New Moon

I know I should be celebrating the little victories, but it felt like this week really got away from me. Maybe, too, because tomorrow it’s suddenly October. And tonight, the first fire crackling in the fireplace. A new moon. 

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Calling it quits at the computer tonight. Why do submissions feel so daunting? Maybe because I drift off to other possible publications, and then get lost in reading other people’s work? It’s probably something I should dedicate an early-morning hour to twice a month. Anyone out there with submission strategies, send ’em my way!

Sweet dreams, dear readers.

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Choose Your Own Adventure

My friend T and her ’86 Volvo, Chit (after Chitty Chitty Bang Bang) on a stretch of highway somewhere in the southwest.
I used to wish I was from the Midwest, where people speak in gentler tones and kindly turns of phrase. When I was young, I thought it would be fun to be in TV commercials and wished we lived in California, preferably Hollywood. After spending a week in the waves on Block Island, I thought it would be romantic to live in an isolated community out in the middle of the sea. I was always dreaming of somewhere else.

Even now, I imagine different places, different lives. Like a Choose Your Own Adventure book. If you want to follow the path into the woods, turn to page 61. If you want to venture into the cave, turn to page 21.

And that’s as far as I got this morning when I began this post, before the day spooled out in ten different directions. Certain items on my list resist being checked-off, mainly those that require sustained attention, like writing my friend T a letter for her 40th birthday, which was a month and a half ago. Determined to finish and mail it, I wrote the letter in scraps of time throughout the day.

I started to write about our road trip, the one we’d always dreamed of as little girls. We played her dad’s 60s records, Joe Cocker, The Doors, Jefferson Airplane, and imagined driving out to California in a VW bus. As it turned out, we chugged along in her ’86 Volvo over the course of a month from New Mexico through Arizona to southern Cali, camped in Joshua Tree. In San Diego a friend took us across the border to Rosarita and Tijuana. Then we headed up through Cali. L.A., the Pacific Coast Highway, the Redwood Forest, Yosemite, Death Valley. Then we cut back in to Las Vegas, Zion National Park in Utah, past Shiprock and back home to Santa Fe.

I know, I’m listing all the places and skipping the stories. But anyway, I was writing memories to her like, remember when we drove away with the book of CDs on the roof of the car in Joshua Tree and lost all our music? Think about that for a minute. A month on the road, desolate highway stretches with no radio signal–and when I say signal I mean antenna. We had one cassette tape, a 70s disco mix from college, and damn if disco doesn’t still make me think of winding our way around the sharp curves of Pacific Coast Highway at night.

And then I wrote, remember how we read Barbara Kingsolver out loud in the tent at night by flashlight or in the car on those afternoons the road seemed to go on forever?  We read Small Wonder, and I want to say we had The Bean Trees along with us, too. Or maybe I’m just remembering The Bean Trees because we both loved it so much as teenagers. Either way, I’d forgotten all about Kingsolver and reading aloud to each other until I began writing her that letter. That’s the funny–and magical–thing about writing. You can have an idea about what you’re going to say, an idea about what you think you remember, but when you set pen to paper, you will surprise yourself every time.

Backcountry in Zion, hiking to “The Subway.”
Inside “The Subway,” where the monoliths meet and form a tunnel with pools of icy blue-green water. Just as I slipped, T rescued me. There is another story here, the one about the person who took this photo, a man our age named John who we happened to meet the night before in the pitch black, all of us gathered with a group of astronomers and massive telescopes. I saw the red ring around Saturn, crisp and clear. John had just arrived and had nowhere to camp. We told him he could camp at our site for the night. In the morning we saw his pick up with the custom cabin he’d built himself. It was outfitted with gear and functioned as both a bunk and storage. He decided to venture with us into the backcountry. No trails except for the odd cairn, no park rangers. A 700-ft drop into the canyon and up a rocky, winding river. In his pack, John had a water purifier and iodine drops, and throughout our trek, he pumped and purified water for all three of us. There was no way to carry all the water we needed for an 8-hour hike, and without him, I suspect we would’ve gulped river water and hoped for the best.
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Things are back to feeling haywire. A scramble of half-finished projects, a list of almost-begun tasks. The toddler wins. Eventually we went down to the Point to put our feet in the sand. There aren’t many days left to be barefoot. The goldenrod was bright against the moody sky, the reeds tall, the mud flats strewn with green. Autumn beach.

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Sick Day

Sometimes a sick day is okay. A not-too-terrible sick day that slows everything down because you can’t keep pace. A day to notice the big puffy white clouds. A days you can’t check everything off the list. Chicken soup steaming the kitchen windows. Routine off. There’s a moment in the evening when we just end up sitting on the kitchen floor. My daughter plops in my lap and we sway back and forth and I smell her hair and kiss her head and she giggles and smiles, loves to be held, to be hugged. Cuddle bug. I realized I haven’t been inside a quiet moment with her like that over the last two weeks. Too long.

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Stealing Minutes

Happy Sunday, dear friends! I’m stealing a few minutes while the toddler’s playing. It’s a cool, bright morning and the pumpkin bread in the oven is perfuming the kitchen with cinnamon and nutmeg. Potatoes are boiling on the stove for German potato salad–a friend’s secret family recipe–that we’ll bring to our neighbor’s Ocktoberfest this afternoon. It feels like fall.

Thanks to everyone who hung in there with me this week through the thin, threadbare posts. All of my writing and energy was spent on the actual page. There were some days I didn’t want to hit the publish button because I had so little to offer. But maybe it’s good to see the thin days, the days when time and energy and inspiration are scarce. The days when all you can write is, the cat sat on the mat. The ebb.

Even this morning, during the course of writing this post, I’ve drained the potatoes, chopped the onions and apples and pickles, whisked the dressing, rescued the pumpkin bread just in time, half-cleaned the kitchen, bathed the toddler, fed the cat, discovered two more diapers in the cabinet (hallelujah!), and now to dig out some fall clothes before we head to a birthday party.

I promise myself I’d hit the publish button this morning, and not wait until just before midnight. Wishing you all a beautiful day!

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This week was so intense, it’s got to be planetary. But it’s not quite over. Friday night feels like any other night of the week: #amstillwriting + sick toddler who won’t sleep. These posts are threadbare. I’m certain tomorrow I will have more to offer, dear readers.

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Shoulders Down, Shoulders Back

Here I am again, late in the evening. And now you’ll have that Paul Simon song stuck in your head, too. I’ve been tense, my shoulders up by my ears. I keep having to tell myself, “shoulders down, shoulders back.” My mom gave me one of those microwaveable heating pads that rest on your neck and shoulders–heavenly. If you don’t have one, you can fill a sock with rice and microwave it.

Maybe you’ll like this post about Russian Formalism and Defamiliarization as much as I did.

“Habitualization devours works, clothes, furniture, one’s wife, and the fear of war … Art exists that one may recover the sensation of life; it exists to make one feel things, to make the stone stony.” -Viktor Shklyovsky, “Art as Technique”

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