Tuesday, June 19, 2012


I enjoy writing. It's one of my favorite things in the world. It lurks at the back of my head, a possible career path, though then my frontal cortex swoops in and runs the numbers and then I go back to playing cello.
One of the things I like most about writing, though, is that it feels like a platform for all of us to share honesty. Not just in being honest about ourselves (which is great, don't get me wrong). But also being honest about the human condition. When we write fiction honestly, I think, we are doing our very best, without contrivances, to say something about the way people feel or behave or think. And sometimes, appropriately, the words are not very pretty. Sometimes, like the subjects they reflect, the words are pitted and flawed. Even mysterious, if you'd like. I find that to be a lovely thing.
I remember, going through my adolescence, how often the serious lectures that I received were about art, rather than some disciplinary infraction, (and, I mean, there were those too, but they don't stick out in my brain, at least, as the majority.) I can remember so many times, sitting down across the table from one of my parents, my work, whether it be a watercolor, miniature or writing, sprawled helplessly on the wood, while they dissected it with their eyes. They were always kind (well, okay, let's be honest, my mum was always kind. My father was, well, honest.) and they knew what they were doing. 
One of the most important things I ever learned about writing occurred during one of these rookie critiques. I was on the second draft of a short story I was writing, about a girl trapped in a caravan with a bunch of musical instruments. My father was reviewing it, and I could tell, from the way his jaw was set and the way he held the pencil, that I hadn't gotten it yet. He set the pencil down, and turned to me.
"When you are writing," he said, "You be sure to show people things. Be sure to say exactly what you mean. Like, look here, 'she grabbed her guitar,' what exactly does that mean? What did she do exactly to get that guitar to her? If it's on her back, did she yank the case forward? Did she unhook it from her shoulder?"
He went on like that, questioning me about every aspect of the world I was writing in, tiny microcosm that it was. He was manic, intense in a way that almost frightened me. 
But since then, since that vital interrogation, I have become a different kind of writer. Not the best, but I am careful with my words. I handle them like fragile and powerful objects, to be used in only the best scenarios. I try to keep my words honest. I try to give them as much integrity as I can, and even then, I sometimes wonder. 

Wednesday, April 25, 2012


     “You are not cute” he said, in the Bend, as though I were a vain girl. Or as though I needed to be reminded not to touch. It will not do to give the wrong impression. Unless, of course, that’s fine today. Unless it’s one of those rare days when I should take every word into account.
     And (can you believe it?) for years I said it was the best compliment I had ever received.  Those words in the Bend, a lead pipe I carried around in my shirt sleeve. They made me something different, special, touched. Fey and alien. And cute. What a thing not to be.
      Sometimes I didn’t know where exactly they had come from, those words. Waking up, unreachable and cosmic, I couldn’t tell you why, but I’d be asking where the letters he had written had gone. Habits grow fast in me, and I took to the habit of being unreachable. Or perhaps just unwilling to leap. Blame an inferiority or superiority complex, you can take your pick. I’m still unsure.
      And after he was gone, man oh man, I traveled inward. I lived in my head. Made my own furniture and painted the walls scarlet. I could dance there and sing too, belting. I could say biting words and speak in front of a crowd of hundreds. I could jump across rooftops in the moonlight. I could play guitar.
      It is embarrassing, the list of things that I could do in there. I kept the spyglasses trained out the window, of course, let’s not be silly, but I stayed safely inside. Safe, sound, and talented, and never cute. Never, never. How droll, to be cute! How very demeaning!
       A lead pipe in my shirt sleeve, kept close to my veins. A perfect gift from a boy like him. And in my head I learned to embroider and make a perfect cup of tea. I learned karate and the bassoon. I took ballet. I read so many books and wrote many, many theses.
      If one should come too near, with mal intent, I had my weapon.
      But curiously, as of late, something happened. Like the prophetic advice of my mother said. I was in the car, driving down the highway in the rain, buried under coats, when I realized, that somewhere along the line, I had lost them. Those words were all gone. Excised. And maybe they’re on the side of the road. Maybe I lost them on my porch, near the door.  Maybe they rolled up against a streetlight. Maybe they fell underwater. Perhaps I lost them in the morning, where my heart stopped from joyful causes. Or maybe it was when I stumbled through the door and made tea at one o’clock in the morning. It might have been when I heard, so quiet, at my ear, “You are so cute,”
        And I know it’s rude to disregard a gift by losing it, but, this time, I think I’ll let it slide.

