February 28, 2009

equine mine

statement called sincerely to me today, from a distance, by a friend, unprovoked: "I love your butt!"

I finally got out to ride Cookie today. uncharacteristically, she bolted on the lead line as I walked her from barn to arena. sometimes I am amazed by the things horse people get accustomed to, by our well-developed poker faces. she scared the crap out of me but I stood calmly and told her, "easy, easy," and she settled down almost immediately. I think she'd forgotten her face was attached to my arm. afterward I had an internal freak-out, the kind you have when you narrowly avoid a car accident. a post-trauma adrenaline rush.

in the arena she galloped around, snorting and looking over the wall to the broodmare paddock. I let her hang out there for 40 minutes while I cleaned stalls. I was certain she would be a train wreck under saddle but she was fine. nice floaty trot, no bucking. she even cleared a small jump I had assumed she would blow through. up and over, her front legs neatly tucked. she surprised me so much by how clean and eager she had been that I burst out laughing and dropped my stirrup.

a new lesson horse arrived this afternoon, a big broad palomino named Indy. I hopped on him for a turn and put him through his paces. I had to bring out my 'fat' girth. it's been 6 months since I've ridden any horse but Cookie. I used to love to hop on whatever needed riding. it was good to get back to that. riding Indy was like straddling a sofa compared to my little Arab-boned mare. afterward I mucked stalls and partially flattened the poop pile. glamorous, no? I pitchforked that thing for two hours. later on, emptying the dishwasher, my arms got tired putting the mugs on a top shelf. tomorrow is going to be misery.

thankfully tomorrow I have not a single thing planned. I plan on eating a long and luxurious breakfast -- maybe in bed -- and staying in my pajamas all day. best Sunday ever.

February 27, 2009


I've never wanted to leave work so badly in my life as I did all day today. I must have reached critical mass. I haven't had a day off in two weeks; I haven't had a day off to myself in over a month. today at work my jeans were uncomfortable; nearly everybody at the Calisto meet & greet seemed to be acting like an asshole; the ladies in accounting complained that I always turn my timesheet in on Monday morning instead of Friday afternoon, and suggested I wear a dunce cap. every minute was agony.

now I am home, showered, pajama-ed, camped out in a blanket nest. the plan for the evening is pretty simple: play Boom Blox and stay awake past 7:30.

I'm phoning it in tonight. instead of writing anything meaningful, here's some random stuff from the internet.

a questionnaire about snuggies
my next reading list (can you tell I'm a sucker for pre-packaged reading lists? I love the ToB)
my favorite morning activity as a child
this pretty much describes my day

February 26, 2009


dudes, my tulips are already fading and I haven't even gotten to enjoy them yet. can't I take tomorrow off work and stare at them for a few hours? life is hard.

I went with my girlfriends to go see twilight at a second-run place nearby tonight, despite the fact that I steadfastly refuse to read the books. it was pretty terrible but I had a good laugh in the middle of it, so it was still $3 well spent.

it's after my bedtime so instead of telling you anything I'll share with you the best video on youtube. but you should probably watch this one first.

February 24, 2009

Calisto alle stelle

I noticed early on in my opera career that opera singers often peppered their conversation with bits in other languages. "Wunderbar!" one would cry; they would often bid me thank you or goodbye in something other than English. At first I believed this to be an affectation, but over time I've come to understand how the languages kick around in your brain, how the phrases become interchangeable. I say this now because I've spent the last few days muttering to myself in badly pronounced Italian, as I work my way word-for-word through the Calisto supertext score, checking the score we are renting from Glimmerglass against the realization we are using.

comedy of the day: tech support guy for our new shiny copy machine, which I as a "primary user" helped pick out, was overheard in a conversation with our IT guy today saying, "As long as Jessica's happy, we're good. That's what matters." I think without sarcasm.

February 23, 2009


I had forgotten the simple satisfaction of sitting down to a task and having all day to complete it. I went to work all day today, and I go to work all day tomorrow, and the next day, and the next. That might seem boring. But every day I know what my schedule is and how much money I'll make. I don't have to drive to four different places to work a normal work day. I got to sit all day and work on the messy and problematic supertitle score without the huge gnawing worry that by taking my time I was neglecting the 239875 things I was going to have to do in my 20 alloted hours. a full-time librarian again!

to celebrate my return, my boss brought me flowers. I had to keep them in a ridiculous vase until I took them home. by a happy coincidence, tulips just happen to be my favorite.

tulips are my favorite

otherwise life is a fresh awakening. reading begets writing; writing begets reading. running on the river today, the water was so calm, si calme. walking out the back door on her bike, my boss asked me, 'want to run sauvie island with me this summer?' it's a july 4th marathon. I blithely said yes without a thought.

