Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Feeling like seconds...

My grandma used to sing a song about secondhand Rose whose father owned a second hand store. Poor Rose never got anything new. Everything she had was secondhand and that made her feel, well, secondhand. My life this week has felt much like this song because although I regularly get new things and nice things, as far as interpersonal relationships go, I have been feeling, well, secondhand.

There is more history behind these feelings than I care to share on my little blog, but it comes down to a certain group of friends who include me only peripherally and conveinently. I pretend like it doesn't matter, but it does. Everytime it hurts a little more. It is something I have not been able to reconcile within myself no matter how hard I try...and I have tried. So this little post, my only one in this busy December, is all about self indulgence. I feel little sad, a little second, and I need that to be written down somewhere, so it means something, so it is more than it is.

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

A thankful heart...

I believe it is a rare gift to live a good and happy life. I also believe that living such a life is largely a matter of choice. That being said, I must also say that I have been extremely blessed; there is no measure of the bounty that has come out of the windows of heaven. I have had trials and heartaches. I have been lost and sad. I have been lonely. I have also felt the sun on my face painting on warm cinnamon freckles. I have felt the cool dark of freshly turned soil, the quiet joy of laying on the grass on a summer afternoon beneath tree filtered light, the deep blue of my feet in the water, the soothing sound of the moving sea. I have had the love a good family and good friends. I have been given talents abundant. These gifts have filled my days with beauty, contentment and peace. I have been given the chance to think, learn, feel, imagine, dream, and grow. It has been a good life, not in the absence of sorrows, but maybe because of them. I am grateful.

Friday, November 20, 2009

A few words from Uncle Walt...

I have many favorites from the world of words, specifically poetry. Picking a single one as the only one, would be like picking out a single star to light the night sky; it would be a very dark night indeed. I love my favorites for various reasons. Some paint beautiful pictures. Some sound musical and magical when falling from the tongue. Some warm and comfort. Some give to words wings that are so beautiful they cannot be read without tears. And some tell the stark grey truth of this world. Their truth adds color to drab, not with flowery images or optimistic stanzas, but with the beauty found in the honesty of the human experience.

There are few poet's who do this as well as Walt Whitman. I heard once that the beauty of his poetry occured because he took us to the kitchens of America and made us want to stay when we arrived. Leaves of Grass is the most stark, and yet seemingly beautiful, presentation of the human world. If you haven't read it, you should try. It is a lot to read at once and it requires patience while acquiring the rhythms of his language, but it is worth the work. So, for Friday, a few words...

"This is what you shall do: Love the earth and the sun and the animals, despise riches, give alms to every one that asks, stand up for the stupid and crazy, devote your income and labor to others, hate tyrants, argue not concerning God, have patience and indulgence toward the people, take off your hat to nothing known or unknown or to any man or number of men, go freely with powerful uneducated persons and with the young and with the mothers of families, read these leaves in the open air every season of every year of your life, re-examine all you have been told at school or church or in any book, dismiss whatever insults your own soul, and your very fleash shall be a great poem and have the richest fluency not only in its words, but in the silent lines of its lips and face an between the lashes of your eyes and in every motion and joint of your body..."

...and in case that wasn't enough...

A Clear Midnight

This is thy hour O soul, thy free flight into the wordless
Away from books, away from art, the day erased, the lesson
Thee fully forth emerging, silent, gazing, pondering the
themes thou lovest best,
night, sleep, death and the stars.

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Singing in the stairwell...

I work late on Wednesdays. Usually the evenings pass uneventfully, a little filing, a few chart notes, and not much else. Tonight, I went to get my car earlier than usual and parked it in the terrace closer to the hospital. I came back into hospital through a back stairwell that is rarely used. As the door clicked behind me, the stairwell was filled with music--someone was singing on the stairs above. The voice wasn't magnificent or impressive, some of the notes were off key, but it was an honest voice and its song was brave and uninhibited. I'm sure the woman thought she was alone. She picked a unfrequented stairwell, sat down on the steps, and started to sing. Her voice echoed around her and it must have sounded different to her as the source of the music.

I stood on the stairwell floor and listened for awhile. She continued to sing, one song after another. Maybe she sang because she thought no one was listening. Maybe she sang because the melody hummed around her as it crossed the cement, circling the stairs up and down. Maybe she sang simply because she had a song. I'll never know, but her singing was a moment of quiet joy for me. Where the world was filled with the beauty only an honest voice can bring.

Manipulations of a four year old...

My niece has recently become obsessed with money. She wants it...bad. She scours my bedroom floor for loose coins, which up until now I have willingly relinquished. Last week she informed me that she didn't want any more change...she only wanted real money, paper money. I asked her why she needed paper money. "To buy things," she replied while giving me the wow-you-are-really-dumb-face. She's four! What does she need to buy? Being the nice aunty I am I gave her a dollar. Since then she asks me for a dollar every time she sees me. It is funny...well...sort of funny.

Monday I had a migraine. I woke up from my phenergan induced coma and needed to visit the bathroom. I was looking for my pajama pants when my niece came in. "Oh you're awake," she says. "Can I have a dollar?" "No you may not. You have enough dollars," I reply. Then I sneezed.

I'm sure it has happened to others, but since I turned 30, sometimes if I have a full bladder and then sneeze, more comes out than just the sneeze. If you know what I mean, then you understand. This happened to be one of those special sneeze times and I ran to the bathroom to remedy the situation. When I came back to my room, my niece asked what had happened. I was honest and told her about what had happened. "Hmmm...." she said looking thoughtful.

Five minutes or so passed. I was laying down and my darling niece was lying on the bed reading. Just as I'm about to go back to sleep, Olivia says, "Um, Sissa?" "Yes?" I say. "How about you give me a dollar or I go tell my mom you peed your pants."

Monday migraines and manipulated by a four old, what could be better?

Monday, November 16, 2009

A love list...

I will finish the New York Chronicles, complete with pictures, but in the interm I wanted to publish a little something else. I stole this idea from another blog I read and love. So, since imitation is the sincerest form of flattery...

