Tuesday, December 11, 2012

Reverb12 | Day 9, The Eat Pray Love Cliche

I fell in love with Elizabeth Gilbert in a couple of radio interviews, when Committed, her follow-up to the Big One (you know which one), was published.  I loved her voice.  She was charming, funny, warm, imperfect.  She was like a female Garrison Keillor (which is about the highest compliment I can give).  She told great stories--like the one about learning advice on wrangling with the muses from Tom Waits.  I took an instant like to her.  She sounded like my kind of lady, which I must admit came as something of a surprise to me.  While I had not actively turned my nose up at the Big One (oh, okay, Eat, Pray, Love), I hadn't actively sought it out, either; you could say I was passively avoiding it.  I knew nothing much about the eating, the praying, the loving, except for the brief mention of it in an article I read about the growing trend of "divorce porn" in the publishing industry.

Even after meeting Liz Gilbert (or, her voice over the radio waves), I didn't immediately jump into the pages of her massive best-seller.  I chose, instead, to read The Last American Man, her slim 200-something page profile of North Carolina forest man Eustace Conway, who lives up in the mountains near Boone erecting buildings without nails and sewing his clothes with sinew from deer he's killed with his hands, a man who rode a horse across America with his cowboy brother, whose vision for this country doesn't include television or indoor plumbing.  I've built my life admiring men and women like this, and enjoyed his story mightily, but I also enjoyed the woman behind the tale--her insights, the voicing of her curiosities (what of his sex life?, she ponders for us all).  I devoured what articles I could find of hers online.  And, as 2011 came to an end, I found a used copy of Eat, Pray, Love, and without much thought to what I might look like in public holding this cover up in front of my face, I dispatched it, with glee.

Eat, Pray, Love was the first book I read in 2012, and it very much has directed the course and focus of my year.  A friend of mine read the book a little before me, around the time my curiosity over this writer was building, and when I asked what she thought, she told me she loved the food and travel dialogue, but was a little bored with all the spirituality stuff.  Five years ago, even a year ago, my answer would've been much the same.  It's not for everyone, all the spirituality stuff, but for whatever reason, my agnosticism has taken a strange turn, and while I still don't believe in Deity, I do believe in the power of prayer, in self-reliance, in manifestation of our wildest dreams, in living carefully and with purpose, in seeking: all things endorsed by Elizabeth Gilbert.

And there's the rub.  People don't like earnestness.  We are an acerbic kind living in a sardonic age.  Sneering is the stylish thing.  Not too long ago a fellow blogger (by which I mean, blog-writer, one who forms actual complete sentences [and good ones, I might add]), mentioned Elizabeth Gilbert (or perhaps The Book) as a punchline to a joke on Twitter, and I could not help but quip back the truth, which is: Elizabeth Gilbert is the writer I want to be.  She is.  Sharp and warm, personal (honest) yet urbane and seasoned, traveling the world, making money (I hope it's not too uncouth to mention).  I believe that people who judge Elizabeth Gilbert too harshly (like the aforementioned blogger) have never read anything by her, not the Big One, not anything.  As a writer, a constructor of sentences, it is difficult to find fault with her.  

No, what I think people find fault with, women in particular (because men appear to be mostly indifferent on the matter), is the quest aspect of Elizabeth Gilbert's memoir.  Liz Gilbert ended her marriage, pressed the pause button on her life, engaged in an utterly indulgent (that was partly the point) pilgrimage,  and then wrote (what became) a best-seller about it.  How dare she.  As if that weren't bad enough, she lays bare all her foibles, depressions, struggles, misguidedness, her desire to escape into relationships, her various methods of self-denial, all that messy stuff, and she doesn't apologize for it.  She reckons it for herself, but she doesn't hide any of her weaknesses--in fact, she claims the right to happiness in spite of all that.  What an entitled slut.

I love it.  I love her.  I ate it up.  As I wrote Kath during my reading of Eat, Pray, Love: I was feeling it.  I'm still feeling it.  I am still grooving on the Eat, Pray, Love manifesto.  She says something early in her book which hit me like a ton of fucking bricks.  She says it is our responsibility to make ourselves happy, because by being happy we make the world a better place.  It's true, of course.  One must open herself up to love before she can love anybody else, or anything else, and caring, changing things, begins with love.  It's a squishy, feely logic, but a logic nonetheless, and one that I abide by, completely.  Working on me in 2012, seeking, questing, has made me a better person, undoubtedly.  I have Eat, Pray, Love to thank for that, cliche or no.

“Happiness is the consequence of personal effort. You fight for it, strive for it, insist upon it, and sometimes even travel around the world looking for it. You have to participate relentlessly in the manifestations of your own blessings.” - Elizabeth Gilbert, Eat, Pray, Love

Prompt, Day 9 - What was the best book you read in 2012, and why?

