1:25pm: there's no snow, but it sure is cold...
While I'm waiting on admissions decisions once again, I thought I'd do as I did last year and check the weather in each of my prospective future hometowns:
Ames, IA: 30F, feels like 17F, partly cloudy with NW winds at 20 mph gusting to 29 mph College Park, MD: 45F, feels like 40F, cloudy with WNW winds at 8 mph Columbus, OH: 36F, feels like 26F, cloudy with WNW winds at 18 mph gusting to 24 mph Bowling Green, OH: 32F, feels like 21F, cloudy with NW winds at 17 mph gusting to 23 mph, and a flood warning Bloomington, IN: 38F, feels like 29F, mostly cloudy with NW winds at 18 mph gusting to 25 mph Austin, TX: 64F, feels like 64F, sunny with ENE winds at 14 mph gusting to 19 mph, and a high pollen alert Fort Collins, CO: 30F, feels like 30F, sunny with NNE winds at 3 mph
I choose... Austin. Clearly Austin. College Park would be ok if the sun would come out. Does the sun come out anywhere?
12:05am: 25 Years Young
And you ask me what I want this year And I try to make this kind and clear Just a chance that maybe we'll find better days 'Cause I don't need boxes wrapped in strings And desire and love and empty things Just a chance that maybe we'll find better days
So take these words And sing out loud 'Cause everyone is forgiven now 'Cause tonight's the night the world begins again
And it's someplace simple where we could live And something only you can give And that's faith and trust and peace while we're alive And the one poor child that saved this world And there's ten million more who probably could If we all just stopped and said a prayer for them
So take these words And sing out loud 'Cause everyone is forgiven now 'Cause tonight's the night the world begins again
I wish everyone was loved tonight And somehow stop this fight Just a chance that maybe we'll find better days
So take these words And sing out loud 'Cause everyone is forgiven now 'Cause tonight's the night the world begins again 'Cause tonight's the night the world begins again
1:19pm: What Do Women Want?
I want a red dress. I want it flimsy and cheap, I want it too tight, I want to wear it until someone tears it off me. I want it sleeveless and backless, this dress, so no one has to guess what's underneath. I want to walk down the street past Thrifty's and the hardware store with all those keys glittering in the window, past Mr. and Mrs. Wong selling day-old donuts in their café, past the Guerra brothers slinging pigs from the truck and onto the dolly, hoisting the slick snouts over their shoulders. I want to walk like I'm the only woman on earth and I can have my pick. I want that red dress bad. I want it to confirm your worst fears about me, to show you how little I care about you or anything except what I want. When I find it, I'll pull that garment from its hanger like I'm choosing a body to carry me into this world, through the birth-cries and the love-cries too, and I'll wear it like bones, like skin, it'll be the goddamned dress they bury me in.
10:01pm: le reve
I had the most vivid dream last night. I haven't dreamt about ballet for a long time--my image of myself as a dancer is something I've struggled with, something that is so deeply part of me and yet seems so foreign these days, like a person I used to know that I don't have anything in common with anymore. But last night in my dreams I was in a rehearsal studio, not performing on a stage like I usually am in my ballet dreams, rehearsing a pas de deux. I couldn't remember the music when I woke up--it had already drifted away into the night--but it was a Tsaichovsky score, of that I'm sure. It was a Balanchine ballet, I think, something I must have learned somewhere once upon a time, because even in my dream my muscles remembered the steps and my legs knew where to go. I was wearing pink tights and a black leotard, something I would never wear by choice, and Basil was there coaching us. I never saw my partners face, but he was tall and had sure hands. I trusted him completely. As we were marking some little pas de courru sequence I said "I need to get new pointe shoes for this weekend" and he said "Can I go with you?". I laughed, but I wanted him to come along and I was so happy. There was another man in the studio, rehearsing one of the male variations maybe, or maybe my partner's understudy, and Basil went off to work with him. We continued to rehearse the pas, body against body, moving like one person. I woke up slowly as the music ended and what I remember most of all, so clearly that I was almost convinced he was real, was the smell of his skin in that secret place where the shoulder curves up to meet the neck. It was a smell so familiar, so comforting, so intimate, that I almost cried. It was him. And I wonder if I'll ever have that again...
