Sunday, November 30, 2008

So much past

Living in Provo with the brain I have is kind of like living in a house made entirely of television sets. And all of the TVs are on different stations and all of the stations are showing reruns of my life. Driving up University Avenue feels a little something like this:

I see me running across the street on my way to Smith's and finding the couch of destiny (which got Amanda and John engaged, which I moved from an old apartment of theirs with Trevor who I didn't date during my dating break the fall after Nick, and I stole the couch from that house with Lina at midnight and couldn't kiss Tim #2 on it because it was so busted up and I had to cajole some friendly ward members to finish moving it to my school where, after it turns out stuffed furniture is banned, it disappeared forever), or eating with Margaret Robertson at Bombay house when she was on a break from law school. She taught Sunday school when I was 15 and sent me a very considerate letter which kind of changed my life. She kind of changed my life. Or driving by Lina's place and the Burrow where so much of my life happened last year, or by Provo High, or by Hogi Yogi where I used to stop after bikerides last summer for a Yoasis with mango, and don't even get me started on passing by the Glenwood and Alta...

So heavy. I read The Shipping News a couple of summers ago and was struck by the idea of roots. What are the pros/cons of living in a place where people know you, where, when you say this or do that, they think it's just like your grandfather or uncle? Where you don't have to explain personality quirks or wonder about them because everyone already knows that your dad was a bastard and your mom drinks too much and flirts with the mailman.

On the one hand, there's something so stabilizing about that. Safe-feeling. On the other, though, when and how do you decide who you are and what choice is there but to act out? It would be exhausting.

For some reason I'm preoccupied with remembering. And not everything: I'm a terribly inconsiderate friend. I forget birthdays and parents' names and allergies to chocolate. But everytime I step into the JFSB I'm flooded with memories about this corridor or that doorway or this computer lab. Memories like guard dogs and suddenly I'm intruding on someone else's territory. The whole of east Salt Lake, from I-215 to Cottonwood Heights belongs to an ex-boyfriend and I feel like I'm intruding everytime I drive through.

I'm trying to leave, but suspect that that's not the answer. So.


I bought a steel gray shirt at Target a couple of years ago, and when I was celebrating (it's my favorite color of gray!) Lina shot me down: how can you have a favorite color of gray? I guess technically gray isn't a color at all, but I loooove it.

My room. It's beautiful. I can't get over it.

My cheapety cheap Gap loafers that are falling apart but were worth every penny because they're gunmetal and perfect.

Cardigan (also from target).

Bella the kitten. Her name was Sprout before her owner (a friend of my roommate, thus the reason she's been living in my bathroom [Kjersten (sic): There's a kitten in the bathroom! Don't let her out!]) saw Twilight. She's also been litter training in my bathroom. But she's very very sweet and has this tiny scratchy meow that is terribly endearing.

The sky this morning. I wrote about how impoverished and light-starved November always feels, but this morning the overcast sky was the warmest, richest tone of gray I've ever seen. I wanted to weave it into a sweater and wear it. Or spread it on toast or something. I keep trying to write a poem about it, but I started with the title "Shades of Gray" which is cramping the vibe something awful...I'll look into that.

From "My Many-Colored Days," a lesser-known Dr. Suess:
"It's gray day, everything is gray. I watch, but nothing moves today."

Any insights on the gray/grey deal? It depends, always on my mood.

PS: what is it with poets and plovers? Admittedly, it's a lovely word to say, but I think some MFA program bet all the others to see how often they could fit plover into poems. A drinking game of some kind? Plover plover plover.

Friday, November 28, 2008


I tried to pretend that Tuesday was fine. But after a conversation with Justin the headmaster (Headmaster Kennington. Get your giggles as you'd like) in the which he said I was looking kind of off and warned me against burning out and said that they'd love to have me next year please (could he tell I was staying up late exploring graduate programs?) and asked how he could help, I felt both weighed down with grief and weariness and restless, bothered.
I'm a runner. Yeah, in that sense, but also that I often feel cornered and need to leave. I decided to take a trip to Southern Utah. Parowan: the town where my grandfather was born and my dad grew up. I changed in the car, stopped by my house to pick up my camera, and set off.

