Most days slide by on the calendar without much to say for themselves, and it’s true that I’ve made it my intent to celebrate in those days the small things — feet on the coffee table outside on the deck, the perfect Spanish tortilla, bluebonnets dashed with unexpected pink. But some days stand out on the white pages of dates. Today, for example. It’s the day I sent my friend Jane the latest draft of the poetry manuscript I’ve been working on. That deadline kept me going. And on this day 11 years ago Chris and I met for the first time. We shared a plate of fajitas and began the conversations that’s been going ever since. We’ll celebrate tomorrow, when I don’t teach until 9pm. Tonight we connected late, when I got home, talking as we often do at the kitchen table. Some of it was funny, some of it dark, but all these years later our appreciation for each other is undimmed.
On Monday we are tired, sure we can’t learn how to glide with ease like those West Coast swing dancers we admire. Out on the floor, they spin, they clunk along trying to find the rhythm in cowboy boots, they perfect their turns, pausing to watch videos on a laptop. We arrived too early. While we wait, we sink lower, overwhelmed by how far it is from here to good.
March 30, 2015
At church, they hand out the palms. Fronds for some, long, thin leaves for others. Judas plants the kiss on Christ once again. Peter denies him. Pilate prepares to wash his hands. The congregation–that is us–yells “Crucify him!” And we file out silently, placing paper programs into the recycle pile, carrying our leaves of palm. I grab two extra. Wildflowers at the edges of the parking lot are unstoppably bright. At home, I offer a palm to Chris. He shapes it into a cross and slips it under a magnet on the fridge.
March 29, 2015
There is no better Austin than the one that shows itself on a late March Saturday, which is the one we got to share with Gary on his visit. It’s a day that invites deck sitting and park going and choosing between too many good events spread between too many places. It’s the perfect problem to have. Julie on the radio talking about the Candoli Brothers. Marching bands from across the country converging to play and dance and sing. The familiar old woman in the bright yellow sports bra shaking it with the belly dancer. We sat in grass, in the shade, and we stood in a parking lot beneath giant murals and the horns honked and swooned. Minor Mishap brought it again. Then we drank tea and ate leftovers and saw improv and strolled through the hopping streets of downtown, all the way to Willie. I leaned over to Gary at the show and said, “Just so you know, our life isn’t always this exciting.” But occasionally in late March, it is.
March 28, 2015
At 3pm, I thought the day would be represented like this: spring, a shock of blue sky, everything budding. I submitted poems, walked, lunched with a friend, sat on a park bench reading books of poetry for a contest I’m helping to judge. Kids ran in the grass. I pulled up my sleeves to get sun on my arms. All this was before Fifi Switchblade. When Chris said burlesque, I had vague ideas about what that meant–feathers, strutting, spectacle. It was not quite the wigs and bondage-y outfits we encountered at the show that night. But I could roll, and the the first performer took the stage, slinking across in her black bustier and arms draped like wings. Across, across, and then right off the edge, dropping to the concrete below. Fifi, on the floor, folks rushing to help her. The show was on hold while we waited for an ambulance. We sang her happy birthday while they lifted her to the stretcher. And then the show went on, with mermaids on poles and tassel-titted women spinning on hoops. Nine muses danced in red gowns and black bras. After the first intermission, I headed home. Chris and Gary stayed ’til the end. But one day can only contain so much–the clear blue of a new season, the dark night of women falling, and waiting for me the cats, the covers, the crossword I was so close to completing.
March 27, 2015
Dinner at home for Gary’s visit means chicken roasted with parsley, sage, rosemary, and thyme; salad with the sharpest blue cheese; carrot cake with birthday candles. Maryjean brings Apothic red and canvases. She’s been playing with painting Annabella, seeking the images less posed, more true. But the hair goes from blonde to red, from red to black. We nosh on olives and salami, Swiss cheese cut into little squares, and Annabella watches us–younger, older, shot through Maryjean’s imagination, her brush. Meanwhile, the real Annabella is in LA, doing we know not what, watching we know not whom.
March 26, 2015
I wrote about women and health and the very necessary candor of Angelina Jolie in a piece published in Role Reboot today: Why Angelina Jolie Really Is a Badass. I am grateful that I got to contribute to a conversation I think is important.
It was, truly, a day of firsts. My name next to Jolie’s (her name, her face). A flurry on social media that called me–ever the well behaved one–a badass. And the fact of overcoming my very deliberate nature to write something quickly from a place where I was moved and release it into the world. Mark it down, friends.
March 25, 2015
All those late nights — coming home after Free Minds class tired and ready to drop or energized and spilling over with stories and thoughts. I underestimated the impact of nighttime work back when I imagined myself in this job, back before I was married, back when what I most visualized about working in a humanities classroom with adults was Earl Shorris’s anecdote of the guy who called him up to say, “I thought to myself, ‘What would Socrates do?'” Still, the classroom is where the joy is. And driving home after most people have had dinner and put the kids to bed and settled in with the tv or a book or a laptop open to internet surfing has become second nature. Some nights I pause on the pathway to the house and look before I enter. In my 20s, before I could see the house and job and life where I’d land, I listened to a lot of Tori Amos. In one song, she trills, “Somebody leave the light on / Just in case I like the dancing / I can remember where I come from.” I’ve often felt like someone left the light on for me, welcoming me back after I’d wandered. And in this period of evening teaching I am ever grateful to pull into the driveway and find the porch lit, often Chris waiting inside, sometimes a bit of dinner still left for me on the stove.
March 24, 2015
For his birthday, we sat at a bar with walls made of salvaged wood, artfully assembled. We ordered the Moscow mules tinted with carrot juice, syrupy sweet. Because it was his day, he sent his back, got a Prosecco instead. Because it was his day, we kept going, away from the $9 tacos and strange grits to patatas bravas and paella down the street. We went to dance class, practiced the left side pass, the invitation. Without knowing it was his day, the women wanted to dance with him. He beamed. We kept going, on to a bar where a band spun Motown tunes, their claps, their side steps, their struts all in time. Ain’t Too Proud, Voulez-vous Coucher Avec Moi, September. We spun on smooth-soled shoes. We threw our hands in the air. He beamed. What I want for him in this year: a little of what the night contained. Bubbles. Dancing. Smoked paprika. Joy.
March 23, 2015
Saying goodbye to the blue Mixie dress I wore so often, so classic. To the tan wedges I don’t love as much as the other wedges I bought later. To the plaid wool pants i bought at Goodwill and to the Jackie O style blazer I always thought I’d wear and didn’t. Goodbye to those trouser jeans, to lace thongs, to the nightgown I wore after surgery. To the mauve cashmere sweater my mom gave me and the gray sheath dress and the long silk sweater in a bright blue that was never me. It is a luxury to ask, “Does it spark joy?” The virtue, I think, is in making do, making the best of what you have. My friend L and I discussed this when she came over to peruse what I was giving away. She walked out with some goodies — the green cross-body bag, the red one I carried when I drove across the country, a black cardigan with a shawl collar. I’ve set aside a few other piles for others. I can’t go back and un-buy the things I bought, un-accept the gifts I accepted, un-do the accumulation that accumulated. But it sparked joy to see L grab a few fine things, and it sparks joy to imagine the Jackie O blazer being enjoyed by someone else who will find it just the thing. From here on out I will ask “Does it spark joy?” before bringing something new in. And I’ll carry these six bags to the car, then to Goodwill, and send them off to find new homes. Then I’ll pause to appreciate the space I have made, space the cat has claimed already for himself.
March 22, 2015