Monday, December 24, 2012

It Goes Around

So much of any year is flammable,
lists of vegetables, partial poems.
Orange, swirling flame of days,
so little is a stone.

Where there was something and suddenly isn't,
an absence shouts, celebrates, leaves a space.
I begin again with the smallest of numbers.
                            from "Burning the Old Year" by Naomi Shihab Nye

I love these lines so much that I use them every year in one way or another.  The impermanence of their message has been burned in my heart and these lines have become the stone they resist.  The new year is creeping up and as I am sure it does for many, it spooks me when see it on the horizon.

This year has been full, cumbersome and full, and I would be remiss if I let it pass without recounting how it tumbled through. I turned thirty, Andrew got a new job and left an old job. We worked insane hours and carved out as much time as possible for each other and now, as we approach five years of marriage and a little over seven years together, I can say we might be happier together than in the beginning, when for a few days I thought my heart might explode from how much I liked him.

Yesterday we sat around a table of family and ate soup and six varieties of grilled cheese, and later through my fontina and white cheddar coma, I sat in a warm room filled with tiny white lights and I felt full in a way that food alone cannot manage.

We went to bed in clean, warm flannel sheets and I woke up this morning just as Andrew's keys jingled him out the door.  A short walk and I am in the cafe, my home away from home, and though I can see glimpses of sun on the horizon, it it still a beautiful dark blue outside, leaving the bulbs in lamps and strands to reflect in layers off the window next to me and suddenly I am sitting in a sea of glass ablaze with white light.

Tonight we'll make pizza (I'm thinking asparagus with pan seared pork and dry salami with feta), play games, and don flannel jammies.  I am bound to the house for a bit today waiting for the last of the Christmas gifts with the rest purchased locally and wrapped with paper I love so much that I might be that girl who smoothes out bits in the aftermath and saves it for next year.

For now, I will putter my way home and then putter my way around the house and maybe, just maybe, I will work on a few more holiday cards, and maybe, just maybe, I will send some of them out before Valentine's Day.  And for today, just like every day, I will think about those who are far from us, and appreciate those who are near, and just before bed I will remind myself to be thankful for what's yet to come.

Saturday, November 10, 2012

Autumn Sun

All stories happen when the old way of life doesn't work any more. -Luis Alberto Urrea

Sunday, October 21, 2012

Live Anyway

"So here’s to the cracks and the crevices. Here’s to not just finding the time to create, but making the time, wrestling the time down, wooing the time. Here’s to learning how to balance life well and not so well and everything in between and having grace for oneself in the midst of it all." - Meghan Arias 

On Friday night my little sister had the words "live anyway" tattooed on her forearm. I'd scribbled out the phrase in at least eight different ways the night before, and of course, she chose the first version.  Over and over these past few days, I've been returning to the photo she sent me once it was done.  I've been looking at the handwriting I know so well, my own curves and pauses, and mulling over the words that mean something so different to me than they do to her, and yet regardless of their implication, I think we celebrate the same application. There's an impetus to persist, not just exist, regardless of life's climate.  

This page behind the scenes, is a series of incomplete posts, little half-starts, and good intentions.  I've got a stack of photos, and words on scraps of newspaper, receipts, and the backs of envelopes.  I've got so much to say and so many reasons (read: excuses) why there is not the time/energy/interest to complete any of it. I've got a bag full of life that I am schlepping around with me, weighing me down to a slow crawl most days.  Want a reason not to do something? I am your girl.  Want to justify why now is not the time? Call me. Want to keep yourself safe and protected from the unpredictability that life almost guarantees? I will show you the way.

