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Reading List 5 of 2017

April 25, 2017

Covers the period from 4.1.2017 through 4.24.17

I/we own 2 of these items. Baltimore County Public Library system supplied 9 of the books and movies; libraries in other parts of Maryland, via Inter-Library Loan, supplied the other 20.

 

{Still no poetry.}

Women.

 

Films:

  1. Born to Fly: Elizabeth Streb vs. Gravity, directed by Catherine Gund
  2. Chisholm ’72: Unbought & Unbossed, directed by Shola Lynch
  3. Dancing The Big Apple: African-Americans Inspire a National Craze by Judy Pritchett
  4. Gypsy, directed by Mervyn LeRoy
  5. Hidden Figures, directed by Theodore Melfi
  6. Jimmy’s Hall, directed by Ken Loach
  7. Miss Sloane, directed by John Madden
  8. Southside with You, directed by Richard Tanne

 

Asking big questions:

  1. Breaking the Sequence: Women’s Experimental Fiction, edited by Ellen G. Friedman and Miriam Fuchs
  2. Mental and Moral Heredity in Royalty: A Statistical Study in History and Psychology by Frederick Adams Woods [1906 edition]
  3. Mind by Daniel J. Siegel, M.D.
  4. Twelve Steps toward Political Revelation by Walter Mosley

 

Biography:

  1. African American Writers: Portraits and Visions by Lynda Koolish
  2. Black Women Writers (1950–1980), edited by Mari Evans
  3. Conversations with Octavia Butler, edited by Conseula Francis
  4. I Tell You Now: Autobiographical Essays by Native American Writers, edited by Brian Swann and Arnold Krupat
  5. Visible Women: New Essays on American Activism, edited by Nancy A. Hewitt and Suzanne Lebsock
  6. Women in American Indian Society by Rayna Green

 

 

Memoir:

  1. All the Lives I Want by Alana Massey
  2. Interior Landscapes: Autobiographical Myths and Metaphors by Gerald R. Vizenor [First Nations]
  3. Scrappy Little Nobody by Anna Kendrick
  4. Summer Dooways: A Memoir by W. S. Merwin
  5. Triangular Road by Paule Marshall

 

SFF:

  1. Ammonite by Nicola Griffith
  2. Cairo: A Graphic Novel, written by Willow Wilson, art by M. K. Perker
  3. On the Edge of Gone by Corinne Duyvis {autistic protagonist}
  4. Orsinian Tales by Ursula K. Le Guin
  5. Pegasus by Robin McKinley
  6. Shadows by Robin McKinley

 

Fiction:

  1. And the Dark Sacred Night by Julia Glass
  2. The Education of Margot Sanchez by Lilliam Rivera [AROHO]

 +++

 

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Autism: what I see, what I feel

March 31, 2017

I’ve been immersing myself in visual culture lately: lots of books, lots of movies. Every time I watch something, I think about how I would’ve done it. Not so much the nitty-gritty of how would I have directed it, how would I have photographed it, but more… Shouldn’t something have been explained at the beginning? Why am I supposed to care about these people again?

How is the story organized?

How did the director, the screenwriter, come up with shooting these scenes? Editing them into this order?

=

Although I’d been reading since I was tiny, and then I began blogging in 2009, I didn’t start reading like a writer until late 2011, around the time I first did Nanowrimo.

I’ve also been watching movies all my life, but it’s not until the last 3 months maybe that I’ve been watching them while thinking like a visual writer.

I’ve been trying to make my poetry visual from the very beginning (2011), which was before I realized various schools of poetry had been doing the same things since at least the 1960s.

I’ve written prose that had visual elements. It’s hard enough to get right in poetry, where at least people might expect it; in my prose it didn’t seem to work at all.

=

I’ve been photographing since I was a teenager. My mother was a photographer, probably still is. But she did it for the reasons most people do: she recorded scenes of human life, family life. In all the time I knew her, I don’t remember her ever photographing natural scenes, or buildings, or the sky. I asked her once, why not? She said photographs without [human being] people in them were empty; there would be no reason to take a picture unless there were people in it.

I found that very strange.

I have around 1100 photos on my Instagram account. I think there’s probably… 10? 12? that have human beings in them. There are guys playing soccer in a nearby park (on my way to and from the public library). Occasionally there is Spouse.

My selfies generally occur when I’m amongst trees. I feel like a weird sort of tree. I don’t have leaves, I’m not green; I can move around. But when I’m with trees, I feel like I’m with my people. (To the extent that I can say I have ever thought that I had ‘people’.)

+

My life is really really solitary. That is, human-solitary.

