Sunday, December 18, 2011

On evangelical behavior

Here's something that was/has been bothering me over the past 36 hours or so: I am evangelical about lots of things in my life. It depends on my mood and energy level and so on, but still: I will go to great lengths to share with you my affection for floss picks or for the smell of Noxzema facewash, or to convince you that you really should like to eat all the things that I like to eat and care about all the things I care about and do all the things that I like to do. If you don't like water, I will try to make you understand why you should like water. If you do not like being outside, or wearing tennis shoes, or eating more than six things (I don't know whether you'll ever read this, Ian, but yes it is possible that that is a pointed comment) then I will go out of my way repeatedly to try to make you "see the light." To try to change your mind. And it's obnoxious--I know it is--but I can't seem to help myself. In fact, if you have habits or opinions that I find irksome and you notice me not being pushy or giving you shit about them all the time, then you should be aware that I am working really hard to keep my mouth shut.

So here's a segue that I'm not sure how to make without being offensive: I'm not evangelical about that thing that the term "evangelism" was probably coined for in the first place: my faith. What I say I believe. And probably part of the reason is that being evangelical isn't really culturally acceptable around here, and part is that I'm afraid to offend people, and part is that I'm more worried about being judged by others than I am willing to admit to myself. Part is that I don't know how to balance not being judgmental and being respectful and sharing and communicating. And part is that I don't really know what I think is true, or rather, don't know how much is true. Don't know how much is grey.

Friday, December 16, 2011

Like I said on facebook,

I usually veer pretty far away from "Christian" writing. From that stuff that's all full of jargon and talk about feelings and personal relationships with an intangible, invisible being, and feelings, and Bible verses and Bible analysis and some flowery metaphors (ok, I'm a hypocrite) and maybe some more stuff about feelings. I don't know how to say this, and maybe it's because I don't have an example of said writing in front of me (because, um, it's not the kind of thing I tend to bookmark), but there's just a whole atmosphere to it that makes me want to run the opposite direction. All those things--relationships and churchspeak and feelings--those are all things that I just don't get. But this girl--Jamie the Very Worst Missionary--this girl I like. Even if you're not particularly a person of religious bent, you might like what she has to say--particularly in this post. Check her out.

Thursday, December 15, 2011

Things I want to make, vol. 1

A Hermes mailbox. But not the mailbox part--I mean I want to make a sculpture of Hermes that will stand next to my driveway and hold the mailbox on his shoulder.

Dinosaurs out of leftover electrical wire. Hermes has been in the works (aka in my head, not worked on at all) for months or years, but the dinosaurs have just occurred to me. Or rather, dinosaurs in this form. I have been known to make dinosaurs out of other things in the past, such as papier mache



or rice krispies treats.

Bucket List, revised:

learn French
get shit together
integrate--exercise--quiet time--daily maintenance stuff--art--into daily life
sing fearlessly
learn to crochet
swim through a reef
through a lagoon
in hot springs
in warm springs
in the mountains
in the ocean
explore tide pools
parasail
kite surf (because it's the closest thing I can think of to the sport mentioned at the bottom of this post)
get a grad degree...?
get a dslr...take amazing pictures...make huge prints and hang them places
participate in the creation of a dream home.
stop fearing the future
believe.

Let it rise.

I would wish so hard that the phrase "precious moments" hadn't been co-opted by that god-awful porcelain giant-eyed cherub crap, if I thought my wishing would change anything. The phrase isn't usable for anything meaningful, or anything other than an ad for that line. But the moments I spend with my mother--last week, rearranging the basement; this week, kneading bread and slipping it into loaf pans and pyrex bowls to rise--are precious ones to me. Some memories acquire a glow and a lustre as they age, but these have it straight out of the box. Sometimes I am reluctant to begin--running around removing bracelets and fitzing with an apron, filling my water bottle and tying my hair back with a headband--but the moment my hands touch the dough, it's over. There's no more rush, no more irritation, no more anxiousness. There's just me and my hands and this dough, and my mother and her wise hands and the dough, and the flour, and the kneading board. There is nothing else. It never lasts long enough.

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

I like the way we do things in our family.

12:20 am today found me in my grey boots that feel like slippers and rose-printed hoodie from Scotland and this beautiful hand-me-down skirt that Eva bought in India, squatting in twenty-eight degree weather on the bright red adirondak chair I picked up last week, watching my breath mist and dissipate and grinning as I waited for my mother to return with another strand of Christmas lights. Because we run on Africa time, and when the mood strikes us we run on the principle that there is no time like right this very second to do whatever it is we've been putting off--like stringing a couple of strands of Christmas lights across the front porch, even if we had to step around our Christmas tree (which all week has been casually leaning up against a pillar, studying its fingernails and patiently waiting for a space to be made inside) to do it. There is a sweetness to such moments that I can't imagine infusing any other space or time than midnight, with my mother, in the last few moments of the fall. I like the way we do things.

Sunday, December 11, 2011

Reasons

I think a part of the reason that I have been (sometimes consciously, sometimes not) avoiding writing lately is that I've been pointedly ignoring this little existential crisis I've been having. It is totally unlike anything anybody else in the world has ever experienced and it goes something like this: what's the point of all this? I don't see a point. I mean, life is kind of nice sometimes I guess, but it doesn't really seem worth it. I could get hit by a bus tomorrow and (assuming I didn't end up having to live on in extreme pain/disability) I'd probably be okay with it.


It should go without saying (or at least, I tell myself that it should) that I probably wouldn't be all that okay with it (or at least, I tell myself I wouldn't), but that's how I've been feeling about all this lately. Just don't really feel like doing it. Like doing any of it. So I haven't been writing.

Probably this is all the result of some minor depression, dysthymia I guess, that is sapping my will to live and write and listen to music, or possibly it's related to my paralyzing fear of decision-making and the accruement of additional debt and the idea that I will never figure out what to do with my life, never find the motivation to just, for God's sake, do something that will pay the bills, never again find the will to really live, and so on. I know that some days a beautiful flower is enough to keep me going, but other days, and all of them lately, it seems like nothing is enough.

It occurs to me that this might be remedied if I did x or y or z--if I went back to school and became a counselor, or if I fell in love, or if I have children someday--but I wonder whether any of that is actually true; whether any of it would actually work. Whether this all feels pointless because I am doing nothing that has any real purpose, or whether it feels pointless because the days are getting shorter, or because my brain or hormones are somehow otherwise unbalanced, and I need to correct the imbalance with some kind of dietary change or sleep schedule or scintillating, brilliant conversation (Anna, are you free?) or self-talk or therapy. This kind of depression can be difficult to address via emotional bootstrapping, which (in addition to the wait-it-out method) is the way I have handled just about every other depressive episode I have ever encountered, because it's just a general feeling of malaise. There are very few specific thought patterns to address, very few negative thought habits to replace with positive ones, and so on.

Or maybe I just need to look harder.

Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Shift. And I do what I want.

My winter sky is back! The trees have stretched out their arms and intertwined their fingers in sleep, and the stars shine again through the empty spaces. Tonight the cold wind cut through my sweater and chilled my bare knees between the hem of my skirt and the tops of my boots, and I directed a toothy grin toward Orion.

And now, of course, the house feels like it's a hundred degrees, and I'm sitting in the front window (because that's where my computer lives, lately) with no shirt on. Good thing this isn't a highly trafficked street.



I was feeling so emo earlier this week--witness the past couple of entries--and two nights in a row I was rescued by unexpected phone calls from friends. One from a college friend (Katy) I haven't had a good conversation with since, well, probably since before graduation, and another from my we-always-hang-out friend Sara. Katy and I talked for over two hours, which was awesome. And she'll be in town soon! Or in the town where we went to school, which is only an hour away. That's a far sight closer than Salt Lake City, so I'll take it. Anyway it occurred to me that I had started getting emo around the time that I had stopped taking these vitamins that I had started taking. Looks like that may have been the reason, and it turns out that B-complex vitamins really do play a role in emotional health. Who'd have guessed it?


Also: boys.

Sunday, November 27, 2011

Perspectives

Sometimes I live my life in a swirl of smiles and affection--the sometimes-dreary trudge of days is highlighted for a time with shining memories or glimpses of my cousin's beautiful red hair, my best friend's smile, my best guy friend's hugs, gorgeous slanting rays of sunlight and the earth warm beneath my feet--and those are the things that matter. Those are the things I hold onto.

But other times, other days, other moments, it doesn't matter how much time I've spent with the people I love. It doesn't matter how much they love me. It doesn't matter how great I felt or didn't feel earlier in the day. The beauty of the sunset slides right off my temporal lobe and disappears into the cold river, and all I feel is bleak and alone.

A sobering moment

Tonight I was nearly home when I saw a cat in the middle of the road that had been hit by a car. It had no mark on it that I could see, but was lying motionless across the double yellow lines. I passed it, but about a quarter mile down the road I turned around, pulled off at the church, and carried the cat to the shoulder. I had hoped to check its tag and call its owners, but though it was clearly a pet, it had no collar and no tag. It was still warm. And though I didn't see anything on the exposed side, it must have shit itself on impact. I haven't yet been able to get the smell off my hand.

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Weather. And stuff.

