Thursday, May 18, 2006

Building A Mystery

I love a good intrigue. It excites me to hear about the secret lives of people I know. I love knowing little things that I'm not supposed to. It's harmless really, just like reading a favorite fictional novel. It's more than gossip, it's an insight into people's lives. We all have to admit that our ears perk up when we hear about someone spotting a shy friend coming out of a kareoke bar, or two friends of ours at a restaurant together looking cozy. It makes us think there is some spontaneity and romance in our real lives and that things really do happen unexpectedly.

Usually, I hate being out of control. I hate things popping up in my own life out of the ordinary. I need to know what's going on around me at all times so that I can prevent something awful before it happens. But these little intrigues make life so much more interesting, and it's even better if the people we share our little secrets with are special to us. Is it the dark part of mysteries that appeals to us? The shrouded veil of secrecy that makes us think of midnight meetings and ancient symbols and voodoo dolls makes us drunk with the idea of being chosen to know.

This weekend I went with a few close friends to watch "The DaVinci Code" I had read the book, but a friend of mine hadn't. When the plot of the movie was being revealed he leaned over to us in the darkness and whispered "Can you guys believe this?" Later, over slurpy milkshakes I watched my friends debate the mysteries of the book and movie with wide eyed enthusiasm, with so much vigor it was as if they were unraveling the very secrets of the universe. Despite the fact that millions of people around the world had already seen it, their voices were hushed, as if the cheerleaders at the next table would arrest them for treason, or steal the sacred treasure of knowledge from us.

Why are we so intent on discovering secrets? Why do we love pulling the puzzles of our worlds apart, for better or worse? In an aha! moment I realized that the time we feel most at peace with ourselves is if we're honest , even if that honesty leads to disillusionment or loss. Sometimes it's only by feeling those things that we discover the beauty in the real world. So we pull apart those secrets, unveil what is real, tear at the lies, until all we're left with is truth. At least for now.

Wednesday, May 17, 2006

Poetry Thursday: Count Up The Almonds

I first heard this poem at an Arts event in college, and was so intrigued I began reading more of Paul Celan's poetry. As it turns out, it was he who fascinated me. He was a German-Romanian Jew who survived imprisonment in a Nazi concentration camp. His poetry is deeply defined by his parents' deaths during the holocaust. He once wrote "poetry is a sort of homecoming", and as I read more of his work it felt so deeply personal I felt like I was intruding by reading it. This is one of my favorite poems of his and the poem that introduced me to his work.

Count Up The Almonds (Zahle die Mandeln)
by Paul Celan

Count up the almonds,
count what was bitter and kept you waking,
count me in too:

I sought your eye when you looked out and no one saw you,
I spun that secret thread
where the dew you mused on
slid down to pitchers
tended by a word that reached no one's heart.

There you first fully entered the name that is yours,
you stepped toward yourself on steady feet,
the hammers swung free in the belfry of your silence,
things overheard thrust through to you,
what's dead put its arm around you too,
and the three of you walked through the evening.

Render me bitter.
Number me among the almonds.

Translation © 2001 by John Felstiner.

Tuesday, May 16, 2006

Beautiful Day

Thanks to everyone who commented on my last entry. You guys inspire me, I so enjoy reading your blogs.
Last week, I visited my parents and my dog in their little piece of paradise in the Carribbean where they moved when my parents decided that they were tropical people and the harsh winters of Wisconsin would no longer cut it.

I started off reluctant to visit, since I had just come off a long semester of work and school and I was really looking forward to throwing myself a pity party and wallowing with my two best pals Ben & Jerry. As it turns out, the week was healing and proof that you really can go home.

Nothing can prepare you for the feel of the sea against your skin. When I'm away from the island I always try to remember what it feels like, but the instant the water touches you it's like heaven. The smooth sand under your feet soothing, the sun is against your face and the smell is of salt and sea and home...Ahhhh.......

I suppose what I took away from this week is that I'm missing the flavor of the day- it's smell, it's taste. While it can get lost in the everyday errands and duties that we all have to live with, it is still all around us. It is in the people we meet, our family, even the food that we prepare so hurriedly.

It was nice to experience and celebrate the good days when it seems like only bad days have been following me around for so long. I hope everyone one of you has a day like that today, and that something in your life touches and heals you and makes you happy.