I love travelling. Just going. One of the most peaceful and contemplative times I remember was on a train to and from Lake Como. Not having to worry about where or why, just moving, thinking, writing. After 4 months serving in the Yerevan, a 20 minute marshrutni ride from the mission office, I found myself entirely claustrophobic. I wanted to move without thinking, to be in the open.

This was a great trip. I decided about halfway down that I'd need to spend the night (it would be 5 by the time I got there, and not light enough to take pictures), and drove past the Days Inn to The Victorian Rose, a restored little inn on Center and Main. Gail, the proprietor knew my grandfather by name. I bought a lily from Bev's Gift and Floral (I'm as sentimental as I pretend to be cynical) and walked to the hills at the edge of town and let myself be sad for a minute. I stopped for a toothbrush at the Foodway, ate dinner at the Pizza Barn, bought a couple of 25 cent books at the library, stayed up late reading (The Adventures of Kavalier and Clay which was incredible and made me absolutely weep).

In the morning I wrote a little and showered and ate at the Parowan cafe and stumbled upon the cemetary where I found some cousins and some lovely graveyard kitsch. (Irreverent? Maybe. Kitschy? Absolutely.) And came home in time to walk the dogs I'm housesitting for.

Moral of the story: a) I love wandering, and if I'm going to stay in Utah, I've got to honor that. I think I'll have to make something work this summer so I don't get so tense. Travelling helps me put things in perspective--the world is wide and I am a very minor player in all of this.
b) My grandpa loved Parowan. I love him for that. He left for his family I think, and I can't imagine my dad there, even as a kid, (when I told him I'd gone he asked why, disgusted, which didn't surprise me a bit), but I know it was a sacrifice. A very sweet little town. c) Fun fact--PHS is across the street from the mortuary. I'm not sure why that delighted me so entirely, but it certainly did.

Tuesday, November 25, 2008


What is better about this morning:

  • A surprisingly delicious breakfast. (Sometimes oatmeal in a cup hits the spot precisely.)
  • Listening to a mix full blast, and I'm not sure how to turn my base down.
  • I am a lucky kid.

Friday, November 21, 2008

In Memorium

I have a theory about landscape. My mom and dad are both wanderers, water people. At parties they're the ones moving between groups, introducing people, pouring drinks. Like interstitial fluid they keep things moving, fed, interesting. Connie was raised off Puget Sound, in a landscape so green that when we first visited I thought it was fake. I wondered at the trees and grumbled at a shirt hung up to dry in them, still wet the morning after. Dennis left Utah as soon as he could. Transitioning from desert to ocean in Finland's frozen wetlands, he never went back really. Jetting from Oslo to Stockholm to Miami, he followed currents: the deft flow of money first, then international cruiselines. Even back in Utah he builds fountains and waters his gardens into tropical lushness.

I've never been a camper, but the prospect of a long weekend exploring the badlands of Utah with Amanda seemed too fabulous to pass up. We spent Friday afternoon salivating over the over-sized pictorals in the Utah section, basing our itinerary on beauty as much as anything else. We drove threw half the state that weekend: Goblin Valley, Capitol Reef, the San Rafael Swell. We took state highways and cattle graded county roads. We debated taking a right at Green River and spending a night at Lake Powell. We approached a park ranger, "Where's the nearest water?" He laughed and sent us to a trickle of a creek 2 hours away.
I sat in the passenger seat on Route 24, past Hanksville and Cainesville, watching the desert bloom into green as we approached town, then fade back into reds and greys. I wondered about some of the first Easterners to see this waste: Mormon pioneers fresh from New and old England. Where was their garden-dwelling god now? This was no place for the white-washed pillars and flowing robes; the god of this land was lean and encrusted in red dust, leering at the new comers.

It started even with his office: industrial, high-ceilinged, with polished concrete floors and the omnipresent thump and rumble of machines--a little too loud for comfortable conversation. I remember the uncomfortably sweet smell of the place: raw meat and cardboard. And Grandpa, seated enormous behind his desk. His smile cut the tension a touch, as did the powdered donuts he offered from his vending crates. He had us giggling in a matter of minutes and I remember my mom's eyes so bright she didn't need the buzzing flourescent lights.

