home

I got stuck in the airport in Atlanta on my way in for Christmas Eve. A solid 14 hours of repeated flight delays, then cancellation, being told no flights are available, only to overhear two people behind me in line getting tickets, then stand-by’s which also ended in cancellations. When I got to Milwaukee, barely tangent on the cusp of Christmas Morning, my suitcase was completely soaked, a lot of the presents ruined, and my brain felt like the innards of a over-ripe pumpkin.

Airports sometimes symbolizes freedom, since you’re most likely going somewhere. But the polar opposite can be true too, especially when you have nowhere to go because the warm and cold fronts are having a marital dispute outside the oversized windows and consequently, your plane is stuck in some god-knows-where cornfield. It struck me how vulnerable we are to isolation when we depend on machinery to get to places, and how confined we are by our bodies. Having a car, a home, a place to be and a place to go, sometimes makes me forget that I am at the mercy of physics — that sometimes, I cannot go as I please.

As I groped through the fatigue fog –per internal human resource report, getting up at 3am after 4 hours of sleep is no longer agreeable with my body — and took in the throne of thwarted Christmas Eve travelers, I thought of the people who are homeless. I had a place to go, and people to take me in, but somehow spending 14 hours — almost the amount of time it would have taken me to drive from Durham to Milwaukee — in an airport imparts this sour taste of loneliness, of being invisible in a crowd. That visceral sense of being in an eternal moment suspended in time, going nowhere, and being nobody.

I don’t know if this is why we keep busy, so we don’t realize that we are lonely.

And the first real bout of snow stranded me in Milwaukee until today, when I was due to leave on Monday. Dear Midwest, I’m returning all of your snow; refund please. After the initial internal screaming, I decided to visit friends who were in the area; the whole kerfuffle ended up a blessing in disguise, really. And now I am back in a very rainy town, with a very leaky roof. I am glad and I am reluctant to be back.

And what really makes a home?

Somewhere in the world the water-child is stomping about, terrorizing all of the thrift stores for their hidden gems. The absence tastes like a frozen moment, a truth I daren’t touch but warily paces about its periphery, drawing its circumference with memories, and hope.

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Diversion for myself in the upcoming year. Intercourse between brain-cramming for licensing boards.

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two-step

Going salsa dancing sans partner usually involves me standing in a corner, nursing a glass of top-shelf water in between dancing with men at least twice my age, who have zero concept of personal space, or alternatively, with boys who smell overpoweringly of thyme and superbly make zero eye contact during the entirety of a 6-minute number.

But I keep going because the music moves me. Because I feel alive. Because I can laugh at my taking the cues that weren’t given, and my partner laughs at his stumbling feet. I am far less self-conscious, or feel the sense of incompetency, when I move to something bigger than me. When it empties me out and fills me over the brim.

Heaven help the American-born boy with a talent for ballet.

Camille Paglia

I went to the Viennese waltz hosted by the Duke Woodwind orchestra for this year’s Valentine’s day, and my escort readily agreed to go even though he knew nothing of ballroom dancing. I thought him incredibly brave, because most guys shrivel from the prospect of being on the dance floor having no idea what’s going on.

Things have been pretty rough lately. I’ve stopped writing, made little time to read, dance, or even make music. And my spirit is dry: I have been losing who I am to be more acceptable in someone else’s book. And the harder I tried the more brittle I became: tired and small. I’ve forgotten–or at least neglected–the machinery that makes me tick and tried to re-vamp the entire system to please others who cannot be pleased. And the harder I tried the more vehement the accusations became.

I know I am imperfect. But no one should have to be perfect in order to be loved and accepted. And I only have one of me.

Writing after a hiatus is kind of like using a leg that’s been in a cast. Awkward and floppy and lacking all neuromuscular coordination. The sentences buckle when I put weight on it. Reflexive twitching of quasimodo thoughts. But writing helps me think and waters my spirit and word by word I walk back toward God. A funny two-step.

A dance of one in body. Two in Spirit.

duck lessons

Baby Common-goldeneye ducks leaving nest, flying for the first time, naturen-ar-fantastisk.blogspot.com

Baby Common-goldeneye ducks leaving nest, flying for the first time, naturen-ar-fantastisk.blogspot.com

I write because I forget. The daily oozing of words like perspiration squeezing out of pores on a sultry summer day. Once in a while a nugget worth keeping bubbles up, speaks over the clamorous droning of life–such a  simple word–but often, almost always, due to the lack of attention or pen or scratch paper or the overabundance of self-consciousness–what if I come across as weird, coming to a dead stop and writing?–the thought flits through the thicket of to-do lists and remains uncaptured. And by the end of the day, all crumbled in the sweaty palm of errands and deadlines and tests, whatever remained of the thought is washed-out and bleached, fuzzy half-ideas alongside half-chewed dinners and half-muttered indignations.

