In this completely hypothetical story, the protagonist is named Nancy. Nancy can be a bit impulsive and has a tongue to cut like a knife, so rather than take frustrations out on small animals or complete strangers, Nancy decides to go straight to the source. Letters, presents and pictures are brought together in a box of waned happiness. The plan is delivery on the doorstep of the offender, with a note to cut to the soul, and perhaps a car covered in dog feces. As an editor to this scenario, I persuade Nancy against the feces idea with the reasoning that the task of collection alone would prove a shitty process. Nancy reluctantly agrees and moves on to the soul cutting note.
Carried away with emotion, Nancy can not be trusted and I step in as the writer and editor of this situation to guide her words. She shows me draft #1:
"Have a great f*cking life, B*tch! I hope you choke and die."
I give Nancy props on her ability to capturing blatant precision in such a moving statement. However, if I were to give a note in this situation, I might be a little less forthcoming with emotion. That way, the recipient couldn't immediately write our dear protagonist off as being crazy and embittered. Nancy assures me that she is not crazy and embittered, just very angry. I tell her to keep thinking and writing.
The next morning, the sun is bright and the sky meets Seattle around the edges in a flurry of pink and purple. Nancy comes to me early in the morning, hopeful with draft #2. It reads as follows:
"There are so many things I would like to say to you that I am actively choosing against voicing. I could say things to shred you down to a raw and empty soul. But quite frankly, there is no point and I know any tears you shed will not be sorrow at hurting another person but horror at being found out. So I will leave it at this: I am done praying for you, but I sincerely hope that one day you find something to make you a better person- someone with honesty and integrity.
Take this box of lies- I am done with it. I don't need it to hold me back from where I am going. Perhaps you will find something in the refuse worth recycling.
Thank you for so thoroughly dismantling and cutting me free of the false hope that Christian boys are at all worth the skin they inhabit. While you wallow in the filth of what you are, I will be flying with the stars."
Nancy seems happy, like she has said everything she wanted while still remaining as civil as the situation would allow. I take her note with me and ponder it throughout the day, agreeing to meet that evening. It is better than the first draft, for sure, but something doesn't seem right. As her editor, I'm determined to identify the problem and discuss it with her. Then it hits me, this note is filled with "I" statements. For a situation needing this level of sensitivity and caution, I would opt out of writing myself into the note. After all, why put yourself out there to be counter-attacked when you are already the one hurt in the first place? This will not do, and I tell Nancy so.
She is crushed, but she agrees to try again. Several days pass and she returns, reluctant and confident. Draft #third-time's-the-charm:
"You didn't get away with anything; you are still a liar and a fake. Maybe someday you will see the value in honesty and integrity. For the sake of those around you, one can only hope.
"I'm returning these lies. Maybe somewhere in the refuse you will find something worth recycling. Just make sure to mean it this time around."
With this note, as her editor, I believe she has finally said what she had hoped while maintaining her own integrity. Will she still follow through with her original plan and give the note and box to her offender? As the writer of this fiction, I still haven't decided. After our work together, I am more concerned about the development of my character Nancy than the ultimate outcome and feelings of a worthless boy. I have the power as writer and editor to decide. What will I do with it?
I was only gone to Mexico for two weeks. I shouldn't be experiencing the level of culture shock that I am. However, now that I am back, I can't decide which reality is less real: the lure of warm and relaxed Mexico or the busy, cold-shouldered running about of Seattle. Right now, Mexico stays stubborn in my mind and I try to fight off the illusions of missed priorities so screamingly present in the States.
Mexico won over my heart in record time. Part of me is happy to be in Washington, home for the holidays and gasping awe at the snow covered mountains. An equally big part wants to make good on new friends' promises of travel companionship and lodging- buying and boarding the next plane ride out of town and saying hello to the life of a gypsy. I am still in shock at how simple and fulfilling life can be. With the scrambling and working and keeping the nose to the grindstone of the American work ethic, we still haven't found the things that make happiness a lifestyled reality. I have laughed more in the past two weeks than an entire year.
