Flowering Vines, Unwoman | The Pomegranate, Solitude Forest | Dulcinea, Redefine my pure faith | We Are As Ghosts, Friends of Alice Ivy | Under the Fate of the Blue Moon, JILL TRACY | Wake Up Wake Up, The Groundskeepers Daughter | Control Me, Kandle | Sisterblood, Burning Leaves | Tiny Wars and Quiet Storms, Alter der Ruine | Rosebuds, White Hex | FUTURE GHOSTS, Sidewalks and Skeletons | Carpe Nacht, Espectrostatic
Twin Peaks Gets ’80s Synth Soundtrack Reminiscent Of Blade Runner, Miami Vice And Escape From New York
Hide From The Sun is a trippy “Jodorowsky-esque take on Where The Wild Things Are”, from Swedish psych-rock band Goat and is both fantastic and groovy, in that order.
AR is the collective pseudonym of Autumn Richardson & Richard Skelton. “Diagrams for the Summoning of Wolves marks a stark shift in their response to environmental degradation. Their previous works (Wolf Notes, 2011; Succession, 2013) have expressed profound sadness at the ecological losses of the upland landscape of south-west Cumbria, where they have lived since 2011. They have observed the absence of deer, fell fox and wolf, whose names survive only in place-names. They have found the ghost forests of Furness in the buried pollen drifts of alder, birch and oak. The music, words and art they have created in response to these discoveries are forms of elegy, but they also offer glimmers of hope for a return…To play this music is to participate in its summoning – to become a node in a lattice of light.”
“His most personal album to date, The Summoner is based around the 5 stages of mourning and is made after a year of losing several close friends. Hard enough material to work on, he decided to add a 6th stage, entitled The Summoning to be able to arrive at the finalé, Acceptance.”
I thought I might start 2015 by writing a bit regarding a project that I have been working with on and off over the the past few years. I don’t think I realized it was a project until I had noticed a pattern to how I approached what I was doing and then, without setting out to do so exactly, the small project was born. Ach! I sure can beat around the bush and ramble on, can’t I? Well, please indulge me just a while longer, if you will.
I had a terrible time making friends when I was younger. I just didn’t understand how people came together, connected and moved on from there to form the bonds of friendship, I suppose. It all seemed like such a production and I didn’t know how to even initiate the process. I started a very bad habit of giving my toys away around that time. I figured if you give people things, then they have to like you, right? In the case of 7 year old girls it does not mean that at all, no – it only means that they keep expecting you to give them more stuff. Pretty soon my Barbie doll collection was looking awfully meager and I came to the conclusion that this just was not working for me and I closed up shop. Around that time we moved from Ohio to Florida; this presented a new set of challenges for me and shifted my focus to other things and what do you know – once I stopped focusing on desperately getting schoolmates to like me, well, they started to like me a bit more.
I think about it though, every now and then. Giving away beloved possessions to people you barely know – from a child’s perspective that might make good sense and as a grade-schooler I didn’t really know any better, but as an adult I still get terribly embarrassed whenever it crosses my mind. I resolved long ago to save my nice things for folks who were actually worthy of them.
One summer evening, back in 2012, I was knitting a shawl from some grey wool that resembled wispy fog and felt like low morning mists as it slipped through my fingers. It made me think of a lovely, brilliant woman with whom I’d had some correspondence online and who I greatly admired. I posted photos on Instagram of the finished item when I had just woven in the last stray end, and strangely enough, she was the very first person to comment on the picture. It just sort of clicked for me right then: I think maybe I was knitting the shawl for her all along.
And so it has been over the last two years. Sometimes I will start a project with no one in particular in mind, and over the course of the yarn choosing, the pattern repetition and the trances induced by midnight hypnostitches – it just comes to me. Ah! This shade of red would be perfect for this person’s fiery, feisty personality! Oooh, this dark night blue would be marvelous for that incredible space babe! Or sometimes, someone will know just the right words to say to me after my mother has died, just the perfect combination of gentle, thought provoking kindness and reflection, and I will know that the next project I am going to embark on will be a journey through mourning and forgiveness and that particular person is going to be a part of it, every step of the way. It can’t belong to anyone else but them when it is finished.
It all sounds a little silly, and maybe a little crazy, doesn’t it? And how do I know anyway, that anyone will even want my shabby handmade things? I do hope that everyone who has received something from me in the recent past knows that what I have given them is because they gave me something I needed first. A moment of levity during a rotten day, a compliment, a beautiful story, a provocative thought, some small measure of kindness.
Below is a bit of a gallery of some of the projects I have worked on and subsequently sent away over the past few years. It should be noted that a few of these are actually swaps with other creative folks, who may have sent me one of their handicrafts for one of my knits. And it was also called to my attention that I may have started doing this long before I realized I was doing it! Lovely E. sent me a photo of a sari silk scarf that I must have knit 7-8 years ago! Wow. I hope to continue this practice for a long while. Thank you for not being too weirded out about it, and for your kindnesses to me over the years.
Not long after my mother was diagnosed with stage 4 cancer in December of 2012, she converted to Catholicism. I can’t speak to how devout she was and it doesn’t matter to me – I believe the idea of faith and the trappings of belief and ritual gave her great comfort during her last year – so who cares if she never made it to church or attended a single mass.
And so what if she collected blingy rosaries alongside gorgeously rendered gilt-edged tarot decks in her final days- can’t a soul have room for more than one set of beliefs, more than one way for communicating with the divine? Or maybe she was hedging her bets, who knows. Her relationship with her creator and her spirituality were no business of mine.
