Unexpected. And tempting.
Through boxes of paper, old machines, dusty piles of wood, I see a likeness
She was fearless.
She was handed empty rooms to fill
And the present, purpose was never clearer. Crystal.
The din is melting. She’s sitting in the corner, patiently, smiling.
About to walk over and shake your hand. You’ll remember.
rare are the meadows of silence these days
in which I can actually remember myself a creative being
Can hear the call above the din of so many other concerns, pulling at my skirt like screaming children
Ten years of tossing musings about
and I hope my younger self can forgive me
for the minefields I have wandered into
I awoke on the morning of
May fourth, two thousand twelve
Pulling the pillow over my face: futile
Soothing the onslaught: impossible
One frying pan to the next, to the next, and next. Blocks of solid days, indefinite.
I am only now starting to exhale.
There is this meadow
full of grasses
patches of what I know to be true
and patches of dangerous assumptions
that stir in the brain, quietly, but with such vigor
that I have to remind myself that they have never been voiced aloud, never been verified.
They are not the same thing.
A flaw of being self-taught: I cannot tell the difference.
The patches intermingle, blades interweaving
tip-toeing, never sure where I am standing,
I am color-blind.
This winter, sour repetition will be broken
There will be warmth
There will be presence
There will be reason and purpose
I’ll walk silent white streets in quiet reverence rather than desperation
Layers will comfort instead of strangle
Gravity will win over inertia
I swear it so.
Found note, date unknown:
A night like tonight is an echo of years of nights identical
A measure of my progress through age
And the closest thing I have to God — the core of my faith in the return of seasons
I’m fourteen, or in love, or in Australia, or alone
The ribbon of my identity winds through this fall air.
I’ve forgotten how to bake bread
How to sit in a place called home
I’ve taken refuge in campbell’s cans
Breathed in blank walls for drunken doses of sleep alone
I’ve abandoned toast.
These things would previously have been unspeakable.
I’ll call it a reminder
A living reminder away from which I am ready to start running
An experiment that helps me reclaim the seasons, reclaim process
Knowing that a handful of months chipping paint doesn’t have to raze years of walls of practice.
I’ve lived too long on borrowed teacups
Mornings aren’t quite right, as
This small one overflows, in so many directions, now
If it were simply handed to me, I’m not sure I’d even recognize it.
I’ve been tiptoeing, been silent
Been walking on water like a miracle of science
And no one is going to write this chapter, frame this scene, for me.
In my dream I was at complete zero
Accomplishing the admirable
But simply taking in oxygen
With no tie or allegiance to any person or cause
Nothing to claim me.
I’m scared that wonder could have a limit
And cycles could spin out of control into a one-lane tangent
Straight off a cliff into sedation
Though when I need sleep or relief from terror
I pray zero
I’m aching for communion in this sand
For the full moon to pop this water balloon
And whisper my forgotten name into my ear.
As late spring cleaning
creates neat happy stacks
and soothing order emerges
I suspiciously eye the corner of the room
unsure of the fate of an altar untouched since fall.
It has acquired curiosities
But it sits like a stale cluttered desk
Its function and soul bolted like a bird from a cage, somewhere in mid-December
I still have no words for where this goes.
You are poison of the worst kind, and no amount of you is safe.
You take what you need for your ego, and leave behind piles of dead objects
gathered for selfish purposes
leave me with glitter and the corpse of my intuition
with no clue who to pray to, and worse, no idea what to ask for.
It is not peaks and valleys
but a loop
You will always be back.
as low, low
as the ocean’s floor.
and then warmth, please
please sing me to sleep.
I think today is
a good day to
seedling ability to
cycles of abuse
to better recognize
the sound of drama walking
and slip into a shadow until he passes by
to not kick dirt in the face of effort
to love myself enough
to refuse to be a broken record.
I have a difficult time
wielding the power
of addressing a person by their name.
I’m not aloof
I’m just clumsy
And I do revel in the melodious sound of it
Whispered into a tiny box in a darkened room.
“I will sleep with a clear conscience
I will sleep in peace.”
- Sinead O’ Connor
You burned me to the ground
Now that room is the plague
Maybe these formulas no longer work.
Or maybe tomorrow it could change
I could hear the right word, see the right spectacle
And it could all dissipate with the snap of a twig.
I must remember that tomorrow never happened. It is still possible.
When did hazel arrive
What was I doing at that moment.
When did guilt take root
Settling through the walls of this house
In haunted creaks
Uniform like wrinkled sheets.
What is it like it breathe it all out
To return to square one
Afraid of what my mouth may say
“You are my family tree
Be good to me
Take care of me”
- Ben Kweller
“What we want and what we need has been confused.”
I think I’ll wash my own feet
and forgive my own self.
“Not all your emotions, even those that come in floods, are fertile. Some are automatic reactions that have discharged thousands of times since they were first programmed into you many years ago. They’re mechanical, not organic. They became fixtures when you were a very different person than you are now.”
- Rob Brezsny
I don’t mind staring
I just want to see it coming.
“There’s a philosophy that I try to embody in my life which is the principle of ‘I die daily.’ What that means to me is periodically shedding the formulas that have worked for me in the past, whether they’ve become outworn or they just no longer fit in an appropriate way.”
- Rob Brezsny
The mixtape was more sentimental because you had to listen to the whole thing as you made it.
Like constantly stirring soup.
Chemistry is magic. The computer screen is just work.
Invest time and preciousness effortlessly blooms.
Candy in my pocket. Past life regression.
“I know the difference between something I thought of and something I was given.”
- Elizabeth Gilbert
“so I wait for you like a lonely house till you will see me again and live in me. Till then my windows ache”
- Pablo Neruda
Don’t confuse intimacy with drama.
Porque el desierto es más tierno y la espina besa mejor.
The dirt did become rock again; the windshield crack did manifest.
So… how long to wait? When to transform doubt into scripture?
I dreamed I returned to Milledgeville
Just one semester, I said, just one. I was content with this necessity
I stood in my bedroom, looking at bare walls I had to fill
Then I stood in my yard, at dusk, watching a massive flock of birds flying towards my house, eventually all coming to rest inside the roof.
There they are, I thought. Amazing how they just know. Amazing how they find me over and over, wherever I go.
“There’s nothing I forgot
I left that paper heart where it belonged
Who it belonged to
I never knew
I never never knew…”
- Kristen Hersh
whether I should even bother to change my altar anymore.
But I realize seasons are my last bastion of faith.
What felt natural evaporates
Years of planning turn into bathroom graffitti
But spring is coming regardless.
it will get folded away off to the left
stacked away benign
no scary pop-up book pages
to torment and complicate my living days.
It will fade to monochrome
as I am drained of the feeling of duty to give it energy.
It will simply go inert.
Perhaps this is actually the alchemist’s search:
a substance born of two people that time cannot erode
that the pages can’t swallow.
Sigh, stretch, fold, say and repeat: I am replaceable. I am replaceable.
“Option Paralysis: The tendency, when given unlimited choices, to make none.”
- Douglas Coupland, Generation X
There is no inventing false detail in my own world
No conjuring words for the sake of adoration
No pretty hyperbole
No actions I have not agonized over
Rather than those swiftly executed by a sad actor.
There is only a naive carcass cracked open wide, blood-soaked in teenage poems.
These are cycles I dislike.
I dreamed I was onstage in a band, trying to play an upright bass, in front of a large crowd
knowing I had no clue how to do so.
And I wasn’t scared.
Someone in the audience was even kind enough to give me help.
what do we call this thing that happens in my head
that shuts down all desire to try something new
i have no good reason why this one particular thing should win out
over the myriad things it is possible to learn.
i am defeated before i can even type in a search term.
all knowledge is free now
it is possible to learn all things on an even, democratic plane
there are no limits of gender or geography
no one path more logical than another
and so happens the short circuit in my head
inspired to overwhelmed in a matter of seconds
i don’t even know what i like anymore.
As it turns out, there will be
no more kissing of constellations into hands,
no more bated breath.