The weather right now is beautiful. I walked Miley earlier tonight and looked up at the bare trees and felt that I was finally beginning to welcome the winter back into my world, though the air has been so moist and warm that sometimes I catch myself thinking that it's early spring rather than late fall. As we approached the intersection of our street and the next, a warm, damp wind blew through the trees and sent a rain of wet leaves fluttering and spinning through the beam from the streetlight, each one glowing dimly in its dance toward the ground.







And I need to take my heart the hell off my sleeve.

Monday, November 21, 2011

The party went well.

By the way, I was planning a surprise party for my mother. But she reads this blog sometimes. And it stressed me out to no end--I really do need to keep working on managing stress better--but it went well. Everyone who said anything to me about it (and that seemed like a good number of people) was very complimentary. And they said I looked very festive. There were a lot of compliments on that outfit, but a lot of weird looks and such too. Whatever. My mood had been hellish not too long before and I needed colors and craziness. I don't know if there are any pictures. Sara might have some.

I'm still recovering. I'm not as wrecked as I thought I would be, but I have been really dragging. A woman I work for gave me some really nice vitamins (a week's worth!) this morning though, and I think that the ones I have taken are helping (!), so that's nice.


Tonight: Breaking Dawn with the high school crew. I don't even care what you think.

Friday, November 18, 2011

My life: it is very exciting.

"To inspire" means, literally, "to breathe upon."

I want to write poetry again. Where did all my poetry go? Even if it wasn't particularly good, it was mine. It came from my mind, through my breath and fingers. I miss it. I don't know why it's gone, except maybe that I stopped working for it. Sometimes it would just coalesce out of the air, but that seemed to happen more often when I was working and looking.


In other news, I need a haircut. Split ends and overlong bangs and such.

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Shifts

Tonight, for the first time in a long time, I began to consider the possibility of being a teacher. A writing teacher. I've been editing papers for a friend who is in grad school, and I love it. I love it. I love it so much.


Also I ended up at Starbucks tonight and there on the counter was a Michael Buble Christmas cd. Halfway through my hot chocolate I decided that I couldn't leave without it. I put it on in the car as I drove home through the driving rain, and it took about a song and a half for my cheeks to start to ache from smiling so hard.

The rain.

It's been busy lately, for reasons I won't go into yet. Today is a beautiful, warm, quiet, rainy day. the rain is pressing into the trees and the ground, resulting in a continuous gentle fall of leaves. It really is beautiful. I think I'll go take a video. Or I would, if I knew where I had put my camera.

Last night as I drove out to dinner I looked up and saw the autumn leaves swirling in the wind and dancing down through the darkening sky, and it nearly took my breath away.

Monday, November 14, 2011

I keep forgetting things.

One thing was that I like finding the ways that seasons echo one another, or other places that nature echoes itself. Tonight it was the way the silhouettes of nearly bare trees look almost identical to the silhouettes of trees whose spring buds have just begun to form.


AND I FORGOT THE OTHER THING.

"...but it's hard to stay mad when there's so much beauty in the world."

Today did not necessarily begin as I would have hoped, but it has been a beautiful day.

I woke up feeling somewhat rested, which was wonderful, even if I did temporarily obliterate that healthy feeling by stubbornly refusing to not eat cereal for breakfast*, and I went to work for Mrs D organizing and whatever, and I was in such a good mood. Regardless of my morning or my stomach, how could anyone possibly be upset when the world has transformed into a red, yellow and orange pointillism painting, and the air is streaming with brightly colored leaves and filling with breathtaking flocks of starlings? How could anyone do anything but grin and sing into the wind when the air is seventy-five degrees in November, and the radio is playing The New Radicals and Alanis Morrisette and Miranda Lambert, with Eric Hutchinson in the cd player?

I came home from Mrs D's for a little while to check email and make more delicious fried eggs with tumeric and chili powder, thyme and garlic in coconut oil, then went to tutor Mary and help her prepare for her history test (why didn't I think this stuff was interesting when I was in school?). Afterward I made a deposit at the bank, dropped off my car at the service station for an oil change and inspection, and walked the  two or so miles home. It wasn't my favorite venue or time of day for walking--I was on a main road with no sidewalk, and I was walking between the sunset and the appearance of the stars, so the scenery wasn't particularly relaxing or pretty--but after a few minutes I started to tune in to the smells of the warm grass and crunchy fall leaves, and that was very nice. The evening breeze was delicious, and the stark contrast between the main road and my quiet, sleepy little street made it seem even more peaceful than usual. A cat wandered over from a driveway across the street, and after I scratched its ears it followed me halfway home, hoping for more love.














































*By the way, I keep forgetting to mention this, but I think I just became lactose intolerant. That would be funny if I were kidding, but I'm not. I am not kidding. And that means that I am upset, because I love milk and other milk-related products. I mean, cheese! Yogurt! Hot chocolate! Ice cream! And I eat cereal for breakfast every day! And do not even talk to me about soy or rice or almond milk. Don't even start. I am grieving right now. Just leave me alone.

Friday, November 11, 2011

Well, it's been a few weeks.

I keep finding little things I want to write about--

the way the water in the creek has carved out a new path through all its ethereal little islands of leaves 

the way, the day after her son's family moved back out, the sun room of a woman I work for had the warm, empty, hastily abandoned feel of a summer camp at August's end

the stunningly beautiful rain of leaves in each autumn breeze 

the rainbow around the full moon--

But I just never do. So here I am, mentioning them in passing. 

Here are two more recent things in my memory:

1. I just made myself two eggs for dinner, fried over-easy in coconut oil and covered with tumeric, chili powder, parmesan cheese, and garlic. Good God they were wonderful.

2. I've gone out a couple of times recently with a guy named Ian. And, though I harbor near-constant suspicions that we are not each others' types, he is nevertheless really sweet and pretty awesome, and his texts often make me laugh out loud. Also he's agnostic, so if this goes anywhere my mom is really gonna love that. But anyway, we'll see.



Happy Veteran's Day, everyone.

Friday, October 28, 2011

A shiny bagel

I just took Miley for a walk in the cold October rain, and she swerved crazily as I skipped (no, really) along down the gleaming street. I began to sing to myself (as is my custom), but remembered when I failed to hit a high note that I am still recovering from laryngitis, and fell silent for the rest of the hop-skip back to the house. A few blocks shy of home, Miley suddenly dragged me fifteen feet backward through the rain, then stopped, sniffed, and carefully picked up twice-bitten bagel in her teeth. I laughed, and watched her gently carry it home; watched her jump up on the bed and excitedly show it around; watched her hurl herself around the living room with excitement over her bagel.

It was silly and sweet, and we all giggled at her bagel-induced glee. But then suddenly, for a moment, the bagel became to me a slew, a whole genre of precious moments. The finding of the bagel became every miraculous moment that suddenly shines up out of the rain, out of the drainage ditch, and fills us with crazy, ecstatic, inexplicable glee.

So sappy, I know. So sickly sweet. But I thought it, so I wrote it. Message in a bottle, and all that.

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

An evening walk

The very air feels green, and is swimming with that sweet smell of falling leaves and distant wood smoke. The horizon is stacked with piles of purple clouds, all rimmed with gold.

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Pathways.

I stepped out of the car and onto the driveway this evening, and an owl hooted softly as the dusk slid into darkness. I can still hear him now, faintly, outside my window.

I have spent today in hopeful recovery, and the latter part of the afternoon with Beth, researching Clinical Mental Health Counseling programs and beginning again to feel that senseless, frightening interior struggle over what I want to do with myself and my life. I thought it was counseling, but what if it's reiki? What if it's Ericksonian hypnosis? What if it's art therapy? Linguistics? Just plain old tutoring? It appears that the nervous gash had not healed over--only scabbed--and now I have begun to rub that scab away again. We'll see.

Monday, October 24, 2011

Peace and quiet

Or would be, if there weren't a damn TV in the house. But anyway,

I love that all I have to do this evening is eat dinner with my parents, read my book, maybe take a bath. I suppose I may get around to some laundry.

I love that all I have to do tomorrow, unless I decide otherwise, is meet with Beth to discuss graduate school things.


Thank you, laryngitis.




Said laryngitis was contracted thanks to a chest infection I've been working on, and, I suppose, thanks to my stubborn decision to attend the fall staff retreat anyway. Though I sadly abstained from hiking or canoeing or even going for a long walk (possibly unnecessary, but I didn't want to overtax my sick self or, more importantly, end up freezing and far from central heating), I did a few puzzles, read a bit, played some Catan, addressed some envelopes, and didn't get as much sleep as I had hoped. Saturday night we all sat through/participated in a three-hour staff meeting during which we processed the summer, talked about future improvements, and formed a few committees, and Sunday we had a really great Quaker style worship service, spent forever closing up and winterizing Camp, and headed home. Charity, Anna, Jarian, and I stopped to pick (aka pick up off the ground, as very few were on trees) apples, and have dinner at Mellow Mushroom on the way home.

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

The weather, and my decision-making process.

This evening I walked Miley in a misting rain--barely even a drizzle--underneath a depthless grey-blue sky that faded to pink as it neared the Southern horizon. I realized suddenly that night has been falling sooner, and that made me smile. I looked up as I passed beneath the streetlight, and remembered that there are few things I love more than watching rain or snow filter through the glow of street lamps. It's nearly the only thing they're good for, if you ask me.


