Thursday, December 31, 2009

See ya later, sucker!

Here are a few photos from the two days I actually left the house this month. Once for a walk on Mt. Tabor on Christmas Day, one on an evening adventure for pie and Peacock Lane, the insane street near my house that draws hundreds of gawkers, wreaks havoc with local traffic and made something in the pit of my stomach twist and vibrate in nauseating turns. The last photo is from our one day of snow so far, a mere inch or so that caused 4-5 hour delays on the highways. Days like that, I'm thankful for my housebound life.

Now...let's get on with it. Bring on 2010. A new decade, a new chance to fight off the flypaper stick of inertia with pen and paper, keyboard and shutter snap.

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Poetry vs. Ohio State

My book group for writers met at my house last night. Not only did it compel me to give the slanty shanty a good scrub behind the ears, but it gave me the opportunity to dwell in poetry for a good portion of the day. That's a good place to be. One I'd forgotten about for a while.

Most of the year our group reads novels and stories and essays, but in December we read poetry to each other, not for critique or for any in-depth discussion, but simply because we love it. At least, some of us do. What a great thing, to have friends in my house with stacks of poetry books by their side, reading and re-reading.

I laugh. My neighbor brings his friends together every weekend to watch college football on a TV tucked into the corner of his tiny patio. They drink and cheer and thrill over it. I bring my friends together and we sip wine and tea, nibble at cookies and scones and read Wallace Stevens and Mary Szybist. I will never love football. They will never love poetry. Sad for both of us, in some ways.

It's not that I'm a rampant consumer of poetry. I wish I read more widely and understood more deeply. But I try. A poetry book gets into my hands once every few months. It should be every day. I've tried a poetry new year's resolution but it was something vague, without any kind of daily dedication. Maybe I will try again. A poem a day. I'll start with the Poetry Foundation's daily poetry offerings in audio. Why don't you join me? Maybe then we can gather some weekend and drink and cheer and thrill over what we find.

Monday, December 14, 2009

Joy to the world?

Being busy has always been a virtue in my family. "Are you keeping busy?" is one of the only questions my 96 year old grandmother consistently still asks me. It's the same question my parents both ask me when they hand the phone back and forth on a Sunday call.

My schedule as a massage therapist has been full to the brim lately . My work as a writer has been giving me a good nightly excuse to avoid the bitter cold that recently gripped our usually mild city. This makes my family very happy and in these times of rampant unemployment, I certainly won't complain about it.

I will, however, note that being busy has never been the most important point. I guess I'd prefer that the question was "Have you been enjoying yourself?" The answer is the same. Yes. A modicum of joy comes with feeling secure and successful in my work. But more of it comes from watching the cat absorb the tiniest square of sunlight that penetrates my chilly living room in the afternoon. More of it comes from pulling the warm covers over my head for ten more minutes of sleep and eating homemade bread for breakfast with my beaux.

These are considerations for the privileged, certainly. And certainly most privileged people would agree that joy is in these small things, not in simply having a full schedule. While a vast majority of the world is simply trying to survive to the next day, here in a land buried in plastic lead-filled crap, and dotted with abandoned 8,000 square foot homes, asking a different question wouldn't be a bad idea.

Saturday, December 05, 2009

Light Bright

This year, our neighbor hung blue holiday lights. They make for a dim and melancholy trip to our bathroom. They glow vaguely through the frosted plastic covering the bottom half of our constantly weeping windows. In the mirror, the streetlight burns a lurid and lonely orange. Though it surprises me every time I open the door, I still like it. Christmas lights and fireflies, stars seen from the middle of the forest and tiny midwest towns seen from a red-eye flight. I've always been a sucker for a dash of bright in the middle of the dark.

Saturday, November 28, 2009

I've lost my fictional way again while lying under the weather for the last week, while trying on Ohio for a few thank-filled days. I will find it. As I round the corner of the month I plan to pick a path, probably a new one and see where it goes. My 50,000 words for Nanowrimo will not be met but that's okay. It was a good experience to get to about 35,000 and feel the momentum of language building on a daily basis. I'm back at home, my head is clearing and I'm ready to do it all over again.

