Showing posts with label personal thoughts. Show all posts
Showing posts with label personal thoughts. Show all posts

Wednesday, March 12, 2014

Didn't Catch a Single Worm. Didn't Even Try.

Here's the truth. I like to sleep in. Between 7 and 8 a.m. the perfect Goldilocks temperature settles over my body. My brain swims around in the last dreams of the night. I fish for story ideas, character tics, conflict development. The day is untarnished by forgotten promises and obligations, dropped balls and time wasted. That hour in the morning contains all my greatest hopes, a sharp contrast to the hour of night that amplifies my greatest dread. Why would I spoil that one perfect hour of the day by getting up to do vertically oriented things?

Despite my lazy ways, I managed to write some pieces of short fiction and even submitted them to various literary journals. Lo and behold, a star in the east. No, wrong piece of fiction. Lo and behold, both pieces were accepted for publication and a third is forthcoming this spring.

So, maybe it's time to get back to blogging. Maybe I'm supposed to be doing other things to promote my works and the journals where they appear. I don't know. Blogging is such a relic. I don't tweet or facebook or instagram. I don't even have a smart phone. I'm not sure I'm ready to change those facts for the sake of trying to connect people to my work. I don't know where to begin. So for now, I'll get back into this and go from there.

My short fiction can be found at:

What You Don't See - Crack the Spine Issue 63

Flo's Gold - Fiction Fix (at that link, scroll down to Issue 13 and click to read.)

I'll let you know when The Safe Escape of Bears comes out in Stoneboat. 

Saturday, September 22, 2012

Early Birds and Catching Worms

When I opened up the mailbox today I found a letter addressed to me, from me.  Self-addressed stamped envelopes always throw me for a bit of a snail-mail loop. There's some metaphysical thing going that I'm not philosophically astute enough to analyze, but basically, it's déjà vu in a business-sized security envelope. 

I wrote the letter the morning of the last day at writer's camp, sealed it up and handed it off to a woman named Pat, who promised to mail everyone's letter out at some undisclosed point in the future. This was one of those self-check-in letters to follow-up on a week dedicated to talking about writing, thinking about writing, listening to other people's writing and even actually doing some writing, too. Toward the end of this Dear Jen letter, my back-then self asked my future-self if I was being true to the small list of personal goals I'd established to help hone my writing craft. When I read the list today, I wanted to kick my back-then self in the arse. What was I thinking? Really? That goal? Again? I shook my head and thought, "Don't I know myself better than that? Maybe I'll just never learn." 

I wish I had a tally of all the times I've said or written in a journal: "Tomorrow I vow to get up an hour earlier than normal and  ________."  At various times in my life the blank has been filled with: do yoga, meditate, go for a walk, write personal morning pages, go for a run, write fiction, revise fiction. 

Not once have I been successful at this self-improvement goal. Yes, I love worms. In 5th grade I sported stickers in the upper right corner of my desk that spelled out, "I (heart) Worms". But getting up like the proverbial early bird to catch them is just not in my constitution. Or so I tell myself. What if I could do it though? For some reason I can't seem to shake the idea that there must be magic present in the early morning hours and if only I could get my ass out of bed I might harness some of that magic for myself. It feels like a character flaw that I can't overcome the desire to push the day's beginning off as long as possible. It seems like if I could just change my night-owl into an early-bird, something would be better. But I don't really know what exactly. 

I never stop wondering what it would be like to become a morning person, to add one more hour to my day, a quiet hour. Maybe there would be magic in that daybreak hour, maybe I would come to love it, to rise from bed not with dragging feet but with an eagerness for my day to start. For many things in life I believe that we can change our behaviors with practice and persistence. I should be able to will myself into a morning person, set the clock earlier, get up out of bed and carry on. Repeat until it's a habit.  And so, here it is on my list again. Maybe this time...this time....this time...

Stay tuned....

Sunday, September 9, 2012

a run on Simple things

I worked a good day with people and at a job I love then dined on delicious food and drink with a friend for 3 hours that felt like 30 minutes, leaving us with so much more to discuss next time, next time, then drove home on congestion-free roads to my simple home where I stepped out of my car under a galaxy of stars poking pinholes in the night,  to eavesdrop on the melancholy conversation, "who cooks for you, who cooks for you",  between distant Barred Owls.

Gratitude for all the beauty that surrounds my existence.

Friday, July 27, 2012

Time's Messenger

Maybe the news you've come to tell me is unexpectedly good. Maybe, as Time's messenger, you've screeched into my driveway with raucous honks, pounded at my back door on the night of my birthday, to tell me that from now on, Time's passage will be different.

The montage of my thirty-eight years bullets by like scenery through the window of a bullet train, smeared  into a silky ribbon of visions that slips through the grasp of my mind. Even just twelve years ago is too far gone to remember with any truth, it seems. "What did we cook for dinner back then, back on Walnut Avenue in Belmont?" I ask my husband. I can't remember. But neither can he. We shake our heads, laughing at our inability to remember such a simple detail and change the memory question to something more recent, more tangible and solid: "Did my parents bring us this old green couch when we lived on Dorsch Hill or not until we moved to Springfield?"  Consensus is shaky and takes a while to form. "It's gone by so fast. It's just a blur almost" we agree.