No more measuring, calculating signs, the flight of birds
no lighting of fires in anticipation of homecoming.
Just porcelain fragments of a story to kick out of a path trodden by those far wiser.
But there will be food, there will be work for the hands
There will be need
There will be just enough faith needed to arrive at the day’s end, and no more.
The bright side is
there is a terminal velocity to hurt;
after some time, you can
just dig into the snow bare-handed.
Snow is mine
Laughter is mine
Birds are mine
Blueberries are mine
Song is mine
Quiet is mine
The Parkway is mine
Patience is mine
Taste is mine
Ireland is mine
Wind is mine
Wind is mine.
The glass has been falling all the afternoon,
And knowing better than the instrument
What winds are walking overhead, what zone
Of grey unrest is moving across the land,
I leave the book upon a pillowed chair
And walk from window to closed window, watching
Boughs strain against the sky
And think again, as often when the air
Moves inward toward a silent core of waiting,
How with a single purpose time has traveled
By secret currents of the undiscerned
Into this polar realm. Weather abroad
And weather in the heart alike come on
Regardless of prediction.
Between foreseeing and averting change
Lies all the mastery of elements
Which clocks and weatherglasses cannot alter.
Time in the hand is not control of time,
Nor shattered fragments of an instrument
A proof against the wind; the wind will rise,
We can only close the shutters.
I draw the curtains as the sky goes black
And set a match to candles sheathed in glass
Against the keyhole draught, the insistent whine
Of weather through the unsealed aperture.
This is our sole defense against the season;
These are the things we have learned to do
Who live in troubled regions.
- Adrienne Rich
“Oh, the comfort – the inexpressible comfort of feeling safe with a person – having neither to weigh thoughts nor measure words, but pouring them all right out, just as they are, chaff and grain together; certain that a faithful hand will take and sift them, keep what is worth keeping, and then with the breath of kindness blow the rest away.”
-Dinah Craik, “A Life for a Life”
Piece by piece
Autumn is exchanging the sound of the interstate
For its sight.
You always know where to find it greener.
this needs to re-sew.
Why do I give
constant harbor to thoughts such as
the rent I paid on that apartment at 21,
the multiplication tables I learned in third grade,
the amount of weeks I ran through Australia,
the number of years of the boy who wouldn’t love me,
the weight of false starts.
I pour myself into empty mnemonics, mapping out false stars. What could take their place.
I could attempt anew today. It’s as good of a day as any.
“Because how we spend our days is, of course, how we spend our lives.”
- Annie Dillard
“We don’t know why you’ve been gone
Somebody said you’re on the run
You’re living where wild horses run
Well, hey, whatever turns you on
And I want to take you out, but you always refuse
Cause you only play the games that you know you can lose
You love to fail, that’s all you love”
- Magnetic Fields
“Cause I always say ‘I love you’ when I mean ‘Turn out the light’
And I say ‘Let’s run away’ when I just mean ‘Stay the night’”
- Magnetic Fields
The photograph reflects; every streetlight a reminder.
On Saturday I passed my ghost, sewing on the side of the parkway.
This is what patience looks like.
Let’s catch this on the breeze and bottle it up. Save it for later, when it’s dark.
The universe is conspiring.
counting cake layers
stumbling over roots
bulldozing through every spider web I can’t see. I’m sorry.
The pattern of cloud was intricate, tight, like a thumbprint, at the bottom of the mountain. It expanded, magnified, poured like warm honey over the sky as I ascended. Valleys were born between ridges, hanging like a net above me.
I live amongst the clouds. I must remember that.
“Don’t set yourself on fire over a case of the hiccups.”
If there is a middle ground
between day at a time
and bigger picture
I’d love to curl up there.
Why start now?
There is a slowness
endearing to bees, sea glass, glaciers
to a bone twisted beneath a shell
revered by one pining for autumn
trading the stain of berry for black walnut
rooted in longing for the organic
A vaporous, ubiquitous embrace of slowness in the melody of every content morning.
God, there are guns growing out of our bones
God, every road takes us farther from home
All these men that you’ve made
How we wither in the shade
Of your trees, on your wings
We are carried to the sea
God, give us love in the time that we have
God, give us love in the time that we have
- Iron and Wine
Summer inches away. Time to trade one flavor for the next, and one beyond that. I am prepared, this time.
I inadvertently march my thoughts up peaks of anxiety.
And then they are seemingly always calmed. Always comforted, they descend.
It’s a difficult cycle to embrace. A mighty fall if ever it breaks.
But my repeated relief mingles with tears. Reinforces me to choose love over fear.
I inhale deeply the resolve of years past, the you I awaited. I am grateful.
It’s already time of year for Nightswimming. To witness waning.
Dare I ask the universe for everything I want?
“You must weed your mind as you would weed your garden.”
Time spent doing nothing except making yourself feel guilty for doing nothing is NOT healthy down time
Fifty nine degrees in July
Knowing there’s a state line out there somewhere
Weather, wind changing by the second
Witnessing a trickle that is traceable to the Mississippi
It’s like another country.
He venido al desierto para reírme de tu amor
Que el desierto es más tierno y la espina besa mejor
He venido a este centro de la nada para gritar,
Que tu nunca mereciste lo que tanto quise dar…
He venido yo corriendo, olvidándome de ti,
Dame un beso, pajarillo, no te asustes, colibrí
He venido encendida al desierto para quemar,
Porque el alma prende fuego cuando deja de amar
- Lhasa de Sela
I dreamed that
the small crack in my windshield
spread across its entire length.
“I do this with good things; I think joy into its coffin; I analyze too much. I don’t want to think about life anymore; I just want to live life.”
- Donald Miller
Time could pass quicker if
I didn’t choose to return to the cup repeatedly
If every action weren’t so measured and uniform
If I didn’t feel repetition could will my desires.
But I’m no longer here to slay time in two
To rush what needs not be hurried
To blindly ingest what I should inhale a small portion at a time.
So I will breathe slowly
A mark made in my best-mustered confidence
Well over fifty times one hundred
Regardless of clocks, man-made or otherwise.
I choose yes
a thousand times, yes.
And I am nothing of a builder
But here I dreamt I was an architect
And I built this balustrade to keep you warm, to keep you safe
From the outside world
But the angles and the corners,
Even though my work is unparalleled,
They never seemed to meet; the structure fell about our feet
And we were free to go
- The Decemberists
On the other hand, there is a hopeful place
That smells like threads of good memories
Where clouds go home
That is, most importantly, consistently windswept.
I am hopeful knowing it is nearby.
sighs for sleep
curious ground for digging
relief from highs and lows.
relief from highs and lows.
i forgot to mention how tired i am
how i can’t quite put my thumb on it
how i sigh every time. my dirt is a rock again.
i would break my wrist trying. rock is
There are details like
A sleeve length
A curl, the acromion
A hesitation in breath and a damp corner of eye
The shared mythology
And for better or worse, they melt away decisions of years past
Dogma and fine-tuned belief
They unravel everything.
I’m thinking of tea and fireflies… of good alchemy.
Sitting here wishing on a cement floor
Just wishing that I had just something you wore
I put it on when I grow lonely
Will you take off your dress and send it to me?
I miss your kissin’ and I miss your head
And a letter in your writing doesn’t mean you’re not dead
Run outside in the desert heat
Make your dress all wet and send it to me
I miss your soup and I miss your bread
And a letter in your writing doesn’t mean you’re not dead
So spill your breakfast and drip your wine
Just wear that dress when you dine
Sitting here wishing on a cement floor
Just wishing that I had just something you wore
Bloody your hands on a cactus tree
Wipe it on your dress and send it to me
…of charged objects.
Call a spade a spade.
“So it’s better, my sweet
That we hover like bees
‘Cause there’s no sure footing
No love, I believe”
At the risk of dissection, again,
Of me pulling out my graphs, charts,
Rulers, runes and repetitions,
I daresay it took a year to gather names
For clawing at naive smoke signals to physically manifest
To find any defense I could actually convince myself, in lying awake at night, was valid.
