Monday, December 28, 2009

Cabin Fever

With the holidays tucked neatly behind us, we're disheveled. You are in the next room, clearing your throat and sucking snot through your nose, as you play some loud thing. I pound green tea to prevent the body from giving in to the cold that hovers in our living room.

Alaska: you are so large and dark in the winter. When we first landed, our plane shook in your freezing air. I held my stomach and averted my eyes from the window. When we are sick, we are alone.

At touchdown, we clacked onto the peach shining tile of the new Anchorage airport. Things change, you must have thought. Your hometown, where your heart grew in its palms, grows without you. It mars your memory. I know this because the Fargo from my youth doesn't exist anymore either. It is something else entirely. It is present. I am past. When I visit, its new buildings tell me, I don't belong anymore.

Through the cold window in the car, the night white snow mesmerizes me. I am not speaking as the black spokes of the trees zip past. A dark organic silhouette emerges on the street, lit by the yellow globes of the quiet winter street. There's our moose, sauntering through the streets like a living poem. Only in Alaska...

I am grateful to love your family. Grateful to hole up in the dim light of that cozy cabin. Grateful for the five-day hibernation that felt like a warm hug. Grateful for blankets, tea, Christmas lights, and carbohydrates.

We were so silent together, the five of us. Even the dogs outside barely barked. When Humvee, the sheep, wanted crackers, he butted his head against the window without a cry. The only peep I heard from him was when we were leaving; his thick hooves crunched in the driveway as he galloped after the car.

I saw you unwind there. I'm not sure who needed that more--you or me. Since we moved to San Diego, I've seen you hold that tight rein around your life. Squeezing it so hard your knuckles whiten, your neck stiff. I know you do it for us and I love you for it, but I miss you.

It's temporary. It's temporal. It's necessary i know. But gawd my heart screamed when I saw you breathe. Even as you got sicker and sicker, your nose stuffed and your head clogged, I was still relieved. It meant, to me, your body letting go. Laying down. Sleeping.

When we boarded the return plane, you handed me our tickets: first class. You smiled at me. I punched you. We sat down and you held my hand. I started to cry. You said, 'we'll figure it out.' And we will.

Saturday, December 19, 2009

We Blossom Don't We

The blossoms outside my apartment changed. From winter white to winter purple. Cold purple. The kind of lavendar that chills. My breath freezes in front of me, 'was it like this yesterday?' No. The color changes in a day.

I keep on waiting for you. Tapping my fingernails on the black iron. A hollow yell. I make plans for you. My hopes and dreams: they come and go.

Knee-deep in December, the presents pile by the door. Their bright red wrapping, crisp and shining, mocks the heart. You will not see your family, the postage remarks. I wait till the last minute to send them, trudge to the car, drive mindlessly to the post office, and go mindlessly about my day. I already miss the memory we haven't made.

We went to a party tonight. The white icicle lights blinked on the wall. When I smiled you smiled and then we went away...

Monday, December 7, 2009

The Hipster's Holiday Book-Giving Guide

Since we're all in the Christmas spirit, spending our hearts away and whistling to the classic holiday tunes, I thought I'd share ten of my fave books EVER (in case you're looking for gift ideas for you or others). These books touched my life in a profound way--either by blowing me away with their artfulness, enlightening my perspective on things, or just plain changing my life.

1. Rule of the Bone by Russell Banks - This book began my love affair with Russell Banks. This easy-to-read, coming-of-age tale of a troubled adolescent dabbling in drugs and homelessness displays all of the components I like in fiction: twisted, deep, vivid and well-written.

2. The Art of Happiness, A Handbook for Living - I've owned this book for atleast ten years, and it still sits near my bedside. The Dalai Lama, guided by psychologist Howard Cutler's questions, very clearly and simply explains the importance of compassion and how to cultivate it. It explains how to deal with suffering, overcome anger, and operate from a place of loving kindness.

