October 8, 2011


Writing is so hard, really. I think I used to think it came easily because I didn't know what I was doing. Not that I really know now. But, somewhere along the line, I think I've gotten accustomed to the act of self-criticism--something that absolutely eluded me during my time at Santa Cruz. Faulkner advised that we kill our darlings, and I think I'm just learning it now, after five or so years of writing with intent. It's horrifying to admit you've been so arrogant, but yes, absolutely so. I think some of this is coming up because I'm attempting to rewrite completely a piece I first tackled three years ago. It was part of my senior thesis for fiction writing at Santa Cruz, and I read a portion of it at the graduates' reading. And I thought it was pretty great.

It wasn't. It was chock full of darlings, so choked with them that I'd sacrificed scene for pretty summary and repetition. Just a mess from start to finish. An exercise in wordplay without an ounce of structure or restraint. What a nightmare. Also, it had the worst title imaginable, something I remember commenting on at the reading itself: The Winter Ham. Don't even get me started.

It's an amazing thing, to get some years between you and the things you have loved. Whether they be people or the ideas of people or the mere shadows of people you once met. Be they places or dances or songs, impermanent as tide. Some things get stretched and faded and some just get distilled. They come through time reduced but not the lesser for it. I took sick glee in slashing through that old piece today, wreaking havoc of all things beautiful and indulgent. Delete delete delete. It's probably a fitting project, given the nature of the week. I realize now, days after the anniversary, that perhaps what's bothered me so much about this one is that if Laura had lived, she would today be as old as I was the day she died. All of twenty-two. Someone asked me how old I am this week and when I said twenty-five I saw her half wince and force a smile. But it's okay, I wanted to say. It's well earned. I come through this week with some goals, better realized given the task at hand. I am seeking discipline. In writing, in trying, in hoping. Because these things aren't so easy, really, though we make them sound that way sometimes.

God. The Winter Ham. I can hardly believe it.

October 2, 2011

1095 Days.

She died three years ago. I was twenty two years old, and she was nineteen. There are a lot of numbers to associate with this kind of event. It seems easier, sometimes, to simplify it to the numbers. October 3, 2008. The hour of the day, the minute. But if I've learned anything in the three years since my sister died, it is that there is no simplifying this. It does not reduce. The grief changes, becoming more like an old, deep bruise than the fresh blood that it replaced.

Other things become stranger. It is strange to grow up without her. It is strange that she will always be nineteen years old. And it is strange that as I grow up and change and move I become less like the person my sister knew. When Laura died, I was twenty two years old. I was one year out of UCSC, and still living in an apartment in downtown Santa Cruz with Hannah. I was as a newly trained projectionist at the Nickelodeon. I had been dating Colby for about half a year. A lot has changed since that afternoon in October. I spent another half year in Santa Cruz, working at the Nick, dating Colby. I don't remember a lot of it, to be honest. I did what I had to do to get through. I went to a therapist, I cooked a hell of a lot. And then in April my therapist said, If you could do anything right now what would you do? I said, I would go to my grandparents' house in Virginia and live there. And she said, Okay. In July of 2009 I sold the bulk of my belongings, put my furniture in storage, and crossed the country with what little could fit in my car alongside Hannah, Alex and a fern. I arrived at Homagin on August 1 and spent the next year in the house. I spent a lot of that year by myself, a time during which I dismantled and rebuilt myself to the best of my ability. In the winter, between building fires and riding my bicycle on slow-laden roads wearing a man's bulky overcoat from the downstairs closet, I applied to graduate school. I got into American University's MFA program, and left the island for that in August 2010. I moved into my DC apartment on California Street Northwest and started school in a week period. In the year since, I've written upwards of one hundred pages, made a whole new bevy of friends, and come to value the little Virginia county I left behind more every time I've returned for a weekend, a week, a month this summer.

