Monday, August 24, 2015

Falling in Love

There are cruise ships lining the docks here in Juneau. Cars crowd the downtown streets of what most people would likely consider a small town (which feels enormous to me). Everywhere I look I see cell phones, I hear them bringing, dinging, buzzing, with insistent fury; I realize that the world hasn't changed that much in the two months that I was on Strawberry Island, but maybe I have?

The ground beneath our feet is a character in this life. The ground on Strawberry Island is uneven and rocky; I had to be careful and attentive every moment there lest I fall. Similarly, the four other people who shared the island with me were in a state of change, themselves seeing new things on unsteady feet. The glorious feeling of engaging your body so as not to fall over -- like learning to stand on your head or ride a bicycle -- this, in my mind, is what it feels like to fall in love with a place.  When after days, weeks, months, of feeling deliciously off balance, everything for a moment quiets in balance.

I am off balance again. Navigating a loud world. I am reaching far into myself to find empathy for each tourist I see. I am envisioning the potential joy they will have here in Alaska, I'm trying to see merit in their adventure... but today this is hard for me.

My heart is heavy, and I feel alone in this strange flood of consumer need.  I feel far away from my safe tent (where the only voices I could hear were of friends or animals). Where if I needed a hug or a hand to hold I knew where to go (it wasn't far). Where there was always a rock on the beach to lean against, a whale to listen to, and a meaningful task to be done.

This will get easier, but today it is hard. I will keep that.

Wednesday, May 14, 2014

Cooking for one is an exercise in self love.  It reveals, at least for me, how I really feel about myself.  Where I fit in my own pecking order.  When I cook, I fill the kitchen with love.  If you cannot fill each bite with love, sheer unselfish, genuine, eat-this-and-feel-loved love, then you should not cook.  When I don't have the energy to love through the meals I prepare, I simply do not cook.  I'd rather not risk feeding you half-loved food, we can order pizza.  I will love you a different way tonight.

So now that I am cooking for one, just for me, I realize that I do not seem to love myself the way I love John, or my interns, or even my dogs (whom I spend hours not only cooking for, but carefully gathering ingredients... they are well loved).  I will spend many hours preparing and rolling tamales to feed a house of friends.  I will make meals that I have no desire to eat (like Thanksgiving turkey, or turnips in butter), because they bring joy into this world.

But at the start of the day, when I wake up I have no desire to cook for me.  To pour the same eat-this-carefully-grown-seasoned-roasted-kale-it-is-so-good-for-your-everything into even mixing yogurt and granola.  Since John has left I've made several pots of kidney liver stew for the pups, I have managed only two salads for myself (and macaroni and cheese, that I did manage to add broccoli to).

I decided tonight, to love myself more.  To put the same tenderness and care for the future that I pour into food for those I hold dearest, into myself.  So I went back to a staple food.  A vegetable that was the first I learned to cook. It is the vegetable that I first taught Christie Ko to cook, the first I ever made for John.  It was what I ate when I learned to eat, actually eat, not just subsist.

Tonight I sauteed it with caramalized onions and crimini mushrooms, I steamed broccoli as a last minute add, but all the other vegetables are just window dressing for the courgettes.  I have two zucchini plants in my garden that I am not tending to as well as the sunflowers, or the peas, or even the lettuce (almost big enough to eat).  Tomorrow I will plant a third plant, and I will make a pact to nurture that bed more carefully, and myself too.

Thursday, April 10, 2014

Listening to the ice, staring at the spring

Listening to bowhead whales is its own sort of music, strangely rich and simultaneously made hollow by the electricity that captured it.  The low moans of the bowheads are accented by the out-of-this-world sound effects of ice seals.  If you've never heard it I can hardly describe it, other than to say that seals are other-worldly.

It does not endear me to them.

Belugas whistle monotonic in my ear, and look like an answer to a year long problem, but sound more like the problem itself.

Listening to bowheads is its own sort of music, made manifest by an underscore of the Alaskan Folk Festival which I play in the background... two ends of the same world whispering in my ears.  But it is not raining in Oregon, there is no ice in my home.  There is a sleepy puppy staring  longingly at the warm belly of an older pup, who may or may not snuggle with her.  There is a maple tree with young leave, budding peas, sunflowers just starting life.

I feel new, or ready to be new,  I look ahead of me and wonder if I'm starting the same life again, or do I play a new character this time?

