Friday, February 1, 2013

Happy New Year (A Little Late)

New Years always makes me a little nostalgic - that's why I didn't post anything until now. I had nothing new to say. I don't really get into "new beginnings" the way a lot of people do. I miss things.

And while I haven't quite figured out my post-grad life, I have figured out one thing: I miss stability. I miss routine. I miss expectations and rules.

Eventually I'll get some of that back. I'll find a job. Outside of that, though, my expectations are low. I am scared of having a family, and I have very little hope for marriage. I'm not saying that this is a permanent thing; I'm just saying that right now I find very little comfort in the idea of attachment or reliance. Marriage - which has heretofore felt like a haven (still something you have to work for, don't misunderstand, but a safe space nonetheless) - makes me feel claustrophobic, stressed. I don't know what to do with that.

Fear not, though, dear readers. All shall be well, and all shall be well, and all manner of things shall be well.

I'll find faith in something.

Monday, December 31, 2012

Road Trip

So we are currently about halfway through our last roadtrip of 2012 / our first roadtrip of 2013. We started in Provo, made it to Roswell, then Austin, Baton Rouge, and New Orleans. It has been very great. Stressful, as travelling in close proximity with other people has become lately, but good nonetheless.

I'm just going to document today because I'm sort of sleepy and it is most fresh in my mind. Also, it was the busiest day we've had [only an hour and half drive each way!].

We woke up at 8:30, had home-made pancakes, and high-tailed it out to New Orleans.

Our dear GPS, in an effort to find us a parking lot [which, if you stayed longer than 8 hours cost $50. FIFTY DOLLARS], led us on a drive right down the middle of the French Quarter. We parked in the expensive lot and walked down to the Gumbo Shop for lunch. I ordered a blackened-catfish po'boy, and other people got seafood gumbo, chicken gumbo, and artichoke soup. Mine was SO GOOD. I love seafood. Our waitress was very kind, very caring. She also pegged Jared as a heavy-drinker. Much was made of this assumption throughout the rest of the day.

An aside: EVERYONE here is so nice. Really. They're all concerned and want to help out as much as they can. It's sweet. Also, I've said "God bless" about a hundred times, and it feels very good and is always met with an "And t'you."

When we got out of the restaurant, we went to a square a few blocks away where a great jazz band was performing and an old man danced with his cane while a street-sweeper danced with his broom. I got a tarot card reading from an old black lady, and she was very nice. I drew the emperor, the queen of swords, the knight of cups, the lovers, the VII of wands, and the Judge. I'll talk about what that all means in a later post. Here it sufficeth to say that I don't disagree with a single word the psychic said. [Also, I here state my regret that I didn't get my palm read by a guy called Angelic Jeffy].

After that we wandered around, then found the French Market. We ate Gator-on-a-stick [I had one bite and nearly threw up; it was so oily] and pralines. We found lots of masks, lots of trinkets, and I saw a famous person [Roy, from The IT Crowd, if you wanted to know]. It was great. My Bacon-number is probably a two or something now.

Anyway. We worked our way North towards the City Park which was huge and beautiful. We ate beignets and went through part of a sculpture garden. We climbed on a tree and played truth-or-dare.

By the time we'd made it back, it was barely 6, and everyone on Bourbon Street was drunk as a skunk. We tried to go to Preservation Hall, but it wasn't yet open [and was also sold out]. So we wandered back to the car.

We got out unscathed, and went to Whataburger for dinner. Many jokes were made about the name. Then we went and saw Les Mis and I wept like a child [I don't even know who I am anymore]. On our way back home we saw a horrible horrible car wreck. I am heartsick.

The day ended [and the year began] with a slice of blueberry cheesecake, and all is quiet and calm.

My wish and focus for 2013: That all shall be well, and all shall be well, and all manner of things shall be well.

NB: Things I will further address in a later post maybe - first, my tarot reading; second, the fact that New Orleans is a highly sensuous city, and I spend all my time trying to pretend I am not human; third, Les Mis].

