Wednesday, October 31, 2012


To go with the Microessays published today:

They were both orange—the pumpkin and the habanero—so that seemed an obvious choice to put together for a delicious snack. Although seeds, once denuded of their sticky entrails were not as orange as the flesh and the habanero, now dried, had turned more green and brown than orange, somewhat like November. Still, both seed and powder, signaled all the orange that is fall, all the orange that is harvest. Fall is hidden potential, sewing its future in the promise of spring. It takes half a year for April’s green sprout to earn their October colors. A tiny seed weighing half a gram can, in a year from now, gather twelve pounds of body, converting fruiting air into replicating matter, like a pregnancy gathering a new person. All these tiny things get so big. A single habanero registers 200,000 to 300,000 Scoville units. Scoville units are designed to give you a sense of how hot a pepper will taste. For example, bell peppers register zero on the Scoville scale. Poblanos, 1,000-2,500. Capsaicin is the active component in peppers. Police use pure capsaicin, in the 16 million Scoville unit range. Capsaicin, contrary to popular belief, cannot actually harm you. It doesn’t cause ulcers although if you’re at the wrong-end of a can of pepper say, I imagine “harm” is in the eye of the beholder. Capsaicin actually provides several health benefits. Endorphins are released, which would explain why I kept eating the pumpkin seeds, salted with habanero peppers, roasted at 450, even though they kept burning my mouth. Also, capsaicin blocks neurons transmitting pain, forcing the nerves to act like they’re getting burned, overwhelming them, stopping them from sending painful data. Thus, capsaicin is used for all kinds of neurologic diseases and also for people who keep eating the habanero-covered seeds to stop thinking about their sinus infection and the fact they only slept 4 hours the night before and instead to keep eating the seeds even though the burning. Capsaicin is renowned for its help with arthritis which is why, after I took my contacts out with the same fingers that had spread the habaneros on the seeds and had scraped the seeds from the cookie sheet into the bow and lifted the seeds to the mouth, I rubbed my hands with lotion and my legs with lotion and my back and my cheeks with more and more lotion to try to rub the habanero into my body instead of into my eyes even though I don’t now have arthritis, I can hope for the promise of its preventative. As my eyes were streaming vast oceans of habanero-spiced tears, I washed my hands and lotioned my hands and rubbed and scrubbed my hands to put the habanero someplace else because the tiny difference between harm and hurt is possibly, to the eye, a semantic one, similar, say, to the semantic difference between 70 degrees on an October day and 70 degrees on an April one. 70 degrees, as you fall into winter, is something you want to hold on to, but you know you shouldn’t. You should put your gloves on and keep your eyes closed and try to forget all about orange. 

Monday, October 29, 2012

Bliss, plus payback

In the last week, I've seen some of my favorite people. My mom, her boyfriend, my niece and nephew, my good friend Peter, his boyfriend, Tim (whom I just met is already on my favorite list) and my great friend Julie, her great husband and kids. My sister-in-law too! My mom and co. left on Monday morning. I cleaned like a crazy woman on Monday. Tuesday, Peter and I went to lunch while Tim hiked Mt. Humphreys. Then, Peter came to my intro to poetry workshop and thrilled the students with his stories attending his poems and his gravelly voice. Tim and Peter came for an acceptable steelhead trout, quinoa, swiss chard dinner. Wednesday pizza and Zoe's Puente de Hozho celebration. Thursday, enchiladas at Rick and El's. Friday, Julie and family arrived in time for chile rellenos and chicken tacos. The feeding of the 12,000. Or. 12. That night, Julie picked up a draft of Salmon, the food/baby memoir type thing I've been writing for 100 years,  In the morning, she told me she'd stayed up late reading the whole thing. Who reads a whole thing? Who says such nice and supportive things? Does she even need to? Staying up to read a book is the sweetest gift of all.
Julie and Peter came for a reading we put together at La Posada. La Posada is on old train station, designed by Mary Colter, that was completely abandoned. Allan Alfeldt restored it and wants to make it an artist destination. Peter, Julie and I did a good job at making it happen. The seats were full--mostly with  my amazing students from NAUwho now also number among my favorite people, and our families, who are still my favorite people, but still, we filled the seats. Julie and Peter read beautifully and Julie read a poem dedicated to me and even about me which I think might be, nacrcissitically, the height of all poetry. I loved that poem. I cried. And then I had to stand up to read with tears in my eyes. My face was red but I didn't care. I read OK anyway. I think everyone reads well  in a perfectly restored ballroom with a fire burning in the fireplace and the lighting looking like Tiffany himself designed it.  Next to the ballroom is the hotel restaurant, The Turquoise Room. I think it's a bit overrated but there's adventurous things on the menu like elk and bison and corn creme brulee. 12 of us (again!) sat together and talked about poetry (I think Julie's son and Zoe even wrote some poetry to each other) and Frankenstorms and dreams of getting together again and again. On Sunday, Julie and co. and Erik and co. and I went for a walk in the forest. The whole forest was yellow and I felt as much at peace as I've felt in a very, very long time. So many people I love in such a short amount of time.

