Monday, November 12, 2012

Muted Tones of Softness

Clammy cold hands fumbled with my bike lock, repeating rotations and impatiently tugging at the unyielding metal. When it finally came off, I tucked the cable neatly in my track bag. I straddled over the frame of my bike and started toward home. 

I always wonder, absent mindedly how many rotations of the pedals follow that first hard push down to start. But once I gain momentum lose all consciousness of the whirling of my feet beneath me.

Today was muted. The cold left from a constant drizzle of rain that had continued through the day. Soft grey clouds, what was left from the storm, were smeared across the sky, like soft touches of charcoal. There were golden orange undertones, reflecting an obscured sun. Everything let off light without a hint of brightness. It was the dark rich sound of an orchestra nested in the bass tones of the sousaphone. There were no hard edges left, just hushed tones and subtle suggestions.

Deadened sky. A hanging chill in the air. Fine suitors to the trees stripped bare; faded leaves already littering the pavement. 

Today, the universe was  unconventionally beautiful.

Sunday, November 4, 2012

Haiku

Refrigerator
Eating Refrigerator 
Cannibalism 

Saturday, October 27, 2012

Conversations with a Lab Partner

My lab partner told me he eats strawberry yogurt for breakfast every day. And when he gets a big chunk of juicy strawberry, that's when he can lean back in his chair and let out a sigh of relief. He can close his eyes and savor the redness of the flavor. Because that means it's going to be a good day

So today I asked him, did you get a whole strawberry this morning? How is today?

He just looked at me quizzically as he thought. Today, he said, they ran out of strawberry yogurt.

He ate blueberry one instead.

Sunday, October 21, 2012

Sea Glass


We shot off bottle rockets in your drive way,
And watched Forrest Gump together –
Five inches between us on the living room couch.
You baked me muffins, speckled with blueberries from your garden,  
And you paced my 200 repeats, even though you hate to run.
You pulled me in.
You kissed me.

You waited for me to kiss you back.
You waited for me to finish reading 1984,
And to take you to my favorite Thai restaurant downtown.

For half a year, our fingers interlaced,
And I felt I could curl up inside your goodnight text.

Now, your “love” sounds hollow, 
I could never look you in the eyes and repeat
that unfathomable word back –
It rattles so, with its emptiness.

The question is, is the word worth our time to fill it?
Or should we float our empty bottles down the river?
Float them to the Ocean, to be shattered on the rocky east coast shores?
Let the shards be run over with the aching push-and-pull of the tide,
scraped over with sand until they’re polished into smooth sea-glass.

Must I, Sit across, From you,
Faced with this blankness in your eyes?

I ask if we’re done,
If I can go now;
And for the last time, you tell me ‘Goodnight.’

                
Homecoming 2012



Saturday, October 13, 2012

Masochist

The water in the creek was frigid. I thought back to the film of frost I'd seen on the front window of our Honda Fit that morning. Perfect weather for conducting a stream study.

"Shit, Shit, Shit, Holy Shit it's cold!" Tim stuck his hand down the pant leg of his waders. They were too tall for his stocky frame and the green gortex bunched up around him. It made him look even more gnome-like than usual. "There's a leak in the right boot! I think that water's coming up to my knee on this side. Shit, it's colder than the ice tub."

I couldn't help but laugh at the contortion of his face. My waders had holes in both boots, not just one. I may as well have been barefoot for how much water I was feeling. Actually barefoot would have been better, because the water that leaked in sloshed in my boots even when I got out on land. I was permanently submerged. All I can say is the environmental department at school runs a tight budget. And I just wished more than anything in the world I'd remembered to pack extra socks.

"Alright, let's do this guys" Catie said.

One could after all, only pity themselves for so long before moving on, gritting their teeth and accepting the cold. We set our nets in the water, kicked and counted microorganisms and measured depths.

The worst part was coming out. In the water our feet had mostly numbed. Walking back up to shore I felt off balance, because I couldn't feel below my knee and as my blood began circulating again, my nerves began to scream.

Meg was hopping up and down to try to thaw out, Kathrine massaged her toes and I peeled off my socks with distaste. A change of pants would be really nice too.

