Note to self:
Touching, swinging, primate,
Sitting with confusion
"Here we are, trapped, in the amber of the moment. There is no why." -Vonnegut
So it goes.
I've been swinging lately, shifting weight from hand to wall, bending the core of my will around the spaces and moving through them deftly.
Once I was a room.
An impossibly big room that fit jokingly, like a father's robe around a child.
But eventually I grew into it.
Or perhaps it shrank?
It was a corner room, with two brick walls meeting, laden with enormous windows secreting leaden weights which lifted the glass from tarred cords, somewhere inside their frames.
To fit properly I started sewing the holes, deft thread in and out, closing the cracks - the material beginning to show form and match itself to my shape.
I filled it with music, and ran my hands along its edges to familiarize myself with its shape.
As it began to know me, it grew comfortable, and collapsed itself onto my skin gratefully.
It breathed as I breathed.
In every corner, and even on the broad parts I hung bouquets of yarrow. Asking for the stuck energy to filter away, letting the fresh in. A protective spell cast.
We knew each other, and that is all I can say for what love probably is.
Now I find myself in places with many turns, not open, like the room I once wore. Curved and nooked and slim. Made for bodies to come into contact, to crash a bit. I always find myself calling and singing around these corners, anticipating the eventual collision of another body, perhaps clicking their way around. It's strange actually how seldom we actually meet. There's always a bubble that seems to catch us. I've begun to say, "Excuse me," rather than, "I'm sorry," in these moments.
"The body is not an apology," Sonya Renee Taylor let's us know.
It's ok to exist and get in the way a bit. Impossible to avoid unless you are a ghost really. One day.
But not today.
In this place of many turns I find myself swinging. There are
of many quick grasps where the weight is shifted.
A quick story to explain what I mean:
There is a black bronze statue at the Grotto in East Portland, that sits overlooking the scrum of highways connecting Oregon to Washington. It's of Mary holding a slumped Jesus, her left hand extended in a gesture of .. grief? confusion? questioning why this useless violence that has happened?
There is a sign below the statue which makes observers aware not to touch the statue.
It's let's us know the bronze material is very sensitive to human oils.
Yet, despite this warning, the finger-tips of Mary's outstretched hands are patinated, touched by the oils of many hands. The fingertips stand out, gleaming gold in spite of the obsidian radiance of the rest of the statue.
So many hands seeking perhaps to comfort her. Seeking to redirect their own balance in the space.
It's an extension of our movement, these pivot points. These spots that indicate our movement, the smoothed altered surfaces we return to again and again.
And it reminds me of our ancestors. The old wise ones. The elders. The ones who lived in the trees. The ones who made smooth the branches of the jungle, who's hands were so much stronger than ours now. Of course I'm making some assumptions. I'd like to pretend I feel them in me when I move through the spaces, hands always catching my balance from wall to railing to pillar to door knob. The feeling of fallen and caught weight, the feeling of swinging through spaces. The feeling of singing around corners, of narrow misses always, but rarely crashes.
The way we move around each other, singing and dancing and touching. Making marks, touching, leaving our prints.
We are not ghosts yet, we cannot pass through one another. We move in our spaces and touch. We leave an imprint. We leave a path in our wake. We are always, always swinging.
What does it mean that Mars is suddenly watching us in the East?
Each evening I come home, I see him hovering over the trees and rooftops.
I could ask some astronomy friends.
Mars? patron of passions, fucking, force of will - what does his presence bring in the story of natal charts and constellation trajectories?
I could ask the woo-folks: what do you see? What does he tell you in your dreams? Has he always been there, or I'm finally noticing?
Or I could ask Mars himself: what brings you here on these cooling summer nights, when the curfew has been made, but we still take to the night streets?
(He took the plane North, but didn't let me know he was in town. It's no matter (That's what I tell myself))
"You're so full of joy," they tell me.
"It's right there," I tell them, "all the pain and anger. It's just right there,"
I point to the top of my throat. I swallow it down.