It left me curiously blank of all expectation
In a way that I would have previously named heartless and stripped bare
But it took me a full year to arrive
Into this rough sketch of a dream that I call a life.
“I’ve got highways for stretchmarks; see where I’ve grown.”
Chemical cocktail in glass:
comfort me, fool me once again.
Keep trimming the fat until there’s nothing left to sting.
Always even-keel, as always.
In a burning paper house
From the infinite fields
Of dreamless sleep
You return to Tiannamen
An eyewitness in a shroud
To see them fall, feel them yield
Relieving the terror of the crowd
Hold the whirlwind, don’t let it blow
Just for a moment, I seemed to know
Hold the whirlwind, don’t let it blow
I seemed to know
- Siouxsie and the Banshees
“When I want to take God at his word exactly, I take a peep out the window at His Creation. Because that, darling, He makes fresh for us every day, without a lot of dubious middle managers.”
- Barbara Kingsolver
Oh irony of ironies.
The only piece completely destroyed in transit.
If it’s a sign, I’m unsure of whether I can embrace it again.
If you want to catch me completely unawares
Wait until I am driving over I-40
About a mile from my house
Staring at the mountains to my right
And the mountains to my left
For the approximate three seconds they are in view
Instead of straight ahead.
That would be the time to toss something into my path
To bring me to a halt
As I’m not concentrating on what is forward
But only on my skylines
While I can call them mine.
Let’s try something new.
It’s a blindfold. Put it on. Walk with your hands outstretched, and grab onto the first thing you find. Call it yours.
We’ll call it the new intuition.
The mantra is now
The mantra is now
The mantra is now
Seven years on
how many geographies later
I’m back to the proximity of railroad tracks
The low hum that doesn’t quite break a sleep.
What a different response to it I have now.
I think more of my distance to I-40
A major artery running through the country, pumping blood east to west and back
How many people are passing, every minute, within walking distance of my tree-concealed house
Some perhaps in a multi-day travel trance, weary from the fluctuating landscape that calls itself one country.
I think of an opportunity to give rest
To feed from a garden
To be the rooted thing that can pass on the gift of mobility, of wanderlust.
It is difficult to foresee what begets what -
What inconvenience becomes a stepping stone
What doomsday scenario will be identified as chapter one.
How many conclusions are just threads
How many dreams are just arrows.
How painful to exist in that arc of open pages
rather than snug in the safety of the neatly compressed past
or that solid block of future.
What kiss disguised as fate led me to this mountain
What bond and enticement of finality will lead me down.
Someone took a dance across the pond.
I made a similar tiptoe
off the mountain.
There is no more time for whispering, for hiding and hermiting. Time to fight for whatever inch winter will give.
The pond is frozen. Animal tracks over the surface. I was just swimming in there.
I am back to square one.
I wonder if my childhood-born excitement for storms was all naivete. Poor Florida girl. She doesn’t really know what water can do. A hurricane lasts hours. Ice can stitch you to one spot for months.
I don’t think all is lost. Lessons from seven months ago are to be picked up. Lessons lost as the answer the lessons were supposed to teach to got in the way.
Baking bread. Sewing socks. Breathing. Watching the window. Being present in square one.
That was seventeen years ago.
That sounds a lot longer than it feels.
And here I am, still alone in my [slightly larger] room, making art and listening to music.
“Please write your name
across my forehead
so I’ll remember”
- Exene Cervenka
Bending a tooth to my will.
Moving with the speed of honey.
But it’s working.
The transition of seasons here is so sharp. It’s only been three months, but late summer already feels to be a memory more distant than Georgia. Open windows, farmer’s markets, shindig on the green. Now replaced by tall wheat-like grasses over the mountain, my head wrapped in yarn, my feet covered.
The honeymoon is over, yes, but the remnants are more grounding and true than before. I hope for the fortune to remain here.
But if third time doesn’t prove to be the charm, then the sky’s the limit.
It goes like this
he said, palms flattened, fingertips drifting towards each other
and then like this
his hands touching, traveling skyward
and then back to this
his hands launching in opposite directions in a mirror-image.
It made so much sense as an art-producing method. You’ve got it together. Then you lose it again. Rinse. Repeat.
But I guess it works for every day life too. There’s always going to be something. If you aren’t worried about your soul, then you’re worried about your bank account. And if both are in order, you’ll find something new.
So relax, I guess. Go get a GPS, go dig up treasure.
Thank you, Mr. Ford.
If I had arrived, would I even know it?
It only lasted 45 minutes…
…but it’s how we got here.
First Apple Core
Age: thirty years, eleven months
“can’t scrape together
to ride the bus
to the outskirts of the fact
that i need love.”
Remember, this is what your dream looks like.
October seventh, two thousand and five.
So much anticipation, so much potential. All misdirected, all scattered again.
a brush of energy from the future
perhaps a premonition.
History repeats. I have faith that history repeats.
Rock me to sleep
Quiet as a canyon
Up under heaven’s eaves
Downstairs the furnace swells
Safe from all the horrors in your stinging velvet arms
- Neko Case
Maryland Golden Aster
New York Ironweed
Queen Anne’s Lace
What else should an American do in their spare time, so as not to appear odd?
Pass out in front of a television?
You believe me.
Leaf of leaves. Seal the situation. Grant me patience, grant me temperance.
From moment to moment, breath to breath, there is no panic. It comes only in
idle moments, fictional thoughts. Times with no work for the hands.
This morning, I awoke to a coyote.
“September’s coming soon
I’m pining for the moon.”
The power of smell is subtle, is sneaky.
My oil incense burner broke soon after I moved to Milledgeville. I couldn’t recall having used it much at all back in January. However, now that I have fixed it, and returned to the bottle of cedar that I barely got to use, I find that my memory has failed me. I actually did get in some time using it eight months ago, as the smell of cedar is now taking me to a sense of relief. A sense of having escaped intact. A sense of progress. It seems fitting that I get to partake of this scent again now, this feeling now. But what I am most intrigued by is that the smell held information that I had already forgotten. Instinct won over logic.
“Beyond the ridge to the left, you asked me what I want
Between the trees and cicadas singing round the pond
‘I’ve spent an hour with you, should I want anything else?’”
- Calexico / Iron and Wine
Ready. Set. Go.
Change of address forms. Butterflies. Foreign numbers.
“Who knows what the future holds
Or where the cards may fall
But if you don’t come out west and see
You’ll never know at all”
- Lucinda Williams
Reminders, reminders. How many times have I been through this? Did I think I was done?
I’ll count moons. I’ll inhale deeply. I’ll keep your secrets.
Just breathe some honesty into this corpse.
Weave this yarn, plant some seeds.
an apple in the garbage
a wet memory
a broken painting
shards of shed fabric
a severed tabletop that once held a meal?
Who wants to be a two-dimensional concept that gets deleted?
The moon is getting ripe.
The amaranth is full of moths.
The tomatoes might be past hope.
The cats are bickering.
And the tree frogs are singing me to sleep.
The power goes out in my neighborhood for an evening, and my life slows to a crawl. For what percentage of human existence has electricity been present? Previous to 200 years ago, discoveries were made, lives lead, life enjoyed.
I don’t want to live in the dark, but I don’t want to be rendered helpless at a moment’s notice either.
Basically, I think there is something more basic to rely on.
I mean, tomorrow could be it. Really.
“How many times do we pay for one mistake? The answer is thousands of times. The human is the only animal on earth that pays a thousand times for the same mistake.”
- Don Miguel Ruiz, The Four Agreements
“This is my mistake; let me make it good.”
-R.E.M., World Leader Pretend
Ok, tomorrow. Bring it.
“We act as though comfort and luxury were the chief requirements of life, when all that we need to make us happy is something to be enthusiastic about.”
- Charles Kingsley
It’s like in FreeCell, when you can see only just a little bit of a plan ahead of you to work with, and so you take a risk and fill up all
the free cells hoping that, after the shuffle, a new path will appear for the next move. So that you won’t be stuck.
It’s like that.
Summer is loud.
