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I feel like it's a good thing, or maybe just a necessary one, to occasionally get sick of the sound of your own voice, no matter how grand your self-esteem may be. If you have a blog you can take time off from contributing to it, but unless you shut it down the voice is still there, hanging out, collecting six stray page views a day. Someone out there is hearing you for the first time and deciding if you screech or echo or ring like a big old church bell. If you're lucky someone will tell you what you sound like, and if you're very lucky they will say there's something in your sound that reminds them of a Dolly Parton song, the one they expect to hear when they go to their great reward. They will confess that, yes, Dolly Parton is their personal vision of what God must be like. There are worse religions.

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Sand Verbena, Joshua Tree, and Dune Primrose. 

Sand Verbena, Joshua Tree, and Dune Primrose. 

I'm wearing Kai again lately, and Child too.  Kai is nectar for the skin and perfect for wearing out of the house because it won't clobber anyone else. I wore it Saturday while I walked through St. Boniface with the local WWPW group and caught stray notes of it when my scarf moved against my throat. Child is for feeling your humanity and opening up Notepad windows to write blog posts and breathing deeply and listening to Myron talk about sports anthropologists. These two fragrances are both oils; I've gotten away from anything that sprays these days. A tiny ball-stoppered vial of The Exact Friction of Stars sits in the little dish where I stow my hair-clippies; I only wear that when I wear heels. Near my watches, I keep a trio of the old Aveda Desert Pure-Fume oils, also in rollerballs. They're ancient and haven't broken down after all these years (twelve or thirteen, I think???). I'll be sad when they're gone. I wore Joshua Tree the day I got married. It's bliss, green and gorgeous bliss. I'll tell you what, though: Helmut Lang is bringing back their amazing fragrances and this means I can use what's left of my bottle of the EdP without raising my fist to the heavens every time. And oh, I will spray it, will I ever.

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It's fall now and that usually hurts. This year it doesn't. It's like that year I realized I liked raw tomatoes after hating them all my life. Autumn isn't beautiful here and its main function seems to be reminding you how short summer was. (We had snow in May. We'll have snow again shortly. They say it snowed the other day; I didn't see it so it's just not true.) But it's crisp and everyone's happy about football and hockey coming soon and the face-paring winds and the snow itself, all of which reminds Winnipeg that there are some things it does best, and one of those is winter. They tell you that if you dress for it, it shouldn't bother you. Believe them at your peril, but dress for it anyway.

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Wish list: A pair of chocolate-milk colored argyle socks, in soft soft cotton. A thick winter hat that will cover my escape-artist ears but won't wreak too much hat-head on my new longer hair. A pocket universe where I can escape to read without time passing in this one. The perfect lavender-gray nail polish. Corduroys, so deeply burgundy that they look black. One last perfect peach (or time travel back to August for one). That I had hidden away a slab of alder-smoked salmon the last time we made it, so that I could eat it for breakfast tomorrow. Health and ease for the people I love. And maybe for the Helmut Lang people to convince someone in power to resurrect Guess Original, which I wore during the years I believed in myself the most.

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The danger of getting sick of your own voice and subsequently going silent is that eventually you have things to say, some big and portentous and others tiny and meaningless, as ephemeral as a fragrance. Silence builds like noise does. And then no matter how you begin, it feels like this:

This is me, trying not to be silent, clearing my throat in case of portentous things. Making noise out of smells. Remembering my mother's giant, heavy, cold bottle of Obsession, which I got to use on special occasions. Taking thirty seconds to imagine the sacraments in the church of Dolly Parton. Dressing for it.

the definite article

Back when I first met Myron I told him I had a blogish thing. Or maybe I said that I "wrote online" to be cagey and secret because it was still a thing to be awkward about, not because I was writing about him. (Most of the people who read that blogish thing saw my post about my wedding and said "uh, you were seeing someone?" because they had no idea.) He was cool about it. He read a bunch of blogs himself. He asked what I wrote about and I said it was limited because I didn't like writing about my students, even obliquely, and I didn't like being too personal. I know I tried to get across that I used it to process things or write about events and the way I felt about them beyond "that was good"/"that was bad" and he said "so basically you're writing The Personal Essay" and you could hear the initial caps in that phrase, so there they are as I write this down now, those caps. And for someone with an English degree, who probably should have some familiarity with The Personal Essay as a format, I was very unsure if he was right or not, so I probably changed the subject to something like pie or the cows that went past my patio door.

