Tuesday, December 29, 2009

My Favorite Things, New Mexican Style

Mamma Pat and Bobbo. They have got to be some of the warmest, most welcoming people in the world. Not to mention the funniest. Every day before we'd ski Mama Pat would make sure we had our gloves and sunscreen and chocolate (for energy, y'know), while Bob cracked jokes. I love their marriage, love to watch how they still delight in and enjoy each other after 35 years. When I expressed this to Pat, she smiled. "Well, we laugh a lot," she said. Note taken: laughter a key ingredient for good relationship.
And we have laughed much during our time here. At their 20 year old deaf cat. At Bob's dry and rapid fire wit. At Pat's sudden and outrageous statements. And at their lifetime of wonderfully comic stories.

Ski Santa Fe. I like the mountains here better than Utah, I think - they're softer and more embracing. And Jim and I had great fun sliding down the slopes. He fell first, but I predicted that I would accomplish the most dramatic wipe-out. And I did. Twice. But for the most part, we both did pretty well for second-timers, and I remembered the graceful dip and sweep and float of skiing. Except for when I'd realize I was going fast (ish). Then I'd panic. Then I'd calm myself down and keep dipping and floating.

Meandering Irish Scarves. I am knitting what was supposed to be an Irish Hiking Scarf. Somewhere along the way, though, the pattern, well it . . . changed. So Bob named it the Irish Meandering Scarf. The End.

Straight as a stick. There is No. Humidity. out here. And I love it. You know why? I straighten my hair, and it stays straight. For more than 15 minutes! Yes, there is the slight problem of constant dehydration, but who cares when I can wake up and run my fingers through perfectly straight, tangle-free locks?

She can bake a cherry pie. Sweet Aunt Roberta, who is late eighties, 5 foot 1, and still has an immaculate yard and clear mind and fabulous cooking and more energy than most anyone I know. Gracious. She fed us lasagna and an absolutely perfect cherry pie, and told us about the year the family lived in Alaska, and about her and Glenn's square dancing days, and their friends Poncho and Marie. That woman is amazing.

Sky and earth and color. You'd think New Mexico would be brown. Just brown. But it's not. The earth is red and gold and tawny beneath the pure-white snow, and the sky is every shade of purple and blue. But the light. Oh, the light is the best part - perfect and golden and clear.

Thursday, December 24, 2009

Here is all a-right

Current position: Great room, fire blazing beside the lovely tree. Sharing the couch and a cosy blanket with Mom, and taking a short break from knitting my third scarf since Monday.

Verdict: Nearly idyllic.

(The "nearly" is for the leaks I just discovered in two windows. The tree happens to be stationed close to one of the leaky spots, so we had to turn the lights off. Still pretty, though. Now, back to our regularly scheduled program.)

We had our big family Christmas yesterday, in Marietta. Jim and I went to the favorite cousins' on Tuesday, though, and much hilarity ensued. Ty and Austin make me laugh until I ache. And Brannon is just a pure delight ("Anna, I think you should be Mrs. Claus for Christmas." Thanks?) I just love being at the Georgia family's place, period. Aunt Laura entertains with easy grace, always has a funny story, and has impeccable booksense. Their house is full of laughter and running and collapsing on the couch for naps.

And when you wake up at 2 am, there is most likely a fuzzy cat kneading your feet and purring. Happy sigh.

So yes, after all the excitement, a quiet Christmas Eve is not so unwelcome. Jim and I are flying to New Mexico on Saturday (we are going to stay with Mama Pat and Bob, and ski, and hug Roberta and all the other sweet family), so today was spent rounding up the last minute ski necessities (I have developed a sudden addiction to knit caps. Straight hair does this to a girl. Curly hair hates hats. Did I mention I have straight hair now? I digress). So the four of us ate lasagna and tiramisu while the storm howled, considered watching The Godfather (which idea was nixed by the female half of the family as too violent for Christmas Eve) and watched Waking Ned Devine instead (Irish music/scenery/accents = love).

Dad just joined us on the couch (and informed me that Alan Ladd was 5"6 . . .), and family and crackly fire and peace - Merry Christmas, dear people.

The Christ-child lay on Mary's heart,
his hair was like a fire -
oh weary, weary is the world
but here the world's desire

-G. K. Chesterton

Sunday, December 20, 2009

Late November Loveliness

One day during Thanksgiving break, I took a ramble in the lovely golden afternoon splendor of late autumn. I love November's golden browns, and the bare twigs and brittle grasses and purple leaves. I'm no photographer, but maybe these photos will show some of the loveliness that is Alabama in November.

Golden wispies.

Gorgeous silky field. See the terraces? And the barn peeping over the hill?

Sweet Mo.

Last remnants of red.

I loved the way these leaves caught the afternoon light and shone against the gray, dead ground.

And the woods behind the house. Brambles and branches and mystery.

There were just a few red remnants hanging on to the branch, and they were beautiful against the blue sky. Too bad my camera skills couldn't capture it. You'll just have to trust me.

Golden stands of grass. I never get tired of it.

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Winter Song

This afternoon, when I climbed the stairs and pulled the shades and crawled onto my enormous fluffy white bed, it was light outside.

Now it is not.

I slept for two hours. And I took a nap yesterday, too. And the day before that.

I think this is what they call "hibernation."


Items of Note:

- I have decided that Mosby does not run, he does not walk, he gambols. This is the only word for his weird, clumsy, hyena-like lope. And it makes me laugh and I love it. Sweet Mo. I love him to pieces. We played fetch-the-ball for a solid hour on Monday. Sweet Mo. He's also a little obsessive.

- Yesterday was my day to put things in order. As in, unpack and organize everything. Originally, I was going to spread the process out over a few days. But I have found that once I begin to sort and organize, I cannot stop until I collapse from hunger. I didn't just unpack, I organized my closets and half the attic. When the dust settled, I found a Very Tidy room, three bags of stuff to give away, and five large plastic bins filled with things. I have three childhood boxes, one high school box and a costume box.

- Speaking of childhood: my dad recently unearthed some books that had disappeared somewhere into the black hole of moving. Among the salvaged was one of my favorite ever books: Minnikin, Midgie and Moppet. I was completely obsessed with this book when I was three, and the obsession has never quite gone away. Three mice that live in a tree with their mom and go out to lead their own lives for a while but all come back to live in the big tree. Sorry if I just spoiled the ending for anyone.

- I am learning to knit. Yes, that is right. Un-crafty Anna is trying to learn an art that involves physical dexterity. And . . . it's a little bit addictive. You feel relaxed and productive at the same time (as in, I can knit while watching a T.V. with my family. I usually sort of hate watching television, because it's so passive and I think of everything else I could be doing and I can feel my brain cells dying from the lack of stimulation). Last night Jim and I watched Arrested Development and I knitted and somewhere in the episode where Gob makes the yacht disappear I dropped a stitch because I was laughing so hard and now there's a huge hole in my practice swatch. I like that show.

Yes, I am home and glad to be here. The people-deprivation will set in soon enough. But for right now, it is good to have no school and a real kitchen, and naps whenever I want them.

There was a little melancholy the end of last week - but then, I was melancholy all of last week. A combination of knowing it was the last week with friends for a while, and finishing the durn paper, and, as I wrote last week, "that peculiar melancholy that hits at random times." Where I get sad about ridiculous things that don't bother me most days.

I guess change makes us a little nostalgic, and it makes us long for the things that used to comfort. Whether they were good or bad. For me, it's mostly bad, because I tend to deal with those feelings by sinking into a comfortable gloom. I may not like my little black rain cloud blanket, but at least it's familiar.
For others, it may be a relationship, or Calvin and Hobbes, or smoking, or maybe just cookie dough ice cream.

