I need a camera to my eye, reminding

Things are looking up, let’s be honest. I’ve got a lot of good feelings about the next few months, and…

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This morning I sat in front of an open window, the chilly grey Wellfleet morning blowing in, and listened to my favorite Kishi Bashi song

I found the last page in the sky / it was cold and clear like an apple / I found you and now / the story has its proper end

and made a proper to do list.

It’s been months. And I missed the discipline, because it’s easier to do a hard thing if you know you only have to do one that day. And because I feel better, more in control, when I’m physically crossing items off a list. More like a responsible human being.

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Part of it is absolutely the weather. You guys. It’s COLD in the mornings. I mean, 58, but it had been 70 even at 5 am and I hate that so much, and now fall suddenly peaked around the corner and it’s coming and soon I’ll need more BLANKETS on my bed and oh man. Fall. The BEST.

Yesterday was the start of the cooler weather, and I made a dump run and cleaned up my car a little and cleaned up my place a LOT and went to bed so early, watching Red Dwarf and Community. I woke up with a bit of a headache that hasn’t quite faded today, but it’s the kind sleep with cure.

 

Gonna charge my camera again tonight, start taking pictures again, start seeing the life I’m really living.

i lost all my defenses

 

It’s been a time. I don’t really know if it’s been good or bad or neutral or what. It’s just been a mess of busyness, exhaustion, frayed nerves, but also expectation, excitement, contentedness. Yesterday I reminded myself yet again that my mood is always linked TIGHTLY to my surroundings and spent an hour or so tidying up Thursday and Friday I felt lighter, like magic. Look, I found 50% of the Art of Tidying Up nonsense but that other 50% rang true as true can be. Of course I woke up this morning having made a slight mess than night before and thought, “ah, oh well,” and left it there. I’ll tidy some more tonight.

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This whole no internet thing is working out well, but I’m not sure if it’s just because I’m exhausted anyway and haven’t had the energy to do much that I would usually use energy for. I finished Dragon Age: Origins (and Awakening) (oh, ANDERS) and am most of the way through DA:II. Yeah, I’d say my concentration levels have improved; I’m liking it.

 

I feel like there’s just not enough time, which is so silly because there’s plenty of time.

Said that you’ll remember

September, humming Earth Wind & Fire. Whatever, it’s the best September song, in the same way that Summer Breeze is cheesy for 11 months of the year but in July sounds just right coming from open car windows. I celebrated the end of August with a trip to Falmouth for a coworker’s cookout, an hour and a half (!) drive. I seriously live out in the middle of nowhere, now. I also sing “fuck the women in Wellfleet” all the time — “heed my words and take flight.” Thanks, Vampire Weekend.

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Yesterday I had a pajama day. Sunday,  I was on four hours of sleep and I came home and passed out. I needed a day of recovery because being SOCIABLE is hard work.

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I actually did put clothes on over my pajamas when I took Baxter for the world’s quickest loop around the neighborhood. But mostly I had the laziest of lazy days and it was lovely. I read more of Scarlett Thomas’ The Seed Collectors, which is amazing. I liked it all along and then I hit the Outer Herbides section and transformed from liking it to adoring it. It’s hitting all those Scarlett Thomas buttons for me, where the book is answering the questions I didn’t know I had. How we see the world. What matters. How hard it is to be a kind person. How hard it is to do what you know what you should. Things are complicated, people are imperfect. I LOVE it.

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I stepped outside into the surprisingly cool air yesterday morning (6 am wakeup, thanks dog) and looked up at the sky and wondered, when I look back, how will I remember this year? Is it the year of heartbreak? Yeah, probably. A year I tried new things, definitely. But also a year I curled closer in on myself, closed off. But then a year I moved, found my own space, used my own voice. It’ll be an odd, hard year to remember.

But also it’s a year when I’ve recorded more. I’ve written a lot. Taken a lot of pictures. Done some pretty good things. Liked myself more.

Who knows; it’s only September. The world can change between now and … ever.

3am

Sometimes when I’m feeling a little low, I spin stories of what my next free evening/day off will be like. I’ve been doing this for years. Sometimes luxuriating in the idea of free time is an aspirin to the headache of stress. What a lousy metaphor. I’m keeping it, though.

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Anyway. It’s not been the best few weeks. There are bright sides: Baxter’s feeling better. I’m in my new space. The weather is briefly changing for the drier.

But work’s been awful, and I’m not feeling great (a dehydration caused headache yesterday, I think, and just exhaustion today). I wake up at 3 am and fight against 3 am thoughts. I barely could drag myself from my bed this morning, dawdling till past 7.

So I’m day dreaming about tonight. About going home and giving baxter a treat, his dinner, a new toy. About crawling into bed with a cup of tea and my Scarlett Thomas book and maybe some Black Books on my iPad. About falling asleep before 10. About not waking up to hate the world at 3 am. About music playing. About delicious food. About a candle burning. About the dark falling slowly, cozy.