Thursday, December 6, 2012

Reverb12 | Day 4, All I Want for Christmas

By all appearances, Christmas and I should be at great odds.  I should be (and, in the past, have been) a grouser.  I have spent many a Decembers past in surly funks, my heart a dead tomato splotched with moldy, purple spots.  On and off for a number of years, I've worked retail. Nothing taints the holiday season like being witness to rampant consumerism and the stress it cultivates.  Do you know why we should avoid stress?  It has less to do with our general well-being than the fact that people who are stressed out are assholes.  Nobody likes an asshole, especially not during the holidays, and all these poor clerks in gift shops and clothing stores across the world are the front line defense, attacked by assholes on all sides.  And, with stressed out assholes and corporate greed come extended holiday hours, which might help you find that perfect gift for that special someone, but for the clerk means only an extra hour spent on his or her feet when maybe he or she would rather be trimming a tree or sipping hot chocolate with his or her own special someone.  

I am not proud of this fact, but I have my moments throughout the day, already, and it will only get worse as the month goes on.  I sometimes walk to the back of the store for a useless ceramic thing's box rolling my eyes.  There have even been a few moments of open-mouthed gaping, nauseated with a nauseous super naus, at the obscenity of all this buying, people pulling huge lists out of their purses and crossing off names like this spending is somehow an obligation.  And before you comment to tell me that all that "obscene buying" is what's paying my bills, yes, I'm aware, which only makes me part of the problem, which only makes the Call of the Curmudgeon even stronger.

And who do I complain about all this to (besides you poor few who may now be reading this): my husband, The Wolfman, Pagan Superstar and Lovechild of Scrooge and The Grinch.  In December, I share my life and bed and thoughts and laughs with a man who would gladly dig himself a hole to hide in until well after the sulphur of New Year's Eve fireworks have dissipated from the atmosphere.  Wolfman does not do celebration.  He does not do cheer.  He is opposed, as I've informed several of our acquaintances, to any kind of fun at all.  He is a serious, intense man.  (The exception to all this is Halloween, suggesting he may actually be some kind of demon sent to this earth to bring down a reign of darkness, but I, too, love Halloween, so I don't question his glee, but gladly take part in it.)  How he came to fall in love with me is a mystery, considering I get excited enough to shout and clap over desserts and good parking spaces.  But, by whatever accident or magick, I am partnered to a man who indulges, even encourages, my yuletide petulance, the garlic in my soul, and that is mighty addictive.

Let us not forget also, the Jesus is the Reason for the Season movement (quite the strong one here in the Bible Belt), which is mighty irritating to pagans and general practitioners of the old traditions.  Jesus is fabulous, and I begrudge no one for following his teachings.  But, the reason for the season precedes Christ by several thousand years.  Keep the Yule in Yuletide.

Also, I really hate wimpy, sleepy indie music, the Christmas/"winter holiday" songs most of all.

Against these great odds, the way I will celebrate myself this holiday season is by being as willfully cheery as fucking possible.  Despite all of the above, this season is a beautiful one, steeped in ancient tradition.  Whatever you choose to call your holiday this December, ultimately it is about gathering together with family and friends as the days grow cold and the nights grow long (unless you are in the Southern Hemisphere, in which case, I don't understand your holiday system at all, the one kink in my dreams of living as a Kiwi).  We all, pagan, Jew, Christian, or Agnostic/Atheist, light candles and string lights this time of year, to keep away the darkness--isn't that a beautiful thought?  Some of us bring trees into our home, to remind ourselves that even in the depths of winter, there is life.  We drink hot cider and eat gingerbread, we go to parades and hang garland and wreaths on every surface.  

I will watch little Kevin get lost in New York, and Billy Peltzer feed Gizmo after midnight, Ralph shoot his eye out, "Christmas with the Joker", and the Nutcracker fighting the Mouse King.  I will wear red and green, a color combination I avoid every other time of the year.  I will get out my box of inherited and collected ornaments, and reminisce as I hang them on the tree.  When "Blue Christmas" comes on in the drug store, I will sing along, and when the Vince Guaraldi Trio plays "Christmas Time is Here", I will cry (I always do).  I will drink peppermint tea, put Christmas stickers on fucking everything, and make a little bonfire on solstice night, to roast chestnuts and marshmallows and say so many prayers of thanks.  

I will celebrate myself this yuletide by not being the three-decker sauerkraut and toadstool sandwich with arsenic sauce it is so easy to be.

Prompt, Day 4 - How are you going to celebrate your self this holiday season?

Monday, December 3, 2012

Reverb12 | Day 3, A Very Strange, Enchanted Girl

by Djuno Tomsni
There are things I want for my life--self-reliance, rebellion, unrelenting joy.  In 2012, I learned to make my own shampoo and toothpaste, and in 2013, I want to extend that knowledge to detergent, soap, and various herbal elixers.  In 2012, I waved no flag, I followed no leader, but in 2013, I want my know-how, my health, my strength and self-sufficiency to speak my dissent loud and clear; I want my great fuck you to be a garden.  In 2012, I already throw my head back and laugh periodically throughout the day, but in 2013, I want that number of laughs to be so high there's a permanent crick in my neck.