I like who I am in Mexico. I laugh and smile constantly. My eyes turn bright and my step seems so light that I must be flying. The unnecessary is stripped away to leave the raw material of life and living. My reality : Ganas de vivir! : Desire to live. This is sketched on an artisan's arm that agrees to teach and force me to speak Spanish. The memories of Mexico are locked like gold in my memory. I pull them out, warm and shining, to illuminate my eyes. Smiling, they see through the illusion -the smoke and mirrors, bustle and burden- of everydaylife.
When asked the reasons for my current high, I answered a friend this: For years beyond years I have been placed in a culture where I feel I don't belong. I have been tossed and blown about dark waves that almost drowned me in the obligations and unmet expectations I felt forced to believe. Thread by thread my soul unraveled to these things, thinking no other option was available aside from painful submission. In Mexico, I experienced a solid ground I have searched my life through and back. My feet planted finally and standing after so much uncertainty felt solid. My full height realized on this ground, my head feels as if my thoughts soar with the clouds and stars.
I don't aim to condemn the past that budded me, but rejoice in the future blooming and pruning I hope my future holds. I'm back and adjusting to the cold, but from inside out Mexico-in-my-heart warms the tips of my being. I am happy; heart, mind and soul happy. My eyes smile and see the beauty in everyone I pass, if only they could see that same beauty. Mexico has made me a better person and the world around me, even in Seattle in the dark winter, glows life inspired.
Mexico, te quiero. Regresaré.
A development I was not expecting is the way immersion into a different language takes your mind hostage and blurs its edges so thinking becomes nearly impossible. So many nights I sit with my journal, curled up under the stars, staring at a blank page while the colors and images of Mexico stay stubbornly locked away in my head, unwilling to make themselves into cognitive thoughts. Words thoroughly escape me. Or, at the very best, I am left with a stew of Spanglish splattered together in little better than a first grade reading level.
However, even with language adaptation is possible, if not discouragingly slower than the ways a body adapts. When I first arrived, nothing made sense. I was left smiling the vacant smile of a gringo foreigner, nodding agreement at who knows what propositions were presented to me. I`m sure in the first several days of my stay here, I agreed to buy anything from vendors, said yes to eating animal brains, and agreed to go dancing and make out with random local guys. I did not make good on any of these smile-nod promises and have more than likely supported the impression that Americans are either stupid or dishonest. After my first full Mexican day, my mind felt fuzzy and confused, suddenly unable to comprehend the speech presented.
This started to pass relatively quickly. By day two, I could understand most of the conversations happening between my friend and various venders and locals. I would listen, wide-eyed and fuzzy brained, catching snippets of words I understood. Day three I could let people know that I understood most of what they asked, but couldn´t speak in return. I was surprised the things I didn´t remember from 8th grade Spanish class, and how little those things really mattered in understanding and being understood. I felt adventurous by day four and could order frutas y cervezas from the little tienda. I feel a growing urge to try out language, especially with children and older people who speak a little slower and laugh with you rather than at you.
However, by learning a new language, I seem to be trading the older one out. At one point, I found myself in a loud internet cafe, trying to type out essay questions on childhood development and psychosocial tendencies. My brain was in a funk. I couldn´t remember simple English words or sentence structures. Even typing a simple email to my parents was laborous and nearly impossible. As loud Spanish was exchanged around me, I found myself trying to incorporate Spanish words in place of my forgotten English ones. I walked to the hotel in a daze and took a three hour nap.
I didn´t expect language acquisition to fully capture any form of developed voice and have a new respect for travel writers. I don´t know how they do it. Hopefully, this is just another aspect of adaptation I can encourage my body and mind to accept. I look forward trying.
Midnight skies cross the void, causing festive merriment and crusting the grass with one million dancing, singing, laughing stars. This night, first frost inverts the world as the universe crunches beneath my shoes. I'll puff out white clouds of stilled adoration before cold bones and screaming blue fingers blind my sight with apathy.
