Thursday, July 30, 2009

gone to spain.

After much consideration, I have decided on reading the following two books while I'm traveling:

If you are looking for some things to read and are struggling because this lovely blog won't be updated for a while (ha), here are some old posts and recommendations:
The History of Love by Nicole Krauss
Charlotte Sometimes by Penelope Farmer
The Book Thief by Markus Zusak
The Golden Compass by Philip Pullman

Sunday, July 26, 2009

brooklyn incoming storm story.

on the fourth floor
i live
on a hill
my old bay windows
are good for watching
weather sweep and change.

across the street
my neighbors stand
on a roof
i wish i had a roof
to see the lighting over the bay
but i have my screenless window
wide wide open.
a bird might fly in.
but i love the air
and the early sunset light behind the clouds
and the the lightning that almost blends in
i'm wondering if the rain will follow?
the clouds are creeping, leaving
eveninglight behind.

i was hanging out the window
when the sky decided to speak
the clouds had moved so fast
that half the sky was ominous, half at rest.
drops assailed the sidewalk
and the smell of asphalt city summer steam
met me at my window.

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

i want to go to there.

I just wrote an email to some friends who are doing a similar trip to the United Kingdom that I did a few years ago. I was using my photo album from the trip as a guide to send them links of the hostels where we stayed and some of the places I'd recommend. My heart just began to ache for England. All I would like to do right now is order a cream tea with some kindred spirits and then fall upon the grass and read. Then maybe go hiking.

I know I've already written about it just a few weeks ago, but since then I've realized that the majority of my reading this summer has been rereads of my favorite books, most of which take place in English countryside, London, or countryside from a century ago. Harry Potter 6, Anne of Green Gables, Pride and Prejudice and I think I'm going to reread Swallows and Amazons next (which I can't recommend highly enough if you love kids stories with adventure and imagination). All of these books just capture me. I realized it was getting bad (or good...) when after I read Anne of Green Gables for the hundredth time, I couldn't even look at a book that took place in the modern day.

Anyway. My summer reading update is that it has been completely wonderful. I don't have a lot of deep thoughts, but my heart is just soaring because of these stories.

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Revolutionary Road. Do not watch this before going to bed unless you want to be up all night.

Last night I watched Revolutionary Road and I'm trying to think of words to describe it other than "bleak and utterly depressing."

If you haven't seen it or read the book, it follows the story of April and Frank Wheeler who, with a slight chip on their shoulders, believe that they are better than their suburban Connecticut counterparts; that they aren't going to buy into the delusion of the American dream despite their picturesque home, 2 children and his good (though unfulfilling) job. The 1955 setting adds to April's feeling of entrapment and some of the social pressure Frank feels.

It's interesting because I usually associate entitlement with my own generation...but usually that entitlement still resounds within the modern American Dream...wanting the life that it took our parents decades to build almost immediately after college. The Wheelers sense of entitlement is that they think that there should be something more to life for them.

And they're right. There is something more to life--but I think I think I think that it is completely separate from our place and our things (though I am in love with my city and I am guilty of saying my life would be perfect if I only had a porch and a grill). My sweet poet friend Shannon titled a photo album "The Land of the Living" and that phrase jumped out at me (as I was online after watching this movie, trying not to fall asleep thinking about the bleak and utterly depressing film). I guess I feel like the minute we...I start living out of routine and checking the boxes of what needs to get done I stop living. But when I remember that its about loving people and that everyone has a story to tell and that there are little moments waiting to make me smile, I am reminded about what living really is.

So my question is what makes up your land of the living? What are the things that remind you that life is beautiful?

One of my favorites is from 2002 when I was driving with a caravan of 3 mini vans back to Ohio from a spring break spent camping trip on an island in Florida. Sitting in the front passenger seat, playing my favorite songs with the windows down and my hand rising and falling with the air outside of it and orange blossoms in bloom, my friend Sarah and I could do nothing but smile and declare ironically at the end of a vacation, on our way back to gray Ohio March that life is good. A passage from The Secret Life of Bees describes this feeling perfectly:

"I didn't know what to think, but what I felt was magnetic and so big it ached like the moon had entered my chest and filled it up. The only thing I could compare it to was the feeling I got one time when I walked back from the peach stand and saw the sun spreading across the late afternoon, setting the top of the orchard on fire while darkness collected underneath. Silence had hovered over my head, beauty multiplying in the air, the trees so transparent I felt I could see through to something pure inside them. My chest ached then, too, this very same way."

And even though they're fictional, I wish that the Wheelers could see how such small moments connect the dots of our existence--giving it beauty and meaning alongside the sorrow and disappointments.

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

A quick question on memory (well, quick to write, not to think about, hence this post.)

This summer I made writing goals with some of my students and one of mine was to write a short story. It is in the very early stages of drafting, but is centered on the idea of memory, born from how prominent a place it has in the literature that I read, so it didn't surprise me when another book centered on memory popped up--and for better or worse, it was asking some similar questions that I have been thinking about.

The narrative of Evening by Susan Minot alternates between the main character's present: dying in her bed in and out of consciousness, and her recollections of a single weekend from her past which has haunted her entire existence since. She met and shared an intense few days with a man named Harris and her entire perception of love changed--and herself right along with it. They parted ways and Ann went on to have three marriages and five children.

My question is if you can or should let one memory color your entire existence? I can't decide if it is deeply beautiful or incredibly sad.

This isn't a rhetorical question. I am soliciting thoughts and answers.

louisville summer storm story.

i promised my mom i'd rescue the cushions
from our covered porch.

but instead i curled up
i mean i am curled up
watching the the birth of a storm, announced:
layers of water
landing on the pond, the yard
darting through the drainpipe
dripping off the birches
and thunder keeping time

i risked it all ending without me
to make some english breakfast tea
and now this.
this. is perfect.

a couple chipmunks taking cover near me,
watching wearily
and seven sparrows playing out on the grass
some petals fall down
because they are delicate
and the rain is heavy.

Tuesday, July 7, 2009

I heart summer.

I am finding difficulty giving words to what I want to say, mostly, I think, because I am trying to name at once a specific moment right now that is overlapping with a succession of moments in my past.

I think it starts with summer evening air? Summer evening Midwestern air, perhaps, that is drenched with soil, blooming trees and creeks, made cool by the disappearing sun and held close by woods and fields.

Or perhaps it starts with summers growing up and this particular smell blanketing every experience I have running barefoot through the neighborhood yards, catching lighrning bugs, playing freeze tag, swinging until the sky turned dark and all the kids had to go home. Even then I would open my window and gulp in this perfect air and I, each night, would fall in love with summer evening…butterflies in the stomach and all.

And tonight I sit in Kentucky, hours away from my childhood home, but the air is the same and I still can’t get enough. I’ve moved my pillows to the foot of my bed so that I can be closer to the open window. I sat on the porch late into the evening so make the most of this air that exists only in tiny pockets in hidden corners of my city parks.

All this is to say that I reread The Summer Book by Tove Jannson today and it captures the essence of summer and the magic of childhood and the wisdom of grandparents. Her writing is straightforward and almost sparse, but so right on that no further description is necessary. I have decided that this will be a yearly reread. Last summer I loved it so much that barely had words and could only beg people to read it.

The interesting part is that it is different from other favorites like Anne of Green Gables and Tom Sawyer in that it’s not written for children…the audience is anyone whose heart aches for all that summer is meant to be and for those who remember the goodness of what it was when it was unmarred by work and schedules.

My heart just aches right now in the best of ways.