May 29, 2009

happiest place, happiest day

today I'm in the happiest place on earth! it's my birthday! cupcakes! castles! mickey mouse!

share a little of the magic with me. I used to have this music on a record as a child; I hadn't heard it in years up until recently. I still a huge frisson of joy listening to the narration at the beginning, particularly at those last five words: 'the main street electrical parade!' like, when I hear it I get a big dumb grin on my face every single time.

May 27, 2009

up with joy

nearly every single thing over the last 24 hours has been like an early birthday present:

+ last night at the softball game -- a game in which we were totally massacred by the opposing team -- I stopped a fast ground ball to second with my left kneecap. the resulting, instantaneous bruise is dotted with the lines left by the laces of the ball. it's a fabulous bruise, a real badge of honor. I had my rally cap on (hat turned inside out) & my signature rainbow socks-turned-leg-warmers; earlier I had been trash talking the opposing team. the ball that nailed my knee rolled straight to our pitcher, who threw it to first to score the hitter out.
+ the one time I got up to bat I hit a lame pop fly right to the pitcher, who somehow missed catching it, but it had so much backspin that the chumps, who were already at least 20 points ahead, let it roll all the way back to the plate for a foul call. I walked huffily back to the plate (I had long since made it to first) and nailed one into the outfield, running easily back to first base.
+ the injury, in tandem with a couple snagged balls in the infield and an RBI, scored me the game ball for this week. the game ball is a tradition on the team: it starts at the opening of the season as an unassuming softball, modified slightly by the person each week who is, basically, voted MVP of the game. last year the end result involved a mexican wrestling mask, sparklers, and cartoon jesus band-aids. two years ago it included a barbie suitcase and theme music. this year it already has a talking napoleon dynamite figurine and a candy dispenser. the bar is set pretty high.
+ I was picked to be on Horse Master with Julie Goodnight, a TV show about horseback riding/training ! they're coming to shoot in Portland at the end of June. by some miraculous stroke of luck, they begin shooting the day I return from hawaii. I requested to work on that little problem we're having where Cookie doesn't turn well to the right.
+ last night lauren gave another friend (whose birthday was saturday) and me belated/early birthday presents & strawberry shortcake; today my boss brought me a carrot cake cupcake w/cream cheese frosting & coconut as an early birthday treat. seriously, this has been the rockingest birthday week. I feel so lucky!
+ today on my midday run a pair of guys I passed called out, 'hello beautiful!' and rather than assume they were kidding/meanly teasing and ignoring them (which is what I usually do), I assumed they were serious and yelled 'hey!' and waved. it was the kind of day where I could believe everyone meant the best.

and even the cons are tinged in things uplifting:
- tomorrow I have to crowbar myself out of bed at 3:30 to get to the airport, but this is only because my friends hannah & joe are also going to the airport and have sweetly agreed to take me so that I don't have to leave my car. my flight leaves for long beach at 7.
- it's supposed to be 86 degrees in portland while I'm gone -- my favorite kind of weather! and 66 in santa barbara. but DISNEYLAND and hanging with Cristina and the beach and barbecues and home cooking and my sister's little family and my toddler nephew and my friend josh and guitar hero and MICKEY MOUSE and seriously, you guys, this is the best week.

May 26, 2009

durum wheat

Memory at its finest lacks corroboration
—no photographs, no diaries—
nothing to pin the past on the present with, to make it stick.
Just because you've got this idea
of red fields stretching along the tertiary roads
of Saskatchewan, like blazing, contained fires —
just because somewhere in your memory
there's a rust-coloured pulse
taking its place among canola yellow
and flax fields the huddled blue of morning azures—
just because you want to
doesn't mean you can
build a home for that old, peculiar ghost.

Someone tells you you've imagined it,
that gash across the ripe belly of summer,
and for a year, maybe two, you believe them.
Maybe you did invent it, maybe as you leaned,
to escape the heat, out the Pontiac's backseat window
you just remembered it that way
because you preferred the better version.

Someone tells you this.
But what can they know of faith?
To ask you to leave behind this insignificance.
This innocence that can't be proved: what the child saw
of the fields as she passed by, expecting nothing.

