Sunday, May 31, 2009

Sometimes, the unexpected. 

Let me explain. 

During Christmas break, I joined a freelance networking site. Premise is simple: employers post freelance jobs, workers post bids, employers award winning worker with job. This could be useful for my future life as a starving English major in the real world, I thought. So I joined and read some of the jobs posted and got intimidated. Thank goodness I don't have to think about that stuff for another year and a half, I thought. In May I saw I'd been invited to submit a proposal for some random project, and I thought, well, what's it hurt just to get some practice posting a bid. Have to start sometime. And promptly forgot about it. 

Then today I logged onto the email I never use, and saw I'd been awarded the proposal. Yes. $300 to update some book from the 1880s, and 12 days to do it. Whoops. 

So now I've got school in the morning, research project all afternoon, and ghostwriting a book in the evenings. 

As Stephen Fry says:
Lord-a-mercy, shut my mouth. 

Yes, I'm taking a class during the month of June. Heavy sigh. I really didn't want to. I mean, I really really really didn't want to. But it will save me from having to take thesis and Shakespeare at the same time as Brit Lit 1798-present (I just can't get over how relevant my chosen major is), so I'm taking the plunge. And it is Dr. W.'s last class ever before he retires. And I am one of only two students. Yep. Two whole students. Get ready for some absolutely rousing Coleridge discussions. 

In other news, today Mom and I went on a bike road. A pleasant, carefree, Sunday afternoon bike road around the mountain top. Until we rode by a massive beast of a German shepherd that was like two German shepherds packed together and we had to ride uphill past it and Mom's chain decided to break right then and I was just glad it wasn't the chain holding the dog to the tree (which I frown on as a rule, but approved of heartily just right then). When we got to the top of the hill and past the monster we didn't say anything for a while. For one, our lungs were shriveled ruins. For two, our mouths were dry as August cotton. When we finally could communicate, all we could manage was:
"That was a big dog."

Blackball that road. 

And now I'm going to enjoy my remaining few hours as a free woman before I am consumed by work (and now I'm sidetracked because I just realized referred to myself as a woman instead of a girl. Umm). But before I leave - a poem (oh, you knew it was coming).

What is my apology for poetry?
The empty briar is swishing
When I come down, and beyond, inside, your face
Haunts like a new moon glimpsed through tangled glass.
-Seamus Heaney, "Glanmore Sonnets"

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Why should the fire die

After a day of slow-going research on poetry, I needed the actual stuff. 

Even reading quickly, it's time consuming just to read and summarize one article. Let alone the masses of books and websites and journals out there. So I spent the day immersed in a collection of interviews with poets from the early 1970s (in which Allen Ginsberg feverishly declared that all the oceans would be dead by 2000 and the apocalypse is here and if only people would recycle their bottles maybe we could avert disaster), and reading articles with titles like "Song, Ritual and Commemoration in Early Greek Poetry and Tragedy." 

So I needed to remember why I am doing this. I fished out my high school copy of Sound and Sense and re-read some of the stuff that made my heart stop four years ago, before I knew anything about poetry, or even liked it (yes, I used to hate the stuff. But I also used to loathe Kait, who has been a dear dear friend for nigh on ten years now. What can I say? I deal in extremes). I read "the mother," by Gwendolyn Brooks ("Abortions will not let you forget. / You remember the children you got that you did not get"), and discovered another villanelle by Elizabeth Bishop.

And then. I re-found "Sorting Laundry," one of those poems I love and cannot say why. I have loved it from the first reading when I was 16 or 17. The first stanza is my favorite.
Folding clothes,
I think of folding you
Into my life. 

Simple, no? And yet I love it so much I couldn't for the life of me be objective. I quote it to myself when I'm walking around the house, or going to class, or yes, folding laundry. And each time I hurt because I love this poem so much. Whew. Go read it, that's all I ask. Just don't tell me if you don't like it.

