Hermitage

Last week was a week of recovery for me, a sorting of self. I had meant to post here, but then found myself taking solace in aloneness. It was a needed thing. I am better for it.

That leaves the fact that I missed a week of posting. I have done this in the past, and previously just let the week slip. I do not believe I will be doing that anymore. I think there is greater value in “making up” the posts I missed. With only one post a week, I don’t think this task will be difficult. From this time onward, every time I miss a post, you can expect two the next week.

Also, the editing bug has been gnawing at me. I want to comb through old posts and correct grammar and spelling where I carelessly misused them. To that end, I will do so, because with most of the posts here, timeliness was not the issue, but instead my concerns are flow, cadence, and idea. Misspellings trip up a person in creative pieces like these. It seems dishonest, though, at least in the medium of a blog, to correct such errors after the fact. I am going to compromise. I am going to correct, but I will include an end note which names the type of correction and the date of the correction. No serious edits will occur, only typos will be fixed thus. Previously, I snuck them in when they really REALLY got to bothering me.

As it stands, then, expect a little more later in the week. I have a post to make up.

A Liturgy for Caffeina

It is a ritual for a Wednesday: the last of the previous week’s roast steeping in the press, and I stand, preparing the green coffee beans for this week’s worship. I am a novice in this ritual. Caffeina does not rank her followers, but each task has its own order. I am an adept of the all-nighter, the brain-storm, the last-minute-writing-to-deadline-rush. I am an initiate of the mystery of the bean. I am merely a beginner in the rites of roasting.

As clumsy as I am in this, as uneven my roasts, I have to tell you, anything which can still my flurry of thoughts, which can tame the hydra of my mind, has got to be a holy thing. My head is never quiet. Not until this nectar of the Gods passes my lips. I am at the mercy of the bang pop clatter crash of the notions welling up–tasks left half-finished, tumbling into incoherence. An exercise, an example? Stop thinking linearly. Geometrically, imagine that every thought you have is equidistant from your current thought, a sphere of notions. They exist all at once, or perhaps rapid fire, creating this web of ideas linked only by the stimulus that spawned them. The statement “cheddar is pretty good,” logically follows the question “what soda had you liked best as a child?” because the soda was root beer and the first time you had it, your aunt served it with party appetizers, including various types of cheeses– of which Swiss and cheddar were among– and you had an abiding love of cheddar since before that time. And all of this remembering occurs in a split second, along with a great deal of other thoughts and memories, like the décor at your aunt’s party, and the taste of the Swiss which made you twitch in disgust, and that time that you asked for muenster on your sandwich and your friend made it with Swiss instead, not knowing… so you see, cheese is the logical topic to discuss when soda is brought up. This mode of thinking is my native land. Every sentence births a seething mass like this, and nothing but that black brew can stem the tide.

Caffeina bless this task. I sip my coffee plain before I set the beans in the preheated pan. There is something of Zen in this doing: I am whole and here as the roasting begins, a rhythm of moving the skillet, a pattern to turning the beans. This is my calm, my center. I smile at the first crack, watching these seeds go dusty green to gold to chocolate. For the first time all day, the chattering is still. These are the gifts of Caffeina: sharpness, presence, clarity.

I pull the roast from the heat, step outside to blow off all the “chaff.” The beans tinkle against the sides of the glass jar as I pour them in to set. I will at first leave the lid off. I will seal it firmly tomorrow. Caffeina bless this task.

Recycling Metaphors, or Arranging the Shards Anew

Language is not a winter blanket. It must stretch for us to make it work. It isn’t large enough or long enough, no matter how I laud it, to bridge the gap. It doesn’t cover nose and toes at once. I’ve said as much before of individual words, tottering under the weight of many meanings. But it hit me again.

Minds are mesas in the desert; we live in canyon lands, apart from one another. We have few tools to leap those gaps– and the leaping itself is a stationary act: only our voices carry, gazelles, pole vaulters, bringing echoes and new voices back. I use metaphors because they are a tool. Like rocks. A stick and a shell can make a hammer; archaeologists find them in shell middens down the coast of Florida, remnants of the Calusa. I use them to hit ideas on the head. I use them like magnifying glasses roasting notions under sunlight until they start smoking.

The distance between mesas can be miles or years. Sometimes the pole is too short. I can’t leap the gap. I keep picking up tools, hoping to find the one to get to that flat topped mountain in the distance, to understand what you mean when you are speaking to me. Maybe we are too far apart, our experiences too foreign to make sense of each other’s tools.

Dear heart, there is no sender, no receiver. Nothing so neat as that. We are throwing every word we have into the void at once hoping something will come across, but we come back only with the feathers of misunderstanding. It’s nights like these that I could become a solipsist, if it weren’t for the cold stone in my palm of one final leap of faith: I believe there are others. I believe there are others. I believe there are others.