You have to go there while there's still time.
Back to the red flag of that field, blazing in the wind.
While you're still young enough to remember
a flame planted along a road. While you're still
seeing more than there is to see.

-- lisa martin-demoor

May 24, 2009

plants, animals, miscellany

a white ceramic bowl of cherries on the kitchen table; oatmeal with cinnamon and homemade strawberry jam; a string of white lights on the rail of the balcony garden at dusk; mornings on horseback, afternoons napping at the pool, evenings watching movies & eating dinner from a bowl cupped warmly in my palm.

now in the balcony garden: three tomato plants, lavender, spearmint, lemon thyme, basil, chives, creeping rosemary, dill, tiny morning glories. the four o'clocks have not yet sprouted and one pot of glories also appears disinclined. the pole beans are planted and hopefully a) will sprout and b) will not grow too tall before they have to be moved. I can't help but continue to grow the garden despite knowing I won't be here past early july. the containers will transfer; hopefully the vining plants won't have attached themselves yet to any permanent fixture. funny: as we get ready to move into a house, I think with fear of planting things in the ground. ack! what kind of gardener quakes in fear at the thought of real ground? but my successes with plants have all been in this vast container garden, where pest control is easy and there are no worries of nibbly rabbits or frost or slugs.

today I feel nomadic, restless, roaming. it will be good to get out of town, as much as I love portland. today I'm longing for the plants and weather of the east coast: the tobacco growing in fields along the road in north carolina; the locusts chirping great waves of sound from the trees; the tall grass in the front fields of my home. oh, summer. my family got chickens last week -- the first livestock to live on the land in fourteen years. 'how are the girls?' I ask my mother. she sighs a great, wonderful happy sigh. 'they're great,' she replies. 'I just love having them here. they're so calming. it just seems right.' last week she sent me a photo of 'the girls' in their coop, along with a photo of a brown egg on the kitchen table. 'our first egg,' the text read.

today I had intended to work, and instead use my memorial day vacation time later this week, when I'll be in california, so as to save a day of actual vacation. but it's so nice out, and so good to be idle for once; I haven't decided what to do. I brought a pile of parts home to work on and I think I may plug away at them this evening, work a half-day instead. in the meantime my day's plans are so simple: go to the barn, pull Cookie out of her stall, and let her hand-graze while I read a book. we're not doing any work today; we've been riding the last three days and yesterday I had to get the spurs out to make her go. we're both tired.

here, have some gerbils and gardens.



nestled in

through the screen

happy memorial day, cupcakes.

May 21, 2009

what can I tell you?

maybe about how I've been out at the barn the last two nights, doing some groundwork with Cookie, trying to get her used to listening and working again before I actually go for a dedicated ride. last night she was already better than the night before -- less explosive, less spooky -- and I decided just to tie her lead rope to her halter and ride her around bareback a little. when I do this she seems to realize she has to be careful; she listens better, in a way, than when she's fully saddled and bridled. I like to think she's watching after me. she has a funny & endearing habit of nickering at me when I'm mounting and dismounting, or when I'm standing close to her side, as if I were her foal.

maybe I'll tell you about how I've been amusing myself with photos of her ancestors.

or how I've had a headache every day since Sunday. it's very discouraging and borders on alarming. today I headed to the pharmacy to pick up some nasal Imitrex, hoping that maybe it's a rebound headache gone wrong and can be fixed with real, dedicated migraine medicine. I can't leave my head to fend for itself or it will turn from a headache to a full body problem, including nausea. I'm hydrated and well-rested. give it up, skull.

or how for the second time since softball season started, a relative stranger has commented on my speed. twice in tonight's game I got safely to first when by all rights the ball should have beaten me there. as I ran back from the field to the bench to grab my glove, a girl on the opposite team beckoned to me. "hey!" she called. when I got closer she said, "you're amazing! you run like a gazelle!"

I came back to the bench. "they keep calling me four-legged animals," I said to my team. "but I wish somebody would say, 'you run like a freight train." like, unstoppable.