What about you? What comfortable habit do you go back to when you feel down?

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

Light will come again

Well, yes. I could be using this time to finish that review due on Friday. Or edit a poem. Or start brainstorming for the paper due Tuesday. And maybe I will do one of those things in a while.

But right now - right now I just came in out of the cold. And washed my face. And took down my hair. And slid into pajamas. And inside a blanket.

And that's why I'm writing.

In news of great import: I finished the Deathly Hallows. Yesterday. As in, the seventh, the last, the final book in the Harry Potter series. And I always thought they were overrated. Or uninteresting. Or too trendy. Or . . . something. And I thought the people who got excited about them were strange. Well.

Is it too weird that the end of Harry Potter pulled me out of my Eyeore complex enough to believe that things will be right in the end, that God is good and joy is true?

Yes. It made me pretty happy.

"Of house-elves and children's tales, of love, loyalty, and innocence, Voldemort knows and understands nothing. Nothing. That they all have a power beyond his own, a power beyond the reach of any magic, is a truth he has never grasped."

Well said, Albus.

I've made my finals game plan. It's written in colored pencil and hung on the wall beside my desk. It's nice to have it out of my head. Plus I love scratching things off the list. Maybe too much. I just love study plans.
Only maybe I should call it "project plans." Because I have no finals this year. Nada. Just papers, and a presentation. And I like it, I like it lots. I'm the world's worst studier, and I'd much rather sit down and think and analyze and write than . . . study.

Oh yes - and the last GRE? It proved what I've always known: my right brain is abnormally large, and my left brain is the size of a shriveled pea. I got a very exciting score on the Verbal section, and a dismal - nay, abysmal - score on the Quantitative. But that's ok, because my field is English! Take that, mathematics, you have no power over me anymore.

Now. Time for poem revision (cue nerdy excitement), sleep, and finishing strong. Then Jan term: New Mexico ski slopes, good books, and knitting. You heard me right.

Monday, November 23, 2009

On our way home

Just got off the phone with little brother. I mean younger brother who is twice my size. He wants to go to Peru during spring break with Bama RUF. I told him about Miami. We chatted about movies (like The Full Monty which is oddly very good. I'll explain later) and the quiz I'm writing for tomorrow and he made me laugh, as always. It turns out we both have class til 5 tomorrow and neither of us are skipping.

But we'll both be home for supper. And I'm looking forward to that, to my family sitting together, and Jim's hilarious stories and Mom's random phrases that make Jim and me die with laughter and she doesn't know why, and seeing Dad happy and trading jokes with Jim.

Can you tell I'm ready for school to be over?

And that is why I'm sitting here in the last half hour before that class I really want to skip but am attending anyway, writing about how my brother's phone call made me happy when I should be writing about the plays of Calderon.

Yes, I am ready for a break. Not from friends. But I want to hang out with my family, and see Kait, and read Deathly Hallows and every Frederic Buechner book I can find. I read Godric this weekend (in the summer I read On the Road with the Archangel), and I love his stuff a lot.

"This much I will tell: what's lost is nothing to what's found, and all the death that ever was, set next to life, would scarcely fill a cup."

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

You hold me glad

Tonight, I saw a fat and fluffy raccoon scamper over the sidewalk. The sunset spread a sheet of red-gold light against the evening clouds, and the air was cold and smelled like leaves and pine needles.

Everywhere, beauty.

I should be writing a sestina, but instead I want to tell you that the past several days have been better, OCD-wise. Quite a bit better. I am able to slow down my mind and trust God a little bit more and realize that this is my battle to fight. So I've been fighting.

So far I have hesitated to write directly about that on this blog. I'm not sure why. But anyway, I bear the official diagnosis of "Obsessive Compulsive Disorder," only I don't wash my hands a million times a day (um, that's when I was a six year old hypchondriac. Yeah). Anyway, I've been astonished and, well, relieved, to learn that so many other people also struggle with it. With me, it takes the form of (ahem) "recurrent, unwanted thoughts." So instead of having to check the actual door 30 times to make sure it's locked (which is what some people do), I have to go back and check the door in my mind. And that sounds really abstract. Sorry, folks.
But the point is, you can do stuff to make it better and things have been better this week. And I am grateful.

In other news, I feel subdued, but that's ok. I want to go and sit with people who are my friends and just be quiet and smile and listen. To just - be. To not plan or make conversation or exert energy of any type. Is that ok?

I took an hour and a half dreaming nap yesterday. At 4 o'clock of the afternoon. It was wonderful.

I want to be home and baking. Yes? Yes.

Acquired music from Where the Wild Things Are soundtrack by Karen O and the Kids. It's lovely stuff.

Took me so many miles and they never wore out
my worried shoes
I looked all around and saw the sun shining down
took off my worried shoes

Wednesday, November 11, 2009


Here in college, my cooking creativity has grown exponentially. For better, or (often) for worse. The better includes things like learning how to boil pasta in the microwave, or using whipped cream cheese on top of my beans-rice-salsa in the absence of sour cream. Things like stirring in some peanut butter with my oatmeal (divine. And comforting).

Sometimes, though, things go too far. There are only so many things you can change before your creation morphs from yummy with a twist to some food-version of Frankenstein's monster. And that's what happened this morning. One element too many, and my morning oatmeal turned into a peanut butter-cocoa-brown sugar-applesauce bomb. I blame the applesauce. And myself.

Of note:

*I went to Nashville this weekend with Anna and we stayed at her sweet grandmother's house. Then we walked around Vanderbilt and the ginkgo trees there captured our hearts. I've got some serious university infatuation going on.

*In a poetry thesis meeting, Dr. J. and I were talking about my stuffs, and I expressed the fear that my poems are too serious. See, they tend to come out sometimes more sad or cynical than I would like. I mean, I try to fight my pessimism, ya know? And I'd like to write stuff that reflects hope and redemption. But you can't just sit down and say "I'm going to make it turn out this way," or it comes out forced. So I asked him how to deal the fact that I'm not going to write cheery stuff, but I also don't want to give in to full-out cynicism. He smiled. "Just accept it with a whimsical smile," he said.
Strangely, that has helped.

*Grad school update: GRE fun again next week! I'm not studying any math this time. Ha! Personal statement is written and enduring the scrutinizing eagle eyes of respected professors. I'm trying not to dream too much. It's hard.

*Exciting: I've long been obsessed with this band called The Format. I mean, I love them. A lot (even the "Does your cat have a moustache" song, and that's just not a comfortable image). Only problem is they split up a year or two ago, so no obsessively following their tour dates and waiting for them to come here. Good news, though: one of the guys has formed another band, called Fun, and I like them, I like them much.

*In other strange news, I forgot to eat dinner last Thursday. This testifies to my busy-ness because, as most know, I have no hunger tolerance. Feed me. Feed me now. That's my motto. When I don't care about food, my world is upside down. All that to say - last week was insane.
This week? This week I have time to lie on the bed and read Albion's Seed and write blog posts.

*Last Tuesday I watched Shane for the very first time. He's beautiful.

Shane! Come back, Shane.

Thursday, October 29, 2009

I turn my camera on

Seriously, children. I was useless today after 3 pm. I plugged some music into my ear and ambled around for a while, but dragged myself back before it turned into a proper walk. Then I went to the beauty of Chris Thile playing with the ASO and all I could do was smile really big and bask.

What has happened, I would like to know, that I wake up at 2 am and stay that way for the next two hours?

