Sunday, November 24, 2013

The Loom


It is too pretty for plain prose. 
So sweet that smiles below my nose 
curve and spread like an awakened rose.  
Oh how my weak cheeks ache! 
My molecular cells move in the wake 
Of a storm-bound salty lake
pummeling the shores of my boots,
threatening to flood the dirt chutes
of our childhood of unripened fruit
where screamed songs from all of our might,
Whined gripes, slaps and silly fights
For baby doll rights   
Obstructed the room 
---with infantile gloom---
where love thread itself on an ancient loom. 

Now, my sister, our harlequin cloth, 

far thicker than any dirty brown moth,
warms me like spicy vegetable broth.
To look at you, a woman, more now than me
(as you cultivate a child in the bowl of your belly) 
warms this winter where I am far from you and lonely.  





Monday, November 18, 2013

Oh how I love this man.



The country isn't going anywhere, he reminds me. The trees are stuck to their roots. The river too vast to dry up. Your friends too busy living to be leaving. For now anyway. There is no real hurry besides the voice in your head screaming for you to escape the city. He's right. Besides, I don't completely hate it here. If I had more time I'd be beside the lake listening to the wind, but night falls so early now, interrupting afternoon, and the weekends have been so wet with rain. After work, I never want to leave the apartment, collapsing onto the couch, warming the coffee table with my dinner plate. There we talk and watch television and movies on our computer. So typical. So American. But that's who we are. After we eat, our lengthy legs twist into braids, my head on his chest, my lips puckering, pressing the prickly brown beard he's grown and groomed. That long face, those deep set eyes. Oh how I love this man. 

Saturday, November 16, 2013

Time's Precious Coliseum


I press the soles of my boots into my bicycle's black plastic pedals. Long legs churning, cheeks burning, I cycle through the city to the wide blue lake where the wind whips clouds into fast flight and grins from strangers greet my eyes for fleeting meetings. Above my willed wheels, my cotton grey skirt flutters with a false frantic jealousy for the wings of distant gulls. My denim jacket holds me tight with its locked brass buttons, while leggings preserve the integrity of my goose pimpled knees. Violet yarn--stitched and braided with buttons--cradles my cranium where a nest of wispy hair and pins surround a floppy bun ready to birth out of its elastic shell. 

Nine miles pass beneath me before I arrive at the Art Institute of Chicago where moss colored lions guard the magnificent Michigan Avenue entrance. I lock my bicycle beside a garden of trees where a woman takes pictures and, in the distance, a waterless fountain of bowls and ladies stands still in statue motion. I climb the cement steps. Down below, beside a streetlight on the sidewalk, a saxophone is blown by a bending body in a coat and cap.

"Is there a birthday discount?" I ask the young lady at the ticket counter. 
"Aw, no. I wish we did! This is a great way to spend your birthday."
I give her my paper money, saying something about how I don't mind paying and that I just thought I'd ask. I take my ticket and museum map and walk through the ropes. I press buds into my ears, layering the chatter of strangers with song. To celebrate my thirty years, I am giving my mind, eyes and heart a little color and culture. A little uninterrupted attention for the eyes that always open, the thoughts that never slow and the heart that tirelessly beats and swells.   
Eventually, after much strolling and staring, I find Monet, Cezanne and Renoir's pieces. Inside perfectly tarnished gold and rustic, wavy wooden frames, I find rich blots of crimson, lined swipes of royal blues and delicate olive vines. These impressionist paintings are like the ripe fruit often found within them: saturated with sweet vibrant life. They make me hunger for ripe plums, tomatoes and the humidity that sweats my clothes, pinks my skin and curls my hair. For fields of flowers and garden parties, lace collared dresses and a bare lake with the reflection of tall trees and sky. For haystacks and cornfields, rock rimmed mountains and curved rivers.  

I drift along the parquet floors for three and half hours, inhaling the ghost of time. In her precious coliseum, time keeps her souvenirs safe for spectators to see. Come one, come all. Witness the proof of my travels. She says. But don't stretch past the ropes, you must keep your distance, do not touch and please, no flash photography. 


"What is happening right now?"


Scott holds his bronze bicycle as he exits our building's back door to the sidewalk. Penny tries to get outside at the same time as him, but when he lowers his bicycle, the back tire bumps her on the head, frightening her to backpedal toward me where I stand on the last blue stair. In my left hand, I hold the stretched orange handle of a garbage bag, sunken with sodden food scraps. In my right hand, I hold the leash. Outside on the sidewalk, I almost comment on how warm it still is out when I notice strange activity happening where we are about to walk. A dark car has just pulled into our alley, engine running, doors opening. Two men get out. The driver draws something, a gun. No, not a gun. I'm just imagining that because I have the tendency to worry the worst. No, wait, it is a gun. It's a gun! A metal murdering machine is pointed at a person in our alley. The alley I walk past daily. "What is happening right now?" I ask Scott who is turning right and telling me to follow. "But I can't--I have the trash." As if whoever is in the alley will be offended if they see I am avoiding them. I look back as we walk. The man with the gun is now patting down the guy he stopped. They say something to him and let him walk away. "What is happening right now?" I ask again, my heart stretching from beneath my ribs like a caged bird in a factory farm, overgrown and crippled from fear. We pause at the end of our block. The man who was just stopped by the undercover police officers is now walking toward us. His headphones are back on his ears. I fear him, though I know that isn't fair. He must be more frightened than me. Penny is growling and trying to get at him. I fumble. The dog leash and trash bag in hands, pulling me down, tangling my legs. We are walking toward the alley now. The officers are gone. We walk to our dumpster. Penny is on the prowl, pulling me. We stand together in our neighborhood recently rendered rancid, smelly from the stench of our exhausted adrenal glands. 

Scott leaves on his bicycle once he sees I'm inside safe behind the bricks and door bolts of our building. 


