Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Afraid

My dad writes that the news is "pretty good.  He was alert and sitting up.  He claims to have quit smoking.  And when the oxygen tube came off, he put it back in by himself."

I have very few memories of this uncle.

Probably a lot of complicated things happened before I could understand which contribute to that fact.  There is sorrow there that I can only vaguely sense.  Those very few memories I do possess are likely colored by a fondness which they may not deserve.  Perhaps they do deserve that fondness.  Who can say?

He would appear and disappear unexpectedly throughout my childhood.  With the scent of Camel cigarettes and with intricate, esoteric brush strokes on sheets of heavy paper. Once he brought by a set of dried watercolor cakes in a little plastic case.  I loved mixing, remixing those hues, never quite coming up with the same color twice.  You must treat your brush with respect, he said one time when he saw me mashing it into the green pigment.  Somewhat embarrassed, I protested, saying that it was just a cheap brush.  But it didn't matter whether I thought the brush was cheap or not.  Ugh. 

As a little girl, I would accompany my father to pick him up at Alewife Station sometimes, where he would be waiting on those curved benches made of yellow-stained wood.  Benches where hundreds of thousands of people have sat, waiting to be picked up, but which will be forever linked to my dad's brother in my mind. 

We saw him next as P's birthday party was wrapping up.  We were all in our bathing suits, even my father, playing on the Slip 'n' Slide.  My uncle took off his shirt; removed his keys, wallet, and cigarettes; and slid down the slope in our front yard in his worn blue jeans. 

About a dozen years old, I wrote a little story and outlined illustrations for it in pencil, filling in each shape lovingly with the paint.  He stopped by while I happened to be working on it, and I eagerly showed him my work.  That is nice, he said, after glancing briefly at the pages, but these are watercolors.  I began to feel that same tightness in the back of my throat as when I was admonished for mashing my brush.  Watercolors aren't supposed to stay inside the lines, my uncle explained to his brother's earnest child, with equal earnestness on his part.  You are supposed to let them bleed, let them seep into one another.

The words, their blunt delivery, crushed my twelve-year-old heart.

And then I watched as he painted two colors next to one another on a fresh sheet, watched in horror and delight as they swam and intertwined. 

Last summer, we had a family reunion for all the descendants of our Irish great-grandmother.  We were supposed to pick him up at his apartment.  We waited and waited, rang the bell, waited some more.  He was not there.  Somebody in his building told us he had left a couple hours prior.  We drove out to where the reunion was and had a jolly good time.  Turns out he had gotten up early, taken the bus and then the train and was waiting for us at Alewife, on those curving yellow benches. 

On the evening of the winter solstice, P told me our dad's brother was in the hospital, that he had collapsed at a bus stop. 

Now here I am, with only these these little vignettes.  I was very sick the days leading up to Christmas, but I am young, and able to recover from such things.  Now that I'm well again and no longer at risk of infecting him, I am afraid to see my uncle.  I never became a painter.  I don't think I even finished the silly little story with the pencil-line illustrations.  Every once in awhile, though, I do get out my watercolors.  I mix and remix and lovingly spread the paint in bold strokes across the page, watch it fan out, trickle, wind together in teasing, unpredictable currents...

But I'm afraid of death, of the dying, or even those whose conditions merely hint at death.  I am not brave, and I also suspect that those memories which were seared so strongly into my unfolding consciousness have long been carried away from his.


So now what?  

Monday, December 28, 2009

Time

Time has not been unkind, per se, but it has been honest.  Honest and stern and cold. But then, creeping in with some sort of quiet mercy.

Awash I am, saturated, dripping with emotion, and time comes with a soft absorbent cloth, slowly drawing it forth from me, out from these aching swollen pores.

And it has been sweet, too.  Oh so terribly salty-sweet with honey and with laughter sprinkled with tears.



Yes, time has been honest.  

Sunday, December 27, 2009

Thoughts from the Holiday

Lots of important events transpired before I was born - or afterward but before I was cognizant - which still impact the lives and interactions of people I know and about whom I care. 

Love makes you ache.  Love can be but is not often a happy feeling. 

My father shaved off his mustache to play Santa Claus for my cousins' kids at the family Christmas Eve party.  It was weird. 

My little brother is probably going to serve as a missionary for the LDS church.  I really cannot say, yet, what I think/how I feel about this.  I am obviously conflicted, but if it's something he truly wants to do, then I will support him. 

However, if he goes, this will be our last Christmas with everyone for two years.  The thought of that makes me pretty sad. 

Little blessings:
  • a quiet Christmas night snowfall 
  • intimate conversations with brothers and sisters
  • giving and receiving thoughtful gifts
  • cooking together
  • eating together
  • playing, laughing, living, together
  • December rain falling like a fine mist


I have been wanting to reconnect with people who knew me when I was younger, like high school classmates.  I am a lot different from the girl I was then.  I know that girl is still a part of me, but there is so much more now, too.  I think I have been failing to acknowledge her, though, in the woman I've become. And also I'm obviously interested in seeing the people others have become, as well. 

And finally, though it sounds obvious, some things really are more important than others. 



Peace be with you.  

Friday, December 18, 2009

Man Politicians with Babies/Children












...just because it makes me smile

Thursday, December 17, 2009

Lentil-Bulgur Stuffed Peppers

Okay, so this isn't exactly what I did.  What I did came out a little bland, so this is what I WOULD have done, had I known (really for the recipe I just scaled up the quantities of certain flavors/seasonings).  

This dish is great because it fulfills all of newt's Four Ps  for healthful eating. 
1. Simmer the following for about half an hour or until tender:
  • 3/4 cup lentils (I used French lentils - smaller in size, dark brown with bluish flecks)
  • 3/4 cup bulgur
  • 3 1/2 to 4 cups vegetable broth

2. Meanwhile, sautee in olive oil in a medium skillet:
  • 1 large onion, chopped pretty small
  • 2 cloves crushed garlic

3. When they're mostly cooked, add:
  • 1 can diced tomatoes with juice
  • 2 t brown sugar
  • salt and red pepper, to taste

4.  Let the sauce simmer and cut 4-6 bell peppers in half (any color works great - green is least expensive, but red, yellow, and orange are prettier, tastier, and possibly even more nutrient-rich), removing the stems and seeds. 


5. Combine cooked lentils/bulgur with tomato sauce in a large mixing bowl and add
  • A little less than 8 oz Parmesan cheese - use the rest to sprinkle on the top at the end
  • 1 T onion powder
  • A slosh of Tabasco or other hot sauce
  • Another clove of crushed garlic
  • 2 t Worcestershire sauce (not technically vegetarian, but I know of no veg alternative* - as I added it, I said a prayer, "thank you, little anchovies, for giving your lives for this meal")

6. Taste it and add any of the following if you think it needs it:
  • red pepper flakes
  • salt
  • onion or garlic powder
  • more Worcestershire sauce

7. Finally, add 1 egg to the mixture, spoon into the pepper halves, sprinkle with remaining Parmesan cheese, place in a shallow pan with ~1 cm of water and bake for about an hour at 350 degrees. 

    *Although apparently had I simply googled "vegetarian Worcestershire sauce" and I would have found this, which I'll have to prepare to have on hand next time, though I don't use Worcestershire sauce too too much... I have no idea how long that homemade stuff would last.

    Sunday, December 13, 2009

    Ritualized Retellings

    Ugh.  I have been reading up on the manual for class discussion this Sunday (because what else am I going to do at 12:30 on a Saturday night?) - the topic: Assasination of Joseph Smith

    Not that I am even a super LDS history scholar, but reading those words was FRUSTRATING.  The way the people who opposed Joseph are portrayed as unprovoked mobsters, people who, for virtually no apparent reason, wanted to destroy this benign, wholly uncontroversial man and the benign, wholly uncontroversial religion he founded.  The reality was/is much much more complicated than that.  But over and over again, this almost strikingly biased language is used.  As I read, I became nervous about how I was going to deal with this lesson and the discussion which will follow, the JS love-fest, all that persecution complex stuff.

