Saturday, December 31, 2011

Apocalypse... This Year?

It seems unusual that everyone I have spoken to about the upcoming year has had nearly the same sentiment... 'it has to be better than 2011'.... especially considering all of this hullabaloo surrounding the supposed end of the world in oh, say, Decemberish of 2012.  All I can say it that it had better be better than 2011- especially if the whole house is coming down in just under 12 months.  Sometimes I wistfully hope that the Mayans got it right- that the world will change so radically and so soon that we will all be refreshed and renewed by it.  Cleansed by change definitely... cleansed by good change ideally.

Yes- this is me expressing a somewhat ironic hope for the upcoming apocalypse- What's that you say?  Kate?  Happily anticipating the end of the known world?  Who'd a thunk it?

Has 2011 really been that horrid of a year?  I can say definitively yes, absolutely for me.  Probably for many others as well.  But I'm sure there are some people out there that had a banner year of delightful experiences, charming interactions, and happy outcomes.  I'm sure there are people out there who are regretting the end of the year just as there are those of us who are regretting that this 2011 year ever happened at all.

Tonight I am celebrating not the beginning of a new year, but the closure of the previous.  I can't help but think 'it's finally finally over.'  I'm not normally one to wax... at all- profound or otherwise... about the New Year.  In fact, I generally loathe New Years Eve.  In my ever humble and fussy opinion, I think it's a crap holiday and really don't understand the point of it.  This year is both similar and different.  I still think it's a crap holiday- more so this year since I am nursing a lung disease on this most illustrious eve.  But it is a bit more symbolic this of all years.

The end of insanity.  The beginning of transformation.  Again symbolically, but still so significant.  'It's finally finally over.'  And symbolically, profoundly, astoundingly, necessarily- this is the beginning of the cleansing change.  Our spirits, the essences of who we are, the essence of who I am, can be wiped clean.  Tonight I experience a profound amount of introspective anticipation.  I need the symbolism of the ends and beginnings.   They are so important, especially to me, especially now.  It is time to end the year of rotting and desiccating and wraith-like behavior.

So let me begin anew tonight by wishing you all a very happy New Years Eve (if somewhat silly and snarly).  Here's to 2012, my friends.  It could be one helluva year.  I certainly hope it is, BEGINNING TO END.

Sunday, December 25, 2011

Merry Christmas to All

And to all a good night...

Okay, okay, just because I merrily embrace witchcraft does not mean I engage in Dickensian, Scroogelike behavior.  I like trees and lights and ornaments as much as anyone else.   So I wish you all a very Merry Christmas and a very happy holiday no matter what you celebrate.

Cheers, Friends.

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Use of the Word 'Celebrate'- A Lot... Ditto for Love

Tomorrow is the Winter Solstice- also called Yule.  While it has since been co opted by Christianity and the Christmas season, the heart of the Solstice still rules, I think.  It is the shortest day, the longest night, of the calendar year.  Who cares, right?  And why on earth would we celebrate the longest time of darkness?  Most people find this time stressing, depressing, dark enough as it is, and with the holiday flusters, busy.

Well... let me enlighten you.  We celebrate (and yes, by we I mean the witches, all of us gloriously dualistic gods and goddesses of the natural world) the longest night because the next day will be a little longer.  And the day after that, and the day after that.  The hours of light will lengthen and slowly the world will circle itself into spring.  There will be growth and warmth.  We celebrate the dark to honor its passing into the light.  To look forward to times of fertility and community.

I wish I could explain it a bit better... We celebrate Yule in order to celebrate the difficulties in our lives (as counter-intuitive as that sounds)- because we have, or we can, or we will (hopefully) push through them- and to celebrate them with our loved ones.  Afterall, who knows better than those surrounding us the path on which our hardships have taken us?  Who, indeed?  And who better than to hold our hands and smile into that long night than those who truly understand the meaning of a smile on the darkest, and longest night?

And there lies the heart of Winter Solstice- the heart that beats regardless of how much organization and rigid religiosity is constantly pumped into it.  Day follows night- even the longest night of the year, light follows dark, good times balance the bad and we move on.

We gather.  With those we love.  And we move forward, we move on.  With those we love.

Have a lovely Solstice, Friends.  Enjoy the longest night- and remember that it will eventually be over.

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

When You Love, You Share

Of course because Christmas draws near I have begun to think about giving and gifting and spirit.  Today I was privy to a brilliant example of giving.  My most amazing and kind, caring, and profound yogi gave her entire class of students small gifts this morning.  A beautiful CD, delicious and restorative teas, a bit of candy for some extra holiday sweetness, and homemade, handcrafted lip balm.  What a perfect lady she is.  She thought about all of her students, all of her friends and loved ones and put together something that made each and every one of us feel so special and so remarkable- and know that to her, we are just that.  

You see, when you love, you share.  You share thoughts, you share feelings, you share your wealth- whether it is economic, spiritual, or intellectual.  Lovely Lisa, the extraordinary yogi, shared with us a simple set of gifts- things that made both her and us happy.  Personally, I like to share baked goods and the fondest aromas that make my nearest and dearest aware that I think about them all the time.  The point is that you share something of importance, of significance.

Even though I am unwell, I feel blessed- and I try to remind my self of it as frequently as possible.  Blessed because I have a network of people who love me surrounding me and sharing with me.  And blessed because I get to share with these people as well.  Some days I don't have very much to share, as I don't have very much of me.  But when I can, I do.

Until next time, Friends, Cheers- and Cheerful Holidays.

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

What a Small Setback Reads Like

It is a rainy December day.  And I am exhausted.

Apparently all of this work at healing is a bit energy draining.  And, while all of you are probably as exhausted as I am- as exhausted of me as I am, no less- I shall forge ahead.

There are days when I want nothing more than to be outside of myself.  Outside, looking at someone else, acting like someone else, being someone else.  This morning, laying in bed, considering the day and the days events, I felt that.  I felt the desire to be projected into the ether, to exist in the rainy atmosphere, light as air and natural as the same.

I know that we all have these days.  I know that and I will cop up to it.  Some of us have them more frequently than others- some of us have them too frequently.  I am no longer in the 'too frequently' category, which is nice; but I am still in the 'more frequently' category, which is reality.  It sounds a bit odd, but I am hopeful that reality, real things, keep me moving forward.

A small setback in the grand scheme of things.  I will be right as rain- tomorrow.

Tomorrow, Friends.

Monday, November 28, 2011


Or- how my soul simultaneously blooms and stills.

I have recently become quite taken with essential oils; aromatherapy if you will.  Peppermint, lavender, rosemary, Frankincense, Myrrh... you know, the usual suspects.  Each have their own purpose; each have their own reason.  Then there is one called Jatamansi.  It's a fairly unusual oil, introduced to me by my beautiful, wonderful, harmonious yogini.  So if you ever get the chance to have a sniff, have a sniff.

It smells terrible.  I mean, it is not an appealing scent at all.  However, when I get a whiff of it, I feel like I have finally met my soul mate.  I literally can feel my spirit, my heart, the very essence of my being both calm and blossom under the effect of that scent.  Why it has this effect on me, I can't say... but it does, it absolutely does.  My hectic brain and scattered world comes to a grinding halt and suddenly I feel at peace and whole and right. I have been trying to describe this effect to myself and to others with little success until I realized that the key point is that all of this happens at once.  At the same split second.  Stillness and overwhelming vibrant blooming.

Cheers, Friends.

Thursday, November 24, 2011

Pilgrimage, Part Two

To keep things alive and entertaining, I give you 'Pilgrimage, Part Two' or 'How Many Women Does it Take to Make a Drink.'  Let me preface by saying I adore my family.  I adore every bizarre, quirky, outrageously distinct  inch of my family.  And this blog serves distinctly as a chronicle to the greatness of the Seyfried-Cleerdin/Devaney/Zdobinski/Thompson clan.

