Wednesday, May 30, 2012

To Your Left Are the Baptists. To Your Right Are the Baptists

This is part one of the trip Mr. V and I just took to see if we want to relocate to the other side of the country. Photo taken en route to Brevard, just inside North Carolina.

Taos, Santa Fe, Tucson, Sedona, Los Angeles, Huntington Beach, Billings, Bozeman, Big Sky, Missoula, Eugene, Jackson Hole, Durango, Manhattan, Paris, Barcelona, Brittany, and Fraserburgh, Scotland. These are all places I thought I might one day wake up and find myself living in.

North Carolina was never on that list, well and so.

You fly into Atlanta where the females are ornamental, every girl a cheerleader and every woman blonde with her hair teased like a farm boy in a Nevada bordello. Get out of the city and for three and half hours, you can just hear the banjos playing all the way through South Carolina to Brevard, NC, so rolling and remote is the countryside. Every exit promises food-gas-lodging but there are so many trees, you can't see them. I don't believe it, if we're being honest. I couldn't see a damn thing but forest and more forest, and I half think all those signs promising Wendy's and Exxon mobile were put there to reassure the tourists. Where I'm from, if someone does a jig three miles away you can see what shoes they're wearing and smell what's on for dinner. Growing up in Denver leaves you a strange hybrid daughter of the Rockies and the plains. One majestic and demanding father who hurts you just enough to keep you running toward him, and your flaxen-haired mother just spread wide open, head down in the grass and arms begging you to enjoy all that sky.

The road side attraction in Georgia are boiled peanuts, which the locals insist on calling "balled", but I know the truth. All the grocery stores are called things like "Save Mor Foods" and "Lots 4 Less", which to Mr. V and I might as well be "Crap For Dimes" and "Edible Chemicals for Sale". "Why can't we just have a Piggly Wiggly?" I asked Mr. V. We did see a Publix, but I can't help hearing it "Pube-lix", so as you can see, it's not much better.

After all the peanut and strawberry stands, you hit the Carolinas and you might as well have canoed down the Amazon. The forest is thick as jungle to my prairie-trained eyes, the trees so canopied they turn the light old fairy-green until it goes so dark you begin to wonder if the sun shines here at all, or if you have landed on some strange sunless planet where the light shines pine from the leaves themselves.

We pulled into town just in time for the White Squirrel festival, where they have vendors and live bluegrass and some poor body dressed up in a white squirrel outfit, wandering around and waving paws. There are six to eight thousand people living in Brevard, depending who you ask. They are friendly and welcoming, even if the Starbucks Barista was a pink fellow named RayRay and I almost called the whole thing off. There are Baptist churches left and right, Main Street runs about four blocks and two lights, but there's music and art galleries, wine stores and French cheeses, so what's a girl to do? Women who might as well be from Colorado, wearing dresses and sandals, peasant blouses and no makeup, have come for college and never left. The people have accents and I can't help it, I adapt them immediately, saying "thank yew" and drawing all my vowels out long from the throat. No one looks at me funny, I think they are fooled. I do have an ear for accents. People love it at parties, no seriously. THEY DO.

 Noah (who still prefers to be called Mr. V on the blog) and I arrived at the stage just in time to hear the mayor giving out awards to the winners of the White Squirrel boxcar derby, where boys and girls from six to sixteen, all functional in athletic shorts and t-shirts with hair and ponied and un-teased, were blushing and receiving their trophies. They mayor ribbed a mom for holding up the ceremony to take pictures, then said, "That's all right, she was my high school girlfriend. She knows it. Ask her where she was the night of her sixteenth birthday," and Mr.V and I laughed like we'd gone back in time to find Laura Ingalls and her farm boy husband, who were all modernized and twinkling-eyed about it.

We introduced ourselves to the mayor, who also runs the Ace hardware on Main by the cinema. This little town is very excited to have Oskar Blues coming in, and Dale's big focus is to help out the community and grow more jobs. So the mayor greeted us warmly, gave us his number and recommended good neighborhoods for house hunting. "There's no better place to raise your kids," he said, and even though we know it's his job, Mr.V and I were starry-eyed. After shaking hands and kissing babies, we were thirsty for some beer which is, let's face it, what we're here for. We drank a few absolutely first-rate beers at the Brevard Brewing Company, including an American lager that I want to take down some slow river and sip the whole way, then headed over to the Square Root for dinner. It was hopping. Chewy homemade blue corn tortillas and folks hanging out on the light-strung porch, where Mr. V and I observed a unique, bearded fellow in a fancy brown suit. He looked like Joaquin Phoneix in his crazy stage, only without the mad pretension and self-importance. After a wonderful meal of fish tacos and good old cheeseburgers, local grown Brussels sprouts on the sides and Dale's on tap, we wondered back out to the stage to find the man in the brown suit up on the stage, playing with his band, Chatham County line.