So maybe you're standing here on the threshold of my house, smirking at me because you've come to grant my wish.  Just moments ago, I'd squeezed my eyes shut, let the last line of that awful, annual anthem drift away and puffed out the candles on my cake and thought : "Oh, Time. Please slow down. Please. It's all so good now." 

Because suddenly, life is flying by. That's the catch. Once you figure out where to find your joys, the things that fill you with wonder, the love, the friendship, the connections to be discovered around every corner, time starts to go faster. I swear it does, like some kind of quantum mechanics riddle. Once you find the secret to uncovering all the nuggets of beauty, life speeds up.  I want to savor it all two times, no fives times, no infinity as long! 

And so here you are Time's Messenger, telling me with that smirky smile that you shall grant my wish. For me - no more speeding bullet train. For me - time will become like a butterfly that floats and pauses, meanders and rests.  And oh, how I rejoice at this bit of unexpected good news!  Until I realize that I can't have it both ways. There can't be both infinite time in this life and infinite moments of beauty, wonder, friendship, love.  Those things are precious because of their inevitable end, because of my inevitable end. And yours.        And yours.         And yes, even yours.  

So, Time, I take back my wish. I retract the breath that extinguished the candles on my birthday cake. Fly the way you will. Let the years blur by, the days feel too short. Let there not be enough hours to in the day to wonder over ever bit of Nature. Let me never have enough time to read Nabokov until I fully understand his dizzying prose. Let there never be enough years to hold my husband's hand as we listen to the silence of a black and starry night. 

Time - do your thing. Race!  And I'll do my best to keep up. 

Monday, May 21, 2012

Spilled soup

My ears have no more room for listening. My heart has no more room for understanding. My nerves have fatigued of their ability to hold me back from wringing the necks of rude humans shopping for frivolous plants or breaking down in tears at a story of a nephew shot in Afghanistan, or explaining to you why your ears are ringing and that there's nothing we can do about it.  I'm like a bowl of soup filled too full and spilling over; what once was warm, nourishing and sustaining, is now nothing but a mess slopping all over the floor.

Why do I need to find a way to connect with everyone? Why do I need to make everyone else feel at ease, understood, relieved of their burdens?

Why does my way of interacting with the world end up overwhelming me? Why can't I figure out a better way?

Solitude.  I need you.

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Becoming Our Mothers

If you are now, or ever have been, a daughter perhaps you'll understand. I can't say if these observations hold true for sons. (Does it seem strange to you that three out of four nuclear family roles are two syllable words: mother, father, daughter and then bam! - son - showing up with just its single, solid syllable?).

If you were lucky, like me, and born to the best kind of mother, there was a time when she could do no wrong. Your world revolved around her love, her approval, her kindness, her all-knowingness, her hugs, the way she told stories or made cookies. In turn, her world revolved around you.  

But then you got older and you started to see you'd been wrong. She wasn't perfection, not really, you'd been mistaken. How could you be so blind to her faults for all those years? To hell with that, I won't be like her! you may have said sometime in the two decades between 12 and 32. Those were the years you broke away, saw how other people lived, maybe went to college, became the most annoying of creatures: a privileged young idealist. You may have turned on your family, dating someone they didn't like, moving far away, judging them harshly and often. You launched yourself out of the gravity pull of mutual orbit. All good and necessary, but never a very flattering time. 

Eventually your 20s faded and with it some of that idealism and, I don't know why, but that also may have been about time you found yourself whispering in horror, "oh my god, I sound just like Mom." Or even worse, you felt your face or body act in such a way that for an instant you looked or moved just like her. You could feel it in your guts, in your bones. You may have panicked and said to yourself and to your very best friend since childhood, "I will not be like her! You have to promise to tell me if I'm getting like her." And that's also when you realized that you'd heard those words before. You remember hearing your own mother say that about her mother, usually after a long holiday visit or car ride with your grandma. Your mother would finally be free, she'd sink into a chair with exhaustion and say, "Please shoot me if I ever get like that."  You remember laughing, nodding and promising you would while thinking, but, Mom, you kinda already are. And you thought it was funny, quaint, that your mom couldn't see the inevitable happening to her. 

As your 30s rolled along you slowly resigned yourself to "being like mom" in the way you left the toaster-oven on long after your'd finished eating your snack, or left the mail sitting out next to the garden because you got distracted by some weeds on your way back from the mailbox. The weeds made it to the compost pile, but then you noticed that the blueberries needed water and so you did that and then you heard the kettle's distantly shrill whistle and remembered that you'd been boiling water for tea . The mail neglected until your husband came home from work and noticed it gathering evening dew by the tomato plants.

When you'd get together with your mom, you'd still notice many of the patterns and habits that could get under your skin but you tried not to let them bother you. You stopped vocalizing your judgments about her life and her approach to the world. Not because you'd become a more mature person, really, but because you realized that you, too, were permeated with faults in behavior and thinking, many of them similar to hers. Calling attention to her short-comings would be calling attention to your own. Such judgement was uncomfortably close to your own skin and psyche, so self-protection kept you quiet.