If my sister could meet me now, I wonder what she would think. It is an unfair proposition. It depends so much on the suspension of so much disbelief. It requires a lot of what-ifs, and those aren't something I readily indulge in anymore. In truth, I left them behind on October 3, 2008. There are some things that a "what if?" can't remedy. Some things are too hard to pretend your way out of. My sister died, and as the years grow between that day and today, I find there's a lot I can't imagine my way into anymore. I do allow myself to think that if she could, Laura would be proud of me. I would like to think she would like to know me. I can't say for sure, but I'm getting more used to that.

September 7, 2011


I am in search of joy--collecting it, hoarding it. It is an odd thing, because to be completely honest, the pursuit of joy was never something I gave much time or energy to in my before life. I revile the word, even. I associate joy with holiday greeting cards and insincere salutations from distant relatives and unfortunate names for children. It's a small word, but one that is so over-used and cheapened. It's used until it's bereft of meaning. According to the extremely reliable dictionary.com:

joy: the emotion of great delight or happiness caused by something exceptionally good or satisfying; keen pleasure; elation.

So that is what I am looking for, and I think I have been, without knowing it, for a long time. There have always been moments of incredible happiness, of course, even when I was at my saddest, or saddest-ish. I've had to recalibrate all that a bit since Laura died--"saddest." This all might sound very navel gazing and, well, silly, but this is a new realization for me. A lot of people talk about wanting to be happy, myself included. Just happy, which I suppose means that we all want to be happy most of the time. I think this is an impossible demand. It's a difficult thing to feel genuinely happy when you're in line at CVS on a Friday night. Sure, you may be contented. You may be satisfied with your life and what/who you've surrounded yourself with. With the layout of the little universe you inhabit. I think that is feasible, and something I hope for. But, to be happy. I just can't be happy all the time. Instead, I'd like to experience moments of true joy. I think this all comes from the idiotic bike ride I took on Saturday night, with Kathleen and Scott. It was totally a bad idea in every sense, but in that absurdity I found myself experiencing total joy. I think Kathleen and Scott did too. It was impulsive--a "hey.... why don't we just bike there?' moment followed by ten minutes of all-out hollering. But it was absolutely joyful. And, as I said in my previous post, I felt young. I felt my age. The inevitable result of what has happened in my life is the feelings of aging I've experienced. Laura died, and I feel older than I am. I didn't in that moment. I think this summer has been full of joyful moments punctuating long periods of contentment, which is really all I could ask for.

Joy: swimming in Barn Creek late at night while the low tones of Blind Willie Johnson and Billie Holiday float down from the house and Uncle David sits on the bench on the dock, making sure I don't drown. Biking to the beach and swimming to the sand bar just as the sun sets, with walnut jellies glowing where my hands hit the water. The barn party in Tick Neck, and standing outside looking in as two women try and force their friend to dance. Learning to hula hoop on the Courthouse green outside Southwind on a Saturday afternoon. Running down the escalator at the Dupont metro. A cloud covering the sun at Bonnaroo. Showering in a hotel outside of Manchester having just left four days of dust and sweat behind. Riding the second tallest roller coaster in the world at Cedar Point and crying from the wind. Watching Kathleen epically wipe out at the Black Cat on Saturday night, only to pop up bleeding profusely but laughing even more. Handing out a story to my workshop and knowing that it's really, truly the way I want it to be. Picking vegetables from my Homagin garden. Kayaking in the late evening, following the wingtips of cownose rays. Pulling into the driveway of my family's home on Gwynn's Island.

September 5, 2011


I've left my island refuge for my life in the city, and though I'll admit to some pining for bicycles and gardens and beers at Southwind, it is good to be back in DC, and to have a schedule. I have returned to school as a newly minted second year, which comes with a great deal less anxiety than I experienced as a fledgling, lost first year. It is raining in the city today, and I keep looking out my window to see if the leaves in the big tree are bouncing and finding nothing--just the city skyline. The tree was taken down while I was last on Gwynn's Island, cut off at its knees and leaving my view much altered. While my privacy remains largely intact given the height of my apartment, my neighbors across the alley must find theirs hugely changed. Today a striped cat in the living room of the house just below me stared up at me while I sat on my balcony--the first time I've ever been "seen" by any neighbor. I waved at it, unsure of what else to do, and went back inside.

