Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Recycled Prose


I just returned from a family vacation to Disneyland. Sigh. I am now in the process of returning to a state of normalcy, so I am taking the liberty of re-posting something I wrote for my family blog a few years ago... Now that I'm back to winter in Utah, it seems appropriate:

The problem with winter is it's cold. And dark. It snows. Your skin gets dry and cracks around your knuckles. Hair darkens. Skin pales.
The problem with winter is you're not on the open road, driving home from a summer vacation. Winter can't produce a memory as palpable as this: suntanned bare feet on the dashboard, Good 'n Plenty and lukewarm Lemon Propel rattling in the console, singing along out loud to James Taylor or Counting Crows or Tom Petty. You gaze out of the insect-splattered windshield while I make tiny Xs over the mosquito bites on my legs. My body is exhausted, but in that good, worn, tired way that only comes from a day spent in the water. There is an irritating tightness on my shoulders from sunburn and the slight indentation of swimsuit straps. The landscape is mountainous and arid and empty, the sky impossibly high and open, and we fill the time with idle games of 20 Questions and I'm Going to Grandmother's House. We've forgotten what the N item on our list is, but are certain of Mongoose and Lima Beans.
We stop at a convenience store as the sky bruises into a purplish darkness. The air smells of gasoline and fried food and is just cool enough to raise goosebumps on bare arms and legs. Our flip-flops smack against the blacktop and make dirty half moons on the store's just mopped tile. Ice cubes thunk and clunk into 64 oz plastic cups and the refrigerated cases buzz and the till bings open and shut. The sounds are familiar and oddly comforting. Restrooms are bravely visited, snacks are selected, and then florescent lights are replaced with headlights on the highway.
We are quiet in the car now, the yellow and white lines of the road in stark contrast to our wandering, scattered, patternless thoughts.
That's the problem with winter: you're not on the open road, driving home from summer vacation, the freedom of your undecided life ahead tempered by the safety of the straight, even road vanishing into the darkening horizon.

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

Book Report

Speaking of journals...

Several years ago a good friend of mine gave me a book journal. It's a small spiral notebook with a hard cover that looks like a library check-out card (remember those?) I use the journal to record the books I've read, keep favorite passages, and write down titles I hope to get to someday.

In honor of 2011, here are some of my reading highlights:

The Elegance of the Hedgehog, by Muriel Barbery:  An ugly, widowed concierge at an upscale Parisian apartment building prevents one of the tenants -a bright, precocious girl - from committing suicide. But really, there is so much more to it than that - a wonderful book about looking past the superficial and expected.

Room, by Emma Donoghue: Narrated by five-year old Jack, Room is the story of an abducted young woman and the child she has by her abductor. Jack has never been out the the room they are locked in - okay, I know. It sounds terrible. But I could not put this book down. And it beautifully explores the boundaries between mother and child.

Little Bee, by Chris Cleave: This book alternates between the perspective of 2 women: a Nigerian refugee and a British woman. Their lives collide during a horrific scene on a Nigerian beach. As a result of this meeting, both women are forced to make difficult decisions that change the course of their lives.

Cutting for Stone, by Abraham Verghese: I've already written about this book. It is fantastic! It is the story of two brothers born to a Catholic nun in Ethopia... Really, it is about love, forgiveness, redemption. The writing is fantastic, the character are well-developed. I thought this was a marvelous book.

What are your reading highlights from 2011? What's on your TBR list for 2012?

Monday, January 9, 2012

And the winner is...

Me. Or maybe I'm the loser. Because I found the journal, exactly where it was supposed to be - in my nightstand. After a week of cleaning out closests, under beds, and actually going through the garbage ( I know, I know), my husband decided to take the drawers out of our nightstand and there it was, flush against the back of the stand.

So... there you go.

Wednesday, January 4, 2012

Love's Labor Lost


I have misplaced the journal I keep for my son. I've kept a journal for both him and my daughter since they were born - recording milestones and funny stories and their little quirks. I'm not the best journal-keeper - but I have made an effort to write in these journals on their birthdays and whenever they do something that I don't want to forget.

On New Year's Day, I opened the drawer of my bed stand. There was my journal, and Annie's, but Henry's was absent. I gave my room a cursory rummage to no avail. My husband consoled me, saying it's bound to show up somewhere. Still, days later, I have not found it. It's absence is nagging at me. Multiple times a day I open my bed stand drawers, hopeful that by some miracle the journal will be there, found. I've entertained the idea of searching for it in the strangest places - like the big blue garbage cans in the garage - uncertain if these impressions are the product of inspiration or complete lunacy.

Last night, before going to bed, I opened the drawer to my bed stand again. And then, I started to cry. My husband was more than a little mystified by this behavior. "It will turn up," he said. I cried harder. He made a show of looking for the journal, getting down on his knees and peeking under the bed. "I need to get over this," I said. And I do. It's just that, I've been keeping that journal to remember the things about my son that I'm certain I'll forget. I've been keeping that journal as a kind of portable memory. I've been keeping that journal as a safety-net. I know it's morbid, but I've always thought that if I died young, my son would have a record that I loved him. Proof, in my own hand, that I cared enough to chronicle his life.

I've been thinking about my compulsion to write these past few days. It is an affliction that is not unique to myself. I've been thinking about the way people scrawl their names on bathroom stalls, into tree trunks, on cinder block walls. As if all of humanity is wanting desperately to proclaim "I was here." We feel the need to leave our mark on the world, to leave something that will endure, something that will survive us. Writing is nothing if not an attempt at immortality.

Okay, maybe I'm being too dramatic. But still, I can't help feeling that I've lost more than just a little-lined notebook.