 

I don’t have internet at the new place. It’s weird how untethered I feel, despite the cellular iPad and phone. I feel a little like I don’t know what to do with myself, and I don’t know how much of that is just …Well, look. Even if you put aside the past few months where I felt like every second not spent cleaning was a theft (and felt hugely guilty as a result), I spent every second for the past few years feeling guilt, worry and horror over various situations. It wears you DOWN. I worried, ALL THE TIME. And then I worried about finding affordable housing on Cape Cod. And then Baxter was ill. And then I won some sort of cosmic lottery and found affordable housing, whereupon I started worrying about MOVING. And now I’m moved and Baxter is feeling better and … what do I do? Who am I now?

It’s a good feeling, mostly. I still have some REALLY serious worries. Every one does, there’s no off switch for bad news and struggling. But for once, my day to day responsibilities have narrowed to me, and Baxter. And I have a space that will get a good scrubbing this weekend but which doesn’t need a lot. And so I have time where I don’t feel like I should be doing something else every second of the day.
What do I do with that. Who do I want to be.

 

That’s why I wake up constantly, every night, to face the 3am demons.

Things that seemed like portents this morning

I can’t help reading the world around me like it’ll let me in on some big secret if I just hit the right combination. All those books I read as a kid, piling up in my mind: hit the bricks right and you end up in Diagon Alley, put on the ring and you’re through to Narnia, make a wish on a coin and…there are ghost children everywhere. (Half-Magic had a strong effect on me as a kid, all the Edward Eager books did).

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So anyway, there I was, driving to work. Along route 6 where it’s still “suicide alley” (aka, one lane on either side separated by only the smallest of medians), there’s a pond with power wires stretching over it, like bar lines. And cormorants perch there like notation. One cormorant sat with his wings stretched out, basking in the sun, a punctuation mark in the line.

When the road widens, in the now deeper median where the grass is brittle and burnt from the sun and the heat, something was jumping. Big somethings, bat sized, but translucent — I think maybe enormous grasshoppers? But they were jumping in this pattern, towards the center and out. I wished I could stop and watch and figure out what I was seeing.

Driving into Hyannis, towards the end of the very unlovely Willow Street, there were the grackles (swallows, who knows) in their clean little flocks, whirling and dipping, settling on the trees and taking off again. Not quite a susurration, but an echo of one.

IMG_0030Portents and echoes and signs.

Faith pours from your walls

I woke up this morning and took the dog for a walk and came home and checked my email and looked up to see that the house was as dark as midnight.

I had a legitimately eerie moment. Was it earlier than I thought? Had I dreamed already walking the dog (you know those dreams, when you’ve hit snooze a couple of times and during that half sleeping period you dream you’re brushing your teeth, changing, only to wake up still in bed?) and it was three am? But no, it was 7:30, so I checked the radar to see that we were under a huge storm. “Seek shelter! Away from windows! DO NOT DRIVE!” it said. “Widespread wind damage expected!”

Well ok. I got in the shower, which YOU ARE NOT SUPPOSED TO DO IN A STORM DO NOT DO AS I DO. I only learned recently that thunderstorms are dangerous while showering. But I’m alone on the floor today at work and could not be late, so I said a prayer and took the quickest shower I could, listening to the wind roar.

Storms always bring it out in me, but I feel full of potential these days. I just can’t quite harness it yet, it’s all wild in my blood and making me restless and unsettled and also, kind of excited.

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In the fall, in a space that’s mine, with that gorgeous autumn light. So close I can practically reach out and grab it.

Update.

I had a breakdown when I was cleaning the stove about a week ago. I’d used bartender’s helper and they didn’t seem to be coming clean and I was working so hard at them and there was NOTHING TO SHOW for it.

It was apt: I spend a lot of time cleaning little fiddly bits (the lamp shades above the stove for example) that DON’T SHOW. Yes, I notice the clean shiny glass of them, but no one else would. The thing is, those little fiddly bits add up to making the house feel clean, and I know this. But in the moment, it was a full on temper tantrum.

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(on the left the glass is clean, on the right it’s HORRIBLE)

And then mid last week I just. Well, I had a hard week, and Thursday came and I decided it was time for a break. Four days without exercising, to do lists, no net nights. Four days where my only chores were walking the dog, giving him pills, and working. And on Sunday I felt so much better. Then yesterday I got up at 5 am and took a swim in the cool water and muggy air of Flax pond. I was all by myself (well, besides Baxter) and we swam peaceful laps and I stared at the sky a lot, at the birds crossing it, at the messages they seemed to be sending. And I came home and cleaned a bit and used technology almost not at all and to ensure a good night’s sleep took some unisom and slept for 10 hours.