Sunday's Love List

~sleeping in a room of cool, quiet dark
~waking up without an alarm
~snuggling under a heavy quilt
~french toast with lots of butter and maple syrup
~bare feet
~re-reading a book you love and realizing why you still love it
~listening to Eilen Jewell
~playing the piano
~cathedral concerts
~peacock blue
~finishing a scarf, including all the loose ends
~letting go
~the blessing of a cheerful heart
~the delicious feeling of being snuggled in bed and knowing that at any moment you will fall gently to sleep

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

The New York Chronicles...

Last month I went to New York. I've wanted to write about it, as I have been so obviously absent from my blog since my last trip. Please note that the Portland Chronicles still only have one day. That's what school and life will do for you. Oh, how pleasant the time will be when I have time. With that being said and behind me, I can now focus on the job at hand. Come with me to New York City...

I had never been to the famed city until June when I was invited by my darling school friend, Meghan. Shea (another friend) and I went for the weekend and had a marvelous time. We bummed around Central Park, visited the MoMA, shopped in SoHo, and met the only star for which I am starstruck, Lauren Graham. I bought a cocktail ring, a scarf, three beautiful photographs, and a giant hat all from street vendors who were not also selling knock offs. It was was beautiful whirlwind weekend. Since then I have been in love.

This time my trip to New York was to visit my two friends, Steven and Loren, who are adventuring there. The trip was different, but good. We did all the touristy stuff and Steve really out did himself to show me a nice time. It all went something like this...

Day One--I took the red eye and landed red-eyed. Then I bravely took the subway by myself to the boys' apartment. (This made my mother insane with nervousness, but I'm in my thirties...time for us both to grown up). Steve had to go to school, but we met in the street, hugged, and said hello and goodbye in one quick breath. Loren was waiting for me at the apartment, graciously carried my suitcase up three of the five stories, and talked to me until he had to leave. We had almost an hour together and it was so nice. (Side note--I am pretty sure Loren is my soulmate. We are perfectly aligned in interests and intelligence. Plus, he is just a darling boy. I mean darling)!!! He kindly let me sleep in his bed and got down his down comforter so I would be warm enough. Very sweet! Iwas tired, but I felt quite swoony as evidenced by my tripping over the rug when I hugged him. (Not really...I justed wanted to use the word swoony).

I slept away the morning, then spent the afternoon reading and waiting. It was exceedingly pleasant to do nothing at all, but sit by the window, in the sun, reading. Such times are full of such quiet joy. Steve got home earlier than expected and our adventures began. We took the subway to Grand Central Station. It was a sight! I loved the old building and the masses of people coming and going; deep waves moving from one place to another. The windows were high and arched. The ticket windows were from another time. I wanted to be in that time. From Grand Central, we took the train to Broadway and walked in the rain to the theater where they had lottery tickets for In the Heights. While we were waiting for the lottery to start, I asked Steve if he was feeling lucky. He said he never felt lucky, but his was the first name called. Front row seats for $26 each was pretty lucky! We went to dinner while we waited for the show. It was a themed diner with terrible and really expensive food, but the atmosphere was good and we had a great time. Then we sat under a hotel eave and talked. There is something wonderful about sitting and talking with an old friend, someone who knows you completely, and feels as familiar as your own skin. We talked and laughed and it felt just like it has always felt...just like home.

In the Heights was amazing! The songs were so good and the dancing was incredible. If you're in New York and get the chance, it is worth seeing. After the play we walked around Time Square a little and then went home.

Day 2--Steve stayed home from school (I had nothing to do with this decision). We went to the cutest restaurant for breakfast called Penelope's. Steve said he walked by it one day, thought of me, and knew I would love it. I did love it! It was small and very old home with peacock blue wainscotting on the walls, white rectangular subway tiles, a wooden counter, and old glass jars in glass faced cabinets. We sat at the counter. I had the most wonderful french toast I have ever eaten. It was served with strawberries and blueberries and thick maple syrup. It was coat crusted thick with light batter hinted with vanilla and paired perfectly with the freshly sqeezed orange juice. I loved it! Just another perk of being with someone who knows you!

We walked to Madison Square Park and looked at all the buildings surrounding it including the famous Flat Iron Building. On the street near the park were a line of street vendors, selling fall time fares: hot cider, hot cider doughnuts, cinnamon roasted almonds, warm cinnamon buns, pumpkins, scarves, and everything fitting for the coming cold. We then walked back to the apartment so Steve could work on a paper. I read a little and he studied a little, but we decided the weather was holding out for us and we better use it up. We took the train to the Brooklyn Bridge stop with grand plans of walking the entire length.

Side note--A Story about Falling

I have a HUGE fear of falling. Not heights--falling. I don't know when it started or where it came from, but it is very, VERY real. As a result, I do not walk on anything that doesn't have earth underneath. I strategically avoid street grates, pothole covers, foot bridges, and anything with open slats or large gaps. If I can see down, it is almost impossible for me to walk on something ungrounded. I almost died of fright trying to walk across the Golden Gate Bridge, which makes the next part of this story almost miraculous...

The Brooklyn Bridge is a beautiful bit of architectural genius. It really is a magnificent sight spanning the bay between Manhattan and Brooklyn. It was the first bridge built that connected the Burroughs and its historical significance was not lost on me. Walking across it was my idea and I was excited! Steve and I were talking and laughing. The cement beneath our feet was firm and fall proof. Then...the cement ended and I discovered the entire length of the bridge is acutally made up of small wooden slats. You can see through the slats to the lanes of cars running below. The bridge hums with the movement of traffic. Essentially, it is one big street grate. I was immobilized and torn between my two options. On one hand was this deep, deep, almost paralyaing fear of falling. Walking a mile across a wooden, slatted footbridge was too much. On the other hand, was my longing to walk across the bridge and look and Manhattan from the Brooklyn side. I wanted to go back to the time where the bridge was part of people's daily commute. I wanted to walk on something historical because I wanted to be a part of that history. After five minutes of self deliberation, I looked at Steve and said, "Okay, we're going, but this is how it is going to work. We are not going to talk about. I am not going to think about it. We are going to make no references to how high we are or the fact we can see the traffic moving underneath. We are not even going to look down. We are going to walk across and everything is going to be fine." Steve just laughed and said okay. He did a very good job keeping up his end of the deal. He only asked once if I thought it would hurt more to hit the cement or the water. One careful looked was all he needed to remember what we weren't talking about it. We made it safely across the entire bridge with a little bravery to spare. See? A miracle!