I write because the raw thoughts, spat out unfiltered into the vibrating air, would likely land me in a straight jacket that some already think should suit me just peachy. So I write, shuffling and cutting my deck of words. If life is but a game, might as well play your hand right.

The travesty of that seemingly simple, four-lettered word is that we slaughter it with another four-lettered word. Wait. Wait for something to happen, wait for decisions to be made. And the four-lettered words chit-chat and mingle and Chekhov, one of a handful, wrings out the unhappiness of so many lives steeped in so much waiting, asks us through a rheumatic pseudo-intellect, to do something with our lives.

I sit on a wooden bench by the pond and watch the ducks. Sunning, grooming, minding their usual ducky lives. And I wonder, as the sunbeam glide down their glossed feathers, into the water, if I am missing something ontologically. I’ve been reading through Madeleine L’Engle, A Circle of Quiet, and ontology has been my word for this fall. Graduate school had been what I thought it might be, yet simultaneously anything but. Beneath the swan-like exterior is the maniac pedaling, borderline-panic treading water to keep afloat. Grades, acclimation, relationships, self-worth. Every so often, usually after a move, the question comes back: who am I? Am I okay with who I am?

Feeling displaced makes me more keen of living consciously. Ontologically.

And I wonder if this, this awareness, demarcates an otherwise frivolous existence, or worse, one atrophied in waiting. I have had my times of both, speeding along or wasting away. This move to North Carolina was to stretch my brain and social skills and confidence so I have no excuse to do either. But it’s hard to distinguish what I want from what I think others want me to do, and who I am from who people decide I am from what they infer. Ontology gets trampled a bit in all of it. 

I watch the ducks being their ontological selves. The autumn air smells of leaves and sun and silence.

a real post is coming, promise

meanwhile, this:

and, the following also applies to musicians in concert black attire:

Happy Halloween, all.

the inexplicable ordinary

This is a story of no exceptionality. It is ancient and it is born anew every day, every time I draw a breath. This is a story of the ordinary, the sometimes tediously mundane. It is a story of a boy who left and came back as a man, and a girl who, while the boy was gone, grew up a woman.

How do we explain fate? Coincidence? How do two dust particles become tangential for an ephemeral moment, an instantaneous eternity?

He always remained an enigma, a dichotomy, like the way light is both a continual wave and an explosion of particles. His humanity and hers touched briefly in the blossom of a single summer’s day. Does the brevity detract from the sincerity in sharing your souls?

And she still doesn’t know if she was in love with him, or her idea of him, or perhaps, because he was the kind of person she wanted to be.

When the Eurus wind took him to another land she resigned in her heart that their life stories will have no more common plots. Even the most potent disappointment is diluted by the passing of time, and she grew up and he grew distance in her mind, as a line on the yellowed pages of her memories grows fainter with each dance of the seasons.

Then he came back.

He came back and she realized that in her starry-eyed dawn of womanhood, she loved him as her hero, a set of ideals. But now that he has returned she realized that her hero is just a man, a man who, while away, has metamorphosed from his not-so-distant boyhood, a man with his dreams and insecurities.

He came back with the Zephyr wind but she was leaving. She was leaving for a land that beckoned her and a life that she has been growing toward, fighting for. Has she become who she wanted to be? Then what becomes of him? What becomes of them?

He held out his heart and touched hers. Ember inhaled and fluttered into flame. For two seasons their humanities breathed in the same spirit and together recited the names of the constellations. We are a divine comedy, she thought, and comedies parody our tragedies. We learn to say the right lines at the right times and it’s a bit dehumanizing. Whose applause am I vying for?

He did not realize how his heart was the offering for hers, and she was no longer the girl he remembered. There is a strength that he has hitherto only seen from a distance, and a quiet confidence replaced the childish timidity. And he discovered, with a note of amusement, that her resilience has bore the fruit of stubbornness. The woman that grew from the girl he remembered is no longer a child.

But he knew that she was leaving and he, to his surprise, found his heart growing into hers. Two trees entwining into one. He has never given his heart to anyone. Not completely. And now he watches himself entering a rebirth, terrifying and beautiful.

She was leaving and he did not know how exactly do two humanities remain tangent for an eternal instant, an inexplicable now.

This is an ancient tale, the ones that hunters tell around a fire while the stars breathe the night away. No one really speaks the ending out loud, at least, not the wise storytellers, because the end is the beginning.

Photo credit: stockvault.net

Photo credit: stockvault.net

reblogged: when it is all new, a letter to hilary, by Preston Yancey

Preston Yancey is one of those people who give me hope that being mildly lost at twenty-something is alright, and this trying to cobble together some sense of life, this doing the best I can with the continuous now that I have, this often tedious shuffling toward Jerusalem, is all worthwhile, and that there is joy in this land of in-between, and that we can create something of beauty along the way. Preston Yancey is also one of those people who make me sort of bubble with envy, because my writing isn’t as sharpened and well-oiled, and that my words cannot divide sinews and tendons. Not yet. After going through my customary crush on competent, eloquent, and ever-so-quirky boys such as Preston Yancey, I am very glad that he has found someone who makes him inexplicably happy. 

