I finished my first screenplay--well, finished it enough to send it off to someone who knows enough to tell me what to edit first.
I filled out my tuition grant application.
I trimmed Simpkin's claws.
I thought about fitness goals and ate with a mind to "making my macros". This fervent intuitive eater is test-running a switch to calculated nutrition. What can I say? Intuitive eating saved my sanity and helped me gain a healthy attitude toward food. Now I want to know that I'm eating in a way that supports the development of a stronger, abler--and yes, more attractive--body. I just want my abs to show up. Today this quest involved a smoothie made with 60 grams of whey powder . . .
I wrote a thank-you note.
I squished all visible worms on my cabbages. I transplanted about 20 chamomile plants from the driveway to the backyard.
I was envious of Glynis's morning project. So quotidian, specific, pertinent, consistent. It's extremely refreshing.
Good night kids!
There has been the (naively unexpected) struggle to stand up under the weight of adult responsibilities. Owning, keeping, and renting a house is, it turns out, more than we signed up for. When mushrooms started growing out of the baseboards in my study last spring, I thought that I might have finally reached the end of my rope. Then the rain in August happened; we left in the middle of the night and over four months later returned home. I lost most of my garden last year. I almost lost my most important person. There has been the battle to keep our relationship healthy, alive, existent--and I spent much of the winter battling against Tim rather than for him. I did damage that terrifies me. There has been a five-year history of panic attacks, anxiety, and depression to start recovering from, and redeeming, and this has seemed like a doomed project. In January I wrote: the more I notice my problems, the more I delve into my own mind, the harder it is to act normal. I feel like I am giving body to a latent, restless ghost of craziness which has just been waiting in my head for me to fully incarnate it. There's been the daily pressure of living on a low income. There's been the daily impossible decision to try to produce creative work when I could be earning money instead. There's been this incredibly long, drawn-out quest for a bachelor's degree, and a point last August when I thought I'd decided I wouldn't finish it. There have been fucking long winters. There have been hopes and plans buried alternately under clutter, under snow, under raw sewage, under red tape, under the covers, under pages of lists, under my own hands.
On Tuesday morning, Tim and I had just returned from the mountains. Tim's parents, who had been keeping Simpkin for us, were supposed to be delivering him home any minute. Tim sat down at his desk, looked at his screen and said, "Lizzie, you are really, really not going to like this". I knew instantly. A window screen had come off in the night; Simpkin was gone; they'd only just noticed. Tim's mum came to pick us up so we could search and call for him.
Is is my temperament, or the sympathy-enabling super-connectivity of the world, or a human penchant for rehearsing grief that made it familiar? I felt I could have been the one reading the email to Tim. I knew it all. I knew that within days I would be at a vet or the SPCA to identify a piece of roadkill that had once been the sweet, brave cat I once adopted. I would not have been surprised to see a bloody, furry lump on the side of the street in St. Albert where Tim's parents live.
Except that right now, Simpkin is asleep on our bed and has been all day.
When we got to St. Albert, we were out of the car and calling. I looked under cars, tried to look through the planks into neighbors' backyards, looked under bushes and porches. I circled the block. It started to get hot and I started to feel sick. There was a forecast for temperatures above 30 C. We searched the overgrown backyard again. The shed. The room downstairs with the open window in case he came back. Then I sat on the front steps and cried. Tim brought me water and made Simpkin an entry in a missing pets database. We decided to print off a poster with a picture Tim's sister had taken before Simpkin disappeared, then go home. The printer wasn't working. We ate bowls of Vector cereal and Tim went downstairs to try to print from the desktop computer. I went back outside. I looked under the shed again. Tim came out, holding a printed sheet. "I don't know if this is any good--he looks black." I heard something and called, interrupting Tim. I heard it again. I called. Tim said, "I think it's a bird, but try again." A sad, cracking quack more than a meow. We thrashed aside raspberry canes. I went around to check the other side of the patch, and when I ran back Tim was holding a spitting, hissing Simpkin aloft. I ran inside for the crate while Tim pinned him down--Tim's mum had been watching from the window and was already handing it to me at the door of the bathroom. We let Simpkin into the crate and took him inside to recover. My anger and muteness toward Tim's mum had disappeared. Everything could be good again. We brought him home, cleaned his ears, sprayed him with water for heat exhaustion. Here he is. He is fine.
"I'm so glad I went back outside. He might have died of exposure--it was so hot and those bushes are so thick."
"Yes. It would have been sad to find a little cat skeleton out there in the winter when the foliage died back."