But then, if everyone made it this far and you eased steadily toward solid middle age, your mother's mother - your grandmother - began to fail. Maybe you watched this process from a distance with fear and humility. The daughter became the caretaker. Illicitly, she brought Cheez-itz and candy to her mother, one small joy for both of them. Your mother's every waking thought, and probably her dreams, became filled with "how do I help her get through this?"  A mutual orbiting returned for a brief flicker of painful time until it was finished, save for your mom getting down to the business of consolidating a lifetime of memories. 

And maybe a year or so after your grandmother's death, you began to see a profound beauty in the inevitability of "becoming our mothers". Maybe you got to spend a few days with your mom, you listened to her ways of talking and saw the mannerisms you share. You no longer got annoyed with how she interrupted her own quiet reading with interjections like, "Huh!" and "Wow!", so that you always asked, "What?" as she told you about something interesting she'd just read. You don't get annoyed because you heard yourself doing the same damn thing. And you knew that she couldn't help it, couldn't stop herself from doing it, because neither could you.  That was when it dawned on you that, dammit, there isn't enough time left. This will all be over way, way too soon, even if it's 30 years down the road. You imagine orbiting around your mother again, not as a child but as the caretaker. How will you negotiate that strange and looming landscape together?  And then, how will you negotiate your own without her? 

Someday it will happen, there's no way to stop it, you can't pretend anymore that it won't. And so you let yourself imagine what it might be like.  You imagine, when you sit at the piano there will be times when it's not you playing, but her ghost, rolling the big chords and holding the sustain pedal down too much. Even in the way you play the piano you've become "like your mother". The hemming and hawing over the mistakes and difficult passages, will not be your voice, but hers echoing in your ears.  When you walk over uneven terrain and your body moves awkwardly, you will feel that your are not yourself, but her.  When you leave things behind at other people's houses or your purse at a restaurant, your best friend will teasingly call you by your mother's name and you won't feel embarrassed, but proud and connected to your past.  "Damn, it's really happened. I'm just like my mother."  And so maybe, as you imagine this dreaded inevitable future, if you're lucky, you get to a point where you realize that in the time you have left there is no room for judgment and criticism.  Becoming our mothers is how we carry them forward, not just in our memories, but tangibly, visibly in our own gestures and habits, embedded in our own flesh and bones. There is no longer room to force her to fit some idealized "mom" shape and no time to fear "turning into her".  If you're lucky, you understand that there is only room and time enough for love, however you understand it.  

Saturday, January 8, 2011

Letter to my 'cello teacher, one year later

Dear Judith,

It's been one year since my first 'cello lesson with you. I was pretty nervous about the whole process: the rental and use of an instrument I knew nothing about, the weekly one-on-one lessons as an adult, the practicing, the likeliness of very slow progress, the financial commitment to something that could be seen as "self-indulgent" or "frivolous". But with all of that, my biggest worry was committing to something that I might find out I didn't like or worse yet, wasn't good at. How did I know if I would get along with the 'cello at all? How long might I have to keep at it in order to figure that out?

What a year of learning and development I've enjoyed! As adults, it's not often that we put ourselves willingly into the path of the unknown. Most of the time the unknown is forced upon us, intimidating and triggers a fear response. But going into the unknown and persevering beyond our initial fears allows us to learn and change, to not stagnate. It allows us to feel the hope that exists in progress, even when that progress feels glacially slow. But perhaps "glacial" is the only way for meaningful, lasting progress to happen. I mean, think of the changes left behind by glacial activity!

As an adult, the process of learning something new seems to be not just about the gradual ownership of specific skills and techniques but perhaps even more about ownership of ourselves, overcoming our fears (of being wrong, of being imperfect, of being a novice) and about experiencing the joys of discovery on an intimate level. This has been my experience during the past year and it has added a deep measure of satisfaction to my life.

I can only assume that the encouragement, patience, knowledge and passion of the right teacher, (at the right time with the right student) is the catalyst in this fantastic experiment. Committing to the 'cello and having you as my very first guide for this adventure have been two of the most unexpectedly rewarding things I've experienced as an adult.

With deep gratitude,

Sunday, December 12, 2010

Birth + Death = Life

Birth. Death.

My family finds itself poised on the very edge, waiting for both life and death at exactly the same moment.

My Grandma might draw her final breath sometime today. Or, we may still be waiting, watching while nature has its way with her for a little longer. At the other end of life's continuum, my cousin has been ready (since Friday) for labor to start and a new life to begin its own cycle. But for the last several days we've all been waiting. Waiting for death. Waiting for life.

The average annual world birth rate is currently estimated to be 19.95/1000.* That means about 370,317 babies will be born today. And tomorrow another 370,317 and then an entirely new batch of 370,317 babies will be born two days from now. Imagine how many people will be affected by those births each day. Even if you factor just five people anxiously awaiting each of these births, that would be over 2 million people personally affected every single day by births.

