Thursday, December 31, 2009

Hey there, 2009.

At the beginning of you, I said, "I am going to go ahead and decide right now that this year is going to be awesome, and full of cookies and aardvarks and pangolins and robots and movies and whiskey and friends and memories and smiles and high fives." And man, I should consider a career as a prophet, because that is totally what happened.

2009 was a calm, calm year, full of laughing and not a lot else, which was exactly what I needed it to be after all the turmoil and crying in cabs of the last few years. I didn't have any relationships so I didn't have any breakups to recover from, and none of my people died. I found my first wild four leaf clover. Nothing happened in 2009 aside from starting graduate school, and I am ok with that. I wrote some things, but by and large 2009 looked like a jeans ad, all attractive people smiling in the sun, and I imagine that I will always look back on it fondly but absently.

The year can be summed up, I think, by two photos: this one, in which I have just cooked dinner with some of my favorite people and we are planning a surprise party when someone said something funny and we all laughed until we cried. I laughed so hard it hurt a lot this year. And then there is this, looking straight down a mountain covered in flowers and fog and seeing only a quiet beautiful field with something else beautiful behind it, just hidden in the clouds.

I really needed you, 2009. Even though I fought hard against all of my impulses for shattering and breaking and setting on fire, for heat and motion and madness. I have called you boring, and you were, but boring isn't really bad. Not always.

But for 2010, less boring! In a good way. I spent a lot of time deliberately not doing things because I didn't want to deal with the fallout, and there has to be a way in the middle. So that's my plan: finding the middle way toward hilarity and fulfillment without being either monastic or destructive. No problem.

Thanks for taking it easy on me, 2009. I'll pause in the middle of my dance party to drink in your honor tonight.


Where the chalk-white arrows go

Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Hey, tradition! Here is 2009 in pictures:

and my favorite things documented by other people:

2009 has not been amazing, but it has also not been awful, so I am ok with how it has all turned out.

Monday, December 28, 2009

The whole traveling experience turned out to be alarmingly easy, with not a single line at security and all flights on time. By the time my last flight came in early and my luggage even earlier, I was prepared to face something like a burned down apartment when I got home--my luck is never that good, and I am usually a pretty lucky flier.

I always forget about flying over the country at Christmastime, all of those towns that I may never go to twinkling sweetly with Christmas lights, little constellations strung across the dark ground, not thinking about the airplane flying lonely and quiet above them.

There were deer only 20 feet or so away from us on Wednesday--closer than I have ever been to a deer--and I would have liked to have paused and looked at them except that I was on the back of a renegade horse with a serious dislike for mud and also for me. (Probably because I kept up a running monologue about how I didn't trust it, although to be fair to me I only started that after the first time it took me into the the trees.) I'm sure that they were adorable or majestic or whatever it is that deer are when they're not running away, but by that point in the ride all I wanted in the world was to not be on that horse any more.

Christmas morning is a lot more my speed these days, now that my brothers are old enough to sleep past 6 am and the event can start with bellinis and end with eating a thing made almost entirely of cheese and ham.

The best part of going away is coming home, cresting the hill on the interstate by the West Seattle bridge exit and seeing my town spread all glittery just ahead.

Thursday, December 24, 2009

Merry Christmas, friends! So far there has been a very, very Southern variety show, a movie about blue cat people, a lot of dog petting, and getting a knee trapped between a tree and a horse. Some of these things have been more fun than others, but on the other hand my knee is turning a lot of festive shades of red and blue and green and yellow.

Monday, December 21, 2009

I'm heading to North Carolina tonight for Christmas, which should be entertaining because I love airports, even during the holidays. I like how anonymous airports are, and I like watching people going places. I don't particularly like sitting on airplanes for a million hours or dealing with the time difference at the end, but that's just what happens when you move 3,000 miles away from your family.

It will be nice to get out of town for a week, since I've had my fill of awkward run-ins in this town for at least the rest of the year. This time last year it was snowing snowing snowing, and life was about to get all brokedown like a French film. (I miss the snow.) This year I'll be lounging with my family and petting some dogs and wrapping presents and going to sleep at reasonable hours.

I take traveling fashion very seriously, because I do not believe that being on an airplane overnight is an excuse to wear sweatpants in public. (I don't believe that anything but the flu is a reason to wear sweatpants in public, and then only to the corner store for nyquil.) I think that the most comfortable traveling outfit is a long-sleeved black dress, tights, and my favorite gray ankle boots, with a scarf that I bought in Italy that is big enough to double as a blanket for freezing airplanes. Now if only I could figure out how to sleep on airplanes, everything would be awesome.

Saturday, December 19, 2009

Holy crap I'm standing on a lake!

You see? I sure did stand on a lake.

Thursday, December 17, 2009

People are starting to round up the last decade in lists and things, and I can't even deal--10 years is a mighty long time, y'all. I have trouble enough just pulling together my thoughts on each year on its own. (Which reminds me, I forgot the six year anniversary of this thing here. Happy anniversary, thing.)

But! The facts are these: a whole lot of things are different from what they were 10 years ago. When it turned 2000, I was 17 and walking along a sidewalk in a neighborhood in Pinellas Park, Florida with a friend and my ex boyfriend who was about to start dating that friend. I was also grumpy, and presumably half drunk on some concoction involving peach schnapps and Albertson's brand vodka. The boy was a baseball player who had Jared Leto hair.

In the intervening time I have done all of the things that you can do in 10 years--gone to college, moved 3,000 miles to a town full of strangers, built a pretty incredible life full of amazing people. I've been to Canada and China and Italy, started graduate school, met David Crosby and Graham Nash in a bar in Delaware. There have been births and deaths and boyfriends and notboyfriends and a whole lot of makeouts and shenanigans. A whole decade is quite a lot of time.

Really, the main thing is this: things have been good, and are always getting better.

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

We made it back from Whistler not even a little bit frostbitten. The weekend involved the usual amount of impromptu dance parties and hilarity, and a very memorable afternoon spent dangling a whole lot of feet above the ground in a little box strung between two mountain tops. Which would have been a whole lot scarier were we not fortified by the bottle of cinnamon whiskey I had hidden in my purse.

On Saturday afternoon a couple of us broke off from the main group and rented what were possibly unnecessary snow shoes in order to crunch our way out to a lake. Snow shoes are a whole lot louder than I would have thought, but we hauled ourselves around the lake and walked out on to the beach right at the prettiest of hours. The ice was smooth and some people in the distance were playing hockey, and we stepped out of our shoes and gingerly out on to the ice. The only sounds were the cheers coming from the game across the lake and the boom of the ice cracking a little somewhere in the distance, and then right under my feet.

(Hey, bonus: here is a video that Josh made when we didn't know he was making a video, in which I stare at my snowshoes a lot because I am so incredibly in love with snow.)

Thursday, December 10, 2009

We're heading up to Whistler for a long weekend, to revisit the hilarity of the out of town life and find the Bumble and establish a peppermint mine, or whatever it is that people do in snowy mountain places. I will probably end up freezing to death in the woods somewhere, as this past week has taught me that I do not have the required arctic wardrobe, but fortunately for me there is also a hot tub involved. So that probably all equals out.

I'm actually really excited, because there will be SNOW everywhere for days, and I'm sure there will come a time that I am a big snow grump like everyone else, but that time is not now. I don't think the altitude of Whistler is high enough to give me space poisoning, and it is basically going to be a solid four days of fun times, with luck.

Wednesday, December 09, 2009

Sitting around a table the talk turned, as it often does, to technology, and then to the invention of cars and the way it must have felt the moment that it became possible to move so quickly. I made a joke about how I probably would have been something of a Luddite even then--what are you doing with all that time you're saving going so fast, what's wrong with good old horses--but it really wasn't a joke. I genuinely don't think that newer is always better or that faster is more fun than slower. What's wrong with taking the long cut or talking to the people in front of me instead of fiddling with a tiny computer in my pocket? I wish all this technology would get off my lawn. Maybe progress doesn't always mean something new and extra shiny.

But I guess some of us have to be old fashioned, if only to stay a fixed point that everyone else is moving away from. I already have in this bag all of these quaint ideas about love and friendship and manners, so maybe I'll stop feeling guilty about preferring my own slower, quieter ways. Some of us just aren't made to move so fast.

Monday, December 07, 2009

The bank down the street from me left its sprinklers on overnight, so when I left to walk to work this morning the sidewalk for half the block was a solid sheet of ice, all sparkly in the morning sun. I thought that I had prepared for the cold by wearing pants instead of a dress, but navigating an ice rink before coffee was very nearly beyond me.

It was a waste of water, all that ice spread over the sidewalk, but it sure was pretty--all layers and ribbons and tiny ice confetti. I would rather have stayed there to watch what happened to it, what melted first and where it all went, but there were other things that had to be done. It's supposed to be record-breakingly cold this week, though, so with a little luck there will be more ice to come. I'll have my snow boots ready, just in case.

Thursday, December 03, 2009

Sometimes the weight of all of this looking pulls too heavily on my elbows, until I'm not sure that I can any longer hold up the heft of all of these things. There is too much to see and no way to cram it all into my eyeballs, to fix it in the back of my brain.

