Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Blogger: Welcome to the writer parade

This is brilliant. It's the work of French illustrator Stéphane Massa-Bidal: popular Web platforms like Flickr, Facebook and YouTube reinvented as old-school book covers.

Classy, hilarious and inspirational. See my random Blogger ideas:


No longer just on mom's fridge
Comments speak louder than actions
InVenTed wOrDs display inGeNuity
RSS feed me
Freedom of speech unless deleted by author
Welcome to the writer parade

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

On est toujours mieux chez soi

I just spent a colorful, decadent, freezing weekend in Paris. It was my first time traveling-while-traveling.

Much of the time I stood tapping my foot at an intersection of cultures: saying "merci" like "merthi," reading El País in French cafés, speaking half-English/half-Spanish because I didn't know which language someone was more likely to know ("Tiene water? Agua?" ::cup hands for emphasis::). Considering I cannot even pronounce "je suis" correctly no matter how many times I try, these language juxtapositions were necessary.

I spent time wandering the city and visiting neighborhood markets with one of the most interesting men I've met in a while, Roberto. He speaks five languages, is extremely thoughtful and intelligent, and inspired me to bring my laptop on the metro to write, like he does.

“Even if I only get one perfect sentence out of it—it's worth it,” he said.

I taught him some salsa tricks and he introduced me to tango. I spent my last night savoring a French wine over an immense dinner and accidentally seeing for the first time the Eiffel Tower, while midnight bike-riding around the city. After drinking hot chocolate at a bourgeois bar, I slept for four hours and hopped on a plane back to Spain.

And I was perfectly content to do so.

Being in Paris made me realize how much Spanish I actually do know, how proud I am of it, how happy I am to use it... and how much I have come to regard Madrid.

I wandered in and out of consciousness on the flight home, due to the lack of sleep. As we touched ground, I opened my eyes and thought, simply, "I am home, and home is Madrid." And then, a smile bloomed across my sleepy face, sprouting from deep within.

Home is Madrid.

Thursday, December 10, 2009

The ocean is right where I put it, still stinging

I lay there for a month, a year, a week. Taut and spellbound. Carving the sand with the arches of my body, waiting.

You polished my curves with salt, traced me with foam fingers. Rocked me with your push-pull, insistent and consuming. You chaffed me, made me softer, made me rougher. You were high and low, and I was worn away by your tides.

When your waves had ceased lapping I was still there. Mineralized.

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

There will be no turning of the page

Google Living Stories. Wow.

The Washington Post, The New York Times and Google have awkwardly joined hands to create this masterpiece. Or, what looks like it could be a masterpiece — something that won't be "saving" journalism but is definitely desired and, for the most part, expected. It's one of those things that feels like it must have been around for a while because you've already been creating something like it yourself, with RSS feeds, customization of home pages, etc.

And now, voila. Unification of coverage for a single story or concept, all on one dynamic and well-organized web page.

We have come together.


Well, according to The Washington Post's piece on the project:

Post editors are concerned that the overall process could eat up valuable staff time unless it is made more automated.

During the process a half-dozen Google staffers spent three days in the Post newsroom in May, trailing editors and reporters with notepads and video cameras like some archaeological expedition. "The culture of Google is a culture of engineers," Brenner says. "We exist in different worlds."

The part of me that is enamored with the idea of Living Stories is unfortunately the same part of me that, guilt-ridden, chooses the latte over the newspaper and instead reads the cafe's copy of the paper while drinking the latte. But the journalist part of me wonders how this is going to help journalism stay afloat. In particular, as has been a huge point of discussion for nearly a year: investigative journalism. It's wonderful for consumers, but will this pay the professional journalists? No. (I'm sorry, but the phrase "citizen journalist" still irks me. TIME magazine's recent piece on is a must-read if you share—or don't share—my point of view.)

My opinion on Living Stories is similar to what Richard Kendall's expressed in his comment on an online journalism blog:

I hate it and love and bow down before it at the same time. This sort of advanced story curation is what news sites have been crying out for.

What we will lose in this is what we have already been losing in the process of transferring journalism from print to print+screen — the precious notion of turning our heads 1/4 inch and finding a completely different article that catches our interest. An article that we may glance over, yes — but also one that may inspire us, anger us or encourage us to explore our own values. An article that we never would have found.

Now, we find Google ads.

Escribir para comprender

- El País del 9 de Diciembre, 2009

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

Storing words for winter

I've been reading some Spanish books lately (please regard the word "reading" lightly), but I've been missing reading English. I miss the poetry of the language I own, diving into it, and how enrapturing it can be, how it feeds me and influences my own writing.

I have two English-language books with me in Spain. This is very different from the United States where I have two for every day of the year.

I brought:

1) "The New Spaniards" by John Hooper, second edition. It's a very well-written and entertaining history of modern Spain. I like it. Well, I liked it; I honestly have no desire to read it now that I'm in Madrid and would rather place myself in beautiful old bars with smoke-stained ceilings, sipping manzanilla and talking to Spaniards.

2) "The Secret Lives of People in Love" by Simon Van Booy. I found this book of short stories in September and was enthralled by it. However, I cannot read it at the moment, as there are remains of masticated love still stuck between my ribs.

So in the midst of missing my language, today I bought a third.

In all honesty, I wanted to buy "Lolita" (both of my copies are in Boulder), because even just the first paragraph makes me want to slit my wrists in a dramatic sacrifice to alliterative craftsmanship. But the only version that Casa del Libro had was one with a soulless, forlorn-looking rubia on the front cover. I just could not walk around with that. Not because I care what other people think, but because it depicts a character I don't believe exists in the book.

Anyway. I bought Virginia Woolf's "To the Lighthouse." I've never read it, although I own a copy in the U.S. But I am hungry for poetry and it seems this might be what I am looking for.

[Our attention is drawn] to Woolf's poetic prose: her rhythms and images, her use of hard consonants in monosyllabic words in counterpoint to long, soft, dreamy words and phrases. "To the Lighthouse" plays back and forth between telescopic and microscopic views of nature and human nature.

In the introduction, Woolf writes of her novel:

I meant nothing by The Lighthouse. I saw that all sorts of feelings would accrue to this, but I refused to think them out, and trusted that people would make it the deposit for their own emotions.

And so inward I dive.

Thursday, December 3, 2009

La Niña

My Spanish family is very endearing, and after hearing some friends' stories about the Spanish families they are staying with, I appreciate mine even more.

The little boy, Jaime, is an absolute treasure. Like his grandmother said, "Con Jaime, todo es siempre bien." He gives up his candy for his sister Ana and then she pulls his hair. He puts himself last in order of turns when the three of us play "Memory." He seems to know intuitively when I am uncomfortable because Ana isn't listening to me, and he will try harder to show me that he wants to learn English. If I had just him, my teaching life would be a bit too perfect.

