28 June 2006

I am up before noon.

Really up, upright, seated at the table, feet flat beneath me on the tile floor, watching my brothers bleach the back porch. I've made breakfast and am reading the Leisure & Arts page of the Wall Street Journal beneath the warm stripes of sunlight that fall through the skylights over my face. It's been a long time since I've read this page. I'd forgotten what mornings are like when you actually get up.

There is time to read the gallery and book reviews, time for strawberries in my cereal, time to watch Abby and Lydia fight over who gets to make a castle out of the cereal boxes, and time to pour Andrew juice. I can talk to my dad before he leaves for work. When I make the coffee, Dad says that I brew it too strong, but when I drink it black my day improves with each measured sip.

Last summer I stayed out late just often enough to tip the balance of my days. In the mornings Johnny would come knock around six-thirty and I'd crawl out of bed fifteen minutes later to drive to the Physical Therapists. I was never really awake yet so I remember those primeval hours only in snatches, flashes of brightness beneath florescent lights and a drop-ceiling, in a room with pink walls, sound bytes and voices, first impressions slowly filling in, as Matt's sarcasm and Mark's dry humor became familiar and the regular patients occupying the two rows of doctor-office-beds learned our names.

It was like a parade or a two-person circus, lunging and skipping down the center aisle between the beds. Johnny was doing some agility work to prepare for fall track and I joined in, not awake enough to realize the absurdity of the drills, all the crunches and push ups. I felt my way after him and followed instructions in a haze of four hour's sleep, determined not to let it show.

But it showed. I didn't say a word and they noticed. My sister answered the phone at this office in the afternoon and when she came into work Matt would ask her questions about me—“Is Hannah shy? Is she grumpy? Does she like coming here at all?” I liked it but didn't have the energy to show it. I liked how all the injured athletes and the retired policemen and the grandparents sat and talked about town gossip that I'd never known existed. I liked that they had a back porch full of tomato plants. I liked looking at the blind albino frogs in the fish tank by the front desk—they had such long teeth. Someone told me they could bite fingers off. Was this true?

I liked making my fifty-cent cup of coffee when the workout was all over and drinking it slowly as we drove away to work.

This summer Ruth has my old job at WAJ. She comes home in the afternoon and tells me stories about the waterfront and lunch break and all the people I know. So many of the same staff came back. I worked my first day teaching private swim lessons today and it had me up far before usual.

All the sudden you wake up and it is summer. There are birds in the yard and you are not sure of their names, but they have been waking you up to cool summer mornings since you were small. The humidity slips into the house early, between your feet and the tile floor, you hear it click with each barefoot step. You cross the lawn to feed the rabbit and water the garden. Water from the garden hose tastes a certain way and the morning glories have opened along the stone wall and you are driving to the beach soon in an old blue Bonneville, with sagging ceiling cloth and rolled down windows, breathing air that smells like a memory.

It's always been summer on these days in the middle of summer and in the summer you always get up early and go to the water.

24 June 2006

Only God can skin you.

A sense of entitlement is the surest way to hurt yourself and destroy others. There is a twisted logic that slides into your head, beneath your skin—or maybe it was already there—but there is poison in your convictions when your only reference point is yourself. Too much introspection will kill off all the good things. When you are dredging the depths of your own soul, do not expect to find truth, for the truth is not in you. It is better to keep your mouth shut for a while after an inward journey—spend some time observing the outdoor scenery.

Don't expect your eyes to adjust immediately.

Sometimes your purest moment of righteousness is really your greatest blunder of hypocrisy, your penetrating vision has captured every curve of a mirage, and your absolute judgment is about to dissolve.

If you realize you deserve nothing then you will begin to see grace.

Usually, you are the problem, and all the problems you see in others, the things that make you angry and restless, frustrated and jealous, are the reflection and the manifestation of the dissatisfaction that comes when you refuse to be satisfied in God.

If you try to suck things out of this life
That aren't there
You'll destroy yourself
And others
People are not going to satisfy you and you cannot satisfy yourself. Neither can you change yourself.
Like Annie Dillard says: the interior life is often stupid.
As Darcy was telling me the other day, in the body of Christ we recognize our own weakness and when we see it in others we never dare to exploit it. We remember God. We remember the Holy Spirit. We remember miracles. We believe in the struggle in which each person is engaged. We encourage. We uplift. We believe. And we protect all of ourselves with forgiveness.
Like Eustace learned, sometimes your own reflection is the most terrifying thing you will ever see. Sometimes it takes a lot to make you stare yourself down. After you've discovered what you really are, even then: only God can skin you.
You are blind and you cannot find your own way.
You are broken and you cannot fix yourself.
You are sick and you cannot heal yourself or others.
You are fallen and only God can raise you.
Only God can skin you, and the tearing away of your old self from your new self may take a long time. Only God can bind you up and clothe you again, in the right frame of mind.
You must live day to day, hour to hour, building alters and giving thanks. But you cannot weight any day with the task of full resolution. Yes, you are forgiven and loved, your sins are spread far and forgotten, but you cannot push a day beyond its limit without bending it at the edges and thrusting yourself into disillusionment. Life is also a series of days and weeks, months and years, individual actions and clinging habits. Change comes slowly and later healing.
Your truest apology to those you've hurt is not articulated in words, it is not expressed in sincere vocalizations, it is only realized in your dedication to your own transformation. Not giving up. Letting yourself become new. Make me new.
If we try to make heaven out of earth
We'll destroy the earth
Trying to suck something out of it that's not there
Trying to satisfy hungers that can't be satisfied down here

We enjoy this life
But we know there is more to come
This is not all there is
We are immortal

(poem from Linford)

20 June 2006

A victim of introspection

It seems to me that more than ever I am a victim of introspection. If I have not the power to put myself in the place of other people, but must be continually burrowing inward, I shall never be the magnanimous creative person I wish to be. Yet I am hypnotized by the workings of the individual, alone, and am continually using myself as a specimen. I am possessive about time alone, more so now that my working hours are not spent studying for myself, but dancing attendance to a family.

