Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Christmas in pictures

Favorite cousin! Austibear is taller than I am . . . when did that happen? I used to give him piggy back rides along that very sidewalk. Not anymore. Sweet little cousin, now a future English major! Yes, I've influenced another to take the life of thankless poverty and bumming parties for free food.


Sweet aunt and uncle. Aunt Laura's stories make me laugh so hard. And she is a kindred spirit of the book world!


FAVORITE COUSIN! "PaPa, you must've gone to the bank for this." Brannon was in fine form, and didn't trash talk too badly about the BCS game. Yes, we have Auburnites in the family.


Favorite cousin! Tyler, mid-evil laugh. I forget what infamous plan he was sharing, but know this: it wasn't good. However, he's also one of only two of the cousins who have read Harry Potter. Which gives him major points.



Jim's present to Dad. Nice wrapping job, Jim.




The snow on the fields look like a huge frosted mini wheat. (I know, can you believe that beautiful simile?) And the sun shone on the mountain across the way . . .


. . . and the horses rode in the snow . . .


. . . and Mom tried out her childhood sled but it didn't really do anything except sit and look pretty . . .


. . . and the Loop was perfect in the snow.


"We know that we abide with quarks and constellations . . . the matrix of our supposedly quotidian existence."
-Marilynne Robinson, Absence of Mind

Exactly. Just look around and you'll find that everything is interesting.

Saturday, December 25, 2010

Being with

(We have a white Christmas, and it is gorgeous and fat fluffy flakes, and my aunt saw a cardinal in a bush and it was lovely.)





All this was a long time ago, I remember
And I would do it again, but set down
This set down
This: were we led all that way for
Birth or Death? There was a Birth, certainly,
We had evidence and no doubt. I had seen birth and death,
But had thought they were different; this Birth was
Hard and bitter agony for us, like Death, our death.
We returned to our places, these Kingdoms,
But no longer at ease here, in the old dispensation,
With an alien people clutching their gods.
I should be glad of another death.

-T.S. Eliot, Journey of the Magi, lines 32-43


Lord Jesus, in our doubt and pride and wounds, in our laugh and wonder and joys, in the earthy grit of our inescapable humanness,

give us Thy death that we may live

O Christ

give us Thyself.

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

epithalamion to epithelium

Last week? Lovely. Anna came into town on Wednesday, and we spent Thursday seeing friends, in particular the wonderful Joanna. Getting trapped by the rain in a consignment store, wandering around the streets and stores I love so much, trading stories and worries and joy, frozen yogurt for supper, and Preston-bygolly-Lovinggood at a random house concert! (Wild Sweet Orange captured my heart almost 3 years ago. Go listen to Ten Dead Dogs. Right. Now. Oh and there was also the sweetest sweetest St. Bernard/lab mix thing dog at the house concert, and it was PRECIOUS. The end.)

Being with friends who know you is like relief breathed warm and sweet.

I went to Texas, and got to hug Val. And I walked into Michael's arms and hugged him tight, and he gave me The Long Surrender and I screamed with glee. And we stuck it in the CD player and listened to good music during the golden afternoon drive through flat rippling fields and blue sky. And on Sunday night, he took me to a concert, Andrew Peterson's Behold the Lamb of God tour, which was way more awesome and beautiful and marvelous than I could have expected.

And then he threw up. And after biding my time for two days, last night I threw up, and it was gross and I was calm because by that time I pretty much was expecting it. So today has been Sprite, toast, tea, and four hour naps. What a thoughtful gift.

During my conscious times, I have been reading what is frankly one of the best ever ideas for a book. Okay see, I really only had two years of science in high school, Chemistry (anathema) and Physics (love). The first two years, I was supposed to be doing Biology and Anatomy. I did Biology, yes, but maybe Mom trusted me a little too much on the Anatomy part. Anyway, I reached and graduated college without having more than a rudimentary idea of how my body works, much less where everything is. Then, back during the wrist saga (which is not over, my friends, oh no) I was waiting in the doctor's office and bored and I picked up a tattered kid's book about the body that was sitting on the counter. Oh. My. Goodness. Do you how insanely cool and fascinating the body is? Did you know that our bodies make new cells to mend our broken bones? Do you know how complicated we are and how things just work, that we are these marvelous machines? Did you know that your liver is not where your appendix is but actually by your ribs? I told you I was clueless. So I was flipping through this book going, "So that's how that works!" and decided I needed to know more about my body. Enter the Human Body section of the Hoover Children's library department, in particular Dr. Frankenstein's Human Body Book. BEST THING EVER. Seriously, folks. The human body? Amazing.

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

darlin, darlin

Tonight is mine. Everyone's going out but me and I'm . . . excited. (Note: This is one of those things you're not supposed to post online-"Hey criminals! I'm home alone!"-so if any psychotic killers are reading, know this: I don't shoot to injure.)

Well, that got morbid in a hurry. Back to more cheerful things, like . . . seafoam nail polish!



I've been craving this color polish ever since I saw a similar hue on Rummey Bears. Today, I found it at Sephora. I sang (internally) with glee. I tried it on. Then I looked at the price: $18. For a tablespoon of polish? No no. And then the very same color was just sitting in the bargain bin at Forever 21, waiting for me. It cost $2.50. Result: Seafoam turquoise happiness, sans guilt. It makes me happy like a five year old child to look down and see shiny color glinting on my toenails. Winter needs some color.


And now. To turn off the computer and t.v. and sit in the great room where the tree is all lit up and there's a fire in the fireplace. I want to read and write and think and pray. And then I want to read Flavia and the Christmas Legacy because it's the best thing ever.



I've got clementines and popcorn and real dark chocolate. And Snow Angels, one of the addictive Christmas albums by--you guessed it!--Over the Rhine.

Darlin Christmas is coming
do you believe in angels singing

Monday, December 13, 2010

Falling like forgiveness

Yesterday afternoon involved snow and ice and driving and terror. Lots of terror. If I ever do achieve the Minnesota dream, I'll be . . . walking.

But. Last night, I curled in bed and listened to the wind keen snow flurries around the roof. I woke up and had books and coffee time, and then I bundled up in a ski jacket and walked in the sunshine and snow that spun like glitter in the light.

Jim and I ate lunch with Dad, and then our widower horse-training neighbor came and set with us for a while. We talked about horses and religion and dogs and significant others. And the weather. Of course.

And my family ate supper together, on the gold tablecloth while the dark gathered outside.

Simply thankful.

***
Beautiful winter poem. Take me to the Czech Republic, now please.

Reading Marilynne Robinson's take on the Freudian self (among other things). She makes me look up words. It's great. Thank you Michael.

The very worst missionary? My favorite site. Ever.

Thursday, December 9, 2010

Sweet, sweet Dog


I don't know how to write this post.

Last Friday, the Sweet Dog got sick. My dad took him to the vet. Saturday morning, the vet called. Mo was poisoned. He didn't make it.