I’m watching a hummingbird drink from a tree that was once a weed.
I have to get away from my computer. It contains a thin wash of every experience in the world. But none of them are as rich as crickets, as a cat making biscuits in my lap, as Virginia Creeper weaving at my feet. All of its sounds are borrowed. It has no smells. The bottom line is, it has no geography.
Nowadays, geography has to be practiced like piano lessons.
Pinyon-Juniper country. Light that doesn’t need editing.
“All these Christians waiting for Jesus to return. Look around you, man. He’s HERE.”
I don’t know if I can make a photograph express
the depths of land and sky
being born east of the Mississippi,
my eyes can’t read.
Can you see the road we just drove down? That path up there? She asks.
It is a brown and orange wall, though I know I just dropped several hundred feet.
No, I say.
I was raised on a flat green canvas, on both the x and y – a bound box of tree. I am illiterate here. So much to learn.
“I’ll marry my lover
In a place to admire, I don’t
have to even ask her
I can look in her eyes
And thank God
That I am forgiven”
- Band of Horses
I felt alienated by mountains for so long. So many years. Now, when I swim in anxiety, in thoughts of rejection, moving vans, cancer; mountains are all that calm me.
I had a dream once that I was flying. My own body, no wings. I could work up a run, then take off indefinitely. Except when I realized that it made no logical sense that I should be flying. Then I would sink. As soon as I would stop thinking so hard about it, I would again rise.
Need I say more.
All the bluegrass songs I’m listening to lately all seem to be tales of men having their hearts broken by women who wouldn’t settle down. It is curious to me. While I don’t celebrate anyone being treated as such, I have to admit the songs give me hope right now. A man mourning the loss of partnership. I’m so far removed from any experience with that sentiment right now. And dangerously tipping into the vast ocean of gender generalizations I have avoided my whole life. I sigh at myself. Is this the anxiety that numbers on a piece of paper cause?
I look forward to desert, to dirt roads, to reuniting with my cowgirl hat.
Looking across the river today, I realized I was witnessing depth, space, looking to the other side. It musn’t happen often for me, I’m thinking: walls of trees, buildings, computer screens, art all flatten my vision. I looked across the river only to be reminded of an 18th century landscape painting. A representation of a reality I was viewing.
I think of stories of a grandfather I never knew, staring at mountains for hours. I think I understand.
I had jumped the gun on firefly season. I’m not sure what I saw. But it arrived tonight – one visitor hovered directly in my face for a moment, and let out a single glow. I don’t need a hand to hold; I can hold my own.
It begins tomorrow.
Girl with the parking lot eyes:
Margaret is the fragments of a name
Her bravery’s mistaken
for the thrashing in the lake
of a make-believe monster
whose picture was faked
Margaret is the fragments of a name.
Her love pours like a fountain, her love steams like rage
Her jaw aches from wanting, and she’s sick from chlorine
But she’ll never be as clean
As a cool sight of satin: Pauline.
The moonlight shone a line across the hardwood floor of my bedroom,
like an instinctual landing strip. I saw.
The untouched tent bore evidence of my presence: two purple rubber bands. I’ll return.
The temperature dropped right in my moments of doubt. I can’t imagine any other conclusion. What did that moment boil down to? I’m calling upon six-year-old courage…. all the cotton of south Georgia, all the birds of Australia behind me. Make third time the charm.
Ha! Press it!
I have a studio
and all I want
is to cook for people who are not here.
“You should go,”
“Your face lights up when you talk about it.”
if everything before today has been theory
if too much of my identity is based on yesterday
if I have the nerve for tomorrow.
It feels like Australia all over again.
My sandaled-foot brushed up against bare grass today on my way into a building. I sensed a stifled scream for the connection, a sharp longing, a relief. Shoes would only interrupt her conversation. I need a dialogue: foot and grass and landscape. This is where you belong. Something is changing.
I’m looking through old photos from Nova Scotia. Walkabout in the blood.
I admire the curves
The golden landscape
I want to be there
Right with you
That’s where I’m staying
Where no one can find me
In the depths of the valley
The humidity kicked in today. Just like that.
I started making a list:
…the red fields…
so much to learn.
but I do believe beauty berry is soon.
I have a berry tree full of waxwings, four peaches-to-be crossing the fence into my yard, and a storm on the way.
That’s good enough for today.
The air is expanding. It is permeating the house. With it comes small moths. I wonder how they get in, and feel comfort that my living space is not so removed from outside.
Outside, so important right now.
Genetically, we aren’t supposed to be concerned with happiness. We’re supposed to find food, shelter, to reproduce and stay alive. Happiness is day to day satisfaction at working towards those things.
Be quiet, be still, I’m hearing. I’m an exhausted, broken record.
I’m going to give it a try.
Faith in blackberries, in may day, in choice.
“If I am lost, it is only for a little while.”
-Band of Horses
Patience is my prayer.
I am exhausted. When will I begin to dig the dirt? When does transition end?
What is that quality of sunlight peeking out from afternoon storm clouds?
It is so desperately golden, it looks like it’s screaming.
My mind drifts back into poison repeatedly, like picking at a wound.
Choose otherwise, I think.
Yet to be able to walk away from three years without a thought seems
“I’ve got highways for stretchmarks
See where I’ve grown”
The waxwings were all around me, long before our supposed meeting that day in August. I just didn’t know where to look, or how to listen. It was only last year that I connected that high-pitched, whistling-teeter din to a crested caravan in the top-most branches, silhouettes, out of sight. Now I hear every passing, however short; criss-crossing paths fill the days.
The smell of wisteria is fading. But the replacement smell is equally spring. I remember. Someone pointed it out to me seven years ago. Maybe every season leads one new smell into the next, I just haven’t been paying close enough attention to what comes after this. Someone pointed it out to me then, but I have to find it for myself now.
Tiny, tiny petals float down from the tree that I believed to be dead.
I look up. It is swamped in a halo of bees.
The sky is lavender, in a light-polluted, city manner. The storm is coming at 2am. I look forward to waking to it.
These are good things.
The smell of burnt paper remains in the room. Like my deed achieved some result. A voodoo map.
I feel my gums throbbing, a hollow ache in my teeth where something healthy should be. I’m putting that away – burning away where I’ve been and writing about the future. I want to bottle this inspiration.
These roots in my head are in danger. I envision the cold clank of a blood-stained plate. Thirteen years of a simmering danger extracted from my body. Add to that four more years, a total of empty, soon to end. Blood revealed.
I’m breathing daily, I’m writing the future.
The swifts returned today.
Happy birthday. I didn’t forget.
Firefly season begins, and no hand to hold.
It took twenty months to even be mentioned to his family. A designation I would never receive. He never held my hand anyway.
I will never let myself be so mistreated ever again.
“how will you know
if you found me at last?
cause i’ll be the one
be the one
be the one
with my heart in my lap.”
i am temporarily passportless. ten years and nine countries later, my proof is in a stamped, padded envelope, possibly to never return. it’s unnerving. i want to think i can jump that plane when necessary, at a moment’s notice.
after all these years, i’ve still wanted to. i wish you could give me a reason to.
god is not an excuse. god is light, god is honesty. god is not an excuse to hide behind.
I grew an avocado plant from a seed over the course of two and a half years. It grew to be taller than me; the second most-significant thing I put effort into in my life. It died from root rot right before I left Swainsboro. At first I was devastated. Now I know it was appropriate. I now live in Milledgeville and have three thriving seedlings in my sunny kitchen window. My walls are yellow and I inhale deeply every morning.
Bridget needs a forever home.
Though I know my time alone hasn’t been in vain. I couldn’t have been ready to receive you before this point in time, before who I am now, before exactly what happened to me made me.
I’m waiting for you. Inhaling deeply, every morning.
Yay spider lily.
“Don’t aim for the target, practice your form.”
It’s a new moon on Monday.
I’m content with my form. And I only think it’s getting better, more defined. If the next decade is anything like the last, I’ll be overwhelmed with adventure.
Yes, I think I’m okay with today.
