Monday, October 31, 2011

Tea and friends

It's important to have tea, and it's important to have friends. And when you get to have tea with your friends, that's the best of all.

Saturday, October 29, 2011

Read in September 2011

1. Intercourse, by Andrea Dworkin
The political implications of intercourse from a radical feminist perspective. The first half of the book examines different (male) authors' views of sex; the second is all her. Quite a fiery analysis, quite absorbing. It made me despair at times of the male sex, but it's not really fair to count that against it.

2. The Weather of the Heart, by Madeleine L'Engle
I've posted two poems from this book before, here and here. Her spiritual musings are highly intellectual/her intellectual musings are highly spiritual; and she has a naturally lyrical voice.

3. Rebecca, by Daphne du Maurier
Like a literary lovechild of F. Scott Fitzgerald and Emily Brontë. Such lovely prose...not flowery, but beautiful, to fit the elegance of life at a seaside manor in 1920s England. Very period-atmospheric, and sort of nouveau-Gothic.

4. The Dream of a Common Language: Poems, 1974-1977, by Adrienne Rich
I like pretty much all her writings, but I love her seventies/eighties work. Lesbian feminist thought/poetry at its glorious and incisive best.

5. The Stepford Wives, by Ira Levin
Funky retro satire-thriller slash conspiracy novel...contemporary to the second-wave feminist movement and mostly just amusing, but the penultimate scene was a bit too real to be funny. I read it in about an hour and a half (unfortunately, because I had chosen it for a five-hour flight...).

6. Goodbye Ed, Hello Me: Recover from Your Eating Disorder and Fall in Love with Life, by Jenni Schaefer
Quite conversational (a bajillion short chapters) without being light on content. Made me realize that there are still aspects of the ED/diet mentality in my brain/life that I hadn't recognized as such and was still tolerating. That's not discouraging, though — what's discouraging is thinking that a sometimes-mediocre recovery is as good as it gets.

7. Trickster's Queen, by Tamora Pierce
A favorite fantasy author from my childhood, i.e. always good.

8. love belongs to those who do the feeling, by Judy Grahn
More lesbian-feminist poems from another second-waver, yes. (I've been utterly absorbed by the questions and ideas of the seventies this summer.) Very spell-like, influenced by myth and ideas of ritual. Her work was recommended to me by the two Canadian sisters.

Friday, October 28, 2011

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Dawn and Noel on the Golden Gate

On Noel's last morning in San Francisco we woke early and drove to the bridge, where we walked out as far as the first tower to watch the sky and bay and city grow light. A chilly dawn. Did it leave a breeze in our hair, or was it still? Afterward we went back to bed with the heater on. She got up again first, and in the waking spaces between my dreams I watched her look at my bookshelves, running her fingers across the spines and sliding this and that book halfway out before selecting an E. Nesbit for the morning.

And with the shutter on B (that is, longer exposure, it's not really any lighter):

Monday, October 24, 2011

Noel, May

My pen pal of two years now, Noel, was nannying in California earlier in the year, so she came to visit me and San Francisco for a couple nights. She took pictures too. We drank much tea, visited the Botanical Gardens, and candied our own ginger. She tried Indian food for the first time and quoted books all over the place. (I can't wait to see her again later this fall.)

I always say that meeting a blogger friend in person is like gaining a second transparency to layer on top of a first one. They often seem different from how they write, but that doesn't mean that who they are on their blog is disingenuous — both representations of themselves are usually true, and truer when you synthesize them. When people I know first in person later start reading my blog, I certainly feel that they suddenly know me much better. (And I know you my fellow introverts know what it is to have sides of yourself that don't come out in the average verbal interaction.)

Anyway, meeting Noel was a perfect example of that: I already knew that she was very thoughtful and smart and literary and cultured, and then I found out that she is not ALL classics and theology, but has a lighthearted and playful side to her too.

Saturday, October 22, 2011

Personal projects for my last half-semester of undergrad

1) Sustainable bedtimes. Like, between midnight and one. That would be great.

2) Do my part to strengthen the feminist presence/visibility on this campus  by a) calling attention to misogyny and male entitlement where I encounter them, and b) offering feminist analyses of the stuff that comes up in our studies and in our lives.* These are my last classes here, ever, so I can be as outspoken as I like without a thought for the consequences of gaining a reputation as "strident" or a "feminazi."

3) Make it to at least one céilí. Anyone in the Chicago area interested in coming with?

