Thursday, August 21, 2014

my big, white bed

I know I'm getting older because I don't take as many pictures of myself. I don't really like the way I look in them anymore. Don't get me wrong, I don't think I'm ugly. It's just I no longer think I'm pretty enough to warrant being the sole subject of a photo.

But I still take just as many pictures, which has put the load squarely on:
There are a lot of very pretty bloggers out there. Has anyone else noticed that? I daresay there seems to be a correlation between being pretty and skinny and having a popular site.

Sometimes I poke around on those big famous blogs and I've noticed that they all have a few things in common. 

One is cheekbones. Cheekbones and adorably mess hair. 

I don't have cheekbones unless I am sucking a viscous liquid through a straw, and believe me when I say that when someone near me has a camera, I rush to find a drink.

Another thing these very famous blogger all have is a big, white bed. White everything! White sheets, white comforter, white pillow cases over white pillows and a big white wall behind them. There's usually something to decorate the wall, something minimal, like a bone or a feather or a thread. 

The bed makes the big blogs a lot. There are a disproportionate number of pictures of the bed, sometimes with curly haired toddlers messed up in the sheets, or tiny swaddled infants sleeping right there in the center.  

I don't have any kids, but nothing was stopping me from having that big white famous-blogger bed. Colors? Patterns? Not in my house! Not anymore! 

I found all the white linens at TJ Maxx. Then I set it all up and called a few friends to brag about my big, crisp, immaculate white bed.  

"That sounds risky," they said. (I tend to night-eat. And other reasons.)

But I am a grown up so I didn't worry. 

I had a great first night in that bed, in my new bedroom in our new house, although I was almost too excited to sleep. I stared at the ceiling for a while, imagining the fame that was waiting for me right around the corner, now that I had this effortlessly minimal existence. The next morning morning I planned to drink a little cup of coffee on a big wooden table. Later in the afternoon I'd busy myself by placing a sprig of white flowers into a mason jar. 

But instead, I made the bed the next morning and found blood. Little spots of blood randomly dotting the sheets and the duvet cover.

First, the anger hit. Then the frustration. Then the fear. Did that blood come from me?? How? When? From where? CANCER?


Dave came home that night and I sat him down and solemnly explained the situation. I did not go into detail about my hopes and dreams regarding the white bed, and how they were all dead now. He wouldn't understand. I focused instead on how it was probably me who was bleeding, from an unknown orifice, at an unknown hour, and the big bad things that lay in store for me.

He studied my face for just a moment. Then he pulled up his pant leg and showed me the scab on his leg. "I picked at it all day long yesterday," he said. "It was really bleeding."

I was really relieved. But the fact remains that my white bed didn't even last one night. I decided to dab at the the spots with my Shout Pen, but not to pull the sheets off and wash them. Wrestling my feather comforter into that duvet cover AGAIN is too much. It's too much. 

No kids, no white bed, no cheekbones. And not as much to write about these days, because I'm back in school. Back to being the star of Asheville Buncome Technical Community College. 

That's right. 

I don't know who I am anymore.

Thursday, August 14, 2014

all in a week

First week back in Asheville after a while, first 'all in a week' after a really long while.

1. a short, sweet visit with Charles and Sarah 2. late summer afternoon on the river 3. fitting in as many long, woodsy walks with the dog as I can before school starts 4. solo art show by the talented Kati Bird 5. back on the bike at bent creek 6. breakfast at Sunny Point 7. rewards after long days of house projects 8. farmers market haul 9. wine wednesday with all. of. the. dietitians. 

Tuesday, August 12, 2014


Every time I leave my childhood home in Vermont, my heart breaks.

And instead of getting easier as I grow farther and farther away from the time I actually lived there, it's getting harder. Much harder. This time, as I pulled away after a luxurious three week visit, I could barely stand it. And I've never had so much to return to, such a complete and comfortable life waiting for me back home.

