Wednesday, August 27, 2008

Pass the smelling salts

It was Monday. And raining. And I had an 8 a.m. class to kick off the new semester. I should have known something tragic was bound to happen.

     My story-of-the-week starts with a heavy bag of books and an umbrella taking up my hands. I am returning to the library, towards the end of my shift. I fling open the heavy mailroom door in my hurry to get out of the downpour. Floor is wet. Down goes Anna. Hand flies back. Pinky crunches under aforementioned heavy mailroom door. I look back in horror and squeeze out my pinky, expecting to see the half-severed tip dangling in the air. It is intact (for now). I make a paper towel detour and rush upstairs, imagining an emergency visit and the death of the end of my littlest finger. 
     Ms. Lori quickly volunteers to accompany me to Student Health; one minute I am leaning against the wall of the elevator, the next I am waking up from a strange dream about high-rise buildings and bells ringing in the background. I hear people shouting something about a girl having a seizure in the elevator. 
     After that, events play out pretty smoothly. The Homewood fire department/ambulance people arrive. The nice Campus Security man gives me a ride back in the golf cart. The nice Student Health nurse gives me a tetanus shot and a Snoopy band-aid. I still have all of my pinky finger. All is right with my world.

So yes, I fainted for the very first time, over nothing more than a badly cut finger. I feel sufficiently ridiculous. And plan on passing out often from now on because you get to ride in a golf cart. 
In other news, I'm re-discovering how much I love Samford people and Samford itself. I have a poetry class that I think will be my heart this semester. Yes, I will pour my life-blood into the thing that promises to give me endless frustration and will never put food on the table or pay the water bill. What do I get in return? The joy of obedience.

Monday, August 18, 2008

Monday in Three Acts

The Unexpected Song (and Dance)
I arrived to work this morning to find I didn't have to. Work, I mean. So I went on a happy spree at Target and Publix. It was fun. 

Problem: With Publix yogurt, one of my (many) obsessions. Caramel, cappuccino, cherry vanilla, and all with a handy plastic lid, so if you don't eat it all in one sitting you can finish it later. 
But now. Oh yes, now they package it in 6 oz. cartons with NO nifty lid. This means that when I take advantage of the 10/$5.50 special, I get 20 oz. less of yogurt than before. 
I'm hurt and angry. I want my 2 and a half cartons of yogurt back, Publix. With the lids. 

Requiem for Departed Denim
This is the tragi-comic episode of the day. We take Moseby to his first obedience class. He is happy. We are happy. We walk into PetSmart. He gets a little more excited. We walk into the training room full of other dogs. His excitement begins to exceed the limits of my arm strength and his own bladder control. Long story short: Happy dog ruins favorite jeans. 
Yes, there was a Kohl's next door. Yes, I'd been meaning to get a new pair anyway, since these were four years old and had a rip in the left knee. But I grieved as I walked around feeling each stiff, uncomfortable kink of the new pair. I grieve still. The jeans that survived the last two years of high school, rain storms, and a summer spent with 8 year olds wielding paint brushes, finally meet an ignominious end at the paws of the Sweet Dog. 

The Splash of Beauty
Setting: Rambling with Mom and Sweet Dog outside. I was looking at the tall grass on the side of the road, when I saw what I thought was a small deer figurine.
"Is that a -," I started to say. 

Then time stopped (I'm convinced). A tiny, foot-high fawn raised itself from the grass and looked at us - without fear or anxiety or anything but a sort of gentle curiosity.  And we stared back, startled into silence by this small, exquisite creature. 

When time started again, my first thought was: Get crazy dog away from pretty deer. After that the thoughts whirled together in a mix of: Camera, Call vet, Dad canwekeepthedeer? When we returned (sans dog, plus camera) it was gone (with its mommy, we hope).

And though I'm sad about the lack of photograph, it's the scene itself that's so lovely - the beautiful little face, the solemn grace as it stood up in the grass. A moment of wonder. 