Sunday, April 08, 2012

Beetle Girl, Again

    At the lesser window, she props her chin against the sill. The old wood is prickly against her skin, and she fears splinters. She can feel the phantom shatters of cedar under her jaw. But a bend creeps up her chapped, changed lips anyway.
   The lilies are waking up, surprisingly hearty and waxy flowers, even as the rosy daisies falter and the Queen Anne’s Lace is robbed of its posture. She will press the petals soon and keep them forever. She will keep them in the cardboard, so that the beetles cannot eat them. They would devour them if they knew they existed. They would not rest, as they do now, in the closet.
    She almost thinks they have been drugged. They sleep that deep, unnatural sleep of coma patients and very, very old women. Their bodies move imperceptibly, but every once in a while, one stirs in its slumber and the girl sighs in a combination of relief and anger. They are alive, but far away from her.
     In the field outside, it is raining. The sun does not cast its maddening shadows, and does not spin the silhouettes. But she is in a state of accidental ignorance, and didn’t even notice, even as a figure moves through the skunk cabbage and sinks into the wet of the field. She does not notice as it approaches the house. She is at the lesser window, with her chin propped up against the sill.
      Earlier she sat, with her knees draw up to her sickly happy sternum, and traced the new footprints, which the beetles haven’t found yet, with her index and middle fingers. She sought them out in the planks of wood painted sage, and found them easily enough.
      The lights stray onto the porch now and the key turns in the ignition and the vehicle makes a high keening sound. The girl fights against her reflection in the glass, trying to see out, trying to make out details in the dark and the rain. But all she can see is the lights, and the light of a better day.

Thursday, February 16, 2012

Be Mine Valentine

Hey there. It was Valentine's Day, a couple days ago. And as per usual, I started assembling my elaborate satchels at a timely eight o'clock the night before. Embracing the full glory of the night I said "Yes, this is the right time to start icing shortbread,"

And shelling teabags. I should mention, that while attaching homemade tags to teabags may seem like a relatively easy task, it is something to be avoided in the future. It is a dangerous endeavor to be sure, and far more consuming than you would ever imagine. And days later, my hands are still making little scuttling motions, stripping imaginary teabags of their packaging.
Be forewarned.

Classes are settling back into their normal patterns. I'm trying to stay on top pf everything, like a hawk. If hawks studied action potential in neurons. Which they might. Who am I to say? 

Thursday, January 26, 2012


This happens.
I put away the glue gun. I shut it up in the cupboard and I hope that I haven't disrupted the order of my mother's craft. I worry about it, at the back of my head. She would never say anything if I did, but it is precious to her. And I am someone who treads lightly in the worlds of others. I may be naive. I might not have a quick tongue. I am too concerned with aesthetics. Deposits of flaws crop up constantly in my being. But I do not stomp around in the gardens of other people's thoughts.
The TV is covered in scraps of newspaper, and it's face is vacant and empty. Hours from now, I will sit in a crowded classroom, rewatch tonight's event on another television, and I will feel the same way as this costumed piece of equipment does now.
I forgot to ask for someone to turn it on. I neglected (on purpose?) to ask for help. It didn't reach it's full potential, and after, everyone looked on, half-satisfied with something too normal and too weird. The worst part: it was not a misunderstanding. It was a valid observation.
The scissors return to my desk. I tuck the roll of scotch tape to bring to school. Accidentally stolen tape. I would like to say that I had a plan to make things better. That, given more time, things could have gone differently. But in this moment, I am not so certain. Benevolence was not given a habitat to grow. And it's awful that the bad weed destroys the garden, but it does. You can't not see the dandelion. Or perhaps that is just me. I fixate on it.
I have not learned to say, "You are wrong," with any sort of conviction. That sounds like an admirable thing, but it leads to apologizing. Needlessly. It leads to back tracking. To nights and happenings such as these. People get in your garden.
In the morning, we will clean up the mess, and it will be better, somehow, in the light. And in the labor. I can clean a place. I can keep going. I can keep my head down. I will sweep and laugh, and the sun will be shining, and on Saturday, I will go to the symphony and play.
But tonight, I am putting away the glue gun, and regarding the TV. When I see it, bedecked and bruised, I'm struck by the appropriate nametag. And with old, worn anger, and a someday resignation burning in the future, I start to peel the newspaper from it's face.