And so — enter little Ana.

My relationship with Ana is a bit like a non-functional romantic relationship. It is filled with anxiety, emotional ups and downs, occasional compromise and random destruction of property.

Today, Ana not only spilled water on my computer, she then broke a glass in the bathroom and danced away as Jaime started to clean it up; as I ran into the room to help he cutely said, "Please shoes!"

One evening, she stole sunflower seeds from my room without asking, and I told her not to. She scowled, and ran away, still eating them. Then I hear my iPhone alarm going off, and as I went to turn it off, the funniest thing happened... the alarm started moving. I followed it out to the living room, where I found it in Ana's hand, as she was about to hide it inside an umbrella bin where I never would have found it if it had stopped making noise. At this point I spoke a lot louder than before and told her to not ever take my $360 iPhone again.

We didn't talk for two days after that.

But then... my door was open one night and she came in, thought for a minute, walked back out, closed it — and knocked.

"...come in?" I said.

"Tienes pipas?" she asked.

And I gave her some sunflower seeds, and she said "thank you." And I smiled.

Of course, the next day I saw her with more — meaning that she went to where she saw my hiding spot was and got herself more.

And to this I say: Jaime is here to remind me what angels children can be... and Ana is what Spanish wine is for.

Saturday, November 28, 2009

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

A Thanksgiving tale for stateside friends

The Spanish family I'm living with in Madrid has had the abuela, the grandmother (of the father), in town for the past two weeks, and I absolutely adore her. Her name is Lola, she speaks no English, and she likes to try to teach me Spanish by repeating a phrase six times, even if I've already used it in the same conversation a few minutes ago. This makes having a discussion with her slow but endearing, and I feel warm and fuzzy when she calls me cariño and cielo.

Today we left the house at the same time and in the elevator she told me she was going out to buy a conejo, a bunny rabbit. Since it is her last day in Madrid and she won't be around for the holidays, I figured she was buying the pet as an early Christmas present for the kids. How cute!

After my morning run, I came into the kitchen to get some water and saw lots of red meat on the counter. The grandmother pointed at it and said, "Conejo!"

Monday, November 23, 2009

Down to the earth I fell with dripping wings

"Hube de sustituir el principio de necesidad
por el principio de posibilidad."

— Lorenzo Silva

I left Colorado for Spain three weeks ago, and have been letting it soak into my skin before squeezing out my reflections. I am constantly learning, exploring, discovering. I get lonely and frustrated, but I am determined, caffeinated, invigorated and mostly, happy. Happy I chose this path for myself, for the time being.

I live with a Spanish family of four
a mother, a father, and two children in Madrid. I teach English to the children, Ana (6) and Jaime (7), for three hours every weekday in the evenings, and I have the rest of the time to explore the city, the country, myself. I can eat whatever I want of their food and I stay here for free, but I am not paid. I am living purely off the money I saved in Boulder.

I feel somewhere in between a visitor and a resident. I am living here, I am working here, but only for a short time. I don't visit tourist sites, and when people ask me where things are, I can direct them. But while already there are bars I have been to several times, where people know my name and graciously offer me wine and tapas on the house
everything is still new to me. And I'm finding that it's the smallest things that make my days amazing.

Like, when I understand a Spanish phrase or two more than I did the day before. When I go to the Retiro Park for a run and take photos, turning inward to a focused and calm inner space, marveling at nature
an appreciation that Colorado gave me. When new English-speaking girl friends and I are between bars, and I ask them, out of nowhere, what the imperfect tense of tener is and they answer without thinking me odd, because they are constantly wondering the same things.

I love the history in Madrid. I love the taverns that have been around for 80 years, their ceilings stained with cigarette smoke. I love looking at the dust on bottles of sherry at one of my favorite bars, La Venencia, taken straight from their casks long ago. I had a night out with a worldly woman who told me they haven't dusted those bottles in 14 years. She knew the owners when they had hair on their heads. This is beautiful to me.

Last week, in a Madrilenian tavern from the 19th century, I had croquetas, café cortados and conversation with Andrés Ruiz Tarazona, a writer and art critic for El País and other Spanish newspapers. When I went up to pay, the camarero told me that Andrés had already paid for me
the bartender knew him by name, because he's been coming there for years.

I have a favorite cafe, Pepe Botella, where I like reading El Pa
ís and its Sunday magazine amidst espresso and the incense of cigarette smoke, hearing Russian and French and English and German, and Spanish God, Spanish. I know I have spoken this in another lifetime.

I am trying to be light, because heavy things don't fly.

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

The comforts of staying

I bought some hot apple cider this afternoon and took a walk around Boulder, fogging up my sunglasses with cinnamon-nutmeg steam.

I forget how much I love autumn. I wrote a short story last year about "the season of turmeric and spices, of osmanthus and scarf-worn longing." Today there was a scarf — a red one, my favorite, that my friend Christian bought for me in India — but there was no longing. Just appreciation, a kind of breath-driven inner peace, the kind you feel after a deep stretch.

I love knowing a city so well. I know that when I walk past a certain cafe that my best friend's boyfriend will be in there, working away on his next book. I know that the bathroom code to the local bookstore changes every week, and I always remember it until it no longer works. I know which intersections are always okay to cross even when the lights are green, because they're hardly ever used.

I know it will take me 12.5 minutes to walk from my work to my favorite local gourmet deli, where I harass them for their wild Alaskan house-cured salmon. I love learning through Facebook that a favorite cafe — where Christian and I would discuss our impending plans to travel the world over mochas and scones — is now serving hot apple cider, made from locally-grown apples; I love that I can walk there from my job, which is less than .5 miles away, because everything is less than .5 miles away.

I love that last night, as I was eating a delicious squash risotto with my close girl friend at my favorite restaurant, the bar manager — also my ex and friend — pointed at a table of diners and said, "They grew that squash you're eating."

I love feeling like I'm the only one who knows where a beautiful tea house is right downtown, because there's hardly anyone there. I love having places to retreat outside of my home, and not having every inch of my city crowded with people.

I love knowing that at least one out of five of my closest friends will likely be at the local "herban" bar at any given point on a late afternoon, working on art, illustration, writing, or just drinking jun.

I like growing, and discovering that when I really want to live in a place — the settle-down kind of live — it will probably be a smaller city, because I just like knowing. My life is filled with going and staying, but I am gaining so much in the process.

And when it comes to Boulder — I'm so glad I stayed.

Monday, October 19, 2009

Perfumed chaos and the lack of middles

I am a wreck.

