Monday, December 31, 2012

Happy Path-Marker

"My eyes are in my feet..." -Nan Shepherd, The Living Mountain (1977)

My dad walked the same path every night of my childhood. In all seasons. He dressed for winter snow storms, for sleet and rain. On clear nights of summer or spring and in the winds of autumn, he would go out into the night for a two-mile walk through the protected wetlands.  My parents moved to Minnetonka in the early 1980's, after the city acknowledged the importance of preserving the wetlands. 

Roughly 20,000 years ago, the area I grew up in was at the edge of a glacial lake. As the glaciar melted, piles of dirt and blocks of ice were deposited and left depressions in the landscape. The shallow depressions my father walked through, and I later on, followed cattails and rushes. I got to know my dad by joining him on his walks at night. I also got to know my self, and the topography of my inner and outer worlds. 

In "The Old Ways: A Journey on Foot", Robert Macfarlane said, quite simply, "Path's connect. This is their first duty and chief reason for being. They relate places in a literal sense, and by extension, they relate people."  

The topography of the self is shaped by landscape and the paths we walk early on. I navigated wetlands-shallow depressions, seeps and swales and rushes and cattails, oaks, maples, and elms, and of course, mosquitos. Close to water and submerged- storing, recharging, housing. 

Minne-tonka, my home town, meant water-big to the Dakotah Sioux. To settlers in the mid 19th century it meant a township, it meant farming and a sawmill and furniture shop. Since WWI and to my family, it has meant suburbs where people can live and go to work and raise their kids.  

We internalize the features of our individual path-filled landscapes. They shape the form and function of our everyday hopes and longings. Projected into us early on are landscapes, and we create maps to navigate inward and outward terrains. 

We speak of places in terms of what we make of them-it seems more difficult to say what a place makes of us. 

In our culture, the holidays, the winter solstice, and the new year act as way markings, or path-markers, just as a cairn, milestone, mile-marker, boulders in a river, or blazes on trees mark paths. 

My dad followed the path in the wetlands every night as a meandering river with a singular necessity-to keep in motion.

The marker leading into 2013 draws my eye. 

My feet eyes are watching.

Monday, December 17, 2012

Drop the finger, pick up a mirror

Here is a story. 

Twenty-eight children sit in a classroom. They have hung up their coats in their individually decorated cubby holes lining the wall, beneath their artwork and drawings. They each pick up the Science book from the back shelf, take their seats and wait for the lesson. The teacher begins. They talk of stars and the solar system. The teacher talks about the Universe. They are twenty-eight small people listening and reading aloud and making spit balls, and picking their noses. And then, time stops, and the twenty-nine people in the room freeze at the sound of a loud noise.

You know, like a bang, or crash, or maybe a boom. A sound wave at first, but once it reaches the ears, a process in the mind rushes to make sense of it. And before the mind can make sense the room is changed, the world and universe and stars and planets all flip, and something unnamed is gone, but somethings are at once left behind.

And the people left behind are caught in the lessons of society's how's, and yet are oblivious to the why.

What of the students who now go home and ask their parents the why. And of the parents who can't talk to their children whom have been taken as pieces from the now to the who knows when. And what of the people trying to make sense of the why.

What of the tragedies that go unnoticed and under the radar, unlearned.

A mortician publicly discussed the importance of talking to children about violence and death. When they ask the why, do we tell them we know why?

We could say, our culture has violence and that violence has meaning. But beyond that, we can not say.
We can look into the barrel of a gun as if into a mirror. Yes.
Or, we can feel powerless-up against a force of nature.
We could say it is out there and there are bad people, and it's scary and uncertain, and one day somebody could happen to pass through your life, and they could take it.

We are those children. Caught in the how, and oblivious to the why, we are torn between bitterness and hope.

And we look to the ones we fear most, as if they are the why. We look to the other, the stranger, and they are the why.

We need the why. The why is the space where our bullet-holed hearts and minds mingle to tell us the meaning for our pain.

According to Webster Online,

Massacre is:
 1. a) the indiscriminate, merciless killing of a number of human beings
     b) large-scale slaughter of animals
2) Informal an overwhelming defeat, as in sports

Multiple messages occupying the same space. And in that space a construction, a meaning about right and wrong, black and white, good and evil, and where we all reside is formed.

What happens when multiple meanings crash into each other? Is it like a boom, a crack, a fizzle, a snap? Can we hear it?
Is a massacre of others a crime against the self? Does this construction lead to an irresolvable world?

Mark Twain said,
“By trying, we can easily learn to endure adversity. Another man's, I mean.”

In jest.

I sift through the recesses of my heart for a reminder of beauty where no beauty seems possible, for a reminder of kinship when isolation feels inevitable. I ache for the reminder that lonely does not mean we have to pretend to be someone we are not, and that my actions towards those around me are the most significant force constructing the world I live in.