 Right now I am sitting in the kitchen and drinking something called a Poinsettia.  It's a delightful champagne drink (see below) with triple sec and a bit of cranberry.  It's totally girly and does, indeed take four women to make.  Once again, I love these people.
So aside from a non-stop festival celebrating the White Man's Fire Water, this past week has been full of the most delicious possible excursions.  For example, and I must say I don't think I could be more excited to share this, I saw a wall of toilets.  A WALL of TOILETS.  It is the first wall of toilets I have ever seen.  And this wasn't just any wall of toilets, this was the wall of toilets at the Kohler Design Center in Kohler, Wisconsin.  It is epically art-deco (or art nouveau depending on which school of thoughts to which you subscribe). And my oh my, it was beautifully well done, all things considered.

Not to mention the phenomenally well-designed toilets (which you can use, as opposed to the wall of toilets toilets) John Michael Kohler Arts Center.  These Wisconsinites really seem to enjoy their personal spaces... their very personal spaces, know what I mean?

There has also been epic shopping- food, thrift, chocolates, more thrift, more chocolates and food.  Shopping in my dearest Auntie Nancy's jewelry box, planters (I am now the proud owner of a Jade plant named Pomona) and closet in general.

Then there is the Drunken Turkey.  I know, I know, but I haven't posted photos in a long time.  Yes, this is our Thom Turkey- or Thomasina, rather, because apparently the smaller birds are women-folk.  And if you look carefully in the back of the picture you will see aleve, ibuprofen, tums, AND Magners hard Cider.  Only one of those items contributed to the cooking of the holiday feast.  I will give you one guess to which item that was.

That's right.  The Cider.

Thanksgiving is the right season for happy thoughts.  Like toilets.  And Poinsettias.

Go Packs (I was informed by Wisconsinite Auntie that I must absolutely say that whilst in Wisconsin).

And then some.

Wait till part three... tentatively entitled 'Without Advertising, We Wouldn't Eat Cookies Made By Elves.'


Until three days ago I had never seen a Great Lake.  Of course in grammar school I learned the acronym HOMES for these harbingers of geological time; later, in college I imagine, I studied the importance of the Lakes in frontier movement and later in the development of shipping, trade, and simple, elegant movement in the United States.  So I knew of them, I knew a great deal about them, but I had never SEEN them.  Not a single one.  At least not that I can recall with any adult memory.

Lake Michigan.  What an elemental experience.

This Thanksgiving Holiday I have begun to think of as a Pilgrimage of sorts- with Wisconsin of all places as my Mecca, my Wailing Wall, my Vatican City.  That's right- Wisconsin.  My father's sister Nancy lives here, in Sheboygan, on the banks of Lake Michigan (of course.. I am geographically challenged so when she informed me that the Lake was some seven blocks from her house I had to lug my jaw off of the floor).  Some time ago I decided that for this first Thanksgiving stateside in two years I should probably take off for parts unknown.  I felt comfort and rightness in going north, started sending out self-inviting emails and my Aunt welcomed me quickly and happily.

Then, because families are what they are, my parents decided to join me; my honorary Aunt would make the trip as well; and about a week ago we learned my father's younger sister and her husband would join us as well.  I guess my pseudo-spiritual quest for warmth at holiday was infectious.  So off we set, my parents and I, and others, on the journey north.  Over the river, through the woods... through mountains and a stretch of Indiana that Dante himself could not have written with more Inferno-esque accuracy... and suddenly (not so suddenly... more like 15 hours later) we pulled up in front of 1212 Main.

We had arrived.  I had arrived.

And then the Lake Michigan bomb was dropped.  Some blogs ago, I mentioned that Mother Nature gives me gifts in the most precious capacity.  This is certainly one of them.  I had no idea that I would see this  body of water.  I had no idea how striking the colors of the sinking sun which played upon it's surface.  That's right, the Pilgrimage was no longer pseudo-spiritual, but entirely so.  The Lake embraced my soul and wrapped me in its ancient, surreal presence.

I have stared at the Lake every time we have driven or meandered by it, trying desperately to memorize it's immense power, it's old old beauty and endlessness.  Here is something glacial, something ageless and unconfined except by shorelines which barely seem to hold it in place.  Here is something that makes sense in a senseless place and a senseless time.

Mother Nature, Lake Michigan, the Pilgrimage, Tom Turkey.... It is Thanksgiving today.  I can hear my aunts and mother in the kitchen, talking about stuffing and clam dip and the date/pecan scones I made last night.  The sounds of family are as comforting and elemental as the sounds of that Lake that is pulsing and vibrating with Greatness just a few blocks from here.

Stay tuned, my friends.  And Happy Thanksgiving.

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Night of Hecate

If you have never tried psycho-analyzing yourself- you should.  Seriously, give it a go.  Today I wrote the following sentence in a journal designated to chart my course through healing: 'Perhaps my empty body reflects my empty spirit?  Perhaps I punish my body for what I feel my soul lacks?'

Ah yes.  You never know what you'll discover about yourself when you sit back, psycho-analyze, and write.

Anywho, tonight is the Night of Hecate.  For those of you who are wondering, Hecate is the Goddess of femininity and the path of life- she embodies the sacred trinities of Maiden, Mother, and Crone; Mind, Body, and Spirit; Birth, Life, and Death.  If you watch movies about witches, or television series about the same, you often hear her name invoked during rituals.  It's because she's a damn strong presence in the Earth.  Damn Strong.  Her celebrations generally take place at the crossroads- symbolic of decision-making and change.  Light a candle, thank the goddess for her presence along your own particular life path, and start making decisions.

For me this is an important moment.  I'm always all about intuition- knowing when the time is right... to throw away the necklace, to burn the letters, to be braver than the day before- and if there is one thing to intuit about the Night of Hecate it's that my time as Death should be coming to a close.  It is time to make decisions and changes that will lead to Life.  I'm not quite ready for Birth yet.  But Life is important.

And when you have the kind of weeks I have had- the kind of day I have had- you sometimes need to see that in writing.  It does not really matter how obvious a statement it truly is.  Life is Important.

Sit back, psycho-analyze, and write.  Because Life is Important.  And it's important to know what you are doing with it.

Until next time... I wish you all a power-filled Night of Hecate and Good Crossroads.  Cheers, Friends.

Sunday, November 13, 2011

November Dark

It is my favorite kind of day.  Dark, low clouds; cool weather; leaves rustling in the chill wind.  This is the fall, this is November.  I sit inside looking completely ridiculous in fake-Uggs, leggings, and a tunic- the clues that I have just finished yoga.  But at least I am meditative and mellow, a good thing for me these days.

The dark of autumn differs from that of any other season.  It rolls in quietly, almost politely... and then it sits, changing its manners to become almost sinister in a way.  It surrounds everything, subtly reminding us that the cold, long winter months are on their way.  It hangs, looms, not brutally cold just yet, but getting there.  Oh autumn, my dear friend.

Autumn, as I have blogged before, is a time for introspection and preparation.  Time to make plans and break plans and plan for survival.  Some of my plans I am particularly excited about- about others I am petulantly and childishly less than excited.  But survival is on my mind today, it has been on my mind for several days, to be honest.  And not just survival in general but how to survive and how to grow; how to turn the need to survive into the want to survive.  Wanting to make it is so much more imperative than needing to make it.  If you don't want it, you probably won't get it.

Which is a bit scary when it comes to survival.

But it is November, and I am okay.

Much love and autumn cheer, Friends.

Thursday, November 3, 2011

Dear Peanut Industry

I'd like to thank you for all of your diligent and delicious work at keeping me out of the hospital.

I have been thinking about this for a while now.  You see, I am sick.  Not that my dear readers and dearest friends have not picked up on this fact.  No, I am quite confident in the intelligence of my readers.  I am sick with an eating disorder that has torn my psyche apart for a dozen long years.  The past few difficult months have seen me drop a solid 20 pounds off of an already petite (but muscular) frame- far and away the worst I have ever ever been.

Now that everyone finds themselves sufficiently frightened.... The point.

Thank you, peanut farmers, peanut growers, peanut industrialists, inventors, innovators, processors... peanut powerhouses like Jif, Skippy, MaraNatha, Crazy Richard, Teddy's...

You folks have unknowingly and unwittingly saved my life.  Peanut Butter.  Two simple words- Peanut. Butter.  The undeniable superfood.  The most perfect substance for they like me.  Perfectly calorically dense, perfect fats, even more perfect oils.  Super. Food.

