Emily

The heart wants what it wants –

Or else it does not care –

– Emily Dickinson, 1862

Such a simple quote from a letter to a friend, yet it rings true, doesn’t it? A deep, heavy ring. The heart can be so passionate and fervent in its wanting, but to everything else it is silent. These are the words I feel as I go into my sit today. I’m certain my mind will be buzzing throughout the next ten days with ideas I want to share here. Until then! May all beings be happy.

Love,

Sara

Obsolete

I was driving northeast in the beginnings of a blizzard to my brother’s wedding. It was 3:30 pm, so the outside was darkening already, and I was alone in the car, save for June Bug. And save for Regina Spektor, and her new album, Remember Us to Life. Everything felt significant, that night, that weekend.

The ninth song on the album is called Obsolete. It’s slow, sad, soft:

This is how I feel right now
Obsolete manuscript
No one reads and no one needs
Pages lost, incomplete
No one knows what it means

I listened to this song over and over, swirls of snow obscuring my vision, Junie curled up to my right, a warm cabin beckoning with two of my favorite people cozied up by the wood stove, hidden from the world in a dark spruce forest, burnt up several summers ago, now blanketed in thick, thick snow.

This song became the constant mind hum of my weekend. Its melody and velvety, pulsing piano rode the waves of my mind as I soaked in the hot springs with my girlfriends, as I witnessed the marriage of my brother and Lilly, as I slept outside in the blowing snow, as I skiied in the empty burnt snowy forest, as I ate Alaskan blueberry pie over a card game right before midnight on New Years Eve.

Minds grow dark, so suddenly
I was lost on your street
Hey I’m talking to myself
I can hear you listening in
To my thoughts, to my dreams
What I want, can’t compete
Obsolete

It’s difficult to say why this song felt so important this weekend, why I was so struck by it. I’ve been turning the lyrics over and over in my mind, searching for connections with what I was experiencing at the cabin.

Take me to the water’s edge
Let me stand in the sand
Let me hear the waves crash-land

Useless part
This useless heart
Useless art
What am I? why am I
Incomplete?
Obsolete

Although I’m still searching for the meaning, I’d like to share my best guess with you. We go through each year with a myriad of yearnings, fears, celebrations, tiny challenges, significant accomplishments, adventures, disappointments. We strive so ardently for happiness and fulfillment. We connect with some and lose touch with others. Endless experience. Yet, in the end, the year ends. The entirety of what we’re left with over the first breath of the new year is exactly where we are at that moment. The old year, in effect, is obsolete.

Standing by the bonfire at midnight, I felt a budding desire to examination myself anew, to look at this idea of “What am I? Why am I incomplete?”, questions that so many of us ponder. This dichotomy of feeling a genuine self-significance while at the same time knowing that our lives are due to end, our time in this body and mind is finite, and that one day, far in the future, we will be completely obsolete.

This is how it feels right now
Obsolete manuscript
No one reads, no one needs
Useless part
This useless heart
Useless art
What am I? why am I
Incomplete?
Obsolete
All I want
Can’t compete
All I want
Is a sleep
All I want
Incomplete
All I want
Obsolete

It may have been the dark and stormy night that I was hurtling through, it may have been the wedding of my baby brother, it may have been the stark beautiful loneliness of that burnt up spruce forest, but I believe all the deep emotions I felt while listening were inspired directly from Regina’s magic. Happy New Year.

In drear nighted December (John Keats)

In drear nighted December,
Too happy, happy tree,
Thy branches ne’er remember
Their green felicity—
The north cannot undo them
With a sleety whistle through them
Nor frozen thawings glue them
From budding at the prime.

In drear-nighted December,
Too happy, happy brook,
Thy bubblings ne’er remember
Apollo’s summer look;
But with a sweet forgetting,
They stay their crystal fretting,
Never, never petting
About the frozen time.

Ah! would ‘twere so with many
A gentle girl and boy—
But were there ever any
Writh’d not of passed joy?
The feel of not to feel it,
When there is none to heal it
Nor numbed sense to steel it,
Was never said in rhyme.

