Friday, December 4, 2009

Comparison Essay

Every morning I open my eyes to see the backside of my cat, Genesis. She's curled up in her usual position by the edge of the bed, the black strip of fur on her back blurring vision of anything else. I pet her and she will inevitably begin to purr. We'll both stretch, legs first, upper body second. After waking, after breakfast, we engage in a little sisterhood ritual. She, armed for the cold morning weather with fur and paws, me dressed in coat and boots, we'll scamper outside. If there's snow on the ground, we'll lift our feet disgustedly one foot at a time, sometimes shaking it to rid ourselves of the disdainful substance. I'll run to start the car, she'll run to do her business, then we race each other for the door and the warmth inside.

My husband can't decide if Genesis is very humanly or if I am just very feline. When he comes home from working the night shift, he'll find us. Curled in balls for maximum warmth, preferably in a sunny spot, having made nests out of mounds of blankets. Although we find comfort in the sleep of solitude, there are times we both wish for a little company. In these cases, she and I go about seeking it with the same strategy. She'll come to me, as I will come to my husband, and linger about for a bit. The intentions are always made clear, but we females, we are coy. She'll push her head under the blankets until I grab her by the midsection and pull her towards me. And so with my husband. I'll push the blankets aside, fidgeting, until he grabs me by the midsection and pulls me towards him. Then we'll sleep, warm, safe and comforted, sleep.

During the day, after our nap, we like to bat things about for awhile. For her, it may be a feathered or fabric-covered tinkling toy. For me, it comes in the form of an idea, a random thought, a new book I've read, a conversation. These are my tinkling toys. We'll circle them, approach them from different angles, until we decide to finally make up our minds and pounce. I bat about my ideas and thoughts, beliefs and dreams. I'll scratch them down on paper, sharpening them, as Genesis does on her post to sharpen her claws. I'll taste them, nibble at them, perhaps not going so far as to shake my head as she does, but the enthusiasm is same. We'll ponder our ideas together, she sitting on top of my desk looking out the window, me on the stool watching the clouds.

After all the work is done for the day, I'll take Honey, the lovebird, outside of his cage. Genesis and I have a great fascination for winged things. Oh, the sources of the fascinations do vary, mine being less murderous than hers, but I think we both look at Honey with a bit of envy. We'll sit, Honey grooming feathers listlessly on the back of the couch, and we'll watch. There's a mutual curiosity, a shared captivation and when he chatters we both look as though he were speaking in tongues. Honey represents freedom to both of us. Freedom to me for the symbolism of his flight, freedom to her if she could only express her true desires. We watch him all the same, the continual cocking of his head so rhythmic it's almost zen, until we decide it's time to retire.

At night, we share a bowl of warm milk. I take the first helping, the she's allowed the rest. We grow interested in books in the evening as well. I enjoy reading them before turning in, she laying on them and nuzzling her head against their corners. After we are full of milk and a few pages have been flipped, she takes her place by my head, and we'll curl into balls. Her purring will cease and I'll feel her twitch, perhaps dreaming of four-legged rodents and a large field to chase them in. And I, I'll feel myself fading, too. No rodents in my dreams, but that same large field and all the possibilities it might hold and the tomorrow I might chase them in.

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Example Essay

Most of the time, a resident gives warning signs, little clues, of their soon approaching death. There are the verbal, often loud, statements to Jesus, asking why he hasn't taken them. There is the pill-refusing, a backwards kind of suicide, as I think of it. Perhaps it's the heart that doesn't sound quite right through the stethoscope, or the fluctuating blood pressures. Maybe even the urine has a different odor. Most of the time, though, there is simply an aura around that person, a sort of pheromone alerting those around them that they will soon be leaving. Sometimes, sometimes, there is the unexpected, the deaths walked into blindfolded. The times, as staff, we leave a resident who is just fine and return to find them struggling for their lives.

A few weeks ago, I found a resident of mine dying in his own bodily fluids, snoring loudly because his soft palate had collapsed, blood oozing from his mouth, unresponsive and naked. I prepared to send him to the hospital after ordering my CNAs to clean him up and get him ready, called the ambulance STAT, gathered a packet of information for the ER nurses and a half an hour later I was back to the normal routine of the job. As though nothing had happened, arranging and organizing the room as though the gurney was never there, making the bed as though he had never laid in it. Pretending and smiling so that the remaining eighteen believed they were the only ones in my thoughts. He died two days later, never having regained consciousness. An intracerebral hemorrhage. He hadn't really had a chance, but he waited long enough for his wife to come to him.

Before that, on a day where I was alone for the last few hours of my shift, I knocked on the shower door looking for the resident who had gone in about an hour before. I had his 4:00 meds for him and I remember thinking it unusual that he wasn't yet back in his room. His clothes were laid out, waiting for him, but he hadn't returned. So, I was at the door, knocking without response. My gut dropped and I could feel the hairs raise on my neck. Knowing something wasn't right. I opened the door, calling out his name, hearing the rushing water spattering on the tiles. And there he was. Sitting sideways on the shower chair, slumped backwards, shoulders resting on the shower wall. During whatever event he'd endured, a massive heart attack probably, he'd vomited, as they so often do, and it laid precariously on his chest. He was breathing, although extremely gray in color, and it was that rattling sound. The sound a human makes when they are technically dead but their body is just alive enough to work off base instinct. I didn't send him to the hospital. He had a no resuscitation code. He was cleaned, clothed and put in bed to wait for enough doses of Morphine to help him pass.

Then, before even that, there was the old-time nurse. I'd left her sitting at a dining room table, a cup of hot coffee warming her hands, her snarky smile watching me as I left. I'd gone to grab her a sweater from her closet, a habitually cold resident who preferred to wander the halls with many layers. I walked back in and found her sitting on the couch, her cup broken on the floor and the coffee spilled. She was bent over, her head between her knees, bright red blood between her feet. She attempted to apologize when she vomited again, more blood. Then she looked up at me, a woman in her late eighties who didn't want anyone touching her to help her, a woman who refused her medications because she was just fine, looked at me and asked for the ambulance. I'm dying, she said, and she was right. She died that same day, only hours after she arrived at the hospital.

Death, and dying, is a part of my job. People ask me, how do you do it? How are you not depressed? How can you keep walking into a building where you've seen so much? There is really only one, entirely morbid, answer for those questions. You get used to it. Oh, sometimes, when I walk into the shower room I have an image of that man lying in the chair. Or, while I'm eating lunch in the dining room, my eyes will manage their way to that spot where the blood once was. Sometimes my husband will snore in a way that makes that man's face swim in front of my eyes. But, you get used to it. You get used to the little hauntings, the little ghosts that have to be carried. After the funeral, after the belongings have been parted with, after the family has mourned, who else is going to carry them?