The view of Manhattan from the bridge was worth it and I realized how often fear keeps us from doing things that turn out to be amazing!

Monday, September 7, 2009

The Portland Chronicles...

I spent the last weekend in Portland, which is one of my favorite cities. There is something wonderful about small blocks, easily conquered and often rain drenched. It is a city mazed with alternating one way streets, street car rails, bridges, and people who walk everywhere. Regardless of the weather you put on your beanie and go. You let the rain fall on your head and face and hands. You let it soak the bottown of your pant legs. You let it straighten your hair and drip of the end of your nose. You get wet. It is part of the experience. Portland would not be the same without the rain. It is a part of the landscape and affects the city's texture, color, and light. Portland is full of greys and blues and greens. I recommend adding a little red or orange to the small space you occupy while visiting the city. Add a cap or scarf or mittens and see how it changes the view.

Portland is home to Powell's City of Books, which is the largest new and used book store in the world. The afternoon we visited Powell's was particularly torrential and provided a perfect excuse to spend multiple hours looking through the shelves. It is overwhelming to be in a place with so many books. It is hard to choose a place to start. I wandered a little, picked out a rustic fruits cookbook (consequently the only new book I bought that day), and eventually ended up on the second floor which offers an intoxicating combination of fiction and non fiction. I spent the next couple of hours sitting on a footstool reading, adding things to my basket, taking things out, until the choices were narrowed to a resonable amount. When I left the bookstore, I was ninety dollars poorer and ten books richer. It was an afternoon well spent.

The rain subsided and we ate lunch at the carts on our way to Knit Purl. I used to be a traveler wary of food sold from street vendors, but a little bravery and only good experiences have led me to abandon my wariness. The pulled pork sandwich, barbeque beans, and coleslaw did not disappoint. I was even brave enough to try the mysterious white "Southern Sauce" innocently waiting in a bottle next to the barbaque. Very spicy, but a rather tasty kick.

A visit to Knit Purl was next. It is a beautiful, brick front yarn store at the corner of 11th and Alder. I could have spent the rest of the afternoon in there, but I was trying to be considerate to my travel friend. As a side note, the first time I visited Knit Purl, I spent more than I had ever spent at a yarn store in a single visit. It still holds the record, which is impressive considereing the amount of money I spend on yarn. I won't talk about specifics, as they are unimportant, but if you are bitten by the knitting bug and have the chance to visit Knit! (There is a wonderful local yarn store called Blazing Needles that is just as beautiful).

The day finished off with a trip to Trader Joes in the Alphabet District and getting wonderfully lost in the process...remember all of Portland's one way streets? Getting lost was largely due Amber's inability to read maps and gauge direction without large physical landmarks. She also failed to notice that in the alphabet district the streets go alphabetically. Throw in a random street that prohibits left and right turns (is there any other kind?), a few random bridges, and streets that end in nowhere and you get lost, lost, lost! Fortunately, we had no where to be and getting lost turned out to be quite an adventure. We finally made it to the grocery where we were able to fill our bags with fresh fruit and other cheap, but delicious organic items.

To be continued...

Friday, September 4, 2009

The Latte Boy...

Almost every morning I walk to the Starbucks for a freshly brewed chai. Even in these times of economic distress and my impending unemployment, it is a little luxury I haven't been able to give up. There is something about a full cup of warm milk infused with spices and pepper. That something might just be tangible happiness. Add a healthy dose of nutmeg to the mix and it is almost magic. If you are a morning beverage girl, I am sure you understand.

The Starbucks I frequent is staffed by a very cheerful, but not overly cheerful bunch. I am not ashamed to say I am a regular and have a quiet sense of joy when they smilingly say, "the usual." It gives me a sense of belonging, a sense of community, even if it is fleeting. Every morning I want to move to a small town where I am always a regular and will some day achieve the status of a local. That feeling too is fleeting, but it accomplishes a purpose and I like to revel in the possibility.

Among the crowd of the morning crew there is a latte boy. For the purpose of this post we will call him Riley, as that is his name. He has very large and curly hair, a prominent nose, dark rimmed glasses, and kind eyes. All things I look for and love. He reads the newspaper, which I also find very appealing. He is a pleasant boy who happily brews my venti extra hot and delivers it with a smile. Some mornings I have a serious crush.

I bring the latte boy here to prove a point...that possibility is everywhere. I am not just talking about the possibility of love or caffeinated bliss. I am more talking about the possibility of recognizing, of noticing, of seeing the simple things that fill up a life. The joy in finding and appreciating those things that add color and beauty to existence: a morning walk, a morning chai, an extra sprinkling of nutmeg, a curly haired boy who smiles as he fills your cup, and a sense of belonging someplace, somewhere, even if it is just the coffee shop on the corner.

Thursday, August 27, 2009

Elements of lost light...

I went to the desert repenting--
in the quiet I remembered the sound of the ocean;
listened to the sound of open spaces
with a rock pressed against my ear.
I wanted to be lost;
to be found because there was little else to see.

I found a patch of cool grass,
a mirage or a miracle, I couldn't tell,
but I lay on the blades
grateful for the cool relief.
The light was different, filtering through the trees
laying messages on the ground
speaking like someone dead
speaking like someone living.

I whispered the story of my mother, my sister, my best friend--
the women I knew changed to leaves
light filtering through the green
a pattern on the grass
a pattern on my cheek and hands.
They were the wisdom I checked myself by;
the ones I forgot when I became selfish.


I dreamed of painting:
my hands in the dark paint
my elbows red like open wounds
a dark orange crust under my fingernails
blue on my knuckles
a stark navy smudge on one cheek.
I felt water pooling beneath my back;
I wanted to paint the sky.