I went to a concert known as "The Rounds," a collection of artists brought together to make a larger whole. I watched dozens of artists celebrate the beauty of the world. Painters painted, poets spoke, and musicians traded songs like playing cards. I was, in every sense of the word, audience to the art created by camaraderie and collaboration. My seat as observer grew increasingly uncomfortable as all my senses stayed tuned to the beauty before me. By encouraging artists to play and collaborate with each other, relational dynamics form and further separate the distance between performer and audience. We observe the budding friendships, secret love affairs and artistic rivalries, understandings and misunderstandings that grow in the stage light but quickly fade and die with the approaching day. Rather than interaction between performer and audience, we sit entranced and slightly voyeuristic at the artist/artist bonds. This left me with a feeling of guilt and shame. Why could I not be with them? What sets me so profoundly in audience- in waiting- while others so joyfully and beautifully arrive?
The stars are set like diamonds in the sky. I know this image and set of words has been placed together before Petrarch and Shakespeare. However, this realization does nothing to take away from the ever growing beauty of this deepening night. Sometimes the best thing to be said remains in a silent acknowledgment- a brief nod from my end of eternity back to the giants of art and expression. I like to think they nod back. That way silent understanding can sit in the space of thousands of years and on the first frost of the season, stars can be diamonds.
Would I- if my arms stretched high enough and my fingers proved as strong- would I pluck those diamonds from their thrones and store their beauty in my pockets? Would I put them in my mouth and suck them down like hard candy in an attempt to infuse inspiration into the fibers of my being? Could I call myself an artist, a writer, at that point or would I need a whole bucket of twinkly, lemony jawbreaker stars to ease this nagging appetite of insecurity? Perhaps I am the force separating myself from the stage and given the chance to make my soul fly, I clip my wings for some unknown and driving fear of rejection.
Fear can make an audience of artist. I attend wonderful performances and enjoy them, but am left feeling unnerved, as if a desire so deep and strong is awakened at the mere suggestion of art. Restlessness drives me to a bar at 12:00am. I sit scribbling to candlelight, drawing inspiration from stars distant through foggy windows and courage from a brimming glass of pinot noir. Here in the deafening noise of pop music and pick-up lines, I can be artist, or writer, or anything at all. The anonymity spurs me on to greatness.
Perhaps the fear of becoming is the yawning, lethargic shadow friend that remains ever looming. The fear of, not becoming something narcissistically outstanding, but distinctly myself. Instead of stepping past the shore and into the waves, I find ways to distract myself. I choose one relationship after the other to define the bounds of my existence but am left bitter when my universe is too small. I open up within another's world where things are safe, predictable, not alone. I give myself completely and wholly over to outstretched and pulling arms for a solid eight months before resenting the embrace I not so long ago thought safe. I shudder and cringe at the weight of limp arms. I stop eating in an attempt to disappear from a reality turned nightmare. I run away, leaving behind an empty, wanting embrace that I once filled. I vomit the cycle like wine from my pores. These aged dreams stink like cheese I've never liked. I am single and unnerved, standing at the brink of the unknown. Greatness? Ruin? Truth? Dare I step beyond this shore and into the dying night?
The waiter announces last call. Is this my last call? Guys struggle to secure the phone numbers and nightcaps cumulative of a night's work. I listen and watch. I am the awkward, quiet girl, sitting in a bar during happy hour- writing. Even here, I am audience, watching people pass and placing myself distinctly outside normal. Perhaps my anxiety comes from balancing one position of audience with another. I listen and watch. I read. I lose myself in the lyrics, lighting and staged laugh of performers. Maybe I need to break the limbo like bread dipped in wine, all in feet first. Maybe I need this last call and one more glass of pinot noir. After all, nothing is more futile or finite than a lack of alcohol.
I stand here, at the brink. Should I remain solidly ashore or ease into the ocean, black with night and filled with crashing waves and sirens' voices? I feel closer to the stars when swimming but danger looms among the rocks. I have been told this truth in stories fresh from my birth. Waiting, waiting, waiting...
I step out of my car and into the lawn, realizing the grass is alive with millions of dancing, singing, laughing stars. Grace has brought the skies to my feet when my arms fell short. Here, in the first frost, can I dance among the universe of dreams and forget the what-ifs and why-nots of cemented and crusty habits. In the sparkle of the sky above I imagine a thousand giants- Shakespeare, Keats, Steinbeck, and Lewis- cheering me on with twinkling eyes and brimming smiles, whispering a lullaby to guide me through the crushing rocks and waves.