Monday, October 28, 2013

My Paper Asylum


I am seduced by Tom Waits in a narrow storefront of dog-eared paperbacks, colored hardcovers and quiet strangers. I walk a carved path through tree-tall shelves of second hand knowledge. My emotions begin to ruffle amidst the clean clutter. I feel the woods. There are streaks and spilt glows of golden sunlight as if sent through treetops and music that engulfs me like headphones or a deep bath. I exhale and sink. It swallows me. The voice of Waits drapes the walls with cigarette-speckled tweed, his grand piano hanging from the rafters, his words, "I hope that I don't fall in love with you" reverberating through the bones of the books and the skin of my soul. This place feels like home, like a paper womb. There are plastic toys in staged poses and postcards and family photographs taped along the dark timber planks beneath stacks of philosophy anthologies by the door. Lamp-lit corners whisper a feeble, but capable luminescence. I walk to the old man where he stands beside his notebook of pencil markings from the day's sales. Softly I speak, afraid I might tear the ink-threaded air. I ask if he has the original children's book, The Boxcar Children. He lost a lot of this classic series to a small flood, but if he has any left they'd be here, he says to me pointing. I thought he might be a mean old man, but he's quite sweet with his sideways glance. I look for the book but don't find it. Instead I buy an old hardcover of Heidi and the picture book, Madeline. The total is $11. Do I have a $1 bill? He asks. No, I'm sorry. Just this $20. He takes out his floppy leather wallet and fingers through his green bills (soft, second-hand like the books they bought). He wants to hold onto his ones. He tells me. He'll charge me $10. Thank you. I say, kindly before saying something about the wonder of his place. Something about the magical maze of books.  Maybe he can't hear the awkwardness in my fidgeting. And how long have I lived just down the road without ever coming in? He asks, smiling. Not too long. I say. Just a year.      

On the sidewalk, I place the books and my purse in my bicycle basket. I take my small key and unlock my old blue bike from the tree where it leans. I sit on the seat and ride for home and as if my pockets are full of hummingbird feathers, I feel the warmth of my paper asylum fall from me to the wind. 



Sunday, October 27, 2013

Man Made



Scott scolds my criticisms of the modern man. A scoff that slits the skin of my confidence and exposes the pink inside my white exterior. I press the sides together and hope for it to hold, but when I let go, it opens again and my silence bleeds out like a cloud. He's right.  

I wrote of powdered corn syrup, tin cans of tomatoes, sea salt crystals and apple cider vinegar as if they were sucked from the soul of Satan, packaged and sold to the sick. Sure, these industrialized products may not be the best for our bodies, but they are not the addictive poison I have previously implied. Certainly, most grocers are not mass murders. There is some goodness in today's American pantry because there is some goodness in progress. I myself am indebted to progress. For without it there would no veganism, feminism or democracy. I wouldn't have hand soap, folk music, movie theaters, paper, pencils and public libraries. 

I buy man-made materials so that I don't need to kill squirrels, sew their carcasses together and wear their fur in winter for warmth. I live in man-made buildings so that I don't need to concoct shelter from sticks, manure and mud. I buy cheap man-made shampoo and conditioner that come in big plastic bottles with pumps for my convenience. I keep them on the windowsill beside
 our porcelain bath sculpture, which has a spout that rains clean hot water onto my naked body every morning. I drive a car to work on cold and rainy days and listen to NPR and put on the seat heater and flip on the windshield wipers to get the bird poop off. I cross steal bridges and cement highways. I strap seat belts around my belly in the back of airplanes and stand like a skateboarder in the aisles of crowded metropolitan busses. I ride a bicycle with rubber brakes, metal spoked wheels and a cushy nylon seat. I wear boots with laces and zippers. I sit on toilets that magically flush my pee away. I sit at my computer beside a screaming, steaming radiator. I sit on our couch watching episodes of television shows, documentaries and films. I call my parents on the telephone and write letters that travel from me to Massachusetts. I wear polyester and plastic buttons and blue denim and wool gloves and soft, stretchy socks. I light scented candles and listen to music and dance and drink from cardboard cartons of organic orange juice. Man made me these conveniences. And I am grateful. I want to recede from my verbal assault on man. A moment of silence to listen and realize that it's gotten much better. Human life that is. And perhaps a big part of that is because of canned peaches, bakery baked bread and jars of jam. 

Besides, I don't want to feel like a hypocrite whenever I make myself a cup of herbal tea, steam a bag of frozen broccoli, dress my salad with salty tomato salsa, eat my mother's vegetable chili or take seconds of my mother-in-law's baked plantains. 

Sunday, October 13, 2013

More



There was a joke on the radio about American literature being all junk, unworthy of the Nobel Prize. Memoir is all we have now, the joker told me. Autobiographies of the dissatisfied, spoiled Americans, miserable in their self-involved shiny lives. I don't want to be an American writer anymore. Sometimes I'd rather be an alien from the great blue space. So ashamed of the hypocritical bully we can be. Afraid the others will find our weapons and kill us dead, we are. We make fear in factories, mass produce it with our armies and news stations. I wonder when we'll blow ourselves up. When the history books will burn and God will decide to take a break for a long while before conjuring up a different kind of cell. A microscopic organism who will not turn on love, but will always turn to it. I will be more than a girl writing stories about being lonesome for home and upset over pimples, a broken bicycle and rent. I will be more.  

Here is now. Now is here.

Sometimes we must live far from home. 

In a place of cement and strangers, we walk our anxious dog in circles, picking up her poop with little plastic bags and feeding her treats to keep her from barking at small children who want to pet her, old crooked women who spook her and friendly folks who reach to touch her. Sometimes we must live far from home in a city of bricks and plaster, of stacked apartments, corner bodegas and carts of homemade Mexican food, of liquor stores and pharmacies. Sometimes we must live far from home because wanting to leave just isn't a good enough reason. Because we're adults now. And adults have to work. And when an opportunity arrises, sometimes we must stay simply for a line on a resume. 

I will start saving my change for a farm house. I will collect pictures I find of trees, farms, and wide planked kitchen floors. I may be a very old woman before I can lay in bed and listen to the sound of crying coyotes.       

Sunday, September 15, 2013

marriage.


Scott puts up his hand for a high-five, his feather tattoo showing. I align my hand with his and slide my fingers between his long skinny bones. 

"You're a fuckin' weirdo... but I dig you." He says. 

"I am a weirdo." I say, implying the vast difference between our levels of normalcy. 
"Aaaaaand I am playing Pokemon. So...there's that." 

Beside him, the old Gameboy graphics blink blurrily on the screen of our flat screen desktop computer. Big block letters await his direction. He has muted the music. He isn't working in the morning and this is how he relaxes. I try not to judge his refusal to spend free time reading books about global warming, fruit or water depletion. If there aren't dragons, swordplay, magic or journeys on horseback, he isn't interested. Currently, he's waiting for the Star Wars book he ordered to arrive at our local libray. Until then, it's child's play. 


