Thursday, April 28, 2011

What I think is that there is more room in my lungs than is taken up by the air that I am given, and that part of what makes me so restless with the now and then again is how shallow the breathing is. And how useless it is to look for new atmospheres if you haven't yet found the keys to the doors in front of them. How is one supposed to operate a battering ram without sufficient breath to even get up the hill?

In China one evening we got ourselves accidentally kidnapped by a friendly cab driver who drove us up into the hills outside of the city to the dining room of a tiny lady with a freezer full of truly disgusting popsicles. Later, when we returned to our cab to head back into the city, I couldn't help noticing the haze and the heat and the tiny lights of the town below wrapping their fingers around my arms, marking my skin with their fingerprints, the unexpectedness of the whole evening like surfacing in a pond.

There is a lot of room left under my skin for all of the things I haven't yet seen.

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Something about spring is always just like moving under water, slow and pressed down by the weight of the oceans. I missed the woods last weekend, laid out under a weight of antibiotics and misery, which is a little bit too bad because I have been thinking about John Muir these days. But then I went to a park I haven't visited before, and had dinner on a rooftop overlooking my city, and heard some thrilling news about an impending new member of my urban family, and I thought about how I once read about him calling the whole universe an "infinite storm of beauty." Even under water, I'm still pretty sure that that's true.

I like Muir, and his commitment to perspective, never minding when people would come across him dangling over the edge of a waterfall or exploring what life is like for a tree, gaining the eyes of a prophet. It's comforting to know that his molecules are still around.

George Washington's are still here too, probably in the part of my throat that has been making life so difficult.

Friday, April 22, 2011

I'm pretty reliably always either coming down with or recovering from a cold, a side effect of spending so much time on public transit and having an immune system that's more a series of suggestions. A few weeks ago I came down with something spectacularly virulent even for me, a lingering sort of something disgusting that has left me listless and just plain tired out. I decided that three weeks of a sore throat was at least one week too many, especially since it had migrated to my ear, and so today the doctor confirmed: I am full of grossness.

I think about how that happened, how a sore throat crept into places it wasn't supposed to be and turned into a thing that maybe also killed George Washington. All the ways that we can be broken.

The better news is that of all the outcomes from being hit by a drunk driver that are possible, my friend turned out with one of the luckier ones, with a broken pelvis and some time to be spent on crutches, but otherwise alive and intact. Still, I'm going to the woods this weekend, and with the way things have been going I think I'll be trying extra hard to avoid things like bears and the edges of cliffs. Just in case.

Monday, April 18, 2011

A couple of weeks ago I read Graham Greene's Brighton Rock, and in it he describes a girl as looking "like one of the small gaudy statues in an ugly could pray to her but you couldn't expect an answer." It comes back to me at odd times, maybe because of all the things I believe in that's the sort I believe in the most--the dim voodoo wishing stumps and underground temples and stacks of buddha. All of the left behind places and the weatherbeaten statues. In Herculaneum I was amazed at how the ruins blended in with the town, broken and yet still so perfect, found only through a complicated series of small signs pointing the way through the streets. Seems to me that since everything comes through the way we least expect it, we might as well hedge our bets and believe in the underdog, in the small sad statues and poetry and flowers while the soil is still hard. Any answer is always a surprise.

A friend was hit by a drunk driver this weekend, cut out of the car all smashed, and though she will ultimately be ok I am still afraid to move for fear that something will notice how lucky we are. I keep telling my plants all about it, in hopes that they will filter out all of the worst case scenarios in the same way they filter out all of the pollution. It worries me how easily we can be broken.

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

I'm planning a trip to Nicaragua in the summer, for some language immersion and policy research, and I'm preparing for it in the usual way. For no logical reason going to Central America is more intimidating than Italy or China were, and obviously my natural instincts for planning go a little bit out of control in the face of that much uncertainty. (It's especially ridiculous given that I'll actually only have a couple of unplanned days anyway.) Still, it's nice to be planning something again, since weekend jaunts don't really count, especially when none of them involve sharks and rhinoceros beetles.

Apparently Nicaraguans love a colloquialism as much as I do, so a friend has been trying to teach me some common ones. My favorite is about how there's more time than life. I think Nicaragua and I are going to get along just fine.

Friday, April 08, 2011

I'm not sure it's right to call some words "untranslatable" simply because we can't squish one word into an equally small space somewhere else, as though the number of letters involved is more important than the feeling of either. Like we shouldn't be as thoughtful to language as we ought to be while using it. It calms me to know that somewhere there is a word for everything that I am feeling. Likely even for that, recursive whorls of words about feelings about words. In a perfect world, at least.

But even if we knew them we couldn't remember them all, and so we enter these woods armed only with a handful of words and the faith of a child, believing that these are the tools that will get us through to the other side. Sometimes this looks like a path that leads straight to Chamfort, but in just the right light it appears that lightly and sweetly armed is truly the only way in.

I started my garden inside this year. Somehow the weeks left before everything comes up on its own just seemed too far.

Tuesday, April 05, 2011

For weeks late at night I would sneak down to your river, carting away the water in furtive cupfuls, slowly revealing the layers of sediment and the quiet build of time. I wasn't sure quite what I was after, only that it was a secret that you maybe didn't know was there but that I wouldn't be allowed to see in the light. My heart thumped at each rustle in the trees and each time I dipped my cup in the water it ran around my knuckles and through my fingers, cool and clear and sweet.

But each morning I felt guilty for trying to peek and crept back down with my bottles of champagne, trying to bring the water level back up to where I had found it. In the sun the bubbles sparkled as they entered the current, and that seemed almost secret enough. And yet there I was, back again each night, slipping through the fence with my teacup, panning for needles in an invisible haystack.