I've got a story due a week from today, which means I'm spending most of my waking time worrying about it and slowly hacking away at the piece. By that, I mean writing. I find my approach to writing is somewhat like that of a sculptor; I spend a great deal of time considering what I am about to write, unwilling to write anything until I have at least a rough image of what is going to come from this great hunk of stone (meaning, all of the words in the universe and all the images and stories swimming around in my somewhat unfocused brain). And even then, I won't actually write down a word until I have the perfect sentence. It's all very perfectionistic of me, and probably doesn't serve me. This all used to be very effortless to me, and whether that indicates a change in my life at large or simply a change in my expectations of my own writing, I don't know.

What have I been up to, other than waving at cats? This weekend I went out with Kathleen, and we went to a party at her very good friend's apartment with the intention of leaving to dance after a few drinks. A few hours later, where do I find myself but whipping down 14th street on an oddly clunky red bicycle, rented from a Bikeshare kiosk in Columbia Heights. We wound our way through streets and among the usual herds of people going every which way on Saturday nights, whooping in delight, and I felt very young. We danced at Black Cat's Moon Bounce/Dance Affair until late into the night, and it was a great, great night. I met Azwa, my UCSC freshman year roommate, for brunch on Sunday morning and spent the rest of the day sculpting, with little to no result until the moment before I fell asleep. So, island-pining aside, my return is going well.

August 22, 2011

Walking After Midnight

Late August nights find me torn between contentment and mourning, for I know it is ending: summer. Fall is creeping in, at first a threat and then, inevitably, a fact. The light has changed, and the warm, saturating haze of summer days gives way to the cold edged evenings of coming September. The water cools and the nettles vanish, and with them, the ease I find overtakes me in June and July. There are hot days left, I know, and on those that the humidity holds its ground I could almost convince myself that it's not over yet. I harvest butternut squash from the quickly waning summer garden, and the tomatoes ripen on dry, brown vines. I do love autumn in Mathews--the wild persimmons and the rashes of brown and red in the island meadows, but for me, summer is the magic time. I find myself a bit nostalgic for weeks only just past. It has been a good, strange summer. Bonnaroo and Pittsburgh, hot District nights, and long sojourns here, on Gwynn's Island, a time I spent swimming at Tin Can Alley, biking along the lanes, and sitting comfortably at the new bar at Southwind, drinking cold pints of Legend Brown and Lager while listening to the Usual Suspects, Runaway String Band, and Mixed Grill. I can't complain about that kind of summer. The cooling days make it easier to leave, to return to school and DC friends and the little life I've built for myself three hours north of where I sit now, watching the sun bow out to darkness over Barn Creek. But I am sad to leave now, as I am every time, at any time of year and in any circumstance. My car will leave Mathews with Virginia plates, an admission on my part to my love for this place, and my anticipation of my return.

August 12, 2011

Some Sad Shit.

Sometimes, without any
real telling why, I become aware of a sadness. It is pervasive and real, and I sometimes fear that if I let myself stop to consider it that this sadness will overtake me. I know that people who have lost people as I have lost my sister know about this sadness. Maybe those who haven't lost anyone know it too. It's not to say that I am not okay. It's just to say that there is a piece of me now that feels like it doesn't belong to the rest of me anymore. Like I've lent it out. It's the piece where the sadness is and can stay and grow or subside as it will, given time and experience and age. And I keep it there because if I don't allow this place for it, I know that I can't do all the things I need to do: the grocery shopping and the metro riding and the dancing and the growing up that continues to put years between the person I am and the person I was the day that Laura died. We don't really have so much time to live, in all, and I am not going to spend my time circling around events that cannot be undone or a person who is not here. I fear I've teased this piece too completely from the tangle--that I don't allow it enough moments. It's difficult to negotiate the desire to be fun or funny or easy to be around with that to express who you are, when so much of who you are is determined by a terrible loss. I guess that I am trying to say: I miss my sister.