"When are we going to get our next tattoo?" I ask.

"I don't know. When we reach the next phase of our marriage. I think we're still in the feather phase."  He says. 
"So when the feather settles." 

Eden



I started eating a diet of raw fruit and vegetables last month and it makes me quite happy. It isn't just because I'm eating the food I crave and enjoy the most, but that I am physically happier. It must be some kind of sugar satiation of something--eating the food my body is biologically meant to consume---I don't know! But I'm happy every day. Scott has noticed. Strangers too. They talk to me all the time as if they can sense the smile I have suspended between my skull and skin. 

"Thatta wolf?" I hear. 

Three middle-aged men sit on the back steps of the Baptist church on Wilson Avenue where "JESUS DIED FOR OUR SINS" stands straight and stiff above them on the spire of the church. Below the cement steps they sit on, the door to the basement is propped open. There an older gentleman toils with a large standing fan. Upstairs, the 10 o'clock choir sings. These gentlemen are dawdling for donuts and coffee, I suspect.   

"No, she's a dog." I say, looking back. 
"How you doin' young lady?" One says. 
"Good, thank you." 

I now look at the world and how I live in it, differently. No longer do I allow the logical, plotted reasoning of my head to dominate and suffocate my heart. I look at everyone I pass now, no longer fearing they will ask me for money or directions or help. I think we human creatures have become so conquered by our creations that we often forget parts of us we were born with like instinctual compassion. For before we built cities, before printed paychecks, before there were mortgages and banks and governments and car accidents, before police officers and dictators, gas chambers and air conditioners, before there were beds and lawyers and Wall Street and nightly news stations and zoos and nursing homes, before all that, there were people who lived primarily on their instincts. Before we mixed cement and built skyscrapers, we came together and lived, traveled and survived together. Before we wrote the word, "love", we loved. Before there were pornographic magazines, online dating sites and pub crawls, we discovered pleasure through procreation, through love and food. We picked and we provided. But now we compassionate creatures are stuck in the steel and concrete world rich men calculated into budgets of labor costs, real estate mogul fees and state tax percentages. Now we must work something called jobs or we go hungry because food is no longer free. We have left the jungle behind, returning only to cut it down for wood, fuel and cattle grazing. Cowardly, we hide from our destruction and pollution within sealed glass windows, painted plaster and bricks,---breathing our filtered air, drinking our filtered water and eating our pre-packaged filtered food. We are like astronauts. We are like pampered babies with perpetual colic, lying upon our perfectly stuffed cow skin couches as we complain about tummy aches, indigestion and constipation. The news anchors tell us what to do and who to trust. Trust no one. Humans are terrible creatures, they say. We should hide in our locked homes and never emerge. The president is out of control. The illegal immigrants are stealing our jobs. There are countless countries pointing nuclear weapons at defenseless civilians somewhere. We are curious creatures indeed and in need of intellectual stimulation, but the tricks of the media have possessed the masses. We have forgotten the sun and the trees. We have forgotten the ocean water. Instead we sit at desks and order our smoked salmon sandwiches with chips and chocolate cake and discuss how else we can control the environment for our financial gain. As I walk in a summer storm, wind bursting through branches above, I can't help but laugh as Mother Nature proves her power to those below running from her rain. 

A man sits sweating on the sidewalk in front of McDonald's. He says hello and asks for change. I tell him I don't have any. In my fanny pack all I have is brass keys, a sandy tennis ball, plastic poop bags, a broken watch and a couple handfuls of kibble. 

"What kinda dog is that?" He asks. 
"She's a Shepard Keeshond mix, we think." I say. 
"And a poodle!" He says. 
"A poodle?" I ask. "You think?"
He nods his head and I chuckle because I'm not sure if he's making a joke or not. 
"Have a nice weekend." He says as I walk away. 
"You too. Try to stay cool." 

Today, I sit on my mattress eating half a watermelon. My sheet and quilt hang in the bathroom drying, while underwear, towels and handkerchiefs tumble in the rumbling dryer in the basement below. Sticking my silver spoon into the pink, it crunches like snow. I twist and lift up hunks of juicy fruit, chewing briefly before it coasts down my throat to fill my belly like a swollen water balloon pressed to a garden hose. With both hands, I lift the green and yellow patterned bowl and drink the rosy rainwater. 

What if the bible is right? What if the Garden of Eden, when humanity lived in the jungle, was truly a time before sin. A time when people had all they needed and wanted. A time when all desires were met. A time of peace. World peace. Imagine that, John Lennon. Imagine living in a society free of jealousy, spite, vengeance and greed. A society without violence. Without murder and wars. A time before armies and kings and palaces and slaves. A time before weapons. Is it true we left the place where we were meant to be? I wonder, for look what we have become. We praise the progress of technology, medicine, and of corporations, but still so many are dying. Dictators conduct mass murders cowardly behind chemical warfare. Gang initiations lead to random drive-bys in cities all over the world. School shootings shock, sadden and frighten us all. Drug-addicted bank robbers kill witnesses so that they can continue to pollute the body they take for granted, the life they've failed to fix. Drunk-driving vehicular homicides. Arson. Bombs. Factories falling down. An obesity epidemic. So many unsatisfied people in this world looking for relief through acts or lifestyles which only perpetuate their in-satiation and perplexed inner-turmoil. People justify, reason, even preach from dinner table pulpits why they believe what they believe. But maybe heart disease and heart attacks are a sign. PAY ATTENTION TO ME! The heart cries through chest pains and left arm tinglings. But we don't always listen. Instead we tell ourselves to leave it to the brain. The doctors will cure me. The surgeons will mend me. The occupational therapists will teach me to walk again. Scientific studies in the news warn us what to do with ourselves. As if we aren't all experts! We all should know how to make ourselves happy and healthy, but we doubt all we know instinctually because "they" know better. If they say red wine, whiskey and chicken are ok, then it must be! Hooray! But we are animals. We are. Animals meant to find our food, animals meant to procreate, shit and run. Animals meant to laugh, hide, carry heavy things and swim. We are animals, perfect animals in fact when we live the way we are meant to live. When I listen to my body and give it what it needs, I believe in God. I believe in Science too. This is not a contradiction. To me, God was the first Scientist. 