I've been working myself into a panic over this mentoring decision I've been trying to (or trying not to) make--to be, or not to be one? I had a couple of bad experiences--nothing traumatic, just stressful and frustrating pairings girls who ended up being less invested in the program than expected--and essentially quit. I've still been attending the odd large-group meeting, but that's all. Recently I was asked to mentor a great girl that I've known for a while, who will almost certainly be more into the whole thing than those I worked with before. (Just so we're clear, all three of the young women I have been paired with in the past are pretty great. Just not that interested in having a mentor, as it turned out.) But still, rather than just say "yes" or "no," I freaked out. This seems to be my m.o. whenever I'm asked to make a decision based solely (or nearly so) on nothing but my own opinions and feelings. My mind likes to work with facts, so here is the conversation I have with myself when asked to mentor:
"Last time it sucked." (-1 to mentoring.)
"But this is a different person." (Possible +1 to mentoring.)
"But the time before that wasn't great either." (-1 to mentoring.)
"But this time might be better." (Possible +1 to mentoring.)
"But it might suck again." (Possible -1 to mentoring.)
"But she was the first one to get her paperwork in!" (+1 to mentoring.)
"Well how do you feel about it?"
Panic and aversion. -1 to mentoring.
But said panic/aversion is illogical. Disregard.

Calculating: 0 -1+1-1+1-1+1=0. Need more data.

Data unavailable.

Does not compute. Enter inability-to-make-decisions panic mode; shut down.

At this point I push the whole thing from my mind until someone asks me again, at which point I reenter panic mode. Anyway, I said I'd do it. Keep your fingers crossed for me.

Monday, October 17, 2011

A feeling*

Not that life is particularly bad at the moment--there are times of happiness or times when great songs come on the radio or the sky is just gorgeous or this homemade thick hot toast spread with Nutella is nonsensically delicious--but I feel like poison is circulating in my bloodstream, or in the air I'm breathing. I love Mondays right now, because I have a voice lesson and I get to tutor, and the two things are spaced such that I have a pretty airtight excuse not to do any other outside-the-house work unless I want to. But when I left the house for the voice lesson, though I liked what I was wearing, felt put-together and reasonably rested, etc, I felt pallid and sickly. It was similar this past weekend. I'd been looking forward to the Folk Festival, to JP's weekend visit, and to the late-night dances with the Jammin' on the James folks for months and weeks, respectively--but when the time came, I had no motivation to do anything. Friday night I wanted to stay in and watch a movie. We had to drag ourselves out. Saturday JP and I were both inexplicably in such terrible moods that the day was a near-total loss for us. We didn't go to either of the Jammin' on the James dances at all. Luckily, Sunday was (mostly) pretty great**. But I need to find out what's poisoning me like this.

























*I write this and am reminded of Finch's short monologue in V for Vendetta: "I suddenly had this feeling that everything was connected. It was like I could see the whole thing. One long chain of events that stretched all the way back before Larkhill. I felt like I could see everything that had happened. And everything that was going to happen. It was like a perfect pattern, laid out in front of me, and I realized that we were all part of it, and all trapped by it."
"So do you know what's gonna happen?"
"No. It was a feeling."

**There was a keilidh! It was spelled "ceili," as it was Irish rather than Scottish, but it was the same. It was excellent.
When I drive home from painting under the welcome threat of rain, I watch the cloud layers slide past one another over the bridge. Blue sky slips beneath whispery grey, which is superseded by fluffy white and then dark, smoky shadows. Rinsing the paint from my hands at the garden hose, I reflect that this may be the season's last smell of warm water and living wet dirt, so I breathe it in deeply. But though the night brings the seasonally appropriate whiff of dry autumn leaves, the next day it's eighty degrees again. Things are what they are.

Friday, October 7, 2011

This is unimportant.

Things that remind me of Thanksgiving (other than turkey):
the sound of a football game playing on the radio or on TV. (the end)

Things that remind me of Christmas:
red
evergreens
the smell of evergreens
truffles
the smell of snow
cold noses
piano jazz
oranges/smell of oranges



Things I want/need:
one of those giant yoga/exercise balls. Like this:

Only not grey, because that's lame.


All the Twilight movies. Yeah, I like them. Whatchu gonna do about it?


A whole hellofalot of shelving for my books and shoes.


I can't remember what else at the moment.

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

And

By the way, it is evidently still impossible not to think of David when the air begins to change. So that's cool. And I definitely didn't wake up weeping with frustration for absolutely no good reason this morning. Nope. That was another girl.

But it is amazing--truly astounding to me the extent to which it is helpful for me to send up a silent prayer when life is, for no discernible reason, so much more than I can handle. When I swear if I have to look at that woman one more time I will scream. When I can't imagine a way to make it through the week without collapsing. So often it turns out that a "please, help me" directed skyward is all I need.

Beliefs and wishes

It occurs to me that I mentioned Mark a while back, and then never closed out or continued that story. I think he's awesome. I think that he thinks that I am awesome. I kind of wish that we were soulmates, but instead we seem to be two quite similar people who are not attracted to one another. Shit happens, I guess. Though it can be difficult to find a different rhythm with the same person, I hope that we'll end up as friends.

The weather is seesawing between seasons, but I know it'll truly get to fall eventually. Sometimes the lines of brake lights look to me like angry red sores on the skin of the world. Leaving aside thoughts of practicality for the moment, a part of me just wishes we walked everywhere.


I've been reading another Charles DeLint book, which is full of magic. And I'm not sure how I feel about this, but regardless of how I feel about it, part of be believes these things. Fiction. People think I read fantasy because I like fantasy, but really, that's what science fiction is for. That's all entirely made up. It's about technology that doesn't and probably can't exist. Obviously fantasy is arguably also entirely made up, but a lot of it (and the sort I'm most drawn to lately) is based on cross-cultural myth, and it pulls me in. Often I read fantasy because on some level, I believe in magic. Not Criss Angel, not rabbits-from-hats magic, but the kind of magic that lets us sometimes dream the future. The kind of magic that put a stone in my hand while I was sleeping as a child. The kind of magic that can allow us to affect one another across vast distances, or encourage plants to grow taller with our thoughts or voices. I have stumbled into it before, but not for fifteen years or more. I hope to stumble into it again. And maybe "magic" is a misnomer. Who was it that said that magic is just science we haven't discovered yet? But whatever it is, even if it isn't unquantifiable, it is unquantified. So I call it what I will.

Monday, October 3, 2011

Regardless of what the trees seem to think, it's here.

Though it will take me some time to adjust to these new lower temperatures and artificially heated spaces and driving with the windows rolled up, the nip in the air makes me feel alive. The smell of woodsmoke wafting across the yard and the feel of warm gloves and chilly fingers, the cold wind on my face and the act of arranging logs and embers in the fireplace to coax a flame into being are all excellent. All alive.


Also: fall festivals. Obviously.

Sunday, October 2, 2011

A fair and a fire and a late-night stroll

And it's finally cool enough to walk with a hoodie and hat and gloves. This is all so wonderful.

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

It's late.

I've been doing my angsty-boy-problems thing. Feeling whiny about problems that, in a broader context, aren't really problems. Wishing for jobs and looking for apartments. Watching the skies.

The night skies have been cloudy and overcast, and I don't mind the rain, but I don't love the humidity and I miss the stars. Fall has been approaching with tantalizing slowness--it still feels like summer half the time, and a handful of the leaves began to change and then seemed to stop in their tracks. The air is as muggy as August's. Two nights ago the sky was grey when I knelt to the ground and pressed my face to the blacktop, and when I struggled to my feet the clouds had moved away, revealing stars for the first time in days. I felt very grateful. It seemed symbolic.



Some of the books I've been reading in the past six months:

the Mistborn trilogy (Brandon Sanderson, fantasy)
BAM (Best American) Science Writing 2010 (various, essay)
At Home: A History of Private Life (B. Bryson's brand of research)
Sandman (vol. 1) (Neil Gaiman, graphic novel)
AWOL on the Appalachian Trail (David Miller, memoir)
A Hat Full of Sky (Terry Pratchett, fantasy)
The Hunger Games (don't you already know?)
I started something by Charles DeLint tonight, but I can't remember the title.

I have begun and (for the time being) abandoned several more, including a book about leafcutter ants, and another of Bryson's amateur researcher books, and probably several others.


Elsewhere I wrote about a conversation I'd like to have, and produced a train metaphor. Then I typed up a short, one-draft poem about it:


Life runs on ahead, and we jump
from train to train, moving too fast
to read destination signs, packing away
our lives into hankerchiefs on staffs, tied up,
minding the gaps and wondering what lies
ahead.

Monday, September 26, 2011

Quiet.

On the night after the one that found me kneeling and weeping with my face to the pavement at 3 am (I don't really have much to say about it*), I want to post something borrowed from a quiet and wonderful and dogged cancer-fighter blog-friend named Iikka:


"A Quiet Asana."

I will not be frustrated by lack of "progress."

I will take comfort and draw strength from the knowledge that I am well enough to maintain.

I will not hold myself to any standard, schedule, or expectations--my own or otherwise.

