October 24, 2009

Vacant Hands

I cook all the time here, but I think it may be misplaced energy. Because, I am never actually that hungry. I think it is the desire to do something with my hands that drives me - drives me to cook, to smoke, to drink. To have something to hold and control. I should just buy mounds of clay and shape things of it, or wade into the muddy shallows in front of the house and scoop the black underbelly of the Chesapeake into my restless hands. If only writing were a more physical task. Writing by hand is too slow - my hands can't keep up with the words. If only writing were more like shaping things from clay, or chipping away at a marble square. Sometimes that is how it feels if I have a good writing hour, a good writing moment. Like the words were all there before I came across them and put them together, like I just had to discover them in the great piles of wrong words lying in my head. Just the few perfect beautiful words, all buried and waiting and lonely until I dig them out and string them together and they are right. I have not had a good writing day in three weeks. I have been away, or with people. It scares me that I can only seem to write when I am totally alone.

Today I went to see Where the Wild Things Are in Gloucester, and thought I saw it for what Spike Jonze intended it to be, despite the bored children that surrounded me in the dark theater, gently shushed by their confused parents. How wonderful to know exactly what you want to make and to be able to, critics, production companies, and children be damned. When I got home I went on a bike ride with my new camera and was disappointed by the light. Too dulled by wimpy clouds, too washed out. I biked to the empty Pickle house on Stingray Point to take a look around when the clouds opened up and I knew. I pedaled so hard I thought I'd faint. I knew I had to get there. Pounding down the broken-down dock camera in hand I held my breath, afraid that the clouds would close again. They did not close, and the gulls whipped over my head in the wind off the storm coming. It was like shaping something with my hands, like cutting onions. Like plucking the right words from a tangled mess, paring them out and shaving off the excess until it was just them. How lucky to live in a place that opens up in front of me, that begs to be chased.

October 15, 2009


It is raining in DC, and I am thirteen floors up, on top of the Watergate. Strange to live so far off the ground. I think I could never get used to it. My grandparents love this apartment, and I love the roof. But still, strange to know you are floating up so far from anything. I like to imagine buildings as if they have suddenly turned transparent, to see all the furniture and rugs and people set up in little geometric shapes so far off the ground.

When I am sad in Virginia I go to the abandoned houses. There are several on the island, and many in the county. I think of them as left places. Many are so overrun that it is hard to imagine that they were ever anything but left houses. Some I have been in, others are inaccessible, too part of the forest now to have floors or doors. They are full of remnants. In one, a piano stands, keys uncovered, against the wall, a green hardshell suitcase on the floor beneath. Old light switches that do nothing, a rocking horse. Curtains, some ragged and dirty and some hanging brittle but preserved. A tinseled sprig of fabric holly and a small rocking chair with the hand woven wicker punched through. I like the air in left houses. It is still and quiet and full of dust, so that when you bust through the door into a left house it feels as if a long-held breath has just been let forth. When the roof on a left house goes the whole house will soon follow, birds nesting in the attic and the summer storms and salt air eating away at old heart pine. The old houses there stand longer than new houses would, their parts sturdier and construction sounder. They don't build houses to last anymore. They are built with obsolescence planned into their foundations, their frames.

The houses comfort me in their leftness. They stand still while the weather and time picks at them, smoothing away the details of their construction as an ocean does to driftwood. They remain though most if not all of the people who lived within them have died. I suppose that the left houses remind me that time does not stop for anyone. Though their time is coming to a close and the forest is coming home to claim its dirt I am a girl alive right now, and I am standing at the window a person used to open and shut and look out of, thinking about that person and who she might have been and how she might have lived and died and how it came to be that her piano was left there, with this window and this house and this dirt. I find a comfort in that I cannot explain, and when one of the left houses is finally burnt or pulled apart to make room for more houses which may some day be left, I grieve the loss, but know I am a being pulled along by the same time as the house and the person and the piano and the window and the dirt and the forest. And I can feel the ground solid beneath my feet.

October 13, 2009

1 year, 10 days

Fall is proving to be more difficult than I expected. This time of year seems steeped in portent, and nostalgia; the combination is confusing. On the one hand it is beautiful, and I associate the fall with return to UCSC, pumpkin squatting, and general revelry. It makes me miss my friends as they were my friends two or three years ago. Good memories have turned bittersweet in light of what has happened. Fall is also Laura's time now, and probably will be from here on. I find myself in moments of anxious dizziness, fighting back the mounting panic I long associated with my sister. I find my moods changeable and unpredictable, and my focus shaky. I wonder if my memories differ from the memories of my friends. I have trouble reconciling the past with the present, navigating the transitions, accepting the way things are. Sometimes I am bitter. I wish I had not felt so isolated from them before Laura died, and after. I wish that things had turned out differently. But they didn't. It is strange that while I never think of Laura and think what-if? I often think of Sam or Maria in that very regard. This is made more difficult by the fact that I haven't made any new friends in Virginia, mostly because there don't seem to be any people my age in Mathews without spouses and children. The empty places aren't full, and while I will say that being farther away from all the people I used to have wonderful relationships with has helped cure me of some of my feelings of anger/abandonment, I still miss them. I wonder how things would be different had I been more open about my family life in the year before Laura died, but I have no answer for myself. I wonder how things would be different if I hadn't been too proud to ask for help, or to tell them how hurt I was, and am.

I find myself nervous about visiting California around Thanksgiving, anxious about the social aspect of it all. I find it strange that in the year following Laura's death navigating my relationships with the living was much more difficult for me than accepting or processing her suicide. I am afraid to go to California.

October 4, 2009


A year ago today was a bad day, worse even than the one before, and it seems like a longer time since then than it has been. I feel so much older I can't stand it sometimes. My parents came to Virginia for the anniversary and it was not what you might expect- no crying, no little leftover family huddled together. A very different day than the day one year ago, when I went out to sushi with Kai and the police called my boyfriend to tell him to drive me to Fremont. He said, A 510 number, and I bristled. And he picked up, paused, and said, Yes sir, she's right here, and I knew what had happened. I had been expecting it for so long there was relief in it, and after the memorial service was all done and the family all gone I slept and slept, and found myself tired for months. And then I lived in a haze for months.

I am not the same person I was before everything started to go so wrong. I have spent a great deal of my time worrying what other people thought of me- caring more than I could really explain. And then, all at once, it didn't matter a whole lot anymore. Now sometimes I realize I am pretty boring, but it doesn't bother me how it would have two years ago, or three. I am content to be pretty boring, and find I no longer have the energy to put on much of a show. I miss my sister, but I don't, and that is hard to explain to anyone else. There is loneliness in that.

Yesterday I found a wild persimmon tree, and another, and wondered at never having noticed before. Not that I like persimmons, but I do like wild things, enough so that I can forget the bitter sliminess of the fruit and be excited about their existence. I will try to make pudding when I come back. I leave for Pennsylvania on Tuesday, a trip I am taking with my mother to visit her side of the family. I am a little anxious to leave Homagin for so long, afraid I will forget how to live here or forget how to be alone all the time, but okay. Maybe I am afraid of feeling like I did before I got here. I have to remind myself that this place will wait, that it almost never changes, and that the time I will be away is not so long at all.