I want to take a voyage to the jungle. I couldn't move there. My heart wouldn't allow it. I have a life here in modern society and would not abandon it for any other--no matter how sweet. But to know where I come from helps me understand where I want to be. And this piece of history--this ancient human piece--- may never be repeated again. But perhaps after the end arrives, we will be given another chance to try existence over all again. I think my soul might be quite old. For I think it knows, deep down in the DNA of my spirit, that everything is a circle: a perpetual pattern of fresh beginnings and bitter ends. 


Saturday, August 24, 2013

Quiet


Scott's bicycle was stolen last month. He had it locked to a street sign outside. His parents mailed him an early birthday present though: money for a new used bicycle. 

One Tuesday night, we walk to the storefront on Broadway where his name and telephone number are written on masking tape and stuck to the duck beak-shaped seat of a tall Raleigh bicycle with handlebars like antelope horns and a golden mustard frame. He test rides it in a park, but messes with the gears somehow and must walk it back to be fixed. I lay on the patchy grass of a little league outfield, watching the clouds fly in clusters across the sky. I hold Penny's leash. She sporadically sprints toward squirrels and pigeons, making me feel like a fallen maypole. Scott pedals back through the park moments later, churning the greased chain, and wobbling slightly. A little later, my sweet skinny husband buys the bicycle. Later we walk side-by-side along the narrow sidewalk of Irving Park Avenue——he with his spokes spinning, me with our pup's claws clicking. Soon Chicago's warm summer streets will feel the treads of our black rubber tires together again. 
My bike is in the kitchen leaning against the wall. 

I like our little apartment. It is plain, white and small by American standards. Never to grace the recycled paper pages of any hip urban magazine or appear in the filtered digital photographs of any chic design blog, but that doesn't matter to me. A cozy, cluttered little cupboard——a cotton-curtained nook——it is our hiding place. Our home. 

This was Scott's third bicycle to be stolen. Two in Boston. One in Chicago. There is something overpowering about cities, isn't there?  Almost like a cancerous mole, spreading in the sun. Every person multiplying, moving and making noise. So many people in one place, a chaos controlled by faltering morality and written laws. 

There are experiences and people here in the city we do not have in the country. And for these opportunities, we are grateful. They busy us. Proof is on the pages of the notebook beside where we lay our keys at night. Scribbled notes of our schedules, along with capital letter proclamations of love. When we feel most confined and confused within our narrow existences of work and sleep, we allow our cravings of quiet to silently torment us. After making plans and verbal pacts, we put it in a pot and place it on the back burner where the tea pot once sat. Set to simmer, we occasionally lift the lid to let some of the steam out. We are waiting for our spoonful in September and our supper one year from now.   

Traipsing away now from the crowded, crooked, potholed path of the unaccomplished artist, I feel happy relief. I've found an occupation that I feel inspired and passionate about pursuing. This is why I cannot yet fill a moving truck and race it to Massachusetts.  I've been accepted to a year-long training program to become a Montessori teacher. Classes started in June seven miles north in Evanston, Illinois. 

A few months ago, while at the intersection where the expressway meets Montrose Avenue, I stand waiting for the walk signal when the idea, "I think I'd like to be an elementary school teacher" wafts into my mind with the wind off the lake. This thought is followed immediately by, "maybe Montessori." I must say that at this point, I know nearly nothing of Montessori, and yet this moment of stillness on the sidewalk feels divine. I walk home, plunk down on the couch and begin researching. 

A grainy black and white photograph of Maria Montessori appears to the right of the screen. An old woman in a dark patterned hat and long fur coat. She looks like my Nana's mother. A soft jaw line, white hair, dark eyes and a gentle smile. Maria, I learn, was the first female doctor to graduate from the University of Rome and as valedictorian of her class nonetheless. Later, through years of research, she began developing schools. Schools for young children, who were taught in an environment made specifically for their curious minds and ever-developing bodies. A place where they learned how to live. How to wash their hands, tie their shoes, read, write, water the garden, draw pictures, do math equations, care for animals and wash dishes. Where they were supervised and taught, but left to explore, experiment and make errors. Where they were not applauded with stickers and presents, nor spanked, given time outs or humiliated with dunce caps and ruler whippings, but taught peace and independence. Maria Montessori developed schools where children learned how to be good people.   

I've been a nanny for the last few years. And I can say now that I was perplexed much of the time. I remember telling my mother that it felt like all I did was tell the children not to do things: Don't touch that! Don't climb on that. You can't play with that! Stop screaming! Stop whining. But children don't know. As I wrote in my application essay, I had to constantly remind myself that these children I was caring for were brand new humans. Knowing this was wise——for I think many people forget that children are brand new to the world——however I didn't fully understand what being new truly meant. I didn't realize that little ones want to touch and handle everything around them so that they can more fully understand their environment. That of course their instinct is curiosity! Who wouldn't want to explore a foreign place? They want to know the weight of things, the feel and smell and touch of the materials around them. They are new to language, new to emotion, new to their little bodies. New! This means that it's up to us adults to guide them. What a responsibility! One I want to learn how to do well because I tried with my uneducated instincts and didn't always get the best results. 

My future has evolved into a vision of a little schoolhouse where I can find the obscurity I shunned for so long. I was so naive. I believed everything my generation told me. Anyone can be an actor and fame is all that matters. Fame is money, confidence and popularity——therefore, fame is happiness. But happiness is not a one-size fits all state of being.   

I wasn't living out my own ideas. I couldn't. I couldn't hear them. For they had become an unintelligible murmur smothered by the bombastic cacophony of doing what I thought others would recommend I do——rather than what I actually wanted to do. I am a good actor, I told myself, so I should pursue a career as an actor. But nowhere along the way did I fully acknowledge the logic of statistics and the fact that I would hate the life of an actor. I do love to act, yes, but much more than that, I want to settle in the country and make babies, grow vegetables, hike and write. I want quiet, which is a desire I've always felt, but whenever I was close to it, I'd soon pack up and move to some new clamorous city, suppressing again the life I feared was too boring. Not boring for me, but boring when broken down into the descriptive words of my life (boring for party talk and social media posts). I admit it! I wanted impressive things to report to all my online friends. I wanted to compete in the game of life. Look at me! I'm a success! I wanted to boast through posts and photographs. Then one day I decided to stop——truly stop——caring what others thought I should do. I withdrew from the screen of my cell phone and quit facebook. And when I did this, I honestly started to make a lot of interesting decisions and self-realizations. 