Well no wonder.

The next day we drank cups of hot coffee and cruised for houses. Everyone had babies and was strolling toward the swimming pool in this quiet green neighborhood set right into rolling hills with the woods creeping up into the yards, nature just waiting to take it all back. The word idyllic came to mind, but I am city-bred and was feeling a thump of something that might be called panic.

So we rolled out north to Asheville.

Tomorrow, Part Two: Asheville--It's Just Like Boulder, Only Awesome.

Thursday, May 24, 2012

Choose Your Own Adventure

image credit: here

There is a temptation to make it sound more dramatic than it was, but here is the truth: three years ago, Mr. V and I went to lunch at the Cherry Cricket. When our bellies were full of cheeseburgers and pale ale, we walked around Cherry Creek on a copper-bright autumn afternoon and I told Mr. V to quit his job and take another, thus reducing our income by half.

I know.

It was a good time in our lives, our girls yummy and adorable at 3 and 5, our neighborhood in Denver full of parks and libraries and Starbucks, our grocery budget roomy. But despite our urban splendor and abundance of farmers market vegetables, Mr. V was miserable. He was in a corporate management job that he hated, where all day he took calls from people who were so upset no one else had been able to calm them down, and look, even if Mr. V managed that task, they never told him thank you. Feeling the strain his unhappiness placed on our family, I encouraged him to follow his dreams by. . . taking a class on brewing. Naturally! He'd been home brewing with a friend for years, and this level of spousal support was easy for me to manage. He took the course at night, while I was at my beloved bookstore job or sleeping. I patted myself on the back for being such a good wife and Mr. V learned ridiculous things about mash tuns and worts and all kinds of chemistry terms that I can't even begin to guess at.

I mean, honestly. Well done, me.

But hold your applause. To my stupid surprise, after the course Mr. V got an actual job offer at a brewery in Longmont that made one of our favorite beers: Dale's Pale Ale.

I have always been dreamy. I'd spent a lot of time watching Oprah and reading Martha Beck and telling my husband and myself that it was paramount we follow our dreams. This was easy to say at the time, as I had no idea what it actually meant. I thought of the whole process as rather like a wishing well: fast results, immediate worldly success. Mr. V supported my dreams by spending almost every Saturday and Sunday morning with the girls so I could go out and write for hours. Now Mr. V had an opportunity not to be a brewer, but to work on the canning and packaging line at a brewery he really loved. It was time for me to make good on all that talk.

He'd be earning a single digit amount an hour.

To make it work, we'd have to move out of the neighborhood I loved and move in with his mother and teenage sister and brother.

Thinking about it now, I still can't believe it, but we did it. On a chilly Halloween, we packed up our house, said goodbye to life as we knew it, and fell asleep that night, after trick-or-treating, in a bedroom that shared a wall with the room my mother-in-law had decided to share with my daughters.

If you are thinking, Cozy!, know that I am thinking about all the once placid pioneers who used to go mad over cabin-bound winters and murder each other, which should give you some idea as to how our winter went.

It was one of the most difficult times Mr. V and I had ever faced. Mr. V took the car to work and I spent long days alone with the girls in a home that wasn't my own, never certain when his mom would be in and out from her job or the teenagers would show up with crowds of loud friends and decide to turn up the amp on the electric guitar. There were seven of us in a four bedroom house and it was often untidy and crowded and maddening.

During the dire cold nights of that winter, the house, I kid you not, heated by a wood-burning stove to save money on bills, our faith began to waver. We considered moves to Arizona, Oregon, Montana, New Mexico. I gave up on the dream over and over again, called uncle, told the universe I'd had too much. "We followed the dream," I clearly remember saying to Mr. V one terrible night. "Now let's follow the money."

When we couldn't bear it another minute, a shot in the dark paid off and suddenly Mr. V expected a job offer from the great Brew Dog. I started researching immigration to the UK and we were ready to move to the northern-most tip of remote Scotland. I wanted this very badly. I imagined myself in wellies, walking a misty coastal landscape to a tiny general store to buy haggis and tea.

