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.]

Poetry in a Fishbowl- Recap

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Last night I had the good fortune to host a reading with Aaron Barrell, Carrie Kahler, Arlene Kim and Jeff Encke on The Glass Slipper. It was a small crowd, but the perfect group of folks for an inaugural reading that had me just a little stressed beforehand. We had about 15 people in attendance, including the poets, and one very friendly puppy named Craig who tried his best to eat Jeff’s manuscript.  The boat rocked gently on the dock, welding flared in the background, Lake Union shimmered and I think everyone had a good time.

2014-01-30 18.20.13It’s been at least half a decade since I last organized a reading and the flurry of making sure I bought crackers and cheese, a couple bottles of wine, distributed the address (an unknown stress factor- planning a reading on a boat means the venue has potential to move!), setting the order, telling enough people but not too many, and remembering to print bios meant…. oh yeah, I’m reading? Oh hell. What am I reading? I told everyone the theme would be water, which the poets kindly wove into their selections. I, however, pulled together a few things looking more at time than anything else.

In looking at the few poems I chose, there was a little bit of a sultry undertone.  I’m not entirely surprised by this—it’s a cold dreary time in Seattle and I confess my mind is on heating up and warmer company. I say passion is fluid and so, water themed? Sure.

Here’s one of the pieces I read, and if I had to draw it to the theme—ISON is basically a ball of ice, right? Or was? Water is everywhere, so I think even if folks hadn’t tried to tie it in, we would have been a liquid bunch.

Ison's Bones

Big thanks to all the poets for joining me, and big thanks to Captain Geoff for donating the space and talking me down from near panic on Wednesday morning.  Last night left me thinking again, how on earth am I so lucky to know the people I know?

2014- Year of Something

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If I’ve been walking around in a daze the past week, I’m sorry. I haven’t been great about responding to people’s messages or answering emails.  A lot has been going on. Which is to say– I have a new job! It wasn’t an easy decision… I really love my co-workers, but this is the year of Yes and I’m excited to step out of where I’ve been and try something new.   The work will be much of the same, but with new faces, new projects, a new location and new systems.  I have a chance to learn, a chance to lead, and I’m starting to get over the fear of change and move towards excitement.

I told everyone at my current job today and the general response of kindness and support shouldn’t have surprised me, but it did.  I’m going to miss this gang.

What a year. January isn’t even over and already I’ve thrown wrenches in just about everything that I can. I suppose January isn’t a great marker– I started to mix things up in October of last year. At the onset of October I was upset and heartbroken, living in a small apartment.  I’ve since: moved into a place that feels like a real home, gone on international travel, climbed harder than ever, started a poetry series, begun training for a triathlon, welcomed a roommate, started to learn to ski, shed clutter, taken on a new job…. Life is careening forward, as it should. There’s so much more to do.

If you’re in Seattle, come join us as we figure out how to turn a glass fishbowl into a poetry venue.  My dear friends Geoff and Ryan have volunteered The Glass Slipper as a poetry venue and we’re testing it out this Thursday, January 30th.  We’re starting at 7:30 and you can come listen to Arlene Kim, Jeff Encke, Carrie Kahler, Aaron Barrel and myself with a beautiful view of Lake Union in the background.  And if that doesn’t work for you, I’ll be up on Capitol Hill Friday night for our company party. I expect it’ll turn to a little bit of crying and a lot of celebration and you might even be able to convince me that I want to debut my karoke skills if you play Robyn. Or mention Robyn. I might start singing. I’m sort of in love with this song. Come find me, come dance with me. (I’ll dance at the poetry reading if you play Robyn as well…)

 

 

You’ve come a long way sista!

Last night I was driving home from the Seattle Bouldering Project, talking through a few of the routes with my best friend who is finally back in town and staying with me until he finds his own place again.  He started to laugh, and when I asked he said I was just thinking about when you started. How shaky you were, how frustrating it was. Just step up! Just do it!Now you know why it was frustrating. He’s right. I was awful. Everyone who starts is awful, because you have to start somewhere. Out of everyone that I climb with, B knows better than anyone how far I’ve come.  I remember sitting in his room, saying, I think I’d like to learn to climb. He responded with something along the lines with, are you sure? Don’t just do this because you feel you have some family story to follow—it’s expensive and an investment. He took me out on my first climb with another friend and they put up something I was never going to be able to finish. I think it was Human Foot, out at Exit 32.  This summer I stood at the base of Human Foot, belaying one of my bad ass climbing ladies as she led her first 5.8 outside.  I’d just led my first 5.10 outside, a route a few to the left of Human Foot, and I did it clean.

Are you sure you want to learn? I wasn’t sure, at the time. I was mildly afraid of heights, I didn’t really have any idea what I was getting into, and climbing was more a theory and a story than anything else. I understand his hesitancy, but I will always love him for taking me on that first climb, and for continuing to take me out. The past two nights we’ve climbed in the gym together—first at Stone Gardens, then at the Bouldering Project.  I like to think he was surprised as I moved up routes he’d been working on.  He’s out of climbing shape but will regain it back quickly—I’ve been in the gym and outside a lot.  He’s probably still a stronger climber than me, and will be able to send things I can’t touch as soon as he has his endurance and finger strength back.  Still—for the first time I’m able to work through a sequence and offer suggestions.  He asked, for the first time, How did you start that? and I ran through the moves easily for him.

On Sunday night, when we were talking about plans for the week, I said I’m climbing Monday and Tuesday.  He wasn’t sure he wanted to come along—Monday was a settle and plan for the week evening while he lived in Hawaii.  It’s that for me too, though not with any household chores.  My Monday night climbing crew helps keep me more centered than anyone I know.  They are my best friends and the people who watch me fail and succeed and we share so many stories and so much laughter. I need Mondays with my friends to set up for my week, and I was glad he decided to come along instead of tending to laundry and grocery shopping.  There have been bumps, bruises, scabs and tears—but I can’t wait to get outside with him again and get some more battle scars. 