Before, I had secretly convinced myself that a housewife was all I wanted to be. This was fear and self-doubt, I know now. Fear of a future career I didn't think would ever happen and severe doubt that I was smart enough to do anything but ring groceries, waitress and babysit. So I imagined playing house——with a baby on my hip, wooden spoon in my hand and full baskets of warm laundry at my feet. The problem was, my fear manifested into judgement toward women who worked and sent their kids to daycare or left them with nannies. I will never do that! I said to myself. But this was because I personally didn't want to be working. I wanted instead to hide in a house. The passive introvert side of me, the part afraid of strangers and responsibilities, started to creep in and take control. Hiding at home for years sounded like a retreat, easy and safe. I'd be in the garden picking dinner when my husband came home from his 9-5 career, his top button open, tie crooked and loose. But now I see, really see, that every person needs a purpose. We all need work of some kind, preferably meaningful work where we help others. And part of that can be parenting, but I see now that it must be more than that. 

As I've grown, my future became heavy with maybes. Maybe I could run a little Bed and Breakfast. Maybe I could write a book...or a screenplay! Maybe I could suddenly be discovered doing something, make a bunch of money and then buy a house and hide out playing with my children. But I am smart and I have a lot of love. Love I want to share. And I want to not be afraid anymore, because I'm fine once I get out there. Once I'm with other people, sharing my ideas, building something. I am worthy of work. Real work. Work that requires education, intellect, heart and will. Yes I am a woman. Maybe becoming a Montessori teacher sounds like a "girl job" or a job where I will play with little children all day, but I know that isn't true. I want to teach because society requires teachers, for without strong well-rounded education, our society will never progress at the rate our world needs. 

I just had a much needed talk with my good friend, Amy. She's in Canada working toward a doctorate in biology with a specialty in salmon. It's hard for me still that she's there and will be there for some time. But she's really happy and talking to her today made me feel so exhilarated. She's found what she wants to do and she's doing it and she hasn't let the fact that she's a woman scare her away. She's very intelligent, confident and has more guts than the fish she studies. She's an inspiration because she's not just waiting for her life to take care of her, instead she's making sure to take care of her life. I understand now. We're both learning how to make our own decisions. Do what we want to do and not what we think others would expect of us or hope for us. As we age, people tend to apply labels to our skin (as we do to them), like push pinned sticky notes. Over time it hard to see ourselves from beneath the potpourri of paper. We encourage our children to be unique and to think for themselves. But if they do these things, we criticize them for going against the norm. We tease their choices and even guilt them into doing what everyone else is doing because they're asking too many questions——which causes us to ask too many questions and we don't want any questions! WE DON'T WANT TO HAVE TO CHANGE. Or worse, we don't want to feel guilty or negligent when we outright REFUSE to change. Don't make me question authority, we plead through poking fun. PLEASE! Don't make me question my entire life. That's too hard. I have too many other things to juggle: work, cars, kids, pets, possessions. The lawn mower is broken again. The snow blower needs gas. The vacuum isn't sucking and the dishwasher has a leak. The cars need oil changes, brake pads and blinker bulbs. And I really want to buy a seventh pair of sneakers. We juggle too much. Too many scheduled activities and appointments. So busy multitasking (an overused word and endeavor), we do not have the time nor the energy to face the most basic matters with the attention they deserve. It's just easier to do it ourselves, we say, tying the shoes on our seven-year-old's feet and carrying our diaper-wearing four-year-old. We don't have the time right now! There is never enough time. Food comes from some other place, some factory where a stranger chops the meat and vegetables into microwave-safe containers. And instead of facing the real reasons we are depressed or lonely, we "treat" ourselves with gluttony, new clothes, espressos, and liquor. Then when we don't fit into our pants, we fill the pantry with "diet food" that's been chemically manufactured by scientists——not farmers, not even cooks——but scientists with beakers of bubbling preservatives, sweeteners and artificial flavors. We want our food fast, preferably pre-cooked with instructions and dried sacs of seasoning. Then we tell the doctor we don't feel well and they send us to the pharmacy where white coats behind walls of condoms and cough drops fill bottles of more chemicals. We are walking chemistry experiments. What combination of chemicals will keep our bowels regular, our moods moderate, our eyes open and our weight down? I hate chemistry. I never liked it in high school. My experiments never turned out the way they were supposed to.

I've recently lost weight, close to twenty pounds. My skin is clearing up and all the other little things wrong with me are beginning to finally mend. Candida is what I've had for the past few years. When I quit the clutter of useless information a few months ago, I had the focus to figure it out. It seems I got it from being on the pill and/or antibiotics. Chemicals. Now, with raw fruit and vegetables, I am working to undo the damage the doctors long ago prescribed me. 

These last few months I've been so angry whenever I let my thoughts loose onto the computer keys. Angry that the world won't change with me. Even now, above, I've ranted about the way others live. My words cannot reverse our society's obsessions, addictions, or general way of life. I am the one who needs to accept that this is the time in which I live. And I can stand alone on the wall and fill notebooks of scribbled grievances or I can walk to the center of the floor and dance. Isn't individualism fantastic? I don't have to be like everyone else nor do they have to be like me. Therefore, I should put my pointer fingers in my pockets or better yet, I should thrust them into the air, poking imaginary bubbles to the beat of not the pop music most everyone else is bouncing to, but to the original song I myself am belting.

