February 13, 2013

The three-ish weeks I have spent back in California and back in class have felt like months. My days have been long, but in the best way, This wintertime shift back into LA weather feels more dramatic than the others…some days I feel like I am cheating at life by being in a place so sunny (which in turn makes me feel weirdly irresponsible).

Classes are in full swing, and I am leading a session on Nietzsche’s Genealogy of Morals next week. I have tried to write about him in preparation for session, but I decided a few days ago that my time might be better spent talking to my teachers about him and asking asking asking questions. This semester is already stretching me in good ways…we are reading a lot of smart, smart men who present smart, smart reasons why faith is foolish. I thought this was going to be really draining (mostly because I don’t really like “defending” my faith), but with reading these books also comes a strange sense of relief. I have heard these names thrown around for years—Darwin, Marx, Nietzsche, Freud—but I haven’t actually read them myself (well, bits and pieces). It feels so good to finally confront them. Not confront as in “imma prove you wrong” but confront as in, well, actually listen to and grapple with, and let myself be threatened by.

But opening up enough to let myself feel threatened can be hard, and that’s where the California sunshine really really helps. Also, going on adventures. And pictures of my new niece Ainsley. And my roommate letting me bejewel her face.

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Interterm

January 26, 2013

January has been a long, good month. Christian came to Wheaton for a few weeks, and we spent lots of time reading and playing Settlers of Catan and watching Alias. Our good friends Matt & Julia visited from Connecticut, and we road-tripped to Cleveland with our friend Joe to see Jeff Mangum (aka Christian’s Halloween costume this year) play a show.

The last week has been quiet…reading and homework-ing and waiting for my niece to be born (any day now!). I finally finished Anna Karenina, and then it was on to Origin of Species, both for Torrey. (Actually, there was a few days where they overlapped…Anna K was getting too dark to read for long stretches, so Origin provided some “lightness”…ha.) I’m looking forward to the semester…getting back to waking up early (okay, before 11…) and writing more, I hope.

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January 5, 2013

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Here are a few pictures from the holidays. They don’t really go together color/mood-wise, but the holidays are kind of mix-and-match times anyway. My favorites are of my great-grandmother (on her 104th New Years Eve!) and my grandpa.

Christmas was small this year, just Kate and my parents and I, but we still had monkey bread for breakfast so all was well. Kelsey & Tim stayed a few days after Christmas, and then we went to my grandparents in Ohio for New Years. Our whole visit was beautiful because everything was white, and we drove around the country seeing where my great-grandma used to live. On New Years, all of us popped poppers and watched through the window as 3 deer ate my grandparent’s grass.

I don’t usually make resolutions, but this year I got a 5-year journal. It’s one of those where you write just a few lines for each day, and it’s organized so that Jan 1 of 2013-2017 are all on the same page. The idea weirds me out a little bit (I don’t often think of the future, and the phrase “5-year journal” strikes me as a little presumptuous), but I also like it because I have an AWFUL memory, and tend to forget the little things. Pictures help with that too.

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December 20, 2012

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“All human nature vigorously resists grace because grace changes us and the change is painful.” – Flannery O’Connor, The Habit of Being

The past few weeks have been very Christmassy and very academic, one of my favorite combinations. There was a Sufjan Stevens Christmas Sing-A-Long, a night of Carols & Readings, stockings with housemates, and an English Faculty and Staff Christmas party (I was Christian’s plus one…Mexican food with all my teachers, woo hoo!). A few things at church have changed color by now, (purple for advent—the candles, the priests’ robes) and if we can’t have snow, this is the next best thing.

I had my don rags today (Torrey’s version of finals, an oral exam), and my question was nice and open-ended. I got to talk about Flannery O’Connor’s stories, hence the quote above. That woman is teaching me things, about grace and about God.

Now, the only assignment between me and Christmas Break is my Rookie/teen girl culture project, due Friday. For the past few months, I have been writing down notes in my cell phone whenever a thought about girl-hood or growing up comes (usually in class or in chapel or in bed), and I have been sub-consciously banking on the fact that those cell phone notes will be 25 pages worth… it will come, I know it.

Also, my roommate Chelsea had her final art show opening this Monday in the campus gallery. I love her drawings. For the past few weeks, she has been using our bedroom wall to figure out how she wanted to arrange them for the show, and now I miss them.

(photo by Christian)

(photo by Christian)

To be knit up finally

December 16, 2012

Here are some of Marilynne Robinson’s words, from her book Housekeeping, that seem especially good and especially hard this week.

Also, some secret pictures of my roommate doing her morning stretches (I think she is beautiful), and puddles.

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“For why do our thoughts turn to some gesture of a hand, the fall of a sleeve, some corner of a room on a particular anonymous afternoon, even when we are asleep, and even when we are so old that our thoughts have abandoned other business? What are all these fragments for, if not to be knit up finally?”