    I mean, obviously I think JS was an inspired man.  A veritable genius.  He loved those within his community with a fierce loyalty.  At the same time, he was flawed, vulnerable, and really, really self-conscious of criticism.  That's probably why I like him, for the most part, because he had all these jagged edges.  My opinion though is that perhaps that he went a bit too far in certain aspects.  However, when you are creating a whole new religion, there's a little bit of trial and error in an attempt to discern things.  I don't even judge him for that.  But I do have a problem pretending that none of this occurred or that his actions were alwayssssssssss inspired.  The degree of suspicion between the different groups in that area at the time of the murder of Joseph and Hyrum Smith was unfortunate, and speaks to the impressive and wretched capacity of human beings toward fanatical fervor, toward the "othering" of those not in our tribe.  The local non-Mormons and former Mormons were suspicious of Joseph's controversial teachings, like plural marriage, as well as his tightening political reins, as evidenced - to them - by his destruction of the printing press and other actions.  Joseph was suspicious (also justifiably) of those people who opposed him.  The history is messy and unclear and - as FB would say - "complicated."  There was tons of suspicion and tension and ill-will and not much benefit of the doubt or level-headedness or any of that sort of thing going on.  Saying that he died for his "testimony of Jesus Christ" or of the gospel, as the manual would have us believe, is hardly the full picture. 


    That it is deliberately set up that way really troubles me.  Somehow, it is easier for me to believe in someone when I see their flaws, their insecurities.  Somehow I prefer ambiguity and uncertainty.  I prefer to look at lots of different sides of something instead of just one.  And I feel like always, always, at least in the church context, we are looking only at one side.  The side where everything is beautiful (even when it's sad or messy).  The side where there are always answers, simple answers (even when the questions seem so complicated). 

    So I was getting more and more worked up, lamenting the complete disregard of this whole realm of realities. Then I began to have this really interesting dialogue with myself.

    Like, Katie, just think for a minute: why do we tell and tell and retell these stories?  Every story has a purpose and an intended audience.  The purpose of LDS church history narratives doesn't necessarily have anything to do with historical accuracy or acknowledging ambiguities.  No, the purpose is to reaffirm Joseph Smith's inspired role in the establishment of the religion.  This is why the account of his death (and other accounts too) are magnified to these epic, almost mythological proportions.

    Then I thought of the *deer/hunter ritual: beautiful, choreographed, idealized. As SC Taysom writes: 
    Although the details varied, all of the rituals involved a mimesis of the actual hunt, in which an animal is killed according to strict, elaborate and specific criteria that would be nearly impossible to replicate during the hunt itself. Before Smith [a different Smith, Jonathan Z. Smith, not Joseph], scholars viewed such rituals as attempts at magically prefiguring the actual hunt in the hope that like would beget like and that the “real world” hunt would match the perfection of the ritual hunt. [Jonathan Z.] Smith offered a new interpretation based on two factors: first, the notion that the power of the ritual comes from its dissimilarity to what actually happened on the hunt, and second, the idea that although the hunters themselves were intelligent enough to realize that the ritual and the reality never met, they continued to perform the ritual anyway.

    The ritual, according to [Jonathan Z.]Smith, represented “a perfect hunt with all the variables controlled…Such a ceremony performed before taking on an actual hunt demonstrates that the hunter knows full well what ought to transpire if he were in control; the fact that the ceremony is held is eloquent testimony that the hunter knows full well that it will not transpire, that he is not in control.” So what good are such rituals? [Jonathan Z.] Smith suggests that through their ability to present a world in which “contingency, variability, and accidentality have been factored out,” they “display a dimension of the hunt that can be thought about and remembered in the course of things,” and that they further “provide a focusing lens on the ordinary hunt which allows its full significance to be perceived.”
    Likewise, these perfectly ordered stories and retellings, too, have a role in our spiritual consciousness and practices (in addition to the messiness which is so readily apparent). Once again, we return to that tension between chaos and order.  Between control and abandon.  Like those forms that Plato would talk about.  The physical ones which we see and touch, and then the perfected ones that existed beyond our tangible reality, where thoughts and imagination can only begin to take us.  Maybe it's not even exactly like Plato's forms, but I saw a glimmer of a connection there for a moment.

    A focusing lens on the ordinary hunt to allow its full significance to be perceived... 


    *Although in that post, the author is talking about actual ritual itself.  Really so fascinating, and the imagery obviously resonated with me, as I still remember it after having read it like 2 years ago.  Now somehow it seems relevent to apply it to these ritualistic retellings we employ in our doctrinal narrative. 

    Wednesday, December 2, 2009

    Fish Dream

    I had a dream that I woke up with about a half dozen little tiny live fishies in my mouth.  I spit them out - one at a time - into this little aquarium tank which was somehow in our living room.  After having been in such a confined space for so long, they plopped into the tank and swam around eagerly. 

    But one didn't make it.  It was dead before it even hit the water. 

    Wednesday, November 25, 2009

    Roles

    Roles. 

    The nurturer.  The rescuer.  The teacher, the student.  The victim.  The giver, the receiver, the peacemaker.  The questioner, the helper, the friend, the healer.  The knight.  The maiden.  The prophet, the disciple, the savior.  The leader, follower, member, non-member, believer, employee, stranger, child, parent... 

    Human relationships are complex with intricate combinations of all different roles. They shift constantly depending on the situation, the context, the Other with whom we find ourselves.  Face to face.  Some people aspire to certain roles.  Other people seem to embody them, instinctively.  Some have them thrust upon them.  Whether one aspires to it or assumes it through cultural conditioning or unspoken interpersonal expectations, something is somehow lost when a person is reduced to a mere functionality for another, even if it is a purely benevolent functionality.  When we reduce another human being to a particular role or set of roles, or when we allow the same to happen to ourselves, we fail to truly acknowledge the humanity, the divinity, which is the actual substance which simultaneously binds us to one another and elevates our souls. 

    If we were to look at ourselves throughout the day or week or across the span of our lives, it would seem we were nothing but a series of different roles. "What are WE, then?" pup asks me. 

    I don't know.  It's a mystery.  We cannot know what we are - what anyone else is - any more than we can pin down what God is, what absolute truth is.  We may get a sense of its existence.  We may observe it indirectly or even directly.  But to attempt to bestow form to any of these while in this unformed state ourselves is simply childishness and arrogance. 

    Years ago, I wanted to know God.  A wise friend told me "You must know yourself, Katie.  You must love yourself."

    That is a self outside of roles, outside of affirmation or involvement.  A self wholly unknowable and therefore unloveable.  And yet somehow we do the impossible every day.  We know the unknowable and love the unloveable every time we acknowledge the mystery that we are, that everything is. 



    Ain't that the truth?

    Thursday, November 19, 2009

    Not What I Had in Mind

    My parents' offspring, impressive both in quality - intelligence, thoughtfulness, social adjustment (for the most part)  - and in quantity, definitely stood out to the faculty/staff of the elementary school which we attended.  The principal even knew all of the younger kids before they began kindergarten.  One day, my mother, beginning to bulge with evidence of my youngest sister, brought my little brother with her while she volunteered at a classroom event for another sibling. She was in the hallway, chatting with the principal afterward, and the conversation turned to the fact that she was due to have YET ANOTHER CHILD.  The kindhearted principal, a towering and somewhat intimidating man at times, especially to children who misbehaved, attempted to bring the little boy into the conversation.  "Peter, you've got some exciting news, don't you?"

    My young brother, misunderstanding the reference, proud beyond proud of recent developments in personal bladder control and the brand new accompanying garments which signified his ascent into the world of personhood, pulled down his pants and eagerly showed the principal his BIG BOY UNDIES!!!



    I mean, seriously.  They had trains on them. All I can say is that I wish I had been there to witness the blessed moment. 

    Sunday, November 15, 2009

    Truth

    It flashes like specks of gold gleaming in the mud along the river's bank.  Like bits of mineral suspended in its waters.  It flows in and through us, steady and real as the river itself.  Dig in it, splash in it, hold it up to the light.  It will still be there.  But when we make it out to be something clear, something tangible, concrete, when we claim ownership, attempt to posses infinitely, we sin against the truth itself, and numb ourselves to the possibility of further understanding. 

    All because we don't want to get our fingers dirty or our clothes wet. 

    Friday, November 13, 2009

    Black Beans on the Counter

    ...look like little dried rabbit poops.  SO YOU KNOW. 

    Monday, November 9, 2009

    The Captain

    Perched atop his electric wheelchair
    the captain of this tiny vessel in a bustling park
    grasped the pole with his aged fingers

    And his little grey dog
    sniffed the dried leaves and gum behind him.

    With a quiet whir
    he began to reel it in.
    A fluttering,
    colorful fish
    across the deep
    blue Atlantic sky.