Sunday, November 15, 2009

Effect Essay

Perhaps due to my chosen line of employment, and the innate sense of irrationality I house, I've always had a fear of my father getting older without really having known him. There was a distinct moment, when I found myself in the shower one morning, crying because of that fear. I felt wracked by the realization that the skin of childhood had finally come off, shed almost, and the new skin was vulnerable and soft. The lenses my eyes looked through were different. Not as hazy, more sharp, life having more jagged edges than I'd noticed before. And, suddenly, I wanted him. My life has never been without his presence, either emotionally or physically, but I found it different to know and love someone as a dependent child than as an independent adult. So I decided to seek him out.

It'd been a long time since I'd studied the Bible. It'd been a long time since I'd even opened one. I still had the one that I had as a child and it had it's place on my book shelves next to all other religious texts I owned. But, it was more out of tradition, out of respect, than any kind of interest. Despite my current lack of interest then, a Bible study is exactly how I reached out to my father. He is a very spiritual man and I can be a very manipulative woman, knowing full well that he couldn't resist just one more chance to save his daughter. Perhaps he is the manipulative one because a study that, in my mind, was supposed to transform into a social hour absent of the Bible, has remained a study. And I have come every week loaded with an armful of questions from my own studies at home, when I am alone, opening the book to find answers. I am reading the Bible again, on my own, seeking out its comfort, secretly stashing it in my book bag to quietly read during lunch. I have found myself starting my mornings with a scripture, carrying it in my mind during the day.

During every study, my father begins with a prayer. Despite always meeting at the same public place, bowing my head and listening to his words, has never seemed awkward or embarrassing. At first, though, I used to tune the words out, absently and vacantly saying "Amen" at the end. The whole study was a farce to get to the real thing I wanted, my father. After a couple of months, it finally dawned on me that to be close to him, to truly be close to him, one had to attempt being close to God. And, when spending any amount of time with a soul so convinced, living with such belief and faith, I find it difficult to ignore. Now, when he prays, I bow my head and close my eyes, and feel them getting hot as I listen to his fervent requests and pleas. I have even picked up the habit of prayer myself. At night, when thoughts used to flog me endlessly, I'm praying instead and often falling asleep during that prayer. Sleep is suddenly sound and peaceful and I wake with a sense of meaning. After a few weeks of prayer at night, I've begun what I call "walking prayer." At particular moments of stress or anxiety, such as at work, I will literally walk down the halls and silently pray.

Now, this woman who loves the sound of a swear, who loves inflammatory remarks for the sake of the reaction, who loves rebellion and it's intrigue, who loves to hate and judge and snicker like the next imperfect soul, has found a moderator. The wild child who would rather have spit on a book than let it tell her what to do, is now opening its covers for just that purpose. Through my father's weekly guidance and love, there is meaning found and answers discovered in a book that some people no longer believe to be God's Word. To me, at this point in my life, it is.

My coworkers and husband have noted a sense of contentment in my demeanor lately. They've commented on my ease of presence. I'm not consumed so hastily by my own anger, have attempted to be less judgmental, more forgiving, more tolerant. The perpetual grip of loneliness that we all feel has been loosened by the sense of knowing that, as my father tells me, if you seek God out, you will find Him. I thought I was only seeking out my father, that I would not allow us to grow old without knowledge of each other, but it was really a twofold result. I found my father, I found his passions as his eyes fill and his voice cracks as he reads a passage. I found his hopes, his purposes, his intentions. And, with one phone call, with one study, I have begun to find mine. That old skin I've shed replaced with something hard and sturdy and full of belief.

Sunday, November 8, 2009

Division Essay

I have contracted yet another cold and have become a walking warehouse of Puffs Plus tissues, Alkaseltzer Cold and Sinus, slippers and robe. Symptoms are limited to the sinus passages and has been producing a fluorescent yellow nasal mucus. The color of my highlighters, the color of my African lovebird's bright belly. There is pressure at the upper bridge of my nose, eyelids puffy as though I've just endured a round of mourning, and am experiencing aggravating alternating rounds of congestion and post nasal drip. Absence of sore throat, fever, body aches. This is what I'd tell my doctor if I went to see her, but I won't. I know what her answers would be, I know what the treatment is. You can not cure a viral infection. You can only treat the symptoms. The body must do the work. I tell the couch this as I lay there and groan, my husband getting ready for the football game, saying to me, "baby, I've never seen anyone get my colds than you." It'd make sense, though. I am the perfect storm, the ideal host for germ generation.

"Well, I take that statement back," my husband says, after a little thought. "You're still very young." Normally, this would be considered an insult. My youth is not a handicap, I will not allow it to be. Nor is it an excuse for ignorance. Yet, with the overwhelming evidence before me, it'd be foolish not to recognize that this time, this one time, my delicate years are not in my favor here. My husband, more than twice my age, rarely falls ill. He's had time, years, to build immunity to the majority of strains we're exposed to daily. I have not. When a new pathogen invades, my body doesn't understand what it is, only understands that it's foreign. So it attacks, and attacks hard, in order to develop that immunity, that recognition for the next go-around. In a sense, immunity is a form of maturity and all maturity takes time. And it takes a lot of trial and error, a lot of getting sick.

"And," my husband continues, "you work the ideal environment. You're exposed all the time." I simply nod to that one, put another tissue to my aching nose and feebly question my commitment to nursing. I think about the last day I worked. Thought about how many of the residents were coughing, spewing airborne particulates, wiping dripping noses and touching things. I cringe. It's not that I don't practice precaution, I certainly, neurotically, do. I carry antibiotic alcohol gel with me at all times, and after touching a resident or a particularly common item, I put it on as liberally as lotion. Then there's the handwashing itself. Before and after using the bathroom, before and after eating, after sneezing, after coughing. As well as at any random moment in the shift when I feel it's just the right thing to do. My hands sting by the time I get home, and if they don't, I know I did not wash them enough. Then there's the constant mantra, "don't touch your face, don't touch your nose, don't eat with your hands, don't wipe at your eyes, leave your glasses alone." Yet, in the end, all precautions aside, I and no one else, can choose the air we breathe. I can choose the work, but not really. I love what I do, and believe I'm simply on a hyper-road to immunity.

"Then," I hear my husband still going on, "you take things so seriously. You're always stressing out about something." I turn my face into the pillow on this one. It is so true, beyond true, it is pure and simple reality. Choosing a high-activity, high-stress lifestyle will never bode well in the pursuit for high immunity. Not even a steady diet of Vitamin C, antioxidant juices and high protein will spare me. I ruminate, I stress, I organize and reorganize. I hold myself to standards and expectations of performance in all areas of my life that I would consider foolish of anyone else. It's not a negative trait, really. It's simply one that needs tempering and moderation. One day, my husband and stepson endlessly leaving lights on will not bother me so much, money and bills will not cut me to the core so easily, feelings of self-worth and adequacy will not be questions so strong. I will mellow, as my husband says, with age. I will find my niche, I will be less wound, more calm and centered. I admit, I may not be as hard off as others, but until I ease my struggling inability to cope, I'll leave my doors and windows wide open for those buggy invaders.

