Wednesday, December 31, 2014

2014, I made a lot of things in you.

I spent a mentionable amount of time this year sitting on the floor of the living room, burning wood and etching glass and once stabbing myself in the leg with a linocutter. I have felt unmoored, I guess, from most of the hobbies I used to ride, and I have spent so many years not touching things with my palms that I wanted to feel things more than thinking them. I also live with a maker, which has surely shifted the ways in which I experience the world. In any case, most things feel safe enough to touch with my whole hands.

My horoscope at the beginning of the year predicted that I would commit no major acts of self-sabotage this year, and I think I may have managed that. I worked hard this year in a lot of intangible areas, in working hard, in being a better partner, in maintaining perspective. It has been a rough year for the world in general, and I have been doing my best to not make it worse.

We looked at a lot of beautiful places this year, on the Washington coast and in Oregon and California. I suppose someday it might get old, how different this land is from the smooth sand I grew up with, but until then I plan to keep filling my eyes all up with it.

2014, I hope that you are leading to a 2015 of change, to a year when we are not suffering from outrage fatigue because there are just so many things to be outraged about. I hope that things are getting better and safer instead of just louder. I read a story a few months ago about a German town that tricked a neo-nazi march into indirectly contributing to an anti-nazi charity, and I hope that's what you were, 2014: the decision point that will trick the world into being kinder.

Friday, November 14, 2014

In dreams some nights I stand on the edge of a rocky seawall wearing rainboots, watching some sort of commotion in the distance. Deciding to go see what it is and expecting shallows below I always step off the seawall and sink, boots filling with water, down into the cold blue unknown, no shallows anywhere. On the land no one has noticed, and I fall slowly through the depths with alarm but without panic. There is always one final improbable breath to be found inside my chest and then I wake, upset at not being more scared. It is always this way of drowning, slowly and quietly and without ever knowing just what drew me into the water in the first place.

The subject of drowning is one where dream interpretation really shows its seams. If you dream of drowning, they say, then you are probably...drowning, in a feeling, possibly good but also possibly bad. But is it really drowning if you are not trying to fight your way back to the surface? Awake, certainly, but I have started to think about this more in terms of sinking than in terms of drowning. If we're trying to discuss something, my brain and I, we should probably be talking about the same thing.

Awake I tend to find breath hard to come by, the air around me somehow thinner than it should be, my lungs less committed to their task. But sinking in water turns out the be approximately the same as drowning, with an added lack of self-confidence which I suppose makes sense. This fall has been a struggle, and I have spent a lot of time alone. They say that sinking suggests a situation in which you can't find the right approach. In general I wish that brains were less obvious, more subtle, that asleep I wasn't telling myself what I already know awake. In general I wish the air pressure would stabilize and loosen its grip on me, that I could breathe deeply and sleep soundly.

In general, I wish that I could understand the commotion in the distance without having to step into the water.

Tuesday, November 04, 2014

We are going to Mexico in January, and I had to renew my passport in order to be ready. The new one came this week, all stiff and empty, and I am feeling pangs about the old one--the way it always flipped open to my Chinese visa, prompting an exasperated sign from the immigration agent who would have to wrestle it to a new page. All of the airplane stamps in it, crooked, hastily applied at unforgiving times in unfamiliar airports. I haven't been so many places, but a lot of them were there in that passport, which is now...recycled, I guess. Where do all the old passports go? It's better if I don't know.

Mexico seems like a reasonable place to start the next 10 years of adventures, someplace I hadn't really thought about visiting until suddenly it revealed itself to be exactly the place to go. One of my goals in life is a swim up bar, so we're going to cross that off, and we'll snorkel around some sculptures that are being claimed by the sea. (A side effect of living with a sculptor is that I think about sculptures more than ever before.) There's the obvious benefit of leaving rainy old Seattle in January for the beach, although rainy old Seattle is pretty charming when it's all hunkered down behind steamy windows and misting gently in the 5:00 streetlights.

Right now my new passport smells like new passport, but I suppose it's only a matter of time until it is creased and falling open naturally to something new, some place I'm not sure of yet. Part of the history of me becoming this girl was kept in that old passport, so it can't be anything less than interesting to see who comes out of the new one.

Thursday, September 18, 2014

I opened my poetry spinner this morning and it thought for a second and then gave me 19 poems on joy and youth. This is a little joke the poems are playing on me, you see, since I have been feeling so tired and just all worn through with holes, markedly less youthful and joyous than I probably should be. Too small for my skin and lightly blue.