3. A Thousand Splendid Suns by Khalid Hosseini - While I loved his first book, "The Kite Runner," this book about modern Afghanistan (before, during, and "after" the Taliban's rule) shook me to the core. The haunting images in this book still make me shudder. While the history lesson enlightens readers, the personal story makes it sit like an anvil in the heart.

4. Student's Vegetarian Cookbook by Carole Raymond - At age 18, this was the first cookbook I ever bought. While I am not a vegetarian, I don't eat a ton of meat either. This book is just one of my favorites, years later!

It is so tattered and tore apart--it's sad. Many of the pages are burnt from when I accidently set the book on fire while crafting the very very scrumptious Broiled Zucchini Parmesan. I lost that recipe in the fire, but the survivors still make my mouth water. The recipes (think Easy Asparagus, Chipotle-Black Bean Chili, and Baked Bananas) are so quick and easy and tasty, ANYBODY would benefit from this book, not just students.

5. Loving Frank by Nancy Horan - This tale, based on extensive historical research, follows the intimate affair of the infamous American architect, Frank Lloyd Wright, and his well-spoken mistress. Not only do you get a deeper understanding of the eccentric genius of Mr. Wright, you read a beautiful and scandalous love story.

6. A Long Way Gone, Memoirs of a Boy Soldier by Ishmael Beah - Written by a former boy soldier who lost his family and was forced to join the "government army" in Sierra Leone at age 13, this memoir speaks about Beah's tragic childhood and some of the gruesome acts committed by himself and the army. Removed by UNICEF from the violent war at age sixteen, he talks about forgiving himself and trying to heal. This eye-opening book sheds light on the situation in Sierra Leone and the complex forces of its perpetual violence.

7. The Time Traveler's Wife by Audrey Niffenegger - O.k., the movie was pretty bad (minus the fact that Eric Bana is some pretty special eye candy). If you haven't seen it yet, or read the book, then please go purchase this book. Niffenegger's writing is artful and gorgeous and she crafts one of the most unique works of fiction I've read in a long time.

8. Man's Search for Meaning by Viktor E. Frankl - Frankl spent years enduring the horror of the Nazi death camps during WWII. His memoirs will disgust and enrage you as he details the unspeakable things he experienced. Also a renowned psychotherapist, Frankl's terrible experiences led him to craft a theory: man's motivation for living is the search for meaning. This is a philosophical and analytical book on everything from God, the afterlife, suffering, and ultimately, happiness.

9. Native Son by Richard Wright - A hefty classic, this fictitious tale follows a young black man in America who commits a horrific and senseless violent crime. It unapologetically weaves through the complex psychological and social fabric of race relations in the early 1900's in America. It's a thorough and thought-provoking work of genius.

10. The Lovely Bones by Alice Sebold - Go read this, quick, before the movie comes out! Like "The Time Traveler's Wife", I'm not sure how they're going to translate this heart-breaking and gorgeous work of prose to the screen. Either way, it won't be as good as the book, I promise you that. So go read it now. Easy-to-read, this book is really unique, sad, hopeful, and truly, lovely.

Thursday, December 3, 2009

Because I Can

I'm just going to talk politics. Because I can. And I'm not going to care what you think. But I am.

I'm so sick of all this chatter. All of these talking heads have got me so far down that I can't think straight. Did it always used to be like this? All of these opinions swirling about?

What I like about the digital age is that we're all so much closer. My gawd, what did we do before google, right? What we know about the rest of the wider world is so much more now. It's so quick, so NOW. We can see suffering. We can hear it thubbing through our digital bones. Into our hearts. Hopefully. O, do i ever hope we hear it...

(Again). I like that we can hear each other. Look at us all here. Making friends on the screen, reaching our words into living rooms across the globe. We care. We're here. Reading with voyeuristic mania and good intentions.