Thursday, November 12, 2009

Artistic Voyeuristic

Other than a year-long stint in Boston, I've never lived in a dense urban environment. In Boston, I lived in a tiny dorm room on the top floor of a brownstone. From the single bay window, I looked out at the buildings of M.I.T., the Charles River, and the rush of traffic on Storrow Drive. While the view was brilliant, it was an unpeopled landscape, not a portrait. All the windows were too far away, the cars too quick.

Moving to Portland, I fell in love with a different kind of city living, one that made space for porches and gardens and wide sprawling parks. Out my office window now, I get a much more mundane view of my neighbor's patio with its card table, TV and left over football party beer cans. While washing dishes in my kitchen, I see the retired longshoreman in the house next door washing his dishes or watching TV and paying his bills. From my porch, I watch a girl with tattooed arms on the steps of her porch, smoking and watching me.

A certain amount of voyeurism seems commonplace in any urban setting, whether your view is of twenty floors of brick and glass or a single well-lit bungalow. For some reason, the curtains remain open. The lives remain on view. And who am I to turn away?

I was excited to see that a real photographer has gone out and done the project I've always imagined doing. Gail Albert Halaban has created Out My Window, NYC. They are luscious, lonely and yet comforting photos of New Yorkers and their views. Yesterday, the New York Times wrote about her and other Window Watchers. While I'll always prefer my Portland view, it made me long for all the well-lit windows New Yorkers get in a single glance.

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Katahdin, not just a big mountain.

This is the bear from the movie Prophecy, our Halloween movie pic. She had the misfortune of being mutated by toxins from a paper mill in upstate Maine. Now imagine being a young boy of about 8 who lives in upstate Maine. Your rather clueless father takes you to the drive in and there she is, the slimy mutant bear who leaps from the woods and tears her victims to pieces. Funny, those woods look an awful lot like the woods along the road you live on. The next day, you decide to stay home and not bike to your friend's house down the street. You may never bike down your street again.

I will now blame Katahdin, the bear's name (and also Maine's highest peak) for, well, everything. I blame her for everything. She doesn't look very happy about that, but I live in Oregon and there are no paper mills here, right?

Monday, November 02, 2009

Six hours and 3,466 words later

I wouldn't call my first day of Nanowrimo full of flow unless it was a flow of sticky honey. Still, I took the free hours and made a good show of it, pushing through to my first pile of words. I flailed around in the first paragraph for way too long and then eventually found a way in. The way in wasn't this photo, but when I found this photo on my computer this morning, I see that it will be today's portal.

So already, I find lesson one, which of course is a lesson I already know: Be open. Be receptive to the world's bright and brassy cues, as well as to its rhythms and subconscious ripples. I'd lost touch with this kind of openness with the work on my first novel, the plodding and plodding and plotting and plotting. The fun part is looking (but not looking) for connections and patterns in my life and my character's lives. The grind I'd made of my writing life simply wore out anything loose and ephemeral. Now I have a chance to get that back. Eyes open, but slightly lowered. Brain alert, but slightly dreamy.

Sunday, October 25, 2009

All happiness depends on courage and work, or so says Balzac

All art demands imagination. All art is imagination. But how do we learn to trust the fantastic beauty and grim monsters of our minds? How do we learn to listen? How do we leap from the well-defined lines of our daily lives up into the ether?

It feels like my own imagination is ossifying. What was once flexible and willing is now stiff as bone. It makes no sense to write fiction in this kind of state. But I want to write fiction. I don't know what else to do with the world.

In the next week, before I begin my novel-writing escapade, I need to find that crazy, magic potion that will reverse the effects of too many years of over-editing. Too many days given over to drudgery and easy numbness.

On some level, I worry that I will lose my sense of balance. I wonder if it's possible for me to write a worthwhile story without abandoning that balance altogether. So add to that magic potion something for my courage. Or maybe that's the whole of it. Courage and more courage. Gotta go get me some of that.