Once you asked, "what's on your heart?" as we walked slowly, taking the dogs out free-range, down the alley, and it all came spilling up.
It took everything I had to choke it back down, swallow it, and respond in some benign way.
I had always wanted to be asked, but had never prepared for what happened if I was.
An invitation to spill out.
These ruptures at the seams.
It's easy to mask. We get so good at it when it's expected of us.
Nature craves balance, I admitted to myself yesterday, that revelation clicking playfully into place.
I try to always and only have good days.
No bad days.
Trying to hold the pendulum swing at such an impossible arc, a frivolous endeavor.
So, I'll ask direct:
Mars, what brings you here?
All the pieces coming together, I take the moment to pull things apart. Instead of binding journals I want to mediate of paper. Instead of copy-pasting her essay into a doc and compiling the book, I want to spend time brushing over fonts. Considering hand-writing everything. I slow things down, so much they don't seem like they're moving at all.
At the cafe in Sisters with Matthew Carter, talking about paper. He wants a leather bound day-planner that will last three years. I push him towards the mixed-media Canson paper, almost comparable to watercolor pages with its thick tooth and fraying tear style. "Let's do this!" he said. He'd been on me all week about getting together and doing this work.
"Don't you like living forever in the planning stages scheming impossibly ridiculous expectations?" I texted him.
"Can you come in the morning?" he responded.
Things are sitting, unseen / unread, in binders, in files, in journals. It feels ok this way, but there is wisdom that needs to be fleshed out, put on page and bound.
But I slow things down. I want star alignment, I want validation and approval for my movements, continuous reward, like following a candy trail into the forest. Something familiar leading into the unknown?
But I know it's because I'm just scared. The actuality of my dreams is terrifying, not even the failure or disappointment, though those factor in. But actually seeing a flower transform into a fruit, because it's like love, and there's something so frightening about about that to me.
This is such an embarrassing story, but I'll tell it. I told it to Jonathan the other day, all weepy, and excusing myself for being three weeks into Wellbutrin. It wasn't that. I was just sad.
A friend and I have been soliciting dick-pics from Tinder matches. One in particular who I sent my number to who claimed he was offended by the site of dicks in porns, because they were as attractive as his. We continued a very inconsistent conversation around cunnilingus, food, vague reflections on our day, and really nothing interesting.
Ultimately, without too much exchange and without more reasoning than why not, I texted him after work for his address. Heading over the fucking googlemaps took me down every fucking unlit neighborhood and road detour until, within being within two minutes of arrival coming to a gravel hole in the earth indicating "Road Closed."
The headlights hitting the sign I could only think, "This was a joke I set-up for myself, on myself, and everyone is laughing but me."
I just went home, and cried and cried because I had gone to fast. I thought, for the moment, it was ok to cheat a bit. Cheat love a bit, and not have a connection or a thousand arrows pointing yes, and just go. I just wanted to be loved, made-out with, eat guacomole on the counter-top, talk about my day, talk about his day, fuck. Why not.
And it wouldn't let me. They wouldn't let me. Whoever they are that sits with me all day pulling the pieces apart and not together to examine yhe bigger picture. The force that takes me so long to finish anything, if I finish it at all.
Once, in the Wal Mart parking lot, I had found a mess of glossy scraps and arranged them into a photograph of a man and a woman. It was a selfie, cheek to cheek. "A bad breakup" I hypothesized, a connection that hadn't made it in the car, to the house, and into a frame on the mantle. Left as rubbish to be stirred by exhaust on hot concrete.
I don't know what to do with this box full of photographs. I printed them out. They made it home. They made it to a place where they were passed back and forth, smiled over, and set gently away for another time of sweet nostalgia.
"Stay Awhile," I had painted on the top. It's all one can really ask for, even if a relationship lasts a lifetime. It's always just "awhile."
When people come into my work celebrating a ___ year anniversary I always comment that, "once I made it three years."
