Secret Things

August 31, 2010 § Leave a comment

I’m thinking a lot about words today.  Not any specific words, but rather language and it’s meaning.  I am not a paid writer, but I am a writer nonetheless and so words are my trade.  And yet, I feel so inadequate.  I joke that I’m third-generation Swedish, and that’s why I don’t speak well.  I grew up in the middle of Minnesota, just miles away from where my great-grandparents first settled from Norway and Sweden.  My grandparents spoke Norwegian and Swedish.  My dad knows a handful of phrases.  I know even fewer.  We have a modest vocabulary, and I’ve inherited that as well.  I want to write my book.  The story is in my head.  I see the movie playing.  Language is one of my greatest loves, and yet I am frustrated by my weak command of it.

I suppose I’m thinking about language and words because, in the long-distance relationship I was in, words were all we had for months at a time.  How many thousands of words we spoke to each other every night, and yet, so much was left hidden.  How much of ourselves we shared, and yet there are still secrets.  Knowing someone is to listen to their history, but also to experience them.  In the aftermath, I’ve spent hours on the phone with friends and family explaining how it ended, how it began and everything in between.  But still, I feel like it is not enough to show you the truth.

Writers often hear the now debated dogma, “Show, don’t tell.”  This is all I heard in college.  It is better to describe your characters in action, than to tell the reader what is actually happening.  Don’t say the girl is sad.  Say that her pillowcase is stained with mascara from the tears she has cried.  Is this true in life too?  Do actions really speak louder than words?  St. Francis of Assisi said, “Preach the gospel.  And if necessary, use words.”  I clutch his wisdom close to my heart.

I’m not sure what I mean to say about all of this, only that it is what I’ve been pondering today, and for years.  And this, after all, is a blog.  I’m not publishing an essay here.

I will leave you with yet another poem I wrote in college.  Lately, I seem to be unearthing old poems and I’m tempted to apologize for it, but I won’t.  This is inspired by a poem of Emily Dickinson’s, one of my favorite poets.

My thoughts don’t have words everyday.
I speak to myself like a dumb American in Paris
Plainly, dumbly, and irritatingly.
I get by speaking like an infant
Perhaps my thoughts do have words everyday
I just don’t know them.
They are of other tongues.
Just an extranjero en los Estados Unidos
and I say, Ash suprantu Lietuvishkai,
bet nekalbu.
I understand, but I don’t speak.  I can’t speak.
Frustration comes with that semi-understanding
of the Peruvian dishwashers and Mexican cooks.
Never enough words of my own to tell, to show you, me.


August 29, 2010 § Leave a comment

The brief trip to see my family was wonderful, and my niece and nephews give me joy like none other.  But, I wanted to get back to my life.  Even in heartbreak, you have to go on living.  Saturday morning brought my first 20-mile run–my longest distance running by three miles.  The first ten were a breeze, the next four were good, the last six were difficult, but I did it, and treated myself to a big breakfast at Elsie’s with a few runner friends.

Not wanting to pass Saturday evening alone in my home, I accepted the Alworth’s invitation to pizza and board games, and spent the remainder of the night (and part of the early morning) with my friend Tsega and her friend hopping from one club to the next.  We hit up the W, Sound Bar, Epic, Envy, and Seven and were carted around by Alex on his rickshaw.  All brand new experiences.  I learned that lingerie now passes for evening wear among the young girls, and while I thought my dress was racy enough (as a car passed by, the girl in the passenger seat yelled, “That’s the dress from Pretty Woman!”), I might have fit in better running around in my bra and underwear.

I’m glad to have such good friends, during this time, and always.

The Faces of Passion

August 26, 2010 § 1 Comment

What’s a girl to do with a broken heart?  Well, the dishes have all been washed, the floors swept, the bathroom scrubbed furiously, the towels and sheets laundered and the cat overfed.  After eleven months, a dozen flights, thousands of minutes on the phone, it all came to a screeching halt today.  B. broke up with me, and I am sad.  The heartstrings are being severed one by one.

My dad said it best: Love is a mystery.  There are many faces of passion.