Just before Mr. V was set to leave for a two-week interview/informal training session, Oskar Blues offered him a promotion. We took it rather than moving to Scotland to earn just above minimum wage. We moved out of his mom's house and into a tiny house in Longmont that I was ashamed of. I didn't have anybody over for a year. In some ways, life was harder then than it had been at his mother's, because I expected things to be better by now. Limited intangible dreams to an arbitrary clock and got mad when they didn't arrive on time. Then one day, just in time for Christmas, Mr. V went to a company party expecting beer and little smokies and came back with a bonus and a raise.

Now I see that those things I thought I wanted--corporate securities, Mr. V in jackets and ties, a mortgage in Denver--never would have fit us well. Right now Mr. V works for a company I love, where employees skateboard around from the brewery to the "Anti-Corporate Office"; a company that lets me take the employee's free yoga classes, that gave away a car at Christmas to the company's longest standing employee. It was worth it, it was so worth it, all that time spent wandering in the dark to land here, in the sun.

Ships come in on their own damn time is all I know for sure.

My one regret is that we didn't get to move to any of the places we'd talked about moving to. I have an adventurous heart. Colorado is gorgeous, but I've lived here thirty-one years and I've always wanted to live somewhere else. It's a dream I'll never let go of. I want to see every last thing in this world.

A few weeks ago, we learned that Oskar Blues is expanding to Brevard, North Carolina.

Mr. V and I are flying out this weekend to have a look.

Monday, May 21, 2012

Rain Dance

Friday night in May, but it smells like June, like caramel corn and cotton candy and everything good in the world.

I still don't know what the sweet scent comes from but I die a little death every time I catch it.

My husband and I have mixed drinks and taken them out to the patio. The girls are in bed, or supposed to be. I catch their silhouettes, their brambled hair, in sheets of black against a yellow light through my bedroom window. The evening is nearly over and a wind is gathering in the west. I pull my wrap tight around me, tuck it underneath my toes. I sip my drink that tastes of last summer, the sweet tequila that's been untouched since August.

He gets a phone call.

I hear tiny feet bounding up and down the hall. Inside, the children are making mischief, like survivors in a house without adults. Above me the great old tree is hushing in the wind. My husband's voice is a background murmur as I tip my head to the violet sky and watch the bats, watch the leaves, watch the wind.

Far in the southwest cracks one spectacular bolt of lighting.

Earlier that day I'd realized that the stories I tell myself about everything going right one day are as hurtful as the stories I tell myself about everything going wrong. This epiphany settles friendly in my chest, beneath the burn of tequila and the chill of the summer storm. Nothing goes my way is a thought I've learned to stop, but its companion lie is, when I achieve this, everything will be circus and peonies and now, I realize that isn't true.

I am happy now.

I will fall asleep, a little drunk, in clean sheets next to my husband and I will know, or maybe remember, that everything my happiness needs is contained right here and now.

Every last thing.

After the bolt I watch the same spot in the sky for five minutes, ten, but nothing comes. Then we see it, a flickering light in the north, its answering thunder. Through the screen I tell Ayla to sleep in my bed, where she can burrow and hear the storm and her father's voice.

My husband and I sit on the patio as the storm approaches and settles in above our heads. There are bone-clean fingers of white lightning in the west and echoing fairy lights in clouds to the north. The wind rushes and I close my eyes and with every part of me, feel it in my hair. I know it's a little dangerous but maybe that is why it feels so good, why I feel so alive, why these storms seem to enter into my body and tingle in my veins, in my marrow where lately I have come to picture combs of clean new honey.

It is a beautiful storm. The moment it becomes full dark, it begins to rain. I stand in the garage door for just another moment and close my eyes, breathe in the scent. The atmosphere is full, a charged presence like spirit or heart and it fills me up, and I am full.

Change is coming, like a quickening storm.

I am happiest in in-betweens and this is why I want to see the world.

It makes me feel more alive.

Friday, May 18, 2012

This Post Is A Mistake

Just now I have mixed blood orange sorbetto with San Pelligrino Limonata and tequila.

Tequila and I have a good relationship. Look, it needs to be said.

Mr. V and I are watching this

and laughing 'til we cry.

Happy Friday.

Thursday, May 17, 2012

Where I'm Going: Part II

Yesterday my sister called me to say a swarm of bees had arrived in her lilac bush and two hours later, she had hived that swarm.

I spent a good portion of today defending my own hive like a toothless man on a front porch, a spray bottle of syrup in one hand and a broom in the other, slaying yellow jackets and ants while dark thunderclouds approached from the west, the wind thick with the sweet scent of early summer. I have made myself a bee vigilante, and it will drive me crazy if I let it. I could, theoretically, sit there for ten hours a day, defending the hive.