    The wind picked up a bit. Tore at the ladies' skirts
    and nipped at the scuttling leaves.

    And he let out the line
    and the kite shrank
    smaller
    and smaller
    to a tiny speck.

    Floating over the city. 

    Thursday, November 5, 2009

    Lost to the World

    I found out that one of the best professors I ever had passed away yesterday.  He wasn't terribly young, but still.


    Such a good, kind, thoughtful soul.

    You could tell he GOT it.  He cared about his students.  He opened our eyes to new ways of seeing and understanding.  And he always, always remembered the human side.  Architecture school can be brutal. 

    My grandfather died freshman year of college and I was a little apprehensive approaching Ken about missing "Contemporary Design Approaches."  But he didn't hesitate.  "GO," he said.  "You need to be with your family now."

    That second semester, I had him again in studio (the hands-on class that's worth six credits rather than four, the place where, as an architecture student, you pretty much LIVE, unless you're in another class or occasionally eating or sleeping), and he worked us so hard.  Not so much demanding impossible quantities of models or drawings, but mentally worked us, really challenging the way we saw things, our assumptions, allowing us to stretch ourselves without us even realizing it.  I came out of that studio with a deeper understanding of space: form, void, scale, movement.  I think I worked harder for him than I did for any other studio professor. 

    Then my second year, when I was thinking about leaving architecture, I talked to several of the faculty about it.  This man said to me, "I'm not going to tell you what to do.  You have to do what makes you happy.  You could be a very good architect, if you chose that, I want you to understand that.  But in the end you need to choose what makes you happy."  I almost wanted someone to tell me what to do.  To allow me to not have to make that choice.  If he told me he thought I should do one thing or another, I probably would have just done it.  Almost unquestioningly.  

    He lost his daughter while I was in school.  He had some pretty bad health problems.  Yet somehow, he was always there for the students, for the community. 

    Love suffereth long, and is kind; love envieth not; love vaunteth not itself, is not puffed up...

    I just am overcome with this deep sense that we have all lost something rare and beautiful.

    I Got My Rock Moves

    Well, I got this on Cragslist for $10:




    Then I bought these:





    So, I am thinking, with this:




    ...and this, I might just be able to come up with something worthwhile, even though I haven't sewed anything since 8th grade (and even then, it was nothing to brag about). 


    I have been feeling all this restless creative energy lately.  This past week especially.  Just wanting to be alone, to produce, to beget, to conceive and to give, to heal through creation.  I learned some sad news last night about a professor from college.  I will probably post later about that.  

    Sunday, November 1, 2009

    Food Storage: Existential Crisis

    So I am the "Provident Living Specialist" for my congregation.  Basically I am supposed to get people to store several months' worth of food and stuff like that.  Anyway, I sent the following email to the listserve, with picture attached. I figured I should share it here, because why not? 



    I haven't done one of these ramble-y Provident Living emails in awhile.  But I felt inspired.  In the midst of a minor existential crisis which seemingly came out of nowhere, I had a very important learning experience which helped me realize the importance of food storage.  


    I don't want to go to work tomorrow.  I can't face another day.  It's November already. 


    You know.  It was one of those days.  You have had one of those days too.  We have all had one of those days.  Cranky.  Whining.  Dressed in in PJ pants, sequined dress, and oversized brown sweater.   A veritable self-described "wad."  And I was so hungry, yet there was nothing that seemed appealing to me.  I kept wandering into the kitchen, hoping beyond hope that there would be something in the cupboard that seemed palatable.  But no luck.  Each time it was still all the same food.  Yes, it was real rough. 

    I flopped down on JDH's bed, where she finally made a suggestion for a food item which would have helped get me out of the funk (or at least which would have tasted really, really good).  Made with organic semolina pasta from durum wheat, cheddar cheese, whey, buttermilk, butter, salt, and natural sodium phosphate...

    Yes.  Annie's Bunny Pasta

    BUT WE DIDN'T HAVE ANY!!!!

    Brothers and sisters, I am not sure I can convey the distress which consumed my soul.  Even if I typed a colon with twenty-three left parentheses, it would not be sufficient.  In the moment, it was - truly - agonizing.  "Well, we could go to the grocery store and buy some.  How does that sound?" JDH suggested, almost timidly.  Okay, I nodded.  I put on my boots (see picture, which I have included so you can really get a sense of the experience), and we headed over to the thankfully-still-open store.  Once back home, with aforementioned bunny pasta, I realized that the whole situation could have been entirely prevented, if only I had kept sufficient stores of the soul-healing substance on hand.  It has a good shelf life.  It is easy to prepare.  I am the Provident Living specialist.  I could have totally been all over it. 

    And really, the point of it all is that I WILL.  That's right.  I'll never let this happen again.  And really, what IS emergency preparedness, beside preparing for any and all foreseeable disasters?  Am I right?  Am I right? 



    Shameless plug for cheesey bunny pasta. 

    Thursday, October 29, 2009

    90 Degrees?

    When we put furniture in the corners, it becomes evident that there are very few right angles in this apartment. 

    Wednesday, October 28, 2009

    The Most Beautiful

    Yesterday morning the church bells began to chime out some old hymn as I was walking/running in to my office from the T.  I started to find myself getting a little annoyed, I think because it sounded like too cheery of a song (believe it or not, I don't really like a lot of cheery songs, especially not cheery churchy songs).  That is sad that I would feel annoyed, because those bells are one of my favorite things about this location.  Anyway, the phrase ended up surprising me and resolving itself into a sorrowful minor chord which filled my soul with this beautiful achy feeling.  

    Then, this morning, I was walking through the rain in my new boots, noticing to myself how the clouds diffused the light and deepened the color of every single leaf, how the moisture saturated every dark tree trunk and released that cool earthy scent, how droplets of water on railings reflected a black and white world gleaming with russet and amber and saffron. 

    And I thought to myself, this might just be the most beautiful autumn of my life.

    Sunday, October 25, 2009

    Worlds within Worlds

    Perhaps it is a little arrogant to think of the summation of my experiences, thoughts, relationships, and memories as a "world" or a "universe." But in terms of my subjective reality, it IS my world, my cosmos.  My mind, as I know it, is infinite.  And yours.  And there are billions and billions of worlds, galaxies, overlapping, weaving, colliding, tearing apart. 

    An LDS hymn based off of a traditional folk melody touches upon these ideas.
    If you could hie to Kolob in the twinkling of an eye,
    And then continue onward with that same speed to fly,
    Do you think that you could ever, through all eternity,
    Find out the generation where Gods began to be?

    Or see the grand beginning, where space did not extend?
    Or view the last creation where Gods and matter end?
    Methinks the Spirit whispers, "No man has found 'pure space,'"
    Nor seen the outside curtains, where nothing has a place.
    The works of God continue, and worlds and lives abound
    Improvement and progression have one eternal round.

    A few months ago, I peeled up a little corner of my world, and there lay the seeds of an entire universe, quivering with expectant life, just waiting, waiting for the air and light. Like Jack's magic beans, they sprouted and grew beyond anything I had expected. This simple gesture of curiosity has brought a brilliant friendship into my world and has enriched my life (and the lives of several others) in so many deep and meaningful ways. It has been a remarkable gift to be able to experience. And I can see the echoes continuing to ripple across our little cosmic spheres.

    It has been tremendous.  Truly cosmic.  


    There are some really fascinating ideas in Mormon teachings, ideas which are somewhat controversial to some mainstream Christians, ideas which are - at least publicly - skirted around because they are not conventional. But I find myself drawn to them like a dreamy moth to a kitchen screen.

    Lorenzo Snow, who would later become president of the church, taught the famous couplet, "as man is, God once was; as God is, man may be," (you can see some interesting discussion here and here).  This idea appears, watered-down to various degrees, all through the LDS theology.  But the implication is that we have divine, infinite potential within each of us.  In LDS scriptures, it refers to God's creation of "the worlds,"
    That by him, and through him, and of him, the worlds are and were created, and the inhabitants thereof are begotten sons and daughters unto God (D&C 76:24)

    This is our divinity.  We are constantly creating, discovering, shaping worlds and worlds every day.


    And then a song came on my iTunes that reminded me of another universe which had the potential to have been beautiful. It might have been breathtakingly beautiful but perhaps will never exist to the full potential I once glimpsed there. And every time I hear that song, I do feel a little bit sad, mourning what very well may remain an eternally unborn world.