Arrival

In the early light of Sunday, with fresh coffee and a muffin, I find myself scanning the news for a moment before I find the article. 1 dead, 1 missing.  Click, open. Scan down. Snowshoe. It isn’t anyone I know.

Is this how I know I’ve arrived to live here, in this place of snow and rain, mountains and plains?  My climbing pack is at my feet, my mind is running through the check list. Harness. Chalk. Gym pass. Tonight I’ll meet my friend for a night sail over the water of Lake Union.  In the morning I’ll go to my tech job, new bruises from the climbing wall, wind burn from a night sail, tossing “did you hear about the avalanches near Alpental?” because we all have.

I am a stereotype of a person; drawn to this town by art, kept here by the life that unfolded around me.  I am any other single woman with tattoos, skirts and boots, throwing a backpack into a car for the weekend to escape to the mountains, faithfully listening to KEXP until it fades to static. My friends have PhDs and play in bands and work great jobs and work awful jobs.  I know fire dancers and yoga teachers and this still does not make me unique.  I want this to unsettle me—I should be different, I should stand out.  I should want this.

I fill my coffee cup again, and I know that my friends, at their own tables, are doing the same thing.  Coffee, scan the news for avalanche information after a treacherous weekend.  My friend is gathering her harness and shoes and in a few minutes I’ll leave to pick her up and we’ll practice leading until we can’t anymore, preparing for a summer of adventure.   The clouds break and sun streams into my apartment. I don’t have anything to prove anymore, I found my tribe.

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Firsts

I am continually thankful for my family here in Seattle.  Perhaps it isn’t giving myself enough credit, to think I couldn’t have made it without Lou and Dave, but I don’t think I’ll ever be able to thank them enough for all of their help and kindness and general amazing everything.  This weekend they invited me out to Whidbey Island to spend time in a friend’s cabin.  What a restorative few days.

Lou and I took a walk the first evening along the water, and I found a few pieces of sea glass.  As tends to happen, part of our conversation circled back to when my grandmother, her mother, was dying in New Jersey.  Just about the entire extended family was able to make it to the hospital within hours of her turning blue in the elevator.  I don’t remember driving there from college, but I remember walking into the hospital room.  I also remember my grandmother, awake and lucid, rubbing the fabric of my new long sleeve running shirt between her fingers and complimenting it.  (I know I will wear it to threads before getting rid of it, just because of this.)  None of us slept and I played endless rounds of gin rummy with my uncles, I knit with my sister and mother and aunts.

I think of now, and how far away I am, and how difficult it would be for me to return.  I love Seattle, and I’m afraid if I were to leave I might not be able to come back.  As of May 1st I will have been living in the co-op for a full year, and each day I fall in love with the skyline of downtown or the black and yellow tulips or the cat climbing over our fence.  Sometimes it takes leaving a place to realize just how much it means, and getting out of town was a nice way to look back at where I am and know that I am truly happy here.

Of course, there were more firsts this weekend.  Fresh asparagus from Carrie’s garden and a Doctor Who slumber party, a Welcome the Grey Whale parade with more observers than participants, a friend’s daughter running grinning into my arms as the sound laps at the rocky beach.  A dull push mower and a slightly sharper push mower and the satisfaction of clearing at least a little bit of the lawn.  Teaching my green curry recipe and learning to play hearts.

Now I am reading Wislawa Szymorska for my book club, with another book at the ready and poems for the Bodie project finally started.  Incense is curling into the air of my room and my body is slightly sore from an after-work run in the spring rain.  My roommate will be making tuna melts when he gets back from work, I will pour myself a glass of wine.  How did I end up here, so lucky, so happy?

A snowflake showed me how to live

A long time ago, in a child’s hand, I wrote that in 2010 I would be in Seattle.  Funny to find it’s come true.  Other things haven’t, (according to the same paper, I was going to be married, with 3 kids, and a veterinarian, because I love animals and animals love me).

In Seattle I have teetered between many things.  I desperately love this city, but I find the people difficult to connect to.  I feel at home and at the same time so far away.  I often feel as though I am tumbling through 25, holding a job without depth, writing less than I wanted to, and drifting aimlessly among people I barely know who barely know me.

Then something happens, and things get re-evaluated.

So much of my poetry concerns body, but with an absolute void where mine ought to be.  My poems circle around self, define self through others.  I often feel I need to be touched to be reassured I am alive.  For a time, I felt I was disappearing here- where I thought my definitions were solid suddenly vanished and I was left drifting and uncertain and veering towards depressed.  I took dance classes, I kept taking walks, I wrote, but until today I hadn’t realized how completely I’ve come out of that period.

Thanks to a snowflake.  (Of course, a symbol– but being part of my life doesn’t mean you are part of the internet. So I stick to the symbol.)  What dance classes couldn’t do I’ve learned with other help- how to inhabit my own body.  New Year’s Eve found me dancing wildly in sequins to the African drumbeats pulsing in our living room, surrounded by new friends and old, family chosen and blood.

This isn’t to say I won’t have a difficult time with some things that are edging on my horizon.  But today, for the first time in a long while, I felt a deep peace that was dependent on no one but myself.

So here I am, 2010, in Seattle.  A city I fall in love with again and again, and heart open, my body my own. Here I am dancing in a living room, dancing on a rooftop, dancing on the mucked floor of a cheap bar, my head tilted to the way I sway.  Even if someone is watching. Even if no one is watching.