For as long as I can remember my mother cultivated a strange system of beliefs. I recall, at the age of six or seven, sitting silently in a kitchen chair across a ouija board from my mother, my small hands on one edge of the planchette, her slim fingers on the other, and a phone cradled between her ear and shoulder as she chatted with a friend at the same time we were attempting to make contact with spirits. At a very tender age I learned that my mother just didn’t do things the way other people did, I guess. I imagine I grew up thinking if you weren’t carrying on conversations with both the dead and the living at the same time, you were probably doing it wrong.
Books on astrology and mediumship were always stacked precariously on our kitchen table; I can picture my mother’s face through a haze of smoke over breakfast as I picked at my Wheat Chex, while she thoughtfully read the paper and drank her coffee, a dangerously long ash from her cigarette dangling over the cover of a Linda Goodman title on Love Signs or perhaps something by Louise Huebner.
I grew up thinking that in every house there were hidden chest of tarot cards, that every stray slip of paper was a piece of an astrological chart, that candles and incense and yoga circles were every family’s Wednesday night. This was a huge part of the curiously fascinating, terrifyingly intense woman that my mother was in life, this yearning for hidden knowledge and a connection to a plane beyond our own. So it only made sense to my sisters and I to honor that facet of her personality in death: with a visit to a medium, almost a year after her passing.
Despite the fact we had been bandying the idea back and forth for almost a year now, we were ill-prepared for this. We realized we didn’t even have a code word. As in, I suppose, some absurd word or phrase or inside joke that only we would understand, and we would recognize immediately if the medium in question was the real deal if he or she were to utter it. (Since then we have all come up with individual code words and phrases. If you intend to communicate with your loved ones from beyond the veil, I suggest that you take a moment or two to mull it over and do the same!)
Furthermore, we really didn’t even know how to go about finding a recommended spiritualist. We were terrified we were going to get a dud. You know the kind: “I see a color…a number…a man! …or maybe a woman!” OKAY THAT’S $250 NOW SCRAM”.
Fortunately for us on the day of our intended sojourn, one of my sisters recalled a medium she visited a few years ago in Cassadaga. “She wasn’t …too bad…?”, she offered doubtfully. And with that, we decided that not too bad was just good enough for us, and proceeded to make an appointment for later that afternoon.
I am really not sure how to talk about the afternoon that followed. Much of it – two thirds of it, really – is not my story to tell, and that ventures into sharing -details-that-are-none-of-my-business-to-share territory. I can, however share some of my impressions of the reading.
Our medium/psychic, Birdie, lived in a small, unassuming house at the edge of the spiritualist camp -you’ll recognize it by the “Spiritual Garden” sign outside, beside the small dirt driveway which guests can park in. The rickety screen door, wood-paneled walls and crocheted throws seemed to belong to any other older Florida home, and as we took our seats around a small desk at the rear of the house, I could hear Birdies’ husband mowing the lawn or doing related noisy things in the backyard. It was perfectly ordinary and absolutely surreal all at once. As if on cue, the three of us giggled nervously.
Birdie seated herself, turned to us, and without missing a beat, asked “why do I see bananas?” This threw us for a bit of a loop. Why WOULD she see bananas? It then dawned on me that my mother despised bananas (as do I! wretched fruits.) and I offered that piece of information. Birdie seemed to take this as a sign that we were indeed talking with our mother. I wish I had thought to ask how this all works. I mean, was our mother’s spirit there, like an ectoplasmic parrot on Birdie’s shoulder, whispering things in her ear? Or was it more like a crackly, static-y connection to the next world and maybe our mother made some sort of collect call? Even if I had the wherewithal to ask…how do you even ask that? Is that too personal, or some sort of spiritualist faux-pas? I am still pondering this. Feel free to weigh in.
I am not too certain that I should have been concerned about any hurt feelings though, as Birdie herself was not terribly diplomatic with the messages she delivered. Maybe it’s a “don’t shoot the messenger sort of thing”, or how you can’t be terribly upset with a translator for passing on the unintentionally rude mumblings of diplomats. An example of this: at some point during the reading she looked at my two sisters, and then me. “You”, she said, pointing at me “you don’t seem to think as much as these other two girls do”. Well!
But the funny thing is…she isn’t wrong.
But I am jumping ahead. One of the next things that happened is that she glanced at my youngest sister, who was wearing a tee shirt that said something about Indiana and asked “why do I look at you and see California? Does that make sense?” I don’t mean to be stereotypical, but I don’t think anyone could really look at my sister and see California; she is pale and small with shocking red hair and a penchant for historical fiction and a love for rainy afternoons. However, she has lived out in the deserts of California for the past 7 years, working as a librarian. Birdie was spot-on. How did she know? Weird. We had not told her anything about ourselves ahead of time, and other than showing her a picture of our mother (it was actually a 50+ year old photo of a graduation), she had nothing at all to go on.
The next 45 minutes was peppered with those sorts of instances. Birdie asked if we knew a “Sandy or a Sandra”. Our mother, she said, was apparently spending a lot of time visiting this person. Sandy was my mother’s best friend, and they’d had a bit of a falling out in the months before she passed. Aha! Another question: “does the name Rose or Rosemary make any sense to you? She’s with your mother right now.” A chill ran down my spine when I heard this, for Rosemary Denise Kelly (or Kelly Denise, I can never remember which) was my mother’s much beloved, very pampered cat, who died many years ago. It sounds silly, but whatever other nonsense or baloney we heard during the session (and there was a fair amount of it), *this* was the small thing I had been waiting to hear. Picturing my mother with that dumb fluffy cat in the afterlife was more comforting than I could possible explain.
