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Dream: 9.20.2016

September 20, 2016

I’m at my grandmother’s house, gathering up items I think other people will want to hold onto. This is a process that’s been ongoing, for years, but somehow there continue to be items that other people feel they cannot live without having. (That is, after years, this process should be scavenging crumbs, but it doesn’t seem that way.)

One thing I grab is a family portrait of sorts: my sister gazes adoringly at her now-ex-husband; me and Spouse are embracing; other people make up other couples and groups, outside, amongst trees.

The small black shoulder bag I’m putting things into is similar to Mary Poppins’s carpet bag — it gets heavier, but it doesn’t run out of room.

I race around the top floor, shoving things in.

=

While in the dream, I recall having a conversation with my friend Lisa B*, in which I lamented the pernicious hold this house has over my family and me, and she suggested I set fire to it next time I was there.

So while I’m on the top floor, at some point, I start a small fire.

Then I descend one floor, and look for other things that cannot be lived without. Gradually, I feel heat radiating from the ceiling; decide it might be a prudent time to descend yet again. I still shouldn’t leave the house yet, though —what if the fire were to go out prematurely?

So I’m racing against time, to preserve enough of the right stuff, but not get suffocated or burned to a crisp myself.

=

When I get to the third floor down [which, in the real house my grandmother lived in, would be the basement], there are a bunch of people that I don’t know, milling around, panicky. Then a group of firefighters pushes their way through the people. Some go upstairs. Others question people in the crowd, who direct them to me (who is now trying to leave).

They find my answers to their questions suspicious.

I begin concocting “cover stories” in my head: I’ll need to buy a (pink) candle on my way home, that I can say I lit in the attic… for some reason… but wait, then it’ll have to look like it had been lit, so I’ll have to buy matches, and light it somewhere safe, and…

One of the firefighters contrives to touch my hands, and when I look at them later, they’re covered in a fine dust, colored turquoise. I conjecture that this is a way to confirm my fingerprints if I touch anything else, so every time I need to move something, I first cover my hands with cloth.

=

It’s probably time (past time, really) to leave. I just hope the fire did some damage, even if it got stopped.

=

Later, I’m somewhere else, and there are… counselors scattered about. I find a nice friendly young woman, whom I question about confidentiality. She assures me whatever I say will be held in confidence “no matter what”.

Now we have to find a secluded place to talk. But people keep asking her questions before we can leave together.

In my head, I’m reviewing what I did, and I truly honestly don’t remember setting the fire. I didn’t have a candle or matches or a lighter — how could I have done it? Is it possible it started… some other way? And it’s just a coincidence I was there, thinking about setting it?

How come Lisa B didn’t mention that I could get in big trouble if arson was suspected? That I could go to jail? That my family wouldn’t receive an insurance settlement either?

Before we find a place to talk, I wake up.

+++

NOTES, Immediate:

My grandmother died in 1998, and approximately a year later, her house passed out of our family forever.

I used to dream about her house a lot, but that’s tapered off over time. I eventually realized that “my grandmother’s house” was a metaphor for… my soul, or my self, my developing self.

=

In the dream, I wanted, needed, the house itself to, if not stop existing, change its form by becoming less influential in how I spent my time and energy.

Setting the fire (if I did actually do it) was a way to grab control of my own life.

=

When my mother was growing up, there was a time that her father (whose house this also was — in fact, he built the whole third floor) was… a fire marshal.

=

The presence of my (high school) friend Lisa B is intriguing because dream-LB is often a trickster figure who brings me to a higher level of awareness. [In waking life, she is an educator.]

+++

NOTES, Meta-:

Being in New Mexico last week… shifted some stuff around. Changed other things.

I prepared as best as I could to go, but… the person who left is not the person who returned. In a good way.

=

I had never before been in New Mexico and been able to direct where I physically went. With a car, I mean. (I could walk wherever I wished within Ghost Ranch, while I was there 3 years ago. I had not rented a car, so I was dependent upon the shuttle to ferry me from and to the Sunport.)

I am acquainted with at least 4 people who live in New Mexico, but… no one I know well enough to “look up” while we were there.

Our trip was not in any way about human beings that we know.