It is not every day that I find magic in the city. No, that's not quite right. I'll try again...
It is not every day that I allow time to find magic in the city. As I rush from point A to B, I award very little attention for the slow moving pace of nymphs and creatures everlasting. But they are here regardless of my notice, hidden in the cracks of sidewalks and the limbs of painted trees. I was given a short break in my otherwise task filled day to meander a park and forget the city. I found an enchanted forest among the populated hills and concrete blocked buildings. Magic jumped from a crevice, shook off the sluggishness of eternity and said, "Yes, life is worth living. I will show you."
I was led, hand in hand with Eternity, to see the gift of Autumn.
We walked first through the ravine floor- black with mud and fertile from years of vegetation falling in on itself. The warmth of a spring sun encouraging trees to reach and stretch toward the bluing sky, grow large with maturing green, sour at the retreating day and collapse heartbroken and happy to the earth below. The sun will leave the trees here, sleeping quietly while hearts mend, courage builds and life erupts once again from the false graves of decay and mud. Among the trunks and roots of giants, I felt the tension of this delicate dance outside myself; my own yearning sundial assuaged by the cyclical nature of this and all seasons.
From the ground, we climbed out of the mud and to the skies, mimicking yawn and stretch of spring while surrounded by a restive dying. The beauty swept my breath away as hills of golden tree tops spread out in every direction. Where had the city gone, less than half a mile away? I watched leafy bodies bigger than my two hands give themselves up and float gracefully to the ground far, far below. The wind they disturbed whispered from the ravine, Goodbye now, until we meet again. Here, in the enchantment of this forest, I was flying. I could watch leaves and let them fall without feeling the familiar pull on my own body to glide with them. Goodbye for now. Sleep sweet until we meet again.
In the fall, I feel driven to the brink of sanity by a nervous fear. I watch as the world grows more and more beautiful with the break of every new dawn and every waning evening. I panic, knowing that this moment is the most beautiful I have ever seen- no other moment in my life will surpass the glowing reds and burning yellows completely filling my vision. Life takes on an urgency to live- and to live to the fullest, instantly, for tomorrow we die. But how can I gather my rosebuds, I think desperately when the world is conjuring up the biggest grand finale I have ever seen? How can I forgive myself if I miss the standing ovation and chance of encore? So instead I watch, entranced in the dance of the dying world without realizing that I am not myself dancing and dying. The line between performer and audience becomes hopelessly blurred.
From my perch at tree canopy tops, I am momentarily gifted with sight usually reserved for gods and immortals- Eternity introduces me to the strength and perseverance of an endless cycle between sky and earth and tree and light. Tomorrow the beauty may be gone, but only dead for a season before returning once again. The natural world has a strength to push past death to rebirth that I am not meant to follow lest it destroy me and I collapse on myself in one fatal breath. Perhaps we experience rebirth in the end, but my strength comes in moving through rather than up and down and up again. Returning to the city from the park, I am finally ready to let go and whisper with the approaching night, "Yes, life is very much worth living."
Something is in the air. It spins around my head and makes me dizzy. It fills my lungs and the weight of it allows breath, but only so and laboriously. This strange and intoxicating air passes into my veins and bewitches my blood, speeding up my heart and making the surrounding world feel crowded and small- the box top sky begins to drop down and the sides of tree limbs spread their arms to grasp and hold. Everything is suddenly overwhelming and I feel the need to run. Change drives my racing heart like an engine and a voice whispers with the wind nothing, nothing gold can stay.
I shuffle papers on a desk that doesn't belong to me but someone with more permanence. I advert my eyes down to the fake wood surface and pretend that this morning is like every previous morning. I try to breath deep and calm the whisper's intensity: then leaf subsides to leaf/ and Eden sinks to grief,/ so dawn goes down to day/ nothing gold can stay. Blaring on the radio, the falsetto voices of middle class white acoustic guitarists- wedding music, I have come to call it as I continue to lose friends and family to happy ever after- doesn't help the situation. No, they only make this crawling, itching feeling worse as they spew promises of love that I don't believe exists.