I live with Spouse, but our lives don’t overlap that much. I often wonder if that would be different if I wasn’t autistic. But he has fewer human friends than I do, so maybe not.

He didn’t cut off contact with his family of origin like I did. He just doesn’t see them or talk to them very often.

I’ve known introverts before — I thought I was an introvert until I was well into my 40s — but even for an introvert, Spouse barely talks. He doesn’t listen much either, but maybe that’s being a guy more than temperament.

Maybe I’m just boring to be around.

+

I couldn’t concentrate on the movie yesterday afternoon. Before I sat down to watch it, I’d walked out to the mailbox to post two letters. It was colder than I expected — my phone said it was 47°, when I’d thought it would be 60° or so. I should’ve gone back to get my jacket, but I toughed it out. I hadn’t eaten yet, even though it was after 2 p.m. If I’d gone back to get my jacket, I should’ve eaten something too.

The walk was without incident until I returned to our building. I was already thinking about being inside and warming up, eating something, when… I tripped. I tripped up a stone step, fell forward and caught myself with my hands.

If I hadn’t been cold, hungry, and distracted, it wouldn’t have happened. Or I wouldn’t have fallen all the way. I would’ve caught myself.

It felt like I had a scrape on my right palm, but when I looked, the skin wasn’t broken, there was no blood.

I felt like I jammed the ring finger on my left hand. It didn’t hurt a lot, there was no swelling.

So I went back into the apartment, started up the movie.

I had trouble getting into it.

My left hand kept hurting. At some point I realized my ring finger was swelling. In a panic I ran to the bathroom, wetted my finger, wrestled my rings off. Realized I was shaking, that I’d forgotten to eat. Ate something.

Stopped the movie. Texted Spouse. He asked if I should go to Urgent Care just as I was realizing, yeah, I probably need an x-ray. But I don’t think I can drive — what if I bumped my finger further?

He said he would come home. Presumably to take me there, although he didn’t say that. By the time he got home 40 minutes or so later, I was very glad that I didn’t have to figure out how to drive myself there.

I thanked him. I knew this was an imposition: tomorrow, Friday, he had an important photo session scheduled. One that he’d been working hard on preparing for for weeks. I knew he would be distracted, and he was.

Not only did he not open the car door for me, it never seemed to occur to him that he should.

He did buckle my seatbelt both times.

As I checked in with Urgent Care, he watched me fumble with my wallet to get out my insurance card. He did point out that I was about to give the receptionist the wrong card. He watched me fumble with my credit card for the co-pay.

It was only when I was struggling to get the cards back in my wallet that he offered to help.

At no time, either before the appointment or after, did he say anything reassuring.

=

I fractured a bone in my finger, from one knuckle to the next. It’s in a splint for 4-6 weeks. (I broke a different finger, my left pinky, in a catastrophic fall in 2000. I remember how this works.)

My left pinky finger hurts too, but there’s no swelling, and I can bend it easily. They x-rayed my hand, so I have to hope that they didn’t miss an actual problem.

=

When we got back home, I thanked him again. He didn’t say it was no big deal. He didn’t say of course taking care of this is my priority right now. He went right back to getting ready for his thing.

+

There are reasons why I’m as self-reliant as I am, and it’s not that it’s just really fun to be independent.

If I can’t get something done for myself, it’s probably not gonna happen.

I grew up not asking for help because when I did ask for help, people laughed in my face, and then said no. When I struggled with doing whatever it was by myself, they laughed some more. They came together the better to think of amusing insults to lob my way.

=

My first big injury as a kid, I fell off my bike onto concrete when I was seven. I tore a ligament in my wrist, and was in a soft cast thing for six weeks.

I remember telling my last therapist, P, about this incident — I don’t recall what prompted me talking about it. But I do remember her suggesting that my mother would’ve comforted me.

I laughed in surprise. There was no comfort. There was, “stop crying, it can’t be that bad”, even though the pain was agonizing. I got yelled at for not being able to sleep at night.

Talking to P, I suddenly remembered — with my whole body — wandering disconsolately around the basement door/well, holding my throbbing arm, watching my mother doing laundry inside, and ignoring me.

=

Trees can’t hug you, but they don’t tell you to shut up and go away either.

+

I write so I can hear myself, even if no one else is listening. I write so I feel like I’m alive.

But words on a page aren’t enough. I need images. I need movement. I need something that I make happen.

I don’t think I know how to tell stories. Despite all the hundreds of books I’ve read. I don’t understand why some people are cared about while other people aren’t.

I don’t understand it even when I’m watching a movie and I realize that I don’t care about the characters on screen. (Or in a book.)

I don’t understand other people. And they sure as fuck don’t understand me.

Maybe none of that matters.