Friday, December 14, 2012

Revisitation I

Going through my blog post page, I realized that I maybe have more unpublished posts than published ones. So I'm gonna go through and post some of them, just for fun. Most of the time they're incomplete thoughts, but not always.

Here's one:

Pancakes (20 September, 2010)

It's past eleven, and I'm eating pancakes. I've been craving them since the Timp hike a couple weeks back, and only just barely got around to making some. The door stands open to the sounds of crickets and obnoxious laughter a few apartments down.

I think I sometimes have a hard time relating to people.

Monday, December 3, 2012

Losing it

So loss seems to be a common theme for lots of people in my life: loss of love, loss of family, loss of religion, etc. etc.
It's like that poem says - "The art of losing isn't hard to master."

I'm a little harried at the moment, writing papers etc. Plus I don't feel like hashing out my present crises of faith and friends on the internet just yet.

Instead, here are three well-written things I've read this semester that are all about loss:

"And that's when I know it's over. As soon as you start thinking about the beginning, it's the end."
-Junot Diaz, This is How You Lose Her

"Appalled, the child watched the quarrel mount and spread. He began to cry quietly, to himself, knowing that it was a different weeping to any he had experienced before, that he was crying for a different pain. And the child began to understand that they were different people; his father, his mother, himself, and that he must learn sometimes to be alone."
-Leslie Norris, "Blackberries"

"Now I come home from work and look for his regular-size shape walking and worrying and realize, over and over, that he's gone. I pace the halls. I chew whole packs of gum in mere minutes. I review my memories and make sure they're still intact because if he's not here, then it is my job to remember. I think of the way he wrapped his arms around my back and held me so tight it made me nervous and the way his breath felt in my ear: right."
-Aimee Bender, "The Rememberer"

Saturday, November 17, 2012

Turn and Face the Strain

Fall is just about gone. Everything is dead or dying, and when someone comes in from outside you can smell the cold on them.

So, now is the winter of our discontent.

Things have been very strange, as of late. I'm working on a restructuring, and while I think it'll be good in the long run, right now I'm feeling pretty terrible.

See, there used to be this place where I was always happy, and then that place outgrew me [or I outgrew it?]. And now I have a gaping absence where once was a loving presence, and oh how it aches.

This is a challenging time, you guys. In a few weeks, I'm going to graduate. And while I'm very much looking forward to living a more self-designed life, I'm also filled with trepidation. My confidence in my ability to handle people is waning, and my gosh - do you realize how big the world is?

Also, I sometimes joke about existential crises. I'm not really having one, but I am having something that might grow up to be an existential crisis. Over the last month or so, I have been mistaken for another person again, and again, and again. I'm tired of it. I know that I am being emotional and overly sensitive at the moment, but if it happens again I might break down and start weeping uncontrollably.

I know. I should be an adult. I should shrug off these repeated cases of mistaken identity. But, really, my own identity is the only thing I have that is ultimately preservable - the choices I make, the things I think, and the way I act. And when the Other takes that from me - writes me off as someone I have never been and will never be - I am terrified and angry. I know it isn't done intentionally, but I'm past the point of caring. It was funny the first five times. Now I'm questioning the fundamentals of my own personhood. And I hate it more than I can even put into words.

I. I. I.

I'm afraid to gaze too long into the abyss, you know?

Because, I mean, I'm still here.

Tuesday, November 13, 2012


The woman on the lawn is dying of cancer. She and her husband stand close together, not speaking. She gestures up at the roof, and both stand staring a while longer. They stand still, so still, as the cells inside her belly multiply and divide - squirming to fill all the empty space. She is being consumed from the inside out, starting with what makes her woman, and ending with what makes her human. And while her insides churn into oblivion, she stands outside so still, almost-but-not-quite touching the man for whom eternity will not come soon enough.

After a while she turns into the house, leaving the warm Sunday thickness. He stands a few moments longer, then picks up a rake - still in his church clothes - and begins swiping feebly at the gutters, or at something no one can see, weary of urgency.