The average annual world death rate is currently estimated to be 8.37/1000.* About 155,366 people will die today. And again tomorrow. And another 155,366 or so the day after that. Think of how many people will be personally affected by those 155,366 deaths. If an average of even five people are affected by one of today's deaths, three-quarters of a million people will be involved with death somehow, each and every day.

So, if today you happen to find yourself: being born, dying, waiting for either of those two things to happen, or if you're mourning/rejoicing yesterday's occurrences or anticipating tomorrow's - you are not unique, you are not special. There are over 7 billion people in the world; each one born in a pretty similar way and each one heading toward a similar cessation of life. What could possibly be more mundane, more insignificant than one single instance of birth or death?

And yet, what could possibly be more significant or more unique? Birth is the capital letter at the start of a life's first sentence and death is the punctuation mark at the end of the last page. All the days in between become the story of a singular, unrepeatable human experience.

To the capital letter on the very first page and a full-stop at the end of the last chapter I dedicate all the pages in between.


*statistics from the CIA World Factbook

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

Someone has to let go first.

Should I put my left arm over or under?

What about my right arm, where should that go?

Oh crap, our arms are on the same trajectory, we're gonna have arm collisions. Should I switch my approach? Or is the other person going to switch?

This person is so much shorter. I think I just gouged her in the throat with my shoulder. She's probably trying not to choke, I better let go now. But will that seem rude? Like I don't really want to give her a hug?

People with some meat on them are good for hugging.

I've never hugged this person before, but I want to, but what if a hug isn't appropriate in this circumstance? What if they don't want a hug?

It's hot and humid and I've been in the car for hours. I hope they can't feel how sweaty my shirt is in the back. They probably can. Gross.

I barely know this person, but here they come, in for a hug. Do they know how forced this feels? How many authentic hugs do we ever really get/give? Maybe fewer than we think. Hmmm...I don't think I like that thought.

Why does my heart always beat too hard when I hug someone? It embarrasses me. I know people can feel it beating away in my chest. I've had people mention it before. I don't want them to think it has any real significance. But it must mean something, right? It's easier just to avoid it and not hug people very much or else try to keep my heart area away from theirs or just keep the hug short.

When I visit my family and I hug my mom or dad and if I hold on extra long it always threatens to make me cry. And that makes me feel silly and childish so I don't hold on as long as I really want to. I think they do the same thing.

Sometimes hugging someone surprises me with how perfect it feels, physically, I mean. Some body shapes just fit together better than others.

Hugging brings two people together and yet you are still separate no matter how long or how hard you hug. It's kind of a metaphor for existence - the desire to know others/be known and the ineluctable solitude of our individual consciousnesses.

We can never know exactly how our hug feels to the person on the other side.

The implications of a hug's end are subtle and complex. Someone always has to let go first.

Monday, March 1, 2010

Small Fragments of Convergence

  • At Mocha Joe's I'm absorbed in a menatlly/emotionally heavy way by Sam Harris', The End of Faith. I'm reading about some of the difficult ethical/moral questions that are similar when considering the wartime topics of collateral damage and torture. Our collective acceptance of one and our (in general) abhorrence of the other is difficult to reconcile from a reasonable and logical perspective. It demonstrates ethical incoherence and inconsistency that is nearly impossible to reconcile.
  • At the same time I overhear the woman behind the counter comment that "writing 'balanced and nutty' to describe this coffee flavor seems kind of odd."
  • I'm killing time here before my cello lesson. Right at this moment the song playing in the background happens to be someone's version of "Hard Times Come Again No More". It happens to be this version:

    If only the singing were to make it so.

    To steal a phrase from a character in one of my favorite books: My boots are heavy.

Thursday, January 14, 2010

In the Face of Overwhelming Disaster

Haiti. Earthquake. Devastation. Response.

We could almost say it's an incomprehensible catastrophe. Except that we're all forced to comprehend the images we'd rather not see (but can't stop watching), the reports we'd rather not hear (greedy for the next sound bite to illuminate the scope of humanitarian response), and the as-yet-uncounted thousands who are right smack in the middle of the catastrophe. The nearly instantaneous, all-media access to global events forces not only those immediately affected by it, but also the entire world, to comprehend the devastation.

Those directly involved must respond. Viscerally. Their responses are immediate, physical, meaningful and without premeditation. They are life-saving measures. I can't imagine there's much thinking involved. It must be purely fear, hope and adrenaline driving the living forward. Forcing them to comprehend the incomprehensible.

For the rest of the watching, waiting world, we gnash our collective teeth, wring our collectively concerned hands, discuss how fast the U.S. is or isn't responding. We analyze, we discuss, we "oh" and "ah" in shock, we chastise governments for doing too little, too late. We internalize the sound bites and the media blitz and then out of our feelings of necessity we offer money to various organizations promising to give aid to the victims. This is how we try to comprehend the incomprehensible and assuage our guilt--subconscious guilt that we are relieved to not be on the receiving end of such a catastrophe.

