how I spent my spring break

so while everybody and their cousin fred is traipsing off this week to san francisco (where I should be, if I hadn’t so badly budgeted cash that I couldn’t afford a plane ticket) for professional composition conferences and visits to friends and excellent restaurants and so on, I shall be cooling my heels right here in iowa. now, now, I’m not complaining—and I forbid you to feel the least bit sorry for me—the fact of the matter is that a span of days undisturbed in my lovely home with zero outside obligations and even few (but a couple, so not to despair entirely) friends left in town to offer distraction is precisely what the doctor ordered. and just how am I using these great glorious lakes of undisturbed time? glad you asked: working on my web site’s appendages, joining lovely new cybersphere communities, playing with pots and pans and my excellent new blue mixer in the kitchen, working on several collage boxes, getting class-teaching stuff squared away at a sane pace, and bringing my brain back into line on the diss: sifting through the beginnings of my AWESOME student data, gorgeous multimodal projects, and doing little manageable bits of writing that, over time, are accumulating into a larger whole. how excellent! couldn’t be better, now could it? see, told ya not to feel sorry for me. aaaaaahhhhhh.


for days, even weeks, at a time I’ll forget to open the curtains in my bedroom. for one thing, I don’t spend a whole lot of time in there during the day. for another, the curtains are semi-translucent, so it’s hardly dark in the room. but there’s a big difference between direct and indirect light, and I know it, even if I tend to forget about its importance through busyness and neglect. neglect, in particular, of charlie the cat. I mean, I don’t single him out for neglect or anything—hardly, in some ways he’s even my favorite (tho I don’t like to advertise the fact around the others). I’m simply prone to extensive albeit unintentional neglect of those I love, and it’s always been that way. I’m dramatically periodic in my attentions—when I remember to do so, I’m all about the cuddle and wide-eyes-only-for-you—but the truth is, I’m in this space rather infrequently. far too infrequently for my ex-husband, let me tell you. and the evils of this tendency in the current case are compounded by the fact that charlie the cat lives most of his time upstairs, in my bedroom. so, you know, he doesn’t literally get to see much light of day. fortunately, my most excellent $1 armchair from the auction sits right by the best window in the bedroom and makes for an optimal snuggle spot when I do (appropriately enough, on a sunday) get recalled to my senses and scoop him up for a few minutes’ injection of love. and its lovely and easy enough to reach up and snag the curtain back behind the iron holder, so we can bask in the bath of light together. I mean, for gracious sakes, it’s no wonder the poor cat is so durn fat—he’s probably deeply depressed.

an ode

oh, laptop, how I love thee. when my body is exhausted, joints sore with insomnia, susceptible to chill, sneezing and blowing, but the racket in my brain sprung in small hours won’t kindly shut up, I can lie most pleasantly abed, muffled in flannel, propped by pillows, and give vent to the odd bits I can’t seem to slough. like projects in compulsive collection. like interstellar transcriptions. ibook, my trusty buddy, so shiny and white, so portable and flexible, so handy with usb and firewire ports for flash drives and dv recorder downloads. the best debt ever. debt being something I have a degree of expertise in.

creative genius versus…

the best work tells a compelling, somewhat puzzling, and to varying degrees resolvable story.

I, on the other hand, get caught up setting the scene in exquisite details– and all too often leaping to moral conclusions.

venice vision

an hour and a half west of g.p., and here’s the idea: move west & market my aesthetic– a shop called “farmland garden,” import/sell midwest stuff + shop locally and sell midwest-type stuff– keep a record player playing scratchy copies of bessie smith, tom waits, squirrel nut zippers, m ward, gloria deluxe?, etc. have a samovar set up with tea + teacakes or other snacks. lamps and indirect lighting. sit there and make collages on an old farmhouse kitchen table. also little books. also have wireless internet. maybe also an espresso machine? food and drink on/in old dishes, linens. squishy chairs, low tables. nextdoor thru the heavy curtain: “brocade lounge”. wine and beer. smoking, if excellent ventilation. old spinny ashtrays. dark walls, dark textiles: reds. sconces. overstuffed. tiny stage for singer acts. out back: shared courtyard terrace. roses & water fountains. little lights in pachysandra. stone flags. candles on tables. live down the street in a small arts & crafts bungalow.