Monday, November 5, 2012


Today I have a bit more time, so I'm going to try to do some more synthesis than just detail vomit.

Something about shivering in wet clothes on a bus is remarkably enlightening.

I haven't really been privy to a lot of revelation in my 22 years. I'm not one for epiphanies, generally. I used to want to live in some sort of mystical state of perpetual discovering, but that dream died a while ago [though more recently than I might admit]. Now, I sort of go through life learning, but not being astounded at the context, if that makes sense. I used to avidly seek transcendence everywhere; now I just wait to be surprised by it.

And I got just such a surprise today, coming home from a tour of the Southern Coast of Iceland.

We started the day early, getting on our transport van while it was still dark. We met the actual bus outside of Kex hostel, several blocks away from our hotel. There were several others taking the tour with us - a pair of Russians, a pair of Danes, two girls out of Sydney, two other girls who looked Singaporean, a boy from Hong Kong, and a dread-locked coupled who sounded American. Once we'd all loaded onto the bus, we headed out of Reykjavik on the Ring Road, just as the sun was coming up.

[For those of you who aren't aware, the Ring Road is the one road that goes all the way around the outside of Iceland. If you drive on it long enough, you'll end up back where you started.]

As we were leaving the city, our guide, Ragnar, told us various things about Iceland - about the geothermal energy they use for heating and power, about the traffic in Reykjavik, about the volcanic range we were driving through. He spoke with a beautiful and delicate cadence [I've fallen head over heels for Icelandic and its accent], and I sort of drifted in and out of sleep. The flat, brown grass fields swept by the window, stretching on forever.

We reached our first stop - Seljalandsfoss - after an hour or two. We all got out and stomped through the mud to take a few pictures and to shiver in the waterfall's mist. Fifteen minutes later, back on the bus. Another half an hour down the road, we got out and did the same thing for Skogafoss. It was pretty, and I've got pictures to prove it.

If I sound apathetic, I don't mean to. Or maybe I do, but in strange way. I wasn't moved like I wanted to be. Elisa and I have been talking about this ever since we arrived: something about this whole trip has felt remarkably dream-like. I'm in the country I've wanted to visit for ages, I saw Sigur Ros play their first Icelandic concert in four years, I snorkeled in glacier runoff, and I am nonplussed. None of this feels like it really connects to my life. It's not that I haven't loved every second of this trip. I have. But I don't feel like I'm feeling it as intensely as I should. I'm awash in a sea of just general happiness. I want to be lost in a world of manic enthusiasm all the time - I really do - but you can't force that sort of excitement. So I have to be content with contentment.

Anyway, back on the road, we headed towards Solheimajokull - the glacier that provides a lot of Reykjavik's power and water. We spent a lot longer here - more than an hour. As we drew close to the base of the ice-wall, Ragnar and I started talking a little. Mostly we just chatted about the weather, our trip, and the presidential election. He told me about his job as a tour guide, his frustrations and appreciation of it. As we talked, we walked across a field of ice that hadn't been exposed for 1000 or more years, crunching over black sand and volcanic ash.

On the bus with wet jackets and cold hands, we continued on along the road. We stopped in Vik, walked around the Strikerie [the knitting warehouse] and dropped off the two Singaporean girls at the hostel there. Then, onto the Ring Road again.

Our last stop was at Reynisfjara - the black sand beaches. By this time, the wind and rain had picked up. After a cold ten minutes huddled in a rocky cave looking out at the ocean, we straggled  back to the bus. We shed our dripping jackets and slumped into our seats. The rain had completely soaked my bottom half, and my sweater was pretty damp, too. So I sat shivering, mentally preparing myself for the three to four hour ride back home.

Driving by some old ruins, Ragnar started talking about Iceland's history - the sagas, the wars, the golden ages. I sniffled and stared out the window. Eventually, his started talking about the rocks of Iceland - about the elf rocks of Iceland. My interest was piqued.

