January 29, 2009

shh.

today was the kind of day which suddenly redeems itself and is full of hope. a day where you expect someone to bring you flowers, or fall in love with you; a day you expect to fall in love. I have a secret. hopefully it's a good one.

one of my favorites:

You have forty-nine days between
death and rebirth if you're a Buddhist.
Even the smallest soul could swim
the English Channel in that time
or climb, like a ten-month-old child,
every step of the Washington Monument
to travel across, up, down, over or through
--you won't know till you get there which to do.

He laid on me for a few seconds
said Roscoe Black, who lived to tell
about his skirmish with a grizzly bear
in Glacier Park. He laid on me not doing anything. I could feel his heart
beating against my heart.

Never mind lie and lay, the whole world
confuses them. For Roscoe Black you might say
all forty-nine days flew by.

I was raised on the Old Testament.
In it God talks to Moses, Noah,
Samuel, and they answer.
People confer with angels. Certain
animals converse with humans.
It's a simple world, full of crossovers.
Heaven's an airy Somewhere, and God
has a nasty temper when provoked,
but if there's a Hell, little is made of it.
No longtailed Devil, no eternal fire,

and no choosing what to come back as.
When the grizzly bear appears, he lies/lays down
on atheist and zealot. In the pitch-dark
each of us waits for him in Glacier Park.

-- maxine kumin, in the park

January 28, 2009

some days

this morning, on our day off, I had a long and lovely brunch with two of my fabulous girlfriends and one of the dudes, who dropped in on us after we'd arrived. there is something so exquisite about brunch: it's languorous and kind of decadent, and food-wise, there is nothing better. there are a million great brunch places in Portland; today we hit up bread & ink, where they serve their bloody marys as god intended: with a billion salted vegetables. "every food group!" cristina joked. "alcohol, vegetables, water, and salt."

DSCF5017

we had a lively discussion about the turn of the screw, which we saw in its final room run last night. (we take it to the theater for tech rehearsals tomorrow). the show is maybe the best one we've done in my four years -- compelling, disturbing, fascinating, beautiful. we debated the ambiguity of the plot and each drew our own conclusions, which delighted us.

afterwards I went to the barn and finally rustled up the motivation to ride. I just bought a bitless bridle to try on Cookie; we had a heart-to-heart in her stall, where I reminded her that I trusted her and asked her to please not make me bite the dust tonight. oops? maybe because I didn't lunge her beforehand (she's been getting too much sweetfeed & too little exercise and has a lot of steam to blow off before being ridden); maybe because we haven't ridden at night in the shadowy arena in awhile; maybe because she had this weird new CONTRAPTION on her face: after a few laps of walking we started to trot and she spooked at a monster on the far end of the ring, bucking and panicky. fortunately the new bridle -- despite being bitless -- had fine stopping power. my instructor, who had been turned in the other direction, watching the other student in the ring, turned just in time to see Cookie come out of it. "hey, nice balance!" she said. I had lost a stirrup but stayed on.

so we bagged it. we walked a few more laps and then I turned Cookie loose in the arena for awhile. it's the first time in five months of riding that she's acted out in any way at all. sometimes you have to know when it's just not your day. or your horse's day.

January 26, 2009

so super

new super 8

see, I am kind of a sucker for old cameras. it's funny -- I'm not even much of a photographer. there's just something so satisfying about the weight of an old camera in your hand; the cool metal, that big old lens. I bought an agfa optima at Goodwill about 18 months ago. I had no idea how or if it worked, but I gave it a home. it has the best viewfinder of any camera I've used.

this morning I was in the market for some picture frames and maybe a $2 book or two, but I couldn't resist the camera bin. piles and piles of mid-'90s point-and-shoots, and there, nestled among them, this treasure.

DSCF5012

mine is a gaf anscomatic S/80. info about this particular model is surprisingly hard to come by; even the super 8 wiki says merely "no sound." the best I can come is this little list. ah, that's OK. you were worth every cent of that $4.99.

