Friday, May 30, 2014

Matriarchal Tyranny

(30 minutes to write)

Because I'm still working too many hours I've been getting up in the dark to write before the kids wake up. All this ensures is that the kids will wake up in the dark as well, as they have just now. If I sleep in I have to wake them from heavy slumbers, they resent me for it, but if I get up early and turn on the burner where the espresso pot waits ready before the sky is pink and purple, it's a fairy tale kiss to them. Our house is small, so I'm sent back into the bedroom where Noah now sleeps next to me and I am still not really alone. I am tempted to lock myself in a bathroom, a nice dark bathroom, cut off from everyone's energy, which I absorb until there's no room for my own, and the sound of their breath. Doesn't that sound lovely, dearie?

Please bear with me during this Writing In The Time of Real Jobs when my sentences are jumbled and only borderline coherent. That's just the state of my brian. My brain.

The #yesallwomen thing that happened on twitter was cathartic for me, and despite how cynical we can be about social media activism, this one did seem to raise the social consciousness a degree, at the very least cluing in a few clueless men. #NOTALLMEN are clueless as I now know I must say, as any conversation about women must ultimately reassure the men. Now the only thing getting in the way of a Total Matriarchal Regime is the Dalai Llama, who keeps tweeting at me to be compassionate.

I only encounter #notallmen while at the library, where they feel entitled to take up my emotional resources and time. Then the Dalai Llama says I should be more compassionate, you know Jesus used to mention that too, over drinks, and I ponder what it would be like to give these men what they want, my compassionate attention. Any woman knows this would be risky behavior as it would encourage these #notallmen and could lead to them feeling I owe them a thing or two, and we all know where that could lead, I don't have to spell it out, right? So here in my bedroom while the sky is pink and purple, it occurs to me that #yesallprophets have been male and they risk nothing by being compassionate. Maybe you're thinking about Mother Teresa, but she was older and thus unsexed. What we need is a Female Messiah. I have a feeling She would spend a lot less time telling me to be nice, since as a woman I am already so conditioned into niceties that I feel bad for being less than pleasant to #notallmen who are calling me baby babe and commenting on my appearance while I check out to them their Tom Clancy and David Baldacci.

Listen we adopted this little butterscotch kitten. We were throwing around names on the drive home, and as we pulled into our driveway we noticed an excess of cars in the ministers' driveway. "Bob City," Noah said. "Bob City," I said. "Let's name him Bob City." The girls were furious at this development and told me so, saying my name too long, stretching it out. "No, BIBLE STUDY," Noah repeated, but it was too late. We might have accidentally named our cat Bob City because Noah and I called it that repeatedly in order to torture our children, and it now feels weird to call it anything else.

Time's up.

Saturday, May 24, 2014

Deep In The Evening

I will never know what it is to grow up in these mountains. So often I feel socially out of sync, like the world is going on at one speed but my sound is lagging a second behind. I have missed fiercely the scent of Colorado's Russian olives in June, a scent so lovely it brings me close to tears. Last spring I hoped for a similar scent in Carolina but couldn't find one. I gave up that particular pleasure as lost. Yesterday I drove Indy to Girl Scout camp. The world was green and speckled with sun. It shot through the trees and across the fields in long fingers, except in the deep dells, where the dim was green and like the jungle. The curve in the country road revealed a riot of flowers in every ridiculous color. I grew up under a high desert sun. I was raised in violent light. I will never know what it means to grow up here.

Deep into the evening, far past Ayla's bedtime, I remembered an invitation to drive out to Rosman to see the blue ghosts. I hurried Ayla into the car, because the ghosts are rare and their window short. She was nervous riding next to me through the dark. I don't know what I have done to incite their doubt in me, but I pride myself on knowing directions and my daughters always fear I've lost my way. There were no street lights on these unfamiliar roads. We had to pull a u-turn and double back a time or two, but finally we turned off the two-lane and onto a dirt road in the country. I drove slowly until my headlights found the right wooden sign, with the name of the property--all the properties here have names--and we parked on a gravel driveway.

We stepped out of the car and into the stars.