For those of you unfamiliar with Icelandic culture, elves and magic play a huge role. Hossi mentioned a few days ago that in Reykjavik today there are still big boulders that people refuse to move for fear of upsetting the elves that live inside of it ["I mean, you'd think, 'It's 2012, move the ****ing rock,' right? But no." as he put it]. It's a part of the culture that seems immovable.

Apparently the elves have become a sort of series of warning stories for children: don't lie to the elves, don't break a promise to the elves, respect the elves, OR ELSE. This is the story Ragnar told as an example [read it with an Icelandic accent, and say "an" instead of "a" in all cases]:

"Once, in a village, the young men would all go gather eggs on one day in spring. They would take boats out to a small island and climb and gather eggs all day and then return home. One year, the boys all went to the island and gathered eggs, but one of them went missing. He did not return home with the others. People in the village were sad, but these things happen. Then, in exactly one year, the boys went back to collect more eggs. On the island, they found the boy - and he looked healthy and in good condition. He helped them gather eggs all day, and then he came back to the village with them in the boats. The people were surprised, but they didn't say much about it. A few days later they all went to church, as they usually did, and when they came out, there was an elf-queen with a basket. She wanted to the returned-boy to take the basket but he wouldn't! She said, "You promised me that our child could be raised with men!" but the boy still kept refusing the basket and pretending he didn't know what she was talking about. So the elf-queen cursed him, and he took off running towards the ocean, and it looked like he was getting bigger and bigger all the time, and when he jumped into the ocean, he turned into a whale. Then he swam up to a fjord where men fish, and began to attack all of the fishermen. The problem got so bad that the men called upon a priest who could do magic - he was a very religious man. He went down to the fjord with his wooden stick, tapping it on the ground. And he tapped it and the whale followed him. And he tapped it up a river, and the big whale squeezed in and followed him up the river. Then they came to a big waterfall, 200 meters high. It's very high, but not much water - like a shower! The priest climbed up the rocks beside the waterfall, tapping his stick, and the whale struggled up the waterfall, too. Then, the whale got to the top of the waterfall and fell into a lake at the top and died. And to this day you can still see big whale bones in a lake on top of the waterfall, 200 meters above the sea-level. So that is why you never break a promise to the elves, and especially not to the elf-queens. And there you see is a story of the elves, and as for me, I've never seen an elf. I don't need to. I think as long as there are children in Iceland, there will be elves."

Now, something - I'm not sure what - really hit me about that legend. For a few minutes, Ragnar wasn't an old bus-driver, but a preserver of culture - a storyteller.

At the next gas station, Elisa started talking with him about Njal's saga. He smiled and launched into a history lesson about the height of culture during the time of the vikings. When times were good, when weather was good, when crops were good, people made art. They had peace. That was the golden age.

Back on the ring road for the last time, I started thinking about stories. Ragnar had invited me into a beautiful part of his culture by simply telling an old-wives tale. But why? What about that simple story pulled me into Iceland  more than anything I'd seen or heard before?

I don't know if I have a simple answer. I don't think there can be a simple answer. Sharing isn't about simplifying. It's about communing. Like the very road we drove today, if you go on long enough, you'll end up where you started again. We're all moving on the same cycle, just riffing on the theme. Stories are necessary because the harmonies and synchronicities they breed are what make life worth living.

I could stand to do better in regard to that. I have intense anxieties, sometimes, that the things I'm sharing are inane or irrelevant. But no story is really irrelevant, right? An orchestra losing any piece suffers. So I'm going to try to be better. That is what Iceland has given me, above all else: a reassurance that my voice is welcome.  Yes, I walked on a glacier and I tasted the salt from mist in the harbor and I saw the northern lights dancing in the sky above Harpa [which was all alight with its own northern lights]. But the simple experience is only mine until I pass it on. It needs to be shared to really mean something.

So, I hope you've enjoyed my posts about Iceland. Maybe they were a bit sporadic or lacking polished eloquence, but that is inconsequential.

I've consecrated them. For you.