In other news, the smoothie obsession is still going strong (today's lunch = blueberry banana oatmeal, with the ubiquitous Greek yogurt and vanilla soymilk. Purple but good). Dad is watching Shane - oh good, here comes another brawl (I love Westerns). The Sweet Dog has not indulged his lust for chicken blood recently (though he does show up for breakfast each morning covered in mud and obscenely happy). And the moon is waxing, not waning. 

If you were to leave me, 
if I were to fold
only my own clothes,

a mountain of unsorted wash
could not fill
the empty side of the bed. 

Saturday, May 23, 2009

Of smoothies and Scotland

Cold food. Like cold fusion. Only not as elusive. Or important. But much more pleasurable. 

I've been a fan lately. Last night for supper, I made a blueberry/yogurt/soymilk smoothie and ate it from a bowl (more fun that way), with some vanilla Kashi cereal for interest. And then I gorged myself on chilled green grapes. Ahhh. I love refrigeration. 

Today, I shopped. With my mother. Who, Lord love her, can shop me under the table. I was the enthusiastic one yesterday: "Mom, I'm desperate! I need clothes!" And she just sort of vaguely acquiesced. But today, I was ready to drop by 2 and she was still diving into clothing racks and pulling me into dressing rooms for opinions. I thoroughly enjoyed it, but goodness, I'm 21 to her 50-something - I'm supposed to have the surplus energy. 
Although I found out the other day that I have inherited her boundless nature to some degree. Right after that post bemoaning my Sad Little Raincloud personality, I hear from a former coworker:
 "I met your mother the other day, and was glad to see the resemblance" he typed. "You are both joyful." 

How lovely. Thank you, Mom. 

And tonight we watched Slumdog Millionare. Unbearable and beautiful and heartwrenching and a really, really, really good movie. Yes, I know I am one of the last people in the States to see it, but I never go to movies, and then when it came to the dollar theatre I found out Jim hadn't seen it yet either, and so I had to wait until school was out so we could watch it together. And good thing too, because my parents had already seen it so they could tell me to leave during the part when - oh wait. I nearly did it, but I didn't. You see that? I caught myself before I gave away a crucial part of the plot! I am making progress, oh yes. 

Now off to read the newest installment of Alexander McCall Smith's newest Scottish book, The Comfort of a Muddy Saturday. And while this is not his strongest, he's still worth it.

"Why, Isabel wondered, did we need loss and parting to remind us of how much friendship, and indeed love, meant to us? Yes we did."

Thursday, May 21, 2009

In which I fall in love with parentheses and confess melancholia

I've got to tell you something (imagine that we're sitting across from each other at a cafe, and we've been laughing all afternoon and suddenly I get moody and stare off into space and then I turn and say that). After all, this blog did start as some sort of attempt to be honest and real and genuine and etc. 

The thing is, I've been strangely down the past few days. Not in despair or full-out depressed, just a vague sort of misery. And I have no reason. In fact, I feel guilty for not being ecstatic. I mean, the horrid lump wasn't cancer (that in itself should be enough to send me out rejoicing the rest of the year). The surgery went fine. I have interesting and exciting (to me) work to do this summer. 

Why then this weird blue mood?

I know some of it is undoubtedly physical. I mean, my tummy is sore and has nasty stitches, and my body is still trying to make sense of the fact that some doctor was fiddling around with my insides; and my inner curmudgeon emerges when I don't feel good. 

But I also think the body and spirit are woven together, and issues don't fall neatly into "physical" and "spiritual" problems. So even if my melancholy has physical roots, the way I deal with it is spiritual, and I just feel contrary. Disagreeable for the sake of disagreeing. I don't want what's good. I don't know what I want. So I watch a movie or go to sleep and escape for a while. And when I pray, I feel like honesty eludes me, because who can discern her own heart?

Funny, too, because I just picked up Acedia and Me by Kathleen Norris. Acedia is a sort of combination between sloth and depression, just plain not caring because it's too hard. I've been reading it since Sunday, but depression was so last year, and it wasn't til I started writing this post that I realized the book actually has some relevance to my life-right-now. Strange; I know I am naturally melancholy, and think that somehow knowing will stop me from beingI think recognition is the only step, not just a big one. But self-knowledge alone is not enough. I actually have to fight and live with myself. Just like knowing you have a weakness for brownies is not enough to stop you from eating ten of them. 