But, let us say, theoretically, that 2013 is to be my final year.  What, then?  All of the above, but moreso, and with even greater fervor, I will be in the woods.  I will be a nature girl.  Were I diagnosed with only one year left to live, by doctor or soothsayer, after I had a good cry (after all, being alive is just about the greatest thing I can think of), I would pack up a bag, a tent, a knife, a canister of coffee, some bacon wrapped in wax paper, and I would be off to the woods--the deeper in, the better--the darker, more crowded the trees, the better--the louder the birds, the closer the wild things, the better.

Communing with nature in the wild wood (or on the wild beach, or on the edge of the wild desert): more of that.  This is my prescription for 2013; the doctor is in.

Prompt, Day 3: Imagine a scenario where you only had one year left to live. What is one thing that you really wish to do that you just haven't had the chance to accomplish yet?  What steps could you take (however small) to ensure that you accomplish this thing in 2013?

Sunday, December 2, 2012

Reverb12 | Day 2, The Discovery of Junk

About $150 for junk removal, is what Wolfman tells me we paid.  We marked the autumn equinox while pushing a mattress on top of the big white van.  Not moving on up, but moving.  That day, the air carrying something of the scent of a late September reprieve from summer's brutal heat, we ate a standing brunch of shiraz and a Butterfinger pumpkin in the room which had just days before been our office, stuff piled in the corners.  Then, together we lifted the pre-fab desk my brother and grandpa put together for me a few years before, which promptly fell apart in our hands.

It's not exactly my favorite subject, but I don't mind admitting that finances have not always been the easiest aspect of our life as man and wife (or as single man and single woman before that).  When Wolfman and I decided to marry, he looked me in the eye and told me firmly, earnestly, "I'll never be a rich man," to which I answered, "I'll never be a rich woman, so we're even."  I have an old friend who once told me she wouldn't date a man if he didn't drive a certain kind of car, and I looked at her like she'd just announced she wouldn't date a man unless he knew the truth about Area 51 and had a pet unicorn.  My family history being one of varying degrees of impoverishment, I suppose money, the attainment of (one way or another), could very well have become a major driving force in my life had the thought occurred to me.  It did not.  But, regardless of all that, coming home to a dark house and the discovery that our electricity had been shut off was an unkind realization--after juggling our bills for so many months, we'd dropped one.  

After two nights spent in candlelight (the upside to that being that my skin is velvety perfection in candlelight), we bid a hasty farewell to our crooked little newlywed bungalow.  We bagged what we needed to keep with us (clothes, toiletries, a few select books and the record player), we boxed what to store in a rented unit (kitchenware, art, so many more books), and gave away as much as I could bare to part with.  And then, there was the junk removal--for the things we were holding onto which weren't even fit for Goodwill (how does that happen? and why?) 

We've been living spartan for a couple months now, and every other day I toss an item of clothing into a box in the corner for Goodwill--any time I try an outfit on in the morning and it doesn't work (because it's ill-fitting or because I'm just not feeling it), I toss it in the box.  And the stuff--my books, my little trinkets, my things--packed in boxes in the storage unit?  I don't miss them.  I don't need them.

Today I did another closet weeding--the honorary one celebrating my freedom from secretarial work and button-down blouses.  And, when we can gather the strength, we'll begin the big storage unit clean-up.  The process of moving, of junk hauling, has made me aware of just how much junk I do hold onto, and just how much junk I buy.  My most important purchase of 2012, it turned out, was not an acquisition, but the freedom from such.  A seed has been planted, and now I am letting go.  One day, yes, I will have the witchy little cottage, stuffed to the brim with books and artifacts, crystals and fishbowls.  But, now, though I will not be living out of a back pack, I think I can manage living out of a couple of trunks. 

Prompt, Day 2 - What was your most significant expenditure in 2012?  It doesn't have to be necessarily the biggest expenditure, just the one with the most impact.  What difference has it made to your life?

Saturday, December 1, 2012

Reverb12 | Day 1, I Live in a Cafe

In the refrigerator of our cafe is a carton of almond milk with, quite literally, my name on it.  Wolfman doesn't like working with almond milk--it foams inconsistently, he says, and his opinion is expert.  I don't doubt him.  But, I am wary of dairy and moreso of soy.  And, truthfully, I like the nuttiness almond milk adds to coffee--a fold of extra flavor.  

This cafe is my home away from home now.  Just a couple weeks ago I suddenly, without thinking much about it, changed jobs, and now I have my mornings free.  That hour and a half I once spent on the 311, reading or, with more frequency, staring out the window and listening to Born to Die, I now spend sitting in the coffee shop, writing--in my journal typically, but lately in this little space as well (or, early last month, there was that attempt at a fucking novel, which was sort of a joke, but a noble one).  

