The Ordinary

I’m not a big fan of holidays. There are many reasons for this. I used to work in retail; my parents died and were sick, respectively, relatively early, so holidays were painful and hard; and I hate to be told how to feel.

I am not pagan, but I love the celebrating the solstices and the equinoxes. I observe storms, winds, and the historic cold happening in my neck of the woods (and across much of the country). The drama of an ordinary sunset comforts me, as do mountains and rivers and even the shadow of trees on the snow.

Today I greeted the morning with relief. I can get up and do some work. I can celebrate wildlife tracks across my snowy backyard. I don’t have to feel one way or another. And what about my poor spouse, robbed of any joy in his life? Well here’s how the conversation went.

Me: Hey, I looked at some stuff online to do for New Years’ Eve, but it’s mostly dancing. You hate dancing.

Him: True.

Me: There are no good concerts. Anything in the area involves dancing.

Him: Oh.

Me: And the restaurants are stupid expensive and will be full of people. You hate parties.

Him: True.

Me: There are fireworks in [nearby town redacted], but it’s going to be 9 below.

Him: [Look of despair] But we need to eat.

Me: Let’s just go to [our local go-to restaurant]. You won’t miss the whole New Years’ lalala?

Him: Hell no. I hate that shit.

And so we had burgers (with local grass-fed beef) and fries and drinks (me) and dessert (him). It was an ordinary dinner that we’ve had at our ordinary restaurant before.

Maybe this is middle age. I used to go dancing on New Years Eve with my best friend at whatever gay bar was near where we lived at the time. That was also super fun. But I married a man who hates to dance and she married a woman whose birthday is on the 30th. I can’t exactly be like, “Hey, can I borrow your wife and go dancing?” anymore. At least not on New Years.

Holidays: are you for or against?

Advertisements

On Winter

It was 0 degrees when I woke up this morning. I was quietly grateful for modern heating systems, electricity, gas stoves, on-demand hot water, long underwear, and the fact that my dog wasn’t ready to go outside immediately. Since my move to the woods, I’ve been rereading a lot of the nature writing I loved in my twenties. I reread Rick Bass’ Winter for the third time.

He’s just so damn enthusiastic about going to the woods and cutting down trees, stacking and splitting woods, and living in the middle of nowhere. I live in a metropolis compared to his Yaak Valley, but I’m still testing myself against the blade of winter.

Part of me wants to go out and find refuge from the work being done on my house, to test my new gloves against the early-seeming cold, to find a warm coffeeshop to finish the paper I’m editing. The rest of me wants to crawl into bed and stay there for another few hours.

The weather will be novel for another few weeks yet. And I love talking about it. Are you obsessed by the weather?

Mocking the Dogs

It’s freaking hot in my neck of the woods. My dogs have been lying around trying to move as little as possible. And because I’m mean, I make fun of them for being lazy.

“Is the poor Sophie uncomfortable?” I asked. “Does she have to raise her head to look at me? Oh her life is hard.” For some reason I like to mock my dog in the third person.

Meanwhile I haven’t moved from the couch in hours to do anything other than stare blankly at the interior of my fridge and ignore the stack of dishes in the sink. Maybe my dog (on her side, directly in the path of the window air conditioning) knows how much I have to do to get this damn book written.

When I was at a residency, I learned I can draft a chapter in a week. I am still working on those first two chapters. When I begin to despair (like I did about 15 minutes ago), I have to remind myself that I am working on later drafts, not vomit drafts.

My dogs are probably making fun of me now. “Look at her, staring at the glowing screen. What does she think about all day? Why doesn’t she sleep all the time like us? What good is writing? Get a real job, like at a butcher shop, where you can bring home leftovers.”

And speaking of real jobs, tonight is my first time adjuncting since the fall. I have reached a point, dear readers, where I am no longer nervous standing in front of people. If you told me that would be the case ten years ago, I would have fallen over with surprise.

Who is mocking you today?