Spring came unexpected. We thought the cold
might last forever, or that despite the thaw
nothing would grow again from us; foresaw
no butter-yellow buds, no birds, no path
outward into a seasoned innocence.
When the circle broke at last it wasn't silence
or speech that helped us, neither faith nor will
nor anything that people do at all;
love made us green for no sure cause on earth
and grew, like our children, from a miracle.

-- from the twelfth year, mary jo salter

February 22, 2009


last year one of the items on my 101 things in 1001 days list was to read all of the Pulitzer Prize winners, a goal which I have not abandoned, although I abandoned the project. It astounds me, the number of these I have neither read nor heard of.

1948 James A. Michener: Tales of the South Pacific
1949 James Gould Cozzens: Guard of Honor
1950 A.B. Guthrie, Jr.: The Way West
1951 Conrad Richter: The Town
1952 Herman Wouk: The Caine Mutiny
1955 William Faulkner: A Fable
1956 MacKinlay Kantor: Andersonville
1959 Robert Lewis Taylor: The Travels of Jaimie McPheeters
1960 Allen Drury: Advise and Consent
1962 Edwin O'Connor: The Edge of Sadness
1963 William Faulkner: The Reivers
1965 Shirley Ann Grau: The Keepers Of The House
1966 Katherine Anne Porter: Collected Stories
1967 Bernard Malamud: The Fixer
1968 William Styron: The Confessions of Nat Turner
1969 N. Scott Momaday: House Made of Dawn
1970 Jean Stafford: Collected Stories
1976 Saul Bellow: Humboldt's Gift
1978 James Alan McPherson: Elbow Room
1979 John Cheever: The Stories of John Cheever
1981 John Kennedy Toole: A Confederacy of Dunces
1982 John Updike: Rabbit Is Rich
1984 William Kennedy: Ironweed
1985 Alison Lurie: Foreign Affairs
1986 Larry McMurtry: Lonesome Dove
1987 Peter Taylor: A Summons to Memphis
1990 Oscar Hijuelos: The Mambo Kings Play Songs of Love
1991 John Updike: Rabbit At Rest
1993 Robert Olen Butler: A Good Scent from a Strange Mountain
1996 Richard Ford: Independence Day
1997 Steven Millhauser: Martin Dressler: The Tale of an American Dreamer
1998 Philip Roth: American Pastoral
2000 Jhumpa Lahiri: Interpreter of Maladies
2006 Geraldine Brooks: March
2007 Cormac McCarthy: The Road
2008 Junot Diaz: The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao

1953 Ernest Hemingway: The Old Man and the Sea
1958 James Agee: A Death in the Family
1961 Harper Lee: To Kill A Mockingbird
1972 Wallace Stegner: Angle of Repose
1973 Eudora Welty: The Optimists Daughter
1975 Michael Shaara: The Killer Angels
1980 Norman Mailer: The Executioner's Song
1983 Alice Walker: The Color Purple
1988 Toni Morrison: Beloved
1989 Anne Tyler: Breathing Lessons
1992 Jane Smiley: A Thousand Acres
1994 E. Annie Proulx: The Shipping News
1995 Carol Shields: The Stone Diaries
1999 Michael Cunningham: The Hours
2001 Michael Chabon: The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier & Clay
2002 Richard Russo: Empire Falls
2003 Jeffrey Eugenides: Middlesex
2004 Edward P. Jones: The Known World
2005 Marilynne Robinson: Gilead

.. we won't even talk about the finalists, and oh god, let's not get started on the nobel prize.

February 21, 2009

kick me

one: our conductor makes a snarky comment in rehearsal about last night's encore, which we planned but did not perform. nobody told me we weren't doing it, so I went to set out the necessary stands as people were still applauding, assuming that the conductor was right behind me. he had already bowed three times. fortunately the principal cellist shook her head at me just a tiny bit, and I got the message and put the stands aside. today's comment went something like: 'we'll avoid putting the stands out after the audience has stopped clapping.' he says it to the orchestra, but it's directed at me. it's meant as a joke and I do not laugh.

two: driving out of the parking garage, the girl in the booth takes my credit card, which has an old photo on it, and glances at it. "you were cuter with long hair," she said. "why did you cut it off?"

