nothing much

April 18, 2011

April is half over. I don’t know why, but that seems strange. The way time has passed this whole year has felt weird. Everything seems to march on and then something happens and a little window opens up and time feels kind of suspended. It’s like how on a Monday or Tuesday I feel like I’m just getting through it with, but on a Friday or Saturday I feel like there’s something to savor.

I heard some good music tonight and it was exciting. It always is the first time I hear something I really like that I’ve never heard before. Plus, it seems like it’s been a year since I really listened to anything new. Or really listened to much music at all.  I think I’ve been listening more to NPR shows than I have to music, which makes me feel kind of old in a cliched way and cut off from myself.

I’ve been getting things done lately, which feels good. Nothing big, just lots of small things I’ve put off, like cleaning the furnace filter and weeding and clearing off the top of my dresser. I cleaned out the raised beds in the backyard today, which was very satisfying, and planted kale, collards, leeks and turnips. I’m hoping all this doing stuff will lead to me doing bigger things,like submitting for publication some poetry and the story from my chapbook and trying to sell some songs. I think that’s the first I’ve said that in public.

I stopped reading Anna Karenina, at least for the time being. Maybe I’ll try again this summer. I’m struggling to stay on top of my New Yorkers, but I’m hoping to get around to something more meaty soon. I feel kind of self conscious about not being a more prolific reader.

The days are noticeably longer. It’s nice. It feels better than short days.

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there & back

April 15, 2011

I’m back from the shortest trip home I’ve ever taken. It was kind of intense and much sadder than I had expected, although I’m not really sure what I was thinking would happen. The sadness stems from lots of things, but mostly I think it’s about getting older and time passing and living a couple thousand miles away from my family and being part of how some people cope with some things and being totally apart from how other people cope with other things. And of course there’s just plain old grief over someone I loved so much dying.

The funeral was sincere and straightforward and heartfelt. The songs were perfect. Heartbreaking but perfect. I could barely sing for crying. And the eulogies were so personal and moving. My uncles and my mom did an amazing job of planning a service that was about all of us and my grandmother, which is really hard to do and I’m incredibly grateful they did it. They made  rituals matter in a personal way. For instance, I was one of the pall bearers and it meant a lot to me that my family was willing to break with tradition to include me in that. I can’t articulate why, but I really wanted to help carry my grandmother’s casket to her burial plot.

Other things happened too while I was home. Even when someone dies there’s not just death. There was the sound of thunder and seeing lightening from the plane and the sunny skies the next day, with the temperature rising to almost 80 degrees. My mom and I got to spend a big chunk of time alone together and it’s been a while since we’ve done that. We ate at Steak and Shake and did errands and we laughed at ourselves a lot. I also got to go to my Aunt and Uncles 50th wedding anniversary and see all my cousins on my mom’s side and hang out with Ty and have lunch with my dad’s oldest cousin, Pattie and her son John and his wife Becky. Pattie called everyone deary, which seemed very sweet. We talked about family history and they told some stories I’d not heard before.

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2 years + 2 weddings + 2 funerals

April 6, 2011

About 3 weeks ago my grandmother died. I’m coming home for a very short trip to see my family and attend the funeral and burial.

My grandmother, who we called Mammaw, turned 100 this past December. There was a big family party. My sister and I sent flowers. Mammaw lived for a couple months after that and then passed away on the eve of my mom’s 79th birthday.

Mammaw helped raise me and my sister, along with a whole group of people, most of whom are dead now. Growing up I would say that Mammaw had backbone. That’s the best way I can explain it. She gave us structure and order and consistency. That’s the big umbrella under which everything else with her existed — all the summer trips, all the holidays, all the dinners and the desserts — everything she did for us and she did a lot.

“C’mere kiddo.”  I just remembered how Mammaw used to say that to me or my sister or one of my cousins.  Even when we were grown. She’d say it and pat the arm of her chair or the spot beside her on the couch.

With her gone I feel a little more untethered, a little more ungrounded, and less like myself. Which may explain why last night as I was trying to fall asleep, I thought about dying. Usually, when I think about dying I think about who gets left behind and how really fucking hard that can be. But last night I just got so scared of dying myself, that I shot up out of bed. I slept horribly after that and all day at work I couldn’t quite shake the sadness or fear. Riding the tram up to OHSU this morning I thought this is the weirdest fucking thing, riding this tram up a hill to go to a job.

I know that alot of my fear of dying comes from not knowing what’s going to happen and not trusting that it will turn out to be anything good. For the last ten years or so I’ve been working on trying not to take that line of thinking so seriously.

On the way home I made myself look at the river and the grass and the trees, especially all the ones that are blossoming right now. I remember going for a hike once with Ty when I was feeling really sad and he kept saying things like look there’s the sky and look there the trees or there’s a bird or there’s a flower.

When I’m feeling optimistic or a little enlightened I like to think that nature is telling us something about living and dying. We talk to mystics and repent and pray and do tarot and augury and gather data and do science experiments and conduct research, but maybe it’s really as obvious as the cycle of life and death, as hard as that is to say without wincing because of how the term got commodified by Disney and Elton John. But it is always happening in the natural world around us. Maybe we are all just like leaves. Leaves that can kill and torture each other, but still leaves. Or maybe we are more like volcanoes. Or big gay rainbows. I don’t know. It’s a pretty simple view, but I’ve been wondering for a while now if we just make things too complicated with our big and under-used human brains.

We have a guest at our house this week, a Buddhist nun, which is different story, but I’m bringing it up here because when I got home from work I was surprised to discover our guest had set out a treat for me — a small tart with a note telling me to “enjoy,”  accentuated by a little hand drawn smiley face. It was such a really nice surprise that I forgot my angst long enough to think of something else besides dying and being sad and wishing I didn’t waste so much time.

I thought about the last time I went home and how it was warm and sunny and Becky and Jeremy were getting married and I met PJ and Nash and ran into Ty in Indy and how I got to spend time with so many people who are so dear to me. And I thought about about how the time before that, I’d come home for Ned and Kristy’s wedding and how I loved being with everyone there and seeing fall again in Indiana and how sweet it was that Rachel and Pat let me tag along with them flying home and getting around Indy and down to Bloomington and back to the airport.

I’ve not posted for a while because I’ve not known what to say about anything. There has been so much destruction and upheaval and so much suffering these last several months. And there seems to be a mean spirited climate taking over US culture, at least when it comes to looking out for each other. And I want to say something meaningful about all of it, about how life is precious and how there is so much pain in the world and how if you can do something for someone that will make things better, then do it.

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