Monday, October 26, 2009

home again

i am home, safely. i am home, finally. i am home, despite a fiasco. i am home, happily. i am home, where love isn't complicated. i am home, where kids play in the street. i am home, where the waitress gives me a hug and knows my order before i sit down. i am home, where my friends adore me and i can see it in their eyes and their smiles. i am home, where my mom makes me baked apples. i am, thank God, home. laurie and i walked to ritters yesterday. there was an old man, who looked tough - or at least - gruff. it was a beautiful fall day. the sun was even out. he had the windows down. he was blasting norah jones. that was when i knew that i was home.

i will post pictures from the trip home eventually. i need to put some space between me and the trip before i'm ready to look at the pictures and share them.

Thursday, October 15, 2009

one more day up in the canyon

i took these pictures on one of my first trips down to flagstaff when i first got here. i moved here, again, more for this than the canyon. for these mountains. for the desert.

to be honest, i'm pretty unsure about coming home. i hate admitting this. i'm usually so sure about every decision i make. so decisive. and too proud to admit second thoughts - about anything. it feels premature sometimes. like a baby bird pushed from the nest too early. or like a premature baby - not, quite, ready to leave the safety and warmth and peace to emerge into the world. and be, somehow, a normal person.

the first sunday i got here, i went to church. i saw ed williams. i saw his big white beard. i saw his bushy white hair. i saw his smile. his warmth. i saw Him. ed sat next to me in church. we were singing this song - i don't like the rest of the song, but most of it just goes, "your love is extravagant, your friendship is intimate, i feel i'm moving to the rhythm of your grace, your fragrance is intoxicating in a secret place, your love is extravagant." i cried most of the way through this song. and there was something about hearing ed sing next to me, a grown man, in a raspy voice, sing along. and mean it. with his eyes closed. i hoped the song would never end. that was the last time that i've cried.

i don't quite know what to say about leaving. this time has been precious. this time has been the first real peace i've ever known. it's been a life without any obligation - without worry, care, purpose. to the normal world - this time looks really useless and meaningless. the act of waiting, sitting - the practice of stillness usually does appear pointless to the normal world. it's been the longest period of happiness in my life. like an old man singing a love song to Him. slow. simple. quiet. no hurry. nothing particularly wonderful.

Friday, October 9, 2009

the way home

so i'll be leaving arizona in a little more than a week. my feelings towards this are mixed - obviously. regardless, i'm incredibly excited about the drive home. dominic is getting here on saturday. i'll pick him up in phoenix. i hate phoenix. but - it's okay. saturday night i'm having a going away party - which will be funny and good. i've grown to really, really love my coworkers and the few people around here that i've gotten to know. the rest of our trip looks like this:

sunday - we'll leave the grand canyon at some point. i want to watch the sun set over horseshoe bend outside of page. i still remember the night we watched it set in 2005 - i think we all cried. it was the most beautiful thing i've ever seen. sunday night we're camping in kanab - right inside the utah border. we're staying at the coral sand dunes state park - i'm excited. i've actually never seen sand dunes.

monday - we'll go to zion. i've wanted to go to zion for a while now but never had the time/money to get there this summer. we'll hike. we'll listen to lauryn hill. it'll be great. we'll spend monday night there camping at watchman.

tuesday - drive mancos, colorado whatever way possible. we'll go through bryce, some state parks/national monuments as well as capital reef national park. we'll spend the night somewhere around cortez or durango. i got to know this area pretty well when i spent a week camping at mesa verde national park last fall. we'll go to the coffee shop in mancos. it'll rock.

wednesday - we'll leave. we'll drive the million dollar highway through the san juan mountains. the san juans have been voted the most scenic/beautiful mountains in america. the million dollar highway has also been voted one of the most scenic drives in america. we'll take a picture with wilson peak which is the mountain on the coors beer bottles. we'll have some coors. we will also hopefully listen to charles kuralt's "on the road." we'll go to silverton and i'll think about moving there, again. we'll arrive in boulder, eventually.

thursday - we will spend all day hanging out with chris and lacy. it will be great. i will consider moving to boulder.

friday - we will leave. we'll go to omaha. we'll listen to the counting crows song, "omaha." hopefully there's something else to do in omaha. hopefully it won't disappoint me.

saturday - we will drive to chicago. on the way, we will stop in madison county, iowa. we will take pictures with the covered bridges of madison county. i will relive my love affair with maryl streep and clint eastwood from the movie. we'll spend saturday night in chicago. i've never been to chicago. we'll see how it goes. "she came to chicago to party, i came to chicago to kill myself" is all i have to say to miss laurie trok.

sunday - we will drive the rest of the way home.