I wanted to return to one of my favorite places. And I hoped Spouse would enjoy his first visit.

I wanted to reconnect with (my beloved) Sandias. I wanted to greet the Rio Grande. I did both, and more.

{One short week was a crucible for 6 weeks’ worth of intense emotional experiences.}

In some ways… I’m not entirely sure who I am anymore.

In other ways, I’m surer than I’ve ever been, about things I haven’t felt so strongly in 33, 35 years.

=

I sent postcards that I thought of as being written in a fundamentally “autistic” manner. I did not  censor how I naturally think, nor try to camouflage what I care about.

=

I’m writing a poem that’s in both Spanish and English. I’m kind of thinking of it in Spanish first, then figuring out what parts should stay in Spanish, and what parts can be written in English (or another language).

I’m diagramming connections, and patterns of spatial dispersion, which may become a visual poem of sorts.

I’m finding my own way.

 

+++++

 

*I have 2 friends named Lisa B. Trying to obscure how I referred to the first one caused confusion on this blog last year. The Lisa B in this dream is the one I met in high school, lately of Socorro, NM, but now in Texas; it is not my Tejana poet friend living in Iowa.

Reading List 10a of 2016

September 19, 2016
tags:

Covers the period from 8.16.2016 through 9.9.16

Baltimore County Public Library system supplied 10 of the books and movies; libraries in other parts of Maryland, via Inter-Library Loan, supplied the other 13.

 

Baltic:

  1. [SFF] The Hidden Letters of Velta B. by Gina Ochsner [[Latvia]]
  2. [DVD] Knitting Lithuanian Socks by Donna Druchunas
  3. The Lithuanians in America, 1651–1975: A Chronology and Fact Book, compiled & edited by Algirdas Budreckis
  4. The Mascot: Unraveling the Mystery of my Jewish Father’s Nazi Boyhood by Mark Kurzem [[Latvia, Belarus]]
  5. [Film] The Summer of Sangaile, dir. Alanté Kavaïté [[Lithuania]]
  6. [Film] Tangerines, dir. Zaza Urushadze [[Estonia, Georgia]]

 

Films:

  1. Eames: The Architect and the Painter, dir. Jason Cohn and Bill Jersey
  2. Kings of Pastry, dir. Chris Hegedus and D. A. Pennebaker
  3. Note by Note: The Making of Steinway L1037, dir. Ben Niles
  4. Pianomania, dir. Lilian Franck and Robert Cibis

 

Memoir & Biography:

  1. The Cross of Redemption: Uncollected Writings of James Baldwin, edited by Randall Kenan
  2. The Death of Santini by Pat Conroy
  3. My First Ladies: 25 Years as the White House Chief Floral Designer by Nancy Clarke with Christie Matheson
  4. Native: Dispatches from an Israeli-Palestinian Life by Sayed Kashua

 

Crime Fiction ~ Dublin Murder series:

  1. In the Woods by Tana French
  2. The Likeness by Tana French
  3. Faithful Place by Tana French
  4. The Secret Place by Tana French

 

Poetry:

  1. Cascade Experiment: Selected Poems by Alice Fulton
  2. Sensual Math by Alice Fulton

 

SFF:

  1. Adaptation by Malinda Lo
  2. Forest of Memory by Mary Robinette Kowal
  3. Tournament of Losers by Megan Derr

+++

Reading List 9a of 2016 ~ Poetry edition

August 11, 2016
tags:

Covers the period from 7.23.2016 through 8.9.16

I own 16 of these items. Baltimore County Public Library system supplied 4 of the books and movies; libraries in other parts of Maryland, via Inter-Library Loan, supplied the other 4.