Saturday, October 17, 2009

I'm signed up for Nanowrimo. The goal is to write a novel (or 50,000 words) in one month. My personal goal will be to prevent a nasty ear-biting bar brawl with my own psyche. I like to edit and fuss. I like to stop and savor the three lovely sentences I've written then pat myself on the back for a hard day's work. Keeping that instinct at bay is going to be hard. Very hard.

The last few months of writing have been painfully slow. If I'm going to tap into the flow of swift and heavily flawed prose, then I'm going to have to get in shape, grab a few books and do some arm curls. Jack LaLane, show me the way.

Friday, October 09, 2009

Fire Cupping

This isn't torture or magic or performance art. This is a little glass globe fixed to my arm with the power of suction. This is ancient medicine, as old as the instinct to suck your finger after you've knocked it against something. No pain is involved. In fact, it feels good, the way stretching feels good.

I wouldn't have thought this odd, sometimes brutal looking technique would appeal to me. The tissue pulls up into the cup and can turn pink, red, dark purple. Sometimes this coloring stays as a mark on the skin where matter once trapped in the tissues is drawn to the surface. Not a painful bruise, just a mark.

I wouldn't have thought that I'd want to fuss with the accoutrements of this technique. Cups, cotton, forceps, alcohol, water, oil. Oh, and fire. A big wad of fire to create the vacuum inside the cup.

But I love cupping. I love how it feels as a practitioner. I've spent my whole career pressing down into muscles. This lets me lift. And as a recipient of cupping I also feel lifted, as if all the stuck layers were slowly peeling apart, the detritus of my tissue finally tossed to the curb.

Now the hard part: Convincing my clients to let me use this technique on them. Medieval torture comes to their minds or they look longingly, beyond the row of cups, toward the dark, polished stones heating to a perfectly toasty temperature in their crockpot. I don't want to resort to telling them cupping helps the appearance of cellulite. While that might be alluring for certain clientele, I refuse to be the woman who sticks glass cups to people's butts.

Friday, October 02, 2009

Mimosa. Mi. Mo. Sa. Flowers like fans. Leaves like feathers. A scent like an old girlfriend's perfume: Faded and potent, dazzling and elusive. Mimosa, mimosa, mimosa.

Wednesday, September 30, 2009

I spent the weekend in Bend, OR attending a workshop on massage cupping (more on that in a post to come). While only three hours away, I'd never been. A funny little city, dotted with new condos and office buildings and crisp green parks. A certain Disney-esque feel permeated the downtown area where I spent most of my time. Even the beautiful trail along the Deschutes River that runs through town felt suspiciously manicured, the vacation homes on the ridge above the trail only half-hidden. It was all very...nice.

To be fair, however, the dry climate this area offers has never been my favorite. Even as I snapped away, photo after photo, of the amazing blue-green water and the crisp candy sky, I remained largely unmoved. Not that I didn't long to take a dip in the river or scrabble along the rocks, but I never felt that soothing rush I get when I step onto the beach or into a damp green forest. As I left the desert behind on my way home and entered the Mt. Hood National Forest I may have actually sighed.

It's good to see new landscapes if only to confirm that you've chosen the right one.

Sunday, September 20, 2009

Because my beloved cat is gravely ill and because I have had to tend to her like a child–feeding her then wiping the food spilled from her clumsy mouth, carrying her to comfortable spots and whispering sweet wishes into her fur–I want pictures of dahlias instead.

Because I had to go to my client's house after she returned from a serious hospital emergency and sit at her bedside and try to make the noise behind her eyes quiet to something reasonable, I want dahlias.

Because my beaux is on the other side of the country trying to survive the survivors of his family– their indifference sticking to the tar-filled air– I want giant pink flowers the size of plates and multicolored pom-poms bursting out at the edge of Fall in one last hurrah.

Hurrah. It's good to be on this side of the dirt.

Friday, September 11, 2009

Spell to Be Said UponDeparture
by Jane Hirshfield

What had come here to do
having finished,
shelves of the water lie flat.

Copper the leaves of the doorsill,
yellow and falling.
Scarlet the bird that is singing.

Vanished the labor, here walls are.
Completed the asking.
Loosing the birds there is water.

Having eaten the pears.
Having eaten
the black figs, the white figs. Eaten the apples.

