post-Christmas




Now the sun has started to strengthen. Full of hope and resolve, armed with, inspired by Nice Things--a fountain pen; a pleasing bottle of blue-black ink; Shakespeare's poems in two blue, small, Yale edition volumes; a Lifesaver book; a leather tassel for the zipper on a future garment; Colours of Shetland, Kate Davies's new book; a ceramic slip stone for sharpening my needles, scissors, and knives; the carol CD most prominent in my childhood, a box of Moroccan mint tea, new kitchen shears, money to make this most expensive month a little easier--I am quite ready to shed the old year.

I am thinking of next summer's garden. Tim and I will build more raised beds, will buy a real lawnmower, make the yard better than it was before. Next Christmas I will have jars of jam to give away again, next winter on a night like tonight, I will drink tea from mint that I grew and dried. Simpkin will be grown up, safe, sweet, no longer shivering miserably during thunderstorms.


In the meantime, I feel lucky to be weathering this cold, this smothering northern slowness and isolation with Tim. We had quite the year. We'll have to work hard through the rest of the winter. I go back to work at the cafe tomorrow and my classes start on Thursday. I will need to get up early and go to bed late, to save money to stave off the monstrous leech that is Student Loans, to try to keep reading and writing for myself. But I can do it. I have great plans.



2012 passed by in a bit of a daze. Uprooted in March, I seemed to stop growing. Of the goals I made last January, I can take credit only for flossing and growing a garden. But here at the end, I can add that I managed to get straight A's in my first semester back at uni. And we bought a house. I finally banished the acne that has been plaguing me since I was 19. I published poems in three magazines and got paid for my writing for the first time. We rescued a tiny, sad cat. I struggled through my first "real" job interview. I started learning about making my own clothes. I didn't succumb to seasonal depression. I worked while going to school. As always, I am loathe to say that it has been a Good Year. But it certainly could have been worse. I think I am better equipped for next year: I feel stronger and older.

December 13, 2012

I am here at my desk eating homemade pea soup. I am here to tell you that the quagmire has been waded.

Monday, I woke up at 5 am. I showered, and by 6 am I was writing the first section of an 8-page final paper, due at 3pm. At 3:30 pm, I walked into class with the 8 pages clutched in my hand, summarized the paper for my class, and was in the campus bar with everyone else by 4 pm. At 4:15, I left. I came home, put on a pot of soup, washed all the dishes, and started assembling and writing commentary for my poetry portfolio, due Tuesday. At 11 pm, I finished. Up at 5 am on Tuesday, I spent the morning catching up on the 100 pages of my rhetoric textbook which I had yet to read. A few minutes before noon, I left for school. I handed in the portfolio, wrote my exam, came home, watched A Charlie Brown Christmas, and fell asleep. Wednesday, I worked at the cafe all day. This morning, I was up at 5 am once again, at school by 7 am, and writing my last exam by 9 am. At 11:30, I was done. I walked 40 minutes across my beloved river valley blasting La Roux through my headphones to meet Tim for espresso, Italian hot chocolate, and fennel biscotti. I'm done.

I cannot tell you how luxurious it feels to be alternating knitting a sweater sleeve with cleaning the apartment. No papers! No tyrannical to-do list! No JSTOR tabs open in my browser! I plan to read unassigned novels and math, bake pfefferkuchenplatzen, knit, work out, decorate the fig tree, practice programming, perhaps construct a paper chain.

(There is a part of me that cuts her hair, pierces various body parts, plans tattoos, swears, wants to be as tough as Lisbeth Salander. There is another part of me that spends her evenings curled up with double-pointed knitting needles and silk-wool blend yarn, bakes gingerbread squirrels, and feels a great affinity with Laura Ingalls.)

A Handy List (all I want for Christmas)

Boxing Day

Christmas is over. Why wait for the weekend? It's a new year already and I have 50 dollars in my savings account (the first non-zero balance in over two years). We are making plans, reorganizing, hoping. I have a new journal. I worked today for double time and a half. I've decided to lose another ten pounds. My nightstand holds two new books on writing, the collected poems of Wislawa Szymborska (from my Dad, who gives better presents and books than anyone), French Women Don't Get Fat, and A Brief History of Time. My hair is longer than ever. The presents I slaved over were received with joy, and I would like to make more things--now, not on a deadline. I work again tomorrow. It's hard, but good: I want to save a year's tuition and learn to wring my time for all it's worth. I want to learn to apply mascara and nailpolish (properly!). I want to write thank you notes for all the wonderful gifts. I want to read A Winter's Tale.

And what do you want?

pomander


(An early present from Grace.)

I feel like a factory. I have things to show you. (I am making presents, but also: I can finally put my hair up in a top knot). I am thinking of doing a giveaway for one of the felt books - do you think there's any interest?

friends

Thank you Glynis! I squealed when I saw her. My burlap mouse is very glad to have a friend. Or maybe lover? Implications are tricky when one lives on a couple's bed.



Regardless, mail will soon be on its way to you in New Zealand.

December 1

I handed in my final paper last night, went to my last class and bought myself a bottle of oatmeal stout to celebrate. I walked the 70 minutes home slightly off-kilter (if you didn't know, I am the lightweight of lightweights--still, I like a manly beer). Tim and I played Nintendo. We gorged on raisin soda bread and hot chocolate from a mix.

Now it's three in the morning. The house is a post-major-paper mess, and I have a hangover (I'm saying that it's more from the simple sugar than the alcohol). I can't wait to get started on Christmas vacation. I'm going to hop in the bath in a minute, and then, quietly, by myself, begin nudging our apartment back to rights, and preparing for an Advent season of books and music and hopefully much good work.

I have a list of things to do today that includes painting my fingernails, baking cornbread, walking in the snow, and starting A Brief History of Time. (Sometimes life is so, so sweet.)

a book for Grace



My little sister Grace is a fantastic writer.



And though I feel a smidgen of guilt that the book I've made for her is possibly too pretty to want to mark up,



nothing else will quite do for her Christmas present.



I may have to buy her a practical Hilroy coil bound as well.



But sometimes surely everyone thrives under the pressure of potential and the blank white (peacock blue) page?



Merely agonizing over how to fill a notebook can be a creative exercise.

the goose is getting fat

~ Knit three Hogwarts house scarves, and at least one pair of socks.

~ Sew two canvas chisel rolls.

~ Design, fold, and stitch two, possibly three or four books.

~ Make more cards and mail them.

~ Bake gingerbread, fudge, shortbread, marshmallow squares, cinnamon buns.

~ Make a pile of these.

~ Make an Advent wreath, paper chains.

~ Buy candles, pfeffernusse, stroop waffles, chocolate, board books.

~ Copy nostalgic music from parents' CDs on to computer.

~ Send off a parcel.

~ Learn to fold origami stars.

coveting

My little spruce tree died

It's a long story. I think it had been dying for months. I was in denial.

To cheer me up, Tim took me to buy a rosemary bush.





I've decided that now is the appropriate time to begin setting up goals and routines for the new year and semester. I'm finished all but one of my exams. Tomorrow I will stay quiet, and think.