I reach for another Puffs Plus. "So this is why I get sick all the time?" I ask him. He nods. Although I already know this, it's a relief. My easy contraction is simply a combination of circumstance and environment. The threefold triangle: youth, employment, a hectic life. A recipe for my susceptibility. So I will wear these common colds with a bit of uncommon pride because they are due to what I didn't have only a mere few years ago. Perhaps it is a fair trade. A full nose for a full life.

Sunday, November 1, 2009

Process Essay

At some point after entering healthcare and realizing its emotional mine-laden environment, I took up the hobby of hunting down really good books. It's a coping tactic, mostly. To enter into another world full of life, life that essentially doesn't matter. It's become a useful escape, a chance to be just a little more literary and an excuse to tuck away from life for a while. To recharge the batteries needed to deal with the occasional monotony and frequent responsibility of caring for others. It's a ritual now, and every couple of weeks, usually on a payday, I will search for a little piece of gold between two covers at the bookstore. I enjoy the research, the hunt, the succulent success of finding the next perfect novel to fill my downtime.

First, while I'm nearing the end of the last book I purchased, I do a little research of what to read next. I'm not like my husband. I don't enjoy picking up any old tattered thing and, even after I'm sure I hate it, keep reading for the sake of completion. I find this to be an insulting waste of my time. So I look things up, I dig around a bit. One place I've come to enjoy is a website called Shelfari. Each member has their own "shelf" and will write impromptu book reports of what they've put on it, or will at least rate the quality. With the wonders of technology in favor, the site will also suggest what to read next based on what I've already read and have placed on my shelf. Since we tend to be creatures of habitual likes and dislikes, this is very useful. Some websites ask a series of questions of what I'm looking for, funny or sad? safe or disturbing? sex or no sex? I pick my categories and a list of books to consider is generated. Other sources I only rarely admit to looking into is The New York Times Bestseller List and even Oprah's Book Club.

After I have a list of a few potential "readers" in hand, I schedule a day to head to Borders, heaven on earth, to browse the shelves. I like the scheduling part. It's a beautiful thing to see "Go To Borders, 1:30" next to "Pap Smear, 8:05" and "Groceries." Amongst all the must-dos in life there are the occasional, glorious want-to-dos that keep us humping along. I usually go on a Friday, park far enough away to take my time smelling the crisp air as I walk, enter the double doors with the brass handles, through the alarms and stop. Briefly, only for a moment, long enough to take in the smells of coffee, breakfast brownies and cakes, and to hear the rustling of pages and soothing tap of laptop keys. I clutch my list, excitedly as a child in a toy store, and say with satisfaction, "I'm just browsing," as a staff member comes to help me. I'll find all the books on my list, usually consisting of four or five choices, and pile them up in my arms. I have found in bookstore culture that it is perfectly acceptable to sit down on the floor, which is usually a rug, and browse through your picks. As long as you and your shit is not in the way of passing patrons. I like this little trait. It's intimate, homey, and completely socially unacceptable anywhere else. So I bid my germ phobia goodbye for a half hour, rebel against my Purell and sit cross-legged in the fiction section. I begin to acquaint myself with what I've picked and start whittling away at the list until one sole survivor has made the cut.

Then, at this point of the ritual, the process, I put all other books back and make my way to the section where the rug turns to wood floor and the shelves are replaced with tables and chairs. Here the techies swarm, eating up the free wi-fi like hummingbirds to flowers. Sometimes there's an elderly man reading a paper newspaper and a couple or two having croissants and coffee for brunch. I order a coffee with a funny flavor and settle in. This is where I read several pages, as a minor preview, to see what I'm getting into. This, in a sense, is foreplay. I need to vibe with the author, I need to be sucked in, to become unaware of my surroundings as I sink into the words. Within the first few pages I need to be intrigued, piqued, moved, before I will even consider continuing. I am with books, as in most areas of my life, high maintenance. When I've read enough to be satisfied and secure with the purchase, I finish my coffee and head to the checkout counter. I will hand the lady my Borders Rewards card and she will ask, "Did you find everything alright?" Yes. And savored every moment of it.

Most people find my book-searching methods painstaking, neurotic and mildly obsessive. Perhaps, but they can keep their ideas. These are the same people who smoke on their breaks, drink to oblivion on the weekends and become compulsively ill whenever the caseload gets too high. Not I. Stress punches at me just like it does at anyone, maybe sometimes more. During each shift however, no matter how much a hurricane, I have the richness of that book to look forward to. To end my day. Curled in a warm bed with my husband snoring next to me, I read into my own sort of heavy abeyance that won't leave me sick in the morning. My book searches are the moments devoted entirely to myself, time taken to be alone, to enjoy solitude. To, as Franz Kafka said, ..."break the seas frozen inside our soul."

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Graf #10

When I was about fourteen, I fell in love with yarn. I have always been a kinesthetic kind of person and I discovered, after watching an elderly lady knit in the doctor's office, that yarn was made for my hands. My parents didn't want to pay for a knitting class because I've always been notoriously flighty, obsessively working on one thing without sleep or food, only to grow bored and move on to the next challenge to catch my interest. I had no friends who knew how to knit, as it was a prerequisite of teenage behavior to believe that anything an old person does is decidedly uncool and useless. But I wanted that yarn weaving through my fingers, that clack of metal needles in the air.

So I did what every nerdy little girl does. I went to the library. Signed out several how-to books, bought yarn with money I can never remember really earning, not the way I do now, and found a pair of knitting needles at a yard sale. I pored over those books, finally conquered the first knot, moved onto the next, entirely disappointed at how sloppy and slack my first row looked. I kept trying, realizing that I was creating holes here and there, dropping stitches, adding some on, and generally producing a scarf that looked more like the tentacles of a dead jelly fish. But I kept on, soon realizing that knitting needles can cause callouses on both index fingers, that little drops of blood can be left on the fibers, until a finely constructed garment grows from the needle like a limb.

I still knit now, mostly in the winter as the yarn, even an acrylic, can make the hands too sweaty in the summer. I've conquered sweaters, socks, hats, various scarves, fingerless gloves because the finger parts still terrify me, bags, coasters and even cozies for my coffee to-go cups. Each item I've created has been done with a different pattern, some lace, some cable, some multi-colored with different yarns. All stubbornly self-taught, hours spent ripping out rows and rows of yarn, only to start over again, not to be defeated.

Annotated Bibliography -- first three items

Annotated Bibliography

Goldberg, Natalie. Writing Down the Bones. Massachusetts: Shambala Publications, Inc., 1986.

This book is written by a woman who has, and I believe continues, led workshops based around writing and the useful principles that she discovered in her own practice. After some times leading these workshops, she finally decided to place her most important lessons into one elegantly simple book. She approaches writing with almost a spirituality, at one point quoting a zen master who told her, "do not make meditation your practice, make writing your practice." The book consists less of chapters and more of topics, ways in which one can break away from the inner critic and expose the raw details, "the bones," of one's writing.

Although not a book with the specific subject or goal as memoir writing, I still believe it to be very useful. I have accessed this book a thousand times in order to revive my writing, or simply to start writing. The unique thing about this book is that one can go to it with any kind of writing in mind and gain from it. With the idea of a memoir, it has an entirely fresh face.

