Joy and Stillness

Flathead Lake, Montana,
Flathead Lake, MT


I am sitting very still – metaphorically speaking. Day 7 in Seattle, and the stormy weather forecast has discouraged all the vague ideas I had about driving to the coast or going to visit people in Portland. And so I am sitting – with tea and a book – and looking back at the last few weeks in awe.

One week ago, I was driving from Hungry Horse to Seattle. Two weeks ago, I was on day three of driving from Cleveland to Hungry Horse. Three weeks ago, I was driving from New Hampshire to South Carolina. Four weeks ago, I was in New Hampshire. Five weeks ago, I was in New Jersey. Six weeks ago, I was driving from Cleveland to Philadelphia.

Somewhere in there, I visited New York City, a beach in Rhode Island and knocked four more states off my list. I spent time with both sisters and their families, two cousins and their families, one aunt and uncle and several great friends. I stayed in six different homes and 11 different hotels, traveling through a total of 23 states (nine of those in one day, thank you tiny New England states) and put more than 6000 miles on my car.

Manhattan, Staten Island Ferry, NYC, New York City,
Manhattan from the back of the Staten Island Ferry.

No wonder I’m tired. No wonder I’m excited about getting a regular job and finding an apartment of my own. Even the idea of having to get up IN THE MORNING five days a week hasn’t made me question my decision to stay in one place for a little while.

I got to take public transportation to three interviews this week – someone else did the driving! I got to shop at Fred Meyer, where they have both my favorite tea and my favorite sausage! Street buskers, gorgeous views of Elliot Bay, funky residential areas, pedestrians! I actually unpacked my suitcase!

Tea and a good book. Stillness and joy.

Betwixt and Between: What do I do now?

Rhode Island, Atlantic Ocean, beach day,
Probably my last beach day of 2016, Rhode Island coast.

I’m almost out of money.

The smart move is to head back to Montana and stay free with my sister, get a job and return to the story of work and home and a settled life. Or that same scenario, but back in Portland where I have a support system and more professional connections.

Winter is coming. No, not Winter is Coming, nothing ominous here. Just snow and cold and studded tires and windshields that must be scraped. Montana has winter, the real stuff. I will not be actively choosing to winter anywhere that knows what that word means.

Returning to Portland would feel like coming full circle – which wouldn’t be bad, but it would feel like the end of this story. And I’m not ready for that ending just yet.

I am a little tired of not having my own space to return to. I might be spoiled for ever living with anyone long-term ever again. I just want to wake up in a space where no one intrudes without invitation, regardless of how much I might love the intruder. That means some kind of place of my own, even if just for six months or whatever. But while I am looking forward to not being a ping-pong ball, I did still want something new.

So I’m going to Seattle in two weeks. West Coast feels like home, Seattle is on the water and near the ocean and has very little winter.  I have a friend there who’ll let me crash while I find work and I can take the train back to Montana for Christmas. And if it all tumbles down around me, both Portland and Montana are close enough to crawl back to and lick my wounds.

So here I am in South Carolina, sitting in a new place with not-new people, headed down a well-traveled road with a new adventure at the end of it. At least, what in my head seems like a new adventure. I’m looking forward to it.


On Forgiveness

Hungry Horse resevoir, Flathead river, Montana, Rocky MountainsI’ve forgiven a lot of people for a lot of things. I’ve forgiven shitty ex-boyfriends for how they treated me, and myself for putting up with it. I’ve forgiven my parents for letting me down in really important ways. Mean comments, big and small lies, money borrowed and never paid back, unkindness galore. I thought I was pretty good at it, here in these later years of my life. But there’s this one friend I used to have.

In a life of mostly good things and happiness, this is probably the most hurtful thing I experienced – which I acknowledge makes me a pretty lucky bitch, no question. But pain is not measured on a relative scale. Pain is pain, and this one was/is the worst one I can remember. Or at least the one that has refused to go away, while others have faded to something else – regret or remorse or just sadness.

I used to have this friend. One of my closest, in a life where I have a lot of true friends, but not that many people I am so open with. A life where I keep friends for a long time and am still friends with most of my ex-boyfriends.

I’m not sure what made this one worse then everything else. I have experienced outright rejection before, but never from someone so close and so trusted. I’ve had people lie about me before, but not so painfully or for such an unnecessary and ineffectual reason. I’ve had people break trust with me before, but never so cavalierly and without provocation. I’ve lost people before, but never so unexpectedly or deliberately.

I don’t know why this one has stuck with me for so long. Well, that’s not really true. I know why, but I don’t know why it took me so long to do something about it.

