Crunch, Crunch, Crunch

Oh, you guys, this silly dog. We had a little precipitation this weekend so the leaves in the yard were all frozen and crunchy and the dog was doing this hilariously weird run where he had the same posture and gate as if he was running really fast, but it seemed to be designed so that each of his feet would hit the ground with enough force to give him a really satisfying crunch.

Crunch, crunch, crunch, he ran around the yard. And again I felt lucky to see it.

I’ve been trying to understand how I will tell if the medication is working and I do think that my feeling that getting to witness the dog and his joy at life is the luckiest thing every day is one.

Bwah ha ha ha ha

Lord almighty, I took some cold medicine and that was pretty much it for me. So, let’s put “medicines will hit you differently” on the list of things they don’t tell you about going on this shit.

I had weird dreams. One of which is that I was on some dangerous adventure and I kept thinking I’d forgotten to take my birth control pills, but, like the adventure was a crawling through some dangerous undergrowth near some lava alone adventure, not a James Bond adventure, so I kept popping them like candy and at some point in my dream, I look down and it’s clear I’ve just been eating them all day, not even in any order.

My subconsciousness is both “must not forget to take medicine” and “must definitely not get pregnant while crawling near lava.” Which, you know, both good things.

In related news, the Butcher introduced me to Uber Eats, which has made being sick a whole lot less annoying, though I feel like such a capitalist pig every time I use it.

In unrelated news, I love this afghan I’m working on so much. It’s just so beautiful. It is a perfect scrap afghan, though I have to admit, I’d also love to try it with a color scheme.

Anyway, here’s a picture of the interior part and a picture of the octagon part. I didn’t lay out the triangles or the weird shapes, because I’m not sure how they’re all going to work. It’s going to involve math, though, and I’m already pissed about it.

 

The Oxford American Music Issue: The Blues!

So, as you guys recall, I heard from the new-ish editor of the OA, who noticed that we used to talk a lot about the Music Issue and wondered if I’d like to talk about this one. I declared my feud with the OA over, but I should be clear that I’m not sure the new-ish editor knew about the feud. I mean, I’m sure there’s a whole side part to that job that is just learning new, weird shit about what happened before you got there and dealing with the reverberations of that. And let’s be honest, “picked a years’ long fight with a random woman on the internet” has to be way down the list behind all the other stuff he got up to.

But anyway, I wasn’t going to turn down an issue devoted to the Blues or pass up the chance to mull it over with you all.

But do we even remember how to do this? Who knows?

For starters, I really love the music in this issue. I’ve been thinking a lot about the approach of it. I think there’s a tendency when you’re compiling a blues compilation to ask yourself “Who will fans expect to hear here?” The problem with that approach is that a lot of blues fans are devoted to the “the blues had a baby and we called it rock & roll” mythology, which means they expect to hear the folks that influenced rock music, which leads to the “the blues is a lone, rural musical savant with a guitar, almost always male” bias. Which, on the one hand, fine. I love me some Robert Johnson, Willie Dixon, and Muddy Waters as much as the next person (maybe more so in the case of Muddy Waters) and you’d be hard-pressed to put together a bad compilation that revolved around them.

But, on the other hand, that means reinforcing the sexist biases of the blues fans who would go on to be rock stars–you get a really male-heavy version of the genre, a genre whose biggest foundational stars were women.

The OA collection is easily half female, ranging from Geeshie Wiley and Elvie Thomas to Ida Cox, Koko Taylor, and the more prominent Ettas, down to Adia Victoria and Alabama Shakes. Bessie and Mamie Smith aren’t on the CD, but they are well-considered in the issue.

I have to say, even as someone who bristles at the “lone Mississippi dude with a guitar” framing of the blues–in other words, as someone who intellectually knows there should be more women–I still find this CD wonderfully disconcerting. Here’s what it sounds like to put women back into the story of the blues with the prominence their influence warrants. It sounds strange.

It kind of makes me weepy to think of it too much, this idea that trying to hear the long, influential female traditions of the blues placed into their proper context, not as some add-on curiosity, sounds strange. I have to sit with this some more.

I also want to single out this version of Ida Cox’s “Wild Women Don’t Get the Blues,” which is such a perfect song you kind of wonder why someone doesn’t remake it every year, but when you listen to Cox do it, you also feel like she is the only one who can do it justice, that everyone else is just singing along with her when they do their versions. Though, I’ll be honest, I’d be really curious to hear what the Knowles sisters might do with it, if they knew it and loved it. Anyway, I mostly know an earlier version of the song, so it’s really fun to hear Cox revisit it here.