I think sometimes that we are mithridatizing ourselves to all of this beauty, letting these slow sweet poisons drip through our veins because we can't get enough of seeing. Is there any way to keep from becoming immune to what is perfect if we are noticing it all the time? Mithridates himself tried to poison himself and failed because he had spent his life trying so hard not to be poisoned. Surely he knew that it would go wrong but had to try anyway. He tested his immunity and found it true when he least wanted it to be. Someday all of this will cause us to miss what we most want to see.

And sometimes with my eyes closed I can still feel this cupped in my hands, throbbing with tiny mouse heartbeats. I'm never sure then what to say or to who, how to describe when my fingers feel like light blue lace and my arms burnt through like Sunday morning. Sometimes I think I think too much.

Monday, November 30, 2009

I'm keeping a list of all the things that steal my heart, and it's getting a little long. There was that tree that gently dropped a single leaf on the top of my head and an old man in a knit hat who smiled and motioned me toward the bus before him. A small dog that carried its own leash in its mouth. A friend making sure the deviled eggs weren't too spicy, and three more nestled around a table, working. A late night smile and a hand in my hair.

I wonder about hearts, and how we live with them riddled with holes big enough to see through. And maybe this is why I wonder so much about the octopus, living with three hearts in the cold and the dark. There's a kind of heart disease named after them, the broken heart syndrome, where sometimes emotional stress can cause the heart to suddenly weaken. Three is, I think, too many--I'm sure the one is vulnerable enough.

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Tomorrow is Thanksgiving and I am excited beyond description, even though the turducken won't be making an appearance this year. On the upside, we'll actually have a wishbone for once, and as usual more food than should be allowed.

After the zombie party, Josh said, "every so often you’re lucky enough to find that you’re living in the middle of this life that you never thought to imagine for yourself." I don't know quite how I got here, but I'm sure glad I did. There are a lot of adventures left to be had.

Monday, November 23, 2009

I am tired and worn thin, waiting for a change, and inexplicably anxious. These last few months have taken their toll.

Everything larger is too big, so I focus in on all the details. Details are what I am best at. The beadwork and ruffles on the cuff of my gloves, hidden by my coat sleeve. A high-necked gray blouse that no one else likes because they don't know about the row of tiny buttons that climb the back of my neck under the soft fall of my hair. The specific sensation of sitting on the floor in the back room of a tiny gallery, watching someone play the guitar while the foot of the stranger behind taps softly on my lower back in time with the beat. Drinking beer from a can in a paper bag, and wearing jewel tone clothes on dark rainy nights. Whatever makes everything large a little bit smaller.

Just until something changes.

Friday, November 20, 2009

Tiny owl stands on rat

PS, this is what nature in action looks like.

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

There's a tree next to my second bus stop on the way to school, so I stand under it twice a week, waiting. There was a storm while its leaves were yellowing, and one of the lower-down branches broke but didn't fall. The leaves on it stopped yellowing and started browning while all of the other leaves got brighter and brighter and then fell off. The brown leaves are still there, the only ones left on the tree now.

On Saturday night I was clomping up hill to the bus when I noticed a tiny owl sitting on the sidewalk in front of me, glaring. It seemed disinclined to move and I tried to edge around it, not wanting to startle it if it was hurt. The owl turned its head and followed my movement, still not moving, still looking profoundly annoyed at me. Nothing is as good at looking annoyed as an owl. So I retreated backwards a few steps downhill--no easy feat in my heels--and walked out into the street to avoid the owl altogether. It was only then, when the streetlight and I hit the right angle and it flashed in both the eyes of the owl and the eyes of the rat he was sitting on, that I realized why he was refusing so steadfastly to go anywhere.

Saturday, November 14, 2009

Getting bloody

Last night I dressed up as a zombie for the first time.

I was pretty against the whole idea from the beginning, given my quite logical distrust of zombies and my frequent zombie nightmare, but a close friend was turning 30 on Friday the 13th and having a zombie birthday, so resistance was simply not an option. I went for the fresh zombie look, in order to avoid having to rip up my clothes.

Surprisingly, I haven't ever wandered around in public smeared in either real or fake blood before, and it was interesting to watch strangers react. Some people wanted to bond over the last time they went out dressed as a zombie, and some of them just whispered and pointed at us. My cab driver home, memorably, almost screeched away when he noticed the blood all over my face and then nearly hyperventilated trying to make sure that I didn't need to go to the hospital.

My main conclusions from the night are that fake blood is extremely itchy, and that people dancing like zombies are quite possibly the funniest thing in the known universe.

Thursday, November 12, 2009

Physics demands that when we nudge our buttered bread off of the table it will land butter side down. I wonder if these are the same rules that drive all of our coin tosses, if the side that has the most anticipation layered on top is actually the one that always loses. If it's our hopes that weigh us down.

On an evening in Rome I came across a fountain, which is not that uncommon an occurrence--Rome is liberally laced with fountains. I was exhausted, having spent the day getting thoroughly lost on streets that, I could swear, appeared on the map on the opposite side of town. I flung myself down next to the fountain, thoroughly discouraged, and halfheartedly tossed in a coin. And that was when I discovered I wasn't alone.

Lounging against a wall and smoking a cigarette was a girl who scoffed at me in an accent I couldn't place. How could I expect my wish to come true if I tossed it in such a desultory fashion? She demonstrated how it ought to be done, throwing a coin over her shoulder and winking at me when it hit the water with a satisfying plop. We passed a few minutes tossing coins into the fountain in the silliest ways we could think of--on one foot, between our legs, over the other person's shoulder. And wouldn't you know, when I left to plod along in search of dinner, my shoulders felt so much straighter.

I don't think any of those wishes have come true yet in fact but they have a little in spirit, and in either case I'm pretty sure that those coins, at least, landed butter side up.

Monday, November 09, 2009

Man, that island sure is pretty.

Late, late on Saturday night we finished watching a movie and found that the tide was out. I borrowed some yellow rubber boots and a flashlight and walked out just a little past where the water hit--I could feel the water cooling the boots and slowly numbing my toes. And then I turned off the flashlight.

Behind me, in the cabin, my friends were cuddled up watching another movie. Nothing moved around me but the water lapping gently at my ankles and the stars pushed back the clouds covering them. I could have stayed right there and right then forever.

Friday, November 06, 2009

Today we're going to take a boat to an island and stuff 13 people into cabins with beds for 12, and have an adventure for the weekend. There's a big storm happening, and I have read enough teenage pulp horror fiction to know that this is the perfect setting for something terrible to happen, but with a little luck we'll just cozy up in piles and play board games and drink hot toddies and tell jokes. And all make it back out alive.

With a little luck, all the wind and waves and laughing will blow these mean reds right out from under my eyelids, calm the 3/4 time waltz of my heart, smooth these fists out of my hands.

Tuesday, November 03, 2009

We described our memories in blanks, fitting our hands around the spaces held by what is no longer there. Excavating, fingers caked in the dirt of what once belonged, creating distance and cracks large enough to funnel through a cleansing breeze. What we used to be, but aren't, now. Better and worse, and smaller.

I made a game out of drowning the sun in smaller and smaller places--a hiss in the ocean and a cloud of steam in a puddle and something new altogether in a vitreous humour. Blotting out the light to see what was behind it like a little girl playing hide and seek.

Sometimes I wonder if what is going to drown us all in the end is what used to be there and still is, somewhere, just looking different than how we remember. Everything has to go somewhere.

Sunday, November 01, 2009

The last three Halloweens have involved three very different costumes and three very different experiences. I think it's the costume that's the factor. (Actually, the last three Halloweens have involved sitting on my couch, but the pre-Halloween parties still hold the point.) Baberaham Lincoln partied like a lunatic until around 4 am. As a giraffe I made out like crazy at a smoky after party. As a skeleton, I had to stop dancing because I was laughing too hard at dancing zombies and was home alone by 2:30.
I'm not sure what the lesson here is, exactly, but I think it has something to do with flesh.

Yesterday was a year since my granddad passed away. I'm still not used to it. I'm still not sure I want to be.

Thursday, October 29, 2009

Jaws was my first scary movie, and not even all of Jaws--just the snatches of it I caught, peeking around the corner into the living room where the grownups were watching it on tv. I don't remember what it was that I saw of the movie, because the nightmares it gave me took up all available fear of sharks space in my brain.

My dreams that night were of a swimming pool bordered by a shark tank, a plexiglass wall like at Sea World separating them and a comical red button the trigger to raise the wall. My family was in the pool, swimming and chatting and splashing, until a hand reached over and hit the button. I never saw who was behind it because I was too busy screaming while the sharks swam in and started eating my family. I remember watching my grandfather pulled under by a leg, the water clouding pink and then red with blood. Some of them scrambled out of the pool and ran away, and that is when the sharks started to walk.

Even still that nightmare is near the top of the list of the scariest dreams I've ever had.

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

I finished Dracula last night, shockingly ahead of schedule thanks to an alarmingly persistent and vigorous cold that kept me couchbound for most of my long weekend. Those are some seriously boneheaded heroes Stoker gives us. (This is probably not a surprise to anyone who has seen any Dracula-related thing ever, but as we have talked about before, I am a big baby about scary things.) There's a vampire next door and you send the one woman among you off to bed because you don't want all the thinking to worry her? Whatever. You know what's going to hurt more than taxing her poor little brain? Being chewed on by Dracula.

