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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.

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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.

list 4: things I unpacked that I love, vol. 1

I have been here almost a year, and there are still a number of boxes that have not been unpacked yet. This is plain old embarrassing. I did a good enough job packing that the things I needed would be available right away, but other things--things that could safely stay in boxes for a year--well, they stayed. We still have yet to build a replacement wall of books for the basement, and books are probably about 75% of what's still boxed up. The rest of it? It's getting unboxed, slowly but surely. Since one of my goals for 2014 is to finally unpack all the things, there will be a few of these TIUTIL lists throughout the year when I come across the lovely things that I forgot I had. Don't you believe all those minimalists who say "If it stays in a box for a year and you don't need it, you never will, so throw it away." Some of those things are waiting for the right time, and they were worth the packing, the boxing, the freight charges, and the waiting before they saw the light again. 

(Note: Mindy Kaling used to run this blog called Things I Bought that I Love here and later here. In my head, I use this structure all the time: Things I Cooked that I Love, Things I Read that I Love, and so on. In fact, now that I think of it, most blogs are basically Things I Thought that I Love. Anyway, that's where the name comes from, for me.)

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1. My box of GOOD candles. I packed these fuckers like I dug them up out of a sarcophagus and was sending them to a museum instead of an old house in the North End. Then they wound up somehow in the stack of still-packed boxes. I opened up so many searching for them. I tried sniffing every available box in "my" section, and only found my Lesser Candles. This box? Myron SWORE it was just a box of teenage romances. HOW WRONG HE WAS. The other night, we went downstairs looking for a particular box of books and it crossed my mind that the Good Candles were still down there somewhere. Lo, my people, they were found and cheers of joy were shouted. Pictured are a few: Sleeping Under the Stars by Lollia, Agadir by Tocca, Yuzu by Bluewick, Napa Valley Harvest by Illuminations (now Illume), and Amber Dusk by Lumière Candle Co. (sadly defunct). I could not resist lighting the Yuzu. You probably would not have, either, so that's okay. There's only one link in that series because the rest of the candles aren't made anymore. I should burn them or else I think I qualify as a hoarder.

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2. Grammy and Charlie. One of my cousins (both of whom are talented artists) made this, though I can't say for sure which one. There is a series of these composites with my (holy cow gorgeous) Grammy and various famous people from long ago. During the move it got a few water splotches so I've requested the files and hopefully I can print them out. In the meantime, I have that smile to look at and sometimes I can't believe there's still snow on the ground outside when she's around to heat things up. 

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3. Three photo albums. (There's actually a fourth, too, but without initials.) My mother kept a vast library of photo albums when I was growing up but until a few years ago, I had genuine photo apathy and did not care about taking any pictures at all. And yet, somehow I wound up with a few hundred printed photos. I want to cull them and keep the best in these albums, and then I want to start printing some of my favorites that I've taken since I went digital. I'm never going to have an entire shelf full of albums--I have a hard drive for this--but getting rid of the hundreds of pics that aren't worth keeping will be a good project. I cannot even tell you how many scone pics there are in my files right now, because it would require math and greek letters, but I know there are more scone pics than there were ACTUAL EATEN SCONES. I know that when the albums are filled and the rest of the extra pictures are tossed, I am going to feel a huge amount of stress lift away.

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4. This Pendleton blanket. It's spread out on my guest bed in that pic, but mostly it lives on my bed because it's 100% wool and warm as my Grammy's smoldering eyes. With winter the way it is, I would be lost without it. It was waiting patiently in its box, wrapped up in dry-cleaner plastic, and one of the only good things about remaining catless is that this blanket is not covered in cat hair. It's a limited edition blanket that was made for the school where I taught in New Mexico, and it is seriously gorgeous. Everything on the blanket has a meaning and it is profoundly important to me.

52 lists is a thing I stole without shame from hula seventy. 

list 3: if x, then y--disaster edition

Beneath those washcloths: MORE POLISH, staying wet until I could clean it off.

Beneath those washcloths: MORE POLISH, staying wet until I could clean it off.

  1. If you lose hold of your nailpolish box and drop it, and a bottle of it cracks at the neck, flinging fumey stickiness all over your bedroom carpet, then it's probably safe to assume it would not be a nice, clear topcoat bottle but instead, that last bottle of lime green Sally Hansen Xtreme Wear (shade name: IVY LEAGUE I am not kidding.) 
  2. If I make a huge mess, and this is a thing that happens often enough that I'm afraid I'll never grow out of it, then the next thing I do is search ["jolie kerr" + "fill-in-stain-disaster-here"]. This will almost always take you to a Jezebel page, and I'm not direct linking to them right now because fuck'em. Jolie Kerr will not steer you wrong when it comes to cleaning up things and her book is coming out in February. Here is what worked on that Ivy League: not a DAMN thing but straight acetone. It did not bleach or melt the carpet, and the polish came up. Slowly. Over two days worth of dabbing spot by spot.

  3. If you ever have to spend two days with your face a few inches from an acetone-soaked carpet, then you are going to have to open your fucking windows, even if it is January in Winnipeg and it is -15C/5F outside. There is no getting around it. When the wind blows snow into your room you will be nicely stoned and you will think it looks pretty. At some point, try to remember to put away all the extra cotton balls and pointy q-tips and emery boards and stuff, because all that additional visual clutter is NOT HELPING DAMN IT. (Take a picture first, though, especially if you need to guiltiily report your mess to the only person who (a) has legendary sensitivity to fumes (b) has to sleep in the same house you have turned into an acetone fume zone.)

  4. If you have already polished your nails in bright blood red, then you should probably remove it before you start this cleanup process or risk adding even more stains to the carpet. 

  5. If you promise not to take this anecdotal Number 5 as advice, then I will tell you that the smallest bits of polish--the ones that managed to dry anyway, no matter how wet I tried to keep them--were the bits that cleaned up easiest. The color stayed on the surface of the carpet, and the acetone dissolved it much more effectively. 

  6. If you think that common sense would take over and that I would cease storing my nail polish in the bedroom, then you think much better of me than I deserve because that shit is still right in my nightstand daring me to drop it again.

     


52 lists is a hula seventy thing and I cannot believe I have done three in a row. GO ME.