A big shift in the issue for me is that I know a bunch of the folks in here. I adore Jewly, who I think is brilliant. I admire the shit out of Ann Powers. And y’all! NM is in the magazine. I’m not going to be too specific as to where or how as to not out her, but holy shit. I’m just reading along and there’s my friend, saying smart things. So, how can I even talk about the writing?

Except to say that I will always be biased toward the pieces that talk about what listening to the music feels like, that help me hear what it is in the music that so deeply moves the writer that he or she wants to write about it. And this year, as well, those remain my favorite parts of the music issue.

Anyway, we can talk about the music issue or cocktapusses or just sit here quietly together thinking about how nice it is to like things and to settle old feuds.

 

WaPo, Round Two

Here is my second thing for the Post. I’m really pleased with how it turned out. I want to be funny and charming and knowledgeable and I think I pulled that off.

I think I have a better idea of why this is happening and what the trajectory could look like and, even though I would appreciate all fingers crossed, I think this will be a somewhat irregular opportunity that falls into my lap from time to time. Which is very lovely. And more may come of it. We’ll see.

In other news, my friend’s baby died yesterday. And, when I was at KFC picking the Butcher up dinner, there were kittens under a truck and I tried to coax them out, but they wouldn’t come and I came home knowing it was going to get down below freezing last night, with me having left those kittens behind.

I don’t mean to sound flip about my friend’s tragedy. There are things people can write about and things they can’t. When I try to wrap my mind around this, it feels like this terrible thing and then a blast zone around it of, like, twenty miles and words fail in the blast zone.

So, you end up trying to talk about the thing without talking about the thing. There are those kittens. There is that small boy. There is Jim’s death. There are a million other heartaches, piling one upon the other, and how do you go on, except to go on?

I don’t know what I’m getting at here except to say that I am so happy and so sad and I don’t really know how to reconcile the two.

 

 

Glorious

I am doing something stupid, which is letting the dog run big loops in my two neighbors’ yards in the morning before we go for our walk. He doesn’t consistently come when he’s called and he’s definitely too far away for me to control him with anything other than voice commands.

But when I see it, I just can’t bring myself to stop it. There in the dark, this pale blob, circling and circling and then running straight at me, tongue lolling, smile on his face. He pants and looks up at me like whoa, this is a good life.

And then this morning, he slid/rolled down the hill a good three or four feet and he wasn’t afraid. He loved it. And he leaped up and looked at me and then launched into this beautiful roll. And I felt so lucky to see it, so lucky to be there for it.

How often do we see miracles and just not realize it?

Yesterday, thanks to Facebook, I realized it was the third anniversary of the day we got him. If the vet’s initial assessment of his age was right, this makes him seven. I hate that with my whole heart because I can’t find any breed that he might be even a small part of that has a life expectancy longer than 10-12 years. We could, realistically, only have left as much time as we’ve had with him.

And yet, he seems so young to me because he is still learning things. He’s not yet set in his ways. There are still new things.

And even if it’s only for a short time, I feel very lucky to have him.

Confidence

I have been thinking about how my parents, as Midwesterners, have discouraged us from feeling too high and mighty. M. and I were trying to explain this to C. the other day, the kind of innate pessimism of Midwesterners. Don’t hope for too much. Don’t think this is going to work out. Work hard and rise to the middle.

One thing that has always confounded and delighted me about living in Nashville is how, with just the luck of being where an editor could see me, I’m now in a position where U.S. Representatives know and read me. I just don’t think that would have happened if I had stayed in Illinois and I can’t quite say why except for, in Illinois, I just wasn’t one of the people that could happen for and down here, there’s not that same barrier, whatever that barrier is.

And yet, still, the idea that I have written something that’s appeared in the Washington Post is ridiculous to me.

I sent my piece in early and told them it was so I had time to rewrite it if they didn’t like it. They told me it was great and I needed to have more confidence in my writing.

I kind of joked it off by saying that all my critics who think I suck can’t be wrong. But I was more put in a mind of that conversation with C. and M. Some people are raised to believe that the world is for them, that they can fail and not have missed their one shot, and that they can do whatever they set their minds to, because why not?

