Monday, December 31, 2007

things I've learned from 2007 and some pictures from a disposable camera

Hi Friends! Happy New Year! Welcome 2008! (Insert inspirational quote here). Here are my New Year's Faux/Real-Resolutions (the fun part is figuring out which ones I'm being serious about). Warning: this is an extremely sarcastic post. Those still high on "the Christmas spirit" should stop reading immediately and go trolling for leftover Christmas cookies.
Okay, here goes:

1. Make fewer resolutions; instead, tell people that, against all odds and with the help of last year's resolutions, I have crafted myself into the most perfect human specimen ever to grace the planet. And, also, that I have finally memorized the Bible.
2. Convince Nathan that Epcot Center does NOT count as traveling the world.
3. Always bet on Red 23 (Thanks, Cole!)
4. Learn to love the smell of dead crickets and freshmen body odor.
5. Begrudgingly agree to George Eads' restraining order.
6. Stop smelling my right hand and/or blogging about it.
7. Never use inspirational quotes. If quote is in stanza form, okay. Rhyming poems need not apply.
8. Start heavily drinking, smoking and get more tattoos.
9. Open tiny shop where I cut hair as well as selling button necklaces and the "perfect" grilled cheese sandwich.
10. Smile more.

What are you planning on doing differently in 2008? Only joke comments, please... Nobody wants to hear about your new diet/exercise/goodwill/"finding joy in the small things" garbage.

Here are some pictures from our crappy disposable camera to bring you tidings of comfort and joy.

The Weed "twins" who look nothing alike:
We like to pose by outdated modes of transportation used in the wild west.
Yes... another stagecoach.
Er... Paige and Philip, getting crazy.

Does anyone else wonder where my feet have gone?

My nephew Benjamin, whose smile makes me smile.

This is my friend Hope, who successfully ordered a drink that is like hot chocolate, but only with vanilla.

Wednesday, December 19, 2007

What I finally settled on after searching unsuccessfully for a Christmas poem that I liked.

"Prayer" by Jorie Graham

Over a dock railing, I watch the minnows, thousands, swirl
themselves, each a minuscule muscle, but also, without the
way to create current, making of their unison (turning, re-
entering and exiting their own unison in unison) making of themselves a
visual current, one that cannot freight or sway by
minutest fractions the water's downdrafts and upswirls, the
dockside cycles of finally-arriving boat-wakes, there where
they hit deeper resistance, water that seems to burst into
itself (it has those layers) a real current though mostly
invisible sending into the visible (minnows) arrowing
motion that forces change --
this is freedom. This is the force of faith. Nobody gets
what they want. Never again are you the same. The longing
is to be pure. What you get is to be changed. More and more by
each glistening minute, through which infinity threads itself,
also oblivion, of course, the aftershocks of something
at sea. Here, hands full of sand, letting it sift through
the wind, I look in and say take this, this is
what I have saved, take this, hurry. And if I listen
now? Listen, I was not saying anything. It was only
something I did. I could not choose words. I am free to go.
I cannot of course come back. Not to this. Never.
It is a ghost posed on my lips. Here: never.

Saturday, December 15, 2007

beginnings, middles and ends

A white van just delivered a Christmas present, boots from my twin brother Chris. They are green and made of soft suede, but I will not open the package yet. I am saving them for a trip to Boston in the Spring.

My last post was a poem about beginnings, middles and ends from my favorite poet, Billy Collins. I love the way he describes these stages in snapshots; the multiplicity of images for each word makes me think differently about our obsession with linearity, the idea that my life is going from a horizontal Point A to Point B to Point C, with spaces in the middle to signify each stage, and then it will be over. In contrast, all at the same time, I feel I am at the beginning, middle, and ends of many things. I tend to think of time as not linear, but more like a spirograph, or a repeating circle, except it is one of those spirographs that never turned out right: the center was always moving, and so the circles never exactly met in the middle, but it was close enough to make some things overlap. I recently read in an article about Dirk Nowitski (he went on a walkabout after last season) that Aborigines in Australia believe that the past and the future travel with you in the present. I really like that idea, and I can see that working with my spirograph. Crossings are so much more interesting if you can rely on things from the past to help you see the future clearly.

