Saturday, September 21, 2013

Five Things that Don't Suck, 5K Edition

1. a local 5K that starts late in the morning so I don't have to drag Jed out of bed for it
2. paying good money for the privilege of running 3 miles in a circle (for a good cause!)
3. how good my knee feels this morning (fingers crossed)
4. free t-shirts (usually pretty ugly, but no one ever said 5Ks were supposed to be pretty)
5. long showers

Friday, September 20, 2013

Bonus: interview on Dear Outer Space

Hey, all--I'm part of an interview series on process at Laura Davis' Dear Outer Space blog. It's a fun series, and you should definitely check it out.

Five Things that Don't Suck, Last Friday of Summer Edition

1. corn on the cob
2. swimming
3. short sleeves
4. not needing to wear socks
5. iced coffee

Thursday, September 19, 2013

Why Does It Matter Where You Come From?

I'm in the early stages of writing an essay—an actual academic essay, not a blog post—about poetry and place (don't panic, non-poets—there's not a ton of poetry talk here. Not today, anyway). As preparation for this, I've been reading a lot about place—essays by Emerson, the fabulous book The Poetics of Space by Gaston Bachelard (who, even though he died seven years before I was born and looked like the love child of Santa Claus and Tolstoy, has become one of the dear loves of my life), essays on, you name it. But I've also been thinking about my own sense of place. If you've read more than two of my poems—and maybe if you haven't—the following essay won't be much of a surprise to you. Mostly, I'm trying to get my head around how I feel about place, in an attempt to get a handle on it for the essay. I figured I might as well work it through here.

"Why does it matter where you come from?" –random question from the internet found while looking for articles on place

"No matter where you go, there you are." –quote from The Adventures of Buckaroo Banzai Across the 8th Dimension, here largely because I couldn't resist including it. My blog, my rules.

Image, for me, almost always begins in place—a room, a house, a yard, a body of water, a shoreline. My own work is so grounded at the water that I have trouble escaping it. The most evocative place in the world for me is the shore—a salt water shore in particular, and a specific stretch of beach in Rhode Island where I spent my summers growing up, if we're going to get particularly particular.

In a lot of ways, everything I am comes from that beach—from the house that my great grandfather built, from my grandparents who lived in it, from the family they raised and what remains or is lost of that family. My understanding of the world grew with my understanding of that house and what took place there. A large part of my relationship with Turquoise was formed there, for example. Sometimes it feels like all of my arguments and and all of my losses and all of my solace are there. Plus, probably a lot of other things.

It is only recently that I have begun to differentiate between the shore and the coast—I have always been drawn to "shore" as a word, and while I haven't deliberately defined it as that thin stretch of land where the water ends and the land begins (as opposed to "coast," that thin stretch of land where the land ends and the water begins), I think the difference in definition is something I have always understood. I know also that I am of the water, that I belong in it rather than on it or beside it, that whatever vaguely terrestrial nature I possess is a lie. I feel, at most, amphibious much of the time. For a stretch of years, the shore lost its solace for me—the losses piled on too quickly and deeply and I couldn't take comfort in the scent or the ease of my movement in the waves or, really, anything at all. It became an incredibly painful place for me to be. I say that I tried to break up with the ocean, but it wouldn't let me go. And while I knew that I needed to find my own place, to restore or create my own sense of home, I couldn't find my way to it. As it turns out, the ocean and I have kissed and made up in recent months, but I can't tell you how it happened. And I still know that I need to create my own home somewhere on the water. There's time for that.

The attraction of the shore is, for me, the same one that calls hatchling turtles out under the moon, but it is also one of being at a place where nothing is stable. There's so much water in the sand that it moves underfoot, and if you stand where the waves can wash over your feet, you will find yourself slowly sinking. Bits and hints of the deeper world show up there, and pieces of ancient history. Shards of glass get softened from daggers into jewels. All the interesting stuff happens when we start mixing things up.

The same is true of people. The people I find really interesting are the ones who struggle. Struggle is the greatest affirmation of life—if we didn't care, we wouldn't fight, yes? The struggle, for me, is itself full of hope. The point of describing the dark is that it is an attempt to map our way through it, because we have no hope of fighting without a map. When water and ground try to occupy the same space, things get dicey. We sink or stick or ruin our clothes. Not earth, not sea—it's the most difficult place to stand upright, and yet there's not enough water for us to lie down and swim. The shore is all struggle and shift. It's contradiction and, because of tides, not the least bit constant. The shore at 4PM is literally in a different place at 8PM and yet another at midnight. In August, in Rhode Island, the sun can be scorching, but the water is almost always cold enough to be painful at first. My beach is boulder and stone and sand—it doesn't choose. It mingles. It changes. Last May, I stood with a friend on a flat patch of sand, drank a toast to Turquoise, and poured the rest of the champagne into the water. In August, the same stretch of beach was almost impassable—the sand gone, everything was rock and algae, slippery in the rising tide, with whole and partial blue crab shells littering the pools. Same beach, same point in the cycle of the tides, wholly different place.

