Tuesday, September 5, 2017

On Homesickness.

The second time I went to New England was after a prolonged time in the deep south.  My tenure at Louisiana State University had come to a close (relatively successfully with the exception of bridges burned and hearts broken) barely the month before.  I was limping back, a hurt, tired, wounded girl with one sliver of hope: that the place I had fallen in love with those two years previous would have the power to heal me.

That's all I wanted- to live quietly in the mountains and heal myself.*

The entire drive up, my mind and stomach churned.  What if I was making the wrong move?  (At that point in my life, I was acutely aware of how wrong my moves could be- and what they could do to me).  What if I didn't love it there the way I once did?  What if I was remembering it wrong?  The whole place?  All of my experiences up there?  What if... What if... What if...?

Then I crossed the state line from Massachusetts into Vermont, began to climb the mountains, and the whole world settled down around me.

I was back.

Sometimes the memory of northern New England is like a an open wound- fresh, gaping, raw.  It's the  memory of green summers, wood-smoke falls, and dark winters.  It is the memory of home.**

It is a memory that comes back to me like a dream sometimes, like a phantom just at the edge of my awareness, teasing and haunting- following.  It's so present at the oddest of times- the occasional Norway morning in August: if it's not humid, or raining, it's cool and crisp and tastes like the fall in New England.  The drive into Bavaria as the mountains, the Alps, begin to take shape around you- especially in this season when the fog rises from them like smoke from a fire.

These moments, these memories, bring me home with such flash-bang intensity that they make me sick for it even in the moment.

So here I sit in Germany... in beautiful Alps country, longing for home.  Longing for a home that isn't truly mine, and a place that sometimes doesn't seem real.  I sit surrounding by such remarkable mountains and they simultaneously make me want to leap for joy that they are here, that I am here, but also go crawling back to the mountains that I love most- the gentle, rolling peaks of ancient chains- relics of the geologic past.

And that's where I am- body one place, heart another, head always in the clouds.

*Little did I know at the time that this would be the summer that started a two-year roller coaster of motion, followed by another two-years of self-discovery, recriminations, disgust.

**Even though I am not a born New Englander, I have spent enough time there- and more than enough time roaming around the rest of the world- to know that is as much a home as I have ever wanted.

Tuesday, August 29, 2017

Iceland, Redux.

There is still something to utterly indescribable about Iceland.

Something tied to beauty and nature and power- and sparsity.

This is the second time that I've traveled to Iceland; the second time that I've spend many quiet moments staring out windows and absorbing, thinking, feeling- but somehow not really processing.  It is the same exact phenomenon I experienced the first time I was here:

I watched, I witnessed, but I couldn't testify.  I can't testify.

The thing about Iceland is that until you've been, until you've driven through the empty, achingly foreign countryside, or walked on a glacier or under a waterfall, or sat noticing your feeling of diminishment in the face of such wonder... it's just another stop.

A cool one, pardon the pun, but ultimately just another small island in a big world.  And on my word, it is so much more than that.

These words.

Or these.

If you don't trust my current word, trust those words of a vibrant, ancient, wild 28 year old, running through a vibrant, ancient, wild place.  I spent much longer in Iceland when I was last there, but it's no less flooring and absorbing when you only have a weekend.  It is more frenetic, a frantic pace set by frantic people looking to do as much as humanly possible.  But still no less profound.  If anything, the brief visitor feels Iceland with an intensity unknown to the slower, more careful traveler.

What I take away from Iceland, all the time, over time, is the almost unbearable bittersweetness of a land that has is so different, unique unto itself.  The bitter tang of frigid cold mixed with the sweet mythology of history.  It's the landscape of time and magic.

Time and magic.

Friday, August 18, 2017

Minor Super Heroes.

When I first dated my ex, I spent a lot of time with his friends.  This was an interesting collection of personalities.  I tended to gravitate toward his male friends rather than the female ones- for probably obvious reasons.  Girl's are hard work.  Boys are easy.  