This just seems like such a pleasing metaphor to me right now. It is positive, even though all information in the image itself seems to warrant fear, or at least anxiety. Why do I keep finding black widow egg sacs? It seems safer to put them in a jar than let them hatch in my garden. Yet so many people’s reactions are near hysterics when they see it. Maybe that’s what draws me to the image – the contradiction between the anxiety others feel and beauty I see in it. Bottled fears, bottled potential. Controlled poison. It tells me things I already know about myself, and inspires who I want to be.
There are things I know and there are things I don’t know. Bear
with me, I’m still trying to round out my edges; and still there are
times I’m trying to be patient enough to wait until you catch up. Let’s
just love each other regardless.
- Hand-written note on the front page of “The Missing Piece Meets
the Big O” by Shel Silverstein
Today I went to church.
I haven’t said those words in many years. I’ve been in a church, in the building, for weddings, for example. But to go to church,
for the event… no.
I can say it today though.
I don’t remember whether I took the feeling for granted as a child, or in childhood there were more of these spaces in life, but to occupy a space in which your reason for standing there is to be good to one another was, I discovered, a lost concept.
There are so many reasons to get annoyed with people around you, people you know or don’t know, people in your proximity… maybe they’re driving too slow, or writing out the check at the last minute, or saying rude things in a loud voice.
But here was a space where, at last, you have no excuse to succumb to the annoyances. You are in a small church of liberal, like-minded people; if you can’t take everything in stride here, where else is there better to do so?
The minister asked how many people found the church during a time of turmoil or change in their lives. I felt like my visit had a giant spotlight placed overhead at that comment. I had to remind myself that, if anyone else in the room knew, they would not hold it against me.
It felt so unlike Mass to be listening, to shout out the hymn you want to sing, to want to take notes, to be thinking rather than repeating motions and words. It wasn’t Mass at all. The ritual will always be a familiar comfort, but here was a sense of dialogue.
The last song was called “Make It a Dance”: take the bad with the good. I repeat that sentiment to myself on most days, and have
unfortunately built up habits that often tarnish the impact. But this song was well-written, and a good refresher of a message. The line that carried me through the day:
If there’s nothing wrong, then nothing’s right.
Maybe I’m not doing so bad.
GRACE TO BE SAID AT THE SUPERMARKET
That God of ours, the Great Geomerer,
Does something for us here, where He hath put
(if you want to put it that way) things in shape,
Compressing the little lambs in orderly cubes,
Making the roast a decent cylinder,
Fairing the tin ellipsoid of a ham,
Getting the luncheon meat anonymous
In squares and oblongs with the edges bevelled
Or rounded (streamlined, maybe, for greater speed).
Praise Him, He hath conferred aesthetic distance
Upon our appetites, and on the bloody
Mess of our birthright, our unseemly need,
Imposed significant form. Through Him the brutes
Enter the pure Euclidean kingdom of number,
Free of their bulging and blood-swollen lives
They come to us holy, in cellophane
Transparencies, in the mystical body,
That we may look unflinchingly on death
As the greatest good, like a philosopher should.
Perhaps there are things that have been unsaid.
I recall seeing fireflies in Ohio at the age of 21, discovering what the children around me knew their whole lives, and the feeling of warmth and calm that ensued.
I recall October 15, 1994, the first cool day of the season to grace Orlando, my long hair, a day truly in the moment, on the precipice of responsibility and “the future”.
I recall seeing a professor from my undergrad studies in the same show as me, in Watkinsville in 2002, and the sudden simultaneous pride and fear that the lines are now truly imaginary.
I recall a perfect meal in an apartment in Brooklyn at 26, a long dinner table, music in a small room, a perfect amount of vodka, and the suspicion of possibly being content in that nook forever.
I recall raised drinks in the air of a restaurant in south Georgia in the fall of 2005, sunburned faces, a day in which years of potential was finally realized.
I recall standing in a field in the north of Ghana at 23, staring into the sunset, touching the dirt at my feet wth my hands, and realizing, “I could do this.”
I recall walking through O’Hare in 2003, a ticket in my hand, the music in my headphones slowing the crowds to a crawl as the television screens repeatedly crooned to me: Sydney B2. Sydney B2.
I recall at 19 walking up to the Pacific Ocean, after four straight nights of sleeping upright in a bus seat, with nothing but a backpack to claim me.
I recall so many small moments of beauty in so many nameless days.
Perhaps there are things that have been unsaid.
“Now we are no longer primitive. Now the whole world seems not holy… We as a people have moved from pantheism to pan-atheism… It is difficult to undo our own damage and recall to our presence that which we have asked to leave. It is hard to desecrate a grove and change your mind. We doused the burning bush and cannot rekindle it. We are lighting matches in vain under every green tree… What have we been doing all these centuries but trying to call God back to the mountain, or, failing that, raise a peep out of anything that isn’t us? What is the difference between a cathedral and a physics lab? Are they not both
-Annie Dillard, from “Teaching a Stone to Talk”
In Cuba, less than 1% of homes have internet access. It is a threat.
This is an anonymous Cuban blogger whose first entry I read paralleled some thoughts I have been batting around lately about the concept of truth, and how relative it is.
Behind our economic systems, language barriers, geography, we’re all the same people.
Please, Campbell’s, don’t sue me.
What a find. Thanks, mom. And such a comfort to hear a good friend say, “Bridget! You’ve always been who you are!”
I don’t know what it says
about my society
when I fear
for simply stating:
“I pity the gunman
as much as the victims.”
I sometimes wonder if Jesus’ actions would be too shocking for contemporary times.
Tan tontos miedos.
Collaboration with Emy Mixon… if she ever finds out.
I found this photo many months ago on the BBC. The article was about how Pakistan had just trained its first group of female fighter pilots in its military. It makes me think of the small victories so many people are reaching in every day, even though this is no small one for Pakistani women. She looks pretty tough. I admire her. I think of how many times I have made that face, and how I don’t feel I should make it anymore. Or rather, that I should earn it – I know I don’t have what she has behind her eyes. Maybe not yet.
Churches, bars, graffitti, and other sundries.
I learned that Jairus is a biblical name. Budweiser is Budvar. And rockabilly exists in Budapest?
Happy New Year from Budapest.
Fog and rain and cold. Lots of mayonnaise. Good coffee. Americans as usual. Cheap beer.
I am torn between making art and seeing the city. Every time I do one, I feel guilty about not doing the other. So far I’m painting tiny silver birds over and over. Don’t know what it is going to become, but it is soothing to do.
Tomorrow I will give my presentation, and go to a church that contains its patron saint’s right hand. Awesome.
A few years ago, I wrote about nearly throwing away the most important photograph of my life. This is it.
When I was 16, I found this photo in my English textbook. At the end of the year, I cut it out of the book – a significant act of vandalism for my quiet self.
It struck me with a power that has only grown over the years. At the time, something unnamed resonated in me when I saw it. Now, I could write volumes about it.
I’ve put this photograph on the walls of every dormitory, apartment, and house I have lived in. I have traveled with it.
I remember that it came from a story in the textbook surrounding Jews and World War II. It was made by N.R. Farbman, who I only later found minimal information on as a short-lived photographer for Life Magazine. What caught my attention was the byline in the text – Refugees photographed by N.R. Farbman.
I remember even at the time it having an impact on me that these were refugees. They were young. They were well-dressed. And they were smiling. They had heavy bags slung on their backs, and looked like this was their last glance back before they marched off. And I thought they were marching off to adventure – look at the glow in her eyes! Yet – hearing refugee, and knowing every dismal circumstance that must have surrounded this young couple in light of history, how could they possibly have
this attitude? How could they have fooled me into thinking that everything was okay, even exhilarating?
This photograph has served as a reminder, a warning, an inspiration, a motivation for many many years now. I come back to it over and over. I have shown it on the first day in every Photo I class I have taught. This is ironic, because the message of the photo has always been get out there and see the world NOW, which has always been the circumstance pitted against my love of Art and teaching. Look at the striking large circle of her watch. Time is ticking. You need to get out there. Carry that large burden on your back with grace. Keep that charged look in your eyes, which betrays your spirit. No matter the circumstance, take
every journey with this spirit of adventure. And let this attitude filter down into your everyday life.