Wednesday, August 21, 2013

Goat Rodeo

Today I am grateful for music to disappear into.
Today I  am grateful for wind and sun.
Today I am grateful for the moments when the system works.

But mostly I am grateful for the tenacity to survive the goat rodeo.

Goat Rodeo (n): A chaotic situation, often one that involves several people, each with a different agenda/vision/perception of what's going on; a situation that is very difficult, despite energy and efforts, to instill any sense or order into

Wednesday, July 17, 2013

Faith in a Gimmick

I had a wonderful night with a girlfriend last night.  We sat on her couch, laying half on top of each other in one of those blissful girlfriend type piles and laughed and laughed and laughed....

In between laughs we talked seriously about what made us happy.  Amelia is a watcher.  She watches birds, waves, art, and her Lizzard Jet Li.  She also watches Ted talks.  She told me she'd been learning about things that are meant to help you be happier.  I didn't like the idea that there was some sort of cookie cutter "path" to happiness, but the more she talked, the more I began to really like what she had to say...

She played me part of the Ted Talk.  I don't know who it was, and this isn't the post to explain what it said or why I think it's a good idea... or any of the explanation type things.  This post is really just a tool.  It isn't meant for anybody to read (though I don't mind if you do).

This is a place for me to document something today that made me happy.
It's one of the five things Amelia and I are going to try and do everyday.
I'll stay with her again next week and we'll check in, report back to see how it's going.  Are we happier?

And I start these five things today-

1) Say out loud 3 things your grateful for
-John, Vista, and friends like Amelia who inspire me to be grateful

2) Exercise
- Bike ride with John (check), super easy morning floor stretching (check), super easy afternoon stretching (check)

3) Random act of kindness (well maybe not random)
- Accomplished.  But for some reason it seems to cheapen it by writing it down.

4) Meditate
- I haven't done this yet today.  I will though.  I found myself fixated on something today and I tried to pass that off as meditation, but it wasn't.

5) Journal- write something down that made you happy today.
See Below

John and I built a table this weekend.  It's the type of table that I've been dreaming about for years.  Heavy and long.  Wide enough for puzzles and board games, or poker nights, or Thanksgiving table for eight.  Tonight we stained the table.  It is beautiful.  Working on our table together made me happy.

More specifically wiping away the excess stain on the first table leg to see what the finished product finally looked like- that moment made me downright gleeful.  It was beautiful.  It embodied the life that John and I are trying to build. Simple, sturdy, creative, and made with love and patience.   Wiping away the stain and seeing something beautiful made me happy.

Tuesday, January 29, 2013

Getting the A

Grad school is an elongated state of triage... In chatting with a friend on my way from one study session to another I mentioned time, and currency, and trade offs.  She accused me of becoming an economist (a topic we've covered often in our Marine Resource Management class these days- assigning 'value' to things which are intrinsically, though not monetarily 'valuable'.  The whole thing makes me want to vomit.  The degree with which I hate a cash based economy is almost enough to forgo this computer, this internet, and this school, and go live in the woods somewhere forever- I digress). After the good natured accusation I wondered (on my bike traveling from point A to point B) whether or not she was right?  Had I abandoned the integrated life that I strove so hard to embody in exchange for this segmented, over-crowded head space, where I strove for this idea of school?  Why does my coursework affect me so?  When will I have not just the time, but the energy, to relax.

I coined a phrase, or I guess an idea (albeit a sad one):  I said out loud to myself.

"The currency of grad school is time.  And we are and will forever be poor of it."

Time cannot be hoarded (to my dear dragon's disappointment).  So if we think of time as a thing to have, to borrow or to spend (as here in school I'm so want to do) we feel forever poor, empty, and clinging to this idea... this currency which is time.

I dole out my time in a miserly fashion.  I give it to John when I can.  To Vista as much as I dare.  If it is evening and I think my productivity would be otherwise bereft, I allocate a moment to my friends.

Mostly I give my time to my assignments.  To this strange idea of excellence.  As if by making through all this within this arbitrary structure that says something about me.

I don't know what my B+ in Fluid Earth says about me... but I bet it isn't as much as any poem I've written, or any conversation with Sebastian that I ever imagined, or any story I ever told anyone (especially if it were about the ocean).  But I strive for these classes, I pay for them. 