August 3, 2011

How We Go, When We Go

It has been a very busy summer, which is quite honestly ridiculous, as I have been neither working nor in school. At the outset I told myself that I would do Bonnaroo, visit California, and go to Nevada for the Air Sailing contest. The first is the only thing on that list that I've managed to do. And yet, I feel I've winnowed away the time in three day increments. Three days here, three days there, occasionally punctuated by a week long sojourn on Gwynn's Island. Between visitors and visits, I find myself in August, less than a month away from the start of my second year of graduate school. I visited my Yankee relatives in Pennsylvania over the weekend, stopping off in Springfield to pick up my youngest cousin, Marie (my mother's brother's daughter) before heading off to Pittsburgh, where my cousin David (her older brother) is enjoying the bizarre and fast-changing terrain of post-college life. Quite unexpectedly, I found myself in Ohio riding the second tallest roller coaster in the world. It was in Ohio that I realized that I'd never been to Ohio before, and I found myself mentally tallying the states I've visited since July of 2009, when I up and left California. What follows is that list.

Road Trip of Danger and Excellence, July 2009:

California, Nevada, Arizona, New Mexico, Utah, Colorado, Oklahoma, Arkansas, Tennessee, Kentucky, North Carolina, Virginia

And I haven't seemed to slow down. In Virginia I lived, quiet and alone, and learned to recognize the trees. In Pennsylvania, I've slept in the bedroom my mother slept in as a child and trampled brilliant yellow leaves at my uncle's cabin in the autumn-lit Poconos. I've screamed upside down on roller coasters in Ohio and dressed as a pigeon at Jessica and Travis's Halloween-bedecked brownstone in Brooklyn. I've watched New Jersey and Delaware's backyards whip by from the window of the Acela, and cracked lobster in Maine. I've moved to DC and burnt brown under the dust-choked Tennessee sun, eyes trained to the stage, where the members of Old Crow Medicine Show stamp their feet. I have been tired and I have driven for eleven hours and I have flown and flown. I have grown to know the three hour drive to Gwynn's Island better than that to Santa Cruz from Fremont. I find I want to know this country and its cities and its hills, its deserts and softly sloping Eastern mountains. I used to wake nights in Santa Cruz with the most overwhelming urge to run, to step into my car and drive and drive until the past fell away. I am not running, I think. I am seeing.

July 7, 2011


They have arrived. At first, they were phantom-like: impossible to detect in the water, but for the screams of the children inevitably being stung on shore (usually when I was way out in the water, uneasily imagining my voyage back to shore). I've not been stung since my time here with D'uncle, about three weeks ago. I was out night-swimming in Barn Creek, the dark water cradling me as David sat, monitoring my survival, when a nettle brushed against my torso. I could feel its tentacles brush my skin like ribbons, sliding across my side. It felt like burning and vinegar in my eye at the same time. I climbed out, threw myself in the hottest of hot showers, and recovered. I still find that I fear them, floating white and bulbous in the cloudy bay water. And they're here en masse. They are beautiful--I can't deny that. Odd, otherworldly. They really don't seem like they should exist. Jelly-like tentacled floaters that sting like hell, just wafting about the Middle Peninsula like underwater balloons? I sort of really do hate them, admittedly. I haven't had a proper swim in days, ever since I stuck one toe in the water at Tin Can Alley and jumped backwards, reeling at the sight of them, trailing across the surf.

But. Something else, that is amazing. At night, as harmless as the sea nettles are venomous, the sea walnuts slap ashore, emitting bright bursts of blue-green in the milky tide. The same beach that by day seems beset by a mean-hearted attack turns magical. Stingless and glowing, the sea walnuts, jostled in the waves, phospheresce. If I was brave enough to swim among their less delightful cousins, they would bump against me and the water would light blue and green. I find myself biking to Tin Can Alley at night to sit on the salt-worn wood and watch them spin and tumble in the water I'll avoid until late August, glowing.