Last Wednesday, I drive my dog and I 17 hours to my parents' house. There my father and I paint outside while listening to an oldies Cape Cod radio station. My mother and I walk our dogs the 5-mile "loop." On the television, the Red Sox play and Everybody Loves Raymond makes us chuckle. Long talks, family party preparations and shopping for "teacher clothes." I stay a week and weep like a baby when my father and I say goodbye. He's going to drive to Sears to get a new car battery and so he follows me on the highway. I sob, checking my rear view mirror as much as it's safe to. Before his exit, he pulls up beside me and blows me a big kiss. My bloodshot eyes run behind my $5 sunglasses. I hate living so far from them. While home, I realized how similar I am to my father. I had always credited my passionate manner to my Scorpio birthday, but this past week I understood for the first time that it isn't the sway of the stars, but my father who I take after. We both become somewhat fanatical from the books we read and the documentaries and news sources we watch or listen to. And everyone who doesn't agree or understand us is ignorant to the real truth, we believe. My father is this way with conservative politics and The Civil War. I am this way with food. My mother said to me that my father's fervent ideals can make her feel isolated. That was it for me. I realized then that I must not subject myself to such submersion anymore. I can have my beliefs and read my biased books, but I need to be careful not to fall into the deep end of extremes, obsessively googling videos, buying vegan magazine subscriptions and ordering anti-meat tee-shirts. I've already come close to drowning. Maybe I've even hypothetically died. How unbearable it is to not have those close to me as passionate about the environment and animal rights as me, I'd silently scowl to myself. But what about their suffering? What I've missed entirely is how incredibly unbearable it must have been to have a loved one who tries to convert you to their cause every day. Well, I don't want to isolate anyone I love anymore. And I don't think I will. For as long as I continue to eat this way and feel as happy and energized as I feel, I won't be urged to carry my soapbox to every family event or dinner table. I stopped feeling so defensive about veganism. I think that is because I truly believe for the first time that this way of living and eating really does work...for me. I've been on a long exploration to find the food that makes me feel physically and emotionally well. I can't, nor do I want, to force anyone else to believe what I believe. Only when one is interested will I tell them the story of my wayward path and present euphoria. For now, I will happily sip my banana smoothie, while savoring mango season and planning for apple picking.        

When we moved to New York City after graduating college, my brother made me a mix CD called, Home for Now. Years later, we have had many homes for now. Currently, Chicago is our home for now. Here the trees on either side of our apartment hold green umbrellas like a distant St. Patrick's Day parade in the rain. Here the buildings are close, but they could be closer. There is some space. Enough, anyhow, for the breeze to squeeze in and sift through the window screens like a long cool exhale, shaking the green papers I have potted in plastic pots and organic soil on the sills. One day we will have a home for now and later, today and tomorrow, next year and even several years after that. It will have a compost pile, clean air, and in the summer, rows of ripening tomatoes and crisp romaine lettuce. A structure of little painted bedrooms, bookshelves and second hand furniture, it will stand near an apple orchard, a berry farm and a mountain range. One day, we will live in this home and we will allow ourselves to be boring--oh so blissfully boring! 




Tuesday, May 28, 2013

There's going to be a Revolution.






I'm going to take my leather boots to the consignment shop, trade them in with my old olive green purse and leather heals for cotton summer dresses. I've already replaced my old black belt for a canvas gray one. And I cleaned out my closet, made a pile of old t-shirts and cut them into handkerchiefs. I'm trying to be in the now and in the now, everything matters: everything I buy matters, everything I throw away matters, everything I eat matters. 

I've been watching a lot of documentaries lately, as well as visiting vegan websites like PETA.org (People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals) and buying pro-vegan t-shirts and signing up for email updates.

"I think I'm looking for a community. Others who believe what I believe." I wonder aloud to Scott while we're on a walk with our dog.  

"That makes sense." He tells me. 

I believe there will be a revolution: Vegans vs. the Corporations for Animal Cruelty. It won't be pretty. At the front line, we, the Vegans will be armed with posters, pictures, protest songs, pledges, shocking video footage of abuse and recording cameras. Corporations for Animal Cruelty will, however, bear stunner bolt guns, electric prods, bullhooks, crates of electrified water, small cages, knives for skinning, dehorning pliers, debeaking blades, lawsuits, bottom trawling nets, political power and all the money they've made selling their souls to the Beelzebub Bank of capitalist greed.     

It's only a matter of time, this clash.  

We of the 1st-World-Countries simply do not need to trap, hurt and kill animals for food, clothing and entertainment, therefore why cause such suffering? Dairy cows are kept continuously pregnant (from the artificial insemination of a farmer's gloved hand) so that they will produce milk constantly. When they give birth, their baby girls are dragged off to become the next generation of dairy cows, while the sons are stolen away, shoved into tiny crates and soon after, murdered to make what we call "veal", or the boys are sold to grow big, be strung up by the hind legs, have their throats slit, their blood drained and their bodies dismembered into bits called "beef".  And what happens to these imprisoned mother cows when they are too old to be pregnant and producing milk? Do they retire to luscious green fields with big warm barns like they show us in those insulting dairy commercials where talking cows lavish on golden hay and chat together about their happiness? Nope. They're shoved into a truck and sent off to the slaughter house. 

PETA once sent a letter to Ben and Jerry's asking that they use human breast milk for their ice cream. I don't know if this was anything but a ploy to bring attention to the fact that people should not be eating the milk of another species. That a human drinking cow milk is even more absurd than a grown man asking his mother to use a breast pump so that he may have a snack. Look around! You can recognize those following the "Western--dairy drinking/dead animal eating--Diet". Many of them resemble clothed baby cows. The good news is that we don't have to look and live this way! Fuck traditions. Most of them have just evolved into gluttonous feasts of fat and flesh anyway. 


THANK YOU AMERICA FOR LETTING ME LIVE HERE AND DESTROY YOU AND THE REST OF THE WORLD! THANK YOU FOR HIDING THE TRUTH FROM ME SO THAT I MAY LIVE IN OBLIVIOUS OBESITY. THANK YOU CHRISTOPHER COLUMBUS FOR STARTING US OFF RIGHT BY TAKING WHAT YOU WANTED AND KILLING WHAT YOU DIDN'T! HAPPY THANKSGIVING EVERYONE! 

Fuck "the way humans have always eaten" BULLshit. Humans have never eaten this much meat and dairy. Do you honestly tell yourself that cavemen ate four-egg omelets with fennel sausage, feta crumbles and fresh basil every morning? That they had roast turkey b.l.t.'s for lunch and lamb chops with mint jelly for dinner? Really? Was this while they sat around their newly discovered fire, sharpening sticks with rocks? Go eat a fucking carrot and quit buying animals, their periods (eggs), their milk and the fattening fillets of fish from the sea. Soon there won't be any fresh water to drink and air left to breathe. Don't you fear a world that is treeless with empty oceans and the complete loss of animal and plant life diversity? Yes it's this serious. This pressing. We need to change. Now.  

There's going to be a Revolution. Or, maybe, a second Civil War.     

