Friday, August 31, 2012


On Monday I'll be 30, and I'm not even going to pretend to be having any existential dread about aging or leaving my 20's or the looming threat of mortality or whatever it is that's supposed to be upsetting about milestone birthdays. Getting older has been great, and I am having much too much fun looking forward to all the adventures up ahead. In the balance, it seems that things go right just slightly more often than they go wrong.

In Paris I'll be reading a book by Clarice Lispector, a Brazilian writer who was born in Ukraine and grew up in Brazil, who spent much of her life traveling, a renowned beauty who tried to put out a fire in her house with her own hands. The narrator in one of her books says, “I can’t sum myself up because it’s impossible to add up a chair and two apples. I’m a chair and two apples. And I don’t add up." This seems to me like as good a place to start whatever happens next as any.

Wednesday, August 29, 2012

I like the light in the evenings this time of year. It's light that has lost some of the frantic brightness of the summer, light that knows the days are coming where it doesn't have to get up so early and stay out so late. I walk places in the evenings and it bends around everything softly, cradling instead of pushing.

In Iceland it was bright almost all the time, dimming to something almost twilight in the latest hours. This made it hard to sleep, but there's something appropriate about being on top of all that fire and chaos and bathed in light sunshine. The light in Iceland made the place feel lonelier, more remote, as though the sun's rays couldn't be bothered to make it as far as all of those volcanoes.

Friday, August 24, 2012

I have been waiting for this one to come around.

A year ago tomorrow I had dinner with some friends and then wandered onto a rooftop bar to take advantage of the sunshine and the waning days of my vacation. There is sparse documentation of this evening anywhere, because I was spending most of my time having a lot of fun and the rest of it complaining about how my diamond shoes are too tight, but it's there in my foursquare history--HG Lodge, 8:10 pm. I stayed long enough for a drink and to give my phone number to someone I had met for the second time a few months before, and then left for another bar and a dance party.

At the time I was reading a lot of John Muir, all wrapped up in how he talks about the paths through the mountains, with rocks on all sides and flowers just ahead. My favorite part was his two skies, a valley of unbroken gold flowers below a cloudless blue sky, reflecting each other in beauty. He called the universe an "infinite storm of beauty" and it is this I have been thinking about recently, the storm that has carried us to these new places, this exquisitely beautiful wreck of a year.

Sometimes it's still so startling, the way this has ended up, how everything that was smashed at the beginning of the year has been reconfigured into something even better. I wouldn't relive those months for anything, but I cannot argue with the gifts that all that turmoil has brought me. As usual the universe is smarter than me, and while I unfortunately still can't predict the future I am certainly looking forward to it. Next weekend I'll go to Paris with a bunch of friends and my favorite guy and turn 30, happier than I've ever been, having found a path through the brambles that lead right back to where I started. It seems that the fourth time is the charm.

Monday, August 20, 2012

On Friday I went to the lake, escaping the heat in the cool shade and breeze. Lake swimming is growing on me, the longer I live in the northwest, but there's something about the creeping feeling of cold water on my skin even when I'm all the way submerged that I just can't get used to. Cold water requires so much focus.

Saturday evening I took a train toward the mountains, curling along the coast in the sunset. The clouds covered most of the sky until late in the evening when the cleared up to the mountains. There was lightning there, in those clouds, that looked like the heat lightning of my youth even though the air was chilly. I suppose there is something to be said for the mountains, out away from all the light. In any case we stood there and watched the sky flicker in a handful of different ways, including one brilliant streak of shooting star. 

Tuesday, August 14, 2012

After James Dean died a friend wrote to his family, saying, "So few things blaze. So little is beautiful. Our world doesn't seem equipped to contain its brilliance too long. Ecstasy is only recognizable when one has experienced pain. Beauty only exists when set against ugliness. Peace is not appreciated without war ahead of it. How we wish that life could support only the good. But it vanishes when its opposite no longer exists as a setting. It is a white marble on unmelting snow." This a thing that sticks with me, an explanation of what keeps us casting around for the brightest lights in the darkest places, why we follow the corpse candles all the way through the swamps. Without the contrast we'd have so little to look at.

Sometimes I get distracted thinking about the fish who find treasure, waving their tails around in the dark and uncovering a glimmer that flashes only in the twinkle of the nearby bioluminescense, there and then gone again. Covered up by the next fish passing above and looking the other way, and never to be seen by us at all. Sometimes I get distracted thinking about all the lights I'll never see.

Friday, August 10, 2012

It's always hard to completely move past a certain lack of trust in the integrity of doors, to shake the feeling that someone is sneaking in or around. Just before I fall asleep I find myself bargaining with myself not to open my eyes back up just in case one of these times it turns out to be true. If it is, I'd rather it be a surprise. In my head it always looks like the librarian ghost from Ghostbusters, which is arguably even worse than real murderers.

All the summertime noises are the thing that make me realize that I'm continuing to imagine these things, all the fans and open windows and light heat hazy sleep. Perhaps I have just read too many of the wrong kinds of things, and now my brains don't need any help to loop whatever they feel on their own. Perhaps all the elves that run me have a taste for pulp television that the rest of me is too scared to watch. Perhaps brains and hearts and the insides of eyes are all a mystery, even to their owners.

Monday, August 06, 2012

I have only been swimming once in the years I've lived in Seattle--lakes being cold and full of monsters and all--but this weekend turned out to be too hot to do anything else, so lake swimming it was. All the heat and sweating makes my angry robot all hop around, but it almost certainly would have been worse anywhere else. And I suppose that this summer has largely been about doing the things I don't usually do, between the lake swimming and the canoeing and the learning how to ride a bicycle again. I suppose I might as well revisit these things before I turn 30 in a few weeks, to give that some gravity.

A while ago I read an article about a climate scientist who is racing both the warming climate and his own mortality to acquire ice cores from all the icy places, so that we will have a better shot of knowing what has come before. It's his heart that's turned against him, in the usual ways, and it's almost regrettable that the cores of people don't have the same kind of layers and rings, that we can't see their growth years and drought years the way we do with ice and trees. Almost regrettable, but maybe still best left secret.