Being so cold makes a person feel so alive. Pain makes you vividly and sharply aware in a way that you can't be in leisurely comfort. And in a bizarre way want the permafrost on my toes. The soreness in my muscles, the bursting of my lungs and the dizzying feeling of losing oxygen.

I tried telling April about this in art class 6th period. By then the coldness from our morning's excursion had settled into my bones, I had made a home for it there. She told me that I'm a masochist. I guess I get that a lot. But I'm okay with it.

 It's probably true.

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Sniff?

I'm starting a new line of scented markers. The twist is that they'll be scented like terrible things. No more of this rainbows and chocolate nonsense. It will be a fearsome Bernie Botts every flavored beans array of colors. Yellow will smell like stale urine. Green will aerate the pungent odor of puke.

Black? It will smell like death.

They're marketed to a bitter crowd - your everyday utensil for composing hate mail. So when the celebrity who broke your heart, or the politician who broke his promises opens up the envelope, they'll be greeted by the stank odor of your hatred.

I'll sell it in a package with a magazine that is completely full of letters, A-Z. All in miscellaneous fonts, colors and sizes. You won't have to rummage through to cut out letters for your secret threats. There will be a  index in the back as well, with common phrases all spelled out:

"Go jump off a bridge"

"You're ugly"

"Watch your back"

and

"I hope you pickle yourself in grueling self-loathing for the rest of your life - you don't deserve to be a cucumber any longer"

Words are powerful. Hate deserves to be expressed.

Buy our markers.


Wednesday, September 5, 2012

Steak and Shake

We went to Steak and Shake Saturday evening. There's something about the stark contrast of the shiny white and black tiles with the red light up letters that makes me feel so retro. We sat in our booths and everyone ate milkshakes as tall as their faces; like they'd ever heard of a calorie count before. Carefree. Reckless. Ice cream and maraschino cherries.

Saturday nights are like that. Sickly sweet.

Sophie and I sat at the long counter on the stools that swivel. And we just spun and spun and spun until we were all spun out.

"Hey soph, do you want to lend me a quarter?" I ask, gesturing to the line of gumball-esque machines next to the window. I feel like there should be a jukebox. But there isn't, so we just stumble over - world all topsy turvy from our twirling. We slide our quarters in and turn the knob.

It's surprisingly satisfying, the quick turn of the wrist and hearing the click, click, click as your candy comes down. I got a grand total of five Spree chews. Each one a different color. And in the moment in seemed like the most beautiful happenstance in the world.

I ate them one by one, in rainbow order. And I let the melting of the corn syrup on my tongue be my music for just that little while. 

Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Brother


When the hail comes down, it comes down with a vengeance - all the cutting force of a Nebraskan summer behind it. But a brother is someone who takes the brunt of the storm. Thin lean muscles, pull me up beside them. Close. And your back must hurt like hell. 

These Miles

These miles burn inside my thighs for days. When you see me, you might be deceived into thinking that I am so small - yourself a giant in comparison. But I have a secret – I am the sky open wide, wind rushing by with millions of miles on my skin.

To Kira

Toothpaste is foaming in your little mouth,
and the laughter sticks like toothpaste to the edge of our lips, just on the verge of dribbling.
It's a tooth-brushing party.

You'll be sleeping soon, little child,
but I don't want you ever to wash that laughter off your face.

Friday, July 6, 2012

The Maintenance Man

The Maintenance man taught me the power of questions.

My very wise brothers have always told me "The mark of an interesting person is that they can find something interesting in any situation."

People are always interesting. And I guarantee you that every man, woman or child that you encounter has some fascinating story tucked away in their front pocket -  stories behind their ears and swallowed down inside of them. And sometimes people have a whole load of stories that fill up their boots so heavy that they can barely manage to take a single step forward.

The Maintenance man's story was hidden in the space between his fingertips and a piano, or a saxophone or really any instrument you can imagine (except the harp and didgeridoo).

We had asked "So why is your nick name keys?"

And he had replied "Oh, I just like messing around on the piano. But I get bored after the first two pages of a song, so I can only play introductions...."