10:27am: I forgot I loved this song (and Joni Mitchell) until...
It's coming on christmas They're cutting down trees They're putting up reindeer And singing songs of joy and peace Oh I wish I had a river I could skate away on But it don't snow here It stays pretty green I'm going to make a lot of money Then I'm going to quit this crazy scene I wish I had a river I could skate away on I wish I had a river so long I would teach my feet to fly Oh I wish I had a river I could skate away on I made my baby cry
He tried hard to help me You know, he put me at ease And he loved me so naughty Made me weak in the knees Oh I wish I had a river I could skate away on I'm so hard to handle I'm selfish and I'm sad Now I've gone and lost the best baby That I ever had Oh I wish I had a river I could skate away on I wish I had a river so long I would teach my feet to fly Oh I wish I had a river I made my baby say goodbye
It's coming on christmas They're cutting down trees They're putting up reindeer And singing songs of joy and peace I wish I had a river I could skate away on
Suite Francaise--Irene Nemirovsky The Omnivore's Dillema: A Natural History of Four Meals--Michael Pollan The Year of Magical Thinking--Joan Didion The Working Poor: Invisible in America--David K. Shipler How Soccer Explains the World: An Unlikely Theory of Globalization--Franklin Foer
12:59pm: "The lark's on the wing; the snail's on the thorn;"
It's truly a beautiful day. All of the bosses are out of the office and I'm wearing jeans at work. We ordered in Jimmy Johns for lunch. The sky is blue, the sun is shining, it's close to seventy degrees outside, and the Democratic party controls the Legislative and Executive branches of government in Iowa for the first time in 42 years. I love Election Day. I love to vote--some people are disheartened by it all and feel like their vote gets lost in the big picture and doesn't matter, but I feel like I've made my voice heard. So many of the races were so close. Every single vote counted. I had dinner last night with some friends from my community organizing group and in the middle of everything our hostess stood up, exclaimed "I haven't voted yet!", and ran out the door. We laughed about it when she returned, thinking that was maybe one of the only groups of people that would be understanding and encouraging of leaving a dinner party to go vote. After another meeting, I got so caught up in watching the election returns that I stayed up way too late and almost overslept this morning. I love the excitement of it, the feeling of hope for a change, and the palpably real feeling that now there really is the possiblity of action.
Good things are coming. I can feel it.
"God's in his Heaven--All's right with the world!"
1:12pm: The Feast of All Saints
Today is a Holy Day of Obligation, All Saints' Day. Last night, most of us celebrated the vigil on All Hallows' Eve, although we probably didn't acknowledge it as such. All Saints' Day was instituted by Pope Gregory III in the 8th Century as a Feast to honor all saints, both known and unknown, and as a day for the faithful to make up for anything that was lacking in their celebrations of saints' feast days throughout the year. It is followed on November 2 by All Souls' Day, a day to remember those who have gone before us in faith this past year.
This is one of my favorite Holy Days. I have always been particularly fond of the Catholic theological notion of saints. I understand that saints aren't God, but there is some comfort in the thought that a particular saint might intercede on my behalf. I love the Litany of the Saints--we do not pray to the saints. We ask the saints to pray for us. We ask these holy people to help us to be a little bit holier, to be a bit more like them in our everyday lives. And the Feast of All Saints acknowledges those saints who are both known and unknown, canonized and uncanonized. St. John the Baptist and St. Mary Magdalene alongside Dorothy Day and my Grandpa John. It is a feast of all holy people, living and dead. And it's comforting at this time of year, before the dead of winter, at threshold of the seasons.