Another thing that she said, that gave us all a laugh, and a profound sense of relief I imagine, was when Birdie asked “did your mother ….curse a lot? I get the feeling she swore like a sailor ” Ha! Did she ever! That was such a huge part of who she was, and if Birdie hadn’t picked up on that, I think we would have been concerned.
Our time was up before long and we silently shuffled out and drove up the road for lunch.
Over a bottle of wine at the Cassadaga hotel we discussed our thoughts. It was nothing like any of us had expected and yet I think, each in different ways, we found a bit of peace from something we had heard.
I suspect that we were all hoping for an experience that was maybe a little more…atmospheric? Swaying curtains and lit candles and maybe a cold spot or two, knocks on the walls, something to indicate the…presence of…something? We’ve probably seen too many movies. I know I’ve for certain read Richard Peck’s Ghosts I Have Been too often; I was really hoping for a crazy Blossom Culp-like encounter.
Although not much changes from year to year – and I do visit Cassadaga once a year now, usually every October – we did take some time to walk around the town, to sort of decompress (it was rather nerve-wracking, at least for me) and to absorb everything we had been told and our thoughts on it. This was our first time visiting the town, all three of us together, and so we bought some tee shirts to commemorate the occasion, and I picked up a pendant that sort of looked like a cross between some far-off nebula and a really girly eye of Sauron.
Though I don’t know for certain how our mother might have felt in her final days about us consulting a medium, and if she would be able to reconcile that with her newfound love of The Lord, I do know beyond the shadow of a doubt that as a lifelong shopping addict, she would have approved of a few purchases and shiny baubles to end the day with.
Allow me to preface the following bit of writing with the confession that this is difficult for me to think about, let alone write – and so it is far from perfect There are many thoughts, though I desperately want to articulate them, for which I cannot seem to find the proper words. Below you will find the best approximation of my experiences that I am capable of, at this point in time.
There are some experiences so special, so meaningful to you, so good that you want to keep them with you, play them over in your head on loop, carry with you always from place to place for all your life until you take them to your grave.
This is not one of those.
These are the sort of memories you lock away, deep in your heart because you are embarrassed, and ashamed. They frighten you. They enrage you. They are now a part of your past, and you have moved on, so you bury them deep and tamp them down when the emotional sands shift, or time and vulnerability wear down the burial mound and the gleaming bones of these old hurts begin to resurface.
I recently began watching the brilliant BBC series Black Mirror, a sort of modern take on The Twilight Zone focusing on the dark side of life and technology. One episode in particular unearthed many things for me which I had desperately tried to burn and bury.
In “The Entire History of You“, there exists technology that, if you are fitted for it, you are constantly recording and storing memories in an implant that you can play back at any time – whether in your own head or projected onto a monitor or a screen or some other device. This makes for, example, fun times at a party; it’s practical for gauging reactions at a recent interview or job assessment; and for the more obsessive, for replaying and dissecting every interaction to which you’ve bore witness between your significant other and the man with whom you’ve begun to suspect she is having an affair.
A glimpse of a glance between his wife and a seemingly random man at a party sparked an almost instant preoccupation for the main character. Their combined past memories were portrayed as happy, familial and content, and at the start of the episode he was presented as a reasonable, well-adjusted, normal, guy but watching how quickly he devolved into obsessive paranoia regarding his wife and this stranger just floored me. Had he been this intensely awful the entire time? It stopped me in my tracks. It absolutely terrified me. I stopped what I was doing and realized my heart was racing and I felt physically ill. I ran to the bathroom and vomited repeatedly and then sat on the floor and wept.
For almost 10 years of my life, I was involved with this sort of person. This obsessive, possessive, paranoid, controlling, manipulative person who estranges you from friends and family and is not satisfied until he browbeats you into believing it is your idea. Who negates your opinions because they are not the same as his. Who mentally beats you down over time until you have just given up and it is easier to do things his way rather than bother to argue for your own. From the age of not quite 25 to barely 35 I ate, slept and breathed this man. And that is precisely, I believe, how he wanted it.
I cannot even say it “began innocently enough”. It did not. Out of a sense of ennui and being a bit of a serial relationship-hopper I was newly dating a law student, an affable enough young man, but he was sort of an oaf and all of my friends hated him and he had terribly stinky feet. I was often bored at work and in 1999 I was just discovering the pleasant distraction of chatting with interesting people online. At that time, very out of the blue, a person started IMing me who seemed very interested in me, and getting to know me. We appeared to have much in common. I was about to hit my mid-twenties, I was at a dead-end job, I had a boyfriend I was not particularly excited about one way or the other, and life just seemed so incredibly dull. I latched onto this new friend with a ferocity that should have been a warning sign to anyone observing, had I let them or myself, if I had that level of self-awareness at that age. We chatted for several months in depth, about everything under the sun and I realized I was desperately infatuated with this person. Despite the fact that I already had a boyfriend, I agreed to meet this person, who lived 1100 miles away. I was ready to fly to NJ without telling anyone at all -even my family and my best friend – to meet a total stranger. It was at that point my online suitor revealed to me that he was already married. With two children. Of course, I too, was involved, but I had been up front about that from the beginning. I had not suspected this on his end and was devastated.
If this was not troubling enough, it also became clear to me, through our interactions, that he hated me spending time with my friends and grew positively enraged if any of these friends happened to be male. The interrogations were relentless on this point; he would not stop until he was convinced I saw eye-to-eye with him on this subject. He would keep me up late at night emailing at length about his thoughts on the matter and if he thought I was sleeping, he would phone me at 2AM and growl into the phone for me to check my email.