I am so on top of things for my leaving-the-country move that it is driving me insane. I tried to pay a parking ticket too early, before the city of Denver even put the citation number into their database. Then I tried to pay it again, and again, for a total of three times, and it is still not there.

The problem with this is that there is no middle ground for me. I am either on top of things, or I am not. I can either pay this ticket now, or when I come back from Spain I will owe the city of Denver enough money to build some new high-tech infrastructure.

I was talking to my sister Kristi about this when I went to Hawaii for her wedding a few weeks ago. There are people who are good at beginnings (starting projects, maybe not so good at follow-through) and those who are good at endings (final pushes, the procrastinators who do their best work at midnight before deadline). And everything in between, every combination therein. Some are good at all (Obama? maybe?).

I am a beginning and ending person. I've seen this in myself in all aspects of life, even in chess games. I am really great at opening and end-game, but in the middle I become so confused and lose my queen.

And now I am acting like I am moving out tomorrow. There are a lot of things going on for me — loneliness, anxiety, fear of the unknown, appetite issues, mild depression, fear of nighttime — but I don't want to sit with my emotions right now because they are too pointy. I am trying to outrun them by remaining chaotically busy.

What I do know is that when I come back to the states, all of my best clothes are going to smell like Glad Forceflex perfumed garbage bags (the label said "odor eliminating," not "odor infusing"), for better or worse. And in two weeks — I won't be thinking about this at all until I return, whenever that may be.

I just need to breathe some Spanish air. Now.

Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Hello, I'm moving to Spain

Probar is a Spanish word I have a love affair with. It was not taught to me, or one that I sought out. It's a word that soaked into me on creamy, orange-scented streets in Barcelona.

On a Sunday morning in October 2007 I was trying to remember how to ask to try something—that something was Spanish wine at an open air market.

I started to get nervous, and when I get nervous I forget things, and forgetting things makes me nervous. I took a breath and stopped. I listened.

"¿Puedo probarlo?" "¿Puedo probar el vino?"

Probar. Yes! I lovingly borrowed it from the Spaniards around me and used it for myself—and had a remarkably full conversation with the merchant. I sipped red wine in the late October sunshine before continuing to wake up with a café cortado and cruasán de chocolate at an outdoor café. Classic, and perfect.

And two years later, on Nov. 3, 2009, I will be moving to Spain.

I haven't used the word "moving" yet. I've been telling people that I'm "going," or "traveling to." But there isn't a definite time period I'm going for. It's reliant upon money, I suppose, and isn't moving to any city the same way, if you're going there without a job?

Besides. "Moving" sounds so, so good. It feels right to me.

People in the U.S. generally use the word "moving" when they've been guaranteed a job at their new location. Or they have specific housing set up. I don't. I don't even know for sure if I'll be traveling around the country on my own or if I'll be staying in one place for three months teaching, then traveling, or doing both at the same time. I have no idea. And I love that, too.

I don't need to move "into" anywhere, or "for" something. I'm moving my self, my body, my spirit. I'm letting go of my apartment that I've been in love with since the day I serendipitously found it. I'm moving to jolt my soul, because it enjoys the invigoration. And it doesn't hurt to gather more experience, good or bad, for my writing life.

I am and always have been in love with everything Spanish: Spanish language, Spanish culture, Spanish food, the Spanish accent, Spanish dance... everything. I'm not sure why. It's not something I cultivated. It's just always been dancing around inside myself, and I need to bring it out and let it flutter around for a while.

For a "moving" kind of while.

Images: #1, Barcelona, Amy Segreti; #2, Malaga, Flickr user -N-Root-

Thursday, September 24, 2009

This Life is For Exhaling

He was asking her if she thought she would stay here forever.

"I think sometimes that I want to get out of New York," he was saying, the way people do when traveling, "but I don't know if I want to leave in a way where I don't have access to it anymore."

I was sitting in the booth behind this pair at a Nepalese restaurant in the small mountain town of Nederland, the sweet potato masala melting along my tongue like hot marshmellows.

"I'm not sure if I'll stay here forever," the woman replied. I couldn't see her face, but her voice sounded like it came from a deeper place, wooded with experience. "I just know that I wake up every morning and I feel so..." She paused. "Sane."

I watched her titter her head from side to side in laughter—her white hair not a rigid nest but filled with movement, a puffed dandelion globe allowing light to flow through it. Her neck moved with a lengthy suppleness, like she'd spent her life looking in many different directions.

He was younger, and I could see him perfectly. Maybe a son, a nephew of hers. He looked displaced. His face looked planned, like it was created from a blueprint, and in the background there were city lights and purpose-driven stares. He had the east coast etched into him, much like I did. Or maybe didn't anymore.

I like to carry around pendants, talismans from the east—shiny Bebe purses, determined facial expressions, a defensive, city strut. To people here, I am an east coaster; to friends from home, I am a mountain hippie. My friend who works on Capitol Hill in Washington tells me that Boulder has made me soft, that living here has clouded my rational mind. But maybe it needed some clouding, some wetness gently raining from it, watercoloring my edges.

I needed to know what it felt like to be in the mountains, to feel overtaken by a ridiculous variety of natural forces, all coexisting at once. I needed to be consumed by these rugged cliffs, clawed into by the edges of the sky. It has been beautiful; I have heard the crack of my soul opening here. It is worth becoming soft for this.

I stopped being able to hear the couple, except for the woman saying, "I can keep such a low profile here." I wondered if she was someone famous, an author, an artist, or someone who just wanted to be alone. I wondered when I would get to an age where I could live in a town like Nederland, just 15 miles west of Boulder but uncountable degrees more solitary, with almost no cell phone service and a village-size town center.

I will, someday, when I have collected enough experiences to bloat the walls of my small mountain house. They will funnel through me onto paper and I will not need to go anywhere else, because accessing cities will be as easy as turning a page. And my life will exist in an exhale.

Images: #1, "Keep me company," Flickr user Trcybrr; #2, CO landscape, Amy Segreti

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

The Secret Lives of Raindrops

When I was little, I would study raindrops with a scientific intensity as they crawled down my mother's car window. I would play games with myself, guessing which ones would come together and barrel furiously to the end of their lives at the bottom of the window, fueled by their union. My mother would holler, and I would be quiet and watch them, wondering about the few that didn't find partners along the glass, who rolled softly and wearily to their ends. It was a way for me to turn inward while looking outward.

There are so many different ways to write. I am constantly amazed.

I picked up this book of short fiction today, "The Secret Lives of People in Love." I'd seen it before; I was originally turned off by the title, although I have several secret lives.

But I opened it up today at the Boulder Bookstore and read one of Simon Van Booy's three-page short-shorts, "The Reappearance of Strawberries." It was unbelievable. A dying man is staring out the window at the rain, requesting only strawberries on his final days, and he has a memory of a girl he should have been with.