Three of ’em

Listen to your being. It is continuously giving you hints; it is a still, small voice. It does not shout at you, that is true. And if you are a little silent you will start feeling your way. Be the person you are. Never try to be another, and you will become mature. Maturity is accepting the responsibility of being oneself, whatsoever the cost. Risking all to be oneself, that’s what maturity is all about.

Drop the idea of becoming someone, because you are already a masterpiece. You cannot be improved. You have only to come to it, to know it, to realize it.

That is the simple secret of happiness. Whatever you are doing, don’t let past move your mind; don’t let future disturb you. Because the past is no more, and the future is not yet. To live in the memories, to live in the imagination, is to live in the non-existential. And when you are living in the non-existential, you are missing that which is existential. Naturally you will be miserable, because you will miss your whole life.

(Osho)

Conventional Candy

From August 2007 until July 2016 I ate no Conventional Candy. Not a Skittle, not a Starburst, not a Reese’s, not a Snickers. For nearly nine years I lived in dire fear of high fructose corn syrup, THB, and Yellow #5. It was unthinkable for me to pass a mass-produced, genetically-modified, artificially-flavored sweet morsel over my tender, pure, organic lips. Childhood nostalgia, Halloween, and “guilty pleasures” were non-issues concerning Candy. I simply did not partake.

Everything changed when I started working at Bun on the Run this summer. I’ve written about what it was like to work at the Bun here. Working at the Bun was magical. Working at the Bun was like being a little worker elf at the Big Rock Candy Mountain, except this particular little elf was working at the Big Monster Cookie Mountain. The Bun is famous (infamous?) for their monster cookies. Besides being Cookies of Unusual Size (COUSs), these monsters contain not only one kind of Conventional Candy, but two: Plain and Peanut M&Ms.

Something else you should know about monsters is that they break easily. This is due to their gluten-free nature and the fact that it is difficult to tell when the cookies are all the way done, so sometimes they are shelved slightly underdone and oversoft. Anyway, they often fall apart, rendering themselves unsalable, so they end up in the baker’s Vortex of Temptation (see here).

Now, for the first month or so, I stuck to my guns. Not an M&M, not a bite of Monster. As you will see, my well-intentioned, stalwart abstinence was short-lived.

One morning I was shaping buns and wanted a little snack. I had gotten into the habit of eating cookies before 7:00 am. I would come into the trailer, tying my apron, and Wendy would zoom in with some little baked good for me to sample. Sometimes she would zoom with a cookie. It’s surprisingly easy to just start accepting that it’s okay to start eating cookies at 6:35 am. This particular morning, it must have been nearly 7:00, and I must not have had a cookie yet. My eyes zipped up to the Vortex and I saw broken monsters. The transgression was nigh. I ate a chunk of warm, peanut-y, soft, M&M-riddled Monster Cookie; my first. Not my last.

Then Candy just naturally started coming into my life again. My friend Sophie, who is so darn cute, offered me a dark chocolate mini Reese’s. Sophie always, always has a bag of these. I ate it. One time Sophie and I were hanging out with my other friend Mary and Sophie had an XL bag of peanut M&M’s. I ate those too, in camaraderie. The big moment came when Wendy shared some discount Halloween candy during our epic fat bike misadventure. I popped down those little sugar bombs like no one’s business. The point of no return.

I remember Michael Henry telling me, in the wise words of Brian “Swifty” Swift, that it’s good to eat Skittles every now and then. I thought this was terrible advice at the time (circa 2012). I owe Swifty credit. I in no way endorse eating Conventional Candy, or encourage you to do it if you do not see ethically/morally/politically fit, or know it to be unhealthy and bad for your teeth (which it is, definitely!). Please continue to avoid Conventional Candy at all costs. All I want to say is that, upon returning to my childhood Candy roots, I have matured. As healthy as it is to not eat it, I personally feel it’s healthier to move on past dysfunctional and unrealistic rigidity. I have relaxed into the notion that it is okay and acceptable and lovely to eat Conventional Candy if I want. My body is so robust and awesome, it can process that shit no problem. Peace.

