"If the world were merely seductive, that would be easy. If it were merely challenging, that would be no problem. But I arise in the morning torn between a desire to improve the world and a desire to enjoy the world. This makes it hard to plan the day." -E.B. White
Very late last night, looking for a distraction from a prospectus that refused to write itself, I found these strange unfinished notes and email drafts. Some of them were too-many-feelings, and I felt embarrassed or pretentious. Others, I was trying to save for exactly the right moment. And sometimes, I think, I decided to find a snack and never came back. Here they are. All at once. Sorry for the delay, old thoughts. I didn’t mean to leave you hanging.
(From a NYT book review) “A little later, lingering over coffee, she said: “Martin and I talk about moving here all the time. When we left Uruguay we even looked at houses and schools in New York. But if I moved here would I stop feeling homesick? Probably not. It’s more an idea than anything else. Now New York is here whenever I want it, and that’s probably ideal. It’s handy living in the wrong place.”
(To Elizabeth) Between 3:00 and 6:00 this morning I had this funny series of dreams, probably the result of evening coffee drinking. The only part I remember is an email you sent me. You said that you’d consulted with Josh, and decided that I should stop trying.
California will never leave my bones. It is in the lilting tendencies of my speech, the sense that a drop to 60 degrees qualifies as “winter,” and a not-at-all ironic yearning for palm trees.
Everything has been damp for days. In the wet heat of Charleston and drenching rains of New York, I try to maintain composure, to be better than this liquid air.
I have much more success stifling the urge to laugh or cry. Instead, I stare ahead, nonchalant. Inside, I am alight with so many feelings and so much affection for absolutely everyone, but on the train, I avoid eye contact, and sit still.
There is hope. There is hope everywhere. I bite it. Someone once said: Don’t bite till you know if it’s bread or stone. What I bite is all bread, rising, yeasty as a cloud. — Anne Sexton, one stanza from “Snow”
A student thanked me for suggesting and locating toddler magazine titles. She walked away, and then doubled back. “Really, thank you,” she said. “Do you like candy?” “Er,” I said. “It’s coffee candy from Columbia,” she said. She held out two gold-wrapped candies, and dropped them into my hand.
Anonymous asked: Would you ever get Watson a dog-brother or sister? Or a cat-brother or sister?
I am happiest when, for whatever reason, dogs outnumber people. For example, in this silly picture of me and Kelli:
The nice thing about my life is that this kind of ridiculousness happens on a regular basis. Watson gets the best of everything and I get to sit in a pile of puppies.
The sad thing about my life is that it is nearly 4 AM and I am writing a teaching philosophy statement. I teach at 8 AM. At least once a week, I have a 12 hour day. I travel frequently. I am lucky to have Kelli and Tina. They love Watsy and mitigate the worst aspects of my schedule; I am forever grateful for the times they walked him or took him to the park with a Max, and the weeks they cared for him while I was away. This is one of my favorite pictures of Kelli and Watson:
This is all to say that while it would be amazing for Watson to have dog siblings, I do not think it would be responsible or reasonable. Nor do I need more dog than Watson, really. He is as affectionate, funny, vindictive, and clever as any dog could be, and we are best friends.
Clearly, I am procrastinating. I should get back to work.
p.s. I REALLY LOVE CATS, but I am allergic to them.
p.p.s. Watson does not always stay home. This winter he is coming along for Christmas in California, New Year’s Eve in New York, and MLA in Massachusetts (see what I did there? ha!) (I am sleepy).
p.p.p.s I asked Conor if he would be Watson’s dad and he said, “Silvia, you are strange but yes.” Which is not related to this, except to say that Watson has lots of family.
My time in the garden is usually solitary; I water and weed and plant and hope in silence, everything ripe or failed a perfect metaphor.
I would not have thought sharing my garden would feel significant. It is fighting that initial possessiveness, that sense of “but this is mine and I made this.” Not the eating of things — I will give you kale until you can’t eat more kale — but the keeping of things. Thinning the mounds, pinching flowers off the basil plant, this-is-a-weed, this-is-a-radish. It’s trusting someone else to know how much to water the squash and to remember the newly planted irises against the back fence.
In exchange, there is —
“hey, look. This okra. This wasn’t here yesterday, right? It grew overnight?”
“should we eat these beans for dinner or save them for tomorrow?”
In Father of the Bride there’s this part where the daughter gets into a huge fight with her boyfriend because he gives her a blender. She feels like the blender is some 1950’s reference to sexual politics and represents a troubling set of expectations about who she is and what she does. We’re supposed to see her concerns as an overreaction, but I remember watching this movie in third grade after reading about the ERA and thinking, “well, she has a point.”
