at 3:20 PM
after my yoga class last night i went to a bar on u street for a crime prevention meeting. this past weekend there were six murders in dc; two of them were in my neighborhood. two weeks ago a seventeen-year-old girl was murdered in a club just a few blocks from my house.
i grew up in iowa. miles and miles of stretching cornfields. we kept our doors unlocked. i often ran alone at night - even when it was pitch-black. we were scared of drunk drivers, meth trailers, and perverts who hung out by the swimming pool. in college we left our doors open (literally open, as well as not locked) and my brother sometimes slept on the porch in a hammock. not once did it ever worry me that someone might hold me at gunpoint - steal my belongings, rape me, stab me, shoot me.
i still don't think about it very often. i trust my neighbors. i smile at people on the street. naive midwestener? maybe. i don't walk home past nine by myself. i don't wear headphones or talk on my phone when it's dark. i lock my doors. i watch out for my neighbors. i don't want to become cold, guarded, and scared. but after the meeting last night i'm scared. i walk the eight blocks from my yoga studio home with my keys out, my body tensed, my heart beating like a hummingbird trapped in a mason jar. walking home the other night i saw a huge display of graffiti across the side of a yellow house. the owner was outside, a tall black man with curly brown hair. "i'm really sorry that happened to your house,"i said to him as i passed. he laughed and thanked me, but responded, "if i wanted a gated community that's where i'd live. this is the city. this is living."
sometimes i miss those midnight runs on a country road, but then i curl into the window of a cafe on a busy street, and i know this is where i'm supposed to be. i'm learning to unclench my fists.
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an excerpt from my ever-so-wonderful soul friend, marie, who is living in the mississippi delta for two years with her boyfriend doing teach for america. i had to share it though i didn't ask. it's too beautiful to sit in my email storehouse.
a delta-driving update:
this afternoon i determined to find a back-roads country drive home. i was a bit scared i'd end up in alabama, not knowing back-roads at all, but i needed it. here's what i found: a yellow airplane in it's own hangar, five chestnut horses grazing a field glowing green, a long and narrow swamp of black trees grey water silver light-shadows. the crowning moment was a red painted-wood shed with a wooden chair and desk just inside the 6-paned window, waiting for a writer.
at 1:24 PM
robert frost wrote, "the best way out is through."
since i was fifteen, i've scribbled that quote on notebooks but never really understood it. to me in meant, trudging through things to get through them. i think i even had it next to my yearbook photograph my senior year. (how teenage-angtsy of me.) i think this is part of getting older. knowing that you have to go through something deeply, painfully, like squeezing a washcloth until all of the water is out, until you are able to heal. losing - whether it's a death, a breakup, a fire - is a the most fragile feeling in the world. the past few months i've felt like i have two clenched fists (or fifty) and i'm just now able to uncurl my fingers.
i was reading an article that talked about "hooking." how we are always looking for something new to hook us and spin us in another direction, away from where we are now. i have definitely done that in the past, knowing that the only thing that could quiet my mind was to be somewhere equally loud. i don't feel that anymore. i don't feel that desperate feeling to find something else. things begin from the inside out, rather than the other way around.
"life is cyclical- we pass through different moods, we live through seasons, we have times of rich harvests and times of bleak winter. life uses cycles to create newness. we move from the old to the new only as we pass through the cycle of chaos. we need to let go of the old (which always feels terrible,) before new life and capacity can arise. instead of fleeing from the fearful place of chaos, or trying to rescue people from it. leaders need to help people stay with the chaos, help them walk through it together, and look for the new insights and capacities that can emerge."
margaret j. wheatley
at 12:55 PM
so the thought of plain white walls in a studio apartment was seriously scaring me. sure i could add a few paintings here at there, maybe a few scarves to hang from a doorway, but i liked the idea of some sort of design or paint.
enter blik! while checking out apartmenttherapy i found these beauties.
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- biking the trails around d.c.
- starting a new collage project in the antique photo album john bought me
- making chai
- going on a yoga retreat abroad
- writing letters
- watching liam & turner for four days
- going to the big hunt for drinks
- volunteering at the women's shelter nearby
- freelancing more
- falling more in love with this beautiful city
- taking weekend roadtrips
- learning more at my job
- running outdoors
- moving into my studio apartment and decorating!