Lord, have mercy. Christ, have mercy. Lord, have mercy, mercy on us. St. Mary, pray for us. St. Joseph, pray for us. St. Michael, pray for us. St. John, pray for us. St. Sarah, pray for us. St. Catherine, pray for us. St. Cecilia, pray for us. St. Thomas, pray for us. St. Susanna, pray for us. St. Alice, pray for us. Holy martyrs, pray for us. Holy people, pray for us.
Today is also my mom's birthday. Holy people, pray for her too.
1:09pm: angels among us...
I just ran into my dad outside my building on campus and he tried to steal my lunch. I didn't give up my tuna sandwich, but he did tell me that my mom and sister were in a really bad car accident on Thursday night and I had no idea. Apparently my mom doesn't want to talk about it and she doesn't want anyone to know, so she didn't tell me. They were driving home from Des Moines and she likes to take the back roads, so they were out on a country road by Luther. All of a sudden my mom saw a set of headlights coming towards her. And then a second on, on the wrong side of the road. A guy had been passing another car in a no-passing zone, going up a hill, and was about to smash into the minivan head on. On this county road there is almost no shoulder and then a steep ditch. My mom pulled over as far as she could without going into the ditch and the other guy pulled over as far as he could and the oncoming car, which was going too fast to stop, shot right down the middle. But it was too close and he clipped the front drivers' side bumper of the van, sending them into a spin since my mom hadn't quite stopped yet. She spun across the road and hit a mailbox, which luckily enough was sturdy enough to stop the movement of the van and keep them from flipping into the ditch. All of the windows on the passenger side smashed out--my little sister, who was in the front seat, was covered in glass, but amazingly nobody was hurt. The sherriff came out, the guy got a ticket for unlawful passing, and some friends of ours came out to pick up my mom and sister and drive the van back to town.
I'm so thankful that my mom was driving. We like to tease her about being a crazy driver, but she really is a very safe driver. If she hadn't acted so quickly and that other driver hadn't acted so quickly, they could have been killed. If my sister had been driving (she has her learners permit and often drives home after dance at night) she most likely would have frozen up and either been hit head on or swerved into the ditch and rolled. Apparently my dad hasn't been able to talk to her about it because my mom doesn't want him to. She's a very hesitant driver and I'm afraid she won't want to get back behind the wheel after this. I have her Thursday night, so I think I'll make her drive home, at least from Slater. Most of all, I'm so thankful to have my mom and my baby sister with me still. I don't know what I'd do without them. I've said it before and I'll say it again--I believe in angels. And there must have been an angel with them Thursday night. And I thank God for that.
One of my good friends from high school is getting married on Saturday. Although I'm nothing but happy for her, I can't help but feel time rushing away from me faster than I can catch up to it. There is a group of about six of us high school girlfriends who still try to stay close, although our physical distances are great (California, Western Canada, Iowa, Chicago, Minneapolis, Peru) and we have grown up and out in many challenging ways in the years since we graduated from Ames High. When the first of us got married this past January, the rest of us sat in a row in the pew and sighed, thinking "the first little bird is leaving the nest". Now it's JenO's turn.
All of us managed to make it home for this wedding, even though it meant Liz leaving her new husband in Lima and Em skipping a couple of days of her first year of med school, and it will be so good to see them. These women who understand the girl I was. Several of them have been my friends since kindergarden. It's so rare these days, even with all of our newfangled communication technologies, to have friendships like these. Friendships so deep, and yet so uncomplicated. These women love me for who I was, for who I am, and for who they believe I have the possiblity to become. I am so blessed.
And still, that nagging question... What in the world do I wear? It's too cold for summery dresses, too warm for wool skirts, and it just might rain! I'm sure I'll pull something together at the last minute, but I want to look good. After all, I did get the phone number of the best man at Liz's wedding--maybe I can swing it again this weekend! Of course, maybe I'll just revert to what I told Em on the phone a minute ago: "Screw it, I'm wearing my jammies." With heels.
Sunday morning, I heard the preacher say Thou shall not kill I don't wanna hear nothing else about killing And that it's God's will
'Cause our children are watching us They put their trust in us They're gonna be like us So let's learn from our history And do it differently...