 

Chapbooks:

  1. Anything Could Happen by Jana Putrle Srdić, translated by Barbara Jurša [[Slovenian]]
  2. The Bones We Have in Common by Sudasi J. Clement
  3. Centralia by Sarah Gzemski
  4. Dissection by Care Santos, translated by Lawrence Schimel [[Spanish]]
  5. Earth by Cecilia Woloch
  6. Midnight Blue by Vanessa Jiminez Gabb
  7. Night-Sea by Rachel Moritz
  8. One is None by Kätlin Kaldmaa, translated by Miriam McIlfatrick-Ksenofontov [[Estonian]]
  9. Restored Mural for Orlando / Mural Restaurado para Orlando by Roy Guzmán
  10. Rivers I Don’t Live By by Kelly Nelson
  11. Skeleton Keys by Laura Garrison
  12. Spelling the Hours: Poetry Celebrating the Forgotten Others of Science and Technology, edited by Rose Lemberg
  13. The Verbs of Desiring by Renee Ashley

 

= = =

 

Written in English:

  1. “After Mecca”: Women Poets and the Black Arts Movement by Cheryl Clarke
  2. The Citizen Poets of Boston: A Collection of Forgotten Poems, 1789–1820, edited by Paul Lewis
  3. Green the Witch-Hazel Wood by Emily Hiestand
  4. These Are My Rivers: New & Selected Poems, 1955–1993, by Lawrence Ferlinghetti
  5. Time of Useful Consciousness by Lawrence Ferlinghetti

 

Translated into English from Spanish:

  1. 20th Century Latin American Poetry: A Bilingual Anthology, edited by Stephen Tapscott [[also includes poems in Portuguese]]
  2. 50 Poems by Juan Ramón Jiménez, translated by J. B. Trend
  3. Against the Current by Tedi López Mills, translated by Wendy Burk
  4. Selected Poems of Gabriela Mistral, translated by Doris Dana

 

Translated into English from various:

  1. Bright Scythe: Poems by Tomas Tranströmer, translated by Patty Crane [[Swedish]]
  2. Talking to My Body by Anna Swirszczynska [[Polish]]

+++

Reading List 9b of 2016

August 11, 2016
tags:

Covers the period from 7.23.2016 through 8.10.16

I saw 1 movie in the cinema. I own 3 of these items. Baltimore County Public Library system supplied 10 of the books and movies; libraries in other parts of Maryland, via Inter-Library Loan, supplied the other 7.

 

Films

  1. Boy Meets Girl, dir. Eric Schaeffer
  2. Clouds of Sils Maria, dir. Olivier Assayas
  3. Drunk Stoned Brilliant Dead: The Story of the National Lampoon, dir. Douglas Tirola
  4. Ghostbusters, dir. Paul Feig
  5. Steve Jobs: The Man in the Machine, dir. Alex Gibney
  6. Sunshine Superman, dir. Marah Strauch

 

SFF:

  1. Ash by Malinda Lo
  2. Daughter of Mystery by Heather Rose Jones
  3. Every Heart a Doorway by Seanan McGuire
  4. The Golem and the Jinni by Helene Wecker
  5. Mystic Marriage by Heather Rose Jones
  6. Sparrow Hill Road by Seanan McGuire

 

Memoir & Biography:

  1. Alligator Candy: A Memoir by David Kushner
  2. Between the World and Me by Ta-Nehisi Coates
  3. Genius: The Life and Science of Richard Feynman by James Gleick

 

Literary Fiction:

  1. Nora Webster by Colm Tóibín
  2. Brooklyn by Colm Tóibín {{surprisingly, none of the charm of the movie}}
  3. Reliance, Illinois by Mary Volmer

 

Power dynamics & Politics:

  1. Behind the Shock Machine: The Untold Story of the Notorious Milgram Psychology Experiments by Gina Perry
  2. The Guru Papers: Masks of Authoritarian Power by Joel Kramer

 

Miscellaneous:

  • The Ivey Guide to Law School Admissions by Anna Ivey

+++

potager portrait

July 27, 2016

July, 2016

Stationary:

From the kitchen, I step onto the balcony through a glass door. Directly ahead, beyond and below, is a circle of pavement. Within the circle, a crape myrtle, flowering hot pink with green leaves; at her feet, spiraea bushes, purplish flowers buzzing with bees, yellow-green leaves. At the edges of the circle, benches, more crape myrtles, and some Euonymus bushes, mostly green leaves, starting to go pink at the center.

Back to our balcony.

To my immediate left, a pile of stuff: an empty windowbox; empty flowerpots; what’s left of a bag of potting soil; sticks I’ve picked up at various times.