    You just cannot force it. 

    As I was thinking about it all on the train that morning, the words came to me, powerfully, chillingly, "your curiosity will move the world forward."  Maybe The World world, or maybe just the world I know - my life, the people I love or even just come in contact with. But then as I was reflecting upon it, my power does lie in my curiosity, in my intelligence, and in my love. I very rarely get these small glimpses into my infinite nature.  An intimate moment of self-knowing as I hurtled toward Copley with a couple hundred strangers. Worlds within worlds.  Love within love.

    Thursday, October 15, 2009

    The Post Office

    Somehow I am hesitant to write this blog post, because a I know a lot of people aren't huge fans of the USPS. And yet, I just can't really help loving it. Everything about it.

    The little labels for priority mail or for shipping insurance and all sorts of other crazy options. The different themed stamps. Writing someone's name and address, putting a sticker on it and miraculously having it arrive across the country. Seeing which stamps are for available for purchase.

    The taste of envelope adhesive.

    Stationery.

    Imagining the person getting the letter and about to open it, curious what is inside.

    I don't even mind waiting in line to send a package.

    I love the somewhat distracted/shortsighted British gentleman mistaking me for his wife and asking my opinion on what they should wrap the gift in. I love the wife coming over and asking him what he's bothering me about. I love his polite embarrassment.

    Or when I am sprinkling Kit Kat bars into a puffy envelope for my little brother and an old guy attempts a joke about sugar overload.

    Or mail carriers with their shoulder bags or little trucks with the steering wheel on the wrong side.

    Or peeling open the blue metal lips of the mailbox on the way to the train, slipping that white sliver of an envelope in, the feathered sifting of paper into the beast, the creaking and then snap of jaws, and pulling your hand away just in time.

    Old letters. Old handwriting. New handwriting. I love these tactile objects shipped across states, countries, the world.

    Sure there's a ton of white noise: The crotchety people in line to get their package weighed and stamped. The occasional letter that gets lost along the way. The credit card offers, the bills, the rebates, the catalogues. But every once in awhile, there's a treasure. And isn't that what life is about? The small smooth stone you find nestled at the beach? That moment among moments when you pause and recognize the sunlight that is skipping off of the trees and the that air is tickling behind your ears. The couple hundred people, among the billions and billions, whom we are lucky enough to know? And really, what are the chances that words on a page, handwritten and sent off into the wide wide world, will make their way across those miles to that one in a billion? You would think it's a miracle.



    But really, miracles happen every day.

    Tuesday, October 13, 2009

    I Cried

    I never even had a dog.




    But I cried.

    Tuesday, October 6, 2009

    Peggy the Three-Legged Calf and Other Adventures on the Way Home from Roslindale

    On the way back tonight, I had a conversation about farming* with the girl/woman who lets me go in her car on the way back from tutoring.

    She is a delightful person - I could probably listen to her talk for hours, with her bleached blond hair and wild, wild eyes. Very warm and expressive and speaks in this almost distracted way, like she is floating among dandelion seed puffs, yet she somehow simultaneously gives you confidence that she knows exactly what she's talking about.

    Anyway, she grew up on a family-owned, commercial farm, playing with her siblings alongside animals which she her family would eventually eat. It was just really interesting to hear her perspective on it all. The way that the animals were always well cared for and respected, but that she thought it was foolish the way that some "animal rights people" personify non-human creatures and how they form opinions without even being familiar with how things really are. It is probably true to a large extent. I mean, how many religious vegetarians/vegans actually grew up on a farm or have spent significant time caring for farm animals? Probably not many, I would wager. On the other hand, the detachment with which she spoke about it all was rather disconcerting. It was such a part of daily living for her and her brothers and sisters growing up. I imagine you sort of would have to have some degree of emotional detachment from the creatures - to categorize them differently from yourself - or the cognitive dissonance would be overwhelming. And maybe that detachment is more than a defense mechanism, maybe it is perceiving things as they really are. There really is no way of knowing whether humans are a unique category of living organism or whether the "animal rights people" have it correct.

    In my world, someone who has lived with, cared for, known, named, and eaten the same animals... that is rare. So I do value this opinion tremendously.

    Cute baby cow for effect.

    She asked me how long I've been a vegetarian (over ten years now) and why I don't eat meat (once I found out what it was as a child I didn't really have any appetite for it - the fact that it was the muscle of animals, the fact that I have muscle, it was just all too much for me to deal with - it just doesn't, hasn't ever really, felt right to me at that sort of gut level). At this point, she leaned over to me as we drove past the turn indicated on the GPS device, those crazy eyes glimmering as though she were about to share a delightful but horrifying secret. "Imagine if you had to live among the animals you ate for meat." I admitted that it would be pretty intense. She described one cow that was born with only three legs. They called the cow Peggy, for this reason. The family decided to raise Peggy like any other calf until she reached the size at which her legs couldn't support her body weight. At this point they slaughtered her and sat down at the dinner table and ate Peggy. "It would have been inhumane to let her grow any larger." She recounted the entire story with the same sort of jolly, reflective detachment.

    And I had to agree. It would have been inhumane. They gave Peggy the best life they could have given, everything a little three-legged cow could have wanted, and then didn't allow her to suffer. And in some ways, I think I even have more respect for people who actually acknowledge the creature they are eating. I think of my humble grandfather who would hunt deer and other small game to provide food for his family to eat during the days or weeks or months - however long - when his factory workers' union was on strike. A man who owned beagles as much for function (hunting) as for companionship. From all I know of him, he did not kill animals for sport. He respected the dignity of every living beast.

    I don't really have any conclusions. Just some musings.


    *Well actually, a gchat earlier primed me for the farming conversation. Streetsorz was describing how everything is cooked in lard in the South and I began rambling about how vegetarians and vegans can often act/be perceived as self-righteous.

    Sunday, October 4, 2009

    Autumn is Icumen In


    Things I have noticed:
    • The occasional emblazoned tree or brilliant leaf.
    • Craving for pumpkin baked goods.
    • Evenings getting darker earlier.
    • Neighbors erecting those shelters for Sukkot.
    • Long shadows at 9:00 am.
    • Wistful feelings.
    • Snuggling.
    • Autumn smell.
    As my friend Foff put it one time, when explaining to someone from SF why she loved New England so much, there is a distinct smell in the air on the first day of every season. Not necessarily on the calendar date, but on the first REAL day. It is a smell so familiar and haunting, because it hearkens back to every other cool, damp autumn (or crispy cold winter or hazy lazy summer or brilliant mushy spring) you've spent in this place. Each season so distinct and SO intense. Sneaking like a thief until that one day you step outside your door and breathe in and the air is carrying a new but oh so intimate scent and your whole body and responds to the memories.

    I don't really tend to like autumn, because it means winter's coming: darkness, even sadness. However, this year, somehow, I feel brave, excited, and yes, a bit wistful. On that breeze I can smell those twenty-five past autumns, but what's more, I can smell so many more future ones which haven't even happened yet.

    This weekend we go out to Pittsfield, all of us minus one brother this year, who is too far away to come camping with us. It is sad. And we remember at autumn that life is about change. Good and bad change both. Try to hold it close and you'll be left staring at the trees' clutching, empty fingers. Best to just ride your bike and pick apples and press pretty leaves between the pages of your favorite book to rediscover one winter's evening.

    Saturday, October 3, 2009

    Blog Data

    Visits to my blog dropped dramatically about a week ago, as you can see below.
    This is not due to an actual decrease in readership. Rather, I would more accurately describe it as the elimination of an artificial inflation of site visits.

    About a year ago, I noticed a jump in visits after I wrote one particularly problematic post about the afterlife (problematic in terms of collecting accurate data about blog readership - the topic itself is probably at least 60% silly, possibly as high as 85%).

    Sitemeter.com seemed to indicate that this increased traffic was coming from google image searches, although there was no apparent way for me to discern the exact search terms. Maybe there was/is, but I couldn't seem to figure it out or forgot about it or was lazy. Anyway though, all I had done was link to the image on another site, so I was surprised the image search was leading people to my blog. I even got a couple comments on the post from unknown people who seemed quite eager to share the depth of their wisdom and the acuity of their insight. A month or so ago, curious to see how much traffic my blog was actually getting, I saved the file to my desktop, uploaded it with a new, simple filename, and waited to see if that changed anything.