So thank you, Peanut Butter.  Without you, I'd be a different...  person.

Cheers, Friends and fellow Peanut Enthusiasts.

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Stag- or- The Importance of Going Solo

I have spent an extraordinary amount of money this season.  Some of it was necessary to spend but a significant amount I spent simply in some vain and desperate attempt to rebuild myself.  Remember those ghosts of mine?  They needed a new wardrobe.  I needed a new wardrobe.  I needed to make myself anew. I still do.  I still struggle with wanting to discard permanently relics from an upsetting time and replace them with delicious books or swank new corduroy pants... or stash those relics away, out of sight until I am stronger and wiser and much much calmer.  More appropriately able to handle them.

Don't worry, I am indeed long-windedly getting to a point of sorts.  The other day I splurged (again) on a tiny folding wallet- one of those you put an ID card and some cash in, shove it in your back pocket, and think 'sorted, I am streamlined.'  The reason I just couldn't help myself this time was the material.  The wallet has tiny silver stags all over it.  I am drawn to stags, amongst other wild creatures, and feel a strong desire to represent that a little more clearly and abruptly in my day-to-day comings and goings.  People should know- they should be a little more aware of the importance of wild things.

The point of the wallet and my musings?

When was the last time you saw a deer, a stag, and thought 'that's a wild creature'?  When is the last time any of us have stopped to really consider the meaning of domestication and domesticity?  Last fall, on a visit to my parents' house,  I watched an eight-point buck leap a six-foot fence with no running start. He just took flight into some unsuspecting suburbian's well-tended backyard.  An eight-point buck.  In the middle of Southside Charlotte, North Carolina.  Just using his incredibly powerful hind muscles.  That was no domestic creature.  That buck represented the wild things that we daily pretend are domestic but are in fact something else entirely.

Right now you are thinking... 'how exactly did we go from wallets to wild things?'

It's all part of this reclamation process of mine- which has admittedly had some setbacks of late- but I suppose all do.  I was a domestic creature for a little while.  I wore that label without fully understanding what it truly meant for my identity.  I disappeared.  I became routine and lost the identity that made me me.  Domestic animals are overlooked, in a way, by their frequency in our lives.  So while I became domestic to one person I became anomalous to everyone else, including myself in the end. I wasn't wild, as I have lamented in past blogs: in fact as I grew increasingly more domesticated I inversely and perversely grew increasingly less noticeable.

But becoming stag again, the solo version of Kate, has given me this strange opportunity to learn about myself again.  At a time when most people are settled into their identities as young execs, bank tellers, park rangers, mothers, wives, whatevers, I was a blank page.  I remain largely so because this process is necessarily slow, excruciatingly so.  I meet some new part of me, everyday.  There are days I don't like those parts that I meet- but they are mine and me so I take them.  For example- I can be a real bitch when I want to be.  But I can also admit to it.  Being stag lets me accept those things with much more grace and humility than I ever had before.

So there you have it.  The stag wallet.  I know, it's all so silly in my head.  Then again, I have never claimed to be anything but.

Until next time, Cheers Friends.

Friday, October 14, 2011

Burn a Black Candle

Because black protects.  It absorbs and repels negative energy.  It perfectly represents duality and balance.  And because black protects.

Sunday, October 9, 2011

Bittersweet... and then I made Lentil Soup

My roommate in college, who also happens to be one of my dearest friends in the world, wrote me a note on a post-it one night and stuck it to my computer.  When I read the note, I taped it down so that I would see it every day.  It was during our senior year, we were still suffering each other in the dorms, and I was slowly but surely self-destructing between working, writing a thesis, and carrying a full coarse-load.  To this day it surprises me that Suzannah put up with me for so long.  Shout out, Suz.

By now you are asking yourself- and the computer- 'well.. what did the note say?'

'Forget Regret or Life is Yours to Waste.'  My roomie... she sure does have a way with words.

I have been thinking about regrets lately.  Quite a bit today because it is beautiful outside and I am only now remembering what it is like to experience and live in such beauty.  This park season (my life as a ranger takes on strange schedules and time tables) has mostly been a battle to find a person in myself after losing... a lot of things.  I have kept quiet (sometimes), raged and wept (sometimes) but have always always stayed protected.  I patterned my day-to-day existence around isolation, providing myself with an insular life and building and rebuilding fortress-like walls around my heart, brain, and spirit.  I do not regret any of this.  I needed, and still desperately need, the quiet.  I need peace to sort through this... this.

What I do regret is that I became a zombie.  The isolation was complete.  I was protected.  I was alone.  I still am alone to a degree that I believe most people would be uncomfortable with.  What I regret the most is that I was absent.  How can I possibly explain such a regret?  I smelled the salty-brackish water of the sound today, coming back from a run, and remembered the beauty of nature.  I stood in the sunlight at work today and felt warmth.  These are things I did not experience- things I did not let myself experience- for such a long time.  I feel such happiness to reintroduce myself to sensations- but such regret that I let so long pass without them.  Such deep, weeping regret in soul area of me.

Some things cannot be helped.  Sometimes we have to go away, all of us if we are totally honest.  We have to, we need to, be absent.  But when we come back, when we reenter the atmosphere of our worlds, our loves, our lives, it is such a bittersweet experience.  Such a brilliantly and brutally bittersweet experience.  Everything that was there before we left is still there but it is vivid and strong and beautiful in a way that makes us hurt impossibly and individually.

So yeah, I've been thinking about regrets today.  I'm hoping to have fewer.

Cheers Friends.  Take a deep breath, it's the Fall.

Saturday, October 1, 2011

Making Deals with the Devil*

*And the Devil Don't Deal.

Once you have waltzed yourself precipitously close to the double-door of death and insanity, and then slammed full tilt into reality, things change.  But they change only after you violently, tearfully, and defeatedly realize that it was you.  It was only you single-handedly dismantling your own life, throwing yourself into a sickness-inducing tailspin that seems to go on and on and on.

But when it stops- now that is something else entirely.

I have been self-indulgent, self-effacing, self-loathing and destructive, and all of the other 'selfs' you can think of, for a long time. Too long actually.  But the 'selfs' have been extraordinarily present in the past couple of months.  And I let them have whatever was left of me after a series of unfortunate events (to borrow a phrase).  I let them become something that passed for a personality- for a person.  A bare minimum of a person in every single definition of minimum.  That's the realization that stopped the spin.

Well, slowed the spin.

Because when you lose your real self to these things that pass as 'self' and then wake up to find your 'self' living a life that is not yours and can, honestly, barely fit the description of life and living, a vivid, surreal blossom of fear spreads through every fiber of the being that is yours.  It stole my breath.  To finally understand what I had done TO MYSELF, it literally stole my breath.  It is a hard thing to describe, the awakening after a long slumber of numbness and disaffection.  It is an exponentially harder thing to describe, the distressing (but somehow refreshing) knowledge that it was only ever me allowing myself to fracture, to shatter, to slide into numbness and disaffection and then not bothering to pick up the pieces.  I left the bits of myself on the floor with whatever desire I had to be a real girl.

Over the past week, however, I have somehow survived a second series of unfortunate events.  They are the Devil of the title.  But they are also the trigger, the gun that finally went off in my painfully dislocated brain and body.  The devil is in the details but right now the details are less important that the overarching view: there is a person here.  She is still (too) small and still a bit disoriented.  But she is finally, finally here.

Cheers Friends.

Oh, and Happy October.

Saturday, September 24, 2011

Happy Birthday to Me

I awoke this morning to the distant rumble of thunder- just one, long, low roll of it.  I take it as Mother Nature's sweet birthday gift to me- she knows I love storms.  She has a weird way of presenting her gifts.  This time last year, I was sitting in our warm kitchen in New Hampshire eating oatmeal, staring out the window at a frost-covered field and thanking my stars that I was lucky enough to be in a place that I love (to have found a place that I love) when a horse emerged from our dilapidated barn.

We did not have horses.

But that's Mother Nature for you.  I fed the horse an apple and sent it home.  This was life.