And then, oh, and then, I read Meghan's word from one of her latest EPs.  I thought about the cracks and crevices that we can so easily ignore and discredit - about how easy it is to see them, but how hard it is to take advantage of them for anything more than hiding.  I thought about wrestling time, and I've spent the last three months wondering just when it was that I lost my fight?  I'm hoping now that Meghan won't mind me sharing this, but before reading these restorative words of hers before the release of her latest music (which please go get right this minute) ...before all of that, I watched her struggle.  I read her posts, tweets, and status updates recording the frustration of getting lost in a life, that while so beautiful and full, is not what it could be - what it should be.  I spent time with her photos of family and life and I felt kinship with the luck of having found such amazing love.  I read her lines when she was not, not, not (writing, creating, playing) and I clicked off quickly - they were real and honest and they said something that I wasn't ready to hear.  I can justify my own self-soothing, but when confronted by my struggles reflected in someone I respect and admire, my reasons grown thin.  The fear of failure is a comforting seductress because she whispers safety with her words, and as long as I keep her close, I know just what's not ahead.  

It's time, I think, to stop hiding in the cracks and start living in them.  It's time, I think to stop tuning out what I do not want to feel, hear, or think.  I've been hiding from myself and anyone else who might call me out - there's safety in silence for a while, but it runs out, just like everything else. You know it's funny that it took Meghan's words to remind me of my own, but they were there the whole time: It's good, I think, to love something even when it's broken, but even better at times, to love it enough to fix it.

I've got a million excuses why I cannot, but as it turns out, I've got one really great reason why I can: I want to live anyway.

Sunday, September 2, 2012

The Puttering

All weekend, no matter where we go, the question always comes: Any big plans for the day?

I wonder, always, how they might define "big".

We've answered with a millions different shrugs and smiles, anything to wrap the conversation onto the next step, anything not to have to define the piecemeal days we find so comforting.  It's hard to to present the walks (long and short), the card games, snacks, market trips, coffee pauses (the weekend calls for pots, plural, daily), films, books, etc., in a way that shows someone what these days really mean to us.  Today, instead of fighting it, I answered "puttering" to the kind clerk at the market down the street.  He smiled at me through his Flock of Seagulls haircut, furrowed his brow as if trying to define it for himself, and instead of jumping in as I am often wont to do, I just smiled back and he in turn smiled again.  He didn't need to know and I didn't need to tell, but it was better than bumbling out "oh nothing" and not meaning it one bit.

We have been puttering, and with the holiday we will have one day more (so lovely).  What does that include these days?

-walks to the market, coffee shop, water, antique mall, record shop, and museum
-coffee and scones outside in the museum's courtyard
-new music on repeat, new records being flipped and played, flipped and played
-countless hands of Phase 10
-cleaning, always cleaning
-clean linens in each room
-watching 84 Charing Cross Road for the billionth time

and tonight...

-pulled pork tacos with pork that's been slowly cooking all day, homemade corn tortillas, fine, tangy cabbage slaw, and freshly made crema

-vanilla bean cake and warm compote made from local peaches, served with cool, lightly sweetened cream

-our current favorite wine - Bookwalter Subplot 26, local and amazing.  How can you beat a description like this:  Our Subplot blend is a complex wine that provides an aromatic symphony of fresh fruit: red fruits like Maraschino cherries, vine ripened raspberries and even black currants are wrapped with the subtle hints of savory herbs, brown sugar, vanilla extract, cloves and pencil shavings.  The wine enters the palate sweet and has a generous, round mouth coating mid-palate. Flavors abound; red and black fruits, figs, plums, dashes of nutmeg, crushed cashews and waffle cone are blessed with a hint of dried herbs and cola on the finish.  

...more Phase 10....I just know it.

Puttering has heart - a rhythm to its madness - it soothes and it occupies us.  But for now, the music has stopped, so the record I must flip...

Sunday, August 26, 2012

Where it Falls

Virginia writes about it in her diary, and so too does Rilke, and countless others, I suppose - this fickle life we shun at times for its unpredictability.  They don't linger though, as I do these days, fretting about how to "fix" it before it happens (control is more directly the word I'm meaning, though); their words are more focused on the regrouping and gathering of the bits left over when what we wanted and expected is instead a naive memory of an unmeasured wish.

