Wednesday, November 30, 2005

Holding My Breath

Oh, I'm underwater alright, but I'm not drowning. Nope, I'm just swimming underwater!

I'm making progress, so it's not time to breathe yet.

Finished the maps last weekend, although my advisor found another pile -- but only 3 more to go! I'm thinking I can get through them tonight and tomorrow.

Last night, started and finished an entire book that got recalled to Zimmerman. AND RETURNED IT. That's Virgo satisfaction!

Even talked to my bestest pal in Chicago, who's bravely going it alone in a rough personal time. Got her to laugh, which was about all I had to offer her. Still, I think she needed it.

This weekend: the map analysis portion of chapter 3.

Next week: analysis of neighborhoods south of Montano.

Next weekend: the write-up of same.

And then grading portfolios.

And books, books, books. I figure they're all due at the end of the semester, so I've gotta get serious real fast. I'm getting better at culling what I need and disregarding the rest (not a Virgo strength -- we think EVERYTHING's important because it's all connected! It will all be useful eventually! You never know what you're gonna need!). I'll basically have from December 16 (when grades are due) to the 23rd (when I'll have to start X-mas shopping and packing for NYC -- woo hoo).

Then X-mas.

Then five glorious days in our nation's largest city. Holy cajole.

Then writing/finishing/pulling my hair out on/ the theory chapter. (Jan 2-8)

Then a conclusion. (Jan. 9-13)

Then pulling it all together and ...

Sending to committee (Jan. 13).

Totally doable, right?

Do you see why I'm not breathing? The spell could dissipate if I breathe for a single second.

But for whatever reason, it still seems doable. Hard. Excruciating. PAINful. Tight.

But doable.

Lord god halleluiah.

Friday, November 25, 2005

Evolution of Happiness

Our family gets lighter and lighter in each generation. Pictured is the natural emotional state of my grandmother.

I showed this picture to friends, and they immediately asked, "Is she German?"

Yes, with a work ethic that could kill an ox.

The story told about her this Thanksgiving came from my grandfather. He said at the time they met -- just 17 -- as the oldest of 5, she could cook a three course meal and all the pies. I said she could probably do that by the age of 12. She didn't disagree.

She never could stop working that hard.

And people wonder where I get my drive to work. Hers was relentless. I like to think that my generation adds the element of joy to balance our lives for the better.

Picture of a Racist

This is my grandpa, a smart, charming, wonderful man who would disown me if he ever knew I dated -- in his words -- non-WASP men.

Strange and heartbreaking that this harsh reality is still such a danger in our families.

Incredible that love has the potential to subsume so many differences.

News update

Jury's still out
and I struggle
to keep working.

Wednesday, November 23, 2005


He's read a book on asphyxiation
tells her to keep breathing
says suffocating's the worst way to go –  
eyes bugging out -
but there is a peace before death.

He doesn't know how much like a myth
this sounds to her
how she'll think of this promise
when her body wants to stop pulling in breath
how she wonders if she can get to this place of peace
then choose again to breathe
whether she can pull the peace back through her lungs
send it racing to all her twitching extremities -
her antsy feet,
the yearning at the edges of her calves.

The silence of all but her breath
announces his absence
in a way echoed by the messages he's stopped sending,
and she imagines his fingers occupied now
typing code into another woman's elbow
the small of her back
her toe pads providing the alphabet for his sorrows.

She's deep now
and the tanks he filled
with recognition of her
are pulled down to dangerous levels
while the sails of his rescue ship
fill to billowing
racing in someone else's direction.

She paces herself to shallowness
conserves motion
chooses to face the bottom
that will be home for a while.

Strange that the ocean,
which makes so much noise,
is silent from within.
She thinks, perspective is everything,
but all she can hear is herself,
the roaring in her ears an illusion of effort.

