Friday, June 24, 2011


From linguist Deborah Tannen's You're Wearing THAT?:
A daughter reveals something personal in the spirit of closeness. Her mother, wishing to protect her daughter and to see things go well for her, offers advice; the metamessage she intends is caring. But the daughter hears a different metamessage: that her mother disapproves of what she is doing and therefore of her. This implication hurts the daughter's feelings, so she lashes out, hurting her mother's feelings in turn. Both are tied up in the knots created by the double meaning of advice: while it offers to help, it also implies that you're doing something wrong; otherwise you wouldn't need advice. The knots are hard to untangle because, more often than not, the threads that form them are found not in the messages, which are easy to pinpoint, but in metamessages, what the words imply.
Linguists know all the answers. If only that meant we could solve all the problems.

Thursday, June 23, 2011

Still summer

For a moment
as my bike bore me
along the road
the smell of California summer
captured me: dry dry dirt,
warm in the sun, sending up
little wafts of dust,
oak leaves, old weeds.
Then a car swooshed by,
and exhaust invaded.
But the sun was still
warm through my t-shirt,
and the moment was still
summer in California

Thursday, June 16, 2011


I have been sadly neglecting this blog, but I don't really feel bad about it, because my life has required a lot of tending to, and I have been staying away from computers. Now that I'm back, what am I to write?

It's summer again. I'm in California again. I'm in the bed I've slept in since I was four years old again. I'm living under my parents' rules again. But after this summer, never again.

It's June again. D. is climbing Mt. Shasta again. I went to the beach with friends from high school again. Again, we are all home. But after this summer, this will not be home again.

The addresses I know are expiring. My room will soon be in boxes. The illusion of being back in high school, of traveling back in time when I travel west in space, is about to dissipate for the last time. Everything is falling apart.

And all the pieces are being put together in new shapes. It's not like a mosaic, because the pieces are not fragments. We haven't been shattered or shredded. It's just a rearrangement. The elements are intact, really. Chemical reactions alter substances beyond recognition, but deep inside, the atoms remain unchanged, though the molecules have been destroyed. Change: life transitions are not nuclear fission or fusion. They are just rearrangements of the atoms. Bonds break, bonds form. Sometimes the product is purer than the reactants; sometimes the new bonds are stronger than the old; other times, the reverse is true.

I don't know what is being produced in this complex series of reactions. There are flashes of light, sparks sometimes. I feel the heat. I see colors changing. I am sitting here, watching, and I am counting the crystals as they form. One. Two. Three.