It never occurred to me to not answer the phone. To not respond to the email. To never talk to him again. There is a huge part of me that does not believe in regret; I believe that every choice we make leads us to something else and in my case I am very happy today and to have regrets would be lessen the choices I made that got me here. But there is a part of me that wishes at that critical point I had seen what was there all along, and what was only going to get worse. That I had never spoken with him and certainly never met him.
I was so blinded by what I thought was love that I went through with it. I met him. Afterward I broke up with law student in a very confusing way which he probably still don’t understand. And I carried on long distance, in secret, for several miserable years, with my internet stranger. By the time his wife found out, I was convinced that instead of him leaving her for me, he would do everything he could to keep his family together. At that moment I thought, OK, well maybe this is for the best. I sent him an email not to contact me anymore and I promptly signed up for a dating site. I met up with someone, which, in hindsight, was not really a great way to deal with things, but maybe I thought it would be helpful to do would be to skip the mourning period of the relationship by distracting myself with getting to know someone new.
A week later, after work and just before getting ready for a date, I walked into my apartment to find the back window open, a pile of dirt on the floor, and my jilted long distance secret lover standing in the corner. When he did not hear from me, after several attempts to contact me when I had asked him not to, he flew to Florida and broke into my home. I did not, unfortunately, run screaming from the scene to file a police report. Instead I convinced myself that someone who would do such a thing must really love me quite a bit and we reunited with promises that I would move up to NJ to be with him.
And I did. Leaving my friends, family, and everything I’ve ever known behind, with no prospects for employment, I moved to New Jersey in February of 2003. I truly believed that there was some sort of happily ever after waiting for me in this place called Manville, NJ.
Six months later I tried to kill myself.
I don’t know why I thought that us living together would change things; if anything he was even more possessive and controlling. He wanted a play-by-play commentary on the week I had dated someone else. He wanted to me spend all of my time typing it up in an explicitly, graphically detailed, time-stamped manuscript for him and would grow furious if I spent any time on anything else. He would keep me up late at night interrogating me on the matter until we were both screaming and shouting and truthfully, after I while I just wanted it all to end. I had nothing, no one, not even and especially the one person that I had given up everything for. I couldn’t do it anymore.
I spent a week in a psychiatric ward at a local hospital and when I came home nothing had changed much, except where he had once been vocal and hateful and manipulative, now he was quieter about it. There were cameras in the house, keyloggers and spyware on the computer. Any emails I wanted to send to friends, any internet related things I wanted to be a part of (online forums, livejournal, etc), I did from work or the library from email accounts that I set up in secret. These were the only friends that I felt I had, but neither they nor anyone else knew how I was living. Secretive, scared, walking on eggshells all of the time, worried that anything I said might set him off. The wrong ingredients in a stirfry, the scent of my perfume – there was always something there to agitate him, to stir him up and set him on a path dredging up the past, rubbing it in my face in it and beating that horse to death which he would then begin to meticulously resurrect and commence beating all over again.
It must be noted that during this time, during the entire time I was in New Jersey – he was still living with his wife and children. He never left them. Never got a proper divorce. He lived with me 3 days a week, and with them the other 4. Out of the entire 6-7 years I lived there, I maybe spent one weekend with the man. This is how I lived during that time.
One day, in 2010 a few weeks before my birthday, he told me that he couldn’t do it anymore. He was hurting his children too much, he said. He was moving back home. After all of that – he was leaving, just like that. He packed up his stuff and was gone a week later.
I should have taken a moment, reassessed and been overjoyed, but instead I was heartbroken. Through everything I had come to believe that he was the best partner I could hope for, that no one would ever know me like he did, would love me like he did. I was distraught. Destroyed.
Not long after this abandonment, he came to me and admitted he made a mistake, that things were not working out the way he envisioned or hoped. By that time I had decided I would move back to Florida to be with my friends and family and everyone I had left behind. I had not made many friends in New Jersey, I hated the snow and cold and ice, I never went anywhere at all other than to work and back; there was absolutely no reason for me to stay. And yet this was a still a terribly hard decision for me to make. I suppose it meant that things were truly over.
Inexplicably (as in, I look at it now and can’t figure out why), we still spoke on the phone and met up secretly right until the day I left. I could not let go. I don’t know why – he hadn’t changed at all, he was still sneaky and manipulative and spying on my emails to friends – and yet I could not fucking let go of that monster. That fucking monster. I am shaking with rage as I am typing this right now. I am thinking of something he did in the few months before I left that perfectly illustrates the type of shitty, obsessive activity he engaged in. He knew I had been corresponding online with a male friend who provided me with facts and information for piece that was posted in a blog that I wrote for. The morning the piece went live, he created an email address with that friend’s name and emailed me from it, pretending to be that friend, and essentially asking me out on a date to celebrate. He thought this person had designs upon me or vice versa, and he wanted to see what sort of response I would send. (Friend, if you are reading this, I am deeply mortified about this. I never told you this and I hope it doesn’t bother you too much)
He often created accounts pretending to be some person or another and would try to cozy up to people that I was friends with online, to either learn things about me, or learn things about that person as it related to me. This is the sort of thing he would do.
When my sister, who helped me leave New Jersey, pulled the car away from the curb and drove past my former 6th Street home, I never looked back. When we arrived 2 days later in my other sister’s driveway, I realized I could never feel those things for that man again. They simply were not there anymore. There was a gaping hole, yes, where what I thought was love used to be, but I knew that whatever connection we had (though deeply damaged and dysfuntional) was severed. Permanently. I have not looked back since. All I needed to do was leave. For me, it really was just that simple.