This cold shows up like clockwork every year around the end of October. My immune system is really less of a system and more a loosely connected string of suggestions, and I'll probably end up felled by the first serious epidemic to walk down my street. If life were a disaster movie, I'd be gone after the first five minutes. The fact that I am still alive is proof that life is not actually a disaster movie, which is helpful because I wonder sometimes.

Thursday, October 22, 2009

Another thing that shouldn't be as much of a surprise as it has been is how time consuming grad school really is. I'm all in now, going twice a week straight from work to school (and then usually to the bar), spending the spare time in between reading things that have nothing to do with vampires. I miss the days when the point of school was to read novels and write about them--reading about nonprofit tax structure and talking about it is a whole lot less interesting. If more interesting than I had anticipated.

Time is doing that annoying thing that it does where in some things it seems to be moving incredibly slowly and in other things just hurtling by, which frankly is a habit of time's that I just find annoying. So I'm taking an extra long weekend in order to glare at time until it agrees to shape up. (Also to write a paper and look at the trees and hopefully get some sewing done.) There's a lot coming up--Halloween and Orcas Island and Thanksgiving and Christmas. It would be a shame to miss any of it because it runs by too fast.

Monday, October 19, 2009

We drove out to the farm yesterday, tangled in the rental car like eager puppies, over roads lined with explosions of scarlet and gold. Somehow it was warm enough to leave our coats, somehow not raining, somehow just muddy enough for galoshes but not too muddy for the corn maze. We rustled through the eerie whispering throughways of corn, shouting at each landmark, pet goats and held kittens, wrapped our hands around cups of hot sweet cider. All of these goods things that feel like accidents and yet, somehow, aren't.

I like the onomatopoeia of this season, the whisk of leaves hitting the ground and the crunch of stepping on them two days later, the squelch of mud and the million voices of the rain. I like the feel of the soft curls of my hair brushing against my cheeks tingling in the chill air, the sharp smell of a fire under a chimney unused for months, the exact sheen of cold morning dew not quite ready to be frost.

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

In the time before everything on the Terra Nova expedition went so badly wrong, Dr. Wilson sketched the sunsets. Apsley Cherry-Garrard describes him sitting on a cold Antarctic hillside with only a few minutes before it would be too cold to have his hands exposed, penciling in the names of the colors to be filled in later. And then in the darker times, finishing them by memory.

The people in his landscapes, mostly, are insignificant, swallowed by the vast sweeps of ice, buffeted by the winds, dwarfed by the mountains and the alien world they stand on. There's no time there, or perhaps there's too much time. After a certain point there probably isn't much difference. It's easy to believe that this is the place that would swallow the explorers only miles from the hut that could save them.

I imagine that in the nights, under a cloud of thick blubber smoke, they dreamed of tall forests and close cities and clean lilac flowers.

Monday, October 12, 2009

In high school we moved out of the trailer park I had grown up in and into the house my grandparents had just moved out of. I didn't want to switch schools, so we used the address of my grandparents condo, which was in the right school district. After school my grandma would pick me up from the bus stop with crackers and cream cheese, and I'd spend the rest of the afternoon with them. In one year I spent more time with my grandparents than most people get in their whole lives, and all of my years were like that.

I wish that it would rain. All of this cool dry air is doing terrible things to my skin and hair. I am itchy and staticy and neglecting my umbrella.

Really high on the list of things I never want to hear again is my grandma asking in her sick thin voice if I could help with her decision. I can't. She needs a surgery that might buy her some more time and then again might not. Maybe in that time science will have a breakthrough in making bionic grandmas. It's been nearly a year since my granddad left us and I still have trouble realizing that this is a world without him in it, and I'm not ready for both of them to be gone. But that's selfish, and there's this awful world of pain and dependence that she's stuck in.
Either way, it's only a matter of time until the whole universe shifts again.

Friday, October 09, 2009

It probably shouldn't be as much of a surprise as it has been, but Dracula is scary.

I sort of gave up on scary books after I left R. L. Stein behind. Sometimes I'll read a suspense thriller that my mom has passed along--and I'm always rereading that Dean Koontz book Watchers, but only the parts about the dog--but between The Shining and that terrifying face-eating moth in Phantoms I had to accept that I just can't stomach them. Part of that is because when you're reading a scary book you're giving yourself permission to revel in the fact that people are horrible, and most of the time I feel like life is bad enough without inviting all of that torture in. (This is part of the reason I also do not watch scary movies.) The other part of it is just that I am a giant baby who hates being scared.

But Dracula is scary in a sneaky way, the way any good Gothic novel is. (Except The Castle of Otranto, which is scary in the way that having giant body parts drop on you is, and which is secretly one of my favorite things.) Unsurprisingly, I'm a little behind the reading schedule, but Dracula gave me nightmares before they had even gotten to the big no-reflection reveal. Jonathan Harker never seems concerned that all of the townspeople are practically willing to kidnap him in order to make him not go to Dracula's house--he only finds it a little strange that they're all worked up and making crucifixes for him. But the thought of him wending his way through that countryside, surrounded by wolves, unaware of the baby-eating ladies and captivity ahead of got to me.

And now there's all of this anticipation. Mina is pining for her fiancee who is trapped in the Castle Dracula, Renfield is eating sparrows, Dracula is apparently on the just know that this is going to end with me renting Coppola's movie and pacing nervously around my apartment.

Wednesday, October 07, 2009

A while ago they found plesiosaur bones on the bottom of the ocean covered in bite marks and leftover teeth. Sharks are often moved to frenzy when they feed, but the amount of focus it must have taken to bring down something as big as a plesiosaur is remarkable. The scientists think that the creature was probably already dying when the sharks found it and started to bite, sinking slowly deeper into all kinds of darkness. It rested at the bottom and slowly became a mystery, and the sharks, satisfied with their power, stayed the way they were then all the way through to now.

Walking home in a dark and chilly fall evening, happy and surrounded by the smell of fires on hearths in the houses around me, I find myself thinking about that plesiosaur. I wonder if the Loch Ness Monster remembers where it comes from as it swims slowly through its own dark waters. Do sea monsters find themselves wistful on cool fall evenings, distracted by history and speculation? I think that these ancient creatures and I have more in common than either of us might like to admit.

Monday, October 05, 2009

The main trouble with all the cooking that I do is that I'm not very good at it. It's a shame, too, because I love food and sharing meals with people, but I have too much respect for the people I like to want to subject them to that.

My trouble is enthusiasm, which counts for nothing in cooking. In itself that's kind of amazing, since following a recipe is just going through with a plan, and I love plans almost as much as I love food. But I get excited about all of the things that would sound delicious in addition to the things already in the recipe, and it always messes things up. I like eating things too much to continue consuming not so hot concoctions simply because throwing them out would be wasteful, so I'm cooking deliberately from now on. Slowing down, paying attention, and strictly following the directions. It'll be good for me.

I'm learning all kinds of things about being deliberate from James Bond. Who knew Sean Connery could teach me so much?

Thursday, October 01, 2009

I don't sleep anyway, right, so why not go ahead and decide to read Dracula during October? It's not like I'm already working full time and taking two classes and writing things in places and keeping up my drinking, or anything. I'm sure there are a couple of free minutes somewhere that I can devote to vampires.

I had actually planned to spend the fall with Carver and Chekhov and Berger (because that's how far I got in the bookstore before I realized I had to stop), but I'm interested in the idea of reading the same thing at the same time as other people unrelated to any schooling. I'm not interested in Infinite Jest and I'm really not interested in Twilight, and I have always wanted to read Dracula. So, here's an excuse.

You should probably pity all of the people who are around me on a regular basis, though, as I'm already jumping at shadows and seeing the undead everywhere as it is. So I'm sure I'll be a real peach to be around for the next few weeks. A screechy, nervous, pitiful peach.

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Most nights I wake up alarmed, pulled through sleep to lay rigid, scared of the shapes the dark has turned my familiar objects in to. A small section of my brain always clears its throat and tries to think logically, but the rest of it is too sure that my standing mirror has become an axe murderer to pay much attention.

This is an old habit by now--almost nightly for the last few months--and I deal with it almost reflexively by imagining all of the lives I could be living elsewhere right now. A house on an empty stretch of beach, maybe, smelling of the sharp tang of salt water, with a dog and a small girl with long curly hair trailing sand through the doorway. An apartment made of glass, high up, smelling of furniture polish and tomato sauce, with my hair pulled back and glasses on. Standing on a front porch near a mountain, someone else's horses in view just near a distant line of pine trees, hand on a rough wooden rocking chair. Other lives in other places. Slowly my muscles start to relax and my brain resolves what I think is there with what is actually there. A mirror, a bathrobe, the sound of a bus rumbling past outside. Quiet and softly lonely, and definitely actually mine.