A dog's death is a strange grief. Internally, it hurts like hell. But I feel sort of ashamed of the tears, too. I mean, what about orphans, and babies with cancer, or a raw and ugly divorce, or the multitudinous sea of human pain? How can the loss of a sweet stupid dog even register on the grief scale? And I wonder if I even have a right to weep.

One day back in October or so, I was driving and talking to God. I was telling Him my frustrations and fears and questions. At one point, I passed a dog's dead body lying on the side of the highway. I got mad. You see that puppy, God? I said. That's wrong. That's so wrong. How can I trust you when there's so much wrong in the world and it hurts me so much?
I won't say I heard God speak, because that kind of language always irritates me some (note: if God speaks to you, that's fine, as long as you don't think you're supposed to kill people or stop washing your hair). But I did realize something in a way that seemed to come from outside. Oh, I said. This is all yours . . . how must more it must hurt you.

Nature's groaning, right? And even broken, the world is beautiful. I want the wonder and joy that Mo brought to my life to lead me to a deeper delight in life - animals, trees, rivers, the way the winter sky turns deep burning red at sundown. Because life is everywhere, and thank God for Mo who opened my eyes to that.

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Flashwrite

Last day of classes. Last day of first semester of grad school. Last time in the library in 2010. Last bite of a Clif Bar. Last time I will use the word "last" in this post.

This morning, I brought doughnuts to my baby freshmen, and when one girl tried to study her Psych book instead of doing the exercise I assigned, I snatched the book from her and read them tips on prejudice issues ("You should just be glad I don't write 'This wants to make me put my head on the table and cry' on your papers!" I told them). Then I laughed maniacally and wandered around the room. They wrote. I calculated their grades. I went on a rant about energy drinks. They laughed. I went on a rant about how they should never never get drunk because you lose control of yourself and just try sitting in a Dave Matthews' concert full of drunk people and how it's not so much wrong as it is SAD and HORRIBLE. They laughed again, more hesitantly this time. I slammed my fist on the table and said I was serious. Then I smiled and said that they should choose coffee as their addiction of choice instead.

Sigh. I will miss these children. I have an urge right now to write encouraging notes to each of them on their papers that I will return Friday. And then I think, "Hey, I can go read Marilynne Robinson!" or "Hey, I can spend an hour browsing the Sartorialist!" and I know that urge will probably not be completed.

***
In other news, I'm leaving on Friday. Fo' good (at least until I have to come back in January). Done done done except for two minor things, and full of happiness at the thought of home and Christmas and oh yes--home.

New poems coming up! Stay tuned. The Grimms' stories are back in my poems, and I've also got a peacock and playhouse in the mix.

Bare trees, blue sky, grass fields - winter is beautiful.

Monday, November 15, 2010

so I can close my eyes

Apparently, when I have papers to write, I make blog posts instead.

Why yes, I have eaten a lot of chocolate. And I want more more more.

I'm already missing Jan term. Next term starts back earrrlyyyy January, and that leaves me not much time to make the rounds and visit everyone I want. But I'm gonna try, by gum. Atlanta, Nashville, and Texas. Three weeks. Here I come. It's going to be busy, yes. But remember two years ago, when I did Texas/Missouri/Utah/Tuscaloosa(oh yes it counts) in 3 weeks? Yep. I can make it.

***
Let me tell you a secret: Mississippi's growing on me. I think I'm just now realizing that. This is not an easy place for me. But it is good. I think I can say that honestly. I'm with good people. I laugh a lot. The fields do have a roll to them and the trees and earth are beautiful, and the sky is really wide. I guess what I mean is - sometimes happiness isn't the best way to be happy. And I'm okay with that.

***
In other news, last weekend I went to Texas. It was sunny and lovely and best of all a really wonderful guy was there and we hung out a lot.

And I drove seven hours, both ways. All by myself. The End.

***
Quick, gimme a topic for the next poem. I'm game for anything from ancient Rome to rollerskating. Winner gets satisfaction of suggesting the best thing and my deep deep gratitude. Thanks folks.

Friday, November 12, 2010

I love this, I love that too . . .



So no . . . I usually don't do the round-up things. But sometimes, things out there in internet land are so beautiful and interesting and marvelous that I can't help but say "Go 'ave a look!"


Train + New Mexico + Over the Rhine . . . it's killin me.


Evie love. One of my favorite blogs ever. Nashville artist/gourmand/teacher/world traveler/writer. Stop by and rest your weary mind for a while.


A steady surprise of stars.


I would buy this tent, and I would pitch it in a green grassy field, and I would live in it with lots of blankets and pillows and . . . flashlights, I guess.


Happy birthday to me, hint hint. Just kidding . . . sort of.

Monday, November 8, 2010

for today

I have a lot to do right now. Three papers. One presentation. Essays to grade. Tests to grade. Lessons to plan. Friends (Erin&Shannon&Kait&Lee, you're at the top of the list) to call and write. Bills to pay. Miles to walk. Meals to make. And I want to GET ON IT, by golly. I'm ready to go in to Robot Productive Mode.

But. Instead . . .

Well, first of all, I am eating an orange. And second - I'm writing this blog post.

I don't like it when I stay away from my blog. Because I don't like it when other people stay away from their blogs. At this point I could compare the orange to the blog and say writing is like Vitamin C for my sanity, but I won't do that. That's way too Hallmark.

***
Today, I'm going to sit in the sun and work. Must start fighting off Seasonal Affective Disorder. Somebody get me one of those sun lamps. Now, slave! Oh sorry. I forgot I wasn't talking to my class.

***
I'm writing a research project on Penelope Fitzgerald. She's absolutely marvelous. That is, if you're looking for a British writer whose novels have broken down people and mess and heartbreak and a strange sort of hope and all in the most subtly luminous prose. If you're looking for that, I think you'd like her. And it's fun to research something I care about it. I am on a bona fide crusade for the woman's novels now. Treat her like a real writer, literary critics, and stop talking about how she didn't publish til she was 59 but her books are so great - come on, scholars, get into the meat of her work. Sheesh.

***
Lately, I've been getting lots of emails from my precious students that go something like this:

"HEY do wE haVe Cla$$ toMorRow??????", or "what is due on wensday i forgot".

So, this morning in class, I gave the children a short but concentrated lesson on writing appropriate emails to professors and future bosses. It involved me bursting into the class, talking very loudly, and saying "OMG" a lot. I also stressed the importance of acknowledging that you are writing to a REAL human warm body being with salutory words such as "Hello." I think they got the point.

***
Don't forget to pick out your very own Puritan name this Thanksgiving! Ok, I laugh, but I have to admit they were on to something. There's something sort of lovely in the thought of naming someone for life, of names as a gift:"Joy-again" and "Hope-still".

That said, whoever named their kid "Ashes" or "Fly-fornication" . . .

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Plan B . . .