Like most of you reading this (I'm assuming), I like to take walks. Many famous writers have loved walking, including Pound and Hemingway. I just realized that I like to walk more in the winter than in the summer; there is something about walking in my street clothes in the cold that reminds me of my time in graduate school in Boston. I used to get off of the T (the subway) a couple of miles before the Boylston stop for Emerson and walk through Back Bay in the morning, just to walk early as the sun was rising and see Boston waking up as I went. I would usually stop and get a coffee, holding it carefully as my boots clomped on the red cobblestones and the bells jangled as the shopkeepers opened doors and hosed off the sidewalks. I remember striped green-and-white awnings and cursive sale signs. I remember white children's layettes and alphabet blocks in some windows and tiny chocolate cakes on trays in others. I smelled cinnamon and I smelled fish bones and I smelled snow. I smelled grease and paper and leather. I walked past courtyards and flower pots and ripe tomatoes. I walked past people sweeping and skulking and kissing in doorways. I walked through Boston on those early mornings, and I felt as if I walked through my whole life.

Though I enjoy my walks around campus and around my neighborhood, I miss those Back Bay streets. Sometimes I drive downtown just to walk on concrete, to feel the solidness of a city, even though some would scoff at that notion. I'm looking forward to the trip to Boston in March, and to walking and to walking and to walking. I know I will feel the past underneath my feet and the future pushing me onward to the public gardens, where the swans are swimming in lazy circles, and their wings make ripples in the dark water.


"Aristotle" by Billy Collins

This is the beginning.
Almost anything can happen.
This is where you find
the creation of light, a fish wriggling onto land,
the first word of Paradise Lost on an empty page.
Think of an egg, the letter A,
a woman ironing on a bare stage
as the heavy curtain rises.
This is the very beginning.
The first-person narrator introduces himself,
tells us about his lineage.
The mezzo-soprano stands in the wings.
Here the climbers are studying a map
or pulling on their long woolen socks.
This is early on, years before the Ark, dawn.
The profile of an animal is being smeared
on the walls of a cave,
and you have not yet learned to crawl.
This is the opening, the gambit,
a pawn moving forward an inch.
This is your first night with her,
your first night without her.
This is the first part
where the wheels begin to turn,
where the elevator begins its ascent,
before the doors lurch apart.

This is the middle.
Things have had time to get complicated,
messy, really. Nothing is simple anymore.
Cities have sprouted up along the rivers
teeming with people at cross-purposes --
a million schemes, a million wild looks.
Disappointment unshoulders his knapsack
here and pitches his ragged tent.
This is the sticky part where the plot congeals,
where the action suddenly reverses
or swerves off in an outrageous direction.
Here the narrator devotes a long paragraph
to why Miriam does not want Edward's child.
Someone hides a letter under a pillow.
Here the aria rises to a pitch,
a song of betrayal, salted with revenge.
And the climbing party is stuck on a ledge
halfway up the mountain.
This is the bridge, the painful modulation.
This is the thick of things.
So much is crowded into the middle --
the guitars of Spain, piles of ripe avacados,
Russian uniforms, noisy parties,
lakeside kisses, arguments heard through a wall --
too much to name, too much to think about.

And this is the end,
the car running out of road,
the river losing its name in an ocean,
the long nose of the photographed horse
touching the white electric line.
This is the colophon, the last elephant in the parade,
the empty wheelchair,
and pigeons floating down in the evening.
Here the stage is littered with bodies,
the narrator leads the characters to their cells,
and the climbers are in their graves.
It is me hitting the period
and you closing the book.
It is Sylvia Plath in the kitchen
and St. Clement with an anchor around his neck.
This is the final bit
thinning away to nothing.
This is the end, according to Aristotle,
what we have all been waiting for,
what everything comes down to,
the destination we cannot help imagining,
a streak of light in the sky,
a hat on a peg, and outside the cabin, falling leaves.

Tuesday, December 11, 2007

in absentia

Hello friends,
I decided to come up with a list of things I will NEVER blog about because I was trying to think of things to write, and everything that came to mind sounded really boring. Making a list does not count as blogging. But if I do, in the future, blog about one of these things, then you can make me do something embarrassing, e.g., wear a retainer or make shadow puppets.