Roorbach, Bill. Writing Life Stories. Ohio: F&W Publications, Inc., 2008.

This book is about taking abstract memories and putting them on paper for the purpose of creating memoirs. Each chapter focuses on a particular aspect pertaining to memoir writing and includes several exercises for the reader to engage in as an interactive tool. To keep things lively and interesting, and to keep the reader's motivation high, the writer includes stories of his workshops based around each exercise. He also gives examples of his students' responses to the exercise, noting where they made mistakes, noting where they succeeded. This book gives the reader interested in transcribing their memories to the page a roadmap to sharpen those memories, clarifying them enough to start stringing them together in recognizable form. He also helps with the idea of possible publication. I also really enjoyed one of the appendixes, where he cleverly describes "apprenticeship," that is, an extended list of published memoirs to learn from.

Ledoux, Denis. Turning Memories into Memoirs. Maine: Soleil Press, 1993.

This book is very similar in its format to the book by Bill Roorbach described above. It, too, has many exercises and starting points for the would-be memoir writer. When it first caught my eye in the library I thought for sure it was the same book, but with further investigation I realized it wasn't. In this book, the writer approaches memoir writing as the memoir, versus memoirs. There seems to be some emphasis placed on writing life stories for a family legacy, a sort of written family album, as the motivation for a memoir. From what I've read so far, he offers valid advice, mistakes to avoid, and brief examples of what has worked. The writer also suggests interviews and research and devotes an entire section to it. He suggests finding material outside of one's self in the pursuit of greater accuracy of events that our memories may be faulty on.

Thursday, October 22, 2009

Isearch What

What I Know:

I know that writing is easy and writing is hard. Sometimes alternately, occasionally at the same time. It'd seem intuitive to believe that the subject matter heavily influences whether writing is a difficult or free-flowing endeavor. Yet, I have this sense that writing about one's life and experiences may be the most difficult kind. Perhaps it is also the most rewarding. I honestly don't know what writing a memoir would be like. I've only written snapshots, minor sketches that could only be considered a shadow of a complete memoir piece.

I do know that I have material to write. But, I also know that having material, raw material trapped abstractly in the mind, is only a catalyst. It doesn't automatically ensure fruition. I believe development of ideas and concepts require a roadmap of sorts, especially those from the entirely gray areas of memory.

Although I've read many memoirs, I haven't done much research on how to construct one yet. I imagine it'd be like writing a musical piece. Which note goes where? I think a so-called "information dump" would be an interesting starting point. A brainstorm of recall. All the primary events, emotions, experiences. That could be one way of sifting through the mass of material in search of where to start.

I'm not sure, however, if an outline would be useful in writing a memoir. How does one outline their life? I mentioned chronological order, but I'm not sure if that kind of timeline would work. I don't believe life is chronological, or linear, at all. It bounces and fluctuates. I have felt like an old lady lying in bed after major surgery when I was twelve and I have felt like a naive, lost seven year old at twenty-four. It's all relative. I'm not sure how to prevent the reader from getting confused, though. I think it's very easy for ourselves to shuffle through time, but it'd be harder for an outsider to follow along.

As far as memory and fact becoming too blurry and the risk of floating into fictional territory, I'm not sure either. It'd definitely require discipline to resist the urge to overly embellish. We all embellish our stories, but I don't think it should be at the cost of the truth. The reason for writing a memoir varies from person to person, I'm sure. The truth, as subjective as that may be at times, is important to me. Yet, unless someone has jotted down every detail of their life as it happened, a little connect-the-dots may need to come into play. That'll be an interesting question to research, and I get the feeling whatever answers I find will not be as concrete as I might hope.

Format is another topic that opens many questions. I don't know how other writers decide on format, if it comes naturally and without much thought for some, or if the material has to be rearranged and edited several times for others. This is another blind spot I'll need to uncover.

I may know more on this subject than I think I do. I may know even less. It may be a combination of both. With some research I'll discover which it is and will have many answers to continue on my writing path.

Contrast Essay

It seems that, ever since my father first touched his foot on Maine ground, he hated it. He did not fall in love with the undulating ocean that changed colors with the season. He gained no appreciation for the rocky coast where random refuse washed up that some people decorate their houses with. Even less did he care for the lobstermen culture, finding them a sloppy bunch, rude in their language and even worse in their treatment of women. The moment he smelled the sickening salty air, the scent of mudflats trembling at his nose, he wished for Montana again. "It's a different world," he said. He missed the mountains mixed with vast plains, the arid atmosphere and the sweet tang of a cowboy's voice.

It's the mountains he misses the most. Mountains mixed with winding streams where fishing is good. Maine has its snow-capped elevations, but they are child's play. Perhaps only practice for what was created back home, as he says, in Montana. Pure mountain country. The only thing rivaling that picturesque perfection is the rocky, unsettled coast found here. My father has never appeared to have any use for it, not even as a newcomer, never filling albums with endless pictures of the shore. But there are albums, precious memory books, of the jagged peaks stretching to the sky and of the streams that trickle down from them so clear you can see the rocks shining through.

I suppose the salty body of water this state is anchored to is the cause of the moisture that so often saturates the air. Yet another reason my father is indifferent, almost entirely apathetic, to it. During the winter, he diligently stokes the fire, hoping in vain to wring the atmosphere of its dampness. Montana is so dry, too dry sometimes, but better than too wet, especially when one's joints ache with the rise of humidity. Montana's summer months can be brutal to Maine standards, but its the dryness that is its saving grace. One can stand the heat, my father says, if they don't feel like they're drowning at the same time. Montana's heat is the baking kind, the kind arthritic bones long for, to cook the pain right out.

His greatest disdain, however, greater than all others, is the culture. It's too closed off, he says, and I know within that statement there hides double meaning. He misses the wide open spaces of Montana, spaces to which one can escape and roam freely if the ever-present trees become too much. But, the obvious meaning glares through. He always means the culture of Maine, primarily downeast Maine, of the iconic lobstermen. At first, he says, he thought it'd be quant. Charming. Postcard perfect. Instead, he's found it to be too brusque and unabashed. For some reason, the mud under the nails of a man who works the sea means little compared to the arid dirt under the nails of a man whose jeans are snug on legs that bow at the knees. And the language, he says, is unbearable. Apparently, in his mind, when a cowboy swears it still has an elegance to it. If such a swear is aimed at a horse, it is then a thing of beauty.

There is so much that is so different between these two states. I can still sense, despite all the years that have gone by, that we are still tourists. We are still Westerners discovering the Eastern coast for the first time. We do not pronounce our r's with the laziness that some Mainers do, in fact, my father would scold us if we ever did. We are still quite alien in a state we have called home for all except six months of my life. We still, my sister, mother and I, live under the hope that one day my father will return to the land of his heart. Where the air is clean, the mountains are high, and the cowboys still tip their hats.