But a lot of us were not. And I have always felt like I am getting away with something here, every step of the way. I know I say all the time that talent is ubiquitous. And I believe that. But I also think that a lot of talented people are trained to not take the shot, lest someone more deserving not get the chance to play. And I think a lot of us believe that we must not be that talented, really, because we see so many other talented people.

In other words, really, we’re trained to self-stack the deck against us so that our “betters” don’t have to waste time doing it.

And I certainly have that tendency, myself, ingrained in me since birth, passed off as “pragmatic” and “realistic.” But I’m trying to not let it stand in my way too much.

Anyway, I don’t really know how long this gig will last or what it will become. I’m taking it one piece at a time. But if they ask me, I’m going to say yes.

The Fate of the Furious

a. I am slightly embarrassed to see The Rock and Jason Statham in their big muscles potentially fighting on screen. I have those fantasies in private, Hollywood. Stop watching me when I’m home alone.

b. Do you think all those guys have to eat like The Rock to keep up those muscles? Does the whole place just smell like fish farts constantly?

c. C. owns greyhounds who, and I swear I am not making this up, have to wear pajamas in the winter because they have so little body fat. Do you think Jason Statham and The Rock are constantly cold? Do they wear pajamas between takes?

d. This must be a disproportionate amount of men with completely shaved heads, right? I feel like I see very few completely bald guys in real life, but the trailer would lead you to believe that half the men you see in the world are going to have no hair.

e. If Vin Diesel auctioned off a chance to play D&D with him, at this point in my life, I might bid.

Unreal

This all still doesn’t feel real to me. Last night I was reading some about just how much Russia has been able to influence the election and how many Republicans knew about it and went along with it and I find myself only able to really comprehend things like how this must signal some kind of battle between the CIA and the FBI.  Or laughing at Trump discounting the news stories because the sources are the same as those that lied us into war in Iraq (and yes, I know it’s not true, but it still made me laugh out loud to see it. Are Republicans now admitting that they lied us into a war? Are there any qualms yet in the intelligence community about going along with it?).

I genuinely don’t know what it means for our country. Or for the world, really. If Russia had invaded and set up a government to its liking, we’d all know to be appalled and frightened. The signal would be there that life is different. But this is nebulous, unrecognizable, hard to make sense of. Which makes me think it’s a better form of warfare. How do you resist the subtle influence? Where is the stand to be made?

Most alarmingly, were we so full of hubris when we were doing this to other countries that we just assumed it couldn’t be done to us? Did we not learn from what we were doing how to build defenses?

Is the Dog Getting Smarter?

This week, the dog has developed a really annoying thing where he stands near the couch and barks at the Butcher like he needs to go out, but then when you put him out, he comes right back in.

I mentioned as a joke to the Butcher that maybe Sonnyboy just wants him to go outside for some reason.

But my god, people, today the dog barked at the Butcher and barked and it was super annoying and the Butcher got up to brush his teeth and go to work and the dog just stole his space on the couch!

I think the dog has been trying all along to trick the Butcher into getting up so that he can have the warm spot on the couch! But, before this morning, the attempt always ended with the dog outside and not near the couch.

Today, though. Today it worked.

I would be more frightened, but last night our neighbor came over to deliver a misdirected package and to get us to sign a petition and the dog was so shocked to see him at our house–the man who lives right next door, whose yard the dog has to examine thoroughly before we can go on our walk–he fell out. The delight! The yard runs both ways! If the dog can get there, the neighbor can get here! How does it work? What magic is this?

So, even though he’s clearly learning to brain, he’s not at evil genius levels yet.

Ghosts

Last night I dreamed I was trying to seduce one of the Butcher’s friends at my grandma’s house by letting him sleep in her bed and play video games on my phone. Because nothing says “let’s have sex” like “here is my grandma’s bed. Lay in it and be distracted by this phone.” (Ha ha ha. This reminds me that we saw this commercial last night for some KY product. A guy and a girl are making out. A baseball team is standing in the room. He tells the baseball team to get lost because he’s got some kind of new KY spray. The commercial ends. We sit in silence. I try my damn hardest to make sense of what I’ve just seen. I turn to the Butcher and I say, “Is she supposed to squirt the spray in his eyes to keep him from being distracted by the baseball team? I don’t get what the spray does.” But it turns out that the spray is supposed to keep you from coming too soon and apparently a way dudes thought you could keep from coming too soon in the past was to imagine baseball? But how could that even work when Mark Grace played baseball?!)