Okay, here's the list:
1. the most recent episode of "The Hills"
2. grading final exams
3. politics, or more specifically, any post in which I write, "And that is why the death penalty/abortion/gun control/tax is right/wrong."
4. why my right hand smells weird at this moment
5. why using a calculator makes me happy
6. dieting/overeating associated with the holidays
7. the weather, generally speaking (specific comments on nature/solar system/birds are okay)
8. "getting into the Christmas spirit"
9. the contents of my desk drawer
10. what "in absentia" technically means

Sunday, December 2, 2007

praying in color, or doodling

Tonight at a small group meeting of friends, we tried "praying in color." This is a prayer practice based on Sybil Macbeth's book of the same name. But you don't really need the book. All you need is a piece of paper and a pen or markers. She recommends keeping the doodling to abstract shapes, names, lines, squiggles and dots, but basically the point of the whole thing is to think of doodling as prayer; the drawing/coloring helps us to focus on our concerns, and then the right brain makes creative associations and connections. I love this practice, and I think it can help me listen, which is something I'm trying to do more of every day. I have been particularly thinking about people I know for whom the holidays are a sad or difficult time.

Also, you can learn a lot about a person from their doodlings. I flipped through a book of Presidential doodlings once, and they were fascinating: Nixon's were perverse, Clinton's boring; or was it the other way around? At this point, I can't remember, but I'm having fun typing the word "doodling." And now it sounds really weird.

On that note, here are some lingering questions from my week (please comment, by all means):
1. Why don't people wear ear muffs anymore?
2. Why is it so hard to know when to STOP decorating? (I'm particularly thinking of holiday lights and lawn ornaments, cakes, and hair dye).
3. When you call someone's cell phone, why does it take five minutes of listening to detailed instructions just to be able to leave a message? Don't we already know that "beep" means "start talking"? ("At the beep, please record your message. When you are finished with your message, you may either hang up, or push pound for more options.")
4. What is it about remembering our dreams that is so exciting and yet so disconcerting?
5. What is it about a person carving a gigantic roast beef at the end of every buffet that makes me lose my appetite?

p.s. Many thanks to Drs. Jaime Goff and Jackie Halstead for the "Praying in Color" idea.

Monday, November 26, 2007

the accident

It was an accident,
your average fender bender
with a glacial blue van
that shimmered like fish scales
in the wet intersection.

It was like gently bumping
the boy in front of you
at the water fountain line,
except the boy turns,
droplets clinging to his snarling lips,
and he is an older man
wearing a black scarf and a camel coat
blooming blotchy as his face.

What were you thinking, he keeps saying.
It’s only a week old.
I count my husband’s apologies
through the windshield,
his hair spiking with the salty spray
of rain and rising frustration.

The words between them are choppy,
compressed as suddenly
as the space between
our bumper and his.

The scarfed man looks at me, darkly.
I am impassive and buoyant,
bobbing aimlessly as a bird
in the gray passenger sea.

His wife, in her matching camel boots,
emerges from the yawning whale’s mouth
and rounds behind the wheezing newborn,
a leviathan transport netted from the deep.

The whale and I sigh heavily under her scrutiny.
She runs her hand quickly
along the wet bumper, flinging a sheet of water
over our shared maritime misfortune,
and I can feel the fin smooth under her fingers,
as smooth as cerulean sea glass,
tumbled up on concrete shore.

p.s. I also wanted to title this "The Fin-der Bender" or "A Whale of a Tale" but decided it didn't quite go with the poem's tone. :)

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

days, or a poem disguising a note to my sister

"Days" by Billy Collins

Each one is a gift, no doubt,
mysteriously placed in your waking hand
or set upon your forehead
moments before you open your eyes.

Today begins cold and bright,
the ground heavy with snow
and the thick masonry of ice,
the sun glinting off the turrets of clouds.

Through the calm eye of the window
everything in its place
but so precariously
this day might be resting somehow

on the one before it,
all the days of the past stacked high
like the impossible tower of dishes
entertainers used to build on stage.

