Monday, November 04, 2013
I did not make it to the Halloween party at my friend's house. I have mostly reconciled myself to the idea that Halloween is for kids. There once was a little Halloween. Now there is a lot. Maybe too much. Cleo the dog ate half of Max's candy. Zoe, zombie-bride, was a little too scary. And a bit nonchalant about her scariness.
Speaking of zombies. Once upon a time I could not watch the Walking Dead. I had seen the I Am Legend and the dog scene. I had a nightmare every time I saw a zombie on TV. But then, after the Boston AWP, I sat on a seat behind and to the left of someone watching the Walking Dead. I could see the show clearly across the aisle. He must have watched 7 episodes, from the series' beginning. I had watched the first episode with Erik, which was when I quit the Walking Dead. The mother coming up to the door, looking through the peep hole, was the source of the most recent zombie nightmare. But with the sound off, the zombies looked pretty unscary. When I got home, there was a Walking Dead marathon. I caught up.
Now I watch it every week. I watched it last night. I still have nightmares, or, rather, dreams. They're not so scary. Zombies biting my knees. A cure for zombie-ism. Zombies lining up to get a shot, complaining about the sting. I try not to think about the show before I go to sleep but I have questions. What do the zombies represent? Xenophobia? Contagion? Racism? Republicans? My mother-in-law suggested immortality. Also, do you always turn into a zombie if the zombies eat you? Like, if they eat all your entrails, do you have enough "stuffing" to walk around? How come most of the zombies seem whole? Do zombies have any memory? They can smell alive people? What about covering themselves in blood, like Rick did. Would that work? I liked the World War Z solution to the zombie problem. What solution will the Walking Dead people have? Maybe the swine flu will save them.
We keep talking about getting rid of cable but then we'd have to wait to see all the Walking Dead and that seems like an unlikely patience. But I changed my mind about zombies like I changed my mind about must-go-to Halloween parties. Maybe I can do it again.
Wednesday, October 30, 2013
I had already seen a bone in the trail--some large animal's--probably an elk's. Cleaned to the white, scattered by what I thought I wanted to see. But if I saw what I wanted, well, that would be a great surprise but then I would also be maybe dead. I kept looking behind me for mountain lions. There were none. Both crush and relief.
Then I saw a deer arm hanging from a tree. A foreleg, I guess, in animal parlance. How did a deer get his leg hung in a tree. Maybe poachers. Maybe regular hunters, but I don't think you're supposed to clean your deer by hanging it from a tree. Maybe the deer was doing something weird. Jumping over a falling tree, getting tripped in another. Maybe he was trying to outrun a mountain lion but realized deer can't climb trees.
It was eerie but not gross. How animals die in the woods I don't really know but between that hanging hoof, that scattered femur, and that trail-crushing tree, I had a new plan, or at least something to think about surprise and routine and the inevitably of November and how we make it through October every year, even mostly with surprisingly good things to say about it.
Monday, October 28, 2013
Summer is better than fall. Even with the rain in the summer. It takes a few months for me to get summer brain. The brain that says, swimming is easy. Typing is hard. Now I'm ready to swim all the way from Flagstaff to Tucson.
8 is hard. Zoe is 8 and therefore hard. My sister and her fiance call Zoe Zoe-Jesus. It's mostly true that she is light on a popsicle stick but 8. 8. 8 is when you order French toast and it comes with mushy berries and she won't eat the French Toast and you tell her to please have a bite so at least her brother will try his and she won't so he won't and you give her a look and then there are tears and three hours of being called mean. She's running a 5K next week. We went running on Saturday to practice. She walked along, touching the tops of the grasses, anointing each one with her Zoe-Jesus fresh touch. I said, "I question your commitment to this running." Maybe 8 isn't hard. Maybe I am.
Traveling should not be hard but neither should hotel pillows.
It only takes 20 minutes to whip up a batch of pumpkin muffins. Remind me of that when I think baking is hard.
Halloween is taxing my brain. Two years ago, black box theater. Good and easy. This year, the puns seem stretched like a limo. Could I go as a stretched limo? Could I go as stretched thin? Can someone stretch me thin? I'd be thin if I were tall.
I do not read as fast as I should. Nick Flynn's Reenactments is very good. Also, Nick Flynn is a good person.
People died a lot this week. Nick Flynn's dad. Lou Reed. A good friend of mine from a long time ago.
It is always thesis season, now.
8 bags of pine needles goes a lot quicker when your 8 year old helps rake and bag the pine needles. 8 does have it's advantages.
The leaves of the apple tree seem to hang on. Is that an apple tree? I've never seen any apples on it.