Friday, January 20, 2012

What is Art? they say

Sometimes, art is hard.
I've been working on this book of poetry/illustrations for the last two snow filled days. I should be doing other things (senior project, FAFSA, applications) but I just kind of put my foot down and said to myself: It's cold. You're hungry. The power is intermittently going out. Make this and be happy.
And everything was going well, until, well, I brought out the embroidery thread, and began stitching words into card stock. Oi veh.
All supplies are now gathered on my desk. On probation until further notice. I will probably be back to them in half an hour, once they have learned their lesson.
Speaking of art being frustrating, I'm taking the craziest mini-term. It's all about art and indeterminacy, and how we can create art that is not fully centered on emotion. It's really uncomfortable, at least for me. I operate creatively based almost entirely on my emotional threshold. To take that away, to say it no longer matters is very strange for me. As I said, rather embarrassingly in a class discussion in front of sixty of my peers, my music can't be about "that boy last summer" anymore. Funny. I feel slightly robbed.
Other than artistic frustration, my life has been fairly rosy lately. Most importantly, I got this scholarship. And it means that next year, I'm probably going to be somewhere I really, really, want to be. I have been so frightened that I have left something out. That I am missing a huge piece of this process. And maybe I am. But I don't feel as frightened about it anymore.
Cello has also been really rewarding lately. Things are starting to feel easier than they were at the beginning of the year. I'm really excited about our programming for the next semester in school, which includes Phillip Glass and Gershwin (okay arranged Gershwin, but who cares?)
We have all this snow at our house. I haven't ventured outside in two days. I don't like the snow, and I know I sound like a total party pooper, but I just don't. I don't get it.

Sunday, December 18, 2011

The Spring of Me

It's been a long while hasn't it?
I'm very tired. It's the end of the semester, nearly, and almost Christmas too. I am not prepared for either event.
I feel like I am holding on to things by the tips of my fingers. Whereas I used to be able to plan things weeks in advance, I find that now, at most, I can only give myself two days. I never know what is going to come up, what pressing issue will derail me.
I'm an adult now, technically, but I don't feel like one. In fact, I feel more like a child than I have in years. I'm just kind of groping around for the right ideas, and practices, hoping that what I find will be alright, and not too costly, should they fail me.
It's not as bad as I'm making it sound. It's also exciting and empowering. It's just that I am used to being on top of my game, and completely in control. I've gotten too used to the security of it. Now, when everything is so profoundly shaken up, I find that I have no emergency plans. I'm drawing them up in trembling red ink.
In fact, I should probably be studying for a calculus retake right now. But I just kind of need to think a little. Like I said, I'm pretty tired. Exhilarated, but tired.
There is something infinitely nagging in the back of my mind lately, and I can't get it to go away, though there is much to distract me from it, more important things, I would venture. But, of course, it overwhelms me. I won't give it the satisfaction of being mentioned here, but I will admit that it is the reason I am writing. I'm combating it with other emotional thoughts, even if my analytical ones will falter against it.
My music, that which not the cello, is driving me crazy. I can't settle into anything. I'm trolling the recommendations of countless friends and pandora, scrabbling to find something to cling to, but I'm not finding anything. Maybe it's just something that I have to be patient with. Still, it frustrates me to no end. I wait all day for my bus ride home, so that I can listen, and then when I settle into the rhythm of the drive home, I find that I cannot listen without clenching my teeth.
I really should study calculus.