Reading List 4 of 2017

March 31, 2017

+++

On 2.20.17, I abruptly developed an aversion to poetry, so I haven’t been reading it.

+++

Covers the period from 3.12.2017 through 3.31.17

I/we own 3 of these items. I saw 1 movie on Netflix/Amazon. Baltimore County Public Library system supplied 16 of the books and movies; libraries in other parts of Maryland, via Inter-Library Loan, supplied the other 14.

For Women’s History Month, women.

 

SFF:

  1. Binti by Nnedi Okorafor
  2. Binti: Home by Nnedi Okorafor
  3. Gilded Cage by Vic James
  4. Native Tongue by Suzette Haden Elgin
  5. Native Tongue II: The Judas Rose by Suzette Haden Elgin
  6. Native Tongue III: Earthsong by Suzette Haden Elgin
  7. Passing Strange by Ellen Klages
  8. The Weaver by Emmi Itäranta
  9. Wildalone by Krassi Zourkova

 

Asking big questions:

  1. Examined Life: Excursions with Contemporary Thinkers, edited by Astra Taylor
  2. The Geography of Morals: Varieties of Moral Possibility by Owen Flanagan
  3. Poetic Justice: The Literary Imagination and Public Life by Martha C. Nussbaum
  4. Spirit, Space & Survival: African American Women in (White) Academe, edited by Joy James and Ruth Farmer

 

Films:

  1. Moneyball, directed by Bennett Miller
  2. Holmes, directed by Bill Condon
  3. The Last Starfighter, directed by Nick Castle
  4. Piper, written & directed by Alan Barillaro
  5. The Homesman, directed by Tommy Lee Jones
  6. Victor/Victoria, directed by Blake Edwards

 

Visual culture:

  1. The 50 Most Influential Black Films by S. Torriano Berry and Venise T. Berry
  2. African American Visual Aesthetics: A Postmodernist View, edited by David C. Driskell
  3. Graphic Subjects: Critical Essays on Autobiography and Graphic Novels, edited by Michael A. Chaney
  4. Map Stories: The Art of Discovery by Francisca Mattéoli
  5. Masterpieces of Islamic Art: The Decorated Page from the 8th to the 17th Century by Oleg Grabar
  6. Pretty: Film and the Decorative Image by Rosalind Galt
  7. Teaching Visual Culture: Curriculum, Aesthetics, and the Social Life of Art by Kerry J. Freedman

 

Memoir:

  1. Born Both: An Intersex Life by Hida Viloria
  2. My Autistic Awakening by Rachael Lee Harris

 

Biography:

  1. In the Company of Women by Grace Bonney
  2. LGBT Baltimore by Louise Parker Kelley
  3. Richard Posner by William Domnarski
  4. Showdown: Thurgood Marshall and the Supreme Court Nomination that Changed America by Wil Haygood
  5. Simon: The Genius in My Basement by Alexander Masters [math / Conway’s rival]

 

Fiction:

  1. Unstrung by Laura Spinella

 

+++

Reading List 3 of 2017

March 12, 2017

Covers the period from 2.19.2017 through 3.11.17

I/we own 3 of these items. I saw 6 movies at the film fest; 3 on Netflix/Amazon. Baltimore County Public Library system supplied 20 of the books and movies; libraries in other parts of Maryland, via Inter-Library Loan, supplied the other 8.

For Women’s History Month, women.

 

Films:

  1. All the President’s Men, directed by Alan J. Pakula
  2. Car Wash, directed by Michael Schultz
  3. Es Devlin, Stage Design episode of Abstract: The Art of Design [docuseries]
  4. Florence Foster Jenkins, directed by Stephen Frears
  5. The Governess, written & directed by Sandra Goldbacher
  6. Infinitely Polar Bear, written & directed by Maya Forbes
  7. Kubo and the Two Strings, directed by Travis Knight
  8. Piper, written & directed by Alan Barillaro
  9. Southside with You, written & directed by Richard Tanne [[Michelle Robinson & Barack Obama’s first date]]
  10. Truth*, written & directed by James Vanderbilt
  11. The Way He Looks, written & directed by Daniel Ribeiro [Brazil]

 

20th annual Johns Hopkins University Film Fest:

  1. Apollon, directed by Loic Dimitch [France]
  2. Gleichgewicht [Keeping Balance], directed by Bernhard Wenger [Austria]
  3. Grandmother, directed by Sooean Chin and Hee Won Han [USA]
  4. Guarded, directed by Danielle Naassana [USA]
  5. I Know You Go Dark, directed by Gillian Waldo [USA]
  6. Shark Tooth, directed by Oren Gerner [Israel]

 

SFF:

  1. The City & the City by China Miéville
  2. Cold Magic by Kate Elliott
  3. Home from the Sea by Mercedes Lackey
  4. Unquiet Land by Sharon Shinn

 

Memoir:

  1. Big Bosses: A Working Girl’s Memoir of Jazz Age America by Althea McDowell Althemus
  2. The Ghetto Swinger: A Berlin Jazz-Legend Remembers by Coco Schumann
  3. Hive-Mind by Gabrielle Myers
  4. Hungry Heart by Jennifer Weiner
  5. Traveling with Ghosts by Shannon Leone Fowler
  6. The Way of the Writer: Reflections on the Art and Craft of Storytelling by Charles Johnson

 

Biography:

  1. A Life Discarded: 148 Diaries Found in the Trash by Alexander Masters
  2. Truth and Duty: The Press, the President, and the Privilege of Power* by Mary Mapes

 

Fiction:

  1. The Ambassador’s Wife by Jennifer Steil [AROHO]
  2. The Comet Seekers by Helen Sedgwick
  3. She Rises by Kate Worsley
  4. The Summer She Was Underwater by Jen Michalski [Baltimore]

 

Poetry:

  1. A Second Space: New Poems by Czesław Miłosz
  2. Bone Map by Sara Eliza Johnson
  3. Revising the Storm by Geffrey Davis
  4. River of Words: Young Poets and Artists on the Nature of Things, edited by Pamela Michael
  5. Sleeping with the Dictionary by Harryette Mullen
  6. Time and Materials: Poems 1997–2005 by Robert Hass
  7. Weavings 2000: The Maryland Millennial Anthology, edited by Michael S. Glaser

+++

sisters and sons

March 5, 2017

Today my youngest brother, N, turns 44. I’ve heard he’s living near San Francisco. My last sighting of him was in 2008, at a family wedding; I don’t recall speaking with him.

+

I have few memories of just me and N. The age difference (I’m 6.6 years older) meant, growing up, we didn’t have much in common. He tagged along behind my other brother, D (4.9 years older), afaict, hero-worshipping him. My sister, E (3.7 years older), made a pet of him.

What did I have to offer?

=

I remember helping N study for a spelling bee. (I’d competed in our school’s bee 6th, 7th, and 8th grade; won, in 8th grade.)

Now that I really think about it, that might be the only memory I have of the two of us.

=

I’ve always felt like a Pisces [Water ~ emotions], even though I’m a Leo [Fire ~ passion], and there are aspects of Leo that do resonate.

That affinity for Pisces felt like an affinity for N himself, but… I didn’t know how to express it. I occasionally made obscure comments to that effect that everyone ignored. I wasn’t sure if that was their usual disdain for me, or if I was completely failing to communicate.

As the eldest, I had a completely different growing up experience than my siblings. I don’t remember being an only child (D is 1.7 years my junior), but… I remember having my mother all to myself. I remember her choosing to spend time with me over all others.

I remember the week the 3 of us older kids, all under the age of 5, got the chicken pox.

I remember my mother, pregnant with N, taking me and my father for a walk, and asking my opinion on the 2 names they were torn between for the baby. I cast the deciding vote. (Or so it seemed to my 6 year old self.)

I remember how… everything changed when N was born.

=

{I wasn’t thinking in anything like these terms at the time, I was the usual self-absorbed 6 year old, but} In retrospect, before N was born, I was my mother’s favorite, the Golden Child.

After N was born, I was demoted. I became Cinderella.

D took my place. I wouldn’t be surprised if he doesn’t remember things ever being different.

E, < 4 when N was born, has only ever been competing with D for parental favor, trying to oust him, all these years, as my mother’s heir.

=

When my mother was 8, her youngest sibling, a brother, was born.

She’d previously been “the son her father never had”, the apple of his eye. Not just a tomboy, she was somehow socialized to believe, unconsciously, that she was a boy.

When Mark was born, she was demoted.

But to what? Cinderella, after all, is a girl. My grandfather was still saying, when I spent time with him in my own childhood: “Everyone knows girls are stupid. They’ll never do anything important. Boys grow up to Do Important Things. Girls grow up… and get married and have babies. Nothing that matters.”

Sometimes I really hate my grandfather. If he’d been less of a patriarchal Lithuanian (American! It was his parents who were the immigrants), woman-hating asshole, my mother’s whole life, my aunt’s whole life, would’ve been totally different. My whole life would’ve been totally different.

If he’d tried to outgrow those horrible attitudes… But he never did do it, and he never tried.

And here we are.

=

I’m grateful to whatever gods there might be that my brother D, the only one of us sibs to have children, had 2 daughters and 0 sons. No one was pitted against others, informed “you don’t matter”.