Anyway, one day overheard a conversation had by the lot of them.  (Also the boys had more interesting, and slightly more entertaining conversations). The topic of this particular one was: major and minor superpowers.  The basic rule is that 'major superpowers' were the big things- flight, teleportation, controlling the weather; 'minor superpowers', on the other hand, are silly small things- being able to open a refrigerator and get anything you want to eat, etc.  If you could have one of each, what would it be?

That absurd discussion/debate/show of one-up-manship has stayed with me- one of the stranger lasting legacies of that relationship.  

So this past weekend, in Dublin, imagine my surprise when a bartender told me that my innate sense of direction (albeit, terribly challenged for some reason this trip) was basically the 'worst superpower ever.'  (His words, not mine).  I had a giggle about it, went back to chit chatting with my friends, and then proceeded to get us slightly lost later that day.  (Hang on, though... I knew exactly where I was going, I just couldn't find the right alley to get us to the right pub.)

But I kept on considering the bartender's accusation of 'worst superpower' throughout the day.  And I started to consider all the little things that we do that are actually 'minor superpowers.'  Despite my getting lost once or twice (I blame the pints), I do think that my ability to navigate spaces and places relatively foreign to me is something special.  Superpower, I think not, but certainly an asset to my lifestyle.  

For minor superpowers, I have two that make the cut every time.  One might get me killed one day, but with minor power comes minor danger.  The first is my ability to move through crowds.  I do it seamlessly (*brushes shoulder off*), and much to the chagrin of my companions, uniquely.  I can get around, ahead of, and through a mass of people like a... like a... okay well I don't know a good metaphor to complete the image but you get the point.  I move through crowds like a crowd ninja.  Minor Superpower 1. 

My second minor superpower is that I never run a fever.  I'm not kidding.  The last fever I ever ran was when I was 16, in high school, with a delightful simultaneous case of the stomach flu and strep throat.  Since then I've had mono... without a fever.  I've had sinus infections... without fevers.  I've had bronchitis... with a temperature of 93F.  That means I had bronchitis at the same time as being hypothermic.  Now, as above mentioned, this might ultimately lead to my eternal demise in that many of the illnesses who have a hallmark trait of high fever will not present in me... with a high fever.  They might present with a 98.4 degree body temp- which is technically feverish for me- but won't be identifiable specifically by super high fever.  Minor Superpower 2.  (Could also count as freak body trait). 

Here's the point.  Everyone should be having this absurd conversation.  Everyone should discuss how their own odd traits are, actually, minor superpowers.  

Because the more confident we all are in our minor superpowers, the more likely we all are to act on them, to act like minor superheroes.  And god knows we need some superheroes these days.  Minor or major.  

Thursday, August 10, 2017

The When and Where of It All.

Lately I've been ruminating on being basically an imprint.  Not exactly a lasting effect, but an impression.  I've also been thinking about the past; about what it means to be a ghost.

I've done it before, you see.  I've been a ghost in my own life. I've been forgotten, forgiven, lost.  I've been the one hidden against the wall, the one carefully tucked into herself, the one contrived.  The one who hides behind an armor forged of intellect, sarcasm, and bravado.

Ultimately, I'm the one who pretends.

And it's been hard, here, to not retreat.  I'm struggling.  I have been struggling.

I can't pull the happy out, I can't pretend.  I can't fake it, I can't triumph, I can't make believe that I am at all.  Here, I can't find it in me to be a person I'm not.  Some days, I can barely find it in me to be a person that I am...  I find that I tip-toe around openness and dance around honesty.  I descend into the person that I once was in favor of the person that I could be.

It's like being back in high school... but worse.

Because I'm old enough now, and wise enough, to know that it's all on me.

It is no secret that I've had my fair share of struggles over time.  But time 'is always time and place is always and only place'... it goes on, naturally.  My great fear in life is to not live, to not be engaged in the time and place when and where I am; it is a fear that constantly sneaks up on me, rattles me, jolts me into aggression.  It's circling me now, this fear, this panic that I'm sitting way too many out.  That I'm fading.

And so of course, I retreat to the page, to the letters and language that make the most sense to me.  I retreat to the comfort of a clean white background, and a bristling black cursor.

So much for when and where.

Sunday, July 30, 2017

Under Water.