February 20, 2009

nine of swords

In 2006 my friend megan and I embarked on a writing project wherein we drew at random from a tarot deck each day and used the meaning of the card as a writing prompt. we made a two-person livejournal community and deposited our writing there each day. the project was relentless -- there are 78 tarot cards and after awhile they all seem to be telling you the same thing -- and though we were dedicated for a long time we eventually trickled off. there are 16 cards remaining to be written. maybe you'll see them here some day.

but in the meantime I have gone back and have begun to read what was written before. some of it surprised me.

nine of swords

nine of swords

who can forget how it felt to drive the streets of my youth in bright early autumn and feel, honestly, that although there was joy in the world, it was not for me. or the day in the coldest moment of winter when I sat in my car and did not bother to turn on the heat. my heart was broken and it felt like it would never be warm again. the carpet of the car was a sheet of ice.

I do not think of the future. I find it harder to make to-do lists or to empty the dishwasher in preparation for morning. my maternal grandmother lies lonely in a nursing home bed; last Wednesday was her birthday. I don't know if anyone visited. She was horrible to us all but she is still a person who is dying. Sometimes I think of asking her to tell me the story of her life. But she can barely speak, and would only ask me to turn up the television anyway. My grandfather, whom I have now met twice, has cancer all throughout his bones and organs. He gets thinner by the day. He told me at the dinner table, my just-acquired sister across from me, my bird-like British grandmother beside me. I could only shake my head.

on the dining room table was my sister's journal, open. She had been sharing it with friends from the grief counseling center. There was a Polaroid of Steve and his mother, taken September 30 of last year. One week before he died. He was bald, large-headed, covered in tubes. He couldn't speak. She would dab him with holy water periodically while we sat. When I saw him for the last time I think he was trying to tell me he loved me, and I could not help him say it. I felt awkward and embarrassed. Everyone was around me. Even knowing those were our last moments together did not make it possible for me to drop my defenses. He wanted me to hold his hand. He smelled terrible. Everyone sat in uncomfortable silence, feigned casualness, watching the TV overhead. The last thing I said to him before leaving to pick up the kids was "Be good, big guy." I kissed his forehead. That was the last thing I ever said to him. I had never called him 'big guy' in my life. But I could not tell him I loved him.

February 19, 2009


seen downtown today: a small Asian man in sweatpants with the best bowl cut ever; a girl in a hunter green coat and amazing legs, in black patterned tights.

The PBO show this weekend is a French program. Today the executive director asked me, "How much French Baroque music do you know?"
"None," I answered.
"Well," he said, "now you know all of it."

In rehearsal I mostly do very little other than listen and be prepared to move stuff, plug in lights, turn up the heat, or find somebody paper clips. Every 90 minutes I call the break, and 20 minutes later I make everybody get back to work. This leaves me with roughly 7 hours of relatively free time within rehearsal to do as I please, so long as I can do it in the rehearsal space quietly. During Messiah last December, I knit a couple of scarves, along with a set of arm warmers I made just to keep warm in the cold church. For this set I have a ton of opera work to be done, but the nature of the work requires that I spread out, which is not possible in a church pew. So I have mainly been reading, writing, and reading my old writing. I am surprised by it. There is enough of it -- I used my computer as a journal for two years before recently reverting back to pen & paper -- that a lot of it is stuff I don't remember writing. I've come to the conclusion that it needs some air. I think it'll start to see the light of day tomorrow.

and since today is one of those days where I'm inexplicably dying to be upside down (I have a lot of days like this), I'm going to go see if I can still conjure up my old forearm stand. Do you know I used to put my headphones in, listen to my favorite opera arias, and hang out in a headstand? remarkably, it's one of the few childhood skills I never lost as an adult. the things some people do for fun.

February 18, 2009

I acknowledge

this is one of my favorites, and for the last few days my favorite section of it has kicked ceaselessly through my brain. let me share it.

Just when it seemed I couldn't bear
one more friend
waking with a tumor, one more maniac

with a perfect reason, often a sweetness
has come
and changed nothing in the world

except the way I stumbled through it,
for a while lost
in the ignorance of loving

someone or something, the world shrunk
to mouth-size,
hand-size, and never seeming small.

I acknowledge there is no sweetness
that doesn't leave a stain,
no sweetness that's ever sufficiently sweet.

Tonight a friend called to say his lover
was killed in a car
he was driving. His voice was low

and guttural, he repeated what he needed
to repeat, and I repeated
the one or two words we have for such grief

until we were speaking only in tones.
Often a sweetness comes
as if on loan, stays just long enough

to make sense of what it means to be alive,
then returns to its dark
source. As for me, I don't care

where it's been, or what bitter road
it's traveled
to come so far, to taste so good.