Apple season is the best. Honeycrisps are still the best. There are a lot of new apples at Sprouts. Pink ladies and honeycrisp still win.
I forced myself to go to New Frontiers, which, now that Sprouts is here and I have compared prices, has been overcharging me for years. Brown Cow Cream on the Top Yogurt at NF? $3.99. At Sprouts? $2.50. Butter, even at Fry's (Kroger-based) is $3.99 when it's not on sale. $2.99 at Sprouts. But NF did have these tiny Lady apples that were delicious as a tiny lady could be. A bit of redemption? Maybe. And their fish is better. But Sprouts--it has beer and wine.
Walking Dead plus The Good Wife equal too much anxiety for one night. Didn't sleep last night even with my good, non-hotel pillow although I tried to channel Nick Flynn's Robert DeNiro instead of the short, knee-biting zombie.
I must go now to pick up the 8 year-old who used to be the 4 year-old from her Girls on the Run. She will have math homework that changes units, asks you to multiply and divide, then describe in Spanish sentences how she came to those answers. She has to practice piano and read in Spanish and help me make her bed. She'll have to brush her her and set the table for dinner. Then write thank you notes. Maybe 8 is as hard on her as it is on me.
If it was still September I would say things are going well but here it is October and I barely remembered to pull the pumpkin muffins out of the oven in time.
Wednesday, September 04, 2013
In June, the monsoons hadn't started yet. The clouds would circle and darken and break apart. I would stand on the porch and lean toward them. I would almost beg them aloud to please let go. Please rain. It was all I wanted all of June. It is so much easier to love the rain when the ground isn't used to water. Supposedly, in Flagstaff, there's an aquifer 300 feet under organic rock that socks up the usual snowmelt and rain. I'm going to be like that aquifer. I bought two rain barrels. I'm going to store up this rain. I'm going to Portland up this place and make it remember water. It's not a bad guy, unless your house is in the flood zone, I tell the Ponderosas, I tell the dirt. It's good. Think of what we can grow. Mushrooms and lettuce and woollybears and mosquitoes. It is a whole new world. We don't have to put up tomatoes this year. We can grow them all year long every day--this weird mixture of rain and sun will make it easy. Living will be easy. Like in Portland, where everything grows, even tomatoes, although they often never make it to red.
Sometimes we'd get two inches a day. Thunder that would make you check your ceiling for cracks. Lightning so close, you touched your hair. Pat down the static. Make sure you weren't on fire. You could sit, because it wasn't quite cold, on the porch for an hour and watch it rain and lightning and be the stranger you'd never met before, coming to town with a lot of money, a lot of horses, a lot of delicious cherries in his basket. You loved him because he was new and different and didn't make you worry about sunburn or drought.
My neighbor said it rained like this thirty years ago, when he first moved here. The monsoons are almost over. It might not rain like this again for thirty years. The clouds are swirling today and there is thunder in the distance but I can see ribbons of blue parting the clouds, reminding them who they are. Where they are. This is not the tropical rainforest. This is not even the temperate rainforest. This is Arizona and clouds should probably go back to where they came from.
It wasn't a regular summer. It was hard to go swimming. Max is tired of mud. Zoe is tired of clouds. But I do not think I will be missing a thing so much as I will miss this rain that is as big and loud and unbelievable as everything I've ever thought I wanted.
Wednesday, August 28, 2013
As you can imagine, they don't get a very straightforward answer and they probably only cared politely anyway but still it makes me wonder, what did I do? If summer is marked by the number of cherries eaten, it is abundant but unverifiable. If it is marked by a bunch of words, well, at least it happened. I have it right here in my word doc.
I took a screen shot of the files I'd made over the summer. Sadly, "Thrift Store no China" and "Moocs" had no actual words written in the file but a file name is writing nonetheless. The rest of them have something in them. Some more than others.
Some of these I only futzed with--like Where Elephants and Neutrinos. I completely rewrote Microwine for a magazine. I also fully edited Micropreemies with such a comb of fine teeth that many of the words got stuck on the netherside of the comb. I just finished an essay. Should I send it?
Thursday, August 22, 2013
But here I am at the end of summer and feeling the I got nothins pretty hard. Where are my cherries? Where is my energy to finish this essay/sabbatical request (2015 seems pretty far away)/Faculty Activity Report/other essay/book edits/website/advisor list/syllabi? Where are my raspberries? My figs? My English peas in a pod? Sometimes scarcity begets abundance--e.g. if I can't get my raspberries at least I have my seventy-five varietals of apples but I cannot even get excited about apples.
I fear it's called the pre-school doldrums. I had a four hour meeting on Tuesday, convocation yesterday, back-to-school-night for Z. I am as bored as a boring blog post, empty as a plastic-green strawberry basket, evacuated as a blueberry clam shell, hanging by pea strings and a pot of flowering basil soon to go to seed.