Everyday Sorrows

The red and blue lights flashed, but there were no sirens. An ambulance was already on the scene, hunkered over, a cubist vulture. It was on the median of U.S. 41, southern Sarasota County. The car, wrapped around a small tree meant to decorate the green island, had felled it, sheared off at the waist, the sap catching the sunlight. They had been stately dwarfs, three in a row of a flowering sort, purple-pink in the days before summer. I didn’t see the driver, but the tree was enough, broken, oozing.

Later that week, I passed the spot again. The car was gone, hauled off to be junked, all the fragments vanished, shattered glass lost in the median grass. But the tree remained, snapped in half, lying on its side. Its crown of green had withered, and its companions leaned in, paying respects with their own petals.

Audacity

I do not like Fox News. It stares at me while I work spouting outrageous things (Karl Rove calling Maureen Dowd “deranged,” for instance, or suggesting that the MBTA crash was somehow linked to the driver’s status as trans). Nevermind that Fox News’ anchors appear always as cartoony, over-the-top, exaggerated in their opinions and indignation over the news. Unlike what I term “real news,” Fox always strives to present an opinion. There is no deciding on their network, unless you count the decisions of the network executives to encourage a particular view, leaving the audience at home with only one “reasonable” conclusion to draw from the presentation, and their reporting leaves much to be desired, contrary to their current slogan.

There are things that I expect from this network. Things at which I roll my eyes, things I critique heavily. Sometimes there are things that go too far. Yesterday, less than 24 hours ago, I stood gaping at the screen as news unfolded of a shooting at the Holocaust Museum in D.C. Shaken bodily by the event, my mouth hanging open, I was unprepared for Shepard Smith’s take on the hatred:

This from the network the parades around Bill O’Reilly, fanning flames and calling a murdered man “Dr. Killer?” This from the network that suggested Gwen Ifill wouldn’t be a fair moderator for the VP debate last year because she is a black woman? From a network that trades in slinging about trans and homophobia, racism, and sympathy for murderers who kill in the name of life, to crown Fox News as righteous, innocent, and indignant of their prime viewer base* as an attempt to paint themselves reasonable during a tragedy makes me sick. I was broken in my heart and soul to learn of yesterday’s events at the Holocaust Museum, but this bid at righteousness on the part of a news network that has only worked to fan the flames… I have no more words.

*Forgive me, but this is an inference based upon Shepard Smith’s claim that emails like the one he read on air form a representative sample of all those received.

And the Tides They Turn Us Under

A faux selkie skin at graduation, I could not find my real one in time. How many children tell their tales, I’m a prince in exile, a princess kidnapped at birth by these monsters? They are not my parents. They are not my kin. And like them, I told my tales.

But my parents didn’t come to my graduation two years ago. They were afraid of seeing naked graduates… or so I let the story lie. Except I did not have my skin, so there was no risk, and so I had to cut one from synthetic fur, drape it over my arm, the one that held the diploma. Sometimes the one that held the unicorn. It shifted. I was gentle with it, as gentle as I would have been had it been real. It’s good practice.

I am a liar, yes. It’s why you love me. But I am also a selkie, and my secret origin is this: my mother told me a was a sickly babe, could not hold food. She said I got better, but I know the truth. The real child died, unable to stomach this world, and those who call themselves my parents wept for days, and did not report it. They knew myths. They had ideas. Such ideas are risky things, but sometimes they pay off.

They wandered Cape Cod. I know it was Cape Cod, because Cape Cod tugs harder than any other place by the sea. The further north I get, the more the sea sings, and I go a little mad, so I know it’s the right place. It stops up the coast and when you get to Maine, the song is from the south then, drawing me back, a bird circling on a tether.

That day they found her, a selkie, with a new pup, sunning themselves on the beach. Did they watch long? Did they envy? I only know the outcome: they scared off the mother, scooped up the child still in human form, and took the little seal skin. They must have loaded it into their truck– they were driving a grey Ford from the 70’s at that time– and drove the selkie child and her skin away from her home, away from the beach, away from her mother and all familiar things.

And so I grew up, fae and wild, never quite understanding all my longings, my desires, until I saw it. In the attic, I almost held it in my hands. The mother person caught my gaze and then caught my hands, and I never saw that dusty fur again. They hid it again, somewhere out of sight, and though I hunted the house entire, it never again soothed my sight, calling me just outside my range of hearing, tugging just beyond rationality.

Adult now, I still can’t pry its location from their smiling faces. So I cut its remembered shape from a bolt of fake fur to take with me. Because my graduation costume was myself. I went as myself as I see me from the inside, a contrast light and dark, bound to mortality by pomegranate seeds, a Pagan to the core, woven of the stuff that makes stars and beaches and computers. Winged, yes, but above all, a selkie. I needed at least a prop.

So my false skin does not fill the gap, but it comes close. We are remaking ourselves every day, retelling our tales. They get bigger in the telling.

To this day, I sleep with it next to me, scrap of faux fur in a familiar shape. A hint, a whisper. It’s what I need to keep searching, to assure myself the sea will still have me one day. It’s what I need to remember that I’m me.