Saturday, June 30, 2007

Aah, you see the thing with the early onset alzheimers is that it kicks in at very convenient moments. To protect those that can not defend themselves (how could you when I have all the photographic evidence) I post only my own shameless display. Now, I was neither the only silly person, nor the silliest silly person in this particular misadventure at sleep-away camp for writers. I seem to recall a certain non-participant in this bit of dress up saying he was amazed not that so many of us tried on the fur coat, glasses and lipstick, but that it kept amusing us, over and over. It was entirely stupid and completely endearing.

I haven't been this silly in a long time. How about you?

Maybe permission to be silly is one of the reasons people have kids. Silly, like my nephew who insisted I take a picture of the tiny tiny hairs on his arm then ran off laughing as if the click of the camera had tickled him.

Thursday, June 28, 2007

It took almost a year, but I finally got some pictures from my cousin's wedding that I've wanted. Here are most of the women on the maternal side of my family.

I'm especially fond of the Mafiosa thing going on with my grandma. To get to this wedding we had to be bussed up to the top of this hill on an extremely narrow and twisty road. I liked imagining that some drunk jerk would start causing trouble and my grandmother would simply gesture toward the cliff with her cane. Later that night, there would be reports of an "unfortunate accident."

But no. Everyone behaved. No one got hurt. Sean and I left before they served the goddamn cake. Now that's unfortunate.

Wednesday, June 27, 2007

So. . .how did I live so many years of my life in Massachusetts without hearing the term MASSHOLE? I imagine that the people who cemented rocks into the wall around their house in Cambridge were Massholes. I imagine all the people who honked their horn at me while I manuevered carefully through a traffic circle or intersection were Massholes. I think it must take a lot of meditation, scream therapy and/or booze to keep from becoming a huge jerk from having to drive around the greater Boston area. In a store in Harvard Square, I asked a woman to excuse me as I squeezed by her in a narrow aisle and she practically growled at me. That's right. Masshole.

Having experienced a week of refreshingly friendly strangers in western Mass. I thought maybe I'd been unfair to my old haunts. I tried smiling as I walked down Mass Ave. Not crazy smiling, just happy smiling. It was a beautiful day and I was enjoying myself. Not a single person smiled back. I could give them all a break for being in a big city instead of a small town. I'm sure that's part of it. But then there are the reports from friends who insist that New York is far more friendly than Boston.

Despite the general jerkiness, I still know and love many lovely people who make Boston their home. Maybe they are stronger than me. More flexible. More loyal. Somehow they know how to thrive in a less than welcoming environment. Or maybe it was just me who was unwelcome. Unwelcome from the start and bitter ever since.

Tuesday, June 26, 2007

It feels great to be home. Great to fly through the magnificent pink sky past half a dozen white capped mountains, the Columbia Gorge and a vast spread of green. Great to fall back into the familiar grid of my life. Breakfast, gym, writing, coffee, massage. Oh massage . . .that.

I have just one client today, but that means clipping my writer nails. That makes me sad. I like the extra click they make on the keyboard. I like the ridge they make for my thumb, rubbing back and forth looking for the right word. Oh well. The words are there regardless. They're there somewhere, waiting.

Friday, June 22, 2007

Going back to Bennignton after two years was largely painless. Of course, it helped to be there with my more socially adept friends to urge me over to our former teachers and mumble through a few bits of conversation. It was like no time had passed at all and also that a whole world of difference has emerged between then and now. It was good to feel like a writer in the world instead of a student of writing. It felt good to know that Alice Mattison could "build a house out of all the drafts" she has for her new book and that Askold Melnyczuk's wife has read his new book dozens of times. I knew this about writing a novel, but it's still nice to hear from the experts that they struggle with this not just once, but every time.

Tuesday, June 19, 2007

A few last scenes from my life as a writer. Over the last few days, I haven't thought about being a massage therapist at all except for when a woman at the poetry reading asked what I did. I had to hesitate a moment to find the answer she wanted. Because she knew I was staying at Wellspring, she already knew I was a writer. She wanted to know what else I did. And despite the frustrations and bits of loneliness, I have to say that I don't want to do anything else. It's not that I don't miss my life in Portland, but I will miss the purity of this life and will have to work to bring more of what I've found here back home.

Monday, June 18, 2007

Can a person gain 4 pounds in one day? Yes, they can and they have. My diet of Ben & Jerry's and Makers on the rocks is proving me a pig. Out of guilt and the need to not be sitting in my lovely little writing room on this gorgeous day, I went for a jog. Why do you go for a jog but on a run? It was really more like I took a walk with a few moments of shin splint testing thrown in. It's very pretty here, even though I'm pretty sure I could work myself up into a state of full blown horror movie terror, what with all the old, sunless farmhouses, empty sidewalks, American flags, and places with names like "Bear Swamp."

Sunday, June 17, 2007

I had pictures of fluffy cows on the edge of a forest, but Blogger won't let me post any pictures tonight. Instead, you'll have to go check out Curbstone Press and some of the cool titles they are publishing. Sandy Taylor, one of the people who started the press, was here reading yesterday. He was wonderful. And kind.

I bought a book by Aracelis Girmay from Curbstone and have been enjoying it as I sit on the patio, absorbing the thick weather. The heat is its own special thing here. It feels like a fever you have to burn off in your bathing suit.

Saturday, June 16, 2007

I was watching a Malcolm Gadwell lecture on Genius from the New Yorker 2012 Conference. That makes me a geek, yes, but it provided me with a theory I surely have heard of and conveniently forgotten. Theory is that if you spend ten thousand hours in thoughtful practice on something you will be a master of it. I don't dare do the calculation. All I know is that I've put in some good long hours over the last few days.