I will lean in, do the work, give to receive.

I will not counter pain with tension, anger, or fear.

I will accept the signals my body sends as it works to repair with kindness, peace, and understanding.

I will not complain, doubt, or question.

I will project patience, faith, serenity, and above all, gratitude.

I will not forget the gifts I have been given.

I will remember, every breath I take, that I.am.lucky.to.be.here.

No matter where here is: it is a gift, a blessing, and it is so much more than good enough.






































*I really don't. But just so no one goes jumping to conclusions about random muggings or anything else crazy, I feel like I should specify that it had a lot more to do with hormones and fatigue and frustration with the difficulty and the pain and the holy-hell-so-GD-confusedness of life than with anything else.

Monday, September 12, 2011

Harvest Moon

The first slivers of fall are starting to seep through into the air. I am told that tonight is the first night of the harvest moon, and when I walked out with Miley I swear I felt a nip in the air. I felt the same on the ride home as I halfheartedly tried to sleep in the passenger's seat--I curled up against the wide open window under my folded comforter with the early fall wind blaring against my face and eardrums, and I thought about fall festivals and apple orchards and wood smoke and cider and cool soft winds. The leaves are beginning to change. I can't wait.




EDIT:

I walked Miley and then felt that I just absolutely had to come back and write about it. That's a sure sign of approaching winter, right there. It starts.

To begin: we live on a hill, not far down from the main road--so when I walk, more than ninety percent of the time I walk down the hill, and deeper into the trees.

This means that on nights like tonight, when I walk up the hill, I am astonished by the broad, magnificent stretches of sky that hang over the higher parts of the road. I stepped out and watched, mouth wide open, as the cottony clouds drifted inexorably over the moon like obscuring leaves in a slow stream. The air is crystal clear tonight, the stars like diamonds, and the full moon threw a soft rainbow onto the surrounding clouds and lit them up with a shine that was the color of frozen lightning.

Friday, September 9, 2011

I am at a point in my life where I really value silence.

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

Notes on medicine, honesty, weather, and unnecessarily profound observations.

Prednisone is not tasty, but I am still worried about having just taken my last dose. I still itch. Shouldn't I have stopped itching by now?
 (The poison ivy has improved--drastically, in some places. But it isn't gone. My itching hands and shins still contributed to my poor sleep last night.)


I just had to (or felt that I had to) admit to a guy I've been talking to that I might have met somebody cool and thus might not be around on the site much longer. So now I feel pretty bad. Great. (Cry me a river, I know. Watch it not work out, anyway. How often do these things work out? So far: 1-3 times in 25 years, that's how often.)


It has been raining a lot over in this part of the world. It's kind of nice, aside from the part where I don't get to do the outdoor work with Rick that I was supposed to do earlier in the week, and thus do not get paid for it. A particularly close bolt of lightning (and crash of thunder) shook the house quite hard this morning.

And when it is raining, I love hearing the birds still singing--even through the lighting and thunder sometimes. I guess I don't have much else to say about it. I just love those sounds together, and the symbolism that I can make up and put in there.


And here is a quote from Style Rookie, which I rarely read but which often amuses me when I do, despite my almost complete disinterest in style: "The thought of summer and its nearing end is causing me to make unnecessarily profound observations about the way the light is hitting all the crap on my desk while the sun sets."


This reminds me so much of myself, except that I make unnecessarily profound observations about the way the light is hitting all the crap on my desk (and so on) almost literally all the time.

About the dorky and distastefulness

--Seriously, thinking about the whole setup makes me feel like a loser in a sea of losers, but I know that that's my own nonsensical bias and that I should get over it. I just haven't quite managed to do so yet.

But there are a bunch of people I've been emailing, several of whom seem really cool. And I mean, that's cool. But I met one on Friday that I like a lot and will be seeing again tomorrow (and probably Thursday), and now I've got this worry/guilt complex thing about all of the other people I've been talking to that haven't been really given a fair chance yet, and whom I might be about to ditch. But meeting up with them when I really mostly just want to talk to Mark isn't any better than cutting off contact. And cutting off contact with them only to find that it isn't going to work with Mark sounds like a pretty terrible idea as well.


And there's my personal, whiny, Marie-nobody-wants-to-hear-this-ish business.



Love me anyway? And wish me luck at bar trivia, if you don't mind.

Sunday, September 4, 2011

Notes from Northstar (church)

The point was raised today that in today's church, there is often a focus on the giving of "testimonies," and that the testimonies are expected to go like this:

"I once was lost, but now I'm found...and now I'm fine."

But life doesn't work that way. And so those of us who hear such testimonies and believe them and put stock in them find ourselves trying to match them--and failing. And when we fail we hide, and when we feel the need to hide, we feel ashamed. So there has been created, rather than a culture of love and hope, a culture of falsehood and dishonesty. It isn't good.


So here was the point:

It was never about perfection. It was always about relationship. When will we stop making it about perfection?


She said that when she was young, she heard a preacher say that "God helps those who help themselves." And at the time, being young, and "not knowing Genesis from Revelation," she thought, "well, it must be true, because he's old." But then when she grew older and studied for herself, she realized that there's no Biblical basis for that kind of thinking at all. Instead, there is a common theme of God helping those who are unable to help themselves--and that's all of us.


This reminded me of a whitewater rafting trip I took a long time ago, when I was seventeen. There was a flash flood on the river, and I and several others were thrown from the raft and nearly drowned. So here I'll start copying from what I wrote down in my notebook toward the end of church. (Excuse the melodrama. It happens more when I'm writing by hand and am feeling emotional at the time. Reliving this rafting thing brings back the residual PTSD stuff that I've still got going on sometimes.)

This reminds me of the rafting trip: this "God doesn't help those who help themselves! He doesn't make us pick ourselves up and climb, swim, crawl back! He helps those who cannot help themselves: all of us. So, the rafting: I fell out of the boat, off the wagon, into the dirty raging water, and I sank and I let it pull me down into its tumultuous, dark depths. I did not call out for help. I did not cry out to God. I did not even think to. I tried to swim against it on my own, and I could not. I could make no progress. I could not avoid the hidden snags and currents that repeatedly pulled me under. I did not know where I was or where I was headed or whether I would ever be able to snatch another breath of clean air again.

Still, in my stubborn and fearful silence, I was protected. In the midst of the flash-flooded, filthy, debris-filled torrent into which I had fallen, I was protected. I was not driven into an inescapable crevice [as commonly happens in such scenarios]. I did not dash my foot against a stone. [The whole time, the only things I touched were the things I was holding and the raft.] I did not run out of air, or time.

And when I finally realized my utter powerlessness and lack of direction, and when I finally saw that my death was literally inches and moments away, and I accepted it and asked for help, for breath, for direction, they were given to me. Instantly. I knew where to go and kicked up into the air with all my strength. And at the surface, still in the river, I was on the edge of the exact thing I needed: an eddy in the current, and a rock to which I could--just barely--cling.

And here it comes in again: help when we cannot help ourselves. No more than we can handle.

Treading water there, barely clinging to a sheer cliff face, I saw no help coming. I saw only rafts rescuing others--all too far out of range to help me. I was quite literally steadying my breath and mentally preparing myself to swim out to the only help I could see--which would certainly have meant my death--when a raft--the last raft--sailed around the bend in the river and pulled me in, and carried me to safety.


Of the four of us that fell in on a river that was so flooded that it was no longer legal to raft, in a rapid that, though it should have been a class 3, was now above a class 5, in water that looked like chocolate milk and ran full of propane tanks and tree limbs and coolers and, further down the river, power lines, none of us was injured. Though we all suffered from PTSD, not one of us was trapped beneath an undercut rock. Not one of us suffered a scratch. Though we were warned that we probably would, not one of us contracted a single disease from that filthy, sixty-degree water.

People die on the Gauley river fairly regularly, even under normal conditions.

Friday, September 2, 2011

Just pretend this is in a normal font and size. I reserve the right to write elsewhere and copy/paste from undisclosed locations.

Camp is over, three friends came and stayed and are now gone. My resume has been (probably poorly) updated, and I'm looking for jobs in a meandering sort of way, doing little odd jobs for people that need them, chewing on the idea of grad school.

Still doing this weird "online dating" thing, which in large part I find distasteful and dorky, but which I continue to use as a way to get myself the hell out of the house. Thus far nothing goes anywhere, but there have been some interesting emails, some decent movies, and whatever. I am pretty excellent at going on lots of first dates and never really talking to any of these guys again. Usually this is more a function of my apathy/laziness than of any strong negativity. And I mean, I guess that's alright. Still hoping to run across somebody awesome, on there or in real life. Preferably in real life, obviously.


I have a truly terrible case of poison ivy, contracted while I was running siphons out into the backyard during the hurricane in a (thankfully successful) attempt to keep the basement from flooding. Nothing I was doing was helping at all, so yesterday I broke down and went in for a cortisone shot. I think it has helped, but the stuff definitely isn't gone. Time to call in the prescription for prednizone, I guess. I'm tired of being unable to sleep through the night, and waking up scratching the skin off my forearms, fingers, ankle, face, etc. It shouldn't be able to spread once the oil has been washed off, but I swear it's still spreading, six days later. Good times.