Table be strewn.
Table be strewn with stems,
table with peelings of grapefruit and pleasure.

Table be strewn with pleasure,
what was here to be done having finished.

Friday, September 04, 2009

The Dining Room Debate

I won't idealize dinnertime with my family when I was growing up, but this is what it was: Mom, Dad, sister, and me all in our places around the dining room table in our high back chairs with the classical radio station playing in the background. Almost every night I begged to have dinner in front of the TV. 90% of the time I was denied. Most of my time around that table was spent shoveling my well-balanced meal into my mouth as quickly as possible and trying to make a quick retreat. My parents usually talked about their work which I didn't understand or their friends who I didn't know. My sister and I would have to talk about what we did in school. I was often bored.

But then there were nights, more and more of them as I got older, when questions were asked and not a single quick answer came back. Instead, we debated. We talked about religion and god. We talked about charity. We talked about human rights and animal rights. We talked about war. I remember being frustrated because I often felt like I lost these debates. My father and I would inevitably line up on opposite sides and my position would suffer horribly under my young, naive hands. Sometimes I got really mad and my mother would swoop in and join my cause whether she agreed with me or not.

I think back on those nights now and remember them (in my usual hazy way) as key moments in learning how to be a good person. More than any lecture from a teacher or chapter in a textbook, those debates truly educated me. The subjects were big and important, but the truly essential part of these evenings was how I learned to listen and think. Not to listen to the sound of my own wonderful voice, but to the ideas and possibilities of another person's mind. Not to think like my father but to think on my own.

These days, with all the screaming on the radio and cable TV, all the knee-jerk fear and thoughtless anger, I find myself longing for civility. I want the whole country to have to sit down with my father every night for a few weeks and learn how to question their own beliefs and then defend them through polite conversation. My mother can be at the table too. She'll tell everyone to stop slouching and to slow down and take a goddamn breath.

Wednesday, September 02, 2009

While on vacation with my folks, I shared the following thought: I wouldn't mind retiring and living in a trailer, preferably working as the host of some sweet little campground in the summer and parked on some warm patch of land in the winter.

My parents thought this was hysterical and from then on I couldn't get them to stop pointing at RVs and trailer parks and saying "How 'bout that one?"

They think I'm joking in the way that I used to joke in high school about getting married in full disco regalia at a HoJos off some random interstate. They were 95% sure I would never do it. At the time, I was only 75% sure myself. I didn't want to get married and thought if for some reason I had to, I'd want to make it perfectly silly. They thought I'd grow out of this, but I'm still pretty sure that if I had to have a wedding everyone would be in gorilla suits.

I'm also pretty sure that if I needed a cheap place to live in my old age, I'd be happy living in a trailer. I'm feeling about 50/50 on it, to be honest. I like the idea of incorporating the landscape more thoroughly into my living space. I like the idea of small. And let's face it, Airstream trailers are just really fucking cool, particularly the one above that they made in conjunction with Design Within Reach. Of course, I'd have to buy a car to haul it and that kind of sucks.

I hope to get up to Seaview, WA soon to do a little retreat at the Trailer Classics Hodgepodge (or TCH!-TCH!) to test out my trailer mettle. I'll be sure to report back.

Friday, August 28, 2009

Twilight seduced me. The warm crowded air of the living room took a nice long breath out on the porch. The sky turned a lurid blue. And now, on the edge of September, the moon came out and the lights went on at an hour when I'm not already settled and sleepy. I took my camera and slipped out to spy on the silhouettes and shadows, the blare of orange streetlamps and the steady domestic glow of kitchen windows. I would do this for hours if only twilight would linger.

Sunday, August 23, 2009

Happy endings

What's wrong with a happy ending? And by that I mean, a happy ending in fiction, not in life or on the massage table. Is the idea of lasting love just too damn boring? Is it perceived as a falsehood? Is it inherently dissatisfying to leave the reader on a positive, untainted note? maybe the protagonist learns something about life or sets off in a better direction or treasures that old standby of it being better to have loved and lost blah blah blah. Regardless, the good relationship almost never survives. Pride and Prejudice is the only example in the realm of literary fiction that I can think of that offers a straight up happy ending. Maybe there are others, but I don't know them.