One of the offerings was Whitman's "On the Beach at Night," which is the story of a little girl learning astronomy with her father while a storm rolls in and upsets the girl by covering the stars. He tells her not to cry, saying,
The ravening clouds shall not long be victorious,
They shall not long possess the sky, they devour the stars only in apparition,
Jupiter shall emerge, be patient, watch again another night, the Pleiades shall emerge,
They are immortal, all those stars both silvery and golden shall shine out again,
The great stars and the little ones shall shine out again, they endure,
The vast immortal suns and the long-enduring pensive moons shall again shine.
 So, fine. I am not one to ignore the universe when it is telling me something, and evidently this is one of those times. We will weather this dimness the way we have weathered all the ones in the past, with soups and deep breaths and all the jokes that can fit in two hands. I don't have many skills, but I do have that one.

Friday, August 29, 2014

Perhaps it is only natural in the summer, but I have been thinking about that Mary Oliver poem about peonies, the one that goes,
Do you also hurry, half-dressed and barefoot, into the garden,
and softly,
and exclaiming of their dearness,
fill your arms with the white and pink flowers,
with their honeyed heaviness, their lush trembling,
their eagerness
to be wild and perfect for a moment, before they are
nothing, forever?
I have been thinking about looking back and about going forward, about the traps that we set in our memories and the hazy islands just over the horizon. Thinking about turning 32 next week, I guess, and how much better 32 is than 22. 

Peonies are omens of good fortune, so it's lucky that they're everywhere. Other lines of that poem say, "Do you love this world? / Do you cherish your humble and silky life?", and of course the peonies stand there, nodding sweetly yes. The thing about peonies is that they are perennials, and can be wild and perfect and rest, before coming back to do it again. No flower is nothing forever, and the next beautiful thing is just as lovely as the last. Maybe more, I have been thinking, because the next one is filtered through the last one in kaleidoscopic beauty, shattering and reforming and expanding. Forward, I think, is better.

Tuesday, August 12, 2014

Outside the hotel

If you ask the locals about the whales, they all have a different story. It's because of the barnacles and the shallow depth of the bay, says one. The whales come there to scrape off their barnacles, and that's why one whale has kept worryingly close to shore all morning. It could also be that the large number  of seagulls that spend time on the aptly-named "seagull rock" nearby produce a scent that Orcas find off-putting and which therefore makes the bay a refuge for mama whales teaching baby whales the mysteries of the sea. It could be both! That's the thing about whales; whales don't feel the need to tell you all of their secrets.

A few days later, up on what used to be a mountain, we saw a forest fire starting in the near distance. The clouds that had passed off in the distance had dropped lightning in among the brush, but we had just driven through all of those forests and seen the ways that the trees were ready for them, how they created layers specifically to be burned off. A hour later we drove straight into that storm and it gave us buckets of ice, thrown down so hard we worried for the integrity of the windows.

Monday, July 21, 2014

Cape Flattery

I have lived in the Northwest for 11 years now, but the thing I have noticed is that there is always more Northwest just behind the Northwest I was just looking at, even for people like me who do not even remotely qualify as outdoorsy. (Although I did recently buy hiking boots and a raincoat, so there's that.) A couple of months ago we wandered over to Cape Flattery, the northwesternmost point in the continental US, which goes along with my vague notion of going to all of the most places that I can get to comfortably.

Cape Flattery was named by Captain Cook in the year before he got himself killed because it flattered them with hopes of finding a harbor, which is not the least interesting way a Washington place was given its name.

Anyway, there is a lot of this West Coast that I have not seen, so soon we're going to see a bunch of it--down the coast to California and up again by Crater Lake. Crater Lake is a most--it's the deepest lake in the US--and the redwoods are the tallest, so we're covering some significant Northwesterly ground. I don't love the woods like John Muir did, and I don't particularly wish to, but I do agree with him on a lot of counts and mainly this: "Everybody needs beauty as well as bread, places to play in and pray in, where Nature may heal and cheer and give strength to body and soul alike."

Tuesday, May 06, 2014


I have been trying an experiment and waiting to write something until I felt like writing something, which is simultaneously the long history of this particular space and a new way of going about it. Forced/notforced. My brain is full of thinking but not so full of thoughts.

Through a complicated series of unfortunate events we found ourselves in the nonhours in the LA airport, which was not a place I had intended to be. It was there that I sat through my first earthquake, too tired to be anything but tired, rattling slightly and exchanging exclamations with the people around me. I have spent so many years waking in the night hallucinating earthquakes, waiting for the car alarms to start and the ceiling above to give, that it's only appropriate it happened this way, with a whimper. In most things, this is the case.

