we recite from memory when testing the mike– engage in a wholly self-conscious moment. I typically resort to the prologue of the canterbury tales, whan that aprille with his showres soote etcetera. sometimes you’re phlegmatic from too much butter on your morning toast. you take scalding baths as often as you brave freezing rain, are alternately more and less gentle with yourself in process, dissect progress compulsively, claw chapped lips, slough away the carapace under cover of bathwater, chafe skin pink with towel’s nap, attempt to reveal yourself more vividly in a hundred different ways. your efforts, for awhile at least, are minor and halting. there may or may not be an aria in the offing.
after sleeping odd hours, I’m awake with my own interior music singing down the bones.
nighttime is lush and dense with quiet, all the clocks wound down and drowsing.
hope slipped in at my eyes now sails full-bellied on my bloodstream.
I don’t know why it should be so hard. why the thrash, why the flail– even with virtually all external expectation removed.
accidentally, initiated by misreading an oblique reference, I start reading about samsara, about the persistent cycle of world-building– and consequent world-destroying– and associated suffering.
up with the growling radiators and belly cramps, I ponder the various ways in which I’m complicit in this cycle of suffering. the compulsion to disclaim here is strong, to unwrite myself even in the process of attempting to write– codas ad infinitum– a little knowledge is a glancing and misapprehending thing– and yet I must begin someplace. indeed I must make peace with both beginning and continuing. having had a bellyful of ending for some little while. that, at least.
chris, shape maven, in the course of a lifetime culling industrial and popular culture ephemera has collected a number of large signage letters. he has, for instance, the most elegant aluminum Y– emblematic of the eternal question. last night, in the spirit of a letter he used to own, he was urging me to let loose my internal tyranny of self doubt and recrimination and just be.
it should be simple, right? implicitly. and yet ironically difficult. “to what end?” the monkey mind immediately demands, leaping about, scratching its pits. service? industry? communication? lord help me, art?
here’s how it starts: I’ll flail around wasting time for awhile– seemingly intentionally, as flagrantly wasteful as I can imagine being– for the emptier the pursuits, the sooner I grow bored with my own stink of purposelessness and take up beginning something (beginning being fraught with possibility and dread).
maybe start small with getting dressed. I can handle getting up to go play with wardrobe, putting on this and that, guided by texture and color, delicate details, minor outrageousness. then move on to doing things to hair and face. make myself my own bygod barbie head. practice seeing reflected the artist I want to be. what color would she wear today? lately she likes teals and slate blue with brown or grey defined by black, pima cotton, buttons and small gathers.
eventually I’ll veer off into taking snapshots with my iphone. lazy girl’s photography. rearrange cutups in a cigar box stage, suspend leaf patterns from pieces of wire and copper nails, dab on paint and stray bits of language. lazy girl’s art. blog a bit with an exaggerated air of carelessness and lack of capitalization. o, the everlasting creative twostep of approach/retreat.
yesterday I set up the alt.computer to amend the artplay table into digital hybridity with the addition of a wedged-in cabinet lifted up on blocks (in the end the tire jack didn’t work) and now have a prime windowseat command center for a range of creative endeavors.
floyd so enjoyed the view that I made him his own little window perch.
in the process of getting the workstation setup, I semi-ceremoniously shoved over the uppershelf flotsam to make way for printer/scanner, and consequently have some rearranging leftover for someday– my grownup’s dollhouse area of objects.
this afternoon I donned a farmwife white apron with blue embroidered swallows and relished the slip of pepitas clicking into a bowl. concocted a rich autumn soup from winter squash and eggplant with goat cheese for zing.
we’ve gone around and around about the question of marriage-related name change, chris and I. it’s kind of funny– it sort of felt like a non-issue until his family raised the question– and even then, at first, I was all “of course I’m not changing my name.”
more than anything it felt to me like just so much bureaucratic hassle– and for what? well, there are the identity and affiliation questions, obviously, which, I must admit, I was initially slow to grasp. there is, on some level, residue resentment of the one-sidedness of the naming tradition in our culture– all patrilineal representation with matrilineal influences disappearing into a palimpsest of occasional token middle, and to a certain extent so-called christian, names– the elizabeths and katharines in my family, the “one L” russels, my own holmes– but less substantive and resonant, ultimately less legal. hard to really do anything real about, given the long run of generations.
so I suppose I have, historically and somewhat by default, laid claim purposefully to my full given name, that sarah holmes townsend, as some type of enduring token of identity, wholly mine, unmoved by the shifting of emotional, psychic, and experiential influence. even willfully to spite the, koff koff, crappy monogram.