Outside, the world is suffering through another death, another autumn. Like every year, I don't have the strength to stand by, passive, and watch the beauty fade while my heart breaks again and again. The leaves of every tree, in a blushing but morose swansong, put on their evening gowns and throw themselves from their heights, catching wind before gravity pulls their bodies to the screaming rocks below. Crippled and broken- splayed on rock, pavement and trapped in gutter and drain- the brilliant red fades to brown fragile skeletons.
From somewhere within a well adjusted me, a voice calls into the void that justice can't be so- this dying, screaming, pulling fight and the blackness of the dreadful night- surely there must be beauty that centers and grounds the otherwise fraying horizons of my sanity. A normal me doesn't feel suicidal, but this thing in the air causes me to pause at high places and wonder if my body would fall as gracefully to the rock below. Do not go gentle into that good night No. No, I mustn't give into the the yawning pull of the cliff's edge and the warm embrace of insanity. Rage, rage against the dying of the light.
I used to chase the sun. While I was out playing in the woods, I would suddenly notice the golden light of a nearly departed day. In near panic, I would turn myself west and start running full speed toward the fading light. If I can only make it to the crest of this hill, I would think hopefully, then day not need leave me here. I can extend it on. Something beautiful was leaving me behind and it was my own weakness, my inability to keep a fast enough pace, that would strand me in the loneliness of the approaching night. The branches of thick, darkening underbrush would tear at my arms and legs. Cold stream water would soak through my shoes and make my socks feel slimy. Sometimes I would make it to the top of the hill before collapsing to cry, realizing that the sun would go on setting and so much land still stood between myself and that lofty brilliant orb. Dirty earth bound and disheartened, I would turn from the last glowing beams of the day and resign myself to await the coming dawn. I never liked the darkness and the night.
To fight the approaching season of winter, I will not stand by passively. I will go adventuring into this good night. Perhaps somewhere among the dancing, dying leaves I will find enough beauty to get me through til dawn.
Nature's first green is gold
Her hardest hue to hold
Her early leaf's a flower;
But only so an hour.
Then leaf subsides to leaf.
So Eden sank to grief,
So dawn goes down to day.
Nothing gold can stay.
Portland is the land of bikes. There are big bikes, kiddie bikes, bikes with one really large front wheel, pile bikes, bike-cart food vendors... the list goes on and on. If you live in Portland and don't own a fixed gear, vintage, or custom bike, you are a minority.
A cute dog, but not really living up to the spirit inflicted upon her by her owners.
Very nearly every barista and waiter/waitress in Portland is a struggling artist. This explains why restaurant service is consistently terrible and something as simple as a crosswalk bears some mark of expression. I can't figure out if this is a dragon shooting fire or the Candy Land Chocolate Swamp Monster sneering at a misbehaving hand. That Chocolate Swamp Monster used to terrify my six year old self.
I ran into a guy that was super excited about Organic Cotton Candy. I didn't really understand the concept, but I guess organic refined sugar is better than not organic refined sugar?
T.Nice and his college fund. This kid rocked out on a bucket for hours collecting money for college. He is a drum master prodigy and will more than likely get a full ride to the university of his choice.
Snotty little kids with ice cream, balloons and filthy mouths. Luckily, their jests were turned more toward each other than strangers who happened upon them. However, I did get a look after taking this picture telling me they were not pleased.
Autumn is my favorite season in Portland. This is a beautiful restaurant kitchen garden.
Ignoring the distressed cries from below, this balloon made to escape but got stuck in the trees, inadvertently taunting the teary-faced former owner.
My friend was taken in by the brightly colored sugar ice. I could only guess at the color of her urine the next day.
Portland also houses a very large subculture of belly dancers. I once showed up for a belly dancing lesson but the weekly class was canceled. Part of me was relieved, as I didn't have the make-up or bangles necessary to make the experience authentic and my mid-section tends to do better shrouded in clothes.
Last but not least, the Green Gym that provides live music while you work out!! I would say this is the strangest thing ever, but after much contemplation, I would have to give that title to Portland and all its quirkiness.
