and flew away.

Sometimes I think the world puts on little shows just for me.

Friday, December 19, 2008

Hi. There are zillions of snowflakes outside and I have had two and a half snow days and though people who hail from snowier climates have been doing their level best to grump on my parade, it has been awesome. I am very very busy making snowlumps and throwing snowballs and going SLEDDING for the first time and sustaining tragic sledding injuries and getting in snowball fights with packs of miscellaneous children and taking incredibly slow penguin walks and drinking warm things and reading books under blankets.

Anyone who says that sledding in a skirt doesn't work has clearly never gone sledding with me, because I managed it with aplomb and without exposing the top seams of my tights even once. I would claim to be a sledding prodigy if it weren't for all of those injures, and my total terror about the whole careening downhill thing. Sledding is scary.

I'm sure this would be very easy to get tired of, and it looks like we're in for something worse in the next couple of days, but for the time being at least I am very much in favor of the weather forcing fun to happen. Freezing cold with a purpose I am completely ok with.

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Seattle is stupidly cold right now, and I am honestly not even remotely equipped to deal with a week where the temperature never gets above freezing. This is part of why I moved to Seattle, in fact: the temperate winters. It's supposed to snow for a night and then go back to being 40 degrees and raining, and this relentless cold with no rain is not what I signed up for. If this was what I wanted out of weather, I would have moved to Chicago.

When I was a kid and would leave dishes of water outside to never get frozen, because it never got cold enough, I would make my mom bring me my school clothes so that I could get dressed under the blankets in the warm. (The average low in Tampa in December is 52 degrees. It might hit freezing once every other year.) This week I have been sleeping with my clothes in the bed with me, although trying to put them on and not knock over the covers is much more difficult now that I'm a little bit bigger. I've been wearing pants every day, and tights under my pants. Every blanket in my apartment is on my bed, and I'm considering investing in a heating pad, or a dog, or a date. Last night I was trying to cut fabric and had to stop because I couldn't feel my hands, since my baseboard heaters are no match for this cold. My hair is all full of static and my skin is dry. I am very, very cold, and not at all happy about it, is what I'm saying.

Complaining about the cold helps me stay warm, though.

Sunday, December 14, 2008

The thing you don't learn growing up in Florida is how the first snow of the winter changes everything for as long as it lasts. It softens and dampens and muffles, smooths out all of the edges, on streets and sidewalks and inside heads.

I walked up to the bar in it last night, surrounded by the soft rattle of the snow falling, faulty hat curled inside my purse, happily listening to sad songs about love and feeling only the gentle brush of snowflakes on my head. The streets were mostly empty but all of the windows glowed, and in the park snowball fights were won and lost in minutes.

Everything is iced over now, promising a treacherous walk to the office over unsalted sidewalks. This week is vowing to be desperately cold and mostly dry, and getting out of bed will likely be nearly impossible. But that first snowfall was pretty close to perfect.

Friday, December 12, 2008

In the deep ocean there's a creature called the Pacific viperfish, one of the scary ones that is usually not so big but can be six feet long. And which have in any case evolved teeth so large that they no longer fit inside the fish's head, thin spiny teeth so long that if the viperfish lives for enough years it can stab its own eye out.

It has grown these fangs so that there's no chance of prey escaping once it's been caught, but the problem with searching out food in the dark and the cold is that if the viperfish miscalculates and latches on to something too big it is stuck just as surely as its catch, unable to either release it or eat it. Dying, therefore, just as surely as the prey latched in its jaws.

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

I am not feeling even moderately Christmassy these days. Christmas has never been my holiday, coming as it does so soon after the greatest of holidays, and I worked in retail for too many years to not have a deep-seated dislike for Christmas music. Unrelated to the holiday, and really to anything else, I have been spending most of my days being wildly grumpy and stomping a lot, as well as doing a lot of sneezing, and sometimes running through one of the remaining dwarfs just to shake things up a little.

With luck it'll snow this weekend, which should improve my disposition at least a little bit. This winter has been so very dry.