I was never struck, or beaten, or physically injured by him…although one time he did shove me up against a wall, because he thought I was corresponding with women on a perfume forum–about perfume– against his wishes, and lying to him about it. I was. Does it make any difference? But I was absolutely mentally and emotionally abused by this man for years, there is no doubt about that.
He wasn’t always horrible. He took me to a bed and breakfast and a tea room and a winery for my birthday once, because he knew those were the kind of things I like. He encouraged me to finish college. He always found me bits of poetry or prose that he thought might strike a chord with me. I guess these are the fleeting moments that keep you in such a relationship, aren’t they? But things like that…they are like a coat of glossy paint on a rotten wall in a structurally unsound house. It might look ok from a certain angle every once in a while but chances are it will fall apart while you are still inside and then you are trapped there forever.
I try not to look at myself as a fool, or a victim, but while watching that episode of Black Mirrors I found myself screaming at the television. “You don’t have to answer him!” I shouted at the wife as he was browbeating her about some detail of her past. “Just walk away, leave the room, GET OUT OF THERE!” I screamed until I was hoarse, as she collapsed on the bed sobbing, as she played back her private memories for the monster of the man she thought was her husband. Whether or not she was having the affair was not the point (though yes, it turned out that she was). The point is you cannot treat another human person like that. No one deserves that.
And you, fellow human, cannot allow yourself to be treated like that.
Unfortunately, sometimes you can scream that at someone until you are blue in the face and it will mean nothing until they’ve hit the point when it means something. It never meant anything to me, until one day it did.
I am writing this because it breaks my heart to think that there is someone out there like me. I hope one day you realize that you mean something, you are something. That other person, the one making you feel small, making you feel ugly, making you feel like no one will ever love you. That has nothing to do with you. They are nothing without you. And if you leave, they will be nothing at all.
When I awoke this morning, I could tell from the way the air felt in the house – heavy, damp, oppressive – what I would find outside before I even opened the door. And when I finally did, it confirmed what I already knew to be true. One of those overcast Florida mornings where every molecule of air feels saturated to bursting, but it never quite rains.
The blue of the sky is painted over with a formless smearing of clouds – the entire canvas now awash with a dull, greyish, off-white causing the trees and grasses and shrubs and houses – everything, really – to seem so dull and drab and dreary. There’s a sharp tasting breeze ruffling the palm fronds and the jasmine, and the neighbor’s stunted cat skulks under the saw grass uneasily. I can hear the highway sounds just beyond the neighborhood but the roads between our homes now are perfectly still, with only an occasional wind chime breaking the silence. There are no bird calls, no lawn mowers, no early rising children playing outside.
These strange, sunless mornings are those I remember best from my childhood. I knew I would not be expected to play outside, so I would grab a pile of books and lock myself on the screened porch all day, only pausing for lunch or chores (if threatened and only then). Until it grew too dark to see the words on the page I was immersed in these stories, and I considered that time well spent.
Now I have a day before me precisely the sort I remember so fondly from so many years ago and I am sitting here, writing about it. I shall remedy that now. There is a stack of books patiently waiting for me and that sky is only getting darker.
I was reminded of how, at one point in my life, I worked for my (ex)stepfather. He ran a small business, strictly mail-order, selling rare & antique occult books; it was my job to process orders, pack and ship the books, handle the customer service items, and update the website (which I built!), along with the eBay auctions he ran. I also unpacked the shipments and stored/restored some of the books, though the latter not so often and I didn’t work there long enough to become proficient at it. Can you imagine spending your days patching up delicate grimoires or fragile first editions written hundreds of years ago? I could, at length and in detail, and was completely enamored with the idea. This was the sort of daydream I entertained as I went about my day. More often than that, though, I wondered, as I wrapped and secured each parcel -where was this book going? What sort of person was this? What were they using it for? I loved to imagine the little thrill they got as they carefully unpacked and opened their new book, and all of the possibilities it held for them. My favorite time of the day back then was the trip to the post office after all of the orders had been handled, passing each parcel over to the postal worker, seeing each stamped, some certified, some registered, and tossed in a bin, ready to head off to its new owner. I have not since had a job that made me so happy or that was so fulfilling.
There’s something about receiving a package or letter or a handwritten post card in the mail, isn’t there? I know my heart skips a beat or two on my casual stroll to the mail box every day, just wondering what might have been placed there by the mailman. More often than not it’s bills or coupons or something for the previous tenant, but every once in a while, when the time is right and the stars align, something unexpected and exciting appears from overseas or across the country or maybe even the city right next door. You just never know!
Of course nine times out of ten we know that’s not really “magic”, now is it? There is something in the mailbox because someone is responding to a letter you sent them, or perhaps they swapped with you a hand drawn illustration for a hand-knit pair of mitts. (Or, maybe you just …bought something.)
You can’t really just wait for these things to happen. Or, well, you can, but I can assure you, that is a very disappointing business. Far better to reach out to some friends, set something in motion, to MAKE SOMETHING HAPPEN. A pen pal swap, a letter lottery, a handcrafted doodad exchange, a book trade. Or maybe something “just because”. Something do you not expect to be reciprocated, something you made or wrote just for someone because you think they are special and you want them to know that you were thinking of them. Sending a piece of yourself out there to someone, a thing with no expectations or attachments.
Ah, now. That’s the real magic, I think.