There certainly seems to be a need within our collective humanity to assist during disasters. Long, ago in early human groups, we would have only known about relatively immediate disasters--those close in both proximity and relation. Therefore we would have been forced to respond in order to preserve our own lives or the lives of our family-group or tribe. So perhaps, from a biological perspective, it makes sense that we desire to offer some type of assistance in the face of disaster, even when, seemingly, it has nothing to do with us.

Today I was driving around my town, discovering streets I'd never been on before. The radio was tuned, for a while, to NPR like usual. I had a trunk full of bagged lunches and hot dinners and a map of my route drawn in blue ballpoint pen sitting next to me on the seat. The midday show was, of course, talking about the impossible chaos, panic and death in Haiti. Before I left my house, friends and acquaintances were posting updates on Facebook about how they felt regarding the devastation and to what groups they recommended giving money. I admit I felt a little odd that I didn't want to run right out and donate money to a charity because of the earthquake. It just didn't feel like enough to me. It wouldn't make me feel as if I'd really helped. How would I know who my measly contribution really helped? Or did it just pay for some stamps to send out letters asking for more donations? Did it just pay to alleviate my subconscious survivor's guilt?

It being my very first time delivering meals, I had to turn around a couple times after missing roads and/or driveways, despite my map. (I didn't know so many of the roads in Springfield were without signage. Who do we think we are? Boston?) Finally I pulled into my first stop. I opened my trunk and pulled out a brown-bagged lunch and a dinner from the hot bag--kept warm with an oven-heated piece of soapstone. My trunk smelled like a mobile cafeteria. I walked up to the door, gave a knock for formality's sake. I turned the knob and let myself in to a kitchen I'd never seen before, belonging to an elderly woman I'd never met until this moment.

"Hi, there! Meals on Wheels. I've got your food here. How are you?" I set the packages on her small kitchen table and noticed all the funny chotchkes she had arranged so perfectly around her home. It didn't smell like I thought it would. It didn't smell like the elderly. It just smelled like a home.

"Oh. Thank you so much! How wonderful. Oh, but it's cold out there, isn't it? You've got the right idea with your hat and mittens though! Broke my hip, ya know. I'll be better when I don't have to use this thing anymore." She directed her last comment dismissively to the walker waiting patiently in front of her. "Thanks so much for the food. Maybe I'll see you again?"

"I'll be seeing you next Thursday, probably. Enjoy your food. Stay warm." I said. I shut her doors tightly against the cold and hopped back into my car, surprised at how satisfying it felt to do such a simple thing for someone in my community. On the radio they were still talking about the disaster in Haiti. On the map, I located the residence of the next person on my list of about 10 people. I backed out of the driveway and shut off the radio.

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

Late night musings to entertain myself

It's 1:02 am. And I just realized that I selected the music of One AM Radio to accompany me while I write. So that's kind of ironic. Or something. Don't you often find that people use the word "ironic" in the wrong context. I think it happens a lot more than we realize. Irony is pretty popular. One AM Radio <---check them out. So, why am I up at 1:05 am? (Three minutes passed while I wrote that simple paragraph up there. That seems kind of pathetic, that I couldn't write more than what I did in three minutes.) But I'm up because I've had a cold for 10 days and although daytime Me feels pretty much back to 100%, nighttime Me can't seem to shake this stupid, tickling cough. Being horizontal in bed combined with trying really hard not to cough so I don't wake Chip (my bed companion) makes it pretty much guaranteed that I'll cough. Right before I drift off these weird, whimpering sounds slip out of my mouth and bring me back to full wake-i-tude and I must cough. So I'm sitting semi-upright stretched out on the couch under a pile of blankets hoping that tiredness will win the battle against the tickle in my throat eventually. I keep trying to think of what to write because I feel like writing but it's late and my brain feels sort of lethargic and not very funny or inquisitive or creative at the moment. It's 1:23 am now. Yeah, I know...what the hell am I doing with all this time? I've hardly written anything! I'm glad you asked. Because I've been wondering the same thing. But in a bigger way really, more than just the last 26 minutes. (yup, 3 more went by) I've had a difficult time transitioning from two part time jobs down to just one. Luckily the job at Walker's should start up again in early spring. But between now and then I have hopes and dreams of doing stuff. Accomplishing things. Making progress. But on what? Time is so precious, I don't want to waste it. And I feel like I'm not Carpe Diem-ing enough. Like there's more Diem to be Carped and I'm letting it pass me by for lack of some kind of adventure-seeking motivation. I think maybe November to April isn't really the best time for me to have not much to do in a "scheduled" sense. There's too much darkness. Too many layers on my body. Too many blankets to snuggle under. Too many tasty things to cook and bake. Too many books that need to be read. Too much new music to discover. That's a lot of weight to overcome. And I haven't even listed gravity, inertia or the cat sleeping on my lap yet! Now I'm listening to Anomie Belle - Bedtime Stories. Also kind of ironic or something.

I've been addicted to seeking out new music lately. We went to see a show in Portland, ME. I didn't expect too much from it really. The line-up was a somewhat obscure independent group called El Ten Eleven that I'd gotten into after watching the dorkumentary Helvetica. Some local-ish group opened for them. I'd never heard of them at all - Arms and Sleepers. Well, let me tell you, I haven't stopped thinking about how great the show was since Nov. 21st. And via weird, wonderful web hop-skips-jumps, I've found a world of music that's all novel and fitting my mood right now. Listening to music is probably one of my favorite things about having ears.