It’s still here because I could not forgive them.

Could not stop wanting the situation to be something other than what it was. I probably spent a year in absolute denial – just could not believe the facts. Then I spent quite a few years in hurt anger, which moved into just plain anger and stayed there for a long, long time. I finally got to sadness, but I couldn’t let it go.

Because I used to have this really good friend, and I have not been able forgive them. I was waiting for an apology or an explanation or an alternate reality to show up and wipe it all away.

I can’t even say that I stopped caring about them in all this time, because I never did. I can only assume that this whole episode is firmly in the past for them, while it shows up in my dreams as if it just happened a few months ago.

It showed up again just a few days ago. And I haven’t been able to stop thinking about the whole situation. Not what happened more than 10 years ago, but what is happening right now. How I’m still wishing the situation was different. And finally, finally, I think I’m ready to do the one thing I actual CAN and MUST do, if I want this situation to be different.

I have to forgive them.

I’ve spent decades looking hard at the ugliness and anger and pain and stupidity within myself, trying to live on the outside like I feel on the inside. Trying to lead with kindness and understanding and clear-eyed intention. To be aware of the consequences of my actions and the example I set for my son and the rest of the human race that has to interact with me. But there’s this one thing that’s been around for way too long that I have not been able to root out.

I used to have this friend.

I think I’m ready.


Reading in The Age of The Internet.

woman-reading-in-a-garden-1903.jpg!LargeI read to learn new things, to understand the world, to challenge myself. I’ve always been the kind of person that, when I read a good book that references another book, I want to go read that other book. I want to know… well, everything, really.

I was up late reading Joplin’s Ghost by Tananarive Due. The main character, Phoenix, is a musician who becomes haunted by the ghost of Scott Joplin. I know who Scott Joplin is, and everyone’s heard The Entertainer, but there were a lot of other pieces mentioned, as well as other musicians. So I pulled up YouTube and listened to some guy play a dozen Joplin pieces on the piano while I continued to read. The next day, I looked up Jacob Lawrence’s Dream I, so I could see the painting Due described and better imagine the room Phoenix was in.

Jacob Lawrence's Dreams #1, Joplin's Ghost,
Jacob Lawrence’s Dreams #1

When I was getting my BA in English 15 years ago, I had one professor who was very excited about the future of texts, where authors would embed links to other content in other media to enhance the experience and to make it something more than just reading. At the time, it seemed mildly interesting. But being the driver of my own hypertext experience has definitely enriched my reading life.

Now, I get irritated when I google for something and the internet does not offer it right up to me, as if its entire reason for existing is to help me read my book. I remember going camping with my friend and reading Virginia Woolf and being frustrated that I couldn’t look up the words I didn’t know, since we had no cellular coverage.

Multi-language users use code-switching to speak directly to their communities. Lit that likes to consider itself high-brow makes a habit of adding different languages and obscure references to signal its class. These texts can now be appreciated by those of us it maybe wasn’t intended for.

How different are these books without all of this outside information so readily available? Would I have liked Joplin’s Ghost as much if I hadn’t heard those songs? I loved the book, it’s fantastic. But that richer experience is something I love, too.


Book Post: I Already Know I’m Human, Thanks Anyway.

I recently read The Summer Before the War by Helen Simonson. This book is lovely, but I was immediately reminded of something Daniel José Older said (which I cannot find) about writing for those who rarely get to be the main character but don’t need to be reminded that they are already fully human. Or being tired of only having POC protagonists in books where that humanity was finally proven to all at the end.

I’m past the point in my life and my feminism where I need someone to remind/convince me that I am as much a whole person as anyone else who isn’t straight/cis/white/male. I much prefer to read about women who are just living their fucking lives and does she even know people think she shouldn’t? Only when they get in her way as she rolls over them, and no, she will not apologize. This is likely why speculative fiction appeals to me so much. Kameron Hurley, N K Jemisin, Ann Leckie, Nnedi Okorafor and many more are building worlds where women are the default gender, where genders come in numbers greater than two, where women can be anything and are indeed everything.

Once you get there, it’s hard to go back to sweet, wonderfully written books about proper young ladies who must hide their ambitions in order to keep the pathetically underpaid work they managed to acquire only with good connections – books in which the lower-class women who work even harder and make even less money are invisible. Give me head-chopping bounty hunters and world-destroying goddesses any day of the week.

I’ve mostly been posting about travel and whatnot, but I’m going to start writing about books again more regularly. For certain values of ‘regularly.’