Can you imagine being pregnant your entire adult life, but never from intercourse with a partner, always——like an experiment by a mad scientist——by the insemination of a gloved hand? Can you imagine birthing baby after baby, but baby after baby is immediately torn from your side and sight, dragged away, and your milk, the milk intended for your little one, is then sucked and drained out of you by some machine clenched to your tender nipples? It sounds insane to me! Like some sci-fi television thriller with aliens. Can you imagine standing barefoot on metal grates your entire life while surrounded by bars that prevent you from standing up straight or turning around? How about after all your finger and toenails have been pulled out by pliers so that you can't hurt yourself or the people in the cages beside and above you? Can you imagine being captured by someone who speaks a different language than you and beats you into performing tricks? Can you imagine then doing these tricks in a cacophonous arena of bright lights, loud music and crowds of cruel clapping idiots? Can you imagine living in a dark foul pen where you shit and piss and eat with hundreds of others? Can you imagine being kicked and beaten down a narrow cement hallway toward the frightful screams of your own kind? 

We convince ourselves that animals are killed quickly, almost painlessly. That they don't really feel pain, depression, anxiety, fear, or loneliness. We brush away thoughts of guilt with statements like, "Oh I could never give up meat!", saying outright, even proudly, that animals just don't matter as much as my meals. But I say, along with many other intelligent folks, that these animals and fish are just as innocent as the Jews in the concentration camps. That this is SLAVERY. We raise them by force. We exploit their bodies for more slaves, more eggs, more milk, more meat. Then we sell them dead, cash our checks and go out to the fanciest restaurant in town for fillet mignons, veal steaks and salmon caesar salads.  

I hope for more documentaries that expose the rampant genocide of our animals, fish, fresh water and rainforests. And I hope the message eventually reaches the ranchers, the factory farmers, the fisheries and fishermen, the small family livestock and dairy farms, the fur and leather tanners and designers, the butchers, the circus trainers, and the grocery store CEOs. This is unlikely. Too drastic, I know because they aren't going to change unless they have to, unless we make them. How do we make them? By refusing to eat, wear and watch (performing) animals. It isn't hard to do. And while my tone may seem desperate or angry, I am at peace. I am at peace with myself, because I am at peace with my plate and with everything now that I purchase. 

Did you know that pigs are often considered smarter than dogs? What if we ate dogs and had pigs as pets? Can you imagine frying up strips of black lab for breakfast? How about a tabby cat scramble with a side of hash browns and grilled gerbil? It's different! You say. Dogs and cats are different! Well, I ask you, how do you know? Most of your contact with livestock and fish comes dead in paper or plastic wrap. You don't walk out of the market with the animal on a leash or in a tank so that you can slaughter your supper at home. You don't see the animal's eyes, hear his cries, watch him breathe, grunt, run, or swim.  

There's going to be a revolution and mark my words, the animal kingdom——what's left of it——will be on the side of the Vegans.  

Monday, May 6, 2013

Let Her Live


I coil my ribs and heart in the ropes of my arms. I find pockets for my hands to slink inside; I feel safer with them there. Our arms are this long, I was told yesterday, to cover and protect our genitals. Scott once mentioned to me how unfair it is that lady parts are inside the body, while men have their's on the outside. I wonder if this is God's way of forcing vulnerability in every man. (Sure titty twisters can cause blisters, but they do not induce vomiting, knock the wind out of her, nor surge estrogen through her blood and cause emotional breakdowns. At least, I don't think so.) Vulnerability never really became a flaw of the female as it has for men. Maybe God predicted that. However, regardless of whether our privates hang or hide, we are all shaped to cover our crotches with our hands. And though our baby toes are disappearing, instinctual reactions to fear——flight or fight——have remained by evolving into new defenses. Now no longer running from saber tooth tigers, most of our greatest fears fester in the realm of social interactions. Flight has become fidgeting shrugs; hiding hands in pockets and armpits and boisterous bouts of self-mockery.   

I'm ready for my shrugs, which minimize my point of view by apologizing for myself and my ideas to settle into stillness. I want conviction. I want to straighten my spine. I want my eyes to stop swinging like search lights. I want my words to ride out of me like a prized show pony: poised and proud. 

I am a vegan. One reason why I am a vegan is because I want to live a life of proactive environmental peace. I hate this commercial culture of corruption and cover ups. The meat, fish and dairy corporations of the world are leading two genocides: one; the torturing, slaughtering and selling of billions of defenseless animals and two; the massacre of our natural resources. Our oceans are nearly naked now of fish and coral. Our rainforests are being axed down for cattle grazing, causing extinctions of animals, birds, plants and therefore oxygen. I read all about this in the book, Comfortably Unaware. Our fresh water supply is not unlimited or "sustainable" as many Americans would like to believe. Just as the trees we cut to graze livestock would take hundreds of years to grow back, if we ever let them. We are killing our planet. Did you know that? I think if you knew that, you wouldn't purchase and eat the food that is causing global warming and——as Dr. Richard A. Oppenlander describes in his book——global depletion. 

"Approximately 40 percent of all methane produced by human activities is from livestock and their flatulence and manure, to the point where atmospheric concentrations have risen 145 percent in just the last fifteen years. Nitrous oxide is 310 times more powerful as a greenhouse gas than carbon dioxide. Our livestock industry generates 65 percent of all human-related nitrous oxide." 

Nitrous oxide which soon will not be digested by our trees when the trees have been plowed for more cattle grazing. 

"Over 70 percent of the Amazon rainforest has been destroyed——lost forever——due to cattle ranching. The United States is the single largest consumer of Central and South American beef. A startling 95 percent of Brazil's Atlantic coast rainforest has been slashed and burned, the vast majority of it to raise cattle. Although it is not commonly known, approximately 34 million acres of rainforest on earth are lost each year." 