-- stephen dunn, sweetness

February 17, 2009

to rend your ventricles apart

couperin, handel, rameau, c.p.e. bach. although I am happy to have my full-time job back, I will miss freelancing, which has made me feel sought after and capable. I never thought I was the kind of person who could work four jobs, and it's been a remarkable confidence boost to discover that I have the stamina. this week I am in rehearsal with PBO; I sit in the performance space with one ear on the rehearsal while I work on the supertitle score for the opera and bowings for the symphony. although it's exhausting, it's also a thrill. the satisfaction of making a living being surrounded by this music never wears thin. I will be glad to have a steady paycheck again, but it breaks my heart a little to know that I will have to give up this crazy life.

this past weekend my old high school friend mike came for a visit. we played skeeball at east burn (just one game, but still: crossing off number 20 on the list), drove around the gorge, visited my horse, and hung out with my friends after closing night at the opera. we drank beers and caught up. it was amazing. beforehand, my friends asked, 'isn't it going to be weird? you haven't seen each other in ages." but I knew we would be OK.


and there is nothing like a new set of eyes viewing your life to make you take stock and appreciate all that you have: your wonderful friends, the great town you live in, the fact that you do what you love for a living. I say it constantly because I was in my darkest place not so long ago, so in my heart it bears repeating: I am so lucky. I am the luckiest person on earth.

February 11, 2009


my life lately is like college revisited: many late nights with friends; a lot of raucous laughter in bars; martinis and whiskey; playing pool and shuffleboard. tonight is my first night being home at dinnertime in more than three weeks. it has been exhausting and expensive and absolutely marvelous. I can't remember feeling so much a part of something, or having so much fun. though I am normally solitary and sometimes border on reclusive, I have gotten so accustomed to being surrounded by my friends that when I find myself away from them for more than a day I begin to miss them and wonder what they're up to.

best girlfriends

the show closes on saturday; we begin rehearsal for the next one monday morning. over the weekend an old friend is coming to visit; we plan on riding the tram, going for a hike, going out for brunch, and drinking beers while we catch up on the five years of each others' lives we've missed. I am so tired! but this life is tremendous. I'm so tired, there's nothing else to say except that.

February 7, 2009


number seven on the list -- stay out all night.


last night was opening night of the opera. it had been a long, tired day; I swore to my friends that I wasn't going out after the celebratory company cast party. "Not even if we go to the enchanted forest," I said.

what a liar! in the end we went to another bar to play pool and eat tater tots; we ended up at a friend's house to play mario kart. once I realized my goal was accidentally within reach (it was 4:30 when we began to head home), I wasn't sure I could convince anyone to stay out with me. I even made it home to my apartment, but fortunately one of our friends saved me. we tried to hit up voodoo donuts -- they claim to be open all night -- but ended up eating french toast & pancakes at the hotcake house. I got home at 8 AM. exhausting, amazing.

February 5, 2009

4 AM

it's 4:30 and I've just gotten home; I could have crossed one off the list and stayed out all night, but no one else seemed up for it. and what would we do, in Portland? but oh! oh, my friends. everyone in the world should have friends like mine. they are the greatest people on earth. in six hours I'll get up and eat bacon with them. my life is a blessing.

February 3, 2009

catching up

the lesson (supertitle script)

flute auditions Saturday, clarinet auditions Sunday; rehearsal every night since last Thursday. at the opera, we are tired. but the show looks great. the singers are amazing, the set and costumes and lighting are incredible, and ohh, the music. the show is creepy and disturbing and beautiful. I wake up and go to sleep with it running through my mind. I kind of never want it to end. but it opens Friday; it hasn't even started yet.

there is not room for much else in my mind these days. this morning a new mare greeted me at the barn. she is very quiet, with a sweet, kind face. she is need of a good grooming, too, but I couldn't spend the time today.

sweet new mare

I don't even know her name, but she stood quietly as I cleaned her stall, and was pleased to have her neck scratched. I haven't ridden Cookie since she nearly bucked me off last week, but it's for lack of time and not lack of courage. this month I will pay the remainder of her purchase fee and she'll be completely mine.

oh, I suppose there's one another thing. my job at the opera -- which in the spring was turned into part-time -- has been completely reinstated. I'll be back to my former full-time glory at the end of this month. that was my sweet, lovely little secret. I did not dare believe it would be true.