And a little Jack Johnson:
It's as simple as something that nobody knows that her eyes are as big as her bubbly toes on the feet of a queen of the hearts of the cards and her feet are all covered with tar balls and scars It's as common as something that nobody knows that her beauty will follow wherever she goes up the hill in the back of her house in the would she love me forever, I know she could
I remember when you and me mmm how we used to be just good friends Wouldn't give me none But all I wanted was some She's got a whole lot of reasons She cant think of a single one That can justify leaving and he got none but he thinks he got so many problems Man he got, too much time to waste
His dreams are like commercials But her dreams are picture perfect and Our dreams are so related though they're often underestimated . . . If you would only listen You might just realize what you're missing You're missing me
CONGRESS SHALL MAKE NO LAW RESPECTING AN ESTABLISHMENT OF RELIGION, OR PROHIBITING THE FREE EXERCISE THEREOF; OR ABRIDGING THE FREEDOM OF SPEECH, OR OF THE PRESS; OR THE RIGHT OF THE PEOPLE PEACEABLY TO ASSEMBLE, AND TO PETITION THE GOVERNMENT FOR A REDRESS OF GRIEVANCES. The Bill of Rights to the U.S. Constitution, ratified December 15, 1791
This week marks the 25th anniversary, not of the Bill of Rights, but of Banned Books Week. Every year, all over our country, controversial books are banned in public libraries, schools, and other places. People in positions of power or people who seek to bend the majority towards their particular moral ground try to tell the American public what we can and cannot read.
The fight against censorship in this country is a neverending one, beginning with elementary school librarians and echoing into the halls of Congress with the Patriot Act. But you can participate in some small act of protest and celebration this week. Join IFAN, the Intellectual Freedom Action Network. Write a letter to your representative. Read your favorite banned book! I'll be cuddled up with I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings.
“The very purpose of a Bill of Rights was to withdraw certain subjects from the vicissitudes of political controversy, to place them beyond the reach of majorities and officials and to establish them as legal principles to be applied by the courts. One’s right to life, liberty, and property, to free speech, a free press, freedom of worship and assembly, and other fundamental rights may not be submitted to vote; they depend on the outcome of no elections.” — Supreme Court Justice Robert Jackson, West Virginia State Board of Education v. Barnette, 319 U.S. 624 (1943)
3:00pm: water water everywhere...
Because I don't want to do any of them and am feeling very "procrastinaty", I will make a to-do list for my day. In usual form, I will put at list a few things on the list that I have already done so that I can cross them off straightaway and make the list look less sad:
1) have breakfast with Geoff and his parents 2) watch four straight episodes of the third season of Gilmore Girls 3) wait for a certain someone to call (this is ongoing) 4) laundry 5) revise grant application for Greater Story County Community Foundation 6) finish grant application for Fakespace 7) go over first draft of grant written by S 8) email letter of support writers and see if they can please, please, please get me their letters before the grant deadline passes! 9) vacuum 10) finish assembling new coffee table 11) finalize list of grad schools to apply to 12) order transcripts for said grad schools 13) order GRE scores for same 14) first draft of SOP for same 15) work on grad school applications 16) drive a bunch of freshman to Boone (!) 17) call R and E and see if they want to go out tonight 18) get pissed
11:26am: under the covers
I've discovered what might be the absolute best thing about being single again. For the first time in 2 and half years, I don't have to worry about or even think about what I look like when I get ready for bed. No more cute or sexy pajamas. No more freshly shaved legs. I might just wear my hair in double braids or not brush it all. Don't want to wash off that smeared eyeliner or glow of sweat from the gym? Who cares! Got a glob of zit cream on my chin? No problem! It's liberating.
I once had somewhat of an affinity for ugly. ratty, too big or too small pjs. I had floral long-johns from seventh grade, a favorite ice show t-shirt, and my mom's hot pink thirtysomething sweathshirt in the rotation. When J's appearance in my bedroom became a somewhat regular event, I suddenly had a crisis over what to wear to bed. The Christmas jammies with sledding snowmen on them seemed inappropriate, even if my sister does have matching ones. So it became little shorts and tank tops, sometimes flannel pants in the winter, but all in a (somewhat misguided and probably horribly unsuccesful) effort to look attractive while sleeping.