Suspended, she wonders why she's here,
but the fish flashing by have no answers.
What else does that book say about death?
He never told her, and now he's too far away to tell her
and anyway, that's why she's here

in this metaphorical sea of silence
that sounds so much like her past
she confuses it for her future.
Understanding, they say, comes in waves,
and hers reaches crescendo just as she realizes,
there's nothing to do but float,
notice what's beautiful as it passes by,
and be thankful for each breath that sustains
the last of her efforts at love.


Just give it 5 weeks
and he’ll fall
and sinker --
sinking her
to new lows
fresh blows
from cheek to cheek
as she turns them
faced with his promises
that become her test.

And the line?
It snakes
around the block
for the double feature
star-studded bill:
the young star rising
and the seasoned leading man --
her father
fresh-faced from the junket
still acting this play
that long ago
changed casts
and left Broadway
for off off off Broadway
on the right or wrong side
of her bed.

And the hook?
She still looks for it
in the soft flesh
of her cheek
where it inches its way
toward digestion
as first she eats
and then is eaten
by the monster
that lurks
just out of reach
of the shore.

On the sixth week
she’ll rest
worrying the stone
that eclipsed her mountain
wondering again
how many times
this feature will play
across her face
what message waits for her
beneath the credits
rolling their way across hills
surrounding the lake
where locks nest
and hatch keys
that will open her
like the jaws
of the whale that housed Jonah
in preparation for his turning point --
God’s face revealing itself
as his test.

Monday, November 21, 2005

Life Thoughts

Isn't it strange how we move into and out of philsophical periods?

I guess I'm neck deep in a moment of life-introspection. Feels good, I guess. Surreal but good.

Camus said -- or was it Sartre? -- that life was experienced in a spiral -- you're always circling the same shit, just at different levels of integration. Whoever it was, I'm sure he said it a little more gracefully than that.

It's all familiar and yet disconcertingly new -- because I'm in a different place than I've ever been before in terms of perspective, yet the landscape is the same.

I keep getting overwhelmed at all there is to do, as though if I can just get over the hump it will all be okay. The myth of the hump. There is no hump! More exactly, there is no OVER the hump, because life just continues to pile up in all the indiscriminate moments.

The older I get, the faster life moves. I remember being an undergraduate and NOT being able to understand why so many philosophers wrote about time and space. Come on, guys, I wanted to say, it's just time! Just space! They're just the background for our lives; they don't change. No matter how old you are, it's all just minutes and days and months and years. It's neighborhoods and cities and countries and one world. Now, though, I wonder why no one's written anything SATISFYING about space and time that explains what the hell is happening all of a sudden! Why don't MORE philosophers write about space and time? And write about it more pragmatically! I need HELP.

I was at the homage to the petroglyphs this weekend at the soon-to-be-terminated termination of Paseo del Norte as it transitions into the National Park that has been a sacred space for Native peoples for millenia, as evidenced by the layers upon layers of religious art and symbols. An elder spoke about this latest battle lost. He reminded us that the earth will go one no matter what we do to it. That the signs aren't good, and we'll soon see disasters piling up on themselves. It's time to plant and store our food for the coming storms.

But he also said this: Don't forget to enjoy your life. Live and be happy. No one of us, nor any one generation, can fight all the fights to be fought. Part of the battle is adding your personal joy to the balance of the world. Rilke said, "joyfully add yourself and cancel the count."

"And the end of our exploring will be to arrive where we started and know the place for the first time." -T.S. Eliot

Friday, November 18, 2005

Searching for the source of grace

I've got a lot to remember.

I heard this week that I must work to be more gentle, which really means to allow myself to have more fun, to be softer, to be touched by softness. This from an unlikely pairing of sources, whose distinct emotional timbre allowed me to hear the message in stark concert that resolves in stereo.

Part of this art lies in not forcing your life to happen but rather letting it wash over your awareness and feel simply ... graced. Feeling gratitude for grace.