=

I can’t even fault the 8 year old child who would become my mother for retreating back into childhood narcissism, a developmental stage she’d probably just started to outgrow.

But… she never outgrew it. The older she got, the more narcissistic she got.

I think she likely had some Demeter-archetype in her, as a kid — although I doubt it was her primary one (which I can’t even guess at). But the trauma of Mark’s birth and her father discarding her, like she was trash, (I believe) violently transformed that bit of Demeter first into a toxic version of Hera (because Hera’s primary motivator is gaining power), and, ultimately, as a beleaguered wife-and-mother, furthering transmuting into…. Medea.

Medea in the myths went off the rails because her lover mistreated her, so she killed their kids (etc., etc.) to get back at him.

My mother’s Medea-archetype wasn’t punishing my father, but (I’m only just realizing) her own.

Could my mother’s relationship with her father, pre-Mark, have been as emotionally-enmeshed as my early relationship with my mother? (Where child-me was essentially re-parenting her, rather than her parenting me.)

My grandfather was the oldest child of his parents. He was born when his mother was still 15, a very new immigrant, living in coal country Pennsylvania with her husband, my great-grandfather, a man with an explosive temper.

Because mother and son were so close in age, because their husband and father was a raging, violent asshole, mother and son got emotionally enmeshed, and stayed that way all her life.

My great-grandfather was murdered in his late 30s — no one was very sad about it. That made my father “the man of the house” as a teenager. My widowed great-grandmother did remarry, and apparently the stepfather was a kind, gentle person everyone loved. But he was in failing health, and died sooner than he should have.

=

I have such a love-hate relationship with 19th century Lithuanian culture.

As a kid, what I loved about being of Lithuanian descent was… it was different. The city of Chicago and environs housed more Lithuanians than anywhere out of Lithuania, but that didn’t mean that anyone who wasn’t Slavic or Baltic had ever heard of Lithuania.

See, my father is Irish. His parents were the immigrants, in the early 20th century. They settled in Chicago, which not only had a huge Irish population, but… Irish Catholics controlled a lot of the power structure. They still dye the Chicago River green for St. Patrick’s Day! Irish Catholics were policemen. Irish Catholic priests were all over the parishes, and in top posts. Irish pols were part of the Democratic machine: the Daley family, case in point.

When heritage comes up in conversation, you say you’re Irish, everyone knows what that means.

Lithuanian, now, that gave me distinction. My grandparents and their siblings and cousins spoke a language amongst themselves that my mother, aunt, and uncle were never taught (in the usual way of trying to assimilate as fast as possible).

Visiting my grandparents, still living just at the edge of Chicago, we ate foods that were similar to Polish, Ukrainian, Russian, all of which peoples could be found in Chicagoland, but… certainly when we moved out to Naperville, heavily populated with upper-middle-class people trying to appear as WASPy as possible, the trend was to leave all that ethnic stuff in the past.

Not me.

Even as a child, I wanted to learn to speak Lithuanian. I date my fascination with other (human) languages to listening to my grandparents, wanting to know what they were saying.

I didn’t want to learn to cook the foods because they were too time-consuming, too fiddly (too taxing for my limited working memory and executive function), but I sure loved eating them! And with Baltimore’s large Lithuanian and large Jewish populations, if I wait for Jewish holy days, I can get kugelis at our supermarket. (I do miss pierogis. And Lithuanian black bread, slathered in butter.) Gramma really loved poppyseed anything; whenever I see poppyseed rolls, which is often, I think of her. (Can’t stand them myself: the seeds always get stuck in my teeth.)

Whenever my love for Lithuanian-culture-modulated-through-my-Lithuanian-American-grandparents came up, my mother would claim credit for it. Drove me up the wall.

I knew my love for her parents’ culture was just that, her parents’ culture. It was a way of connecting with them, and, at least in my own mind, it was a way of individuating away from my mother.

After all, if I learned to speak Lithuanian, I could speak it with my grandmother, and my mother wouldn’t understand us.

And… I suddenly see that could be why my mother led me on for 3 years about Lithuanian language lessons, only to not arrange for me to take them when I turned 15 (and was, therefore, old enough and responsible enough to stay with my grandmother, travel into Chicago, and learn from Lithuanian nuns).

+

The child version of my mother didn’t want to individuate from my grandfather, and spent the rest of his life trying to return to his good graces.

Child-me didn’t… hmm, I was already an individual, I really was. I was always asking questions (which both my parents found annoying; they gave me more and more books to shut me up). I was curious about everything. Even at 6, I held strong opinions, and I wanted to share them.