And why is it that when I have been trying to work really, really hard and get Lots of Stuff done so I can relax for a bit, that I crash and find myself incapable of doing anything but browsing Anthropologie and searching for the perfect pair of grey pumps?

[Speaking of which, let me introduce you to the latest obsession, also destined to be a serious relationship - Academic Chic. 3 female grad students and their gorgeous, creative, and inexpensive fashion. I love.]

Usually the crash coincides with an urgent desire to blog. And here I am.

In other news, my sweet parents decided, semi-spontaneously, to sojourn up to Townsend, Tennessee. Explanation. Townsend is the stuff of my childhood. I grew up going to Cades Cove and having our photo taken by the same golden tree each year. We usually stayed at one of the wonderful Pioneer Cabins, which has grassy meadows and a pond and goats (and the guy who played Birdseye Johnson in the television series of Christy. He is a former accountant. No lie). So the Cades Cove/Townsend area is one of my very favorite places on earth and I haven't been in four long years. That's where I'll be this weekend. I have three objectives:
1. Finish the Half-Blood Prince (why did I deprive myself of the sweet addiction of Harry Potter for so long?). Repress all consciousness of school until Sunday afternoon.
2. Sit by the river on the Abram's Falls trail.
3. Eat Bears in the Snow at the Pancake Pantry.

I am a simple girl. No, not that kind of simple.

Next time on your favorite (cough) blog: The exquisite mastery of Where the Wild Things Are. I love it. I love it so. much. It takes the themes of the book - the difficulty of living in relationship, the desire to go wild and live without restraint, and the isolation that brings - and takes it all really, really deep. It is visually beautiful and perfect and hilarious and aching and I want to watch it a million times over. Yes, it is my new Big Fish, my new Lars and the Real Girl. And . . . it has miles to go before DVD release. Dang it.

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

The thing with feathers

Let me just say that when I started this blog o'mine and subtitled it "a catalogue of mercies" - it wasn't because my life was particularly full of sweetness and light.

I gave it that name because it was a huge effort, a conscious, counterintuitive, nanosecond-by-nanosecond effort, to see the good in life. So I tried to start by listing little things, things like the June sunlight at 7 am, or a cinnamon scone, or a friend's letter written in green ink.

Well. Be careful when you go titling something "a catalogue of mercies," because that's just what it'll become. I know I do a lot of whining, but the year and something since I started this has been chock full of unexpected good things. I'm grateful. So I'll list some more.

* The RUF retreat this past weekend. The girls who rode in my car are wonderful in every way, and I cannot rave enough about them. Or the weekend itself. My freshman year (at the same lakehouse), only one upperclassman talked to me. This year, we all talked and laughed together and there were no cliques and community is beautiful, isn't it.

* During tutoring tonight, I spent an hour and half with three freshmen athletes, explicating an Auden poem. By the end of the time, I was jumping around the cubicle frantically and writing on the white board and exclaiming things like, "And HERE is where he argues that Virgil totally fails!" It was really fun. And I'm a nerd.

* Google Calendar. My latest obsession, destined to be lasting. I love it so much. I can make lists! I can see my 4-day agenda! I can view my life in month, week or day mode! I can make events - and tasks!

* In other news, I love my roommate. Her name is Anna too! On our door there is a sign that says "Anna." It makes me smile. Every night we talk for a really long time and I can be my own neurotic, dorky self around her and she just laughs and still loves me. Also we have the exact same thoughts and sometimes communicate telepathically. I love being a clone.
Speaking of which, it's time for our nightly ramble of conversation. Good night, world.

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Counting: My life in numbers

1. Things are still not where I'd like them to be, but I recently realized that God's goodness is much more real to me than it was two years ago. And He's really, really patient. Good thing because I'm stubborn. 

2. I took the GRE this morning, and did not die. Not as well as I hoped, not as badly as I feared. Next step: application essay. 

3. Residence Life, always in tune with the needs of students, bought two sets of cookware that 
can be "checked out" by all comers in the RL office.  I think that's gross.  

4. Last Sunday night, it was almost 11 and my suitemate and I had degenerated into nonsensical phrases and raucous laughter. All the sudden the conversation turned to Lamb Chop's Play Along. I loved Lamb Chop. I identified with her so much, probably because she was selfish and sort of irritating. Anyway, 11 pm = prime impulse buy time, so come Tuesday I picked up this in the mail:

Yes, I have my very own Lamb Chop puppet now, and she's GREAT. Last night we spent more time than I will disclose here playing with her and taking pictures. Look for a Lamb Chop photo shoot coming up soon. 

"I make de bes' picnic! Ham samiches, peanut buttah and jelly samiches . . ." Oh the memories.

5. Why yes, I am a senior in college. Why do you ask? 

6.  If I have so much to do, then why I am writing blog posts and eating lollipops and watching Shall We Dance, yes, all at the same time. Why not go write that quiz for tomorrow? Sigh, ok. After all, I am skipping that awful, terrible, really bad Spanish class that I do believe is slowly killing off our brain cells and turning us into zombies who can help the Profesora in her nefarious quest to take over the world. 

But maybe that's just me. 

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

Who pulled the plug?

I'm tired.

Exhausted. Drained. Jes' plumb wore out. Beat. Sapped dry. Weary.

I have also noticed a distinct lack of energy.

I don't know why, ezackly. I mean, a fall break that was too early, yes, overcommitments, yes, a paper and grad school stress and party planning and concert planning and did I mention overcommitment, yes yes yes yes yes.

I'm used to my brain going a little wacky when life gets crazy and stressful. I'm a little bit (ok, a lot) OCD, so when I feel like my life is out of control I get even weirder than usual. The thing is, though, I don't want to give anything up. I like volunteering with Leonardo. Tutoring in the Athletic Department brings in grocery money. RUF is a non-negotiable, seeing as my life revolves around it. School is sort of what I'm here for, and I really do like all my classes except for the despised Spanish lit class (don't get me started). GRE and grad school stuff are necessary for my future and I'm excited about all the nerdy stuff in higher level studies. And then there's the extra social stuff - throwing the party was a blast and I'm thrilled about the house concert. I love hanging out with my friends. I really can't give anything up.

It's just that I feel like something with all the juice drained out. Running on fumes. And the bad thing is that I'm not just forgetting words and where I'm supposed to be, I'm a social zombie. It isn't cool when you find yourself stringing together a random garble of words and hoping they make sense and not having the energy to care if they don't.


Weekend, weekend, weekend. It's what I'm a-living for.

Monday, October 5, 2009

Surfacing for air

Ok, so I badly feel the need to write but it's almost midnight and I'm just plumb tired. So before I pull out an unpublished post I scribbled a few weeks ago - here's what's going in my life. Since you all want to know.
1. I am preparing for the GRE and fixing up grad school applications. Scary.

2. Saturday was perfect, so perfect and autumn and library with Deborah and talk with Kait and supper with friends and I want to live it all over again.
3. Fall break was last week, in Tennessee, and it was so lovely, a golden wheat field and river paradise that made me forget about school for four whole days.
4. Paper due Tuesday. Haven't finished homework for tomorrow, still need to buy book for Tuesday, and study for the music test same day, and work out somewhere in there cause I've been a bottomless pit of inhalation lately and it feels gross and dang I am a really mediocre poet which is worse than being just plain bad and -

5. Ready for another fall break. Sigh.

6. Is it Thanksgiving yet?

Anyways, here is the old unpublished post. Enjoy?

From the time I was quite small, I have resisted trends. I loved pale pink when hot pink was the fashion, and didn't wear jeans until I was 12 (I'm still not sure how I managed that. Shudder.)

