Because, sunrise

There are certain mornings I deeply miss riding the bus.  It may be warmer in my car, but there’s a wakefulness to the cold walk and steaming air that isn’t entirely unpleasant.  It isn’t the foot-stomping huddle of people that I miss though, it’s the ability to keep my eyes fixed on the horizon rather than the road in front of me.

Seattle seems to have finally shouldered her winter coat. The temperature is dropping and snow keeps falling at higher elevations.  A thin sheet of ice coats the leaf debris clinging to the curb and that pesky warning light on my dashboard keeps flashing back on. (It’s something to do with the cold, not a lack of safety—when she starts warm there’s no light. In the cold, there is. I’m not good with cars, even my beloved Greta.) Today pinks and purples hung low in the sky, and as soon as I took the curve down 46th to Leary I gasped.  It’s the mountains. The mountains. Shimmering with the deep blue of distance and white of new snow, they caught the colors of sunrise as the sun crept up for one of the last days of 2014.

It’s been a year. I’m not ending it where I thought I would be and last night I spent most of the evening falling off of climbs instead of getting up anything.  Still, there’s a certain grace to falling, and I think I’m getting better at it. Or at least, more comfortable with the idea of it. I’m talking literally, but I mean it in more ways than crashing onto a bouldering mat. Though I mean that, too. After a little over a year, my apartment is finally feeling like a home that belongs to me.  I have too many scented candles and a record player and radio that are finally hooked up.  I’m starting to get nice wine glasses. I have a dog bowl for my house guests and spare bedding for friends.  My cast iron collection is growing and continues to be well seasoned. My books are organized by subject then alphabetical order. My game collection keeps growing. These are all objects, yes, but they are important ones. It is home, not just a place I’m staying until real life starts.

Alone, in my car, I talk to the sky. It hurts sometimes, in its beauty.  I’ve always thought of beauty as something edged and sharp. Pretty is softness but beauty has an element of danger to it.  Another body was found on Rainer this morning.  The clouds, as they turn colors, are not just swatches of paint.  My body aches from last night’s gym session, I feel clunky, my fingers are cold on Greta’s wheel.  Hello, beautiful city, ringed in mountains. The ship canal as I cross the bridge is still but shimmering, cut with reflections of boat hulls and rigging.  The sun is up a little higher, a bright blaze.  By the time I write this everything has dulled into daylight and the pale winter sky.  Did you see the sunrise this morning? If I can show you the right glimpse, you’ll see why I love this place, you’ll fall in love too.

[I have no photographs to share with this– nothing gets the whole thing in the right way.]

The Inconvenient Body

I am still surprised by details of living, by things that never cross your mind to question until you find yourself facing it.  The things I want to call administrative, though that isn’t really the right term for it.  How, in a goodbye, there is never the swelling moment of music, the fade to black.  How you can find yourself sitting on the floor with your sister, shocked at the amount of ashes your father became. The weight of them. The ridiculous polka-dot box you have in front of you to send him home to your house across the country because, while it’s legal to fly with someone, it’s illegal to fly with their remains.

Let me backtrack. Life is full of moments that are ridiculous.  After my dad’s memorial my sister and I had a box and had to do something with the substance that used to be my dad. I’m not trying to be cold in this—the body laid out that memorial wasn’t my father—it was just what was left behind.  No smile, no gesture, no laughter.  But you still have to do something with it, and so he was cremated. I remember when we scattered my grandmother’s ashes, so it shouldn’t have surprised me just how much substance there was.  My dad was a large man, and even through sickness he was still tall, even if he’d lost a lot of weight.  We opened the box; the funeral home had put ash in bags for us, but even so, there was more than we knew what to do with. We thought, ok, we don’t want urns, but maybe we can find nice wooden boxes, like something my dad would have made. Maybe there’s something nice at a place to buy tea—a nice wooden box that’s not meant for a body but feels more true to our father.

We found ourselves at the Short Hills mall, walking into Tevanna, looking at the shelves in despair. Everything nice was so small, and everything large was made of china and, well, looked like an urn.  A guy came up to us to see if he could help, and stutteringly we explained that we were looking for something like a tea container, but larger. “Well, how much tea are you keeping?” And, instead of doing the kind thing, where we kept to our story, we spilled out that, in fact, we were looking for something to put ashes into, because our dad had just died, and we thought maybe…

The guy blinked, and then rolled with it. He laughed to join in with our awkward stumbling laughter and looked down at the box in his hand. “Yeah, this is pretty small.” He looked around the store and pointed at a shelf with elaborate white china with blue willow type patterns dancing across their shape. “I’m sure you saw those but… too urn-like, right?” We nodded.  He checked a few more places, but kept returning with things too small or made of too much delicate china. “Maybe try Williams Sonoma? Kitchen N Things?”