E.B. White was a great writer of letters, and his response to main who felt bereft of confidence in his fellow humans was thus: "Sailors have an expression about the weather: they say, the weather is a great bluffer. I guess the same is true of our human society — things can look dark, then a break shows in the clouds, and all is changed, sometimes rather suddenly. It is quite obvious that the human race has made a queer mess of life on this planet. But as a people we probably harbor seeds of goodness that have lain for a long time waiting to sprout when the conditions are right." If you were to guess at my activities recently--and I suppose, always--a guess at the watching therewith would be right. Thinking thinking, if not thoughts.

Tuesday, March 11, 2014

We are heading back to my alma mater tonight for a few days, which is great because I sure do need a break from all the long hours and leaking shoes. I haven't been back in nearly 11 years, and it is funny to be planning to be a tourist in a place I take so for granted. As though it isn't where I learned how to learn how to be a person.

There's a gift in those years, one that I was too eager to leave behind because as fast as possible is for a while the only way we know how to run. But for a while everything was still and time stretched forever and in hindsight I'm pretty sure that all we ever did was laugh and write poetry. (To be fair, that's essentially all we do now as well.) All of which is to say that I am very much looking forward to seeing my friends, and my old town, and eating a Cuban sandwich, and introducing this girl now to that girl then.

Monday, February 17, 2014

A few weeks ago I started folding origami hearts for Valentine's Day with no real purpose in mind, figuring that once I folded enough a plan for what to do with them would show up. In a way I suppose this was a devotional act--I was making them to transform some moment for one person somehow--but mostly I was just folding. If we try a little most of our motions are devotional anyway. It's one of the best parts of getting to be people.

My friend passed away this weekend, and I am feeling a familiar jumble of things. It is sad that she is gone at the same time that it is a relief that she is free of so much pain. It is sad that she has left behind a family and would have been sadder if she hadn't. She died a month before her party, and this is perhaps the thing that is sticking with me the most--how often she asked everyone to dance with her, how completely she defied her disease and all that it tried to take from her. I've been thinking about a lunch, just before we knew for sure that she was sick, sitting on some steps in the sun.  She was on a cleanse, eating nothing with flavor, but all she wanted to talk about was things that would make us laugh.

She's been on my mind a lot the last few months and I though about her now and again while I was making all of those hearts. It was a gesture she would have approved of, going forward with more love than plan. It is just one more way of thinking that we had in common.

Wednesday, January 22, 2014

It feels like I tend to tally up our pluses and minuses more in January, as though I am using it to predict the year. One impending marriage, one impending baby. One new case of brain cancer. A city swept by the football madness and just adorable amounts of enthusiasm. Compared to Januaries past we are certainly on the plus side, or maybe it only feels that way because my own pluses are more than my minuses. Either way I will take it.

Last week I read a story about a plan to bring more dietary iron to a community suffering from iron deficiency. Giving the world a cast-iron skillet would be the obvious solution, but one that is prohibitively expensive. Adding a small block of iron to a cooking pot would be cheaper and easier but, when given a small block of iron, the village women found them to be rather more useful as doorstops.

But it turned out that there was a fish in town that stood for good luck. And if you turn a block of iron into good luck, people are more likely to cook with it and eat up all that luck. No matter where you go something is lucky, and of all the ways to make everyone healthier I do not think that a little bit of luck in your soup is the worst way.

I suppose we could create our own luck, but it seems like a better idea to make it for someone else, given the option. If we need a motto for January to make one for the year, it seems to me like that's the one to use.

Thursday, January 02, 2014

Hello, 2014.

When you got here I was in a room filled with people that I like, waiting for fireworks from a Space Needle too fogged in for them to get out. We retreated back to the television to see if the fireworks were there, but it turned out that even from the Space Needle you couldn't really see the Space Needle fireworks. Score one for the fog. But as always fireworks are just a bonus for events with friends and champagne and kissing at midnight, and I wouldn't trade the fun for fireworks. Probably.

This morning I walked to work on sidewalks just caked with streamers and confetti, shining in the gray from empty champagne bottles with their tops snapped off. I'm sure it will all get smushed together into brown soon enough, but I appreciated how bright everything had remained through a night and a day and a night.

I'm not usually one for resolutions, but I appreciate that my horoscope for the moment says this:
I predict that you will commit no major acts of self-sabotage in 2014. Congrats! I also foresee that you will be exceptionally careful not to hurt or damage yourself. Hooray! More good news: You won't be as critical of yourself as you have sometimes been in the past. The judgmental little voice in the back of your head won't be nearly as active. Yay! Even your negative emotions will diminish in frequency and intensity. Hallelujah! Whoopee! Abracadabra!
All of which sounds just fine to me. Let's go with that, 2014. If we work together, we just might get there.