Wednesday, May 10, 2006

Poetry Thursday: The Journey

I felt this poem deep, it made me want to be better, stronger, braver. I don't recognize myself as the person in it, but I'd like to. I hope the next time I read it to feel a thrill of acknowledgement and familiarity.

The Journey
by: Mary Oliver
One day you finally knew
what you had to do, and began,
though the voices around you
kept shouting
their bad advice-
though the whole house
began to tremble
and you felt the old tug
at your ankles.
"Mend my life!"
each voice cried.
But you didn't stop.
You knew what you had to do,
though the wind pried
with it's stiff fingers
at the very foundations,
though their melancholy
was terrible.
It was already late
enough, and a wild night,
and the road full of fallen
branches and stones.
But little by little,
as you left their voices behind,
the stars began to burn
through the sheets of clouds,
and there was a new voice
which you slowly
recognized as your own
that kept you company
as you strode deeper and deeper
into the world,
determined to do
the only thing you could do-
determined to save
the only life that you could save.

Sunday, May 07, 2006


Do you ever notice that wonderful things always happen in the summer? I can't think of one fun, exciting thing that's happened in the last few years that hasn't taken place between the months of May-September. Even as a child, I longed for the carefree, ridiculously humid days of summer, that precious time when school would be out, and there was no more phys-ed, no more math tests. I was just alone with my books and television and friends. What a marvelous time to be a kid.

Even the Florida downpours are wonderful. Like every Floridian, in the summer I set my watch by the cleansing, exciting summer storms. The lightning violently flashing across the sky and me watching from my porch with a cup of tea, happy for the rain to wash away the worries of the day. Then later in the day, the light seems to crowd out the darkness, and despite the stuffy air you can breathe again. Just thinking about it makes me think of long, leisurely days with naps and smiles and strawberry shortcake.

This summer I can't wait to:

go canoeing

get caught in the rain

start an herb garden

watch ridiculously mindless blockbuster movies

watch too many soap operas

spend too much money on nail polish



drink fruit smoothies

paint something

browse in a bookstore without worrying about time

What are you looking forward to this summer? Do you have any favorite summer moments?

For a quick summertime strawberry shortcake try:
Layering slices of pound cake in a dish and topping with a layer of fresh strawberries, moisten with about 1/4 cup of orange juice. Add another layer of the cake followed by some more strawberries. Top with whipped cream :)

Friday, May 05, 2006

The Wheel Of Fortune

My best friend got engaged two months ago on a spur of the moment trip to New York with her boyfriend. He took her for a carriage ride in Central Park and proposed as a gently falling snow enveloped them in a world of white.
An old acquaintance from high school has decided to come to my university to pursue a chemical engineering degree, after having gotten into law school. Seems she just had a "knack" for this "chemistry thing" She is now in her final semester with several offers from major chemical plants.
My neighbor is pregnant.
Hell, even the eccentric janitor in the building where I work just had a batch of new puppies (ok, HE didn't have them, but they might as well be his kids, with all the pictures of them he has in his wallet)

I don't mean to be bitter, I like these people. They're wonderful. They deserve all the best this weary world has to offer. The problem is that good things seem to happen ALL the time now. All of a sudden, birds are chirping, the sun is shining, bunnies are hopping. Everyone is getting promoted, or getting married, or getting pregnant...And I'm...Well, I'm just getting angry.

In college, I took a class on "geniuses of the renaissance" and found out that Machiavelli was really just a poor, misunderstood guy. Sure, his "may the end justify the means" schtick may seem callous, but maybe he wouldn't have to take things into his own hands if life had cut him some slack. He was an unlucky guy too. Maybe it was this lack of trust in the universe that helped him develop a concept called the "Wheel Of Fortune". He suggested that life was one big spinning wheel, that only worked by some divine cycle of luck. To eventually get to the top, you had to spend some time on the bottom. But slowly, eventually, the gates would open up, the walls would be broken down and you would reach the top. Nirvana! Bliss! The one thing he didn't specify though, was the length of time one would have to spend as a bottom dweller, a hopeless, helpless poor schlub at the bottom of the wheel.

Maybe things will get better, maybe in time, there will be better days. Maybe tomorrow the world will begin again, and there will be time in it for those that are having a hard time to flourish, to be. But I wouldn't count on it.