Walking widdershins, Spouse’s water shoes.

Where the railing begins, our compost bucket, now containing coffee grounds, leaves from a previous storm, and a green walnut.

Beyond the railing, rooted in the ground, Drabhu, a Norway maple, whose green leaves and pinkish fruits often dance in the breeze with me as I spend time on the balcony late at night.

Windowbox #1 (empty)

Windowbox #2, with dead plant structures from previous years. A bottle cap water feature. Transplanted oxalis and white clover, both of which are doing well.

A piece of multicolored slate.

A large craggy rock (approximately a cubic foot), with bands of black, red, and sparkly stone; 5 years ago, I rescued it from a former field that was being converted into a subdivision.

A small terracotta pot with dried flowers. Two terracotta dishes with rocks as perches, refilled with water every day in summer.

A rectangular ceramic tile I made, stamped with birch leaves, and glazed emerald green.

Turning the corner, a small round glazed-ceramic pot with a feathery marigold plant, grown from last year’s seeds.

A dark teal ceramic bowl containing a reddish rock from New Mexico and a golden rock from Maryland, amidst water, replenished frequently.

Windowbox #3, with a ‘hairy’ clump of narrow leaves (dead) from a previous year. Tall stems with round green leaves nodding in the breeze. (Not from seeds or transplants, so I don’t know what it is.)

Turning again, at the other glass doors, I encounter windowbox #4 in the shade of the cerulean-with-white-floral-patterned lawn chair. The moss from last year that died. Various transplants from this year, including creeping jenny, oxalis, some type of grass, and others.

= = =

Transient:

1 bat, then 2 bats, last night.

A tiger swallowtail comes almost every day, even though there are no flowers blooming.

Various hymenopterans (bees and wasps). There seems to be a wasp bolthole in part of the metal railing. In late spring, we see bumblebees hovering almost every day — it’s probably too hot for them now.

Something that looks like a large bumblebee (black body), but with wings that are black and transparent. It’s friendly, it often buzzes me hello.

A few days ago, a sparrow-like bird perched on the rocks in the teal bowl, drinking the water.

Some time ago, I discovered a bug that fell backwards into one of the water dishes. I fished it out, set it upright on a rock so its wings could dry out.

On the railings, I occasionally see spiderlines, but so far only tiny spiders scurrying across concrete. (No webs.)

Including last night, I occasionally see lightning bugs below Drabhu’s branches.

On the sidewalk, especially at night: human beings walking dogs, ferrying children. Cats. Once, an opossum.

Often, teeny tiny dark brown toads; medium sized tan toads.

Last summer, from the kitchen window I saw a neighborhood cat up to mischief with a wild critter. I rushed downstairs and staved the cat off, saving what turned out to be a garter snake.

Definitely outside the open-ended area I think of as our garden (in the back of the apartment), but for the last 2 days, we’ve had an imperial moth stationed near our front door: large yellow creature, with brown blotches, and dark speckles. Very pretty.

Our fledged barnswallows (from the eaves, where their parents built their second nest of the year) haven’t visited our garden, but sometimes I hear them chirping, and see them amongst lamps under the skylight windows. They’re difficult to catch on film unless they’re perched.

= = =

These past few years (2014–Present), my garden’s been teaching me patience and stillness and looking closely at whatever I can see or photograph, noticing changes over time. No flowers this year, and yet… I spend more time on the balcony, or looking at the balcony, than any place besides the bedroom (where I am, now, writing). (The bedroom receives very pretty afternoon light, without being too bright or too hot.)

= = =

Back in 2014 when I was seeing P, my former therapist, she had me make a list of both “inner resources” and “outer resources” that I could draw upon. I asked for clarification about what divided them: she said it should be fairly obvious: “Inner is inside of you; outside is outside of you”.

I went ahead and made a third list that I called “liminal resources”, for things like my potager. Technically, to some people, I guess a garden is “outer”, but these plants are my friends, and… part of my household. Similar to my studio (which also contains plants). In fact, I thinkfeel of my studio like I’ve read Navajo weavers thinkfeel about their looms: their weavings depict the state of the weaver’s soul. My studio and my potager are part of my identity — how can that be definitively “outer”?