Now I am looking at another year and things have changed profoundly.  A beginning and an end.  But what is beginning and what is ending?  Summer has ended, fall begun, as of yesterday.  It signals the slowing down of the world- an increasingly introspective and quieter time of taking stock, storing goods, and preparing for winter.  Well, that was the original signaling of the fall.  Things have indeed changed these days.  But I am getting off-topic.  This is not a post about the inevitable tendencies of humans to change, destroy, and forget.  It's about birthdays.

Birthdays and seasonal change.  I am not one to make a huge deal of my own birthday.  I refuse to bake a cake for myself (I gleefully forced my roommate to do it this year), I tend to celebrate with my family, it is what it is.  But it necessarily had to be different this year.  Not that 27 necessitates anything special- no, not even close.  My birthday follows the Autumn Equinox every year, as I age this fact takes on more meaning.  This year it is another weird birthday present to me.  Because I can revel in the symbolism as it applies to my life.  The perfect balance of night and day was struck yesterday, a reminder that balance is universal, elemental, and not-so-subtlety lacking in my day-to-day existence.  It is an even more powerful, visceral reminder that time is the constant.  It moves everything.  It changes everything- seasons, heartache.  But it remains.  And I cannot exist outside of it, as I have been attempting for so many weeks and months now; I cannot protect myself enough to fool time.

Happy Birthday to Me.

Cheers Friends.

Thursday, September 15, 2011

To Have Strength, One Must Be Strong

Over the course of two hours this morning, and by two different medical professionals, I was referred to as 'intuitive, insightful, aware, and intelligent.' These are not bad things at all.  On the contrary, I have been called much, much worse and by many, many people.

But none of these qualities that apparently (currently) describe me are what I have need to be, what I want to be, described as: 'strong, resilient, undefeated.'  Understand (I do) that these are the musings of a silly, sad girl whose silly, sad world is trembling.  I need strength.  I crave strength- an inner power which holds that silly, sad girl in place while that silly, sad world trembles away.  I desperately wish for those around me to remember me as a person with a backbone... Hell, even to be remembered (remembered!) as a person with a personality would be nice.

Let's face it.  My intuition does not come from some grand intellect but from half a lifetime of living with ghosts.  And if I were truly insightful, truly aware, and truly truly intelligent, I probably would not be traveling down this earthshaking road (maybe a stronger word than 'trembling' is necessary) that I am on today- gleefully destructive, ruefully and distressingly marching with purpose.

Thursday, September 1, 2011

The Only Difference Between a Rut and the Grave is its Depth


While I am not entirely sure who first said this gem, I am absolutely sure that it applies to my current state of being.  Absolutely sure.  The only difference between a rut and the grave is its depth?  Yes.

In other news, it is the first day of September.  And September is my month.  All mine.  I selfishly and wantonly claim this month.  Yes yes, I know that it's my birthday at the end of the month and so it's really not surprising that I would have such an affinity for it.  But September is the beginning of Fall, it's the start of goodness and apples (and apple cider!); of fires and feist and witching.

Am I still inching my way toward the grave?  Yes.  But maybe it will become a little more shallow for September.

Cheers, Friends.

Friday, August 26, 2011

Two-fer- Decisions, Decisions and Songs

I decided to do a two-fer-one today.  Two blogs, one post.  It has been a long week, a longer night and the longest time.  Enjoy:

Decisions, Decisions

It's funny, but every time I write a blog I have some difficulty coming up with a title.  Today's options included: 'Wearing Thin', 'Setbacks', 'Bravery', and 'Integrity', amongst others.  None of those have the effect that I want for this entry in particular. So I went with the considerably more neutral 'Decisions Decisions.'  Because that is my life lately.

At any rate, let me get on with it.  I have begun the process of phone-calling, refunding, promise-breaking.  The promises I am breaking are mostly ones that I have made to myself over time- be strong, be a fortress, keep what is yours and yours alone to yourself.  Be better.  Go to Maine once a year, every year, for as long as you both shall live.  These promises I made... I made over time and as a result to many odd and probably mostly juvenile events in my life.  But they are mine.  Which is why these decisions that I must make now are so difficult.  I do not want to break my word.  Especially not to myself.

But some things, I suppose, break.

The decisions that have been left to me, and I mean really left to me alone, are few and far between.  Most of them have been taken from me one way or another.  Return to work?  How about a hurricane instead?  Move to New England?  How about you'll freeze to death by your second night because there is nothing left of you?  Do yoga...? mmm... I don't think so- you have tendinitis in your wrist!  So I make the aforementioned phone calls and ask for said refunds.  And then I grin and bear another promise that I have broken.  And I don't have the heart to make any more to myself just yet.

The decisions I get to make are more along the lines of... run two miles today? or Four?  Clean room? Or attempt to bake banana bread?  Pretty low-key decisions.  I suppose that's just the way of things right now.  I hope only for right now.


I know that everyone has moments that are defined by songs and songs defined by moments.  So here is my current list:

I have been listening to a lot of Mumford and Sons lately.  Especially this song.  Listen carefully- there is a line which states 'it seems that all my bridges have been burnt- you say that's exactly how this grace thing works.'  That line, that line sums up what daily runs through my head.  Especially now, especially after all these decisions.  If you get a chance, this song makes me cry every time I hear it.  In a good way, I guess, because it is hopeful in it's own very British, very dour way.

Bon Iver, Bon Iver, Bon Iver should have first billing on this list of songs.  He's been saving me, of late, without knowing me or caring for me.  I can't stop listening to Holocene.  Because I am not magnificent.  And because I have never cried so hard in my life and because hearing a male voice say these words is so much more emotive and heartbreaking then even she could be: his cover of Bonnie Raitt's classic.  If I could pull the covers over my head and sleep the rest of the year away, I'd have Bon Iver singing my lullaby.

Adele's second album 21 kills it.  The angry girl in me likes to blast Rolling in the Deep.  Of course, then I run out of energy and need something a little more restorative.  Enter more Bon Iver.  Really, you don't even need a link here, just youtube Bon Iver, pick a song, and it will be amazingly intuitive.

For the pop addict in me... Oi.. I am loathe to admit it but... The Script have my ear.

Cheers Friends.  Alas, I am not able to report on the Jesus Christ University signage of late.  I do wonder what they have to say about the 'Monster Hurricane.'  Probably something incredibly deep and powerful.  And damning.

And not at all intelligent.

Okay, until next time.

Thursday, August 18, 2011

Bodies in Motion

So this Sir Isaac Newton fellow may have been onto something.  Bodies in motion remain in motion until acted upon by an outside force. First(ish) law of physics.

I am not, by nature, a still person.  Once upon a time I hummed with vitality and power- I was a Newtonian constant- always in motion, always moving, always always alive.  And my oh my, how the times have changed.  For now I am sitting at my parent's kitchen table, nursing a glass of wine and pondering that first law, oh Newton.  And what an important law it is.

You see, I have recently kept myself semi-alive (a kind description of my current state of being) through a series of events (the outside force) that have not only stopped me (remain in motion until acted upon by...) but have literally halted my previously powerful motion so completely that I have to worry whether or not I will ever start moving again.  It strikes me as so odd because I went for a long run today.  The physical motion is there.  It's here in my fingers as I type and remain true to my promise of honesty.  It's here in my foot that keeps bouncing in worried energy.  It's here in the goosebumps that raise on my arms under the kitchen fan.

But it is suspiciously absent otherwise.  The emotional side of me has stilled.  The mental side of me has stilled.  All in some desperate bid to survive against this opposite force.  I know everyone goes through it.  I know that.  But who is really honest about it?  Who really takes the time to expose themselves?

Newton was right.  It takes a powerful, equal force to stop movement so completely.

Sunday, August 7, 2011


A few summers ago one of my many roommates and I were sitting in the kitchen of our New Hampshire cabin and discussing how to go about impressing self-important owners of a fair-trade coffee shop in order to procure some gainful employment there.  If you have ever met self-important owners of a fair-trade coffee shop (especially one near an Ivy League) then you can probably imagine the direction this conversation took.  One of the questions on her application demanded that the potential employee identify his or her "favorite three syllable word."  I'm not kidding.  It was a no-brainer answer for my roommate- or-gan-ic- duh.  Beat that hipster Ivy-Leaguers.