- planting a spring herb garden
- seeing marie, john & alyssa in march
at 3:27 PM
in simple terms, what does karma mean? it means that whatever we do, with our body, speech, or mind, will have a corresponding result. each action, even the smallest, is pregnant with its consequences. it is said by the masters that even a little poison can cause death, and even a tiny seed can become a huge tree. and as buddha said: "do not overlook negative actions merely because they are small; however small a spark may be, it can burn down a haystack as big as a mountain." similarly he said: "do not overlook tiny good actions, thinking they are of no benefit; even tiny drops of water in the end will fill a huge vessel." karma does not decay like external things, or ever become inoperative. it cannot be destroyed by time, fire, or water. its power will never disappear, until it is ripened.
at 9:27 AM
today is the first real snow of the winter - dusting the sidewalks, sticking to my eyelashes, keeping me indoors. i stayed in bed until ten-thirty this morning reading and looking out the window. the house is quiet - both roommates have left for the weekend - and i had nothing to hurry me out of my bed. i made a latte and wrote a few emails. hopped on the train and saw john's studio on capitol hill. it started to snow as i was walking between the capitol and the library of congress. i felt like the only person alive surrounded by these massive roman-like buildings. it's so quiet and desolate there on the weekends, in a good way. john and i went to tuncliff's for bagels and french toast. i tried to help john with his budget (he has $30 to last him ten days; a reoccurring theme) and we stopped by capitol hill books where i bought an anthology of poetry by erica jong (try january in new york). the bookseller is an older eccentric man who either loves you or hates you depending on the day. today he loved me which was a nice surprise.
at 4:17 PM
beautiful saturday. cold and sharp, cutting right through your layers. i'm bundled up drinking a latte and looking up yoga retreats at a favorite coffee shop. it's warm, full, and loud.
the way we define and delimit the self is arbitrary. we can place it between our ears and have it looking out from our eyes, or we can widen it to include the air we breathe, or at other moments we can cast its boundaries farther to include the oxygen-giving trees and plankton, our external lungs, and beyond them the web of life in which they are sustained.
at 2:13 PM
i can't seem to get enough music lately. i have been in a buying frenzy - hil st. soul, les nubians, neko case's new live album, rosie thomas, amel larrieux, lina. (i'm not sexist; there's just something about the female voice that is soothing to me lately.) my itunes charge was sky high, but whatever. i'm doing whatever makes me happy lately and this does.
my days have a certain sharpness to them that wasn't there before. i feel as though i'm collecting moments for myself - even the walk to work winding down rhode island avenue, past the little stacks of rowhouses, my headphones reverberating with a bit of soul. i'm starting to find my rhythm again. it's not that i lost myself; it's just that i forgot to ask myself how i was doing.
/chai té from alyssa/long walks to nowhere/the color red/
as all things are filled with my soul
you emerge from the things, filled with my soul.
you are like my soul, a butterfly of dream,
and you are like the word Melancholy.
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my brother john met me after my yoga class last night and we headed to dukem for an ethiopian coffee ceremony. we shared a fastening platter, a couple of harars (an ethiopian beer with a slight honey-like aftertaste), and some baklava. i'd never been to a coffee ceremony but had read about them before.. dancing, incense, and the strongest coffee i've ever had. i wasn't going to try it but i figured the beer would cancel out the caffeination. (it did.)
the weather has finally changed from the oh-so-springlike to the downright dreary. i think it's time though. i want to cuddle in my sweaters and scarves for at least a couple of months. (then it's cherry blossoms, longer evenings, and running outside.)
at 2:44 PM
according to this new york times article, 51% of american women are now living without a spouse.
Elissa B. Terris, 59, of Marietta, Ga., divorced in 2005 after being married for 34 years and raising a daughter, who is now an adult.
“A gentleman asked me to marry him and I said no,” she recalled. “I told him, ‘I’m just beginning to fly again, I’m just beginning to be me. Don’t take that away.’ ”
“Marriage kind of aged me because there weren’t options,” Ms. Terris said. “There was only one way to go. Now I have choices. One night I slept on the other side of the bed, and I thought, I like this side.”
She said she was returning to college to get a master’s degree (her former husband “didn’t want me to do that because I was more educated than he was”), had taken photography classes and was auditioning for a play.