I picked up needles and a ball of different fibers.
I made a carpet
a blanket
a shawl
a cap
four pairs of mittens
seven socks.
I knitted the world
and put it into my bag.

I carried things on my back:
blue stockings and regret.
I wrote the words I couldn't say--
all the lies that belonged to someone else
all the lies I heard and told.

I carried bricks so I could remember pain
stones for guilt
iron hanks for things I said but didn't mean
stakes for things I said and meant.
I put in feathers for all the things I am proud of.

My back grew strong,
but still couldn't bear one memory.
I carried it my hands, so it wouldn't be forgotten.
My hands blistered around it;
I couldn't forget.


I looked at the world and tried to write it.
I listened to the world and sang its new and ancient song.
I wrote and painted and stitched and knit.
I stretched my back.
I carried it all.
I told the truth as often as I could.
I lied when the truth was too heavy on my tongue.

I remembered the women who shared their wisdom--
who lay beside me on the grass
who held my hands
who told me time would pass as it would.

I forgot the desert,
the ocean,

Then, I was found.

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

What these words say about you...

I believe everyone should have a poem: some piece of writing that says something true and deliberate about who they really are. This one is mine.

Wild Geese

You do not have to be good.
You do not have to walk on your knees
for a hundred miles through the desert repenting.
You only have to let the soft animal of your body
love what it loves.
Tell me about despair, yours, and I will tell you mine.
Meanwhile the world goes on.
Meanwhile the sun and the clear pebbles of the rain
are moving across the landscapes,
over the prairies and the deep trees,
the mountains and the rivers.
Meanwhile the wild geese, high in the clear blue air,
are heading home again.
Whoever you are, no matter how lonely,
the world offers itself to your imagination,
calls to you like the wild geese, harsh and exciting--
over and over announcing your place
in the family of things.

--Mary Oliver

Friday, August 21, 2009

A lesson learned...again...

My favorite professor in college told me that genius comes to us in the shower. It a strange paradox...that you would come up with genius ideas when you have no paper, no pen, and your hands are too wet to write it down. Still, there was a great lesson in his simple statement. What he really meant was that genius comes to us when we least expect it; when are minds are allowed to wander to where they will; when we are unbound from our inhibitions and commitments. For a long time I took this advice to heart and carried a little notebook in my purse, just in case some genius came to me. When I was prepared, I had the most amazing thoughts, and I was able to record them before they turned to gold and became dust. As time moved on, I got out of the habit of carrying a notebook. I still had moments of pure genius, but I was unprepared to capture them. They moved away from me and on to someone else. They were lost to me and now have become inconsequential because they were unused, unwritten.

Last week I had a glimpse of genius. I was sitting at a stop light. It was dusk and I was watching the sunset. I had in that moment the best idea for a story. Its characters and scene practically unfolded in the colors of the sky. I knew how to start and the line of plot seemed real and obvious. We're talking Pulitzer Prize winning idea. Unfortunately, I had nothing to write on. I was sure I would remember, but when I got home I was immediately over taken with other parts of life. The evening passed before I remembered there was something I was supposed to remember. By then it was midnight and the idea at the stop light had long since passed on its way.

I wonder how many ideas have been lost because they weren't written down. My own number is depressingly large. When I think about what I could have written, what I have missed, I am filled with a deep sense of regret. I must carry a notebook...

Thursday, August 20, 2009

Keeping up with the Jones...

This post is for Amber. As one of my faithful blog followers, and BFF, I felt she needed a entry just for her. Admittedly, I have alterior motives for writing this post. The only other blog Amber reads is authored by her sister in law who is wildly witty and very entertaining. I am openly threatened by this as I like to fancy myself both witty and funny. I know... I know! I shouldn't care. I shouldn't care that Amber laughs heartily in her cubicle as she reads Bryttin's blog and then shares it with everyone as being hilarious. I shouldn't care that she doesn't laugh when she reads my blog, but instead just smiles and says, "Well that was well written." When she says such things, I feel like someone has taken a large red marker and written all over my blog horrible comments like "great idea" and "you're getting there." I am transported to my high school writing days when no one recognized or appreciated my genius. I am hurt...just a little.

So, now I feel like I have to write a blog post that rivals Bryttin's. One that will make Amber laugh outloud and call people to her cube to read. I am handicapped by the fact I do not have an adorable toddler walking around saying charming things. I don't have crazy neighbors who perform crazy acts in their backyards. I have no anectdotes about plumbers or electricians or roofers coming to my house to deliver their tradesman antics. I have no husband to unknowingly provide me with winning blogging material, while he innocently eats his pork chop. I have no pearls or orange cream colored pumps. I have no idea how to make Lime Sublime Suprise. I am convinced that the absence of these things is why Amber does not laugh at my blog. I am caught up in the game of keeping up the Joneses and suddenly have nothing clever or witty to say.

Wednesday, August 5, 2009

A history told by water...

My family vacations at the same spot every year. It is a tradition that started with my grandparents, passed to my parents, and continues with my brothers and me. My grandparents chose Redfish Lake largely because of location. Being Idaho farmers, they needed to be close enough to the farm to return quickly. They couldn't be separated from the land for more than a few days. My grandpa would deep flood the potato fields, over water the hay, and then pack his wife and kids in the pickup and go. They would follow the Lost River up through Mackey and Challis to where it met the Salmon. Following the Salmon would take them up the canyon to Redfish.

The first night was often spent on the beach near the point. Grandpa would lay a tarp down, the kids would lay down their sleeping bags, and then grandpa would pull another tarp across the top. He and grandma slept in the truck at the campground gates. In the time before reservations, the key to getting the camping spot of your choice required planning. It was first come, first serve and my grandpa was always there first--parking Sunday night, bedding his kids on the beach, ready for the Monday morning opening.

Redfish Lake is one of the most beautiful places on earth. It was named by explorers becuase when they found it, the lake was teeming with Sockeye Salmon, their crimson scales flashing in the water tinting it red. Maybe I am sentimental, maybe my family history with lake makes it more than it is, but it is also a truly amazing place. It is calm and uncrowded. In the mornings and the evenings, the lake spreads out like a sheet of glass; its surface unbroken and clear blue. Light falls from the East or West and reflects off the water. There is little sound except for water on the shore, the day break or evening call of birds, the occasional jump of a fish. On all sides their are mountains of trees and the head is shadowed by Mount Heyburn. It is balm for the self, balm for the soul.