Once I had been loved for awhile.
In 2013 I had a great purge. I burned everything, all the tangible memories, even stuff I had done in kindergarten. I burned everything that I didn't use on a day-to-day. I burned all the photographs and projects. Matt Ozrelic had walked by and asked if I was "going through a thing."
"It's the Year of the Snake," I had said, "it's time to let go. It's time to be lighter. Time to not be held down."
I was also borrowing a memory I had had in Olympia, Washington watching Alexis burn all her journals before moving to London. When I had protested, she countered, "there are things here just for processing. Things I need to let go. Things I don't want my mom to know if something were to happen to me and these were left."
She granted me permission to fish out her French notes from Evergreen the way Matt, years later, would fish out a little zine I wasn't proud of.
I'm not of Chinese ancestry, but I do consider the Lunar New Year and pay attention to Chinese publications that come out with omens and predictions. 2020 is the year of the Rat. In my own inappropriate appropriation of that symbol I think of rats as being pragmatic survivalists. They are considerate collectors, thoughtful, and sentimental.
This is all to say, I don't mind holding on right now.
I know it's holding me back from moving on, weighing me down, and sabotaging creativity, but letting go doesn't feel right at the moment..
Holding on is the opposite of everything I've ever done. I have no precedent or proper defense.
I'm not ready for my relationship to be bits of shiny paper strewn in a parking lot.
I don't want it to be ashes in the fireplace.
There is a community of people in the Toraja region of Sulawesi in eastern Indonesia who keep their dead close, perhaps lying in bed. The state of death of their loved ones doesn't create an absence as much as a stillness or silence. Is this how I feel? Is this what I'm doing? I do not expect in any way my past relationship to raise its head and speak to me as it once did.
But the symbolic discard of burning/burying feels as much as a useless gesture as keeping the box. In fact, it feels wrong.
Keeping the box feels right. That's all that can be said in its defense. In my defense.
In the least, if anything were to happen to me, a stranger could pick up the box intact and rightfully hypothesize, "she was loved once."
In this memory of at one time being chosen, I am at a loss. At one moment yes yes yes trails into ellipsis, cake crumbs into dust we walk over on the way to somewhere else.
We're in this moment of dwelling, a Sousa saudade maybe, a longing, a reflection that keeps us awake at night, so aware of the sounds of everything but another's soft breathing next to us.
Claps of laughter go where? Where goes all the little details, where is the slip between the cracks as seasons change?
"I don't want to be obsessed with relationships, or yearn to be in one, but it hurts when these women loved me so much and then that love is gone," you told me once. I snap my fingers in agreement.
Why don't memories keep us warm? Is there a hole in the ether that opens once a year to crawl into the blanket of the past and slip into the moments of sweetness whose flavor has been forgotten?
You're probably the only one reading this.
What spell do we cast? What items do I lay on my altar during what phase of the moon to unlock the place where there wasn't loneliness? What drugs do we take?
"Why aren't we longing for each other?" he asked.
"We are, so much."
I missed the comet. It didn't matter.
Why look when you can never shift your weight into another and hear them say, "wow."
Maybe it's just the way it is.
Listening to a playlist I made during a time when everything felt beautiful and it falls flat.
All the pieces of the project splayed around me from the working times have lost their coherence. The ink went out, so things paused, then they sat and collected dust, waiting for me to animate them.
Sometimes things feel like they're swirling, sparkles caught up in my spinning wizard's cloak.
They swirl and swirl with me until I tumble, the moon wanes, we fall, become heavy, become weight.
I've never understood why it's like this, just the way it is.
The momentum, the building, then the sudden drop.
Where once there was meaning in every song and color, every conversation, every word, every letter.. to finish is to labor.
The sparkle becomes a heavy rock. The people I met during the times when things were good, couldn't possibly understand that all I want to do is lay down for weeks.
No singing, no dancing.