May 19, 2009


the season is over now, and very slowly I am going back to feeling human: actually feeling awake when my alarm goes off (or better yet, waking before it); weaning myself from a diet totally comprised of pastries, cookies, candy, coffee, and late night bar food; doing the dishes, taking out the trash, picking up the clothes I've abandoned to the carpet; gradually getting done the long list of essentials I had inevitably discarded as things got too hectic (like getting the oil changed, paying the bills on time, searching for a new house for my move in july). if history is any indication, it will take a few weeks to unravel the stress ball of the last weeks and months. last year it took me all summer (but that's another story).

so I'm beginning to gear up for a summer of going places. in nine days I'm headed to california. my sister's already got guitar hero primed and waiting for play, and I've got a tiara that says BIRTHDAY GIRL swiped from among the things we moved out of cristina's apartment this past weekend. in disneyland next friday I plan on hugging every character we see, buying a pair of mouse ears, and gleefully riding mr. toad's wild ride. twice. in june I'm headed to hawaii to visit a high school friend and his wife for an extended weekend. hawaii! I would be happy even if they just plunked me down on the beach and left me for the entire four days. maybe with a pineapple. do they grow pineapples in hawaii? I don't know. it doesn't matter.

in july I'm headed back east to spend a few days on the beach with my cousins, a trip that will involve a day's drive down 95 through the middle of virginia, through damp heat and traffic, and which will wind down a back highway in northern north carolina, on a two lane road on which you can stop at least twice for homemade peach ice cream in styrofoam cups, served to you sometimes by a little boy with a thick backcountry accent. you can ride with the windows down and listen to music and think of that day several years ago, in college, when you and your cousin smoked an entire pack of cigarettes on this very ride, and you sang along to phantom of the opera, and swapped stories about boyfriends and ex-boyfriends (her boyfriend then is her fiancee now; by the fall she'll be a bride). that day you pulled in late to the island -- the houses were mostly dark, and you'd opted for aerosmith as your entrance music -- and you were ecstatic to be in that place you had conjured in your mind's eye for months as around you your world -- consisting primarily of the boyfriend you were leaving, had left -- came crumbling down. you and your cousin walked barefoot up the wood steps to the porch and slid open the glass door, entering into the cool dark of the air conditioned living room, your uncle watching TV, your aunt awake and waiting. that night you walked out to the dark ocean to put your feet in -- and how warm! you had forgotten -- and then with damp sandy feet you walked back up the path to the house, stood in the open kitchen, dimly lit, and ate a cold steamed crab straight from the fridge. later in your bedroom you sat and looked at the wood paneling, and the white pattern of the dresser, and marveled how accurately you had remembered it all during the winter and spring when it was the one place your imagination could take you to make you feel better about the reality of your life; you sat on that bed at midnight, the myrtle flower on the pillow a token from your oldest cousin's young daughter, and thought exquisitely that there was not a single thing on this earth that you wished for or wanted in this moment; that this might be, quite simply, by virtue of its uncomplicated completeness, the happiest day of your life.

that's where I'm headed this summer. also I'll be home in maryland, hanging with my siblings and eating snowballs.

May 16, 2009

let me tell you

in the kitchen:
sweet tea
strawberry freezer jam:
strawberry freezer jam

in the garden:
four o'clock seeds nestled in soil
new morning glory sprouts:
morning glory seedlets
temporarily adopted plants from Cristina's apartment:

things I've eaten recently:
sushi with POP ROCKS on top:
(it was amazing)

A Real Grasshopper:
edible grasshopper
(actually, that's TWO real grasshoppers -- Cristina ate the other one)

today is the last day of the season
tonight is a big party involving JELLO SHOTS
because we are still 17 at heart
(isn't everybody?)
this weekend is sleeping-with-the-windows-open weather
tomorrow it's supposed to be in the mid-eighties! <3
but everyone is leaving in the next few days
so it's a mixed bag
still, the sun shines
the tiny plants grow
the friends all come together for one final weekend of loving each other a lot
and there are worse things in the world
than temporary goodbyes

those grasshoppers
were delicious

May 14, 2009

bonus footage

Nub spent some time with us last week at our favorite post-opera pub, Veritable Quandary (VQ for short). He was a way bigger part of our evening than I had anticipated. Below, Ryan uncovers Nub's speaking voice, and discovers that he might have an angry streak. Warning for sweet, sensitive ears: profanity involved!