I am tired of keeping tally. Tired of people getting a check next to "married" or "happy" and then having my side blank. But how do you stop that surge of anger, that seemingly bottomless pit of pure jealousy when you see someone effortlessly claiming what is theirs? There's so much a discrepancy between who I am and who I want to be. And then I look at them, at their beaming faces and think that they couldn't ask for anything more. My heart races, my blood boils, it's a rush of self pity, self hate when I see someone doing everything I want to, being exactly what I can't be. At those times I hate them because they couldn't appreciate it as much as I could, couldn't treasure it the way I would.

Maybe it's some strange form of karma. You see, I always thought that I was unique. That something about me was important. That I was meant to see things, to know things. To roam, to feel everything, and never settle for just the everyday feeling of contentment. I wanted to feel incredible heights of euphoria, to feel heartbreak. Maybe this lull, this unbearable dead silence, this horrible lack of feeling, of success, is life's way of showing me that I am not destined to be anything special. I thought so much of myself that maybe it was time to teach me a lesson. Well, I think I get it.

At times, it almost felt like I was entitled to be happy. I was raised to think that I could have it all. And I was having some serious issues adjusting to the fact that I couldn't. At this point it feels like I can't have anything. It seems, that for the first time in my life, I've accepted the fact that I'm not anyone special. The realization has come slowly, numbly. But I get it. And I think just in these last few days, I've stopped listening to that restless calling that has always been a part of me. That resounding, exotic, hypnotic calling that pushes me to be better, to take chances, to want, to hope. That rhythm is getting fainter and fainter. And maybe that's ok. Maybe wanting nothing at all is better than wanting everything and giving your life to it, and getting nothing back.

Monday, May 01, 2006

Rendevouz with a Celica and an Old Friend

Have you ever been in contact with someone that changed your life, even though they were only a part of it for a short time? When I was a senior in high school, I met my older brother's finacee, Fiona, and I instantly liked her. She wasn't very much older than me, but she was a sophmore in college and she lived alone. In addition, she had a brand new, red, Toyota Celica. That car still haunts my dreams. It was beautiful. Coming back from dinner one night, we took the top down, put on some chick rock and cruised down the interstate.

She embodied everything I wanted to be at the time, she had it all- she was beautiful in that bohemian sort of way, and she had an aura about her that was magnetic. She took care of herself- she took time to reflect, she put herself before the pressures of the world, of college, of life. She taught me that it was okay to indulge in yourself, to better your way of life. To me, that had always seemed wasteful. Responsibility seemed like a way of life. Fiona introduced me to things that made me feel good- photography and comfort food, Origins beauty products, chick rock- The Sundays, The Cranberries, Tori Amos. She helped me through an awful senior year, and helped me transition into a college freshman, when my parents thought I was too young to live on my own, she helped me scout apartments anyway. Everything she did with me, I've never forgotten, because it was so refreshing to finally be relaxed with someone. She celebrated and respected flaws, and she was always sympathetic to herself, to others. With her, it was always okay to be upset, to be worried, to be tired.

After her and my brother split up, we lost contact. I thought of her often when I was being too harsh on myself- I remembered how she found peace by being a best friend to herself. I assumed that she moved out of the area. I saw her today. I was waiting in line at Panera Bread and she walked in, and took a seat. She didn't see me. And suddenly, I had an overwhelming urge to sit net to her, to cry and tell her how hard things had been lately, how I felt and looked like crap, to tell her that I was tired. But I didn't. I got my coffee to go, and went outside to my car. Her red Celica was parked next to it.

A Garden of Tomatoes- Hello :)

When I was an undergraduate, I was very close to my parents. I visited on most vacations, and used the time to recooperate from the weary world of engineering that has always been overwhelming to me. Those times I would sit in the grass and marvel at my parents' eternal foliage of tomato plants- that no matter the season, always seemed filled with the red fruit.

Everyday after their walk along the nearby beach, during which my dad would comb the shores for anything interesting that may have washed up, they always tended to their garden. I marvelled at their discipline, but also the pure, simple way they lived their life. Why hadn't I participated as a teenager? Why couldn't I have inhereited that tranquility, that quiet patience? Years later, I'm still trying to find it.