Since my dad died, my love for the lake has deepened. I can feel him there. I believe a person's spirit revisits the places they loved in the mortal realm. They are still drawn to the landscape and feeling of a place. They still love what they loved. I like to think about my dad visiting Redfish even though I can't see him. I like to imagine him sitting on the shore in the soft morning light, looking out across the water, and breathing deeply before the beginning of the day. I see him in the strange of light of evening, silhouetted against the sun, pulling in the moor lines, anchoring the boat, and standing knee deep in the blue. I feel him in the water, on the shore, against the skyline, waiting and watching.

When I die I want to be taken to Redfish. I want my ashes sprinkled at the head waters and the outlet stream. I want to be part of the water and the trees and the sand. I want to be carried by a fish to the sea. If the heart has home outside of its landscapse, then Redfish is mine. It holds years of traditions, and memories, and family. It is our history. It is my history. It is my family's story told by water.

Friday, July 24, 2009

When pioneers moved to the West...

I come from a very reputable pioneer line. I am aware that this mean absolutely nothing to anyone unless you are from Utah. Still it means something and so I'm posting about it. My several greats grandfather was a man by the name of Stillman Pond. (A great pioneer name, isn't it)? Stillman joined the LDS church and was called to move his family in the great trek west. Being the faithful man he was, Stillman answered the call. He left his comfortable home in September 1846 and started across the plains to Utah. He spent the winter in Winter Quarters before completing the trek. At Winter Quarters and on the plains, Stillman lost his wife and nine of his children. Despite such tragedy he completed his journey and became a key settler of the Cache Valley. His story is a part of church and family lore. We were told it often as children and it never really mattered that much. I was thinking of him today though and how he continued even with such tremendous loss. It is a story I appreciate more as an adult.

Personally, if I had been a pioneer, I would have probably gotten to Wyoming and said, "You're joking, right?" I can see myself sitting next to a sagebrush and refusing to go on. I'm just that stubborn. I can also see myself continuing to walk in spite of the long spanse of nothing towards the promise of a promised land. The paradox between the two seems wide, but chances are the stubborn streak that would make refuse to continue would also be the reason I would carry on. I have serious issues with failing. I would want to sit down. I would continue to walk.

I like to think I got some of that stubborn determination from my ancestors. Maybe old Stillman carried on simply because he had too. I am sure he wanted to sit by the sagebrush and quit. Maybe he moved forward only because his stubborn streak wouldn't let him stop. I think faith is like that sometimes--continuing to walk into the unknown because we have too; because there is something inside of us that won't let us quit. Much of my life has been spent walking into the unknown and I don't suppose my experience is unique. I keep walking because their is something inside me that won't let me sit down in the sand. I am propelled by the promise of something more; some part of my life and myself I haven't seen yet or haven't become. I wonder what life still has in store for me and I keep walking just so I can find out.

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Pessimisms aside...

I realize my post yesterday was a little on the down and outs. Actually, I have noticed it as an unintended theme through several posts. Anyone reading my blog would think I am unhappy. Nothing could be further from the truth. I am happier now than I have ever been. Honestly, I am. I am also the busiest, stressiest, and stretchediest I've ever been, but that does not diminish my quiet sense of contentment. So today, my post is to celebrate my great life. I embrace it all...busy schedules and mountains of school work aside. :)

My list of reasons I am happy today:

It is Tuesday, which randomly happens to be my favorite day of the week. No particular reason, I am just fond of Tuesdays.

My chai was perfectly brewed this morning by the curly haired latte boy. (I must be honest and say I have a little bit of a crush on him). Have you heard the song by Kristen Chenoweth about Taylor the Latte Boy? It is hilarious. Look it up on youtube. I also randomly have a thing for curly haired boys.

I get to work next to best friend, which is usually really awesome even though she constantly talks about how skinny she is and sometimes says things that are not funny. (She also has a bum leg, but we don't really talk about that...)

I am in graduate school, which has been a goal for me since I was a little girl. Soon I will make everyone call me Master just because I can.

As a result of graduate school I am moving towards a career that I have wanted for a long time. Teaching is my calling, which reeks of religious overtones, but is true none the less. Only others who feel they have been "called" to teach would understand. It is almost other worldly, which is why we accept our fates despite large class sizes and low annual pay rates. I can't wait!!!

I have the gift of words, the gift of music, the gift of creativity. These gifts make my life rich and beautiful. I am grateful.

I have a mass of wonderful friends who are truly talented and inspiring.

I have very long eyelashes.

I have really nice hair that usually behaves when I care to pay attention to it.

I live in a state of sparse beauty. Today the sun is shining and it is blissfully warm.

I can read in pictures.

My toenails are painted with A Ruby for Rudolph nail polish, which actually looks like I am wearing a ruby slipper on each toe. That in and of itself is a reason to be happy.

Is that enough for today? The list could go on, but I should really be getting on to other things. I am grateful for today, for friends, for life. With all its hills and drudgery, it is still a beautiful world. Happy Tuesday!

Monday, July 20, 2009

Back from the nothing...

Do you ever feel like there just isn't enough time? I know I am given the same amount of time as everyone else, but sometimes it really feels like I need a few more hours every day. Two would peachy, three would be keen, and four? Well four would be just about perfect. With just four extra hours a day, I could get a full eight hours of sleep every night. This would feel like bliss considering the four to six I am getting lately. Four extra hours a day would give me an hour to walk or participate in the exercise of my choice. It would let me play the guitar for an hour and my rock star dreams would be closer than ever. It would allow me to substitute an entire movie or 2.5 episodes of Supernatural or Friday Night Lights for exercise and guitar practice. It would let me sit and have a meal instead of eating an apple or PB&J in may car while traveling from here to there to everywhere. It would let me get a full forty hours of work in without feeling like I might die in the process. It would let me sit, and breathe, and think, and read a book that has absolutely nothing to with education. Don't those things sound wonderful? Okay, I'll take four extra hours. Where do I sign up?