When I was a child, I was ninety-nine percent sure that I wanted to be a mermaid when I grew up.  I loved the ocean, I toddled toward it on a mission before I was even a year old.  I loved the waves, the power, the water.

Specifically, and more to a mermaid's point...., I loved being under the water.  Because I love the way the world sounds under water.  The muted noises from above and around you; the muffled sound of water pressing in on you; the eternal silence of sea.  The unbelievable loudness of it.  It's all so mysterious and yet embracing.

And, between swimming in the three or four different pools, the Atlantic Ocean and the Mediterranean Sea this summer, I've recalled this sensation that, as a child and a young woman, I loved.

I love the way the world sounds under water.

I learned, at a young age, to slip beneath a breaking wave and let the white, raw, churning head crash over me.  All that primordial power overhead, that sound of history contained in ocean.  There was nothing more exhilarating to me- it was my pied piper.  But still there are so many more sounds- alone in a pool, the way you can hear yourself move through it like you are your own current, like you create your own current.  Or in a busy pool when you can hear someone else's current, their body, move past yours.



Swirls of sound from every direction, all of them like ghosts in the water.

I love that you can, at once, hear everything around you and yet nothing at all.  I love that you lose all sense of time because it has no place in this wild space.

It is endlessly ancient and enthralling.

Also, I may still want to be a mermaid when I grow up.

Monday, July 24, 2017

Feliz Cumpleaños, Mama.

Growing up, I've had a running list of all the reasons that I would never have children.  I'm not kidding.

Of course over the years the list has grown, changed, reasons have dropped or skyrocketed in priority given my mood, my mindset, the time frame at which I discovered the reason...  Most of it relates to actually being pregnant.  Keep this in mind.

A Sample:

1.  No, I will not give up caffeine for 9 months.  (This was the first reason ever and remained close to the top of the list no matter the time frame or mindset).

2.  Aliens.

3.  When you can see a human foot or hand protruding from your belly.  (See above, Aliens).

4.  The Discovery Channel (or even the birth scene in Knocked Up) special on natural childbirth.

5.  The waddle.  (Offensive, yes.  But also true?  Also yes).

The thing is, I always sort of feared having kids mostly because I sort of feared the kind of mother I would be.  Which has nothing to do with pregnancy and everything to do with actually rearing children.

Because my mother is currently, and was absolutely when I was growing up, the most amazing mother.  Period.  I know a lot of kids say that about their parents... or maybe they don't.  The point is, I mean it.  My mom was kickass.  She still is kickass, but in a way that is now more adult, more deliberate.  There's a difference between kickass mom that gives you a cherry pie pod (does anyone else remember those things? I feel like Hostess made them and they were simultaneously disgusting and delicious) for lunch in the summer just because and the kickass mom that you can drink margaritas with.  A difference that comes with age, time, and experience.

If you haven't met her, it's honestly truly hard to explain my mom.  She wasn't a traditional mom, a stay-at-home mom, a pie-baking, apron-on mom.  She almost never had tissues or band aids in her purse- but hey, she's a nurse so it was sort of expected that my brother and I would be of hale and hearty and never-get-out-of-school-sick stock.  She wasn't protective in the creepy kids-should-be-bathed-in-hand-sanitizer-and-never-track-mud-in-the-house way.  She was protective in the I-probably-would-be-legit-dead-at-least-4-times-over way.  No seriously: that time I was drowning; that time I was an inch away from being hit by a car, those two-ish time when starvation became less in my head and more in every inch of my body.

My mom was (is) a wild-woman.  She was (is) a ferocious lover, mother, friend, confidant.  She did (does) silly things as frequently as she did (does) serious things, if not more frequently.  She healed people, took (takes) care of people, worked hard for everything she has.  She laughed (laughs) a lot, loudly, and heartily.

It's hard to contend with that when thinking about having your own kids.  When I think about my childhood, I'm filled with really happy, golden, insanely good memories (except for those with my brother :) ).  And so many of those memories involve my mom.  And then when I think about the children I could have, I think.... how can I be that awesome?  How could I ever be that awesome?  What if I'm not?  What if I can't be?  What if, what if, what if.

For all the what-ifs in her life, Mama made it work.