And it wasn't until two miles later down the trail we were pruning that we came across the question "So how did you start working here? Where are you going to college?"

Turns out this 'Maintenance Man' is an incredible musician. He auditioned and was accepted into Julliard school of Music. Tuition was too high there though. Consequentially he's been working overtime at the camp weeding, pruning, and repainting to earn tuition. He's re-auditioning next year.

The next day he let us volunteers listen to the orchestra piece he had composed and conducted. It got third in a national composition competition. It was a song of a canoe trip, mimicking the sounds he had gathered from the river on a small tape box recorder. It was astounding. And I spent those ten minutes just listening to music with my whole self and attention. I can't describe how good it feels to do that.

It was beautiful and I was blown away by the mastery it must have taken to write each part for each instrument in an entire orchestra. It's such a work of art.

But the point of this long and convoluted tale is really a wake up call to myself not to take people at face-value. Because each of us has such a wealth of experience and history that we can learn from. We can learn from each other, the stories of life, love and pain that we share. We learn the most from others stories when we sit down and really listen to. Listen to them with our whole selves and  whole attention.

I can't describe how good it feels to do that.

Thursday, June 7, 2012

S'mores Anyone?

Running, waiting, wishing to be done with these days when our silly little world lays burning at our feet. Mother always had the graham crackers, marshmallows and God forbid we forget chocolate. She would say: “On the upside, these flames are a perfect opportunity for s’mores. Would anyone like one?”

Epitaph 2008


He had always been the voice on the other side of the telephone.

In a way then, it was fitting how we found out. My mother picked up. She spoke her half into the line. My brother and I listened intently from the next room over. Each of us,  still and silent.  Each word she said was frozen and unmoving within me, just like her black shoes on the red tiled linoleum floor. If she had only been moving, then everything would have been alright. 

“He’s dead, isn’t he?”
“He died” 

Some peoples’ grandparents send them letters in the mail. He had sent me thirty-two snowy owls. Probably cut from any and every issue of National Geographic lying in the chaos of his apartment. A few crumpled bills - matching the way Tardive Dyskinesia had crumpled his scrawls. 'Share this with your brother' said the note. Matt could have the money, I would keep the birds. 

Keep the fragments of his voice. 

Keep the poetry,

Keep the lingering taste of chocolate covered bananas on my lips,

Hold onto to the feeling of wetness and the smell of the air on the Santa Monica Pier,

The hallucinations and the arguments,

The silence of a blocked call, that even without a ringing, you knew was incoming at four p.m. precisely each day. 

There was always a call. Until there wasn’t. 

But the problem with birds, and the voices in your head is that they both have a tendency to fly away; to dissipate into thin air.

All I have left of Arthur Goldberg is a memory of the voice on the other side of the phone,

And thirty-two impeccably white owls.  

*A note to the reader: My grandfather had schizophrenia, but had by the time I was older stopped taking medication for the disease.  He used to call us almost every day. As a child I didn’t understand that some of things he talked about, the ‘stories’ and ‘poetry’ were hallucinations. I still don’t know what was real for him and what wasn’t. It was just as I was getting to the point of understanding his illness when I was in in fifth grade. That year he had a bout of hallucinations that led him to lock himself in his apartment for 3 days, without food or water. By the time they found him, he was in critical condition and they couldn’t save his life. 

He was the crazy guy that you see all the time – perhaps wearing nothing but underwear on a street corner. He did that once. But that crazy guy may mean a lot, to a lot of people. He may have been a great artist and dashing gentleman in his youth, who continues to inspire his grandchildren to think and create. It’s just a different perspective. He was messed up in a lot of ways, but I love/d him. Sometimes it’s hard to see past a disease and the stigma of it, especially when it’s mental illness. But knowing my grandfather, talking to him, he was much larger of a personality than can be summed up by a single word from the DSM.

Sunday, March 4, 2012

Urban Food Forest

I guess being a vegan, it's kind of taken for granted that I'm kind impassioned on the topic of food and the environment. Local food gets me especially excited, because whether or not we think about it the way that we eat food or purchase it has an incredible effect on our world. The US has gotten in the habit of shipping food. Bananas in Ohio? No problem, they're coming on a plane from South America. Strawberries out of season? Maybe a bit pricier, but they're available for that moment of extravagance.