He observed how each raindrop united with its closest other and then, split open by its own weight, ran down the glass in one even corridor. Even after her family was killed, he did nothing—not one thing.

Without memory, he thought, man would be invincible.

And this—how incredibly short and powerful it is, how it stirs a hot meringue of admiration and envy within me—is why I write.

Here is the back of his book. Martin Page's review is one that would cause me to die happily if I were to receive it.

Thursday, August 20, 2009

Indian Peaks photo post

Since I was made to choose one day a week to take off work (and chose Wednesday), I've been doing my best to make the most of them — and succeeding wildly.

Yesterday I ventured up into Indian Peaks Wilderness (part of Arapaho National Forest) and did a three-hour hike between Mitchell Lake and Blue Lake in an open valley at around 11,000 feet... and it was the most breathtakingly beautiful hike I've done here. I went by myself, because that's how I roll.

Mind you, all of these photos were taken with a 2-megapixel camera on an old iPhone with no zoom function.

The colors on these rocks were absolutely jaw-dropping.

Needing to capture myself in the moment, of course, with pretty flowers.

This picture has everything you can expect from Colorado: mountains, snow, greenery, flowing water — and a brewing afternoon thunderstorm.

Such an amazing trail. I am so lucky that I happen to live here.

Rolling home solo in the mountains, Camelbak in the passenger seat — just the way I like it.

Saturday, August 15, 2009

Newsweek: a great example of what journalism needs

I have been thinking this for a while now, and it's time I come out and say it: Newsweek—I am so, so proud of you.

I remember seeing piles and piles of the old you lying around my mother's house in New Jersey, sandwiched between the Asbury Park Press and old paper napkins scented with her gin and tonics. My mother had a fairly ambivalent attitude toward you, and I took that on as I grew up, even as I became a journalist. I didn't understand the point of you, and I don't think my mother did either. I adored the Washington Post, especially their Sunday magazine, but something about you... I just didn't get what you and TIME contributed to the conversation.

But now, things have changed.

“There’s a phrase in the culture: ‘we need to take note of,’ ‘we need to weigh in on,’ ” said Newsweek’s editor, Jon Meacham in a New York Times article. “That’s going away. If we don’t have something original to say, we won’t. The drill of chasing the week’s news to add a couple of hard-fought new details is not sustainable.”

I could feel that doggedness in the magazine even when I was younger, that sense of obligation that made the publication seem more like an informed citizen's duty to read rather than a pleasure, rather than something that could provide enlightenment and spawn fresh discussion.

With Newsweek's redesign starting with their May 18, 2009 issue, the magazine overhauled the format they had going for 76 years and replaced it with something perfectly packaged for today's ever-changing journalistic landscape.

Think about it. How are most newspapers and magazines trying to stay in the game? They're starting Twitter accounts and begrudgingly keeping up with them, or finding an intern who's only requirement is to be under the age of 21 to do it.

But Newsweek rethought their entire publication and executed it not in small doses, but all at once—which made the entire thing that more stunning.

They had an entire issue where political satirist Stephen Colbert was their guest editor. He inserted his humor into bits of the magazine (which were clearly pointed out as his work), such as: "Recycling magazines, catalogs and newspapers is one of the easiest ways for liberals to feel good about themselves." And in his editorial piece where he discusses the topic of this week's issue, he writes: "Americans have many lingering questions about Iraq. (For example: where is Iraq?) I wanted to find the answers."

Publicity stunt? Maybe, but it worked, it was damn hilarious, and the issue still had wonderful content. For those of us who respect high-quality journalism—but can also enjoy the humor of publications like the Onion—this was absolutely perfect.

The magazine is now divided into four clear sections: "short newsy items, essays and commentary, longer features and cultural coverage. It is printed on higher-quality paper, which instantly will make it feel better in your hand. I think the new design is sophisticated and airy, and makes the stories we work so hard on seem more inviting," said Assistant Managing Editor Kathleen Deveny in the "Reinventing Newsweek" column.

But it's more than the content. Newsweek has finally figured out that design can make or break a publication.
The new magazine is loaded with style. The palettes are softer and more elegant. New fonts are used in the magazine, including Archer, a signature font of the most un-Newsweek of all magazines: Martha Stewart Living. Cerebral and direct, unsnarky and anti-ironic, with cool hues and fonts to match.

“It’s so beautiful and open and a very modern serif font,” said Bonnie Siegler, the founder of Number 17, the design firm Mr. Meacham hired to redesign the magazine, speaking about the use of Archer in the magazine.

— from an article in the New York Observer

And these things, like font choices, do matter and it takes a great editorial team to really get that. Writers tend to want to believe their writing will rise above the need to have stunning photographs and compelling design. Unfortunately, in today's world—it does not. It just won't be noticed as much.

What's more—Newsweek does use Twitter, and they do it right. Before their issue on July 13, 2009 on books came out, they held a roundtable with six authors and live-tweeted the discussion. The quotes were incredible, things like Elizabeth Stout's reason for writing: "It's just a compulsion. It's absolute madness in a way, I think. The few times that I contemplate not doing it, it's almost like there's a flavor that leaves ordinary life." Now that is something you'd want to see on your Twitter home page.

Most importantly—they're bringing a necessary lightheartedness into journalism, which has gotten way too serious in this seemingly desolate landscape. In the Colbert issue, he writes: "I sent Newsweek's reporters to find out whatever happened to Iraq. Unfortunately, this meant cutting the cover story they had planned: 'Hey, Have You Heard About This Thing Called Twitter?"

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Wend Wednesdays

Wend (wěnd) v. To go one's way; to proceed on or along

I am in a tea house, writing fervently and padding barefoot upon the wood floors, letting the day flow by, smooth and unruffled like a long, silk skirt. I am a low tide, calmed by the sounds of the beautiful rock, plant and water sculpture beside me, sipping green tea, the taste of it dry and grassy, as though I am tonguing the earth.

I have felt things changing lately. I am likely leaving the country in two months. I am only working four days a week now due to company finances; Wednesday will be my day off. I am getting in touch with the feminine sides of life in more ways than I ever have; I even prefer the company of women to men, whereas in the first 20-something years of my life it was quite the opposite. I am reading books to learn more about my sex.
Woman the bowl, the urn, the cave, the musky jungle. We are the dark mysterium! We are hidden folds and primal wisdom and always, always the womb, bearing life, releasing life, and then sucking it back in again, into those moist, chthonic plaits.
— "Woman: An Intimate Geography," Natalie Anger

I have gone twice to see a man in the mountains that my girl friends and I call "the Oracle," or Boulder’s version of a therapist. The first time, I genuinely wanted to know about every aspect of my future, past and present, and allowed him to do his job and contact my spirit guides.