At some point, I have to trust the bees.

The post I wrote yesterday rattled around in my brain all afternoon and evening. I went in to it intending to do one thing, and by the end of it I think I'd done another. I was unsettled and bothered, (but not in a good way). The line between sharing a story in a helpful way, and sharing it in an indulgent way, is a thin one and I'm still learning to walk it. I'll mess up, sometimes. I hope you'll know my intentions are good.

I tried to banish my bothers from my brain as I sang Indy to sleep, leaving off the last word of every line of "Sweet Baby James", which we sing "Sweet Baby Indy", and allowing her to fill it in. In Indy's version, the cowgirl thinks about "horseys" and glasses of beer, and closes her eyes as the doggies "are tired". (Ayla's version involves a young zombie who likes to eat brains, and begs the listener "please just don't eat baby James"). When I was finished, she put her hands on my cheeks and smashed her lips to mine in a full, lusty kiss. Indy, I said, when she pulled away. You haven't done that in a few years. You used to do that all the time. I spent the next five minutes being kissed in such manner by Indy and then Ayla. I'll tell you here, but don't repeat it: Indy is the better kisser.

The bees are beginning to die off and being replaced by the second generation. All this work they do, not for themselves, but for future generations of bees to survive a winter and into a spring they won't live to see. If I wanted to, I could get morose about the bees. But I've decided not to. The bees do as they were born to, and so must I.

Two weeks ago I wrote in my journal: I must learn to approach writing like the bees--not go into it until absolutely necessary, then work without all this worry, or desperation, or wondering why. 

This is how I want to live my life. I want to put good energy into my children, and let that good energy come back to me. I want to make honey with the faith that someone in the future will need it. I want to let go what needs to go and embrace what needs to come. I want to sail my seasons bravely, knowing that in each moment, we are laying the groundwork for what's coming next.

So we might as well make it sweet.

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

Where I'm Going, Where I've Been

*Expecting Indy, Idaho, July 2006*

Here is the road block I run into over and over again:

I blog about my life because I want other people to know they're not alone. This involves the sharing of pain, but I don't want to dwell on pain, to nurture it. To feed that wolf.

This is my mission because twice in my life, my suffering has been deeply compounded by the belief that I was alone in it.

Weeks after getting married, I was struck with the worst depression of my life. I couldn't get out of bed. If I got out of bed, I couldn't get out of the shower. Mr. V went to work and instead of going to my last semester of college courses, I'd sit in the bathtub immobile, imagining myself spread out on my white bed spread, with red plumes of blood flowing from both of my wrists, staining the sheets. I don't know if I deeply intended to create this image, but I nurtured it in my heart.

I was 21. I was attending an evangelical church and angry there. Religion was a thorn in my saddle but I couldn't admit it yet, too scared of going to hell if I didn't go to church. Church contributed to my depression; everyone around me having transcendental experiences with a God they said was like a father (a punitive one), insisting Jesus could heal all wounds (like magic) and me, shriveling inside, my heart a stony pit. I wrote fragments in those days, (too disturbed for real narratives) pouring out the terrible images that filled my head. I felt myself rotting from the inside like a deer carcass in the moss. I imagined that my skin smelled of sour milk, that I was spoiled down to my very flesh.

I wanted to go on anti-depressants but we couldn't afford health insurance.

I've had people in my life determined to tell me that my pain has never been worse than their own. And now I only hold in my heart these words, from Amanda Palmer:

you can't measure human suffering with a yardstick.
those who try to do it end up vindictive, even when they're
trying to be helpful.

because the minute you start measuring suffering, you invalidate somebody's suffering.
. . . and that just never works. that's where the whole shit starts getting ugly.

anyone who says "my pain is bigger than your pain" is speaking from fear.
anyone who says "my feelings are more valid than your feelings" 
isn't speaking from empathy.

there's no pain that isn't 'real' because somebody has it worse off.

I sat in church and I prayed the only prayer I could: please help please help please help.

Eventually I felt better. Then I became pregnant by mistake. We were evicted from our apartment. The day we moved out, friends took us out to dinner and gave us two or three hundred dollars. It brought our bank account balance back to positive and remained pretty much all we had in the world. (Besides each other?)