The question led to a further pondering of favorite words, in general, and what those words mean. Think big- the ideas captured and conveyed in some single words are more powerful than any treatise of words in the world.

My favorite word is 'wilderness.'  I adore that word.  I am enraptured by that word.  I identify with that word- I used to use that word to describe myself.  It has been some time since I have been able to do that, but it was a part of me once, a strength that sat in the core of my being and sustained a part of my spirit that was, to be redundant, wild; the part of my spirit that was singularly unique, impossible, and entirely untouchable.

Wilderness; deep, dark, threatening, angry wilderness.  The untamable other.  The passion!  The power!

I have loved it for so long, I think, because it's presence is permanent.  To move onto a much more esoteric plane- regardless of the road humanity takes, wilderness is a haunting, hunting thing that follows us; traces our movements from some inky place in the dense shadows.  It stays on the periphery, but it is there always.  It's constancy is like a gift, in my mind.

In this context, wilderness is a measure of honesty- confronting it is an act of bravery.

Thursday, July 28, 2011

Some Secrets

I have been thinking- isn't it funny how the pronunciation and syllabic emphasis of a word or phrase changes it's entire meaning?

For example- 'some secrets', depending on how you stress the words, could mean several things.  'Some secrets' as in 'hey, those are some secrets you're sharing with us!'  Or 'some secrets' as in 'hey, I've got some secrets to share with you.'

But no, today's title is a softer 'some' and a defeated 'secrets' as in 'some secrets are not meant to be shared.'  Some secrets are meant to be squirreled away in some dark corner, left to gather dust in the recesses of our minds.

Some secrets are meant to haunt only the person keeping them.

Cheers, Friends...  and look, it was almost more cheerful than my previous post?

Sunday, July 17, 2011

I am the Brutality of Vision

I am sitting in a coffeeshop at the moment, trying not to feel bad about eating a cookie when I have barely eaten anything in about a week.  Welcome to the heartbreak.

The worst part of being an eating-disordered creature is the inevitable, cyclical, sickening slide back into it.  It hurts; it strains the soul; it creates desperation where there should only be acceptance.  Whether this slide is a result of an impossibly bad week (in my case this time), an offhand comment (has happened in the past), or a stomach flu that makes you remember the twisted satisfaction of starvation (has also happened in the past), it is not a happy experience.  In fact it is such a collision of the physical and the emotional and mental that it is impossible to detail.

I don't mind sharing this because I am fairly confident that most people I know have some idea of my own deeply distressing problems with myself.  There is no good way to explain what one goes through when one's brain and body begin to mutiny.  It is weird- obviously.  On a side note, I am sick to think that some unfortunate individuals glorify what I do to myself.. but I do it over and over as if I glorify it as well.  I don't like it but some grooves in my brain are worn so deep they are almost comforting in their exhaustion.  And there you have it, the most upsetting and inhuman part of the game- that self deprivation, deprecation, hatred, starvation and cruelty, can actually be comforting.  Yes.  And sometimes I am simply too exhausted otherwise to fight back.

I know this all seems rather depressing.  And it is. And I apologize for the fear and distress that people may feel in reading this.  But, and this should not be a news flash to anyone, sometimes life is less than thrilling.  Sometimes it is truly a bag of suck.  I have turned over a new leaf in life (is that the saying?).  I am not, by nature, a dishonest person.  But this past week, if nothing else, has caused me to believe that the only way of getting out of bed in the morning is to make a promise to be honest to everyone about everything.  No more fudging the truth.  No more painting over the painful parts solely because they are painful.  Pain is a part of the universe as much as you or I.

The difficult part (as if it could actually get more difficult than what I have already written) is that promising honesty necessarily means promising brutality.  It means promising bad moments and unhappiness and sometimes cruelty.

But there are worse things in life.  See above.

Until next time, friends.  Oh, and everyone calm down.

Saturday, July 2, 2011

Nous Sommes Tous Sauvages

There is a story that kicks around colonial history on the post-highschool-probably-post-university-level.  I have heard it a couple of times, but I studied this stuff so it was inevitable that I would trip over it at some point.  It is a story that more or less devastates the very western-society idea that Europeans took colonialism by storm and didn't look back- that they more or less ruled the roost.  

The story:  as France colonized the interior (think the Mississippi River area- all the way up) she employed men known as couriers du bois as fur traders/trappers.  These wood runners played a strange roll in the vast but shrinking wilderness.  They were the connection between the "civilized" French or European world and the "savage" Native American.  And here's the thing- they chose the Native American world for their own.  As these men navigated the very complicated, sometimes treacherous space of fur trading, international relations building, and survival, they actively chose to mutate toward the "savage" culture.  (And there's the rub- they gave up the lives that Europeans were desperately trying to transfer a)to the New World and b)to the natives themselves and they did it gleefully).  Because, as the fur traders rapidly found out, the Native Americans set the rules for whatever game both sides were playing.  They set the rules and then didn’t tell the French, English, or Spanish how to play.

But that is not the story I want to tell.  The couriers du bois, having assimilated so well into the native cultures, began to think and feel like their Indian brethren.  So it should not have surprised anyone when a small French settlement was attacked, it’s inhabitants basically massacred and an ominous yet telling message carved into a tree (of course, it’s always trees): nous sommes tous sauvages.  We are all savages.

Why am I telling this story?  I know, it’s morbid and weird and makes me sound not a little gleefully macabre.  I’m telling it because the education system in the United States needs to start telling it.  It need not be a story kicked around graduate school for all the cool kids to know and no one else.  The colonial education is fairly limited in the US… apparently much of its history is fairly limited… oh say, until the Civil War.  Newsflash- a lot of other events shaped the identity of this nation before it was the United States; a tremendous amount of ‘stuff’ happened before the North and South decided they didn’t want to be friends anymore- so give it up.  Give it a rest. Look a little further into the past of richer and more eloquent commentary on the human condition. 

I’m telling this story because I love colonial history and I hate that Native Americans are pushed out of it as savages.  There is no greater insult than to tell a developed, beautiful, complicated and highly individual culture that it is a savage one.  Savages?  Really?

I am telling this story because it came up at work the other day in the context of “why don’t we tell more of the Native American story?”  An excellent question anonymous visitor.  We don’t tell more of their story because, again I’ll blame the education system here, we don’t know how to.  And even if we did, we certainly don’t know how to do it in a way that coveys the grace and power of their story.  Native Americans were not passive victims in the colonization of North America, but active participants.  The eventually were victimized to the point of devastation, but they were there with the Europeans the whole time.  And they were strong; and, and I can’t emphasize this enough, they set the rules.  The cultural exchange happening in the colonies between cultures was not one sided.  It was not all Europe all the time.  It was much more equal than that.  And if it takes me telling a ridiculous story about identity change in the wilderness to get that point across, so be it. 

Now, I understand that people reading this blog know all of this.  There are like 5 of you who actually bother keeping up with it.  And you all know me well enough to have heard it all before.  And let’s be honest- you are all intellectual enough to get to these conclusions all by yourself given the right amount of detail and fact.  I am hoping that someone will stumble up on this someday and have an epiphany.  And that he or she will pick up Richard White’s The Middle Ground or Alan Taylor’s American Colonies and learn something that pushes their ideas of colonialism to the breaking point.

I am telling this story because we are all savages.

Saturday, June 25, 2011

Having a Coke With You *

*The original version of this blog was written on the back of a copy of 'The Waking' by Theodore Roethke.

I had never before heard of Frank O'Hara.  But.  I do have a guilty pleasure for bad, I mean truly awful, tween romances and sometimes it pays to be idealistically and naively invested in the idea that movie love can be honest and somehow translate in real-life love. That is to say (rather ashamedly) that the other day I watched "Beastly." Starring whatever young Disney pop-royalty is currently making pre-highschoolers drool, it is terrible.  Really.  The only reason I won't say "don't waste your time" is because this terrible film managed one moment of goodness (well... two if you could the use of Deathcab for Cutie's "Trasatlanticism" in the soundtrack) when it introduced me (and probably millions of pre-teens who can't possibly appreciate it's subtlety) to Frank O'Hara's 'Having a Coke With You.'