At the risk of sounding cheesy,- I truly believe one of the most lovely feelings in the world is sending a little surprise out there to someone and imagining the look of wonder on their face as they are opening it. I believe it is a nice habit to cultivate, this unexpected sharing with a far-away friend, and perhaps something you can even build a bit of a weekly or monthly ritual around. Brew a pot of tea, light some candles or incense (or forego all of that and just spritz yourself from head to toe with your favorite scent) put on a bit of music, and spend some time penning a note to friend. Wrap up a small gift that you’ve been meaning to send – don’t wait, do it now. If you wait until you are in the mood, you will never do it. I can’t tell you what will work best for you, but as for me, I like to send a small note to a new friend, along with perfume samples,old recipes, song lists (along with a cd or a thumb drive of favorites) or hand knit items. If I could draw I would probably include a doodle or two, but I cannot and I am terribly self-conscious about my lack of talent in that department, so you are not likely to see that from me!
I have received some wonderful packages in the past few years from friends all over the world, in all sorts of places. I have included photos of some of these treasures here. Unfortunately, I never take any pictures of the things that I mail out. I will have to work on that. And it’s weird, writing that – “friends all over the place”. I don’t think of myself as someone who makes friends easily, who has a lot of friends. And yet, I somehow, I have? How did this happen? I don’t know, but I don’t want to take it for granted, and so I try to appreciate my friends in small ways, whenever I can. Mailbox magics!
Let me get this off my chest right at the beginning. I have 0% will power. If I want to have popcorn for dinner, I can’t fob myself off with a more nutritious option and tell myself to wait it out and eat a bowl of popcorn during the weekend. That won’t work for me. Chances are I will eat the salad and the small portion of whatever healthful protein du jour AND I will just end up eating the popcorn later that night anyhow. I have learned it is just easier to give in to my baser cravings and get it out of my system.
Also: I am slow. I am maybe one of the slowest moving people in the world. Slow to reach a decision, slow to act on that decision, interminably slow to carry out that decision. I remember as a child, my mother on more than one occasion, shouting at me to hurry up and “get in the car/get to the dinner table/ get out of bed, Sarah GOD SARAH YOU’RE SLOWER THAN MOLASSES”. It’s true. And I have not gotten any faster 30 years later.
I can also tell you that rewarding myself for goals met is not something that works for me. That bottle of perfume? I want it now. It won’t wait til I’ve lost 5 or 10 pounds. Chances are I have already ordered it and it is setting on my shelf and I am wearing even while I am typing this out. I’ve probably already ordered another bottle of something else.
Excuses and personality defects aside, with regard to my weight loss for weirdos progress, I will report that I have lost 12 pounds. Now, you might be thinking “huh…12 pounds in 5 months doesn’t really sound like fantastic progress” and you’d probably be right. But to be perfectly honest, I am not really going at this in a hardcore type of fashion and I’ve got no deadline and I’ve no desire to buy new, smaller clothing every month, so why not take it slow?I am not about to give up my Monday night popcorn-for-dinner and my glasses of wine during the week. I’m not in it to torture myself, I mean really.
But as to the changes I am making and the aspects of deblobbening that I am getting right:
I purchased a fitbit. Yeah, they are gimmicky. No they are not absolutely necessary. But I hate to exercise, and ANYTHING that gets me to move around a little bit more is worth it to me. I work a desk job from home, so in addition to all the activity I am not getting from a more physical job, it’s not like I even have to walk to and fro in a building to interact with co-workers or walk to my car to drive to lunch or anything like that. I am in my chair in front of a computer in more or less the same position for 10+ hours. The fitbit would have you believe that your daily goal is 10K steps a day and I was rather horrified to find out that with no modifications to my daily schedule, I was lucky if I hit 2K. Now – armed with the fear of a wee gadget sticking its tongue out at me – I find myself infinitely more motivated to find small, strange ways to exercise during the day. My work day has basically turned into a 10 hour long extended peepee dance. But I am surpassing the 10K step goal and I figure hey – whatever kind of movement it is, no matter how ridiculous it looks, it’s got to be better than none at all, right?
Walking (or any sort of exercise, I suppose)with a friend. I have made a commitment to meet a friend twice a week for walking and catching up. On Wednesday evenings we meet at the local library and walk around the pond, about 2 miles or so. On Saturday mornings we meet for a 6AM beach walk which amounts to about 4.5 miles. Sometimes we do a healthy meal after, sometimes not, but the food isn’t really the point – it’s that we are getting out of the house, we are getting some exercise, and having a friendly human encounter. I suspect that last part might be especially important for me, since other than my live-in paramour, this might be the only person I see all week long.
Finding some exceptional exercise music. I’ll admit, so far it’s just one album, but it works perfectly for me. Daft Punk Alive 2007. In the meantime, you have got to fill me in on what you are listening to now whilst running or walking or crossfitting or milking cows or hoisting cadavers into the crematory or whatever you do. I need variety.
Having some meals planned. I am lucky enough to live with someone who will, for the most part, eat – and like – any homecooked meal that I put in front of him… so when cooking for myself, I automatically know that the other person I am living with will eat it as well, with no complaint. This makes meal planning for me so much easier than other folks might have it. Some recipes I have found myself preparing quite often and for which I can personally vouch for their tastiness: black bean soup, chana masala, tofu stir fry with peanut sauce and “zoodles” & sauce. For breakfasts it’s been steel cut oats with a dollop of skyr and fruit or toast and peanut butter if I am feeling lazy. Lunches have been tuna salad or avocado-egg salad or canned soups, and a quick cucumber tomato salad. Simple stuff. It is during the weekends that I encounter trouble, as we are usually visiting friends or family and that usually means dinners out and cocktails and I don’t always make the smartest choices. Especially after the cocktails.