My grandmother is pleased.  She always thought I read too much.  She believes in books, let me tell you; her overstuffed book shelves are a testament to that, and those summers we spent reading aloud to each other at the kitchen table while she made dinner--from Bury My Heart at Wounded Knee and biographies of Wyatt Earp and Ben Franklin. But, she's of the opinion that reading the dust jackets, the introductions and prologues, and maybe the first couple chapters are enough--to get the gist.  As far as I know, the books she's completed cover-to-cover are considerable (Marilynne Robinson's HousekeepingDraculaCrime & Punishment, among others) though minuscule in comparison to the books she buys and borrows and samples daily.  Sometimes she gives me books she's started, knowing that eventually I will finish them, as if she is reading vicariously through me.  And though I joke about this, perhaps her attitude is the right one--how much time do I waste completing books I feel only lukewarm about (or, worse, books I actually abhor, like the Twilight series which I still have every intention to master, or that Anne Rice disaster, Belinda).  I'm a slow, methodical reader, it should be said.  How much of my life am I spending reading words on pages I could easily take or leave?

But, I digress (as usual).  The point I intended to make is that my grandmother has always been my greatest fan, in all things.  According to my grandmother, I am the prettiest (well, tied with my sister) and the most breath-taking dancer ever to grace a stage.  I am the wittiest, the brightest crayon in the box, the sharpest tool in the shed.  I am the tallest, the strongest, the most charming and charismatic.  But, above all, I am the greatest writer.  And I am, perhaps, wasting my talents.  This is all hyperbole, of course.  My grandmother is not insane, but she does believe in me, more than I believe in myself, and she knows that in order to succeed, what I need is discipline.  And, though I am the best at a lot of things in her mind, discipline is not among them.

So I write now, and I make her happy.  And, more importantly, I make myself happy.  I drink my coffee (which, these days, is half-caf), and share a scone with the man I married whose clothes always smell like coffee.  This morning, I taste test a new hot chocolate out of an espresso shot cup painted with a yin yang.   

I'm loosening up.  That's part of what abruptly quitting my job a couple weeks ago was all about--changing my routines, realizing I am not a little old lady yet.  So, perhaps the mornings in the cafe will not last, but I'm hoping the writing will.  Sixty days to make or break a habit.  Sixty mornings sitting at this bar, typing here (getting accustomed to this weird, tiny keyboard, which I know you can not see, but which, trust me, is a pain in the ass), scribbling in my journal about the days, and spirit letters, and all my esoteric bull hockey which means so much to me.  

But words and words and words.  My life built in words and fueled by coffee.  I live in this cafe.  For now.
Prompt, Day 1How are you starting this last month of 2012?  Take a moment, close your eyes, take a deep breath and ask yourself the question: how do you feel... in your body? in your mind? in your day job? in your creative life? in your heart?

Friday, November 30, 2012

30 Days of Thanks | Day 30, A Season of Gratitude

I have had a love affair with this autumn, one to which I am reluctant to bid farewell.  I spent a good half hour last night scouring the internets for happy, shiny Christmas photos to post to Witch Year, trying to get in the spirit of the fast approaching season.  It's not that I'm a curmudgeon (though I'm married to a man who may be the lovechild of Scrooge and The Grinch, which can make things difficult).  It's just that I'm not ready to turn the page on autumn.  October closes on my favorite sabbat, one which has become something of a super holiday, lasting many days, in which I incorporate a plethora of traditions from the Halloweens of my childhood, the Samhain of celtic-leaning pagans, and equatorial Dia de los Muertos: communing and dining with the ghosts of my ancestors, eating too much novelty sweets (like gummy body parts and werewolf fur cotton candy), wrestling with my shadow aspect, honoring beloved movie monsters, listening to songs about purple people eaters and weird science, relishing the knowledge that what we all, even the muggles, are reacting to and extolling the thinning of the veil, by dressing our children in costumes and stringing orange and purple lights.  

And following all this hullabaloo and emotional upheaval, comes November, a month of pause and contemplation, a time for long walks and warm scarves, pumpkin-flavored everything, winter greens, and collecting and giving thanks.  I've mentioned here already in this month of blog entries that gratitude has revealed itself as a chief tenant of the my spiritual practice.  I resolved at the New Year to pray more, which evolved to an active search for a spiritual practice in my daily life, which began my Year and a Day of Study in June--and within these five months, gratitude has been the one experimental facet which has stuck with some ferocity, giving new and deeper meaning to the word and holiday, Thanksgiving.  

In my house growing up, Thanksgiving was never given much clout, the holiday traditions being much easier to uphold among large, extended families (in which each member brings a dish potluck-style) than nuclear families in which one woman (my grandmother) is responsible for an extended-family-sized meal.  When I catalog my memories of Thanksgivings past, much of them are permeated with a sour tinge of stress.  My happy memories of Thanksgiving are of watching the Macy's parade with my grandpa and waiting for Santa Claus to appear--the Thanksgivings of my past have been nothing more than somewhat uncomfortable stepping stones (with many, many dishes to wash) for Yuletide.

All this backstory is meant only to illustrate how completely this holiday has transformed for me, in this one year alone.  Thanksgiving is now among my favorite holidays, nestled (as it is linearly) between Halloween and Yule in my favor.  An entire month of giving thanks (and squeezing myself into a corset for the Renaissance Faire!), culminating in a feast and the gathering of kith and kin.  For we Wolfpeople the past few years, those gatherings and feasts have been a multitude each year, and each year I am more taken with the sharing of food and more struck by how breaking bread with a man (or woman, or child) brings such closeness, and ties people together in a way so profound.  