The second time, I went to see him more as a distressed patient, due to a painful and unexpected personal interaction. I listen to the recording of this session and hardly recognize myself. My emotions were a pendulum caught in a tornado, wild and with many strong, opposing answers. I felt alternately faint and boiling, flickering between a thunderstorm and a generator defeated by one.

Through breath work, visualization and encouragement to communicate (and perhaps not in the way I originally intended, which I scrapped, as it was peppered with insults and nothing but negativity), I released it. It worked, it all worked. I became sea-worthy again, in the way that I always have. There is no slow build up with me, but a ferociousness followed by the quickest calm you will ever see. It is because of my mother, and I thank her for it, and I don’t at the same time.

I asked the Oracle if I should take an east coast road trip to see friends before I leave for Spain in November. Going to Spain is my only plan right now, and one that can only be halted by a salaried journalism/writing job. Although he told me quite strongly that Spain was the right choice (and that I had three past lives there, however you want to take that), he told me not to do the road trip.

"If you have things to say to people from your past, call or write them. But you do not need to go backwards," he said. "Save your money for Spain or go somewhere else for that time, but keep moving forward. Your soul is excited by travel, but it does not like to go in reverse."

I was okay with this, although there still were some people I felt I wanted to see in person.

Less than two weeks later, I unexpectedly got sent on a business trip to Washington D.C., where I got a chance to be with those people. Even someone from the North Carolina portion of my life drove up to see me. Things happen this way.

And now all I hope for is that in Spain, I am able to write consistently. That I will have access to post my writing so that others may read it, so that I may be able to funnel my energies and intentions and, basically, remain sane.

I feel like my writing is a laser inside of myself, and my daily life can make me cloudy. But when I’m in the right place, and I touch that laser, the only thing I can do is follow it to its end, and it is a path I am more sure of than anything else in my life. It is carved, it is set, I just need to follow it. Sandy, smooth, fiery or calm — whatever I need to be to do so.

Ray Bradbury writes in his essay, "The Joy of Writing," about doing what he loves from the core of his being, with passion and pride, even if some editors didn’t adore his work:
"But a lot of readers did. I claim no victory. But there was blood on my gloves when I hung them up."
Blood on my gloves. In the spirit of Spain’s greatest (and most controversial) sport, bullfighting: olé to that.

Monday, July 27, 2009

Friend healing, Boulder style

Last night my friends soothed me in a way I'd never experienced, and I'm so grateful for it.

I came to their house like a charged porcupine, my hairs on end, sharp and ready to strike. My vision was blurry with venom, from anger at two very different weekend interactions that triggered the roots of my emotions, that clawed at me and made me snake-like and smoking.

And then I stepped into this place where three of my female friends live. They are air, all Libras, and I needed them to settle me, to cool me. There was one man there, to whom I was initially opposed, but who quickly earned my trust.

After I got some poison off my chest through conversation, we sat around the hookah and lounged like Roman goddesses (plus one emperor). They all gave me a massage with coconut oil to free my tension, and reiki to heal me. Our man played us guitar, bluegrass was sung, and people intermittently got up to dance, to move their hips in wide, encompassing circles. Ridiculous puppet antics were caught on camera, and there was just so much love, love, love in that room.

I felt so incredibly blessed.

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

San Francisco sensations

The following was something I wrote a while ago that I am intensely relating to today. When I wrote it, I was reading Hopscotch by Julio Cortazar and it was enticing me to stay up late with it, fingering the pages, writing and drinking coffee. I had flown to San Francisco to run a half-marathon, and was feeling a tingling energy at the tips of things, as if all my endeavors had nerves. If you've read the book, you can see the influence in my sentences.

I have been pining for San Francisco lately, the San Francisco I discovered when I flew there alone in July of 2005. The hot rays of sunlight that puncture the city fog some days, most days, rays like lasers on my stomach as I lay in the grass reading Lolita at a jazz festival, surrounded by people doing whatever they wanted with their Saturday afternoon. Sipping mojitos at a bar while reading about Mormon fundamentalists — and being able to tell a woman that and have her not think me strange and instead invite me to hang out with her group of friends. Riding on a motorcycle through the Castro, to bars as foggy as the city, getting lost in the tangled marriage of novelty and good conversation. Stepping on buses without the slightest clue where they'll take me, ending up at various parks in the Haight. Talking to people with no expectations, exchanging smiles to those walking around the city with bags from the running expo, as if we wore the same badge of ideas and actions, as if we had the same past, and we acknowledge it with eyelids up, down, up again and a curvature of the face saying, yes, we share this piece of the universe. The excitement of movement, running, legs like pistols, and breath, the air invigorating, like peppermint.

I went to San Francisco in March 2009, and finally, I felt that same connection again.

I wasn't meant to move there in June 2007, when I tried to go there with Ian. Maybe I needed to do some evolving first. And maybe... maybe I'm ready now.

Saturday, June 13, 2009

The elements as awkward metaphors

The rain here lately is constant. It is plump like grapes, fat with a tenderness that allows the sun to keep shining while the engorged droplets hit the ground. They smack themselves against the pavement, popping back up like childhood bouncing balls, too swollen to fit through the street sewers.

I am doing things I never thought I would.

Boulder is morphing for me, because I am forcing it to. Because I have lost the ability to live here peacefully without making a drastic change. Because my emotions are a completely unpredictable kind of weather.

I have squeezed so much writing about you out of myself and yet I am still soaked with it. There is still more, there is always more. You hardly have to do anything and there will always be more, because it is intense emotion that fuels me, and pain is one of the richest sponges.

I read a fiction piece in the New Yorker recently in which a woman says to her lover, "We are like mayflies. We live only for an afternoon."

To have you is to have the warmth of steam.

Monday, June 1, 2009

6 reasons my job rocks (even though it's not my intended career)

The lease to my Boulder apartment expires in early September. This is no secret. I could decide to stay in Colorado for another year, or two or three, or I could move to another country. It's all up in the air; it's all possible. And the beauty of it is that I don't need to decide (i.e. give notice to my apartment complex) until early August.

But since I'm going to be at my current job for at least another three months, I have decided to make a list of reasons why my job absolutely rocks. Because I've been here for over a year, and if I don't make this list now
as I listen to the bird-chirp filled, almost-summer Boulder day carrying on outside without me, the Flatirons begging me scurry up them I might go insane.

I work in downtown Boulder.

Not in some office park where my only lunch option is Quiznos. In fact, the problem I have most often (and have elucidated to others, to their disdain) is that there are so many wonderful, independent, local places to eat that I have no idea which one to choose.

I work a mile away from where I live.