= = =

Last night, I was reading a book of Tomas Tranströmer’s poems, in which (poet) David Wojahn asserted that TT’s great theme is liminality, that everything he wrote was about borders of one sort or another.

As I sat on the balcony in the wee hours of this morning, I mused on lines in Swedish and lines translated into English. Was Tranströmer’s poetry, for those moments, part of my potager? If not, why not?

extensibilities

July 25, 2016

I don’t actually want to complain about not feeling well. I want to feel well. When I was younger, I thought if I found the right person to tell what was hurting me, it could be fixed.

= = =

I was discovered to have scoliosis when I was around 16.

Before and after, my mother would make me “stand up straight” (i.e., improve my posture) by jamming a yardstick to my back and trying to get my back to conform to it. It never worked.

It was really painful to hold the position that she said was normal, and that I should be “naturally” doing all the time.

But… if I couldn’t fake it long enough and often enough for her, she held over my head the prospect of a back brace one of the neighbor girls had to wear all the time. The neighbor girl was pretty and popular, and her status could accommodate even an ugly back brace.

I still have terrible posture. The physical therapist I saw a few years ago for my recurrent shoulder injury tried to help me correct it. It was still really hard to hold my muscles that way. Hunching over may be unsightly, but it hurts less.

Well, relatively. No position doesn’t hurt at all.

= = =

I still have remnants of a migraine I contracted Saturday when I went outside while it was still light out. Too bright, too hot.

Last night, I was rubbing my cheek muscles, which hurt because of the migraine. Spouse gets migraines, too, but he realized his cheek muscles never hurt. Nor does he “feel all the bones in his head”, as I sometimes do.

= = =

I can feel things you’re not supposed to be able to feel.

And they hurt.

Some of them hurt all the time. The pain with others, comes and goes.

= = =

I have TMJ, discovered by an early dentist. My jaw swings to the right, and I can’t open my mouth very widely, or for long periods of time. Some dentists have used rubber-blocky-things to prop my mouth open when work’s being done — very helpful.

When impressions are being made for crowns, I have to think very carefully before placing my teeth together “correctly”, since that’s not what my jaws would do “naturally”. Lots of trial and error before I figure that out, though.

= = =

I don’t respond well to pain relievers — unless I use doses high enough to be dangerous, the few that work, don’t work at all.

(For my agonizing bouts of PMS, I regularly took 800mg doses of ibuprofen; otherwise, I was in too much pain to function.)

I have unusual reactions to Novocaine.

The one time my dentist used laughing gas was terrifying: I wasn’t numbed at all, so I was in excruciating pain but I couldn’t move, at all. I couldn’t talk. All I could do was cry, which I did.

My dentist yelled at me for crying, because it “made him feel bad”. I never went back to him.

(I also had an out of body experience, which was kind of cool, and very unlike the previous one I’d had.)

= = =

{{ 7/28 edit: I’ve never figured out why WordPress occasionally, and apparently randomly, drops items from lists. Items #1 and #6 added back in. }}

Here are some of the types of headaches I get:

  1. Migraines.
  2. Sinus issues.
  3. Seasonal allergies.
  4. Barometric pressure changes.
  5. Tension headaches.
  6. TMJ.
  7. Too hot outside.
  8. Too bright outside (reflections bouncing right into my eyeballs) — there’s a particular type of “brightness” that I can feel through walls and buildings. I wake up in the morning, with the blinds drawn, and I already know it’s a day I’ll be staying inside.
  9. Fluorescent lights flickering.
  10. Strong unpleasant smells.
  11. Strongly clashing colorways (usually built environment, not out in nature).

I’m probably forgetting some.

= = =

I’ve had extreme myopia since I was tiny. Astigmatism too.

Lately, my left eye turns inward; it’s not strabismus yet. The eye doctor called it something else: presbyopia.

= = =

If my feet are “too cold”, I can’t sleep, or concentrate. I like going barefoot, but in air conditioning my feet get too cold. I can’t wear sandals because my feet get too cold. I look at people without socks in the summer, and marvel. I wish I could do that.