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Isearch Why

Why I'd like to write a memoir:

Why is such a daunting question. I ask why of other people, of events outside myself, a thousand times a day, but when posed to myself and my motivations, it's not so easy. There is so much swirling around in this head and heart that I want to put down on paper, see the important parts of my life in a book. An album containing the vocabulary of life. I'm not sure I can entirely or sufficiently explain an instinctual, nameless desire.

I believe it might all go back to when I was a little girl. My father had a friend, Arsalan, a man from Iran, who became an uncle of sorts. I used to sit atop several books in his swivel chair at the desk and type out little stories, usually centering around his German Shepherd, sunsets and canoes. He loved them, adored them, cared for them more than my mother and father did. They only found it cute, watching their daughter carefully and scrupulously teach herself to type. Watched as she unknowingly began a path they were sure she'd simply grow out of. I did it for him, for Arsalan, because he thought my stories were big and precious. I wrote for him.

He died from Leukemia, when I was nine, and I was angry with him. He left no story behind, only memories that with time have gotten watery like a cataract eye. For the fifteen years since then, much of my writing has revolved around him, attempts to make the images clear and ripe again.

In an odd way perhaps, I feel it'd be an injustice of sorts to one day leave this world never having told the story of who he was to me. Of who he simply was. Some people prefer to let rest what is lost, but not me. I want to dig it up, bring it to the light, examine life and all its experiences like a bug on parchment, write my own history books of the country within myself. As the person with the fingers that have always itched to write, write, write, I can find no other way to find meaning.

Although the urge to write a memoir has wrestled under my skin for some time, how to cipher it is the great question:

How does a memoir writer sift through the vast amount of material to find a cohesive beginning, middle and end?
1.How is life compartmentalized enough, neatened up enough, to be presented in a format understandable to the reader?
2.Is chronological order necessary?

When do the lines of memory and fact become too blurry?
1.How much does the writer rely on emotional memory to tell the story?
2.Does the reader really care for the stark truth, as long as the content remains intact?

Memoirs have come in the form of letters, journal entries, smaller essays under one large topic, and novel form. Which would be the best format for my writing?
1.What voice does the writer assume? Is it better to write from the eyes of now or from the eyes of then?

Sunday, October 18, 2009

Contrast Essay Intro 2

It seems that, ever since my father first touched his foot on Maine ground, he hated it. He did not fall in love with the undulating ocean that changed colors with the season. He gained no appreciation for the rocky coast where random refuse washed up that some people decorate their houses with. Even less did he care for the lobstermen culture, finding them a sloppy bunch, rude in their language and even worse in their treatment of women. The moment he smelled the sickening salty air, the scent of mudflats trembling at his nose, he wished for Montana again. "It's a different world," he said. He missed the mountains mixed with vast plains, the arid atmosphere and the sweet tang of a cowboy's voice.

Contrast Essay Intro 1

After my birth in Helena, Montana, my parents brought my sister and I to downeast Maine. I was six months old, my sister seven. Maine is home for me, will always be, but my sister believes Montana is hers. So odd, how two sisters, even if we are only half, identify with two different states. Two very different states. Montana is dry and arid with mountains rising up so far I thought they were going to rub across the bottom of the plane the first time I went back. I looked for the ocean, holding my sister's hand tightly, asking her, "where is it? Where is it?" And then the rodeo, a real rodeo, where the cowboys didn't put up their outfits after the show as though they were only costumes. "I don't get," I told my mother while we sat in the stadium and she looked at me as if she were ready to take me home. "It's cowboy country," was all she said. I didn't care what kind of country it was, I needed the raw stink of the mudflats and the sight of men hoisting their traps in bright yellow slickers.

Friday, October 16, 2009

Isearch background

The first memoir I remember reading was The Diary of Anne Frank. I found it, a tattered hardcover with brown pages, in the discontinued bin at the library. Nobody would be taking this one out again, they must've had a shinier version. Which was probably why I liked it all the more.

I didn't know that this one book would change my life and I didn't know what a memoir was. I knew what a diary was because I wrote in one at night and I remember being fascinated that someone's diary had been on a library shelf. Why? What was so special about this Anne Frank's life? My diary never seemed to have that kind of glitter. Naive little thing I was, because it wasn't glitter that gave it such an honorary position in someone else's hands. It was the hope and the devastation it offered. Although not of that magnitude or importance, my diary had elements like that, too.

After devouring The Diary of Anne Frank I searched for more, I wanted so much more. I found Maya Angelou's I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings; Isak Dinesen's Out of Africa; Homer Hickman's Rocket Boys: A Memoir; Susanna Kaysen's Girl, Interrupted; Frank McCourt's Angela's Ashes; Sylvia Plath's The Bell Jell; Richard Wright's Black Boy. I became absolutely and obsessively in love with the soft and severe confessional nature of memoir writing. I went through a spell of feeling that fiction was an obscenity, an insult, when there was so much truth to be discovered and read.

Perhaps I favor a true account over an imaginative story because much of my own writing is of a memoir type. Maybe my writing is not entirely fascinating or heart breaking, or even heart warming. Perhaps my life is bland, has had no real value thus far. But, inside, inside I feel I have something to tell. I know that my life has been different, will always be different, that I am different. With every memoir I read there is a swelling in my chest, a whisper I hear saying, "Tell your story. You have it in there, right under the surface, you just need to know how." This is, primarily, why I've chosen "how to write a memoir" as the basis of my I-search.

Yet, that truly is not all. I can't stop there, all neat and crisp. Expected. If I want to write a memoir, if I want to write more than one, I've got to be honest. A memoir must not be a fraud, must not be cheapened by leaving out the parts that make the writer feel shy and awkward.

I want to learn how to effectively write a memoir, a piece that is fluid and elegant and exposing, because I've seen a few things in life that I've never gotten by. We all have our complexities and our hang-ups. I realized one day that I don't think I'll ever move on from the things that appear in my mind at night if I never get it on paper. "Let the trash go," my husband says. "Turn it into art, if you want, but you've got to let it go." He's right. This memoir mission is personal. To see life written down in black ink on a white page, for me, makes it more manageable. Gives it some sense.

If I learn how to write my story thus far, I believe I'll be able to move on to the next story I've yet to create.

Friday, October 9, 2009

Classification Essay

When my husband first stumbled onto my path, he asked me if I'd made "Ruby Tuesday" my theme song. Do I bounce through life quietly humming to myself, "who can hang a name on you?" He says, I never know what to expect with you, you keep me on my toes. I know you intimately and I don't know you at all. Am I that much of an enigma? The eighth world wonder, an old boyfriend said. Yet, with every montage, with every collection of seemingly random pieces, there is always a pattern, a theme. Keep with me long enough and you'll see there are three main unwavering aspects to my personality. I am spiritually based, doggedly headstrong and always mischievous.