The ocean hides and exposes. It pushes and draws. It dulls colors and reflects them more brightly. It does all of these things simultaneously. I know there are other places on Earth where I can be outside and feel the enormity and insignificance of the planet and my place on it at the same time. I'm sure that if I stood in a field in the Midwest or in a desert in the Southwest and looked toward the horizon, I would have a similar experience of being able to see farther than I can actually see, see until the world curves down and away from my vision. And maybe it would be the same in some ways as standing in the wash, looking out past the point where I can differentiate between waves. I know that I can sit in the sun at a freshwater lake and put my feet in the water and feel chilled, that fresh water can buoy me, that it can hide a world away from me, and that experience sometimes—sometimes—feels something like being at the shore. I know that I can stand in amazement in a forest or at the side of a river or in any number of natural, largely untouched places because I have done these things.

And I like the creepy-crawlies of the earth, generally speaking. I, for example, fucking love slugs—that's right, just saying that I love them is not enough. I need a swear. I think some of them are gorgeous and they're so weird and alien and slow and deliberate and fragile and destructive. Just like us. Jed and I started keeping bees this year, and we love them—I feel a deep love for the bees, for their complicated survival, for how gently they'll explore me when I approach the hive and how cluelessly they'll bounce off me if I happen to wander, Mr. Magoo-style, through their flight path. I love land-bound creatures and flying creatures and creatures that move in between land and water. I love trees—really big ones, tiny saplings, it doesn't matter—and, yes, flowers (especially the ones with bees!) and ferns and mosses and butterflies and ladybugs and worms.

But the fact remains that the other day on my run, I crossed a little patch of driveway that was littered with acorns. Many of them had been crushed; some of them hadn't seen the difficult side of a tire; some of them were halved, somehow, and hollowed. The one I noticed, however, had been pressed down from the top until it cracked into arched segments, then laid on its side—sort of like how a pumpkin shell would look if you were able to peel it in a single strip from the flesh and lay it down, skin-side up. Except I didn't think of a pumpkin. I thought, "Squat lobster." Then I thought, "Or maybe trilobite." I try to write about bees and end up writing about how they've turned our birdbath into a beach—they've really turned it into a watering hole, but that's not the way my brain works. It's not my imagery. I see fireflies and think of them lifting in glittering masses over the salt marsh. I see myself in shadow, on a walk with Jed, and my hair is bouncing up and down, pulsing. I call it "jellyfishing."

Where I come from matters because where I come from is who I am.

Five Things that Don't Suck, Random Edition

1. those mornings where it's cool in the house and warm in the bed and you don't have to get up
2. thrift shops
3. being hopeful about the possibility of super-cheap wardrobe completion
4. being able to run in the morning instead of the evening
5. origami

Wednesday, September 18, 2013

Five Things that Don't Suck, Sweeping the Clouds Away Edition

1. Oscar the Grouch
2. Guy Smiley
3. Snuffalupagus
4. Big Bird, especially when he tucks his beak under his wing and goes to sleep
5. Count von Count

Tuesday, September 17, 2013

Five Things that Don't Suck, Need More Caffeine Edition

1. not pouring iced coffee into your oatmeal instead of your glass
2. vaguely coffee-scented oatmeal with almonds, applesauce, and cinnamon
3. discovering a new breakfast fad
4. parlaying that success into restaurant fame
5. franchising those restaurants and retiring wealthy (and caffeinated)

Monday, September 16, 2013

Five Things that Don't Suck, Can't Trust that Day Edition

1. actually doing that thing where you keep cookie dough in the freezer and just bake off a couple at a time
2. oatmeal with peanut butter, applesauce, and cinnamon
3. getting almost caught up over the weekend
4. having doors on the shed
5. feeling strong enough to try a run after a week off

Sunday, September 15, 2013

Five Things that Don't Suck, Not-Quite-Random Edition

1. slippers
2. slugs
3. slowly dawning recognition
4. slip-and-slides
5. slivered almonds