1. The weeping cherry tree that I brought home from the garden shop today. I don't know where it is going to go yet, so I got a pretty black pot to put it in for one season, while I figure that out. Ideally, I want to be able to see it from my bed.
2. My local library, and new books to read while I travel next week.
3. My cozy bed, where I retired to rest and read for a while after returning home after the errands that wore me out (I called in sick today - I really shouldn't have been running errands, either).
4. This sweet one, who is really glad I'm at home today. He doesn't really care that I'm sick, just that I'm here. He keeps coming in the room I'm in and bumping his head up against my knees.
5. The new holes in my roof that bring in SO MUCH light and make my formerly dark house a very much nicer place to be. I really need to do something about that wood paneling, though.
6. A knitting project on my kitchen counter. I don't know why that makes me happy, it just does.
7. Meyer lemon tea sweetened with avocado honey. I have drunk so much of this stuff since I got sick, and it is so good. Soothing, hydrating, good for me. My mom brought me this honey back from Julian, and my brother brought me the lemons from the farmer's market on Saturday. That makes me happy, too.
8. Rainbows spinning around my kitchen while I make my tea. I thought that my little solar-powered prism was broken, but it just needed a little kick start.
9. Modern medicine. The decongestant is keeping me sane (I have a sinus infection, and it HURTS), and the Amoxicillin is supposed to make me better. Any time now. I have been sick for way too long at this point and I'm totally over it. Maybe it is a stretch to say these things are making me happy, but they are making me grateful.
10. A brand-new spring-decorated travel journal, and the promise of travel just a few days away. I can't wait. Artfest, here I come! Hopefully I'll feel better before I leave!
I am a very sick person today. I have recently been congratulating myself on the luck and good fortune of avoiding all of the many colds that have been going around my office, but they have now all caught me. All at once. That will teach me to take my good heath for granted. I even thought I was going to get off easy, with a few days of a lightly sore throat, and then a day feeling sort of better. And then I went down hard last night and now I have to admit that I am very very sick.
Living alone and being sick kind of sucks. There's no one to bring me medicine, or soup, or more tissues, or to listen to me whine, or prop up the pillows and start a movie for me. So I've spent a good part of my day, when not sleeping, feeling a bit extra sorry for myself because I'm lonely. But just now, this evening, I realized that I'm not alone really. I have settled into bed with my laptop to watch a movie, which made me think of my friend Emily, with whom I had a conversation on Saturday about watching movies in bed. If I recall correctly, my half of the conversation was, "I never take my laptop to bed!" So here I am, eating crow on that point, but I feel Em here with me. I'm also drinking meriko's whiskey lemon tea, which is nearly as effective as Nyquil but far better tasting, so she's here with me, too. My tea is made from lemons from the meyer lemon tree Lisa and I planted in the front yard a couple of years ago, so Lisa's here with me, and sweetened with the rich avocado honey that my brother and sister-in-law brought to me from Julian at Christmastime, so they are here with me. Also my belly is full of good Thai soup that Kirsten brought by for me tonight on her way home from work, and I'm having Oreos for dessert, which make me think of Kimberly and also my mother, who maintains that the Newman's O's I had in the house recently are *not* Oreos. So they are here with me, too. These are real Oreos I'm eating tonight, though, because I do have to concede my mother has a point there. And I have my iPhone here beside me, bringing me messages from a friend who says he wishes he was here to listen to me whine (easy to say when he isn't), and "get better" wishes from folks near and far via Facebook.
So really I'm not so alone. I have a whole bunch of you tucked up here beside me, and I'm grateful. Scootch in now and get comfortable, I'm about to start the movie.
Matt Hart, the poet, has dark blonde hair that stands straight out from his head, in all directions, shocked, shocking. A compact, energetic body, and glasses that slide down his nose over and over to rest on his nose ring while he reads, revealing pale eyes fringed with pale lashes, until he slides the frames back into place. He begins his last poem, book in one hand, holding down the words on the page with a slim finger of the other, but as he gets into the rhythm, he begins to rock forward and back, foot to foot, his voice strong and clear although he's no longer anywhere near the mic. His hair, I swear, stands up more, his face flushes, a vein bulges in his neck and his glasses threaten to slide right off his face because his free hand has lifted, conducting, sending the back-beat music of his words from the podium out across the room toward us. He looks up from the page, the last two lines memorized, and delivers them directly, personally, almost brutally, a crescendo of syllables, and then, suddenly, is done. He steps to the front row, turns, sits, and becomes, except for his wild hair and pale pale eyes, perfectly normal. Just one of the rest of us.