I've left Vermont before to return to shitty apartments, shitty men, zero employment, a far away city in the depth of a dark, rainy winter. Not this time. Dave owns the house that I live in; a lovely home that we have poured so much time, money, energy and creativity into. Asheville is, in many way, idyllic, and very well suited for my life. It looks like I could be here for a long time. My family even makes comments about joining me down here in a few years.

Which is exactly why it's so difficult to leave New England. Because I feel something completely new, something so unsettling I try and immediately banish the thought from my head, but I know it could be true. That my days of having this base- this huge, beautiful stretch of land with the house and the fields and the woods, the place that had such a stronghold on me when I was a kid that it nearly haunts me today, could be numbered.

I repeat the same prayer every time I drive away, although prayer is the wrong word. It's not a request, it's a command. To my parents, to my aunts and uncles who live with us on the hil.

Don't get old. Don't get sick. Don't sell the land. 

But I can't hold anyone to that.
I've been home in North Carolina for a week now, and felt so homesick and dreary that I've tried slapping myself across the face, hard, just to snap out of it. I have slept in till noon every day, which I have not done in over a year. I'll rouse myself, go into my new kitchen, look around the house and feel so unworthy and miserable at my own terrible, ungrateful emotions.  Caffeine doesn't help, and I'm sure exercise would but I can't seem to do anything besides take the dog for a walk twice a day. I feel so bodily tired all day long. 

But today I got tired of feeling tired, so I decided that I would do something. And then something else, and something else, until the day was over and I could go to sleep. That was a tool I used when I was battling depression over a year ago, back when I had so many reasons to feel sad. I decided back then that it was okay to feel miserable, but I may as well be productive. I would make lists of things to do at the beginning of the day (which, for me, was around noon) and then go about accomplishing those things, with no anticipation of feeling happy while doing it. I did a lot of writing, making sea glass necklaces and writing letters and even finding and fixing and selling a lot of my old clothes. 

At the end of it all, I at least found myself feeling accomplished, and satisfied, if not dreamily content. I had a little more space, a little more money, and it was much easier to load up the car and drive across the country to start a new life in Asheville. 

This morning I threw a french press of weak coffee down the drain and actually did some research on how to make it actually have taste. I listened to The Hunger Games (I'm a little behind the times on that one) and it swept my mind away and into the arena as I roasted a pan of tomatoes and garlic for tonight's dinner. Then I left the house, still feeling flat but with plenty of energy, and came back with tape and chalkboard paint. I painted an entire wall in the kitchen, which effectively transformed the room and gave me a bolt of satisfaction so strong it edged on triumph. 

Later on that day, Hometeam and I walked into West Asheville, and found the weekly farmer's market set up on the end of our road. 

Farmer's markets, and the people who run them and inhabit them, are the same no matter where you are. Asheville, Seattle, Norwhich Vermont. So as I picked out cherry tomatoes and corn and a big, bright bouquet of flowers in autumn colors, I felt myself relax a little bit. I felt at home. Not a home that can pinned down on a map, but home as an abstract, a space inside your head that feels familiar, and hopeful, and good. 
But to all of you family who are reading this from the big green fields in New England, my message to you is still the same.

Don't get old. Don't get sick. Don't sell the land. 

Friday, August 8, 2014

Mr. Moon and the Outdoor Shower

I wake up late in the afternoon, which I do not like. It's a real nuisance, starting the day with an enormous dent in it. For a few minutes I lie there, unmoving, wondering what it was that kept me up so late the night before.

Dave and I had been at a baseball game with his friends. Our local team is called the Tourists. Their mascot is a balding geriatric with a balloon face named Mr. Moon. The Wellness bumble bee shows up from time to time, handing out pamphlets advertising Sisters of Mercy Urgent Care Center and pretending to eat popcorn. It's one of my favorite things to sit behind first base and watch as Mr. Moon and Wellness Bee wobble about and interact with children.

I didn't know this before, because I never attended a sporting event in Seattle, but minor league baseball games are not really about the game at all. They are about watching all the little things that go on between innings. Three legged races. Eating dippin' dots ice cream of the future. Two high school girls racing to pull a frozen T-shirt over their heads. Things like that.