But what I don't like--what I hate is--all wrapped up in the same gift. All this togetherness makes my head spin. All the noise! Sometimes, I really don't think everybody should have a platform to speak from. Sometimes I think CNN should not really try to listen to all sides. Sometimes I don't think we should try to understand where the serial killer is coming from. Or Republicans for that matter.

When thoughts and ideas are just plain messed up, I don't think we should be all listen-y with one another, even if it means we're muting half of the population. Sheer size doesn't warrant credibility.

The conservatives are breeding like crazed lunatics--if you do the math--progressives (known for their 1.5 children and charming homes) will be overrun in two decades, Tops. So let's enjoy our last run without "trying to understand each other," huh?

I hate that everyone picks away at Obama. Dems included. Who on God's green earth do you think is going to do any better? It took a long line of very poor decisions to steer our gassy country into the shitter. And most of them stem from our own individual hearts (not mine, of course, i'm an angel).

All that collective crap just trickled up to Bush. But then, luck would have it, we noticed the horrid smell, and our hearts manifested a good guy instead. Hip hop hurray for us.

Now let's sit the fuck down and let true integrity guide us. For Once.

I just can't stand listening to all the nuts in the peanut gallery.

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

This One's For My Mom

because she whines and cries that I don't write enough. So here I am. Two in a row. Back to back. Boom.

I'm thinking a lot about Christmas and what I want. what i want what i want i want i want. Gotta get those lists figured out, hand em' out, divvy up meh goods.

With this wish list fulfilled, I'll be accessorized with all the necessary material things that go with my capricious ideal. I'll BE better, by and bye.

So here's one paragraph of things i want, without inhibitions and completely unattached to reality...

i want i want i want a full-loaded MacBook Pro, an entry-level DSLR camera, Adobe Creative Suite, an end table for my bedroom, a navy blue Volvo, a black Pomeranian, an eco-maid, an uber special spa wrap, a ticket to New Zealand, my two front teeth (literally, i need new crowns), and world peace.

While I'll receive nary a one of these, it is now very apparent to me that I'm an aspiring yuppie. Are you happy now, mom?

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

Giving Up On Numbers

It's the pattern of the holidays again. It's the drown of an entire month spent spending, forgetting that last year we said, "it'll be different. we won't ever do THAT again." But we do.

Not that I'm complaining. I love gift-giving. Even better, I love receiving. I welcome this trade. Sometimes I like to just give. However, just getting something makes me uncomfortable. If you get me something, rest assured, I won't leave myself indebted long.

I act out of the fear that people might whisper, "she always takes, never receives." And so I super give back. You won't be chiding me and my friendship skills later. O heck no.

...


Been traveling back and forth to Phoenix the last couple weeks. Dipping myself in my recent past. I drive around, trying to remember if I ever belonged there. I think I did. Once. Twice. Yes. For weeks and months at a time.

I hit a wall though, somewhere near 2003. I wanted to leave the desert. I wanted to forget her hot hug on my neck. Rip her sweaty kiss off of me. I disliked living in her spiky landscape, even if I did it for love.

And so, back there...the old comfort of familiar friends and family makes me oooh and aaah for my old place in the world. There's a chair waiting, their presence reminds me. The table is full and topped with flowers.

But I must be filled with ice. I'm so cold. My heart is closed to this past of mine. Already. It's as if the wound of me leaving was closed quickly, like a zipper. Simple as that.

Yet, I know it's not a stone heart that keeps my eyes dry.

It's knowing I've done the right thing.

...

I saw my niece Nova, her and my sis traveled down from Minnesota. She's so precious. All moving and kind of mumbling and screaming and crawling.

I didn't get enough of her though, and that breaks my heart. It sucks that I can't get myself around it. I can't find a solution and I'm a solution girl. I hate problems without solutions. Especially when it involves not seeing some of the people I love most in the world.

...

On a positive note, since a handfull of my readers mistakenly think I'm thisclose to offing myself: Today was a beautiful day. The components of this prettiness? Painting, music, and chilled oranges. And this too. This moment right here, tapping out prose like a metronome.

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