Trees painted blush
with the kiss of autumn
I wrote that with refrigerator poetry.
My productivity of the last month, only slightly impeded by scattered employment:
Rather than play my 20th hour of Bejewelled or Insaniquarium while working as the PopCap Games receptionist, I resolved to stretch my mind in a way that doesn't include countless and mindless clicking of a mouse.
My hand is covered in purple smudges that may or may not look like the following words:
if i love You
worlds inhabited by roamingly
stern bright faeries
if you love
me) distance is mind carefully
luminous with innumberable gnomes
of complete dream
if we love each (shyly)
other, what clouds do or Silently
Flowers resemble beauty
less than our breathing
I think I will write more on this later. On my trip home, I saw an elderly couple at the park sitting on a bench. Perhaps they were husband and wife and had the opportunity to know each other when they were young. I can only hope this was the case. He put his arm around her and they both laughed while the sun illuminated their white hair.
I wrote a poem on my hand to study while driving back from Bremerton. My car smelled of freshly picked raspberries and an inspiring mix tape danced the stars late into the night. The memorization was a success.
since feeling is first
Who pays any attention
to the syntax of things
will never wholly kiss you
Wholly to be a fool
While Spring is in the world.
My blood approves
and kisses are a better fate
Lady, I swear it by all flowers. Don't cry
-the best gesture of my brain is less than
your eyelids' flutter which says
we are for each other: then
laugh, leaning back in my arms
for life's not a paragraph
and death i think is no parenthesis
I arrived at Greenlake on a warm, sunny morning. Scattered around the park, lovers cuddled on blankets in the sun, readers lost themselves to other worlds in the shade, and countless runners, bikers, walkers and roller-skaters worked to fine tune bodies into that ideal image. Surely, amongst this activity, I will find someone to give my birch bark poem.
I rode my bike to the park. This way, I could deliver the poem and make my get away with minimal amounts of confrontation. I resolved to circle the three mile lake one full time before making my decision. If I had enough bark, I would make poems for everyone, but because I had only one poem, the recipient had to be carefully chosen.
Seattle is a very busy city. Most people flit from one activity to the next, leaving very little room for a relaxed meander through the park. People appear so consumed with business and the waning hours of daylight productivity that they rarely stop to see the approaching fall glimmer a warm brilliance off the lake surface. I was looking for the pause, the moment when a person looked up from the book and smiled at the beautiful world surrounding them.
Finding this moment, or a person about to enjoy this moment, is a very hard thing. Another hard thing is picking out a complete stranger with which to give a love poem. Which cross section of Seattle population should I chose? Gender, Age? How will the poem be received? Will people think I am hitting on them? Can I get away before they try to respond? Am I pretentious to think people would enjoy this act in the first place? Doubts and insecurities filled my head and fogged my intentions. I felt voyeuristic and guilty. The poem was wrapped tenderly in my sweaty palm. I continued my search.
A man sitting on a park bench, reading. Mode of transportation: bike splayed behind bench. Reading a science fiction novel. Late 40's, early 50's, slightly overweight. Occasionally looks up to watch young female runners.
Old couple walking down the path. Women in wheel chair, man pushing. They talk and laugh, white hair catching sun filtering through the shade. Both wear thick glasses and talk loudly, responding quite often with "What?"
Young man in black trench coat. Greasy pony tail pulled away from face and falling midway down his back. A parrot is on his shoulder. Walking opposite direction of wheel chair couple. Thick headphones blare something angry.
Two female lovers on a blanket in the shade. Too far up on the grass. Intentions too easily misinterpreted. Will leave them to their cuddling.
Runners, bikers, walkers and roller skaters. Sweating, red, avoiding eye contact, listening to small devices and focusing on section of ground 10 ft in front of their path.
I was growing discouraged when I finally saw them. Two men were sitting near the community center, one on a brick wall and the other in a wheel chair. Resting between them was bag of rolls, most likely stale and past consumeability. They were feeding a flock of pigeons that had gathered at their feet. I guessed father and son immigrants from Somalia or Ethiopia, although both were older with the son in his late 50's and the father nearing mid 70's or early 80's. Nearing the end of my loop, I decided the moment was now or never. I pulled up on my bike with the roll of bark ready in my hand.