So, to my crazy, wonderful, lively, ridiculous, silly, caring, compassionate, bright-as-can-be, mom... Happy Birthday.

Happy, Happy Birthday.

Thursday, July 13, 2017

Poetry, Ghost

I just found a cache of poetry, hidden in the husk of my old Macbook's hard drive (which itself lives in a file on the desktop of my desktop).  It's my poetry, pieces that I wrote over years and years, and then in a burst of one season in New Hampshire.

It's odd to see it again- collected this way.  I knew it was there, I mean... in a moment of rare egoism, I pulled my favorites from the annals of old computers, journals, scrap paper, and put them together with the thought of publishing a (very) small book.  Then the moment was gone, replaced by my usual entrenched lack of confidence.  So I knew it was there.

But I didn't remember what I put where, or how I let the collection take on a specific canto.  Looking at it now, it doesn't work.  Certain pieces need to be moved to the top, others removed completely.

Then there's the editing.

Of course there are type-os (my father would have a field day with the type-os) because I type too fast and only ever let my eyes graze the words appearing on the screen.  But they can be dealt with.  But then there's the loss of these poems' spirits, the loss of what I meant and felt and saw, when I initially wrote them.  Lost because translation from scribbled on a page to clean and typed in a Word document doesn't always work.

There's one, called "Père Lachaise, Paris, November."  I remember writing it (not immediately after I visited Père Lachaise for the first time, nor even when I was actually living in Paris).  I remember frantically trying to get my hand to keep up with my brain.  I remember the bound burgundy cloth journal it's written in, the way I scrawled the title on the side of the page rather than at the beginning of the poem, the blueness of the ink.  I remember a line that I wrote:

for the miracle of birth is mine...

What it looks like in my head.
I remember it, I remember writing it, I can see it in my mind's eye.  But nowhere in the typed, sanitized, black-and-white version of that poem does that line appear.  And I can't for the life of me recall why I took it out.  It's a pretty important part, it means something in the overall flow... and yet it's missing.  Because of my apparently tragic editing skills.

Mostly, re-reading these pieces, I remember how I used to write.  I wrote feverishly- I wrote the way people write when they're scared of dying the next day.  I wrote the way you write when you're the only person reading.  I wrote with passion and abandon.

And lots of scribbling.  

What affected me the most, though, finding all that poetry, is how little I write now.  How much I have forgotten, how much I have let go.

It breaks my heart that I only quickly skimmed the document (tentatively called 'Conversations') when I came across it (looking for something else entirely) and have not yet gone back to read each and every word as a singular entity and gift.

The things we remember, the things we forget.  Man.

Saturday, July 8, 2017

The A* Word

This is going to sound weird.

But growing up, maybe until I was in my early 20s, I convinced myself that someone with an "A name" was going to play a really important role in my life.  I mean, I'm a girl and a romantic in my heart of hearts, so I figured I was going to marry or have a significant relationship with a man called Alex, Andy, Aaron (you get the idea).  Someone with an A name.  I was literally convinced of it.

(Scratch that- it is most definitely weird.)

I was, apparently, incorrect in my conviction.

Nevertheless, I have a lot of A words that roll around in my brain.  Words that haunt and harass me, words that mean something to me more than they would to others.  The other night I was laying in bed, sleepless, thinking about words.  As I sometimes do.  Some people count sheep... I list words.  And the only words I thought of that night started with the letter- you guessed it- A.

Here are a few, in no particular order:

Atlas: I could write encyclopedic tomes on what this word means to me.  I've blogged about it here to distraction.  It's a word that attracts every fiber of my being.  If there is one word above all others, it's Atlas.

Anorexic: No-brainer.

Aggressive: or Aggression.  I'm not a terribly aggressive person and yet there are times when I feel aggression boil in me like I'm the Incredible Hulk (or some other similarly large and unusually-colored creature) and I struggle to contain it.  I feel like my emotional hackles get in the way of my rational normal and BOOM.  Shirt ripped, angry growl, menacing sneer... I'm THAT guy.  Or girl.  Whatever, you get my point.

Anger:  See above but use the words angry and anger.  Also, I sometimes throw things.

Abasement (self): No-brainer, again.