The other day Jay said to me, "Please describe yourself in six words -- no more or less -- six on the nose." I still haven't been able to manage this--brevity is not my strong suit--but I was talking to Captain Toby of the HMS Poor Judgement about it earlier. Toby has spent approximately the last 11 year watching me make a fool of myself, so he had a few ideas. "Looks like a mouse, but bigger." "Warning: dangerous curves ahead. Approach cautiously." "Contains dangerous band of murderous psychopaths." (To which I wonder, what other kind of band of murderous psychopaths is there?) There were others. Six words is not a lot, and yet also it seems too many. Especially since there were seven dwarfs.

Sunday, December 07, 2008

Website, today you are five. I guess that means I should be thinking about where to send you to kindergarten in the fall.

We are still together mostly because I am an OCD sort of person and you have become as much a compulsion as re-checking my front door constantly to see if it's locked. I need everything to have a place, and you have become the place where certain kinds of thinking go. I have other worse habits to get rid of before I start to work on getting rid of you.

We've been together for several relationships and many miscellaneous adventures with the opposite sex, two big international trips, a few major illnesses, a handful deaths, and all but the first few months of this insane discovery adventure, where I quit everything I knew and moved 3,000 miles away to a town that had no friends or job waiting. It's been a big five years, and a whole lot of fun. We have written a bunch of nonsense in the past five years, but maybe we have figured a few things out along the way.

Hm. Maybe in honor of this anniversary, we should play that question game again.

Friday, December 05, 2008

You remember when they took the backing off of the Unicorn Tapestries and uncovered colors that hadn't seen the light in 500 years, right? And then they took a zillion tiny pictures and tried to piece them all together, except it turned out that when they took the tapestries off the wall, they changed. Started to breathe. Gravity had been working on them one way for so long, and when given the chance they stretched out their spaces and twisted their fibers until looking at them in pieces meant that their stitches showed.
Of course, once their backing fabric was replaced and they went back on the wall the changes were mostly lost to memory and digital pits. Still, for a little while those threads were free from the pull that they had always known.

Although I shouldn't, I like it when people carve names and hearts on young trees. I like that as the trees get older and taller the names and hearts stretch and stretch until you can only see the suggestion of them like a whisper of the romances that used to be. The names may or may not still be together off of the tree, but on them the feelings that make tree carvings necessary are always there.

Wednesday, December 03, 2008

I read somewhere, once, that when the Berlin Wall came down the people of West Berlin met the people of East Berlin at the now open spaces with bananas, because in East Berlin bananas were a delicacy. Big yellow bundles of welcome back to the world.

I remember one night, walking bareheaded in the thinly falling snow, and the streetlight made the flakes glow in a nimbus around your head like you'd just had a really good idea. I was only as tall as your chest and pretty sure there was no matching glow around my head, so I reached up into your halo. I think I was expecting the light to warm my fingers, but they met only more snow, and you flinched from my unexpected movement.

They say that humans don't spontaneously combust, but that when they get lit on fire the heat melts the fat inside their skin and then their clothes soak it all up, acting like a candle, burning hot and low for hours and hours. When it's done with little else in the room is burned but the whole body and its bones are gone, turned to rubble, leaving only sometimes part of a leg behind. None of that really gets the point across like spontaneous human combustion, as far as images go. Far better to burst into flames unprovoked than to accidentally spark and then belabor the point.

Monday, December 01, 2008

Whenever I'm waiting for test results, even minor ones, I find myself drifting off into thinking about all the other people out there waiting for test results too. This whole community, connected by nothing more than bitten fingernails and escalating imaginary conversations, tons and tons of people all hoping for good news. And how for some portion of those people life is about to change forever, while the rest will soon move past and forget this blip.

Mornings when the fog covers the Space Needle are always uncomfortable mornings for me, because the Space Needle is so much a part of my daily routine--one of the first things I do when I wake up is look out the window, at the lake and the Needle, to make sure that nothing has happened to my city overnight. (And to check if it's raining.) I am less uneasy when fog covers the whole of Lake Union and makes everything look like a Japanese horror movie. I expect things to go wrong then, but with only the Needle covered there's no telling what only the sky could do.
Yesterday the fog was thick on the lake, but not thick enough to completely hide a line of boats with Christmas lights floating slowly north. In fact, from here I could likely see them better than they could see themselves.