Thursday, April 29, 2010

My hours

I want to tell you about the torrent of ideas, issues and emotions that have stormed my horizon just today. (But I won't because you've got your own.)  I want to tell you because I'm thinking a lot about this thing someone said to me about adulthood - how it's a matter of realizing you only get twenty-four hours a day and some things you will do and some you will not and the things you choose to fit into a day define you.  

I want to be honest with you because I want to be honest with myself.  Of the things I believe deep down define me, very few are currently making it into my twenty-four hours.  And this is more and more troubling.

I'm a writer.  Did you know that?

I told you?

Well.  Technically a writer is one who writes and, well... this is pretty much it, kiddos.  I've got this and I've got a (lovingly & generously designed) database full of snippets and ideas.  It's meant to be a virtual library of my work, but right now it's pretty much just a sieve.  And while I'm grateful every idea doesn't wash down the drain, I am also starting to feel a bit panicky about the fact that I'm more of an idea-er than a writer.

Why'm I telling you this?  

So that it is told.

Tomorrow I go into the woods alone for approximately ninety-six hours of silence.  For wilderness.  For dirt and rain and wind.  For glorious, glorious silence.  Last June I went on a similar retreat for two days and didn't speak the whole time - well, I slipped to greet a dog.  I didn't want him to think I wasn't happy to see him, so the sounds just popped out of my mouth.  But I felt restored by those two days in a deep, fundamental way.  This year, I'm upping the dosage.  For someone who absorbs as much as I do and who is as busy as I seem to be all twenty-four hours of each of my days and who spends hours and hours each week with live rock music, silence is a balm.

I will be silent.
I will be alone.
I will be unwebbed.
I will be unplugged.

I think I will probably even bury all time-telling implements in the ground (with a treasure map for when I have to leave again) and live by the sun and the full moon.

I have no idea what conclusions I will come to, if any, while I am out there.  But I know I will hear my heartbeat in my ears.

Tuesday, April 27, 2010


"He who cannot howl will not find his pack." [sic]  - Charles Simic

"I'm a magic wee-utch!" - Me (age 4)

p.s. And while, no, I'm not saying I'm Wiccan, I would like to thank that sweet bartender with the moon phase tattoos on her arm for pouring and joining me in that free shot last week:  you are an especially decent human being.

Saturday, April 24, 2010


The sequins are waiting for me.

I wonder if Karen O has nights where the last thing she wants to do is put on some crazy get-up and then do her best to turn her guts inside out under the bright lights.  I heard an interview once where she talked about having an incessant leotard wedgie throughout a show they played in Central Park during a thunderstorm.  I wonder if there are nights where she just aches to stay in and read.  Of course there are.

I'm not saying this is a night like that for me.  I'm just saying there is a moment every time, no matter how big or small the show, where I have to ask myself - do I really want to don this shiny get-up and turn my guts inside out under the bright lights?  My guts are imperfect.  Messy.  The sequins are a con.  All those drinking people - why do I do this?

Oh crap, I'm late!

Sunday, April 18, 2010

Should be good to Jersey

Through the wonders of 3G technology, I am currently cruising the sunny highway on the way to Philly. There are dandelions in the ditches and bright green spritzes in the hilltops. Today we're gonna do a very quick hop around the city, which I missed the last time we played because we didn't arrive till after dark. This is the first time in my life I've argued for a science museum over an art museum; what can I say? I have a thing for Ben Franklin.

Last night I dreamed of large mutant cats with human eyes. GP thinks we should use the line "those cats are sentient" in a song or title. I think it's awfully David Lynch, which is cool and all, but would certainly be a departure for TBH. Maybe we can write a Lynchy acoustic triptych or something.

The night before last, I dreamed that an evil genius had assembled a bunch of people to some secret locale. We weren't supposed to know where we were, and everyone kept trying to figure it out, but no one thought to use the map tracking device on their iPhones. No one but me. Turned out we were in a place called Forest Shaker. I think it means I'm figuring out I can make things happen.

Oooh it's the big hill on 15! Wheeeee...

