to see a flower


planned to pack and do other practical, necessary things seeing as though i’m leaving tomorrow. until breakfast, “hey jessica, do you have any classes? want to walk down to the o’keeffe museum?”

forget packing.

spent the morning with ms. o’keeffe and some other great gals and great artists.





i like the way o’keeffe saw and gave meaning the world, both nature and man-made.

“Nobody sees a flower, really, it is so small. We haven’t time – and to see takes time like to have a friend takes time.

If I could paint the flower exactly as I see it no one would see what I see because I would paint it small like the flower is small. So I said to myself – I’ll paint what I see – what the flower is to me but I’ll paint it big and they will be surprised into taking time to look at it – I will make even busy New Yorkers take time to see what I see of flowers.

…Well, I made you take time to look at what I saw and when you took time to really notice my flower you hung all your own associations with flowers on my flower and you write about my flower as if I think and see what you think and see of the flower – and I don’t.

i’m sad to leave. i know myself well enough to know i won’t begin to understand what happened this summer or how meaningful it was until i get in the car tomorrow. the thirty hour car trip should help. it will also help me come down from the mountaintop and ease back into the reality of my life… all the good, happy, sad, undone, yet to be done, needing to be done, and missing pieces.

o’keeffe’s words spoke to me, helping me realize i’ll try to explain this experience with other people and it will not translate. i have to be ok with knowing what i saw, felt, heard and lived.




…and nobody’s happy.

have you seen that bit of jim gaffigan on conan? he talks about the amazing advances in modern technology (such as flying in the air while talking on the phone) and how people can still find things to complain and moan about.  i love it.

tonight after dinner, i settled into my hammock with a final draft of my paper. i read through it, marking it up a bit with my blue pen.

when gently i realized

everything was amazing…

i am laying in my hammock

hung between two apricot trees

facing the bell tower

in the cool, dry, dusky new mexico breeze

watching the sunset

revising a paper with elements of history, literature, oppression and liberation (some of my favorite things)

i capped my pen

and closed my eyes

and fell asleep for a few minutes.

then i woke up and made an impulsive decision to get gelato with friends.

gingersnap and chocolate.

this moment is amazing

and i am happy.




“I have to look at the landscape of the blue-green world again. Just think: in all the clean beautiful reaches of the solar system, our planet alone is a blot; our planet alone has death. I have to acknowledge that the sea is a cup of death and the land is a stained altar stone. We the living are survivors huddled on the flotsam, living on the jetsam. We are escapees. We wake in terror, eat in hunger, sleep with a mouthful of blood.”

annie dillard blows my mind.

Pilgrim at Tinker Creek is one of my all time favorite books.

i’m working on a paper about nature writing as a genre, specifically how writers respond to Darwin’s theories* (and the later outworking of those theories by Darwin’s contemporaries).

i was just going to use a little bit of Dillard. but i’m having trouble not quoting the whole book!

if you’ve never read her, try out this chapter:

*Darwin. Have you ever actually read Origin of the Species? Or any of his work first-hand? You probably should. Readership of his work is frighteningly disproportionate given the level of impact of his theories on our culture. Don’t be intimidated; it’s readable to the non-scientist. Many things you thought Darwin said or proved were actually not said or proven by him. All free access here, so no excuses!

one true sentence.


hemingway on writing:

“All you have to do is write one true sentence. Write the truest sentence that you know.”

i’m deep in the tides of paper writing, trying to ride the waves as they come. here are the places where the magic happens:

1) my desk

2) my “other” desk right outside my window:

3) the tea house:


i think it’s pretty swell that two out of three of my work spaces are under a tree.




i’ve been very busy with school work and without enough space in my schedule or mind to write.

but i’ll sift it all out when things settle down next week. i do have many more stories to share. i love my summer!

a slew of us watched this video together tonight and it made me laugh.

it was really good to laugh at ourselves when we’re wondering why we are here, hating our papers and our finite minds and actually imagining ourselves 1) quitting or 2) throwing our papers in the office door as we run towards our car and drive away sobbing in tears.

but we’re english majors, so this is perfectly normal.

you should laugh at us too:


my favorite line:

student: i am going to be a college professor.

prof: do you want to stay single the rest of your life? who in the world do you think will be willing to follow you to alaska so you can teach at juneau community college?


(customary 4th of july post to come later.)

this was my dream last night:

i was at the my morning jacket/ neko case concert coming up at home in august and only about 25 people were there. i was so mad at the hometown crowd and their lack of enthusiasm for great music.  in between sets, i walked down into the pit

not to see the show…

but to do my laundry.

yes, the pit was filled with the exact laundry machines here at school this summer.  so, i put my laundry in the washing machines.  but mmj started before the cycle finished, so i pressed the pause button and enjoyed the rest of the show.

the end.

my non-freudian interpretation:

1) i’m excited about seeing mmj and neko case.

2) i don’t like the city where i live.

3) i need to do laundry today.

some tunes:

1) mmj – if you touch me i’m going to scream, part 2

2) neko case – magpie to the morning



wrestling with the “taking”

from others, which really means

facing my own things taken:

joy, time, people,

memories, hopes, innocences.

by falling grains of sand

or lightning bolts of providence.

tired of withdrawing,

taking of my own steals more

life, laughter, joy.

ache subdued for now

by words of old

desiring the same for all.