No wonder you find yourself
perched on the top of a tall ladder
hoping to add one more.
Just another Wednesday,

you whisper,
then holding your breath,
place this cup on yesterday's saucer
without the slightest clink.

p.s. I hope that tomorrow will not be "just another Wednesday" for you. See you all next week.

p.p.s. Dear Paige, if you are reading this: DO NOT eat all of the marshmallow yum-yum salad before I get there. I know you are the one who makes it, but still... :)

Monday, November 19, 2007

happy thanksgiving

10 things that I am thankful for besides my family, friends, students, dog and God:
1. words
2. those who read them
3. smiles
4. those who share them
5. kleenex
6. those who offer them
7. cows
8. those who milk them (and add chocolate)
9. trees
10. those who plant/climb/walk underneath them
I know my blog hasn't expressed this enough, and maybe it is passe to be thankful during Thanksgiving, but I am thankful for my life and the chance to share it with you all.

Friday, November 16, 2007

the eye doctor

The eye doctor is gentle and always says please.
Please now, rest your chin on the black plastic disc,
center your forehead and stare straight ahead.

As if the word rest could bring comfort,
as if I could close my eyes
in this black plastic muzzle and snore.

I suddenly remember my eyes as round.

He is looking through, to the backs of my retinas,
at rods and cones and optic disks --
the pathways to reflection etched before I was born.

My eyes are watering from the sharp absence of blink,
but I don’t. And then I do. Blink.

I pretend that the flickering pulse of light
is a distant star, and I am only
one science fiction moment away from the milky way
splayed out around me --
all of that black cavernous space
instead of these tight elbows of robotic arms.

I am remembering how blind I have been, seeing
the succession of patting doctor’s hands,
the sharp bright light of bad news.
Sympathy makes space between vowels:
No, no, not this time.

I wonder why it is the very thing that we try not to think
when we don’t want to cry that makes us cry.

I find myself blurry at the eye-chart.

I can’t identify a single sculpted S,
and when the mustachioed man with the soft voice
asks if I’ve always had those scars deep
on the backside of my retinas,
I am still mute.
He continues asking the unanswerable questions.
Better? Or worse? Better? Or worse?

I do everything the eye doctor asks.
I even show him how his photograph of the eyeball,
a fiery explosion of lava, moon and dust,
looks exactly like a supernova.

And when he laughs,
softer still,
I realize that I’ve made him see something he couldn’t before.

Dry and dilated, I feel my way into the blinding sun.
I make sure, then, to remember that I have cried.
I have cried for one light year,
and twenty minutes of wet relief
have made me squint again.

Monday, November 12, 2007

a thin, albeit itchy place

Today as I was laying between sun and grass in my backyard, here are some things I thought about:
1. Mike Cope's explanation on Sunday of "thin places." This idea appeals to me, but I am having trouble really identifying with it. Now, I may have not gotten this totally correct, what with my tendency to contemplate vampire teeth during sermons, but what I think I heard was that these are places where heaven and earth are collapsed; therefore, we go to or remember these places to feel God's presence or listen to him. Mike's main biblical example was the place where Jacob had his Dream. During service, we were asked to share our thin places with our neighbor.
The person sitting behind my friend had a brilliant, meaningful thin place, which I don't quite feel comfortable sharing, even though I'm not vain enough to think he will ever read this. However, it had to do with his late wife and our weekly recitation of the Lord's Prayer.
On the other hand, I made up a thin place, so I wouldn't be a bad Christian. Okay, so yes, I like the Boston Commons. And my parents' trees. And many different lakes, beaches and swimming pools. I used to have places where I could go to be in nature or water and be alone, and maybe I thought I was communing with God, but now I'm not so sure they were really "thin places," not like Jacob's. Maybe I'm just confused. Do we really need a "place" to commemorate those we've loved and lost? Or am I making this too hard? Maybe we do all need a place in our memory, a place of profound beauty or loss or change to help us understand who we are.
2. I really hate when people spread rumors in church about books/movies that they haven't read or seen, based upon internet research and/or hearsay. I believe that this is a form of Censorship. The latest young adult literature book to be crucified by non-reading parents everywhere: Philip Pullman's The Golden Compass series.
3. I should get my oil changed.
4. Maybe this is a thin place. And maybe you shouldn't try to discuss theological issues in your blog. You don't really pay attention enough to do that.
5. Yes, your dog is about to eat her own feces if you don't stop her.