"Happy Tuesday" I said, extending my hand forward.
"Happy Tuesday? What's dis?" I realized the recipients spoke very little English. The son accepted the bark with questioning on his face.
"Happy Tuesday" I said again, smiling but nervous "A gift from me to you. Enjoy the beautiful day."
I rode away before I could see if they unrolled the bark and read the poem. I wasn't even sure if they would understand the words or know ee cummings was a 20th century poet. I was happy, regardless. Even if the poem didn't have the intended impact, I knew that I would remember the image of father and son sitting in the sun and feeding the pigeons. Their moment was a gift to me, a proof that life can be slowed down and even pigeons, cooing rats of the sky, can be cared for and enjoyed. I wonder if this Tuesday will stand out for them, as the day they went to feed the birds and were given a piece of bark by a crazy girl on a bike.
While walking yesterday, I found myself in a grove of birches and stared amazed at the perfect white trunks of the delicate trees surrounding me. A little ways up, one tree was shedding a parchment of bark like skin during rejuvenation. I jumped, caught the roll in my hand and placed it in my pocket for later, sad that I knew so little poetry by heart to mark upon my pearly white paper.
This morning, with pen in hand, I resolved to write a love poem upon the paper. Without hesitation, I chose a bit from ee cummings. Being lover-less, I think I will walk to Greenlake and find someone that I think needs a love poem in their life, deliver cumming's words and ride away before questions can form.
if i love You
worlds inhabited by roamingly
stern bright faeries
if you love
me) distance is mind carefully
luminous with innumerable gnomes
Of complete dream
if we love each (shyly)
other, what clouds do of Silently
Flowers resemble beauty
less than our breathing
"Unless you love someone, nothing else makes any sense."
"Love is the voice under all silences, the hope which has no opposite in fear; the strength so strong mere force is feebleness; the truth more first than sun, more last than star."
"The most wasted of all days is one without laughter."
"To be nobody but yourself in a world that's doing its best to make you somebody else, is to fight the hardest battle you are ever going to fight. Never stop fighting."
"The earth laughs in flowers."
"It takes courage to grow up and become who you really are."
"We do not believe in ourselves until someone reveals that deep inside us something is valuable, worth listening to, worthy of our trust, sacred to our touch. Once we believe in ourselves we can risk curiosity, wonder, spontaneous delight, or any experience that reveals the human spirit."
"I would rather learn from one bird how to sing than teach ten-thousand stars how not to dance."
Mountains Beyond Mountains by Tracy Kidder
A biography on the life and work of Paul Farmer, a doctor in Haiti as well as the founder of Partners in Health. Paul Farmer is currently working to eradicate the world of Multiple Drug Resistant TB, AIDS and social inequality. This book will inspire and change you.
Quotes from Farmer:
"People from our background... we're used to being on a victory team, and actually what we're really trying to do in PIH is to make common cause with the losers. Those are two very different things. We want to be on the winning team, but at the risk of turning our backs on the losers, no, it's not worth it. So you fight the long defeat."
"I'm glad we came, because now we know how grim it is and we can intervene aggressively."
"The idea that some lives matter less is the root of all that's wrong with the world."
Review and Comments follow.
Mountains Beyond Mountains came with an inspiring recommendation from my roommate after discussing my aspirations to work with international health. This book was a godsend, as my current unemployment and exhausting job search has left me wanting for something more substantial and meaningful in my professional career. After finishing this book yesterday, my palms were slightly sweaty, my heart was pumping fast, and I was ready to spend my dwindling savings on a one-way plane ticket to the impoverished country of my choice. I fought back the urge to strand myself in the third world and instead decided to look into a Masters Degree in Medical Anthropology when the time comes to pursue more education. However, step one of Katie's Plan to Save the World is to get into and finish nursing school. Step zero is to find a way to pay the bills and eat while still holding on to my soul. I submitted seven applications today and feel hopeful about Step Zero.