June 19, 2011

Day of Attempts

Granddaddy and Lynne departed Homagin this morning, leaving me to my own devices. I'm islanding for a few days, recovering from the considerable exhaustion and excitement born of my recently completed trip to Tennessee for Bonnaroo. Bonnaroo consists of a multi-stage, 80,000 person music festival on a large piece of farmland in Manchester. I went with my long-standing California traveling companions, Hannah and Alex (of the cross-country trip that delivered me to this fair coast in summer of 2009) and we deigned to camp in the inconceivably huge, hot Tent City for four days. It stayed in the 90s for the duration, driving me to drink gallons of water, buy a cowboy hat, throw myself fully clothed beneath a huge mushroom fountain, forego proper showering for four days, and strip down to my bra in public. The music was amazing, the experience memorable, and the survival of it a matter of some pride.

Anyway, after returning to DC for a few days, I needed a break from the masses, be they half-naked hippie-hula-hooping Rooers or Blackberry-toting suit-wearing DC dwellers. The island seemed ideal for this purpose. Today I elected to be incredibly lazy (which is really very easy on Sundays in Mathews, as almost everything is closed), make a ridiculously elaborate meal, and spend time outside. Homesick Texan's Sour Cream Enchiladas were the pick, and I scurried off to Food Lion in search of corn tortillas. Sadly, corn tortillas were not to be had at either Food Lion or Best Value, and I could not in good conscience justify driving to the next county just to go to the Walmart Supercenter just to buy twelve corn tortillas. My rampant perfectionism somewhat frustrated, I bought flour tortillas, in what turned out some two hours later to be a fine substitute.

After dinner I decided I was going to take a swim in the Bay, despite witnessing several stinging nettle stings the day before (though no nettles, oddly). I am rather wary of stinging nettles, even after having been recently stung. Arriving at the beach, I found myself a bit timid. Standing waist deep in the decidedly opaque water, I couldn't help but be a bit nervous about the whole endeavor, especially given that I was alone and should I be dragged under by some kind of huge jellyfish monster there would be no one to report on it. Finally, it was the sight of the shark-like wing tips of a school of cownose rays (or skates, as they are referred to locally) some twenty feet offshore that drove me from the water. I have heard that rays are friendly unless stepped on, but again, alone, I wasn't so keen on testing that theory.

I returned home and climbed into the one person kayak, determined to get a closer look. A large school of rays has returned to Milford Haven this summer and tends to arrive in the water in front of the house right before sunset. I didn't see any wingtips breaking the smooth surface, but I clamored into my bright red vessel and made my way slowly up the shore towards Hole in the Wall, eyes trained to the water. No sign of cownose rays--not even a ripple. I lay back in the kayak with my legs inelegantly thrown over the hull and drifted, watching for rays but only seeing the occasional nose tip of a terrapin emerge from the shallow waves. Right around the time I was ready to give up, a looked up and noticed that the current had delivered me to the water beside the dock my as-of-yet unseen/unmet neighbors' new house, and a troop of rather oafish twenty-something boys were headed up the dock in my direction. I threw an embarrassing wave in their direction and took off. Ten minutes later, pulling up to the stairs in front of Homagin, I looked to the sunset and saw, in the water just off my own dock, a cownose ray's wingtips breaking the surface.

May 29, 2011

And The Livin' Is Easy

This is what summer is.

Barbecue brisket sandwiches with cole slaw and sweet corn, dripping on white china plates as we sit on the indoor porch, a wall of screens the only thing between us and the sun setting over Milford Haven, and the first summer mosquitoes. We eat them at the long kitchen counter the next day, washing back the settling flavor of the meat with long draughts of beer from the outdoor fridge. We bike to the beach at Tin Can Alley with full bellies and swim to the sand bar in the sun-warming water, and the Chesapeake smells of oysters.