Wednesday, July 8, 2009

A little stack of squares...

I have a love of office supplies. Little things like colored push pins and freshly sharpened pencils make me exceedingly happy. There is just something about the smell of toner ink; the feel of a full and perfect ream of paper ripped from its wrapper. I like to visit office supply stores and buy nothing. I have a larger than the average girl's collection of paper, pens, markers, and glue. Just seeing these things gives me quiet joy.

Today, I opened my desk drawer to find an entire, brand new, unopened package of colored post-it notes. (This was a present from my lovely friend Jess who is charge of office supply ordering--she is so lucky)! When it comes to office supplies post-it notes are the creme de la creme. What could be better than little pads of paper already equipped with a strip of adhesive? They are ready and willing participants for random rantings, important information, daily doodles, notes to friends. They are a catalog for daily thoughts of genius. They make surprisingly accurate paper airplanes.

I know I shouldn't be so happy about something so small. Most people would say, "Post-its? Are you kidding?" To them I answer, "You obviously don't understand the love of office supplies." I also think finding a smile in something as insignificant as adhesive backed paper is a reflection of character. It shows an awareness of the little things that make up a life. It represents the choices we make everyday. For me, I choose to be happy. I choose to find too much joy in the world's small gifts. I choose to smile at things as unimportant as a little stack of squares.

Wednesday, July 1, 2009

Something Rich...


Living in the earth-deposits of our history

Today a backhoe divulged out of a crumbling flank of earth
one bottle amber perfect a hundred-year old
cure for fever or melancholy a tonic
for living on this earth in the winters of this climate.

Today I was reading about Marie Curie:
she must have known she suffered from radiation sickness
her body bombarded for years by the element
she had purified
It seems she denied to the end
the source of the cataracts on her eyes
the cracked and suppurating skin of her finger-ends
till she could no longer hold a test tube or a pencil

She died a famous woman denying her wounds
her wounds came from the same source as her power.

Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Parting is such sweet sorrow...

Or if you live in the real world, in real time, and want to be a sucks! That doesn't sound very poetic, I know. I probably should have added some flowery words or some brightly colored metaphors or sweet sugary phrases on top to make the reality of the situation a little less painful, the passing a little easier. Mary Poppins said it best, "A spoon full of sugar helps the medicine go down." Unfortunately, today I am out of spoons and out of sugar. Instead, I am choosing to wallow in my sadness--swim in it until my fingers get all pruney.

Why so glum?

There are several reasons, but at the forefront is saying goodbye to someone I really care about. I would normally refrain from putting this out there, but since I am fairly certain that the only people who read this are Steph and Brooke, I feel pretty safe. If there are other readers, then I am sure they are people who care about me, otherwise why would they be reading my blog?

So...the boy. He has been a good friend for a couple of years. I have been interested in him from the beginning. When we met, I felt something. I know everyone says that and it sounds trite and contrived as it falls from the tongue. It is something you're supposed to say; some sort of validation. It is true, nonetheless. I am not saying that initial feeling was something important. I'm not even sure I could describe what it was or what it meant, but it was something. Since then our relationship has consisted of a very severe case of butterflies, games, movies, concerts, plays, bonding over books, cooking in the kitchen, and long hours spent talking about fascinating subjects like travel and the rules of grammar. (Contrary to popular opinion, boys who know their grammar are beautifully hot. Generally, I find overintelligence overly sexy). I love his hands and his voice. He is a kind and gentle soul. He reads books. He thinks about the world. He watches movies like Out of Africa and Sense and Sensibility by choice. He plays the cello. He has a beautiful singing voice. He is sentimental and a man of traditions. He isn't afraid to cry.

He is leaving tomorrow to move to New York. I will miss him. His leaving has left a whirlwind of feelings I can't really explain. I am mostly left feeling like I missed an opportunity. I regret the things I didn't say. My cowardice has once again left me wondering, what if...

We will see each other again. We're close enough to want to stay close. He is also rooming with one of my closest friends (another parting that will be just as hard or worse). New York is a very accessible city. Still, this is an ending and endings are hard. I think we have new adventures to look forward to in the future, but the transition, the moving on, the adjusting to how we will be is painful.

I must find a spoon and the sugar...

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Rain on the desert...

The desert is my landscape. There is something compellingly beautiful about its starkness--the bare bones emptiness of rock and sand, the picture of red against the sky, the opportunity to become lost. The open landscape speaks to me of longing, solitude, stillness, and the quiet peace found within the self, within the soul. I find comfort in this place of very little rain, where everything that grows is sturdy and rugged and sustainable. You cannot survive or thrive in the desert if you are weak hearted or shallow. Your roots must be deep, your skin thick, your neck long, your back and shoulders wide and strong. You must allow yourself to be shaped and shifted by the wind, find beauty in hot spanse of open sand, listen to the calm in the silence. If you do these things, if you learn patience, then the desert will speak to you: tell you its secrets, give you its gifts.

One of those gifts is a rainstorm moving over its face. Cloud cover moves in on the wind and spreads across the wide spread of sky. The sand on the desert floor grows dark and cool. The wind stills itself into quieter rifts. The barren landscape gives you a view of the storm; you see rain falling in grey blue streaks far off in the distance, you hear the thunder, you smell the musty sweet scent of water touched earth, and all these things happen before you feel the first drop. Then the storm surrounds you.

The best desert rainstorms I have experienced have been in Idaho between Blackfoot and Arco. There is a sixty mile stretch of road between them and not much else. It is quiet there with a view wide and unbroken--perfect for watching storms. I drove the road a couple of weekends ago and had storms both ways. I cannot account for the gifts, but I am grateful. I needed a little water. I needed a little heart.

Thursday, June 18, 2009

A poem for today...

I didn't write this today, but I feel like I need a poem.


I went to the desert to forget;
to lie on the sand;
to be consumed.

By the time you found me--I was forgotten.
You didn't recognize my face;
the color of my eyes;
the shape of my limbs.
I looked like stone.
I had become sand.