because I’ve changed my mind. that is, I’ve decided to change my name. to take on, with marriage to my fascinating and fitting partner, his name along with a commitment for the remainder of our lives. but I’ve also asked him to take on mine, as well– for us both to adopt townsend as middle and reiser as surname (thanks to tammy and by extention aleah for the suggestion).
now, I realize this tactic doesn’t touch the whole patrilineal/matrilineal naming convention question– and, ultimately, I suppose I’m throwing up my hands on that one as simply too big and deep and unmanageable to tackle (too further complicated by a heritage of multiple maternal lines through adoption). and despite how chris explained it to his dad yesterday, it’s not even so much about fairness in the final analysis for me as it is about doing it intentionally and together as a genuine gesture of our union– so that what results is a kind of townsend reiser team sans the unwieldy mouth-jumble of hyphenation.
I do understand that through use and in the course of things this townsend middle name will likely fade into something of a remnant, becoming less present and apparent over time– and I will probably become increasingly this new person myself, this sarah reiser, who currently feels like something of a stranger to me. I guess I’ve decided these things are just fine, too. I am become a neologism.
words, and all the more so names, are important to me. I tend not to use them lightly or effortlessly. I’m not so much a woman who bends easily with the groove of convention or external expectation– I resist and question and insist on finding my own right way, often taking my good time to do it. I kept my given name throughout the course of my first marriage without a second thought. I have a first cousin I’ve been closer to and distant from on and off over the years who at one time taught me something real about the resonances of renaming oneself, of laying claim to a matrix of familial and associative identities. I continue to decline to endorse any fixed right way— only the right way for each of us, felt in our bones and executed to the very tips of our nerve endings.
overlong falsely inflated, the thermometer at last takes a seasonal plunge. that fickle friend the tshirt sun that’s lingered, luring us to display ourselves to a wide-open sky, beats a sudden exit in a shower of red and gold. last luminous leaves shudder thinly, pinned to black branches, etched vivid against a slate sky. both the dog with his trivial fur even I with my excess girth grown round my middle through months of dolor, learn to bundle ourselves better for morning walks through a landscape that could pass for postapocalyptic. the time of year when raising the shades renders little shine, only grey light cast overall. we turn to yellow lamps and fleecy throws, huddle ourselves around cups of tea, run endless streams of steam to soak in, and nurse the potted greenery with draughts of tapwater against the want.
I’m good at going underground– somnolent and meditative for stretches at a time, drawn to quiet compellingly, as to water for solving itchiness, to bed when harried and jagged, to soothing smoothnesses for the relief of wear of ordinarily days. adrift and too often spinning in my well of leaves and assorted meandering flotsam, odd considerations float to the surface and grow momentarily compulsive– mainly thoughts of people I have known and loved, now distant in various ways, for different reasons. e.m. forster is reminded to me by a facebook acquaintance (the term “friend” exhausted by overuse in this medium):
Only connect! That was the whole of her sermon. Only connect the prose and the passion and both will be exalted, and human love will be seen at its height. Live in fragments no longer.
I believe the work I do in this well of quiet consists in stitching up dispersed fragments of self into a more coherent whole, or at least a larger and more consonant piece– structuring alterations to the suit of self, tucking it here, letting it out there, adjusting so the skin of identity, outgrown or stretched, fits right once more. necessary, centering work. and yet there is an implicit irony in the disconnection seemingly requistite to the process– a pattern that traverses the ground back and forth between states of ragged psychic dispersal on the one hand and on the other isolation and disconnect from the warp and weft of social fabric.
a-spin and muddling, I find generous occasion for nostalgia– that golden retrospect that paints memory the fleeting luminance of dawns and dusks, a gilding inherent to transitional instants but lengthened and rendered more apparently permanent in the construction of the internal narrator. and so I relive momentary occasions of comradeship (themselves, to be sure, tiny islands in the slosh of reality once upon) and imagine almost that I’ve lost or forfeited or mislaid or otherwise squandered some more enduring state of connection. when in fact, perhaps, it is all episodic, inconsistent, occasional, and prone to stretches of drag punctuated by shining, resonant bursts of clear being.
past birthday plan coordination; defaulted exchanges with spatio-temporally unavailable friends; partial apologies and limping pleas; notes to self; to-do optimism persistently listed; stalled-out gossip; collections of particularized references, filed for later; entirely empty messages somehow saved; whiny-ass complaints; lost and found messages for missing cardigan sweaters; mouth-drooling real estate and ebay listings, now closed.