**if you know anything awesome about any of the places that i speak of, please let me know. especially omaha. we'll need something to do there besides listen to the counting crows song.

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

finding all my previous motives growing increasingly unclear

Now as they went on their way, he entered a certain village, where a woman named Martha welcomed him into her home. She had a sister named Mary, who sat at the Lord's feet and listened to what he was saying. But Martha was distracted by her many tasks; so she came to him and asked, "Lord, do you not care that my sister has left me to do all the work by myself? Tell her then to help me." But the Lord answered her, "Martha, Martha, you are worried and distracted by many things; there is need of only one thing. Mary has chosen the better part, which will not be taken away from her. (Luke 10:38-42).

i work with a woman named martha. she works at the cafeteria. i see her daily. i see her name tag, "martha / arizona" and she sees mine, "laura / pennsylvania." today i helped her with something. she thanked me and called me mary. it startled me.

Sunday, October 4, 2009

for steve, forever ago.

i went home and called steve back. i met steve here the first time i lived at the grand canyon. we became friends because we were unhappy loners who thought we were better than everyone and listened to good music. luckily, our friendship now has evolved past this initial connection. we're also happier and less proud, in general. he went to school in pennsylvania so we'd often meet up at concerts or he'd come to visit from time to time. he moved to LA after college and i would see him once a year, usually. my favorite of these times was the night we stayed up drinking ridiculous amounts of guinness and watching a whole season of the office. a few months ago he moved from LA to pittsburgh. this is one of the reasons i'm most excited to come home. anyway, on the phone, we talked aspens. so i drove to take pictures of aspens. humphreys had its first layer of snow. i cried. i hid in a forest of aspens. i cried. i drove into a field and watched the moon rise. i cried, again.

Friday, October 2, 2009

cold weather diary, 4.

you were driving me to the train station that morning. it was the first time i'd visited your house. it was my sophomore year of college; winter break. we'd spent the last few months together, every day. it was the beginning of a long, tiring, empty three years, which with every ounce of my being, i tried to make better, every single long, tiring, empty day.

that morning we made pancakes. i remember your feet on the tile floors. i remember your dishwasher, your pantry, your blue shorts. i think your whole family was there. i used food dye to turn the pancakes pink, blue, and purple. your family thought this was unusual - in retrospect, this was probably the first real sign. i felt like i was being studied and mocked. months later your father would ask me, "so, laura, have you opened up yet?" the night before at dinner, everyone was silent. i carried the conversation, mimicking my mother, asking questions, exaggerating my love for the steelers in order to find some common ground. i think i even talked politics, which is as unusual for me as it gets.

that night i slept in the guest room on a futon. your parents had little candle lights in each bedroom window. i think i kept mine on when i slept, i liked the way it felt. i liked the way the snow falling looked - like glitter. it was warm. we'd taken a walk in the woods earlier that day. i had to borrow your neighbor's wife's boots. he asked if we were dating - you said no. i thought, "then why am i here?" i think we were reading the same book at the time and tried to talk about it - but the walks in the woods are a blur now. they all flow into each other. most of those three years do. i was a ghost of myself - so it's hard to remember anything finite.

but i do remember this drive to the train station. there was a heavy covering of snow. farms covered in snow. lakes turned to ice. the way the early morning light falls soft, empty and quiet with a new layer of snow. the pennsylvania mountains around us. we drove slowly. we were listening to iron & wine, i'm sure it was my choice. i think we were quiet most of the ride. we had to be. this kind of beauty either turns you silent or makes you whisper. i wanted to hear the music more than i wanted to talk, so a whisper would not work. i was lost in my own dreams, my own romance; i was lost in the beauty that i could see but i knew you didn't have the eyes for.

and now that i think about it - i don't actually remember you here. i wonder if this was the day that we stopped being alive to each other. was it the day that i became a ghostly pale reflection of a woman you would marry? and did you, on that day, become the person i could, with careful attention to detail and delicate craftsmanship, turn into a brave, passionate, courageous man?

i put my hands in my vest pockets. warm against my warmth. a silent reminder then that would act as a savior in the years to come. a reminder to a place so deep inside of me that i was not even conscious of it. a reminder that i could keep myself warm without you.