Thanksgiving at my grandparent's house: Grandma's rolls and pies, raspberry jam from the garden. Grandma dashing to and fro, feeding, cooking, chatting. The kitchen is buzzing. At some point I ignore my dad's "go see if your grandmother needs help" and slip in quietly beside him. The talk here is doubtless of football. Probably how BYU is doing. It's kept at a constant rumble, uncles and boy cousins contributing with stats or analysis. My Grandfather sits in his chair in the corner, laughing quietly, but mostly watching. Occasionally, though, his voice booms, some joke about family or Grandma or someone he works for. The crowd explodes into laughter and mock outrage from the women passing through. In a few minutes the conversation resumes along its merry way and so it goes till Grandpa pulls out another zinger.

And this is where the essay always ends, shortshortshort of where it ought to.

My grandfather was the rock of our family.

Earlier this morning his giant heart gave out.


Tuesday, November 18, 2008

The Right Side at Least

So my new house is old. And by the railroad tracks. I was walking out to our basement laundry room the other night (trains rumbling) and wondering if back when riding the rails was a more common occurrence, if the lady of my house was a feeder of hobos. She probably got them all the time.
I've also been thinking lately about transience. I finished Housekeeping recently and haven't thought all the way through it. The book tells the story of a couple of generations of women in a family. It tells of the desire to wander. The narrator of the book describes it as a method to disappear...I haven't thought through it...and East of Eden also plays with wandering. Just wanting to go, coming back a little more quiet and a little more distant. I don't know how much I can empathize with these wanderers--I'm too big a fan of showering and feeling safe. (Though the world is calling my name.)
On the other hand, I've been trying to balance two urges in me: the urge to sell all my stuff and move to Latin America, and the urge to scratch together a down payment and buy and rescue an old house (it takes me twice as long to meander my way home because I'm using half my brain to check out real estate) and plant a garden. I've posted about this.

K, into this hardly formed fog of thought enter James. I'd heard tell of him--a friend of my landlord, took care of most of our remodel and currently taking care of our plumbing. We were chatting over a couple of leaking pipes, and it came out that he was a wanderer of sorts. ("Where are you from?" "I'm not..." etc.) I decided to check some of my theories of wandering against him, see where he stood and it turns out not only does he ride freight trains, not only is he trying to sell his house and find somewhere more mobile to set his stuff, he studied hobos in college. He was an anthro major whose emphasis was wandering. What!?! I love my life.

A couple of nuggets of wisdom: first, this area of the world was known as the "milk and honey belt" to hobos in the 20s and 30s (and beyond probably). Utah valley was famous for its generosity in feeding and employing wanderers.
Second, James argued that the wandering/settling impulses aren't mutually exclusive, but actually stem from the same urge: to be able to control one's environment. They're just different ways of going about it. (This makes sense, btw, in my situation. And makes sense of the fact that when I feel most out of control is when I want to leave or find a place to stay.)
He also had some interesting things to say about the male/female impulses to wander (that women--and this is general but also researched--stop wandering as soon as they have kids. Not that it's impossible, but that some switch seems to get thrown) and about people's reactions to his riding trains. Men's eyes get all faraway looking. Women are generally appalled. Also, that hobo cultural forms resemble almost exactly earlier tribal cultures...and he talked about how men always seem to want to wander, and it's only a big problem when, as in American society, they're not allowed to come back. I want to keep chewing on this assertion.

Sometime I want to talk about women (not) in road novels and the implications of this. James didn't agree, but I think I didn't establish the levels of the metaphors I was playing with clearly enough.

A couple of personal things I realized: my dad is a hobo at heart. The wandering, the very low-maintenance survival habits, etc. I'd like to discuss this with you (=mostly family, but also interested parties) sometime.
I've dated a lot of hobos. In fact, that might be the only thing that most of my exes have in common, in one way or another.
If you're a boy, are you a hobo? Is that the issue here? Or am I just good at spotting them?


Sunday, November 16, 2008

Guess Who Got a New Camera...

Keep posted for pictures of my life. :)

Friday, November 14, 2008


This may take a couple of days...