So this cycle continues. All the heaviness is put away instead of finished. Texts and e-mails go unanswered. The tapestry I was working on ends in a fray.
Maybe it's just the way it is.
I think I'm gonna keep grieving.
I think the moving on will happen, I think moving on is happening, but I'm not going to pretend to be moved on.
I think I'm gonna let myself be sad.
I'm gonna lay awake in the morning after the bad dream and sit with it.
I think I'm gonna let myself not get over it right now.
I think I'll keep listening to Lee Hazelwood and Mountain Goats.
I think I'll be ok with not being ok.
I'm going to be ok with not moving on right now.
A charged summer. Haven't left Central Oregon since February.
Remind me what day it is? What time do I have to be at work?
I asked you your pseudonym the other day.
It was some German sounding name, your Mom's maiden name. Why do I feel the need to give my writer friend's pseudonyms? Because writer's can't write about writers, they have other narrations going on. It's impossible to write on them without interrupting/writing over their own story. Everyone else is safe I guess.
T asked me to never talk about him, not to sieve him through my banality or romanticization. He felt like I had done such a shit job with everyone else's backstory, with the telling of their contribution to my life. He wanted to be an exception, without interpretation, tell his own story maybe, rather than be one in mine. He felt like I lied a lot, but my excuse is no one ever let's me finish talking. There are symbols embedded in the sentences, the description continues in the exploration of those symbols, but it's true nonetheless and the criticism stands uncorrected.
I make excuses, sluff around my lazy interpretation hoping everyone will fill in the trail of my ellipsis. Make everyone do their own research.
There's a story I'm sitting on at the moment that's exactly like that, I'm not sure how to tell it.
The characters in play go back 66 years and I know the broad brush strokes but not the smaller points. It's cooked into my DNA enough to pick up some of the pieces, and I can act as a conduit in that, but I wasn't there.
I set up my altar. I pray. I ask permission from the ancestors. From my grandmother.
I remember she was a storyteller as well and took liberties.
My Mom started asking questions, writing emails. It was known her mother, my grandmother, had a child she offered for adoption. It was in Great Falls, Montana when she was in nursing school, we had heard. What had we heard?
Stray comments: once, in an argument, my grandfather had reminded his wife, in front of the children, she had had a child in Montana.
Then, another time, my aunt had overheard a friend of my grandmother's asking if she wanted to meet the child, who would've been teens or early twenties during that time.
These were small clues.
My Mom wrote letters to Montana, to people who knew my grandmother during that time. Nothing substantial came back. Grand passed in 2014. Mom and I submitted our DNA to Ancestry last year.
A few days ago a woman, Nikki, pinged me on facebook letting me know her husband had gotten his DNA results back and we were fit genetically to be second cousins.
"Sooo.. this is awkward and I'm hoping I don't open a can of worms.." she had written and the big tectonic mystery plate slid into place, finally.
An Aunt in Montana, and cousins. She had been looking, Mary is her name - was her name, for answers. She passed suddenly, two years ago, not knowing her biological mother (or father?)
The light comes out, exposing something buried but not buried. All these lives living in Montana with this certain kind of blood that runs through me.
Mary, I just learned about you and I'm already not telling your story right.
We wanted to find you.
We wanted you to know that you are loved and held and thought about. We wanted you to know we were looking too, and that we wanted to know you. I wanted to show you my research, about our lineage. I wanted to know if you were witchy like me and Great Aunt Nora or Christian, like my Mom. Did you feel the insatiable desire to discover the world like your biological mother, my Grandmother and Great Grand Father? Or did you like to stay close to home?
What questions did you have of us that we might answer? What answers might you have for us?
We wanted to know you. We still do.
Nikki said you loved horses. You got married in 1974 when you were 20. You had three sons. Your husband passed in 2006. You won a trip to Africa and got married for the second time in 2007. You were "so happy and adventurous in the last 11 years," Nikki let's us know.
The story continues, I'm not writing it, but keeping record. Trying to be accurate.