So, yeah, though I'm bombarded with the images of Christmas--the angel street lights and banners have been hung on Salem Street, tree lots have replaced pumpkin patches, an army of inflatable Santas have gathered in the suburbs, and Frank Sinatra is crooning to me about white Christmases and sleigh rides as I wrap ornaments in red tissue at work--I am still grooving on autumn.

But, it is, in part, the too-quick passing of a season which makes it all the sweeter, yes?  I'm beyond thankful for this past season, in all its mettle and its particular brand of beauty--which has as much to do with the vibrancy of red and gold leaves against grey skies as the sweep of emotion and reflection which accompany the falling of those leaves.  I have so much to be thankful for this year, every year, and this past month in particular has revealed blessings and surprises for which I will be expressing gratitude for the rest of my days.  

Autumn, I'll miss you; until we meet again...

Friday, November 23, 2012

30 Days of Thanks | Days 21-23, Food, Family, Fortitude, & Friday (White, not Black)

Day 21 - I am grateful for my big fat Greek salad, which is so tasty, even after Wolfman points out that kalamata olives taste a bit like permanent markers smell (they do).  I am so grateful for the big chunks of marinated feta in the dressing, that I don't even bother to fret, as I usually do, over whether it's true (goat cheese) feta or impostor (cow cheese) feta.  And I am grateful that this delicious dinner, which so hit the spot after a long day on my feet working, was free! Paid for with the gift certificate Wolfman and I won for Halloween trivia.  (We know all the movie monsters and all the actors that played them.)  

I am grateful for Blood Ceremony playing in an empty cafe.

I am grateful for the 6-month-old baby boy, all twenty jolly pounds of him, I got to hold on my hip, who in turn held my harmony ball so tightly in his chubby little fist.  He still smelled powdery, but was strong enough to hold his head up and giggle and grab hold of things.  What a good age!  What a sweet baby!

Day 22 - I am grateful for a husband who bakes a mean ham, with that sweet orange-infused glaze bursting through its every pore, and the candied orange peel swimming about in its juices. 

I am grateful to once again watch the Thanksgiving Day Parade with my grandpa, like I did when I was a kid, willfully ignoring the bad pop music and advertisements, and being genuinely excited when Santa appeared, closing the parade, and ushering in, as is tradition in our family, the start of the yule season.

I am grateful for the spread at my mother-in-law's--a good, hearty Southern meal with the turkey and stuffing and green beans as well as corn pudding and collards, sweet potatoes, pecan brittle, and two kinds of pies.  So thankful for family, for new family, and so grateful for the opportunity to learn more every day about them, about my husband's childhood, about the blood and ties and personalities which contributed to make him the man he is today.

I am grateful for the food coma that followed, and waking up to find Xena's baby, which I'm calling, simply, Mogwai, until we figure out the sex and give it a proper name, curled up next to me--my itty, bitty nap buddy.

Day 23 - I am grateful that at the mention of "Black Friday" my loved ones all give swift, disdainful eye rolls.  I am grateful that though I work in retail once again, as I have on and off since I started working, it's not for a corporate-owned store with ridiculous, unfriendly hours.  

I am grateful for the number of people I saw today on Salem Street.  I may turn my nose up at shopping today, but at least these people were supporting local business! 

I am grateful that though I'd never seen our little shop so brimming with people, I managed to not only keep a cool head today but keep a smile plastered on my face that was genuine 89% of the time.

I am grateful for learning the "inner smile" meditation technique, which sounds like a bunch of hooey typed or said aloud, but works some goddamn (I said goddamn!) magick.  

And after we'd closed the shop, and I'd eaten dinner and breathed a little, I had a brilliant epiphany for a wholesome, healing way to say Fuck You to the wicked triumvirate of consumerism, corporate greed, and media mind control that is Black Friday.  Next year, on this day, I will give things away.  I will scour my pantry and closet and give away anything I don't need, anything that I think could find a better home with someone else.  And then, as Leija Turnunen suggests, I will go out into the wild wood and celebrate my freedom.  White Friday, is what she called it.  I look forward to next year.  And I am grateful.

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

30 Days of Thanks | Day 20, Cold Cold Breakfast

There are some foods I do not plate.  Most foods, even the fast ones, like burgers and hushpuppies from Cook Out, or fried chicken baskets with biscuits and slaw from Bojangles, I do plate.  Plating is part of enjoying food--looking at it, smelling it, anticipating the flavors and the fullness of my belly afterwards.  But some foods are better out of paper cartons, better cold, better eaten over sinks or with one's body leaning into the refrigerator.  To my knowledge, scientists and researches have yet to understand exactly why this is so, why is cold roasted chicken pulled off the bone with greasy fingers so perfect--so tasty, so comforting, such a pleasure.  Breakfast of a cold slice of pizza and a steaming cup of black coffee is of such perfection that I sometimes don't bother eating pizza the night before, while it's still hot enough the cheese is melted.  Chinese food though, particularly steamed dumplings and lo mein is my very favorite cold dish.  To stand over the sink, tilting my head back, and drop one long noodle into my waiting mouth I consider one of the great treasures in life.  It is a gluttony, an indulgence, which, every time, makes me distinctly happy to not only be alive, but to be alive in this time, in this space, in this dimension.  I am thankful.