It's the "The" that got me then, and that gets me now when I think about this; no one would ever say "So you are writing The Novel" or "You are writing The Screenplay" or "You should write The Free Verse instead of The Villanelle because your rhymes are tired/wired/inspired/mired". I do not have an argument when I open up a blank document to write things down here; I have no point to prove. Your average Kimperative post does not have a mission. To say that I am writing personal essays here feels arrogant, even ludicrous. When I look at how The Blog as a vehicle for expression changed even in the past five years, I can tell you what else I'm not doing. I'm not writing The Family Life Chronicle, because my husband and in-laws don't write blogs and that's them saying that their lives are their own business. I'm not writing the Styled Enviable Life Catalog because my house is a wreck right now, it's pretty unstyled and average looking even when it's not wrecked, and because I think that stuff is boring. I'm not writing The Sponsored Post to get a kickback on something I think you might buy because I told you to or to improve some brand's SEO. I'm not writing you The Life Advice Encouragement Piece, because you shouldn't take life advice from someone who doesn't have their shit together, who doesn't know you, who doesn't love you, or who acts like success is a matter of reading The Life Advice Encouragement Piece and then sharing it on Facebook, or who is trying to make a career for themselves in the Life Advice Encouragement Piece department. Take life advice from your grandma and if she is gone, think about what she would tell you with all the love she had in her heart for you, and do that, and if your grandma was a jerk then think about what you would tell someone you love, and then do that. (Uh oh, that actually does look like advice, doesn't it?) Anyway, you can see what I mean, I think. Once you put that definite article on something, it becomes a format that other people are using too, and you either fit that format or you don't.

(I might start writing The Book Review again, but if I do, they won't have affiliate-type links, just like my old ones didn't. Let me know what you think about that, seriously, because they have a lot in common with The Sponsored Post, which I dislike. I understand that some people have problems with bloggers writing positive book reviews when there aren't any negative reviews in their body of work, but I'm sorry, this is not a job and I can't finish books I don't like any more and I'm not going to give bandwidth to a book I think is shitty just so people think my positive reviews aren't biased. There's just no time for that in my life.)

Sometimes I write The Recipe. Mostly I just think you should read Roxane Gay and Albert Burneko for The Recipe. They think about cooking the way I do, because your brain still works while you cook and you think about a thousand other things in the process. Albert's are flow charts in paragraph form, with options embedded for almost every step instead of rules. Roxane is writing The Personal Essay while she does The Recipe, because the universe speaks through her and I'm not even exaggerating. These two are the opposite of everything that sucks about food blogs. 

snow-covered beach and lake, the first time I had reason to use the polarizing filter to bring out the blue in the sky. 

What happens is that I don't write here for a while and it is because I do not know how to tell you what I've thought, or I think I do and I hear its purposelessness and its lack of clincher sentence and I think "no", or because I have stared at other paragraphs and slaughtered them like that better-than-Jax-Teller dude on Vikings, or because I do not want to take a photo to go with a post, or because I should be spending my time writing other things, or because I have not read your blog in two months and maybe you are taking offense. It is maybe because I fucked off and went on a ride with my photo group up to a lake and wound up in snow up to my crotch. I held my camera high above my head to protect it from snow and that meant I could not walk, so I looked like a sea lion in my parka trying to bounce my way out of three feet of snow and it was ridiculous and embarrassing and fun. It is maybe because things got fucked up and they are not my stories to tell, but those fucked up things are the only things I can think about and I am simmering in fucked up until I am fork-tender. It is also maybe because it is not important for me to write here when I have a deadline and some pages to submit this month. 