“Once you go through something you think will kill you and it doesn’t,” she said, “every day is like a present.”
at 2:07 PM
last night i went to the premiere of god grew tired of us, a memoir produced by national geographic about the lost boys of sudan. i cannot begin to put into words how moving and beautiful this film is. it's the sort of movie you really do not want to see in a crowded auditorium with your colleagues. you don't want to talk to anyone afterwards. and you certainly do not want to eat a pettifore cake and drink a gin and tonic at their party. i had to go home.
after these boys were exiled from their country of sudan, they were moved to a u.n. refugee camp called kakuma in northern kenya. even through the roughest of conditions their spirits are so bright and fragile. these thousands of boys created a family. when some of them are chosen to start a "new life" in the united states, their fragile spirits are more than tested with our bagged and boxed foods, cold strangers, and confusing bus lines. the coldness was the part that hurt the most. americans not allowing these boys in their stores because they didn't understand them and they certainly were not going to try. although this movie touched on the huge/scary/universal issue of violence it touched on something even bigger than that - humanity. these boys are part of us and they were so surprised that people would not smile at them, would not talk to them, would not let them into their homes. these boys came from an area that most americans would deem as third-world, but they ached for their former lives and family and connections because we live by the motto "time is money." they literally quoted this several times in the movie as they worked three jobs to send money to family and friends exiled from sudan.
now i know that there have been so many books, articles, speeches written and given about this very subject. we're overworked, overfed, oversexed - all of the above and all things i agree with but strive to break personally. and that's not my point. just smile at somebody today, or give that guy money for a coffee (or better yet buy him one). someone has smiled at you when you needed it. return it. send it out.
- sy safransky of the sun
at 9:42 AM
i was thinking about this the other night as i thought of how tough the past couple of months have been. i'm always amazed at a human being's resilence. "keep your gloves up." that's what i'm getting good at. the duck and cut. but i don't want to have my gloves up anymore. i want to take life as it comes, as it ebbs and flows. i've been told this is something that i'm not good at but i am doing the best that i can.
the other night in yoga i began to try and empty myself of thought, emotion, the ticking clock. i thought of my body as a sort of cavern - something that i would decorate on the inside and make the rooms spacious and soothing to reside in. that's all we really want, isn't it? to sit in ourselves and breathe?
"there is no story. it's just people, gestures, moments, bits of rapture, fleeting emotions. in short, the greatest story ever told."
at 2:50 PM
my brother and i spent the day on our bikes riding from my house near u street to the clarendon neighborhood in virginia. four hours in total. we ate chicken fingers and fries at whitlow's and wandered through the apple store and free people (john took the picture below at the store).
"i think i am always collecting in a way—walking down a street with my eyes open, looking through a magazine, viewing a movie, visiting a museum or grocery store. some of the things i collect are tangible and mount into piles of many layers, and when the time comes to use these saved images, i dig like an archeologist and sometimes find what i want and sometimes don't."
at 4:57 PM
...emotions, in my experience, aren't covered by single words. i don't believe in "sadness," "joy," or "regret." maybe the best proof that the language is patriarchal is that it oversimplifies feeling. i'd like to have at my disposal complicated hybrid emotions, germanic train-car constructions like, "the happiness that attends disaster" or "the disappointment of sleeping with one's fantasy." i'd like to show how "intimations of mortality brought on by aging family members" connects with "the hatred of mirrors that begins in middle age." i'd like to have a word for "the sadness inspired by failing restaurants" as well as for "the excitement of getting a room with a minibar." i've never had the right words to describe my life, and now that i've entered my story, i need them more than ever. i can't just sit back and watch from a distance anymore. from here on in, everything i'll tell you is colored by the subjective experience of being part of events. here's why my story splits, divides, undergoes meiosis. already the world feels heavier, now that i'm part of it. i'm talking about bandages and sopped cotton, the smell of mildew in movie theatres and all the lousy cats and their stinking litter boxes, of rain on city streets when dust comes up and the old italian men take their folding chairs inside. up until now it hasn't been my world. not my america but here we are, at last...
from middlesex, by jeffrey eugenides
at 1:07 PM
i have been daydreaming about the three-day stretch ahead of me all week for one simple reason - i have nothing to do. just a couple of runs, some freelancing, cooking, and sleeping in. oh yes, and looking for an apartment to move into this spring. ooh, i like the idea of living alone - coming home to the house however i left it, playing my favorite neko case song on repeat without annoying anyone, piling my kitchen table high with fresh lemons and flowers.
a new obsession of mine: google book search. you can browse books in pdf form on your computer screen. it certainly doesn't beat holing up in a bookstore with a stack of books and magazines and a chai tea, but it will do for now considering i'm glued to my desk.
books i've been reading via my mac:
happy yoga, stern men, tapas
at 9:24 AM