What this poem did for me- the reason I am waxing stupidly profound on it- was two-fold.  It made that leap from movie love to real-life love and it reminded me about poetry.  Could I be a little more vague?  Probably. But I will try to explain.  This poem captures the iridescence of love- the shimmering silly sweetness; the rarity of it; and the impression of revolution- literally, the world revolves around this love that you feel and the person for whom you feel it.  And what's really important is that 'Having a Coke With You' is a poem- it's the real thing written by a person who (I sincerely hope) has felt these real feelings.  It's not Hollywood, it's hope. It's hope that people can love (romantically, platonically, whatever) with depth, power, and a fullness that seldom seems possible in us human folk.

Perhaps I am too young.

Then there is the poetry part.  In my musings and movings-around, my rush to be everywhere all the time, I had forgotten this other love of mine.  I have read, enjoyed and written poetry for ages now.  It is wonderful, fine, short-form literature that has the short-form capacity to challenge tremendously what you know and want desperately to be true.  And then my love changed a bit.  It grew, developed; mutated into a beast of unfathomable consequence.  Who knew I, the Ice Queen, could FEEL?

In college (after my deeply wounded departure from organized religion) I bought a small, paperback TS Eliot reader.  It became my bible.  Eliot's 'Gerontion' made sense to me in an unusually visceral way.  Ash Wednesday blew my mind.  The power of his work is fairly universal but for me it was also ferociously personal.  A case of "right time, right place."  Derek Walcott came next, in all his post-colonial glory.  Carl Sandburg (I kid you not, 'Have Me' defined love for me.  It should be the dictionary definition); William Carlos Williams; don't even get me started on Rilke and how alarmed I was on finding myself craving his densely religious work.  I don't believe in his God, but I do believe in his words.  God, Rilke!

All of these poets crowded into my heart and my brain.  They made me THINK.  And I did them the ultimate injustice.  I forgot.  I forgot to pick up my books, their books, and love them.  I forgot to have my breath stolen.  I just forgot.

And then I was reminded... ironically enough, by 'Beastly'.  Seriously.  But you take what you are given right? I was given a Coke.

Cheers, my dears.

See that?  I'm a poet.

Monday, June 6, 2011

Salt and Beauty

I went to the beach today (Coquina Beach on the Cape Hatteras National Seashore), for the first time since Australia.  I listened to the waves, absorbed the sun, enjoyed the sensation of the sand shifting beneath me.  I could hardly concentrate on the book I need to read for work; I was too distracted by the feeling of peace.  The page goal I set for myself slowly fell away- 'I've got loads of time,' I thought, 'I may as well swim while I can.'

So I hopped in the water.  It was cool enough to be refreshing but not life-threatening cold.  Which is what I prefer- sorry New England, purple just isn't my natural lip color; it just doesn't suit me.

I waded in, slipped under a wave, and allowed myself to be overwhelmed by the feeling of connectedness inherent in ocean-play, in the way the world sounds under water.  I have done this same thing since I was a child.  There is something primitive about letting a wave crash over you.  I become part of the salty sea, it tightens its grip on me.  When salt water fills your ears you can actually hear the beating and beautiful pulse of the ocean swirling around you.  It is what perfection sounds like (fear not my non-beachy friends, the mountains are still my heart.  If I could slip beneath a mountain and listen to it as it crashed over me, I would.  But there are some logistical problems with that one- me and the mountain both being solids and all... and the fact that a mountain falling down on top of me would probably have some negative results... like death).

There are literally too many ways to describe the duality of peace and power inherent in the sea.  Lucky for me I have an entire season here to think about it.  That is, when I'm not thinking about the sign changes (clearly meant to inspire deep psycho-spiritual self-debate (flagellation?)) from the Jesus Christ University- because apparently the fun just doesn't stop there.

For you folks playing the home game:

Last week let us know that "God wants full custody, not just weekend visits."  Pat's favorite so far.

This Week: "Judgment day is near, settle out of court with Jesus."  This one took me a minute or two.  Until I realised that they didn't mean "church" when they said "court"- they literally meant Gods Almighty Court of Judgment Day Where the Big Screen of Your Life and Plentiful Sinning Plays for ALL TO SEE- or "Rapture, Inc." as I like to think of it.

Cheers, friends.
Come see me if you get the chances- milkshakes, mosquitoes, and supernatural warnings await you!

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

A Rabbit on the Path; A Snake in the Road

Those of you who know me, and can consider yourselves people who know me well, know that I am a mess.  Most of the past few years have been spent packing, unpacking, laundering, moving, running, scheming, yog-ing, taking off, flying, landing, and generally making a world of my own on so many terms that I'm not sure which are mine.  Sometimes I sleep, too.  And sometimes I fit baking or other culinary pursuits into my scatter-brained time table of life.

 I have some few things, people, that anchor me to any given spot or any moment in time.  I float.  But I try and float in a good way, a positive way.

Which is why I crave simplicity; and why it is nice to be reminded of that simplicity even in this ludicrous world in which I exist (I suppose we all exist in this world, but bear with me).  I can ride my bike to work.  Back and forth I go, usually with my iPod in, usually cruising in a potentially dangerous- because it's terribly spaced-out- manner.  I play chicken with cheeky squirrels; I meander and watch the shadows from the forest trees (of course I'm not watching the road); I try to make it on time for my 8:45 start hour.

This morning, in the stillness of early summer, there was a rabbit on the hiking path which bisects one of the roads I take to work.  It watched me as I rolled by, and I watched it.  I think my music playlist had shuffled me either to Jose Gonzalez's "Heartbeats" or Josh Ritter's "Monster Ballads."  Either way, it worked.  I was captivated by this silly little creature; this emblem of simplicity just sitting there on the trail, unmoving and unafraid.  I rolled by, unwilling to disturb it.

That's when I found the snake in the road.  I spooked myself, really.  The snake was newly dead but still plump and lifelike enough to jar me from my rabbit idyll.  I swerved to avoid- it just stayed where it was.  I nearly crashed- it just kind of hung out.

There are great things everywhere; sweet moments that when strung together give me a stronger anchor chain.   Even if one consists of a rabbit, another of a dead reptile.

Cheers, friends.

Sunday, May 15, 2011

Stop, Drop, and Roll Won't Work in Hell

Honestly, I was really struggling with a title for this post.

I thought about "Back in Black" because every time I return somewhere, I start humming that particular AC/DC song to myself.  Or I sing it while I run.  It is a peculiar addition to the soundtrack of my life.  I do believe it runs a nonstop loop in my head because it makes me feel slightly badass.  Not badass enough to actually be a badass, but badass enough.

I also thought about "This is How it Works."  Fans of Regina Spektor will recognize this title as a line from the song "On the Radio."  This is a lyrics killer, every line is amazing and meaningful and creatively beautiful and I am of the opinion that this song has one of the best definitions of love (which is on my mind often and especially when I am leaving China and my love):

"This is how it works: you peer inside yourself,
you take the things you like
You laugh until you cry,
 you cry until you laugh,
and everyone must breathe,
until their dying breath. 
and try to love the things you took-
and then you take that love you made
And stick it into some
Someone else's heart

Pumping someone else's blood"

I know it seems weird, but listen to the song and you will understand.  And then you will be on board with me potentially using that as the title to this post-China post. 

Finalist number three was "Things I Learned in China." It would have been a hilarious blog about the trials and tribulations of living as an ultra non-fluent foreigner in a foreign land.  But I am not yet ready to reminisce; the feelings are still too close to the surface.  Reminiscing in this case would probably mean tears; and tears in a NPS house full of girls is not a great idea.  Like at all.  Besides, the "Things I learned in China" list would probably be somewhat scary and potentially vomit inducing.  For example:  Things I learned in China: You can very clearly (crystal clearly) hear epic loogies hawked. Over a radio. In a cab... so over all of the traffic, music, jarring car noises... there's the omnipresent loogie.  

How could I possibly have chosen between the three?  The short answer is that I couldn't have.  There was just no way. 