I am not one for before and after pictures and anyhow, I really don’t look any different. So you’re not going to see that sort of thing here. I have, however, managed to wriggle my rump into my first ever pair of skinny jeans. Oh, how I railed against skinny jeans! For years I wouldn’t even acknowledge their existence. They were the devil’s denim, I thought, and would never darken the door of my wardrobe. I’m afraid I was wrong. And I am wearing them today. And they are amazing. You can only see my face in this picture, but I promise you, I am wearing them.
Also, amongst other things that wouldn’t serve as a proper weight loss reward because instant gratification is not soon enough for me, I am wearing this oversized cross tee shirt from Aakasha (recommendation courtesy Tenebrous Kate!) and it is pretty great. One of my current favorite pieces.
I hope to report back in the next four months with similar results, but in the meantime, I would love to hear what’s been working for you, health and fitness-wise? Where do you run into problems? How do you reward yourself? And etcetera. I am nosy and want to know all of your secrets!
BONUS: The ultimate after death workout experience!
Zombies, keep your bodies fit! Never stop training!
SUPER EXTRA BONUS: A lovely lady friend recommended the 7 minute workout to me, stating that it is quite remarkable, it has incredible effects and it is perfect for weirdos!
Weirdos? That’s US! Let’s do it!
“In 12 exercises deploying only body weight, a chair and a wall, it fulfills the latest mandates for high-intensity effort, which essentially combines a long run and a visit to the weight room into about seven minutes of steady discomfort — all of it based on science.”
P.S. She also said it is quite unpleasant, but let’s do it anyway!
I am finally getting around to reading this stack of books, ostensibly about a healthy looking lass with barely concealed bosoms, named Angelique. I picked them up at the start of the summer, rescued, on a whim, from a dusty, sagging particle board shelf in the shadowed corner of a cramped used book store. I thought they would be light, campy summer reading.
They – the covers, at least -also reminded me a bit of how my mother once read the riot act to a nosy, churchy neighbor who had a problem with me, as a 10 year old, reading Clan of the Cave Bear (which I was thoroughly obsessed with at the time). I don’t remember it was a great book, and true, I was only reading it for the sexy bits, but thank you mom, for never censoring my reading.
Looking at the covers, you’d think this was a series of bodice-rippers, wouldn’t you? Yet, from even a cursory glance on Good Reads I can see that this is a much beloved heroine – witty, charming, beautiful, utterly captivating – and that many readers have been swept away by her adventures, and even more, the writing is supposedly superb and the historical details are amazingly accurate. This is a collection of stories that people return to and re-read time and time again.
It is now October and I’ve barely read a single chapter. I paid the princely sum of $15 for all eight of these paperbacks and I really need to start getting my money’s worth from them.
Or at least read the sexy bits.
To be honest, I have not reached a point where I have forgotten that my mother has died. I will hear some people say that they wanted to share something with their deceased parent – maybe a bit of good news, maybe something not so great – and they were dialing the phone before they realized “oh yeah, mom’s dead, I can’t call her”.
I’ve come to realize that I have been preparing (mentally, anyhow) to be motherless for years. Since high school, at least. My mother always seemed on a path to self destruction, in danger of oblivion at any given moment, and so long ago I’d stopped even being sad about it. It was an inevitable thing, and probably sooner rather than later. So I’m really not continually surprised at her absence, and when I do find myself wishing to talk with her about something it’s more akin to an itch that I’d like to scratch rather than a wound I’d forgotten was there.
I just finished reading Beyond The Pale Motel, by Francesa Lia Block. I recall discovering this author on a Barnes and Noble shelf when I was in my early twenties and floundering quite a bit. I was struggling with dull classes and a dead end job and a dead beat boyfriend and I just didn’t know what I was supposed to be doing with myself. I didn’t know what I was supposed to want for myself. My greatest love at that time, I think, was poetry – magic words stitched together to wrap me in a blanket of beauty that I desperately needed as a loser band girlfriend in a shitty go-nowhere beach town. She wrote stories the likes of which I’d never read before and barely dared to dream about; she felt like a fairy god mother with her tales of love and magic and beauty and wishes and soul-mates in the midst of harsh, contemporary landscapes and young adult struggles. Her fairy tales of a girls living in a “jasmine-scented, jacaranda-purple, neon sparked” Shangri-La seemed to be both memoires of lost souls finding themselves and how-to manuals for the small town mouseykins yearning to make those discoveries as well.
I purchased, with my small paycheck at that time, every title on that shelf. And I as I am now somewhat taken aback to remember, I shared them all with my mother. I drove to her house within the next day to dump them all on her bed and tell her that whatever she was reading, she should put it aside and inhale the books I was giving her as quickly as possible. I knew, at that time, that the stories and characters and magical writing were elements that my mother would have loved; I know now that I was sharing these stories of beauty and tragedy and redemption with one of the most lost souls I was ever to love.
As I read Beyond The Pale Motel this weekend, I sadly realized I no longer have the passion or the patience for Ms. Block’s writing. The book was dark, certainly darker than those strange and sparkling coming of age tales I remembered from almost twenty years ago, and there was no happy ending to be found. Never the less, I finished it in one sitting. I was both angry and sad about the ending of the book and the lack of magic contained therein; sad and wistful, I think because I had changed over time. Maybe, I don’t really need those sorts of stories any more. I have made so many of my own magics and created so many stories for myself since I first discovered her writing; perhaps words I once found so bewitching and transcendent no longer resonated with me.