We lived with his parents, we lived with my parents. I had a baby and brought her back to a house with a $800 rent we couldn't afford. Depression hit again. I didn't know it was common. I thought I was fundamentally broken. Marriage and motherhood were supposed to be two of the best experiences of my life, and both sent me into the darkest place I'd ever been. When Ayla was a baby I didn't imagine myself dead, but I was filled with such rage. I broke dishes, dashing them to the kitchen floor. I kicked a hole in the wall one day while my baby cried in her nursery, knowing only that I mustn't go to her. After four months of independence, we had to ask to be released from our lease again, and were back to living with parents, in an ugly room with sheets tacked over the windows, in a life I hated.

Through both these experiences I felt so terribly alone, and this is why I blog. I remember the overwhelming relief I felt, years later, watching an Oprah that said that huge percentages of women feel depressed after they get married. I wasn't fundamentally broken.

I was normal. I wasn't alone.

And eventually,  I got out.

I went to hell, and I came back.

It took years. It wasn't easy. It's not a one-time journey, a final destination. You don't arrive in paradise and stay forever. Sometimes things get difficult and I catch myself treading back toward the dark woods. I don't know why. Because it is a familiar way, a path I know, a path that seems to be ingrained on my heart. These ruts.

But my heart, like my brain, can form new connections, spark new life, learn new paths.

Sometimes it doesn't seem like I've allowed myself to choose the path. Sometimes life just smacks me there. I land hard in a scary place, all the wind knocked out of me, and I sit down and cry.

I have to remind myself to keep looking for the light.

This will be the journey of my life, learning to tread this meandering walk way that twines between the thick wood and the sunlit beach and back, learning to turn, again and again, away from depression and darkness and if I have anything to offer it is my truth. The story of my depression and the story of my spirituality are the same story.

I've been to hell, and I've been back.

I found my way back, and so can you.

Monday, May 14, 2012

Mother Loves A Mariachi

This morning I was so tired that when Indy held up a pair of zip ties cut off a bike helmet and said, "Look mom," I said "Ohhh, so cute honey."

Like she had crafted those zip ties with love?

Indy watched me with a confused frown on her face as I proceeded to pour toothpaste into my coffee.

Mother's Day weekend was one of extremes. On Saturday I stayed up until midnight, which I haven't done since 2003, drinking Espolon Tequila in my quest to "know all about all the tequilas, and stuff," (education, people) and watching Supernatural after NieNie's memoir became too much for a Saturday night.

Sunday morning when my husband and daughters came with breakfast in bed, they woke me from a dream in which I was buying ALL THE BOOKS. I sat up confused, unsure if this line of people coming in to my dream state were part of a parade or a funeral procession and wherefore all the books? But they brought me Belgian Tripel Angelfood pancakes with strawberry confit. That's right. My mother's day pancakes had beer in them. Which was good, as I needed a bit hair 'o the dog, as people say and I didn't know what they meant until I looked it up.

Then Mr. V went to work and I spent the rest of the day: cleaning, plunging toilets, saying "what did you put down the toilet? Just tell me, I won't be mad, I just need to know. Is it marble sized? Baseball sized?Was it alive?", mixing Bloody Mariachis, securing Gotham, eating walnut shrimp, giving gifts, receiving Wellies and these beautiful huge orange tulips that I would like to call "Super Tulips", eating Panang curry, buying bike helmets, boldly going, rotating three loads of laundry, opening cards from my girls that made me cry, looking at bees, making Nutella silk dip, feeling guilty, packing lunches, telling my sister that I want to travel to "everywhere, except maybe Cincinnati. Maybe," and finally, eating Tahitian Vanilla Bean and Pistachio gelato before retiring to bed with a book.

And somewhere in there, my sister and I donned our Super Hero goggles, because, Moms: Finding Remedies for Onion Tears since 10,000 B.C.

Until next time, Avengers.


Saturday, May 12, 2012

Saturday Edition: Notes From The Hive

 Last weekend it was time to check the bees and make sure Queen Carnie was laying eggs. If she wasn't, I would have had to replace her. Otherwise, when the summer Italians start to die off in a few short weeks (about three, I think), there would be no new bees to replace them and keep the colony alive.

I was nervous going in. Not afraid of the bees, but afraid of hurting them. I was especially afraid of making a clumsy new beekeeper mistake and committing regicide. It seems that I tend to screw up my face just the slightest bit when I'm intent on something? No wonder people always seem afraid of me at Starbucks. But don't worry about me, when Mr. V repeated for the seventh time, "Britt, stop making that FACE," I thought it was cute. I swear to god, isn't that what every woman yearns to hear? Honey, I love you. Just try to look more. . . human.