DSCF5010

all of this camera love would not be possible if I hadn't finally replaced my dinosauric HP wonder -- a college graduation gift that my friends have made fun of for years because of its weight and size -- with a zippy little green number. it's not much, but I'm enjoying it.

January 25, 2009

letter to a friend

...excerpted, which says it better than any retelling I could do.

dear m,

in the past few weeks I've rekindled an old friendship with a high school friend. one night -- last week, I think, or the week before -- we were talking online and in the midst of some dumb story I was telling, he asked, "are you a writer?" it struck me straight in the heart. I am trying to read more, since last year I barely broke 20 books, and lately I've wondered if my lack of reading has a direct effect on how little I am inclined to write; how maybe it's a simple intake/output equation, and I'm not giving myself enough to gnaw on, literarily speaking. the night he asked me, I had no answer and told him so. 'you should write,' he continued on. 'you're really good at it.'

tonight I was trying to plod through the last few pages of my handwritten journal, a journal I have been keeping (not so diligently, it turns out) since july. suddenly it occurred to me that I wanted to unearth my old notebooks, which have been stored in a box in my closet since I moved to portland. there are so many of them. it breaks my heart. It's as though I chopped off my arm and stuck it in the freezer, and then, upon unearthing it years later, suddenly remembered, longingly, how nice it was to have an arm attached to this stump. all of my brain from college, dumped into a box. I haven't even taken them all out. I didn't expect that there would be so MANY, and I didn't expect that there would be some I had forgotten about. I thought I could visualize them. I thought maybe there were five or six. There are at least a dozen, or more.

how do you get back to being a reader? how do you get back to being a writer? I don't know the answers to these questions, and they taunt me. natalie goldberg has a recent book -- did you know?-- or at least one written since I stopped writing. I'm inclined to buy it. I can't help but feel like her edicts on writing are some magical spell I can cast over myself.

this is my life in this moment. everything else is fine, or it's not. money is tight and tonight, doing my taxes, I was overcome with glumness at the realization that I can't keep this up forever, that I am making less than before, that I used to be able to put money in my savings account and feel secure, but now there's not enough. work at the opera is fine. work elsewhere is fine. I haven't ridden my horse much in the past two weeks -- just once or twice a week -- for mostly dumb reasons.

I love and miss you. I've made a marked improvement in my mental state since last summer, but only in the past month have I felt like maybe my depression has finally and completely passed. honestly, I'm afraid to appraise the situation head-on, for fear that looking at it will bring it back. better to glance sidelong.

tons of love,
j



---
dear m,

I just counted. there are 19 notebooks. nineteen.

xo,
j

keep your hand moving

"About twelve years ago, Chris Pirsig, the son of Robert Pirsig, who wrote Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance, was senselessly murdered near the San Francisco Zen Center. The killers knifed Chris and ran. They did not take a wallet (I don't even know if Chris had one on him). I was sitting a seven-day meditation retreat in Minnesota. It was December. We all knew Chris. Rumors spread quickly during breaks, even though we were supposed to remain silent. We all awaited our teacher's talk that morning. Katagiri Roshi was close to Chris. He would make it all better.

Roshi walked into the meditation hall, bowed, lit incense, sat down. We chanted. Then he spoke: "Human beings have an idea they are very fond of: that we die in old age. This is just an idea. We don't know when our death will come. Chris Pirsig's death has come now. It is a great teaching in impermanence."

The bell was rung. It was the end of the lecture. I was furious. What kind of thing was that to say? How could Roshi be so cruel? I knew he cared about Chris.

Years later, distraught by learning that Katagiri Roshi had cancer, I cried for many weeks. In May, as I drove to the airport in Albuquerque to fly to see him, I suddenly remembered his talk about Chris. His talk had not been cruel. It was brave. He was willing to cut through all sentiment and touch the fundamental truth of impermanence. I appreciated it. What he said then helped my life now.