Sometimes, outside in the summer, I’ve gotten so hot that I can feel my brain physically overheating. (Much likelier now that I live in a subtropical climate. Global warming too.) Nowadays, I know to stay inside as much as possible during summer’s daylight hours.

If I have to go out, I wear protective clothing, and sunglasses, and a hat. And still, it’s not nearly enough. I still have to minimize the time I’m subject to the sun’s rays. (Shade is cooler, but the sun is still there, radiating at me.)

My body temperature doesn’t regulate properly.

= = =

I have to be careful of how long I’m in a hot shower. If my heart starts racing, I know to cool the water temperature down, and make sure the water hits my skin below my heart.

I love the idea of a sauna, but I can’t tolerate them very long.

I’ve often been in a bathroom when I passed out. Better to be sitting because you don’t hit the floor.

If I stand up “too quickly”, I feel dizzy and shaky. I have fainted.

Before I met Spouse, 2 different times, I fainted while out in public. Woke up in the ambulance, disoriented. No one had seen me fall, so they didn’t know what happened either. Tests at the hospital were inconclusive.

(At the time, I wrote them off to having not been eating regularly.)

= = =

My mother and others have called me lazy all my life. It stung.

When I was a teenager, then a young adult, I forced myself to exercise regularly, generally by taking long walks. I waited for the day that I would no longer need to sit down, or take a break, or be out of breath climbing stairs. Never arrived.

I always felt old before my time.

But I guess that’s because I’m lazy. And stupid. Thanks, Mom!

= = =

I can roll my tongue into a tube. I have cousins who can fold the tip of their tongue back on itself, but I can’t do that.

= = =

My joints crack when I stretch my limbs.

= = =

When I was a kid, I figured out I could use my big toes to slide my socks off, if my feet overheated at night. I continued doing that right up until a year or so ago, when I realized that maybe, just maybe, the pain I now have in my big toes might be arthritis.

= = =

3 different specialists asked me if I had Marfan: I’m tall and (still somewhat) thin; have square shoulders; long skinny “piano” fingers, long narrow feet, flat arches. I have a bony, concave-ish chest.

I looked into getting tested for Marfan 18 months ago. Genetic testing was going to be several thousand dollars, not covered by insurance. I decided not to do it.

= = =

My ribs stick out in a weird way.

= = =

A few years ago, I started getting (what my doctor called) “anxiety attacks”, but when I wasn’t doing anything that could possibly make me anxious.

I’d always gotten panic attacks, in social situations. This stuff was different. This stuff felt like an elephant sitting on my chest. I felt like I couldn’t breathe. The first few times, I thought it was a heart attack. Then I thought maybe I was developing asthma.

My cardio tests came out within normal limits though. So my doctor put me on anxiety meds, which I never felt right about. I didn’t take them very long.

= = =

I’ve had something like tendinitis in my elbows since 2011. It got much worse in my right elbow when I accidentally banged it into a wall on my birthday 2 years ago. When I finally went to the doctor about it (worried it was a stress fracture), she said whatever it was, was inconsistent with a break. She advised me getting x-rays, but I never did. I was sure it was somehow a muscle thing, and why would that show up on an x-ray?

= = =

Sometimes my right ankle rolls, and I fall.

I had a catastrophic fall in 2000 when my right ankle rolled as I was running to cross a city street: I fell forward onto the pavement, breaking my left patella, and breaking one of my little fingers. Luckily, I had instinctively put my arms out — if I’d hit the street face-first, it would’ve been so much worse. My glasses were cracked; there was blood everywhere. I was in shock. Still, I managed to get myself to the train station. Someone nearby asked me if I needed help; when I stammered that I did, they walked away. I gingerly lowered my broken knee and sprained other ankle down 2 flights of stairs. Boarded my train, stayed standing. No one but the conductor helped me. I called Spouse so he’d meet my train.

It’s very hard to walk on crutches when you’re immobilizing one knee, but the ankle on the other leg can’t bear weight either. The ankle injury actually took longer to recover from than the broken bone.

= = =

I injured my right shoulder in 1996, at work. The doctor couldn’t figure out quite what had happened: it wasn’t a separated shoulder; it wasn’t a torn rotator cuff. And yet, I was in agonizing pain. I did physical therapy. Slowly, slowly, it got better.