I've been working with my neighbor Hartley, helping with storm cleanup while he fixes the roof of a house that was smashed in during the storm. So many long-established trees were blown down, and now are being cut up and loaded into trailers and hauled off for mulch. It's a sad thing. But the wood smells like fall to me, and I've been catching whiffs of fall more and more frequently in recent days. The temperature is dropping just slightly, and the leaves are beginning to fall and accumulate along the side of the road. It's time.

Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Oh, it's been weeks again. My bad.

Things I Never Thought I'd Say pt 27:

"I really hope I have poison ivy on my mouth."


This is because if I don't have poison ivy on my mouth, then I have somehow just contracted oral herpes after 25 years of successful avoidance, despite having two immediate family members with the virus. So here's hoping for poison ivy. I guess the odds are good, since I'm covered in it*.

Speaking of which, in case anyone is wondering why people always say "DO NOT POP POISON IVY BLISTERS," rather than "you can pop them, as long as you then immediately wash them with lye soap or something else similarly effective and then cover them with calamine lotion," here is the reason:

popped poison ivy blisters do not stop running. Apparently ever. Learn from my mistakes. Please.






























*Hypothetically, if you were ever to have to do something like running outside during a hurricane to set up garden-hose siphons in your backyard to prevent your basement from flooding, and if your backyard is full of, among other things, poison ivy, you should probably wear long pants and long sleeves and lace-up shoes. And then after you're done you should probably wash yourself with lye soap. What you should not do is run around in a t-shirt and cropped pants, and then take a shower with some random, totally-ineffective-against-poison-ivy body wash, and then go back outside to restart the siphons, and then just kind of hope for the best. That might not be the best plan.

Saturday, August 20, 2011

To a fading muse.


It's been years, but still
I sometimes taste those memories
unexpectedly: one moment I'm walking
a dog at midnight; the next we're flying
through Virginia wine country in the autumn sunlight,
all windows open and the feel of fresh
ripe apples in the air,
and all our darkness
just a distant smudge
on the far horizon.

Saturday, August 6, 2011

Holla

Today was the day of what was probably my best with-campers caving trip ever. They were great. They were singing the Klondike Bar jingle in the van. They were helping one another out and holding each other's flashlights. Those that may not have liked caving very much hid it so well that I didn't know until it was mentioned by my co-counselor. Tracee spoke nothing but Spanish the entire time. Kat and Nadine led the way out of the cave almost completely without assistance. Remind me: why are they not yet old enough to be on staff?


In other news,

1. I was kept up far later than I would have liked a couple of nights ago, and I have not yet caught up on sleep. and I am getting a cold. and it is lame.

2. We had Christmas this morning, and that was pretty great.

3. I am just about out of free time for today.

Sunday, July 31, 2011

My wardrobe is completely out of control.

Somehow I've managed to accumulate enough clothes at camp to pretty much hold a normal-ish person all year round. I'll be here for thirteen days. Unnecessary and mildly embarrassing.

Two quotes, unrelated.

First, from my mother, via text, after she found out that I had gotten a haircut:

"You have bangs? Oh, I'm so sorry."


Second, from my uncle, regarding the ideas of forgiveness and judgment and humanity:

"Forgive people what they say. Invent a possibility that that's just the highest expression of love they're capable of at the moment."

Elaboration on "blankets."

Alright well first of all, Chris, sometimes it's frickin cold at night in the mountains, even in the summer. But I wrote "blankets" because I was given one by a friend this summer. This relates to the "Goddamn weirdness" bullet point as well.

Saturday, July 30, 2011

I am exhausted, but awake for absolutely no reason. Why? Why?

Many apologies, as usual, for the dearth of posts on this blog in the summertime. I've had this as a draft for several days, and I keep considering the idea of turning it into an actual entry, but... no. Nope. Not happening. Some thoughts:


I really do function better with structure.

That being said, I love the part of the Lead Counselor job that means that I function mainly as a resource for staff. I think I miss knowing the campers, though.


Skinnydipping with (biodegradable) soap and stargazing as God intended*--beautiful. Beautiful.

Corn shucking

A visit from a best friend, and some excellent conversation.

Hugs

Row

Stars

Stinging eyes

Texts

Blankets

Goddamn weirdness (both good and bad and what-the-hell) between friends. Love triangles included?

Successful birthday presents

Frozen yogurt outings, as usual I suppose

Articles yet unwritten

Sing-a-song compendium

Ask me to elaborate on things if you'd like me to, and I'll try to get that done.


























*Aka naked

Saturday, July 16, 2011

VS.

I really need to sleep, but it appears that I also really want to write. It's 1 am, of course. Convenient.

Friday, July 15, 2011

A sleepy reflection

A new (to me) love song came on the radio as I drove home today from Camp, and suddenly it seemed like such a great time to fall in love*. The world just felt like things were clicking into place, and (despite the fact that I rarely meet new people) this could happen any time. Bam. Soulmatehood.

I mean, this shouldn't be too difficult, right? I'm pretty awesome. You, theoretical mystery man, are pretty awesome too. We'd be great together. So it's cool, you can go ahead and show yourself now. No need to be shy. Just step right on up. Let's buy some finger jewelry and make a whole bunch of babies.



I say that like I'm good at relationships. Love songs (and the effects thereof) are so ridiculous. Annnd just a little bit frustrating.



In other news, this:


It was 7:40 am. Eye circles are my prerogative. Taken post-staff-morning-yoga, and at the swim hole, obviously. I've gone to morning yoga twice now (that makes two and then three times in the past ten years that I've intentionally woken up before staff meeting), and each time at the end I leave and walk toward the creek. I stop fifteen feet shy of the water and take off my shoes as though I'm stepping onto a holy ground of old concrete and grass and gravel, and walk carefully to the ladder, descend three steps, and sit down with my feet in the water. The slanting sunlight is savoury on the water--rich and delicate. And when I run my hands along the skin of the stream, it feels like cool silk. I've been late to staff meeting both times.

And this:


This is Daniel, and he is magical, and this picture took us about fifteen tries to take. We ran out of time during snorkeling interest group time, and then finally succeeded (with a camper behind the camera this time) at Pool Night. 


And look where I get to work:


I like this picture. Please don't steal it.
































*Yeah, I know. Weird.

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Volunteering.

I have no cabin this week--I'm not technically on staff--and it's been a blur of velvet water and morning yoga, big hugs and secret missions and smiles and fireflies in the trees. There has been love and new understanding, and (unfortunately, though perhaps unavoidably) anger between campers, between staff, and between staff and campers. I hate this. I suppose I am blessed in my ability to hold my temper longer than most, but what I feel is disappointment and frustration with my friends and coworkers. (I love them wildly still, but, I suppose, no longer beyond all reason.) Maybe I should be more sympathetic with the need to vent and process, but there is such a fine line between venting and meanness, I feel. And for me, conversations of that kind feel like a tar baby. It all seems so harmless at first, and then I find myself stuck further and further in the mire. I want to make it better, but so often I end up enabling or even participating instead.

On the plus side, regarding campers (present and former and future), God, I love some of them so much. I love them all, but some really have holds on my heart. As I said, the CiTs can get me every time. And one that I've known for five years gave me this lecture, though (for this repetition, at least) he delivered it to JP:
"JP, if you had a favorite counselor, one who had always been there for you, who had always been there to meet you at the bus on the first day, and who had been there every time to say goodbye to you at the end of the session, but this year they weren't there at the beginning and then you found out that they were leaving early, how would you feel?"
He has always been an excellent camper, comes from an excellent family, and has been a wonderful CiT. I so hope to work with him next year. And I hope he isn't too upset.

Our only junior counselor this session, who honestly does not seem like a junior counselor at all, has given me a very similar hard time, which makes me feel quite guilty and sad (more so than I already did), but which also makes me feel so loved.

In any case: hugs and secret missions, cicadas and fireflies and warm velvet water in the early morning. It is heaven here in these woods.

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Nights

Sometimes it is when I am the lowest that I appreciate beauty the most. Two nights ago I was in a foul mood for sure (thanks to a situation which has been addressed and clarified, if not entirely rectified), and after campfire I found myself sitting cross-legged on an inner tube by the swim hole (which is, hands down, my favorite place to spend a warm summer evening), watching the water, feeling weepy, and singing prayers into the night. I wasn't dressed for swimming, but I remembered things I had written about this water, and I watched the bats swoop above and the fireflies meander over the stream. I love the grayness of the night, and I was a little shocked to notice that the fireflies constituted the only spots of color I could see--or rather, they and their tiny neon green reflections.
Later that night, after a very necessary conversation and after offers from my friend Dean to do things like drink five gallons of scalding water "to cheer me up," I took Miley for a walk down the driveway--a choice which keeps me away from sleeping children and coworkers, but which also gives the very best available view of the stars and the moon and the horses on the hill. The sky was not as filled with stars as it sometimes is, but there was a fantastic partial moon, which had swollen and turned honey colored as it began to set, and there was a horse standing up on the hillside, perfectly silhouetted against the deep blue sky, which raised his head to look toward us as we passed by.