Wednesday, November 12, 2008


So, I keep getting blasted by these rays of inexplicable joy. I love it of course but it's so weird (I have bullets!):

  • This morning, trying to convince my conscious mind to get out of bed. I know all I should want to do is curl up in my flannel sheets, but I'm so excited to jump into my chilly drafty bathroom and get to work. (This may have had something to do with my new Danskos. :) )
  • Driving to work this morning: it's still dark, it's pretty chilly and I have I-15 to deal with, but I was eating my yogurt (aaaah, 10 grams of fat is why it's so amazingly delicious) and listening to NPR and was sooo happy.
  • A couple of nights ago. Sitting on my bed (right after spilling Diet Coke all over my new duvet cover). I love my room. I love staying up all night.
  • All weekend long. Grey paint! Dai! Bookshelves! My mom and Dave! Penny and June!
  • A crazy 5-6th period. These are my rowdies. I was in such a good mood, though, despite no lesson plan and sleeping in. There was bantering and laughing and they are adorable.

To be honest it kind of freaks me out, and I'm not planning on it lasting forever (I love the maudlin so well. And it's only going to get more cold and dark) but I like it. Thanks body or divinity or both! :)

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Suggestion Box

Has anyone found a better way to kick back after work and assert one's selfhood than staying up all night blogstalking?

Monday, November 10, 2008

Grey Day

Just to be clear: I'm in a great place right now. I feel good about where I'm living and where I'm working. Next door the choir is practicing Christmas music. I love the fall. I love the rain in the fall. I love my flannel sheets. I like that I'm going to talk to my new bishop tomorrow about working in the temple. I had left-over curry for lunch, left-over from the end of a really pleasant day. I have plans. I want to be successful in what I'm doing. I have a stack of oxfords still swathed in plastic from the cleaners.

The inevitable but?

I'm sitting in our windowless workroom basking in rainy autumn listening to impossibly melancholy songs absolutely basking in the loneliness of Autumn.
Maybe it's because it's Monday and that I slept in (atrociously. eeek.) and just pulled off an unplanned day and have a lot to do today. I'm sleepy and sad and lonesome and I love it. I'm feeling entirely at home. How is it that I feel most at ease when I'm on the verge of tears?

Sunday, November 9, 2008

Deconstruct Me

In class a couple of months ago we took a look at this sculpture. We talked about how the lines draw your attention to Naram-sin who, yes, is smashing one of his enemies beneath his feet, and how that was evidence of the Akkadian's artistic sophistication.

Which is why, when I saw this this picture, I was bothered. Not surprised, of course, but I'm just getting out of an extended Gilmore Girls stint and am bummed that we have to resort to such lame advertising tactics.

10 points if you can tell me what we're trying to sell. 20 point if you can tell me 3 reasons why it's extra disappointing in this context. (And the fact that whoever that kid is--I only watched to mid-season 3--he isn't Jess, doesn't count.)

(The feministy themes of this week are coincidental, I think.)

Thursday, November 6, 2008

Kind of a girl thing.

So I'm pretty strict about letting my students leave class. Mostly it's to cut down on the chaos: I teach ninth grade and once one kid has left class there's a dozen kids in line waiting to go, suddenly no one's keeping quiet or paying attention, and every time someone comes back in there's a giant ordeal. When kids ask I try to gauge the urgency: urgency of tone, wiggliness, I usually ask some very invasive question like "do you have to?" or "are you going to die?" The kind of thing that I would slap someone for asking me.

Every once in a while, though, some adorable ninth grade girl will come up to my desk. "You should've gone at break. No."
"It's kind of a girl thing."
And I break. Of course I let her go. Because there are few things more potentially horrifying than some kind of menstrual-related accident at school. I remember. It happened to a couple girls when I was ninth grade and I was terrified, terrified, that something like that might happen to me. So terrified, in fact, that I never approached my teacher with "It's kind of a girl thing."

But it has set me to wondering. First off, if you had a cute young teacher who seemed to be getting off on not letting kids leave class, wouldn't that be the first tool in your toolbelt? "It's kind of a girl thing, how could she say no?" (I'm definitely thinking of Alicia Silverstone in Clueless.) Second, it's such a female thing. What excuse could boys use? I mean I guess they could, but I don't think they do. Or would....I'm trying to decide how to say this best and am just thinking myself into deeper hole. But right? We let girls go with hardly a blink. Third: is it more socially acceptable to discuss female bodily functions than male? Like women breastfeeding in public...or is it just me?