Here I am in the midst of a rich, versatile family, as close as I could get. I have made my wish come true – almost – and as it were, picked up the roof of this lovely, spacious white house and walked in. True, in actuality I am relegated by my position to a circumscribed area of confidence, but even so, here I am. Yet so constantly am I moving, working, acting, that I do not often thing “How strange this is ... I am competently frying eggs for three children on Sunday morning while the parents sleep.

I must learn more about these people – try to understand them, put myself in their place.” No, instead I am so busy keeping my head above water that I scarcely know who I am, much less who anyone else is. But I must discipline myself. I must be imaginative and create plots, knit motives, probe dialog – rather than merely trying to record descriptions and sensations. The latter is pointless, without purpose, unless it is later to be synthesized into a story. The later is also a rather pronounced symptom of an oversensitive and unproductive ego.

-Sylvia Plath

19 June 2006

our boat may be leaking

but at least it's the right boat.

"over the rhine may never sell as many records as other bands, but everyone who has ever bought one has become an artist."

13 June 2006


does the trick.

A few days of no writing and I am feeling damn prolific. And after a day in the city, bursting. The two-minute-shower that kept me from my notebook was too long. I think I lost about twenty dozen thoughts to the steam and green walls.

I am coming home without conclusions but with hundreds of questions and quotations. But today is Lydia's brithday party--yes two months late. She was waiting for one of her friends to get goats, but by the time they got the goats she decided she wanted to have a western party instead of a farm party. So now the western party is two months late. So the whole house smells like chocolate cake and there are helium ballooms and plastic spoons and soda (which we never buy) in the fridge and someone is mixing frosting and the boys are vaccuming and pushing back the couches.

We're always pushing back the couches. Sarah told me a few days ago that she always wonders what our living room will look like the next time she comes over. It changes daily, according to our needs.

So I think I am going to go out into the woods with my notebook, like I used to when I was little, when I read a lot of L. M. Montgomery and probabally bordered on pantheism and spent as much time as I could by the river singing under bridges or climbing trees or engaging in monologes and writing stories about girls named Adele and their secret hideaways and tame beasts.

Oh and there was the hemlock grove.

The Railway Station

My nonarrival in the city of N.
took place on the dot.

You'd been alerted
in my unmailed letter.

You were able not to be there
at the agreed-upon time.

The train pulled up at Platform 3.
A lot of people got out.

My absence joined the throng
as it made its way toward the exit.

Several women rushed
to take my place in all that rush.

Somebody ran up to one of them.
I didn't know him,
but she recognized him immediately.

While they kissed
with not our lips,
a suitcase disappeared,
not mine.

The railroad station in the city of N.
passed its exam
in objective existence
with flying colors.

The whole remained in place.
Particulars scurried
along the designated tracks.

Even a rendezvous
took place as planned.

Beyond the reach of
our presence.

In the paradise lost
of probability.

Somewhere else.
Somewhere else.
How these little words ring.

- Wisława Szymborska

09 June 2006

Playing Hemingway

I am watching cars on a one way street from a cafe window in Providence. I don't feel like a stranger. The girl who poured my tea is reading Aristotle's Nichomacian Ethics, the boy leaning on the bar is doing Physics, and the man next to me has articles from Jstor.

My window is right beside the stop sign and I am sitting with a tall cup of tea and my notebooks spread over the table watching the cars bump by, bouncing to a stop, circling the block, or disappearing from sight. And my thoughts are like the cars, stopping or yielding, but never staying still; I can't seem to hold any of them long enough.

People are walking with their umbrellas closed up, leaning on them or swinging them oddly. It was supposed to rain and still might and has been raining since last Thursday. When it rains everything at home turns green and everything in the city turns to grey, steam and smoke. I've been taking the bus up here in the afternoon - its a short walk from the plaza to college hill and there is more space here than I ever get at my house. But when I finally sit still I have such a flurry of thoughts that I hold the pen and swing my legs and paint on the table with drops from my tea. And I watch the cars, reflected in reverse on the bottom of the glass shelf above me. They drive, doubled, collide with their reflection at the stop sign and go on their way.

I write in snatches and fragments, in short-hand, in references, unable to catch the meaning of all the motion in my mind. I'm probing for truth, beneath all my confusion, trying to remember the truest things I know. I'm writing with a scalpel, trying to carve my way to meaning from memory. I'm making speculations about all the strangers around me.

"Do not worry. You have always written before and you will write now. All you have to do is write one true sentence. Write the truest sentence that you know." So finally I would write one true sentence, and then go from there. It was easy then because there was always one true sentence that I knew or had seen or had heard someone say.

Then you would hear someone say, "Hi, Hem. What are you trying to do? What in a cafe?"

Your luck had run out and you shut the notebook.

-A Moveable Feast