This is how we learn. Human life is very big. There is no short cut from Minneapolis to New Mexico. My car had to cover every mile. We learn with every cell and with time, care, pain, and love. I'm sure that many times when the marathon monks woke at midnight to prepare to run, they had an urge to go back to sleep, but the path was ahead of them. We, who are not marathon monks, wake up and have the toothbrush before us--brushing our teeth! the great ritual that gets us out of bed--and then we have the blank page in front of us, or the school bus, or the phone ringing. We all must go on down that highway. Our life is the path of learning, to wake up before we die. This book is about that."

-- natalie goldberg, long quiet highway

January 24, 2009

répétition

current sounds: harp plucking, cello arpeggios, snare drum, stopped horn. in the hallway, the harpist stops the orchestra manager and says, "we have to talk about enharmonics." the clarinetist twists the neck onto his bass clarinet. the percussionist has to play eleven instruments for this show, and that's if you only count the timpani as one instrument instead of 5.

it's Saturday morning; I've been here since 8:30. it's our second day of orchestra rehearsal for the Britten, which opens in 13 days. the orchestra is small, and the conductor is sweetly self-sufficient. the parts required little work, and so I'm spared the giant anxiety attack I usually go through at each of the first three readings. I don't even have to follow along in the score. instead, I'm quietly marking symphony parts; next to me, the orchestra manager is eating a McDonalds apple pie and shuffling paperwork. on tired mornings like this, with these 13 people who individually greet me as they arrive, and ask me how I am, I don't care how many jobs I have to work to make ends meet, or how exhausted I am at the end of a show run: I am one of the lucky ones.

January 22, 2009

27

27 things to do before I turn 28 (inspired by, and with thanks to, andrea at hula seventy):

1. Ride in a pedicab
2. Play in the snow on Mt. Hood
3. Go horseback riding on the beach
4. Swim across the Columbia River
5. Learn to shoot a gun
6. Eat crepes at le happy
7. Stay out all night
8. Run a half-marathon
9. Go to Disneyland
10. Read at least one unforgettable book
11. Get a better pair of glasses
12. Take one photobooth picture at Ace Hotel, Ground Kontrol, and Finnegan's
13. Win a ribbon with Cookie in a horse show
14. Learn to do a split
15. Ride the tram
16. Visit the Velveteria
17. Eat sushi at Hiroshi
18. Develop a better writing practice
19. Kiss or be kissed
20. Play skeeball at east burn
21. Watch the Urban Iditarod
22. Teach Cookie a silly trick
23. Spend a girls' weekend at the beach
24. Host a dinner party
25. Finally go to lovely hula hands
26. Get a bike
27. Attend a roller derby bout

January 21, 2009

an exodus of birds

life lately is colored primarily by an intense gratitude for my friends. oh, you people! we go to brunch, we lounge on each others' couches; we borrow clothes and wash each others' dishes. at least three times in the past week we've caught ourselves saying, "I love us," a sentiment we blurt out usually when we're sneaking a forkful off of someone else's plate. tonight a friend got a cone of frozen yogurt; without blinking, another friend leaned over and took a giant bite off the top. these people are beautiful and sacred to me. they are the biggest force of good.

this week has been composed of days at the barn, productive days at work, nights with friends, and a cold, but wonderful, late afternoon run with a group of great women. riding my horse bareback through the arena yesterday, another rider commented, 'you can tell your horse loves you.'
'she's finally found her person,' my trainer replied. underneath me, Cookie walked along, being careful with me with every step.

January 17, 2009

.

tonight an old friend said to me, 'are you a writer?' and I could not answer him, because I didn't know. 'that's such an existential question,' I said, finally.

because it is so late, and I am tired, and headachy, and have a long day tomorrow -- all I can say is, I am so grateful for the people who are my friends: the people whose plates I unquestioningly eat from in restaurants; the people whose secrets I happily keep.

January 15, 2009

january 15

things I did today, or
being a grownup:

laundry that's been sitting around since before the holidays
cleaned a billion gross dishes
hung a new wreath on the front door
put away the christmas ornaments
(the tree is still up)
took out the trash
had a nice long conversation with ma mere
worked on my budget
paid my bills
took all the dead plant pots outside to the balcony, only to find that the storage room door is stuck shut from all the damp
roasted pumpkins for chili
roasted and prepared spaghetti squash
roasted pumpkin seeds
drank tea
read a real book (OK, one chapter)
made pumpkin risotto
watched three episodes of doctor who
< geek >: [said goodbye to my second doctor who companion (and now I'm stuck with donna, ugh)] < /geek >

now it's past my bedtime. this was a pretty good day.