Perhaps it is the promise that these ideas will make it into a story one day... that in casual conversation adiabatic lapse rate will become the pathway for a disgruntled parcel of air to rise and then settle... and that parcel of air will have  a story... Perhaps understanding (at least basically) why we have lenticular clouds over Denali will make them more beautiful.

If the currency of life is time, we are poor in today, but rich in tomorrow.  An unhappy present that I have faith is impermanent.

Sunday, March 11, 2012

Beause I May Die Today

And that's ok.  It's true everyday, and one day will become inevitable.

I will die imperfect. So will you.  It may be sad, and it may be tolerable.  If I die suddenly and soon, you will be unprepared (I imagine, so will I).  That will be harder than if you remind yourself- as I will- that I may die today.  If I die young, and since I think anyone shy of 60 young, it is a certain possibility, then it may feel tragic.  You may want to idolize my memory, my name, the things I used to say.  I give you permission in advance to let these things go.  To remember me warts and all, for how I am ornery at times, and for how I have a tendency to go crazy when living in cold dark climates too long, or when I choose to not say what I mean and by the time I'm ready to talk I blame you for it, even if it's not your fault.  I give you permission to be sad, but also a little relieved, because I can be difficult even though you love me.

5am airport cupcakes

I turn 28 today, sitting at the airport moving from one type of family to the other with equal importance, and two vegan red velvet cupcakes.

In the past two weeks I have been to Massachusetts, Alabama, Mississippi, and Louisiana. I feel like my life has flashed before my eyes. I can see in my minds eye the long strait house my grandmother grew up in with her family of 13, before I or even my mother had yet become an idea. I can feel the weight of the bench that lived alongside the table where they all ate meals in a single room of their shotgun double in downtown New Orleans. I know now that on Halloween they wore no costumes, but carried small pumpkins (before the days of GMOs made them big and watery) with candles in them. There was no candy handed out door to door.

Down the street on the corner was Mrs. White's sweet shop where a nickel would get your box of ginger snaps. Aunt Irma sent little Edna in to ask for the nickels, cause she was the smallest and cutest. My gullible baby grandmother wouldn't see that her sweetness was being exploited by her sister, and really maybe it wasn't since they both got to eat the cookies.

Pop was mean mean mean, my Momie tells me, my mom reiterates, and my uncle Johnny too. But when he was drinking tea and not alcohol you could sit on his lap and he'd be sweet. But he was drunk walking all the girls down the aisle in their beautifully built handmade dresses.

Ole mom would buy the beer and the cokes for the weddings, she'd make chilli and someone would make ham sandwiches, the kids got their own cakes, and were they ever beautiful. For the first few kids they'd have the reception in the house, open up the French doors that separated the main room and the kitchen... Or was it the main room and the bedroom? Dining room? I'd need to see a sketch of the house to be sure.
One could write a dissertation on the legislation involved with the Massachusetts Right Whale Dilemma.  The problem started over a century ago when whalers realized there was a "Right" whale to hunt...

For the slow, quiet, 40 ton whale this marked the beginning of the end.  Now, it's an international problem, a federal problem, a state problem, a community problem.  It's a human problem... meaning that we caused it, and may have the ability to remedy it.

On September 11th, 2001 the ports of the eastern seaboard went quiet.  The large vessels that pass in and out and in and out, for a moment were forced to stop.  The ocean took a moment of silence.  For the first time in years, the right whales could relax. 

A team of researchers were out that week, and despite the tragedy of the day, they took to the water to find the handful of whales that were left.  What they discovered was that in the days following 9/11 when the ocean was calm, so were the whales.  Stress levels were low, much lower than were ever seen before, or have been seen since.

It was a tragic way to find silence.  When tragedy strikes humanity, we take a moment of silence, reverence.  Our culture, many cultures, value that moment. For 9/11 quiet was a gift that we gave to nature, to each other, and to ourselves.

Calm begin with quieting the mind.  I don't yet know how quieting the mind will lead to quieting the ocean, though I'm certain one leads to the other.

When I quiet my mind, I find peace.  Peace is an absence of longing.  An absence of want leads to an absence of material things.  The absence of things leads to the absence of production, which leads to a decrease in shipping.  Quiet. 