But I’ve reinjured it several times. After the last time, at yoga in 2010, I realized this is just part of what my life is. Now I’m always very very careful of how much weight I allow my right shoulder to bear.

My doctor here, when I first met her (to see her about the yoga injury), said my right shoulder “hung strangely”, that I’d probably need surgery.

The thing is, I think all my muscles hang oddly. I think I’m the wrong kind of stretchy. Which, naturally, leads to accidents and injuries. And pain.

After noticing a particular condition that a lot of autistic people I know from Twitter have, I’ve been researching it, and I think I, too, have Ehlers-Danlos Syndrome.

considering success

July 22, 2016

For my friend Michelle Marshall

Paths to well-defined “success”, trod by increasing millions of human beings, become superhighways just as they lose all utility.

Every “successful” person I know feels hopelessly behind, stressed out, worried about the future.

What if “well-defined success” itself is part of the problem?

= = =

{Also, Life is Hard. But you knew that.}

= = =

When I attended AROHO in 2013, I had one published article to my (old) name, and it wasn’t in a lit journal. I’d never heard of AWP.

I did not have an MFA or even BA in a creative field. In fact, over the 15 years I was an undergraduate, I’d never taken even one English Lit or Creative Writing or Poetry class.

I got my BA in geography, from a commuter school almost no one has ever heard of. I’d dropped out of grad school, for a technical field still almost no one has ever heard of.

I have never formally taught anything. And I don’t want to.

As of July 2013, I’d written 23 poems… in my life.

For a week, I was immersed within all these accomplished successful women. Women who not only had jobs, but had had careers. Women who were published, many in prestigious lit journals (albeit ones I hadn’t heard of; I was such a newbie). Women who’d published books. Women who were editors; women who ran small presses.

I didn’t fit in. (I never do.)

I’m not wholly a woman, but my majority not-so-womanly parts were not welcome in a Retreat for Women Writers, so I kept them hidden.

I often doubt that I’m… well, a human being, if I’m being honest. I feel more like a tree or a river that just happens to be human-shaped. Some of that is being autistic (which I didn’t know about in 2013); a great deal of it, isn’t. I’ve spent more time, certainly more “quality time”, with trees and rivers than with human beings. I definitely understand the former better than the latter, whom I often don’t understand at all.

I didn’t make any human friends, although during that week I thought I had.

= . =

After I returned home, I asked 14 of the poets and 1 of the non-poet writers to suggest poets I should read, via self-addressed stamped postcards I sent them. Just this week I received #9, but the other 8 responded within a few months. Through these women, I read poets I likely wouldn’t have stumbled across.

I found a great deal more poets I liked through anthologies I picked up blindly. Inter-Library Loan, and the Pratt (Enoch Pratt Free Library in Baltimore City) have supplied me with 100s more.

= . =

I count my week at AROHO as a thundering success.

I wrote two poems there, including one that’s among the truest things I’ve ever written. I painted two watercolor paintings. A door inside of me I didn’t know about, opened up a bit; I glimpsed a poem cycle I may yet write. I made friends with cottonwoods, with lizards, with mountains. I met a dead scorpion. I heard coyotes. I saw meteors and the Milky Way. In the library at 2 a.m., night after night, I read about shamans and mythology and archetypes; I read Paulo Freire’s Pedagogy of the Oppressed. Someone much older than me mentioned her kinship with Inanna; I told her of my own relationship with Ereshkigal. I performed a poem in an arroyo; the video was later shown to the whole assemblage. I had an ecstatic experience in the Rio Chama.

For the first time, that week, I inhabited Meander. I grew into myself.

= . =

There’s no way to fit any of the above into a “well-defined successful” narrative.

The thing about “well-defined success”… no individual person defined it. They accepted the narrative(s) they saw around them. They fit themselves into something defined by someone else.

I don’t want that.

What matters to me in my life is… process. Having new and fruitful experiences. Learning about the world, learning about me. Finding what I can do that no one else can do.
I am successful at all of those things, but what matters more to me is… I’m alive. I’m doing stuff. I’m discovering.I’m a verb. No, I’m verbs: I’m verb-ing. I am process.