But I knew I would pay for it today. I wrote a list last night before I went to bed so I wouldn't wake up in an anxious panic in the middle of the night.
Email Jeff, Lis, Deveroux,
Thank yous for La Posada.
Kelli's recommendation
Defunct needs bio
751 nees proofs
Start proofing Bending Genre
Grocery store
Alissa Thesis
I'm making progress but I have to take my computer to Zoe's gymnastics class to get even toward the dream of finishing. Thankfully, my favorite people are taking some of my other favorite people out to dinner at my favorite restaurant to celebrate my favorite daughter's awesome report card. It's worth finishing the list so I can get back to my forest-walking, yellow churning, people-loving peace state.

Monday, October 22, 2012

The Nicest Visit

Is the one where people come and your kids aren't home and, after they hug you, stare out the window, waiting for the ones that are small and fun. It's the kind where they eat your chicken and dumpling soup from Ad Hoc, Thomas Keller's supposedly easier cookbook, and love it more than any other chicken and dumpling soup. It's the kind where the kids go play in Zoe's bedroom, dolls and bears and Beanie Babies, all four of them together, while Erik and I sit in the living room with the in-laws who like my mom and her boyfriend enough to see us  every day of their visit. It's the kind where we talk about books and music and politics and no one gets mad. It's the kind where your nephew wants to go running with you every day and talks the whole time, demonstrating he's in awfully good shape. It's the kind where we eat lunches out in Flagstaff even though it's crazy with Homecoming weekend and the dumb Tequila Sunrise tradition where the bars open at 6:00 a.m. and people are demonstratively drunk at 11:00. It's the kind where no one minds waiting Erik in the parking lot by the Skydome where the Homecoming game will be played, while, called in for the emergency, he fixes the computers and cameras for the Homecoming game. It's the kind where my nephew runs with me again and we go to the park and he pushes the Max on the swing AND convinces the kid that it's time to go home without tears. It's the kind where all 8 of us go on a two mile par course run/walk and everyone tries to climb the rope and some, (Lily, Erik) succeed in making it most of the way to the top and where we do chin ups and hurdles and sit ups like we're in the Army.  It's the kind where I take all four kids swimming and niece Lily and nephew Cam spend 45 minutes try to convince cousin Zoe to go down the big tube slide at the Aquaplex and finally succeed. It' the kind where Cam can watch Max so I can go down the slide with Zoe. It's the kind where my mom and I stay up late one night talking and the kind where we can just relax and watch TV and not feel like we're not getting enough socializing done. It's the kind where my in-laws invite us over to dinner and make such delicious food and make hosting 8 people look so easy. It's the kind where we see downtown and the Rio de Flag and go enough places that it doesn't feel like winter but we stay home enough that it's cozy like fall. It's the kind where the kids are so good about putting their dishes in the dishwasher and putting Beanie Babies way after sliding them down the banisters. It's the kind where Max pretend-reads Jane Eyre and Cameron reads an essay of mine in a book while sitting on the couch with Erik, watching football.  It's the kind where the kids play trains with Max and then just play trains because trains are fun. It's the kind where my mom and Bart go the the grocery store for supplies. The kind where my mom washes the breakfast dishes and Erik the dinner dishes. It's the kind where I can take a 2 hour nap and no one asks where I am, let alone feels "under-hosted."  It's the kind of 4 days that when the idea comes up they should stay for one more, all anyone can say is yes, yes yes! It's the kind where Max takes the Bernstein Bears book to my mom and asks her to read it one more time.

Now they're gone it's kind of sad and super busy. I have more company coming on Thursday so I'm doing the laundry and recycling the wine bottles, putting away a couple of the long-long Beanie Babies and sending 900 emails and turning in mid-term grades and making plans for feeding another 8 or so people this coming weekend which will be so fun but won't make me any less sad that the previous visitors have already left.