I've come to accept that I love love stories. Most of my favorite contemporary novels have a love story as a prominent component: The Giant's House, Feast of Love, Bel Canto, The Transit of Venus, Mrs. Dalloway. None of these have happy endings.

What do you think? Can love only be lost? Does love found have to be wrapped in the conceits of romance fiction, chick lit and swoony teenage vampire chronicles?

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Five hours south of Portland is the little town of Bandon. The coastline there was dotted with dunes and interesting rock formations and even on a beautiful weekend the wide expanse of beach never had more than ten people on it. The town itself was a couple blocks long and strained at every corner to feel festive despite the lack of visitors and the closed-down shops. The poverty of the place ran smack up against the exorbitant wealth. You could see the disappointment loosened across the landscape and tucked into the tired smiles of the retailers.

It rubbed off on me and by the end of four days, I was cranky and ready to get home. I always miss the ocean when I'm not near it, but for now, it's good to be back in a more lively urban swing.

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

This has been a backyard summer. I haven't gone camping. I've done one hike, a couple swims, a couple bike rides. I know in years past this would have driven me mad. The need to be out in the woods, in the green and shimmering world, would have itched under my skin. But this year, for some reason, I'm content. I have my forest of sunflowers. I have my basket of tomatoes. I have a breeze and a book and a can of beer. The city breaths beneath a fresh, warm rain. A masterpiece of clouds and jet trails ends each day.

Tomorrow I head to the southern Oregon coast with my folks. This is my father's annual "golf somewhere famous" trip. Apparently, there's some hot shot "Scottish" course down there. Mom and I will watch the ocean. Read. Drink cocktails.

How could I not be content with all that?

Wednesday, August 05, 2009

I used to want to be a photographer. I even went to Boston University for a year thinking I'd go into photojournalism (a year in which I learned about the history of journalism and how to write an obituary and ran the classifieds section of the student paper but never saw a darkroom...hmm.) I realized somewhere during that year that I was essentially gutless and surprisingly proper and therefore highly unlikely to be good at pushing myself into the necessary places required of a photojournalist.

What I liked about photography was hiding behind a camera and in a dark room and, in the end, having something appealing to show for it. It sounds a lot like my reasons for writing: enjoyment of the solitude and the process and in the end having something worth sharing.

So I went out and got a nice camera. Not a true professional-grade camera. That would just be silly. But a nice camera. A Nikon D40. I love it love it love it. I love it so much I'm waiting for someone to ask me why I don't marry it. It's going to take a while before I figure out how to use it properly and it will take even longer for me to refresh my old photography knowledge and learn a whole host more.

If I slip into photo mode here for a while, you'll understand. If I ignore this blog altogether while I play with buttons and dials, f-stops and shutter speeds, you now know why. Weeee!

Oh...and the pic is of Oneonta Gorge on one of our 100+ days.

Sunday, July 26, 2009

What I did on my summer vacation

For the first time in as long as I can remember (which, let's be honest, could be as recently as last year) I took a week off of work without packing my bags and hopping on a plane to visit family or friends or tropical beaches. My nails grew long. Hours and hours were drowned in heavy summer heat and along highways as I drove my broken-footed friend to work or my birthday boyfriend to water. Even more hours were spent trying to sleep off an exhaustion that never quite left me and watering a garden and watching a cat. My little, uncomplicated life.

