Tuesday, May 2, 2017

The Dogs Dissolve and Drain Away

It is so appropriate that my last blog post, circa two years ago, the preface to the journey I just ended today, included lyrics from Neutral Milk Hotel’s King of Carrot Flowers Part 1. This morning, on my walk with Abbie, I had a craving for Neutral Milk Hotel, specifically for King of Carrot Flowers Part 2, which I bellowed into the windy May air. I love evenness, perfect synchronized timings, when things line up, and this whole day has felt full of that.

Kit introduced me to Neutral Milk Hotel the summer I left the bank and prepared to enter grad school. She said it was the quintessential cool music of her high school. I looked it up, and the album In the Aeroplane Over the Sea became my soundtrack of that post-bank, pre-grad time. It felt to me like a kind thunderstorm in summer dusk, like gusts of loving rain washing the outside environment so that it could become something else.  

Today was a day of endings. My last classes of grad school. My last assignment dunked via email while my friend Fleur played Prince’s 1999 in celebration of my end, hers soon to follow.

The first of my two classes today was the most climactic, thanks to the best prof I’ve had in the program, a guy who spent our last couple hours together giving us a proper end with pizza, sharing, and poetry. The poem, which reminded me of Blood Bank, did me in, and I teared up, not quite able to stem the slight brimming of tears but not trying hard to stop either. There was a lot of gratitude for the prof and a knowledge that classes are ending—these things I kind of love.

I often think of Andy Bernard’s statement in the last episode of The Office, “I wish there was a way to know you're in the good old days before you've actually left them.” I did know. I knew, especially during the last sem, as I sat amongst fellow students, that I liked this, the community, the fellow learning, even the shared complaining. But even this knowledge, this mental self-pinching, doesn’t fully plunge you into the current moment. It’s an early goodbye, an ‘I’m going to miss this.’ It occurs to me now that the only thing that helps is presence in the moment—something that, now written, already is a mental construct. As soon as we say it, we’re distanced from it. As soon as we think about it, we’re looking in, window-shopping.

Fortunately this semester was not bereft of present connection. One of the best memories of the sem is leading a heist in a class to overturn a heinous assignment and turn it into a more feasible one. I can thank the child I’m carrying for the other notable example of communal connection. I had wanted to be part of a community while pregnant, and I got my wish. I couldn’t have picked a better group to be part of during this time, a personable, warm, empathetic bunch of people who’ve devoted their lives to social work. 

Today's endings marched on as I entered Tropical Smoothie and ordered my favorite, the Carribean C-burst. It’s no longer carried. I settled peacefully for the Sunrise Sunset, an appropriate name.

I came home to Blondie who has been gulping The Office, his second time watching the series, and he was just starting the very last episode and asked me to join him. The episode is all about how there’s beauty even in the most mundane things. It was comforting to see this; it ground in the message that had been at the back of my mind all day, that the thing that’s coming is the thing I’m most going to want to be there for, the good old days I’m most going to want to plunge into.

In the last two years, I have better learned how to be present. I have practiced putting aside my desire for excellence and diving instead into what I want. The Office’s Pam desperately wanted viewers to do this very thing. I hope I can give weight to what I want, outside the nurturing context of school. When I left college, I don’t think I knew how to do that. Today I’m a bit better.

That fave prof's class minus the prof who is taking the pic. 4/4/17

“And on the lazy days
The dogs dissolve and drain away
The world it goes
And all awaits
The day we are awaiting

Up and over we go
Through the wave and undertow
I will float until I learn how to swim
Inside my mother in a garbage bin
Until I find myself again, again”
-Neutral Milk Hotel