Living in the gray (for Angela)

Last week I was talking with my friend Angela over the phone, between classes and while walking my dog so she could poop. We were talking about how humans find comfort and safety living in the black or living in the white. Meaning, is it comfier to act and make decisions within defined terms or expectations. It can be easier to say “I’m attracted to men” or “I’m attracted to women” instead of saying “I’m attracted to men and women, depending on the person, or the day.” It can be easier to stick with your “good job” rather than going out on a limb and following your potentially poorly-compensated, unstable passion. It can be scary to live “in the gray”, so we often don’t. We stick within the definitions.

Last night I found myself desperately trying to land in the black or in the white. I was on a double date. No, not a date with four people/two couples, but one where there was me and there were two men, Male A & Male B. Those weren’t their real names. Somehow I thought it was a good idea to take a big stone and kill all the birds at once, really annihilate them, so I allowed myself to let my friends set me up on this double date and meet all the potentials at once. It was at Hoodoo, it was the end of election week, and hoards of Fairbanksians were happy to unwind with some brewskis. A-buzz was the atmosphere.

My friend (Friend C; also not her real name) and I chatted with A to start the evening off. A had earlier in the week kindly told C that he wasn’t interested in her romantically, in response to her asking if he was looking for someone to be romantic with, but really C was asking him on my behalf. Following?

That’s how we opened it all up, how he had “rejected” her but was open to meeting me. So, that felt vulnerable.

Then Male B walked in with my Friend D (!). I went to introduce myself to B and left C chatting with A. We started right in by talking about how he uses the Murie showers (which are single rooms) to trim his beard instead of using bathrooms with multiple sinks. I agreed, and volunteered that it would be like shaving my legs in the open in a public bathroom. Great response!

This all quickly became really challenging for me. Meeting people and really getting to know them in an interesting way is hard at a place like Hoodoo. I felt tense and upset. I felt like I was really bad at this whole thing. B was talking to a friend for a while and eventually left her to get another beer. I swooped in like a mighty bird of prey and asked for his number. He gave it to me and asked if I was going to Babefest at the Pub later to see the Fairbanks League of Women Wrestlers…wrestle. I said yes. I saw him there and tried my best to “chat” but I just felt like I was drowning. Trying to appear a) interested, intelligent, and calm, while projecting b) nonchalance, humility, and captivating energy. All at once. What??

So after the first round of wrestling I said goodbye to everyone and went to my car and to my pup and went home. My mind was reeling. I felt so ungrounded. I had the number of an attractive intelligent male yet I felt confused what to do with it. I felt so in the gray and wanted desperately to be in the black or the white, i.e. to have really hit it off with B or to really know that I hadn’t hit it off with B. I wanted to feel like it all wasn’t a big deal, but it was. I wanted to have steely nerves and emotions, but I don’t. So I go on to learn to live with this grayness. And for my dad’s peace of mind, I’m also going easy on myself with this one.

This one’s for Dad

This morning, my dad suggested I “write about something happy in my blog.” As one of my most dedicated readers, I thought I’d oblige him.

But, see Dad, it all comes from the same place!

Here is a poem by Kahlil Gibran, the prophet poet of the stars and the rising sun.

Joy and Sorrow, Chapter VIII

Then a woman said, “Speak to us of Joy and Sorrow.”

And he answered:

Your joy is your sorrow unmasked.

And the selfsame well from which your laughter rises was oftentimes filled with your tears.

And how else can it be?

The deeper that sorrow carves into your being, the more joy you can contain.

Is not the cup that hold your wine the very cup that was burned in the potter’s oven?

And is not the lute that soothes your spirit, the very wood that was hollowed with knives?

When you are joyous, look deep into your heart and you shall find it is only that which has given you sorrow that is giving you joy.

When you are sorrowful look again in your heart, and you shall see that in truth you are weeping for that which has been your delight.

Some of you say, “Joy is greater than sorrow,” and others say, “Nay, sorrow is the greater.”

But I say unto you, they are inseparable.

Together they come, and when one sits alone with you at your board, remember that the other is asleep upon your bed.

Verily you are suspended like scales between your sorrow and your joy.

Only when you are empty are you at standstill and balanced.

When the treasure-keeper lifts you to weigh his gold and his silver, needs must your joy or your sorrow rise or fall.

Painting by Kahlil Gibran.