"I can't see," Ayla whined, nervous in the dark. I told her to follow my voice. I couldn't move, I was rooted in place by blue fire flies, floating across the forest floor to the rhythms of curling fog.  The blackness was thick. Ayla found my hand and we gazed into the forest. I let my eyes forget their sense of depth and felt dizzy. It seemed that outer space was waiting just before me, or that I was drifting through it. The pulse of the blue ghost firefly is long. Hundreds of stars moved unhurried above the sleeping undergrowth. You can search the internet, but none of the pictures come close to representing the way they appeared to our eyes. We walked this fairy realm in silence until Ayla finally said, "I feel like I'm in heaven."

That was last night. Today I was laying in my bed, reading a book. A breeze came in through the window and I gasped in delight. Not Russian olives, but something just as dizzyingly sweet. I tried to place the scent--lilac? rose?--and heard myself say, "It smells like June." What I meant was that it smelled so close to the way that happiness did, when I was growing up.

Two years ago today we came to Brevard for the first time.

Monday, May 19, 2014

Hot House Something

I know it's an unbearably satisfied way to describe oneself, but I decided last night that I was some kind of hot house orchid that can only bloom in ideal conditions, and conditions are far from ideal at the moment. I'm having a hard time, I am in a bad way, I'm not my best self. It's all temporary, everything will pass. I'm reduced to euphemisms. My brain is broken and I need swathes of solitude to heal it up. I feel like a feeble variety, the way I need so much seclusion to function. I don't know why I'm posting this. I couldn't sleep because I kept dreaming of people needing to talk to me. This sounds like some kind of terrible joke, but I'm lost here. If you believe in auras, mine is crystal, which explains a thing or two. I'm so over stimulated I can't even read books, they are just one more voice pounding in my head. Many of you who come here are writers. I'll just assume you know what I mean. I want to take a tiny trailer to a windswept beach and be alone forever. Not all apocalyptic visions are nightmarish to me.

Thursday, May 15, 2014

Bedtime Stories for Apocalyptic Children

One of the themes of my book, Angel Food, is my belief that if the apocalypse were, at fact, at hand, nobody would pay much attention to it, considering. That's not what the book is about, exactly, but I tried to weave it in on the sly. How successful I was at that, I don't know. I have long been a lover of post-apocalyptic and utopian tales, and I wanted to write one but didn't, because I feel they've all been written. I was struck by something once said by that pillar of wisdom, Lady Gaga. She said that the apocalypse had already happened, and we're all okay. Angel Food has, if you will, an apocalyptic backdrop, which is how I feel we're living our lives now.

Last night I expressed myself best on twitter with the following tweets:

I read an article back in December that scared the shit out of me and has haunted me ever since. It was from a reputable source, about climate change and what might happen. What happened last night is that while I was preoccupied with thoughts of armageddon, I needed to print documents for the girls to attend camp and the printer was out of ink. Noah was in Asheville and couldn't help. I went to the neighbor's to print these permission forms so that my daughters can go to camp while California is already burning and it's only May. We ate Chinese chicken salad that turned out really well, and I thought about the ice caps and the rising seas. I felt that it would be okay for the world to end if only I didn't have children. I can handle the end of all things, but I don't want my children to have to handle it. This in mind, I made myself a Wednesday night vodka, something I never allow myself on weeknights, and then proceeded to be kind of a dick via texts with a friend. I wasn't a dick to my friend, I was a dick about something else, as I usually am when drinking vodka. I wondered how to proceed if the world is really on its last gasp as the girls brushed their teeth and spit chemicals down the drains. I took an extra long time putting them down. I had more patience for their stories, and we sang silly songs and snuggled, because hanging over me was the very real sense that we might not have too long.