Saturday, November 10, 2007

lunch, with friends

It was a day when I said everything was fine.
I was messy and put my feet on the dashboard.
I pulled at my bangs.
We drove until we saw them walking toward us on white gravel.
I pointed to the smokestack waving under clouds.
We squinted.
We ate chicken fried steak and were surprised.
Seven sat at the table, tasting friendship one bite at a time.
I pulled the child away at the last second.
He bowed his head when I tickled him.
He laughed in a striped shirt.
We made promises in the parking lot.
We only told a little because we were so happy to be there.

Thursday, November 8, 2007

revenge of the nerds

This may seem like a very strange subject for a blog, but I am irritated with my students for undervaluing and disparaging nerds. For the last two class periods of Freshman English, we have been watching a documentary called Spellbound, which won the Academy Award in 2001 for Best Doc. It basically chronicles the journey of 8 contestants in the National Spelling Bee. Several of the spellers' parents are immigrants and their teachers comment on how this affects their worldviews; however, wherever they are from, the spellers all value hard work, discipline and intelligence. Let me say that my students, who are watching the documentary, have shown me that most of them do NOT value these attributes. I can tell from their responses to the video that, for the most part, they think these kids are certifiably crazy. They scoff at statements like "I study 8 hours a day in the summer, and 5 during the school year." They laugh at the kids' nerdy glasses, speech impediments and awkward idiosyncrasies. This makes me furious. Especially at the ones who are failing my class. They just fail to see the connection between hard work and success. In fact, I have had several students come to me recently complaining about their lack of motivation. What I want to know is why these students were never taught to value these attributes, to understand that the "nerdier" you are, the more success, and the more opportunities for success, is available for you later on.

I grew up in a snobby/rich/privileged (however you want to say it) part of Houston. I was NOT what I would consider a "nerd," (too busy trying to get into trouble with my "bad" friends and/or swimming 2-5 hours a day), though I was in the Honors Society and made good grades. However, I always had a keen sense of the fact that the nerds would have the final say. So they're awkward or socially uncomfortable... but so what? It just really does not make sense to ridicule someone who can spell 40,000 more words than I can.
Lately, I have found myself apologizing for being a "nerd." When people asked me to explain my Halloween costume, and my answer was "poetry in motion," I apologized for my "nerdy" idea. When people ask me what I do, and I talk about my PhD in Literature or teaching at a university, I often apologize by saying, "I'm a giant nerd." This clears the air, and makes people (women and men) feel at ease. Maybe I shouldn't do that, but I find it helps to keep the conversation from sudden death. However, deep down inside, I am very proud of the fact that I can say that. I am a nerd. I am lover of learning and literature and words and poetry. It's so much better than the alternative. So, Student X, when I tell you we don't need the running commentary during the movie, what I'm really saying is, don't diss my peeps, dude. You could learn a lot from them.

Monday, November 5, 2007

I came home, and washed the day off my face.

"Escapist -- Never" by Robert Frost

She is no fugitive -- escaped, escaping.
No one has seen her stumble looking back.
Her fear is not behind her but beside her
On either hand to make her course perhaps
A crooked straightness yet no less a straightness.
She runs face forward. She is a pursuer.
She seeks a seeker who in her turn seeks
Another still, lost far into the distance.
Any who seek her seek in her the seeker.
Her life is a pursuit of a pursuit forever.
It is the future that creates her present.
All is an interminable chain of longing.

p.s. I changed all the masculine pronouns to feminine ones, because it's my blog, and I can do what I want. This poem means something to me today, a day when I feel as if I have tried too hard at life. Meanwhile, I read three poems at the Shinnery poetry reading tonight. Then I ate some cherry pie with a plastic fork.