Hmmm... Top Ten Things I Love About Having Ears:

10. I've always tucked my hair behind them. It's very convenient.
9. Obviously the holding up the glasses thing, but perhaps my nose is more important for that.
8. I can hear cool outdoor sounds like wind and birds and neighbor's dogs barking...oh wait...that kind of sucks, that last one.
7. They are good for being whispered into when someone has sweet nothings to say. Although Id rather hear a sweet something. And if it's gonna be a sweet something, I'd rather just eat it.
6. My earlobes are kind of soft and sometimes I like to touch them. But I don't do it too often anymore because it's kind of weird to see me touching my earlobes in a self-soothing kind of way.
5. I'm starting to run out of things but I'm only halfway finished....
4. I can hear the cat purr. And meow- incessantly, plaintively - for food and attention. That's the best. (sarcasm)
3. I can hear all the great conversations I have with my friends. Hearing myself talk is the best!
2. Chip isn't very good at sign language, so hearing works a lot better for keeping our relationship coherent. I'm not very good at it either, but I'm better than Chip!
1. Listening to good, new, interesting, exciting, music. See, I told you it was one of my favorite things about ears.

It's 2:13 am. This was sort of weird. Wish me sleep.

Monday, November 30, 2009

Fear of "The Last Time"

Nature should be no friend of mine, as she forever marks the passing time. And shows the world held upside down, in a drop of rain slowly stretching toward the ground.

My desire to write hides deep under cozy covers dreaming away in a sluggish slumber while time has its way with me. Perhaps I must shake my creative-self by the shoulders, set off an alarm, dump a bowl of cold water over my lazy creative head; in other words - force the beast awake. Heh...just in time for winter's hibernation. An uphill battle? Or perfect timing? We shall see.

About two weeks ago while snuggled under the covers with my husband, my sleep-attaining process was derailed when a thought bubbled-up innocuously from my brain: "Huh...eventually one of these times will be the "last" time I ever snuggle in bed with my husband. Except I won't know it's the last time until it's too late." That thought extrapolated easily to "Wow... everything will be the "last time" eventually." One of the times that we linger after dinner - drinking a bottle of wine, talking for hours - will be the last. There will be a last time I hear him play the guitar. There will be a last time we ride in the car together. There will be a last time we make love. There will be a last time we laugh together. And most likely I will not know that I am experiencing a "last time" moment until it's too late.

That's not the end of it though. This thought process can easily be applied to everything else and everyone else in my life. It makes me hyper-aware of everything I do, say, touch, feel, taste, hear and love so that every moment becomes imbued with the gravity and awe of "possible last" status. But it's difficult to remain continuously hyper-aware and eventually I revert to taking things for granted. I've decided that for me, "taking things for granted" allows life to move forward without feeling continuously heartbroken by the unpredictable beauty and brevity of life.

Friday, July 17, 2009

Happiness Pinned to the Mat - now what?

For the past 5 years my need to struggle against various sets of conflicting thoughts and feelings has been like a constant, but burdensome, friend. Wrestling with questions about existence and happiness seemed imperative to my survival and constantly on my mind. And while it has been my mind that searched for answers and often only dug up more questions, it seemed to be my heart, my guts that experienced the weight of their importance. At times it felt like a high-stakes game accompanied by emotional fluctuations easily mistaken for passionate living.

With a solid six months of contentment, dare I say happiness, under my belt I find myself wondering what's become of my passions, my emotional landscape. Sometimes it feels rather dull compared to the "old" me. Is my personal philosophy now so well-coalesced that I no longer need to grope and grasp around looking for answers? Have I actually taken ownership of my happiness and found success where I feared I might only find failure? I feel there could be significant danger of boredom in what I perceive as the stasis of happiness. I admit to feeling some sadness at the loss of the emotional ups-and-downs that have swayed me for a good handful of years.

We all give lip-service to wanting happiness, but I'm not sure I believe that most people would know what to do with themselves if they actually became masters of their own happiness.

And so next week, as I recover from my early 30s and head into my late 30s I ask myself this: If my internal world has settled (for the time being) into a place of happiness, what next; what now to fire my heart, my passion? It's powerful to ask oneself this question, take responsibility for it and say, I don't know... yet...but it's gonna be a blast to figure it out and in the meantime... it sure feels damn good to be happy.

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Scattered thoughts

I have been feeling a deep pull to write something, but the truth is that my thoughts are too scattered and varied to sum-up into a compact blog post. I am continually stymied by attempting to choose a starting point.

My thoughts these days cover the gamut from: what it means to become "friends" with someone (how it develops, how it lasts, how it ebbs and flows, how email and internet affect friendships, how they vanish or resume and what it is that makes someone a friend v. just an acquaintance or colleague), to the wonders of watching insect ecosystems happen right in my yard and then destroying them, to losing any disgust inherent in squashing a slug with my bare fingers in order to protect my veggie and flower plants, to pondering what happens to my intellectual pursuits when I suddenly lose almost all my solitary time but to a job that I actually love; a job that pays me one third what my "real" job pays but where I work 10 times as hard and gain about that much more satisfaction from my efforts.