WHEN IT IS ALL NEW, A LETTER TO HILARY

July 25, 2013

Lake Gaston Sunset. Photo credit: Jackson Rollins

Lake Gaston Sunset. Photo credit: Jackson Rollins

 In what seems like another world now, with so much space between, Hilary and I used to pass digital letters back and forth to each other on Tuesdays and Thursdays. I smile at those days, smile half, over the way I was falling in love with her after every tumbled word without quite realising it at the time. Retrospect is a powerful thing. We now mark a series of new letters, back and forth, Tuesdays and Thursdays. You can read Hil’s letter that I’m responding to here.

Dear Hil,

I debated about this letter, which has something to do with the reason why it took me so long to write it. (We won’t talk about how I didn’t write you one last week, because as you know I was in your kitchen making you a birthday dinner, among other things, so I’m holding firm on not being guilted for missing a letter, even if it was the second time it’s happened in the year of these exchanges.)

I debated because you and I care a lot about protecting our story, about preserving the intimacy of us and the love we have, about keeping the online at a distance from that and giving only what is truly beneficial and, often, even then holding out. There are some things that once they have been spoken are no longer, and so much of us and our story is hidden in the thin places of self and space and time–it seems injustice to try to root it.

But today I want to pull back the curtain a bit, bring out a bit of that story for the sake of others. We talk often about how we don’t want other people to hear the story of us–meeting online, letter exchanges, flying across oceans and crying in airports–and think of it as the ideal, as the thing that they wish they could have, because every story of love is its own sort of extraordinary that really only the two people right in the tangled midst of it can understand. This is not that. This is not an attempt to loudly convince anyone of the love or the uniqueness or the wonder of it, but a sort of promise to those who have not found that sort of love yet.

You went running in prayer that day because you had read the draft of the third chapter of my memoir and you ached to have been in the story at that point. It was full of memories that would never be quite yours, would be shared but only in the after and experienced only in retelling. You felt the sting of not being rooted with me yet, as I had felt the sting writing it out and marvelling at the chaos and uncertainty that it all was, in a field with another girl who wasn’t you and could never be you, trying to make a bastard love blossom that would fade as quickly as it had been imagined. I told you that night on Skype that you were there and not there, that when I wrote those words with the honesty I could bring to the page they only flowed that way because you were there with me, somehow, in the magic of retrospect and reweaving.

It’s not the same, I know. It’s not the same as having been there or having haphazardly journeyed it alongside. Never mind the dreams we conjure with one another about what would have happened had we met then somewhere on the east side, with your red wine and my bourbon in an old bar that still had a coat room with a clerk that could be tipped well. Never mind all that, because the sting of being there but not being there is real and is not, I know, unique to us.

So what is the point of this? Pulling back the curtain enough? It is a promise to you and to those still waiting, that there is newness with you that is not like anything else. To hold you is to have never held someone before. To kiss you is to have never before been kissed. To brush our hands together or lean into you or take coffee from your hand in the midmorning at your kitchen table where we are at home in a still point of our own fabrication, that is to have never before known touch, pressure, or gift before.

Memory plays us like fools, pretends that we have a hold of it when what we have is a farce of our own design. But love makes us fools in a brave way, teaches to overcome memory’s trick with the firmness of words, vows, that are spoken in those gestures long before they are said aloud–in the hair elastic I wear around my left wrist, in the way you tilt your head when you look at me, in the crystal sugar bowl and the slice of lime.

I wanted to put somewhere public something of a promise to those who wonder if it can all be, truly, wonderful. I wanted to tell them that it can. You simply have to realise the wonderful comes not in the loudness of a story but in the quietness of it, in the way that you thought you knew so perfectly and so truly exactly what it felt like to be seen, to be kissed, to be loved, until one morning in the midst of the ordinary a woman looks at you from across the room and you realise what poetry must be, what it is to feel the vault of the earth in tilt, what it is to fall in love over and over again until you believe that you could still time if you only hold your breath just long enough.

Because it is all new. And it keeps being new.

Love,

P

how an idea becomes a book, by Weldon Owen

I don’t plan to publish, but I am always bumbling about trying to make ideas make sense.

This is rather a brilliant infographic describing the process. You can find the original over at weldonowen.com.