Thursday, November 1, 2007

an ordinary day, or 10 miracles

Okay, so a big thanks to those of you who filled out my questionnaire from last week (and to all who have read and/or commented). Your responses were informative and entertaining, though I was a little disappointed with your dreams. But maybe that is in comparison to the wacked-out stuff I seem to conjure every night. (Maybe next time... )

Anyway, like I said I would a while back, I tried to make a list of ordinary things (see "falling in love with carrots"), but everything "ordinary" ended up seeming amazing to me. My list of "ordinary" things was reduced to 2 things: coke cans and paperclips, and even those have an element of the divine. So NOT ordinary. So I decided not to try. (Though I would love lists from you all.)

Instead, I will list some "ordinary" things (read: amazing miracles) that happened to me today at ACU. Most of them have to do with my students, since I've been here since 7:30. Who knows what will happen when I step foot off campus!
These are in no particular order. Enjoy.
1. One of my students described a doctor taking two pins out of his hand. Two words from that conversation: "slippage" and "bone."
2. I opened a book to a poem about a cat. Then, I emailed the poem to a good friend.
3. Seven people commented on my zebra-striped shoes.
4. Five students laughed when I told another student that his journal entry (he asked to share) was the worst drawing I had ever seen in my entire life. It was.
5. I ate a really good chicken strip given to me by another good friend.
6. When I was "grading," I realized that people walking by my window were making beautiful shadows on the wall.
7. At 7:32 a.m., a David Gray song, listened to for the 5 millionth time, made me tear up. Me: sitting in my car, spilling coffee on myself. The lyric: "Say hello and wave goodbye."
8. Nathan called me and had good news.
9. Many books on the bookshelf to the left of me. My own private cheering section.
10. A memory of sitting on the garage roof when I was 10, with my brother. Swinging my legs over the gutter.

Well, I realize this entry might produce quite a yawn, but to me, these things matter.

Friday, October 26, 2007

my favorite sign, ever

Every Sunday on my way to church, I pass this sign on Grape St. and it makes me laugh out loud. I REALLY want to go in!

Wednesday, October 24, 2007

"In our sleep, pain which cannot forget falls drop by drop upon our heart until, in our own despair, against our will, comes wisdom through the awful grace of God."


falling in love with carrots, or #2, on writing

"Recently I moved to Santa Fe, and since there were few writing jobs here, I worked as a cook part-time in a local restaurant. Waking up at six a.m. on Sunday to cook brunch all day, I questioned my fate. At eight a.m. I was busy cutting carrots at a diagonal, noticing the orange of them and thinking to myself, "This is really very deep." I fell in love with carrots. I laughed. "So this is what has become of me! Too easily satisfied with so little."
Learn to write about the ordinary. Give homage to old coffee cups, sparrows, city buses, thin ham sandwiches. Make a list of everything ordinary you can think of. Keep adding to it. Promise yourself, before you leave the earth, to mention everything on your list at least once in a poem, short story, newspaper article."
-- from Writing Down the Bones, by Natalie Goldberg
(An "ordinary" list is forthcoming by the author of this blog who just this morning fell in love with the sound of laughter.)

Monday, October 22, 2007

the dreaded questionnaire

You've seen them. The lists of questions asked of random celebrities, average Joes and working moms that are displayed in commercials, magazines and on television. Sometimes the subjects even fill out the forms themselves (with a pen!), and we're supposed to feel grateful to feel so close to them. All I feel is depressed. Our culture is obsessed with dreaming up series of questions in service of "getting to know" the people who populate the world around us. But are we really getting closer, or are we just distancing ourselves?
Honestly, I, too, love reading the answers to these questions, to knowing how Beyonce would finish the phrase "most unusual gift..." (the answer, if you must know, is "rhinestone studded pedicure spacers"). Ugh. But part of me is definitely annoyed by these "lists;" as if by filling in some arbitrary Mad Libs concocted by American Express or Nike or mass email, we can really find connection. Take for example, the eight questions from Real Simple magazine's "real life: meet a Real Simple reader." I would love to know the answers to these questions from my friends and family. Really. But what I would really like would be to sit down with my friend or family member and have a conversation with them in which the answers to these questions were made clear at least semi-organically. Why does our culture crave the filled-in blank? And why are THESE the questions "everyone" wants to know? I'm intrigued and yet perplexed.
Okay, so, because you are dying to know, here are Real Simple's questions this month.
1. What are you really good at?
2. If you could change places with anyone, living or dead, for one day, who would it be?
3. Would you rather be a little smarter, or a little sexier? (Jeez...)
4. The best decision I ever made was...
5. What was your mother right about?
6. What are you most proud of?
7. Something on my mind lately is...
8. Before I die, I'd like to...
And here are my top 5 questions I'd like to start asking all of you to fill out (and I wouldn't mind asking Beyonce, really):
1. What are you really bad at?
2. How many marshmallows can you fit in your mouth at one time?
3. What was the last dream you can remember?
4. Why do people insist on making shadow puppets on a white screen?
5. Are my ears a normal size for my height?