I took those pages this weekend and I demolished them and rewrote them in first person. This is a lousy thing to do when you have promised to send them to someone who is patiently waiting for them and has better things to do than read your work. Whether this makes sense in the end is for some future version of me to answer. For right now, I only know the sound of the words in my head was different; something was more right. I have spent years writing sentences with "I" as the subject. Maybe I have broken my third person. Maybe this is not such a bad thing; maybe my third person is a relic or flawed in some way. Maybe it's just wrong for these pages. (I have crises of conscience about which point of view to use. This is another reason I will not write you The Life Advice Encouragement Piece.) 

I am writing The Overlong Overconjunctionated Sentence, over and over again. I am writing The Weekend Update Email. I am writing The Partial, in First Person. I am writing The Squealing Fan Mail in response to The Thank-You Email. I am writing The Shopping List and The Birthday Card and The Gchat Extended Metaphor. And I guess I am writing The Personal Essay, maybe? Does it matter if I am or if I'm not, if it's on a reputable website with an editor and ads and professional writers, if you like it or if it's too long or boring? I hit up Google 'cause Bing sucks and I typed in "the personal essay" without Myron's caps but with his definite article, and I saw a result that said "A short work of autobiographical nonfiction characterized by a sense of intimacy and a conversational manner." This is intimate, to me, to show you my brain and how it works with all these damned conjunctions, one piece snaking off after another without a breath, and because I have a degree of familiarity with more than half of the people who will read it. This is conversational, even though there is no room for you to say anything until it's all done; this is what it sounds like to talk to me. It's not the first time I thought he was full of crap about something and he wound up right. 

a tiny weather system

This was not supposed to happen. I was not supposed to write six times in January and then not at all in February. This is not how you bring back a habit or find joy in it. It's what happened, though. The opposite of inspiration is not expiration, not really. And yet I can see it this way--air going into me, air flowing out like a tiny current picking up dried leaves and blowing hair into lip gloss.

five notebooks.jpg

Those are the five notebooks on my dining room table, to the right of my computer, waiting their turn. One of them, I admit, is just an agenda, but I need to deal with it as much as I need to deal with the stuff in the other four. Their pages are packed full of my scrawl: ideas, lists, embryonic blog posts, calls to action. 

I have not been good with action lately. For three weeks, our house has pulsed quietly with worry. It can't shake this vibration off even when Myron's at work. We watch livestreams from Ukraine, reload The Interpreter over and over. (I can't read Ukrainian, so I'm stuck with English versions of things; Myron reads both Ukrainian and Russian so he summarizes other sources for me.) I go to Twitter not to read my own timeline but Kateryna Kruk's. I try to read other things but return again and again to this. Ukraine is not my homeland, but Myron is my heart and my heart is aching.

Saturday I was supposed to go with my photo group to a small town an hour north of here for a festival. A few days beforehand, the trip was canceled because it was just too cold. This is a thing. Too cold for Winnipeggers, the heartiest of Canadians and the most impatient with weather-whining! The people I know have stopped talking about how cold it is, how drastically far below average, how punishingly windy. We said everything there was to say way back in December, and we can't even brag about withstanding it anymore. 

I switch back and forth between held breath and thousand-yard stare, those sudden moments when weather stops and even a dog won't howl and the sky is a wrong color. I sleep soundly but dreamlessly. I immerse myself in books and the wise words of people who have finished what I've started. I drink tea like it's the cure. I feel the care of my friends like warm hands on the back of my neck. It's March, it's March, I tell myself. The great gray beast February is three days gone. It spit out my bones, but not much more. I'm trying to figure out if I'm supposed to scrape together what's left of me or if I have a spare soul left in a box I haven't yet unpacked.

saudade

This is long. I'm sorry, but there is so much to say. I'll skip adding a photo because I know it will just make things feel longer.

I had a different post in mind to write this week, but Monday took me by surprise.

And then it was like any other death, and when I clicked "save entry" for the last time there, I dissolved into cold water.


OpenDiary is where I cut my teeth writing for strangers. There were more adults there than on Diaryland, and a more entrenched community by the time I started writing there in 2000. It was in the site TOS that personally identifying information was never to be used on the site, so we all stuck to our pseudonyms with almost fetishistic fervor, each one encased in square brackets. And because of this--because of the anonymity the whole community held sacred--we let go. We wrote things we would never have told our families, our friends, anyone. They were not blogs, these accounts. (Blog. What a word. So harsh, so public. And LiveJournal! So big and flashy and full of teenagers.) They were us, transformed into words, with some of the ugliest, clumsiest web design you would ever find anywhere.

