May 29, 2012

31.

top of the world
birthday beer

outside, in a beautiful place, with a favorite person, on a day that turned spectacular. a hike, a picnic, a giant beer; a slab of cake at the top of the world. what else could I have wanted?

the list

the list is changing. this year, it's a secret. but not forever.

1.
2.
3.
4.
5. juggling
6.
7.
8.
9.
10.
11.
12.
13.
14.
15.
16.
17.
18.
19.
20.
21.
22.
23.
24.
25.
26.
27.
28.
29.
30.
31.
32.

to be continued.

May 24, 2012

birthday week, day 1

wednesday:

a friend and I in a museum room,
she says, 'look at mark rothko's side,
did you know about his suicide?
some folks were born with a foot in the grave, but not me, of course.'
and she smiles as if to say we're in the know
then she names a coffee place where we can go, uptown
well, the painting is desperate but the crowds wash away
in a world of kind pedestrians who've seen enough today


untitled, 1963

I don't know what I expected from the rothkos. I had totally forgotten that he had works other than his late paintings, the giant blocks of color. I expected to like the bright ones, but in fact it was this one that got me. I could have stood and looked at this one all day. I probably went back to it ten times, enough that I was a little bit embarrassed, because the same museum employee was standing there every time I came back. no photo could do it justice: probably 15 feet tall, so somber and sad, heavy. it made me feel so quiet.

but there were cute little bright ones too:
wee rothko

I met her at the funeral,
she said, 'I don't know what he meant to me,
I just know he affected me.
an effect not unlike his art, I believe.'
the service starts and we are in the know
he had so much to say, but more to show,
and ain't that true of life?
so we weep for a person who lived at great cost
that we barely knew his powers till we sensed that we had lost


I hadn't ever been to the art museum, which I'm kind of embarrassed about. I only had the morning, so although I made a pass through the contemporary art building, I didn't get to linger as long as I would have liked. fortunately I did stumble upon this on the top floor (photo from flickr by LaValle PDX):

City of the Future

the scale of it is hard to get from this, but it was about six feet long and SO BRIGHT!

it's funny, when I was having beers with our timpanist we got into a long conversation about what music I like and don't like, how all the opera I like is 20th (or 21st) century english language opera. will tried to tease out exactly what it is that I like so much about it, or connect to in it, and I couldn't really explain it to him. then I got to the contemporary wing of the art museum and I loved everything and I thought, well, at least I'm consistent. I might not know art, but I know what I like.

there were also two calder mobiles. I have long loved calder. one of the museum employees, who just happened to be sort of following me through the museum, stopped when I stopped at this one and blew on it at just the right angle to make it move. thanks, random museum guy.

calder!

birthday week, day 1 also included a morning massage where my massage therapist exclaimed, "god, your calf is RIPPED UP!" followed quickly by, "oh god, I'm sorry! I didn't mean it that way, it's not THAT bad," but since I'm inside my leg I know better. I told a friend yesterday that I've just resigned myself to sitting around the house and eating butter all summer. take that, leg.

May 21, 2012

brief highlights

OMG FINGER

yup

turner

new love of my life

we closed the opera season on saturday. my sister spent the weekend here (along with her friend gretchen) and ran the rock & roll half on sunday. I ran about 2 miles of the course with her -- I wore the foam finger the whole time -- and spent the rest of the time cheering from my friend jennifer's porch.

I turn 31 in 8 days. no big party planned, and I don't care at all. I'm spending the day with one of my favorite people, and I used the money I've been saving for six months to buy myself a shiny new road bike. that's pretty much all I wanted anyway.

May 17, 2012

END OF THE SEASON AAAAAAAAAAHHHHHH

lately:
long bike rides with friends
long conversations with friends in the office
beers
the world's most decadent weather
somehow it's a week and a half until my birthday?
coffee
bare feet
bike shopping
horse hugs

the berry patch in my garden is out of hand. the flowered kale is as tall as I am. Cookie turned ten last thursday and I got very emotional about it, feeling grateful to have her. she and I are kind of bored with our riding life lately and I think we would both rather be jumping or trail riding or just about anything than going around in endless circles in the dusty arena, as we have done for years.

the other night I was sitting outside at a bar, waiting for a friend to meet me, when a random dude came and said hi and told me he and a buddy had been driving down the street when he saw me and thought I was so cute he had to pull over to talk to me. meanwhile the truth was that I'd just come from a thirty mile bike ride and although I was wearing a sundress, I was covered in a fine layer of dirt and sweat and I hadn't even combed my hair. I attribute this entire situation to my giant celebrity sunglasses.

life. these days when I get home from work there's a long list of things to do, but I often end up crawling into bed and watching TV until the sunlight fades outside. I have giant plans for the summer, but holy jeez louise, I'm tired.