Monday, November 19, 2012

30 Days of Thanks | Day 19, Postcards from New York

The memories of shopping for, applying to, deciding on colleges is all a bit of a blur to me now.  At the time, I remember only feeling out of control and apathetic.  I didn't want to stay in high school, certainly, and I knew college was expected of me, but I didn't care a lot about the ultimate decision, and I cared less for the process by which that decision was made.  When fellow students expressed excitement over getting into State or getting into UNC, it was as if they were taking part in some foreign, ancient ritual for which I had no reference or savvy.  The little Irish lady who worked in the office, Mrs. Doyle (really), must've seen this clearly on my face one day as I sat in her office, hastily filling out applications for the area girls' schools I had not previously thought to consider.  She asked me if I could go anywhere for school, or to any school, where would that be?  I barely had to ponder the question much at all before I answered, "I'd go to New York."  I remember shrugging off her shock.  I was a timid, quiet girl then (and still am to a degree).  The strange part, to me, was that I don't know if I had ever actually considered New York or any other city before that very moment.  But when I said it aloud, I planted some sort of seed within me.  

For the next year, at an ill-fitting private school in downtown Raleigh, I was obsessed with New York.  I wrote stories which took place in New York, stories in which New York was more a character than a setting.  I dreamed about leaving and being there and making do however I could just to be there.    I watched movies which featured the Manhattan skyline.  I listened to songs about New York and bands from New York.

That window has passed now.  Now my fantasies and google searches involve cabins in woods and farms on rolling hills.  I've read a book about the New York underground (by which I do not mean the nightclubs Stefan reviews on Weekend Update, but the actual tunnels under the city filled with train tracks and the disenchanted).  When I'm in certain moods I think it might be fun to visit, maybe take a train up there and spend a few days--not nearly enough days to see everything, but not enough days to start missing trees and my wild husband too painfully.  (My husband, I should stop to note, feels choked and out of his element in dinky downtown Raleigh; were I to take him to New York, he would go feral, climb the tallest tree in Central Park, and I'd have to get animal control to tranq and crate him in order to get him home.)  In particular, I still find the idea of New York romantic in December.  My favorite moments in New York movies always happen on Christmas or New Years Eve.

My friend Kath just visited New York, she'd likely say too briefly.  She's a city girl, so she's freely and proudly proclaimed in letters; an Edmontonian. She makes no qualms about enjoying fine things--eating good sushi, seeing Shakespeare in the park, experiencing art, culture, and smelly cheese.  The postcard that arrived over the weekend from New York was of Van Gogh's irises, purchased in the MoMA gift shop.  It was all so Kathryn, so lovely, so metropolitan, and I enjoyed spending a moment standing at the kitchen counter, reading her words, seeing a brief snippet of New York through her eyes and feeling excited with her, in a few days retrospect, as Lunchbox snuffled at my feet looking for scraps.  I felt much of the same elation over the summer when Kath's post cards from France arrived.  But I must admit there was a little extra something as I held a bit of New York, of Kathryn in New York, in my hand.  I had wanted to be there, once, and though that's a dream I've grown out of, I can still appreciate the draw of that city, and I can easily let that thrill wash over me again. 

Today, I am thankful for postcards from New York, and for the friendship of my sharp, worldly, beautiful (really, just breath-taking) friend Kath, and her handwriting which has not changed and still slants up on unlined paper, and the trips she's shared with me in notes for nearly a decade.

Sunday, November 18, 2012

Happy Birthday to My Grandma

Today is my grandma's birthday.  I really love this woman.  It's safe to say I am who I am because of Grandma, and if I resemble her in any way--a certain turn of my face or a tone in my voice or the way I laugh, the words I choose (like "wonderful", which is one of her favorites), the beliefs I hold--I am so glad.  This is the woman who made me mixtapes when I was a little girl which always included Frank Sinatra singing "Young at Heart."  She is.  I know no person so full of life, of vim and vigor, of passion as my grandma.  How lucky am I to have such a wild, misbehaved woman as a role model?

I love you, Grandma.  Happy Birthday!

''Her grandmother, as she gets older, is not fading but rather becoming more concentrated.'' 
- Paulette Bates Alden

Saturday, November 17, 2012

30 Days of Thanks | Day 17

I am really, really thankful for goat cheese.  Goat cheese is mighty tasty, compliments both sweet things and savory things, and it doesn't hurt my stomach like cow cheese.  Also, how cute are goats? Give me them. I want to be a crazy goat lady.