We walked out and stood for a moment.  My dad liked cooking—Williams Sonoma was a frequent stop on our holiday shopping lists.  Perhaps it’s fitting that we walked from kitchen store to kitchen store, looking for one last present for him, settling on double walled stainless steel container from Crate & Barrel and a story that involved less detail to the hapless staff trying to assist two grieving and laughing sisters.

Would my dad have been upset? I don’t think so. I think he would have laughed and retold the story in his quiet way, sitting a little back from the crowd at a family party.  There are lately so many things I would have liked to ask him, there are so many stories I want to share.  I still find myself wanting those cinematic stops—his body lifting lightly in the wind off of Rainier when we scatter him.  In all actuality I suspect that when I eventually reach the summit the wind will tear him from me.  I know that I won’t be able to bring the whole container of ashes—each ounce matters and I think he’d rather I take water than a coffee container.  I’ll get back to my apartment after all is said and done and there most of him will be, still waiting on my book shelf.  I’ll be tired and sore.  It might be my first attempt, it might be a later attempt—weather cares little for what your plans are, what ceremony is intended.

There are no nice bows to wrap things up, there are no good endings.  He died years ago now, and still I am angry that I can’t tell him about the first 5.12 I climbed in the gym, about the multi-pitches I did in Mexico. I can’t call him from Oregon this Thanksgiving or send him pictures of my friends, our hands chalky, our skin sunburnt. I’m angry I can’t talk to him about when he met my mom, I can’t tell him shyly about a man I like or tell him, after it’s all gone to hell, about how I’m still trying to figure my life out.  I don’t know if my friends know what the silver container on my shelf is, but it’s my dad.  Because bodies suck and his betrayed him and now, because his gave out, I have to be stronger than I was then. And I am, I’m getting there.

Vantage, WA

Doe Bay

 

Team Gorse BustersJake and Wally Doe Bay sunset Pile on Alice busting some gorse

What I expected to start as a purely relaxing work-weekend started with a lesson in letting go. I’m learning I’m not the best judge of character—I see something good and I want the rest of the picture to match.  It takes a lot for me to adjust my idea of someone, and it’s often a painful process.  Friday I found myself crying in the stairwell at work, completely shocked and devastated at just how wrong I’d been about love.  My friends picking me up for Doe Bay were nearly en-route, my bags packed with gardening gloves, wine bottles and groceries, my computer still glowing with the last tasks of the week.  My friend K- sat with me and listened until I was ready to walk back to my desk.  She came out to the elevator with me, hugged me as I left, and I got into the car in a blur of wrung-out-tension.

By the time we reached the ferry I was in a completely different state.  B and A are engaged now, and A is a relentless source of laughter, singing and joy—and one of the kindest people I’ve met.  We taught M how to play Rummikub on the boat and got into Doe Bay with enough time to hit the hot tubs and sauna.  Wine and games and laughter until 2 am—although it’s a work weekend, it barely feels like it.

Doe Bay is such a magical place, and I’m so lucky that I get to help make it more beautiful.  I ran into a woman in the sauna who asked what our group was doing—when I explained the Gorse Busting she told me that her best friend was married out at Gorse Point.  This wouldn’t have been possible just a few years ago. It’s a great feeling: I worked with people I love to make a place for two people, strangers to me, to acknowledge their own love.

It was wonderful to see my friends in such good spirits.  There are new relationships, new engagements, new marriages.  Last year I was heart-sick, using this space to heal.  This year I’m just excited—I am going to Mexico in a few short weeks, my best friend is moving home, I can use my apartment to host dinner parties and game nights, and I’m getting stronger. My cross country coach used to say “Water off a duck’s back” whenever we were caught up about bad races. I think it’s a good motto, and something I’m working towards. So let my misplaced love roll down my back and away. I have so much love to give and it just keeps growing.

Work in progress, started at Doe Bay.

Draft

Sundazzled

“Kinds of water drown us.” – Anne Carson

It’s been too long since I’ve read something that jolted me alive again.  I love book club, and I truly appreciate the work that I have to do with each book, but sometimes I want to read something that jolts me a bit more.  So I’ve begun re-reading Anne Carson, and I’m currently digging through her collection Plainwater.

To read Anne Carson is to read about love, and I think she has helped me figure out why I continually write love poems.  (And of course, to write about love is to write about death, every poem is about death, but that’s an entirely different discussion for another time).  I don’t understand love.  Yes, I have loved.  It would be hurtful and lying to say otherwise.  Still, there is something about the way Carson describes love– as a void and the opposite of a void.  As fire and water.  As complete loneliness because you have seen your other half and it is still removed– there is a body in the way, no matter how much you love the body.  Maybe her love is really obsession, and it’s a good thing that I haven’t found it yet.  But Carson writes about love as though she has been through the fire and survived but is still smoldering and might yet succumb to her wounds. But hasn’t yet.  And how glorious the burn.  It’s the almost-but-not-quite that’s so alluring to me.