    It did not.

    Last week, still curious, I changed the term "Michelangelo" to "Signore di Lodovico Buonarroti Simoni." That did the trick. The average number of daily site visits dropped about eighty percent at this point. That is all.

    Saturday, September 26, 2009

    Autumn Apples

    One day in college, Lauren found a huge bag of apples in the parking lot. It had been there for at least two days, so she took it, and we ate ALL of them.

    Tuesday, September 22, 2009

    Last Night

    I was standing at the top of a building inside a giant glass fish bowl. Suddenly I was tumbling down, down, several stories, and hit the ground in the middle of a church/chapel. The glass shattered into a billion pieces and they all sliced through my skin in an intricate web of crisscrossing gashes. The church people were so nice and helped me to get cleaned up and everything. But my whole body hurt everywhere. So when they wanted to hold my arm, it hurt, or for me to walk with them somewhere, it hurt, almost more than I could bear. I might not be bleeding anymore but it is still tender!


    Then later, fully healed, obviously, I saved my entire family. We were on a steep, steep beach watching someone play with a dog. I looked out over the ocean and saw a glassy blackish-green form rising up and blocking out the horizon. It was a giant beast of a wave. Nobody else was looking out there, though.

    "We must get off of this beach," I said. "WE MUST GET OFF OF THIS BEACH."

    Finally they realized that I was serious and began to make their way up along the winding paths through the dune grass. I grabbed my youngest sister (who was somehow, magically, only about eight years old) and we headed up to the top of the sandy cliff and across the parking lot to this shady area. Everyone else was still coming, so I found a bench that was bolted to a concrete slab in the ground and held tight to it with my sister wrapped around me, bracing ourselves in case the wave managed to make it this far.


    Finally the others appeared, followed almost immediately by the creeping, seeping fingers of the edge of that wave, which had climbed that great cliff but only had the energy to soak the bottoms of our pants.

    We really are visitors here, sojourners.

    Monday, September 21, 2009

    First Love

    Just me for this night.







    Ok, just listen to this one all the way through, and remember what you are made of.
    You are the blood flowing through my fingers
    all through the soil and up in those trees
    You are electricity, and you're light
    You are sound itself, and you are flight

    You are the blood that I may see you, that I may see you
    You are the blood in me
    You are the earth on which I travel, on which I travel
    You are the earth under my feet
    That I may travel that I may travel with you
    You are the earth on which I write the circumstances
    You say what you want from me
    You are the solitude that goes against me, that goes against me
    You are the choir in which I dream, in which I sleep, in which I wander

    Tuesday, September 8, 2009

    Candle

    Bulbs shining from within, exactly nine windows.
    Nine points of light, and I raise the candle to make ten.

    Stars in the night
    Souls in the deep

    Each gleaming from a neighbor's apartment, near,
    but not so near at all.
    We'd have to descend and ascend to even touch.

    Lashes droop and everything fades, blurs,
    through slitted eyes, everything but those lights.
    Images disintegrate.
    Words multiply and divide.
    Fractals of meaning. Apart. Ment.

    Shafts between worlds, universes.

    And from the same source stream the light and the shadow
    All of us light and shadow
    Dancing off of glass
    flickering, skipping
    somersaulting.

    There, across the gulf, reflected in the pane, in the pane, in their pane, in their pain
    Is my flame.


    And everything just aches into one.

    Sunday, September 6, 2009

    Newt Diet

    I am thinking of writing a diet plan book. For vegetarians. DUH. Anyway, it is simple. Just remember the four Ps.
    Poop: Does this food help me poop well (i.e. is it high in fiber - whole grains, fruits, veggies, etc.)?
    Protein: Does the food give me significant protein?
    Palate: Is it palatable, tasty; do I like eating it?
    Pretty: Does it look nice - i.e. is it colorful (possess natural pigments, like in nutrient-rich foods)?

    Obviously you should try to maximize on all four as much as possible. But it's fine if you sometimes go with only one or two. That is all. Try to get all of these in every meal, and listen to your body to see when it's full.

    The end. I guess I don't need to write a book about that.

    Monday, August 31, 2009

    Love

    Though I speak with the tongues of men and of angels, and have not love, I am become as sounding brass, or a tinkling cymbal.

    And though I have the gift of prophecy, and understand all mysteries, and all knowledge; and though I have all faith, so that I could remove mountains, and have not love, I am nothing.

    And though I bestow all my goods to feed the poor, and though I give my body to be burned, and have not love, it profiteth me nothing.

    Love suffereth long, and is kind; love envieth not; love vaunteth not itself, is not puffed up,

    Doth not behave itself unseemly, seeketh not her own, is not easily provoked, thinketh no evil;

    Rejoiceth not in iniquity, but rejoiceth in the truth;

    Beareth all things, believeth all things, hopeth all things, endureth all things.

    Love never faileth: but whether there be prophecies, they shall fail; whether there be tongues, they shall cease; whether there be knowledge, it shall vanish away.

    For we know in part, and we prophesy in part.

    But when that which is perfect is come, then that which is in part shall be done away.

    When I was a child, I spake as a child, I understood as a child, I thought as a child: but when I became a woman, I put away childish things.

    For now we see through a glass, darkly; but then face to face: now I know in part; but then shall I know even as also I am known.

    And now abideth faith, hope, love, these three; but the greatest of these is love.

    I am going to need to think about this some more.

    Tuesday, August 25, 2009

    What the What?

    At about quarter to midnight, I am roused from dreamless sleep by the sound of the buzzer. At the top of the stairs our neighbors' grown daughter is peering down as far as she can see.

    I have some sort of vague recollection of sirens (?) maybe.

    Anyway, Beth - or someone - is trying to get in, and I have to let them in. At the bottom of the stairs I nearly run into three firefighters who have just come up from the basement. In retrospect, it is an awkward encounter, although at the time I am barely cognizant of this fact (or anything for that matter). See, it has been SUPER. HOT. here lately. I have been resorting to drastic measures to fall asleep. Ice pops. No pants. Snuggling with the kitchen tiles and cool metal pots. So this night I have only just barely managed to drift off when the doorbell wakes me from my slumbers. "Did you ring the buzzer?" I demand of the bewildered firemen. They say no and try to maintain eye contact without looking at the rest of me. I am suddenly aware that I'm not wearing any shoes.

    I mean pants.

    I adjust the sheet (which, luckily, I have brought) around myself as though that is what I always wear when lounging about the apartment. Yeah, just your casual loungewear. They ask me if our power is out too. I say no, anyway, I have to get my sister. I step around them, bedsheet trailing behind and they tramp up the steps in full firefighting gear, axes, hats, heavy coats, boots... all in a day's work.

    UGH. Turns out there is nobody at the door. Go figure. I catch up with the firefighters and try to explain how someone rang the bell and now there is nobody there and I just can't understand it. "Oh... maybe someone was confused and rang the wrong bell," one firefighter suggested helpfully.

    We climb up the stairs. Three burly men and the oh so delightful Prancibald. On the second floor they file into the apartment that must have called them there in the first place. It is the recent grads who moved in just last week. They must have caught something on fire with their stove. I wouldn't put it past them. I mean, for RILL? One has her face covered in some sort of opaque cleansing substance and her eyes and mouth are making the same wide, round shape as she stands back from the doorway to allow the firefighters to enter.

    "Seriously, get your life together," I think, scornfully, as I return to my apartment and shut the door. Yes, that is right, recent grads. The pantsless, barefooted wonder thinks you need to get your lives together.


    Take that.

    Saturday, August 22, 2009

    g-chat

    My friend Ellie has spent the summer working on Long Island. I present you this recent online conversation.
    E: my mom is coming!
    i am waiting for her!

    but she is taking so long! and i'm impatient

    me: she will be there
    make up a story

    about a little girl who dropped her cloth doll in the ocean

    and then a baby shark found it

    E: you always have excellent advice.


    If she says it, it is true.

    Wednesday, August 12, 2009

    Beauty is Healing

    Raven, raven, raven
    Oh, tell me why do you dress all in black?
    I was so pupped out today after work. I didn't even go to dance class. Instead, I gathered up some special items... blueberries, rye bread, almond butter, an old journal from a couple years ago, that exceedingly impractical glass water bottle I've been lugging all over creation lately... and climbed to the park at the top of the hill to Just. Be. Still.

