zadie smith on joy

January 29, 2013

Cheryl Strayed posted a link to this article on FB and I am reposting it because it is an amazing.

Here are some excerpts from Zadie Smith’s insights on joy:

…that strange mixture of terror, pain, and delight that I have come to recognize as joy . .  Until quite recently I had known joy only five times in my life, perhaps six, and each time tried to forget it soon after it happened, out of the fear that the memory of it would dement and destroy everything else.

It doesn’t fit with the everyday. The thing no one ever tells you about joy is that it has very little real pleasure in it. And yet if it hadn’t happened at all, at least once, how would we live?

Joy is such a human madness.



kind of a recounting of my friday night

January 26, 2013

I went for a walk this evening and it was warmer than its been all month and it almost smelled like spring. And on the way back from marching around I saw the moon and it was almost full. I was thinking — possibilities are every where. I walked with my ipod and ear buds in, which is something I hardly ever do, and I sang along with some of my favorite songs and there was about a block or two where I looked at all the trees and the sky and street lights peeking through the branches, and I felt like “holy fuck,” I’m so lucky to be alive and experiencing this very moment, and I almost cried. I mean my eyes teared up and I couldn’t catch my breath. Later on my walk, I spiraled out into some weird anxiety. But I have been all over the map today, in terms of feelings. MTB said that maybe I was dropping the cage around my heart. I hadn’t thought I’d caged my heart in, but I could see where that could be true, too. Anyway, when I got home, I made a tuna fish sandwich with potato chips on it and looked at cartoons in the New Yorker and then I spent the next 5 hours recording. Oh my god, I had forgot how much I love recording and how fucking insane it is. I recorded my guitar track at least 10 times and there’s still some flubs. At some point I poured a double whiskey, which I couldn’t finish all the way. This is the first time I’ve used this Tascam digital 8 track I bought this fall, meaning there was a new gear learning curve. Process, process, process and practice. Somewhere in the midst of the 8th or 9th guitar take, I became aware of how willing I am to be in the process of practicing when it comes to music and I hoped I’d remember the moment so I could apply to every other part of my life that I want to better at, like writing and running and shooting hoops and being less opinionated and not being sarcastic and being better at holding space for other folks hard times and hard feelings. And now it is 1:30am and I should be asleep.

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cold ass portland joy

January 3, 2013

Right now in Portland it’s 35 degrees, but because of the wind it feels like it’s 25. I was standing outside the barber shop tonight trying to get my light attached to my bike and I put my glove in my mouth and after a few seconds I was like, “right, “I’ve been wiping my nose on my glove.” Snot. Its the epitome of winter riding. It was a cold ass cold ride home but because my barber shop gives me out a shot of whiskey with a haircut, I was feeling more badass than ice block. So I made up some songs, one of which I sang the whole way home in a falsetto, inspired by all the 60s and 70s soul music playing at the shop. The song went something like: “I’m a cold ass mother fucker and I’m mother fucking cold.” Best cold bike ride of the season, so far. There are times, like tonight, that riding in the cold or in down pour, can have the side benefit of  feeling like I’m tough as nails. Its an awesome feeling. Thank you whiskey, a high ass voice, a good hair cut, long underwear, lungs, legs, so very little car traffic, and my trusty Long Haul Trucker.

When I got home I turned up the stereo loud and blasted Missy Elliott, Micheal Jackson, De La Soul, Rob Base, Chaka Khan, Salt-N-Peppa and some other shit that made me feel like dancing around my house, like I was getting ready to go out on on a Saturday night. I fed the cats. Lifted weights. Got down with myself between sets. I have no idea what any of this is about. Not gonna analyze it either. Lets call it joy.


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country drives and a strange dream

December 31, 2012

I wish I could go for one of those long country drives tonight, the way I used to do when I lived in Bloomington.  Turn the stereo up on my car and head out on a two laner going south or west or both and look for some interesting smaller road to take and then somehow end up down by Oolitic or over by Spencer.  All the while passing small houses sitting back from the road, with lights on inside and sometimes a dog still outside and barking. Silhouettes of cars and trucks in the driveways. Maybe a 4 x 4.  Maybe a tractor too. A barn every now and then with clumps of trees beside it and clumps of trees behind the house and clumps along the road and fencing stretching out for miles running along side the shoulder until the road crosses another little one just like it and then the fencing turns the corner and everything’s lit up by big pole lights. And the road curves and goes up and down and over little hills and passes small stretches of nothing but maybe a field or what used to be someone’s very small farm. And if it’s clear there would be stars. Not stunning like out here.  More like fireflies, but miles away. And I could drive out in that for hours, singing songs to myself, and getting myself to stop thinking for a little while and then coming home late, after midnight, and not turning on any of the lights in my house and crawling into bed in the dark.