Perhaps the sight of actual students will restore me! Perhaps the lack of time to write will make me write. Perhaps I will drive from store to store, asking if they have just one batch of cherries in the back left for me.
Friday, July 26, 2013
I've been thinking a lot about ego lately. You have to think about it when a book comes out and you want it to do well and you only have your email and your Facebook to try to help it do well. You do things like check the stats on Amazon and Google yourself far too often. You remember back your image on the cover of a magazine and you loved the emails coming in asking you to visit and give talks and submit writing and then in the summer, no one is really emailing and not much is going on and there is this vast gorilla at your kitchen table looking at you like, well, this is boring. What should we do now for fun? Let's get us some attention!
At some point, the gorilla starts making so much noise, beating on his chest, that you realize what he is. He is ego and you is he.
I was watching The Buddha on PBS. Jane Hirschfield and W.S. Merwin were interviewees. They each had the most beautiful skin. I wanted that skin but to get that skin, they kept telling me on the program, I would have to give up wanting the skin. I would have to give up skin itself. I would have to give up the I. And maybe the you.
Converted by PBS, I have been thinking. I get into little snits--sometimes with other people, mostly in my mind. But these snits are not pleasant.
Here are some examples: person in gigantic SUV leaves car idling in parking lot. I mutter under my breath about the planet being just slightly bigger than their car. Maybe they could leave that idling. But the truth is, they don't hear me. I'm just muttering. They might get a bad vibe off me but I haven't done anything except make myself feel better and more self-righteous. The complaint is all ego, no "activism." Really, I'm just being a jerk.
Another example: Erik and I got into a snit when he said about the Tupperware, "It's impossible to find a lid in here. man, someone has to go through this." and I got all mad because I go through it all the time, it's the most organized Tupperware drawer in the land! How could he say such a thing? And it is a fine Tupperware drawer but what am I really mad about? My ego. My drawer. My organization. All this my and I.
Another example: Not wanting my kids to get any bigger. This is perfect. I want to enjoy every minute. Slow down and come cuddle. It's true. I am wistful. But it's all ego. My kids want to get bigger. Time itself is a bad enemy. You wil never win.
Another: My sisters. Why do they get to take pictures of each other on bicycles without me? Ego. They are happy on their bikes, together in Twin Falls.
Another little back and forth with Erik: "This is the highest water year since 1919," I argue. "So far," he says. "That's what I meant," I said. "But that's what I said," he said. And the he saids, she saids go on forever. Who cares? I dig in deep with my ego-shovel and don't come back out.
Another: I said something nice about one friend's kids in front of another. I spend a night agonizing that I didn't say nice things about those other friend's kids too. Oh my God, Nicole. Who cares? She's your friend. No one is keeping score about the things you say in the afternoon and tossing and turning over the in the middle of the night except you. They have their own brains. Why should they trouble themselves with yours.
Another: The runner behind me who passes me. The author with the NY Times spread. My friend on NPR. Ego ego ego.
I don't imagine I'm going to make it fully Buddhist here but I do think that self-confidence is the other side of ego and that if you have a lot of the former, you don't need to have so much of the latter. Ego is like a big bubble that proceeds you as you go into to the world. It protects you from the truth that really, not much in the world is about you. But it also keeps a lot of the world away from you because you get into snits about Tupperware and no one wants to hear about your Tupperware drawer.
No one cares about your Tupperware drawer. That can be a lonely place where no one cares about your Tupperware but that doesn't mean they don't care about you. Your place in the Tupperware Hall of Fame might be permanently on hold, but the fact that there are people in your house, talking to you, is a better end of the deal.
I thought when first thinking of writing this post that I would argue that you need a bit of ego to write. Some hubris that someone who is not in the room does care about what you have to say. But I am going to go re-read Jane Hirschfield's Nine Gates to see how does one still imagine audience (like the Tupperware, an imagined audience is the person who is putting you in the Hall of Fame--probably your mother) without starting with ego. (Who will read this? Who?) One of the hardest things I learned about writing was caring how it works on a reader. Will report back when I figure this out).
As I work through this and try to reorient my thinking about the ego, as I try to grasp that Erik did not leave his towel on the bed because he has no respect for my towels but because he has no respect for towels (the my has nothing to do with it), I will have to cut myself some slack so not getting so worked up about trying to get rid of ego that I think I have it all figured out and then get a new ego about how good I got at getting rid of ego.
P.S. Zoe just asked, why are you so good at typing. Trying not to get all full of ego about my mad typing skills. Moving past ego is a process. A journey. It probably never ends.