Friday, August 15, 2008

Performance-complex: Successfully thwarted

Things To-Do To-Day:

*make impassioned parking ticket appeal
*schedule various appointments 
*order school books
*etc. in host of ho-hum tasks

And how much of this have I accomplished? Um, none. I came home from work, sat on the porch for a while, and slept for two hours (yes, the dreaming kind of sleep, not the I'm-lying-here-thinking-of-everything-I-have-to-accomplish nap). And I took the Sweet Dog on one of my death marches around the Loop and we watched our neighbor stack thick golden hay bales onto his little red tractor. 

In other news, baby brother went off to be a college boy today. I gave him a card with a warning about pool halls. He'll be fine. And now I'm surprised at how I miss him. Not his physical presence even,  just the comfort of knowing he lives here and I can always come home and bake him something. And I'm lonely for him, too, thinking about the loneliness of those first few days of Away at School. I remember the feeling, of being slightly (ok, a lot) lost and aching for the routine of classes that would give me something to do and some place to belong. It comes, thank goodness. 
I've tried, this summer, not to be too hyper about RUF so that he won't be totally repelled. I can't count the times I've had to resist blurting out, "And when you come to Winter Conference in February . . ."  Sigh. Yes. I work really hard to not act like a cult member about RUF. 

And now, I'm about to go finish a Wendell Berry essay on the importance of standing by words. I realized the other day this has been the summer of Wendell Berry - his short stories, poems, prose. I love the way he shows how the important things happen in the routine of our daily lives. And how he articulates so well my catch-phrase of the summer, realistic optimism.
"There are, it seems, two Muses: the Muse of Inspiration, who gives us inarticulate visions and desires, and the Muse of Realization, who returns again and again to say, "It is yet more difficult than you thought." This is the muse of form . . . it is the willingness to hear the second muse that keeps us cheerful in our work. To hear only the first is to live in the bitterness of disappointment."

Monday, August 11, 2008

Strum a chord

Today, I wore moccasins and my Nickel Creek t-shirt. Yes, I felt like a neo-hippie. Just call me River.

I also woke up at the scandalous hour of 5:15 this misty morn, and walked with my dad and the dog. And then drank a large mug of Stumptown coffee. A very. Large. Mug. And felt much better.
By the by, the Sweet Dog finally has a name. He's a Weimaraner (the grey dogs with costumes in all those pictures), so we kept hoping for something German. Jim's offering: Faust (I vetoed quickly. We are not naming the Sweet Dog after a character who sold his soul to the devil.) My offering: Luther. Rationale - German theologian, check. And Luther also sounds like something our neighbors on the other side of the Loop would name their mutts, so it honors his current heritage. The rest of the family showed a remarkable lack of enthusiasm. Dad's offering: Rowdy (Veto, note the capital).
Dad finally came up with Mosby (pronounced: MOSE-bee), after the Civil War major called "the Gray Ghost." Rationale: Mosby is gray. He roams and wanders a lot (embarrassing incident where he ended up in a neighbor's kitchen). We're just tired of arguing over a name and confusing the poor dog. As though he cares what we call him, as long as we'll throw his beloved ball.

Today has been a blah-ish day, all gray and August and Monday. The kind of day that reminds me of the smell of 32 freshly sharpened pencils and the first terror-filled days of the new school year (I was a neurotic child. New situations equaled internal nervous breakdowns. What if my teacher yelled? What if I fell walking down the hall? What if - gasp - she didn't give me a bathroom pass?)
Only now I sort of enjoy the back-to-school feeling. Yes, school means papers and stress and plain old work, but it also means friends and RUF and Samford in the fall. Besides, I'm an English major. I write papers in my head whatever I'm doing. Only this time around I know never to write on Paradise Lost again. Try to imagine coming up with different ways to say "Satan" 500 time per paragraph.

In other news, my newest obsession is Bounce febreze dryer sheets. Why has no one told me about how amazing dryer sheets are? Not only have I sworn to use them in my laundry, I've left a trail of airy sheets in my wake, stuffed in the drawers and nooks and corners of my room. *Deep inhale* Ahhh. I'm in the midst of composing a love letter to Bounce.