Today, I was completing my usual 4 mile march around the complex (that sounds a little too Soviet, so let me make clear that I love walking and seeing the sky a
nd ducks and it is my sanity time). I saw a bush and, in the bush, what appeared to be a very small cow. "That looks like a very tiny cow," I thought. But I am nearsighted and given to an overactive imagination, so I told myself it was not a cow and was probably some kind of mysterious black box connected to boring things like electricity or cable. I grew closer, and discovered I had been correct. It was not a cow sitting in the bush.

It was a goat. A small black goat. A small black goat tied to a stake. "What is a goat doing tied to a stake?" I thought. Then I realized what it meant. The goat is going to be eaten. Why else would it be tied down on the grass in front of an apartment building? Obviously there is a fiesta going on this weekend. I looked at the goat again and realized that it still had fuzzy baby fur. It bleated and looked at me. I began to plan its rescue.

Operation Baby Goat Deliverance, Part 1: Offer to buy it from the owners. If they refuse, take it. Yes, I think I just plotted theft online.
Part 2: Yet to be determined. I need a way to a) get it home, b) convince parents to keep it somewhere on our 9 acres, and c) did I mention get it home.

And now, images of tiny helpless fuzzy baby goats keep running through my head.

Not helped by the fact that I found a small, surprisingly sweet daschund on the loose as well, and could not convince it to come home and am worried it will be hit by a car.

I'm not a crazy animal person. Promise.

I just want to save the goat, okay?

"Help us!"

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

The Sun Was Unclouded

Here in the flatlands, it's autumn and absolutely gorgeous. I'll admit it: Mississippi is growing on me. This weekend roommate and I went with a sweet friend to ride horses in the southern part of the state, and it was gorgeous and rolling hills and her parents are vets and I felt I'd stepped into the Mississippi version of James Herriot. All that to say--the desert is starting to bloom.

And last week, in poetry class, we each got individual assignments. Mine was to write about something BIG--a war, a natural disaster, etc. Arghh. Now, I write about small things, ordinary things, I am kin to Dickinson, not Whitman. But I set myself to do it, and I'm not sure how it happened but somehow a poem about the Alabama Cherokee and Trail of Tears came out. Near Florence, there's a man who's spent years building a wall, a memorial to the tragedy. So here's another stone for the remembering.

The Sun Was Unclouded--

“The Cherokees are a peaceable, harmless people, but you may drive them to desperation, and this treaty cannot be carried into effect except by the strong arm of force.”
-Major William M. Davis, 1837

How can I put you in a poem, dustfoot
people? Your trees were faithless, in the end.
How you wove rivers in the skin and glassed
the long hut after all. The forest went wild
for grief after you left. Oh sweet warrior,
first friend, the smoke and salt of you lingered
long after the cane broke. How many calloused
eyes, how much broken before the wheels?
The tear-pocked dust should have swollen, crumbled
into earth red earth, sprouted sudden
mountains on the empty distant line of land and sky.
If the rocks rose up to cave you, if your graves
mounded numb and deep, if you somehow found
eastern sky again, if the trees refused to cover
your desperate bare--if anyone tried to say
you were fully desirous--then know your blood
was too fresh for them, too wooded,
too earth for that manifest. Real people, know
your soft language still tongues their brain.

Sunday, October 10, 2010

what's lost

Sometimes, sad things happen.

I know. Understatement of the century. I'm an English major, but with all the poetry and gorgeous literature in the world, still simple language serves us best sometimes.

Thirteen days ago, the Sweet Dog was hit by a car. He's alive, I don't know how. Only the vet couldn't save his right hind leg, so now Mo is home and learning how to get around again.

It feels foolish to grieve over an injured dog. You don't know how people are going to take it, because obviously it's a lot bigger deal to us than them. I mean, we make fun of the folks who take their animals too seriously. I'm not a blindly infatuated animal person, I promise.

But. It's sad.

And the whole time I've been home has been a rapid wash of two emotions: the sadness of seeing a more subdued Mo learn how to live on three legs. And the gladness and sheer wonder that he's still here and still with us. I guess this is our existence, yes? The rebellion at the way things go wrong - he should still have all four legs. Sweet dumb Mo was not meant to live this way. And the grace in the way things go right - he also should be dead. But he isn't. He's ok and he's healing and I'm awfully glad this crazy dog is still here to lick my face and chase more balls.

And if it's only autumn and the desire for security and rest and hope that keeps me from turning away from these words in bitterness - well then, I'll take it.


Only love can turn this around
I wake up dreaming
Everything we've lost can be found
We'll wake up dreaming
-Over the Rhine


Tuesday, September 28, 2010

one single camera


Today has been fall. Yesterday was, too. And Sunday was almost there. We sat in an old crumbly cemetery that afternoon and read headstones with names "Temperance" engraved on them, and the afternoon light was lovely in the trees and it smelled like October.

As if that wasn't enough, I discovered that the dark and slightly creepy Kroger has a kid's cookie club. And that changed my opinion of them right then and there, as I inhaled a double chocolate cookie in the dairy aisle. Tuesday = success.

*****

And now I have a cast. On my arm. It is brightneonhotglaring pink and reaches past my elbow, halfway to my shoulder. We have had a tumultuous relationship. It went like this.

The first day was a mix of fascination and wonderings. This is strange. I have a cast. Can I drive? Oooh, people can write on it. How will I wash my hair?

Then, that night, I woke up. Not once, but several times. As I remember, there were tears and helpless flailings of the casted arm against a pillow. Everything was sad and miserable. The next few days were continuations of this theme. I cycled from frustrated discomfort ("dangit, this is awkward") to claustrophobic rage (GET IT OFF MY ARM GET IT OFF GETITOFFFFF) to fetal position whimpers (help,please,mama,help).

But now, though it is an annoyance and have the feeling that my elbow will be really sore in a week or so, I have grown accustomed to it. Hours pass and I forget that I have a Neon Barbie Robot arm. Sometimes it feels almost comfortable, familiar. And then I freak out. What is this, Stockholm Syndrome?

*****
This weekend was good and needed. Michael came to visit, and we ate Chinese food and walked through downtown (which took 10 minutes) and watched movies and most of all it was good to see him, his real live self, not the skype-pixelated version. Deborah and Evan also came and spent Saturday night, and introduced us to a place with good scones and coffee. They are fun and delightful, and we had fun and delightful conversation.

And now I just want to run off and live in the mountains by a lake, with all my friends and lots of s'mores supplies and my dog. Who's with me?

Thursday, September 9, 2010

Categorized, for your convenience

Injuries Sustained Since Moving to the Flatlands
-one knuckle cut. Cause: the sinister ice maker that makes and makes and makes and in trying to empty it I cut my finger. On ice.

-one sprained wrist. Cause: flip-flops and rain. I should have known better. Prognosis: After a brace and 2 weeks - it still hurts.

-one near miss: on the English building stairs, when I took a flying leap over 2 stairs. Ankle breakage avoided.

-one bruised eye socket bone: from hitting my face on a chair when I bent down to pick up a bag.

-one sore shoulder: from walking into a doorframe.