There's always a phrase I am thinking of that is comforting (lately, "happy in the bathtub in the abacus of the rains" from an Elvis Perkins song), and I repeat it to myself, running it through my fingers like beads in a dark room that is familiar and safe again. Finally my hearbeat slows, and I settle back to sleep.

Sunday, September 27, 2009

It was the weakness of the floorboards that drew us inside, holding hands and waiting to crash through, smears of char on our cheeks, yesterday's bourbon still filming our tongues. The house had burned down a week before, at the end of a long road just outside of town. Neither one of us had spent any time in a house with more than one level, and stairs and danger held an allure that we couldn't deny.

The floor held and we were grateful, limbs and skin unbroken.

In the dark under the streetlights you smelled of citrus fruit just turning sour, a hank of my hair wrapped around your wrist, speaking deep and slow. It was only there on the sidewalk that the ground finally broke and we fell through.

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

It's fall now, and all I want to talk to anyone about anywhere is clothes, because dressing for fall is far more interesting than dressing for any other season. It's difficult to keep myself from steering all conversation to the merits of dusty pink tights and mustard cardigans and my foray into high-waisted skirts and slightly hilarious pirate-y boots. I'm finally getting the hang of the whole layering thing--they should give you an introductory class in it when you move out of the South, because it does not come naturally--and clothes make life so interesting.

The weather is not yet cooperating, of course, which is making me growly. I'm impatient for piles of leaves and hugging boys in cozy charcoal sweaters and making soup. The spiders are packing up and moving inside, but the outside places are just not paying attention yet. I am restless, and waiting for something to happen.

(PS, I made it through a Monotonix show, and nothing even got lit on fire.)

Monday, September 21, 2009

We spent the last weekend of summer the way that we've spent most of the rest of these summer weekends--eating and drinking and laughing. (Although yesterday I met a walrus, which was novel. And gross. Walrus, as it turns out, are unsavory creatures.) I get the feeling that in the future this summer is the kind that will always be sort of soft and sepia whenever we think about it, all full of inside jokes and ice cream and dance parties and little adventures and long, lazy afternoons. And a walrus, chewing on his fingernails. Flippernails? Whichever.

My intention is for all of this to lead smoothly into a fall full of soft sweaters and hugs and steamy bars. It's neither interesting nor exciting, which is certainly an idea that I am having difficulty grasping, but it's working out pretty well so far. I'm sure that life will get harrowing again eventually whether I want it to or not.

Friday, September 18, 2009

In the dark I watched your teeth shine as you spoke. I could see you wondering about my folded hands, about the curve of my spine away from your space, but I couldn't tell you that in my mind I was fighting an image that kept rising up, unbidden, of you leaning over with those shiny teeth and biting open my eye. The image won, in the end, and I sat there writhing, almost feeling the slight resistance and plump watery pop, the taste of all the things I have seen coating your tongue. It wasn't fair, but I was always afraid of your teeth after that, flinching whenever your mouth drew too near.

What I remember most, though, is standing on the shore late one chilly night and watching the waves shatter against your shins. The broken droplets flung themselves to either side of you and hung in the air for a moment, considering, before dying on the sand just behind where you stood. Inside each of them, for just a second, hung a tiny moon.

(PS, if you want to read about how Elvis Perkins in Dearland charmed my pants off--not actually, but very nearly--at Bumbershoot, you can do so here.)

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Three music memories:

1. Driving home at 2 am, during the end of the summer of 2001. A rainstorm is pounding on the top of my car, one of those tropical Florida summer storms with fists, and I am in love and driving a little too fast on the Courtney Campbell Causeway above a Tampa Bay that is roiling and seething. Poe's "Haunted" album is in my stereo and just as the chorus to "Hey Pretty" kicks in all of the lights on the bridge go dark, and suddenly I could be driving straight into the water or to anywhere at all, but the Morse code of the rain mixes in with the song and I know I'll make it home safe.

2. Fall of 1993, Salt-n-Pepa's "Very Necessary" has come out and "Shoop" has taken over the radio. Closeted in my bedroom my best friend and I are trying to make up our own choreographed dance, but we are 10 and 11 and the lyric "lick him like a lollipop should be licked" makes us laugh so hard we can't stand up.

3. Late at night in the fall of 2005, softly lonely. I have been curled around a book of E E Cummings poems all evening in my glasses and bathrobe and, frustrated, step out onto my balcony. The night smells of fires in fireplaces and damp and leaves that are changing color, and from some other open window nearby drifts a song from The Sea and Cake's 1995 album "The Biz". I can feel the frown in my forehead smoothing itself and something soft and warm thumps down in my heart. As I turn to go to back inside and to bed the music turns up louder, just for a second, and then fades away.

Thursday, September 10, 2009

In the Ural mountains in 1959 nine hikers died under mysterious circumstances. They got lost in a snowstorm and set up camp somewhere unfamiliar, and they never came down again. Three of the hikers had terrible internal injuries--skull damage, chest fractures--but no external wounds. One was missing her tongue. They were all found outside of their tent, under dressed for the snowy conditions, and their footprints the only ones around, their tent ripped open from the inside.

Officially, they all died because of an "unknown compelling force".

They were all maybe blinded and maybe covered in radiation, maybe all rendered gray haired that night. They were maybe killed by military testing or avalanches or UFOs or a yeti or the Iron Giant, irradiated and angry about being blown up. The Soviet government closed the area for three years and made all the files secret for thirty years, piling mysteries on top of tragedy. There could be an explanation out there somewhere, buried under everything else, but not one that would suit. Mystery always tastes better than fact.

In case you were wondering what I've been thinking about, lately.

Tuesday, September 08, 2009

Bumbershoot weekend is hard on my knees and feet and shoulders, but it's worth it. There's something physical in hauling myself at top speed back and forth across Seattle Center for three days, watching people play instruments, taking photos for three songs and running somewhere else to do it again, that is missing from most of my days. (Which is for the best, since I am poorly put together and would likely disintegrate after more than three days of hard labor.) My shoes are covered in mud and I can't straighten my left leg, but man, did I ever see some good music.

At one point yesterday I limped into a giant empty room early for the next set. The band was still doing their soundcheck, and there were only a handful of us standing in that room full of echoes and reverb and guitar, and I couldn't imagine being anywhere else.

Now, I just need someone to carry me around until my knee heals.

(PS, the Bumberphotos are here.)

Saturday, September 05, 2009

Any birthday that ends in magic wands, a cake with pink icing and jam, and drinking champagne until 4 am is ok by me. Having fun is one of our marketable skills.

It's Bumbershoot weekend, so if you need me I'll be over on the Metblog talking about music, magic, and probably the rain.

Thursday, September 03, 2009

Today is my 27th birthday.

Being 26 wasn't all bad, but it was boring. I've spent the last year healing and distancing and figuring things out, and while it has undoubtedly been good for me, it has also not been very exciting. I miss heat and motion and color.

So to kick off 27 I'm taking back the No Touching Rule and abandoning the No Feelings Plan and, oh, all of it. I think too much, and it just doesn't do me any good. I'm in the market for less thinking and more adventures.

Tonight we'll cram too many people into my regular bar and I'll probably laugh until I cry at least twice. It makes my heart creak to consider all the love I have directed straight at me lately. I am a lucky girl.

Tuesday, September 01, 2009

On our way up the mountain we stopped a a viewpoint between clouds and next to a rocky outcrop, one that looked down on a valley ropey with trees. A group of people stood clustered at the base of the outcrop, and one man stood at the edge with a metal box in his hands. I figured they were geocaching, and while I found it unusual when the man mentioned something about surgical staples I didn't even pause to think about it. Who knew what one might find in those boxes, after all, and I had flowers to catalog and trees to introduce myself to.

It was only when we were heading back to the car and my friend offhandedly mentioned the people scattering ashes that I really paused and considered what had transpired on those rocks. The huddle of people, the forced laughs, the surgical staples. Standing in the wind and the traveling wisps of clouds, saying goodbye.

We tumbled back into the car like puppies, eager to continue toward the top and our picnic, forgetting in minutes about those people and their sad errand. I like to imagine that they too had a picnic planned somewhere up in the clouds where they would reminisce about the person they had just surrendered to the breezes and the carpets of purple wildflowers.

Monday, August 31, 2009

We went to Mt. Rainier this weekend, mostly because my friends have tired of my steadfast refusal to believe that the mountain exists. This is a thing that I do, sometimes, decide to not believe in something despite clear evidence to the contrary. (See also: snow, live armadillos.) I do it partly because it amuses me to gently exasperate the people I love by claiming outrageous things and refusing to believe all proof that I am wrong, but mostly because it's a convenient shorthand to use to remind myself not to lose a sense of wonder at the world. I find that things are more amazing when I try not to take them for granted, and I am into things being amazing.

Mostly I am poorly timed, just a little too late or a little too early, awkwardly trying to make up the difference and failing. I laugh too often and sometimes too loudly, fidget too much, stumble through my sentences riddled with unwieldy enthusiasm. Volcanoes and I have these things in common, I think.

The mountain was mostly shrouded in clouds, clearing sometimes to show us whole sweeps of meadows and a glimpse of the glacier. We picnicked cocooned gently in a cloud that muffled all the noise from the road and other picnicking families, walked up to Paradise barely able to see in front of us. And then things cleared, the way they always do, and we walked up to a waterfall surrounded by nuns, moisture sparkling on all of the greenery. By the time we started back down, the clouds had returned, covered all those footsteps we had just left in the air.