    The air was cool and damp. I spread my belongings under a large oak tree with soft whispering leaves. And tried for a few moments to figure out if these droplets were rain or just very low-lying fog.

    It didn't matter, I concluded and wrapped myself up in that brown woolen blanket and breathed and listened and felt and nestled. After a few minutes, I opened the old journal. It struck me, really, how much calmer, more centered I've become, even in the couple years since I wrote that. How much more clarity with which I see things, how much more comfortable I am being myself. What a broken little songbird I was...

    As I was leaving, three adults and approximately five kids of different sizes and shades were in the process of launching a rocket driven by vinegar and baking powder or soda or whichever it is. I took my time gathering everything up, in hopes that I would get to witness the launch, but it was taking a long time and I didn't want to be a creeper.

    I walked back down the hill with water sloshing around inside that great glass container with every step. As I opened the front door to our building, I noticed how it had grown dark. A sacred dark.
    Oak tree, oak tree, oak tree
    Oh, take me down where roots begin.



    Tuesday, August 11, 2009

    I Bought Lots of Vegetables

    Tonight, I made some kale/red cabbage stir fry and ate SO MUCH of it. I am imagining this food is so powerfully good for you... probably because I think I read somewhere that brilliantly-colored food has tons of vitamins or something. Plus, somehow it just FEELS good to eat... like my cells and blood vessels are saying THANK YOU, THANK YOU, KATIE.

    Or maybe I just love vegetables?

    Here's what I did, in case you want to try to make it yourself (super easy):
    1. Cut up the onion into little pieces, cut the red cabbage into slightly bigger pieces, and rip the kale into like medium-sized (?) pieces - maybe like 1/4 to 1/3 the size of your palm...?
    2. Cook the onions about halfway in some canola oil.
    3. Add the cabbage and a sprinkle of red pepper flakes, and cook until the onions are done.
    4. Add the kale and soy sauce and a little bit of water. It is ready when the kale turns a deep green color and is a TINY bit withered. You'll probably have to stir it to get to that point, because otherwise the kale stays on the top and doesn't really cook. This part will happen pretty quick.

    You could also do it without the red cabbage. I just had it, so why not use it?

    Also, don't overcook either the cabbage or the kale, because it won't be as good. You'll want it to be a little bit crispy.

    I used 1 large onion, 1 bunch of kale, and 1/2 head of cabbage. I probably could have stood to use about twice as much kale, because it was a small bunch, and because it cooks down significantly. When you add the kale, it will look like too much, but just add it anyway, and there's a good chance it might not even be enough.

    That is all.

    Thursday, August 6, 2009

    Hands Free

    So pup called me Wednesday just as I was about to do some dishes (after Monday's post, I'll spare you the description of how badly the dishes needed to be done). Blast. My plans are foiled! I thought, somewhat disappointed, because I only very rarely actually FEEL. LIKE. doing the dishes.

    Foiled? Not so.

    I am, as you know, an engineer, fascinated - since a very young age - by finding creative solutions to everyday problems, as evidenced by the the it's-raining-but-I want-to-ride-my-bike photograph below:


    Apparently I peaked early, though, as the bike + umbrella (umbrellycle?) seems to be a much more elegant solution to the rain problem than the following solution to my most recent dilemma involving dishes and a cell phone. Witness... hair scarf + puce-colored binder clip + phone.


    Instant hands-free device!!! Ugly and awkward, yes, but still it seemed to function as I imagined.

    Seemed to, that is, until Julia and I got disconnected. The phone was set to vibrate, so when she called me back... let me tell you THAT was a bizarre feeling... IN MY EAR. My hands were covered in suds and water, and I KNOW from experience how cell phone + water = very bad* things happen.

    So, naturally, I flipped out and ran into Beth's room. AHHH IT'S RINGING. DO SOMETHING. I leaned my head over her desk where she was working on some writing. STICK YOUR THUMB IN THERE AND ANSWER IT. STICK YOUR THUMB IN THERE AND ANSWER IT.

    I have such a good sister.




    You know, just a day in the life...




    *i.e. now the little camera flash is constantly shining and the display screen no longer works even though I did everything I was supposed to like letting it dry for 24+ hours and NOT plugging it in last time I got it wet.

    Tuesday, August 4, 2009

    QUICK

    Tell me the best word that comes into your head when you look at the following picture:



    I feel like I oughta write a serious post or a poem or something. I haven't done either of those recently. I am really working through some heavy stuff in my non-blog universe. I guess I just don't feel like writing something serious right now.

    Monday, August 3, 2009

    One Little Baggie

    A couple friends and I went to the beach Saturday (o blessed day!), and there, on our way back to the car, lying in the parking lot, was a sack of dog poop that had been run over. It was squirting out on one side, as though re-pooped by the bag, and the thin layer of poop that remained inside the plastic managed to perfectly preserve the intricate contours of the treads. For some reason this delighted and amused me. Immensely.

    I pointed it out to my two friends. Believe it or not, they did not find it as amusing as I did, possibly because their senses of humor are not nearly as subtle OR refined as mine.

    What can I say? Squished poop just made me tremendously happy.

    So happy that I wished I had brought my camera so I could have posted a photo on One Little Joy.

    So happy that just now, two days later, I am still thinking of it on the way up the hill from the train and can tell I am smiling to myself so very broadly. So broadly, in fact, that strangers are looking at me and thinking I am probably in love. Or at least very deeply in like. But, no, silly strangers, I am just thinking of squished excrement.

    So happy that, when I pass a poop sack that some irresponsible pet owner has left lying around on this low stone wall, I have the urge to grab it and oh-so-discreetly toss it in front of oncoming traffic. You know, to see if I can reproduce the entire beautiful experience again for myself. But I restrain these impulses.

    Because, as you all know, I am the literal embodiment of discipline and self-restraint.

    Thursday, July 30, 2009

    About Time

    I just washed ohhh... approximately 63 pairs of underwear.

    Wednesday, July 29, 2009

    Payback

    I glanced over at the person next to me on the train the other day, a young man reading a book, and noticed a notecard with the following, somewhat cryptic, handwritten list (although aren't most lists, out of context, something of an enigma?):
    Payback:
    Equipment (gun)
    Military operations
    Send letter to Dickhead's wife
    At first I thought maybe it was for some type of very violent video game (which also involves sending letters to people's wives...?).

    Then I wondered if it was real. I'm not sure if I should have called the police or something...

    Tuesday, July 14, 2009

    I wish I were one of those people who liked to ORGANIZE things...

    We have a lot of food in our tiny kitchen, but lots of random things as well, like boxes with approximately three Triscuit crackers or a ziploc containing a couple tablespoons of baking powder, nut chopper, loose packets of unpopped microwave popcorn, stuffed animals, a stray sock, Christmas ornaments, bottles of black and green food coloring... you know, just regular stuff like that.

    After some contemplation, I came to the conclusion that the space in there wasn't really used very efficiently. I decided I'd go through and purge and rearrange, and then maybe I would want to actually EAT some of that food. So, just now, I removed everything from all of the shelves and all of the cupboards. I relocated the baking pans and supplies to above the cupboards by the sink. Then I looked at all the cans and boxes all over the floor and chair and counters and suddenly felt the urge to go into my bedroom and check Facebook. And write a blog post.

    Soon Beth will get home, and food will be everywhere, and I'll be asleep or drooling or reading Mormon feminist blogs or BBC news, maybe doing breaststroke through my dirty and clean laundry or something. I suspect - though I am not certain - that this is why she tells our aunt that I'm "a good sister, but a bad roommate."

    Ohhh the agony which smothers my soul when I imagine going back in and tidying everything up!!! Best to just pretend it never happened. Yep. Just pretend it never happened.
    Katie, what is going on in the kitchen?

    What do you mean?

    There's food and crap EVERYWHERE.

    What the...? I have no idea! I haven't even been in the kitchen since I've been home.

    Katie, your bag is in here. And your shoes.

    Uhhh... I have to go to the bathroom. (climbs out the window and down the fire escape)

    I don't see any problem with this plan. Because I am so good at lying. And I don't need to eat. Ever....

    Monday, July 13, 2009

    Milker Dumbass

    This afternoon I saw a man wheeling a small babby in a stroller.

    The man's arms were covered in tattoos. In a moment of what can only be described as pure milker dumbassitude, I looked from the father's arms to the child's and then back to the father's and was genuinely surprised that the son did not have the same "coloring" as the father -- i.e. the son did not have any tattoos at all (!)