Anyway, it got me thinking of how much I dream of my grandma’s house and I wonder if that’s a problem for the people who live there now. Do they have any sense that I am there some nights wandering around?

This morning, before our walk, Sonnyboy was back beyond the creek sniffing something in the trees and I could barely make him out. He was a formless shifting light spot in the treeline and I thought, this is how he will look when he’s a ghost.

And it make me wonder how much of ghostliness is just a longing for those places where we felt most at ease.

Emotional Work

I read this article yesterday, which I can’t find now, about how men farm their emotional work out to women, without even realizing that they’re doing it and how the author found the constant, unspoken expectation that she would manage the feelings of the men in her life to be grueling. And thus she’s only dating women.

Ha. That’s a little flip. It was more interesting than that.

But I am interested in how people enforce and reinforce hierarchies and it is true that the person who gets to farm out labor–emotional or not–is in charge. And I have noticed that a lot of power struggles in organizations do come down to someone trying to farm work off onto someone else. AND, most interestingly, I have noticed that refusals to do the extra work are often met with “you hurt my feelings” or, more bluntly, “you’re being a bitch.”

In other words, when the person making the power play fails to farm out physical work, they often resort to trying for at least make the other person do some emotional work to soothe them.

I don’t find that to be only a tactic of men, though.

Daring

Y’all, have I been misinterpreting what the dog wants from the hill? Today it was raining, so the hill was slick and he threw himself down, as he does, and wiggled/slid his way down the hill on his back head first and then he leaped up like “Ta Da!”

Has this been it? Not rolling down the hill but sliding? Did I get to see the culmination of months of effort today? I can’t be sure.

I called my parents last night and told them about the anxiety and the drugs. Basically because I realized there’s a good chance that I’m still not going to be 100% at Christmas and obviously they would notice.

It was awkward and in the middle of it my dad switched mid-stream to talking about when they were going to come down for Christmas. And I said, “So, just to be clear, this makes me crazy.” And my dad said he already knew that about me. And we laughed. It was awkward and uncomfortable. Or, at least, I felt awkward and uncomfortable and I wasn’t sure what to make of their reactions. They didn’t really have any questions. My mom volunteered to drive me up and down windy mountain roads to see if the medication was working.

And then they wanted to eat dinner, so we got off the phone.

I don’t know. I don’t know what to make of it or how to feel about it.

The afghan I’m working on now is really beautiful, though, and it makes me happy. Also, my little cousin got her afghan in the mail yesterday, while she was home sick from school, and she loved it. So, those are the feelings I’m going to glom onto.

Sick as a Dog

Yesterday, I let the dog eat the last little bit of cat food that had been spread out on the counter and a half an hour later, he puked in the living room and twice in his bed. He may have puked some more outside, but he also ate a bunch of grass, came in the house, and threw that up. And he had the hiccups!

I don’t know if it was the cat food or if it was just the weekend full of kids overstuffing him with treats and him getting into the garbage or what but he was not well. The thing about him, though, is that it’s really tough to tell how bad he might feel, because he’s just such a happy-go-lucky dog. He kept his dinner down, mostly. The Butcher found a little puke this morning, but nothing like the mounds from yesterday. And now he’s curled up on the couch around his bone, snoring away, so I hope we’re past the worst of it.

But we had a disconcertingly nice walk this morning, because he wasn’t pulling on me at all. That was the only clue I had that he was still feeling puny. Otherwise, he gave the hill a good wiggle down and he pooped, so everything is moving through him, which I take as a good sign.

So, I don’t know. I worry. But he seems to be on the mend.

Tired

Yesterday I was a human being for most the day. I mailed some crap and walked the dog and ate lunch out and saw a baby and did some Christmas shopping and watched Dirk Gently and today I am supposed to write my Pith post and clean the bathroom and do some laundry. I just now finished up one of those things and not the one that brings me clean underwear.

And I need a nap. I may take a nap. It’s getting better. It’s just a slow climb.

The Weirdness Continues!

The new(-ish) editor for the Oxford American emailed me and made nice! Y’all, I am off the Oxford American’s shit list! Eight years of nonsense, gone by the wayside. So, that’s nice, especially because I really like them and this year’s music issue–The Blues–sounds awesome.

Y’all remember when he wrote the Scene to make a snide comment about me? Lord, that was one of the weirdest things that has come my way.

