Thursday, January 29, 2009

Wild [city] child happinesses

Things that are making me happy:

Driving. Normally I never drive, because I love to bike and walk and San Francisco has an excellent public trans system, but lately I've been driving more often to get to a town down the peninsula. And I must say: tearing along a freeway overlooking the ocean, singing along with a favorite CD at the top of my lungs with all the windows down — that's good stuff.

Bare sandy feet on smooth pavement

Filling my bag with seabird feathers at the beach and planning to make some sort of wild child decoration for my hair out of them

Looking forward to hearing about Frederick the garden elf's journeys, and to hosting him during his sojourn in my city

The book of Anna Akhmatova's poetry that providence sent me yesterday at the library

Two big slouchy sweaters from the men's section of my favorite thrift store

Tuesday, January 27, 2009


I woke up a little before four in the morning with an insanely dry mouth and a story about myself humming through my brain. I sat up and drank some water that tasted weirdly sweet. I thought about writing down what I was thinking, but I felt sure that I would remember it in the morning.

I wish I had. HOWEVER, I haven't forgotten the entire thing; there is still the aftertaste of a first sentence: "I moved thousands of miles away so that it would be easier to ignore the distance between us." And I think I could do something with that.

Saturday, January 24, 2009

Best of 2008

Admittedly rather belated, but then again so am I, habitually. Without ado, the best books that I read in 2008. [Click for Good Reads page.]
  1. The History of Love, by Nicole Krauss [adult, realistic]
  2. The Bearskinner, by Laura Amy Schlitz [picture book]
  3. Wasted, by Marya Hornbacher [memoir]
  4. Kiki Strike: Inside the Shadow City, by Kirsten Miller [young adult, adventure]
  5. The Perilous Gard, by Elizabeth Marie Pope [young adult, historical/fantasy]
  6. The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian, by Sherman Alexie [young adult, realistic]
  7. God's Silence, by Franz Wright [poetry]
  8. Coraline, by Neil Gaiman [middle-grade, fantasy/horror]
  9. Looking for Alaska, by John Green [young adult, realistic]
  10. Anne of the Island, by L.M. Montgomery [young adult?, realistic]
  11. Song of the Sparrow, by Lisa Ann Sandell [young adult, verse, historical/fantasy]
  12. The Wednesday Wars, by Gary D. Schmidt [middle-grade, realistic/historical]

Friday, January 23, 2009

A small strangeness

Stepping out of the shower
the towel pressed (unnecessary) to the face:
The sensation of tears running down the back,
and these calm, dry eyes.

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

A meme where I get to talk about myself! How novel!

Nah, I think this one is quite fun. These questions are from the charming Gretchen of Gretch-a-sketch.

1. If you could have the fashion/wardrobe of one literary character, who would you pick?

I was going to say Éponine from Les Misérables, but I haven't even read that; she just has an awesome style in the musical. Coraline, then, from the Neil Gaiman novel. Her clothing is hardly described, but I love the way I picture it from what mention it does get.

2. Have you ever played a musical instrument and if you could be a virtuoso in one instrument, what would you play?

I played the recorder for a year when I was little, then the clarinet for five years (until high school). I took guitar lessons for a summer, but I wouldn't really say I played it...And for one blissful half-semester in seventh grade when we were short on percussionists in band, I played the mallets (xylophone, chimes, and bells/glockenspiel).

As to the second part of the question, my first instinct was to say piano, as that's for certain my favorite instrument to listen to, but I'd rather be able to sing really well! So, voice.

3. What country is next on your to-see list?

Ooh, thank you for asking! It'll happen as I see opportunities, of course, and I'm looking a ways ahead now, but perhaps Estonia (have my eye on a scholarship for a summer program at the University of Tallinn) or South Korea (a friend of mine is moving there soon). I'll stop now before I wander too far into the realm of dreams...

4. What's one of your best memories from elementary school?

The first one that popped into mind: In fifth grade, the last desk rotation of the year had me and Michael Lee as desk partners. We got along super well; I actually didn't feel awkward around him and we had lots of excellent conversations interspersed with the perfect amount of mutual mockery. Anyways, at the very end of the year, when we were making paper flowers for promotion ceremony decorations, he twisted a bunch of them together into a bouquet and reached over and set it in front me. He didn't say anything, and neither of us looked at each other, but my heart was beating like crazy. still makes me smile to remember.

5. If you received a bouquet of flowers from a secret admirer, what kind of flowers would they be?

Gerber daisies.

All right, who wants questions?

[The Rules of the Interview
1. Leave me a comment saying you want to be interviewed.
2. I'll email you five questions, of my determination not yours!
3. You update your blog with the answers to the questions.
4. You offer to interview someone else in the same post.
5. When others comment asking to be interviewed, you will ask them five questions.]

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Comb-humming (back in my room)

Listening to Eva Cassidy and loving the way I've filled this room.