    WHAT????!

    You mean these human beings are NOT like some sort of creeptacular My Little Pony family, in which the children genetically inherit a combination of the vaguely abstract epidermal markings of both their parents?
    Creeptacular.

    Get outta the city.

    Sunday, July 12, 2009

    the Half-pup Prince

    I can't wait until the film version of this:
    is released in theatres here... only a few more days!

    Friday, July 3, 2009

    Help me!

    I have these song lyrics bouncing around my mind:
    caught somewhere between the earth and the sky
    Does anyone know from which song that line comes? I tried google, no luck. It might just drive me crazy. Or I might just forget about it.

    Anyway, the first half of the week I went camping down the Cape with my immediate family, two cousins, one cousin's daughter, one cousin's husband, and one aunt. It rained pretty much every day and we almost couldn't leave my parents' house because the bottom of their car was dragging.

    There was a lot of stuff in the car. Also, Em had flu Type A
    (whatever that means) and was quarantined. She had to wear
    a face mask in the car and sleep in her own tent. Poor pup!

    She was feeling better by the second or third day though.

    But finally, finally we got there and set up camp. It was fortunately not raining at that point. Of course it ended up being fun, despite the minor disasters and crying/fighting and rain. I played some more mandolin (I'm getting tons better) and had several good and constructive conversations with assorted family members.

    When it wasn't raining, it was misting. Or foggy. There were a
    few hours of direct sunlight too.



    Campfire fun.

    My little* brother and I dug an extensive network of trenches throughout the campsite to channel rainwater away from the tents. This probably makes me lame or a nerd or awesome, but that may have been my favorite part of the whole trip. I felt so purposeful and happy, just digging and digging there with the little trowel, redirecting the water away from the beds of my dear family members following simple universal laws. So, all in all, I say 8.5 out of 10 for family campout this year.

    An extensive network of trenches (it was not raining at
    the time of this photo, so you cannot see it in action)...




    Now this evening I am off to pupwood to visit Julia.

    Happy Independence Day! I sort of want to watch that Will Smith movie now for some reason...


    *My six-foot tall, going to COLLEGE this fall, little brother...

    Thursday, June 25, 2009

    The Day that Michael Jackson Died

    I got home from work and saw everyone's Facebook statuses, a clamor of MJ this and R.I.P. that. And at first I couldn't even believe it. "Michael Jackson died?" I asked Beth.

    "Yep."

    "He had a heart attack?"
    "Yep."

    After confirming it on the news, I felt the urge to listen to/watch the song he sings in Free Willy. So I did.



    The footage of the crazed fans make it all even more complicated, the positive impact he had on music, art... on the lives of so many, and at the same time the way it all seemed to eat away at him, don't you think? When you listen to them now, the lyrics are heart-breaking.
    Hold me, like the River Jordan
    And I will then say to thee, You are my friend

    Carry me, like you are my brother
    Love me like a mother. Will you be there?

    When weary, tell me Will you hold me?
    When wrong, will you scold me? When lost will you find me?

    But they told me, a man should be faithful
    And walk when not able, and fight till the end (but I'm only human)

    Everyone's taking control of me
    Seems that the world's got a role for me
    I'm so confused - will you show to me
    You'll be there for me
    And care enough to bear me?

    Hold me, lay your head lowly
    Softly then boldly, carry me there.

    Hold me, love me and feed me.
    Kiss me and free me, I will feel blessed.

    Carry, carry me boldly.
    Lift me up slowly, carry me there.

    Save me. Heal me and bathe me.
    Softly you say to me, I will be there.

    Lift me, lift me up slowly.
    Carry me boldly, show me you care.
    I went for a run, because my soul needed to be outdoors, and my body needed to be worked. The sun had just passed below the tree line, and everything seemed to be overflowing with meaning. The pale sliver of moon against the dulling sky, the yellow flowers folding themselves up for the night. I passed bars, cars, with their windows open, heard snatches of familiar songs broadcast from every radio station.
    "...looking at the man in the mirror. I'm asking him to..."


    "...is not my lover. Shes just a girl who claims that I am the one..."
    The whole world was remembering. Like a lot of people, I did not expect this to happen (and therefore, that I would feel sad). I was talking to Rachel about it, how he was so troubled in later years. You think of him singing as a fresh-faced little kid with the Jackson Five (even though I wasn't even a dream in my parents' hearts at the time). You think of the turmoil, the anguish that was evident in his later life, how the pressure - everything - must have crushed him. I think Adrienne Maree Brown must have said it best, and I sort of want to re-post the whole thing, but I'll just paste in this portion:

    We didn’t see the pain, we saw the bizarre, and we are vultures for scandal.

    Still, he kept producing for us. As he got lighter he brought us an image of black Egyptians. He made us scream, cry, faint, and mob.

    When it became clear that the boy’s face we had loved had become the face of a man who didn’t love himself; we judged him. We tore at him and he fell apart. He was living proof of the impact of our rabid pop culture, an early sacrifice to the new mechanisms of fame which allow no privacy, no time to learn, no mistakes.

    Still, he kept producing for us.

    When the rumors and the truth were all too prevalent (the children, both his and others), and he wasn’t getting the psychological support and accountability he needed, we turned from him and derided him. We made the distinction of loving the child, but ridiculing the man.

    How many times did his heart break before this? How many times did he experience happiness, community, belonging and love in his life, in his off-the-stage life?

    You think of all of these child stars, what we do to them with our disgusting obsessions, how we are so quick to point out all of the ways they aren't living up to our expectations. But they are people. And we forget that people are REAL. And that every person matters. And we don't run this risk just with celebrities. We forget that the homeless guy - whom we pass by in a hurry - is a person, that the Green Peace fundraiser kids are too, or our coworkers, even to our own precious family members! This is the tragedy of human existence.

    And now I know the words of the prayer I had been saying over and over in my heart all evening in the memory of this man.

    Oh God, please bless him. Please bless all of us, humanity. We are trying so hard to be GOOD, or we think we are trying, but really we have no idea. And we just end up clawing at each other in an effort to reach the light.

    More than anything I hope there is a God right now. Is that weird? For Michael Jackson's sake, I hope there is a God. I mean, this was a real person. And I suspect we all failed him, tragically. I truly pray with all my heart that there is a God, waiting there to receive this brilliant, anguished soul with open arms and to fulfill all the wishes of that song, to be held, healed, bathed, lifted slowly, carried boldly.

    Dear God, if nothing else, let us learn to be kind, and may he rest in peace.

    Wednesday, June 24, 2009

    Nearly every day

    I loved Rachel's idea. So here are my items.
    • Eat vegetables
    • Touch something green and alive with my bare skin
    • Play mandolin or add songs to the song book
    • Say something kind to somebody
    • Spend 45 minutes outside
    • Restore order to one thing
    • Hug someone
    • Draw a picture
    or a doodle

    or write one word really beautifully



    Also:
    • Sleep
    • Go to work
    • Eat breakfast
    • Remember keys, phone, and T pass

    Train Operator

    Over the intercom came the sound of the driver's hearty voice:
    Park Streeeeeeet - have a nice day.
    Sunshiiiiiiiiiiiiine is on its way.
    And the meteorologists seem to agree with him. If their forecasts are accurate, I think a lot of people in Boston will be crying tears of joy tomorrow. I honestly cannot remember the last time I felt the sun.

    You know somebody is in a good mood when he makes the effort to RHYME.

    Thursday, June 4, 2009

    Don't Do It.

    Ok, I've just been busy and thinking about a lot lately. Here's a little text-to-movie to tide you over, though.

    The Audition.

    Sunday, May 24, 2009

    Horrors! or the time the cookies came out flesh-colored

    This afternoon I found my mind filled with a delicious vision of little round shortbread cookies with pale pinkish-orange frosting. Perfectly formed. Delicately adorned. Perhaps a hint of almond tucked in there somewhere.

    Like we humans are often inclined to do with beautiful visions, I decided to try my best to convert it to reality.

    So, after a dinner of mozzarella sticks from Charlie's and some salad, Bubs and I combined two recipes (because the dream I held in my mind more approximately resembled something halfway between sugar cookies and shortbread cookies) and did a test run to see how a couple turned out. After perfecting the technique, the rest of the baking process went quite smoothly. As the final batch was cooking, I began to whip up some buttercream frosting, a special delight to which my mother had always treated us for birthdays and special occasions. Though she employed time-saving strategies in many areas of homemaking, she would only stoop to store-bought frosting in the most dire of circumstances.