But I'm giving into a trend now. You know that one on facebook that's been around forever where you name 10 or 25 or 371 random things about yourself? Yeah, that one. Sorry, folks.

1. I have this thing with planning for catastrophes. Once when I was eight I sat in the car with my brother and imagined what I would do if the telephone pole next to us started fall. How to get him unbuckled and which way to run. The paranoia started early.

2. The fall is medieval scholar season to me. Can someone find me a stone monastery where I can eat apples and cheese and practice my illuminated calligraphy?
3. Also, breakfast dates at restaurants scare me. Lunch is fun-get-together, supper is relax-and-good-conversation, coffee is catch-up time, but mention breakfast and I get unpleasant butterflies, this uncomfortable feeling that we're going to sit down and talk about something really big and serious. Unless it's a Saturday morning and we're going to the Pancake House at 5 Points. Count me in.

4. My OCD tendencies trace to very early childhood, when I had to wash my hands after brushing my hair and was paranoid about things like getting Windex on my toothbrush when the bathroom was cleaned. I also made both parents check my heartbeat every night to make sure nothing was abnormal.
I should have asked them to check my neurotic little brain.

5. College has brought out my extroverted side (I really like people). It's also toned me down (I use to be even more of an attention loving little freak). Both are good things.

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Lecture day; or, not that kind of doctor

So. I taught my first class today. I had two fears going in:
1) that I would talk for five minutes and be done
2) that I would be unbearably boring

The first, at least, was foundless. We had a good forty minute class discussion/lecture. And I didn't have to worry about the second because the people in that class are so smart and with it, they wouldn't stop spouting great stuff.

This teaching thing?

I think I like it.

Ok. I know I like it.

Which is a huge relief. Because if I didn't like it, or if I didn't do an acceptable job, then my plans for next year were going to disappear with a tiny poof and some pink smoke, and I was going to start thinking about being a librarian in Kansas.

Yes, teaching is fun. So . . . I think I'm gonna be a professor. If I can do ok on the GRE (three weeks) and get into a decent grad school. This brings up questions. Like, I still want babies. And if I have babies, I want them to stay with me, not in a germy daycare. Of course, teaching is a lot more flexible than, say, working for corporate America. Like my chemistry teacher. She has a doctorate from Rice and five kids. It can be done. And this is quite a ways in the future and a man has to show up first anyway and I'm not seeing anything happening on that front anytime soon so why don't I just concentrate on taking this dingdang test and writing my "Why You Should Let Me in to Your School" essay?

Yes, let's do that.

As for the rain, I've done enough complaining. How 'bout the lovely and fascinating bright red mushrooms that the monsoon has brought up from the earth? They look like the pretty domed mushrooms in those books about elves and fairies.

Fall break this weekend. Yes, it is too soon. Samford's schedule mystifies me. Usually this is the weekend that everyone stays at school and studies so that they won't have to work during fall break. Not this year. But we are going to Rugby which will be wonderful rain, shine, or snow, and I am planning to sleep and read and sleep some more. I nearly fell asleep while I was walking today, yes, actually moving. I closed my eyes and thought how wonderful it felt and then sort of jerked back to the fact that I was still trudging along the sidewalk. Sigh.

And after fall break: Depression-Era Party!!! Title: 'Scuse Me for Livin'. Bring your guitar and overalls. Soup and bread lines provided. Friday, Oct. 2. Co-hostess: Carrie. Location: Carrie's house. If you're reading this blog you're invited (anonymous creepers excluded), so contact me for details!

We're having banana pudding and checkers. Y'all come.

Friday, September 18, 2009

So good to be home

I haven't written for a while. Every time I've looked at this here blog over the past weeks, all my life-blood would drain out my fingertips and I'd shrivel up and dry out. 

At least, that's what it felt like. 

Basically, I didn't have the energy or will, which is very strange for me. I mean, narration is the way I cope with life. Oh, I've had excuses. Like Sorority Rush (very life blood draining) and schoolwork and a commitment every dadgum minute of the day. The stress lump in my chest has been a constant. My life feels like a train I was supposed to catch, and now I'm running after it trying to jump on. 

But now, suddenly, on this wet Friday when I am skipping the only class of the day so I can put a dent in my schoolwork - I am not working out or reading 15th century Spanish literature or any of the other things I should be doing. I am still in my pajamas, draining the last bit of my half-caf coffee (see below), enjoying the lamplight and my fuzzy blanket. 

Maybe the cozy feeling is left over from last night. We had a reunion of the legendary Folklore class at Dr. Brown's lovely home. His sweet wife put out quite a spread and we all sat around the table and talked and laughed and reminisced and then we went into the living room and J.Brown and Josh and Blaine played guitars and we sang some and Jordan snapped photos and Drew made us laugh and it was wonderful. 


In other news:
-I am breaking myself of the coffee addiction. Note: I did not say giving up coffee! Lawsamercy, it's sweet nectar of heaven. But after a rushed Monday when I did not have the usual morning cup and suffered from an acute, horrible, wrenching, eyeball searing headache all day - I decided that my codependence was unhealthy. So I'm slowly loosening the grip of the coffee bean, so that I can enjoy it, instead of need it to survive. 
-I am teaching a class on A Doll's House on Tuesday. Gulp. Excited/scared. 
-Fall break next weekend is much too early. But I'll enjoy it nonetheless. 
-Shannon makes me laugh harder than anyone except maybe Jim. 
-I've spent way too much time on this post. Time to work. 

This is the sound of all of us
Singing with love and the will to trust
Leave the rest behind it will turn to dust
This is the sound of all of us

-"One Voice," the Wailin' Jennys

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Report from academia

I'm sitting in our airy room, trying not to collapse. All I want to do is lay me down on my fluffy green bed and drift into unconsciousness. 

But I shouldn't. I should memorize 10 lines of a poem for tomorrow. Only problem is that it has to come out of the Vintage Anth. of Contemporary American Poets, and thank you very much but I'm in a British mood right now. Like "Ideal Home" by C. Day Lewis (yes, father of Daniel).

If only there could lives enough, you're wishing? . . .
For one or two
Of all the possible loves a dozen lifetimes 
Would hardly do:
Oak learns to be oak through a rooted discipline. 

(I love this poem which is not on the internet. Especially the oak line.)

Or one of Heaney's Glanmore Sonnets.

I dreamt we slept in a moss in Donegal
On turf banks under blankets, with our faces 
Exposed all night in a wetting drizzle,
Pallid as the dripping sapling birches. 

But I'm resigning myself to New World writings. 

So the above is what I wrote last Wednesday. As in, a week ago when it was still August. Now it's the second of September, and I just got back from a nearby elementary school. On Wednesdays (soon to be Mondays), I get to spend 45 minutes with Leonardo, who is ten and from Mexico. Now, a fifth grade boy would usually not be my first tutoring pick, but last semester I experienced how sweet and hilarious they are and I pretty much want five sons now (with token daughter. Of course, after a night of babysitting the Sterling girls I think that all daughters would be pretty fun too . . . and all of this is so far in the future I don't even know why I'm thinking about it. Scusi.) Anyway, Leonardo is so funny, and I totally have a ball with him. He loves to tell stories and he gets so animated and excited that he has to stop on a word sometimes ("You mean we - we - we - we don't have school on Monday?!") which I do too so I love him. 
In fact, I love the whole ESL (English as  Second Language) deal at this school. Because when the kids walk into the ESL classroom, they can talk in outside voices and be animated and, well - themselves. They smile and laugh and (at least in Leonardo and Aymin's case) insult each other with fifth grade wit ("Well, you are just Mr. - Mr. Moustache!"). I just wish I had more time to go, because the kids need so much more help. So if you're in the area and would like to spend time with some awesome kids, let me know. 