That was an insanely long sentence and full of grammatical errors. Oh well. Such is my don't care none 'bout them thar grammar rules 'n such, just thinks thoughts in a messy sorta way. Ain't it purty?

Maybe I can tackle some of these thoughts and feelings individually and have a sudden burst of blog productivity. Perhaps just cracking the shell is enough to let the inside goo run out and spread into a form of some sort. Or maybe these moments will pass and these thoughts will be forever lost to my subconscious mind, dredged up only for strange, incoherent dreams and random melancholy feelings of nostalgia.

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Gratitude Humbles Me

As a child, 4th of July ranked as the premier holiday in my book: summer time, a parade, the picnic food (i.e. potato chips), the bonfires, the s'mores, the fireworks, red flares lining the perimeter or the lake, catching fire flies, the late night with friends. But as I've gotten older most holidays don't excite me anymore. The Big Ones (i.e. Christmas and Easter - which I'd love to celebrate as fantastic solstice festivals with like-minded folks but have not found a way to make that happen...yet) are too Jesus-ified for my taste.

Enter Thanksgiving. Lots of really good food, family, friends (if you're fortunate enough to have friends in the mix with family), people feeling generous of spirit, no gifts other than shared edible/drinkable items, no unnecessary worship of imaginary higher beings. If you want to make the day about your particular god I don't really care. For me it's one of the few holidays I can enjoy without pretending. Life is filled with so many moments of pretending. It's nice not to pretend sometimes.

In no particular order, the top 10 Thanks Givings go to:

1. My friend Nancy beat cancer this year and she let her friends be part of the journey.
2. My mom and dad are healthy and besides loving them, I like them too.
a. same can be said for my brother, SIL, nephew and even my in-laws!!!
3. People once classified as "hiking friends" have become so much more than just people to hike with.
4. Chip, who still seems to think I'm a pretty cool person to spend time with. We laugh a lot. We play music together in our living room. We read books together and talk about them. We cook our meals together and eat them at the dining room table. He was okay with me not working for 6 glorious months. He puts up with my moodiness.
5. My home: although it leaks, smells like musty crawl space sometimes and causes all sorts of other annoyances, it still provides warm, comfortable shelter and is happiest when filled with friends, family, food and music.
6. I have a really cute, fluffy black cat with more personality than some people.
7. Although I don't have a "real" sister, I've been friends with Gigi for about 28 of my 34 my book, we're sisters by choice.
8. Music, music, music: listening, discovering, playing, sharing, making.
9. Having the opportunity to apologize to someone I thought I'd never find.
10. Two friends who have helped me on the path of exploring what it means to exist in this world: Tom. Michael. Although I don't see either of you often, your impact on my life has been immeasurable.

So, my experiment didn't really pan out. Next week I start a new job as the Audiologist for the Springfield, VT hospital. I'm going right back to what I know I don't really want to do. I'm thankful for the training I have and the fortunate opportunity to use those skills locally. But I'm disappointed in myself for not daring to discover something different.

Thanks for reading. Stay warm, eat good food, drink good drinks, give more hugs.

Cozy Toes going into hibernation.

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

My kind of freedom

"Man first of all exists, encounters himself, surges up in the world – and defines himself afterward." Jean-Paul Sartre

I stand alone on the rocky shore--wind whipped, rain-soaked, lips tasting like salt spray--looking out into the ocean. My internal workings begin to match the ebb and surge of the ocean. The tightness in me retreats. No one in the entire world knows I'm here, standing at the ocean's edge whooping loudly into the wind, celebrating the crashing waves.

I stand alone on the rocky shore and, for a moment, belong to the world unselfconsciously.

Sunday, September 14, 2008

David Foster Wallace is dead- or why I'm Really F*cking Pissed

Several months ago a very good friend insisted I begin reading Infinite Jest by David Foster Wallace--a true tome at 981 pages with 388 minuscule-font end notes. At that length, it's the kind of book that becomes a part of your life, a part of you, like an appendage. If you're a person who believes in the absurdity of the world, this book starts to feel like a security blanket of sorts. A world created by someone who sees the same absurdity you do, but turns it into art that lifts your mind and imagination to places it's never been before. David Foster Wallace has been called a genius. He won the MacArthur Foundation "genius grant" (whatever that is), so the claim seems to be validated somewhat. When I try to come up with words to describe his writing I want to say "genius", but that's too easy. A cop out almost. You'll just have to read it. Or try at least.

I have been reading IJ a lot today. Chip sat down next to me about 40 minutes ago to check on my page status and end note status. Then he got up, went to the computer in the kitchen and said these words:
"David Foster Wallace is dead."
"Excuse me? What?" I set IJ on the couch next to me and got up.
"It says here: David Foster Wallace, 1962-2008."
"No way. Oh my..." I had to see the headline with my own eyes to really believe it.