I sometimes forget that we live just past the base of a volcano, that one of these days it's going to get fed up and explode and spread lahars all over those meadows. I'm glad it turned out to be a place that is actually there.

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

In the summertime we went to minor league baseball games, all the cousins and friends that could be gathered and stuffed in cars to be chaperoned by my nan and her partner in crime, the unsinkable Mrs. Webster. My friend and I weren't interested in baseball and instead roamed the small stadium in our bruised shins and giant tshirts, picking at mosquito bites and eyeing the boys running the speed-throw booth until they noticed and we could run away shrieking, her blond and my brown hair trailing behind us like capes. Back up in the seats, the sun beat evenly, the railings too hot to touch and the seats searing the backs of our thighs.

In the evenings we would shut ourselves in my room and choreograph dances to the latest R&B hits, talk about those boys behind the booths and what we would have said to them if we had had the use of our wits.

In the usual way of things my nan has ended up trapped barely speaking under a mountain of Parkinson's Disease and Mrs. Webster is long dead, my friend and I on different coasts and my hair no longer brown. But we are still not interested in baseball, our shins are still bruised. I still run away from boys and only later have something to say. Everything is changed except for what is exactly the same, and walking through certain patches of sunlight on unthinking afternoons the pavement smells just like those baseball games. For a moment, then, fifteen years ago is the same time as right now.

Monday, August 24, 2009

On my doorstep I found a bag of plums, still seemingly warm from the sun. The waning days of summer always make my angry robot strongest, so I am trying hard to remember the things that I will miss instead of being impatient for crisp afternoons and tights and steamy evenings curled in bars. The angry robot likes how all of this sun hurts my eyes, likes how unhappy I am getting to all places red-faced and sweating.

And so I am trying, eating ice cream in shaded parts of the park and reading books on my balcony until sunset, trying to ignore these all reason sads and spend time only in happy doings. Trying to just plain make fewer mistakes until I at least figure out how to make new ones instead of the same old ones over and over again. I've got ambitious plans to cram the fall full of attitude and fashion and hijinks, but there's still so much summer to get through, and my angry robot is humming along.

Until the rains come back I'm looking for straws, for friendly bags of fruit and the warm evening sun on the soles of my feet, for new friends and new recipes. Until the rains come back I'll be waiting on the couch, watching James Bond movies and biding my time.

Thursday, August 20, 2009

And then there was the day we stopped holding our breath walking past graveyards, figuring that ghostly possession would at least be interesting. All of those dead people probably had the answers to questions we'd never think to ask, and who were we to argue if they wanted to take a little ride around town? The astrolabes we'd implanted under our skin weren't giving us the sort of fix on the stars we were looking for, and there was something compelling about all those brown and crumbling headstones, something comforting in the words and numbers rubbed by time almost to nothing.

Under the Hagia Sophia they discovered under water some 800-year-old graves of canonized children. They're in mysterious tunnels 1,000 feet below tourist Istanbul, but history doesn't seem to have left us a record of just what all of those sainted children were doing down there. If Rome taught me anything it's that there are tunnels underneath everywhere, filled with secrets and mystery and the ponderous weight of the past.

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Yesterday in the park a mostly-toothless Native American man with a can of beer in hand approached us and introduced himself as the mayor of Seattle. We were sitting under a tree enjoying the breeze, and he sat down nearby and offered to buy me some socks. I declined, so he escalated to pantyhose, a girdle, and finally false teeth. I agreed to the false teeth.

Later, in a different part of the park, the mayor came by again. He told us some terrible jokes and then fixed me with an unstable grin and some sincere finger guns, enthusing about my potential new false teeth. I think that false teeth for everyone is a platform that I can get behind.

Sunday, August 16, 2009

Yesterday was my final presentation, which means that I'm done with my first quarter of school, which means that I am on vacation for the next few weeks. I took the next couple of days off of work, so I am going to spend a lot of extra time sitting in the park.

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Franz Reichelt was a tailor who invented an overcoat parachute. No one seems to know if he tested it alone before he brought it to the public, hopping off of fences and rooftops to drift slowly down and land with a satisfied thump on his own two feet. What we do know is that one day he jumped off the Eiffel Tower, confident in the integrity of his garment, and plummeted 60 meters to leave a measurable dent in the turf at the bottom. The whole thing was caught on video, the seconds of falling and the dust cloud raised by that final thump, and just before he jumps you can see him hesitating, looking at the ground, wondering if leaping was in fact the best idea.

And then he jumped anyway.

I think that we'll soon enough run out of ground to bury ourselves under, that we're going to get wider and wider and not like the thought of the dead laying under our feet. And then we'll only have space and water left. In the deepening shadows of most early evenings I want to settle my eyes in the half-moon shadows under you cheekbones and ask for your preference but I can't quite manage. I'm not yet sure exactly why.

Monday, August 10, 2009

I found my first four leaf clover yesterday, sitting on the grass under a tree with some friends, fuzzy from too few hours of sleep between the end of a dance party and brunch. I shifted the napkin from my ice cream cone to the side, looking for a place to put my hand, and found that it had been there all the time. Half an inch to the right and I would have covered it completely.

Later, a leaf covered in the softest down tumbled from the tree into my lap.

Friday, August 07, 2009

It started out as a story about, I don't know, revelations and sincerity and the empty shuddery thrill of looking into an empty sky and seeing a lone bird winging out toward the horizon. But it didn't fit, not really, like sitting in front of a panel of psychotherapists and being asked to, without using the words "happy", "life", or "I", describe what it means to be fulfilled. You would answer, if you could, but all you can think of is the moment, earlier in the day, when your sweater snagged on the door of the bus and started to unravel. And that's not a story to fit the situation, even if it is the one that feels the best.

I wake up in the middle of the night often already standing somewhere else, and though I can sometimes remember leaving my bed with conviction I am usually confused about why. Lost in my own apartment and a little bit in my own head.

In the kingdom of forced metaphors it's almost always the birds who wear the crown, inhabiting as they do all of the vast open spaces. Revelations are usually the saddest things with wings.

Wednesday, August 05, 2009

The one battle I'm always losing is the one with gravity, coming out of even the quietest of weekends dappled with bruises and scrapes. My knees and shins are always bumped and shaded purple. A couple of weeks ago I had a suspiciously hand-shaped bruise wrapped around my left side, and this week the back side of my shoulder is healing itchily from presumably careening wildly into something or another in my apartment last weekend. I don't ride a bicycle ever mostly because I'm sure I'll end up losing a leg. As I get older I become more and more convinced that the only reason I haven't yet broken anything is because my bones are made of rubber.

My birthday is coming up, and last year at birthdaytime was when I started the No Feelings Plan. It's worked out pretty well, about which more later, but I'm thinking about implementing a plan for this year that's more about physically feeling less, in falling down ways. Learning to be graceful and not quite so covered in bruises.

Monday, August 03, 2009

In truth, all I want right now is this:
On the grass in the slowly cooling evening, fuzzy with whiskey and wine and chocolate and laughing, and suddenly a telltale his and rattle just across the path. Two yellow dresses and one blue one running shrieking through the sprinklers, too suddenly for documentation to follow, describing a bright parabola through the gathering dew and the quieting night. And then collapsing back on the blanket, dabbing at dark blue spots on my lighter blue silk, breathless and ready for champagne and later hot dogs. Unplanned and perfect.

Friday, July 31, 2009

At the beginning of "The Crack-Up," Fitzgerald talks about how it's always the blows from outside that we remember and blame for our holes, when really it's the blows from inside, the tiny bad decisions and the wrong turns hitting with their soft fists, that do the most damage. The blows that, when we stop to notice them, are really the reasons we're all riddled with cracks.

When we finally paused and noticed all of those little breezes blowing through our skin we cast about, hurriedly trying to fill them in with whatever was at hand. Blue skies and green grass and ice cream, bourbon and high fives and jokes that weren't even all that funny. Fresh asparagus and running fast, slivers of stained glass and sheets of wax paper. All of that just served as wedges, shrill crowbars, pulling us more and more apart until you could see through us from space. Just riddled with holes, all of our goodness leaking out over the sidewalk, mingling in the drains to feed the fish. The only options left were to shatter or to cut new skins out of new cloth.

Those were bright smiles, though, then, bright smiles and brilliant laughter.

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Franz Reichelt was a tailor who invented an overcoat parachute. No one seems to know if he tested it alone before he brought it to the public, hopping off of fences and rooftops to drift slowly down and land with a satisfied thump on his own two feet. What we do know is that one day he jumped off the Eiffel Tower, confident in the integrity of his garment, and plummeted 60 meters to leave a measurable dent in the turf at the bottom. The whole thing was caught on video, the seconds of falling and the dust cloud raised by that final thump, and just before he jumps you can see him hesitating, looking at the ground, wondering if leaping was in fact the best idea.

And then he jumped anyway.