I think you'll love it too. 

Life is crazy again, but good and full and rich. There are so many things to look forward to that I feel like shining sometimes. Folklore reunions, fall break in Tennessee, co-hostessing a Depression-era party in October (y'all come). Weekend dinners and weekly rounds of the RUF Ladies Who Lunch club. 

In other news, I have the most wonderful roommate and suitemates. Anna and I have trouble shutting off our chatterboxes before midnight, and Lauren and Shannon together have made me laugh more in the past week than this whole summer. Our room is pink-and-green pretty and homey and lamplight cosy. I'm not burning the coffee anymore. 

To stop and rest would be nice, though. Let's try that this evening. No homework or mindless internet after 9 pm. Ok? Ok. 

Friday, August 14, 2009

[EDITED VERSION] I have been temperate always, but

EDIT: You may have wondered why my writing suddenly turned willowy and gentle and beautiful in this post. Well -ahem- my dear friend Deborah and I pulled a switcheroo and wrote a guest post on each other's blogs! Only we didn't tell anyone. So that's her wonderful writing below. Method: Find Fleet Foxes song, pick a stanza, and write on it! My mini-essay can be found at Deborah's lovely site - make sure to keep reading and check out her thoughtful, beautifully crafted posts while you're there (of course, if you're a Samford folk, you know what I'm talking about). We had lotsa fun on Friday writing our mystery appearances, sipping tea and laughing when we found out we'd ended exactly the same way.

Today is one of these rare, refreshingly alive-feeling days (at least, rare in the summer; the heat alone is almost enough to wilt me and when the humidity is up it well nigh saps the lifeblood out of me!). Those are more common in the spring, when all about me appears new after the bland sameness of the frosty months.

Really, though. Even now in mid-August, I find myself wanting to go skip through the ankle-deep manicured meadow (that is, the campus Quadrangle), proclaiming to anybody and nobody who'll listen that life is beautiful and wondrous and, well, alive. Problem is, it's another week before most of campus returns and, in all likelihood, there will be nobody there to listen. I feel as though I've prematurely arrived to a play, presented my ticket, and found only the empty, incomplete set on the stage (but I have been so anxious to see this performance that I don't mind it--I've gotten an early glimpse, that's all). However, now it's whet my appetite for more.

And there I go, about to wear out that old line from Shakespeare in which "all the world's a stage." Can't I just say, "I'm ready for school to begin again," and be done with it? But it's more than that now. It reminds me of quiet weekends on campus when everyone's off home or on some adventure and I go outside to enjoy the surrounding view--then realize no one's here to share the moment with me. Not to mention that in order to get into this little haven from any direction requires quite the climb up and over and down these leafy green hills. One lyric keeps weaseling its way into my thoughts: "Come down from the mountain, you have been gone too long... Darling, I can barely remember you beside me--you should come back home, back on your own now." (and isn't it interesting how a song seems to find me in the precise moment I need it?) Other times I might find the situation lonely and somewhat depressing, but I guess the anticipation is what's so invigorating today. Looking forward to returning here as a resident and not just a guest in a dear friend's dormitory. To welcoming back everybody I've missed in the past two months. To do all the catching up I can stand and sail into the year with fresh energy.

I'm just ready to see the life return down from the mountain.

Thursday, August 13, 2009

Walls Fall Down

Finis! Almost. With the research project, that is. I took the 50 pages to the good Doctor today and she approved, and I was grateful. Now all that remains is some final tweaking.

The meeting also changed my fall schedule. Dr. S. offered me a TA position in one of her classes. I did some quick mental calculation, realized that the only two classes that mattered (Poetry and Tap) didn't conflict, and gave my enthusiastic "yes."

You see, something strange has been happening. All my life - and I do mean all my life - I have shunned the profession of teaching with all my being. Not because I dislike teachers or disvalue teaching. After my parents, I count my teachers and professors among the most important influences in my life. In fact, that was one of the reasons I avoided it - my favorite ones are so good (like Mr. and Mrs. C.) that I took it as one of my reasons for not teaching. You must love teaching to be a good teacher, I'm convinced, and I didn't want to sell any future students less than the genuine goods. The only folks I looked forward to teaching were my own little childer in that far-off day after husband and lots of maturing time (and that I really do look forward to. I'm obsessed with putting together curriculums. It's a sickness. I can't wait).

Lately, though, lately - okay, farther back than lately - my objections to teaching have started to crumble. Like when I was thinking about my desires for future career - point 1: A combination of solitary work and involvement with people. Teaching: check. Also, I love to find out new things and tell people what I've found. And when I realize teaching can combine drama and counseling and writing and idea-talk, all things I love.

So, ok, I'm trying not to get all gung-ho, I'm just saying I'm open where there were once defenses. And I'm actually really excited. I get to teach for a week! That's very frightening and I need to start preparing now. Can I wear my plaid skirt?

So I'm dropping the 6 credit JMC course and becoming a teaching assistant (maybe I can actually have time for a job and earn some money).

I just hope the other kids don't think I'm a freshman.

(This calls for a wardrobe revamp. I'm guessing Nickel Creek shirts and denim don't say "professional." Which reminds me that Chris Thile is coming to B'ham in October and I bought my tickets last night. Lemme know if you're interested, we'll have a bluegrass party before. Anyway, now I am seriously going to accomplish productive things that do not involve eating Yoplait and reading Harry Potter).

Strange, isn't it, how when I try and make things work out they get so tangled. And opportunities like this - the research job, the teaching position - just fall into my lap.
And even my inner skeptic can't ignore the hand of God.

Tuesday, August 11, 2009


A week ago, I went to Santa Fe. It was pretty. There was purple sage everywhere.

On the way to Taos, we stopped at a chapel. There was dirt inside that people say is holy. But my favorite part was the horses and creek and mountain.

There was so much to drink in on the High Road to Taos - every new bend of the road revealed a view so beautiful we'd all gasp and try to say something that would express our wonder.

We never could. And I wished the camera could take perfectly clear pictures out of the car. But the wildflowers are still lovely.

First stop in Taos? Kit Carson's home, of course. Did you know he was my height and weighed 130? That's only ten pounds more than me. Scrawny little mountain man. But tough. Yes, very tough. One day, though, he took off his hat and coat and never put them back on.

Our first night in Taos, we drove out to the gorge at sunset. I didn't want to walk across the bridge, but by the time the others had walked it and come back, I had decided I need to increase my risk-taking skills. So I dragged them back across with me. And I must say it was beautiful. A bit difficult to appreciate when a 2 ton vehicle hurtles past you at 55 mph, but beautiful nonetheless.

And that just helped develop my brave side. Which is the size of a pea.

So when the others were living dangerously on the bridge the first time, I was wandering along a well-fenced path beside the gorge. I saw a rainbow. I shouted to my family: "Look at the rainbow!" Then they came back and we noticed that the rainbow stretched from the foot of the mountain where I noticed it to the other side. All across the valley. And as if that wasn't amazing enough, then we noticed something else.

It was a double rainbow. Yes, by some weird and beautiful physics of light, the rainbow was reflecting a mirror image of itself, creating two rainbows.

You should know I took a lot more photos of the rainbow than I'm putting on here.