May 5, 2012

an unsent letter

april 26, 2012, a better day than this one.

sunset

on my first morning in the desert, I sleep fitfully, as usual, and wake early, also as usual. the hotel is very quiet. I put on a swimsuit and creep down the steps to the pool, where I slip into the water and trace circles around the perimeter in lieu of laps. maybe half an hour passes. a woman and her little boy come in. he says hi to me in that way small children have, somehow both gregarious and shy. I'm tired, or maybe just tired of circles, so I pick up my book and a towel and I move to the hot tub. as I read, a man walks through the gate, a little toddler boy in tow. the man is in a jean jacket. the little boy has huge eyes and dark brown hair. as the man fiddles with his cell phone, the boy, probably no older than 2, cries "piscine! piscine!" over and over again, which is how I come to realize that they are french.

I towel off and leave the pool, change into a new set of clothes, walk to the front desk and ask for a bike. the one they give me is silver, the seat adjusted all the way down. it isn't a quick-release, so I just leave it. when I pedal, my knees come comically close to my chest. it has coaster brakes. I take a test spin through the parking lot and then shrug my shoulders and pull out onto the road. being on this beach cruiser on a four lane road is so absurd and funny, but I just pedal to the light and signal and turn, and the traffic mostly falls away, and then there is just me and the low-slung houses, all the plants a mystery, pebbles in the yards in lieu of grass. it's overcast, and surprisingly humid for the desert. the air smells like so many flowers. except for my knees, I could pedal down these streets all day. something about the houses and the yards and the rooftops feels intensely familiar to me, almost nostalgic, and I don't have the faintest idea why. the mountains are pressing down from all sides, looming in gravelly silence.

a hummingbird flits from a nearby plant. I pedal very slowly, rapt, and it hovers in the air, just feet from my bike, its bright purple head flashing in and out of view.

I go a mile or so and then come to a screeching halt when I realize I've passed a sign for stables. I backtrack and get off my bike, walk into the parking lot, lock the bike to a post. there's a sign that says "stable office," so I follow it, feeling ridiculously dressed, like an impostor, in a red tank top and running shorts, carrying, of all things, a coach purse. there's nobody in the office, which is covered in dust, but there's a dog lying just outside the door. a heeler, maybe, caked in dirt, friendly but uninterested. I reach down and he sniffs my hand once, then goes back to whatever he's watching for. I stand in the door frame and look around, waiting for anyone to notice me. tied nearby are about a dozen horses, all of them saddled, wearing rope halters. they're well-fed, bordering on chunky. their tails are swishing the flies away.

the dog suddenly gets up and trots towards the mountain, alert, tracking something. into view come three horses and their riders: two women and a man, their guide. the women wear tall boots and breeches -- english riders, like me. at the same moment, a man in a golf cart rounds the corner, another dog in tow. we talk; I ask if they'll take me out by myself, and what it will cost. we talk about my horse, about the summer heat, how they take the horses into the mountains once it gets too hot.

back at the hotel, I lock up the bike and change into a swimsuit, then go back down to the pool, which is still largely unoccupied. I read a magazine. I read my book. I flip onto my stomach, then onto my back, then onto my stomach again. this goes on for six hours.

then, night. I'm in this huge bed, a bed so large I can sleep totally sideways without my limbs falling off. I feel tired and a little restless, wondering if I should go back for a late swim, but not wanting to wash the saline out of my hair again. I want to go for a late walk, but don't know where, and mainly I just wish I had a porch to sit on, a rocking chair to rock in. I'm not lonely, but in the morning and at night I find myself missing the quiet comfort of sitting next to someone on a porch, mostly not talking, looking down the road or out to the beach or off into the woods, wherever the view leads. I think often of my family, of the late july beachhouse, of the afternoon lull when we sit on porches, rocking, sunbaked and tired; when we ride our bikes to one end of the island, admiring the houses; when we walk to the other end of the island, looking for shells.

for me, summer never comes fast enough or stays long enough. I think I would be content to live my life barefoot, barely-clad, sweating lightly, swimming in rivers, listening to the locusts in the trees.