There's been a great deal of change lately, some large and some small - a new job for one of us, new responsibilities and shifting priorities for both of us, and most days we're just happy to sink into the one unwavering foundation - the base of "us".

We're making it through though - hopeful of what's just on the other side of this and thankful to have the option for something different, for the possibility of better.  In the glimmer and worry involved in the anticipation of better, I'm taking the words above to heart and taking more time in this act of living that includes the curation of days and the arrangement of the pieces (an act I adore), but more so, remembering to take them as they come, not simply as I want them or need them, but all of them like a mother who loves without bounds, these pieces of life.

So we went blueberry picking and I mastered the grasses and needy branches with red ballet flats and felt warm and silly and happy.  My sister, a mouth full of blueberries and a bucket rattling with the few that made it in, laughed and took photographs.  Andrew washed dishes and I dried, and the record played the soundtrack to The Big Chill and we sang every lyric - most of them correctly.

In a few hours we'll walk a block over to the local theater to catch a documentary I've been waiting months to see, and then tomorrow we'll return to work once more and just maybe I'll be a touch better about the they come our way.

Friday, May 25, 2012

An Open Letter to Lauren, on Her Birthday

Dear Lauren,

This was the sun waking up this morning, rising, coming  'round. Just before I snapped this picture, there was a bird, let's say black for the sake of my sleep filled eyes, and just below what you can see here is a small, older woman, clad in her brightest white walking shoes, shuffling her way down the street.  I tell you all of this because I like to think they're all up, all taking part in life the best they can in celebration of you.  It's maybe the best celebration I can think of for this day of yours - that the world, in all its fractured beauty, puts itself out there just a little bit more, gives itself to you just a little bit more.

In a few hours you'll be sitting, coffee in hand, making a list for your year ahead - adding, editing, and possibly re-imagining the days barreling forth. I am reminded of your love for lists - a way of making sense of what resists, of capturing the lofty and unfettered, of organizing the rebellious and unwitting tasks, of addressing the neglected, and it reminds me why you make so much sense to me, which seems funny to say, I know.

Making sense to someone when you are little and both you and the friend from school love Mr. Rogers, well, that's not so hard, and making sense to someone when you're slightly older and carrying around a marbled black and white composition book because you are going to be Harriet (the Spy), well that's a bit tougher though not uncommon, but making sense to someone as an adult when you are all of those things and more and really, still want to be Harriet, well, that's a different thing altogether.  It isn't about just liking or loving someone for who they are, or really, in spite of it.  If we're being honest, it's about no questions asked, hands down, in the center of your heart responses to the other person that always say "Yes, of course".

Friend, today and in the year ahead, I am wishing for you everything your list will hold and more.  I am wishing for you what you do not yet know you wish for yourself.  I am wishing for you the superbly unexpected - the kind of happenstance that will change all of those wishes in the best and most unexpected way.  I am wishing for you days that remind you, even when it feels impossible, that you are part of something bigger and smaller simultaneously and that your contribution, even when you're sure you haven't made one, keeps it all in motion.

I am wishing you a year when the world says to you "Yes, of course".

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

Tuesday Manifesto

I thought about my Spring Manifesto off and on all day yesterday. I mentally added to the list, reflected on how I might accomplish some of the items, and then unfortunately, as the day picked up, I caught myself trying to apply too many of my spring-wide wishes to the limitations of one basic weekday. In a matter of minutes I was both overwhelmed and disappointed, wanting to make 2pm on a Monday as magical as the manifesto's call.

This morning, after a bit of sleep, I awoke with this thought: a Tuesday Manifesto! Though really any day of the week would do. Instead of trying to fit a season's worth of good intentions into one day, I'm offering myself and my 2pm sanity, something smaller; I'm giving my heart something a bit more manageable.