Spirituality is as essential to my daily life as the air I clutch in my lungs, as the hot blood in my veins. Whatever path you take, let God guide you down it, my father would say. Only He knows your heart, not man, so let only Him be your judge. But, this part of me is not one-sided. It was common to see the Koran meeting covers with the Holy Scriptures touching the Dhammapada. And, lord help us, there was The Book of Mormon, too. I've loved a Muslim man, a Buddhist man, a Jewish woman breaking free, and a nihilist who took me to Paris. Yet, I always come stumbling back to the god called Jehovah, a child again, needing love. I try, so hypocritically, so sensitively, to integrate these pieces into the spiritual whole of who I am, remembering my father quoting scripture, "If He cares enough for the flowers of the fields to clothe them in beautiful colors, so surely he will care for you." I have, for so long, tried to remove the clothes of God, but they are stuck as permanent as skin.

The second layer of that skin is my headstrong nature. Stubborn, my father says. Bull-headed. Obstinate. I call it ready. There is a fantasy in my mind that I came into this world ready to overcome challenges, obstacles, barriers. I'm not living if I'm not conquering, if I'm not intensely engaged in a silent battle of wills within my own walls, if I'm not finding out my own Trojan horses. And when I find them? I break them down and build a raft to sail the uncharted seas of my abilities, my mistakes and aspirations. I may be bullheaded, but I find it to be a quiet discipline, a sturdy foundation. I come back to this nature again and again, find strength in it when the world has whipped me, to gather up all my defenses and try again.

However, it's not all tyranny within myself. There is a third consistent element. Another ingredient that cuts the occasional bitterness and ferocity of the other two. A propensity for mischief that allows for a loose playfulness, as easy as linens in a breeze. It's the eye of my hurricane, tempering the winds I travel in. And, during well-placed moments, it acts as the inspiration for otherwise dull, tedious environments. Stacking the votes for the employee of the month charade at work. Walking nude around my house with all shades open. Receiving a baby lovebird for a wedding gift, loud, obnoxious, darling lovebird because I liked the word connection. A wrap-around skirt in the wind. Chasing after frogs in the summer, thigh-high in murky water. Cheap wedding rings my husband and I replace at random and at will. All such little things that mend my heart.

When my spiritual foundation, headstrong nature and mischievous soul are delicately threaded together, the tapestry of who I am is revealed. Look at it awhile; you can not take it all in with one glance. I must be examined from many different angles. I'm a mosaic influenced by rich history, composite parts of heritage and clashing cultures. I'll spend my whole life attempting to seamlessly integrate in one body. One day the Ruby Tuesday persona may disappear and I will have a name I can hang onto.

Thursday, October 8, 2009

Classification Outro

When my spiritual foundation, headstrong nature and mischievous soul are delicately threaded together, the tapestry of who I am is revealed. Look at it awhile; you can not take it all in with one glance. I must be examined from many different angles. I'm a mosaic influenced by rich history, composite parts of heritage and clashing cultures. I'll spend my whole life attempting to seamlessly integrate in one body. One day the Ruby Tuesday persona may disappear and I will have a name I can hang onto.

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

Classification Intro 2

I am a multi-faceted gem, a multi-layered mosaic, a composite sketch of many parts. I come together in Picasso fashion to form a whole. My one personality (if I must settle for only one) has minor parts clanging, chugging, along in the background that shift and change with my attitudes and whims. But, there are consistent themes to my matrix and, with careful thought, I've narrowed them down to three. I am headstrong, mischievous and spiritual.

Classification Intro 1

When my husband first stumbled onto my path, he asked me if I'd made "Ruby Tuesday" my theme song. Do I bounce through life quietly humming to myself, "who can hang a name on you?" He says, I never know what to expect with you, you keep me on my toes. I know you intimately and I don't know you at all. Am I that much of an enigma? The eighth world wonder, an old boyfriend said. Yet, with every montage, with every collection of seemingly random pieces, there is always a pattern, a theme. Keep with me long enough and you'll see there are three main unwavering aspects to my personality. I am spiritually based, doggedly headstrong and always mischievous.

Friday, October 2, 2009

Graf #9

After writing the five graf essay piece I felt I had done myself, and the reader, an injustice. I only hint at what needs to be said. Water lilies truly are what the entire essay states they are. As I wrote it, though, I found myself trying to write about the real issue, the real theme underlying the one I was attempting. The essay was difficult because I was restricting the authentic subject. The whole thing is backwards. I do not love water lilies because of what Arsalan showed me through them. I love Arsalan because of what he taught me in my early life, water lilies being the methodology of his teaching. It all comes down to that old fear. The reason why I have never published what I feel will only be a stack of rotting trash if I never do. Fear of exposure, fear of intimacy with strangers, fear that whatever I write and however good it is, one day I will sit down and nothing will come at all. I should have written about Arsalan and all the causes of why I love him. Why, after fourteen years, those water lilies still bring tears to my eyes and make my heart ache.

5 Graf Essay

I have always adored water lilies, but that adoration does not come from the appreciation of their beauty and quiet elegance. I do not love them because they are in full bloom during the month of my birth. My affinity for the flowers that rise from the muck to burst at the surface goes deeper than that. Catching just a glimpse of them unravels the present and brings me back to happy childhood moments. They've become the representation of simplicity, humor and kindness. They are the visual embodiment of a man who taught me that life is a garment you wear out, to live the way water lilies do, with our faces to the sun, rolling with the current underneath.

Every summer I launch the kayak into the lake by the house and begin the search for the season's first blooms. I usually see the muted yellow hue of the lilies in July and I've made a ritual of picking one on my birthday. It's always early when I go and I always go alone. When I've found what I'm looking for, I sit and wait for pleasant memories to come flooding back. Water lilies are the only link to a dear family friend lost to Leukemia when I was ten. He was my father's best friend, a brother without the same blood. With a lily to my nose I can see his face, hear his voice, remember the words I carry with me better than any photograph could replicate.

Water lilies do not only bring back his face as fresh as though I were still ten, they are also the visual reminders of what he taught through example, what he represented through his action. He always believed wisdom was not found in books, but in nature, especially Maine nature. Even more specifically, on Maine waters, and he found water lilies to be the perfect model for life. They appear delicate and meek, but are hardy. Although canoes and other watercrafts knock them about and push them under the surface, up they come again without complaint. Even when the typical surge of Maine insects crowd the waters and begin feasting on them, they are peaceful amidst the aquatic chaos, seemingly aware of the life cycle they are a part of. "Can't you see all they can teach us?" He'd say.

With his help, I did see all they had to teach. There is a lily in my mind for strength. He'd tell me the water lilies were resilient flowers, that they are surrounded by darkness for the beginning of their lives but keep pushing upward to the light. In my dark times, he said, I needed to resemble that nature. There is another flower for self-acceptance. He'd point out the lilies with missing petals, with bugs congregated in the middle as it rotted. It was still perfect, he'd say, it was still beautiful. Do not regret your imperfections. Then, towards the end of his life, there came the flowers he found the most important to show. The ones that were dying. He taught me not to be afraid of the old and decaying ones. That as one died, another was about to push through to the surface. We must make room, he'd say, for the life that is coming.