HowAnIdeaBecomesBook_final

Maybe I should try goat farming. They make excellent goat-milk caramels.

neverland

photo credit: Micah Ricke

photo credit: Micah Ricke

Love, come with me, let us make lodge
in our secret garden, our cottage by the sea
and whisper thoughts with naked vulnerability.
We will recite the constellations–wrought
above the sea, mocking her restless waves by night–
and walk under the Milky Way, that silver sash that trims
the sky. The seagull’s cry will be our garments, rimmed
with fiery trembling in this joy of being alive.
… …
if only for every time I thought of you I could
escape to our Terabithia in the woods
and relive the summer days and autumn eves
showered in stardust whilst our minds inter-weaved.

on draft-reviewers, and time

[concerning unkind and destructive reviewers who are asked by the writer to read through the first drafts]…Why waste what little time you may have left with such scum?

I worry that Jesus drinks himself to sleep when he hears me talk like this. But about a month before my friend Pammy died, she said something that may have permanently changed me.

We had gone shopping for a dress for me to wear that night to a nightclub with the man I was seeing at the time. Pammy was in a wheelchair, wearing her Queen Mum wig, the Easy Rider look in her eyes. I tried on a lavender minidress, which is not my usual style. I tend to wear big, baggy clothes. People used to tell me I dressed like John Goodman. Anyway, the dress fit perfectly, and I came out to model it for her. I stood there feeling very shy and self-conscious and pleased. Then I said, “Do you think it makes my hips look too big?” and she said to me slowly, “Annie? I really don’t think you have that kind of time.”

And I don’t think you have that kind of time either. I don’t think ou have time to waste not writing because you are afraid you won’t be good enough at it, and I don’t think you have time to waste on someone who does not respond to you with kindness and respect. You don’t want to spend your time around people who make you hold your breath. You can’t fill up when you’re holding your breath. And writing is about filling up…

Bird by Bird, Anne Lamott

Sunset, Vietnam. Micah Ricke, 2013.

Sunset, Vietnam. Micah Ricke, 2013.

Date A Girl Who Reads

Date a girl who reads. Date a girl who spends her money on books instead of clothes. She has problems with closet space because she has too many books. Date a girl who has a list of books she wants to read, who has had a library card since she was twelve.

Find a girl who reads. You’ll know that she does because she will always have an unread book in her bag. She’s the one lovingly looking over the shelves in the bookstore, the one who quietly cries out when she finds the book she wants. You see the weird chick sniffing the pages of an old book in a second hand book shop? That’s the reader. They can never resist smelling the pages, especially when they are yellow.

photo credit: Tumblr.com

She’s the girl reading while waiting in that coffee shop down the street. If you take a peek at her mug, the non-dairy creamer is floating on top because she’s kind of engrossed already. Lost in a world of the author’s making. Sit down. She might give you a glare, as most girls who read do not like to be interrupted. Ask her if she likes the book.

Buy her another cup of coffee.

Let her know what you really think of Murakami. See if she got through the first chapter of Fellowship. Understand that if she says she understood James Joyce’s Ulysses she’s just saying that to sound intelligent.  Ask her if she loves Alice or she would like to be Alice.

It’s easy to date a girl who reads. Give her books for her birthday, for Christmas and for anniversaries. Give her the gift of words, in poetry, in song. Give her Neruda, Pound, Sexton, Cummings. Let her know that you understand that words are love. Understand that she knows the difference between books and reality but by god, she’s going to try to make her life a little like her favorite book. It will never be your fault if she does.

She has to give it a shot somehow.

photo credit: Tumblr.com

Lie to her. If she understands syntax, she will understand your need to lie. Behind words are other things: motivation, value, nuance, dialogue. It will not be the end of the world.

Fail her. Because a girl who reads knows that failure always leads up to the climax. Because girls who understand that all things will come to end. That you can always write a sequel. That you can begin again and again and still be the hero. That life is meant to have a villain or two.

Why be frightened of everything that you are not? Girls who read understand that people, like characters, develop. Except in the Twilight series.

If you find a girl who reads, keep her close. When you find her up at 2 AM clutching a book to her chest and weeping, make her a cup of tea and hold her. You may lose her for a couple of hours but she will always come back to you. She’ll talk as if the characters in the book are real, because for a while, they always are.

You will propose on a hot air balloon. Or during a rock concert. Or very casually next time she’s sick. Over Skype.

You will smile so hard you will wonder why your heart hasn’t burst and bled out all over your chest yet. You will write the story of your lives, have kids with strange names and even stranger tastes. She will introduce your children to the Cat in the Hat and Aslan, maybe in the same day. You will walk the winters of your old age together and she will recite Keats under her breath while you shake the snow off your boots.

Date a girl who reads because you deserve it. You deserve a girl who can give you the most colorful life imaginable. If you can only give her monotony, and stale hours and half-baked proposals, then you’re better off alone. If you want the world and the worlds beyond it, date a girl who reads.

Or better yet, date a girl who writes.

–Rosemarie Urquico