Tuesday Manifesto:

This Tuesday, I will use the early morning hours to enjoy coffee in my office, while writing a new post.

I will pack the yogurt and strawberries I forgot yesterday for a snack today.

I will read my new book on the bus ride to work and then home.

I will listen to my current favorite band while working on Visual Management.

I will take more deep breaths, and I will go outside for a break when I think I don't need it.

I will wear a favorite sweater and bury myself in it when necessary.

I will remind myself that home promises breakfast for dinner, strawberry mango smoothies, and a husband who will remind me I'm doing a great job, regardless of failures I list to him from my day.

I will trust in my voice, even when it is weak, and I will share it, even when it's easier not to.

I will allow the day to be good.

Monday, April 16, 2012

Spring Manifesto

I love the promise implied in a good manifesto. I love the way that, even when the most cynical parts of me urge resistance to possibility in what feels like futile times, the declaration of "wills" outweighs "wont's". I love that a title so seemingly rigid (Manifesto!) could contain such whimsical assertions.

A favorite artist/writer of mine, Shari, has featured her seasonal manifestos on her blog for as long as I can remember - spanning years, and cities, and sites. This past month she featured a selection of people on her page, all sharing their own Spring Manifestos, and it had my mind racing. What would I write? What do I want to see/do/make this season? And finally, what's holding me back from writing my own? The answer: nothing. So, in fine (albeit tardy) fashion, below is my own manifesto. If you'd like to read more, you can find Shari's gathering here:

Spring Manifesto:

This spring I will take a drive through the farm roads of Western Washington and stop at all the tiny stands for bits of fruit and vegetables harvested from the ground I stand on to purchase it.

I will slow down when I can, and remind myself that the intensity of the work season need not necessarily follow me home.

I will continue to perfect my loaves of dutch oven bread.

I will hang curtains in the bay windows in the front room and let the sun shine through sheers midday.

I will continue, even when I think it doesn't matter all that much, to buy small bouquets of inexpensive spring flowers at the market so that home will be dotted with colorful reminders of outdoors.

I will reread, as I do each year, a few Beverly Cleary books, and I will remember what it was like to be young and in love with words, and what it is like to be older and still in love with words.

I will take more walks with my cameras, and try not to only rely on the quick allure of Instagram.

I will sit on the back steps more as the sun goes down and enjoy the sky as it's painted, and I will think of this scene and then run off to read the book again.

I will write more.

I will be kinder to myself when I do not write more.

I will write more.

This spring, I will do the best I can.

Saturday, April 14, 2012

For You

One day, you will wake from your covering
and that heart of yours will be totally mended,
and there will be no more burning within.
And the rooster will call in the setting sun
and the sun will be beckoned homeward,
hiding behind your one tree that was not felled.
-from "One Day" by Patricia Jabbeh Wesley

Dear You,

You asked for this, though I know I won't give you exactly what you wished for. I know you want answers, and I've none. I know you want soothing, but I fear this may be thin. What I wish, though I'm not sure it matters, is that these words you requested could span the digital page, reach across the physical divide that separates us, and hold you as I would, were we together. What I wish is that this not be a lament for what you're losing, or have already lost, but a cheer for the gain - the upcoming wonders perched and ready to take over your life.

I would like to say, more than ever, that you will not hurt, that you will not cry and regret and second guess and anger, that you will not be overwhelmed with moments and maybe even days of impossibility, but I know it isn't true. I would like to say that you will be okay, and I will, but I won't pretend that finale will come swift, or that you won't choose at a thousand different times, to privy comfort and safety over that future peace.