Last night, The Last Waltz was on PBS and I watched the whole thing because I’m only human. And I have to tell you, I never put two-and-two together that the reason it has always felt to me like the movie stalls out after Muddy Waters is not just because the Muddy Waters segment is so fucking amazing, but also because I loathe Eric Clapton. After he plays, the movie picks right back up with being deeply enjoyable.

I think I might even be okay with it if they’d just flipped his segment and Emmylou’s.

Like I said on Twitter, I especially love the Van Morrison part because he looks like someone’s dad had a couple of beers and decided he could sing. But then he really can! But still, when he finishes up his song, he looks surprised and excited that he didn’t die out there. It is one of the moments where it feels like a real person is present.

Which is not to say that I don’t love that movie. And I love The Band, even The Night They Drove Old Dixie Down, which should be terrible and embarrassing but somehow feels like the truth, but the combination of stoned/drunk everyone is and the awareness that they’re being filmed and that this is the end of things, there’s a performativeness to it. Which is fine, but it makes the moments of genuineness, like Van Morrison’s relief and delight, really stand out.

I keep trying to decide what it is about Muddy Waters’ performance I find so compelling, though. Because I watch that song and every time I feel like I’m seeing a truth about America I don’t know how to put into words. First, it’s the sense that he’s truly plugged into something transcendent and that you can see his connection to it grow as he performs. There’s not a good non-corny way of talking about it. But he’s in a groove and, as he realizes he’s settled into a familiar and powerful groove, you see a mix of confidence–he’s been here before, he knows what to do–and delightful surprise–“I got back here again, somehow? All right!” I just feel like performing, and performing masterfully, is doing something for and to him.

Also, this time, I was struck by how much eye contact he makes with the audience (or at least, how much eye contact he appears to be making with the audience. It’s hard to know how much he could see with the light in his eyes.) which isn’t really present in the other performers. They’re looking at the camera or at each other or out at the audience, but Morganfield looks like he’s looking at someone. I think part of this may just be his age and performance style–in other words, he came up playing at a time and in places where audience participation was a given so you had to learn how to work it and work with it–but it also goes to creating the sense that something is happening to and through him to us when he’s performing.

And I also can’t shake loose what it means for him to be standing on that stage, the 60s barely over, asking “Ain’t I a Man?” “I am a Man” on a sign in Memphis means, “See me as a citizen and a worker and someone with the inalienable rights our country was founded on. See me as your equal.” But Morganfield is up there singing about sex and erotic power and cocky assuredness and pleasure, at a time when we see black men’s sexuality as a threat for which they need to be constantly monitored and punished.

I definitely think one of the biggest threats posed by the blues and r&b is that there’s a long history of the importance of women’s pleasure and the joy men take in it. Once you stop to look for it, you’ll see it everywhere. The “black” version of a song includes women’s fun and the “white” version focuses on men’s pleasure or men’s suffering at the hands of women. So how could there not be anxiety on the part of white society, the fear that white women will gravitate to the men who enjoy their pleasure. You can even see how the Jezebel figures into this, white America trying to set up a dichotomy where black people are, yes, more passionate and sexual, but there’s no thought behind it–that’s just what they’re “for.” And good white people are the opposite of that.

So, you can see the claim Morganfield is making–“I know what I’m doing and I know you’ll like it”–and how it went against white views of black people.

It’s a less blatantly political claim and yet, just as important a one. So, there you have this guy, who makes this amazing music that most people who are in the movie love and have ripped off, who is risking and has risked more to perform  it than they have, and, for me, the contrast between what he’s doing and what Clapton is doing is just so great it kind of repulses me to have them back to back.

Consequences

You guys, lying to my parents has utterly backfired. As you recall, in order to cover up the fact that I was spending my evenings napping on the couch between crochet stitches, I told them that I was staying off electronics at night in order to sleep better and thus could not answer their every email or respond to Facebook immediately. And thus I didn’t have to tell them about the medication until I was ready.

But they’re my parents! They love to fret and worry. I had a long, weird, awkward conversation with my dad last night about things I could do to improve my sleep and whether I should see a specialist!

Clearly, the longer this goes on, the stupider it’s going to be. And yet, god, I still really don’t want to talk to them about this.

The Butcher says I should tell them I went to a doctor and, surprise, I have anxiety. Just obfuscate about when I went. The Butcher is obviously much better at this shit than I am.