There's the face. Honestly, I think it's flattering. Bet you thought I'd been photoshopped, haha, suckers! This was their newest comb. In the last week they've drawn it all the way down and started another. They're holding on to each other on the side there, it's called festooning. It's how they build the wax and has something to do with wax glands and their wings? Don't ask me, I know about two things, and those things are Captain Tightpants and cake pops. Also Lady Porn but honestly, people. My blog is neither the time nor the place. Quit asking.

 Here they are on another bar that was almost full. Mr. V had no protective gear on and was unafraid. The bees couldn't have cared less that we arrived uninvited and started snapping pictures of their home. They just went on doing their thing while I composed sonnets and got maudlin over their beauty.

I was too damn amateur to notice it at the time, but this bar here is filled almost entirely with honey. The darker cluster there in the middle is the bee bread.

I don't really want to tell you this, but since it might help other beekeepers, I will. We had a minor emergency. We found Queen Carnie on the last bar I looked at, which was the bar closest to the entrance. When I was holding up the bar something felt off about the balance, like the bees had built this comb differently. We held it up for about a minute, watching Carnie to see if she'd lay an egg for us. Then the comb just dropped off. It fell right off the bar and onto the ground. I said words. I said many words quickly and in a row and basically sounded like I was being arrested on COPS. Quickly Mr. V got a cup--I couldn't pick up bees because I'd picked up the comb, which had crumpled in my hand and left sticky honey all over my gloves--and Carnie walked right in, all imperial and pissed. She scolded us good with that stately walk. We put the cup in the hive and Carnie marched right out and back to the comb. I felt terrible. There was bee bread and some larva and honey in the comb and nothing I could do to save it. I don't know what I could have done differently other than replaced the bar the moment I noticed it was weighted unevenly. It's possible it would have fallen off anyway, into the hive. I don't know. I felt terrible. But the bees moved on.

 Ok Mr.V, here is my best attempt at stop making that face.

Towards the end the bees started doing this weird thing. I don't know, I worry they may be hanging out with some neighborhood riff-raff and are learning unsavory behavior. Several bees landed on the entrance, stuck their butts up in the air (shameless!), and began to beat their wings so rapidly they could only be seen in a blur. It made a loud buzz. I don't know what they were up to and I was too busy trying to get ready for my glamour shots to care.

Today I had sort of a panic. I was giving the girls some syrup when I noticed there were far fewer bees on each comb. I worried that Carnie had swarmed, meaning she and most of the hive decided they'd had enough of this fish-bowl life with the damn paparazzi showing up every weekend and decided to go find some cooler digs, something maybe with hard wood floors or a mountain view. So I went in to look for my queen. I didn't find her the first time I went through all the bars and thought I had a kingdom without a ruler. Then I went through each bar again and found her, laying away. I'm hoping I noticed fewer bees because 1) There are more bars of comb now for them to cover, and 2) more bees are out foraging, since they're getting older. Bees forage in the last 1-3 weeks of their lives and work themselves literally to death. I had a few very old bees on my comb, they look like little old ladies, their yellow turned to white with old age. I also had a few dark bees that I first thought were oldies, but now I wonder if they're my baby Carnies? I'm too new at this to know for sure and also all I really cared about was my lip gloss, which had smudged and how the hell was I going to touch it up through my veil?

What you're seeing here is a lot of capped brood and if you look closely you can see some black bees mixed in with my yellows. I'm gonna miss these Italians when they're gone. I'm hoping to keep an Italian colony next year, when I'm an expert at all this.

That's what's new with the bees. Before we go, I'd like to address those of you who seemed to think having Tina Fey put her hand through my mail slot and wave it around is a funny joke: Tina Fey putting her hand through your mail slot is very real, and those of us dealing with it (me) need your support and not your judgement. Just think how you would feel. You could try and tape the slot shut but Tina's wily. She'll cut through it.

Love from the hive,


One more thing: My sister's fun friends, Jan and Kellee, and their husbands came up to Mr. V's brewery and my own Mr. V gave them a tour. Jan takes great pictures and is fit to be a blogger, unlike yours truly. She's funny too, but before you give her too much credit, just remember: she doesn't have to deal with Fey. Here's her fun post about Mr. V's place of employment, where he rides skateboards and drinks beer with all the other hipsters, all the live-long day. I swear. (Mr. V is in the black tee with the green "Old Chub" splooge on it. Is that a dirty word? I didn't mean it that way.