So, in the absence of all I'd like, and all the clean, neat packaged cheers, I will share a truth you know, but may not, like me, always remember. The sun rises. It comes out, even when we think it won't, in the early hours of the morning when the late hours of the evening have just kept us up, gripped with worry and fear. It comes out, even when the winter's length nudges it into quiet corners, when the gloom of colder months assures us that the warmth of another is more valuable than our own. It comes out, even when we beg it not to, and it sheds light on what we did not wish to see, and casts shadows on what thought we wanted. And then, just when we thought we could not, we see it bring to light what we needed, and we allow it to shadow what we're leaving behind.

The sun comes out and the day goes on. We go on. You, my dear, will go on.

I think it's safe to say that you will need to be brave and courageous, but those are not traits you've ever run short on, anyhow. You'll need to face yourself more than anyone else, and that's probably the biggest battle. You'll need, though knowing you, you won't want to, to let go of the plan - there's a new plan in the works and it can't give any more time to that one.

The sadness is coming, like it hasn't quite yet, but it brings with it the sun, just after the shadow, and I can't wait for you to see's going to be amazing.

Until then, I offer you these humble words from very far away, and I hope I'm smart enough keep it close to heart myself - I think we might all need a reminder of sun at times. It rises, and you will, too.

Monday, March 5, 2012

Hello Monday

This weekend was so slow and puttering and lovely that I'm rough adjustment into Monday. It will officially begin very soon as I slip out the door to the bus, but until then I thought it might be nice to reflect on the glory of the restful days behind me:

-early morning coffee and pancakes
-a walk through town to the antique mall
-the purchase of a box of tiny, plastic Scottie dog charms
-the purchase of a teeny tiny version of my desk chair
-the realization that the price card "Tiny Odd Items" sums up most of my life
-a plate of Spanish cheese, a creamy wadge of brie, olives, pistachios, and dark chocolate
-a shared small bottle of Angry Orchards cider with above mentioned snack
-library trips and book sales
-cleaning the house (including sweeping! and dusting!) in under and hour
-rewarding our quick but thorough clean with another walk through town
-stopping off mid-walk for a strawberry milkshake shared with two red straws
-finishing "An Everlasting Meal" by Tamar Adler - such a good book
-watching the Charles and Ray Eames documentary
-planning my own "uniforms" like Ray Eames (the pockets in her dresses went to the hems!)
-reading this article and thinking- Yes! that's how I'd like to be described

Thursday, March 1, 2012

Early On

There, then, is the role of the amateur: to look the world back to grace.
- Robert Farrar Capon

Yesterday, at the end of a long, scampering day, I flipped open the front cover of my new book and read the quote above. I was still at work, still packing up the remainders of the day, but I wanted to pause for a moment to see if there was an epitaph (I distrust many books that begin without one - more on that another time). Then, as I read this brief line, rolling it over and over again in my mind, it was as if everything that buzzed so insistently through my head all day quieted, and for at least a moment I felt a little more in control.

In the very early morning I crawl out of bed, untangling myself from Andrew's long armed grasp, tip-toeing as gently as possible through creaky old doors and over creaky old floors, and I spend the early hours in outward silence and inward chatter (the good kind). Without realizing it, part of why I love this time so much is that I can, in a way, "think the world back to grace." It's all perspective, and though that's really true all day, these early morning hours are more readily in my grasp, calmer and quieter, and easier to notice. What happens, the best part really, is that the more I look the world back to grace during the early hours, the more I see it as the day progresses, the kinder I feel to myself and those around me. It's easier, I guess, to look life back to grace when you've offered it to yourself first - when you've seen the value.

Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Some Days

Some days are not as neat and lovely as others. Today thumped a bit, and though I'm tempted by the metaphor of a square wheel, it often felt a bit more octagonal as it clunk, clunk, clunked.

But, some days have yellow and orange Ranunculus to welcome you home, and a new issue of a favorite magazine, and the reminder of unused bath salts, and really, as I look back over this short list, the realization that you're playing out a scene from a film centered around a woman's trip abroad in which she find's herself (and some half dressed man that just happens to be loitering around her vacation spot).