In unrelated news, now the tree people are mad at me. I’m not saying 2016 has been a weird year, but I would never have predicted that it would end with tree-huggers, hot chicken people, and the feminists pissed at me.

Living the Dream

One of the local parks–one of the big rural ones–is off-leash in the early mornings. Today Sonnyboy and the Butcher went there and Sonnyboy chased deer and made big circles in the field and still, somehow, came back to the Butcher when he was called.

The thing about a dog is this. Or maybe it’s a thing about everybody. But a dog can’t learn unless you put him in situations where he’s previously fucked up. If you want him to come when you call him, you have to put him in a position to come when you call him, which means letting him back into the circumstances where he has not come when you called him.

Today, he did it.

I am a little sad to have missed him bounding after the deer. I know how much he loves to chase things. But I never would have let him off the leash, so there we are, anyway.

I’m glad the Butcher could do that for him.

Slowly, Slowly

I had a dream I thwarted a bank robbery with my mad shooting skills. I have no mad shooting skills in real life, of course (that I know of), but in the dream I disarmed one of the robbers and shot the others and was the hero.

And it got me thinking that one of the appeals of action movies is the unbridled confidence. Your body can do these things. You will hurt the right people. You can keep going. A certain kind of swagger that signals “I know what’s going on and have control of the situation.”

I don’t think I’ve ever had that swagger.

I am slowly feeling more myself. I find the whole thing embarrassing. I was explaining to S. earlier that it’s both the embarrassment of finally admitting I’m not heading in the direction I want to be heading and the embarrassment that it’s taking this much to try to get me back on track. And I don’t know why I can’t be the same level of kind and understanding to myself as I would be if this were a friend going through this.

I mean, I do have friends on these same medications and I don’t really think of it at all. I mean, I do now because I have questions and they have answers (turns out the drymouth is totally normal). But in general, I think it’s good that they…

Oh shit. Okay, I think I just realized part of it, too. I find it embarrassing that my friends all realized there was a problem and had the guts to go get help. I am embarrassed that I suffered for so long, with it slowly getting worse, because I was chicken. And I guess, too, that I feel like this is a lot to go through if it doesn’t work. I’m afraid, too, of it not working.

God, this is depressing. Please tell me your thoughts on cockapusses…oh, shit, or was it octacocks? below.

What to Say?

Last week, little kids died coming home from school on a bus whose the parents of those children had been complaining about since practically the beginning of the year. Last night, Gatlinburg burned. We’re waiting to hear if anyone has died. It seems impossible that everyone could have survived. The video has been so scary.

And it feels like there’s a rush to say something, to know what to say, and I don’t. It’s horrific. It’s just horrific.

Uncle Walt, No Help

Maybe I should have turned to Mark Twain. I reread Song of Myself last night and it was no comfort. Walt’s ability to find value in everyone is moving and his desire to embrace everything–good and bad–is a challenge in the best way.

But this time through I felt troubled by his insistence that everything that was happening to anyone was happening to him. I wonder about the impulse to believe that one can know everything there is to know, that one can appreciate the plight of someone else without experiencing it. I go back and forth on this. I think empathy is important. I think imagining ourselves in others’ situations is important. I also do think we all would be better off if we watched each other as if we all have value and listened the same.

But I still come away from it feeling like the 29th bather part of the poem is the honest critique of the poem’s approach. You can observe. You can imagine yourself splashing in the water. You can even feel connected to the other bathers. But what connection do they have to you?

A good poem changes meaning as you change. Song of Myself is still one of my very favorite poems. I remember reading it for the first time in college and being blown away by it. I didn’t even know a poem like that was possible. I didn’t know something “that old” could be so interesting and invigorating. I remember stanza upon stanza just breaking my brain and I loved talking about it.

I loved reading it again in grad school, with a professor who would spend the whole class discussing one word choice, the implications of that particular word, as if we could reach transcendence by thinking hard enough, by cracking the poem open.

And I survived my first lonely months in Nashville by reading it out loud to myself. I’ve loved it every time I’ve reread it over the years.

This time, though, I realized what a profoundly lonesome poem it is. Which, I suppose, is an insight for our troubled times.

Naaapppiiing

Lord, I want to nap all the time. Slip myself under a warm blanket and just sleep. And this is better than it was! Now I just want to nap. I am not napping.

