Saturday, May 30, 2009

Hello again

I carry on this conversation, hopeful. I can't make up my mind how far to let down my guard. When will the sting come? Where will the stab disable me? As we drift into old topics, my eyes begin to dart.

I try to watch your hands, but they are in shadow. Are you holding a weapon? I keep my distance, because I cannot see (because I cannot--should never have trusted you). I still have those scars, you know, from last time, and all the times before. But I won't show them to you. This armor will not come off. Still, I don't really want you to see the shield I have to hold. I will stand in the shadows, too, and pretend I'm not on the defensive. I will conceal my armor, just as much as you conceal your weapons.

And maybe, when the sun blasts away all the shadows, its burning light will reveal your hands empty (despite all my fears), and my heart exposed (despite all my caution).

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Neighborhood Rhythm

At lunchtime on this summer Wednesday, tranquil sunshine washes across the neighborhood. The trees cast dappled shadows on the street, and sway in the gentle breeze. The weather is calm. But the neighborhood is shaking.

Boom, boom boom, boom-boom boom. This neighborhood is all about drums and bass. The house next door is the epicenter of the music-quake. The vibration penetrates the walls of sleepy houses. Sitting inside, I feel the couch quiver beneath me. The persistent bass from next door sets my eardrums buzzing. I can feel the music ricocheting through my skull.

Melody does not travel well. I cannot hear the voices or guitar chords. But rhythm! Rhythm invades. It doesn't need to slink under doors or pry windows open, no, it bursts straight through walls. It pulses through the ground. The sidewalk dances, the asphalt road buckles. In the veins of the ferns and pines that seem so still, the beat disturbs the sap, casting waves. Boom--boom--boom, boomboomboom, boom. The sonic energy insinuates itself--into my bones--my lungs--the tips of my fingernails. This, is irresistible pulsation. This, requires no musical chemistry. Physics imposes this rhythm. Anywhere its energy carries it, every molecule will harbor its vibration.


I keep meaning to write but when I haven't taken the time to deepen the joy of gallivanting about into the peace of being in the right relation to things, the words don't come. I need to confess, to unburden my heart, or else I will never be able to write the way I mean to, the words pouring out smoothly in a steady stream, the way they do when every image is a spring that cannot run dry. All I have to do is direct the flow, when my heart is in the right place.

But instead, when I pause, I find I am restless. I have to work to punctuate a sentence, because the ideas I do have to write want to stream out all at the same time with no breaths between them so that reading the line is as exhausting as having thought it-- Stop. There is no stopwatch, these days, but my mind is racing anyway.

A confession--there is something wrong, and I don't know how to fix it. And another--as long as the sun is shining, I can make myself believe there is nothing to fix in the first place.

Friday, May 22, 2009

Home is where the familiar is

Home is this place where I ride my bike to the grocery store without bothering to put on real shoes, and where, as I am buying a dozen apples and a block of sharp cheddar (because there is a refrigerator to keep these sorts of things in), the cashier asks me not just "How are you today?" but also, "EspaƱol?"

And yes, I've come home.

I never considered the availability of crackers and cheese, or the likelihood of being mistaken for being Hispanic, or the feasibility of never wearing shoes and socks, to be an integral part of Home, when I lived here. The mariachi music my neighbors blast used to annoy me; the hip-hop bathing the street on a Friday morning evoked my disdain. This morning, though, these little things (the grit of my neighborhood) root me more firmly in the familiarity. I feel like saying: This is my neighborhood. This is my place.

Coming back here for the summer when we lived abroad was wonderful, but it was never home. Then again, neither was going back to the house on the other side of the Pacific. When we moved back here for good, that wasn't home, either. Nothing was safe and comfortable. New and Exciting aren't inferior, but they aren't Home, either.

I didn't feel a sense of home until I was older. Maybe you have to be an adult with a history, an agent in control of your circumstances (at least to a greater degree than you do as a child), a mind with an understanding of the larger environment, to really recognize: this is home, this is not.

I know now, though. Here, I am at home.

Sunday, May 17, 2009

Rain at Midnight

When the rain falls this hard, it sounds like the wind blowing downward, flattening everything.

It sounds like all the trees and buildings and rocks muttering. I wasn't paying enough attention to hear the alarming announcement they are discussing so furiously. What did I miss?

It sounds like a conversation between the sky and the ground. Family business needs to be discussed, but not so the children can understand. Sky and Earth are the parents talking downstairs so their voices hum throughout the walls and floor.

It sounds like a giant just dropped the world into a frying pan so the hot oil sizzles and pops. Soon we will be crispy to the core.

It sounds like a long shower at the end of the day, like the ocean just around the corner, like the orchestra from outside the concert hall. It sounds like the confusion of voices in my mind, like the clattering of emotions when I try to sleep, like all the things I need to get done (by that time, before this time), tumbling together. It sounds like minutes rushing by before I can catch them. It sounds like memories washing across my face.

--and it stops. Nighttime silence falls instead. The world is still. Now I remember: those things can wait. Each day has enough trouble of its own.