Song of the Day: "About a Boy" - Josh Bales.
I heard Josh at Summit two years ago, and his music was my absolute favorite thing. Rich, real - just pure worship. And I love this song because it expresses so well that caught-in-the-middle feeling, wanting to trust and not feeling able.

When will you force me to love you?
When will my heart give in?
I know I can't stay here forever,
but I'm too scared to just jump in.

Could you come down,
and wrap your arms around me?
And when I cringe,
just let me know you won't let go.

Sunday, August 10, 2008

Making up on Sunday

Song of the Day: "Better Than Love" - Griffin House
Did I already do this one? I feel like I did. I don't care. Griffin House can be my boyfriend any day. 
Honey when you doubt my love for you 
Looking in my eyes what I'm going through 
Even if we change and fall out of 
You hold my hand and it's better than love 

Yes, it's been (over) a week. The blog and I have grown apart . . . we kept trying to find a time to sit down and talk things out, but you know how it is. The usual excuses and passive aggression, while the relationship walls grow higher. 

But things are better now. We're back together, and I've promised not to let it languish in neglect again. In return, the blog has promised not to take over my life. 

On Friday, I got to hold a three week old baby. Twenty minutes later, I was visiting with a 101 year old man and his 94 year old wife. As I commented to Mom, the full scope of humanity all in a day. The baby was darling and the couple was cute (still in the honeymoon stage after ten years. It's sweet in the non-saccharine way).

I also got a day off work on Friday, and it was more glorious than I could've imagined.  The weather calmed down and offered a taste of September, and I ran in the morning with my Sweet Dog and he did not try to befriend the part-wolf half-breed creature this time. Progress, progress. Then we threw the ball about three hundred times, I got the two things on my to-do list done (clean car, organize college stuff) and did nothing much else except lounge. And it was very nice. 

Saturday I watched the sunset and moon from the upper balcony, and came this close (dragging the air mattress outside) to sleeping out there. I challenged a skeptical parent to give me a good reason not to commune with nature. He mentioned spiders. Wise parent, that one. But it's only deferred my purpose for a short time. I will sleep on that balcony and wake up to the sunrise and it will be beautiful. Soon, children. Very soon. 

Recipe Experiment of the Day: Paula Deen Peanut Butter Bread, with Anna's additions of peanut butter chips, chocolate chips, peanuts, and dried cherries.
Verdict: Maybe it could win something at a peanut festival? 

Saturday, August 2, 2008

Saturday in 4 acts

Act 1
Morning. Blueberry muffins and Stumptown coffee (Guatemalan blend - of course). Enter Pepper Place; exit laden with okra, squash, two yellow tomatoes, field peas, and a bowl of homemade peach ice cream. Humidity strikes around 10:30 in a preemptive strike; end scene. 

Act 2:
Noon(ish). Home. Cleaning, and running with my sweet dog. Well, mostly sweet dog. He's very obedient when he wants to be, which is: a good deal of the time. When our desires conflict, however, we have an interesting tug of war. We weigh about the same, so if I make up my mind first, we go my way and he trots calmly by my side. If he makes up his mind first, I get jerked off my feet toward a suddenly fascinating tree. End scene. 

Act 3:
Gloaming. Waiting out a thunderstorm in Michael's on the way to the much-anticipated folk festival. I am in the cheap scrapbook sticker aisle when Mom enters and thrusts the adorable (read: outrageously priced) stuff at me. In my defense, I tried to explain that I was being thrifty and etc. Then I went sticker happy. I love my momma. She buys me stickers. Am I four years old again? No, because I didn't even like stickers until now. And she bought me other happy scrapbook things. 

Act 4: Sunset.  Arrive Historic (read: sketchy) Avondale Park, site of Birmingham Folk Festival!!! We find that the ticket price has dropped to $2.50 and there is free Jim and Nick's to be eaten. Mom and I head to the tent without speaking. There is no need. We share an intuitive obsession with free food. Then we settle in as the sky goes all glorious pink and a breeze picks up and Act of Congress takes the stage. Happy sigh. 
Then. The New Familiars. I think my very own mother said it best: "They're like a 70s rock band with bluegrass thrown in." Well - yes. They look like slightly altered clones of Iron & Wine, and their energy level = spastic. I loved it. What kind of band covers "My Guy" as an ethereal rock ballad? What kind of band has a mandolin next to an electric guitar? Did I mention I loved it?