Thursday, October 1, 2009

cold weather diary, 3.

i'm sitting on the floor of your friend's apartment. they are hardwood floors - light in color. yellow. it's new years eve - well, now it's new years day. i'm freezing. the kind of freezing that they describe as "to the bone." i'm sitting on a heating pad, sometimes holding it on my back, between my fingers, on my stomach, on my neck. maybe he forgot to turn on the heat. why didn't i ask for a blanket? why didn't i insist on sitting on the couch? why was i on the ground? you probably asked me if i wanted to sit on the chair - but i've always hated folding chairs, so i probably said no. i'm sitting on my coat which is acting as a really poor insulator between me and the ground. i'm ready to leave.

earlier that day we went to the liquor store in east liberty. you bought me gin. we weren't going to spend new years together. that's when we were still like that - before things fell apart the first time - luckily, after that first time, there wasn't a second time. you'd buy me my gin, i'd go with my friends, you'd go with yours, and we'd see each other the next day. i went to sushi with lacy and her boyfriend. after dinner with them, i think i missed you. or maybe i trusted you. or maybe i just wanted you. whatever it was, it was enough that i was willing to spend the night with you, your friends, your ex-girlfriend and her whole family. it had to have been trust.

they dropped me off downtown at a jazz club. your friend was playing piano in the band. i saw your ex-girlfriend and thought she was cute - adorable - i understood what you had seen in her. because i think i saw some of it in her too. i remember dancing with you. with you, and with all of them. i was glad matt was there. he always made things easier for me. more than anything, i remember having a good time. i remember having a good time with you. and with them. and with your ex-girlfriend and her family.

i was ready to leave. it was getting late. and i couldn't stand being cold much longer. plus i knew we still had a long walk. and you were ready too, i think. we're walking up shady avenue with matt. i didn't wear socks that night. i am colder than i ever remember being. in my mind, i'm comparing the ascent up shady avenue to climbing everest - i'm thinking this will be a good psychological trick to make the walk seem better, in the end. we get to your house and part ways with matt. i think you might have hugged him. i hope you did.

we get into bed and you lay, what i remember being, about 1,000 blankets on us. including the soft pinkish redish one that i liked the most. i'm shivering now. eventually, our warmth warms me. you probably fell asleep before me. that's how it usually went. and i probably laid in bed all night feeling confused about what had just happened. did i really just have fun with you and your ex-girlfriend? were you really that good?

cold weather diary, 2.

i needed to cool off so i went to stand in the doorway. i opened the door a little. the snow was falling gently. the sun was setting. i could see the shadows of the skyscrapers, dark against a setting sun. the sky was purple and pink and orange. looking up, i saw hundreds of black birds scattered across the sky. i tried to take some pictures but the pictures weren't working. a little quiet voice, "just enjoy this. stop trying to keep it."

from the school's courtyard, i could see the houses of the hill. falling apart, brick, empty, tired, hopeless, sad. the houses are characters to me, in the narrative of this neighborhood and these people. trying to imagine these kids living here was difficult. i knew their parents and loved all of them and was loved by most of them, but i didn't know their houses. what were their bedrooms like? did they sleep on the floor? i used to ask them. i knew they were lying to me most of the time.

i remember this being a happy time in my life. i usually settle into winter better than the other seasons. i like the cold. i don't particularly like the sun. i had a job that i loved. i was taking classes at duquesne and would go to to them after work at the hill house. i thought my classes were fine - and i enjoyed the company of the people. it felt good to be around normal people. i would leave class around 9 and go to the studio with laurie, we'd make stuff, we'd eat guacamole, we'd drink and dance and talk about boys. i'd just started dating a boy.

i was lost in my thoughts then, as i am now. and i don't think i noticed him for a few minutes. he was quiet, silent, still. something kids rarely are. i looked down at him. standing there, next to me, his head at my hip. david was a kindergartner who i had trouble connecting with. a strange kid. a good artist, though. i remember very little about him except for this. except for this moment together. we didn't talk. we just stood there and watched the snow and the birds and the sun set.