I think that we'll soon enough run out of ground to bury ourselves under, that we're going to get wider and wider and not like the thought of the dead laying under our feet. And then we'll only have space and water left. In the deepening shadows of most early evenings I want to settle my eyes in the half-moon shadows under you cheekbones and ask for your preference but I can't quite manage. I'm not yet sure exactly why.

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

I got lost in Siena last year, which isn't notable in itself because I got lost everywhere in Italy, constantly, every time I raised my eyes from my map. In Siena I got tired of walking along what I thought was the bus route and carelessly entered the first bus that stopped, figuring that the town wasn't big enough to get too badly lost. Because a thing I never quite manage is learning from my mistakes.

The bus trundled through part of the town and past what turned out to be the bus stop, but I thought that there would be a later stop and stayed seated while everyone else left. And then the bus, empty except for me, picked up speed again and careened through a network of empty dirt roads and past tumbled-down houses. A painted wooden sign advertised fresh milk at the end of the lane, but across the whole landscape the only things moving were my bus and the cloud shadows. No cows or sheep, or people, or birds. The breeze paused and I knew that just past the windows the world had gone completely silent. Had I been able to cobble together enough Italian to say "please stop the bus and let me out" I might have stayed there forever. Those hills have room for even a girl with hurricanes for hands.

But instead I stayed on the bus, which punctured a tire and limped slowly back into town. I knew where to exit this time, and did, ready to climb to the very top of the museum and lean far out into the wind. Later that night, walking across damp cobblestones with my pink umbrella, a serenade from a bunch of old tweedy men following me down the streets, the part of me that had stuck longing for the land outside thumped back in where it belonged. But it brought back with it a little of that quiet, a little of that startling beauty.

It was in Siena that I finally believed that what was broken could some day be fixed, if I could only manage to get lost in the right places.

Sunday, July 26, 2009

The weather this week is promising to be the sort of thing that I fled to the Pacific Northwest to get away from, and man do I hate it when people complain about the weather but I hate being purposelessly hot and sweaty even more. In any case, I mostly intend to be very, very grumpy and disheveled and dehydrated until the sky stops being insane.

I prefer my heat metaphorical and emotional, not actual. There's no chance for movement when all I can manage is laying in front of the fan, picking at the carpet and collecting debris.

Thursday, July 23, 2009

Most of the time I walk too slowly, spend too much time looking up and sometimes around. There's always so much that I want to cram in to my eyes. This sounds like it would be an endearing quality, but you find yourself frequently exasperated, wishing that I would match my pace to yours instead of to everything else. I won't, although sometimes I might pretend to, risking skinned knees in an effort to both walk faster and stare hard all around. That frustration is always a sign. Not the biggest, or the worst, but still a sign.

And so I don't go hiking, because I can't understand the need to walk past so much just to look at the end, not when along the way is all full of new things. Because I have never yet met a hiking partner who will explain to me exactly why the destination looms larger than the stroll. I always think of that old Life photo of Nabokov and Vera, elderly, in the woods with their twin butterfly nets. Two synesthetes capturing something beautiful and pinning down the world, together.

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

I got sick again, after a beautiful day on an island drinking what turned out to be way too much, so I've spent the last week or so buried under another mountain of headcold, grumpy and drowning in phlegm. I've been sick for a significant portion of the year so far, in one way or another, and it's starting to take a toll. I'm getting paranoid. Next thing you know, I'll start taking vitamins or something.

Last night I was on the balcony of an apartment I shouldn't have been at when I leaned over to light a cigarette I shouldn't have been smoking and burned off half of the eyelashes on my left eye. Which should teach me some sort of lesson about both strange boys and smoking.

Friday, July 17, 2009

When I was younger I had a pogo stick, a birthday present, probably, or maybe Christmas. It was red and shiny, and I never was big enough to make it pogo. That certainly never stopped me from trying, of course, so for months I spent hours, bare feet black from the pavement, hopping on to the pedals of my pogo stick and immediately careening face first toward the ground. I lost more toenails during my fight with that pogo stick than ever again since in my extremely clumsy life.

The pogo stick was eventually abandoned in the shed for more amiable pursuits: hanging lizards from my earlobes, and reading in the jacaranda tree, and sticking purple wild petunia flowers in my hair. I found it a few years later, rusted through with holes, the mechanism all oxidized and so even more difficult to budge. I remember looking at it, unsure of what it even was, before I recalled all those steaming afternoons and tossed it casually back in the box I was rooting through.

The truth is, if it had been a book about pogo sticks, I would probably still have it.

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

For a while I kept a list of the things you left on my doorstep. A compass and a kitten and three headless birds, a book about fish, a cracked watch, two candy canes, a treasure map of Atlantis, and an old copy of Newsweek. I was looking for patterns, I guess, like watching snow on an old motel television screen and waiting for shapes to form. Better to try and find constellations in my own freckles than meaning between the fingers of someone else.

And then I considered, for a time, the weight of my self inside the eyes of everyone else, lingering inside of a vitreous humor and swirling darkly at the close of an eyelid. So I made a list of rings and ripples, of velocity and weight and echoes and dresses, of how much light is reflected by a smile versus a frown. Realizing even then that our influence is only real if someone else realizes that it's there.

I've been thinking about the ice in Greenland, and how there turned out to be all these tunnels underneath that are helping the melting ice slide further and faster into the sea, all of these empty places we didn't even know about undermining a structure already under attack from all the other sides. We can make videos of that, but we can't stop it from happening.

Monday, July 13, 2009

Philip II of Macedon ruled from 382-336 BC, and during that time some folks in a land called Phocis made all of their neighbors mad by farming the sacred field of Delphi. Feeling sure that they couldn't survive for long, all of the Phocensians decided to build a pile and die together in one giant human sacrifice. Just before the men joined the women and children on the pyre they mounted one final attack on their enemies, and won. Which is why Phocensian Despair is the sort of victory where the victor snatches it from the jaws of defeat. Which is probably the reason that no one ever hears of it.

Yesterday I sat at the bar alone, reading an article for class, woozy and sleepy from another impending head cold and feeling the same color as the gray drizzly sky. Someone paused next to me, a girl with flowers in her hair, who smiled and offered me the bouquet of daisies and snapdragons in her hand.
And that's all, really. Just a friendly stranger on a quiet evening, brightening things up.

Thursday, July 09, 2009

I am slowly moving into a rhythm with school, figuring out how to work time for reading into my already busy schedule. I've got a routine down that involves going to the coffee shop for the first round of reading and then to the bar for the second, because getting within three feet of my couch means naptime. Mostly, I just have to keep reminding myself that the time I am spending studying I would otherwise generally be spending wasting time in my apartment, so it's actually not using up a whole lot of valuable minutes.

This will all change once I am taking two classes instead of just one, I guarantee.

When I was an undergrad I was working nearly full time as well, in a physically demanding retail job, and on top of my more than full time schedule of classes holding up a long distance relationship. (And staying up until 3 watching my friends play the guitar and light things on fire, because college.) I was a lot less exhausted then than I am now, which is really just a long-winded way of saying, oh, aging.

Mostly it's just nice to feel engaged with something again, to be using the thinking parts of my brain instead of the feeling ones. I'm exhausted, but pretty happy. We're writing some stories to base our movie off of, parts of which I might post here, and I'm also going to maybe make a book with a drawing sort of friend of all the things I imagine against my will. Finally, life is starting to move again at the speed I have been waiting for.

Tuesday, July 07, 2009

I have been thinking about taste memories.

On Thursday night I was having a bbq in a suburb with the family of one of my good friends. The yard was filled with laughing kids and parents and siblings and friends, a haze of hamburger-scented smoke drifted over all of us, and it was still warm enough to not need a sweater over my dress. I stopped moving for a moment and watched, happy, and just then someone handed me a slice of homemade antelope sausage. The rich taste of antelope will be forever connected to that friendly bbq.

Saturday morning I woke up after only a few hours of sleep, mouth lined with cigarettes and whiskey and being awake too late talking, all of which tasted exactly like falling in love during the summer of 2001.

This morning, thanks to an unfortunate number of rituals falling through, I drank the instant coffee I have stashed in my desk. It tasted like China, like waking up in the hotel in Suzhou after days and days of being wiped out by heat and smog and fighting and walking and bad food and feeling homesick and convinced that the whole trip was a terrible idea.

Friday, July 03, 2009

Have I told you that I'm writing a movie? An old friend who's a film maker asked me to write a movie with him, some goofy mumblecore something based on a few things I've written here. Hilariously, it has sort of turned into a horror movie, which is definitely something I know less about than most things, since I've never seen a horror movie all the way through. Of course, I've also never written a movie before, either. This is probably going to be a terrific fiasco.

Wednesday, July 01, 2009

When I knew him he was surefooted and lean, confident that the ground would always be there to meet the bottoms of his feet. He remembered people, considered them, stored up their details in the lines of his skin to be pulled out and repeated back, unexpectedly. Just so you knew he was listening.

I remember one night, not too long before the end but prior to when everything got all broken and bad and medical, sitting on an empty lifeguard stand, drinking something warm and sweet, shoulders heavy with youth. I think he knew what was coming, and regretted it, that one misstep years before that would cost him all the rest. I knew only that the world hung too heavy on all of us, that we were being handed visions and secrets that we were unprepared for and would never really recover from. We sat there silent and watched the sun melt on to the horizon, kicking up a breeze and washing the water gold, looking suddenly hazy and tired and more like a winter sun than a summer one.