Sunday, October 14, 2012


I was talking to my colleague last Monday as we watched our kids in gymnastics. His daughter and my daughter are in one level, his son and my son are in another level. Strangely, we never hang out with these people socially. (Perhaps I will fix this.) We were talking about how busy we had been with grading and etcetera but that our lives were in general pretty sweet what with the good jobs and good Flagstaff but that we still had too much work to do. I had had a guest writer in town the weekend before. The guest writer left on Sunday morning, meaning the rest of the day was mine (and ours, as weekends are). What did I want to do to relax? I asked my colleague. Not really read because I have to remember stuff to teach from it or remember stuff to write about it. Not really watch TV because TV is getting stupider. Not really watch movies because they cleave my heart in two. The only thing I find truly relaxing is writing. I can't tell if it's my dad's workaholic sickness that says unless I'm being productive, I'm not happy, or if the puzzle of writing is more fun than Scrabble or that I just do it enough that it's my comfort space, but it's true. That Sunday, I didn't do any writing. Zoe, Erik, his parents and I (with Max on my bike seat) went on a 9 mile ride out to Fisher Point. That was relaxing in that exhausting way.

We have company coming for the next two weeks so today was the only day where I had nothing planned or scheduled. So I should have relaxed. But instead we (we means Zoe in most cases) woke up at 6:45, made oatmeal, went to the Farmer's Market where I couldn't stop myself and bought another case of tomatoes so that when we went to Fry's for a few more groceries I could pick up Mason jars so when I got home I could run the dishwasher with the new jars in it to be sterilized so while the dishwasher ran we went on a bike ride (not 9 miles. More like 5. With Max and Erik) and came back to find the dishwasher mostly done so we could boil the skins off the tomatoes and plunge them into ice water and peel the tomatoes and house them in some super-hot Mason jars so that we could boil the jars and the tomatoes (again) forever at our high altitude. During our forever, we had to empty the dishwasher so we could fill the dishwasher so we could have room to make pumpkin bread and pumpkin muffins which I had promised Zoe I would make her all weekend long. The muffins were good. The bread fell apart (too many extra chocolate chips?) but still tasted good enough to give us the energy to go to World Market where we bought new drapes (20% off!) to hang upstairs before my mom comes since the old blinds tore the drywall and Erik, the ever-drywaller, could re-drywall and re-texture and re-paint so we could hang new blinds from World Market. We also bought him a gigantic bottle of Chihula to thank him for his efforts.
This was not exactly relaxing. I did not write anything except for copying a script from Wikipedia about botulism. But my plan is coming together. 14 jars of tomatoes. A pile of pumpkin muffins. A fridge full of farmer's market goods and extra stuff from Fry's. Drapes to be hung. Monday may, after my meeting with the dean (for which I've been summoned), allow me to actually write something about botulism and the end of the world which will be as relaxing as can be.
Also, my sweet in-laws invited us over for dinner and my sweet friend invited us over for pizza on Tuesday. I may not see the kitchen again for a couple of days.

Wednesday, October 10, 2012


I always feel so sorry for nature. Humans build houses all over the forest, dig holes into the ground, pump crap into the skies. It is a victim! It deserves rights and protection and advocacy!
And yet, yesterday, when I went running, a wasp stung me right through my shirt on my underarm. Twice! Nature, does, at least in the form of bees, stand up for itself.

Thus began a crappy day of attacks coming from, seemingly, everywhere. I was on the defensive. The bees wanted me gone. Hurt and gone. My colleagues wanted me taken down a notch. Even Erik wanted me to feel sorrier for him that he used someone else's toothbrush. I drove. I hit all lights red. My phone wouldn't download my mail. My water bottle leaked all over my bookbag (which is really a grocery bag of the reusable variety). It was on the one hand, nothing, and on the other hand, everything. I know there are days like that but I just hate it when they're mine. But who owns days, really? Nature? Humans?

The point, though, is that the bees do have a lesson. Sometimes, you have to stand up for your rights. Admittedly, I was just running through the forest, minding my own business and the wasp seemed to chase and follow and sting me, (twice!) but those wasps didn't know I wasn't there to stomp out their existence. I'm sure they've had wasp-friends who have suffered similar fates.
Erik once poked at a hole the drywall of our ceiling. Out flew twenty hornets. I ran into the laundry room and shut the door. Erik got stung twice. I was hiding. Erik was on the phone calling the pest control company who came out immediately (after they heard we had a dog. This company loves dogs and doesn't want them stung), climbed up on our roof, dug through the shingles and smoked those hornets to death.

My point is this. The bees standing up for his territory. So was Erik. Sometimes, I'm too quiet. Sometimes I don't say the thing that needs to be said. Sometimes, I just send Obama $8 instead of making phone calls. But, in this political season, I should probably stand up and say something. And not just to my friends on Facebook, who already agree with me. Attack bees!