Song of the Day: "Annalein" - The New Familiars
When's the midnight train for Nashville. That's what I'm asking.

My sweet Annalein, where have you gone?
You took that midnight train bound to Nashville
headed west for the golden coast.
Didn't you know how much I loved you?
Didn't you know I loved you more than most.

Friday, August 1, 2008

Something old . . .

I just ran, swam and polished off a chocolate coffee banana smoothie made with health nut-approved soymilk and yogurt. If you want to experience this goodness in your own life:
1 carton coffee yogurt + 1 banana + a healthy dollop of plain yogurt + a generous splash of chocolate soymilk + enough ice to make it refreshing but not watery
Whirl together until perfection ensues. 

Today I spent deep in the rural hillside of North Alabama, delving into the family trunk of great-great-greats on my PaPa's side. My grandfather's cousin Marie is eighty three and lives in the same small white farmhouse her mother grew up in. I love it (apart from the rather hideous old clock in the back bedroom). It's the kind of house jammed with so many old things you're almost afraid to sit down. And most of the old things manage to avoid being creepy/nasty (as in, that is encrusted with the grime of who-knows-what and I just want to burn it). There is the lovely, solid old table that my three times great-grandfather (the venerable Thomas Thornton) made himself and is still table-ing along today. There is the pretty blue and white china, the scary carved walnut bed, and a gorgeous old kitchen hutch that Marie's father made for her mother. It even has a little board you pull out to roll biscuit dough on (I want it. Sigh.). 

But the best part - Marie and her brother, Herbert (I know), had tiny yellow tomatoes from their garden. Now, I do not eat raw red tomatoes. In ketchup, sauce, stir-fry, anything else, fine and good. Sliced on a plate: No. However - yellow tomatoes are a different thing entirely. They are what red tomatoes try to be and can never achieve. They are sweet and not too soggy and I will defend their cause with every tastebud that I own. 

Apart from lusting after antiques, I tried to gather ideas for the Great American Novel I plan on writing in oh, twenty years. I looked through a kind of journal kept by a great-great grandmother and giggled over entries like this:
"To J.T. McCaleb 1861 -
If to love is a sin, then I freely confess
that every short minute I therein transgress."

Family names I might conceivably use: Isaac, Eva, Thomas.
Family names I vow never to inflict on an innocent child: Bathsheba, Hopwood, Felenburg. (Felenburg?)

And tomorrow I have fun things planned. Like - Pepper Place Farmer's Market! And - Birmingham Folk Fest! I was explaining to my mom that I think I am so excited about this day of veggies and banjos because it is akin to a rejection of our synthetic culture. In a world of plastic and screens and smooth industrialization, it is good to buy a cantaloupe and know that it came out of the ground yesterday, and to listen to music that is real and lovely, not electronically ironed out. 

Song of the Day: "I Disagree" - Act of Congress
In honor of aforesaid folk fest on the morrow. Act of Congress, the up and coming, closest thing to musical happiness since Nickel Creek, and you, yes you, can also follow their rise to stardom! Step up today and claim your status as Original Fan. 

"Love is something I believe in 
'cause it makes lonely disappear.
I'll paste these pieces of my broken heart
and build an altar just for you."

P.S. And my mother just promised to brew Stumptown coffee tomorrow morning (!!!). I reacted, um, very enthusiastically. "Will that make the perfect day even more perfect?" she mocked. She sees right through me. I build up this perfect ideal in my head ("I'll get up, and drink Stumptown and go to Pepper Place and go to the folk fest and wowitsgonnabesooooperfect!!!") and before you know it I'm wound in a ball of expectation so tight that the slightest interference with my "perfect" day sends me into a spiral ("oh no, I can't control things!). Breathe, Anna. Just breathe. And drink some Stumptown coffee.