Writing, Marriage, and Grief

Today Paul wrote about an Iris Murdoch quote.

“Love is the extremely difficult realisation that something other than oneself is real.”

Iris Murdoch
“The Sublime and the Good”

At the risk of feeling as if I were doing a school assignment, I would like to respond. It’s been a complicated few months at Fangs and Clause Central. We’re contemplating a move to greener woods, if not pastures, certainly a greener state. This is looking more and more like it’s going to happen. I am excited, terrified, and sorry to leave a few important things about my current life. The rest I will not miss.

I finished the latest edits on the Small Beer book. In order to do this I neglected the dishes, my spouse, and anything that didn’t involve some variation of googling the ABV of a weisse. There has been drama at Second Job. Suffice it to say when I make it to the end of the day, I have no desire to talk to anyone about anything.

But there is my spouse, and he is real. I love him. And so I have to at least make the effort to listen, talk, respond, and otherwise nurture my relationship when all I want to do is crawl into bed with a book, alone.

But more immediately Spouse just went to say goodbye to a friend. His best friend is dying of cancer. How does one support another person through that, especially when he grieves differently than I do? (We all grieve differently of course.)

For 48 hours I am alone in the house. I am only responsible for getting my own self fed, to work, and back home again. (There are some dogs I have to take care of, but they are not too bad, and they are usually happy.) I’m trying not to feel guilty at being relieved to be alone. Books pile up on the spouse’s side of the bed after only 24 hours. Today I would rather stay in bed than go to work, but I am up and around because I love parts of Second Job too.

Grief is coming. The only reward is that we also have love.

This is what my brain looks like

In the past half-hour, I have done the following things:

taped an old train schedule onto my work notebook for pretty decoration because I am 12

printed out an email from my friend R about an article we might be writing (R, are we writing it? I think so.)

did a little freewrite about poetry and math

checked my work schedule

read a good blog post about facebook and writers

tried to remember the famous lit crit guy who said he knew all about topology but mathematicians said he was full of shit*

*(A lit crit guy full of shit? I was as shocked as anyone)

The previous action was prompted by the scientists who won the Nobel Prize in physics. They worked on topology. I tried (and failed) to read the Wikipedia article on topology.

went back to the internet and stared blankly at the tab. What the fuck was I about to look up? Oh yeah. Hurricane Matthew.

How’s your torrential stream of consciousness these days?

Not Writing

I’ve never been so happy to not be writing. This summer did me in. Wake up, work, edit, edit, edit, edit, write, rewrite, cry, deal with nonwriting things. I did none of these things well. My physical environment and my interpersonal relationships are still feeling the effects of all that writing and neglecting things that weren’t writing.

I have a shred more patience for humanity. Spouse and I had a very short but calm conversation about the State of Our Lives—you know, the kind of conversation that can easily lead to angry tears. I anticipate a few more conversations of that nature. Side note: Living with people is really difficult.

For the first time in probably twenty years, I feel no guilt for not writing. I finished The Fucker for now. It’s in someone else’s hands. It’s time for me to pick up the pieces. I fill my time working Second Job, planning my class, walking a dog or two, and cooking. I can play Wildwood Flower (slowly) on the banjo. I’m obsessing about organization/planner for the semester.

What do you do when you don’t write?

Feedback

Writers are unloved puppies. After years of beating their head against their tired laptops they venture a few sheets of paper or electronic documents out into the world. Sometimes they receive a cool, “no.” But other times they receive some constructive feedback and a challenge to push a particular thought further.

I submitted a wee little essaylet or blog post, I’m not sure, to a place I have been published in the past. The editor wrote back and said he liked the premise, but wanted me to work on a part of it. I put a professional-sounding tone to it, but I practically fell on his hand weeping in gratitude for one morsel of encouragement and engagement with my work.

I’m here! Notice me! Read my work! Love me! Mark up my work! I am your spaniel, I am your doormat.

Hiro in bed cropped