I liked Santa Fe, but I loved Taos. As in, think I could live there. For a while at least. Longer if I got double rainbows at least once a week. There is no humidity, it's 55 degrees at night, and the moon is almost frighteningly enormous and gorgeous. There are also apple trees and skiing. And something about being among the mountains makes me feel secure and free at the same time.

Or maybe that's just altitude sickness.

Best of all, though, about the Santa Fe trip - our amazing family. Jim and I were not looking forward so much to the big family gathering our first night there. Mom might be close to them, but we didn't know them and couldn't we just make a quick escape to the hotel? 3 1/2 hours later, we emerged from sweet Roberta's little adobe home raving about how much we loved our new-found relatives. All of them were so nice. Above are Aunt Roberta (87, who still gardens and cooks and runs around and has way more energy than I ever will. Did I mention she baked an exquisite cherry pie the night this was taken?) and her daughter Pat (or Mama Pat, as she instructed us to call her). Not 24 hours after we'd been holding our breaths about the family party, we were eagerly scrawling down Pat's number so we could visit her and Bob on Saturday night. And now Mama Pat and her hilarious husband Bob want us to come visit them and ski this winter. They are kind and sweet and generous and laugh a lot.

Yes. Jim and I sort of adore them now.

Besos, Nueva Mexico. Hasta luego.

Monday, August 3, 2009

The Method, Please

I've discovered my perfect work method. Wake up, coffee, read. Between 8 and 9, position self on too-high crisp, fluffy white bed with matching white Notebook. Write steadily all morning (for me, about one page, unspaced 12 font Times). Oh, and this helps:

A window-perfect, gauzy fog, rain.

If you follow this method faithfully, you will end up with a ten page paper (and growing), and all without delving into the cigarettes or eating all the cashews in the house (note: I do not smoke, and never will because of this winter. But sometimes the wrist-slitting intensity of writing makes me want to really bad. As for the cashews? They're why I've taken up Pilates. Now back to our regularly scheduled program).

Results not guaranteed for anyone without an Anna brain. You blessed, blessed people, of whom I am very envious because surely you do not like climb the stairs a dozen times acting like different characters (I was running stairs. I needed something to make it interesting. So far I have climbed as Scarlett O'Hara, Miss Minchin, the ubiquitous gullible person that climbs into the attic and gets eaten by the monster in countless horror films, and Anne getting married in Anne's House of Dreams. I think I'm ten years old . . . don't tell college).

Anyway. Write all morning. Editing and physical tasks in the afternoon. It's a needed balance. You've no idea how much I enjoy mopping the floor and cooking supper after I've forced myself to sit and work. And you've no idea how empty the mopping and cooking can seem without the blood-sweat-tears thinking work.

In other news, I just picked the first tomato from our tomato plants and I am going to New Mexico tomorrow.

(Left the Sweet Dog at a bona fide boarding place. Broke my heart to leave the stinky lug of shedding hair. If it's this bad with an outdoor pet, how much harder to leave a kid in day care . . .)

I'm excited because from what I've read, Santa Fe is all about art, history, outdoor-sy stuff, and good food. Wonderful! I'll be sure to post photos on return.

Also of interest: I read an article in yesterday's paper about how you can travel around Europe living at people's farms and working for room and board and this is what I want to do. I want to go to Switzerland and live like Heidi.

But first, one more year of school. And my but I'll be surrounded by such good people. For this, I'm thankful.

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Solitude, escape, and fourth grade flashbacks

How do I spend my time when the parents are out of town and Jim has disappeared into the city?

Do I use the quiet free time to devote myself to the paper? No (though I did get another solid two pages today). 
Do I clean and mop and do lots of laundry and dusting? Again, No. 
Do I call or contact or at the very least write to dear friends? no . . . (and of this "no" I'm hang-my-head ashamed)
Do I organize all the books, write fifteen poems, or practice my sadly neglected piano? You supply the answer. I can't stand the relentless negation. 

Well then, what does an Anna do when she's out in the country and left to herself? 

For one, she runs errands. She buys cantaloupe and watermelon, returns that movie (Defiance, oh, Daniel Craig) to a Redbox and has trouble forcing it into the return slot (um - press "Return DVD" on the screen. Yeah), picks up a prescription, and makes a Winn-Dixie run. Which would all sound very productive except for the first stop, which was the motivating force behind the whole trip into town. The first visit was the tiny P.C. library, which held in its humble shelves Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire

Did I mention that I just started this series with the second book last Thursday? It's a sad proof of the quick-acting nature of series addiction. But I would like to state that I did not start reading it immediately when I got home. Nope. I cleaned my car, sliced up the melons, and made myself a bowl of lentils and rice, which I ate with a splash of salsa verde while I listened to Bach. 

I felt very cultured. 

Then I dove back into Hogwarts. And re-emerged only to eat some chocolate and type this post. 

[Note: I do hit trends about ten years too late. That's why I never quote Youtube videos. I'm always bound to discover it the week right after it's dropped on the social meter from "witty" to "overquoted" or "defunct." Another reason is that I hate giving in to trendy stuff, like Francine Rivers books or Sperrys, because it reminds me of being in 4th grade when everyone was wearing hot pink girl power shirts and makeup and all I could think was how stupid it was for nine year old girls to use lip stick and blush. Unfortunately, this bit of precocious wisdom led to a fierce foolish resistance to anything popular, even if it is good and I'd really enjoy it if people weren't so crazy about it. I'm learning, though. I'm about to go buy a Beyonce song.]

Monday, July 27, 2009

Life in Between

What am I doing today? Writing the Great American Poetry Research Paper, of course. Day One. And . . . I'm really enjoying it. 

It's an interesting phenomenon I've observed time and time again. Read widely about something, and then its story starts to come together, and I realize I'm bursting to tell people about it. I will tell everyone who will listen about why the urban gothic novel was so popular in mid-19th century America (reasons economic, social, political and psychological). Or how the history and dynamics of Japanese culture led to its role in World War Two. I even enjoyed Dr. Brown's insane essay questions, that basically said "Tell me everything you know about Germany from the Grimms to Hitler." There's just this joy in understanding, in not just knowing the facts but seeing the story. I love that. 

But this paper reporting my research "findings." It's in the really absorbing stage, and I dare say no more lest I tire of it too soon. I might even post some of it over at my sadly neglected poetry blog. It's interesting, I promise! I bring in Youtube and Friends

Back from Destin, and gorgeous gorgeous clear green ocean. I avoided spending money at the outlet shops. And I started the Harry Potter series. 

Or re-started. I read the first one back in the eighth grade - I was at my Georgia aunt's house, and it was so fascinating I don't think I moved from the couch all day. And I haven't touched them since then. Until now. I finished the second on Friday and should be done with the third sometime today or tomorrow. And gracious but I can't wait to get back to Hogwarts. Addictive, so addictive. 

In other news, I am very frustrated with God because He doesn't do things my way. Which means surrender is a lot, a whole lot harder than last week and the only way to have peace. And surprisingly, in some ways I prefer this to the fuzzy feel good of last week (I should explain: last week was wonderful in its peace and calm, but life starts to feel small. The goal of life is not just to be peaceful and calm. Of course, as a friend reminded me, it's not to have a restless spirit either). Why? Because it's more real. See, I'm a pessimistic idealist, and I've been praying for about a year (almost e-zackly) to become an optimistic realist. And I'm starting to see the glimmerings of that happening. It's just that it's frustrating to a personality like mine - the thought of rest when there's still tension, of contentment that hopes, of grace connected with discipline (didn't someone write a book about that? I should read it again), it all throws me for a frustrating loop. No tension, God! You're either supposed to make me perfect right away or let me do what I want. None of this in between changing stuff. 