So a big shout out to the JESUS CHRIST UNIVERSITY in Manteo NC for providing me with the most excellent substitute title of all time.  In case you were wondering, no- Stop, Drop, and Roll Won't Work in Hell.  Personally, that is a load off of my mind (I'm probably mixing some sayings together with that one).   Who knows what would have happened if I hadn't happened upon that particular sign while biking to the Family Dollar for an extension cord?  Would my immortal soul, confused on that point, be wasted in an eternity of stopping, dropping, and rolling?  Perhaps I would have gotten a free pass because of my own church's lack of clarity on the proper procedure for burning in Hell?

Welcome to my New World.  NPS Summer Season 2011: Fort Raleigh National Historic Site, Manteo NC, 
Roanoke Island.  About two miles down from JCU- the apparent paragons of amazing spiritual advice. 

Cheers friends.  And think about investing in fire extinguishers, eh?

Thursday, April 21, 2011

You May Not Know my Father

... But you probably know Planet Earth.

What, you ask, do the two have in common? (Besides the obvious, that is?) Both my father and Earth share a special day. April 22! The day of my father's illustrious birth and Earth Day. Some background- on April 22, 1951, a beautiful baby boy was born to Robert and Gabrielle Seyfried; the third of four children and the only boy (which would in time cause some deep familial problems when Gabrielle's favoritism became abundantly apparent- as evidenced by sauerbraten vs creamy chicken at the dinner table). On April 22, 1970, when our hero celebrated his 19th birthday, Earth Day was created by United States Senator Gaylord Nelson (I would make the obligatory joke about his name, but it's probably a bit overplayed) as an environmental teach-in and a way of celebrating the natural world (rightly so, I might add). Each went on, in kind, to become something great. Earth Day eventually became International Mother Earth Day and my father became The Bob.

This year, today in fact, The Bob celebrates the big 6-0. And, as he has pointed out with great glee and on numerous occasions, I am nowhere in sight. That's right. I neglected to buy a States'-bound ticket which would get me home in time for mi padres birthday. Add to this the fact that one of his sisters (ahem) sent him not one, not two, but SIX birthday cards, and I seem a little absent... and a little like a terrible, neglectful daughter. And by a little I mean a lot.

So, factoring in the filial guilt trips, the 12000 miles between us, and my aunt (ahem again) and her six cards, I have adopted the Go Hard or Go Home approach to The Bob's birthday this year.

Bearing all of that in mind, I shall take this historic moment in time to announce my spearheading of a movement to rename Planet Earth... "Planet The Bob." That's right, daddy (I bet you didn't think about that when the email started eh? You probably thought you were in for another soap box rumination on pollution, saving the planet, and how Congress is one large collective moron for taking grey wolves off the endangered species list... But nay, that's not where this was going at all... muwhahah). For your birthday, I'm getting you a planet.. and not just any planet but the Big Cahouna of human-habitable planets. Shortly individuals around the world will find their inboxes peppered with a spam-like email asking for signatures to show their support in the greatest Name Coup to ever take place.

Beat that Aunt Nancy!

Haha, HAPPY BEARTHDAY DADDY!!! Much love, and sadness that I missed out on it, From China.

The Kate

Sunday, April 10, 2011

Dear China

Bon Jovi called, he wants his acid wash jeans back.

I daily thank my lucky starts that China has no real influence in the fashion world. Yes, I know, this coming from me- the girl who who is permanently clothed in Patagonia, something from a thrift store, or chacos. Or clogs, let's not forget the clogs- the clunky, murderous, slightly platformed danskos that I am wholeheartedly trying to bring into any sort of style. I realize the irony in this situation. I am literally the last person on earth who can make any sort of critique on fashion. In fact, I think most of you daily thank your lucky stars that I have no real influence on fashion world.

But back to the point. If the 14 million residents of Chengdu are any indication, 1987 is back in style. And back in style to stay. It's devastating. I have no other words for this phenomenon. I mean, I've seen the unnerving 80s styles trends around... the tapered jeans, the side ponytail. I've even sported a side pony or two- recently. Not to mention when Pat and I were in Perth, I saw the same thing. Acid wash jeans, cut off short shorts (with pockets sticking very hick-ly out the bottom, billowy belly shirts that defied the laws of nature and did not meet the high-waist band of the jean short shorts. I was distressed, to say the least. But come on, Australia is Australia- untethered to the rest of known society, existing in a protective island solitude bubble which precludes it's inhabitants from having any pressing need to exhibit fashion sense.

What's your excuse China?

All I'm saying is that the western world is apparently terrified of China, right? Because the government is sitting on trillions of dollars of surplus (and we owe them a bit, too), or because there are a billion Chinese, or because they have in the past year or so developed stealth fighter technology (for more on this, see the Daily Show, January 20, 2011. Then keep watching, Stewart's bit on Steve Cohen is both priceless and poignant). Or because they have a nasty habit of kind of poisoning people (babies) with tainted milk.

But put this is your pipe and smoke it- acid wash jeans. Rhinestones. Bedazzlers gone wrong. Embroidered velvet pants. Neon. TONS of neon. It's okay on Nikes. It's not okay as the accent color on shoulder pads. These are the choices the Chinese are making every day. And I know they have mirrors, I walk past old men cutting them into panels on makeshift workbenches while their grandchildren toddle into oncoming traffic every day. They've got mirrors, they just don't use them.

Everyone calm down.

But if you never hear from me again, it's probably because I've been taken into custody for writing this blog and am being forced to work in labor camp- acid washing.

Or supergluing tiny fake jewels to already ugly hair clips. Or shoes.

Cheers, Friends.

Sunday, April 3, 2011

Happy Birthday, Brother*

*Disclaimer: I wrote this several... months ago. My brother's birthday is the 17th of January. I didn't have my computer around this day, at this particular moment, so I just jotted down what I thought would become the blog in my journal and made a mental note to put it up here. And I've been meaning to get back to it. But I haven't. In typical fashion, I forgot about it and I only remembered writing the initial journal entry today, when I passed the potato fountain (you'll understand shortly).

So on with it:

Day 67: Happy Birthday, Brother. 1/17/2011

Today my brother turns 29 years old. I am thinking about time and time passing. The forward march of time: years, months, days, hours, seconds.

All time, all in motion.

I am also thinking about the rocks in the designer irrigation system/possible fountain outside of our apartment complex.

They look like potatoes. All of them. Every single decorative "river stone" looks like a potato. It's weird. Coming home from my run today (granted my brain was on a barely functioning autopilot at that that point) I literally thought to myself 'who would put all those potatoes there? And perfectly fine-looking ones at that?'

All rocks, all in disguise as potatoes.

Until next time my friends,

Saturday, March 26, 2011


(I totally stole that title). I was doing yoga today; gentle, flowing yoga to try and center myself and my hurt knee and gain a little perspective on both. And as I did this yoga, I began to think about grace.

I am lucky enough to have had two amazing yoginis in my practice and life. Lisa and Sharon, in North Carolina and New Hampshire respectively, are both kind, lovely, insightful and patient teachers. One day Sharon spoke about grace during a particularly painful yoga session- reference the King Pigeon pose, and then pretend you also run about 20-25 miles a week, if you want to gauge just how painful. She was talking about finding and embracing and emitting the grace within ourselves and in the world around us. This is an easy thing to conceptualize when you are living in an idyllic setting in New England and planning on making a stop at the local food co-op on your way home from said brutal yoga class. Less easy when you are not.

So today, that's what I tried to do. I thought if I could tap into that grace, I could grit my teeth and bear the winter that has long overstayed it's welcome here in Chengdu (it's about 50 degrees and rainy out- as it has been for the past 3 weeks). If I could find that well of grace within me, I could not go as stir crazy as I am capable during this prolonged knee injury. And if I can find the grace in myself, surely I can find the grace of the world around me. Don't get me wrong- I believe that the natural world has more grace than any other source- I have no problem finding that. It's literally the world around me- cold, polluted, occasionally post-apocalyptical Chengdu. Seriously. It sometimes look like the Thunderdome here.

Which brings me to my next point. Today is March 26, Earth Hour (for more information see And I cannot think of a more graceful way to embrace this world around me that to turn off the lights for an hour tonight (yet another plug- Earth Hour always occurs at 830pm whatever your local time is). I have participated in this...event, I guess, is the right word... for the past two years, this will be my third. I love what it means, what it represents. Turn off your lights for an hour and prove to the world population that Look- it is easy. Turn off your lights for an hour and let nature take a breath, a deep one. Turn off your lights for an hour and recognize that the Earth is precious, and it is powerful, and it sometimes needs an hour off. That, to me, is grace.