Work is busy and gaining speed, and good changes are happening and on the horizon still. I spend every spare moment curled into Andrew's side, thankful for any and all extra time I get to spend with him,comforted by the scent of his soap and the old, yellowed pages of the paperback he's been carrying around.

Some days start rough, show promise, muddy themselves, disappoint you, then surprise you. Some days don't offer such variety. Whatever the mix, I'm grateful for the kind that end with clean, warm sheets and a kiss.

Thursday, February 23, 2012

The Stories

"We tell ourselves stories in order to live." - Joan Didion

I didn't intend to go so long between posts, but unexpectedly things shifted this week after a daytime burglary at our apartment. I feel so many mixed emotions about what happened - about walking in on a kitchen full of shattered glass, a missing laptop, the space on my dresser where my jewelry box used to be, the feeling of violation and confusion about "home". We've been picking up the pieces, and each day I feel better - sleep really helps with that sense of well-being.

But, and thank goodness there's a but, the most important thing I share this space with was fine, and I'm fine, too. It's pretty great to have someone that makes even the worst of situations seems simple, manageable.

I worried at first that I'd begin to hate this apartment I'd once loved so much, or our little downtown neighborhood, but thankfully, something in the past few days has shifted back, and when we took a walk after work the other night and I snapped a picture of the sky, I knew my city and my home and I would be on good terms again soon. Tomorrow I'll walk a block to the library to pick up the books I requested, and tonight, as a treat after this long, long week so far, Andrew will walk a block to pick up some delicious Kung Pao from a small, smiling woman that cheerfully said "Hi, Andrew" the minute he began to speak, and before work tomorrow I will stop into the best coffee shop in town and catch up with the lovely barista who will welcome me by name and begin my lattee right away, and when I leave I will feel more than grateful for the coffee - I will feel grateful for my home.

I'm disappointed that someone made such a bad decision, and disspointed even more that they took items from me with sentimental value that they will not be able to reap much reward from and most likely toss aside. What I am not disappointed in this time is myself, and maybe that's part of this whole 30 thing, but I didn't cry or yell or curse anyone. I've made some bad decisions, too, and I'm destined to make more still, and though I console myself with the notion that at least my decisions don't hurt others, I think we all know that's not true - emotional hurt is just as strong as the physical representations - just maybe, at times, less intentional.

For now, in the midst of theses stories I tell myself in order to live, I put myself to sleep each night with this one - about a girl and a boy who were fortunate enough to know when they hadn't really lost anything at all.

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

In the Beginning, Coffee

It seemed fitting, I think, to begin with a dark morning cup. Every Sunday through Thursday, Andrew arrives home from work just after 2AM, and while he unwinds from his shift and prepares for bed, he brews a pot of coffee for me in the french press or Chemex and fills a thermal carafe, which he then sets on the side table of the couch alongside a mug. He knows which mugs are my favorites, and he always alternates between them. Some days the coffee is accompanied by a handwritten note scrawled on a scrap of paper, and sometimes a small gift he picked up in the aisles of the store the night before - the man knows how giddy small plastic farm sets make me.

This ritual, continued at 5AM when I wake up for the day, is one of the parts of life I am most grateful for; it's one of the parts of our marriage I'm most grateful for, even though it occurs as we cross paths. We don't meet while awake during these hours, but his gift to me is priceless: a little under two early morning hours of uninterrupted reading, writing, and puttering, coffee provided. Yesterday was Valentine's Day, and as my workplace filled with flower deliveries, boxes of chocolates, and tales of dinner reservations, I found myself answering the question quite often - "What did Andrew do for you?" Looking back, I think I explained that we don't really observe the holiday, or that I thought I might receive an amazing letterpress card per our usual (which I did), but what I wish I would have said is this: a cup of really incredible coffee made in the dark of the early morning by a slow, simple method that does not involve an auto-timer. We don't do much on the "one" day, but goodness knows, he's got the everyday locked.