Prognosis: send bubble wrap, please. I will be swathing myself in it from now on.


Today, Thursday, or Thor's Day, or the Day Almost as Happy as Friday
-I had eggs+onions+cheese and toast for supper. And hot cocoa after. It was simple. It was good.

-I got to leave at 1:30 instead of 4 because of televised SEC football on campus. Sometimes I like this big state school thing.

-grading papers=my life

-research and writing=my life

-avoiding grading and research in favor of 1.5 hour walks=my life


Continuum
-I've been steadily working on poems, a little or a lot, but every day. Writing routines are good.
-There's a frog that lives in the mossy water run-off area by our door. He's adorable. Clever roommate named him Sean. We're going to make him a house. Soon to follow: best-selling children's book, A House for Sean. Who needs grad school?

-I'm almost tired of peanut butter. And even beans and rice. Can one girl live on cereal alone?

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

living the grit

I have had a revelation. Would you like to know?

Grad school is a job.

(Maybe I should've been clued in by a tuition waiver and stipend. Or the fact that people talk about grad students not having a life. Or the prospect of teaching fourteen fresh-faced teenagers. Or . . . ).

Do I have to come back? It's just that the loneliness and stress are hitting and I know they said this would be hard, but - well. I guess these are the adulthood growing pains.

And I will say this: I know the best is not past, and much good is ahead.

It just feels a little dreary right now.

*****
What makes it all harder to return to is that I just had 4 days off. Which were marvelous. I spent them with my favorite guy, and we went to used bookstores and watched good movies and hiked and talked and ate ice cream. And I didn't think about school work at all. In fact, I think I sort of forgot all about it for a while.

It's good to be with people who make you laugh.


*****
And it's strange, because of all the people I miss I think my mom is maybe at the top a lot of the time. I remember the little kid needing-mommy feeling, but this is a different take on it. But the older I get, the closer I feel to my mother, and the more I need her. I need to cook with her and watch the way she slices cantaloupe. I need to show her decorating pictures from Southern Living. I need to go to Macy's with her and hit up the sales. I need to sit on her bed after lunch while she reads and absorb all her stories about boys and friends and God and the after-college years so I'll know that life goes on.

Most of all, I need to absorb her kindness and joy and love. Because she is my mother and the only way I know of being a woman and something about being her daughter roots me and if she thinks I'm doing ok, well then maybe I am ok.

Wendy: What about your mother?
Peter Pan: Haven't got a mother.
Wendy: No wonder you were crying.


Monday, August 30, 2010

news from the flatlands

But you know how it is. There's always more work to be done, or so (too) much has happened, or it's 8 o'clock and exhaustion has already hit, or I'm just not feeling it.

Enough with the excuses. This blog is my sanity.

Almost 2 weeks ago now, I taught my very own class for the first time. Writing that down still thrills and startles me a little bit. Remember how for the last seven years I've said I will do anything but teach? Remember that? Well. Now I've got 14 bright faced freshmen babies. Half of them are bigger than I am. They are still my chilluns. And I go in, and I just get -I don't know- excited. Happy to see them every MWF, 8 am. Let's hope that doesn't change.

***
Grad school, so far, is a bit like being a freshman all over again. The same lostness. The overwhelming mass of work. The loneliness and wondering why I'm here and what I'm doing.

In the midst of all the lonely and tired, there are definite glimmerings and outright excitements. Like supper with J. and N. after that first week, laughing and remembering and storytelling. And glory be, I've already found folks who are Arrested Development devotees and we've had the second of what I think will be many Sunday night viewings. And going to a genuine supper club and chatting with warm and welcoming adult mid-20s people and feeling like an absolute baby by comparison and loving it.

I've got to grieve, as I learn the balance of keeping the gold and still letting go of what's gone. I miss my city. I miss my friends. I miss the hills. I miss having a Target closer than 2 hours away.

It's a desert. And the chance to make it bloom.

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

the first wilds

How long does it take an English student to put together a simple wooden desk?

(Much, much too long)

But my lovely $20 IKEA desk is finished, and if I weren't so tired I would be proud. Now all I need is a chair. So I can sit at it. And do work. Instead of on my bed.

Then again, the bed is very comfortable.

***
Today was the second day of orientation. Yesterday was the University wide program, and it was excruciating. Unbearable. Primal scream inducing painful. Awful. I'm not going to say anymore about it.

This morning was better. Yes, the speakers were still dull. But there are students here from Cameroon and Sri Lanka. And when I bought a candy bar at the vending machine, but it didn't drop all the way out, and I was feebly pounding the side, a forestry student emerged from the dark hallway and shook the dickens out of that machine and I got my candy bar.

And then, thank heaven, after lunch we were released to the English department orientation. And were let go early, in order to, get this: relax. And I am excited about teaching and the poetry class, and yet more than anything, dead tired and now I want to read. Adieu, dear people. More to come.

Saturday, July 17, 2010

Be my love

Today, I have no commitments, except my own lazy list. No projects. Nothing with a due date.
Most importantly -

no place to be.

This is something I need for sanity and health. I love adventures and activities, whirlwind and laughter and exploring. But between work and play rehearsal and weekend commitments, this is the first day I've had in a long time with just - no thing. Which is good. Because I start to get (irrationally) resentful if I don't make the space and time to breathe and be and stop for awhile.

***

Currently obsessed with:


This movie. Which is strange and beautiful and I love it. It's full of gorgeous details, and the acting is all awkward pauses and real, and the cinematography is secret and lovely and mysterious. And it's about a pillar of the English lit. canon, which means I have to watch it.

**
Walking. Which I have not been getting enough of as it's ridiculously hot and every time I make to go work out my mother yells, "The heat index is 101 today!" so I am confined to jogging in place while watching Gilmore Girls. But today I have allll day, which means the morning and the evening, and I'm gonna get in a walk, a good one.

**
State Fair. Our community theatre play is a GREAT community theatre, is a GREAT, is a GREAT, is a great community theatre! I have Rodgers and Hammerstein on a constant loop in my head. I have put together pretty 1940s costumes. I wear character shoes almost every night. I get to sing and act (and dance, Lord help us). And what makes it all so wonderful is that I really like the people I get to see at rehearsal every night, because they are fun and wonderful and talented and did I say fun. And I'm so thrilled about being in community theatre again I can hardly stop smiling. Come see show, July 30 &31, Aug. 1, 6, 7, 8!!! Call 205-699-3902 for reservations.

**
This band. Over the Rhine. And when I say obsessed, do I ever mean obsessed. They sing the songs I want at my wedding. They sing the songs that paint my life. And they have red in nearly all their publicity photos. This is meant to be.

I was born to laugh
I learned to laugh
through my tears.

I was born to love,
I'm gonna learn to love
without fear.

Tuesday, June 29, 2010

from time to time

I want to write something articulate and lovely and whimsical, but I'm just too dadgum tired. It's true. I can only think in lists and bullet points right now. So that is what this is.