Friday, April 16, 2010

The Body, Parts Four & Five

Morningtime.  I walked up the sidewalk, lilting probably, falling in love with the world and beginnings as I tend do whenever I can.  Soon I had to slow my pace behind an ambling older man.  He wore overalls, neat white hair, strong creases across the back of his neck.  In one hand, he held a strap that pulled a tiny tricycle.  In the other, he carried a very small bike helmet.  

With no children in sight, I thought it looked like perhaps only a moment ago he'd been a little overalled boy pedaling up the sidewalk until he had suddenly found himself an old man, no longer able to sit on the shiny green seat, to fit the little helmet on his head.  I thought maybe now he was dragging his trike home to keep in the garage until some other little boy came along who could use them.  I wondered if he was worried about how his mother would take it.
_  _  _  _  _  _  _  _  _  _  _  _  _  _  _  _  _  _  _  _  _  _  _  _  _  _  _  _  _

I collect old copies of National Geographic magazine from the 60's - 80's; I use the photographs for collages/multi-media art stuff.  A few years ago I came across a photo that has possibly, in the absence of any one model I want to emulate, most defined the emotional core of my vision of Family.

The photo was from an article on some ancient city that had been demolished one morning in an earthquake.  From the bones and other remains they found, archaeologists were allowed a glimpse of the city on its final day.  Illustrations imagined a bustling marketplace, women doing the wash, men mingling in the square.

Among the homes, one set of skeletons was found particularly well-preserved - all three pressed into the ground in the same positions in which they were crushed:

A female skeleton in fetal position held a baby skeleton up to her chest.
The tiny cracked skull lay right next to her ribs.
The bones of her left arm still bent around it.
A larger male skeleton spooned her, their leg bones still perfectly aligned in the dirt.
One set of his arm bones seemed to be crushed beneath them.
His other lay across them, alongside her right arm.
Their finger bones were all mixed up in a pile with the baby's teeny ribs.

They died like that:  surely in fear, but all curled up together, trying against hope to protect each other.  Their last thoughts - whatever else had been going on before the quake hit - must have been filled with the knowing of their love for each other, their unity in that moment.  Or maybe they were all just sleeping in together that morning so soundly that the quake covered them before they could wake.  Either way....

The first time I turned to that page I stared for full minutes, just in quiet awe.  That's all I want in a family; that's all it comes down to, isn't it?

Thursday, April 15, 2010

A break from the regularly scheduled blogging for some conversation snippets

Today.  Office.  9am.

Me:  (Stomps into office with grouchy face, collapses dramatically against file cabinet.)
Nico:  I know.
Me:  Can we please just start a business?  It can be anything.  I'll work my butt off for something with a little juice.  This is a dry chicken kind of a job.
Nico:  (Laughs hysterically, throwing his arms up in the air and slamming them back down on the desk.)  That should be the first line of a story you write when you get out of here.

Today. IM.  11am.

Me:  "Asked to volunteer what they don't like about Mr. Obama, the top answer, offered by 19 percent of Tea Party supporters, was that they just don't like him."
Me:  might as well just have a racist checkbox.
GP:  makes sense, y'know?
        there's just something about him that makes me racist.
Me:  omg
        that's witty
        did you make that up?
GP:  yep

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

The Body, Part Three


From Ingmar Bergman's Persona:
(Warnings: [1] This is angsty.  [2] Don't worry if you don't know what's going on; you'd feel exactly the same if you'd watched the film from the beginning.)

From Clarissa Pinkola Estes' Women Who Run With The Wolves:

Visitors come with all manner of expectations, from the sacred to the profane. They come to see something that not everyone will be able to see, one of the wildest of the wild, a living numen, La Mariposa, the Butterfly Woman. The last event of the day is the Butterfly Dance. Everyone anticipates with great delight this one-person dance. It is danced by a woman, and oh what a woman. As the sun begins to set, here comes an old man resplendent in forty pounds of formal-dress turquoise. With the loudspeakers squawking like a chicken espying a hawk, he whispers into the 1930s chrome microphone, “An’ our nex dance is ganna be th’ Butterfly Dance.” He limps away on the cuffs of his jeans.