Here to help me remember, some lines from my ole poet standby, T.S. Eliot. A hard man whose words somehow soften me:

From Four Quartets:
I said to my soul, be still, and wait without hope wait without love
For love would be love of the wrong thing; there is yet faith
But the faith and love and hope are all in the waiting.
Wait without thought, for you are not ready for thought:
So the darkness shall be the light, and the stillness the dancing.
And all shall be well and
All manner of things shall be well

From The Wasteland:
Shantih shantih shantih
(The peace that passes understanding.)

Full Circles and Circles

Mikaela says:
So it appears I'm in the poetry scene again. You might say, of course, look how hard you worked for the National Poetry Slam event in Albuquerque in August! And you'd be right. The amount I was willing to pour into that event does indicate my dedication to poetry in general and performance poetry in Albuquerque in particular.

But I still felt like an outsider. A visitor dropping in from the past.

But this week an old poetry friend from the time of my first forays into performance poetry was the visitor dropping in from MY past. He's probably the only person in the world who remembers being witness to the first and only time I slammed. He even remembers the poems I used and one of the lines in particular -- a slutty line, he concedes -- but a great line nonetheless.

Sitting in the Frontier with old and new poetry friends, I was struck with an overwhelming realization: I am one of them. Maybe not a performer, but a poet. A thinker. An appreciator of their art. And a friend.

All of a sudden, I'm seeing more poetry -- living more poetry -- than I have in a long, long time.

And it feels right for my life. That I've been away a long time and now have something more to offer.

We're starting to talk about yearly events -- large-scale events -- that I will help coordinate. How exciting! An end to my academic career, and the start of a life balancing work in neighborhood communities with work in the poetry community.

Do you see? Do you see how grace allows us to see the plans in the chaos of our lives?

Welcome to the circle.

Friday, November 11, 2005

Mucking around in it

The past has thickened into a fog that cuts off my perspective yet again.

These issues...these questions about how to balance the focus on what I need and what a boy needs -- moving forward with my own work and leaving room for intimacy... they're all wrapped up in two traumas from my past -- my father and the man who broke my life into before and after.

Although these things are to some extent discrete, they bleed into every other relationship. Some more than others.

Life presents me with an opportunity to heal through repetition. This time, I have more stability, but the circumstances are the same: Meeting a boy with a broken heart, he falls in love despite himself, but he's still conflicted, she comes back into the picture, there's a decision point, and because I am the ideal and she is real, the choice is always clear: He goes with the King's Daughter 'cause Aphrodite was never his and he could never live up to a god.

Yet, I'm not a god. Just a girl with a father who built a big black hole where love should be.

And being alone is safe. Being codependent is easy. The rest is academic.

Tuesday, November 08, 2005

Defending the Defense

Locked and loaded. Date set. Shotgun procured, and I am wed to the thesis.

The committee is signed on, belted in, and I have yet to belt one back. And won't until February 3, after which it will all seem a bad, bad dream.

Okay, it's not nearly that bad, but despite the fact that February is a matter of blinks away, I have no idea how everything that must get done between here and then will happen. Of course, I do. One step at a time. Hopping from rock to rock with blinders on inbetween so that I don't fright like a skittish horse.

Despite my outright terror, today went great. The committee met and feasted (and I do mean feasted) and talked through the data, the story, the methods. And for the most part, I felt a strong sense of what I'm doing, what it means, how it will get done. The problem is that it's too big and scary to carry around in my head all at once, so I can only think about it in tiny pieces, which leaves me feeling scared that I don't have the big picture. But today, for an hour and a half of grace with people I trust and value, who genuinely want me to succeed and want to help make it easier (or at least less tortuous), I knew what it all meant and what I had to do.

Tonight, with library late notices and recalls piling up like newspapers on a hermit's porch, I'm feeling the pressure still. But it's okay. It will get done.

It's a good thesis.

A good process.

A good committee.

And life again is filled with grace.