Saturday, October 20, 2007

on writing, #1

"As writers we are always seeking support. First we should notice that we are already supported every moment. There is the earth below our feet and there is the air, filling our lungs and emptying them. We should begin from this when we need support. There is the sunlight coming through the window and the silence of the morning. Begin from these. Then turn to face a friend and feel how good it is when she says, "I love your work." Believe her as you believe the floor will hold you up, the chair will let you sit."
-- from Writing Down the Bones, by Natalie Goldberg

Thursday, October 18, 2007

Hair by Halsa

I do not profess to have an amazing memory. Almost everyone I know has better retention of stories, poems and sayings than I do. It is an exceptional day when I remember a joke, a funny line from a sitcom, or a profound song lyric. I'm okay with that, though, because I'm really pretty good at remembering my students' names (even years later), and I never forget a face or a mannerism. For example, I can tell you whether almost every kid in my graduating class was right or left-handed. That said, I was blown away today by the memory of a tiny Korean woman named Halsa, who, by the way, is right-handed (Jaime, you better respond to this post). Halsa is the Halsa of Hair by Halsa, and I was there to get my ends trimmed (okay, I confess, I was getting highlights), but I must mention first that I have only been "cut" by Halsa once since I have lived in Abilene, a little more than a year ago.
I made today's appointment with little reference that I had seen her before, only saying, "It's been a while." (This odd behavior only makes sense if you understand that I have recently put my hair through several color processes/cuts of my own doing, and I feel guilty about it). So, to avoid further inquiry, I just asked for an appointment and made my best effort to act like I was a new client.
About halfway through the highlighting process, Halsa casually remarks, "Oh, I just remembered -- when you were here you talked about your Korean student, who said that Americans smell like cheese." I about fell out of my chair. I immediately flashed to my TCC student Sooyun Kim, who (also right-handed) had mentioned that very thing to me, during a conversation we had about cultural differences (Americans' diet=lactose, red meat/ Koreans' diet=fish, veggies, etc.) She was completely right -- she had just remembered a small but significant portion of a conversation I had with her more than a year ago, and then she hadn't seen me since. When I recovered from my stroke, all was soon revealed when Halsa told me that she "has a photo box memory," which I really liked the sound of. She also said that when she was younger, she could remember multiple pages of the Korean bible, though in English she says it's a bit harder. I am so in awe of this woman.
Besides being a great hairdresser who is not above shaming over the use of a flat iron (which, by the way, heats up to 450 degrees, FYI!) -- Halsa is also really funny. And I bet she knows more than anyone in the lower states about the latest mergers in salon-quality product corporations.
Other fun Halsa-isms from today:
1. "Your ears are really small for someone of your height."
2. "It's not just American girls who are frying their hair with flat irons, it's a global problem."
3. "Why are your bangs so short? Did you tell someone to do that?" (ahem, yes, I cut them myself...)
There were several more, but, well, you know.