There was a mostly good poetry reading here today that I will have to write about tomorrow. My six or so hours of thoughtful practice today have got me wiped out.

Friday, June 15, 2007

Okay. First full day here at Wellspring House and I've been writing (and erasing) for about eight hours so far. My head is a little tired and I wish I could kick back with Sean and watch some TV for a while, but I'm going to push on. I expect diminishing returns from here on out as I get more tired and lonely.

A gaggle of poets have arrived this evening for a picnic/reading that will be given tomorrow. I feel excessively shy and unwilling about socializing with them. I have already been asked twice what I'm working on and though I'm okay with saying I'm working on revising a novel, I fear the questions that might follow. I don't like to be rude, but I will be if it means not having to talk to anybody.

Thursday, June 14, 2007

I'm a sucker for an old New England cemetery. Why do I love these places so much? Stumbled across this one down the road from my retreat headquarters. It's a different kind of old from Oregon. Graves from the early 1800s. I know that ain't nothing compared to the old of whole host of other places, but still. . .

I find nothing morbid about cemeteries. In fact, I rarely think about death at all while I'm in them. It's an aesthetic thing plus a fondness for melancholia that never quite wore off from my high school days.

Wednesday, June 13, 2007

I am here. I am gone. Tomorrow I leave for my writing retreat and try to untangle my mind from the usual dull but dizzying experience of sitting in my parents house all day. I have to take the loathing I feel here (not for my family but for this place) and shift the burden to my character's shoulders. I have to pull myself out of the immediate sloth and blind determination to just get through that I feel as soon as I cross into Andover's borders. Tomorrow, I am free and become not a daughter or a granddaughter or an aunt (three generations in this house today, one bathroom). I become a writer again.

Monday, June 11, 2007

I made Sean transplant these from the middle of the yard where some birdie must have dropped the seeds. I am hoping they are sunflowers and not some giant mystery weed.

I leave early in the morning tomorrow for my two weeks away. I don't know about two weeks. It's a lot of time. The sunflowers and tomatoes will be huge in two weeks. The summer solstice will have come and gone. Shorter days will have arrived as they always do around here, before the real kick of summer settles in. Two weeks without my cat and my common law are bearable only because my expectations for the writing I will do are dangerously high. Better disappointed than lazy. Better struggling than stuck.

Sunday, June 10, 2007

Google Earth is bad for my nostalgic tendencies. Somebody told me about this site ages ago and I'm just now falling prey to it. Look, you can see the foursquare markings on my elementary school playground! How crazy is that! The ability to track your history, your paths across the globe, your daily routes is a very strange thing. I spy on my childhood homes locked by satellite photo in a permanent state of winter. I can see the creek I used to play in as a toddler, the house on Blood Road (yes, named after Captain Blood) that we lived in for only a month. With the touch of my mouse I can follow my path to school and stop by my friend's house.

I don't know what to do with this kind of nostalgia. What does any of it matter? Still, I'm grateful for it. It helps me tap into those joyful and horrific moments that have been all but lost. There's the tree in Catherine's yard that I was scared to climb. There's the bird sanctuary that loomed like an evil garden across the street. There's the club pool I swam in every day of the summer, comforted by the silence of water.

Saturday, June 09, 2007

As predicted, it is literally raining on our parade today. Oh well. The cool gray weather is making me that much more covetous of these new lightbox paintings from jef designs. Isn't this cool? It's art that glows. I'm pretty sure that if I had one of these I would lose a lot of time due to endless staring and daydreaming.

Friday, June 08, 2007

It's parade time here in Portland. People tape off their places along the parade route days ahead of time. Some people are violently opposed to this while others call it a tradition. Who are these people that they care so much? I heard about this practice when I first moved here and it reassured me that I had indeed come to a small city.

Because it's parade time and because my friend is coming into town from Atlanta it will start raining tomorrow and not stop until he flys back home on Tuesday and all the ferris wheel riders are soaked. Portland in June.

Wednesday, June 06, 2007

After more than ten years of doing massage work, I recognize the signs of my cyclical burnout. It's never anything so strong that I want to throw it all away or that my clients suffer under my less than fully enthusiastic hands, but it's there. I watch the clock too closely. I hover slightly outside myself and think, "You have your elbow in this woman's butt cheek. Don't you think that's weird?" I work out plot points for my novel while I knead someone's shoulders. In my mind, I drift off toward the park and imagine myself lying under the trees. Luckily, my hands seem to work without much input from my brain. Luckily, I leave in less than a week.

Monday, June 04, 2007

There was a bird, a cat and now a dog. Lulu is the only dog I like because she is often exactly like the loving lap cat I've never had. Her personal masseuse and chef is also my dearest friend, Joe.

Last night, Joe fed a few of us dinner and several bottles of wine in his beautiful back yard. I drooped happily in my beach chair, pulling peas from their salted pods. I sat wondering how this strange crew of friends and acquaintences have managed to muddle through all these years. Some of it's love, but some of it's habit. We come together hoping that maybe, just maybe, this time we will each shine with the same kind of charm or wit or honesty that brought us together in the first place. And if that fails, there's always another glass of wine.

Sunday, June 03, 2007

I've been trying to leave my ipod behind when I go for walks. Instead, I bring my camera and try and listen to my own rambling thoughts. I haven't been putting a ton of words to the page lately, but I've been thinking about my story a lot, trying to gain a little perspective before I leave for a week long writing retreat. It's an odd process to go from the highly detailed specifics of building a scene, a chapter, a book, to thinking about the whole. What is this story about? What is the right structure for it? Who the hell are these people I've created?