One theme. One poet. One memoirist.

Thursday, July 21, 2011

My Heart Don't Wish to Roam

I have never posted a piece of writing with more trepidation than I have posting this entry.

There are a number of reasons for this. The first is that I'm straying into memoir, which is LLM's territory and which she writes with a great deal of verve. The second, and perhaps more important reason for my anxiety is that when I write poems they're usually about people/events/ideas that are very comfortably in my past. Everything that I've written below is fresh and complicated. I don't have my normal distance here, and that's terrifying.

So, dear readers, instead of a funny, self-deprecating essay about how I became an uber-nerd, you have the below. Lauren tells me it's good enough to post, so I am posting.


My friend Kerry is responsible for two of my most lasting obsessions. That is, my taste for high-end scotch and my deep and abiding love for sci-fi television. Since encouraging me to watch Buffy the Vampire Slayer two years ago, she's been my Virgil, conducting me deeper and deeper into the lower levels of nerdiness.  My gift to her (if one can call it that) is to send constant gchat updates about how wonderful the Adama family is or why I love Angel more than Spike.

During one of our more recent nerd-a-thons, Kerry said something that's been rolling around in my mind ever since. She reminded me that all good things are also, somehow, sad. Last night I had a long, pleasant dinner with some people who are very dear to me. As I was walking home I was looking at the stars and it occurred to me that with the exception of the year I spent in the Twin Cities and the four months I lived in China, I have always been able to see the stars. This is a big thing for me. I am one of those people who would like to pick up astronomy as a hobby. I look at APOD every day and was incredibly upset with NASA canceled shuttle missions.

I began to wonder about Duluth and light pollution and before I knew it, I was thinking about these people and this place that have become so precious to me. The thought of leaving them, even for a good job, a city I love, a new adventure, takes my breath away. Then I remembered what Kerry said, about good things also being sad. We were speaking about something very specific (television, actually) but it was so apropos as to be almost frightening. 

I don't think that I want to say that every thing good  is also sad. Rather, I'll say that every good thing comes at a cost, and try as I might, I never seem to be able to calculate how high those actually are . Over the past eight years here, I've seen and learned an incredible amount. Much more than I ever would have guessed when I first moved to Minnesota. But the cost of all of these experiences has been high--at times I wonder if it's been too high. One relationship precludes another that could have been deeper or more meaningful. Studying theology meant putting my love of literature away for a time. Understanding my religion intellectually has led to losing my faith. 

I've written about this before, but when it comes to my personal life, I'm not great at expressing emotions. I can do the opposite poles of anger and happiness pretty well, but when it comes to anything more nuanced than that, I find myself unable to express it comfortably. I experience it and struggle with it, but I do so privately. So when it comes to all the ambiguous feelings wrapped up with the cost of good things, I feel a huge spectrum of emotions, but I can't talk about them.

This is the real reason I love fantasy and sci-fi. The emotions portrayed are always raw and intense without (at least, when the writer truly has command of their story) sentimentalism or emotionalism. The choices that the characters have to make are always huge and seemingly obvious, but the costs of heroism or courage or love--all good things--are deeply personal. For Frodo Baggins, the cost of saving Middle Earth was The Shire. For Katniss Everdeen, the cost of saving the Districts was losing her home and her family. For the Doctor, the cost of being able to travel through time and space is real, equal companionship.

Moving to Duluth does not mean never returning to Central Minnesota. Meeting new people does not mean sacrificing old friendships. While my own costs are deeply personal, as they are for all the fictional characters I have grown to love over the years, they lack the same finality. I am not being asked to destroy the One Ring, bring down a corrupt empire, or travel to a distant world. I am making an adult decision, moving on to a different part of my life. My choices, it seems, are small indeed.

But that's where this genre of writing turns the reader on her head and along with its command of emotion is the other reason why I love it above any other genre. It reminds you, time and again, that it is the small decisions that impact the big ones. Lucy hid in a wardrobe. Bilbo threw a long-expected party. Luke lingered with Obi-Wan. Small choices led to the opportunity for heroism on a grand scale, but at what cost?

The odd thing is that it is the cost of the heroism (or courage, or love or...) that reveals to these characters who they are at their core. Inevitably they find that they are made of sterner stuff than they thought. They struggle and triumph and are forever changed because of small decisions that turned into bigger ones. They recognized that everything good is also a little bit sad. 