May 13, 2009

Nub does Rigoletto.

I've spent the majority of today feeling queasy, from what I believe to be simple fatigue. This morning I was about 4 seconds from throwing up at work, but I made my way through it to a more manageable level of misery. Every time I eat, I get nauseous. My diet has been so poor over the last several weeks that I can't help but assume part of it is also dehydration and diet induced. I'm limiting what I eat until tomorrow afternoon in hopes of letting it clear itself up. Have I mentioned I'm tired? We're all tired.

Of course, none of this ill-feeling prevented me from eating marinated beef heart last night. Beef heart! Have I ever mentioned that I love adventurous eating? As long as it's not still wriggling, I'm pretty game. In fact, this week there are plans on the table to go and eat fried grasshoppers at a local sushi place. Nausea? What nausea?

In Portland we're experiencing a long bout of rain. Obviously the area is known for this rain, but we had a fairly mild winter, so we're a little out of practice. This is also unusual rain in that it's what we like to refer to as "wet rain," i.e. rain that actually gets you wet when you walk through it, rather than "dry rain," which is PDX standard: rain you can walk through without an umbrella. In fact, most Portlanders seem to eschew umbrellas (myself included). Anyway, the rain has got nearly everybody down. I have to say, though, that I'm kind of grateful for it today. If it were sunny and 70 degrees I'd just feel guilty. This weather is commensurate with my mood and overall physical well-being. Is it Sunday yet?

In other news, Nub's been hanging out at the opera:

May 11, 2009

worn out

well, it's happened. I thought I would escape it this season, but exhaustion has taken a big bite out of me. over the past few days I've woken up feeling like roadkill, nauseous and sore all over. I spent most of yesterday and today feeling alternately hungry and queasy -- probably a combination of fatigue, dehydration, and a diet composed entirely of coffee and pastries. after two weeks off I finally went on a run on saturday; I felt like a 400 pound man with emphysema. I'm not even the worst off among us -- the production department has worked far more -- but I'm toast. thankfully we only have two shows and five days until the season closes. I agree wholeheartedly with what a friend said yesterday: I can't wait to be bored. we all love what we do but we'll enjoy the break that's coming.

what do I plan to do? when the season ends I'll go back to 9-5 in the office, and I'll be able to ride my horse again -- which is good, because we have a horse show to ride in the first week of june. I'll read all the books stacked up around my apartment. I'll wait until the weather breaks and then lounge by the pool in giant, ridiculous sunglasses. I'll go hiking in the gorge. I'll plant the four o'clocks, and paint my toenails, and get my xbox repaired. I'll write letters, and walk with my shoes off, and train for a half-marathon. I'll plan my trip home in july, and my trip to hang with my cousins at the beach in north carolina, where we'll sit in white rocking chairs on the porch and watch the people go by; we'll ride bikes across the pontoon bridge in the middle of the mild night. I'll go to california, and hawaii. oh, summer! what I crave is sweet tea and grits, my mother's breakfast cooking, the wet hot afternoons of the southern east coast. sea oats, sand castles, sun.

May 10, 2009

mother's day

I was born when my mother was only nineteen, an 'oops' baby that changed the course of her life. She was married to my father on Valentine's Day 1981, three months before I was born; she was divorced two years later. Afterwards our little nuclear family consisted of me, my mom, and my maternal grandmother, a cranky, functional alcoholic who my mother turned to only out of desperation, at a time when she had just declared bankruptcy and couldn't afford day care.

Many of my sweetest memories involve my mother: standing on a chair at the stove on Saturday mornings, flipping pancakes as she poured batter; playing Around the World on the basketball courts at the elementary school; riding in the back of her new pick-up truck; taking road trips to New York, D.C., Ocean City -- and that accompanying feeling of getting up early in the still-cool fog of morning, and picking up breakfast on the road; learning to move the gearshift correctly on her stick shift (she'd push in the clutch and say "now!" and I'd shift). We went to Broadway shows and to the circus; we traveled around the East Coast.