I have two trains of thought that keep me from absolutely exploding with irritation. One is refusing to look farther than this 24 hour time frame (as far as walking with Him goes, I mean. I still do stuff like buy my books for class and plan my Oscar acceptance speech. I just don't imagine the struggles of tomorrow, and tomorrow, and . . .). 
The second is remembering that He loves me. Not trying to feel it or get a warm glow. Just putting the fingers of my mind around it like you might hold onto a satisfyingly weighty pebble stone. And letting go of all the suitcases full of rocks I've been trying to drag around. (Well, that got abstract in a hurry.) Rocks like blaming God, pride, impatience, performance, anxious controlling thoughts, anger anger anger, fear. I can't do anything to change or get rid of them -which really infuriates me - but I can let go of them instead of using them to build a wall between God and me. 

And with that, it's about time for the mail to come (an excitement out here in the country) and for me to get back to scribbling about the relationship of poetry and the American people. 

I will go out to get the mail, say thank you for the sunshine and my Sweet Dog, and write. 

Today? It's hard. It's also good. 

(And then I'll sweep the kitchen. 19 year old brothers forget to clean the kitchen when their families are at the beach.)

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Roasted Daily

This, friends, is out of the ordinary. 

For one: a post only 2 days after the last post.
[Just for the record, I could easily write every day, but I try to condense that stream of consciousness into one effort. Who wants to hear me rambling about how I nearly fell down the stairs again? I'm writing all the time in my head. It just doesn't all make it into cold type. And that's a good thing.]

For two: a post before 8 in the morning. I write in the evening. Because I feel guilty about resting until after 7 pm. Even if I have nothing whatsoever pressing, if I am lost between two fat weeks of no responsibilities, I will gosh darn make something for myself to do. Even if it's just wandering aimlessly around the house with a broom. It's rule #73 in my Very Long List of Useless Rules: Engaging in recreational activity, such as reading a book, in the middle of the day is Lazy and Shiftless and Wrong. 

I told you they were useless rules. 

So. Then why am I writing? 

Just to say I'm glad. That's all. 

It's a Stumptown kind of day. 

Monday, July 20, 2009

Party Like It's 1949

This weekend?

It was a good weekend. Though it didn't turn out the way I had originally planned. 

Original plan: Clean and cook frantically Friday. Run around frantically at grandparents' anniversary party Saturday. Leave right after and drive frantically to friend's farmhouse in Georgia. Drive back Sunday. 

Sometimes, though, one simply cannot do everything one would wish to do. So I bid a tearful goodbye to the farmhouse plan and slowed down. 

It was nice. 

Yes, the weekend was very fun. A party at the Senior Citizens' Center? Fun? Why yes. My favorite cousins were there and my very good friend Kait was there and there were lots and lots of family and friends that I don't get to see very often and it was just . . . fun.

And if I got told that I am the exact replica of my mother once, I got told a thousand times. 

Another fun part was Austin and Tyler. Every time I see them, they are a little taller and a little wittier and a little - well, older. Friday night was very nice because we got to hang out, just me and them. This almost never happens because they are strumming the guitar with Jim and I'm cleaning or cooking or keeping the other cousins from killing themselves. So it was good, on Friday, to watch "Lars" (fifth time in six months), and reminisce about "Milo and Otis" (Shannon, I refuse to believe animals died in the making of that movie . . . though it's probably true). 
And the next day Kait came down and we had more good hang out time. In fact, the conversation was so good that I didn't notice we were headed west instead of east on the interstate until we'd taken a good half hour detour. Really, I did it on purpose. More conversation time. 

The other good part of the weekend? My mind. It was calm. I let things go. I practiced trusting God. I enjoyed the people and the beautiful weather.

Really, you don't know how much anxiety sucks the life out of things until you choose to live without it for a few days. Wonderful. 

And it's weird, because I'm such a natural skeptic, but I've had several of those, "Wow, God is real" moments . . . you know, when He's weaving such an obvious theme in your life that all you can do is shake your head and laugh. Right now, it's surrender. And guess what? You can't do it all in go. It's a daily - no wait, nanosecond by nanosecond - kind of deal. 

In other news, I peeled 8 pounds of carrots today. And decided it would be fun to teach poetry to kids. And that sub-80 degree weather in July in Alabama is occasion for much rejoicing. And that I will never, ever get tired of white clouds and blue sky. 

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Wandering Soul

Currently watching a Mystery Science Theatre episode, "Hercules and the Moon Men," with Jim (his pick). Mom studying for her computer class (Excel passed, on to Access). Jim laughing uproariously.  
He is a fun brother when the death cloud of work isn't hanging over his head. But when he first comes home, I've established a system. Don't ask about his day. Don't ask him anything. Just say "Hey" and leave him alone for an hour or so. Eventually the scowl will fade some and he
will tell you about the entire family of motorized scooter users that came through his register that day. 

"This is what I was built for . . . good old-fashioned violence." 

I spent most of the weekend with Kait, and a good time we had too. A balance of good conversation and pure fun. She knows how to throw really good (seven hour) parties. And the best part was after everyone but the last four had left, and we sat around the kitchen table and enjoyed the one a.m. thunder and lightning show. 

Then I came home to a deliriously happy Mosby, who I love more every day. I always mocked  those people who are so crazy about a dog - you know, the kind of people whose dog slobbers in your ear and they exclaim that oh, Fluffy likes you, and you grimace out a wan smile. Yuck. 
And now I am one of those blind, besotted fools. The Sweet Dog slobbers on me and body slams me (he's getting better) and smells absolutely awful and I absolutely do not mind. How did this happen?
Dogs just . . . they need you. And then you need them back. 

P.S. Credit Joanna with the lovely photo!

Thursday, July 9, 2009

Apples of Love: Sweet One Hundred

Side note: Don't you love it when appointments fall through and suddenly you've got the rest of the whole, long, lovely afternoon? I do.

To the subject at hand. It is a truth of long standing that I do Not like tomatoes. No no no. And I am a lover of exotic foods, the toddler who happily munched on raw vidalia onions, the three year old that begged her mother to buy an artichoke, the four year old who calmly ordered a cheese omelette at her first Waffle House visit. The list of foods I will not eat is very short indeed.

But it does contain tomatoes (I think the only other things are sardines, salmon, and shrimp. Three nasty alliterative seafood). Pretty close to the top. I have never liked them: they look amazing, but then they are too acidic, too watery, too seedy, too . . . tomato-y. The only ones I make an exception for are yellow tomatoes, and they are divine. They are what red tomatoes want to be and never can attain. They are sweet, golden summer exploding in your mouth. But red tomatoes?


Ok, all that was just to establish that I am not a tomato fan, so that the following incident will have more significance. Yesterday, see, I came back from a hot, happy, sweaty walk, and ran some banana bread next door to our sweet elderly neighbors (Mom makes them banana bread about once a week. That woman . . . I've got a lot to live up to). I delivered the bread, explained to sweet Mrs. B. that if I hugged her she would have to shower too, and Mr. B. dropped a plastic bag in my hand - a ziploc full of tiny bright red tomatoes.
"Sweet One Hundred," he said. "They're the only tomatoes I eat, beside the ones on a hamburger."
Those words made me perk up. A fellow tomato hater proclaiming their praises? I popped one in my mouth.

Cold. Juicy. Flavorful but not tart. Lawsamercy, but they were good. I ate five more on the way home. And another five before supper.

I have found my tomato kindred spirit. Thank you, Mr. B.