Shall I keep going?


Still, it keeps going.  All these words.  All of these beautiful A words.

And until next time, Adieu. :)

Wednesday, July 5, 2017

Waves. Obsessions.

Sometimes I sit and I watch the waves on the fjord.  The undulating, endless waves.

I understand how waves work, I do.  But still they seem so special, so miraculous.  I think it's the constancy that gets to me, the interaction between atmosphere and ocean.  It's hypnotic.

Granted, I know that everyone who has ever lived near the water has probably had the same lost moments.  We have all started out at the sea, moving and moving and moving.   Endless in motion, unbelievable in depth, hypnotic.

So here's this.

Also, I cannot stop watching The Killing.  Apparently I missed it when it was out... oh, say... 6 years ago.  Either I missed out or I was an absolute flake (I'm not going to argue against the latter) because I literally cannot stop watching it.  I'm being even the slightest bit dramatic.  My husband is out of town for 12 days and because I'm in binge territory, the series won't last that long.  Not even close.

On that note, Joel Kinnaman is unbelievable.  And easy on the eyes no less.  Just sayin'.

Because I've never been afraid to cop up to my own flaws... anything from this brand.  I am utterly obsessed.  In fact, I'm surprised that it's never made the list before.  Every time I fly through Amsterdam on my way to anywhere, I stop and have a peruse.  I think it started when I was living in Paris as a 19 year old.  Longchamp's bags seemed so casual and yet so refined, elegant.  They still do...

Audible.com.  I love me some books on tape... or on iPod as it were.

This dress.  Specifically, the 'soft apricot' color.  I'm off my dome for it and yet cannot even begin to think of a place or a reason to wear it.

This time two weeks ago, I was kicking it in Florida.  I was quite warm, sunburnt sometimes, and subsisting on a whole lot of happiness.  I discovered a deep affinity for Earl's... a dive bar with an amazing crew, lots of motorcycles, and a sense of humor about itself.  I also rediscovered a love of mimosa's.

And on that note, Happy Wednesday.

Friday, June 30, 2017


When my ex broke up with me (chronicled in painful detail on this very blog) I more or less fell apart.  See years 2011-2013 for The Adventures of Kate the Waster.  I don't really feel anything about it, good or bad, anymore.  But every now and then, I am transported back to the long night drives, in my old gold Jeep.  It was night time in the summer in North Carolina.  The air was warm and wet but smelled more alive than I felt.  So I almost always drove with the windows down- humidity be damned.  And the radio on as loud as I could stand.  Inevitably one of two albums had been thrust into The Beast's CD player: Adele's 21 or Mumford and Sons' Sigh No More.

I drove very very fast those nights.  And I listened very very loud.  And some songs I sang like my physical presence on earth depended on it.

Behind the wheel of that truck, I cried until I choked; I cried until I had to pull the car over; I cried more than I had ever cried before or have cried since.  It's no small miracle that I was never pulled over for hysterics or excessive moving violations.

More than any other song After the Storm gave me a part of myself back.  It's the song I cried the hardest to, the song I sang the loudest with, the song that shakes me today.  I hear it and I'm broken but healing again.  I hear it and I immediately tear up.  In a good way, I guess- a way that is familiar to me, a way that reminds me of who I used to be and who I am and who I will be, I hope, someday.

There will come a time, you'll see
with no more tears
when love will not break your heart
but dismiss your fears
Get over your hill and see
what you find there
With grace in your heart 
and flowers in your hair

Literally wailing like a banshee, and crying like tears were going out of style.

I was a dangerously toxic mixture of sorrow and anger then, of grief and deep deep distress.  I was simultaneously scared and terribly numb.  There is a part of me that is still both.  There is a part of me that thinks a part of me will be both forever.  (Drama, I know.)  Honestly, though, one of the most important things that entire period of my life- the relationship, the break up, the pain of loss (there are so many different types of loss), the insanity- taught me was how not to love.

And because that song is so wrapped up, in my head and my heart, with that time whenever I hear it, I think about love.  I think about how to love and how not to love.  And I think about time.  I hear that song and I think about the future.

Always about the future.  But also always about the past.