Yesterday I was not in a dark mood. It was a pretty average day starting out, and then the swim hole just felt amazing. And I spent some time with Melissa. I was helping with swimming stuff for three hours, and then spent all of dinnertime beaming around at my friends, siblings, coworkers and former campers. I get like this especially when the CiTs are here, and especially when I have the chance to step back and take a good look around. It's easier to be appreciative when I don't have a cabin, but a good group of CiTs or junior counselors will get me every time, and we have a really excellent group this year--several of which I've worked with since they were nine years old. It's a great thing to see people grow up, and grow into the people you hoped they could be.
In any case, the CiTs planned the evening program last night, which was water games. It was obviously not perfect, largely because they've never planned a program before, but it was pretty great. When it was over I took advantage of my lack of cabin and helped them rinse the tarps from the slip-and-slide in the swim hole in the deepening dusk, and talked to them about their past as campers and their possible futures as staff, and breathed in the evening before heading to campfire.
After staff meeting and after much debate, several of the staff opted in for a silent slip-and-slide in the field and swim in the stream, and, honestly, I think it was one of the best nights of my life. There's no way to describe sliding around on soapy plastic and whispered scoldings and giggling in dark water and racing down the slide, lying back in soap suds in a line of women and looking up at the stars that will ever in a hundred years do it justice. Kita (Cheetah) and I cleaned off the tarp in near silence in shallow black water under a deep blue cloudy sky, spread it on the grass, and met everyone again in the shower room for ridiculous jokes and toothbrush-mouthwash-facewash-shared-sink antics and uncontrollable hushed laughter, and the (possibly inaccurate, but still happy) realization that this wouldn't have happened anywhere else, with anyone else.

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Staff training: an emotional reflection.

I am home, and (judging by the hour) possibly not resting as I should.

I both love and do-not-love the way that in my eyes, all of my coworkers are the same age--as each other, as myself. It can be an excellent way to view things, but it can also be unhelpful.

I love the way that this place is a perfect venue to get to know people on a level that is simply unavailable in any other situation I have ever experienced. There's something about the mix of the work and the training and the prayer time and the decompression that brings out true hearts.

I love the joy and laughter of our little staff bonding traditions--I speak here of "The Challenge." Even if I did nearly run into Melissa in the dark. Even if I did do an accidental full body slide on the wet grass in the dark. Victoria and I remarked to each other that "we have such a good group this year." We felt like proud parents.
    And when the guys returned from their own version, and the newbies walked in with huge grins, we clapped and cheered. This is a wonderful place.


I love the peace and truth and discovery that come, and I love the dancing and the singing and the silliness. I love that in the middle of our campfire the other night, we took a break from teaching the new kids camp songs and broke into Bob Marley's "Three Little Birds." I love the fighting and fatigue and stress, and the struggle and epiphany and euphoria. I love the sudden surprise of hot cofflet in the morning, and I love the spontaneous games that spring from nowhere, from the minds of the crazy guys that come to work. I love it all.



Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Catching up

Last night, it was too cold for fireflies. Before that, though, on the fifth, I wrote that
"as always, the sight of a clear night sky full of stars is positively bewitching. But here, in the summer, the beauty is heightened still further--the trees blink with fireflies, and looking up into the night, numerous extra stars seem to wink in and out of existence.
I love this. On my way to bed I stand outside Cabin 6, or sit in my bunk, and watch the trees glitter in the night, hear the frogs sing, listen to the creek run on.
In the day I cannot keep from checking the blackberry bushes each time I pass by, just in case--as though they might have grown from green and hard to a full, ripe black overnight."

I have also been noticing with some frequency how much I love the way guitar music played outdoors seems to saturate the air.

[begin religious moment]
Two things:
I had a bit of a moment during and after our Camp version of church the other day. Religion is largely an emotional thing, and emotions aren't something I'm good at--so I tend to do a lot of drifting. This bothers me. Anyway, I had this realization, based on the "Christ-as-the-potter, people-as-the-clay" metaphor:
Our responsibility is not to mold our own hearts--can clay mold itself, or rid itself of impurities? We are only clay; Christ is the potter. We only need to submit, as clay only needs to submit. We only need to lay our burdens down in the pile at the foot of the cross.


Anna is pretty great, and gave a bit of a devotional the other day. She ended with this: "The end of your rope is not the end of the world--not with a God whose grace is sufficient for you. Not with a God whose strength is made perfect in your weakness."

And that made me think of the way our strengths complement our weaknesses--that is, the way my strengths are there to fill in the gaps where you are weak, and your strengths may perfectly fit with my weaknesses. It reminded me of the Bright Eyes song, "Bowl of Oranges": 

And we'll keep working on the problem 
we know we'll never solve: 
of love's uneven remainders--our lives are fractions of a whole. 
And if the world could remain within a frame, like a painting on a wall, 
I think we'd see the beauty then. 
We'd stand staring in awe 
at our still lives posed 
like a bowl of oranges. 
Like a story told 
of the fault lines in the soul.


[end religious moment.]

Saturday, June 4, 2011

Some news

-For the first time in at least six months, I have a working odometer and speedometer in my car.


-I have turned in my invoices for tutoring, and, aside from a few minor changes my boss would like me to make, I am FINISHED. I will not have to turn in an invoice for at least three months. Thank you Jesus.



Camp tomorrow! Not sure I'm ready. Not that it matters...

Thursday, June 2, 2011

Winter and spring, then summer

Here is the difference: I love winter like I love sleep. I love the quiet. I love the dreamy, ethereal qualities of the season, of the air. I focus on the fixtures: the unmoving trees, the pendulous moon, the here-and-gone frost that mirrors the glittering stars in the night. And when summer comes, I am suddenly lost. Where is my moon? Where are my bare, silent trees? Where is my quiet beauty? The leaves grow suddenly so thick that I can barely see the sky. But then the sun sinks toward the horizon, and its yellow rays mix into those green leaves, and my breath is stolen away. I am slowly, slowly coming to remember that I can't look in the summer for what I loved in the winter. In the summer the beauty and magic are in the movement, in the shockingly quick growth of the plants, in the changing landscape, rather than the spinning sky. It's in bioluminescent bugs, and in all of the animals that seem to somehow have appeared out of the ether. Where have they been? This evening I stood barefoot in the stream again, again drinking in the feeling of its coolness around my calves while Miley refreshed herself by swimming in small circles and huffing, and I was struck by the fragility of the water skaters. I was glad to see them, firstly, but (never having done a whit of research on them) I always wonder where they've come from. How could such spindly, tiny little bugs--water bugs, even--have survived such an icy winter? But it doesn't matter. They're here now.


Just as Miley and I crested the hill, the church bells up the street chimed eight, and the late afternoon sun reached over the Western trees, and gilded those standing to the East. A handful of bluejays circled the sky over the neighborhood, calling back and forth. Winter is about sleep, but I am relearning how to be awake.


I am still sneakily trying to teach Layla that all life is precious. This week we've (finally) been doing swim lessons rather than math lessons, and the design of their backyard pool is such that hapless spiders crawl up to the edge, lose their grip, and fall in. They are light enough to be able to stand on the surface tension in the water, and can often cling to floating leaves or make their way back onto the walls of the pool, but they can't make it up over the lip and back onto dry ground. We've been rescuing them when we see them, and noting those that are jumping spiders. They still make her nervous, but at least she no longer demands their deaths on sight. I'm working to warm her up to bees, but I am making less progress.

Wednesday, June 1, 2011

Once again.

Why do I never, ever feel like writing anymore? I suppose, if I think back, I have to admit that this happens every summer. Somehow it surprises me every time.

Well I'm tired. What else is new? I know this is shocking, but the reason for my fatigue is twofold:

1. I stayed up late reading.

2. I couldn't sleep. WHO AM I?




I took Miley for a walk the other afternoon (I know! In the daytime and everything!) and I began to warm up to the summer a bit. No pun intended. I've been missing the winter landscape. But I reveled in the hot dirt smell that I so love, that doesn't show up until the temperature hits a relatively dry ninety degrees or so. And the moment Miley and I burst out the side door of the house and hit the asphalt, a chorus of cicadas swelled into song on the other side of the road, and my heart nearly burst. I have never understood why so many people dislike cicadas. They're such an essential part of summer to me. They sound right. And have you ever seen one just emerging from its shell? They're gorgeous. They look like living, winged emeralds and sapphires.

We walked down to the creek, where Miley always swims whenever it's even remotely warm, and I stepped into the water with her and savored the feeling of it swirling around my calves. I may have splashed it up onto my arms and face; I can't remember. I sometimes do this. Further up the road we passed the flowering blackberry brambles and the honeysuckle vines, and as we reached our driveway, I saw that the tiger lilies had bloomed. It was a good walk.

Saturday, May 21, 2011

To all of those people who mistakenly think it doesn't:

Spelling really does matter. Do you know why? Because every time I ask one of the kids I'm tutoring whether they know the definition of "allusion," and then write it down for them just to be extra helpful, they tell me that it's something you think you see that isn't really there. For "anecdote," I either get "ana-what?" or "the cure if you get poisoned."

EMO ME

I am so lonely today. And yesterday. And possibly the day before, and sometime last week. I am ready to stop being lonely now. Okay? Okay. Ready, go.