Jam night at Southwind pizza. A circle of men sit atop stools playing songs they've played before, many times, some bedecked with new mustaches. The drummer turns forty, looking all of thirty-five, and everyone hollers and raises a pint. We eat fried crab bites, a stringy, delicious pot of artichoke dip, and petite pizzas with perfectly crunchy bottom crusts. People dance in the back of the bar, and it is the kind of loud born of people who not only know each other, but are happy to. Everyone sings the choruses, and the waitress pouring off pint after pint of Legend Brown Ale grins as people congratulate her twenty-four-hour-old wedding, and she is beautiful in her happiness.

Campground house party. The campground, empty and desolate all winter, fills with pick-up trucks and trailers and golf carts. Boys throw lines into the bay off the high-deck and old-timers park their carts side by side on the sand and gravel road, chatting over steering wheels as in the tent grove, country blasts and men whoop from the bumpers of their truck beds. Teenagers gather on the beach and smoke cigarettes and slurp at stolen beers, eyeing me suspiciously as I whip by on my bicycle, still wet from my dip in the water. A man yells at me: Slow on down, girl!

Billie Holiday and asparagus hash on the new creek-side deck. I poach eggs, smooth and white as pillows, to slice atop a hash of asparagus, bacon, and potatoes. We watch the sun slide down below the trees on the point and don't say much at all.

Jumping off the dock in the last light of the day. The dock is alight with rarely used lights, and from the water they look like strung lanterns dangling between the salt-beaten pylons. A small boat trawls for flounder in the shallows in front of the house, and I leap off the end of the dock, carefully tucking my feet up under me so I won't touch the bottom of Barn Creek, its mud as soft as pudding. I float around on my back and watch as the first summer fireflies draw blinking trails across the marsh and over the lawn. My gin and tonic sweats on the dock's sink, where brackish water pumped from the Haven powers a hose used to clean blue crabs, or spot, or trout, if we're lucky. A neighbor sets off high, illegal fireworks, and the water is lit red and white and gold and the forested shore rings with the pop and crackle. I cheer aloud, toes grazing the creek bottom.

May 18, 2011

Big Time Lightning

Today I became determined to go swimming. It hasn't been a warm May, and as such the water, though summertime briny at this point, has remained cool. Now, I'm no wimp about cold weather; I have frequented many a cold body of water, including the Pacific and Lake Tahoe. I've spent so much of my life accidentally falling into water (fountains, creeks, ponds, puddles, ditches, you name it I've fallen in it) that I have a pretty good tolerance for unexpected swims. Last year, I very gracefully fell into Milford Haven while trying to board my kayak in the middle of December. Everything you just read reflects extremely poor judgment on my part, though in my defense I think it was the darling dog, Zoe, that sealed that particular icy fate. Her excitement over what she was sure was going to be an unexpected, mid-winter ride in a one person kayak proved too much for my not-so-considerable ability to maintain my balance. Anyway, today I was bitten by a mosquito while trying to clean my car. If mosquitoes don't mean summer, I don't know what does. Swim-suited and bitten, I made my way down the dock. The osprey nesting on the platform some forty feet away shrieked at me, but I paid her no mind. I was going to swim, dammit. I boarded the boat, dangled my feet into the water, bracing myself, and just as I was about to slide into the smelly, murky waters of Barn Creek, the weather announced its intentions. An outrageously loud rumble of thunder almost sent me tumbling into the creek. I looked out across the haven to the mainland, and sure enough, quite without warning, black, dramatic clouds were rolling towards the island. Branches of lightning lit the clouds, and I sighed and ambled back to the house, feet itching with quick-drying salt. I would say summer has arrived.