Today:

brand new character shoes with taps, scored at thrift store for $2. Yes, thank you.

also I bought shorts for $1.79, and found costumes for the play. Done and done. I love my thrift store shorts.

frustration, sheer and not simple frustration at life. said frustration probably produced current headache.

folding laundry + Foyle's War + popcorn = a combination that makes me much too satisfied

130 pounds is 10 more pounds than I want to be. Hello smaller portions and exercise.

waltzing and singing, singing and waltzing, rehearsal. It was in very fact a grand night for singing. I love waltzing. And singing. Put 'em together: happiness.

Welcome-though-too-brief call from Anna E. I like unexpected phone calls.

weariness. keep plowing away or change tactics? neither. I know I'm not trusting.

The sky was too too beautiful at evening, all high thunderclouds and sunlight in the rain.

***

Tomorrow:

blueberries at breakfast, and sleep.

GRE project = 95% done

no work. no rehearsal. deep restful breaths.

a Michael phone call

reading. reading. reading.

writing. writing. writing.

walk. in the sun. with my iPod. with Over the Rhine.

and always the unknown. ask strength for the suffering and eyes to see beauty.


Monday, June 14, 2010

in this moonlit field

Today has been good. That simple. I am off Mondays, so I spent five hours on the freelance project. Two of my favorites, Mr. and Mrs. N., are staying with us this week, so I got to chat with them during lunch and enjoy the silent companionship of working on our own projects. I went on a walk, and swam, and there were two thunderstorms, and then rehearsal tonight was long and tiring but good.

Sometimes, just sometimes, Mondays aren't so bad.

***
So tomorrow is back to the littles. And I wasn't especially looking forward to it til just now, when I remembered I get to see favorites (Jack/Evie/Thomas/Sarah/squeal) and hold them. I like being with the babies. I like it when they want to be held for a while, and so I just sit and hold the warm toddler weight of them and their heads fit into the crook of my neck and I want one for my very own.

Then I change five diapers in a row. And I decide I can wait for a while.

***
On the return - to theatre, that is. The community kind. So, I'm in a play for the first time in 4 years, and it's weird and I feel out of it but the slow excitement and delight are growing in me and really emerged tonight and I am starting to remember why I love corny musical songs and diving into a character. It's State Fair, thank you ma'am, and I get to be Margy Frake this summer. I wanted the part of the seductress singer. Instead I am the fresh-faced, independent farm girl.

Type casting? No comment.

***
In other news: Over the Rhine. Best thing ever. Go buy it now, Drunkard's Prayer. Although it does mean I now own a song with a saxophone solo. I'm not sure how I feel about that.

Thursday, June 3, 2010

the high country

Announcement: Earlier this morning, a mysterious white cat was spotted by two members of the household. So far it has managed to avoid the over-exuberant Mo and has left the offering of a very large, very dead rat on the front walk. I think it wants to stay.

***
Memorial weekend was four days lost from civilization in the mountains of North Carolina. We stayed at the gloriously simple Hemlock Inn. It's like someone smushed together a camp and a bed and breakfast and a grandparents' home. There are no computers, no T.V.s, and you unlock the door with a real key, not a piece of plastic. Guests smile at each other and talk, and Mr. White, the husband and father of the inn family, sits down to chat with you before breakfast. There are rows of red rocking chairs, and a swing, and ping pong, and a twisty meandering hiking trail, and a long lovely field that slopes in front of the mountains. At 8:30 am and 6:30 pm, a bell clangs and you rush to the dining room, where Mr. White asks the blessing and then you sit down at a big round table with the other folks. In the center of the table is a lazy susan piled with heaps of amazing food.

And if you are lucky, the family at your table has three awesome kids, two boys and a little girl named Jill wedged in the middle. And then you make friends with them and in the evenings you play pretend and catch fireflies, and Cy, the littlest, looks up at you gravely and says, "Hannah, I love you when you are here," because he always puts an "H" in front of your name. And then his brow furrows fierce, and he says, "You will be here all the time and you have to play with us and I will be the good guy."

Yes, these kids made the trip for me. Jill and I sat by each other at meals, and her toy cat drank coffee from my mug. On Sunday morning, when they were about to leave, Jill and Cy were piled on me and stuck their toys in my pockets and were talking both at once real fast and I thought, forget grad school, I want to be a nanny. A little late for that one.

***
After the kids left, I was ready to go too. Because I'm realizing something, and it's that I can't do rural yet. What I mean is, I need people. I love country and space and quiet, I do, and after two days I was restless and society-hungry. I wanted something to and friends to share it with. I think I will have to stay in civilization a while longer yet.

Saturday, April 17, 2010

life of a saturday

That's right. I haven't written in a while. Sixteen days, to be exact. Which is a while, for me, seeing that I process life through writing.

I'm taking this day slow and welcome. It's not black-and-white - not slave to plan, either of work or play. I'll get some stuff done. And I'll rest some too. I decided to do the simple and quiet first, instead of waiting til the list got finished, and it feels good.

Can I say too many times how I love a Saturday with no commitments?

***
Required life updates: I have received four rejection letters, from Wash U., Vandy, Boston and Rice. I think you already know I'm okay with this, except that I really wanted to live in Nashville, and St. Louis I love too (can anybody say Ted Drewe's?).

So when I got a letter the other day from Virginia, I was braced already for the "We regret to inform you . . . " - and it was there. They were very sorry that the MA program does not offer funding, but they were pleased to offer me a place in their program. And I am a little bit astounded. And a little bit yearning, because one I don't have the money and two I'm excited about ESL, dangit.

I'm basically saying that I want both, I want to see the light of understanding in the eyes of children and I want to analyze and argue literature. My dad wanted to be a pilot and a doctor. So I'm filling out financial aid forms and going for an interview at UAB next week. And I feel, I don't know how I feel, I feel that whatever I do will not be the whole picture. If I stay here and do the practical and wise thing, that costs the least money and has the best program and provides the most valued set of skills, then my parents will be glad and some of my friends will be disappointed, and some will be excited, and I will be both okay and disappointed. If it somehow worked out that an MA program is financially do-able, then my parents would be less happy and my friends would be supportive and I would still get to use my English brain and I would emerge in 2 years with a worthless sheet of paper that says I have a Masters in English.

All that word spillage to say - I'm not even trying to work things out.

***
Breathing in sunshine. Trying to lose the pressure to believe right, to be right. Captive to fear and fixing most of the time. And the thought of God, He wants us to have Himself, not an experience, just Him in this ragged life, that thought sparks pinpoints of hope in me, and I get gloomy because I can't hold onto them, because I am not consistent and my prayers are anchor-less a lot. So I say to myself, and to you, don't hold on to the pinpoints because you feel you have to, don't make the holding on a burden, because that's what I have done. But realize that you can hold on, sometimes, if you want to, and pray pray pray for freedom.