It's obnoxious. Being bored and being single are things that happen. Not a big deal. And singleness has been...most of my life. You know? And a solid year and a couple of months, this latest go round. And (excepting previous periods of heartache) it generally hasn't been that big a deal. But sometimes, suddenly, it's everything. It's all that matters. I'm not in love and I never will be. I'm not a mom and I never will be. And while we're at it, I'm not gainfully employed and never will be (picture that in "crypt keeper" style font), and I'm not happy AND DAMMIT, NEVER WILL BE. I mean, obviously. Obviously this isn't due to a routine hormone imbalance and messed-up sleep schedule and horrible diet over the past few days. No. Of course not. Couldn't be that.



Wildlife I have seen and/or rescued whilst house sitting for Sara's family this week:
brown rabbit (seen)
opossum (seen)
orangey-skinned turtle (seen and rescued)


Last night (being Thursday night) was my last tutoring session with Suzanne for the foreseeable future. I wrote down the Einstein quote for her: "Everyone is a genius--but if you judge a fish by its ability to climb a tree, it will live its whole life believing it is stupid." I'm going to miss that girl.


I forgot the other things.


Edit:

Before going to bed I pulled up my itunes and went to a song that I love: "Table for Two." The lyrics are more apt than I had intended them to be.

Danny and I had another late night over pancakes. We talked about soccer, and how every man's just the same. We made speculation on the whos and the whens of our futures, and how everyone's lonely, but still, we just couldn't complain. And how we just hate being alone. Could I have missed my only chance? And now I'm just wasting my time by looking around.
But you know I know better. I'm not gonna worry about nothing. 'Cause if the birds and the flowers survive, then I'll make it okay. Given a chance and a rock, see which one breaks a window, and see which one keeps me up all night and into the day. 
Because I'm so scared of being alone, that I forget what house I live in. And that it's not my job to wait by the phone for her to call.
This day's been crazy, but everything's happened on schedule: from the rain and the cold to the drink that I spilled on my shirt. 'Cause you knew how you'd save me before I fell dead in the garden, and you knew this day long before you made me out of dirt. And you know the plans that you have for me, and you can't plan the ends, and not plan the means, and so I suppose I just need some peace, just to get me to sleep.

Thursday, May 19, 2011

I have too many tabs open.

Weird, I know.


This is a slideshow that looks really excellent, but which I haven't even come close to watching all the way through. Done by the BBC, so it's probably quality.


This is a really great mug that I want to buy. Made in the USA. Please check it out. You will probably laugh, and/or feel smug.


An article from The Onion on the disappearing grown-up.


I want this. Read the description. There's a pretty funny video about it that someone posted on facebook, but I've already closed my facebook tab, so you're sol unless you Youtube it.


Don't believe in evolution? Don't be ridiculous. Open your eyes. (And before you get out your pitchfork, please remember that this sentence is being typed by a Christian type person.) Here are seven animals that are evolving right before our very eyes.


What Spiderman should have been inspired by. I never realized how awesome tarantulas were until just now.



And lastly, the world's smallest stop-motion animation. Now with 3D printing! And quite cute.

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

The loveliness of metamorphosis

The lanes down which I walked all winter when they were wide and bare and starkly beautiful are now close and warm and lush and full. I've been walking and wondering why I've not been so awestruck by the night sky as I was, and then I realized that it's because I'm so distracted by the glistening arms of the trees reaching out into the road and arching up into the sky, and by the flat lawns and bare forest floor that have suddenly grown up into jungles of tall grass and flowers, and by the tree shadows that have transformed from woodcuts into tissue paper collages, making softly variegated asphalt surfaces each evening. And the loveliest thing about spring and early summer is the puddles--the rain-shined roads and the running ditches, swimming lowlands and storm drains filled to flooding. Tonight I passed a gravel driveway that held a large, still pool, wherein were reflected the dark branches of the trees, and the full moon peering through. I thought it was the most beautiful thing I had ever seen.


David used to tease me a little about having so many favorites and so many superlatives, but appreciated, at least somewhat, that I was (often) serious about them. I was, and I am. I say "most beautiful" so often, and I know it sounds silly. But there are so many different kinds of beauty. The beauty of that puddle--of the night reflected in the water--can't be compared to the beauty of even simply the day reflected in the water, much less to the beauty of a flower or a newly molted cicada or a towering roller coaster, a much-needed scientific breakthrough or sweet nephew climbing a tree. They are each different, each precious, each superlative.






Something I've been meaning to say:
Lately I have been slowly coming to realize the meaning of the phrase "live without regrets," or at least the way it can apply to myself. Maybe it's different for others, but I have never liked this idea. I have always felt that those who claimed to live without regrets were either delusional or disgustingly lucky. As I said, though, lately my perspective has been shifting. The other day I was listening to a friend talk about past time wasted, and it wasn't the first time. I was beginning to notice a pattern of wallowing in past regrets, and it occurred to me that the only reason that the time in question was "wasted," in my opinion, was that we were still talking about it, rather than accepting it, learning from it, and moving forward. It was still pulling my friend's life into revolution around itself. It was creating more waste. So I have decided: missteps and mistakes happen to everyone--but the only time wasted is time from which I do not learn and grow.

Monday, May 16, 2011

Greatest of the season

Smells:

honeysuckle, rain, damp dirt

and peony and gardenia

fresh cut wood and fresh cut grass

campfire (and burnt marshmallow)

pine forest

tomato plant, and warm, vine-ripened tomato fruit

watermelon and honeydew and a charcoal grill

a house with all windows open

washing brought in from the line

thunderstorm, rain and clean river water.

Sounds:

frogs of all sizes

crickets and cicadas

owls calling from tree to tree, and the almost-imperceptible rustle

and silence of their wide, graceful, dangerous glides.

Rain and river water,

ceiling and box fans

and happy birds in the trees,

distant rolling thunder and working bees

and live outdoor music from down the block,

and children laughing outside.

Things I've been forgetting.

Last week when I was tutoring Layla out on the dock, I saw something white bobbing in the water under the walkway. It looked like one of those soft, white, round mushrooms (which don't grow in the water, of course), but turned out to be a goose egg. Despite my best efforts, I failed to effectively convey to her that the watery sound from inside the egg meant that it was dead, that it was rotten, and so on. Anticipating the smell and fearing the view I didn't want to crack it, but I allowed myself to be convinced. I carried it away and downwind from the house, stood back, and cracked the shell with a stick. I would have let Layla, but she lost her nerve at the last moment. It seemed that somehow water had seeped into the shell, so what came out was a terrible smell, a piece of embryonic sac, and half a shell's worth of grey liquid. Layla spent the next ten or fifteen minutes telling me that I should have cracked it more gently, though I tried to explain that "baby goose eggs" need to be kept warm in their mother's nest; that all of the goslings had already hatched and didn't she remember them?; that floating in the water for weeks will never let an egg live. She said that she had hoped that if I cracked the shell gently enough, it would turn back into a baby goose.



I and my father went to pick my sister up from the Greyhound station the other night, and from the parking lot I looked up into the night sky and saw dozens of bats swooping and gliding through the air above the baseball diamond. In my experience, bats don't usually soar and glide, actually--they flutter around and frequently change direction to go after insects. It's also rare to have such a clear view of their motions, though, so perhaps I just haven't been as observant as I might. The lights from the stadium shone straight up into the air, and I can only assume that the air was filled with enough light-loving nocturnal insects that the bats could just soar straight through the beams and get a mouthful on each pass. Good on ye, bats! I love 'em.


Friday, just before the goose egg incident, Sara and Brian and I went to see the VMFA Picasso exhibit in its dying days. I don't love Picasso particularly, but as ours was the only museum on the East Coast to get the exhibit, and as Mr P is super duper famous and influential and all, I felt that I should go. It was good. I mean, he's talented, you know. Also, he really likes boobs. A lot. Just a heads-up, there.

Saturday S and B and I went to an herb farm and took in a talk about beekeeping and met up with Anna and her friend Amy, who seemed pretty cool. Anna and Amy and I accompanied the beekeeper back to his hives and watched him replace the queen and the observation frame and essentially got another lecture lesson about beekeeping, which was really cool. We ate some lavender iced cream and some honey iced cream and some chocolate iced cream, and I (and possibly Brian, but not while I was looking, not that I was looking often) helped Sara pick out a bunch of herbs and tomato plants and suchness for a hopeful new garden for her family. We got variegated basil, among other things. Not elfin thyme, though, despite my rabid support. Sara and I also bought fricking adorable beeswax candles in the shape of a little bear with his arms around a beehive (the stereotypical old beehive shape, rather than the more practical but significantly less cute boxy hives of today) and with a relatively large bee perched on the outside of the hive. They smell like honey of course, thus making me want to consume honey, and they are unreasonably cute, and I can't understand how Sara plans to actually use hers as a candle. I'm pretty sure I could never set that thing on fire.

Also on Saturday with S and B: impromptu (for us) fish fry; Strawberry Fields Festival where were sold unsprayed strawberries, spinach, kale, and no free kittens. Lovely. And buying cookie dough and cooking cookies not-as-long as the wrapping says, thus producing perfect soft, gooey cookies. And Kelly and Junior happening to be near my house, and being convinced to come over, and Sara and Brian leaving to dinner.

Saturday sans Sara and Brian: Hanging out with Kelly and Junior, and retrieving Chloe from the bus stop whilst they take in Picasso in all his slightly obscene glory.