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

The Body, Part Two

Dear Diary, I woke up at 6:30 this morning from a dream that ended in a hug.  It was a specific hug, one that I haven't felt in eight or nine years, but in my dream, it was exactly right, that hug.  Its shape and texture, its solidity and scent.  My body remembered precisely.  It was a shock of both relief and recall, which means that my mind has mercifully allowed those sensations to fade from my conscious memory over time.  Last night before bed I had been reading and was struck by a line about the soul whispering to the mind in dreams.  I say it was merciful of my mind to forget the sensation of the hug, but sparking that memory in my body was also a mercy - perhaps given by my soul?  How long will my body remember that hug?  Will it keep reminding me once in awhile?

Dear Diary, Saturday I spent hours and hours at the mall just trying to find a pair of jeans that fit me right.  I am tall and I have hips built to hold a cradle - but I am still stylish, by god.  I searched and searched and fought to keep from seeing myself the way all those ill-fitting jeans wanted me to:  not right!  As if the problem was that I didn't fit the jeans, and not the other way around.  As if it is form and not function that makes a body right.

Monday, April 12, 2010

The Body, Part One

Can it feel?

Can it dance?

Can it love?

Then it is good.

Friday, April 9, 2010

Emerging: Morning Music Mix!

So, I have a hard time getting going in the morning.  Transitions are hard generally, but emerging from the peace of my bed, out the door, to arrive at the boxey gray world of my office, may be the toughest in my day-to-day life.  When I worked in a daycare, we helped the 3-year-olds transition from one thing to the next with a song.  Clean-up clean-up, everybody everywhere...  that kind of thing.  So to help along my inner 3-year-old, I have made myself this AWESOME mix of tunes.  My indispensable iHome alarm clock kicks in with track #1 when it's time to get up and stays on through track #14 (Movin' Right Along is the GET YOUR BUTT OUT THE DOOR tune), at which point I plug in my headphones, move the pod to my pocket and I'm out the door for my walk to work with tracks #15 through #21.  It.  Rules.

Oh yes, and it also highlights some of Boston's best bands!  
Plus a few indie standards.  
Plus my 2 favorite San Francisco bands, Rupa & the April Fishes and LoveLikeFire.

PLUS Papermoon - the former band of my very good friend and producer of Quicksandglass (as well as producer, songwriter, and performer on the Brendan Kelley track - #13), David Messier/Starbuckle of Same Sky Productions, now based in Austin, TX.  

PLUS PLUS, there are actually 21 tracks on my playlist, though this iMix only shows 20.  Track #21 (which tricks me into walking through my office door by being so flippin' catchy that everything else falls) is "Sugar" by the most delicious Naked On Roller Skates.  It's just not on iTunes yet so they wouldn't let me include it in my iMix.  Please download it, though.  It's free.  And did I mention awesome?

Plus The Muppets (!!!) because, well.  They rule.

And okay, I snuck a This Blue Heaven song in there for the iMix because, y'know... self promotion and all that.  (But people really have told me it's a great song for getting going in the morning!)

So!  Please feel free to buy this playlist.  Most of these songs are also available on the artists' websites or through Amazon if you're anti-iTunes.  Better yet, go catch them live and buy a real live CD artifact!!!  Either way, I definitely encourage you to take a listen and delve further into anything you dig but haven't heard before.  There's some serious music going on in these parts!!!  Some serious get your butt out of bed music!

21 Sugar Naked on Roller Skates (forthcoming)

MWAH! Happy Friday.

Wednesday, April 7, 2010

Emerging: Change

Dudes.  Can you believe that change ever ever happens?

No, seriously.  Some ancient Greek folks spent a lot of time arguing about whether or how change is even possible.  I won't dust off my (extremely dusty) explanations of those arguments here, but in the end (that's a joke for Aristotelians), the deal is basically like this:  The only way for A to become B is if B is already in A.

The only way for a thing to change is if the potential for the outcome is always already there in the first place.

Like, a chicken can't come from an egg unless the egg already in some sense has the chicken in it - the ingredients and ability to make the chicken.

A magnolia tree can't come from a seed unless the seed already contains the ingredients and ability to grow into a magnolia tree.

Optimus Prime can't transform into a truck unless he already has the right parts that bend the right ways.  (Random TBH trivia:  one band name we threw around was Artemis Prime.)

And a person cannot change unless they already have within them the tools and capacity to make those changes.

All of these things require the right conditions, of course.

And you gotta have some patience, because the emerging takes time.