January 14, 2009

books 2009

1. scott o'dell: island of the blue dolphins
2. j.k. rowling: tales of beedle the bard
3. maira kalman: the principles of uncertainty
4. colm toibin: the master
5. carol shields: the stone diaries P
6. michael cunningham: the hours P
7. fae myenne ng: steer towards rock
8. mark sarvas: harry, revised
9. heather b. armstrong: it sucked and then I cried: how I had a baby, a breakdown, and a much needed margarita
10. edward p. jones: the known world P
11. anne tyler: breathing lessons P
12. eudora welty: the optimist's daughter P
13. brady udall: the miracle life of edgar mint
14. ann patchett: bel canto

15. jodi picoult: my sister's keeper
16. michael shaara: the killer angels P
17. jon krakauer: under the banner of heaven
18. mary roach: stiff: the curious life of human cadavers
19. harper lee: to kill a mockingbird
20. gabriel garcia marquez: love in the time of cholera
21. richard russo: empire falls P
22. anita diamant: the red tent
23. lisa tucker: once upon a day


P = Pulitzer prize winner

january 13

cold stone of worry in my stomach; hurried frantic morning; striding down the sidewalk, in the middle of downtown, in mud-covered boots. quiet but for the sound of fifteen horses chewing and drinking; a big orange wheelbarrow; one horse's muzzle in my hair. deep wet squelching sand; sweat; warm bareback ride, legs dangling, with a lead rope for reins and a halter for a bridle. pitchfork; steam; sun. dentist: two chinese ladies laughing; spray from the nozzle; the smell of burnt tooth and dental drill. at home: tomato soup; yesterday's toffee; an old movie from childhood. a christmas tree, still lit, in the living room. awake past a certain someone's bedtime.

January 10, 2009

&

things to work on:

rote memorization
fluency in french
playing bass guitar rockingly
writing from the heart
knitting things that stay together
more toffee from the kitchen
taking photos of everything beautiful
taking note of everything beautiful

january 10.

things that are good:

unclipping the lead line from your horse's halter and having her follow you around anyway, without ropes or tricks, stopping when you stop and walking when you walk; her hair all over your gloves; her muzzle snuffling the top of your head. a surprise message from an old high school friend, a guy you used to tease about being so skinny, except now he's tall and lanky and rides a motorcycle, and he wants to come and see you and catch up. he really means it, and you know it, and it is a tiny offering that someone who lived your history still finds you fascinating and compelling.

this is a day that is nothing in particular, and I am tired, because I didn't get home until 4 this morning from a party thrown for a dear, close, and yet relatively new friend. this day did not hold a giant miracle, or a great awakening; just a small crysallis opening, just a moment of satisfaction. depression is something that you crawl out of so slowly that sometimes it feels like you'll be stuck forever. each step is so tiny. but precious.

January 3, 2009

recap

2008 was something. It was hard, and I'm not sorry it's over. Usually New Year's feels like no big deal to me -- since I'm not a winter person, it always seems like the wrong time of year to make life-changing resolutions. But this year the change to 2009 means something to me, because there was so much in last year that I wanted to leave behind.

I started the year with a knee injury that left me without running or riding, my two main ways of coping with stress. I began to seriously date a guy I had started seeing in November, although I never felt particularly strongly about him one way or the other. I adopted a cat from the humane society -- a beautiful lilac siamese named Sophia. The marathon season started without me. In general I felt unbalanced and overwhelmed, close to unraveling.

1/26/08: otherwise there is nothing. work is work. rehearsal is rehearsal. rain is rain. it is january. soon it will be february. today training started for the spring marathons. it poured cold rain all day, and I, vengefully, was glad.

