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.