Water lilies continue to assume a significant symbolic role in my life. After his death, the lilies he picked for me have firmly anchored their roots in my personal mythology. For every lily I received, and put in a little glass jar to savor, a drop of wisdom was given along with it. Life and death. Simplicity and complication. Self-acceptance and how to love others. This is why I love them. I never need see another water lily again. I have a full bouquet of them, gathered just for me, in my mind.

Thursday, October 1, 2009


Water lilies continue to assume a significant symbolic role in my life. After his death, the lilies he picked for me have firmly anchored their roots in my personal mythology. For every lily I received, and put in a little glass jar to savor, a drop of wisdom was given along with it. Life and death. Simplicity and complication. Self-acceptance and how to love others. This is why I love them. I never need see another water lily again. I have a full bouquet of them, gathered just for me, in my mind.

Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Intro rewrite 2

I have always adored water lilies, but that adoration does not come from the appreciation of their beauty and quiet elegance. I do not love them because they are in full bloom during the month of my birth. My affinity for the flowers that rise from the muck to burst at the surface goes deeper than that. Catching just a glimpse of them unravels the present and brings me back to happy childhood moments. They've become the representation of simplicity, humor and kindness. They are the visual embodiment of a man who taught me that life is a garment you wear out, to live the way water lilies do, with our faces to the sun, rolling with the current underneath.

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Graf #8

After reading some of the cause essays, I found myself both taken aback and delighted by the amount of disclosure and vulnerability presented. My husband always reminds me, "not everything is personal!" and I always disagree. I think it should be if it's going to mean anything. The human element is always personal and I found that each essay had a common humanity. A common theme of emotions and experiences being expressed, albeit they were dressed in slightly different clothes and those clothes had slightly different wear. Despite our differences we are all made of fear, love, anger, aspirations. As simplified as it may be, I wonder if the wise men had it right. When you look at one person, you can see every person.

Intro 2

The sun was never directly overhead when he'd steer the canoe toward the lilies. I remember this because the water always looked black instead of brown. I'd see them floating the way I always thought tree ornaments hung before I caught my mother with the wire. I understood later, when the imaginations of childhood wore thin, that he didn't make them for me. He only plucked them, gently, so the paddle would not crush any. He'd turn around on his wooden slat, the canoe swaying with his motion, and hand them to me. "They are all perfect," he'd say. "Especially this one," to which he meant the one with a missing petal or two and bugs feasting at the middle as it rotted.

rewrite Intro 1

Water lilies have always been auspicious and meaningful to me. They have always been reminders, symbols, of a precious childhood and the people I adored within it. Their stenchy musk has always turned pretty at my nose because of what it conjures up in my head. A man with a huge buddha smile, a voracious appetite for life, and a simplistic humor that could make wise men blush. He may have turned into a water lily, if my mind's eye could have it's way. Calm at the surface, rolling with the current underneath.

Monday, September 28, 2009

Intro 1

I always thought a fish might come nibble at my fingers if I laced them through the water long enough. If I had the patience to keep my hand semi-submerged in the cold. If I had the fortitude my father always talked about. I learned slowly the salt of my fingers didn't compare to the desire for desperate, wriggling worms pierced through with a hook. I'd turn to look at my father at the stern, sitting on a life jacket, patches of dark spots on the thighs of his jeans where the water had spattered from the paddle, left and right, right and left. He'd smile and tell me that only loved little girls were allowed to leave the house with the rise of the sun. Only adored little girls sat in the middle of the canoe to trace the ribs with her fingers, the scent of Iranian coffee on the breeze. "You must be quiet," he'd say, "the little creatures we're after are more shy than you." His friend, his brother, would smile at the bow and lead the way.

Friday, September 18, 2009

Graf #7

The bar stool, at 6 o'clock to the bartender, was never taken by anyone other than him. It had a reserved sign whom anyone who knew anything about basic bar etiquette could read. It said that only a certain kind of lush was allowed to sit there. The kind where the bar stool was more like the couch and the bar itself, more like home. And some people simply don't leave either of those places. Not for very long, anyway. He came in every day at 10:30 am, half an hour after the bar opened. He'd walk in, which was more like an exhausting saunter only people who carry all their weight in the gut have, and reach for his tap beer as soon as he was in arm's length of it. A dry stout, Guinness preferably, placed gently so as not to ruin the head.

I asked enough questions about him to have written a biography if I'd ever gotten any real answers. Who is he? Why is he always wearing the same worn denim jeans with the hole over the right knee, gaping wide like a dead fish's mouth, and a leather jacket that no sane person would wear all summer? What does that tattoo on his left forearm mean, the one that looks suspiciously homemade? Does he have a job? Does he even have a freaking name? I would've believed our boss wasn't obviously cheating on his wife before I'd ever believe the bunch of horseshit my coworkers shuttled between them.
"I heard he was in some really big war, you know, like Vietnam, and he carried a dead man who had both legs blown off on his back for two weeks," one would say, which was a really popular theory.
"I heard that tattoo came from one of the prison guards he was having a sexual affair with after getting out on parole," came from another.
"Maybe the sexual affair part is true, but I know for a fact he's really a millionaire with split personalities and ends up getting in trouble with the law when he blacks out."
And, the most unbelievable of all, "A friend told me they heard someone say in the grocery store that he lives with his dying mother who invested really well and is living off her income while he takes care of her." We all knew that last one was pure fabrication. Maybe.

Eventually seasons changed and not a single one of us were any wiser. We'd tried grilling him a few times, sometimes casually other times fiercely, and he'd always smile and talk about how Maine had really lovely seasons. Sometimes he'd strike up a game of darts with a fellow bar stool babysitter and they'd nurse their beers together in silent comradery. Mostly, though, he sat with the darkest sunglasses on I'd ever seen and eavesdrop on the conversations between drunk girls and smile. Eighteen months later, Thanksgiving day, after having become as permanent a fixture as the taps themselves, he didn't show up. His Guinness, with the most beautiful frothy head, sat alone and grew warm. The story goes now that the Guinness sat for three days in that one spot, but like all stories, people embellish. It really only sat for one because the boss didn't want fruit flies. We hoped his mother hadn't died or that his other personality hadn't gotten him in trouble again. Mostly, we hoped he was spending the holidays with his prison guard lover and getting a new tattoo.

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Graf #6

"This is for everyone who ever Googled themselves and didn't find any answers!"

This was the first thought that came to my mind while, and after, reading about isearches. Apparently, I linger on thoughts that I think are funny, and more importantly, thoughts that I think are funny and that I came up with. It really doesn't matter if anyone is there to hear it. I can appreciate good humor alone, thank you.

Which would be a great isearch, if I understand it correctly, that is. I'd like to find out why I have an innate solitary nature. Is it a handicap or a gift? Can a handicap and a gift arise from the same source? I do enjoy others' company and very much so, but it has been more of a learned response. Like Pavlov's dog but without all the weird, dramatic innuendos. I know I'll get fed from social interaction. Smile, be kind, and eventually you will find a kin.