*issues other than the ordination of women and gender roles in marriage, because those have been abundantly treated

Two roses

You see?

Friday, October 21, 2011

Happiness and gratitudes

• spending my first night back in Wheaton happy and in the company of old friends.

• thrifted man-comfy. think sweatpants or wool sweaters, big enough to just sit inside unselfconsciously and slouch around the house in on a rainy day.

• chapbook and zine inspiration at City Lights, and fresh determination to make the eternally-someday poetry chapbook HAPPEN.

• a much-needed brain-cleansing ritual to lay to rest some regrets and anxieties.

• the prospect of hanging out with an old amiga from a dorm Bible study group. and on campus, there aren't too many friends left who haven't graduated, but running into the ones who are still here is so lovely after these months away.

• this little desk overlooking the backyard.

• a letter from Noel in my new mailbox.

• coping just fine with isolated days of depression.

• a queen-sized bed which is also oh-so warm.

• a visit with my big sister and her family before I left California. a cooking and baking day with her and some good music, and her baby (almost one year old!) crawling around our feet.

• a morning with wonderful Sui.


• the woman I'm renting this room from put some silverware and dishes in it and is letting me use her kitchen and spices. things I don't have to buy = hurrah!

• the rain motif in Li-Young Lee's Rose.

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Watchful of the shifting days

I've never had a desk in front of a window before. I do now, for the next eight weeks, and it's where I'm sitting now, looking out over the backyard. Some trees are still full-green, but the lawn has a good cover of dry fallen leaves. It makes me remember the storm that was supposed to be Hurricane Irene — my Boston friend's lawn littered afterwards as if with a sudden green autumn.

I'm back at college for my very last six credits. Anthropology of global Christianity, a German independent study on expatriate memoirs, and public speaking. It's a little lonely right now, but I'm glad to be here. Challah and microwave tea and waiting for my classes to start (tomorrow).

There is less bitter in my bittersweet this autumn. Less dread. I will be able to savor the interval that straddles late fall/early winter, a tremendously evocative time, but with the knowledge that I am free to depart to coastal California before the deep, teethy part of winter descends. It's a bit cheating, to want the moods of October and November and December without the expectation of the full length and dark of winter, without the prospect of digging in and waiting until the cold lifts of its own (grudgingly, gray-and-muddily). But the Chicago winters have taken enough from me; we can call it even.

I know it's traditionally polite and superficial to talk about the weather, but I would do it for the pleasure and interest of it. For all that modern houses and cars and supermarkets insulate us from what seasons and weather have meant to most of humanity for most of our history,  it's still impossible not to notice or be affected by them (we are still human animals). They anchor me in the present — through my senses, for better or worse/lighter or darker — even while my thoughts swim in and out of reflection and memories. And keep reminding me that time is more spiral than linear — directional, but cyclical, to paraphrase a Madeleine L'Engle character. Every autumn I am swinging back around past every other autumn I've had, close enough to reach out and graze them with my fingers.

Friday, October 14, 2011

Anna Akhmatova ate the metaphorical tangerine

"'Who can refuse to live his own life?' Akhmatova once remarked in answer to some expression of sympathy. Her refusal not to live her life made of her one of those few people who have given dignity and meaning to our terrible century, and through whom and for whom it will be remembered.


Pushkin was the closest of the friends she did not meet even once in her life. He helped her to survive the 1920s and 30s, the first of Akhmatova's long periods of isolation and persecution. Dante, too, was close. And there were friends whom she could meet, including Mandelstam and Pasternak, whose unbreakable integrity supported her own. But no-one could have helped, through thirty years of persecution, war, and persecution, if she had not herself been one of the rare incorruptible spirits.

Her incorruptibility as a person is closely linked to her most fundamental characteristic as a poet: fidelity to things as they are, to 'the clear, familiar, material world'....In all her life's work, her fusion with ordinary unbetrayable existence is so complete that only the word 'modest' can express it truthfully. When she tells us (In 1940), 'But I warn you,/I am living for the last time', the words unconsciously define her greatness: her total allegiance to the life she was in...Her poetry be a transparent medium through which life streams."

– D.M. Thomas

Saturday, October 8, 2011

Happiness and gratitudes

• listening to excellent F Word podcasts while I'm baking or making my lunch.

• making it to an exam just on time despite two wrong turns.

• imagining having in-person radfem friends someday.

• Indian summer (i.e. our only summer), brief but divine.

