Friday, June 24, 2011

feel good lost

"The only way to survive over the long run is to be made of materials large and worthless, like Stonehenge and the Pyramids, or to become lost."
                – Danny Hills
 (Thanks, vt!)

Saturday, June 18, 2011

the meaning of life

"Have you ever been to the Cluny, the museum? There you will see Persian carpets of the most exquisite hue and of a pattern the beautiful intricacy of which delights and amazes the eye. In them you will see the mystery and the sensual beauty of the East, the roses of Hafiz and the wine-cup of Omar, but presently you will see more. You were asking just now what was the meaning of life. Go and look at those Persian carpets, and one of these days the answer will come to you."
"You are cryptic," said Phillip.
"I am drunk," answered Cronshaw.
                   – W. Somerset Maugham, Of Human Bondage

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

wild and wilder

"The girl who came into the bedroom that night...was languid and mysterious, her hair graying at the age of twenty, and he soon detected the marks of the virtue he valued most in a woman: untamed intelligence."
                 – Gabriel Garcia Márquez, The General in His Labyrinth 

Monday, June 13, 2011

yes sir, that's my baby*

From when Vincent (pictured here) and I and some truly lovely people all went bike touring to Marin a few weekends ago. Just a couple of stylish city gals gettin' out in the country. Oh yes we can go camping just as readily and well-appareled as to an art opening.

(*if you don't know this song already, you really should)

some thoughts on happiness

That I am a happy person is something I have learned. I have learned it through repetition. It did not occur to me. I did not say, nor do I now say, to myself: I am happy. Rather, people ask me often, always, Why are you so happy? It has never ceased to startle me. Rarely when I am asked this am I conscious of feeling particularly happy, a feeling which I associate with being somehow different/more/better than my daily feeling – that, at least, is the definition I feel I have learned. You are at a zero, a neutral, and happiness is something above zero. Let's say five. With seven being ecstasy.  

Why are you so happy, I am asked. Am I, I wonder, and also, are you not? And if I am, why? And if you are not, why not? The confusion of others confuses me. They want something from me, I can sense it. An answer, an explanation, an excuse – I drank a lot of coffee. I passed the bar. I just got engaged. I'm having a good day. I used to say, I don't know. Or, What do you mean? Then for a while I said, I'm just like this. Now, when possible, when I think the questioner is listening, is genuinely wanting to know, I say, I think there's something wrong with my brain. I think there's a chemical imbalance in my brain. It's like clinical depression, but the opposite. I think I have that. And it's true, that's what I think. And I sense the jealousy in it, I'm not as happy as you. What does that mean? That happiness is somehow comparative. Or competitive?

And I think about the way we talk about happiness. We say: That makes me happy, She makes me happy, I think I could make you happy. The very language is transformative/descriptive: I am tall, I am old, I am happy. A characteristic? We describe other temporary things the same way: I am tired, I am bored. But make? To make is to force, also to create. You could make me dinner. You could make me a ceramic pot. You could make me happy. Or could you. We want to cling to things that are unclingable (happiness is not a scarf, not a rope, not the edge of a cliff, either). We want the agency to come from outside ourselves. When do we say, I made myself happy?

I think: Happiness is not a seashell. You won't just be walking along one day and suddenly find it and then pick it up and get to carry it around with you for as long as you want. I think: Happiness is not a present. Other people can't give it to you.

I also think that people have weird ideas about happiness. If I could just be happy, they think. Or, things are fine, but I could be happier. Sure. You could. And what then? What do you think happiness will do for you? What will it give you? I really think it won't give you what you want. Worrying about happiness is funny (if you can get yourself there).

Monday, June 6, 2011


Until this past Memorial Day weekend, I hadn't been to Yosemite since I was in sixth grade. I remember that trip well: I bested my sixth grade enemy (as I would have described him then) in a snowball fight, and the valley flooded and everyone had to evacuate. 

This time, I thought I would do a lot of writing. I didn't. But I did a lot of other things that were equally necessary, such as stare at trees, and climb rocks, and cook with friends, and get a little raucous in the wee hours, and gasp ever so slightly.

And if I had to pick a song for this trip, it would be "This Will Be Our Year." And if I had to pick a color for this trip, it would be lime. And if I had to pick a food for this trip, it would be eggs. And if I had to pick a poem for this trip, it would be "Lying in a Hammock at William Duffy's Farm in Pine Island, Minnesota".* And if I had to pick a sound for this trip, it would be laughter half-heard while sleeping.

*"Lying in a Hammock at William Duffy's Farm in Pine Island, Minnesota"
by James Wright

Over my head, I see the bronze butterfly,
Asleep on the black trunk,
blowing like a leaf in green shadow.
Down the ravine behind the empty house,
The cowbells follow one another
Into the distances of the afternoon.
To my right,
In a field of sunlight between two pines,
The droppings of last year's horses
Blaze up into golden stones.
I lean back, as the evening darkens and comes on.
A chicken hawk floats over, looking for home.
I have wasted my life.

Sunday, June 5, 2011

in the end, is it all in the timing?

I was given a card on Tuesday that I didn't have a chance to read until today. An excerpt:
"Flannery O'Connor wrote that 'the way to despair is to refuse to have any kind of experience,' which just about sums up everything NOT you!"
This is, in so many ways, every kind of reminder I need right now. (Bonus: The card-giver didn't even know how much I love Flannery O'Connor! Serendipity, I thank you. Don't desert me now.)
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