Here are the sand dollars still leaking sand--here are the necklaces I suspect of slight magic, pages torn from magazines with beautiful pictures, the stones from places that I love and postcards from places I've never seen--here are the hundreds of pounds of paper, the stories and poetry and theology and philosophy and all the courage and crying and adventure and whirling thoughts that I want just like this threatening to topple from their stacks and bury things, here is the dusty sunlit mirror, the huge hypochondriac potted plant, the bottles that I rinsed and filled with stolen flowers, here is the bottle of cardamom, the packet of saffron, the letters I'm writing and reading, the empty rice candy box, the notebooks and unraveling ribbons, here are the crumpled library receipts, the CD player and stuffed animals and other details in the corners that make up this layer of old adolescence under everything else, here are the newspapers I never finished, the alarm clock I ignore, the odd forgotten grocery item, the teacup full of loose change, the candles and incense I burned latelate at night, the crayons and broken colored pencils, the Christmas lights, the drawerful of old dance shoes...

I should probably clean my room, but I don't want to change the way things have settled. It's not tidy, but everything seems - just - right. To borrow an analogy from the book I'm reading now, it's like how a flower arrangement looks casual because of how much though was put into it. Do any of you ever feel that way about what looks like clutter, or is it just me?

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

Bookworm help wanted

If you have read anything by G.K. Chesterton, Dorothy Sayers, George MacDonald, Charles Williams, or Owen Barfield, I need your help.

I have never read anything by any of them, and have resolved to read at least one work by each of them before returning to school.

I have some ideas as to which titles they will be - I'm interested in The Light Princess and The Princess and the Goblin, The Silver Trumpet, and Orthodoxy - but I would very much like to hear your thoughts and recommendations.

Thursday, January 8, 2009

A dilemma

So the alien ran away several weeks ago, and I don't expect I'll see it again, but I have all this alien food that I bought, just lying around my room still packaged and everything. What to do with it?


I, I don't want to set up a seller account and have to bother with listing it and waiting for bids, et cetera.


Yes, yes. I will send the alien food to my pen pals. Problem solved.

Yes, they will love that. I'm going to tell them that they're Japanese sweets. [Sort out the pronouns there any way that you like.]

What? Oh, yes; I imagine it's quite safe for human consumption.

Now, the real question: am I talking about the extraterrestrial that landed on my dorm roof during finals week, which I smuggled home in a carry-on, OR am I talking about the Japanese tourist child that I kidnapped?
Because both of them ran away.

Wednesday, January 7, 2009

Meanwhile, back at the ranch...(returning to the Iceland narrative)

Friday morning. I breakfast at the hostel with a pompous but somewhat interesting older Irish man (whom I have to disillusion in regards to my own Irishness) and his Taiwanese traveling companion. Decide that as far as traveling encounters go, interesting suffices.

After wakening a room of hostelers to fetch a drowsy half-dressed A., I leave Reykjavík Friday morning with E. and A. in a little Honda Jazz that we have rented somewhat illegally (the only one of us old enough to rent doesn't have a current license).

We drive out of the city around dawn, east into Iceland's interior.

Icelandic horses.

The interior sort of reminds me of parts of New Zealand (as I've seen it in the Lord of the Rings movies, anyways).

We enter Þingvellir National Park, the first stop on the Golden Circle. There is so much ice on the roads that I am currently incapable of letting a statement about Iceland being green and not icy pass uncorrected.

Here's Þingvallavatn, Iceland's largest natural lake. The country's parliament was formed on its northern shore in 930.

In the rift valley of the park , you can see how the continental drift is (very slowly, obviously) pulling the island apart.

Here I look down and see the clearest blue-green water, and thousands and thousands of coins glittering at the bottom.

Looking down the gorge in the other direction.

This gorge is getting wider very, very gradually.

Next stop: Haukadalur Valley.

Sunday, January 4, 2009

Friday, January 2, 2009

"a look as of music"

The exuberant first section (I want to say movement) of Muriel Rukeyser's poem "Käthe Kollwitz." One of those pieces of wordcraft between whose lines I have to stop and close my eyes because my bones are aching, or my soul — some part of me I haven't identified yet.

n.b. Faust, in case you don't know, is a mythical German figure who made a pact with the devil in order to gain knowledge of all things.

Held between wars
my lifetime
                     among wars, the big hands of the world of death
my lifetime
listens to yours.

The faces of the sufferers
in the street, in dailiness,
their lives showing
through their bodies
a look as of music
the revolutionary look
that says I am in the world
to change the world
my lifetime
is to love to endure to suffer the music
to set its portrait
up as a sheet of the world
the most moving the most alive
Easter and bone
and Faust walking among flowers of the world
and the child alive within the living woman, music of man,
and death holding my lifetime between great hands
the hands of enduring life
that suffers the gifts and madness of full life, on earth, in our time,
and through my life, through my eyes, through my arms and hands
may give the face of this music in portrait waiting for
the unknown person
held in the two hands, you.

- Muriel Rukeyser
from "Käthe Kollwitz"

Poetry Friday roundup at A Year of Reading