Paul Farmer has lead an inspiring although completely unrepeatable life. As standard to biographies, Mountains Beyond Mountains explores the childhood, education, and experience to find the formula that forms a person into a mover and shaker. This book also investigates the current work and life of Paul Farmer in Haiti as well as other countries around the world. Internationally, Farmer's organization, Partners in Health, works to eradicate the world of drug resistant tuberculosis and AIDS. On a personal and professional level, Farmers works to eradicate the world of social injustice.
While Farmer's life feels unrepeatable for the nine-to-five professionals we are sometimes forced to be, he carries a philosophy about his life that if applied in even small doses would change the world. Our lives encourage ambivalence toward those in need. We quantify our relationships with people in terms of the economic exchange we are forced to live within and out on a daily basis. Farmer's philosophy compromises the safety of calculated risk in our relationships and calls us to be more than ambivalent toward the people around us. At one point in the book, in regards to a medical intervention that many are claiming a waste of time and resources, Farmer responds, "The idea that some lives matter less is the root of all that's wrong with the world" (p 294).
Farmer exposes ways we are subject to unknown oppression of the severely poor and calls us to do something about it. For this reason, this book has the power to change the lives of every reader should we chose to let it. Although I am still two to three years out of working internationally, I want to make a point to devote a certain amount of time and money to organizations that make a difference in the lives of the poor and oppressed. I want to recognize the suffering of the people around me and do everything in my power to alleviate it, even if those solutions are not always rational or cost effective. As Margaret Mead says in a very memorable quote, "Never underestimate the ability of a small group of committed individuals to change the world. Indeed, they are the only ones who ever have."
How will you change your world?
I dare you to try.
"Bono was illiterate. You know that song, 'Where the Streets Have No Names?' That was because he couldn't read any of the signs. As far as he was concerned, the streets had no names."
Thank you, Paul, and Happy Birthday.
The second was gifted by someone at my church:
"You can tell the people that don't have friends. They are the one's buying zucchini from the stores."
Today marked the end of a two week vegan fast celebrating the Dormition of the Theotokos: the day Mary, the mother of Jesus died. Yesterday there was an evening Vigil followed by a Matins service. Each service in the Orthodox Church has a different but equally beautiful mood and I have fallen in love with all of them. Right now Matins might be my favorite, or at least favorite enough to attend before the regular Sunday service of the Liturgy. I'm a fool for the Orthodox Church, it is true.
Being Orthodox, I spend about one third of my year fasting. During fast periods, we cut out meat, dairy, most alcohol, fish and oil; fasting means living on a limited vegan diet. At first, the fasts are agonizing. Many of the rich foods I eat also have addictive qualities. The first week is the hardest as I reset my body and appetites as well as my spiritual priorities. After several weeks of a vegan diet, I don't feel weak or famished like popular belief would think but fresh, clean, and healthy.
With that said, my favorite part of the fasting seasons is finally breaking the fast with feast. Even though today was the death of the Theotokos, our two week fast was over and we could eat whatever food we chose in our most festive of manners. Todd, Sarah and I celebrated our feast with a Central Market Supreme Pizza. It was about noon when we finally got the pizza home and made ourselves ready to eat it. While looking at my first piece of glorious melted cheese, cured meats, and buttery soft crust, I realized that you really can't have feast without fast. If you can eat whatever you want all the time, it becomes more difficult to set days apart as special with the food we eat. Instead of enjoying rich foods for the first time in weeks, our appetites are brought into the celebration through gluttony. Our culture tells us to celebrate through gross over consumption. In regards to our beloved holiday of Thanksgiving, holidays are special because I can stuff myself silly without pangs of guilt regardless of the painful stretching of my stomach that happens after each meal. Without the fast before our large festive meals, we set apart our celebrations with gluttony rather than enjoyment of withheld foods.
Since I have entered the Orthodox Church, holidays are just as much celebrations of responsible eating as indulging appetites. While I do eat large amounts of rich foods, I feel full and satiated after two slices rather half a pizza pie. Fasting has worked its way into my body and routine. Many times after I am done with my first feast meal, I feel ready to start another vegan fast to start the cleansing process in my body over again. Lucky for me, in more situations than not, the next Orthodox fasting period is no more than several days away.
A blessed feast day to all!