This leads me to another great isearch topic. To find out why and how I associate so many things together, things that may not have an obvious correlation otherwise. As my husband says, "stay on one topic!" but how can I when it is all connected? The thought of one thing fires colors, sounds and textures in my brain and I instantly jump the tracks and follow. Another association? I'm the butterfly flitting about from flower to flower and to me it all makes sense.

(All this for an isearch response?) Yes.

I'm definitely intrigued by the isearch concept. If I understand it correctly (why do I keep questioning that?) than it is quite different than the drivel taught in highschool and earlier. "Know thy subject, know thy subject" was like a mantra for any well-written report. How will we know our subject when there is absolutely no experience involved, and more than likely, not even a hint of curiosity either?

I believe the quote when it says "write what you know." But, if that doesn't work, write about yourself and find out all the things you don't know. Then put all that in a book and become David Sedaris and Augusten Burroughs who seem to do isearches with every word they publish.

Graf #5

See how she has started again and again on this assignment? See the way she's been chewing at her bottom lip, watching the clock go by, vowing not to get into that warm bed that's been calling to her until it's done? See how the tendons in her right wrist bulge and twist and shimmy as she scrawls illegible letters and punctuation, how her elbow occasionally knocks against the armrest and she doesn't even notice? She thinks I don't notice, that I only dutifully fulfill my obligation until I dry out or go empty and then she'll throw me away, disappointed. She'll get another utensil, pissed her concentration was interrupted, and she'll make the ink bleed out of it the way she tries to make words come out of her.

There is no telling her that sometimes ghosts just won't give blood, that a story just isn't there or that a sentence can't be pulled from thin air. She keeps pushing, though, she keeps pushing, her scratches against paper reminding me of a desperate cat clawing to get in. The way she keeps going I know she can smell it and now I remember she told a friend over coffee once that it smelled like Christmas
pine needles, New Year's candles and a new baby all at once.

But what is it? What does she sit down and search for until her back aches and she's forgotten what food is? When I am with her, jammed in a pocket or tapping against her thumb while she pauses just long enough to bring her head up and surface for air, I can hear her talking. This conversation, the conversation of self-to-self, the sacred confessional, I am privy to and she is unabashed about speaking out loud. Speaking to herself, alone, unaware and unconcerned because this needs to come out. Whatever it is is not for tools to understand but is only for hearts to know and I can see from the slight sheen on the forehead that this is the kind of work that only hearts can do.

And what is she saying? She's saying that sometimes writing is pretty shoes that do not fit right, that hurt, but she'll mold herself to them to pull off the look. And, other times, maybe secretly even most of the time, the words flow freely like blood from a freshly field dressed deer, ready for the eating.

Friday, September 11, 2009

Graf #4

I am a twenty four year old, pale-skinned, hook-nosed, first generation Mexican-American whose paternal grandmother has disowned because of my "half-breeding."

I am daughter to a woman who was pregnant with me when she was finishing up her Bachelor's and now believe that's where my extreme thirst for knowledge came from. I sat with her for nine months and listened to the professors lecture. My mom thinks I heard everything.

I am the younger sister, by seven years, who shares a mother but not a father, and grew up in a house where that was a simple technicality that never influenced how we loved each other. My sister is not my half-sister, she is my sister and my dad is not her stepdad, he simply is dad.

We grew up as a Jehovah's Witness, an embarrassment at the time, perhaps only a topic of social awkwardness now, but an experience that has ultimately shaped my life and beliefs.

I am physically small, being only 5.2" and, even after gaining 15 pounds since addressing a Vitamin D deficiency, I am still petite at 120 pounds.

I have scars from several surgeries, one to remove a black-as-coal appendix, another to diagnose endometriosis that may eventually lead to a total hyterectomy and two more when I was twelve and fifteen to fix a genetic chest defect.

I engage in intellectual love affairs with anything that makes me think, wonder and question, and I house a fascination for the odd and unexpected. I particularly enjoy reading (anything, everything) art, music and a well-brewed cup of hot coffee with enough cream to make anyone else cringe.

I like to go to random, hidden-in-a-hole thrift shops or used book stores where I enjoy running my fingers along the dusty sweaters and cracked spines. I daydream of who once owned them.

I like to go to bars, dark, questionable bars, where I sit alone and watch the bartender spin bottles and drinking just enough, that perfect amount, for the world to turn smooth and silky. My husband hates this particular trait because of the implications of danger, and I get tired of my gender being a handicap.

I live with, and deeply love, my husband, more than twenty years my senior, who loves and accepts me more than I could reasonably ask anyone to.

A good portion of my time is spent at work, in a rehab and living center, where I take constant physical and emotional care of the elderly who are demented and dying. I view them as my second family, which I know is a dangerous game my heart plays, but makes me damn good at what I do.

And, always, as soon as I wake I begin thinking, thinking, thinking, a whirlwind of thoughts and ideas that does not end until I lay my head down to dream in bright, rich, vivid colors of houses I've never been in, sitting in furniture I've never seen, a life I might not live.

Graf #3

Graf #3

Inventory of my bedside stand:

5 books -
The Energy of Prayer written by a Buddhist monk named Thich Nhat Hanh
Fire to Fire, a book of poetry written by Mark Doty
Ethics for the New Millenium written by the Dalai Lama
Writing Down the Bones by Natalie Goldberg
The Holy Scriptures

These books precariously rest on top of 4 magazines -
Ode, magazine for intelligent optimists, the Laughing issue
Women's Health, emphasizing a total body workout in 60 minutes
Bitch!, dedicated to feminists,
Fitness Rx, this one touting a fine routine for the "rear view"

Next to the stack of magazines and books -

a sage green bowl found at an antique store, once housed floating candles, now housing -
cell phone charger
cell phone, plugged in
Carmex chapstick
pomegranate nail polish
Well-Being cards
Lavender hand and foot cream
a bar of oatmeal soap, unused
remote control, lost and found several times a night
Clif energy bar

Next to bowl -

a small, cylindrical bamboo lamp
a digital voice recorder for random ideas that pop in my head and keep me from sleeping
receipts with illegible writing on the back
a petite, 100% recycled, notebook to jot down dreams
an old, torn copy of Roget's Thesaurus
a bottle of tap water in an old Fuji bottle
a copper and leather bookmark with the engraving "Life shrinks or expands in proportion to one's courage." -Anais Nin

Well, the books have interesting titles, but, what twenty-four year old honestly reads that crap? The Bible next to a book written by a monk? Now, this is confusing. Is she confused? Searching for herself? Maybe she's found the balance between two beautiful traditions and has incorporated both of them into her life. Does that make her a hypocrite? No, perhaps not, it just makes her complex, and maybe she'll be a searcher all her life.

The magazines give quite a clue. Fitness, feminism, spiritualism and intelligence. We must be getting closer to her core. But, an energy bar, oatmeal soap and wool socks? Wool socks are understandable. Maybe she likes to keep her feet warm while she sleeps. But food and soap? Must be a quirky little thing, in love with scents and textures, with thoughts that wander all through the day she must write them down to empty her head.