Now that no one is seeing me in my jammies, I found myself reaching for whatever was most comfortable. Problem is, most everything I used to love got tossed out when I moved from IC to Ames, deemed to be "inappropriate adult sleepwear". But I have to share my great discovery--unwilling to spend a lot of money but in need of something to put on my ass, I bought a 4-pack of men's boxer briefs. They are the best thing since sliced bread! Decidedly unattractive (too short so they cut my thighs at their widest part, too high in the rise, and the pouch on the front bunches all funny), the are the most comfortable thing I have ever slept in! Most women's underwear of a similar cut has a seam right up the middle of the crotch, which will dig right into those sensitive regions. But not these! They have two back seams on the butt so no irritating center seam. They're 100% cotton, so soft and breathable. And I got pretty colors too!
So my sister thought it was weird that I was going on and on about men's underwear. But she's still wearing those snowman jammies, so who is she to talk?
I remember everything about that day. I even remember what I was wearing--a panda t-shirt from the Washington DC zoo that my dad must have brought home as a present from a business trip when I was about 4. I was 19 years old, a sophomore at the University of Iowa. I woke up late, skipped breakfast, and hurried off to class--Interpretation of Literature. We had been reading Don DeLillo's White Noise and I hadn't finished the assigned chapters. As I got to class, people were nervous, animated, talking about a plane hitting the World Trade Center. (I didn't even know what city the World Trade Center was in.) I assumed they were talking about something that had happened in the novel, since I had left off as some sort of strange nuclear accident was about to occur. I kept my mouth shut, for fear of looking stupid, but it slowly dawned on me that this was actually happening.
I went back to my dorm room after class and my roommate was in bed, staring at the tv, crying. This was a girl who never cried. I sat down on the couch and couldn't believe what I was seeing. It probably took a good half hour before I could wrap my brain around it. I saw the second plane hit the tower, and that was when it really started to sink in that this was real and not some sort of made-for-tv-movie or incredible media hoax. We stayed glued to the tv most of the morning, crying, talking with friends, calling our parents. We were far away, but felt shaken to the core. I remember being sick to my stomach--I couldn't eat lunch.
In the afternoon, I didn't know what to do with myself. I couldn't watch anymore tv news reports. I didn't want to talk about it anymore. Most university classes were being cancelled, but I put on my leotard and went to ballet. Almost everyone showed up, although no one felt much like dancing. I remember the department head coming in and telling us that the department would not cancel classes, although we were free to leave if we did not feel we could handle class and we would not be penalized. But at times when the world was in turmoil, when evil appears to be triumphing, it is the job of artists like dancers, musicians, painters, and sculptors to continue reminding the world that beauty exists. We witness, we interpret, we create, we remember. So classes in the dance department would go on, and would continue to go on, just as the dance must go on.
By the end of class, I think we all felt just a little better. I was dating a rather eccentric composition student, whose reaction to the chaos was to bring me flowers. He wanted to remind himself that there were still beautiful things in the world. We stayed up late, just talking and trying to make sense of it all. I remember feeling like my world had been permanently altered. I wished I could wake up and it would all be gone, taken back, a bad dream. It sounds trite, since I didn't live in New York and was not directly affected by the attacks. But that day, I became a part of the "9/11 Generation."
I could no longer look at the world the same way. I was no longer sure that human beings are inherently good. Suddenly, America was at war with an imaginary enemy--terror. For the first time, my friends, people my own age, were going off to fight overseas. Some died. Those that came back were forever changed. We were angrier. We were less trusting of our neighbors. We were afraid to go to football games and rock concerts because they could be terrorist targets.