I've been wondering if it's worth trying to write another book when the eastern seaboard might be underwater before the book is finished. I am perhaps prone to thoughts like these; I remember in the 4th grade becoming constipated with concerned that Jesus might come again before I received my Babysitter's Club Calendar through Scholastic book orders. (He didn't, I got the calendar, it was magnificent). I decided that if these are the last days, I should do whatever the hell I want, and what I want to do is to write, regardless of whether or not I'm able to meet the deadline for the second coming. Then Indy woke up with a terrible headache that had her pacing the house in circles and moaning in pain. When your child has a headache like that you realize there are an infinity of ways for the world to end. Noah was still out. I called him and called him. I gave Indy an Advil and she threw up. She seemed to feel better right afterwards and put herself straight back to bed. An almighty crack and the great flood opened up from the sky. I sat in the window and watched how the storm would, every few seconds, light the world as day. As a child I was told Jesus would return by descent from the clouds to the sound of trumpets. I heard no trumpets. Noah pulled into the driveway and ran to the door. I watched by lightning. "I had to drive home with the window down and my head sticking out because the windows wouldn't defog," he said. I was angry at him. He and I are still very much in love. I must not have heard anything he told me because when I reached out to touch his stomach in the dark I was surprised to find he was soaking wet.

Wednesday, May 14, 2014

Oprah Asks: Do I Care Too Much What Other People Think

There's this old man at the library who I smile at because he reminds me of my grandpa, god rest his soul. He looks a lot like Papa Hemingway too, or a sea captain who would smoke pipe tobacco. I used to smile at him, anyway. He never needed anything, just walked past the desk to get the paper. Then after I cut my hair short to signify my loss of interest in sex, he came up to me with a smile. I was all bright-eyed and how can I help you distinguished sir? He leaned across the table. He's got twinkly old man eyes. He put them on me and said, "You shouldn't have cut your pretty red hair."

"Well but I like it," I stammered as he walked away twinkling his lecherous eyes of grandfatherly betrayal. But that was merely chest-thumping on my part. I didn't like my hair, not at that moment anyway. More than that, I didn't like realizing that grandpa thought I had been flirting with him when really I was being nice because he's probably going to die soon.

Today, three months later, I dyed my hair with a different shade than the one I've used for the past 32 years, and it came out darker than I intended. Like cherry cola instead of my usual chicken broth with chorizo accents. As I blew-dryed it in the mirror, I thought of the old man and the hair. He's not going to like this, I thought.

Sometimes I decide not to care what other people think. I generally make a big mess of it. I get blustery and audacious and tweet snarky things on twitter and say "whatever" to my children.  I have long dreamed of giving no shits. Last time we were watching "Girls" Noah turned to me and told me I was like Shosh. My reaction was one of horrified confusion. He persisted. "You're Shosh. You're like Shosh!" I started crying. Finally he caught on that his plans had gone awry. "Who do you want to be like?" he asked. "JESSA! I want to be JESSA!" I said, naming the boho artist girl who never makes art because her life is her art. "Oh yeah, you're Jessa! You're Jessa!" At this point I had figured out that Noah had seen me post on Facebook how I wanted to be like someone from Girls and had decided to tell me I WAS like that character in order to get laid. Then he had forgotten which Girl I wanted to be and compared me to neurotic, hysterical Shosh. "I'm not Shosh!" I said, hysterically. The irony tasted like metal in my mouth.

It seems to me like you can only have a thing once you give up on having it forever. One of the greatest truths I've heard comes not from the Bible or Eckhart Tolle, but from Ponyo. "Life is strange, and mysterious," says a mother to her son, after he befriends a girl who was born of the sea.

(Two weeks later)

Last night the whole family was in bed and I was doing yoga when I caught the moonrise. It wasn't dark yet. It was a twilight hour and the world was like a cone of sherbet. The sky was pale blue and the moon was rising creamsicle orange surrounded by the soft green of trees. Lately Carolina is a secret lover who comes to take my breath away. Its beauty is dreamy and lush, dewy in the morning, a lover with magnolia eyes and rhododendron lips, skin clean and young forever. I am working too many hours. I am worn out and weary and filled up with life. I am so happy and sad all at once. I laid on my back and watched the moon rise. The paradox was that I enjoyed it less when I went to the window, where my view of it was clear. It pleased me the most when I could only glimpse it. It was more vibrant in its mystery, a glowing light humming with something endless and internal, partially shrouded by blue branches of trees.

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