Friday, March 25, 2011

How To Have Your Picture Taken, part E

First, write a book. Write the kind of book that someone unrelated to you, who is not your friend, will want to read more than once. This book could be the kind of book that a perfect stranger will want to peddle and push and champion, and that other strangers will want to bind together, box up and send out into the world and that more people you don't even know will see and touch and carry around, and linger over. Maybe. Time will tell. At that point where you are not sure, but have hopes, hopes that have started to seem concrete and tangible, with details and tasks and dates, then, call someone who has several significant cameras and a love of literature and a fondness for you as well. 

Next, think about what you love. Think about your favorite shoes, and what you like about the way you look. Brush your hair, which is gorgeous, and put on lipstick if you feel like it. While you are looking in the mirror to put on your favorite lipstick, notice that your eyelashes really are kinda long and you have that to be glad about. The things on your face that you like are the things that will make it easy to smile. Not a big forced grin, but the right kind of smile for a close-up, just a small thing, just a hint at contentedness. If you are dark brunette, with fair skin and deep brown eyes, it will not hurt to wear green. Or pink, or both together, or really, anything you know is good.

Now, think about outside. Think about the places where you once sat thinking about things you loved, or wearing that small smile, accidentally, without even really noticing it until you realized that someone you might have been in love with was seeing that smile on your face. Think about secret places, places that lend themselves to the extremes of human emotion, places where if you are not wearing the smile of the deeply content, you might be licking your wounds, having a safe cry. These are the places where you are likely to find a great blue heron, trees that have surrendered themselves to the water's edge, plenty of undisturbed moss, and probably teenagers smoking pot. All of that is fine. Pick your place, then stand there. 

You do not have to think about smiling, or not smiling. Realize that no one is trying to make you look like anything other than yourself. Think about the things that made you write that book, good and bad, no doubt funny, maybe a little heartbreaking. Let a hint of it all show on your face. That's all anyone will be looking at.

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Small things, named.

When I left for the Seattle week on Monday morning, I brought with me, among other things, my new sturdy glass travel mug, a small baggie of dried mango, a Cara Cara orange from the co-op, half a sandwich that Tom made me for my travels on Sunday, an overnight bag full of socks and underwear, and two rolls of film from the portrait session I had done with Elissa, who just got an agent and needed author photos. Naming things, making lists is comforting these days. At Kate's house and in the spare room at the mini-farm, I am working my way through old boxes, slowly, using little tubs of sugar scrub and travel-size shampoos, making inventories of yarn, dreaming up uses for boxes and boxes of stationary. 

On the internet today, I found a video of Pam  reading at the Rumpus Room in SF, probably the reading where Kristin's photo was taken for the NY Times, and we texted back and forth with her giving me updates about the reading that I so wished I could be there for. Texts that said things like "Indian Springs" or "Fenton the human and Fenton the dog"or "mini-skirt!!!"  A quote that I love from that section is exactly how I'm feeling today, and a lot of days recently.

"I'm thinking about Bob’s reading, thinking about how the older we get the more we’re inclined to simply name the things of the world. A whole valley that smells of grapes fermenting in barrels; the taste of donut holes dipped in cafe anglais; a great blue heron standing on one foot at the rippling edge of a pond."   

- Pam Houston, from her forthcoming book "Contents May Have Shifted"

Thursday, March 17, 2011

The other way

 Another one from the walk I took with Jessica a few weeks ago. The sky in the water and the rounded shape of the water's edge seems right for a time when we're hearing that the axis of the world has been shifted by the trauma of the recent earthquake in Japan. My own world seems a bit wobbly on its axis these days, not traumatically so, just a lot of change happening, organizations re-organizing, groups re-grouping. At the center of the circles I run in, the mini-farm is there, a piece of ground that we move the furniture around on, little patches of dirt we scrape at, that we gift with seeds and dream over. That's what I wanted, a place to come back to, something mostly still. Still, as in still there, still as in Eliot's still point of the turning world.  I'm grateful. 

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Things stay the same, even while they change

The world is too big to save, too small to treat carelessly. I'm not sure what to say beyond that, but I realize I have to get back to saying it, eventually.

Friday, March 04, 2011

Across the field

I can't wait to go home for the weekend. It's been a long three days in Seattle, nice and productive but the days are always so long when I've got meetings after work and errands to run. Luckily there are always my two sweet (plus one furry) roommates at the Ballard house to greet me, with pie and chatting and clean towels and tea and movies. It's pretty good for a double life. 

Back at the mini-farm, the lap blanket I'm knitting is almost done, and tomorrow I might spend the whole day in my pajamas. I can always pull my boots and parka on over it all for the ritual fence walk. Even the Friday grocery trip sounds fine, knowing that there are still a lot of staples left over from last week, and chocolate and coffee eclairs waiting in a little box from Honore. We just need some veggies and maybe a steak or two, though no one ever turned down a new pint of ice cream in my house. 

Last weekend Lindsey and Kate braved the blizzardy conditions to come up for Kate's pie reading at the Winter Commission in Bellingham, and afterwards Kate told me that the farmhouse inspired her to make a few changes in the little Ballard bungalow. I guess that energy just perpetuates itself because I feel the same way right back at her. Ready to tackle a little more, to be nice to my space and keep sprucing it up a bit at a time. Every week feels like progress.

Tuesday, March 01, 2011


After the reading was over and Katherine and Peggy and Patricia had all gone, I went to the Honey Bear Bakery at Third Place books and ordered a chicken pot pie. Looking at their menu, I had the same feeling I have when we go to Adrift in Anacortes, that anything I could get would be good and comforting and contain no danger. I don't know whether that's true of Honey Bear or not, but it felt that way. 

I suppose it was inevitable that the migraines would eventually lead me to some food-related phobia, and now I'm here and only looking at that fact glancingly, dealing with it through avoidance and a certain care that I've tried to make rote so as not to have to think too much about what has happened. $144 spent at the co-op will ward off a lot. Lunches from home, dinner somewhere expensive and ingredient-proud, dried mango (no sulfites), a lip-numbing love of kumquats, too many pistachios on the drive home, those habits  will all ward off a lot. 

The reading was Summer Wood, who came to Creede the summers I went there for writing group. She read to us from Wrecker, which was just in progress then, and now is bound and sold and sitting on the table in front of me. I haven't read the whole thing, and while I have heard enough to know that it's a beautifully written thing, I can't really pretend, even to myself, that it was just her reading that choked me up as I listened tonight, or made me blush when she looked up from signing my book and inquired, "Your writing?"

I know that I miss writing even when I don't feel it. It's like the food thing, something I don't really check on the status of, there is just a warding off of that knowledge. There is photography and work and one acre and a farmhouse and long drives and so much else. It's funny, though, how many Seattle things I avoid doing in order to get home to Bow every night I can, and yet I wasn't tempted at all to skip the reading tonight, and seeing my old writing group friends. Summer's voice, the way she read, her particular way with language - it was like seeing a wolfhound on the street. I know a few of you will know just what I mean by that. Something rare and familiar and so deeply evocative of the things and people and animals I want close to me.