Happy weekend eve at any rate. :)

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

Happy November 5th!

I have my reservations. The conservative tendencies dyed deep in my sinews are cringing this morning. I think we shouldn't be hasty to leave a Middle East that is going to collapse into chaos. I think that everyone has a right to the money that they make.


I haven't been able to stop smiling this morning. I've almost started crying a couple of times.

Even if things go very very poorly (and I don't think they will) this is such a pivotal moment. American asking for change. Barack Obama and everything that he stands for taking charge.

We're on the brink and I wish they were selling real estate here.

Have a lovely day!

Tuesday, November 4, 2008

What I'm Thinking

Something along the lines of these. Love the chandeliers. And yellows.


it is raining again. It is cold and gray and windy and all of the leaves are getting all soaked before they fall off and get stomped and mashed. Fall smell. Love it.

Also, I'm stoked it's election day. It feels like a holiday. I'm not registered and I feel a little irresponsible, but I'm excited to see what happens. All caught up in history.

I got my house! [I got the room I wanted in someone else's house, good call Molly] It's a renovated farm house: high ceilings, big windows, wood floors. Perfect. I'm debating paint colors: poppy or a light bluey grey. I like the idea of poppy, but every room I see in cool neutrals is like a breath of fresh air.

Lame mopey post for a lame mopey day. Such a good mopey. :)

Saturday, November 1, 2008


No, I will not tell you what's going on in my life. I will not give a summary of plans or goals or even guess at where I might be next week. I have no idea. I was supposed to move to Provo today, and alternately was contemplating staying in my apartment; but no, I'm lounging on the obscenely comfortable queen-size in my mom's basement. Moving took 2 hours because I had a fantastic crew (Anne, Connie, and Dave, thankyouthankyouthankyou, you're brilliant and so kind) and, oh, because I was already entirely packed from September's "I need to get the hell out of here" kick.

Those of you who I've chatted with know that I'm planning on graduate school. Or that I'm adoring my job and think I'm going to stick around. Or that I'm moving to Mexico next week. All or none of these things could be true. I guess what I'm trying to say is, I may be talking big, but I reserve the right to change my mind now. Or now. That's the way life is right now. I'm glad, too, that it's right now. That is, I'm only responsible for providing a stable environment for my students, and as far as they know I'm made out of granite. (It sparkles, after all, in the sun.)

But the usual potpourri:

Staying/going. As I was pulling up my square-foot garden today (the peas were just about coming...) I was thinking about gardening. I love it. I loved my little patch of green, as well as the delicious salads that it kept producing (soo bummed about the weakling basil--can't stand 3 inches of snow, huh? Pansy). In my garden I will plant tomatoes, carrots, peas, herbs (basil, cilantro, thyme, parsley and a couple of grab-bag--the kind that you see at Lowe's and have to try), nasturtia, radishes, spinach, egg plant, squash. etc. I'll cook delicious things and serve them to good friends in a white kitchen with big windows and be so healthy and happy.
On the other side of my brain, though, is a list of places I want to see before I die. Buenos Aires, India (I haven't narrowed the subcontinent down yet), Bogota, Toronto, Prague, Istanbul, Hong Kong, Oahu, the Amalfi Coast, Morocco. etc. I'm not sure how to balance these two desires.
Contemplating them I feel extraordinarily human.

This I Believe. I managed to use this finally in my class. Next year it will be better, and the show may be featured more prominently as part of my curriculum. I just remembered that I believe things. I've worked really hard to construct for myself a foundation of belief, but am usually too busy trying to feather out the other side of the argument and the implications to remember that foundation.
That is: I've been really stressed lately trying to relate to people who believe different things than I do. I've been overwhelmed by how relative this all is and must be to coexist. This careful reevaluation of what I believe has been enormously stabling. I hope to get a post out soon.

I love my family. You are geniuses.

Happy hardworking weekend. Lesson plan! Daylight savings!