It may be that the gulfs will wash us down:
It may be we shall touch the Happy Isles,
And see the great Achilles, whom we knew
Though much is taken, much abides; and though
We are not now that strength which in old days
Moved earth and heaven; that which we are, we are;
One equal temper of heroic hearts,
Made weak by time and fate, but strong in will
To strive, to seek, to find, and not to yield.

from “Ulysses”  by Tennyson

turquoise vessel

the coast of Malta, november 2009

and He takes.


i know two people who died from cancer in the past twelve hours.

this is the second time i’ve been too far away from grieving friends.  i wish i could be there.

certain songs come to mind whenever i feel loss or sadness.  usually it’s a specific line that plays over and over in my head.

at the hospital with aimee, it was the line “love is watching someone die” from the song what sarah said by death cab for cutie.

today, it is “and He takes and He takes and He takes” from the song casmir pulaski day by sufjan stevens.

because with my friend c, when i look at her life, i just do not understand how God continues to take and take and take from a woman so beautiful, fun loving, hard working, sassy, determined, compassionate and loving.  first her mom, now her dad.  both taken.

let me help you understand how special c is… she lived with me for about six months. she LOVES big dogs and big dogs LOVE her. this was fantastically convenient because my tillman is a big dog.  c would come home from work and sit on the floor and love on and wrestle with tillman. she fed him lots of delicious treats that i would never eat myself let alone feed my dog.  one such example: amish cheese puffs. yes, amish. she gets them in pennsylvania.  when c moved out to be closer to care for her dad, i was sad. what i did not know was that tillman was sad too…

over the following three weeks, in his grief, tillman inflicted so much trauma on himself that we had two vet visits and four to five completely sleepless nights. tillman took things off pantry shelves and ate them. things like: an entire tub of vegetable shortening, several packages of ramen noodles and a giant chocolate bar from trader joes.  mind you, these  pantry shelves have been the same for 4 years and he never before touched them.

with these first incidents, i could not figure out what was getting into him. every day i opened the door paranoid of what disaster i would find.

the day of the final incident, i came home to see he had busted into c’s room where a few of her things remained.

(background: this was and is the only time tillman has ever busted into a room. he will not push a door open. i can be in my room, with the door cracked 3 inches and he will sit there and look at me.  he doesn’t know his own strength.)

but that day, he went in c’s room and took a bottle of motor oil into the living room and destroyed it.  (yes, she had motor oil in her room. i told you she’s a bad ass.  how many girls know how to use motor oil?).

then i realised: he misses christy.  he is mad at her for leaving.  c is so awesome that even a dog flipped his shit when she moved out of his life.  i miss(ed) her too, of course. she was a great advocate for me in a rollercoaster time of life.  she wouldn’t let me take crap from anyone else. she wouldn’t let me take crap from myself. i think my boyfriend was kind of scared of her…and she liked that.  so did i.

talking to God about her this week makes me slam my fist on my desk or sob into a pillow. i do not understand why He won’t stop taking.

i am so tired of loss in her life. yet He keeps calling her to do things and be someone that so few of us will even dare imagine we might someday need to be.

i want it to stop.  now.  i want the next thirty years of hers to be healing, full of joy and gain and life.  i know i’m not alone in wanting these for her.  but i know God, and this world, will keep taking…from all of us.  yes, i know He is good and He will give too.  the in between is tiring.

even though i am feeling too far west, i take some comfort that i’m together with her

somewhere east of eden.

my previous post was an allusion to a letter written by Native American author Leslie Marmon Silko that touched me very deeply.  we read it in the book Storyteller, which i commend to you.  here is the letter:

The purple asters are growing in wide fields around the red rocks past Mesita clear to the Sedillo Grant.  This year there has been more rain than I have ever seen. Yesterday at Dripping Springs I saw a blue flower I had never seen before, something like an orchid, growing from a succulent leafless bulb. So many of these plants had never bloomed in my lifetime and so I had assumed these plants did not bloom; now I find that through all these years they were only waiting for enough rain.

I remember the stories they used to tell us about places that were meadows full of flowers or about canyons that had wide clear streams. I remember our amazement at these stories of lush grass and running water because the places they spoke of had all changed; the places they spoke of were dry and covered with tumbleweeds and all that was left of the streams were deep arroyos. But I understand now. I will remember this September like the remembered the meadows and streams; I will talk about the yellow beeweed solid on all the hills, and maybe my grandchildren will also be amazed and wonder what has become of the fields of wild asters and all the little toads that sang in the evening. maybe after they listen to me talking about this rainy lush September they will walk over the sandrock at the old house at Dripping Springs trying to imagine the pools of rainwater and the pollywogs of this year.

we just walked back from class.  there are clouds gathering in the north sky. they are dark gray and blue, almost the color of a deep bruise. the wind occasionally gusts.

the clouds gathered last night as well. we all agreed: it smelled like rain. one of four of us thought they felt a rain drop

but no more came.

we hope tonight they will release. they will bring relief.

then i will be able to tell you how the sage scents the air, the hills take on an entirely different hue of green, the dusty ground springs forth life unknown. these things i have been told, but do not yet know.

until then, we look to the sky

in hope.

and such longing brings one tear to fall from my eye.

not enough.

or is it?

new mexico is in a drought. there are fires here. the other night we watched the smoke plume grow and move towards us.

the light of the setting sun was spectacular,

a thomas kinkaide painting gone terribly awry.

or perhaps, aright.

out of such destruction, a strange beauty.

once the sun set, the flames lept. we watched a ridge on fire.

with enough distance, a very real terror was beautiful.

we awoke to a thin white sprinkle of ash on the ground.