I can think of nothing better to do than go see my family, and I’m going to do just that.

B., I hope you find your passion.


August 26, 2010 § Leave a comment

That’s how many words I wrote tonight in two hours!  Had I not had the pressure of meeting with my writing group tomorrow, I probably would have watched Hell’s Kitchen, but I didn’t.  I wrote and I thought of new plot twists and I’m enthused about my book once again.  I tell ya, this book writing is like being in a relationship!  I’m in love with it some days, and ready to give up and go back to my old love, non-fiction, other days.

My marathon training has been up and down (literally!) as well, but for some reason it feels different than writing a book.  No smart comments–I know they are different activities–but they both require a lot of time and endurance, and yes, mental energy.  When I run, I think about running.  I think about my posture and my muscles.  I watch other people run.  I realize I run faster when I’m leading a pack, and slow down when I am following because feel bad about myself.  When I don’t have far to go, my body speeds up.  I now can tell myself to use different muscles when running up hills.  I know it sounds weird, but I literally put my butt in gear when running up hills so I don’t wear out my legs.  I tell myself to relax, stand up straight, forget about the pain, and when I do, I simply run faster.  I won’t say running isn’t physical, but it’s also so much mental.  Monday, coach Ryan said I was a rock star, and I said, “Yeah, I’m constantly surrounded by a bunch of stinky people, and I’m tired.”  I tell my writer friend that he can run a marathon, and he says he can’t.  I guess most days I’d say I can’t write a book.  What’s my point?  I forgot.  Just that they’re both difficult activities.

I’m tuckered out.  Good night.

Thank You, Gertrude

August 25, 2010 § Leave a comment

After work, I asked my friend and co-worker to go to happy hour with me.  I needed to vent about work.  We talked for two hours, mostly about our jobs, but about the rest of life too.  We didn’t come up with any answers, or make a plan to make our work life better; we just had to process.  I think this must be a female thing.  I’m tempted to sit here and ponder my life’s difficult questions, and try to figure out what to do next, but I won’t.  Not tonight.  In fact, I remembered an old poem of mine that I wrote in the spring of 2004.  It’s no great work of literature (not as long as I’m living, anyway), but it speaks to me tonight.  Here it is.

“Thank You, Gertrude”

Everyone called him Hollywood because he was from there.
But he was more Slovenia than California:
He liked a good polka
And to dinner parties brought sausage and potatoes.

In grade school (and at college it happened too)
The teachers would scan the room, as teachers do,
and ask, Jonathon?
Koro…shek?  Is that Russian?

Hollywood sat next to me in seventeenth century lit
he wore old jeans and baseball tees
(the kind with grey, three-quarter length sleeves)
and converse shoes from ninety-three.

He baked chocolate chip cookies
kept his bedroom clean
rode his bike to Dairy Queen
and wrote his senior thesis on the relationship between Stein and Picasso and what Cubism did for literature.

One warm May day
(I remember the sweat pooling)
drinking iced lattes
at Bob’s on Lyndale,
we wondered if Milton was a misogynist
(Yes, but our reasoning made God one too.)
Debated if Donne knew love
(Of course!  After all, he was a poet!)
And–frowning into our books–
We asked if war could be written about honestly.
(We shrugged our shoulders and said
It’s all relative anyway.)

The bit about war shut us up.

We sat outside the cafe
heads in our hands
elbows to the table
While a four foot boy picked his nose
And the girl with red dreds fell in love.

Who is Gertrude Stein, I asked.
He showed me a portrait
That old famous one:
A woman dressed in brown
slumped in a brown chair.

She was a writer he said.
She was older than the others.
She could have been their mother.

Look at this, he said, pointing to a poem.
I read a line aloud
If I told him would he like it.  Would he like it
if I told him.

and like the poets of the nineteen-twenties Paris
we conducted our very own private salon
Shutters shut and open and so do queens.  Shutters
shut and shutters and so

silly and pretentious
with each line I sped up and became a Broadway star
Who comes too coming coming too, who goes there,
as they go they share, who
shares all, all is as all as as yet or as yet.