It has been a lot to live up to. I am still trying. I will continue to try.
I want to look back on this photograph many decades from now to see a self-portrait.
In Pinellas County, Florida, where I partly grew up, there is a walking trail that extends some 30 miles around the county. In the late nineties, someone had a heart attack on a section of the trail near my parents’ house, and the paramedics had a difficult time reaching this person because the foliage was so dense. After the incident, the county decided to cut back the trees in this area of the trail as a result of the incident. When they did so, what was revealed was a path of bricks once known as County Road 37. This road extended from Dunedin to the fishing village of Ozona in the late 1800s.
In a portion of America that emphasizes what is new, what is so clean that it is sterile, I walked this historical path that runs alongside cyclists and rollerblading women pushing big-wheel strollers. Tree stumps litter this ghosted “trailside oasis”. The bricks break free of the paled cement that tried to erase it. How does one lose a road? I had a student who marveled over how forty paintings could go missing in an article she read about a UK museum, and I understood the inner workings (or confusion, rather) of cataloguing, of management mishap, and even corruption to comprehend this loss. I suppose someone else out there understands the simple explanation of a missing road. It’s not something that happens overnight, I think, although that would have
to be true of today, as the pace is too frantic to watch a major connector slowly die.. No records? No personal accounts? Why wasn’t anyone looking for it? It’s one of the few highlights of sincerity in this part of the state.
Exploration of Two Emotions
I recognize the need and action in myself, the necessity to have a role in everything that goes on around me. I never thought of it as a power trip, though it may appear outwardly so, it may also appear as criticism though I never inwardly thought I was being critical before. I was participating. Even now as I observe it I don’t think it stems from insecurity, still. But I still can’t put a finger on what the motivation is. In this environment, it becomes a lashing at how I incorrectly used the ice machine. I look back to all the times I thought I was sharing with someone the best way to accomplish something. Was I making them feel this scrutinzed and wrong? Where is the line between help and incapacitation?
I feel the collective warmth of my friends, and know that I have something special. And yet, I recognize that while this remains, I lack a steady sense of what one might take for granted as a necessary component of this, something I once had: companionship. I know I have it from time to time with various people when most necessary, and for this I am thankful. But I am thinking of the companionship where two people weave their lives together like pieces of fabric. Every event is nearly not complete until it becomes known to the other – on the level of impassioned letters poured furiously onto notebook paper for validation. It is done without fear of expectations, labeling, responsibility, or the future. It is done without fear at all, done because it simply feels natural, and there is no second-guessing intentions. It is not engagement, marriage, or children. It is simply the family that only twosomeness can provide, a self-assured weave into your arms. This I miss.
I have seen this bumpersticker before – Join the Military, Travel to Exotic Places, Meet Interesting People – Kill Them – but today
I saw it on a car whose windows and bumper were filled with other stickers praising the US Marines. You see, I always thought that was a bumpersticker which criticized the military. But in this case, I think the young man was displaying it in a proud manner. I was fascinated. I sincerely wanted to ask him, but he was a full car-length ahead of me, and we never stopped together again. People are so angry here, angry and don’t even know it, they think the emotion is called something else, if they even detect it at all. They all compete to fly past me into the intersection as the light turns green, with no particular reward in mind. In the middle of these large roads, various scraps of metal and glass are piled high into the centers, out of the paths of the steady streams of cars, the residue of accidents that never gets touched, either out of ability or choice.
“The men like to put me down as the best woman painter. I think I am one of the best painters.”
I never knew I believed in god until you told me that you didn’t
“Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate. Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure. It is our light, not our
darkness, that most frightens us.”
-Nelson Mandela, quoting Marianne Williamson
Twenty years ago today, I stood in uniform jumper and kneesocks, face pressed to the classroom window, staring into the sky, and watched the Challenger break into two plumes of smoke. I knew it wasn’t supposed to look like that. We all murmured the questions of seven year-old minds, sat down, and waited for the announcement over the school intercom.
The space shuttles of my youth are gone. Columbia never made it home in 2003. Families stood near the runwayawaiting a massive machine and nothing ever came. Staring, wondering how something so enormous could yield nothing, could be reduced to dust, with parents, spouses, children inside. I fell to my knees when I read the headline. I did not cry for Challenger, but watched solemnly as the video looped over and over for hours on the television, burning into my memory. Over twenty years, my awareness of the suffering of strangers developed, as did a connection to losses of humankind as a whole. The tears of maturity are composed of a different salt than those of childhood.
Mine may be few and far between, but they are potent; they are sea salt.
I cry for that which I am embarrassed to have believed in so deeply, that which sounded good in poetry, but put into practice got me silence and sensitivity. I am sorry for my absurdity.
I cry for the medicines I now know control me. I am patience in a bottle.
I cry for the portion of myself lost to the floodwaters, which no one, however close to me from here on out, will ever know. Smothered under toxic mud, washed out to the Mississippi, a loss as startling as a city being crossed off a map.
I cry for both the familiarity and loss I feel when I chop vegetables, when I make dough.
For my voice, so flawed.
“Self preservation is a full-time occupation.”
Smell, amongst the five senses, is the strongest generator of memory. My earliest smell-memory is clove. It takes me back to a time before speech. It makes me want to cry. Cry for what, I don’t know… maybe a yearning for simplicity. It brings me to an event, one that I thought was a dream, but maybe it really did happen.
“If dreams were thunder and lightning was desire
This old house would have burned down a long time ago.”
Is there something to be said for youth manifesting in choices, for maturity manifesting in decisiveness?
And i knew it fourteen years ago:
“Threads worms on a string
Keeps spiders in her pocket
Collects fly wings in a jar
Scrubs horseflies and pinches them in a line…”
Dare to be more than your gender.
My patriotism is rooted in geography.
“O beautiful for spacious skies
For amber waves of grain
For purple mountains majesties
Across the fruited plain…”
I found lesser known verses. Namely:
“O beautiful for pilgrim feet
Whose stern, impassioned stress
A thoroughfare for freedom beat
Across the wilderness!”
The feet of those seeking their own path carved out those that became my interstates. I defend interstates, as a I spend hours pouring over them in maps. As a friend once pointed out, the deer paths became hunting trails which became trade routes which became paved roads. Yesterday’s worn dirt became today’s arteries of the country. Americans are blessed with the distance and financial ability to experience speed in a vehicle, an experience few other countries receive so casually.
May God thy gold refine
Till all success be nobleness
And every gain divine!”
My perception of party lines blurs when I realize a conservative and I can both see comfort in these words, and be thinking of two different concepts. Our gold needs redefinition. Divinity needs renaming, reassignment to resurrect its place in society.
A lost painting of mine, seven years old, brought me here. From sea to sea to sea.
A whole year has passed. I didn’t leave the country.
I divide time into months and years, into segments which are man-made, and maybe this is the wrong way to go about it all. All wrong, all wrong. My lists and obsessing over striking through the text. My journey toward an absolute which leaves me unable to side with anything at all. Even truths aside, my fumbled dances with sincerity. All wrong, all wrong. Is this the time in life when we reevaluate our whole operating system? Bite our tongues for twenty some-odd years of false wisdom, for arrogance we didn’t even know we were functioning upon, and start anew? Or do we swallow it up for fear of looking wrong, squeeze shut the eyes, plug the ears, and march defiantly to the tune of our own comfort? Maybe that’s the biggest problem of all. As soon as we discovered that others would believe our flawed summaries of life and how to live it, we comfortably settled into them, rather than adamantly continued to seek sincerity.
I lost South America to half a breath of hesitancy. Is any cause ever so worthy to jump upon it without resort to logic? Or is it an entrapment of personality, of habit that keeps all causes out of reach?
“I wish I had more to tell of my grandmothers. It is terrible how much has been forgotten, which is why, I suppose, remembering seems a holy thing.”