The opera season swung in again full force, and I was living and breathing rehearsal, never coming home before 11 PM. The cat and I were a terrible match for each other, she being highly people-oriented and I never being around. I fell in love with the opera we produced in March and got into a horrible fight with my boyfriend when he bailed at the last minute from the performance he was supposed to attend. I was lonely, missing friends and feeling at odds with everything.

4/6/08: last night I suggested to aaron that we take a train ride somewhere and he reacted very negatively. "like amtrak?!" he said in disbelief. I had thought the notion rather romantic. is adulthood a lesson in compromise?

I took the cat back to the humane society. I worked every day for weeks on end, with scarcely a day off between March and June. More than anything, I craved a few days' vacation, the lull of summer, the imminent freedom of the end of the opera season. I eagerly anticipated my birthday, being taken to dinner by my boyfriend, and all the related festivities.

The day we closed the opera season, I got very drunk at a party and had to stay at the opera house late, napping on the couch, to sober up. While I was there my boyfriend called to say he had a kidney stone and desperately needed me to drive him to the hospital. Instead of spending the next few days sleeping until noon and loafing around -- which, after five weeks of work with no day off, was exactly what I had intended -- I spent the next week taking care of him, using all my vacation time.

On the day before I turned 27, my boss was terminated and my job at the opera was reduced to half-time. On my birthday, all my friends were out of town, and everyone in my department at the opera was away. No one even knew it was my birthday, and so I missed the customary singing and cake that had accompanied everyone else's day. Late that afternoon, my best friend sent me flowers from where she lives in Texas, knowing that I was feeling down. When I got them, I locked my office door and cried. A coworker noticed the attached balloon and asked me about it, which is the only way anyone found out that my birthday had been forgotten. That night, at a softball game I had nearly not had the energy to drag myself to, one of the girls I work with brought me a cake and flowers, and I was nominated to receive the weekly game ball.

6/8/08: this afternoon when I returned home the entire apartment complex smelled like hose water in the most simple, remarkable way. at the top of the steps the wood planks smelled sweetly of cedar or oak: whatever boards they use as boardwalk planks. olfactory and memory interminably intertwined. hosewater and wooden boards! the simple things. at the end of the day I planted seeds and herbs, and the ice cream truck drove by. I cannot believe it is nearly mid-june.

I spent the summer in a deep depression. I was jerked around at work, where they kept delaying my inevitable switch to part-time, even going so far as to tell me I had the summer off and then to change their minds three days before the end of my contract. I missed my yearly family trip to the beach, which I have been a part of all my life, and it was like missing Christmas. some days it was a struggle merely to get out of bed. I cried at the depression medication commercials. I lost weight. I had no interest in anything.

In August, my boyfriend went on a solo vacation for 12 days. I surprised myself by feeling the best I had felt all year. I called the barn where I had not ridden a horse in 9 months, and scheduled a lesson. I went out with friends and felt full of potential. When he returned, I felt dull and doldrummy again, which is how I realized our relationship would never be right for me. We broke up over Labor Day weekend.

In September, my job was finally reduced to half time. At the same time, I was offered intermittent employment at the symphony, and a substitute job at the ballet. I began cleaning stalls at the barn in exchange for free lessons. I regained my confidence on horseback after sustaining several falls in late 2007 which had left me skittish. I helped our barn owner make a video of a horse she was selling, who I subsequently fell in love with myself.

I was offered stage management work with another local orchestra, and became a full-time freelancer. The opera hired a new assistant stage manager and we were quickly thick as thieves. The new studio artists turned out to be a likeable, cohesive group of friends and I found myself out more than in. Friends finally came to visit my apartment.

In general the year was dominated by uncertainty and depression. But there were some good moments, too, of course: running the Rainier to Pacific with Nick in July, where we cracked jokes, and laughed, and barely slept, and had a fabulous time; running the Hood to Coast for the first time; the night of Election Day, when I threw a party for my friends and dressed up in a child-sized Betsy Ross costume; Thanksgiving; Christmas. And buying my horse, of course.

So here's to 2009, which, I sincerely hope, will be a dramatic improvement.