We got home around ten and I took an outdoor shower. Then we went to bed and I lay there for hours, watching the ceiling fan spin in the dark.

Last night was my third night in the new house. The place still smells like paint and wood varnish, and the bathroom is unfinished- you can stand on the slate floor and look down into the basement through the holes. But it's our place, that we live in together.  I've never lived with a boyfriend before, not officially. That could be one reason I stayed awake for so long, my thoughts too fast and too vivid for midnight. I know I want to be here, because I've wanted to live with Dave since we started dating. But do I know how? Does anyone?

I mean, which one of us does the dishes?
At the start of the summer I went out to Montana. It was my high school reunion; not for my class (I graduated in a class of two) but for anyone who ever went to the Academy. We met up for a long weekend at the Cinnamon Lodge, a cluster of wooden cabins outside of Yellowstone. We watched old movies from our trips, went kayaking on the Gallatin and drank Montana Mules at a roadside bar. One afternoon, we sat in a circle and talked- for the first time since the news became public thirteen years ago- about the charismatic man who started our school, the kayak team, the summer camps, the whole Adventure Quest world that we inhabited for years together. We call him PK, and he is slated to get out of prison this fall. 

He has a new title now. "High risk registered sex offender with a predatory history and reputation for manipulation." Officially. And he will most likely be furloughed to a county in Vermont. 

A beautiful woman who used to be our teacher urged us to write letters to his "caretakers". In those letters we were to express our strong opinion that PK should not be released back to Vermont. Couldn't he go somewhere far away from that little state, where many of his victims grew up, where their families remain?

"What about New Mexico?" said someone.

"How about Siberia?" asked someone else, and there was a murmur of agreement.

Apparently, the People In Charge of these things in Vermont are very good at listening to the concerns of victims and other parties involved. But despite this, the last I heard is that he will be furloughed to Vermont. And soon.

I'm awake now and sitting at the kitchen table. We painted the kitchen blue and grey, sort of by mistake. It reminds me of a Jetstream trailer from the 70s and we've both grown to almost love it.

The whole house evokes in me a sense of enormous pride. When it first came into Dave's possession, every wall had been punched through, and some of the doors, and a noxious grey carpet covered the floor, even the bathroom floor. Now, after a summer of hard work, it's clean and well lit, the walls replaced, and everything new and working well. Except the shower.  
People get pretty envious when they hear that we have an outdoor shower, and I keep the details vague. I only talk about how invigorating it feels to stand in the fresh air and bathe in cold water. I don't mention that our outdoor shower is actually just a green garden hose in the backyard. That I stand in the basement and rub soap on my dry body- Just like the Europeans! then step outside and hose myself off as quickly as possible.

It actually does feel really good afterward. Your skin tingles and you feel very awake and alert. And think of how much water we're saving! Dave and I look on the bright side, which is something we both excel at. That's a good thing, because we don't know know when exactly the bathroom will be fixed.

And while neither of us know how how to live together (who cooks? Do we have to make a chore wheel?) considering our temperaments, our tendencies to relish the little absurd things in our life instead of make a fuss over them, I think it's going to work out. And then there is the fact that I light up when he walks in the front door. That I am completely content and satisfied just sitting next to him at a baseball game, watching Mr. Moon.

A magazine contacted me. They want me to write the story of Adventure Quest. They're far more interested in the pedophile and the deaths than all of the trips and the love and adventures. I do not know how to do that, or why I would.

Everything is much easier when I focus on the good things and try to completely forget about the rest.

Monday, July 28, 2014

Viva Nicaragua

-Coffee, death, coffee, death, Dave says as he taps his finger on my forehead -That's what you're always thinking about. Where am I going to get my coffee and what is going to kill me today?