-The Red Tent, Anita Diamant
And here I am again.
All pressure comes from the saying “life is short”. It is a deceptive phrase, a misleading American truth. Australia seemed long
living it. Then in America, I blink twice and half that time spent abroad is over and there is little to show for it. But life is not short, it is long, and filled with the opportunity for many careers, many circles of friends, a multitude of realities, and more than an endless, droning stream of money-making and consumption.
What is two years? Taken out a pre-supposed context of what one should be doing with the latter half of their second decade, it hardly seems to be a phase of time that could wreck a life.
Is a career, however noble and fitting, a reason to distract one from interacting with the world?
On the street in Melbourne I saw a woman with no teeth and huge spectacles singing for money. A man was playing the hammered dulcimer. The sun blinded me. I saw it through an elderly lady’s puff of hair that glowed like a halo as she walked towards me. I think it is the eve of the Chinese New Year. I’m considering going to the Northern Territory. I complain of being travel weary and that’s still the best plan I can come up with. Is there a train I can sit on for two and a half weeks? Watch the outback roll like a film on a loop?
Will travel and art wrestle out a kindly compromise with me? Or will they tug and toss me about like a child with divorced parents?
Australia was the place where I was always hungry. Grocery stores were a wonderland to wander through and fantasize about – food out of reach either because of budget, no room in the backpack, or that it needed refrigeration. At the vineyard in South Australia, a brief sedentary interlude, I watched in amazement as the Koreans and Japanese I lived with would cook for hours and hours after having worked the fields since 6am. I barely had the strength to make a grilled cheese sandwich at the end of the day. Their rice was so good as to be eaten plain. Later on the road were days spent battling melting ice in vain attempts to preserve cheese so that one may escape peanut butter for a spell. I wished for something hot. I dreamed of biscuits, one simple clump of bread unseemingly special, but unknown to Australians, Germans, English, Japanese, Irish, or anyone else I described it lovingly to. But my reality was the peanut butter I carried with me for two and a half months. It hitched on my back across the country, in the backpack that dug into my newly-discovered pelvic bones. My hips ached from the weight and my thighs cramped from too many bus rides through the night spent sleeping on my side, legs perpendicular to my torso. Like my journey back to Sydney at the end of it all. Somewhere in the night between Narrandera and Canberra I opened my eyes to the perfect view of the sky out the window in which the Southern Cross lay huge and low right across the horizon. I knew it would be the last time I would see it. I traded it for the Big Dipper, sprouting up into a cold winter sky out the window of a plane heading south from Chicago, as foreign as Greek, as foreign as the rest of America appeared, with its strange-looking money of one color and size.
America is the place where I am constantly eating. Not just heating up but cooking in a kitchen, making any meal I can think of, being in possession of a refrigerator full of food that will keep for weeks or even longer. I pay more for brown eggs here, as Americans aren’t widely taught that they are naturally brown. Or that they don’t need refrigeration.The rest of the world knows this. I always maintain a constant level of ‘full’ here: when the slightest hint of hunger surfaces, I vanquish it with any myriad of snacks at my disposal. Pants that fit loosely in Tasmanian mountain climbs now encase tightly the thighs that have made a rebound as a result of the luxury of the automobile. My first week back in the States I walked stretches of roads that Floridians only traverse by car. Pedestrian crosswalks are a parade of the poor and unfortunate, and the signals never change from ‘don’t walk’. In Sydney I traveled on foot many kilometers from Paddington to Newtown once because I just didn’t feel like waiting for a bus, because I wanted to exist in the environment and not in the filmstrip out the window. But half a mile on foot through suburban America must indicate something has gone wrong, unless you have a dog or are wearing jogging shoes. Jogging was invented for all the food we didn’t need to take in – the heated leftovers we threw half of away anyway, the excess of bleached rice, the chocolate chip cookies whose dough was pre-cut into perfect identical disks because having a tube of pre-made cookie dough wasn’t convenient enough. I argued with my mom who threw the over-baked apple crisp down the garbage disposal. The issue isn’t that you can get two more packages of it at Wal-Mart for less effort than having to tolerate too-crunchy streussel. The issue is that I’ve carried it all on my back. I know its weight and I know its worth.
so i’m running for this door so furiously. run run run for so long. so hard that i trip on my way out as the door shuts behind me. and i realize that it’s my keys to the door that i tripped over. and i’m locked out now. i deserve a good smack. i hope at least it’s nice weather outside.
you can’t tell me it’s not all charted out.
it’s too hilarious not to be.
i think you might be in love with life when you can manage to laugh at the universe’s pranks. specifically those of which you are the victim. when, despite that, the events still make you warm and satisfied like a belly full of oatmeal. when you can see your life filling out chapters of a book and not take it personally. i hope i make a great book. with lots of dog-eared pages.
it only gets better.
three people called me brave in the past two days. i found that funny too. or maybe i shouldn’t laugh.
someone asked me why i would choose to put myself in a situation that made me uncomfortable or nervous. it never occurred to me that i shouldn’t make myself do it. is it a luxury i can afford due to a charmed life? is it a nagging imp in the chest that will never rest being stationary? it’s probably a little bit environment and a little innate both, like most everything.
promise to write
Yesterday I finally saw the Cedar Waxwing. In an aviary, not outdoors though, I still think that will be just as notable of an event. They were smaller than I imagined. But their behavior, I was pleased to see, so docile. In a display of birds of the northeast United States, they were the only ones I saw as a pair. They perched up high, not moving in the ten minutes I stood studying them, close to each other, quietly observing the other species fluttering around them. Softer than sleek. I beamed in pride reserved for family. The meeting affirmed my instant affinity towards them. And satisfied small droplets of romanticism within me that won’t dry up. Birds in pairs. Lovebirds.
I keep waiting to panic but I don’t. I wait to start hopelessly pining for Athens, for my life that I left, and upon realizing that it doesn’t exist anymore, that a stranger lives in my house, that I am no longer a student as I have been for the past twenty years of my life, land in panic, but I don’t. I miss Athens, but life temporarily in Ohio seems like life. And the temporary life again in Athens will hopefully seem like life, and Australia, and whatever comes after, will hopefully also just be life, and the panic won’t come.
I’m considering taking a boat to Australia. Do albatross still exist?
Australia has a pink robin! Could it really exist? It seems mythical.
Today I nearly threw away the most meaningful photograph in my life. It would have been a careless mistake, I was throwing out heaps of papers. It fell out of the pile and I gasped. Then I cried for a minute out of shock at what I could have done. I cut the photo out of a textbook when I was 15 and have never seen it reproduced anywhere since. Its meaning is very important to what I am doing right now, and I am a laid-back enough person to now, after the jolt, laugh at how ironic it would have been that ten years later, I throw it out when I am finally attempting to accomplish doing what the photo has represented to me.
At the same time, as I was taking my stereo unit apart yesterday, I found a book propping up the back of the unit that, obviously, I have not seen in two years since I set the thing up. It really didn’t seem like two years. It was a book of modern russian architecture, written in Russian, that I bought in Russia. My first thought was to put it in my pile of books to be saved, but I reconsidered: if I have lived without it for two years, do I really need to keep it?
The past few days I’ve been exploring more ideas of having possessions… as I clean out my house in which just I alone have lived, how much garbage have I generated. I don’t think of myself as someone who has a ton of useless things, I know there are people out there who have a lot more than me. Yet the time and weight and effort is enormous. I feel an onus lifted (does everyone feel the problem with that? or do they just ignore the burden their possessions create?) but also I think about the relationship between memory and object. When I throw away that one token that reminds me of that one event, what happens to the memory? Is it homeless without physical form? Does it have less validity, do I need to reincarnate it into some other physical form? As an artist who makes collections of things, this experience of shedding belongings has been curious. Must get rid of so many things of youth… yet the collection of used teabags must stay.
“Let’s go down to the East River
and throw something in
something we can’t live without, and then
let’s start again”
On Friday, a friend gave me a gift that reminded me of who I am. Thank you.