As an adult I am grateful for the way she taught me -- and now my sister and brother -- to feel wonder at the world, to take notice of things, to be unabashed. She still feels so much youthful excitement. Last year she was incensed at how my siblings refused to take a day off school to go feed the circus elephants in Lexington Market. "Who are these spawn?" she cried. (She herself hated school and was adept at cutting class). On our cross-country road trip she was game for anything, and often sought out crazy things to do on the way, like stopping at "the mustard capital of the world" (Mt. Horeb, Wisconsin) or driving down a forgotten scenic highway in South Dakota to see the World's Largest Quail.

The thing that is hardest about living in Portland is being 3000 miles away from her. We're close; we talk a couple times a week. The worst nightmare I've ever had in my life is one in which I discovered my mom to be dead. My first reaction was, "Who will I tell my stories to?" Because we're so alike, my mom is my sounding-board for nearly everything. Something doesn't seem real unless I've told her about it.

Travis, Mom, and Ashley on the road again

love you, Mama. Happy Mother's Day.

May 5, 2009


the weather in Portland has been manic: periods of blue sky and sun followed by torrential rain, followed again by sun. we even had a thunderstorm the other day. I had just brought Cookie into the barn and we stood in the aisleway hearing the water pound down on the metal roof, hard, as if it would drive straight through the earth. when it thundered, I thought she would spook, but she stood quietly in the cross-ties, alert but unmoved. around us the horses jigged and called to each other. I didn't want to leave because leaving meant getting into my car, and getting into my car meant not hearing the thunder. and how I miss thunderstorms.

here is the truth. I'm kind of a mess lately. the apartment gets cleaned and then things get strewn about again in haste, and it's a mess again. dishes are eaten upon and left on the counter. clothes are dropped exactly where I peeled them from my body. bills are unpaid. to do lists remain untended. this is what the end of the season looks like: clumsy and distracted, headachy, grumbling, tired. today I was hungover from two drinks consumed over a period of more than two hours last night, and the unfairness of spending my day off feeling like a pile of trash when I hadn't even EARNED it really weighed heavily. I mean, I slept until noon, a feat I haven't performed since college.

and yet, it's OK. we're crashing through the last ten days of the season, and then it will be over. afterwards my dear friends will leave for places beyond. I can hardly bear to think of my life here without them.

other things I've learned from being a concubine:
  • the orchestra will not recognize me
  • and when they do they will all have something to say about my costume/hair/role
  • and when I change out of my costume every single one of them without fail will say "you're back!" or some variation therein

May 4, 2009

tech week

We're in the throes of tech week now for Rigoletto. Can I say again how glad I am to have thrown myself into the production? Although I've worked for the company for 4 seasons, there are still loads of experiences I've never had. Like, for example, being wrapped in a shroud and carried like a sacrifice across the stage by 5 choristers. Cross that one off the list, right?

Things I've learned from being a concubine:
  • it's hard to navigate steps in a long billowy gown and ballet slippers
  • it's way harder to get on somebody's back in a dress than in pants
  • if the wig staff tells you you're not allowed to have the top of your hair trimmed (for fear that your wig will have nothing to anchor to if you do), you can still cut the back of your hair with kitchen shears. without consulting a mirror. no one will notice.
  • having 3 feet of hair is really fun, but also really warm
  • with long hair, stage makeup, and without glasses, my face takes on significantly longer looking proportions
  • if your concubine costume is a virginal nightgown, people will complain that you're not naked enough
other things from this weekend: the quiet rainy walk up the park blocks; farmers' market lilacs and plant starts; kids playing little league in westmoreland park, in crisp white baseball pants and green shirts; planting the first of the balcony garden's vegetables; a reassuring hand on Cookie's withers as she stands bolt upright, nostrils flared, and stares terrified at the giant yellow bulldozer she's never seen before (but, obediently, does not bolt); cups of tea, bites of chevre, bowls of warm oatmeal with strawberries; movies on the couch; two Pulitzers read.