You called my name, but not the one I remembered.
You tried to wipe the sand from my face.
Your put me on your back, stone heavy.
You carried me to your table.

I remembered the cracks in the ceiling,
lying on my back,
looking at the patterened plaster.
It was familiar and distant.

You filled a basin with cold water,
pulled a clean blue cloth from the drawer,
tried to wash away the sand;
pulled the water across my cheeks,
over my eyelids,
around my lips.

You cleaned my ears and hair,
the hollow space in my throat,
the sun baked span of my chest.

The water ran down my arms and puddled on the floor,
made mud under your boot soles,
filled the cracks in the floor;
making things solid but still fluid;
filled but empty.

I stared at the ceiling and memorized the patterns in the plaster.
I felt the cool water under the sand.
I puddled on the floor.
Your sole prints looked like the ceiling, both familiar and distant.

I remembered your voice.
I remembered my name.
I remembered the feeling of the sand beneath my back--
the baked hot heat,
the course rub of grains and stone.
I remembered why I went to the desert:
to forget,
to lie on the sand,
to be consumed.

I lay on your table
and wept.

The advantage of open windows...

I grew up on the west side of the Salt Lake Valley. It is a fact I claim proudly. There is absolutley no shame in a middle class upbringing and the people on the west side are real and honest. There is little pretense or pomp; just ordinary people living ordinary lives. I have moved out of West Valley at various times throughout my life--Logan, Bountiful, Toronto--but now I am back to my roots. It is good to be home.

One of the advantages of living in West Valley is being able to drive home from Salt Lake on the 201 freeway. If you avoid rush hour, and for now can ignore the construction, it is a good way to end the day. On that road, just before 5600 West, there is a laundry soap factory. You can't see it from the road. You wouldn't even know it was there, except for the smell. If you drive with your windows open, a nameless joy in itself, you can smell the fresh clean scent of laundry detergent filling the air. It is strongest on summer evenings when the heat from the day starts to cool and the wind blows across the valley in soft breaths. The sun sets behind the Oquirrhs on a gold hinged door whose glass shows blue indigo and red on the orange stained sky. Those colors, the smell of clean laundry, the cooled heat on my face and arms, the wind moving through my hair makes me happy about where I came from. It also teaches me all the advantages of open windows--you never know what will be carried in on the breeze.

Friday, June 12, 2009

Claiming the homestead...well the roomstead...

I am currently sleeping at my brother's house. I'm using the word "at" instead of "in" on purpose. Ditto on using "sleeping" instead of '"living." I sleep in the spare room and have a strange half life of trying to cram a whole life into one room. It's really half a room, the other half being occupied by a desk that isn't mine, and a chest that isn't mine, and a mirror and a window and four walls that are not mine. I have always been a person preoccupied with space. The space one occupies, the place one chooses to live, is a reflection of themselves, a part of their disticnt geography. Living in someone else's space wears on something inside me. It isn't painful or even annoying, but it disturbs my balance. I think of it as dropping small stones into a lake. The stones enter the water easily, they fall to the sandbottom effortlessly, the water accomodates them quietly, but the effect on the surface is easily seen in circles rippling out from the drop point. The stone is gone, but the water is not the same. That's how I feel about my current situation--rippled.

In the half room there is little evidence that the space I am currently occupying is mine. I accept a full part of the blame. I didn't make it it mine because I thought I would be transient. I was only supposed to be there for a few weeks and then take up residence in the basement. The basement was also not going to be a permanent situation, but less temporary than the spare bedroom. Things don't always turn out the way they are planned and now I realize my temporary space has been mine for nine months and the only thing about it recognizeable as me is the clutter. (All artists need clutter to be happy). So, I am newly resolved to make the space mine. Transient or not I realized I must fully occupy my space. I must own it, color it, fill it up. I must leave my mark, even if the mark is temporary.

Monday, June 8, 2009

A little plot of land and some words on a stone...

Saturday marked the three year anniversary of my dad's death. I prefer to use the term he died. It sounds more honest and I need to tell the truth. I have actually wondered about the terminology coined to avoid using the word death. Some are humorously mysterious like "He kicked the bucket." Interesting since most people are unable to kick anything during their time of passing. Others denote greener pastures like "He's gone to the other side." This would be an okay phrase if I wasn't left wondering...the other side of what? My mind creates a giant wall between this life and the next or a mountain range separating the two worlds. It isn't a bad image, but it isn't one I believe either. There are poetic phrases like "ashes to ashes; dust to dust" or "gave up the ghost," but again both create imagery I'd rather live without. Poets have used phrases like "chalk cold corpse" or "food for worms" or "an empty glove" or "a plot fill." For obvious reasons, these are not really amicable descriptors either. If I had to choose a phrase at all I would probably go with "He passed away." I like the imagery it creates of a journey or of simply passing from one realm to another. No walls to climb; no mountains. No worm food or disintegration or kicking of buckets or otherwise. Still, I prefer to be honest; to make it black and white. He died. Three years ago.

The six months before he died I had the opportunity to take care of him. I'm not sure anyone who hasn't cared for a loved one who is dying would understand, but it is a rare and beautiful gift. There is something tremendously hard and tremendously wonderful about helping someone walk the last steps of their journey in this life. It is a time of great sorrow and great joy, a time of reflection and appreciation, a time of forgiveness and understanding. Watching someone die affords every opportunity for saying goodbye, for mending old wounds, for kissing old scars. It is a chance to let nothing remain unsaid. It is a time of wounding and a time of healing.

My dad and I spent most of his last months talking. We had many things to say and for us it was a time of alignment where we came to understand each other in a way we never had. We talked about life. We talked about death; about the colors of heaven, the long tunnel of light before the gate, the existence of the gate, the existence of the tunnel, and who would come to meet you. He was apprehensive, I think, about the unknown, about what was coming, and how events would transpire. He was ready, but unsure. It was a natural response.

Our talking filled the days or I would read out loud or I would sing or we would sit in silence and think about what had been said. I watched him sleep. He dreamt vivid dreams. They painted his face with joy or pain depending on the dream. I think he dreamed of heaven. I know he dreamed of loss.