One mile. Which means I can not only drive to work, but bike, walk, and if I wanted to, skip. Because it's really that close. (If distance is a good enough attribute for Penelope Trunk, it's good enough for me).

I get a free permit for a downtown parking lot.

This is so very useful when needing to carry large things home, when I need to go to the Denver airport (it's across from the Boulder bus station), and quite frankly whenever I'm wearing high heels. However, the most important aspect of this is the ability to say snobbishly to friends, "I never pay to park downtown."

I only work from 9 a.m. - 4 p.m.

If I were the sort of person to get up early, I could do quite a lot of things in the morning. I always leave work when it's light out, even in the dead of winter. Also, friends who don't wake up until 2 p.m. think that I never work and can just materialize money from nowhere.

I am actually enhancing my resume.

I manage and edit print projects for our company. I write the company blog. I grow and cultivate the online branding of our company image through social media networks (hi, Facebook and Twitter). This will all help me when I get back to the journalism industry.

And finally, I work with a small group of people who, if they found and read this post, would not really be insulted by it at all.

I believe they know me well enough that when I say that writing is my true passion, it does not come as any surprise. Really, I don't think I could make it any more obvious.

A quote I take solace in is this:

"You may be able to take a break from writing, but you won't be able to take a break from being a writer."
— Stephen Leigh


Are you working at a job that isn't your intended career but want to appreciate it anyway? Tell me why you love your job. I know you can think of something.

Saturday, May 23, 2009

Cocoa the Bear and the smell of coffee

I’ve been thinking about writing about this weekend and what it means to me all day, but it just isn’t ready yet. It’s still coagulating. And when I tried anyway – sitting down at my laptop in a café, finally able to breathe and get away from the throngs of visitors that have descended upon my town like some kind of spontaneously materialized sneaker-wearing species – I just freaked out.

I’m also distracted, because there is scattered energy in Boulder right now, as thousands are here for the Bolder Boulder and the Boulder Creek Festival, and there is a tilt-a-whirl and screaming neon lights in my work parking lot, and event booths with non-compostable cups, and a man in a suit using both a typewriter and an iPod in this coffee shop, and all of this… makes me unable to write what I want to right now.

So I’ve decided instead to just post a picture and, much like in a children’s book, to point out and explain an object in it.

I created this today. It is a love seat in the bay window of my apartment, for reading, writing – or eating green grapes and cherries, which is what I did this afternoon, trying to get used to the feeling of sitting inside of a floating box of glass, in front, in back, and to the right of me. Like a glass peninsula bubble.

For the past 17 months I’ve lived in my apartment, I’ve done essentially nothing with this particular space. See photo below of nothing:

Looks like it would be good for plants, right? I once put a basil plant in there, named her Priscilla, and promptly killed her in two weeks.

“Aren’t basil plants easy to take care of?” my friend Ashley asked when I told her of Priscilla’s untimely demise. Yes, they are. I am just very good at killing things, or else I like to think my plants can be as independent as I am and not need my attention for nine days straight. Regardless, Priscilla made it onto a few mozzarella and tomato sandwiches, and then she got brown, and we parted ways.

What I’d like to point out about this love seat area that I am so proud of, is Cocoa. The Car Accident Bear.

Cocoa was given to me by a hospital nurse in North Carolina, right before my ex, Ian, and I accidentally moved to Colorado. The tag is still on him; I have her name written in there, so I can remember her. (If you Google your name, Crystal Wainwright, and find this: hi.)

The nurse bought this for me from the hospital gift shop because I was waiting hours for an appointment I’d made much earlier. I really needed to know what was going on with me and I was being completely ignored. I thought I had an ectopic pregnancy, which is scary, and something Dr. Google was sure I might have, due to my very specific symptoms. I was also typing on my laptop writing an article for my newspaper section, since I was using work time to be at the hospital, and I was randomly bursting into tears worrying about myself.

I’m guessing that the frequent vacillation between hardened concentration and whimsical emotion probably made me look like I was in the wrong ward of the hospital.

The nurse who was overseeing the waiting room noticed my pain or insanity and gave me this bear. It turned out I didn’t have an ectopic pregnancy, I named the bear Cocoa, and got my article in on time.

I played with Cocoa so often the last week I was in Wilmington that I even started taking sentimental pictures of us on my old flip cell phone, long-arm-coming-out-of-side-of-the-photo style.

When Ian and I got into the accident, Cocoa was on my lap and I was sleeping. After the car stopped flipping around in the air and landed right side up, Cocoa had migrated to my feet, and he was covered in the cold coffee that had been sitting in the cup holder.

I’d like to say I took him with me to the hospital, but I honestly don’t think that I did. All I took was my cell phone, and when they put me on the hard board-like thing and loaded me into the AirLife helicopter, I managed to clasp onto it even as they cut my sundress open to put sticky electrodes on my body to monitor my heart. Even as they stuck needles in me, and moved me from board to moving thing to MRI machine to hospital bed.

The only reason I was able to remember my cell phone was because it was my link to Ian, who had been separated from me minutes after the accident and taken to a different hospital. It was the thing that would connect me to him – it was Ian as the only way I could take him with me – and I knew that even in my delirium, and I held onto it like it was the only thing that could bring me back to any place I recognized.

I retrieved Cocoa from the wreckage just like everything else that highway patrol had collected and taken to a facility operated by an impersonal man who charged us $300 to retrieve our own belongings. Cocoa was fine, except he smelled like coffee beans, which I like to re-phrase as "cocoa beans," for effect.

And so there he sits, the protector of my love seat area. I smelled him today, but he doesn’t smell like coffee anymore, like he did for about a year after the accident. But he was fine, and I was fine, and Ian was fine. We were all fine. And so, I really didn’t mind the smell. In fact, I liked it.

Saturday, May 9, 2009

Musings on pride and bronchitis

So, I have bronchitis, and this spurred me to buy a chick lit book.

I mean, there was nothing else I could really do. I watched three episodes of LOST. I slept for over 16 hours. I can't go to a movie theater because it's rude to go to a place where people expect silence and fill it with the sounds of you hacking up a lung.

I finally went to a coffee shop because I needed to get out of the house and I'd heard that coffee dilates the bronchial tubes. This guy kept staring at me. Usually I interpret that to mean he might find me attractive, however today I think he was concerned that I should perhaps be in a hospital and not sitting across from him appearing as though I might have The Swine Flu.

I'd read 314 pages of this book yesterday, and saved the last 60 for today, finishing it at the café. I am unable to share the title because it resonated with my life so much that if I were to name it, someone could easily research it and find out one of my secrets. Plus it's somewhat embarrassing to resonate with a book that has a picture of a charm bracelet, complete with lock and key, on the cover.