It seems strange to feel so affected by a "celebrity" death(I bet most of you never heard of him though, David Foster Wallace). Embarrassing almost, juvenile perhaps. I've felt it before, when Kurt Vonnegut died in April of 2007. A strange emptiness appeared. It's strange because I wasn't aware that a person I didn't even "know" occupied territory in my inner world, in my heart, at all. Maybe it's that with an author, I feel as though he's let me inside his world, inside his head, into his dark and pounding heart for a little peak around.

David Foster Wallace hung himself on Friday. His wife found him.

I still have 420 pages and 130 end notes to go in IJ. I am so f*cking pissed that for every single page, every beautiful turn of phrase, every minutely observant detail, every dizzying performance of linguistic gymnastics I read, I will be forced to think of this: that the man, David Foster Wallace, found so much pain, so much futility and so little relief in his life that instead of coming to some sort of an absurdist acceptance or making some last-ditch, desperate leap of faith, he took the suicide train right on outta here.

When someone who's writing makes you want to stand up and shout, "I'm with ya, man! I get it! I feel it too!" decides that his existential or maybe even pleasantly humanistic viewpoint has downgraded to absurdism and then to absurdism where no trace of comic or artistic relief remains and then finally to dark, hopeless nihilism ending in suicide...well, let's just say it makes me feel a little queasy in the pit of my stomach that I can see his point.

I'm pissed that for some reason I am able to see past that point and accept the absurdity but he couldn't. Why??? As a result, an amazing mind is gone forever, a human being suffered mortally intense psychic pain and no one has any better answers about how to help someone out of such pain. So far, articles about his death emphasize the loss to the literary world, to his students; the loss of a true genius. Is suicide genius?

I'm inclined to answer no, but then again, I'm no genius.

Friday, August 22, 2008

Hi. I'm new here.

I'm not feeling terribly creative or writer-ly but there are some fun things:

The new new stuff:

1. I've enrolled in a college course exploring the ecology of VT Rivers and Streams. It was strange to be in the "new student" roll again. Exciting and intimidating. I mean it's been, what, 16 years since I enrolled at Fredonia State College? I had to find proper parking and the admin. office. I had to use the computer lab and have someone walk me through the log-in procedure. I had to meet with an advisor, I had to order a text book. Walking through the school's hallways and looking into classrooms brought back the excitement and nervousness I'd always feel heading back to school each September. Will I be the same kind of student I was 12-16 years ago? I barely remember that person.

2. Today I started volunteering at our local co-op market. I used a price gun and stocked shelves for the first time since I worked at CVS 13 years ago or so. I just this second remembered the horror I felt while being shown around CVS on my first shift and my manager telling me, "We keep the guns right here under the counter". This was in tiny, rural Boston, NY with one stop light and I couldn't imagine we needed guns at the front counter. I mean, no one had even heard of Oxycontin yet! The guns were for pricing items. (Wow...back before everything was scanned. I'm gettin' old!) I didn't even know that memory was lodged back there in the ol' synapse soup!

3. Yesterday I hiked Mt. Washington for the first time. I've been saving George for the "perfect" day. Yesterday was that day. Mid-70s at the trail head, light breeze, sun predicted all day. The weather on Mt. Washington doesn't get better than that. Up until yesterday I'd hiked 15 of the 48 peaks over 4000 feet with friends who needed them for their "lists", none of them because my own hiking sensibilities took me there. In the Whites I've been a follower. I don't remember trail names, I don't remember distances or details. I just show up and hike. It's fun. But I didn't want to hike Mt. Washington like that for some reason. I didn't want to follow someone else's lead up the tallest mountain in New England. I also wanted to hike it for the first time via the most challenging trail, Huntington Ravine. Tons of scrambling, but not technical climbing, is required to make it up. The trail gains 650' of elevation in just .3 (that's three tenths!) of a mile. Overall the hike gains about 4250' of elevation over a distance of just a little over four miles.

4. Worms!!!! Beautiful, healthy, robust worms! In my compost pile, that is. I turned it over this week and wanted to run around the neighborhood to gather everyone to look at the gorgeous worms doing their wormy decomposing, aerating thing. But, I didn't because they may not understand the joy. My mom does, though, and it's for her that I've included it in this post.

New Old Stuff:

1. Since about December some very good friends of mine have been having major medical issues. One with type B, stage IV Lymphoma; the other discovering she needed major abdominal surgery and in lots of discomfort prior to getting the needed operation. These are two of my favorite hiking and hanging out friends of the past four years. Suddenly we weren't going on adventures or making plans. Instead we were awaiting diagnoses, scan results, biopsies. Then we waited through treatment plans and recovery. (Of course, as the non-sick person, I wasn't really doing anything, just lots of waiting and worrying and listening and stuff like that.) Several weeks ago we finally all were together for a party to celebrate some birthdays and the end of chemo for Nancy. All scans and tests indicate that Nancy's cancer is gone and has a very low chance of relapse. Meri is doing great after her major surgery and is back to hiking and kayaking on a regular basis. This party was the first time the majority of the "crew" were together all at once in ages. Pure joy.