Friday, November 16, 2012

30 Days of Thanks | Day 16

There's this great line in Jennifer's Body (say what you will, but Diablo Cody writes a solid horror flick).  When accused of PMSing, Jennifer tells Needy, "PMS isn't real.  It was invented by the boy-run media to make us seem like we're crazy."

"Boy-run media" has become a consistent part of my vocabulary, particularly as a way of breaking the ice when I'm broaching the difficult subjects of, say, rape culture and vagina fear (there's really no other way to explain some things that happen, in particular, in Congress).  But, unfortunately, PMS is very real in my experience.  I'm not speaking for every woman, of course.  I'm not even speaking of myself at every stage of my womanhood.  Back in my teenage days, I never suffered from any kind of moodiness, crampiness, bloatiness, or any other unfortunate-ness associated with the shedding of the uterine wall.  But, as I get older, my periods tend to get more and more stereotypical(ly awful).  My husband, charmer that he is, likes to joke that my body is punishing me for not filling my womb with a fetus already.  Possibly there's some truth in that, you know, scientifically (or, at least, according to the boy-run medical field).  Whatever the reason, I woke up three days ago completely irate,  and poor Woodrow, that persnickety one-eyed bastard ass of a cat, got the brunt of my wrath.  I fought with him trying to get him to eat his breakfast inside the dog igloo (thinking he'd be happier, warmer, buffeted from the cold, wet autumn wind; but of course, cats don't like being forced into enclosed spaces, which, in retrospect, is totally understandable), and then shouted at him when he ran past me, up the stairs of the deck, and began screeching at me from his high perch for the food I'd already poured and put elsewhere.  I came inside after that and sat down in my closet and cried, sobbed really, because I felt angry and guilty and, in general, out of control.  (Why the closet? I like the warm feeling of being enveloped by my beautiful clothes.)  It wasn't until I checked my planner and counted days that I realized shark week was fast approaching, and rather than feeling relieved, I felt utterly defeated.

Mornings, in particular, are tough.  I manage to snap out of it after a cup of coffee (and possibly a pumpkin scone if we're talking about yesterday specifically), but I always have to weasel in apologies to my husband, my cat, myself, which feels a little like Dr. Jeckyll must feel apologizing for the outbursts of Mr. Hyde.  "I'm sorry you were exposed to that insane, sobbing banshee from hell; it will totally happen again, if not tomorrow, then next month, but that doesn't make me any less sorry."

But that, actually, is what I am thankful for in this whole ordeal.  I am thankful that my husband (and cat) are forgiving creatures who see the best in me, even when I'm at my worst.  And I am even more thankful that I have the ability to snap myself out of it.  This is what I am: one tough cookie.  Yes, I do occasionally fall prey to whining and cry-babying and woe-is-me-ing.  Everyone does.  As my boss Gia said the other day in answer to a mother explaining that her usually chatty toddler just wasn't feeling conversation, "Well, everybody needs a day every once in a while."  Sometimes, we need a series of mornings to be terrible.  In a way, I'm lucky for boy-run media; I'm lucky for the excuse to be a wretch once a month (a legitimate excuse, yes, but an excuse).  After my crying fits, I always feel better, calmer, clearer.  It's a bit like being in the eye of the storm, in that I know another crying fit is bound to happen at some point.  But more so, it is like releasing a pressure valve, and for that I am, actually, no shit, thankful. 

Hurrah for periods! 

Thursday, November 15, 2012

30 Days of Thanks | Day 15

I don't drive.  I can drive, and fairly well, but on a daily basis, I do not.  I walk.  I use public transportation. As last resorts, I bum rides.  It's been this way for years.  My entire life actually is full of memories of me walking places, by myself usually, but sometimes not.  I remember taking epic treks across the city of Albuquerque with my step-dad, and slipping on ice along the way (yes, it snows and ices in Albuquerque).  Always he would ask as I sat on my butt in the wet cold, "Did it hurt?," and when I answered yes, he would respond, "Don't do it again."

Because I don't drive, my timing is quite often off, and as I believe in punctuality (if at all possible), this means I'm usually early for something and waiting.  I do a lot of waiting in my life, which I don't feel at all angsty about.  My life is full of intermissions and interludes, best accompanied by cigarettes in the days I smoked cigarettes, I must admit.  I wished I was still carrying that emergency pack this morning, but I threw that out years ago.  I got dropped off early this morning, before my cafe was even open, and chose to go on a walk in my cowboy boots which are still stunningly loud, but need badly to be re-soled.  I'd considered walking to the graveyard but decided against it, not because it'd be too much of a sad cliche, but because I was just there on a Saturday walk.  Instead, I walked to a little park, one with plastic play structures for small children (the wood and metal play structures for larger, but still small, children have all but disappeared from the face of America; we expect kids to grow up so fast these days).  I'm keen on this particular park because it has a grill, and though I haven't used one yet, I always wax poetic about bringing a pan and a couple eggs and frying myself up some breakfast in the winter in a park.  Perhaps I like the image of this because it reminds me of the story of my Grandma grilling a turkey on the grill in the snow one winter, and Grandpa discovering her when he pulled into the drive way after work, utterly incredulous.  