Now, I’m like. Hey, that was so thoughtful. She can make pesto. And hummus. Cream soups, smoothies, and lots of other things. Though, maybe a food processor would be better, since chopping onions is a pain. Mandolines seem like more fun, but mostly to make ratatouille that looks like the one from Ratatouille. Of course, what I really, really want is a little green Dutch oven for stews.
Anyway, I don’t know where I was going with this, but this steamer basket is beautiful, it was such a thoughtful present, and I’m so happy about everything it says about who I am and what I do.
“Do you want to walk to the concert with me or are you staying in bed?”
“Ohh…okay. I want to do that. Let me find my pants.”
We do this thing every week at Church of Beethoven where the lights dim and we celebrate two minutes of silence. There’s the clink of coffee cups and papers rustle; from the balcony space, I like to fidget in my chair and consider the tops of everyone’s heads. It is mostly quiet though, the warehouse full of people appreciating stillness.
I look forward to those two minutes every week but what I needed last night was two hours of really loud, really amazing music. Destroyer at Launchpad was big and grand and loud, the kind of loud you feel under your feet and in your chest.
After it was over, and our friends had dispersed, Rob and I ate hot dogs with kraut by the side of the road.
“Perhaps you’ll tire of me,” muses my love, although she’s like a great city to me, or a park that finds new ways to wear each flounce of light and investiture of weather. Soil doesn’t tire of rain, I think,
but I know what she fears: plans warp, planes explode, topsoil gets peeled away by floods. And worse than what we can’t control is what we could; those drab, scuttled marriages we shed so gratefully may augur we’re on our owns
for good reasons. “Hi, honey,” chirps Dread when I come through the door, “you’re home.” Experience is a great teacher of the value of experience, its claustrophobic prudence, its gloomy name-the-disasters-
in-advance charisma. Listen, my wary one, it’s far too late to unlove each other. Instead let’s cook something elaborate and not invite anyone to share it but eat it all up very very slowly.
— William Matthews, from After All: Last Poems (1998)
It’s the immemorial feelings I like the best: hunger, thirst, their satisfaction; work-weariness, earned rest; the falling again from loneliness to love; the green growth the mind takes from the pastures in March; the gayety in the stride of a good team of Belgian mares that seems to shudder from me through all my ancestry.
Mercury in retrograde has been wrecking havoc on my life, but I think that the lesson from this month was not one of devastation. Instead, I think I am supposed to be patient. Patience is hard when my mind wants to race to happily-ever-after, a bright apartment with a collection of ironic and non-ironic mugs. The kind of place with paperbacks stacked horizontally on top of alphabetized textbooks. I want to know where I buy bagels and fresh flowers and what kind of weather I am going to complain about and will I be able to keep a garden? I want season tickets to something, to celebrate anniversaries, and to combine our socks into one drawer.
My inclination is to eat toast and butter in bed while Adele sings my feelings, but that seems like such a waste of sunlight and Spring. I have to read about early collectors of Anglo-Saxon manuscripts and learn to manage first-year instruction, and I really, really need to do my laundry.
“Life will break you. Nobody can protect you from that, and living alone won’t either, for solitude will also break you with its yearning. You have to love. You have to feel. It is the reason you are here on earth. You are here to risk your heart. You are here to be swallowed up. And when it happens that you are broken, or betrayed, or left, or hurt, or death brushes near, let yourself sit by an apple tree and listen to the apples falling all around you in heaps, wasting their sweetness. Tell yourself you tasted as many as you could.”
There are so many things I did not know before Church of Beethoven; I’ve heard so many things since Church of Beethoven. Piazzolla’s “Four Seasons of Buenos Aires,” for instance (that’s “Summer,” above), or two violins dueling it out on “La Cucaracha.” I learned to hear the sound of America in Copland. I found the story, and came to appreciate the trumpet with Georges Enesco’s “Legend.” Now, I know I like Rachmanioff. I like Debussy. And! Brahms Sonata No. 2 in A Major Op. 100 from my very first visit.
Also, the feelings. So many feelings. There has been ample fodder for my residual daddy issues via poetry, theater, and a bass for the Metropolitan Opera. “Ivert” by Jennifer Frank. So many beautiful things. Because of Church of Beethoven, I look forward to Sunday mornings, I can be certain to run into regulars all over town, and brunch happens with Rob E. every week. It connects me to Albuquerque, and makes me proud of Albuquerque.
This new piece of my relationship with Church of Beethoven is daunting and overwhelming, since I suspect that only Adults are nominated and elected to Boards (I hope they do not find me out). It is humbling to be a part of something I so venerate. Still, I can’t wait — I can’t wait to be a part of all of it and everything.