Sunday: church with Chloe and Junior (who opted to stay, possibly partially because he seems to really, really love the couch in our basement. It really is excellent for sleeping), and an afternoon spent with my excellent cousin Sara (not to be confused with the Sara of Saturday), talking and reading magazines and rifling through items destined for the Goodwill.

All in all, quite a nice weekend.

I think there may have been other stuff, but I am not sure. I may have forgotten still.


Song I've been playing on repeat for a couple of days now (I haven't watched all the way through this video, so I apologize if there is any unforeseen weirdness):

Sunday, May 15, 2011

May showers

The longer I live here (and I've nearly always lived here) the more I come to understand the comments of some friends who visited from Arizona, years and years ago: "It's like a jungle." I love the cool wet air of springtime in the evenings, and I love the eternally dripping trees during our month of rain. I love the stereophonic chorus of frogs peeping and croaking happily in the wet. I love the green light that fills the space below the trees, and I love the way the branches of some arch up into a glorious and expansive chlorophyll-ceilinged cathedral. I love the evening sun glowing orange-red through the clouds that gather around the Western horizon, and I love its light shining against those in the East. I love the way solid cloud cover seems to pull the world in close--the way, walking in the evening, the soundscape is suddenly so much richer. Sounds that would float up into a clear sky now swirl through the trees. Frogs sing and birds chatter, car doors close and water bubbles down the creek bed, and thunder rumbles in the distance as I leave the house; cracks and splits the sky open as I make my way back home through the thickening rain. As I pass the creek, church bells chime a mile down the road, and the sweet sound wanders down into the valley to meet me.

Friday, May 13, 2011

I just need to vent

and get all of my defensiveness out here.

Today while I was on my way to fetch a child from class for tutoring, I passed a teacher who had wrenched her back, who was in horrible pain, and who was being lowered into a chair. With her were two other teachers--one older and female, one youngish and male. I stopped and expressed my concern, figured out what had happened (she had messed up her back a little bit earlier, and then had tried to push two fighting kids apart and has seriously wrenched it, or it had gone into spasm), and offered to get her some ice from the cafeteria. No one responded, so I waited a moment and offered again. At this point the older woman rounded on me and asked, in an extremely aggressive and malicious fashion, "Do you have a medical degree?" I do not have a medical degree, though I could have done. She also said something about how ice would do nothing in a situation like this and asked something like why I thought I was qualified to offer advice. I, dumbfounded by this wave of disdain, gave the most relevant and least impressive answer--that my mother is a massage therapist. Had she actually been looking for information, she might have realized that massage therapists deal with muscular issues such as this one; but as she was not looking for information, and rather was bullying, she stayed nasty and said "well that's nice," and informed me that I was not a Richmond City Public Schools medical personnel, and thus had nothing to say on the matter.

Now, I am aware of the fact that I look like a student, but no one should be treated in this fashion, particularly if he or she is offering assistance. She could have asked me to leave or told me that the situation was under control. She could have sent me off for ice and then refrained from using it, if she just wanted me to leave. But no. She attacked.

Had I been less stunned and had I thought more carefully, I might have given the more impressive answer, though it probably wouldn't have made a difference in that kind of verbal and emotional assault. "Well, ma'am, I have been trained in advanced first aid in addition to first aid. I am also a lifeguard." (I am also certified in CPRO, AED and WSI, but these are obviously less relevant.) I might have explained that when a person's muscles go into spasm, what they need is to relax, and what a doctor will prescribe is a combination of muscle relaxants, hot compresses, and cold compresses. Hot compresses aren't available in a high school hallway in any case, but ice will at the very least numb the pain and act as a placebo, if nothing else. And in case you aren't aware, the placebo effect can be a very powerful thing. What actually doesn't help is lowering a person into a chair, hovering over them, bitching at anyone who tries to help, and repeatedly telling the injured party that you told her she shouldn't try to do that stuff she just did that fucked up her back. Weird, I know.


I wanted to speak to this woman (I don't know her name) about our little confrontation, but I couldn't think of a way to bring it up that wouldn't lead to immediate escalation and a scene. All I could think of to say was "I don't appreciate your attitude," which would obviously have been unhelpful. I probably won't end up saying anything, but if I do, I think it may be more along the lines of "why would you speak to me that way?"

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

On clarity, and waiting.

This is most excellent, and it needs to be shared. (Shared with me by Anna.)

Frustration, and also wonder.

I am sick and tired of crazy, pushy, stupid, and emotionally stunted men. Parents of* the previous generation--what were you teaching these boys?

Now if a man is literally stupid then that is not his fault; but if a man deliberately chooses not to respect the decisions and wishes of other people, then he has no one to blame but his own self.



Just saying.



Tutoring today:

Layla and I worked for a while on learning about change (coins, I mean), and then down to the water we went. Soon we saw a school of minnows swim right up to the dock, and we watched them for a while. I showed her the way they sense vibrations in the water, the way they swim together and watch out for bigger fish, and jump at shadows. We watched the way they swim up and investigate and taste interesting objects in the water, such as purple bandannas dangled from the dock. It was pretty great.



























*"Parents of" here meaning "parents belonging to," rather than "parents who gave birth to."

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Bone tiredness.

Today's walk with Miley was rife with the hot-dirt smell which I so strongly associate with Camp, which was lovely. And the creek was and is ever gorgeous in every way. I can't wait until I can swim in wild water again, sleek under the sun in the clean dusty water.

As we neared the woods a beautiful bird (one not often seen in our neighborhood) took off from its perch beside the stream in the ditch. Its tail feathers fanned out as it took off, and were all tipped with white. I think it may be some kind of game bird, but I can't remember what and I lack the energy or time for a full-scale Google Images search at the moment. It wasn't quail or pheasant. Possibly grouse (last search I'm doing tonight), but I think it seemed smaller than most of the pictures that are coming up. Anyway, it was a treat.

On the way back up the hill toward the house, I found a perfect grey feather, short and wide and adorned with a few stripes of lighter grey near the base. Though there's always a part of my brain telling me that it's silly and I've nowhere to put it and that it's just a feather/lizard tail/mummified newt/rock/flower/interesting stick*, I can never resist picking these things up and carrying them home with me as treasures.


Tonight I decided to give in to my nature and go watch Glee and Raising Hope with my friend Lael down the street. Usually I see her when I babysit for her, but our schedules haven't worked out in that way for a while. I haven't seen her in at least a month or two I think, and I don't think seen those shows since the fall. Glee was nice, and I really, really love Raising Hope. I'd like to own the seasons. And Lael is always excellent. I am so glad to know her.

I have been tired before, obviously, but I'm not sure I've ever experienced anything like this, or not for a while, and not as the result of something other than depression (which can really mess with a person's sleep cycles). I cannot remember ever having been so consistently weary. I've been coming home and trying to go to sleep before the sun is even down. I still fail, but I try. Of course, here I am on the internet, and it's almost eleven. Bedtime for me.
I may be exhausted, but I love what I'm doing. I love tutoring.



































*These are actual items that I have collected and stashed in an undisclosed location at Camp. There they remain, because I am and, I hope, will ever be a six-year-old boy at heart.

Tone.

You know what's utterly delicious? Leftover Chinese food: beef with broccoli from that takeout place down the street. You know what's really not that delicious? Salad with no chicken in. Just saying.


ALSO COMPLETELY DELICIOUS AND WITH WHICH I AM UNREASONABLY OBSESSED:




Also omg fried rice is the best thing ever, ever, ever invented. Ever.



On another note, it totally sucks when people seem really awesome and then you realize that they don't actually, you know, like, understand the concept of boundaries. Or, for example, the idea that the world doesn't revolve around what they want. Or that their problems are not my problems. It's not the most endearing thing in the world.



On yet another note, Sunday was largely really awesome. Jack and our parents and I had 8:30 am "brunch" for mother's day, after which Jack and I each crashed for several hours. Generally I try to get to church on Sunday mornings, but we had been to the funeral for Kelly's grandmother on Saturday, which included a mass. It was (of course) very sad, but the service was beautiful. Being around so many people that I loved was beautiful. So anyway, no church on Sunday. When I woke up there was a distant* cousin stopping in at our house on his way out of town, so we talked and had lunch, and he's an interesting fellow. Possibly an electrical engineer? Or trained as such. I spent most of the rest of the day cleaning my room (relative success!), and at one point took a break to walk Miley. There were several separate points of awesomeness on said walk:

I smelled honeysuckle!
I also smelled cut grass!
I also smelled cigarette smoke, which would normally be not-awesome, except that it was coming from Gina, whom I have not seen in probably eight years. She lives in the Norfolk area, and her mother is a friend of my mom's and her maternal aunt--River's mom--lives behind us. She and her mom and grandmother AND HER DAUGHTER were in town for mother's day. Her daughter is six now! I had never seen her before, but she is so beautiful. It made my day to see them.


































*I actually have no idea how we are related, but "Armistead" is a family name, and I'm pretty sure someone referred to him as a cousin at some point. Actually, there are rather a lot of people to whom I am related, but related in some completely obscure (to me) way. So "distant" here really only means that he isn't a first cousin, or (as far as I know) a second.