But, like the cigarettes I didn't have, I also wasn't carrying any camp gear, or perishables.  But, I do have enough bad sense to sit on the swing set on a 36 degree morning and swing, my finger-less gloves protecting my palms from the cold of the chain, but not my fingers from the biting of the wind.  Red, chapped fingers are of little concern, though, when one has a swing which one can lean back on and stare at the sky and yellow and red leaved trees, one's stomach doing twists and turns that can only be combatted with giggling.  

I am a little crazy (it's hereditary), but this morning, and all mornings like it, I am thankful for the cold, I am thankful for the loneliness, I am thankful for a sturdy swing set to hold my grown lady weight, I am grateful for a grey sky threatening rain (or snow!), and I am grateful even that I don't have a pack of emergency cigarettes, because that's really a nasty habit.

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

30 Days of Thanks | Days 1-14, all at once

Gratitude is something I've been working on diligently for the past few months (thanks in large part to this lady).  Since my 28th birthday this August, my goal has been to jot down, every night, three things that happened during the day which made me grateful.  Some days it's been easy, some days difficult, some days are just too awful to even face my journal (and this is the admission of a life-long journaler; I've been keeping diaries since I could write).  Some days, the list of gratitude mostly encompasses the things I ate during the day (I love food), and some days I might write one long paragraph about some precise, intangible moment, a moment impossible to write about, I know, though I try.

Contemplating this season and all its feel-good celebrations, I've kicked my gratitude up a notch.  I've begun challenging myself to recognize, internally (sometimes, if nobody's around, aloud) one thing I'm grateful for at each hour of the day.  Or, when I find myself annoyed by something or someone, I'll think to myself, "What am I grateful for right now?" to get control of my emotions and realize that petty irritants are bound to happen, and its no reason to fall into a funk, or worse, a Mood.  When gratitude is difficult, I like to pronounce this litany to myself: I have two legs, two arms, working toes and fingers; I'm healthy, I'm well-fed, and I'm well-loved.  Not everyone on this planet can say the same.

Over breakfast just the other day, Wolfman and I were talking about his melancholy, which he's been carrying around with him for much of his life.  Pop has even told me a number of times what a sad little twerp Wolfman was as a boy (my words, never his), and though I say nothing, I think that sadness is an inheritance, but I appreciate a little commiseration now and then.  I told my husband, "Grateful people are happy people," which is such a cliche, but he forgave me (and so must you) because it's true.  Happiness doesn't make people grateful; gratitude makes people happy.  I want to be a happy person.  It's my only real, solid goal in life: to be happy.  And so, I practice gratitude in a sometimes meticulous and painstaking way.

Which is why I've interrupted my radio silence and NaNoWriMo-ing immediately upon discovering Me, My Dogs, My Life's 30 Days of Thanks Challenge, for which, as always to these things, I am late (but worth the wait!).

  • Day 1 - Beards! Glorious beards! Every man looking like a lumberjack/fisherman/wizard! I swoon! Thanks be to No Shave November!
  • Day 2 - I am grateful for whoever was the first person to declare, "live life like a prayer." How fucking inspirational is that shit?
  • Day 3 - I am grateful for the dinner crowd at Sweet Tomatoes and the feeling of sharing a communal meal.
  • Day 4 - I am grateful for cabbage and baked beans for breakfast.
  • Day 5 - I am grateful for the idea of home which sustains us these months.
  • Day 6 - I am grateful for leaves falling from trees and getting caught in my scarf.
  • Day 7 - I am grateful for the cheery bus driver who greets me with, "There's my girl!," when I step onto the 311.
  • Day 8 - I am grateful for the rogue pistachio I find in my purse.
  • Day 9 - I am grateful for Wolfman unexpectedly bringing pre-packaged snack cakes home.
  • Day 10 - I am grateful for indoor plumbing.
  • Day 11 - I am grateful that I still fit into my corset.
  • Day 12 - I am grateful for dreams which speak clearly to specific actions I need to take and avoid in my waking life.
  • Day 13 - I am grateful for Wolfman worrying about me--bringing me a sweater at the shop when he notices the temperature has dropped and asking Gia around lunch time if I've eaten.  Gia responded to that, "In my next life I want someone to worry whether or not I eat," driving my gratitude home.
  • Day 14 - I am grateful for blog challenges which distract me from novel-writing.  Lets be real.

  • 30 Days of Thanks

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

This Moment | this creep right here

The Magician (or, in the Wildwood, the Shaman), peering out at me on Sunday's card draw.  A lot on my mind lately. Doing a lot of examination and journaling and day dreaming, and coming across a lot of synchronicities that are so precise, and yet so vague, and don't often reveal themselves as such until days later.  I'm writing here to say I have not forgotten this blog, my plans for it, nor have I abandoned my to-do lists.  I just needed a dark moon intermission.  Watch this space.

Friday, October 12, 2012

Happy Birthday to My Love

This man I'm in love with is 29 today.  We are all so lucky to have him around.
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