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“To crave and to have are as like as a thing and its shadow…when do our senses know anything so utterly as when we lack it? And here again is a foreshadowing—the world will be made whole. For to wish for a hand on one’s hair is all but to feel it. So whatever we may lose, very craving gives it back to us again.

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“The force behind the movement of time is a mourning that will not be comforted. That is why the first event is known to have been an expulsion, and the last is hoped to be a reconciliation and return.”

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December 1, 2012

Magic

 

Lately I have been suffering from RookieBrain, which is what happens when I spend too many hours at a time on the Rookie Magazine website (for “research” purposes of course…I’m still working on my Creative Nonfiction piece) and then end up feeling panicked and lonely and weird. There are so many references I don’t recognize and too too too many links (to be fair, Rookie doesn’t actually have a lot of links…I just feel an over-dramatic sense of darkness after clicking on too many [i.e. 1-2] links. I call this more general condition InternetBrain… or “I JUST WANT TO STAY HERE IN THIS ONE PLACE OKAY?”). Also, I constantly wonder how these girls possibly have the energy to do everything they are doing, and why I, made of similar human stuff as them, can’t be more productive. This is a normal frustration, I think, and writing my Creative Nonfiction piece has really helped me feel like I’m not just drowning in my own passivity.

I found another partial remedy to RookieBrain: I’ve been submitting things to them! I have never ever been the type to “stick my neck out” (frankly that just seems like a stupid thing to do physically speaking), but something about sending an informal e-mail to a bunch of nice girls just seems easy. And the best part of submitting isn’t waiting to see if I accepted (I’ve already gotten one rejection from them and it wasn’t that bad!); it’s more the feeling like I am playing a teeny tiny role in this thing I have been immersing myself in for the past few months–this thing that feels so intimidating, and so “other.” It’s kind of like voting…you know your vote doesn’t technically make a difference, but it’s still empowering to participate in what’s going on. Bad analogy? Okay. Anyway, clearly I have lots of THOUGHTS and FEELINGS about this whole Rookie thing, so I am actually thinking about turning it into my Senior Thesis project for next semester.

Unrelatedly (actually, totally related but in ways not worth explaining), I am reading Marilynne Robinson’s Housekeeping for class right now and it is becoming one of my favorite books of all time. I don’t want to write about it yet because it’s too beautiful and sad (read: heart-cracking) and I am still in the middle of it. But today I got together with two of my friends from class who happen to be art majors (my favorite type of people), and we walked around in the rain talking about things that go with the book in our minds–photographs and songs and poems and letters. It was the best kind of afternoon, because people are infinitely better than the Internet.

 

P.S. The other night/early morning I woke up to the creature below–fully wrapped in the blanket–whispering my name from the doorway…the first of what now has become a series of  bizarre attempts by my roommate to “scare” me. She has enlisted everyone from her boyfriend to our other housemates as accomplices, but has yet to succeed. Pretty pathetic, seeing as I am a wimp.

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November 24, 2012

Since neither of us could go home this Thanksgiving Break, Christian and I decided to go to a few places we’ve been wanting to see for awhile but just haven’t had the time to visit.

On Wednesday afternoon, we went to Corona Del Mar. I LOVE walking around looking inside tide pools…this time we found all sorts of anemones. No starfish, but I was delighted to find Christian’s face inside one of the pools.

Thursday was a big day. We got an early start and drove 3 hours to Salvation Mountain. I have been waiting for years to go to this place, and it was just as beautiful as I imagined (and by “as I imagined,” I mean “as all the pictures online that I drooled over”). The “mountain” has a really interesting history… it was all built by one man, Leonard Knight, who used to live right near it in one of those trucks you see past Christian in the second picture.

After climbing all around and inside the mountain, Christian and I ate lunch at a (/the only?) local diner. It was delicious and also kind of sad (we were actually shocked anything was open on Thanksgiving Day, especially because the place felt like a ghost town).

Next, we went to a place called “Slab City,” just a few miles away from Salvation Mountain. It’s basically a community of squatters, but the diversity of the place is what made it so interesting/confusing/scary. One one side of the road there was a group of people with guitars laughing next to a rainbow school bus covered in flowers, and on the other side there was a trailer with a confederate flag waving high. (I didn’t take any pictures because I was already feeling a little too inappropriately tourist-y for the place).

Then we headed to the Salton Sea, famous for its shores lined with dead fish (instead of sand, there are fish bones everywhere…see the second picture). We also found this strangely beautiful red-ish pond(?) by the sea…it was especially strange because in the car just beforehand, we were listening to a Radiolab (on NPR) about why Homer described the sea as “wine dark” in the first lines of the Iliad. (Although, admittedly, the water we found was more like tomato soup than wine…).