And right there is where I would like Jesus to be more of a weighty presence in my life (don't you like how human and concrete and God he is?). I'll admit something else: you know how people are always talking about how they love Jesus? I'm not sure that I do - all I know is that he's strangely attractive and I don't want to leave him. I guess that's where St. Teresa's prayer comes in:
O God, I do not love you,
I do not even want to love you,
But I want to want to love you.

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

It's an Aunt Voula!

Yesterday, as I sat in the hospital room with my awesome little bracelet, I was:
-nervous about receiving my first IV 
-scared as heck about anaesthesia and the slight possibility that this weird lump was cancer 
-and the writerly part of me was just really, really interested and couldn't wait to, well, write about it all. I've discovered that no matter what happens to me - when I ace a paper, when I fight with a friend,  when I'm about to pass out because they're fiddling around with a vein in my left arm and it won't stop rolling - no matter how upset or happy I am, there is always the writer in me that's removed and observing and mulling over all the creative potential in the experience. While I freak out, there will always be that 10% of my mind going, "Hmm, this is interesting. Let's take notes."

Anyway. They did stick me with an IV, and it really was not that bad. And the last thing I remember was my mom sitting beside me and three nurses came in and started to wheel me out and then I was waking up, thinking great, now it's about to start, when this sweet nurse told me the surgery was over and I was in the recovery room and did I want some water. I remember thinking something like, "Sweet, it's over," and wondering why I couldn't keep my eyes open more than 5 seconds at a time. I was also vaguely excited because when they raised the bed, they used a turn crank at the foot, just like in Madeline

And then they were wheeling me back to the room, and my mom came in smiling and telling me everything went fine and the horrid lump was not cancer at all, but a harmless dermoid thing. And then we said Thank You, God. 

So now I'm laid up at home on the comfiest couch in the world (yes, that one), and can't wait to show off my Madeline scar. My tummy feels like someone stood over me and made me do 500 billion sit-ups, and I don't feel like eating for the next six years, but other than that, I'm great. I get to lie on the couch and watch movies and read books. Or . . . just lie on the couch. That sounds good too. 

Monday, May 18, 2009

Stream of not-quite-consciousness

Anaesthesia hangover and sore tummy but no cancer.

Thank You, God.

Ohhhhh, sleeeep.

Saturday, May 16, 2009

Home, where I wanted to go

I'm writing from my window seat, one of the two coziest places in the house. The other is the keeping room couch (the most comfortable sofa ever to grace the world of upholstered seating). I can nap and read and nap and stare out the window and read and stare some more. 

But when I'm not craving company, I like this window nook. Gorgeous view of fluid green field? Check. Right amount of sun streaming through glass? Check. Books and comfy linen pillows? Double-check. 

So finals = over and I'm home. Home and ready to get started on this poetry research thing. I get to read lots and lots of articles and books and websites and compile an annotated bibliography of everything relevant that I find, and write a poem each week to workshop with Dr. Steward, and do minion-research tasks in between for her To Kill a Mockingbird paper. I'm actually super excited. I'm also a nerd. 

In preparation for this summer of academic exercise, I've read nothing but cooking and decorating magazines since I've been home. Oh - and the latest World and part of Jane of Lantern Hill for old time's sake. Whenever I need comfort reading, I go to my handy L.M. Montgomery shelf (arranged by color since I was twelve. Somethings should not be changed. Like how I always sit at my dad's left at the dinner table, or how we always pack beach towels in the same weird old rope bag, or how I turn off music and roll down the window every time I come home and start up the mountain). Yesterday I made baked lemon pasta that Jim devoured, and today I made sweet potato coconut muffins and plotted with Mom to steal a hydrangea from the cut-off road. 