• Ocean Beach with strange wave patterns and feathers in the water.

• my coworkers.

• cheap thrifted sundresses.

• how alive I feel when I'm driving fast on the freeway with loud music. electrified, or flying, or my own bioluminescent.

• pictures and videos of kelp forests (e.g.).

• daydreams of being in unfamiliar places. I've been thinking about moving to New Mexico for part of next year.

• writing letters in which I spill all my intellectual preoccupations.

• waking up at dawn one morning and moving my comforter and pillows out to the backyard to have the rest of my night's sleep on the hammock.

• the boy who always rings me up at the photo lab, because how often do you meet a truly jovial hipster?

Thursday, October 6, 2011

Echo, rain

Burlington, VT. Most beautiful ex-roommate, still-kindred spirit. In my head, in every memory of us, we are in our bunk beds at school talking, or we are drinking tea, or we are outside in the rain.

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

Never-published draft posts (2009)

I stole this idea from Heather.

5/12/09: I think

that contentment is a discipline. An art? Yes. Days like today, happiness doesn't float down from the sky and swathe me in bliss. It wants to be practiced assiduously so it becomes part of my consciousness instead of something I feel only when I'm enjoying my circumstances. This is good, I teach myself, pointing my eyes to the shadows of dogwood blossoms on brick. And this. The soles of my feet in cool mud. And on, and on.


9/11/09: Changed my mind

I used to think that art was the alchemy we use to transmute the ordinary, to make mundane things extraordinary. I thought it was in the narrating that we made things magical.

Now I think, not quite: Art is just a way to teach ourselves to see that it was already extraordinary.


12/10/09: Untitled

I address Puppy —
You know... — and she turns her head to listen as we walk.
Because I am wondering,
three blocks later
I begin a sentence in French.
No, she doesn't care.

Driving around the block looking for parking, I chant to myself:
plus ça change, plus c’est la même chose
Was kann man sagen?
qu'est-çe qu'on peut dire, plus ça change, plus c’est la même chose

"The more things change, the more they stay the same..."

And then in the evening
I read aloud to myself
a poem in Russian
which I do not understand, which I would probably love in translation if I could but
it's hard to see the poem for the syllables.

Monday, October 3, 2011

Read in August 2011

As always, titles link to the pertinent Goodreads page — feel free to add me as a friend on there if you have a Goodreads account.

1. Raven Summer, by David Almond

2. Feeling Sorry for Celia, by Jaclyn Moriarty
I love everything I have read by Jaclyn Moriarty. (So far it's all been epistolary young adult contemporary-mostly-realistic fiction.) Always entertaining and fresh and affecting, always takes me less than 24 hours to read, and never predictable.

3. Liar, by Justine Larbalestier
What a mindfrak of a book. It seemed straightforward the first time through, certainly engrossing, but then I read the designated discussion thread on her blog and realized I was trusting the narrator FAR too much. (I could probably mull this book over for days and still feel confused...)

4. Ruby Slippers: How the Soul of a Woman Brings Her Home, by Jonalyn Fincher
I'm not the target audience for this book; I just read it as part of my ongoing commitment to keeping an eye on the evangelical discourse on gender. It didn't impress me, but overall it didn't offend me either, and that in itself is mildly impressive. For the average evangelical USian woman, its ideas would probably be more refreshing than I'm able to discern.


"The sun was low in the west, and the breeze soft and languorous that came up from the south, charged with the seductive odor of the sea." 
– Kate Chopin, The Awakening

I won't forget: wading into the Atlantic in the evening and the evening of summer until it was deep enough to float instead of walking. Wearing it on my skin. Being in open water under the open sky gives me such a sense of freedom and peace. Have you read The Awakening? The night-swimming scene early on left the most lingering impression on me — "She turned her face seaward to gather in an impression of space and solitude..." — I am reminded of it any time I go swimming in the sea, properly swimming past where my feet can touch and past where the waves break, I mean.

The traditional association between women and the sea makes me feel genuinely and personally lucky. I rather think it's one of the best things the female sex has to its name.


Saturday, October 1, 2011

Wandering an unfamiliar university


Darkened hallways, but I felt some air moving under a closed door. It was unlocked. Drab seventies concrete architecture, Brutalist to the max, but: windows, and August wind. I went to the back of the classroom and sat inside the curtains and was grateful and moved; I might have laid my hand across my heart or just said, Oh quietly to no one.

An intermezzo, maybe.