And then slowly, good things began to come from the 9/11 Generation. We've begun to graduate from college now. So many of my friends have dedicated one or more years of their lives to service both here and abroad that I have lost track of where they all are. We've moved on to law school and medical school, many with aims of working in underserved areas or other public arenas. We're working for nonprofits and volunteering in our free time.
We saw evil, and we have chosen to fight evil with good. In my humble opinion, good is the only weapon that will win this fight. We will not forget what we saw that day. We will be better people for it. Together we will restore my belief that human beings are inherently good.
This past week I have been babysitting my little brother and sister. Is it really babysitting if the babies are 15 and 17? It's more like chauferring, catering, and curfew-minding. I was glad to be home in my own bed last night--my parents' bed is quite hard and I had not slept through the night for a good while.
I have also been plunged head first into by role as Grants Director for the 10,000 Hours Show. As well as "directing" grants, I am also currently the only one looking for, researching, and writing the grants. It's way too much work for one person, and I totally understand why the cTeam had a staff of 6-8 grant writers last year! It's a bit insane! Anyway, our first one is due by noon August 15, and is almost done. I just need to make the final tweaks, fill out the form, make 25(!) copies, and get it in the mail. I suppose I'll need a box to mail it... Then I have two or three due Setember 1, one September 15, one September 30, and one or two October 1. And it just continues from there. I really need to get a staff! (There is one girl who is supposed to be helping me, but she's been gone all summer. I hope she gets here soon!)
Next Friday I am leaving to drive cross-country with my friend Emily. She is starting medical school in California and needed someone to help her drive her brand-new car to LA, a 24-hour drive. Problem is, she bought a car with a manual transmission. She doesn't know how to drive a stick. Neither do I. We have one week to learn. It could be very interesting. We're going to drive to Colorado the first night and we'll stay with J in the "boat house" at BOEC. I'm excited to see him--it's been 3 months and it feels like forever. Then we were going to go to Vegas, but plans got changed so we're going to drive all the way to LA the next day. I think the plan is for Em to drop me off at my old roommate's house on Edwards Air Force Base and I'll stay with them for a couple of days, before I fly home on Monday the 21st. Hopefully the whole airport/terrorist situation will have calmed down a little by then, although it makes me glad I didn't end up flying out of LAX. My flights go LA to Vegas to Phoenix to Des Moines, so it will be a long day. Then back to work Tuesday. Oh joy.
So that's life, in between trying to organize a house campaign for my community organizing project, rearrange my living room, get a new battery for my car, go to the State Fair tomorrow (yay!), and maybe see my brother and Liz if they come home this weekend. Oh yes, and applying to grad school. Again. Is it any wonder I'm exhausted?
"For what is it to die but to stand naked in the wind and to melt into the sun?
And what is to cease breathing, but to free the breath from its restless tides, that it may rise and expand and seek God unencumbered?
Only when you drink form the river of silence shall you indeed sing.
And when you have reached the mountain top, then you shall begin to climb.
And when the earth shall claim your limbs, then shall you truly dance."
My grandmother slipped from this life this morning at 11 am. She lived a long life and will be missed by many family and friends who loved her dearly. I suspect that life in my family will never be the same again. Godspeed, Granny.
Sometimes when I go looking for words to describe the way I feel, I can't find any. Except someone else's. The Greek poet CP Cavafy wrote almost 100 years ago about the thing I am feeling tonight:
The God Abandons Antony
When suddenly at midnight you hear an invisible procession going by with exquisite music, voices, don't mourn your luck that's failing now, work gone wrong, your plans all proving deceptive - don't mourn them uselessly; as one long prepared and full of courage, say goodbye to her, the Alexandria that is leaving. Above all, don't fool yourself, don't say it was a dream, your ears deceived you: don't degrade yourself with empty hopes like these. As one long prepared, and full of courage, as is right for you who were given this kind of city, go firmly to the window and listen with deep emotion, but not with the whining, the pleas of the coward; listen- your final pleasure - to the voices, to the exquisite music of that strange procession, and say goodbye to her, to the Alexandria you are losing.