Monday, July 13, 2015

Camping on Horicon Island on Lake George

Horicon 2015 (Photo by Gandalf)
What sticks out in my mind: Gandalf saying during the ascent of Black Mountain that it’s always nice to see people you care about enjoying good marriages re: Blondie and me. Joie smiling down at me from the boat as I put on my skis. Canoeing along the mountain shore past a waterfall. Sitting on the front of the speedboat with Kit while she is between times—between high school and college. Blondie’s eyes filled with freedom, reflecting a merging with the lake, a lake he’d heard about for our first decade together but never seen. The island, Horicon, which was perfect for us, perfect for Blondie’s first time. It was a single site island, which meant we had the whole thing to ourselves. We described it as “meandering.” It was long and skinny with one point that ended in a pine-needle-framed view and one point that touched a mini conjoining island. There were several swimming rocks but one, facing the Western side of the lake, was favored. One night at sunset, we all sat on another rock that faced the Western mountain range, and peered at the top of the mountains where we could see the tiny distinctions in the trees. I stared at the little fish, who were the size of the apostrophe symbol on my keyboard, flitting around in a small pool in the crack of the boulder upon which we sat. A few nights, we remarked upon the moon, which was mostly full. It often hung out near the top of Black Mountain, and we’d stand on the dock and stare up at it. The mountain stood before us peacefully, with the strength of years of existence. Gandalf noted during a boat ride how strange it is to think of how long the lake has been here.

My time at the lake was bookmarked by visits with close ones. I glided into it in Narwhal’s presence the week before, and I extended it by taking Kit home with me for a visit after the lake. Joie and Gandalf came to our neck of the woods at the end of the Kit visit to finish selling Ziva’s house, and all three left this weekend.

There was a moment early on our hike up Black Mountain when we heard a rattle, and Gandalf realized that it was a rattlesnake. Black and fat, it had the energy and youthful look of a teenage snake. We stopped for a moment and decided to give it a wide berth, and I felt no fear because I was thinking of J. Allen Boone’s Kinship with All Life. I felt happy, almost riotous with joy, and peaceful, like everything in the universe was okay and always would be.

The giants of the sky, the masters of the boat, Blondie and Gandalf

Joie, Kit, Blondie, and me (Photo by Gandalf)

Kit between times
When you were young you were the king of carrot flowers
And how you built a tower tumbling through the trees
In holy rattlesnakes that fell all around your feet

Monday, June 15, 2015

Sail Away

This is my last night as a bank employee. The night before I started at the company, almost five years ago, I took a photo shoot of myself being crazy, displaying all the emotions of the moment. I had just graduated from college that summer, and I was starting a job I needed but didn’t want.

August 29, 2010

I like metaphorical bookends on my experiences. As I was going through some old clothes tonight and happened upon the t-shirt I was wearing in that photo shoot five summers ago, I decided, for nostalgia’s sake, to take another shoot and see what emotions the camera captured this time.

June 15, 2015
There’s more clarity. I have a direction in mind, and I’m proceeding in that direction. And all the things from these years are collected in me like boats in a harbor—they’re there, but they could also sail away.

but now I've hit the mark
staring at the dark
and I cannot help but ignore the people staring at my scars

Monday, June 9, 2014

Still I Call It Magic

I have considered Coldplay my favorite band ever since their songs accompanied me through the awestruck months following the England Abroad. This spring I have heard their new hit Magic a few times. It didn’t speak to me. In fact, recently, I haven’t strongly identified with any of their music. The state of mind the music conjures up in my memory has seemed far away.
Tonight I attended a going away party for Kiff, the best manager I’ve ever had. His two years at this branch have been the Golden Age. Everyone works together so well, and we often express gratitude for our unity. As we celebrated and goodbyed Kiff over Italian subs and calzones tonight, there was so much love at that table. It didn’t matter that the service sucked or that we were sweating because the place was so hot. It mattered that we all loved each other and knew we loved each other.
It was the last time the whole group would be together. Georgia is also leaving the branch, and she is integral. And yet I know that love is not confined to or dependent on person, place, or thing. We will all go on. It is right that we are going on.
As I got in my car to leave, I turned off my audio book about the Holocaust and switched to the radio. Coldplay’s Magic was playing. It was perfect for the moment. As I was swelling with gratitude (and heat), the music was right. And the message that I heard I agreed with: yes, I still believe in magic. At a stoplight, I bowed my head and held up prayer hands. I could feel the magic that I had found in college HERE at this BANK that hadn’t exactly seemed magic when I first started working at it. But HERE I found people I love SO MUCH. And they are everywhere! Good people are everywhere! Love is everywhere! This feeling of connection I have…well, the fact that I could get it HERE in this context means something.
As a matter of fact, when I attended a career conference during my senior year in college, I was in a small group for ten minutes, and we had to talk about our career aspirations. My friend's boyfriend happened to be in my group, and he later reported to her that I used the word "magic" 18 times, which I hadn't realized. I never really thought it would slip in here. 