Wednesday, March 31, 2010

where I wanted to go

It just took me over an hour to write the last 295 words of my thesis essay. Some of the more painful writing I have ripped from my soul. But it is finally wrung out of me and it's not getting another word.

This morning I went with former roomie to the airport before she left for real-life important interviews. I am so glad I got to hug her.

I am going home tomorrow. I will see sweet Mo and he will body slam me and slobber on my face and get mud on my jeans and I will laugh and baby-talk him.

I also get to sit in the kitchen with my Mom and just talk to her. I want to sit at the counter and listen to stories and look at recipes and bask in being her daughter. I want to be there when my dad walks in from work, and listen to him walk around the house and sing hymns and songs from old Westerns.

Obsession with Drew/Ellie Holcomb continues. Their music is beautiful and real and warm and aching and exquisitely tender. And they write songs with words like this.

Oh magnolia
won't you stay with me
won't you wake up and see
that I'm waiting

Oh magnolia
won't you walk with me
won't you let me be
your sweet companion

you've been working til your hands they bleed
and your eyes can't see the dress you're wearing

you've been hopingthat you could make it right
but the more you try, the more you're failing

You've been walking through this world alone,
no place to call your home, except your heartache
You've been trying to make it all work out,
when the sun goes down your soul is burdened

won't you please come home
you don't have to walk alone
won't you rest your head on my shoulder

Sunday, March 28, 2010

desert

No energy, people. For optimism at least. Confession time: that's why I've been avoiding this blog the past few weeks. Cataloguing mercies drains and dries the soul when done under obligation. It's not good when "supposed to" becomes the reason behind hope.

Things are not okay, and that's okay.

Being close to other people is difficult. And I'm surprisingly comfortable with the mess, in my friends and family, and in me. Problems do not equal loss of relationship. That is a good thing to realize.

"Yet Jesus came, whose will of grace precedes our will, whose purpose of love outruns our desire for salvation"
-C.H. Spurgeon

Right now, those words feel like a rope around my waist, holding me to ground and rock and yes, hope.


Monday, March 22, 2010

a regresar

At the moment, there is a six-pound can of peanut butter sitting on our table. Left over from Spring Break lunch supplies. This makes me yes, very happy.

[Technically, it belongs to RUF. Not me. This does not dilute my glee.]

***
Last week, I went on my second mission trip, ever. To Miami, with RUF. We worked with Deborah's church, painting and cleaning and moving, and I could try to tell you how wonderful it was but I would fail. So you'll have to take my word for it. Just know that it included salsa dancing, lots of rice and beans, and laughter every day. Also the pure turquoise Atlantic waves, the warm and lovely Rodriguez family, and the sweetest, funniest people ever.

I loved it. I loved the sunshine, and the break from academia and thinking, the relief of physical work, and people in a completely different culture. It felt warm and healing and strangely restful.

***
And now this semester is going to fly entirely too fast. I'm trying not to think about that, that my best friend/roommate/clone is going to North Carolina for two years, and then another friend is going to Texas for probably ever. My friends are spreading, to Tennessee and Kentucky and Missouri and Florida and who-knows-where, and I can't let myself feel that right now. I'm just trying to savor every day, the work and the people, and keep my heart from splitting clean in two.

I've got some stuff to distract me from all the ache, stuff like a 12 page story due next week of which I have written not one word. And throwing a wedding shower with (Jo)anna for Deborah in a few weeks, which is thrilling and fun and very strange all at the same time. Stuff like figuring out what exactly it is I'll be doing in the summer/fall. And stuff like wasting less time on the web, which means goodbye for now, children.

Thursday, March 4, 2010

Suspended

I'm writing a paper on Denise Levertov. And I found this.


Suspended

I had grasped God's garment in the void
but my hand slipped
on the rich silk of it.
The 'everlasting arms' my sister loved to remember
must have upheld my leaden weight
from falling, even so,
for though I claw at empty air and feel
nothing, no embrace,
I have not plummeted.

Saturday, February 27, 2010

Surprised by Joy

The Medical Spanish course requires so many hours of service credit. Today was my first day.

I was not looking forward to it.

Why? Because I'm not proud of my Spanish. Because it was from 10-2. Because these things require dealing with people and I just wanted to sleep in and have my Saturday.

Maybe you can guess what's coming. This tends to be the theme of my blog/life, my gloomy expectations that are smashed into a thousand pieces of joy.

Yes. It was wonderful. We were at a health fair, manning the dental education table. I had fun (so much), I had my presentation on dental care down and everyone was really sweet and patient with my Spanish. The kids were adorable beyond description of course, and the moms and dads were sweet and smiling. There are so many dads, is what I kept thinking, and later I processed my surprise and realized it's because you don't see that so much in my demographic. You know, families with dads still there and hugging their kids. I loved it. I loved it a lot. Tomorrow I'm going to a screening, and have no idea what awaits. But I have a much better attitude about it.

***
In other news, I am still in love with my Mr. Rogers red sneakers, and Drew and Ellie Holcomb are the best. Most adorable husband/wife in the world, and rich lovely music. Give 'em a listen.

***
And right now, I am exhausted. I would like to nap for two hours. But there are too many things this afternoon, and even some of them will have to give. Working out, working on thesis, shopping for dinner, making dinner, and it would be nice to have some introvert time to sort out my inner self (it's hard knowing how much attention to pay to my inside. Too much, and I get neurotic and morbid. Too little, and I forget who I am).

To the quad. To sunshine and outside when responsibility crowds.

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Notes from the Front

This morning, before I really woke up, I thought I was back in my bedroom at the old house, the one we lived fifteen years, sleeping in the pink daybed I had til I was eleven. Then my roommate made a noise and I was very confused for a few minutes.

The last time I heard John Stone speak, on repentance, things converged in my life to one of those turning times, the kind you look back at again and again to remember how clear God is sometimes. This weekend, I heard him speak again, on the cross of Jesus. The same kind of convergence, though not as dramatic, and, I think, longer worked-out.

I am not going to exercise today. Usually I make this decision midday-afternoon. See what happens, hope that I can still squeeze it in. Not today. Exhaustion + tight schedule, pure and simple. Decide accordingly.

Leonardo was in a Monday mood yesterday. Sometimes, I try to cheer him up and it doesn't really work. Yesterday I decided to make fun of him instead and things were great. Moral: a little meanness can be very effective.

Lately I have been writing poems off Grimms' fairytales. Disturbing, deeply deeply disturbing. That is all. Ever read The Juniper Tree? My children will grow up on Beatrix Potter and A.A. Milne, thank you very much.

Yesterday, I put some clothes in the wash. Then I collapsed on the bed and fell asleep with my shoes on. The nap was much too short. And they were red sneakers that I bought for five bucks at WalMart. In case you were wondering.

I have not been dependent on coffee since early January. This is a good thing, I think. Today is a coffee day, though. In fact, a constant caffeine drip, that would be preferable. I'd even numb my fear of IVs. Ohhh. That is a tough decision . . . yes. The caffeine wins. Take my left hand, though.