on my second and last morning, I still can't sleep. I loathe air conditioning, and wish I could just prop open the door, let in the breeze, fall back into bed. I get up and pack my bags and rent a bike again, pedal furiously to the barn. the sun bursts free of the gloom. the sky is a deep, impossible blue. I get there too early and scratch the neck of a buckskin gelding who keeps threatening to kick the horse next to him, whose name, I will learn later, is pete.

my guide's name is amy. hair bleached blonde, jeans, boots, spurs. next to her I feel like a fake, dressed in the closest approximation I can muster to riding clothes, which is just bermuda shorts (my longest) and tennis shoes. but when we get onto the trail she says, "want to lope?" and I nod -- this is why I paid for a solo ride -- and we let our horses loose down the sandy path. later, we walk through the mountains and talk about tahoe, where she used to work, and what it's like to live in the desert. our horses walk among the rocks, picking off rogue bites of what looks like inedible brush. when we descend again, she says, "there's a long patch here where we can gallop if you want," and I grin, even though I have actually never galloped a horse in my life. she urges her horse forward, and rocks are flying off his hooves and back at us, and my horse, mouse, is heaving over the sand, and I drop a stirrup but just leave it, let it dangle. her horse spooks at something on the trail and she pulls up, checking behind her. "you okay?" she says, and I'm fine, and off we go again. it was the best part of the ride.

when I came back to the hotel, I packed my bags and put them behind a pool chair, then I checked out and snuck back to the pool, where I stayed, illegally, for four more hours.

maybe this whole ridiculously long letter is my way of telling the story of how suddenly, the world feels almost unbearably beautiful. last weekend, biking until the sun had crisped my edges, until I was covered in bugs; the radiant sunshine, the collective euphoria of everyone who was outside -- I thought to myself, 'this might well be the best day of my life.' this morning, leaning back against a pool chair, staring up at the flowers in the trees overhead, I thought the same thing. there is cotton candy! there are beautiful dogs, and people with their arms draped out of car windows, banners that flutter in the wind. cool bedsheets. there are friends who you don't talk to for ages, and then there they are, giving you back to yourself. puddles and moss and lilacs, dancing and jokes and hot pink nail polish, loved ones who stay up until 2 AM with you because you are sad. I cannot get over it -- I cannot.

I read a book of short stories in my hours by the pool, and in the middle of them it struck me that we live our lives so casually, without urgency. why do we do that? lately, I find myself constantly wondering, is there such a thing as a right time and a wrong time for something? or is there only now?

love,
j

May 3, 2012

what ails you

the thing I am most often fantasizing about lately is movement: dancing, crouching, spinning, leaping. I imagine so many things I have never done -- capoiera, breakdancing, rock climbing. when I say this, I really mean fantasizing. I can't tell you how often I imagine, in great detail, what it would feel like to crouch into a deep squat -- like the kind you would do to pull weeds in your garden, or to peer into a low basement window -- without pain. limber, lithe, flexible.

when I dream, I dream primarily of three things: running, riding Cookie bareback, and ponytails. three things I can't do, don't have. the most prevalent of these are the bareback dreams. there are periods where I have them nearly every night. in the dreams I hop onto her back, grab hold of her mane, and go. in every dream I marvel at how easy it is. even sitting here now, I can feel how it feels in the dream. in real life it's very hard.

the ponytail appears sporadically. just enough to taunt me.

chronic pain is hard. it's harder than most things I've known. it's taken from me the two things I love most -- running and riding -- and what's worse, it's robbed me of my faith in ever fully getting those things back. I can ride now, but not without a sneaking suspicion that it's hurting me. running comes and goes. I've become very reluctant to talk about running at all. when anyone asks me, "how are you doing?" I gloss over my answer and change the subject.

yesterday I ran two miles and today my calf is literally throbbing. having this experience at all is humbling. having it for nearly two years is crippling. 

I am trying. I'm trying so, so hard. I get on my horse four days a week and I withstand rides that feel horrible, because there's no other way to get stronger other than to ride, but there's no way to be a good rider without leg strength. I run slowly around my neighborhood, stop and stretch my calf six times, alter my stride, alter my posture, tuck my pelvis, toe-strike, heel-strike. the magic solution hasn't presented itself.

I missed eugene again this year, and even though I'd been resigned to missing it since february, it was still really hard. I was excited for my friends who ran it, but also really bummed out the entire day. I compensated by spending a large part of the day crafting a post-run care package for one of my best people. it helped some, but mostly I was -- and am -- still sad. I missed eugene, and shamrock, and race for the roses, and I'm going to miss the portland rock & roll half. will I be able to play softball? I don't know. I just don't know.