I feel better. In some ways to-do lists keep me functioning, but I hadn’t taken a real break from them (a day here and there, wherein I felt guilty). And I even had to basically ask someone to tell me that it was ok to take a break.

In the meantime, I finished two hard books — Catch 22 which was as amazingly funny as I remembered and also much more heartbreaking. Turns out that when you read it as an adult with some pain behind you, it reads far harder than it does as a high school student with only a little pain. That last Rome chapter stole my breath with the brutality of it. Then I followed that up with Darkness at Noon, which is a book about Russia under Stalin (specifically one former party leader who has been imprisoned as a subversive); it’s oppressive and bleak and amazing. Towards the end, there’s this indictment of Communism (and possibly other political systems):

So the question now ran: Was such an operation justified? Obviously it was, if one spoke in the abstract of “Mankind”; but, applied to “man’ in the singular, to the cipher 2–4, the real human being of bone and flesh and blood and skin, the principle led to absurdity.

Easy to be cruel to be kind when those you are cruel to aren’t humanized in your mind (see the way we treat the poor and minorities here in the US) but tougher when you look at them as breathing people, people you face. That some people can still be so inhuman is horrifying: to look at the suffering you cause and think “that’s ok. it’ll be better in the long run.” No.

Anyway. Next up is The Just City by Jo Walton which I’m already halfway through. It’s a lighter read, but uncomfortable with issues of consent and history and freedom. She’s an amazing writer.

 

Week(s) in pictures

I’m tired & haven’t been taking pictures. This post features Take Your Dog To Work Day and a ton of 4th photos from Paine’s Creek. Oh and also the lyrics to God Bless You Canada, written by the author of Proud To Be An American and featuring OFTEN identical lyrics and ALWAYS the same tune. And when the lyrics are different, they are HORRIBLE. Go ahead, Canada. Be proud of being able to be seen from Detroit.

Reading, an update.

“I’ll read 50 more pages of this book,” I thought as I got into bed last night. “Just 50, and then I’ll have half the book left to read.”

Friends, I was up until I read the very last page. I consider this a two fold triumph: 1) my concentration has improved greatly. 2) I found a fantastic book.

Sadly, there’s also 3) I think I read it before.

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Wake Up, Sir! by Jonathan Ames was the book; it’s an odd mix of Wodehousian sensibility with a hero that’s a mix of Bertie Wooster and Woody Allen in every Woody Allen movie (FYI I hate Woody Allen movies, but somehow it worked) (also fyi I stole that combination from Goodreads reviews, but it seems a near universal description). It didn’t read like someone trying to write like the great P.G., more like someone who has absorbed so much Wooster that they start thinking like him. And to clarify, I don’t mean that the book is written like that, more that Alan ACTS like that. It’s pretty great.

I’ve read a lot of good books this spring & summer. I’ve started the Dark Tower series by Stephen King (on the recommendation of a coworker who has been lending me them. ‘If you can get through the first one, the rest are amazing!’ she promised, and she’s so right). I also read the first Wheel of Time book with the second in my to read pile. I liked it, but didn’t love it — it felt dry in a way I didn’t expect. There was some charm missing, somehow: it was dark and panicky and relentless. I was wishing for a few more visits to, say, a place like Rivendell. Even Bilbo had some peace now and then on his journey to Smaug.

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Where I am on my reading list: book 59 (there are some technical rereads tho)

Then there was A Wizard of Earthsea, which I remember trying to read as a kid and not liking. It’s YA, i guess, but even Le Guin says she thinks the distinction is a bit odd. It had the moments of peace I was missing in the Jordan.

There’s a lot of fantasy in the list and that’s on purpose: I need the escapism that fantasy gives. In my exhaustion and sorrow, I need to live in other worlds for a while.

In the current pile of to reads is a Dave Barry book because everyone needs some levity, the next Wheel of Time, an Agatha Christie and a Dorothy L. Sayers because a good british murder mystery is a fantastic palette cleanser, a Mercedes Lackey, Catch-22 which is a reread but is on my classics list, a Fangirl’s Guide to the Galaxy because I want to support Sam Maggs, the final book in the Magician’s Trilogy, Alexandra Petri’s book because I love her, Darkness at Noon which is also on my classics list, and the Just City by Jo Walton because I’m not brave enough to face the sorrow of My Real Children but I love her writing all the same. Basically, I have a lot of worlds to read — and I am so glad I’ve gotten myself to the point where I can focus in on them.
And the very best news of all is that Scarlett Thomas’ new book comes out on July 1st. God, I love her. She may be my favorite contemporary author (it would be a tight race between her and Terry Pratchett). In the past her books fell into my life at exactly at the right spot, like a puzzle piece. If I’m lucky, this one will too.

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