We don't want to know that. We don't want to know where our food comes from. We have other things to worry about. But what is more important than food and our planet? We are living organisms. We need food to live. We die without food. Therefore, shouldn't we care, shouldn't food be our primary concern? It used to be more important (still is to many people in this country and certainly throughout the world where poverty, malnutrition and lack of fresh water are daily struggles). Yet we stuffy Americans don't want to worry about it. We have more "important" things to worry about like money, promotions, retirement, holiday parties, social media posts, whitening our teeth, shoe shopping and enthusiastically tending to our addictions of caffeine, prescription drugs and alcohol. But even above food, we living organisms need air, water and an earth to stand on. We are such selfish inhabitants. We take and take and take. We of the 1st-World countries are together an obese child. We scream for fat, salt, soda and candy, while our dehydrated baby sister thirsts for cool clean water and our Mother Earth lays on a metal table in the meat department. She gave us beauty, our Mother. She gave us dirt, vegetation, water, sunshine and rain. By giving us trees, she gave us air to breathe. She taught us by showing and giving. And what have we done? We've held a semi-automatic to her head, stripped her naked, raped her, whipped her with a chain saw belt, and then took a knife to the stomach where we once grew and made an incision up to her throat. We reached in with our dirty fat fingers, ripped out her small intestines and sold it for $3.95/pound. Her liver was plucked, stuffed and later passed as hors d'oeuvres for some stuffy business party where everyone is red-faced, pudgy and on several prescription drugs to tend to the signs of impending heart disease and diabetes. Her lungs were cut out, cleaned and mounted on the wall. Look how big and mighty I am, we think, I have the power of destruction. "Won't my mommy be so proud of me," we sing in a deep delusional tone. Her blood is mostly drained and dumped. Her bone marrow boiled into broth. Her muscles are marinated, grilled and named "good protein." Ooo——a barbecue! How fun! Let's sit around in creaky lawn chairs, drinking strong alcohol while we wobble across our Honduras Rosewood deck to the gas-powered grill where we slather sugary red sauce on the dead. Mmm the dead is so delicious. Look how big and mighty I am! Back in the butchery, Mother is still alive, but barely. She is ashamed of her screaming greedy baby and worried for her skeletal baby girl who is now too weak to beg her mother for rain. But most of all, Mother holds the heaviest sadness in the well of her slowly beating heart. She might die. She is almost certainly going to die. And when she dies so will we. When she sees us looking at her head, contemplating the price of her brains, she tells us the story of her life. She ends with a warning. If I die, so will you. We don't like to hear this! We scream that it isn't our fault! (Anger is our defense mechanism.) That we were only doing what we had to in order to survive. You had more than enough to survive, but you let egotism blind you and greed control you. You are lazy. You want everything to be easy, convenient, cheap, fast and accessible. You don't think about where it all comes from or where it all goes. You waste and waste and for what? So you can spend your time zoning out on the couch, listening to laugh tracks and reality trash? Leave me be for awhile. Let me grow green again. I want organic vegetable farms. I want the fish, the turtles, the shrimp and the lobsters to be left alone. I want time for rain to refill my rivers. But we don't hear this. We stopped listening a few minutes ago due to our defectively short attention span. Instead we've been staring at our mother's barely-beating bloomed red heart, wondering what we could sell it for. 



Saturday, May 4, 2013

To my dog.


When I get home with the groceries, you come to meet me, whining a little.  Scott walks toward me from the bedroom. He's irritated. He tells me that you jumped and barked at two people while on your walk. You do this sometimes. We've had to train you to take a treat whenever anyone passes us, but sometimes you fake us out. You pretend to be peeing and then charge at the passing strangers, often frightening them to yelp and jump. Penny, I know you think you're scaring away the bad guys, but it's humiliating. Don't you hear my hollered apologies as I drag you away? Come on, I feed you. I walk you twice every day. I pay hundreds of dollars to the veterinarian to ensure that you are healthy. I dribble flea and tick prevention juice on your shoulder blades. I give you heart worm medicine and take you to the dog beach. ---Which is usually very fun, except for that late morning a couple weeks ago when you barked at that woman. Remember? She was walking alone toward the end of the beach and you ran at her barking. I called you away, but you wouldn't come. Then the woman yelled, 

"She does it again and I'm gonna kick her." 

This made me mad because I was embarrassed. I eventually got you follow me, but over my shoulder——instead of the apology I usually bellow——, I loudly mumbled, 

"You're the one walking on the dog beach, ya fuckin' moron!" 

I don't blame the woman now, of course. Hindsight exposes my foolishness. Really I should have yelled, 

"I'm sorry she's barking at you, but if you kick her, she will probably bite you." 

Because that's what I assume you'd do. You're a barker. I know that. You bark at people who make you nervous. You bark at anyone walking or jiggling keys in the hallway. And as far as I know, no one has harmed you as a result of your barking. However, I can only imagine your dog thoughts as: 

THREAT! 
BARK AT THREAT. 
OUCH! 
THREAT KICKED ME. 
BITE THREAT!  

Then there'd be a lawsuit that I would avoid by running away like a coward at the crime scene. A bite and run. Then we'd never be able to go back to the dog beach except to send Scott to scope it out. But when he'd come back to our camouflaged car, he'd say that there were signs and police sketches of Penny and I. "WANTED!" "CASH REWARD!" "DANGEROUS!" I'd have to quit my job and we'd both have to take on disguises, both shaving off our hair. 

Luckily, though, you didn't bark again. 

I continued to run toward the gate, blundering through the bumpy sand, sobbing to myself. I cursed you then, but you had already forgotten, following me with your pink tongue out, panting.

We pick up your poop with little plastic bags, Penny. Then carry your warm sacks of shit to the nearest trash receptacle. You will never grow up and learn to speak English. You will never be able to clean up after yourself. You won't be around to care for us when we're decrepit and diapered. You'll never really apologize for anything. You'll never be potty trained (though that time you were sick and crapped in the bathtub was pretty close). But, you are always here. When I cry, your head is on my knee or you're climbing onto my lap, your muzzle under my chin, licking my earlobe. When I get excited or smile, you wag your tail and if close enough, lick my lips. When I say, "GO" and unclasp your leash, you always run in a big circle ahead of me, checking on me before making another bigger circle in the sand. When I point and say, "Get the birds!", you always bound after the gulls, herding them toward the clouds above the bubbly blue water. In the morning, when we're both too sleepy to stand, you nuzzle into the curve of my waist and close your eyes, while I scratch the top of your head and rub your black ears. 

You have problems, pup. You do. You're a nervous wreck. A head case. But that should be expected. You were, after all, found pregnant and tied to a pole with a black lab. So you're not always well behaved on the leash. And sometimes you bark at people. But you're smart, loyal and sweet when you feel safe. No of course you aren't perfect, but neither am I. But I promise to love you always and to one day, take you from this crowded cement city and return us both to the mountain woods.