When you can’t go far, you go deep. – BR. DAVID STEINDL-RAST Oh, Di, you wrote: “…you don’t presume to know me. A gift beyond rubies!” Isn’t that true? Writing today, when across the ocean from me there are events taking place that I don’t know how to think about – much less talk about….
I’ve seen my dog summon puppy-like energy to chase a toy rat – just until she gets her teeth on the edge of it. Then she realizes it isn’t interesting at all, and she goes back, circles a little square foot of floor, and lies down again. Disappointed. I think, not as much in regards to her expectations, but in regard to suckering herself into expectations. She knows it tastes like cardboard and plastic. Not rat.
Isn’t there a culture that conceptualizes the future as something that comes at us from behind to overtake us? Maybe they are the only ones to have it right. All this planning, all the mirages we see ahead of us. The clump of earth that should be frozen, but that rushes suddenly from behind to slip into the present, under your foot, in the form of soft and giving mud. And there you have it: the irretraceable moment that is a wet sock.
I dragged myself out of bed this morning and ran 6K on a sore ankle. The marathon is in 11 weeks. At this point, I really need my mind and body to make friends. Although right now, in the bibliotekette, with the space heater blowing on my ankle, the rosemary oil burning, and the red curtains pulled, I am peaceful. Optimistic, even. The sun will be up soon, and the skies are clear. There is a sparrow calling outside the window now, actually. Which reminds me that I need to check the feeder on the porch. The magpies eat from it. Greedy bullies.
We shine a light on what we find repulsive until we can actually tolerate it. Until we do tolerate it. Until we shrug, and seek out the ever-more outrageous news stories that will trigger a inexplicably pleasurable surge of hormones. It is supply and demand. I read that the President electoral -Elect pointed out to CNN how much money he made them this last year. We are a self-fulfilling prophecy of self-loathing and schadenfreude.
The problem is, I’m thinking I need to purge again -to get control over all the “stuff” and clutter that is a disturbing white noise.
I imagine selling the house and moving into to a simple cottage, with a garden and a stream that flows just a stone’s throw from a sunny porch. I’ll get rid of all my costume jewelry and buy leather bracelets. Ditch the tailored clothes for paisley caftans.
I imagine a whole list of things I could acquire to successfully simplify my life. I could get up and leave.
It became one of those jokes that becomes a joke because you just keep returning to it.
Pointlessly, yet with such great effect.
This weekend, I realised that, in light of the social climate in the United States, and as a woman who will always be the “trailer park girl” (despite a solid education and liberal political view), I thought it was necessary to speak up:
To remind these historians of the fact that education is a privilege – and was even more so 200 years ago when less than 50% of women in New England were could read. That spelling is not an indication of intelligence, and that the assumption that it is looks like class discrimination, and feels like contempt.
I worry that my children are still ashamed or embarrassed by me. I still talk too loudly – an American voice is placed in the mask – it carries (in more ways than one). It’s a matter of physics. What am I going to do? Adopt an accent?
It strikes me as funny that this of all things probably allows me to claim status as a “first-generation immigrant” (as opposed to expat): Worrying that your cultural traits will embarrass my children.
Or it would, if first-generation immigrant wasn’t code for something else.
Do you still miss living here? Miss being an immigrant? Are you happy with the unexpected repatriation in terms of your identity? Sometimes I forget which one of you is actually Norwegian: you or M.
Like listening to the birds in the park without trying to identify the calls of the individual species. There’s something rather meditative about that, about not putting things in boxes, not categorising, not judging. Just sitting in a teeming civilisation of birds – or humanity – and listening to the music. And then dancing on your own.
I fear that psychiatrists might call that parallel play and diagnose me with some kind of anti-social disorder. But then, authenticity is about rejecting arbitrary boxes, isn’t it? Like I tell my students every year: “Pity the Platypus”, who doesn’t fit the man-made categories. But we should all be the platypus.
I’ve had colleagues – musicians – who have quit teaching, to work in offices or detailing cars. They said that teaching was sapping their creative energy. I have thought about it, but come to the conclusion that my creativity can’t be sapped by other kinds of creative work – it all primes the pump.
What I do believe is that, speaking only for myself, being the handmaiden for other people’s creativity can be a source of envy – and that needs to be dealt with honestly.
And, even though I do get up at 5 and write before “work”, I’d be upset if I thought my students believed that I gave them my “second-best effort”.
I’d be ashamed if I did.
When I look down at my hands now I see my grandmother’s hands when I held them during church services. It’s a strange kind of self-comfort, having her incorporated in my life in such an intimate and physical way.
Although a friend was visiting a few months ago; she saw a photo from the wedding and said, “Oh, your hands don’t look that old in reality.” To be honest, what I was uncomfortable with was how thin my hair looked in the photo – but now I have yet another thing to be self-conscious about.
Being busy, being occupied with the ordering of things gives me an illusion of control. Once that flurry of activity is over, the illusion is broken. I feel vulnerable.
I think that is why, content as a I am in so many ways, I have flashes of envy when you share your experiences of arranging your new life. I want to move house again. Which is absurd. Instead: yesterday I decided on a new bookshelf for the living room. So you see, I need a healthy adventure soon.
Yesterday I went to a friend’s theater production downtown. It was an evening of storytelling by seven women, from seven countries. So, I thought about you.
Some of these women were war refugees, some economic migrants, and some came for love.