Wednesday, February 29, 2012

The lives our things live

Philosophy tells me there is life essence in everything.  Theatre tells me that props are endowed with importance when an actor takes the time to build their story.  Science (well... at least some science) tells me that the world is made of energy and vibration.  My hat tells me today that it is willing to help me out through grad school- no simple 'thing' could tell me that.

In my life John wakes up first.  Vista wakes up second, she eats breakfast and comes back to bed... so in essence she's out of bed second, but stays in bed the longest.  I get up after roughly 10 minuts of unadulterated pup snuggling.  I shower while John cleans the house (He does this every morning for us), I dress, gather my bag and my bicycle, and head out the door for the coffee shop at approximately the same time John packs Vista out for her morning romp.

I am well loved.

I spend at hour or two sipping tea and sorting through my five e-mail addresses, my multivariate thesis research, my graduate classes, and my job as orchestrator of Salmon Bowl.  I search for grants and donations to support my research, to support my interns,  to support our non-profit, and if I find the time I search for ways to support myself. I try (to the best of my long distance ability) to prepare my 12 incoming interns, to tend to my newly single friend in Alaska, and my dabbling vegetarian friend in Boston, my pregnant sister in California, and sadly my sick grandmother in Louisiana. 

I do pieces of this every morning... at the coffee shop... I haven't even made it to my 10am class yet. 

But I don't do it alone.  I bring with me a bag of things and pieces and ticky-tackies to support me through my day.  What keeps me alive, is the hat on my head, the gloves on my hands, the shoes on my feet, and the jacket on my back.  These things are closer to me than, well anything.

Fast forward through the day.  Statistics assignment completed? Check. Salmon Bowl volunteers e-mailed? Check.  Spring classes registered for?  Check. Flowers sent to grandmother? Check.  Papers read for ecology? Well... Half-Check.  Resume and personal statement reviewed for friend in Minnesota?  Check. Research questions elaborated for meeting with committee?  Check. Hat, gloves, jacket, bag?  No check.

My hat is gone.  I frantically check bag jacket pockets, office, bathrooms, classrooms.  I skip my statistics lab as I walk, in rain and hail, stair stepping through my day.  For a moment, forget the assignments, forget the emails, forget the schedule-  think about just one thing.

It's just a hat. 

But it is more than that.  It's the hat that my mom gave me for Christmas 4 years ago to go with an outfit, that honestly, I never got around to wearing because it was just too cute and too nice for Alaska, but even Alaska appreciates a good hat.

I saved it, and one day when I needed it most I rediscovered the hat and now wear it 6 days a week to survive the Pacific Northwest winter.  Almost daily someone tells me how great it is.  I let them in on the secret: my mom gave it to me.

It's just a thing, but it's bigger than that.  It's my relationship with my mom.  It's the past I left in Alaska.  It's how I'll survive the bike ride home.  It is the one stylish thing that makes me feel like at least on the outside I'm holding it all together.  A thing that, if I had it when I ran into my sister would inspire her to tousle my head and say, "You look just like you should." It's just a thing, but it's the thing that daily touches my bare body most, and no matter how many times I toss it in the closet, or drop it on the floor, or tenderly lay it out to dry in front of the dryer, it waits for me.

It's just a hat.

Funny thing about retracing one's steps. You always ended up where you started. I'm standing by my bicycle, outside of the coffee shop.  No hat.  It's noon now, and I haven't eaten anything in this busy day.  I won't get another chance until 7 o'clock.  I should give up on the hat.  My mind asks me what it is I want to eat, but my body is disheartened, not hungry, and it starts to rain.  So I give up on the idea of food, and head into the library coffee shop for my second cup of tea. I'm tired.  But for the first time in months, my mind is relaxed.  For almost an hour I only thought about one thing.  Just one.

It's a university coffee shop.  At noon, you can't find a table.  Tea in hand I look out over the swarm of students for a place to sit.  Every table is taken.

Except for one.  A small, high table, tall chairs, near a window, is being reserved.  Someone left a hat on it.

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Colors I'd Forgotten

The Alaskan sun doesn't burn, it blushes, and in the islands day skipped straight to night with no reference to dawn or dusk...

But this week I began to see value in the in-betweens. Sunsets. Autumns. These moments are not transitions, they are now.

An evening walk with Vista along the river

Thursday, October 13, 2011


Is what happens when you're happy and lonely at the same time...