There are a lot of issues that I care about, but I guess that we all have to choose a few stories that we want to stand on and put our time, thought and energy into. I chose to act on the issue of health. The health of the planet that we're lucky enough to have, the health of ecosystems and individual personal health.

So when my brother sent me this article, I got really excited.

All the food we buy comes with a price in fuel from shipping. Buying food from far away and out of season leaves a larger carbon footprint. Sometimes it's easier to ignore those added costs than it is to monitor our own gas mileage. And the labor conditions aren't always fair either. And once again it's really easy to disassociate and ignore these hidden costs, because they're not right in front of you. When you don't experience the miles that the food is travelling to get to you or have to taste the exhaust from that truck, it's easy to forget about. When you don't have to see the people who grew the produce and lack the opportunity to asses they're working conditions, it's easy to forget about them. But the farmer, truck driver, merchant, all of those people and steps are part of the story of the food.

With local food though, those fuel costs don't exist. It's minimal impact and it's eaten in season at the peak of flavor. That's an edge that a lot of other countries have over the U.S. when it comes to the amount of emissions. In Thailand, most of the eggs I ate, it wouldn't be too difficult to find the chicken that laid them. Often that chicken was in sight at the restaurant or food stand. That's really cool. I see projects like this as an awesome step for the U.S. toward cutting emissions and building a more sustainable lifestyle.

I also love the idea of being able to go out and pick your own food from this forest area even though you live in the middle of the city. The outdoors is good for people. It makes people happier to have sunshine and greenness and fresh air. I think it would be fun also to be a part of the story of your food, to have that connection with it.

I think that the impact of this kind of project could go deeper than that though. As far as individual health, this place would create a place for community and developing relationships in the community. America can be super gung-ho on the individual success story, it's you making your way in the big wide world. But people, people need community. We need other people to be with, to smile with, to laugh with. Those relationships are what really makes life worthwhile and this project hopefully will help a lot of new relationships happen.

Anyways, a lot of times I'm kind of embarrassed to talk about local foods, because it's kind of hippie-ish. And the word hippie has a surprisingly stinging negative connotation sometimes. But it is an issue that I really care about. I am kind of hippie-ish maybe. Here's a project that I've been working on and hope to get more involved with as far as local foods go as a solution for some of the disparity between rich and poor.

I guess I can't deny it. I've chosen this story to stand on and try to make a change every day. I still have a long way to go individually towards meeting the way that I think I should live, but I'm headed in a good direction. I try to do my best to make people consider it quietly. I bike to school, church and the seven miles to my kickboxing gym on the West Side when I can. And I hope that by seeing me on the road, that I can make even one person consider getting on their bike to get somewhere instead of hopping in the car. I hope that I can make a difference in the way I live.

Monday, January 30, 2012

Snow Camping


You know, I’ve always loved camping. Immersing myself in the beauty of nature, freedom from material concerns - a certain happiness comes from that. But I’ve also always felt deep in my bones that snow camping is one of the best things in the world. It gives you that special kind of happiness that comes from waking up to find that you are still alive

Peanut Butter Sandwiches

Sometimes, friendship is as simple as saving that peanut butter sandwich. When you are both full of strength in your legs, but left with empty heaving bellies, one can turn to the other. Without question you tear the sandwich in half. It doesn't matter to me which side you take both say to the other. Because it's not about self.

It's about the concrete steps that you sit on together, chilly on your butt through your leggings. It's about the sunshine and the remnants of conversation strewn between the both of you and the miles you just traveled - free as the steps you pound out on the sidewalk and as rambling as the paths you run.

*For about a year, my friend Sam and I would run together every day. Long runs, to prepare for cross country season or long-distance track. There was always a peanut butter sandwich - actually given to Sam by Emma (another friend) during lunch because she didn't like them. It became tradition for Sam and I, every day to wait until after our tiring run to split the sandwich in half and share it - continuing our conversations.