Things Long Unnoticed

Spring is a concept I used to feel intimately, having once lived in New England. It was a shock to the system after a long winter to feel the change in the air and suddenly you knew it was spring– you take off the gloves despite the March winds and there, the sun warms your chapped hands. I remember days in Connecticut without sun; the skies threatened snow but never made good on it, and every tendon, every vein, down into the sinew and bones, it all ached for light and cloudless blue. It was the flowers that meant sweet relief.

Florida has a subtler spring, one you can’t quite put your finger on. There is a sneaking greenness that no one seems to notice, a dampness that is warm. It jolts me sometimes to see what a Floridian swamp-child I’ve become, but here in New York it’s spring.

The air doesn’t know it yet; the winter has been so warm that the sharpness lingers late into March, but the flowers know. They know it far better than the wind, and they know it well enough to teach me again what spring means. New York gave me forsythias for Ostara. Screw the crocus that everyone sees as spring’s first blossom (the tiny white four-petaled flowers of my grandmother’s yard came sooner, anyhow, than those silly purple things– the white ones so frail before the robustness of the crocus, and almost indistinguishable from the patches of retreating snow); screw the lilies loved outside of their Christian context (their stalks were always strange to me, their blossoms so big and fierce and alien). The forsythias are my Pagan messengers of warmth-to-be. I remembered from childhood all of the bushes of my driveway suddenly spewing yellow into the world, bright and ridiculous before any other buds had come into being. Queens is dotted with their gold; the entry of the Met is spilling over with yellow.

I had forgotten what kind of hope spring can sometimes give. Thank you, New York, for the forsythias.

Returning from the Gates of Faery, Via the Undermountain Road

Maybe it’s a sign of the times or the popularity of science fiction and fantasy that I can say this without blushing or apology or trying to save face, but I love conventions. They are strange beasts. They are almost a time between times, and a place between places. They are like stepping for a few moments out of reality and into a place where the folk there are a lot more like you… or a lot more like the caricatures you hope never to become. That is, if you’re the type to go to conventions.

For me, this last con was a momentous one. This con represented the first time I ever stepped into the filk room. Filk isn’t a genre of music that can be pinned down easily at all– a form of folk music based around science fiction? Nah. It is more of a community unto itself, and it’s something that until now, I’ve actively avoided. No, it wasn’t because the activity would drag me into new depths of geekery. I’m already a LARPer, a tabletop gamer, a lover of retro video games (especially old RPGs); I’m a not-quite-a-comic-book-junkie-but-getting-there. But above all, my crowning achievement of geekdom was that I was a know-it-allish kid to whom my father attempted to append his own childhood moniker of Professor Goosefarts… only Jr. Luckily for me, it didn’t stick. And you know, it didn’t hurt the geek quotient that I had also been damned good at math.

So you can see, it wasn’t a fear of further geekery that kept my pun-loving self away from the filk room at cons. It was something more complex, and something a lot less pleasant. At my first con, I met a man that I agreed to date. There was something unwholesome about him, that I rather liked because it pissed off a rather controlling boy I used to date. And rather than telling the controlling boy to piss off, I had to find another way to undermine his “authority” in my life. It took me years to see that these notions are the tools of one who is far too used to being other people’s punching bag, that it was a form of passive-aggression, that it was a quiet resistance. There is a litany–and perhaps this is not the place for litanies–of things this man took from me, piece by piece, that I have had to win back for myself, Ishtar at the gates of the underworld.

It was this man that first introduced me to filk. Every time I was invited among the filkers, I was afraid of his shadow in the room. At my home con, it became a game of two cats bristling at the other’s approach. We had to share the LARPs, but the anime room was mine, and the filk room his.

It took over a thousand miles and a convention in New York for me to accept a friend’s invitation to sit and listen to her filking. It wasn’t a test of will to stay the half-hour that I did, lapping up songs with the whole sun shining through my smile, singing along and laughing in familiarity and delight. It was more a feeling of stolen cookies or maybe something far more precious clutched close to the heart. It warmed me on the road up and out and all the way home, finally free of the gates underhill.

On the Eve of Leaving

I’ve always been a nervous traveler. Perhaps that’s the wrong word. Excitable? Not quite a fit either. Sleep never finds me on the eve of leaving. I’ve lain three hours awake near-unblinking tonight, thinking of how New York will find me. New York, being indifferent, won’t have missed me, I tell myself. Not like Tampa. Tampa’s muggy nights enfold you. You feel missed. But New York? I won’t know until I step off that plane.

I’ve everything packed. I’m missing nothing. It isn’t nerves… but there’s a flutteriness not in my stomach so much as in my heart. It’s that same flutteriness I’d get before going on stage in a play in grade school. “Oh, that’s stage fright,” they told me, but I wasn’t afraid. I ached. I was like a dog straining against a leash. I yearned. And that is it, right there.

I am a restless, yearnful traveler.

To Read the Past in Coffee Grounds, Tea Leaves for the Future

You asked me, dear friend, why. I think I know why I think of you every time I have coffee these days, despite the years and years I’ve been drinking it, despite its everyday-ness, despite my other rituals of coffee. Because I do think of you, yes, every time.

Do you know what’s so special about this bean? Do you know what’s magical about it? I’m talking beyond it’s complexity, with all its varied chemicals beside the caffeine, beyond the subtleties of flavor, or the many ways to make it. It is something I am in love with–have been so since high school when every day, a former boyfriend would bring me a cup from the doughnut place, overladen with milk and sugar. Coffee, dear friend, isn’t a beverage. Every day, waiting for my former boyfriend to arrive with that Styrofoam cup, no not a drink, but an event. It is a patient magic.

I’ve sat in coffee shops over a breve, talking, gaming, laughing and enjoying, but I never quite got it until I sat in on a friend’s baccalaureate exam. Her thesis was about tea. She said something quite interesting– there is this idea in our culture around tea consumption, that it is a slow thing, a savored thing. But coffee is fast. NOW. GO GO GO! (But I waited, in the morning, for my former to arrive, cup in hand, and then we waited for the bell, cups to lips, and in between sips, flurries of words, before the time struck and we downed the rest and off to class)

There is a secret to coffee, dear one. There is a secret, and I showed it to you, that day in my room. I had taken out my French press, pressed for you and me a rich dark French roast (the water must boil and cool a bit, and you must wait about four minutes for the ground beans to steep before you press). I served it to you full of real cream, half a shot of Irish cream, and dark chocolate shavings on the top (you go slowly if you want them to curl in long strips and sit in spirals before melting). We lounged there, in my room, talking (hours?), and we didn’t finish our cups. Dear one, it was that slow patient magic. And all those times, you and I in coffee shops, you with your latte, and I with my breve? (I do like it rich) Slow like a summer day, even in the middle of fall, the middle of winter.

I think I know why I think of you every time I drink coffee these days. My coffee is a slow thing, a waited-for event. You were the first to wait with me over a cup.