Our last stop was a place called Pioneertown, a small town built as an Old West movie set in the 1940s, and still maintained today. All the little shops were closed because of the holiday, but it was cool wandering the dusty roads by ourselves (that is, until I bare-footedly stepped on about 10,000 mini burrs…ha).

On our way home, we stopped by our friend Joel’s house for some Thanksgiving leftovers and board games. I was happy to spend at least part of the day with a big, happy family, because to be honest, even awesome mini road trips are not as good as spending the day eating and being lazy with family. Also, there really are few funnier things than playing Pictionary with 6 little kids.

November 15, 2012

Saturday, a few of us drove up to a place called Oak Glen. It was 15 degrees colder (44! woo hoo!) and we ate lunch at a diner, went to a petting zoo, had mini doughnuts, and drank apple cider. Also, Christian’s hands (mysteriously) swelled up big time and we all oohed and aahed.

**Star-struck**

November 13, 2012

This weekend I got to meet one of my favorite person-that-I-don’t-actually-know’s. (I would say “celebrity” but I’m a little unclear on the criteria for such a title).

I found out on Thursday night via social media that Tavi Gevinson (blogger, founder/editor of Rookie Magazine, brilliant 16 yr. old fashionista) was doing events in L.A. all weekend, and I nearly pulled out all my hair in excitement.

I admire Tavi a lot, and so even though she happens to be the face of the girl-movement I am writing about for my Creative Nonfiction project this semester, I decided* I wanted to experience the weekend as a fan instead of a journalist. (This doesn’t mean I wasn’t frantically writing down overheard conversations on note cards, but rather that I did not approach anyone for an interview.)

The three events I went to–a book signing, a Best Coast Concert hosted by Rookie, and a comedy night at Upright Citizen’s Brigade**–were all pretty energy-sucking. Tavi was really, really sweet, but I couldn’t help but be majorly intimidated all weekend long. A lot of the intimidation was a result of my imagination, but some of it was because I was surrounded by cool kids (and I don’t mean this sarcastically).

One thing that has made my project so stretching and rewarding so far is the fact that I have little in common with the average Rookie reader (or, at the very least, the average Rookie writer [there are about 60 girls & women on staff]). A lot of my pre-suppositions about meaning and about how to make decisions don’t match Rookie’s, but I support the magazine because I think it creates a forum for teenage girls to think and talk about things beyond finding the perfect date-night dress, things like politics and gender and social justice.

That said, I felt pretty out of place. But I think that feeling is a pretty universal one, and, lucky for me, writeaboutable (as my Creative Nonfiction professor would say). Also, Tavi said she liked my shirt and that’s all that matters.

 

*this “decision” was also pretty much an emotional necessity, as it took everything into me just to talk to Tavi simply as me, a girl who wanted her book signed.

**Christian actually surprised me with the tickets to UCB. He learned a few weeks ago that she was going to be there (I know, what a great journalist I am…), and told me not to make plans for Saturday night. Apparently when he wouldn’t tell me what we were doing, my first two questions were “Are we going to a comedy club?” and “Are we going to see Tavi?” (I don’t remember asking, but that sounds about right. He remembers because of the enormous guilt he felt about the ease with which he lied to me.)

Asking

November 9, 2012

 

I’ve been thinking a lot lately about asking and hoping, and how sometimes it seems like an impossibly hard thing to do. (Maybe this has come from a few conversations in Mysterious Fiction class…thinking about mysteries like missing children, or cancer that may or may not come back…things that I have never had to work out in my own life.)

The other day one of the readings for morning prayer was the story of Elisha and the Shunammite woman, in 2 Kings. Elisha tells the woman that in a year, she will hold a son in her arms. She, who has wanted a son for so long, responds, “Please, don’t mislead me.” Of course, Elisha hasn’t misled her, and the baby comes. But then, a few years later, he dies.  The woman, in “bitter distress,” says to Elisa, “Did I ask you for a son? … Didn’t I tell you, ‘Don’t raise my hopes’?”

It is scary to accept good things, because they could be taken from me, and it is scary to ask for good things, because I may not receive them. It seems much easier to accept things as they are, and much less foolish. Praying for change is so often labeled naïve, or idealistic, or lazy, or entitled. And I understand that view of prayer, because I have often felt the same.

So it has been good for me, on the first Sunday of every month, to see the same people approach the altar for healing prayer, over and over again. The same people go and kneel and wait to be anointed with oil, and we all pray the same prayer for each of them, for their bodies to be well. Many of them have been kneeling and waiting for years before I came to the church. There has been healing, but mostly lots of waiting. And always asking, over and over again. It’s a form of humility, I think.