Upon closing the book once finished, my first instinct was to call my mother. I have still not forgotten that I cannot do this. What is unexpected though, is the hot rush of tears that filled my eyes and the painful twist of my heart when think of how I can’t ever share these insights and discoveries with her anymore, ever again. As someone who thought they were prepared for this eventuality, who had numbed herself to this outcome… this sudden heartbreak, this piercing grief –that’s the part I never saw coming.
From the terrifying, vertiginous heights of a 60 meter waterf
all, to the giddy delight of having scaled it afterward, to the dazed distraction of being in the midst of incomprehensible multinational conversations, and the woozy, weak-in-the-knees sensation of toppling into bed once the day is done…if asked to sum my time in Iceland up in one word, my reply would be: “dizzying”.
A week later after arriving home and having settled back in, the dizziness is just now subsiding and yet I am still feeling rather unsteady and out-of-place. A new friend summed it up rather eloquently, I think: “Repatriation can be a lot more shocking than expatriation, because we expect to feel comfortable, we expect things to be familiar, but everything is different. Not because everything has changed, but because *we* changed. Our frame of reference for the familiar has changed. “
All of this sounds like a complaint, doesn’t it? I don’t mean it to be. I’ve never fancied myself much of a traveler and I am finding that it rather takes some getting used to. I think when one travels one must learn to let go of schedules and learn to embrace the unexpected and these are usually both difficult lessons for me. This journey proved to be no different in that regard and yet I think, at some point I , just…let go. Gave up. Due to the fact I did not speak the language (I know maybe four words of Icelandic) I didn’t know what was going on around me 99% of the time anyway, so why not just let someone else make the plans and I’d just end up where ever I ended up. And it would be fine. “þetta reddast”, I heard repeated several times during the trip. “It will be ok. It will work itself out.” Þetta reddast.
Though I was in Reykjavík primarily for the wedding of my gentleman’s brother – which was a splendid affair at Hallgrímskirkja, the largest church in Iceland – we did have time, in between visits with family (and there was a lot of family), to explore our own agenda. Which were chiefly pastries, penis museums, haunted houses, and more waterfalls.
Because my guy and his family are originally from Iceland, there were many aunties and cousins still living there who had not seen them in a long time and who wanted to spend time catching up. There were long coffee hours with trays of hangikjöt (smoked lamb) or salmon sandwiches and delicate pancakes either rolled thin and sprinkled with sugar or stuffed fat and full of cream and jam. There was an evening of at least 40 relatives packed into an apartment for bowls of traditional kjötsúpa – a humble but fragrant and nourishing meat soup, usually made with lamb and earthy winter vegetables. I’ll scarcely mention the grilled minke whale, for those readers who may face ethical or philosophical dilemmas regarding this…very…delicious issue. And then, there was an afternoon in the town of Akranes where I was invited for a meal of the most delicious fish and chips that I have ever had in my life.
Akranes is a charming little fishing town, but there is a wee dodgy strip which could be mistaken for Innsmouth on a gloomy, grey afternoon. Though apparently the ninth most populous town in Iceland, Akranes seemed small and rather isolated to me. We were taken on a little tour of the town, which included the boat and town history museum, as well as, the lighthouse – which was an unexpected and wonderful surprise for me, as Amiina, a lovely, unique group of musicians whose works I stumbled across recently and who sound like the dreamiest, tinkling music box, had recorded at this lighthouse in the past few years. I was delighted to see that the lighthouse, though small, also hosted exhibits of the poetic or artistic variety from time to time. Before leaving I was gifted with a knit version of a traditional hat, hand made by a very generous auntie.
In addition to the town of Akranes, another one of my favorite places was Árbæjarsafn, which is the historical museum of the city of Reykjavík as well as an open air museum and a regional museum. Unfortunately, we put this visit off until the last minute, on the weekend – during which time it is not open. Technically. We were still able to walk around and look at the houses, but we were not able to go into them or explore them. Nonetheless, we still spent about two hours walking around and marveling at the simple beauty of the structures.
I was very lucky to experience Iceland from a unique perspective – though I did many of the tourist-y things (I ate hotdogs from every stand in the city for pete’s sake; I took a photo of this guy), I also spent a great deal of time with the people who actually live there and got to see things from a native’s perspective, as well. Which included many home-made meals, I might add, and in a city as expensive as Reykjavík, that’s really a lovely blessing.
A few tips, if you are thinking of traveling to Iceland:
Bring layers! I traveled during the end of August (which is like a relentless hellscape in Florida) but the weather I encountered in Iceland was in the 40s and 50s and drizzly. Cold and rainy. Tee shirts and light sweaters and light jackets are best for hopping between coffee houses on a chilly day downtown, I think.
A sturdy pair of water proof boots is essential if you are going to be visiting the waterfalls or doing a bit of hiking. I purchased a pair from LL Bean and they are marvelous. I highly recommend them.
Try to check out the happy hours for restaurants. They are all so very expensive, so take advantage of deals where you can find them.
And be reminded of why we go away. (says Terry Pratchett) “Why do you go away? So that you can come back. So that you can see the place you came from with new eyes and extra colors. And the people there see you differently, too. Coming back to where you started is not the same as never leaving.”
I am glad I am no longer the same person who would have never left. Though now I feel I am not actually the same person who did leave, either. It’s all so confusing! Perhaps I’d better start planning another trip and see what happens.