Looks perfect, right? This is Benson Lake which sits RIGHT off of highway 84 in the Columbia Gorge. The water was about as warm as you're going to find in these parts, but shallow and muddy-bottomed and accented by the roar of passing trucks. Not bad for a desperate dip, but not generally recommended.
After drying off and heating up, we set out for The Treefrogs show at the Laurelthirst which was being recorded for posterity. The air conditioner was broken and nobody could open their mouths without commenting on the steamy heat of the place, but I liked it. I felt like I was in New Orleans, sweating cheap beer and loud music.
The next night, Sean's Afroknot bandmate treated us to a birthday dinner at Urban Farmer, one of the hippest spots in town where her boyfriend works. Sean and I loved the deserts most of all. I'm particularly pleased to be associated with people who are willing to pose for a corny phallic photo in the middle of a swanky meal.
After one camping trip at the beginning of my break got canceled due to unforseen emergencies I was banking on the camping trip at the end of my break. When I went to rent a car, I discovered every single car was spoken for. We borrowed a truck from the above super-generous bandmate and headed out as early as we could manage. My favorite camping spot proved to be everyone elses as well. Not a spot to be had without some sort of fist fight. "I knew it," Sean said and it was true. He was convinced of our curse which has ruined about 50% of our camping attempts. The saving grace of our day was a shallower and therefore warmer swimming hole than in years past. I stayed in the water. Stayed and swam against the current and stayed and floated on my back for the first time ever in Oregon waters. We loved it and went home happy with our little difficulties.

Monday, July 20, 2009

Writing Advice

Last week was the Tin House Workshop held at Reed College. Every year I hop on my bike at least once a day and pedal through the summer heat to the auditorium or the amphitheater to I sit in on lectures and a few readings without paying the thousands of dollars to actually participate in the workshops. Sometimes the bike ride is barely worth it. Sometimes I walk away with a few gems. This year one of my favorite panel discussions was on Beginnings with Karen Shepard, Walter Kirn and Dorothy Allison.

Dorothy Allison listed the three top motivators in fiction as Fear, Lust and Curiosity. "If you can get someone scared, horny and uncertain you've got a franchise."

Walter Kirn spoke eloquently about how beginnings are about closing down your options, and letting the reader know, with confidence, how to read your story. "Beginnings are shadows that are cast across the whole of the story."

Karen Shepard gave perhaps the most useful nugget of advice and that was the simple idea of policing your sentences. "Interrogate them. What are they telling you?"

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

New Tattoo

A lady on a book? The man getting a tattoo next to me wanted to know what it meant. What did his tattoo of a skeleton riding a pig with an apple in his mouth mean? I didn't ask, fearing the answer. Make up an explanation if you need one. I guarantee it will be more interesting than my own.

Sunday, July 12, 2009


The garden has tipped over into wildness. The spinach and arugula bolted a week or so ago. The volunteer tomatoes are bowling over the wildflowers while the sunflowers bully the tomatoes. The nasturtium flow like water from their inch of soil. The bamboo seeks the sky.

Now if only I could hide the way the cat does, nestling into a spot between the flowers that smell like Good n' Plenty and the silver-blue grass. Nobody can see me. Nobody knows I'm here. Just watching and waiting and napping.

Saturday, July 04, 2009

Eagle Creek

I'm waiting out the neighborhood fireworks tonight. I thought some calm green photos from my hike up the Eagle Creek Trail a few days ago would help distract me from the explosions. Icy water to cool my tired feet, the endless rush of Punchbowl Falls and the sweet cure of dappled light. Aaah, that's better...

Thursday, July 02, 2009

Mao grows bored with an article in BOMB magazine about "Nights of Horror" - the sado-masochistic cartoons made by the creator of Superman.

Sunday, June 28, 2009

I love that this house is being swallowed by plants, the sidewalk barely passable. I hope that when I'm old and arthritic that my house and garden will succumb to a similar fate. Actually, I wish I could make this happen to my yard right now. I wish I could make everything in my life overflow this way, in wild beautiful bursts. One thing tangled in another. All of it sweet.

Monday, June 22, 2009

Community, Hope and Pyromania

Twice a year at every solstice my friends build and burn a wooden figure along with the wishes of the witnesses. This isn't related in any way with Burning Man (capital B, capital M) and the oddly false, strained and irritating people I generally associate with that drug pit in the desert. I prefer our low key event, one that celebrates a true sense of community, hope and pyromania. Here's to summer!

Thursday, June 18, 2009

Suffering under the So What Factor

The symbols of hope have deflated back into normal politicians. The big, nearly ungraspable problems of the world have pulled free and become truly ungraspable. People are buying bread instead of books, booze instead of bread. To all this I say SO WHAT? The days speed and the gray hairs grow and the kids outside take longer and longer to GET OFF MY LAWN.