Monday, February 15, 2010

P.S. I love you too

My shoes, my new and favorite black suede ruffled flats, have decided to run away. I run up the stairs, look down, and see a shoe resting several steps down. The first few times this happened, I felt like Cinderella. After another fifty get-away attempts, I just felt ticked.

***
Today, I did not see Leonardo because of President's Day. I was sad, but honestly not too sad because I had a bunch of work to do and he was probably having a great time because he wasn't in school. The point is, I had an extra hour or so I hadn't expected. So I sat in Harry's and worked on the short story that has been draining the life out of me. Then I had lunch with Erin, went to the library, and worked for almost two hours. 950 words later, story is done. It's about my great-great grandmother, Bathsheba Thornton. Yes, that really was her name. Glad the parents decided not to pass that one down.

***
In other news, this was a really happy Valentine's weekend. I didn't realize this until Erin said so yesterday, I suddenly saw it was so. I got to spend time with the perfect group of good friends on Friday. On Saturday night, Swing Kids kindly let us butt in on their dance and take the money for our mission trip. More friends there, and so much fun. Awkward, yes, to be dipped two dances in a row by short and silent men, but I am a writer. I welcome awkward. Good material. And on Sunday I watched I Capture the Castle with Joanna C. and two other awesome English major girls. They'd all read the book, too. We had ourselves a nice English major party, what with the BBC movie and tea and pastry.

Oh, and my cousin Brannon's email from last week. Brannon is 23. He and his twin were born super early, and he has some physical and mental challenges, but I for one think he does quite well. He's got email now, and it's the best thing ever. Here's part of his email.

Dear Anna,
Thank you for the Email you send me, It was really sweet of you as a cousin to send me that Email, and I appreciated it. My cold and allergies went away, and I have gone back to my normal walks. But last Wednesday, I was streching out of bed too hard, and I popped my back neck. My dad told me that my back neck was going to be sore, but when I got out of bed the next day, my back neck was feeling a lot better, it was just for 1 day for my back neck to start hurting, but I just hope I'll never strech out of bed like that again. I hope you found a Valentine, because Valentine's Day is on Sunday, I got to find myself a pretty girl to be my Valentine for Valentine's Day, so that I can start dating pretty soon. Maybe I should give a pretty girl some roses for Valentine's Day. I sure hope I can find a girlfriend pretty soon that is too crazy for me. Keep up with your schoolwork at Samford, and I hope you have a romantic Valentine's Day. We will hope to see you in Easter.
Love,
Brannon
P.S I love you too.


Saturday, February 13, 2010

One down, five to go


I'm a pale shade of blue this morning. The kind that doesn't exactly keep me from life, just drains energy and makes me subdued.
Reason? I got my first grad school notification yesterday. From Wash. U. It was an "I am so sorry to inform you" notification.

Sigh. Mixed feelings, as always. It would've been nice for the first news to be acceptance. And it would've been really nice to have St. Louis as an option. Then again, I am already torn and leaning closer to home. And like A.P. said, if all the schools say no that makes my decision much easier. In fact, that would be excellent. Clear-cut direction, God, that is what I like. None of this uncertainty stuff.

And I get to the end of the week and realize things have been hard (inside my head, I mean) and I haven't been dealing with it very well. It's not that life- there have been many bright things. But sometimes I hurtle through the days and then find myself wishing to weep out the frustration and pain, to grieve the heaviness of life.

Now I feel the urge to qualify. There is so much good in my life. Like last night, resting with friends who know me, the comfort of laughter and saying whatever came into our heads and knowing it was safe. Or the bird I saw on my way to work the other day, that made me smile because it was so fat and funny. Things like chai tea and high merriment with my roommate.

And snow. Which is funny, because I didn't want it to come. Too mush and mess. And now that it's here, I am enchanted in spite of myself.

Oh, and also: friends who do things like this to your car


Monday, February 8, 2010

S-P-E-C-T-A-C-U-L-A-R

Every Monday morning, I get to go to a nearby elementary school. I see Leonardo and we write a story with his spelling words and read Henry and Mudge and he tells me his own stories. Because he is one of those people who sees life as an epic adventure. That's why school makes him a little bit cranky sometimes. Nothing is routine to him.


Last week, I got a card from my best boy. It had all my favorite things: butterflies, flowers, and lots of pink and red. He'd spent a lot of time on it. It made my eyes go all wet and blurry for a moment.



In the card, he wrote his name in cursive and used the word "spectacular." I smile all over again when I read that word.



Besides being an awesome storyteller, Leo also loves animals and knows more about them than I do. So now he brings his animal book every week and he is so interested he reads hard words without realizing they are hard. Did you know that cheetahs are not considered big cats because they cannot roar? We both felt sorry for the cheetah.

I never wanted to be an elementary school teacher. You can't adequately help all the kids, and most of the time is spent in discipline. I still feel that way.

But I love working with Leonardo. I love it when we find new and fun ways to practice spelling, I love it when he sounds out words right, I love to see the light of understanding come on in his eyes. And I love what Mrs. T., the ESL teacher, does. She works one-on-one or in very small groups with the ESL kids, and her classroom is a safe place for them. They laugh, they feel confident.

So all this has confused my career plan. I love literature and analysis, I love thinking big thoughts. But I also love what I get to do with Leonardo. And I don't want to stop.
This has messed up my tidy post-graduation path. And I don't know which way to go.

One thing is for sure: this kid has got my heart.


Thursday, February 4, 2010

Intermezzo

Home. A gold blanket and the most comfortable couch in the world. The rattle of the dryer (laundry noises=love). The sweet grey dog curled up dry in the basement. And the sound of rain on the porch and roof and windows.

I am content. And, lately, hopeful. It came pretty easy last week. This week - it's a fight.

Go back to this: hope is a practice, not a feeling. A tightrope of trust I'm only just learning to walk.

Tonight, I rest in that.

***
Tomorrow: busy. But good busy. Cooking and cleaning and m-a-y-b-e homework busy.
Hard part: Deciding what to cook. For the concert snacks, that is. Strawberry shortcake cake? Chocolate nut bark? Pecan shortbread? Cake pops? Nut butter cups? Raspberry twists? Choices, choices. Suggestions welcome.

***
To clear up some confusion: First of all, I forget that people read this blog more than once in a blue moon. And did not think anyone would catch the V-day joke. The boy in my life is named Leonardo, and he is ten years old, and every Monday I go to his school and we practice spelling and reading and he manipulates my heart strings. And because he is hilarious and sweet and amazing and I want to adopt him, he is getting his own special Leonardo post in the very near future. Yay Leo!

Tuesday, February 2, 2010

My heart is a winter sky

Photo by Pete Sy


Today, I wore my hair curly and drank vanilla caramel truffle tea.

I wrestled with lots of heavy thoughts by 1 pm, and had to fight very hard to keep my eyes open in Shakespeare. I didn't really win.