    Pinkish-orange, my mind automatically began to work out the colors. Well, orange is red and yellow. And pink of course only needs red food coloring. But I don't want to add too much red, because it will overpower the yellow. A ratio of two drops of yellow to one of red seemed to be drawing out the appropriate hue.

    But as I mixed, I began to feel overcome by the sicky-sweet pastel pansiness of the frosting. I needed to tone it down a little bit. If you add the opposite color on the color wheel, it will mute the original color... I recalled. GREEN.

    I carefully added one (1) drop of green food coloring. Tentatively I stirred it in. As the color became uniform, the shade started to look familiar, but not in an entirely appealing manner. It looked like something... with dismay, I realized what it resembled: skin. Yes, it looked like skin. Human flesh. My beautiful frosting had turned a peachy, band-aid, crayola crayon skin-color. A cliche Caucasian tone.

    I held a spoonful of it up next to my hand. The frosting was actually quite a bit lighter. So Crayola lies, pushes an unrealistic standard of race, I thought, wondering if I could get it to match my own, since hey we're already well past disgusting with this color.

    I added a few more drops of red here, some yellow there, (even a couple more green, so it didn't turn out pure Oompa Loompa). Seriously, it was much more difficult than you might think. After what seemed like twelve thousand drops, I think I got it pretttttty close in the end.

    So now there are two dozen cookies plastered with a thin layer of my own outer membrane, sitting - no - practically quivering on our table. YUMMY.

    Flesh of my flesh. Indeed.

    Wednesday, May 20, 2009

    Don't Even Care

    It doesn't matter that I'm twenty-five. It doesn't matter that I am a civil engineer. It doesn't matter that I'm a hard core feminist. It doesn't matter that the rear neighbors can see directly in, since we don't actually have any blinds. I don't even care.



    There are few things in life that compare to spinning atop the hardwood floors in a swirly twirly poufy flowy white skirt.

    And I am doing just that.



    I guess I'm just lucky sometimes. To be doing exactly what it is that I want to be doing.

    Tuesday, May 19, 2009

    Burning

    I get off the train at Harvard, the top of my throat clenching itself into a tight fist. I am still wheeling my luggage. I haven't even gone to the bathroom after my flight. For some reason this is the first and only thing I want to do now that I'm back in Boston.

    I walk along the familiar brick sidewalk in a cloud of my own consciousness, only dimly aware of the people, cyclists, autos. 'I could turn back now. I could pretend it is not real,' I think to myself. But my feet are moving, almost of their own accord - it is for this reason they move forward: to make it real. Cool spring foliage brushes by my forehead as evening begins its descent. I think of death, how the force of it sometimes doesn't even fully hit you until you see that body there, lying in the open casket. Hollow shell of the person, the memories that you loved and still love. And then you want to be with people who understand.

    I am at a bus stop in San Francisco when Rachel calls me. "Did you hear about our church?" she asks. "No, what happened?" Lauren and I are on our way to Bay to Breakers. "It burned to the ground."

    I imagine the flames and smoke and feel hollow inside, exposed. My sorrow surprises me. My relationship with this religion is not, has never been pretty. I do not feel like I belong here. I feel that even the act of saying what I truly think would make a lot of people uncomfortable. I fear they would worry about my salvation, my faith, my testimony.

    Two weeks prior, I help to clean the chapel. As my hands care for that building, I find them filled with love, as they move deliberately over the windows, the pews, the exterior, setting things in order, tidying, preparing it for worship the next day. I imagine the hands that crafted it, decades ago, remember all the people who have worshiped in it since then. Savor the love that I feel after wiping down those windows and vacuuming those upholstered pews. I am grateful for the chance to cleanse, to perform this simple action which has apparently taken on ritual meaning for me. But then I go in to church the next day, curl up on the floor in the kitchen, and want to cry at the distance I feel between myself and others or perhaps the god they worship.

    But I am reaching out. Overall, I am.

    A small group of us gather to plant: peas, zucchini, lettuce, tomatoes, radishes, cucumbers. There are little beds behind the building, filled with rich, dark soil. Earthworms. Dreams. Gardening has always possessed a magical power for me. We meet on Saturdays or early evenings to prepare the soil, plant the seeds, set the bricks in straight lines along the edge. We take turns watering on days the rain doesn't fall. We are hoping for a good harvest this year.

    I come around the bend and the chapel appears in front of me, my church, with its windows boarded up, its roof sunken in, charred wood littering the grass. Around it a chain link fence has been erected. And there, in the middle of the sidewalk, the tears begin to tumble from my eyes. Tears of a dozen other sorrows spilling forth, released, multiplied, by this tangible loss. With a shift and a sigh, the world positions itself so that I am facing the front of the building. The beautiful round window is smashed, patches of sky and cloud gaping through. Luggage and bags fall at my feet, and my eyes move over and over the metal letters fastened to the bricks, spelling "The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints."

    I have and have had friends, good friends, dear friends, old lovers who are uncomfortable by this aspect of my being. They are delightfully progressive, care about all the things I care about, fight for the things I fight for. They are happy to work alongside me to make the world a better place. And they truly care for me, love me, so they put up with this weird and embarrassing religious stuff. But I actually think that some would prefer this facet of my life did not even exist. Cannot, do not want to understand what it means to me, why I grapple with such heavy, often distasteful matters. Why I torment myself. I cannot answer their wonderings, since I hardly know myself. And yet these feelings remind me.

    Though at times I have failed to acknowledge it to others or even to myself, this religion is more than the anxiousness it often causes me, the unresolved questions which may remain so until I die. It more than unequal treatment of homosexuals, women, people of color. How can it be so? How can I live every day in this paradox? Sometimes I do not know. And yet, there is something deeper there. Something I hope for, FEEL, at an instinctive level. Reflections of eternal hopes for a kinder world, for better, more virtuous and loving selves. Of transformation. Of grace. To me, the most beautiful parts of it are those which parallel ancient truths, which bring new light and insight to already meaningful tradition. Of course there are cultural influences which are outdated, which are only slowly beginning to change. Of course there are things that don't really make sense.

    This religion, though, I cannot get rid of it. It cannot get rid of me. This messy, awkward, often painful, beautiful, hopeful, rewarding, entity. More than a culture, but not easily or neatly extricated from the culture. Learning to love this religion in all of its imperfections has involved me learning to love myself, even the embarrassing, awkward, unfortunate sides that I would prefer to hide forever. Things I would prefer never existed. And yet here I am. In spite of it all. Shining. Carrying something bursting and brilliant behind my heart. What that something is, I cannot say. I don't "know" that the church is "true" any more than I know whether there is a god or where we go when we die or where dreams or thoughts come from.

    Hope. I think that is the thing that I carry.

    I sleep. My flight back to Boston is in a couple of hours. In dreams I return to the site of the building. It is just as the pictures on Boston.com show: hollow, darkened, gaping wide. I don't give the building more than a glance though. The garden we had planted behind the chapel, tender little shoots, quiet little hopes, that is what I hurry to see, certain it has been buried by ash, crushed by gallons of water or falling debris. I round the corner, and those very same forces I'd feared would destroy the garden have nurtured it beyond comprehension. The plants have grown to several times their natural size, overnight. The pea plants tower over me, curling up towards heaven, green, strong, rising from these dark, steaming ashes. I awaken, know in my heart there's no way it could be real, but let the imagery linger anyway as I pack up and head to the airport.

    A young mother is walking with her two little girls. "And that is where the chapel was. And that is where the gym was." She notices me and asks if this had been my church. I just nod, still crying, and she says "I am so sorry. Oh no, now I am going to cry too. This is where my husband and I met." She begins to cry as well, and then we just hug. Two total strangers, embracing on the sidewalk in front of a burnt-out church as the two little girls look on awkwardly. Who knew?

    We WILL transcend racism, sexism, homophobia. We'll carry on beautiful traditions, embark on frightening new journeys. We will learn to embrace ourselves and everyone in this spinning chaotic ball of water and land and wonder. I feel more Mormon than I ever have before. This sorrow, this love, this solidarity - all surprise me, overwhelm me.

    We, humanity, will become whole. We will learn to reach out and create heaven for ourselves. Well, I hope so. I hope.

    And that is what is different now. I am a Mormon. And I hope.