Thursday, May 10, 2012

What I Do

Late last week I'd sat down to work, ready to input edits I'd made to my Very Pretentious Work of Fiction, when I plum started crying. I know it seems like I cry a lot, usually into food, and this is why I identify so strongly with Tina Fey and all the other crazy, hairy-legged artists. Thinking about  their glamorous mood disorders and anxiety medication, however, makes me sad, because I suspect deep down I'm not crazy enough to be brilliant. I'd love to be as hilarious as The Bloggess, but it turns out she struggles mightily with mood disorders and here I sit, not on a single anti-depressant whatsoever. That's only because I don't have the health insurance to procure them, but never mind that, never mind. For a creative person I am disturbingly sane. But that's not why I was crying, I cried because Tina Fey has been lurking around my yard again, hiding in the irises and putting her hand through the mail slot. I'm sorry, I just--it's very hard, and I get emotional. I wrote to my friend Nathan Fillion about it, asking if he'd show up in his Captain Tightpants outfit to scare her off, as he does every week for our house mother Rachel Maddow, but he wrote back saying please cease and desist, he didn't want to have to contact the police but he would. Which is how Nathan jokes, but I'm thinking of telling him it's sometimes hurtful.

He should know.

Anyway, there I was, crying this time over white sheets of writing and not over my tuna melt, which wasn't ready yet, and watching Tina Fey pull crab grass from my yard. I am getting the hang of talking myself off ledges. I am learning that I can't save lives other than my own. I have heard the answer to a question which troubled me for years, concerning purposes and plans and does the Divine choose to play my life like a chess board? I heard that it does not, that my essence loathes the idea of purpose and so the Divine is pleased not to bridle me with one. Armed with this knowledge, I have naturally begun to consider writing smutty novels. I have read this Shades of Grey nonsense and while I am glad that the world has offered something to please the female libido, for once, I couldn't believe how poorly it was written, how alienated our erotic heroine was from her own eroticism, and I think our Lady Gardens deserve better. Someone must tend them, and it must not be Brian McKnight. It can't be worse, after all, than writing pretentious fiction, and I rather like this idea of myself: a bottle-dyed redhead sitting in her garden with bees in her hair and amorous stories flowing veins to page (and back again, as you know if you've ever written Lady Porn).

I'm starting to hope you have.

I took two days' leave of absence from all writerly aspirations, and what I learned then was that 1) Malcolm Reynolds is one thing, but Fillion is unreliable at best, and 2) my dreams have begun to feel less like hope and more like a thing that weighs me down, and I'm tired of that. For so long I have focused all my energies into earning money, aplomb, a thing that could accurately be called a career to lack of eye-rolls at parties, and for what purpose? My identity  has become wrapped up in 'should' to a degree that drags my heart. It unmoors me deeply down, because so much trying to be removes me farther and farther from the truest bud of my real self, and my grittiest, most truthful self is the only power I'll ever really have.

I am so weary of having something to prove.

Writing is what I do, and I will always do it. So while I tell you artists to keep making your art, I do mean it so, but here is other half of that story, here is how the flower comes to full bloom: I will love you if you never make art again at all, if you earn not a dime, publish not a page. Go and make your art the way you have sex, because it pleases you, and for nothing more.

And so we must learn to love ourselves. I don't know it yet, but I hear this insistent voice whispering that to turn away from all measures of success and back to the joy of creating for it's own sake is the best thing I can do for myself, and thus the best I can offer the world.

So that's what I'm going to do. Now if you'll excuse me, it's just occurred to me that Tina Fey might be after my honey and I'm going to go take her back to look at the bees and see if that doesn't calm her down. Wish me luck because I think she is escalating.

-La V

Tuesday, May 8, 2012

Later, by the Ringed-Round Hill

Just last night my husband rolled his eyes at Glee, and its pretentious mourning of Whitney Houston, and I scolded him, and told him remember when Steve Irwin died? Because he knows good and well that we sat up late and cried together, watching the Crocodile Hunter's funeral. At which point Noah's adam's apple grew very jumpy, and he cleared his throat and said he didn't want to talk about it anymore, but that Steve Irwin was such a wonderful person.

So full of life.

Just last night, and then this morning I find myself crying over coffee grounds, heart sick and sad to hear that the world has lost Maurice Sendak. Through my own tears I am baffled by this, our human proclivity to mourn the deaths of people we have never met. Then I think that the human soul is like God. I believe that the Divine presence is an actual thing in our world, very real, and that because it is real, any person can feel it and know it, no matter where they are born, or what religion they are raised in.

