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

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.