After The Fall, what I missed the most was… being listened to. It’s like N’s birth somehow made me invisible, mute.

I wasn’t trying to ‘get back into my mother’s good graces’ so much as I was trying to… return to being a person who is valued by my parents. A person that adults want to spend time with.

=

I don’t remember why we were ever there, and I can’t be sure how old I was, although I think 5 or 6: I remember child-me being in downtown Glen Ellyn a few times with my father, at Mister Donut. I still love cake donuts. He talked to me.

It was just us two, and whomever else was in the shop. No one we knew.

That’s a pattern that would repeat. We do social things, where we mix with people outside our nuclear family, and… I listen to my father. I ask him questions, I learn about him. Depending on the event, as I got older and prettier and smarter, he might ‘show me off’ in a sense. But only to people I would never have access to separate from him: his cousins; his business associates.

He wasn’t mentoring me, or helping me make my way in the world. I don’t know what he was doing.

It was only at an event like that, that my father… might listen to me. He was never curious about my life or thoughts though. I’m not a man.

=

I really can’t escape gender, even though I try to.

Growing up, my gender models were: (women) my mother, Aunt Carol, Gramma Wask, Pam, Kendra, various female relatives; (men) my father, my 2 grandfathers, (stories of) my mother’s grandfather, my father’s brothers, my mother’s brother, male cousins by the busload, various other relatives.

I didn’t feel much like any of them. I definitely didn’t want to emulate any of them. (In the case of people like my father’s father, and my mother’s grandfather, I wanted to stay as far away as possible from their example.)

But… there weren’t any other choices, were there? I gotta be one, or the other.

Even if self-defense, I didn’t think I could attack another person. I was a pacifist, hated arguing. I never threatened anyone.

There was a second possible mode of being a male success: in a trade, or in an office. That would require me to get very skilled at a whole bunch of things I seemed to not be suited for, plus, impress people, which I’ve failed at all my life. So… being a man was obviously out.

The women I spent the most time with, growing up, were obsessed with power, and how they didn’t have it, but they should.

I didn’t care about that kind of power.

I liked being nurturing and helpful, but I didn’t think I was ‘maternal’. I found other children confusing, preferred the company of adults (especially if they were readers).

Girls could be really mean. (My sister for instance.)

So being a woman didn’t fit either. But… always recalling my grandfather’s words about how what girls do “doesn’t matter”, I realized I could hide there. If I failed at being a girl, well, who cares about girls? Nobody. So they won’t hurt me because I failed. I definitely saw boys and men around me being hurt because they were failing at it.

Ultimately, of course, I did fail at being a girl.

I didn’t belong anywhere in a gender binary.

=

What all of this has to do with N will have to wait for another day.

what’s changed

March 5, 2017

For the past 2 years, I’d occasionally run across an old blog post of mine, and marvel at the interesting, insightful things I’d written about. Then I’d look at what I’ve written blog posts about in most of 2015 and all of 2016 and wonder what happened.

I’d feel bad about myself, but I sort of assumed it was partly/mostly because… I was spending almost of all of my emotional energy on Poetry, so there wasn’t anything available for Prose.

Last week, I had a different thought: what if Prose (like Poetry, like music, like a bunch of other creative things I’ve tried) has an essentially-dedicated wellspring? And, it got depleted, needs to be replenished?

In the last week, as it happens, I have had thoughts that seemed like proto-blog posts of old, but none of them quite seemed worth the bother of writing about.

Until this morning.

I woke up 3 times, always with the same image and its words in mind.

=

Waiting for coffee to brew, I pondered, well, what has changed since December 2014? Is there enough stuff that I could, in fact, be in a different place emotionally, and therefore have new and distinct ways to write about my experiences?

+

We moved to a new apartment in November 2014. New neighborhood, but also new town. Not as rural-suburban edge as the old place, but just down the hill from an access trail to Loch Raven Reservoir (a forested park with trails).

We live on a hill. (We sort of did in the old place, but I never thought of it that way. I’m conscious of it now, so much that I look for hills everywhere we go, and actually, our new town is very hilly altogether.)

At the foot of our hill is a lovely spot with boulders that can be sat upon, a flowering dogwood, a little stream. If I walk down there at night, I often see toads and other small critters on the sidewalk or the street. (Once, a snake that had been run over.) In the spring, there are spring peepers in a pond just beyond the trees to the left. A fox crossing into LRR forest. One time that I stayed up all night, then went for a dawn walk, I saw bats gamboling above the hill. Magical.

(I also had a traumatizing encounter with human beings at that spot, late one night in July 2015. I haven’t taken a night walk since. I miss them.)