The power of art is similar to this; invisible maybe, but real. Through a person's art we have known a bit of their soul. Because I didn't know Sendak personally I may not know which part, exactly, of his soul that I have known, but I have known it all the same. It haven't known the personality, but I have felt the touch of another soul through that soul's art, a touch just as real as coffee grounds and orange peels and Tuesday mornings and the Divine. When we mourn artists we never knew, Heath Ledger or Georgia O'Keeffe or Whitney Houston or Maurice Sendak, we mourn the part of them that reached out bright speaking through their art and named us, and knew us, and left us changed. Our spirit knows this, and so it mourns. This is why we have to keep making art, all of us, whatever our form. Because this is how we connect, this is how we know each other, when the exquisite, orgasmic friction of soul on soul is too much. Art becomes the medium that makes connection so intense it is painful, possible.

Possible for us to look into each other's eyes, and not die or turn to salt or stone.

My dad used to read it to me, Outside Over There, Ida with her wonder horn and her serious mistake, her frenzied jig that made sailors wild beneath the ocean moon. And I read it to my girls, that and Wild Things and Bumbleardy and We Are All in the Dumps With Jack and Guy. All his work so deeply rooted in the subconscious, so powerful for it. I've been told before, but I remember now, that we must write to our favorite artists and tell them what their work means to us before it is too late. We can't assume they know.

So, then, here are the lines, the ending, which always makes me cry:

I'll be home one day, and my brave, bright little Ida must watch the baby and her mama, for her papa, who loves her always.

Which is just what Ida did.

Wednesday, May 2, 2012

There Will Be Bees

My friend who I don't know well enough, who lives in Tennessee, sent me this lovely sentiment over the internet: I hope the bees minister to you, she said. The perfect word. If only all ministers could be like bees. Or rather, I should say that I find bees minister more than ministers. The people who inspire me the most are those who go about doing what they love, making some form of beautiful thing, and do it happily without all the angst and tears that I am given to. This is why I love the bees, the singularity of their focus, the certainty of their instincts.

Anyway, yesterday everything was falling apart, I was angry and hard and adrift. Because I had no idea what else to do with my miserable self, I took my journal and my fumes out to the beehive, and I sat in the sun. I watched the girls land, carrying in their pollen and scurrying quickly out of sight. I watched them pause on the lip before taking fast flight, zooming up into the sky where I quickly lost track of them. And the bees ministered to me, yes, they did. Before I knew it my soul was soothed and everything was all right.

In some circles they speak of synchronicity as a sign that perhaps, for a moment, you are on a good path. I'll tell you this, I've seen plenty of wasps at picnics but the few times I've seen bees in the wild are so rare, I remember them clearly. A giant bumble in a lilac bush. A park bee on the clover. Now this week, the bees are finding me.

When cleaning out my grandma's apartment after her memorial service, we found this bee brooch among her jewelry. None of us had ever seen it before and didn't know it existed. It was gifted to me.

Taking a walk Tuesday afternoon, at a random time in a neighborhood that isn't mine, I suddenly heard a mighty hum and looked up to see hundreds of bees buzzing around this hive, which seems to have been exposed either by accident or by act of scummery. I felt bad for them, but they'll find a new home and it was fascinating to see the comb hanging from the tree, wild and feral like that.

 Then, on that same meandering, aimless walk, a few zigzagged blocks later I came upon this swarm. I have never seen anything like this my entire life, and then there were two in one hour. I suspect this might be the rest of the colony from the exposed hive above, though it's possible these bees were just feeling crowded and went to look for a new home. A more experienced beekeeper than me was called to come collect them. I saw yet another swarm on the drive home.

My Italian honeybees and their great Queen Carniolan toward the center there. Isn't she marvelous? There is honey in some of these cells, and a few larva, (I think that's one near the top left, tiny white worms) and down toward the bottom the orange cell holds bee bread, which is pollen that the bees have treated and packed into little loaves to be fed to babies.

A bee lands with her pollen sacks full, and I love how that bee on the left is looking right at me, well sort of. Her face is so cute but her eyes are on the sides of her head.

And then, of course, I saw Baby driving down Main Street, Longmont. Please don't notice my dirty dash. I was just so happy to know Sam and Dean are ok, that they've abandoned that Caboodle with the pony squeaky, and that Baby is back.

I don't know. All I know is that here is a clip explaining Baby, a humorous one at that.

All I know is I love you.

All I know is there will be honey. There will be stings, and there will be honey, and we will lose our way, but we will find it once again.

Thank you and goodnight.


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