So now, as I pack away my books and DVDs, as I take the pictures down from my walls and reconcile myself to the idea that I won't be the one to force Lauren to sit through Battlestar Galactica, I find myself repeating Kerry's words again and again, reminding myself that every single journey for one of these characters started with one small decision. And that even when things are difficult or sad, there's always room for the good as well.

Life it seems, much like a well-designed TARDIS, is bigger on the inside.

Monday, July 18, 2011

summer days

Greetings, all.

We are in the midst of a very warm spell. Our heat index reached 116 today. JOY!!! So, some of what I've written is a bit of an exaggeration in the first paragraph. Alas. The idea is still the same.



The hotter the better, I say. Heat, humidity, sun. Bring it on. I never realized I was such a summer junkie until I moved to Minnesota. Minnesota summers taunt and tease. They pretend. They flirt with heat and humidity. They do not, in any way, resemble the real thing. Instead, they are a brief respite between one winter and the next, a respite of warmer, mild days that do not make up for the negative temperatures, brutal winds, and frozen lakes.

In Minnesota I have to defend my appreciation of summer, my obsession with sweltering temperatures, sweat, and stuffy days. I long for them; I crave them. And everyone around me wonders if I should be in a padded cell.

Summer days are, however, more than heat and humidity. They are hours at the swimming pool—swimming laps, learning how to dive, avoiding squirt guns, and whining about adult swims. They are sleeping with the windows open before we had air conditioning, listening to the rain on the awnings, the soft breeze ruffling the Laura Ashley curtains. They are mom in the garden, digging up plants and moving them, watering flowers to encourage them to grow, me reading to her as she moved from place to place in the garden to work. They are evenings on the deck, grilling out, fetching beer for family, barking dogs, and fighting over the hammock. They are catching lightning bugs with the neighborhood kids and looking for locust shells with dad. They are reading, reading, reading.

Summer days are the purest form of happiness.

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

Good News/Bad News

Hello, readership.

I have news. You, the readers, are allowed to decide whether it is good, bad, indifferent or any combination thereof.

Lauren and I have agreed to start blogging again.

The past few months have been a nightmare of deadlines, job-searching, looking for apartments, and you know, finishing my dual Masters degrees. However, now I am embarking on a new career, moving to a new city, and LLM and I agreed that it's time to start writing together again.

I'm glad to be back.


This week's theme: Summer.



You are not the oak tree outside my window,
sturdy and beautiful, stretching to the morning light.
Or the lightning of a midsummer storm, brilliant and terrifying.
For my part, I am not the fresh cut hay,
soft and fragrant, warmed by the afternoon sun.
Or the first rose of summer, beautiful and understated.
And we most certainly are not the loons on the lake,
mated with one another for the rest of our lives.
Instead, you are the one walking down
the country road winding next to the lake.
And I am the one who is walking down
the winding country road with you.
And we are the ones walking beneath the oaks,
seeing distant lightning, smelling roses,
and freshly cut hay, listening to the loons on the lake,
who, as it turns out, don't actually mate for life.

Thursday, February 24, 2011


Once again, I'm struggling with the prose section of this particular theme. Rather than continuing to try to force something out, I'm going to post the poem.


John 8:2-11

"This is going to hurt." When he said it, I thought he meant
my hair, where they had pulled it, or my knees,
where they had scraped along the pavement.
Perhaps he meant the stones they were all gathering,
from which my body was already cringing. Or, if nothing else,
the horrible names they were all shouting, the lies they were telling.
Those all hurt, or would have, with the opportunity.
Years later, I came to realize that he meant
his own casual parting words,
and the sudden, stinging knowledge,
that I had been forgiven.

Monday, January 31, 2011


As an aside, this week's short writing piece does not coincide at all with the poem. Also, after Lauren read it, she described the poem as "like getting punched in the gut" and "brutally sad."



I am not a cute runner.

Before I go any further, I need to state that there cute runners. My cousin is one of them. All of her marathon  pictures look like Nike ads. Her husband is the same way. After they sent me pictures of the Ironman they ran last September, I wanted to know if they had been retouched. They were too perfect.

I am not one of those runners. I'm pushing some extra weight.  I don't have a beautiful stride, matching running clothes, or a bouncing ponytail. I'm usually moving pretty slowly. Watching me run is pretty ugly.

Despite all of this, I still run. I run because at the end of a long workout, I feel the way a Catholic is supposed to feel after they go to confession. Light. Refreshed. As if everything that's gone wrong in the past few days has been left behind me on the road.

I think, ultimately, that's worth a little ugliness.