Researchers in primate behavior study aggression in chimps. They try to make sense of inter-group violence. Jane Goodall spoke in an interview with Bill Moyers about how she reconciles a world which equally contains cruelty and violence communally with solidarity, and ultimately, love. She said, “ I reach the conclusion that I do believe we have brought aggressive tendencies with us through our long evolutionary path. I mean, you can't look around the world and not realize that we can be, and often are, extremely brutal and aggressive. And equally, we have inherited tendencies of love, compassion, and altruism, because they are there in our closest ancestors. So, we've brought those with us. It's like each of us has this dark side and a more noble side. And I guess it's up to each one of us to push one down and develop the other.”

These are the conflicts of multiple forces which rage within us. Within us and against us. Against us and within us.
Perhaps the need to answer the why is to escape. To escape the scariest story of them all. Not the story of crimes of others, but of the brutal massacre of the self.

All our secrets are the same.

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

How to become, seemingly invisible

Octopuses imitate color even though they are colorblind.

They distinguish between objects which are black and white from objects which are different shades of grey.

Distinguishing between different polarizations of light allows them to sense the slightest contrasts between different colors, so they can adjust the texture and color of their skin until they exactly match the shade they seek to blend in with, and become, seemingly,


Friday, December 7, 2012

Experimental Flips

wanting to stick
to the moment right before
wanting it to begin

full-fledged crows

circle jack in the box
to shout at cars

midnight rat

chewing her toe callus-is there
really a point in life?

alternately off

then on-lipstick
for a contrast

smell of victory

is napalm-he said while
remembering burning flesh

the loud crow woke me

from my walking dream
of walking away from myself

An important man can

skip stones over words-as he
jumps from boat to boat

Thursday, December 6, 2012

True Story

A message is not the whole story.

Wednesday, December 5, 2012

Another True Story

When the time comes to actually get paid for writing words, that others deem somehow valuable enough to print somewhere, a person needs to know about something called an Invoice.

I was not a person who knew anything about an invoice, and when it recently popped up in an email with someone who was in charge of actually paying me for writing,  I realized I needed to enlist the help of Google, and Wikipedia.

According to Wikipedia: "An invoice or bill is a commercial document issued by a seller to a buyer, indicating the products, quantities, and agreed prices for products or services the seller has provided the buyer. An invoice indicates the sale transaction only."  

Do not laugh at me random one or two or three people out there who read this (Hi LING! AND KAVISA! AND ROCKIN'! and...)

I am not all caught up with the work-for-yourself lingo and this world of commodities.

My 8-year-old self had a better idea about buying and selling and products and quantities and agreed prices for products and services and sales than my now 28-year-old self. 

I had a cookie business once.

And a lemonade stand.

Those businesses did not require an Invoice.

Anyway after googling, and asking Jacob, he said I just needed a template, and fortunately as a Mac user, I can get a free template from OpenOffice.

So that's just what I did.

Woohoo for templates, and I guess, invoices, because it means I'm officially paid as someone who strings words into sentences. 

True Story

Catfish are giant swimming tongues.

If you touch a catfish, it will taste you.

Tuesday, December 4, 2012

Eye in a tunnel

"Pitter patter is the angel on my shoulder...tick tock,  the clock is getting louder..."

Monday, December 3, 2012

How to: murder my darlings

Reluctant public disclosure: I'm applying to graduate school.

The process is murky. I find it hard to write a personal statement or statement of academic purpose. 

Perhaps my problem is that word: purpose.

Fortunately, I've enlisted the services of a willing critic-whom has provided an absurd level of patience with my crappy first drafts.

The response to my first draft:

"This meanders and ambles too much. Remove the affective and chatty sentences. Send me the next draft."

The response to my second draft:

"It is painful to read this sort of jargon and corporate speak from a person with your background. Try again."

Next draft response:

"The voice is the voice of the village. Use it."


"I notice that you use plain, simple language, short words and brief sentences. That is the way to write English-it is the modern way and the best way. Stick to it; don't let fluff and flowers and verbosity creep in. When you catch an adjective, kill it. No, I don't mean utterly, but kill most of them-then the rest will be valuable. They weaken when they are close together. They give strength when they are wide apart. An adjective habit, or a wordy, diffuse, flowery habit, once fastened upon a person, is as hard to get rid of as any other vice." -Mark Twain Letter to D.W. Bowser, 3/20/1880

"Style is not-can never be-extraneous Ornament. Whenever you feel an impulse to perpetrate a piece of exceptionally fine writing, obey it-whole-heartedly-and delete it before sending your manuscript to press. Murder your darlings."
-Sir Arthur Quiller-Couch (1863-1944). On the Art of Writing. 1916.

Last draft-finally nailed it, at least for this critic. 

Next task=write an Academic Statement of Purpose. 

I am walking in a fog of mental murkiness with a machete. And I need to murder my darlings.