I had a strange dream last night where I somehow cast out 17 or 18 versions of myself onto a small race track and sped all my selves around it, like my selves were human versions of Indycars, low to the ground and lightening fast. And my one version of myself that was most me, stood back and watched and there was a crowd watching too, like in a grandstand. I think I was what they’d come to watch. Because every time I cast out a new me, I’d say, “watch this.”  And the track and grandstand were in a clearing in the middle of the woods that felt very much like the Oregon Country Fair, and like something special was supposed to be happening.  And the more me’s I cast out the more chaotic the race got and the crowd was “oooohing” and “aaaahing.” Finally I said “watch this” one last time and I threw a big metal ball, a ball as big as a car, right out onto the middle of the track and all the Indycar versions of me flew up into the air or skidded into each other or tail spun out while I stood and watched, kind of detached, kind of curious, kind of like, “oh, fuck.” I kept thinking to myself I wonder if I’ll ever be able to put myself back together again.


counting down and thinking

December 29, 2012

Somewhere in the back of my brain I’ve instilled a small voice that says “move,” as in get on your bike, take a walk, go for a run, lift some weights, and amazingly I actually listen to that voice. Cold riding tonight and way dark out, but dry, which made it totally worth the part that hurt a little because of how my hands don’t move on the bike and neither do my toes nor my face cheeks. Unfortunately, with less bikes on the road, drivers seem  more jerkish — passing too close, making quick left turns and cutting me off at the last second, rolling through stop signs — but I got to see the moon and notice the sky and look at some nice holiday lights. An excellent trade off, I think.

Lately, I have been noticing there are sea gulls over here on the east side of town. At first I just spotted one or two in my neighborhood, and that was a couple weeks ago, but then on Xmas I saw a whole bunch on Cooper’s street in NE. I swear I’ve never seen gulls on the east side of the river. I don’t know that it means anything; it’s just interesting.

This year is quickly ending and part of me wants to do something to mark it because it was a year where some big things happened. I have no idea what that would look like, marking it I mean, and maybe I can just say some things in my head and my heart. I don’t know. It’s not my typical m.o. to want to ritualize this kind of thing, but there it is, I might want some outward signs of a big inward year.

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recapping 2012

December 21, 2012

I’ve been starting the thing I do some years, where I look back and reflect on the year that is about to end. Sometimes the process has resulted in making lists of things: books I’ve read, favorite songs or records, highlights I want to remember. The other day, I started a random list of stuff that I’m really glad or grateful happened in 2012 like going to Hawaii, spending a bunch of time with Adele, turning 50, writing poetry, listening to music again, playing music again, lifting weights again, watching the Hoosiers play basketball again, going home to Indiana and spending time with my family and friends, driving Jeremy’s Miata convertible out to Waycross and going to the camp reunion with Howie, Remy moving in my house, getting a note of writing encouragement from Cheryl Strayed, riding my bike at night, doing readings with the Thank You writers and getting to read with Val, making a peach pie and a pecan pie, pickling with A.M., spending 4 days with Martha, spending a weekend with BDF and A.M., spending Thanksgiving break with MTB, spending Halloween and a Mrs dance party with J and MTB, at least 1000 other  MTB moments but I don’t want to be obnoxious about it, fixing up my Dad’s old lighter, fixing up my Bridgestone bike, fixing the railing on the side of the house, taking 100’s of photos from the tram, realizing the tram is magic, realizing I’m not as fucked up as I’d been telling myself forever. I think I could keep going with this, but as it is, I think it’s a a pretty good snapshot, because what 2012 seems to have been about was opening my heart. Tons of small things made that happen and I’ve talked about that a lot in my blog, especially beginning with August – friends, bike rides, sunsets, cooking food, the sky, etc.. But also a couple really big things made that heart opening happen too; one really cracked my heart right open. I’ve mentioned these, but they involve other people and are more private and I don’t talk about them all that directly; mostly I allude to them. What I can say is that everything changed at the end of April and then everything started changing again on a super hot day in the middle of August and then it was like “hell, yes, September.”

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something magical did happen

December 20, 2012

It was cold enough this morning for long underwear on the bike ride in to work. And glove liners. I guess Portland winter is actually here; so now its just a matter of settling in for January and riding it through until sometime in February, which is when spring usually starts. I’m think I’m going to experiment this year with trying to dive into the cold and dark, keep riding my bike and maybe go for some runs, finally rake up the October and November leaves in my driveway and on my front sidewalk and cut a fees things back in the yard.

Yesterday morning when it was snowing, MTB and I walked over to the park near my house. The flakes were big and fat and not really sticking to the ground, but they did hang on a little to the trees and bushes, at least for second or two. Everything seemed like a movie or a photo or like we were somewhere else besides Portland. We walked the paved path that loops around the park and MTB spied a clearing that she said looked like a place where something magical could happen. “Is anything happening?” she asked me as she stood on the grass in the middle of the clearing. At the time I said no, because I suppose I was looking for some big or grand gesture. But when I thought about it later, I thought yes, something magical was happening – it was snowing and MTB and I were out walking in it together, on a Tuesday morning, and she was holding a coffee cup with coffee from my house and smiling big and trying to catch snow flakes on her tongue and no one else was around and if you stared at the snow straight on it looked almost dizzying. And on the way back to my house we saw a big bush with more than a handful flowers still in bloom.