In the end, the world doesn't care if I write a good book. Even my friends, who will certainly support my efforts to keep writing, to keep striving won't love me less if I fail to do so. In the back of my head I hear half a dozen different writing teachers saying "What's at stake here?" The truth is, not much. This fact alternates between feeling liberating and terrifying depending on how well I slept the night before. The drunkards were out full force last night and I was awake for hours so I apologize if I sound too bleak.

In truth, it's too beautiful outside and my life is too sweet and easy to feel any real depression over this. I don't even know what "this" is other than a pang of existential angst. Maybe I'll head out into the yard, soak up some sun and try to shake it off. And if you have any suggestions, short of having a child or finding god, I'm all ears.

Monday, June 15, 2009

Summer is not quite officially here but it's busting out all over nonetheless. We pick salads out of the back yard and eat them on the patio while we watch the cat stalk the bamboo. We go down the street on our feet or on our bikes, happy to have the warm wind around us, the sun on our shoulders. I think about how different my life would be if I had to hop in the car to get anywhere and feel endlessly grateful for all the years I've been able to stroll the neighborhood. How different would my vision of the world be if my experience of it arrived as isolated points rather than continuous paths. I can't recommend it enough: Take a walk, ride a bike and watch the world slow down.

Monday, June 08, 2009

Yesterday I witnessed a man sleeping on the grass in the South Park Blocks being harassed by a trio of jock assholes. Sean and I approached the scene as it was playing it out; the jocks throwing something small at the man, maybe a rock, then throwing a sandwich at him when his response was less than the jocks had hoped for. Sean and I both wish we'd moved faster and with less hesitation, fast enough to warn the sleeping man or discourage the dumb mob mentality of this pitiful crew of douchebags. We did not. The only reward was that another witness chased them down for several blocks. The jocks tried to play it cool, but two of them ended up running off. The third broke off from his clan, turned the corner and was hunted down beyond our sight.

As a person who was harrassed a'plenty in my youth, I feel a particular kind of outrage and sadness at this kind of behavior. Sure, you can rise above it and dismiss the asswipes, but for me at least, it confirms a dreary belief. I maintain my faith in individual humans as being basically good. That good may be solid and thorough or it may be irretrievably buried under a mountain of bad. Still, I believe it exists in each isolated person. The problem is we don't live isolated from one another and the crap that I witnessed confirms that people collectively are a miserable, sheepish lot as often as they are a supportive, uplifting mass.

None of us are immune. I've had my own cruel moments, my own sheepish nods. Sean too. All we could do was shake our heads in unison with the harassed man then wander back into our day. But today all I've been able to think of is that sweet bland thing called kindness and how we should all dig a little deeper for it.

Monday, June 01, 2009

This week I get the short stick and become the one that stays. You, the one that goes. In your absence, the hours flatten into uncurled ribbon, long and smooth. I gain a wealth of wasted time. I go to sleep beneath a day both unmarked and unremarkable. Not useless without you, but simply not as good.

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Go figgy go...

Stretch bamboo stretch...

Though I got me some garden last year, largely with the help of my friend, Rob, this year I've decided to shed as much of my hesitation and doubt as possible and plunge recklessly into it. I've spent hours in the dirt lining our gravel walkways and building tiny walls with bits of kung-fu-cracked brick. I've planted and watered and weeded. I've gone to the store for groceries and returned with my basket full of fescue and poppies.

At first, I saw the task of laying the bricks as a nuisance, once I was out there with my shovel and trowel and my nails full of dirt, I was struck by an old memory. When my sister and I were wee lasses we would go down to the creek behind our house and build bowls and sculptures and walls from the clay soil on the banks. Perfection was in the process not the product. And so it is now. Joy in the digging and in the daily measure of the season growing to its fullest.

Not everything is thriving in part because my "good enough" philosophy doesn't bode well for sensitive plants, but that comes with the territory. I dislike the notion that "if you can't do it right, don't do it at all." I say if you can't do it right, do it half-assed and enjoy yourself along the way.