And now for another long walk. And blueberry picking this evening! I really can't handle all the excitement in our little town. Next thing you know we'll be having a barn raising (actually that would be really, really fun. I digress).
These walks are becoming my sanity. Doing something physical is such a relief after five straight hours of reading/writing. Vacuuming is positively enjoyable, scrubbing sets me humming, and during the walks I think and wander and just decompress.

Then I go back and read the rest of the evening.

I've got so much to read this summer. Not just for the research, but my own personal list. I realized the other day a stack of 12 books had made its way into the den, and there are even more in the small study where I'm trying to keep them corralled. I'm trying to absorb all the Kathleen Norris possible, and then there's Common Grounds, The Genesis Question, Confessions from an Honest Wife, Inkheart, The Scent of Water, a wonderful Steve Brown, How People Change, Standing by Words - and that's just currently reading. I've got Graham Greene, Frederic Buechner, and Kierkegaard on the list. Will I get to them? Um, probably not. At least not before school starts. And then the things I read are always referencing other things to read and there are just so many books. And I want to devour them all.

"The hours between eight in the evening and one or two in the morning have always been my magic hours. Against the blue candlewick bedspread the white pages of my open book, illuminated by a circle of lamplight, were the gateway to another world."
-Diane Setterfield, The Thirteenth Tale

Friday, July 3, 2009

Starry night

Hello, class. It's Friday night. And I'm pretty content.

That right there is the difference between my two lives, at home and at college. At college, I never ever (ever) spend a night chilling in the room. I just feel physically incapable of solitude on weekend nights. Usually because there's something happening, but even if there isn't, then by golly I'm gonna make something happen. People, people, people. I want people. I need people. The End.

That is my college life.

When I go home, something happens. My introverted nature emerges, and I can pretty much live at home for a week without venturing into society, even for a trip to Walgreens. In the evenings I read books and watch Masterpiece Theatre (why yes, I am a nerd, how did you guess) and sometimes my dad and I make a trip to McDonald's for an ice cream cone. A vanilla ice cream cone. Cue the strains of "Old Folks at Home."

And yet I know I still need people. Which is why I'm so glad when I do spend time with people: Val, Christine, Claire and Amy are in town, I had breakfast and good conversation with Mrs. Morgan this morning, and I get to see Kait next weekend. They remind me of our human need for relationship, community, friends who really see you. It's good for me to break out of my summer homebody cocoon.

Now, time for an episode of "Foyle's War."

I'm celebrating the 4th at Liberty Church (appropriate, no?), for a Sacred Harp singin. I hope we sing Bridgewater.

Reading Inkheart. Good for book lovers, and those in need of reality escape.

Done done done with class. Now to concentrate on research alone, which excites me. Next on the horizon: link between poetry and film. Is it weird that sometimes research makes me feel like an explorer?

Speaking of poetry: I revamped my poetry site. Drop by and leave a comment on what you'd like to see! Unless it has something to do with Edgar Guest . . .

Thursday, June 25, 2009

Let Evening Come

Tonight,  something a bit different. I took an evening walk, and things were so sunset pretty I had to grab a camera (despite my lack of any photography skills. Leave that to artsy people like Joanna. Who took my profile photo! She's amazing). I just snapped pictures of random things I thought were interesting; here's what I found:

Recognize this fair leaf? All the folklore five together: It's a tulip poplar! 

We picked blackberries the other day. Mom made a cobbler. I'm content just to look at them. And then eat them raw off the bush.

Mountains. Ahhh. Fields and mountains. And . . . barbwire fences. 

I love marten houses.  And I love this one most of all because of its tilt. P.S., I also went half-blind from the sun trying to get this photo. 

Another strange fascination, in addition to tilting marten houses: the way this tree grew around a barbwire fence. Again: why do I like this so much? 

Hay. Dusk. Golden. Peace. 

Photos I did Not take: 
-the strange furry carcass (squirrel?) in our front yard (suspects: the Sweet Dog).  
-the vicious horsefly that attacked me
-our neighbor careening around shirtless on his bush hog (heavens to Betsy. Scarring). 

Last night I spent with Valerie and Claire in their lovely apartment. Thank you, dear friends, for letting me crash and sit in that amazingly comfortable chair. Oh, and getting me addicted to "So You Think You Can Dance." You do my heart good. 

Good night, sky. 

Saturday, June 20, 2009

In which I go crazy for hyperlinks

Let's go right to the shore and forget our troubles here
I'm gonna gas up the ford, the waves are crashing
and the sky is clear - I want to be by your side
- the everybodyfields

I picked up a copy of "Christianity Today" in some office the other day, and flipped to the main article. It was on pilgrimage, and I was immediately intrigued (one of my favorite books during the Homeschool Years involved a boy and girl in the 1300s who go on a religious pilgrimage. I loved The Ramsay Scallop, and for a long time I put myself to bed at night by imagining medieval pilgrimage stories). The article was lovely and now I want to go on a pilgrimage. This makes sense. Pilgrimages are not aimless wanderings, and they are not all about the destination either. The journey is part of the discipline. 
So I want a good long modern pilgrimage, with the comfort of the passenger seat late at night and drowsing to Fleet Foxes or Kate Rusby and the stars over the highway. One of my playlists is already named "Starry Roadtrip Night" - I'm aching to just go

 Deborah, you are my music clone/road trip twin - let's go! I'll bring the hummus and fruit this time. 

Here we are at the transmission party
I love your friends, 
they're all so arty
-Franz Ferdinand

A couple of weeks ago, our home was graced by the presence of two very wonderful musicians. Stephen Gordon and Adam Agin played for a small group of friends and then we roasted s'mores outside and the boys swam and it was so. much. fun. Anna Rubia had gotten me hooked on Stephen's music when she introduced me to Doug Burr, so I already knew I loved his stuff. I hadn't heard Adam before though, and he was amazing. And I loved the feel of the tiny house concert, just a group of folks crowded in our great room and listening to two guys who happen to make incredible music. 
So I grilled Adam and Stephen on how they write songs (Adam is very emotionally involved, Stephen is detached - fyi) and really awful concerts in their past and whatever I didn't question, my mother did. Besides being astounding musicians, they are also super nice guys. Go listen to their music!

From all that dwells below the skies
let the Redeemer's praise arise:
let the Redeemer's name be sung
through ev'ry land, by ev'ry tongue.
-Isaac Watts

"Bridgewater," the tune to the words above, is my favorite Sacred Harp song. They didn't sing it today at the National Sacred Harp Assembly, but that's ok. I went and got my fix, and the sound - oh the sound. And I bought my own hymnal so that I can vary my routine, instead of pulling the usual number and singing the same line over and over again at really obnoxious volumes.
And yes, I know, watching to the video you will probably think What the heck does Anna see in that weird abrasive music? Well. I'm not always sure myself; I just know I love it. But that singing, it just fills you and swells up and makes me feel right and whole. It also gives me a headache after about three hours, but it's so worth it. 

And people recognized me and called me by name. How can you not love any group of people where that happens?  

Well. I didn't post on Daniel Craig this time. But remember how long it took me to get around to Narcissa Whitman? James Bond's time is coming. In the meantime, I need y'all's opinion on something. I've been a poem writing machine these past three weeks (ok, not really, but I have written three) and I need to know - what does the phrase "gypsy broom" mean to you? As in, a broom that a gypsy would leave lying around their caravanserai wagon. Does it seem weird for a gypsy to have something domestic - like a broom? Or am I crazy? Sigh. Poetic anguish of searching for the bon mot. Please help me out, people. Go to my poetry site if you're brave enough to read the poem and lemme know if the gist is getting across. Thankee.