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Mid-December 2014, I finished my 6 month course of body movement/talk therapy with P. On a sour note. An early conversation with her about my financial situation, I felt, she hadn’t properly understood my point. So I tried again in October. Every single session after that, she tried to ‘convince’ me to continue therapy into the new year — otherwise, without her, I’d “fall apart”.

At that time, Spouse’s health insurance had an unusually large deductible, which had only been met (before I started seeing P) because… I’d had a lot of expensive health issues. We’d also received a windfall of a tax return, and I’d used all of my portion on paying what remained as out-of-pocket for her fees. In October, I’d been adamant about how the money would, in fact, run out by the end of the year (it actually ran out before then, and I had to pay out of my savings).

She didn’t offer a sliding scale. Seeing her once a week meant driving 100 miles; for several weeks, we met twice. (My car is getting old, and, having been unemployed since 2009, I may never be able to replace her.)

I… trusted her too much in the beginning, and (unconsciously) went into a type of boundaryless mode that, unfortunately, I’m prone to fall into with seemingly-Demeter-archetype older women.  Complicating that, I now realize, therapy with P… essentially became a special interest. Obsessive immersion is how that works.           When that involves another human being, it’s very tricky to do without lots of complications. If I’d known I was autistic… But that discovery was 6 months away.

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June 2015, I figured out I was autistic. There was a short flurry (‘cluster’) of blog posts here relating to all of that.

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I met Drabhu.

I have a rather different relationship to them than I had with Tenimah or Anamara.

Drabhu is part of my writing-poems experience, and appears by name in several poems. (Even though I was writing poems when we lived near T and A, it never occurred to me to write about them.)

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I have other named trees here. My practice is for trees to ‘tell’ me what they want me to call them; I don’t pick a name. The maple to Drabhu’s left, at the corner of the sidewalk, is Helena. The tree (haven’t yet identified what type) on the other side of the buildings behind us… they picked “Ada Limón”, like the poet. (I had been musing to myself what a pretty name Ada Limón is, how perfect for a poet, but I haven’t read her work yet. Maybe the tree likes poetry. Maybe they’re a fellow poet.)

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In the old neighborhood, there was a pretty walk I could take down Phoenix Road that deposited me at Gunpowder River State Park. I would scramble under the bridge to get down to the trail by the river, my river. I had a favorite spot I would walk to, curled up at the feet of sycamores at water’s edge, watching my river.

Going to see a… reservoir… it’s not the same. When I think of lakes, I think of Lake Michigan, or Lake Superior. (I grew up in Chicagoland.) Great Lakes, well, it’s right in the name: they’re big enough that they have waves. To me, lakes have waves. Loch Raven Reservoir in no way compares to a Great Lake.

Rivers should move. I changed my name to Meander partly because rivers, partly because rivers moving. (Other reasons too, of course.)

I haven’t yet found a new easy walk or drive to where I can visit with my river. I really need to.

As it happens, last week I was running errands, and detoured onto Phoenix Road. There’s a place you can park and walk down to a different part of the trail, which I did. Someone was sitting at my usual spot! So I continued down the trail until I reached the spot past the bridge.

There is now a buried pipeline not 100 feet from my sycamores, continuing under my river. Fuck. NO DAPL.

{This has become a topic for another day.}

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There’s a ceramics studio nearby. They give classes. I’ve long thought about taking one, but it’s never worked out timing-wise. Now that I have 2 names to put to my muscle issues, I’m… leaning against picking back up a creative activity that requires a lot of punishing stress on my wrists and hands. No matter how much I enjoyed doing it. I was in much better overall health in 2002–03.

But… I’ve revived an interest in sculptural things, more like Calder’s mobiles (which I have loved since childhood).

I have ideas for adding mobile sculptural elements to my studio, although I haven’t quite figured out how to apply them yet…

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My studio!

The first incarnation of my studio, my “green room” (because it had grass green carpeting), began in our house, 1995.

It’s taken me, well, ever since then, iterating, iterating, iterating, to create something that works.

This version’s success, ironically, owes a debt to the traumatizing beginnings of the one in our previous apartment.

Because that experience was so dreadful, and had such lasting effects in all sorts of other parts of my life, I was very careful this time to… set up the bones of the place exactly how I needed them to be. (No interference from Spouse.) The move this time was orders of magnitude easier (<12 miles vs. 600), which meant we could do it in easy stages. But… I kept the studio mostly empty for quite a while, until together we got a sense of how it could be configured.

And now, it’s the most magical spot in the apartment! (Spouse agrees.)

I love spending time in there.

I had kept thinking that “studio” and “writing nook” (now created, in the Big Room) were separate because, well, “art” =/= “writing”.