Friday, May 15, 2009

Ice Cream

I finished my paper! (It's about parentheses. (They are my favorite form of punctuation.)) And I need sleep.

But the weather was lovely today, and I supplemented it with ice cream on a sugar cone, flavor selected for its intriguing name (Hotel black bottom pie). I sat outside in the warm dusk with two good friends (the intentional kind, not the clicking kind). As the ice cream melted, the chunks of chocolate stuck out of it like stones from the ground. The people passed by talking about nothing, and the children wandered around enjoying everything, and I sat there licking my ice cream, and the world was lovely.

Friday, May 8, 2009

Brief Comment on Our Society

Some facts (or things I think are facts, anyway. I have not verified these rigorously.):
1. People in societies where starvation is a serious problem do not have bulimia or anorexia.
2. People in environments where there are a lot of deadly diseases don't have deadly allergies.
3. People in time periods where they had to struggle just to survive didn't get paralyzed by depression and commit suicide nearly as often as they do in ours.
In my mind, these problems all go together. The common theme is that when humans are not facing any real dangers, they create deadly dangers for themselves, somehow. When outwardly imposed starvation is not a threat, we impose starvation on ourselves through tortured psyches. When death from the outer world is not a threat, we kill ourselves. We need danger, hostility, opposition, struggle. When the world immediately around us doesn't force those things into our lives, we dig them up from our hearts or create them with our culture or bring them into being through our own technology and carelessness.

Obviously, a possible viewpoint is that in those other situations, the people who currently have these unnatural afflictions were weeded out early. Yet another is that those people were around and just not diagnosed. Either of those explanations still leaves the fact that modern Western society is plagued by these issues that do not plague less materially comfortable societies. When the real problems go away, new ones will show up.

Thursday, May 7, 2009

Walking Home

It's that time again: time for taking twice as long to walk home at night; time for fixing mesmerized eyes on the skies; time for darkening the streetlights and welcoming the shadows. This moment always sneaks up on me. I am rushing from place to place, checking things off my list. Then suddenly, I see what I have had dozens of chances to anticipate--for the moon is full again.

Tonight, the mist is moving restlessly, migrating and fidgeting. But the moon is steady behind the clouds. The orange streetlights make the trees' new leaves glow gold, and the silver moon shines through them. Her face is dim, compared to the lights we have hung on the buildings, along the paths, and the mist obscures it even more. But I cannot tear my eyes away from her.

Finally the clouds cover the moon completely. The spell broken, I uproot my feet and move homeward. But I keep looking over my shoulder, waiting for that pale disk to gaze at me once more.

The moon is an enchantress. I meant to try to find word for the music I heard tonight--the vibraphone and marimba and clarinet and piano and cymbals--but once I looked the moon in the eye, I was her creature, fit for nothing else.

Wednesday, May 6, 2009

In and Out

I am the crocodile-dragon-creature in Escher's print Reptiles. In the confines of the flat paper world, my every edge is a neighbor's beginning, and I am neither positive nor negative space, but a piece of the pattern, perfectly fitted and entirely delineated. So I extract myself. I escape into the world of up-down, forward-back, side-to-side.

Space yawns around me. I can move, go anywhere. I am expanded--expansive--experimenting, experiencing. Everything is new, so I go exploring. Breath in my lungs is the most beautiful piece of the universe. I exhale exuberance, puffs of smoke.

But then I find myself crawling downward. I am not sure where to go. The vagueness of liberty disorients and disturbs. Where do I fit with the objects around me? They do not respond when I move. I grow tired of being lost and alone, and of being bombarded with sensations.

The paper is before me, so familiar. I lower my head to it, and rediscover my old perspective. Slipping forward, slipping flatter, slipping away from the unknown world, I slip away from experience and sensation.

A moment later, I am pattern on paper.

Monday, May 4, 2009

"Good Morning"

Here I am, sitting in my pajamas, and still waking up. In real life, no one I don't live with will be trying to talk to me, unless it's an emergency. But the internet eliminates not only distance, but space itself. There are no walls to keep people out, only corners to hide in; no locks on these doors, they swing open whenever someone pushes on them. I don't want to talk to you, but somehow I have signaled that I am available. You owe me nothing, but somehow you believe it would be good to check up on me. Why? I don't want your protection or attention. I don't want you to take care of me.

Didn't the lines I drew between us tell you anything? What have I done to make you think I want you to be the one to check in on me? You are not my father, not my brother, not my husband, not my lover. You have no right to my morning.

And yet I cannot ignore the salutation, cannot leave the question unanswered--"Good morning. How is the paper coming?" I cannot help replying. I tell myself it is more loving to be at least minimally polite. Small matter if I cannot summon up a smile to go along. He is not physically present, at least, to see my irritation. It is easy, so easy, to hide feelings behind words. Words shine lights and cast shadows, and I can leave the feelings in the dark places where they will go unnoticed. Already my feelings tend to cower in the corners. The hard thing is to use words to light up the dark places, to reveal, rather than conceal.