We fell on our backs in pleasure of the repetition
and closed our eyes in reticence.

And when it got to the part after
As presently
As as presently.

When it goes
He he he he and he and he
I got the giggles.

It reminded me of the game at summer camp
where the object of the game
is not to laugh.
We lay heads on each others’ bellies
Bodies in a checkered design on the floor
and begin.
Our counselor Katie started first: HE
Then Shannon: HE HE
Kaela shouted: HE HE HE
But by the time it got to me, I lost it.
And we were all in tears.

And I wondered if Gertrude Stein wrote the portrait of Picasso
to make us laugh and throw our heads back
in glee
Only she makes me giggle like an awkward pubescent camper
And makes me think:

Who cares if Milton is a misogynist?

Pizza Farm!

August 19, 2010 § Leave a comment

About an hour and half from the many varieties of pie shops in the Twin Cities, is a farm outside of Stockholm, Wisconsin that sells pizza.  And only on Tuesday nights.  My friends and I decided to make the road trip out to the incredibly popular, hard-to-find Pizza Farm.  I loaded up my car with my girlfriends: Debbie, Jennie and Ashley and we set out on the journey talking about boys and jobs and boys some more.  Highway 35 climbs up steep hills, dips into lush valleys, spoons with the river, and hugs glittering lakes.  Can you tell I was feeling a bit in love with the roadtrip?  The sky was blue, the trees were bright green, and to top it off, we arrived at our destination and parked in front of a picturesque white country church.

At the Pizza Farm, you bring your own utensils, beverages, napkins, and blankets.  They only supply pizza.  But everything is made on the farm.  We ordered seven pizzas, which broke their record for most pizzas sold in one night (360 was their old record).  They said it would be a two-and-a-half hour wait, and while it sounded like a long time, it wasn’t.  Debbie and I took a walk and interrupted some kind of church music meeting at the little white church.  I chatted with Forest about writing.  I took a walk down the pasture, talking to Ben on the phone and picking up rotten onions (in my defense, I didn’t think they were rotten).  Our pizzas finally came out of the oven at quarter to ten, and it was dark by then, so unfortunately we couldn’t see what we were eating, but that didn’t stop us.  I scarfed down four pieces of pizza in about ten minutes I think. One had pesto, one had jalepeno peppers, one with bacon, and one with sausage.  It was delicious, and totally worth the wait.

On the drive back, the four of us girls sang every praise and worship song and hymn we could remember.  We mixed up verses and changed pitches, but no matter.  It was quite fun to have a sing-along.

The Pizza Farm is a wonderful experience, and especially with a large crowd.  I’m all for new adventures.

Ocean: Love

August 16, 2010 § Leave a comment

I spend a lot of time thinking about my novel.  Probably more time thinking about it than writing it these days, but hopefully that’ll change.  But there will be a theme of love in my book.  Last week while swimming in the ocean and getting tossed about by the waves, I remembered a poem I wrote last summer during my travel writing course.  As I told Ben, I wrote a “potion about the ocean”.  Sometimes I have trouble speaking, which is why I write.  🙂  Anyway, I don’t write poetry very often, and this was a “spontaneous poem”.  I wrote it in class in ten minutes and didn’t edit it.  I’ll share it here as long as I’m on the subject of love in old and new relationships.

“Ocean: Love”

Each journey holds a relationship
and each relationship is a journey.
It’s always about boys, isn’t it?
To paradise,
To happily ever after
to find that sometimes its hell,
and yet,
still happily ever after
just not in the way I thought.
I jumped—literally and
metaphorically—into the ocean,
screaming on the way down, off the
cliff of the great unknowns.
My arms stretched out
slapping the water
embracing the stuff that largely
composes us and surrounds us,
exhilarated and afraid.
I grew up around lakes.
I know lakes.
Calm, tame, measured.
I pretended I loved the ocean,
but then it almost killed me.
I thought I knew love,
but then it failed me.
Yet I keep jumping,
less and less fearful.
I love how the powerful waves
tumble me like clothes in a washing machine.
I feel sick and happy and then I know.
I love the ocean.
I love love.

Where Am I?

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