I left his ashes on the Arno last year, but sometimes even now through a break in a crowd I'll catch a glimpse of a tall strong back, a flash of a confident smile, and remember.

Monday, June 29, 2009

On Friday night I made my debut as a cocktail waitress, which seems like it should have been a spectacularly bad idea, given how clumsy I tend to be. But a friend of mine needed help and in this post-Michael economy we could all use a little extra cash, so I gave it a shot and didn't fall over even once. My next trick will be to pull a rabbit out of a hat.

Saturday turned out to involve piling 10 people into a van with a side door that wouldn't close for a trip to the beach. Five of those people had just finished a half marathon and were in varying states of injured, sore, and bloody. Marathons, like cocktailing, are not as easy as they look. (None of it looks even remotely easy, actually.)

And yesterday was the end of gay pride weekend, so I closed out the night dancing at a leather bar in a sweaty press of shirtless men all kissing each other and yet still, somehow, ending up kissing someone myself. So far I am quite fond of the shape of this summer.

Thursday, June 25, 2009

You know, I had something else I was going to say, but I am too busy being bummed about Michael Jackson. In my baby book my mom wrote that one of my first phrases was, "Michael Jackson! Yeah! Alright! I like that!" When I got a record player in my room I listened to "Bad" over and over and over again, and no one will ever be able to convince me that the video for "Billie Jean" is not the greatest video ever made. With the shoes! And the light up sidewalk!

He was a tragic, brilliant mess, and most of my early years were lived to his songs. His death has kind of derailed me.

Monday, June 22, 2009

In World War II Japan built bombs tied on to balloons that they released into the jet stream in hopes of bombing forests and cities from across the ocean. They launched 9,000 of them, and about 300 were found or seen in North America, although they were hoping to land about 900 of them. (The rest, I suppose, were eaten by whales or sank all the way to the bottom of the water to give the Kraken a nice massage.)

They were assembled out of mulberry paper and edible paste, which the young girls putting them together frequently stole to eat, and their bombs were set to be lit and dropped after three days in the air. The balloons made it as far as Detroit, some of them, exploding all over the West coast and even short circuiting the power at the Hanford nuclear site.

The balloon bombs didn't do a lot of damage, except for the day that one killed six people in Oregon during a church picnic, while they were trying to pull the balloon from a tree. There had been a media blackout about the bombs, because no one wanted Japan to know if any of them were reaching land, so none of the people in the cities where they were landing had any idea that they should stay away.

The rest of them could still be out there, somewhere, in forests or ponds or trees, waiting. Maybe they're all corroded and unexplodable, all of the cracks in their metal pieces exploited by the plants, covered over, disconnected. Future archaeologists will find them someday, faded bits of parachute coated in muck and haphazardly preserved, attached to those sad lumps of metal by the impression of strings. They will look just like planters or lawn ornaments, as whimsical as gnomes and flamingos, stripped of their danger and therefore unrelated to bombs.

Thursday, June 18, 2009

We set out a box on the curb labeled "Free!" and full of everything we no longer needed. Bouquets from the weddings of couples who are now divorced, math books full of equations that never added up, ghost stories and butterflies and sugar packets and the bones we found papered in behind the kitchen wall. The neighbors took most everything in the night--well, someone did, and whether it was the neighbors or the squirrels or a roving band of hermit crabs is anyone's guess--and the sides of the box crumpled a little in the morning dew. It all smelled of mildew and roses and celery.

Left at the bottom was a tumbled layer of crackling flower petals, exclamation points, and a snake oil cure for heartache. We held our breath as we looked at it, waiting for it to be sad in the way all left-behind things are, but just at that moment a shaft of sunlight broke through the tree behind us and coaxed a rainbow from that snake oil like a turbaned charmer with a golden recorder.

There was nowhere to go from there but sideways.

Monday, June 15, 2009

We have two weapons in the summer of not overthinking, and those are drinking and remaining well-behaved. And I must say that though it is boring, keeping my hands to myself certainly does calm everything down. I haven't smashed anything in ages, and there are few people that I am embarrassed to run into on the street. I can see the appeal, although I am having a hard time with it lately.

I guess that's not entirely true, though. There are other weapons. Hugging and making plans helps. Dancing for hours on a twisted ankle, eating french fries, sitting in parks. Playing catch and sleeping until afternoon. Napping with all the windows open.

It's all very pleasant, of course. Like an ad for jeans, all sunny and carefree, attractive people with sunglasses and terrific hair. Which is making it a little difficult not to spent a lot of time thinking about how everything will go wrong. I usually am my own biggest obstacle.

Thursday, June 11, 2009

My mom has been scanning some of the photos that she found after my granddad died. My granddad grew up in Pinellas County, and so did my mom and so did I, and my veins are all tied up in that ground. Like this photo, taken under the old Kapok tree, which is over 400 years old and right down the street from my mom's house now. Back then, it was still on my great grandpappy's property. By the 1960's someone had opened up a restaurant with crazy ballrooms and giant gardens. Now there's a music store there, but the Kapok tree is still standing.

All these photos of picnics in the park that was eventually my mother's backyard and where I learned to drive, of people that I've never even heard of, of beaches I went to to kiss boys. My favorite photo of my grandparents, evidence of where my love of books came from, the origin of my giant clown ears and unconscious smirk. All of it in black and white but under the same hot blue sky of my own memories. I can hear the cicadas rising in all of these photos because it's the same sound that lines my own ears.

It's why my whole relationship with the place is so complicated, I think, why I ran so far but still dream in heat and sand.

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Walking home in the earlier end of the night, Self got a conspiratorial grin on my face and nudged me in the ribs, eyebrows raised, suggesting that we have been so well behaved for too long, that it's time for running away and changing names. Time to go hunting in the Palouse for those worms that smell like lilies, time for bonfires and holding hands and kicking shins and talking too much about boats. Time to move to Argentina and learn how to cook.

I scowled at Self, shook my head firmly. We will not be moving to Argentina or kicking anything or finding fragrant white worms. We have things going on, plans coming up, drinking on patios and sitting in parks to do.

Self grumbled, and for a moment we paused and considered the poppies grown up along the road, trying to regather our truce. Those poppies are almost done for the season, their petals almost flat, nearly falling off. A month ago their petals were all furled, tucked under a little cap. I looked at Self and Self looked at me and we both shrugged and continued walking. Some of our conflicts won't bear resolving.

Monday, June 08, 2009

You would think that only having two weeks to go before my first quarter of grad school starts would put a limit on how much worrying and overplanning I am able to do, but you would be wrong. I am extremely fond of planning, and knowing exactly what is going to happen, and it's been three whole days since I got my letter and I still haven't been able to register for a class. (Ok, so two of those days were a weekend, but still.)

I like to do things as far in advance as possible, because it's too easy to forget important details at the last minute. Sadly, the universe generally refuses to conform to my plans for it, and right now is no exception. Also unfortunate is the fact that I will do just about anything in the universe to avoid talking to people on the telephone, which means that I will be waiting for things to silently resolve themselves for as long as I can possible stand. (Tomorrow, probably.)

In celebration I drank a lot of whiskey and then bought myself a tiny gray computer. Now all I need is to know where and when my tiny new computer and I should show up.

Friday, June 05, 2009

Internet! Starting in about two weeks I will be a graduate student at Seattle University. As late as yesterday I had myself convinced that if I did get in it would be for summer quarter of next year, so now I am kind of hyperventilating. Though not in a bad way.

Holy moly, I got in to grad school. The third time, as it turns out, actually is a charm.

So it look like big changes are coming! I'm only planning to take one class this quarter, to ease back into this school thing after being away from it for six years. And then, in about two and a half years, you will all be able to call me Master. I mean, officially.

Thursday, June 04, 2009

Captain Toby and I have declared this the summer of not overthinking, which, given that overthinking comes to me even more naturally than breathing, means that it is probably actually going to be the summer of strenuous denial. But I've never yet been able to turn down something done in the name of adventure, and in either case the outcome should be fun.

I went on kind of a fun bender there for a couple of weeks, out every night and all available afternoons, sitting in parks eating ice cream and drinking tequila, having and going to bbq's, making up nicknames and always, always laughing. I came home at dawn for the first time in ages last weekend, having been snugged in a basement nest full of friends for hours watching a movie with a warm hand resting just above my knee. In my garden, everything is growing, even the experiments that I was sure would fail, and every day each one of those plants is different.

My instincts always lead toward smashing, toward lighting everything on fire, but just right now that seems like too much effort. My angry robot wants it, but my hands are too busy petting friendly dogs to do anything else. Seems like as good a time as any for the summer of not overthinking to start.

Tuesday, June 02, 2009

This is a thing I don't normally do, but: some friends of mine are running the Rock n Roll Seattle half marathon to raise money for another friend's AVID class, since the universe is kind of made of budget cuts these days. These are kids who are mostly from low income or minority families, who will probably be the first in their families to go to college, and they need support for SAT prep and college visits and all sorts of good things.