The thing is — I enjoyed it. The book made me think about the subject of pride. One of the things I've been struggling with recently is my intense, unperturbed Leo pride. I read once, "The Leo woman’s pride is always at stake, and no matter how loudly she roars, her ego is delicate and fragile."

I used to be a person who spouted her emotions at unsuspecting loved ones at any given opportunity. Sometimes I wonder if people back in Maryland and D.C. would even recognize me now. I recently visited a friend in New York who met me in my early college years, and he told me that I've changed so much — that he can tell just from the way I talk about things and myself now — and I took it as a huge compliment.

But in addition to the more positive aspects of my growth since coming to Boulder, I've turned completely around and instead of upchucking my frustrations at people I'm involved with in an annoying and theatrical emo manner, I now keep them hidden and pretend not to care if they hurt me. Especially if they really hurt me.

My ex, who was a long-term recipient of my emotional upchucking, called me today and said: "Amy, I know you're trying to 'hippy' the bronchitis out of you, but I think you should stop trying to scare it away with patchouli and go get some medicine."

I am lucky he still talks to me, let alone calls and makes me laugh, or rather, make noises similar to laughing but sound more like the last wheezes of a dying animal.

What's ended up happening is that I've exchanged putting fem-angst lyrics in public journal entries in a passive-aggressive attempt to equate them with my life, for hardened smiles, for "it's fine," for the idea that not letting someone see you cry is a victory. And I'm not sure it's much better.

Someone just wrote to me, "Pride is the mirror image of shame." Once I get over my initial proud defensiveness triggered by this statement, I interpret this to mean: I have feelings that I am ashamed of. And so I use my pride to mask them, as a defense mechanism. Because I can swallow them easier if they come in the form of pride.

What is the point of pride? What do you end up keeping at the sake of what you end up losing? Isn't pride just a squeezing in of yourself? And, how do you know when it becomes suffocating?

Tuesday, May 5, 2009

Lessons from the Rocky and journalism as a calling

John Temple, former editor, president and publisher of the Rocky Mountain News, has a blog.

And in it, he recently wrote this wonderful post for editors, and I have to link to it here, because I relate to the following quote on a soul level:

"Almost everybody in your newsroom got into this business with the hope of fulfilling some type of higher calling. You need to connect with that desire, feed and encourage it and show how new approaches to reporting the news can do just that."

Yes, yes, resounding yes.

From a similar standpoint, these are some words from Archbishop Charles Chaput of Denver who spoke to journalists at the Pew Forum on Religion & Public Life, quoted in a column published in the Daily Camera:

"Journalism is a vocation, not a job. Pursued properly, journalism should enjoy the same dignity as the law or medicine because the service that journalists perform is equally important to a healthy society. I really believe that. You form people. You form the way they think and the way they live their lives. So journalists have a duty to serve the truth and the common good."

I believe journalism is about informing, sharing, connecting, educating and helping. I believe it is a public service. And I believe it will never "die," because I know there are others who feel the same way. I believe that it is a calling, and callings have suffering, hard work and dedication threaded through them.

"The best journalism does not just fill the human mind with facts. It touches the heart. It roils your gut. It moistens your eye. It kicks you in the nuts. Objects can’t do that, only people." (Steve Buttry)

I believe that journalism, at its best, comes from the heart.

Monday, May 4, 2009

Denver Green Festival: Poo, Progressives and Class Distinction

Note: This article was also published in elephant journal and can be found here. I did not, however, write the very first line ("Nothing like...") in the elephant's edited version. I am nevertheless grateful for their publication.

"Is this also made of poo?" I asked Dr. Karl Wald of his business card after he handed it to me.

I don't normally inquire if people's business cards are composed of excrement, but Wald had just told me about his business, Mr. Ellie Pooh, a green paper company in which all of the products are composed of 75% elephant dung and 25% post consumer paper.

The products include stationary, cards, scrapbooks and journals, which also showcase artisan packaging.

"This way, we can give more value to the poo," Wald said.

And yes, his business card is made of poo.

I encountered interesting, innovative and ecologically sound companies and ideas such as this all over the Denver Green Festival, which took place the weekend of May 2-3 at the Colorado Convention Center. The festival is organized in five cities around the country and strives to open people's minds to the various ways they can "go green" in their local community.

The Denver festival featured hundreds of speakers, educators, panels and exhibitors. All companies present were screened to ensure their business exemplified social justice and economic sustainability, said National Program Director Karri Winn.

Over 1,200 volunteers helped keep the convention running smoothly. There were even middle-school age volunteers at trash stations, pointing out what could be composted and recycled. 95-96% of discarded materials at the event will be recycled or composted, according to Winn.

Which is a figure I think is awesome. Just being at the festival was inspiring in and of itself, seeing how many companies are aware of their environmental impact and doing their part to lessen it.

I talked to an adorable woman named Kate Adams who owns the Denver-based Sweet Pea Pockets. Adams takes vintage coffee bean sacks and antique grain sacks, some with 100-year old seams, from France and Hungary and creates beautiful bags out of them. She sews handkerchiefs on the insides for artsy pockets, and layers fragments from her drawings, photos and old French letters to print on cotton twill fabric for the outsides, making each bag unique. They are truly impressive.

Sweet Pea Pockets design: an 1800s French letter layered over cyanotype print

Better World Books was also present, which supports book drives, collects used books and ships all their books out carbon neutral. And my absolute favorite California-based cracker company, Mary's Gone Crackers, Inc., was there giving out a generous amount of free samples. Their crackers organic and made in a gluten-free, wheat-free and nut-free facility, which makes this peanut-allergic writer very happy. Bryant Terry, exuberant author of Vegan Soul Kitchen, did two presentations, got me excited for vegan food and gave me some delicious cooked collards with raisins.

Festival attendees were just what you might expect they would be, and people-watching proved to be quite enjoyable. The Onion held a scavenger hunt in the exhibition hall, and the sights listed were easy to find: a granola bar, Obama campaign items, an aging hippy, someone texting while walking, an advocate for the vegan lifestyle. At the Stop Global Beer Warming booth, the "global" part of the company's name was purposely crossed out on the banner to signify the purpose of the product, spurring one man sporting a bandanna and beaded necklace to ask, "Does this suggest that you don't want to stop global warming?" to which the company's representative quickly responded that this was definitely not the case. And at a panel featuring investigative journalist Greg Palast, a video was shown in which George Bush appeared, a sight which caused the gray-haired woman in front of me wearing earrings resembling gigantic dangling peaches to shiver uncontrollably.