I don’t have a satisfactory summation and conclusion to this.  My thoughts move like the microclimates of Seattle.  Because this morning it was sunny and clear with a cool breeze, now it’s grey and brooding.  Always in flux. Tonight may be clear and warm, may be stormy and wet.  I want and I don’t-want.

Love and Loss

The Olympic Sculpture Park has a sculpture of Love and Loss, the words intersecting at the letter “o”.  Part of the sculpture is a utilitarian bench, part is a painted tree, and part is missing.  The “e” is currently being restored, and the table where it  sits  has been vacant for at least a few months at this point.  The piece doesn’t look like it’s missing anything- it’s only when you start to try to piece out the words that the logic falls short.  The word cannot finish, it is caught mid-love, and we are left with loss.  But one day, maybe soon, the e will be put back onto the table and those who never knew it’s absence will notice nothing.

Is it too overbearing of a metaphor to have love caught mid-word, entangled with the complete loss? Writing about love feels sentimental to me, and yet it is something that is pervasive and ever-present and begs to be written about.  So I couch love in other terms, I examine small aspects and insert my own symbol-language to hide behind.

I was asked by a good friend what I write about, and at first I glanced off the question, If I could summerize what I write about, why would I have to write it? That’s the easy answer, and he deserved more, so I tried again. I think, for the most part, I write about the inability to connect. Would this answer surprise the people who know me outside of my text?  For all of my chatter and friendly gestures, I am not sure I exist outside myself.

Even when in love, I am unable to become You. I remain Me, separate from You.  Helene Cixous struggles with this in The Book of Promethea.  She writes: “I cannot let you fill me.  It is a matter of impossibles between us.”  Anne Carson struggles with this in Decreation as well, examining love between mother and daughter and examining love of god.  In her essay Decreation: How Women like Sappho, Marguerite Porete and Simone Weil Tell God she follows how love is the strength that destroys (yet creates) these women.  To be subsumed by love is to be destroyed.  “Marguerite Porete was burned at the stake in 1310 for writing a book about the absolute daring of love.”  I admire what she risked, how impossible it was for her to do anything else.

I’d like to still have the idealism to think that love is enough, and that if we have to burn at the end, we burn– but I am not Marguerite.

return to Love

from Gasworks Park

The Seattle sun strikes hot today and it cannot feel like the first day of autumn.    My skin just beneath sweating, the water between myself and downtown a rocking body.  The boats cut slowly, minimal wakes.  I only smell dirt, warmed concrete, my own scent rising. I return to H.C. and love, because I have to return.

Z. is leaving again.  A month.  He was supposed to have months. Plural. And today, I was on a bus swaying with heat. Sweat and perfume and the hum of electric motors.  And my phone, buzzing.  I looked, debated for a moment.  Buses are loud, conversations bleed over into adjacent seats.  Hesitated.  Then answered, and felt the days rush into my body, colliding into each other.  A month.  After the disconnect, held my hand to my lips as if to stave off something.

And so I have to return to H.C., look into her pages to explain my own.  If I can understand her abstract Love then I can define my own.  I can explain why I must hold my hands to my lips for a body both (not lost) and (not mine).

I have known love, and I have been at the other side, looking towards the buildings blurred with the humidity of after-love.  H.C. writes about the destructive force of love, the destructivecreative force of it.  –Defeat me. Pillage me. If there is a house, a room, a safe in my city that I have not turned over to you, whose keys I haven’t provided, if you find one single door I might have forgotten inadvertently deep inside my soul, smash it open. The need to give and be given, to take and be taken.

Grey shades of it, the limits of what I am willing to give.  No. I am still too faint, too dim. I do not have enough strength yet to start dying again. Because that’s it, isn’t it?  Love a death, a destruction of boundaries—I give you my body for your body and I take your body for my body. But how can anyone survive this?  I can’t, not yet.

I say body, and I mean more.  I seem to return to certain words.  Body and edge, for example.  My iceberg words, I mean whole oceans and only say: body. I mean—pneumea. Lifebreath.  My edges.

I think I give easily, to a point.  Here here here.  It seems: entire.

But it isn’t.  I keep a seed, the turtle shell to stand on.  Because who can do it and return?

All this to circle back, and say: Z., even before leaving, please please return.  Not to me, as I lay no claim, but all the same.

(All italic text from Hélène Cixous, The Book of Promethea)

Bazil the Second

DSCN3000

In Riverside my basil plant Bazil meant a lot.  I watered and pruned and poured adoration, and I kept the poor thing alive way past when it should have been placed in the compost.  Dace brought home a small basil plant for me, but I picked up another, from Trader Joes, same as before.  Thus enters Bazil the Second.  This time around I have a much nicer house and more to love.