Later, I step out of the book store into a cold cold night lit by a bright full moon, and I'm not sure if my heart thuds from the thick hot chocolate I had after dinner or the power of the words I have been washed with.
More and more I have come to admire resilience.
Not the simple resistance of a pillow, whose foam returns over and
over to the same shape, but the sinuous tenacity of a tree: finding the
light newly blocked on one side,
it turns in another.
A blind intelligence, true.
But out of such persistence arose turtles, rivers, mitochondria, figs—
all this resinous, unretractable earth.
A friend of mine recently told me a story. I've forgotten the exact details now, but it went something like this: There is a valley between two countries, or the north and south of the same country, maybe in Asia or maybe somewhere else, but the two sides were at war. The war drew to a stalemate, and the valley has been the DMZ for some 50 years while the slow ooze of politics and money and mistrust and fear have held the two sides apart. And during this time, ignored and uninhabited and unplundered, the valley returned to a more natural state. The jungle grew back lush. The roads crumbled back to animal track paths. A particular bird, nearly extinct, has started coming to this valley to mate, and in this one narrow strip of the planet, is now thriving. My friend was telling me the story because recently the two sides are negotiating peace treaties, and the band of jungle holding the borders apart will be collapsed into freeway and towns and no one knows what will happen to that bird and she's pissed off about that. But the part of the story my brain keeps returning to is how the valley recovered. When left alone to thrive, it did. What resilience.
As the rain clears this week, and the sun warms my face again, and I look around to see daffodils peeking up and my apricot trees in bloom and the big old magnolia trees all around downtown covered in those lush pink and white flowers, I realize that I am recovering. I still hurt, but not every day, and the periods of hurt are farther and farther apart. I find myself laughing more, and looking forward more. I feel myself opening, like those magnolias, throwing back my silky pale skin to expose my insides, spiky and bumpy and raw, but mine. I am still here. Still alive. I am richer and more lush than before. My heart is a different shape now, but it is pumping, and it is open, and it wants to love.
the resilience of heart
bash it to bits
a fresh new start
all the shattered pieces
snap back together
hold it in your hands
it's soft as kid leather
hold it in your hands
this crush in my body
tastes of saltwater and blood
the one who tugs the hardest
is the hardest to love
that's just it
it's how it is
I'll throw it if you catch it
I've got lots more to give
I'll throw it if you catch it
I'll throw it if you catch it
From "Resilience" by Annabelle Chvostek
Updated: The country is Korea, and the bird is the Red Crowned Crane, Japanese Crane, or tancho as it is known in Japan, where it is a symbol of nobility and immortality.. The population of this bird is only about 1500 in the world, 1000 of them in this area of Korea and Northern China. See the comments for the reference to the book the story came from, before being told to me. Although the species has protected status in Korea, the fate of that strip of land is still uncertain and conservation areas have not yet been defined there.
This weekend I taught a book-making workshop for some friends at my house. I sort of blissfully didn't know what I was getting into, or I might not have agreed to it. But I'm glad I did. I had 8 women plus myself here for 3 hours on Thursday night to prep their book papers, and then 7 of them back on Saturday to make covers and bind the whole thing together. We were planning to have a couple of hours in the afternoon to talk about art journaling techniques and prep some pages with ink and stamps and collage and paint, but the cover preparations took too long and we ran out of time at the end.
To make room for all of them to work, I opened up my dining room table to full size, covered it in butcher paper, and also cleared my kitchen counter and generously-sized coffee table for workspace. It was wonderful. Art supplies on every horizontal surface, lots of excited creative energy all over the place. Each of them was making a book for the very first time, and all of the books came out just beautifully.
I forgot, however, how much energy it takes to teach, and I was totally wiped out by Saturday afternoon when everyone left. I think I went to bed about 9pm. On Sunday, my fellow class-organizer (and helper!) came over for a little follow-up work time, since all the tools and stuff were still out, and we had been too busy teaching to make our own books. I finished up the two books in the foreground of the top photo then.
My journals were still strewn all around, since I'd been using them for examples and to demonstrate with, and it felt a bit like being surrounded by all my past lives. Not all that comfortable, really. I had to put them away before I could really unwind that night. But once I had, I made a fire and settled down in front of it with my knitting. And stayed there for about 3 hours.
It felt really good to be teaching again. I have missed that. But if I do this workshop again, I'll definitely need to tweak the agenda and make a couple other adjustments to make it more manageable. It sure was great to have a helper, though!