I dreamed that I married a super nice guy named Darcy, and I was miserable because he was so nice but I didn't love him and was afraid to cancel the wedding because we spent so much money on invitations.

In the dream, my dad and I drank mojitos and he said I should have the marriage annulled. My dad would never drink a mojito. Or advise an annullment.

I had supper with Joanna and Deborah and English major Joanna, and ate left-over bake sale cookies back in the room.

And I wore a pink shirt and decided to write a blog post instead of working on my thesis.

***
Semi-guilty announcement: I now have class only on Tuesdays and Thursdays. It feels a little bit wrong. And a lot wonderful. The thing is, my classes are pretty much all writing classes. That means I have to actually do work on the non-class days.

RUF had a bake sale today, and the cookies I made all sold. That made me feel like a real woman. The cupcakes I made did not all sell. That made me question my cupcake decorating skills. Which could pass for a third grader's.

And this evening I got to hang out at the Sterlings and laugh and talk with Susie and some really wonderful girls. I laughed a lot. I needed it. I also ate a lot of m&ms. Those I did not need.

Stay tuned for up-coming episodes, which will feature such issues as the Stephen Gordon house concert (come one, come all, this Saturday!), updates on the salamander quest, and a post on the amazing boy named Leonardo in my life. Stay tuned, kids.

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

And then go home

I have been amiss. In writing on this blog, I mean (and in lots of other things too. But it would take a long time to list them all here).

In the time between my last post and this, I went through the door of twenty two. It feels much different than twenty one. Twenty two makes me feel like I should be getting on with my life: securing a high-powered job at a magazine, or working at a bank, or doing something practical and useful and adult.

And I have never felt more like a child in my life.

And whether it's the birthday or not, I've been re-thinking things. Future plan things, mostly. Like, maybe I will get a masters' in ESL and teach elementary school kids, instead of going for my Ph.D. right away. Basically, do I want to teach 8 and 9 year olds, or 18 and 19 year olds?

And like how far away I am willing to go. See, somewhere I swallowed this idea that I'm a loser if I don't go pretty far away from home, for at least a while (why I applied to schools in Boston and Texas). But I don't want to live in Boston. I want to live in the South. I love it here, so much. But I feel guilty and unadventurous for not wanting to leave for a real long time. So I was telling this to my sweet mother and she reminded me of William Faulkner and Eudora Welty and other writers who lived where they were raised.

Don't get me wrong, I feel the ancient fairy tale need of leave-and-return. I still feel the tug away, I still long for pilgrimage. But I am beginning to grasp that it wouldn't be wrong to make my home in these green hills, in a place I love, in home. That it's OK if I want to root myself in family and land. That I can leave just to have the joy of return.

***
And now I'm back at school, my other home. Home because of the friends here who really are family. Talking with Anna before sleep and enjoying the comfortable quiet of living in the same space. Sitting with Ryan and Michael at first breakfast, because just watching them laugh and talk makes me happy. Quoting "A Very Potter Musical" with Erin and watching it together for the next hour in the Mac lab. Lee's Civil War beard and how perfectly it suits the hat I made for him. Two classes in a row with my lovely English girls. Two hour supper with Josh and Ryan and the girls. New Lamb Chop episodes with Shannon. And knitting in the cosy apartment while Claire crocheted and Valerie crafted jewelry.

Oh friends, you rich my life.

Saturday, January 16, 2010

The Higher Common Sense

On some days, I wake up, and I have a tidy mind. I feel the urge straighten things up . . . to re-organize my book shelf . . . to read (or watch): Cold Comfort Farm.




These are my Flora Poste days, January days. 1930s modern. I straighten my hair and make up my face. I write out my calendar for the next five months and make eleven lists. I shut all the closet doors and take all my vitamins and throw away old letters without regret.



Flora reformed a family of dirty tragic figures into people of sensible fulfillment. She is poised and neat and even believes in arranged marriages. And on these days, like her, I am order reforming mess, common sense coolly defeating neurosis, humor quipping romance, sweeping dust out of attic corners.



And the image I always have in mind is this. Peace and order with a hint of glamour. No untidiness. And, at the end of the day, Charles Fairford in his airplane to take me to London. Because, after all, things will get messy again. Tomorrow Flora might be subsumed in Hardy-like melancholy.


But for now, the clean cold brisk January order. The satisfying starkness of black branches against the winter sky. All new, in order, everything arranged.

"Jane Austen and I have so much in common. Neither of can stand mess."
-Flora Poste, Cold Comfort Farm

Tuesday, January 5, 2010

Please read the letter


Just drained a cup of hot Afghan tea, and about to down some orange and spice. Both with gobs of honey. That's right, I have not had coffee in 48 hours. I have not wanted coffee in more like 144 hours.
Por que? Well, somehow the bean of the gods loses its appeal when your body is a 24 hour sneezies factory (how can one body produce this much snot, I ask in disbelief). Last night I spent over an hour coughing instead of sleeping, and I went outside yesterday for .03 seconds. Coffee, my daily walks, normal functioning energy level - what else will this consumption steal from me?


***
We have not had personal photos displayed in our home for over 2 years. This is sad to me. We took them down when we put the old house for sale, and they've been lingering in a neglectful pile in the basement ever since. Not to mention the masses of more photos in my dad's back office, i.e. catch-all for everything we haven't found a place for yet in this house. So for Christmas I gave my dad some service coupons, which included "organizing the pile of photos."
A bigger task than I first realized. But fun. He asked me also to organize the basement and the attic, and of course I said yes. So that is my job for Jan-term, and what a job it will be.


But really, I'm looking forward to it. I'm just on the photos now, and it's fun to go through and see our personalities change through pictures. Jim was a stern and unsmiling toddler who is a goofball by the time he's eight. I was a flamboyant camera-loving diva, until I stopped smiling when I was nine (when I figure out how to scan photos in a .jpg instead of .jsp format, I'll show you on here!).


And it will be fun to re-discover all the treasures in the attic, like the mallard duck sketch I always loathed and the Anacapri watercolor I loved. It's a treasure hunt into the forgotten, and who knows what I'll find?


***
In other news: my mom and I spent 20 minutes on Sunday morning coordinating our outfits (she used to dress me up. Now I dress her up). What with the sickness, I go to be first and wake up last (solid 11 hours, night before last). It feels lazy and wasteful, and oh so wonderful. Erin visited yesterday, and we spent yes, the entire time, watching "A Very Potter Musical," and I loved it.
And my dog, my Sweet Dog, who we kept warm and safe in the War Room last night, and I was reminded of just how much I love him more all the time. His sweet velvet fragile tents of ears. His wide submissive eyes when he wants to be stroked. His exuberant happy eyes when he tries to knock me down in his excitement. The way he runs off in the completely opposite direction when I throw the ball for him. His sweet snuffling nose and the way he tries to lick all over my face (I understand I may be the only one who appreciates this. No one else is expected to enjoy my dog's slobbering. End of disclaimer). Sweet sweet Mo.