I’m always amazed at how easy it is to forget seasons. Half of my life is spent in autumn and winter. But in the middle of July it is such a difficult thing to recall – the weightlessness, the energy in the air. The anticipation of autumn is not the same emotion as it is in spring. Autumn has always been so many beginnings and endings at the same time. It has always been a charge. How much of that fabulous cool atmosphere have I breathed over how many years and how can I still manage to forget it for half my life? It really is amazing how adaptable people are if they give themselves the opportunity. What if I had a year of summer? Would I even miss the cold? Would my body go on adapting, or would it feel a loss? I will find that out.
If there’s one thing I have faith in, it’s seasons. That everything will circle and return. However if one grows up on just one side of the globe, one attaches seasons to times of the year. December is equated with winter. As much as I’d like to go on believing that that is universal, for comfort and stability, it is not true. How much do I think of as ‘human’ experience, things I don’t realize are just regional? Like thinking the ground is solid, and then in May, an earthquake. An earthquake in Georgia! What kind of omen is this? My entire house shakes from side to side, and faith in the one thing I have stood on my whole life is lost. All day long, I stare at everything outside and think of it shifting in space. But relative to nothing, what is space? After that experience, everything is relative. Anything is possible.
Third gift: another moth.
Heat upon heat upon heat. Laying like dust all over everything. But dust would be more refreshing. Easier to breathe.
I don’t go out without seeing people I know nowadays. Or people I am supposed to meet, it seems. Timing is heightened. Or at least my awareness of it. Every event fits into the web, as I always knew it did… I just see how clearer lately.
Another gift – simply left for me in the backseat of my car, unscathed: a beautiful brown and orange moth. Huge. Stopped me in my tracks. I think it might be a reminder to keep up with my new work, even though a million other things are occupying my time. These things happen in threes, you know. Whatever could be next!
Two hours ago, was exhausted. Now, still sleepless.
“Put me in your calendar, give me a number
Magnify me, let me have one day of your week
Don’t tie me to the time that I couldn’t love you,
As time came like water and swallowed me whole
Time came like water and swallowed me whole”
-Bitch and Animal
I’ve stopped keeping track of how many weeks it’s been since you left.
Momentum has been down a little lately. The days are filled with plenty of activity and plans and positive thought, but travel momentum is low. The urge to go. I’m not worried, it’s just temporarily dormant. Meditating on the amount of possessions you have, calculating plans on how to rid yourself of them, lists of what stays, what goes, what sells, what is lent… it’s consuming to a mind. But I think that is where most people get tripped up and don’t recover. A decision made in a spell of emotion and clarity and beauty would like to be carried out on a whim, quickly while hot, running in bare feet… but in maturity, takes patience to enflesh. I’m going to stick to my story and see what plays out. Confidence in cycles. Faith in intuition.
“The goal, she said, is keep your head, and fit your life in the trunk of a yellow cab.”
Today I modeled for a drawing class for the first time. I enjoyed it. I had flashbacks to Russia. To the journal I kept there, my first journey abroad, over four years ago. I remembered what I wrote on the uncomfortable train, as everyone whined around me… the feeling of being pleased at sweating, at being cramped… the first time seeing that as experience rather than inconvenience.
May 3, 1999
…so after dinner we went to the train station and here I am. Everyone is a little whiny – too hot, too smelly, etc., but I think it is great. I want to stand out in the hall and watch everything outside but my feet really hurt after today. I can see a little bit out my window if I lay on my belly. I don’t see how anyone can resist looking out the window. It’s kinda killing me just being in the car writing this, not out in the hall. Everyone is trying to sleep but me.
I thought of it today as I ached from sitting in one position for twenty minutes. It doesn’t seem like much to say it, but I shook and ached and burned over it. And that felt good, in a way I find hard to explain. I hope I can apply that experience to bigger life situations. It’s what I’m counting on.
Today I found a dead bird on the sidewalk. Strangely enough, I have seen other dead birds in the same six feet of sidewalk in the past, and always thought about taking them. But every time I go back, they are already gone. Today I decided not to let that opportunity slip by. I swiftly gathered him into a newspaper, and moved along, trying not to miss a beat. I found it curious how paranoid I was over my act, I guess it is a gruesome thing to most people: why would I want a dead bird. How do I explain that I considered it a gift that I have neglected a few times over, a gift that I had to accept now, that I had to incorporate its little body into a piece of artwork to honor it? People who understand why I would see it as such would understand without explanation, and those who don’t understand, never would despite hours of persuasion on my behalf. You understand or you don’t. The bird is a white-eyed vireo, yellow and gray and white, a species that I have never spied at my bird feeder, as a double-blessing. Do I photograph him? He will fade fast. Must decide soon. Thank the universe and think fast.
Even after depriving myself of sleep, in hopes that I will go to bed at night and wake in early morning hours, I still lie awake in bed, exhausted, 1am, 2am. the moon isn’t full. what is the noun form of ‘nocturnal’? is it something that exists in some people’s blood?
Whenever I think of desperation I think of heat. Days heavy and slow with thick air. Of cycles that repeat not out of choice or celebration, but from entrapment. Atmosphere so dense that it retards any energy that would propel me into planning for sweeter things. Today might be the first day of the season that I need to turn on my air conditioner, it’s close to 90 in my house, but I am holding out. When summer comes, I always leave. I always have. Little slices of summer, broken up by work and travel, all cushioned between school and school. Sandwiched by security. I’ll either win in unspeakably beautiful success, or fail in sweltering horror. I don’t see a lot of room for middle ground right now.
I live a perfect distance from the train tracks. Far enough to where it doesn’t wake me in the night. Close enough so that when I lie in bed awaiting sleep, I hear it and comfort washes over me, that moment is perfect and beautiful and I don’t need the past or future. The low hum of cars going over tracks, which is actually a metallic howl when close by, reminds me of being underwater in the ocean. Looking up through salt as a beast of a wave pounds over me with a muted thud. Hearing the whistle feels like a homecoming, and how ironic is that? A train passing through town after town in the night, through hollow and lonely areas, maybe with a vagrant or two on board (or is that too romantic of a notion for this day?). On a steady course through the night while
all around is stationary asleep. This is the sound that centers me?
“And I’ve been making promises I know I’ll never keep
One of these days I’m gonna leave you in your sleep
I’ll have to go where the whistle blows, the whistle knows my name
Baby, I was born on a train”
There is a time before every journey I take where I start to doubt. I get scared and start to think this is the last time I will leave comfort, why do I do this over and over – why can’t I be content watching TV and getting a desk job and a husband, wouldn’t that just make everything easier? Then I get out there and I remember why I do it. There are no more doubts when I get out there.
“So why did I sign on for this? Oh come on! You got to go. What else are you going to do, go home? This is where you see what you’re made of.”
When I am in Australia, where will I think of as “home”? Athens? What makes home? Family? Florida? Florida is the least comforting place I can think of. Is home the last physical location in which I lived? Is it where I feel a sense of history? If everyone I knew left New Orleans would it still be home? Is this thought enough to keep me traveling?
My life is three garbage bags lighter.
Once I tried to count how many beds I had slept in in the past year. Beds from travels. Small rooms and hot rooms and rooms with no pictures on walls.
“Think of every town you’ve lived in
Every room you lay your head
And what is it that you remember?”
The feeling of having everything I need in that room.
“And I do not want what I haven’t got.”
“Why can’t you write burning letters and let your nocturnal self smolder with desire for one who is not there? Why not let the days before you see her be excruciating and ferment in your mind so on the day you go to the airport to pick her up, you’re nearly sick with anticipation? And then when that desire shows the first sign of contentment, throw it back in its cage and let it slowly build itself back into a state of starved fury. Then when you are together, it all matters. So that when you look into her eyes, you lose your balance, so that when she touches you, it feels like you have never been touched before. When she says your name, you think it was she who named you. When she has gone, you bury your face in the pillow to smell her hair and you lie awake at night remembering your face in her neck, her breathing and the amazing smell of her skin. Your eyes go wet because you want her
so bad and miss her so much. Now that is worth the miles and the time.”