He died on a Tuesday. He took his last breath at 8:26 in the morning. The sun was up and shining. The day was still cool from the night's dark. He waited until we were all there, surrounding him, sitting on the bed, saying goodbye. I arrived first and took the place I had occupied for six months--the chair next to his bed. I held his hand. I talked to him in our last minutes together. I whispered our secrets. I could feel him behind me.

Loss is a strangely beautiful thing--it cuts to the core of your self and your soul; it makes your heart raw with aching; it leaves you strangling for a word or a scream; it marks your face and your hands with tears; it is suffocating and consuming. Its beauty only comes after, when time creates enough distance that you can see its value. Losing someone focuses your life by adding richness and meaning to the flat perspective. Losing my dad has been difficult and part of the ache always remains, as does the scar, but it has been life changing too. For that, I am grateful.

So, for the anniversary, for my dad, for his death, I offer a remembrance for the life he lived-- for those he loved, for those he lost, for the great and beautiful span of his journey, for the mark he left on the landscape, for the place he rests, for all that is left...just a little plot of land and some words on a stone. I love you, Dad.

Thursday, June 4, 2009

Adding a guitar...

I have wanted to play the guitar for about fifteen years. I had these dreams in high school of becoming a singer. I always wished I was brave enough and flighty enough to buy a big van, paint it pink, put stars on the ceiling, and head out onto the open road. Everyone says they want to be a rock star, but I really wanted to be a rock star!!! Up on the stage, playing the guitar, singing my guts out, hearing the beat of the drums in my chest, feeling the swell of the audience around me; the hot warmth of stage lights; the light of stars behind the crowd; the feeling of being someone doing something. Fast forward to reality...I never learned to play the guitar. I never even bought one. I didn't buy a van either or pink paint or stars. I never felt brave enough for the open road. I chose a practical path. I went to college. I practiced the piano. I sang in the mixed and women's choirs. I never painted anything pink. Now I am here...and I am not a rock star.

A few years ago my best friend of the time bought me a guitar for Christmas. A little wide neck music store version that actually sounded pretty good. I looked up a few chords on the internet. The purchase of the guitar coincided with the entrance of a certain long haired, guitar playing man into my life. I really thought my hippie dreams were coming true. My rock star dream again appeared on the horizon, but now she was wearing bell bottom jeans and a sweater and wanted to sing Gillian Welch and Kathleen Edwards and Dar William and Nanci Girffith and have a tree tattooed on her ankle. The dream had changed as I had, but was still just as real. The long haired hippie boy gave me a few lessons. I learned to play three chords and two songs. A real step forward in my music career.

Two years ago, still in love with the hippie and still unable to play the guitar, I bought a steel string folk guitar from my sister in law for fifty bucks. I tried to play my three chord, two song set, but the strings hurt my fingers. The dream went back in the case and stagnated for the next year and half.

Four months ago I decided enough was enough! Rock star dreams and long haired boys aside I was going to learn to play the guitar because I had two of them sitting in my room...waiting. I decided to try something new and bold, so I signed up for lessons from a real guitar teacher. (Consequently, this is a very smart move for anyone serious about learning to play an instrument. Hippie boys are fine if you're really just about the flirt, but if you want a little more than giggling for your strings, I recommend a professional). So, I have been playing the guitar seriously for about four months. My chord library has increased significantly and I have about ten songs on my list of "songs I can play." It is a piece of my life that makes me proud. First, because it is hard! Second, because I am learning to play the steel string even though it hurts. Third, because I am finally getting something I have always wanted. I'm telling you there is sweet, sweet satisfaction in doing something you always wanted to do.

I still see my rock star dream emerge from the shadows now and then. She is still wearing the bell bottoms, although now she calls them flares, her hair is long, and she is pretty happy singing Gillian Welch and other songs penned by powerful women songwriters in the folk world. It is a better place for her than rock and roll. When I see her, she smiles, waves to me, gets into her van and drives away. The van is pink and has stars on the ceiling. Watching her go, I think about the chance I missed to be brave. The same reckless abandon that could have ruled my life in my twenties went the practical way and now she has to think like a grown up.

Still...I feel drawn to the dreams of my fifteen year old self, when time was something I had more of than I could imagine. Can we live the dreams we had when we were young? Can we walk over to them and say, "Hey, can I get a ride? I'd like to come along." If it's possible...then adding a guitar was a good decision. This house needs a little music.

Wednesday, June 3, 2009

The beginning...

I have admittedly been against the blogging phenomenon generally. It seems like another facebook form of cyber stalking where people put way to much personal information for everyone to read. People who you haven't seen or heard from in years (usually with good reason) skulk about your page, reading your too personal info, and think they are closer to you than they are. All in all a bit creepy. I admit to checking facebook on quite religiously daily basis, but still I have some issues. I try to refrain from putting too much of myself on there or out there.

So why I am suddenly blogging?

As with anything, it is a simple and complicated answer. I have recently come in contact with some dear friends from college who were lost in the hustle and bustle since graduation...ummm thanks, Facebook. I wish I could say I have spent the years doing something wildly exciting or important, but mostly I have just been plugging along. Reading a little, writing a little, thinking and feeling and dreaming a little, learning a lot. I have been deeply hurt and deeply healed. I have watched dark red wounds become scars. All that is left of the pain in the last six years is a bumpy line when I run my hand over my heart. I have learned more about myself and life than I ever thought I would. It has been a happy existence, if not a quiet one. I have realized I have things to say. If for no one else, then for myself. Silence is for cowards and I need to feel brave.

So, back to the collge friends. Both of them have blogs, which I enjoy reading on a regular basis. They write for the sake of writing and document their lives for the masses. I have a feeling they write because they need too and it doesn't matter who reads it because they are writing for themselves. They are writing as a balm from the world. They are writing because they have something to say and the warm wrap of words is where they find the most important parts of themselves. The three of us are starting a writing group--partially to perfect our art, partially to stretch our muse, and I believe partially, to find all the pieces in ourselves and the world we need to be whole.

So, here it is the beginning of my chronicle. My random musing and perspective on the world. The furniture and geography of my life.