Tuesday, October 16, 2007

seeing God in Antarctica

"In Antarctica I experienced a certainty amidst the morass of thoughts and emotions and preoccupations seething inside my balaclavaed head. This is what I glimpsed out of the corner of my eye. It wasn't an answer, or the kind of respite offered by a bottle of calamine lotion on a sunburn. It was something that put everything else -- everything that wasn't Antarctica -- in true perspective. I felt as if I were realigning my vision of the world through the long lens of a telescope. The landscape was intact, complete and larger than my imagination could grasp. It was free of the diurnal cycle that locked us earthlings into the ineluctable routine of home. It didn't suffer famines or social unrest. It was sufficient unto itself, untainted by the tragedy of the human condition...
It wasn't a permanent diversion. I knew I would meet my demons again and again before my life ended. God didn't appear to me in any particular shape or form -- if anything he became even more nebulous. But I heard the still, small voice. I had never known certainty like it. I felt certain that a higher power exists, and that every soul constitutes part of a harmonious universe, and that the human imagination can raise itself beyond poverty, social condemnation and the crushing inevitability of death. For the first time in my life, I didn't sense fear prowling around behind a locked door inside my head, trying to find a way out. It was as if a light had gone on in that room, and I had looked the beast in the eye."
-- Sara Wheeler, from Terra Incognita: Travels in Antarctica

three words

Spark, cinnamon, bone.
I woke with three words,
puzzled at what they meant
for dark morning outside my window.

I tried to put them together
cinnamon, spark, bone
in the right order
bone, cinnamon, spark

so you could hear signals
in white e announcing smoky c
fiery s after burning n, forcing k
to your closed throat.

Three words:
spark, cinnamon, bone
They brought me to morning.
I woke and sent them to you.

Monday, October 15, 2007


I really want my blog to be funny, like my friend Susan's blog, (maybe she'll give me permission to post a link) but I have a feeling it is not to be. I really want to write about my current grievance with the FedEx guy, the strange talent I have for letting pots boil over, my addiction to hair coloring. These would all make funny stories. But I can't seem to conjure up the words to make you laugh.
I was thinking tonight about expectations; how there are lines of code for each relationship we have. I don't think expectations are always verbalized, nor should they be. Relationships, in many ways, should develop organically. I don't tell my dog, Abby, "when I come home I expect you to lay down with me on the floor and look cute for upwards of 20 minutes." She just knows what to do after having done it many, many times. Humans are the ones who perplex me, who keep me up at night wondering about expectations. All my life, people have told me that I have too high expectations. And there have been several of these "expectations" in my life (the word, expecting, for pregnant, says it all) that have not come to fruition. So why do I feel so guilty about my own expectations for people? Is it the fear of losing them? Why do I feel badly if I email or call a friend several times in one day? Why do we apologize for needing people? Recently, I needed to lean on friends and family during a time when my husband was ill. All of you opened yourselves up to me, and that weighs heavily on my heart. As an independent person who likes her space, I am surprised at how reliant I have become in the past couple of weeks on others. I almost feel that I have swung the other way -- to being "needy" -- but I hope I haven't. I know there is a time for everything, and that possibly I will get a chance to be there for you. And maybe that is just as good as ending world hunger. So just tell me when you need to be left alone. Believe me, I'll understand.

testing the waters

The title of my blog comes from the chorus of the song "Dry Land" by Tara MacLean on the album Passenger. I saw her open for Dido when I was in grad school in Boston. I just thought some people might like to know. I'm listening to her now, and I think the memory of myself there is giving me courage to start this blog.
Many of the people I know have started a blog with bad news. I decided to write a dissertation about my bad news, and I just finished it in May. Well, really it was about young adult sport literature and feminist theory; but it was also about finding ways for women to write their bodies. I'm a doctor now; I'm supposed to know better, to have moved on. So, maybe I'm at a new starting point. But the ground behind me, as I dive in, is parched. I want nothing to do with it anymore. Dare I say I have been drowning? Forgive me for the swimming metaphors. If I knew better ways to understand, I would use them. But for me, being in the water has always been the place where everything makes sense. And by that I mean I don't have to know everything or write well. As I swim, I realize this simultaneous knowing and not-knowing of myself and my past is surrounded in mystery. And that is the closest I can get to answered prayer.
I was going to begin this blog with a rant on "the death of the conversation," but I figured it would be a little hypocritical. I do want all of the people in my life to know that writing this doesn't count for talking to you.

swimming from dry land

Hi and welcome to my blog, swimming from dry land.