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there was light behind the clouds

December 17, 2012

I went to get my haircut this afternoon and then rode up Mt Tabor.  I hadn’t planned on that kind of ride, but the rain had let up some and the sky was light behind the clouds; I wanted to get out from under the trees to see the white part, which seemed so hopeful to me. Hopeful is not the right word, though. I think I just wanted to know the sun was right there, even if I couldn’t see it. Also, I haven’t been on my bike since Thursday and when I don’t know what to with myself or my heart, I know I should move my body. So without thinking too much about it, lungs and legs worked up the side of the small mountain, which still feels weird to say instead of a giant hill even though I’ve been living out here for 14 years. I geared down and did silent fist pumps for the runners passing me on their way down the mountain, admiring their rock hard thighs and pacing. I smiled at the two big shaggy dogs tied to the side of the truck, probably waiting for their owner to finish taking a piss. Pine needles everywhere and still some orange and red and yellow leaves on a few trees.  I slowed down at the top and looked straight down Hawthorne below me and followed it to the west and to the thin stripe of white above the west hills. I felt like I was in a story book or a dream. Coasted almost the whole way home in the rain, which picked up, soaking my shoes and gloves. And now it’s dark.

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rules for blogging

December 13, 2012

Kinda. Rules. It’s more that I am having a public conversation with myself, which is really what my blog is all about. But anyway I have been “talking” with some friends and my family about the kinds of things I reveal about myself on my blog. Talking may not be the right term; it is probably more accurate to say I have been getting feedback. I think there is some concern that I reveal too much personal information. So I’ve been checking in with myself.

I do have some loose rules I follow about what I post on my blog: 1) don’t talk about work, 2) don’t post things I wouldn’t be willing to share out loud, and 3) respect people’s privacy. I say “loose” rules because every now and then, I mention work in a post. Also, I do occasionally write about other people, but I check in with them if I think I might pushing against the privacy comfort zone.

Mostly, I write about my interior process of figuring myself out, of becoming self-aware, of not taking my neuroses too seriously and working with my fears and anxieties and feeling more alive on some days and less alive on others and wondering why that happens. The personal stuff I write about is about the practice of opening up and potentially connecting with people who read my blog about stuff I’d like to connect about. And trying to say that what’s going on inside of all of us, most times, is not nearly as scary or as crazy as we’ve made it out to be. We’re all beautiful and nuts inside and flawed and amazing too. I’m hoping to capture some of that humanity.

The other thing, specific to right now, is that I am editing out an epic mountain of personal stuff from my blog. Like, for instance, even if I blog right now about my 50.5 birthday, which is not something I ever thought of celebrating (but MTB got on the band wagon, insisting that 50 is a big deal and she missed getting to celebrating it with me) I am going to edit the crap out of the how that went down. I will just say the whole thing blew me a way, a knock out in the first round but I stood back up. A week later I’m still trying to take it all in because there was – so. much.

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showing up and doing this thing

December 12, 2012

Late last night I walked outside for a second to get something from my car and the sky was amazing. Clear, blue black filled up the large space right above me and a big pile of ghost clouds were gathered off to the north. I though about MTB sitting on her porch earlier and wondered if she saw the same thing or if maybe she was looking out from under the ghost clouds to where its clear. Hard to to judge sky distance and what exactly was above her, but I imagine it was something amazing too. This morning, riding into work, the clouds were stretched out across the sky with streaks of deep, clear blue riffling through, making those first 5 to 10 minutes on the bike so sweet. I found myself riding a little slower, looking around, thinking about all the amazing sky things I get to see on my bike, wishing I didn’t have to go to work and could just ride around in it and knowing I probably wouldn’t be up this early and be riding around if I didn’t have to go to work. (A tenable contradiction). In the 20 minutes it took me to get to the bottom of the tram, the clouds had grown thick and had covered up the sky. Looking out to the east as I rode up the hill in the tram cabin, it was mass of  various shades of grey. No pink peeking through. No glimpse of an almost undetectable strip of clear blue. Car lights snaked across the Ross Island bridge. Downtown sparkled. The Willamette trailed off into the big trees and an almost mist, looking like something the pioneers might have seen.

I felt so lucky like that I was up and awake last night and this morning to see the sky the way it was, looking kind of magical. Ever since the end of August, Friday August 17th to be exact, I have been so aware of moments like these, of showing up for something, even if I didn’t know at the start what I was showing up for. And now I am doing this amazing thing. And it’s like I just keep opening the door and saying, come the fuck in.


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