The discussions and panels boasted an impressive line-up, including Democracy Now! host and journalist Amy Goodman, sustainability educator and biodegradable-factory-builder Gunter Pauli, and actor/activist/writer Mike Farrell. Some speakers more than held my attention; some were predictable and I found myself guiltily wandering back to the exhibition hall halfway through their talks. But the discussions that I found to be the most interesting were the ones that explored the issue of race within the green movement.

It's an idea that might make you furrow your brow at first, but the panels "Thinkin' Green, Living Bling" and "Verde, Verdad: Keeping It Green, Keeping It Real," got into the subject in a no-holds-barred way. There were a lot of young people in these panels, and the energy in the rooms — particularly in the former panel — was enough to fire me up even as the festival was coming to a close.

Panelist and writer/artist/vegan Afya Ibomu helped to bring home the somewhat controversial idea that the "green movement" is too often thought of as a "white people movement."

"There's a problem with the government not teaching green to people living in the hood," she said. "And it's hard when you have McDonald's and Coke in schools in these areas, because how can you talk about green in a realistic way in that environment?"

Zakiya Harris, creator of the Bay-area Grind for the Green, emphasized that the green movement needs to be community-centric and culturally-relevant, and audience members brought up important points such as reframing the green movement to fit each community, whether it is rich or poor. Think about it: poverty-stricken people used to bring bottles and cans to recycling centers for 5 cents a pop. That is still "green," even though we may not think of it as such.

A picture I took of a bottle sculpture at Arlie Gardens in Wilmington, N.C.

The panels made me realize that rethinking green is an important part of eliminating class distinction within the green movement in order to further its expansion.

"'Organic' means rich white folks who go to Whole Foods," said panelist and founder of the Pan African Arts Society Ashara Ekundayo. "I might not be able to go to Whole Foods but I can go to King Soopers and buy the organic seeds and grow my own vegetables. It's just a matter of teaching people how to do it."

Denver Regional Programming Director Sarah Moss, who spent bonding time with the panelists in "Verde, Verdad," said that the best part of the festival to her was building relationships.

"It's — this is who I am, who are you? And let's figure out how we can work together," she said.

The bonding-for-change spirit evident in these two panels — even though organic cotton T-shirts and recycled grocery bags are grand — was the part of the festival that inspired me and represented the most energy, spirit and vision for change.

If you missed the festival — shame on you. But, you'll be able to catch discussions and panels live online at the Green Festival TV and radio portions of the website.

The green festival is affecting my eating behavior already. I followed my Saturday attendance with a trip to City O' City, a vegan-friendly cafe in Denver offering gluten-free pizzas. I started my Sunday with a vegan tofu scramble Sunflower brunch in Boulder and ended the weekend with a vegan dinner of brown-butter sage Andalusian pasta and coconut cream pie at Watercourse in the city.

I just won't be making my own poo business cards anytime soon.

Thursday, April 30, 2009

Inner spring cleaning

Sometimes, all it takes is connecting with a friend to help get you back on track.

This morning I talked to one of my best girl friends, Julia, who recently moved away from Boulder to Sedona, Ariz. She is an artist, a yoga teacher, a musician, and one of the strongest most beautiful women I know. She is an inspiration.

I'd been feeling displaced lately, leaving eraser rubbings of myself in uncomfortable places, and Julia, in her ever-expansive helpfulness, asked her crystal pendulum some yes/no questions for me. The results are answers I'm already aware of, but I believe it's helpful to have an outside source — even if the interpretation is really coming from yourself — to tell you things you already know you should be doing. Or, not doing.

As a result, I'm faced with some great changes. I need to step away from things that are stunting my growth and bringing me only temporary and fleeting benefits.

A Twitter friend of mine asked a question: What is your defining mission in life? I answered: "To connect, empower and help people through my writing." And I realized how wonderful it is to be able to answer that question without hesitation.

So, today I am taking things back that have spilled outside myself. Welcome home.

Thursday, April 23, 2009

Plane writing: New York City

I travel to explore myself more fully.

This morning, I missed the AB bus to the Denver airport. It was the first time I'd ever done that. When I realized I'd have to drive, I went to the Brewing Market for coffee where a box of soy milk exploded onto my newly-highlighted hair and the only sweater I am bringing to New York. I laughed because that's all you can do sometimes.

And on the plane, I am reading the New Yorker and finding in it a treasure trove of things that stir me up, that add new flavors to my inner soupy mixture. It is the April 20th issue. I am taking notes. I write:

- the idea of having "blood-knowledge"
- "Porter had a habit of inviting ruin into her home so that she could flee it."
- rephrased: "The funny thing about writing is that, in order to have anything to write about, one has to live — i.e. not be writing."
- page 112, third column — amazing piece on "negative liberty"

I looked up this "negative liberty" idea when I began to write this. The phrase comes from the following passage regarding the fear that comes from creating one's art (in this case, writing).

"Dyer's characters failed to write not because they were indifferent to writing but because they wanted too much to write. Negative liberty expresses a fear of completion; if you never start a work, then at least there is no chance of your having finished it. To complete something is in some ways to make it disappear; not starting it is a preemptive strike against loss, a way of elegizing what has not yet disappeared."

This idea deeply resonates with me. I love writing more than anything else in the world, and sometimes find it hard for me to sit down and do it. There is nothing I would rather do, there is nothing I would rather be than a writer — and the fear that I can't even do that sometimes, often times, when I would rather lose myself in some rap song, some simplistic magazine — that terrifies me.

I know a lot of artists who go through this. Who can sometimes do everything but their work on a day when all they really want to do is their work. But, to do that work is a purposeful wantit's a desire that is so close to our hearts that the fear of disappointing ourselves feels fatal. If we want to go to a museum and then fail to do so — when we arrive, we're just not in the mood anymore — it doesn't feel so bad. But if we want to create meaningful prose and then fail to do so, after we have already arrived with our laptops, our keys, our latte steaming the screen, our fingers, finding our thoughts drifting away from us — it can make one doubt the core of her being.

Back on the plane, I am so inspired by this magazine, by this particular issue. I am devouring it, I am eating a grilled vegan salad, I am warning the stewardess of my severe peanut allergy. I walk around the plane in socks. I turn off the personal television screen with snobbery guiding my finger. I have bursts of inspiration, necessitating pulling out a pen, a tiny notebook and writing frantically. I have four pens in my purse, two blue, two black, pain colors, but also catharsis colors.

I yearn to find someone else on this plane going to the live This American Life show, because, to me, listening to that radio show means something about a person. It indicates patience, imagination, pleasure in creating your own visuals. It shows an openness and acceptance of other people's emotions and how they can alter your insides. It proves that you believe, even if it's subconscious, that we are all connected, that we all have stories worth telling, and that through our experiences we can help others. It indicates an appreciation of words and the crafting, molding and artistic placement of them.

And all of that matters to me, because they are things I value in myself.