So, I mean, good cause. This is a first marathon for everyone, I think, which is kind of a big thing. We're into changing the world, though, especially while wearing silly costumes, and so this is happening.

I will not be running, because that would be embarrassing for everyone, since I run like a five year old, but I will be handing out shots at strategic places and doing a lot of jumping and screaming and high fives at the end. Although maybe if enough of you donate from here we can work out some sort of something awesome.

Really, though, you want to sponsor this marathon team. Promise.

Monday, June 01, 2009

We asked only for heat and movement, careening wildly forward with elbows out scraping the walls, both leaving behind and taking along. Talking like a rabbit warren, all twists and dust and dead ends that only we with our long ears and swift feet could navigate safely. When we emerged we were always cracked and bloody and covered with dirt and sweat and tears, but also unselfconsciously convinced that we had never before been so alive.

Only one day we held a buttercup up to the moon and found all stained yellow a light riddled with cracks and broken places, solid proof that the meteors we had been flinging at each other were damaging everything else, too. And we learned too late that running over a daffodil too early will force it never to bloom again, all greens but no yellows. So in the name of no longer tearing down we tucked in our elbows and kicked dirt over our flames, and learned to walk in running ways. We came strolling out of doors we had never entered, like cameos in a cartoon.

Even still I am not convinced that saving the moon is worth the absence of fever, and coming home at dawn clearheaded and friendly makes my hands curl in smashing ways, makes my elbows reach for the jagged walls. Restless, I tear at my hands unthinking, noticing only when a casual movement causes a jolt of pain through my fingers.

The moon has been around much longer than I have, and withstood far more rocks than I could ever throw.

Friday, May 29, 2009

This morning, at the intersection of the lake and near the lake, I found myself waiting to cross the street in a snowstorm of dandelion fluff. The breezes had picked up and the plants had let go all at once, and wisps and clumps of white cartwheeled all through the air. Had I been a little less sluggishly under caffeinated I probably wouldn't have been able to resist doing a pleased little pirouette in the middle of the street. It was just so pretty, all of those wishes suddenly set free, spiraling gently up into the soft blue morning sky.

Standing on the corner I looked wildly around, at all of the cars stopped at stop lights and the bicyclists whizzing past, trying to make eye contact with anyone to share the second with, that sudden flurry of fuzz and sunshine and sweet-smelling breeze. But everyone had their windows up and their morning frowns on, looking at their telephones or catapulting on two wheels through the red light. It was just me on the sidewalk, in a pink and blue sun dress, suddenly even smaller than usual and trying to hold in my eyes all of those wishes for all of those people who never even noticed them.

I still have them, here, just under my lashes. In case you need one.

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

It is always in these better hours that I am always unwillingly thinking of those Greek soldiers that Herodotus told us about who, charged with holding the gates against the Persian army, first sat down and combed their hair. When Xerxes, shocked at the display, asked what it was all about, they told him that before they left their lives the men were going to make their heads beautiful.

It is that I think we are unwittingly doing with these days, stretched full-length in the grass with cheap beer in a plastic cup and salted caramel ice cream melting slowly towards our knuckles, pausing only to register unselfconsciously exactly how alive we feel. We have been through these battles and held our gates but know full well that the next rush might topple us altogether, that no one comes through this war alive. And so it turns out that the only thing that sticks is friends gleaming in the golden hour, is leaning out in to the wind from the very top of a museum in Italy, is catching a firefly only to let it go. We are making days beautiful while we still have them to make.

Friday, May 22, 2009

The sign on the outside of my picket fence reads, "Gone Fishin'". I took yesterday and today off of work, and combined with the long weekend, that's going to end up meaning a whole lot of sitting outside in places having fun. My tomato and strawberry plants are already putting out flowers, and something bright pink is seconds away from blooming.

On Wednesday night I ran home from the bar, the empty streets and sidewalks overwhelmingly tempting, and yesterday I woke up one solid ache from ankles to shins. My shoes are only just barely walking shoes, never mind made for running, so I plan to get around town this weekend mostly by piggy back ride.

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

The antipodes of most places are in the water, somewhere at the bottom with the dirt and the dark and the eyeless fish. Oh sure, some of New Zealand is in Spain and some of Indonesia in South America, but almost all of us are swimming in our opposites. Which leads me to believe, generally, that the exact opposite of where we are standing now is in the middle of some underwater mountain without a name and coated in magic that we won't ever see, not even if we dive down deep and close our own eyes.

Even there I think our opposites are still just us, propped up on elbows and Tennessee Williams and sketches of what probably won't ever be.

I think the apiarists have the right idea, surrounding themselves with the bees that would sting other less-prepared people, gathering only the sweet things without getting hurt. It's a path that seems less strewn with landmines than something more exciting like snake charming, which is really just lying by playing a flute to an angry snake without ears. But then I guess the bees are all dying and the snake charmers, too, propped up only on myths and flowers and the tales of somewhat less than one thousand and one nights.

Monday, May 18, 2009

I spent pretty much all of this weekend outside, planting tomatoes or drinking mimosas on the patio of my brunch spot or throwing a bbq on a rooftop deck belonging to some friends who are out of town, and the rest of it involved in dance parties or otherwise engaged in hijinks. There was no real reason to go home except to sleep, not when there were so many new inside jokes to make up and cocktails to drink and piggy back rides to go on. And now I have come out of this weekend with one sunburned knee, twice as many freckles, and a burning wish that it would just go ahead and be Wednesday already so that I can get started on my five day weekend and do it all over again.

I have a whole plan for summer that is almost exclusively made of outdoor drinking, barbecues, and playing catch in the park. There are a lot of sundresses to wear and a lot of high fives to give, and I honestly can't be fussed about doing anything but having as much fun as possible with whoever happens to be around. This is sort of always my plan for the summer and it generally works, but I intend to make it work twice as much this year through sheer force of will. I need a break from all of the everything.

Thursday, May 14, 2009

I am running incredibly low on both inspiration and energy lately, wrestling with another bout of bronchitis and waiting for the spring to hook me. I am thinking only of taking naps and growing things, of how many people there are and how many years are left and how many miles can be covered by how many steps. I am exhausted by the sheer volume of numbers available, all the time and distance and options available. Just now, the world is too big and time is too much.

My garden this year is running more and more toward falling and climbing sorts of plants, plants that will wind around all of the metals of my balcony and greenly cocoon the end of my apartment. I'm growing three-leaved clovers in the hopes of growing a four-leaved one, and I've sown flower seeds and seedlings in whatever containers I could find. I won't even know what some of them are until they bloom, my usual need for order trumped by this sudden strong longing for the unthinking beauty of growing things. I suspect that this is related to how gray and flat I've been feeling myself, lately.

Some number of weeks ago, a cluster of balloons got tangled in one of the trees I walk past every day on my way to and from work. Most of them managed not to burst on impact and have slowly deflated over the space of days, victims of the wind and small twigs like spikes, of visiting birds, of too many hours. On Monday there was only one left with any air in it at all, a small lump of balloon still holding on while all of its compatriots lay exhausted and tangled in the branches.
By this morning the leaves of the tree had filled in completely, obscuring anything higher than the bottom most branches. I like to think that the final balloon was still a little bit alive when it was finally covered all the way by that tree's leaves. It held on long enough to deserve the shade and the green.

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

All rectangles are squares at some point or another, and probably circles too, secretly, somewhere underneath.

We are happiest when fixed in motion, soothed by the motion of winds and ideas across our cheeks, like shipwreck survivors still somewhere longing for the swell of the waves. All of the laughing waiting to happen, resting in our throats, clinking against our vocal cords like ice cubes in a glass.

Our skin looked stained under the halogen lights, all of those shadows burned into our cheeks, eyelashes in place of eyes. Each time the lights buzzed I though about reaching up and loosening their hold on the socket, idly hoping that a touch would cause the bulbs to blister and explode. And each time I thought the same thing about my own skin, that one more touch would weaken all of the strongest bonds, causing all of my pale inches to rupture, both explosions leaving the room in darkness.

Saturday, May 09, 2009

This morning I mailed off my grad school application, and now there's nothing left to do but wait. Waiting is not a skill I actually have, so instead of doing that I'll probably pace around my apartment talking to myself a lot, and drink too much and lie loudly that it doesn't matter, anyway, because the point was trying.

The reason I moved to Seattle, all those years ago, was grad school, and after I didn't get in I came here anyway because the thought of staying in Florida was much worse than starting over somewhere else. But that first rejection was big for me, the first time I had ever not gotten what I wanted academically, and the first time that simply deciding to do something didn't result in actually doing it. My stubborn single-mindedness of purpose ran head first into reality, and it was a long recovery. (It was also what I deserved for being just like every nineteen year old girl ever and writing an application to a literature program about Sylvia Plath. For crying out loud.)

After visiting the mailbox I went to the farmer's market for plant starts, because it's growing season again. I don't think it's possible to explain how much has changed in the last six years, but the girl that talked about flowers in the market, redheaded and wearing a sun dress, was not a girl that most people from before Seattle would have recognized. This town has been good to me so far.