May 16, 2011

Gwynn's Island Time

My grandparents left this morning, leaving me alone at the house on Gwynn's Island. It has been a while since I have been here by myself for more than a day or so. I am finished with my first year of graduate school, and find I am overwhelmed. This place is a fixed point, an unmoving mark by which I can measure myself and the distance I have traveled since I was last here. Little things change, but largely, Homagin remains Homagin. The house smells of my grandfather's pipe smoke, the attic of summer and dust, and the marsh like salt and mud and raw oyster brine (which I am attempting, at the insistence of my grandmother, to develop a taste for.) The woods are green again, but I know the trees now, and though I marvel that they have made it and have grown or broken or tilted askew in the quick-sinking mud of this island, they are familiar. They do not surprise me now. A young bald eagle, brown and somewhat less magnificent than the adult he will be, frequents Barn Creek, and I watch the returning osprey pairs chase him down the water, swirling behind him like kites over the marshes and docks. I watch the spring mallards on the pond, and the red-pointed claws of a blue crab in the muck, and sink barefoot into the swamp, sacrificing the cleanliness of my toes for the fresh, crisp taste of the wild asparagus that grows among the reeds. Everything is as I left it, before DC, before American.

On Saturday I shook off some leftover come-here nervousness and went to the Sausage and Beer Festival put on by the Rotary Club, hosted at the community art school. I sipped tiny, tiny, tiny, cups of local micro-brews and found I knew more people than I expected to, and met more still. DC has made me braver, and a little more willing to open my mouth and speak. Unlike DC, Mathews lacks anonymity. I have a feeling that as I meet more people here this will prove wonderful and a little bit awful. I like it, and I like the people here more and more, as they come to know me a bit better and I grow less wary of them.

The wind came up fast this afternoon, and I'm sitting on the new porch on the side of the house, just out of the gusts off of Milford Haven. The male mallard lands in the pond, where I suspect he has left a lady-mallard nest-bound and waiting. I have a few days to myself, and I find I don't quite remember how I did this. I am happy, but antsy. I find myself making lists, anxious to forget what it is that I'm supposed to be doing. I try to remember how to just be here, but I'm afraid it's going to take a little more time than it used to, so accustomed am I to the pace of the city and the demands of my school schedule. For tonight: gin and tonic, mallard watching, spaghetti and meatballs, and an early rest.

February 15, 2011


I had a strange evening. I am going to leave up my last post despite the fact that, in rereading it, I find it almost maddeningly generic. It lacks me. I have found it difficult to write in this context since my arrival in the city because I find that my writerly energy is so wrapped up in the work I am endeavoring to create for my workshops. I think there is also a way in which I am living less in my own interior, and find I have less to say in regards to that interior. My time in Virginia was largely lived out in my own head, and my writing reflected it. Now I find that, given that much more is happening in the exterior of my life, I have less to say about the goings on of my mind. That isn't to imply I've had some kind of personality-death in DC. It's simply a relief, in a way, to have something to do with myself other than think about the ways in which my life has been inalterably twisted about, and the ramifications of that on my thinking and feeling and living.

I bring this up because tonight one of the workshop pieces for my creative nonfiction piece dealt very specifically with some of what twisted my life up in the first place. The workshop descended into a chorus of questions. None of this was directed at me; it wasn't my piece. But, the simple hearing of the questions sent me into a sort of panic state, and I was shaken. How did the sister's illness effect the family? What did our narrator sacrifice for the sake of her sister? Is the narrator judgmental of her own anger regarding her sister's illness, or is she judgmental of the illness itself? What is healthy? Is this story about the narrator or the narrator's sister?

I am handing out a nonfiction piece next week. I haven't completed it as of yet. I am taking up a memoir piece that has lain unfinished for almost four years now. I wrote it as an undergraduate, and it concerns my history of depression and struggles with disordered eating, my close, somewhat twisted relationship with my sister, and my increasing anxiety over my sister's illness. It is saturated in death. I have not touched the piece since my sister died. I was frightened by what I had written, and by how accurately the fears my text detailed were enacted in my living-life in the years following the time when it was written. The piece is feeling increasingly difficult. I have been laboring on it in a surface level--fooling with tense and striking prose. In rereading it now, from this distance, I find my writing indulgent and sloppy. At the same time, I am startled by the immediacy of the emotion the process of editing and adding to the piece is stirring up in me. I am realizing how much I have managed to forget of the two years preceding Laura's death, and I find it unnerving. Difficult too is the revisitation of the times long before Laura was ever ill--our childhoods, the shared time. The time I no longer share with anyone. I find myself wishing I could call her to check the facts of her illness--her hospitalizations and threats and time in treatment--in the same way that the author of today's workshop piece was able to do. I can't. I can ask my parents, but I find I don't want to. It seems unfair to drag them back into the mud with me for the sake of a workshop piece. It is a strange thing to be frightened by what you have written and what you know you need to write and by what you don't remember well enough to write truthfully. The pressure I'm putting on myself over this is doing nothing to improve my outlook. I find the echoes of post trauma deafening me, and old anxiety flooding my system, potent with time.