I know that I sound like an ad for this thing, and that I sound a bit preachy and silly. But this is important to me, it has been since I discovered it. It's so stupidly simple that it may just save the world yet.

Cheers my friends,
Until next time.

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

A Bone to Pick

Okay. I know this began as a travel blog. I was supposed to write about the amazing places I've seen and food I've eaten. But there is too much happening to limit myself to fluff + the occasional venting about environmental concerns.

I am incredibly disappointed in the US news media. Not only disappointed but insulted. For both Fox News (yeah, I know it's Fox, but even they should know better and that's saying A LOT) and USAToday (still, not a paragon of international news, but one that is followed by a significant readership) to refer to the continuing crises at the Fukushima Nuclear Power Plant as a "NUKE THREAT" is unbelievably, indescribably, irresponsible.

This is not 1952, guys. We are not in the middle of the Cold War. And to use terminology which popularly and historically recalls threats from nuclear WEAPONS is, again, distressingly insulting and, I cannot stress this enough, IRRESPONSIBLE. First of all Japan has enough on their overwhelmed and nearly destroyed plate without such false labeling. Secondly- look at your science, AP, nuclear reactors and nuclear bombs are two hugely, vastly, unquestionably different things. There is literally no reason to use the word "NUKE" interchangeably between the two. Thirdly, the American people are not morons. There are a few less than savory seeds here and there- but on the whole, the public knows what's up. So what on Earth could compel media outlets to willfully use panic-inciting language?

Come on. This is beyond ridiculous. Man up, Fox, USAToday, and whoever is doing it. Get professional reporters to use professional language- not hack scare tactics. Seriously.

Thursday, February 17, 2011

Back in the Blog-o-Sphere

It's been a while, eh?

In fact, I kind of can't remember what I last wrote about... I think it was bread. But I could be wrong, and since I don't feel like fighting with the proxy network I am using to write this to find out what the topic of my last blog was... I suppose I'll remain in the dark for a bit longer. If the last blog was about bread, however, and was pleasing to my dear followers, you may be happy to know that I have since tried my hand at naan, pita, oatmeal bread, and today it is baguettes. All successfully delicious.

But I, as always, digress.

I just returned to China from Australia. Yes, my life is that much more absurd than yours. For Spring Festival (the mammoth winter holiday in China- similar to Christmas in terms of family gatherings and time off) Pat got three weeks off.. As I am perpetually off, we decided to take advantage of his long teaching break (and some astonishingly cheap airfare) and hightail it to the Land Down Under. We even had a long layover in Kuala Lumpur, home of the Petronas (don't quote my spelling on that one) Towers- the second tallest (again don't quote me there because I am definitely not fact-checking this and Pat is not here to correct me) buildings in the world. We had about 24 hours to spend wandering around there. KL is... probably like any other large, central pacific city. I know that does not give a lot of description but there you have it. It's big; lots of people, buildings, transportation, stuff. It was predominately and suppressively a muslim state until recently. Now there is an odd but appealing hodge podge of Indian, Thai, Malay, Muslim, and Chinese culture. I dig it. For short periods of time.

But really, let's get to Australia. Since returning to China and swapping stories and war wounds with everyone else, I have found myself with a strange inability to describe Australia. It's everything you imagine:

Everything can kill you. Literally every time we met and fell into conversation with a native Australian, we were informed of one more thing that could potentially end our time-share here on planet earth. It's true that Australia houses venomous snakes, spiders, trees (yep), jelly fish, octopi, and other fun life forms (all of which you will encounter at some point or another). Pat adores mentioning a book of native snakes he found when we visited Lamington National Park- the two categories of snake were venomous and highly venomous. It's also true that if you survive unscathed by one of those creepy-crawlies, you still have to contend with Great White Sharks, saltwater Crocodiles, and apparently the most deadly of the large creatures- the Australian Water Buffalo. But that's not all, not by a long shot. Because you still have to avoid car-i-cide by kamakazi kangaroo- marsupials large enough to total your (our) tiny little rental car. But wait! There's more! Because, as one charming old Aussie put it- "Naw, mates, it's the rip tide that'll kill ya."

Oh good.

Australia is endlessly and dramatically beautiful. Everywhere you turn there is some new captivating vista. The huge and wildly blue ocean occupies the forefront of most scenes, but there's also the perfect and peaceful savannah- pastoral land that stretches for miles and miles in a faint, washed-out green before dead-ending into rain forest. The mountains, filled with variations on eucalyptus plants, seem constantly blue and foggy, like they are just a bit out of focus. It's an eco-bears dreamland. There is so much space and life there. Regardless of the fact that, yeah, most of it can kill you, it's still just indescribably beautiful.

The underpopulation engenders this wide and sweeping sense of peaceful solitude. Coming from crowded, noisy China, the abrupt change in atmosphere was most welcome. This fact I know I cannot describe with any justice or sense of reality. To understand the impact of Australia live in a city of 14 million for several months- a city where people regularly push each other out in front of busses, where they yell constantly and relentlessly into their phones, where they have no conception of trash cans or recycling bins, where the sky is littered with particulate matter that you and everyone else breathes in daily. And then go to Australia. Get on a plane, fly whatever amount of time you need to to reach the island-continent, then stand outside for a moment. Bask in the sun, breathe in the clear air, go to the restroom and read the sign posted above the sink: "Every Drop is Precious."

Then you will understand what I think when I think of Australia. And you will understand just why I am utterly incapable of verbalizing my experiences in Australia.

Anywho, until next time,
Cheers, friends.

Saturday, January 1, 2011

Lazy Sunday (Bread-Making)

I know I didn't blog for the holiday season... so Happy Christmas and New Years, late. And consider this an apology...

A cold front blew through central China yesterday. I'm not complaining, mind you. The cold front entered with massive amounts of rain and dreary cloud cover which allowed Pat and I to stay in bed all of New Years Day- venturing into the rest of the frigid apartment only at mealtimes or when my need of a hot drink got the best of me- without the significant amount of guilt that usually plagues me on days of epic inactivity.

This morning (Sunday as the title indicates) I awoke to the sound of more rain. I laid in bed, listening to the heater, to Pat's sleepy breathing, and to the precipitation. It quieted down after a while and when I got up to make breakfast, I realized that it was snowing again. That's right, twice in three weeks or less. I stood in the kitchen while my coffee brewed and the oatmeal cooked and watched the big flakes flutter and fall outside of the window. This would change things. Again- not that I'm complaining.

Instead of the post-day-in-bed invigorating run I had planned, I would probably be a huge baby and stay inside where it was relatively warm and dry and do yoga. Instead of trying to talk Pat into going downtown to pick up supplies from the western goods store, I would try and talk him into walking to the corner store to get milk and eggs and make-do with that. Mostly, instead of working on job applications and at least attempting some productive work today, I would bake bread. A delightful loaf of Oatmeal Toasting Bread (see King Arthur Flour). (Also, the heater just stopped heating at 17 degrees c and ours is set to stop at 26c. Heaters in China pull heat directly from outside your window, blast it and then pass it into your apartment- this means it's really freaking cold out if the heater has given up already).

The thing about bread is this one perfectly satisfying moment- when you've thrown all the dry ingredients together, and you've activated the yeast, and you combine everything into one bowl and begin mixing. As the dough comes together it becomes warm and pillowy, it is sticky but not like other doughs- it is a dry, luscious, yeasty sticky that lasts only a moment before you have to turn the dough out and begin kneading it so that all of that stick becomes stuck and smooth and bready. That's the moment. That is what makes painfully cold mornings in an apartment whose heater regularly stops working perfectly OK.

If you are at all acquainted with me, you know that I would happily spend all day, every day, baking and cooking. I adore the creative culinary process and the feeling of feeding people is the most delightfully satisfying that I can think of. That's why I bake bread. In China. On lazy Sunday mornings.

Cheers friends,
and Again, Happy Holidays that I missed.
Go forth, and bake bread.