They’ve been converging, in some circumstances, lately, and… I believe being in this studio while thinking, dreaming, and, yes, writing, is improving what I’m able to do.

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I have a writing nook. Sitting in the green-purple-swirly slipcovered chair, I look out through the balcony doors right at Drabhu. Sometimes at night, I sit there in the dark, looking at Drabhu and thinking aloud. Really good stuff.

Some of its aesthetic elements have, over time, grown to resemble those used in the studio. They’re siblings of a sort. Well, maybe cousins.

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Our bedroom is decorated.

My emotion-color synesthesia means that my aesthetic surroundings are much, much more important than they seem to be for other people. I often write, sitting on the bed, so it’s important that I like being in the bedroom, I like looking around. (That wasn’t true in the old place.)

Spouse has developed decorating opinions. We have some shared elements here, so I’ve worked hard at coming up with configurations we both appreciate.

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This apartment is bigger than the previous one, and is laid out more pleasingly. The old one’s layout was claustrophobic and, frankly, the whole place was just… ugly. It depressed my spirit to be trapped in there.

Here, I’d rather be home than going out. (Unless there are baby leaves and/or flowers outside.)

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I have houseplants again!

Currently, a variegated ivy, an African violet (not flowering), a pot of cacti (not flowering), a cultivated plant I don’t know the name of (tall, blade-like leaves, variegated), 2 small plants transplanted from the 2016 potager — don’t know what kind they are either.

Considering a bigger potted plant for the writing nook. A bonsai for the bedroom. And… someday I’d like to have a little tree again. Maybe a fiddle-leaf fig: their leaves are so cool.

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In September 2015, Spouse changed jobs. He’s much happier, the new place is better run (the old place has been falling apart), the people are smarter and more interesting, he’s learning stuff. His current bosses appreciate him better.

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All of this is more than enough to give me new things to feel about, think about, write about.

Reading List 2 of 2017

February 14, 2017
tags:

Covers the period from 2.1.2017 through 2.13.17

I saw 2 movies on my laptop; 1 on Netflix. 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 25.

 

Poetry:

  1. Appalachian Elegy by bell hooks
  2. Arrivals by David Mason
  3. Before the War: Poems as They Happened by Lawson Fusao Inada
  4. A Bird in the Bush by David Mason Heminway [1961]
  5. The Bird’s Wing: Poems of young Marylanders, edited by Carol Faulkner Peck [1977]
  6. Considerations of Earth and Sky by Temple Cone
  7. Count the Waves by Sandra Beasley
  8. How to Cross a Pond: Poems about Water by Marilyn Singer
  9. Incorrect Merciful Impulses by Camille Rankine
  10. New & Selected Poems by Ron Rash
  11. Persistence: Poems of Warren, Maryland by Ann Eichler Kolakowski
  12. Waltzing on Water: Poetry by Women, edited by Norma Fox Mazer and Marjorie Lewis

 

Socio-linguistics:

  1. Articulate While Black: Barack Obama, Language, and Race in the U.S. by H. Samy Alim and Geneva Smitherman
  2. Biting the Wax Tadpole by Elizabeth Little
  3. Performing the Word: African-American Poetry as Vernacular Culture by Fahamisha Patricia Brown
  4. The Social Art: Language and Its Uses by Ronald K. Macaulay
  5. Word Play: What Happens When People Talk by Peter Farb [1981]
  6. Words on the Move by John McWhorter

 

Films:

  1. Eyewitness ~ Pond & River, dir. Leanne Pooley
  2. The Fargo Project by Jackie Brookner
  3. Finding Dory, dir. Andrew Stanton and Angus MacLane
  4. Jackie Brookner 9-29-15 by Lenore Malen

 

Information Design & Illustration:

  1. Color for Painters: A Guide to Traditions and Practice by Al Gury
  2. Dear Data by Giorgia Lupi and Stefanie Posavec

 

First Nations:

  1. The Creator’s Game: A Story of Baaga’adowe / Lacrosse by Art Coulson [[Anishinaabe]]
  2. Dreaming in Indian: Contemporary Native American Voices, edited by Lisa Charleyboy and Beth Leatherdale
  3. Harper’s Anthology of 20th Century Native American Poetry, edited by Duane Niatum
  4. Winged Words: American Indian Writers Speak by Laura Coltelli

 

Miscellaneous:

  1. [SFF] The Galaxy Game by Karen Lord
  2. Face to Face: Women Writers on Faith, Mysticism, and Awakening, edited by Linda Hogan and Brenda Peterson
  3. Island of Bones: Essays by Joy Castro
  4. Un-American: The Incarceration of Japanese Americans during WW2 by Richard Cahan and Michael Williams

 

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