Today I came across an instant message conversation from over two years ago.  As I read it, I remembered during that time how I felt a sort of desperation to change.  To become someone more steady, more rooted.  Looking back on that conversation I can see how, as recently as this week, I am realizing things that only someone more steady and more rooted could embrace.  I am just now becoming that person I was desperate to be.

It's such a relief.  Really, it rules.

Maybe those moments of "Aaah I want to change!" came from a new awareness of that potential for change already inside.  Maybe that tangly mess of a conversation was one of the first steps toward choosing the conditions that would allow that potential to make its way out into the actual light of day.

It makes me awfully grateful for the patient people in my life.

Tuesday, April 6, 2010

Emerging: Soul

I'll push myself up through the dirt

and shake my petals free

I'm resolved to being born

and so, resigned to bravery

lyrics from Spring Street by Dar Williams (again... I know... I can't help it)
art/touch drawings by Deborah Koff-Chapin

Monday, April 5, 2010

Emerging: Thoughts of Persephone

Well friends, I have to apologize that my keynote Kentucky poet has been delayed!  Hence the crickets and stillness 'round here since that Friday.  Also, I got a crappish cold that took me away from all kinds of fun things.  So it goes.  We're limited, bodily creatures.  Anyway, the good news is that one day when you least expect it, a formidable Kentucky poet WILL be gracing this blog in beauty & provocation.

In the meantime, April is here!  my Starbucks drought is over (joy of joys, they've made me up a whole new kind of iced mocha!) and in celebration of spring, this week I would like to devote my little electronic corner of the webworld to the theme of emerging.

Today I'm thinking about Persephone emerging from the underworld.

Many times, in winter,

I approached Zeus. Tell me, I would ask him,
how can I endure the earth?

And he would say,
in a short time you will be here again.
And in the time between

you will forget everything:
those fields of ice will be
the meadows of Elysium.

Excerpted from "Persephone the Wanderer" (the second one) from Louise Gluck's amazing book, Averno.

Warmth has returned to New England.  Ice has melted and green and petaled things are pushing up and outward. I am rubbing my eyes to see in the glare of new light.  I've had cleaning frenzies to banish the dust.  And I'm trying to make out who I am now after that cold journey inward.  I'm trying to see what this revived earth means.

This morning I passed the towering line of seven trees that I call The Sisters in the secrecy of my own head.  They finally have green things springing from their branches.  I smiled up to welcome them back (a man I passed looked at me strangely).  I was struck by their indifference in return (go ahead, you can laugh, too).  The trees had endured the winter, but not in the way that we do - with a sense of relief when spring finally, finally returns.  More like maybe they are simply, stoically willing to forgo attachments in exchange for renewal each year, in exchange for the ability to cheat death, perhaps indefinitely.

Gluck's poems insist that nature lies to us; the dead stay dead.  Maybe unlike trees, our lot in this short life is attachment - to lovers and mothers, as with Persephone.  Maybe that's why these seasons take such a toll on us, forcing us to grieve and revise and wisen.

I had a long elaborate dream this winter, in which a young woman who had been banished to the bottom of the sea was called to re-emerge.  She was dressed in blue and green and purple batiks, as were her attendants, who formed receiving lines on either side of her and took her hands to steady her climb up out of the sea.  She had been banished by a white-haired villain; in the end, she had to fight him.  She was joined by everyone who had ever been pulled under by some darkness or other, which turned out to be everyone in the (dream)world.

Yesterday I clambered over some warm rocks on the North Shore and sat and listened to the rhythm of the ocean.  So like breath.  Such an enormous sign of our tiny spot in the universe's ballroom, our spinny dance between sun and moon that curves our psyches and our stories to its tune.

Speaking of which, did you see the new Alice in Wonderland yet?  In this one, Alice climbs back up out of the rabbit hole, pulling herself out with dirty elbows.  She has defeated Fear, her hair is wild and her muchness is restored.  And then she (quite anachronistically) refuses a stinky marriage proposal and trots off to become a trailblazing, world-traveling businesswoman.

I wonder what year it'll be when the story changes and the maiden emerges to choose a life and a lover, both of which encourage and enrich her deepest self?

I raise my iced dark cherry mocha to that day.