what I did on my summer vacation

I am a summer girl. I love the way that everything slows down, the way the heat is an excuse for any self-indulgent behavior you can imagine. I look forward to it all winter long when the snow piles up and when I can’t sleep for shivering. This summer hit me like a baseball bat to the back of the neck, though. It was ushered in on the arm of shock and grief, and I’m pretty sure it tried to kill me. The only thing you can do sometimes when your inescapable friend tries to kill you is wait it out. So I did.

Look at this book. WHY do I still have this book? Because look at that faux-Nagel-style artwork. It has to go. But god, part of me still wants to keep it. John Waters would not throw this shit away, you know it. He would always keep reference to the truth about herpes.While I waited, I looked at thousands of pieces of paper I had carried with me through move after move. I’ve lived in a lot of places; I should have let these things go before now. I threw out all sorts of things that I had no business keeping for so long. The people in the neighborhood may very well have thought that I chopped Myron up into pieces and put him at the curb in one of those many black plastic trash bags. To keep myself focused, I read a lot of decluttering and minimalist blogs—not that I could ever be a true minimalist, but I do want to feel more strongly about the things I do have, and one way to do that is to have fewer things. I realized a lot of my possessions were curiosities, oddments that I wanted to rescue from used book stores or to remind me of some random Thursday night in college when we walked along the levee and sang Doors songs. Things that students gave to me, or my mother, or a waitress or a lover. And I felt strongly about so many of them that picking and choosing felt inappropriate to impossible—there was no way to rank things more important or less, sometimes. But moving—especially the kind of moving where you’re charged by the pound—will make you rapidly unsentimental about belongings. Almost a third of my books are not coming with me, and more mementos than I could tell you. I took a lot of photos before I let things go. Are they digital clutter? Maybe. But I’m more able to sweep a bunch of photos into my recycle bin than I am the article itself, so every bit that went into the trash was a success story.

It may surprise you to know that I left the house when I could no longer bear to look at papers. I did! I even left for some very good reasons. Back in June, I was selected to read at Blog Out Loud, and almost immediately after my selection I berated myself for having the balls to apply because then I had to go and actually read the post out loud, in public, with other people who were intimidatingly talented and funny. Lynn, the organizer, wrote a lovely intro to my blog and when the day came, I went down to the city, got my eyebrows done, and finally got to give a big hug to Patti, Allison, and Karen. I read to the group about my mother and the kitchen at home, and I managed not to cry, and I was glad that more people got to know her, even that little bit. One of the saddest things about leaving Ottawa is that I won’t be able to do this again, but I was so grateful to do it this year.

And then there was Social Capital, which packed my brain full of so much information and strategy. You may not know this, but I only reluctantly started a Twitter account in order to volunteer for Reverb10, even though plenty of people told me I would enjoy it. And boy howdy, look at me now. I went to the conference hoping to gain new perspectives for a potential next round of The Scintilla Project and wound up with so much more than I bargained for. Most of the discussion there had to do with social media as used by organizations and companies, but in two sessions I gained deep insight into the mechanics of sharing what I share on a personal blog, one that I have no intention of monetizing in any way outside of the occasional free book that I may or may not review. Sometimes amid the swirling miasma of what passes for Meta-Blog Discussion and Advice, the personal blog is the bastard stepchild, especially when the sidebar isn’t given over to advertising. After the conference, I was proud of what I’ve accomplished here, both as a partner in a shared blog and now on my own, and I have a renewed energy for what I hope to accomplish here once I’m settled into the new house. (Also, we gossiped about you. Yes, you.) I’m super grateful to the organizing committee for putting on such a rewarding event, one that I would love to come back for next year.

In the heat of it all, I jumped on a bus and went to Montreal to meet Shakti when she came up for a visit. For all the time I’ve lived here, Myron kept saying we would make it to Montreal for a long weekend, and it never happened. This has always been maddening, because Montreal is so temptingly close. I got to do two wonderful things at once—immerse myself in a glorious old city and spend a few hours with my vibrant, whip-smart, and beautiful friend. I should have taken her photo—don’t ask me where my brain was at the time—but I’m glad I got the chance to be with Shakti amid the wild street theatre, the gorgeous architecture, the thousand perfect typefaces, the people, and all the beauty. I can’t wait until I get back there, especially if luck and timing align so that I can walk those cobbled streets with the nip of autumn in the air.

In between all of this were smaller summer moments. Tending a lawn that crisped up beyond recognition during a record-breaking drought, coordinating the various upgrades to the house, lunches out with Patti, Allison, and Karen, days in the city, sunshine blasting a sandal tan into the tops of my feet, a long weekend visit with Myron. I took a fair amount of August Break pictures, which may have bored some of you to distraction, but I say again, “break”. There was bad stuff, too: the incident with the pinched nerve that is only just now allowing me to function and pack again, the friend-of-a-friend handyman whose “repairs” to our front steps caused us even more expense and work, the relentless humidity that had me wondering how I could have ever thought I wanted to move back to Georgia. But it’s September now, and summer’s on its way out, and my to-do list has gotten shockingly shorter. Things are coming to an end here. And I will say that again and again over the next two months, but I’m still wrapping my head around it. I have lived in this townhouse longer than anyplace I’ve lived since the house where I grew up. Inertia doesn’t want to let me shuck off the moss just yet.