Pull Yourself Together, Lady

I have found I have been rather at odds with myself of late. I am finding it difficult to summon the energy necessary to try new things and places in these winter months, and as such am feeling stagnant. It is an unpleasant sensation. There is so much to do in DC, and I must admit I've, to some extent, failed to take advantage. At first my excuse was school, and now it appears to be school and weather combined. I swore when I arrived that I would try one new location every week in DC, but that quickly fell to the wayside, the demands of school and intrigues of my brand new social life effectively shelving my initial ambition. I find myself asking, What have I accomplished in DC? It's a stupid kind of question, and one designed to breed discontent. I am intolerant to moping, as those who know me well have likely been rudely informed, and suddenly I find myself a bit guilty of a thing I detest. So, in an attempt to annihilate my own will to mope, the following:

What I have accomplished in DC:
  • The completion of four rough drafts of new fiction, totaling some 56 pages of writing completely unique to my time at AU. This, after a full year of no writing, followed by a year of blogging and unsatisfactory and incomplete dabbling in attempts at fiction, is an accomplishment I can both abstractly recognize and exactly quantify. I have written something, and three of four of the stories are pieces I will undoubtedly return to, and refine. The work also represents a significant improvement than that which I produced in UC Santa Cruz's Concentration, and I am proud of it. "Wolf Trap", "Forest" and "Gravekeeper."
  • The reestablishment and strengthening of a friendship with one Michael Bierne. I am lucky to have an old friend in DC, and my relationship with Mike has proved an absolute pleasure. And he sent me a Valentine in the mail.
  • The creation of a solid group of AU friends, some of whom I met through my first fiction workshop, and some of whom I met through the magic of a true graduate student passion: drinking at the end of the day. I have my core group of often offensive but awkwardly charming man-friends (Steve, Marshal, Chuck) and one female peer in general snark, Kathleen. It may sound ridiculous, but after a year of watching most of my undergraduate friends make new friends while I languished in the senior-populated island of seclusion, making friends absolutely feels like an accomplishment.
  • Nesting. I mean this in both an apartment and neighborhood sense. I have my haunts, and though my comfort in said haunts is something I fear is now enabling my general laziness/stagnation, I am glad to have found my pub, my coffee shop, and my preferred Chinese takeout joint. I have a neighborhood flower shop that I visit on Fridays (they have a new labrador puppy named Gunner), a favored Whole Foods, and a favorite bartender (Chris, possibly the sweetest man I've ever encountered tending bar). My apartment is furnished, and though the walls remain a bit bare, it is comfortable and lived-in, and I am glad to come home to it at the end of the day/night.
I feel better having written these things down, stupidly enough. It's a silly thing, to have to prove to yourself that you are doing an okay job of things, but sometimes life necessitates some silliness. I am left thinking of the many things DC has to offer, and what accomplishments and experiences I hope to incorporate into the next six months. Museum visits, more film watching at E Street Cinema, dining, further neighborhood exploration, neighboring neighborhood exploration, the continued branching out into new nightlife spots, East coast road tripping, visits to my family in Pennsylvania, decoration of my apartment walls, and general living life type of stuff. I find myself eager for Spring and the energy I hope it will enliven in me, though I hope to face the final half (half!) of winter with renewed ambition and a lot less moping. I suppose this is me getting in the swing of the New Year, cliched as it may be. It's supposed to be 68 degrees this Friday, I have a nonfiction piece due next Tuesday, and I am ready to wrestle this general malaise into submission.