Tuesday, November 30, 2010

The voodoo museum was small and dim and softly creepy, a rougarou propped up between a jumbled pile of crosses and a dusty case filled with potential fillings for a gris-gris. I don't not believe in voodoo, so I left an offering to Papa Legba by the door, in case he felt like opening up communication with anyone else. So hopefully something was paying attention when I wrapped an offering in a wish and knocked nine times on the wishing stump. I can use all the help I can get.

In the graveyard I left behind my tooth-shaped rock and wandered dizzily through the tombs, wondering at all of the monuments that have lost their names. Nothing is sadder than an unmarked grave.

And then there are the other parts, sitting in a bar in the middle of the night barely needing a cardigan, sipping drinks while the sound of a tuba wafts through the open door from somewhere. Battling a stiff wind in search of doors that ended up locked, sharing a taxicab with friendly strangers, fantasizing about a new life filled with cast iron and blues and gumbo, the same old gulf smells mixed with new ones.

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

I have trouble teasing it all apart. Smoothing a slip over thighs encased in tights and the lost vistas of the Terra Nova expedition. A hopeful rumor that steadfastly refuses to resolve itself and a treacherous journey down an iced staircase late in a smoky frozen night. Wandering alone for miles, spirals of metal strapped to my feet, watching the chill glimmer open up as far ahead as I can see even though the sidewalk under my feet is covered with something the soft gritty consistency of the sand I knew growing up on beaches. The feeling of snow on my fingers, shockingly cold, because snow in my head is still the neutral confetti of my childhood malls.

I am sure of less and less the longer time goes on, but a thing I do know for sure is that I am terribly thankful about how even though in some ways my family keeps getting sadly smaller, in other ways only grows larger and larger. How in this life we need never lack for love, and friends, for ill-conceived shenanigans and general hilarity.

Happy Thanksgiving, friends! Enjoy your turkeys and turkey substitutes.

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

It's lucky that I live in walking distance of my office, because the commutes were hopelessly snarled last night. The wind kicked up snow to scour my face and nearly knocked me off my feet, but that's nothing compared to trapped for hours in cars and buses, abandoning them and walking home.

A friend got snowed in with me, and this morning we bundled up and took a walk around the neighborhood, marveling at the truck on its side down the street and all of the cars abandoned all strewn across the hills. It's still too cold for anything to melt, but the remnants of my garden are wilting. And in the meantime, the city glitters everywhere, looking covered in the fake snow I remember from growing up in Florida.

Tomorrow, I am heading to New Orleans, where it is currently 80 and sunny.

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Hearts don't really understand hiatus, is the thing, stretching to include whatever they come up again, like the tree that snatched up the antlers of a deer and grew tall, making branches out of what previously belonged to the ground. The way we move so quickly through space, all fire and heat, just means that we bump up against more and more and faster. Leaving and taking, until we're maybe not even made up anymore of what we started out with.

Sometimes during a pause in the crackle and whirl I can hear Chamfort just beneath my ribs, tired out with this world where the heart must either break or become hard as bronze. Like text sewn into the lining of a jacket, and only the person who put it there knows what it says.

In England they found spiderwebs from 140 million years ago, perfectly preserved in amber. The thinnest threads, somehow hardened and kept secret forever.

Monday, November 15, 2010

There are mornings--cool, misty mornings, when everything is hidden in fog--when I suspect that the only real way to know anything is to quit everything and devote myself to learning about lichen.

Lichen are maps for everything, everywhere--time and moisture and change and pollution. They grow on plants without eating them and on rocks where there's no soil and little air, and they can survive unprotected in space. Lichen thrive on mysteries. If we asked them to, lichen could probably tell us everything.

A while ago it was suggested that the rocks that rove in Death Valley each move for different reasons; that there are so many microclimates in that desert that no explanation is going to cover everything. As though there could even be an explanation for rocks that move as fast as people and yet haven't ever been observed budging an inch--which, in its own way, is very comforting. Still, maybe the lichen know why.

Yesterday I crouched on my balcony, clearing the debris from my garden to prepare the soil for winter sleeping, while a hummingbird sat on the top of the tree across from me and shouted at me for being too close to the feeder. I posed no threat to him, but there was no way he could have known that, and in the meantime there was the dry dirt on my hands and the spicy smell of pea vines and broken tomato branches. For just that time, everything went still enough that even the mysteries were at rest.

Tuesday, November 09, 2010

I have some questions about our perspective, in the way that we were looking for the caldera at Yellowstone only to learn that we couldn't see it because we were standing inside it, and the only way to know where it was turned out to be from above. How there's never a time when we're not in the forest, even if we can only see one tree at a time.

If the economics of our brains require that we're always finding a pattern, maybe the trick is to look for the patterns that come next. The ones that we notice first seem to lead us in the same circles, which is useful, certainly, but not valuable.

More to the point, I suppose, is that I've been thinking about the Cadillac in the Attic again, about saying yes to whatever comes up for the meaning and for the pleasure, and never mind interpreting the runes that my footsteps leave behind. Getting all Emma Bovary, the way that fits best in the fall.

Or I guess, in the way that the inside of my head is always poems even if I'm talking science, feeling like the inside of Reflections on a Gift of Watermelon Pickle, which has somehow in the last few years become like an old friend. "During that summer--/Which may never have been at all;/But which has become more real" and "It was a summer of limitless bites/ Of hungers quickly felt /And quickly forgotten/With the next careless gorging."

"The bites are fewer now./ Each one is savored lingeringly, /Swallowed reluctantly."

Thursday, November 04, 2010

I fell this morning on my way into the office, full length on the floor of the lobby. Since it's a school day I was carrying my bag of heavy books--being close to the same size as my bag has been getting me in trouble for pretty much my whole life--and I landed hardest on that side, on that hand and knee. My bag hit the ground and almost everything stayed inside, except from somewhere in the depths of the bag came a penny, which rolled out and landed, heads down, a few feet away.

I'm pretty sure gravity is out to get me.

Monday, November 01, 2010

Me and my granddad

This second anniversary of my granddad's death might have been even worst than the first one, if only because it's compounded by the additional loss of my grandma this year--the sure knowledge that in some ways my world is only going to get emptier and emptier.

Last Christmas, PZ Meyers wrote a thing that stuck with me, that I think about whenever I miss them, which is often:

One of the lies we always tell ourselves is that the pain will go away with time, that we'll get over it, that time heals all wounds, and it's not true. Every loss is forever raw, and we can feel it all again with just a thought or a reminder, like a Christmas phone call to the family. The older you get, the more of these moments of grief you accumulate, and they never leave you....Grief can grow, but so can joy. We can find delight and contentment in moments that balance the grief, without detracting from the honor we give the dead, and those moments also accumulate and never diminish in the happiness they bring to us. I can remember the good times I had with my dad, and the good times I've had with my children, and can look forward to a future of fulfilling cheerfulness with friends and family — this is how we cope. We embrace both the sorrow and the joy, letting neither reduce the other, and fill up our lives with everything. Hail and farewell, goodbye and greetings.

So it's the other things I'm looking at, the places that are filled with joy. Being an elephant and hanging out with Lloyd Dobler, the little guy dressed as a very serious chicken and joining us for his first brunch. (He was very much in favor of sucking on a spoon that had been used to stir coffee.) All of the fun holidays coming up, the promise of a winter filled with snow, carrying an umbrella with the solar system just above me. Sometimes, the only way out is through.