the whole thing was tilting: walls, floors, doorways, staircases, all gone crazy. windows idiosyncratically aimed gazes into sky or, alternately, ground. everything inside trembled, live and inanimate– elderly lapdogs cowered under beds while antique dressers heaved themselves across hardwood floors. and each time we moved, the whole thing shifted with us: make for the door, and the floors headed south; retreat too quickly, and the walls ground backward in sudden overcorrection. we were frozen in place, terrified to turn it, to send everyone and everything crashing down one way or another. still, some made dashes and attained the outdoors– but once outside, how could they live with the guilt? a few ran back in to do what they could toward salvation, ushering out anything they could lay hands on– a cat, a stranger. some worked the exterior, searching for ropes and adequate anchorage. we were miles from civilization, off the map, off the radar, unlooked-for. we were on our own, doing our best with disaster. I discovered a cell phone in my hand and told the rest I’d call for help, but somehow never placed the call. maybe there wasn’t time, maybe we tipped, maybe I had immediate issues staring me down. eventually, we knew they were on their way, but what could they do? we knew we were in for it. we were in it: to go down or make it out alive all on our own devices. we gritted teeth, touched one another’s shoulders, readied ourselves for whatever was coming next.


how come sometimes, when I’m feeling tired, when it’s a grey and rainy sunday afternoon far from the world, removed somehow from every busy friend– how does it happen that holding my breath helps? just like it helps for the hiccups– the only thing that does, face-down into a pillow. and when I’m tired like this, it seems there’s an empty cobwebby spot down at the bottom of my lungs that needs to be filled, a dim pocket that ordinary breathing won’t reach– a part of me that’s been neglected, oxygen-deprived– and then I need to flood it and hold it in until I feel the silent beat that tells me to let go. and I’m better, for now. afternoons like this I need my flannel and the yellow lamplight and this purring cat. as well as deep, concentrated gulps of air.

phew. comments, finally.

so here you go, just for you my chums and kind readers: the ability to talk back. follow the “comments” link at the bottom of each post, and let me have it. let us all have it. whatever is on your mind.

and *damn* but it took me a long time to figure out what I was doing wrong with the sneaky path settings in blogger. I am SO relieved. you have no idea. this thing that was supposed to be a no-brainer kept getting me up at 3 and 4 in the morning to tweak it and try another angle. and, in the end, as the moral of the story goes, obsessive compulsive disorder pays off. wait– that doesn’t sound quite right…

so now that I have tonight/this morning been awake for an hour and a half and it’s still dark out and I still can’t sleep, let’s talk about money.

cuz for real, I have a screw loose. and it’s starting to show. and it’s rather embarassing. what’s forgivable at 21 or even 26 by 38 becomes a pathology. and the thing is *none* of us in my generation of the townsends are particularly *good* with money– only some of us have spouses who keep us in line. and some of us don’t. some of us are seemingly trapped in this perpetual adolescence which even still involves *school* and school loans (which the bureaucracy grants and then takes away, hey presto) and measely graduate student paychecks. and we remember, more’s the pity, what it was like to get a *real* paycheck– twice a month, even. so you could spread your bills and expenses out a bit. but no. in academia it’s a monthly pay cycle. and if you’re crap at budgeting, too bad for you.

the other day in therapy I talked over a new idea with my most excellent counsellor and confidante, anne: financial counselling. like psychological counselling (supportive, regularly meeting monthly or even weekly for a certain period) but with a pragmatic bent. I’d go in and sit down with my pile of bills and financial notebook and rehash spending behaviors from the previous week and plan for the week ahead. I’d have somebody sitting there virtually holding my hand while I paid bills and confronted the way the numbers just don’t add up– and I wouldn’t have to go into a panic state tailspin all on my own. and he/she wouldn’t be emotionally involved or ego-invested in the outcome of the finances, so no fight would blow up between us. I mean, of course it would be tedious for him/her– but that’s why I’d be paying the counselling fee.

money well spent, as far as I’m concerned. cuz the thing is, it probably wouldn’t be forever. I’d learn and practice some new behaviors, re-tread those habitual grooves in my neural pathways, and move forward into my days a changed and better and less financially chaotic person.

wouldn’t that be lovely? is this really so much to ask?