Maybe you have to understand what it was like for me at the time. I was teaching on the reservation. My brother had recently died and I had nuked my relationship to head west. I needed to do harder work than I had been doing. The students worked hard for me in exchange. When they lit up, I was able to as well. That was healing, and so was driving for an hour into a part of the world where there was absolutely nothing around but sky, earth, rock, and stray cows looking for something to eat. I needed to figure out what meaning there was in a world where teenage boys died in car crashes, and I learned that lesson over and over again because there I was, in a place where I met teenage boys and they drew motorcycle logos on their test papers and they died and they left empty chairs in my classroom.

We all brought our own "what it was like for me at that time." Few people bothered to create personae, which is not to say we didn't all have different writing voices. But there was no need to be fake or fabulous. We were safe in our dullness and trainwreckness and rawness and happiness, and our friendships were real. It was something that kept us coming back even when we had nothing to write about, because OD was where our friends were. At the same time, many of us kept our presence there completely hidden from people in our real lives. This made it awkward when we had to admit to husbands or mothers or non-wired friends that we were meeting someone from our "online writer's group" for lunch. There was nothing like reaching the point where you would breach anonymity to look another diarist in the face, eat a meal, ride a fucking Jet Boat, anything you could, to be with someone who knew you to that extent.

I started my first writing prompt project there. I called it "the third floor" after the place where I used to spend my time in college, sitting on the floor in the hallway, scribbling away. Two prompts every week, a rush of writing afterward, just another fun thing to do, another reason to spend more time on OD. I can say this now, looking back--it didn't feel wrong to spend that much time on the internet when we were, with every entry, sending out genuine tendrils of connection with each other. Those tendrils caught me and kept me tethered once my mother was gone. Diarists sent me CDs filled with music to keep me company in the days afterward. They talked about the loss of their own mothers. I tried to give back when I read about the tragedies and incalculable losses and pains of their lives. The exhaustion, frustration, and mundane pointlessness of parenting, all of which they took on gladly. And the glee, man, the fucking joy of simply writing down what had mattered that day, of dumping out a brainful of bother before bedtime.

By the time Heather and I started writing publicly together in 2010, I had already begun to withdraw from OD. People I loved had moved on; ten years had passed since I started writing online. I wanted to attach my own name to what I wrote. I wanted to limit myself to topics that weren't so personal and build in some kind of distance. By this point OD had already suffered a major hacking and long-term outages, and I wanted to be responsible for my own backups and my own layout. I wanted to take the risk of failing better, or at least bigger. I kept my account but rarely wrote. When I would come back with an update, the feedback was generous, instantaneous, and validating. A friend said "Sometimes, I can't breathe when I read you." I don't write things on kimperative that are designed to suffocate you. But in the back of my mind, I was always sure that I could.

Now the site is going to shut down. This is not a surprise. It barely clung to life the past few years and outages and failures were routine. I certainly considered myself Over OD for a long while. It's one thing to leave of your own volition, and another altogether to be told that someday (when? *shrug* TIIC won't say), before two weeks pass, it will all be gone. 

And yet I'm okay that it's ending. OD taught me how to write as much as any workshop did. It taught me how much negative shit I could say about your boyfriend without crossing a line. It taught me, above all else, what it is to be human, and that means coming to terms with what you can keep and what you can't and being grateful down to your marrow for your enviable blessings. My time there was a blessing I never could have understood until I walked away from it. I downloaded all my entries and then wrote one more, which I ended like this:

I am writing this today and not downloading it, because I like that it will get swallowed up and will vanish along with so much else. I like that OD will become a black hole. I like being forced to let go of things; it's good for me. Otherwise my life is like that (maybe apocryphal?) DFW quote, everything I've ever let go of has claw marks on it. Without fail, I was always the one making those three dumb running lurches after something that was already gone. People, diaries, buses that came earlier than they should have. There is always mood music for those lurches. They are my favorite parts of everything.