He's right! Today the answers do not require too much thinking: the coffee will come from a steaming urn on the flight attendant's cart, and I will die when the tiny airplane goes crashing down over the Caribbean. Mode of Disaster is obvious on travel days. Yesterday it was the little sinking boat that took us seven miles from the little island to the big island. I'm still not sure how it managed to not flip and trap and drown us all; it was nothing short of a miracle.
There are three drink choices on the 8am La Costana flight from Big Corn to Managua: rum with seven up, rum with purple drink, or coffee. The rum is clear, and I watch as she fills the Styrofoam cup almost to the top before adding a little splash of soda and placing it on Dave's tray table.

She looks at me expectantly. And here is my dilemma.

If I drink the coffee, vastly preferable over the alcohol, I will remain awake and alert for the duration of the flight. My anxiety will increase, but so will my ability to save myself, and Dave, and maybe even a few others, when the plane starts to go down. I've read that if you're planning on surviving any sort of vessel disaster, you have to be on your guard, hyperaware, thinking one step ahead of the game. Also, wear non-synthetic pants, like jeans.

If I drink that cup of rum, on the other hand, I'll be much more relaxed and maybe even enjoy the ride. But in the event of catastrophe, the one that's always lurking on the horizon for me and everybody I love and care about, I'll be useless. And then if we do land, somehow, the way the sinking boat miraculously pulled up to the harbor at big corn island, I'll be so sickly from all that Flor De Cana, it might ruin the rest of the day.

If there is a rest of the day. There's always the cab ride into the city to consider. The state department's online warning assured me that if we take the cheap cabs, the ones across the street from the airport, I will be held at knife point, made to empty my bank account in maximum daily allotments from the ATM, and then abandoned on the side of the road, if I'm lucky.

And we always take the cheap cabs.

Today, I take all of this into consideration, and then I decide to be brave. I ask for the coffee.
When I worked on the ship, I once got leave at the same time as the first mate and the engineer. We were all seated in the exit row together on the plane from Juneau. We'd been onboard the Endeavour for six weeks and we were still completely in 'crew mode.' When the flight attendant asked if we could perform our exit row duties we took it very seriously. That meant no Ativan, alcohol, Ipod or reading materials. We napped in shifts for the entire hour and fifteen minute flight. Unbeknownst to the other passengers, I was in charge of their safety, and they were in good hands. That was the bravest I've ever been.

I take a little sip of the coffee. It's sweet, ridiculously, unbelievably sweet, as if a brick of sugar has been melted into the pot. -You're not going to drink it, are you? Asks Dave. I shake my head. He's not surprised. He calls me 'The starter' because of my propensity to take a few sips of drinks- juice, coffee, beer- and then forget about them.

He's a 'Finisher.' He won't let anything go to waste, and this morning he finishes his rum and my saccharin coffee. I call it a Nicaraguan Speed Ball. He's in a great mood when, against every odd, we land without incident.

Then we go a block away to get the cheap cab. It will save us ten dollars, the equivalent of about fifteen fresh juices. I weigh the idea of all that juice against the State Department's warning. We get in the cab. The driver is chewing on a match in a menacing way. He has a scar on his face. Dave is speaking to him in spanish which I can't understand. If their whole conversation had been about which fresh fruit would make a lovely jugo, I'd understand. But it's not. We're way past juice and we're going to be robbed and kidnapped.

I lean my face against the window and try to spot significant landmarks to that I can find my way back to the airport after we've been abandoned by the side of the Oriental Market. The state department warned me about that place, too. I see seven glowing cardboard trees and an untold number of Chavez posters.
When we arrive at the hotel, with barbed wire gates and rows of caged parrots, I jump out of the taxi and stand there, rocking on my heels, until Dave has paid the driver and they finish up their conversation. Then the driver smiles at us, says goodbye and leaves.

What luck that we survived another one of the cheap cabs! I am met with an unnatural burst of energy and enthusiasm. For Dave, he's thinking -We're at the hotel. Nice. And I'm thinking, -We made it! We beat the odds! We're alive Thanks GOD! Life is a grand adventure and for the next twelve hours we will be safe (enough) inside this hotel, let's spring for an air conditioner tonight! VIVA NICARAGUA!

My anxiety makes me a wildly imaginative and immeasurably fun traveling companion. But I think that's obvious.