How It Ends

She loved to cook and he to eat, so that's how it all began. She would cook. He would eat. They would talk about work or their spouses, perhaps drink some wine. Her recipes became more elaborate, his waistline, larger. They both made overtures at something else, but it never went anywhere because it couldn't go anywhere. He carried home leftovers from her meals; she took away his laughter at her jokes. One night, after years of food and wine, laughter and a little sadness, he wiped his lips and cleared his throat. "I'm leaving my wife," he said. "For who?" she asked. "Someone else." He replied. They were silent for awhile, until she met his eyes and said "I have an early meeting." He left and walked down the block, realizing halfway to his car that he had forgotten the leftovers she always prepared. He went back and rang the bell. She never answered. 

Sunday, January 30, 2011


On having furniture.




The transition to adulthood happens slowly and all at once. You wake up one morning and think, “Wow. Things are different.” But then you start to look back at the past few years or months and you realize the change has been happening for a long time. I didn’t notice I was an adult until I’d lived in my apartment for about eighteen months, but when I thought about it, I realized that the shift started to take place when I bought my dining room table.

I had moved into the apartment less than a month before I bought the table. Most of the furniture I had was handed down to me from my mother. A love seat, chairs, side tables that had belonged to her, that had been replaced in recent years as she and Ruth established their home together—these pieces came with me. They came with stories. My bed is cast iron and had been my grandmother’s when she was young. My dresser belonged to a great-grandfather. My mom and dad found the rocking chair at an antique store. The bookcases were new but the books I put on them have tales of their own, and not simply those between the covers. Even the desk, which had been bought as a graduation gift a few months earlier, already came to the apartment with a story—one for which I have yet to be forgiven.

The dining room table was the one major thing I lacked in this new apartment of mine, this new life of mine. It was my first major purchase for my life as a nonstudent. The dining room chairs sat, unassembled, on my living room floor for about a week. They stubbornly refused to be put together. The allen wrench wouldn’t tighten the screws properly, and the pieces wouldn’t line up correctly. And so for a week I allowed them to settle in to the space, to realize that my home is a good place for dining room furniture. It’s a silly thing to say—that these inanimate objects needed to get comfortable. Somehow, though, I thought it might work.

It did. A week after I bought the table and chairs, I assembled them with no problems.

The table is a powerful symbol in Christianity. The altar is where we share our story as followers of Christ; where we come together to celebrate and grieve, be complacent and frustrated, give and receive. The table at home is no different. As I assembled those chairs and that table, I knew it would be a place of gathering and goodness.

I knew it would be a place for stories.

Wednesday, January 19, 2011


We have been rather remiss in posting.

I'd like to insert a list of perfectly valid reasons--reasons that would make the readers of this blog be both awed by the writing and dazzled by the courageousness of writing in the face of so many obstacles. That's the kind of list I would like to have.

To be perfectly honest, on my part, I haven't been writing. I've been desperately trying to track down the last bit of writing I did, hoping and praying that dear God I really have written something since November, but it's simply not true. After finishing my thesis and classes last semester, I did not want to have anything to do with my computer except watch Netflix. I have been absolutely lazy. I read three novels and spent the rest of break zoning out in front of the television. I'm not particularly proud of that choice, but after 2.5 years of having comps/language exam/thesis to worry about during breaks, I was grateful for the opportunity to shut my brain down for an extended period.

It. Was. Glorious.

It's also slightly remiss to say that I did nothing except watch television. I went to Christmas parties. I cooked. I met new people. I visited with old friends and family. I met actual people who read this blog and are not related to me. I went vintage thrifting. I read three months of back issues of Harper's Bazaar. I didn't check my grades. I lounged and did laundry and gloated over the variety of expensive kitchen gadgets I received as Christmas presents. I updated the list of my most loved/most hated words. Generally, I just recharged for this semester.

But now. It's time to get back into academic and other-kinds of writing. So, without further procrastination:

Our theme: Firsts



It was not veal piccata or bouillabaisse. It was not boeuf bourguignon. Not steak helene. Not puttanesca. It was certainly not braised scallops or mussels cooked in wine. It was not any of the other gourmet meals I would make through the years. It was just a chicken, breaded in herbs and the closest I could approximate  to my grandmother's recipe. Fried in a skillet while I was drinking a Pabst and we were talking idly about the day, the plans for the weekend, the weather. It was nothing Julia Child would provide for a dinner party, but sitting at kitchen table in our jeans, with our beer and the late early-summer sun, it was everything I wanted.