No, instead, I’m going to turn myself to Walt Whitman this evening. I will report back if I learn anything hopeful.

The Hardest Afghan I’ve Ever Made

I’ve made afghans that were like endurance tests and I’ve made afghans that forced me to learn a lot of new skills. I’ve never before made an afghan were I was like, whew, I will NEVER do that again. Until this one. But it’s done and it looks great, except for the weird ripples, which I am just thinking of as ruffles. But look at that awesome border!

And I think it does look like the picture my cousin’s daughter drew.

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For Christmas for me, the Butcher had his DNA done at Ancestry.com. They advise you to have a relative of each gender do it, to try to pick up on everything from both sides of the family, so I may have mine done at some point.

But, it turns out that we’re pretty boringly white. It has us at 31% “Europe West,” which is Germany/France, northern Spain/Great Britain; 25% Scandinavia; 22% Ireland; 9% Iberian Peninsula; and 9% Great Britain.

In some ways, this differs from what I know of our family history. Hulda Anderson, my great-great grandmother, came over from Sweden. She married a guy who came over from Germany. Their daughter married a guy whose parents came over from England. The Riches were British way back, but had been in America for centuries.  Clayton Rich, my great grandfather, married an Irish woman. So, my mom should be 1/4 Great Britain, 1/4 Irish; another 1/4 Great Britain; 1/8 Swedish; 1/8 German, with some Dutch we know of thrown in there.

My dad’s family is also pretty well-known, except for the Phillipses, though I have some educated guesses about them, and I think they were originally British. So, my dad’s side of the family should be the Robinsons–came over from England–1/4 British; the Sanborns–old American family, but originally from England–1/4; the Phillipses, probably English, 1/4; and the Heistands, who were originally German–1/4.

So you can see why I expected to find a lot more Great Britain in the mix. Maybe the Butcher just takes after my mom a lot? Or, my working hypothesis is that, if you look at the places you find people with our DNA and the places you find the Germanic tribes, you’d find those were the same places. We could be old Saxons or even older members of the Lower Rhine Groups and the people they fucked.

Anyway, fascinating. But as of yet, no help in contextualizing the Phillipses.

Mysteries

Yesterday was the first day in two weeks that I haven’t felt the gentle cocoon of a nap wrapping around me every single second of the day. I still feel like my mind is very still in ways that I feel uncertain about. I mostly experience my head as this storm of ideas that, when I need to write, I just surf down, seeing what connections are being made. I trust that something is always happening in there.

I have spent a lot of time lately staring off into space, waiting for those connections to get made and they’re not quite happening or not happening very quickly. I can also sense that is changing, so I’m not yet worried that I’ve lost my mojo or something. But it’s quieter in here, like the nap cocoon has receded physically, but maybe not mentally.

So, I haven’t told my parents and I don’t know why. I mean, on the one hand, it’s not their business, so it’s not a big deal. But I have now lied to them about it and let the lie go two conversations. My dad asked me if I’d read his Christmas letter and I lied and said I haven’t been getting on the computer at night lately and then when he called last night and asked if my cutting off of electronic devices had helped my sleep, I said I hadn’t been doing it long enough to tell. But really, I’m just napping on the couch under the afghan I’m trying to crochet.

I’m not opposed to lying to my parents, for many reasons, but I am not sure why I’m lying now. Which goes back to the cloud in my head. Certainly, way down in my brain somewhere is the reason, but I can’t get to it.

Though now that I’ve slowly written this all out, I think that it’s because, in part, I don’t want to hear that I just didn’t try hard enough. It’s amazing, when you think about it, that I have a master’s degree, a good job in a field I love, a side hustle writing for the Scene, and enough short-story sales under my belt to qualify me for the SFWA, plus a bunch of friends I adore, a bunch of afghans that make me happy, and my hobby of going around looking at things AND YET everything wrong with me is supposedly because I don’t try hard enough. If I just tried harder, I could be thin and pretty and married and not be afraid of heights and open stairwells and so on. I’m just kind of embarrassingly lazy and unwilling to work on my problems, as identified by others.

I think, fundamentally, I can’t do this part–where it’s weird and uncomfortable and I’m kind of uncertain about what’s going on in my brain–while also having to ward off the usual bullshit.

And my parents aren’t monsters. There’s a good chance that, if I told them, they’d not chastise me for not trying hard enough to fix this through sheer force of will. But I’m still protecting myself.