I almost howled at the thought.
Of course, I was convinced that we had not only lost Simpkin, we were once again being made calamity's bitch. But I think there has been a change.
Today my grandparents on my mum's side stopped by to tell me that they are distributing some of the proceeds from the sale of their house in town. Later in the week I will be receiving several thousand dollars. First I thought: This is the beginning of the end. They are sharing out portions of their estate. On the heels of my premature feelings of fear and grief and (already) denial: an inappropriate, wild sense of relief. Something good has happened. And I thought: This is the beginning. The ship is beginning to turn. After this torturous year, someone has come to my rescue. Someone is easing this weight on me. Now things are possible.
(It is characteristic of my grandparents to come to my rescue.) The money means that I can pay off my student loan and my credit card and still have enough left over to cover my next semester of tuition--because I am going back to school in September. If I get my usual grant from the government, most of the year's tuition will be paid for. I can almost certainly graduate without debt.
For now, I am reeling. I am tempted to chastise myself for these past months of bitterness and despair, but I mostly just want to share the good--fantastic, lovely, iridescent, delicious--news. Thanks for sticking with me. Sailing on.
|Simpkin and the drafts|
- Anne Fadiman, from "Eternal Ink"
I've been thinking a lot about my future as a poet. I want to write and publish in a culture where both information and distraction are more readily available than ever on the internet. It seems doubtful that I or any writer of my generation will be making a living (or a name) selling physical books. However, my rebellious spirit says "Here. Take this last book anyway. Five of the poems are plastered all over the interwebs, but two of them have never seen the light of day."
An imperfect villanelle, to finish off. Yes, this one's for school too.
We call you Simpkin Minnaloushe Mildew:
Pestilence, roasting-pig, cat--
We have adopted the tiny grey
Cat and named him Simpkin
After the cat in
The Tailor of Gloucester
By Beatrix Potter.
He must be three months old.
It's already getting cold.
Edited to . . . edit things.
The kitten crying
Uncanny like a baby
Distracts us in bed
Still and again, Love. Still. (Again.)
A Misuse of the Word 'Entropy'
Pining for nothing more or less than pure
Fabrication, now that I can't construct
A thing, and unlike before, nothing will
Materialize out of thin air under
My hands, and more and more, even more appears
Under others' hands in China. We know
"Longevity is the antithesis
Of fashion". We feel the horror of that
Life which causes visible wear. The scab
Of repair, a darn or a patch, will peel
Back to gnashing of teeth, detritus, debris--
We must make all things new every morning.
"The coats of arms that encrust those South German walls were once as simple as upside-down flat-irons with reversed buckets on top: at the touch of the new formula, each shield blossomed into the lower half of a horizontally bisected 'cello, floridly notched for a tilting lance, under a twenty-fold display of latticed and strawberry-leaf-crowned casques, each helmet top-heavy with horns or wings or ostrich or peacocks' feathers and all of the suddenly embowered in mantelling as reckless, convoluted and slashed as spatulate leaves in a whirlwind. The wings of eagles expanded in sprays of separate sable plumes, tails bifurcated in multiple tassels, tongues leapt from beaks and fangs like flames and inlaid arabesques. All was lambent."
Our new apartment is a bit darker than your average, respectable hobbit hole, but in the evenings the setting sun hits the top of the fridge just beautifully. We're settling in, and every day my bones are a little less restless, my feathers a little less ruffled. Today I went around with a little cast-iron pan in lieu of a hammer, hanging the remaining pictures on the walls.
Between the two of them, moving and settling have contrived to make us re-examine
one little household's flow of cold, hard cash
Though it is probably not much of a shock to anyone who really knows me, I am shocked to admit that I do not want a "career"--ever or at all. I do not want to work for anybody or spend 80% of my day away from home, or leave myself with only the scraps. And I don't want to smear that smarmy gloss over the issues at hand, as if the world is one big corporate interview.
I want to attend to my life, of which earning a living is only one part, ever moving towards true center. You know I have plans. I want to write books (and so does Tim). How should we do it? We are not crazy.
This house is terribly important.
The felt books are finished. Nine good poems - not all of my autumn's work, but the work that came out of the rest of the work. Fifteen copies are already in the mail and in friends' hands--I'm surprised I have to make more so soon.
It is marvelous to have these printed up. They are a semester's final project, something to show. I am still a writer.
his ideas as a gymnast
might keep up his body.
It was a terrible relief
to stretch himself every morning
to begin work.
He practiced for fits
of flawless action,
for impossible stunts
and a tight finish.