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 realist...it 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.