Georgia and me in our branch. September '13.  
“Call it magic
Call it true
I call it magic
When I’m with you

And just got broken
Broken into two
Still I call it magic
When I’m next to you”

Friday, April 25, 2014

I'll Be Everywhere You Go

There have been a couple of adventures so far this year—a visit from Dough and a company trip to Miami.

This past week, Blondie and I stayed home, though, as my rents and aunt Ziva went off to an island that is special to my family. It was a spontaneous trip to a beach house that suddenly became available. I couldn’t get the time off from work. But I have felt right all week about where I am and have felt, just enough, like I’m there where they are because of things they’ve done. I just got this in the mail tonight from my dad:

In his beautiful scrawl, he tells about his Tuesday night and copies quotes from a book on courage. His ink—orange brown mixing with dark brown—has the warmth of a beach sunset. I feel like each calligraphy letter is a cut-out where the beach, wet sand, and dark brown bottles of sunscreen are peeking through, shining into my room.  

"And true it may seem like a stretch
But it's thoughts like this that catch
My troubled head when you're away" 

Wednesday, November 6, 2013

Thorto & Lev

Five highlights from the wedding weekend:
(1)   The ceremony on the bluffs. It was chilly. But how exciting to have it outside.
(2)   The almost-husband tearing up upon seeing Thorto about to walk down the aisle.
(3)   Thorto really knowing what had happened. A couple of times during the weekend, I heard her say with full awareness, “My life is changing dramatically.” She got it. This might seem like a given, but I don’t think it is.
(4)    Driving up the big hill to the entrance to campus alongside a steep ravine with a million trees–all of them red, yellow, and light green. 
(5)  Aiko making fun of people loving this season--"Oh, the beautiful leaves. The crisp air." Just seeing Aiko in general. And her parents. And so many people I hadn’t seen in a long time. 

"You're worth the worry, I would do the same
If we all went back to another time
I will love you over." 

Friday, November 1, 2013

Four years ago today

Principia campus. November 1, 2009. 

My friend Thorto is getting married this weekend, and I'm flying to Illinois today for the big event. We roomed together in Fall of '07 in a room with ladybugs galore. On any given night, one of these supposedly dainty bugs would dive-bomb us over and over while we did homework. She was my first roommate in that building there in the picture. Since I'm returning to campus this weekend, I CANNOT HELP THE NOSTALGIA. But I also know that no good is contained in these

Wednesday, October 2, 2013

Three Loving Musketeers

I’ve been working with Bezu for the past three years, and Friday was her last day at our branch. Our superiors have moved her to another branch.  
She has been working for the company for 32 years. When my mom was pregnant with me, she and Bezu were both at the same branch, and Bezu was pregnant with her first, too.
On the day of my interview, I met Bezu, and she treated me like family. The first few times I saw her, she assured me that she would be there to help me and that I could come to her with any questions I had. 
I’ve learned a lot from her about loving unselfishly.
Whenever she brought a transaction over from the desk, she stood there and looked at me intently as I processed it. She peered at me, her head cocked down a bit, the signal that she was giving her attention to me. She’d look at me for a moment this way, her eyes gleaming. And then she’d usually say something nice about something I was wearing. Who else, during a busy day, would stop and stare at their coworker like that? She had to stand there anyway. The transaction had to be done. But most people still wouldn't think of using that time to focus on someone else. 

Tonight, when my aunt Ziva, my mom, Blondie and I were driving home from church, Ziva told us about an interaction she’d had with someone who visited our church recently. I’d seen her the Sunday she visited–a small, elderly woman sitting a couple pews ahead of me. If I’m remembering correctly, her hair was dyed the color of beets, and she had a cute black hat. She was hunched pretty far over. From what I could tell, she seemed very loving.
I didn’t get chance to meet her, but Ziva did, and tonight she told us, “That woman is an incredible person. She is one of the kindest people I’ve ever met. When you talk, she really looks at you. She is completely focused, fascinated by every word you say. And it’s like she’s known you her whole life.”

Ziva was reminded of her interaction with that woman because the woman’s daughter showed up to our service tonight. She has visited a couple times in the past few weeks. I hadn’t met her yet, and tonight, someone introduced Blondie and me to her. She immediately dove into substantial conversation. But she wasn’t showing off. She was connecting with us the whole time, and she drew me into the present. She said something about the “light of consciousness,” and I truly felt that as we talked.