Oh. And I stumbled upon a place of slaughter in the woods. Let me explain. 
On Wednesday, my family reunited at the meat-and-three Olympius, a.k.a. the Pell City Steakhouse, and chatted with our neighbor Mr. Clanton. We were talking about how I don't like walking along the road because of crazy NASCAR wannabe drivers, and he suggested this path off the road. Only Mr. Clanton sort of doesn't move his chin when he talks, so the directions were hard to follow, but I thought I knew where he was talking about. So the next day, I set off down the overgrown dirt path he recommended. Soon I felt eerie. "Soon" being 47 seconds into the trek when I came upon an old exam table. "Gross," I thought, but everyone knows that rednecks have a fascination with things like old dentist's chairs and shopping carts (and yes, I'll go ahead and admit I tried to buy a shopping cart from the Bruno's that closed at Wildwood. They thought I was weird). I went, feeling increasingly more creeped out, but turn around? Why would I turn around in secluded woods where people were obviously up to strange things? I may be in the Honors program, but I'm not that intelligent. When I finally turned around and made my way back to the old exam table, I noticed something that I had not noticed before. An enormous spine. As in, cow-enormous. As in, PEOPLE WERE SLAUGHTERING A COW BACK THERE. 
I ran blindly towards the road. And continued my walk, laden with the knowledge that there are cow poachers operating practically in my back yard. Ewwww. 

And now it is almost 5, and it is a Saturday evening, and that means my mom will be listening to the Prairie Home Companion. Ah yes, there's the snotty NPR announcer now (I do love NPR, sans the condescension). And maybe it will be Billy Collins and Chris Thile or Allison Krauss, and Garrison Keillor will do one of his English major segments. Or maybe it will be weird jazz music and Garrison trying to sing (shudder). But either way it will be comforting because it means I'm home and it's Saturday and my mom is here. 

Thursday, May 7, 2009

We interrupt our regularly scheduled programming . . .

 . . . to talk about surgery. Yes, boys and girls, the Monday after finals they are going to stick a tube in my bellybutton and tackle a spot in my tummy. 

Warning to male readers: While nothing very graphic is contained below, if the word "ovary" has the same effect on you that "kidneys" has on me - well, I would stop now if I were you. [Note: "kidneys" makes the hair stand up on the back of neck and makes my knees feel weak and shaky. In case you wanted to know. And if you want to make me flop over in a comatose state for the next two weeks, just mention something about getting "punched in the kidneys." Even typing it makes me break out in cold sweats.]

I've got this cyst on my left -um, you know, the 0-word. And it won't go away and has pretty much taken over the whole darn thing, so the doctor says it needs to come out. And of course, me being me, I am sort of freaked out. About the anesthesia. About the very slight possibility of cancer. About the thought of even a minimally invasive TUBE poking around in my insides. 
And I know, I know, I know that this is not a huge deal, comparatively. I mean, people have major surgery all the time and get on with their lives, and this is outpatient stuff for gosh sake. And still I imagine the worst, and ask questions like: How will I have enough faith to trust God if it is something serious? What about being ready to die, heaven forbid? 

I feel like Dr. Wallace's kid at the doctor's office. "I'm not brave, Daddy! I'm so scared!"

And of course there is the probability that it is a dermoid growth (say dermoid, boys and girls), which means there might just be a tooth or something in there, and which I am really hoping for because that would make me just like Aunt Voula, my favorite character in "My Big Fat Greek Wedding." And I want to read Madeline again, because I loved it when she went to the hospital to get her appendix out and was always a little bit jealous. She got a dollhouse. 

I saw Stephen Gordon tonight (!) and he was amazing and I bought his new CD. Thank you so much to Anna for introducing me to his music and alerting me to the concert tonight. It was lovely. 
Go read something by Kathleen Norris right now. Dakota is one of her beautiful book, a "spiritual geography," as she puts it, and I love it. 
And I found this quote by Philip Yancey that's pretty much helped me balance life this week:
"Life is not a problem to be solved but a work to be made."