Over the past two days I’ve had three different conversations about my life in Scotland. By the time I got in my car to drive home, I was deeply homesick for it, mostly the friends and coworkers I miss, but also mundane bits like Christmas Eve in Waitrose, random herds of curious horses, learning how to ride the bus in a foreign land, and frost-covered moss. I was thinking of that moss when I encountered the frost-dusted leaf in this photo.
Homesickness is generally expressed as a one person, one place phenomenon, but I have experienced waves of homesickness for every place I’ve ever lived. I even yearn for Alabama from time to time, especially the late afternoon summer thunderstorms that shake the magnolia trees, all slick green and heavy cream. Does it make me feel fickle sometimes? Sure. Someone once excoriated my use of the word “favorite” because, in his words, “They can’t all be favorites.”
Writing from: a quiet study in Portland, Oregon. Listening to: “Trains” by Poppy Ackroyd.
I don’t mean to eavesdrop on the breakup. My earbuds are in but I’ve woken up with a start, and the podcast that I was listening to has ended. I don’t have noise-canceling earbuds, so if there isn’t anything playing I can hear everything going on around me.
She’s telling him a version of “it’s not you; it’s me,” and it is long-winded and involves a mention of her “journey” and I get whiplash from cringing so hard.
He sits there and stares at his trainers on the rubber ridges of the bus floor. (Getting dumped on a bus is pretty bad; getting dumped while sitting in the sideways seats is worse. Every movement of the bus is shoving you into the last person you want to touch.) Occasionally he turns to her with a tearful glare but he cannot look at her for long.
She keeps talking, mostly too soft to hear. She reaches for his hand, and he does not move away, but his hand is prey, playing dead, while she swoops and takes.
Writing from: a quiet study in Portland, Oregon. Listening to: “Take On Me - 2017 Acoustic” by a-ha. Sometimes I miss taking the bus to work.
About that writing offline I mentioned yesterday …
I don’t remember a time when I wasn’t obsessed with notebooks. The first notebook I remember loving so hard that I wore it down to a floppy nub was spiral-bound with an orange cover. In my notebook I wrote down a lot of facts that I thought Encyclopedia Brown would need to know if he ever needed my help to solve one of his cases.
Now I carry two Traveler’s Notebooks: one for work, and one for creative projects. I like having this separation between the two worlds. When I switch between notebooks, I feel like Mister Rogers trading his jacket and dress shoes for a cardigan and trainers.
Writing from: a quiet study in Portland, Oregon. Listening to: Spotify’s Winter Classical playlist.
Sometimes when I stroll through the circulation workroom of my library, a book cover catches my eye but because my to-read pile is already unreasonably large, I will merely nod respectfully to it and keep walking.
Recently my attention was snagged by “The Daily Stoic: 366 Meditations on Wisdom, Perseverance, and the Art of Living” by Ryan Holiday and Stephen Hanselman. I was really digging November’s meditations on acceptance. This month’s meditations are on mortality, and they are more challenging. Example: December 1st was “Pretend Today Is the End” with this quote from Seneca:
"Let us prepare our minds as if we'd come to the very end of life. Let us postpone nothing. Let us balance life's books each day. . . .The one who puts the finishing touches on their life each day is never short of time."
--Seneca, Moral Letters, 101.7b-8a
I expected this year’s Holidailies to be about how horrified I am by American politics. But when I considered the meditation, I didn’t want to write about that anymore. I’m no less horrified, and I will continue to combat the forces of darkness, but writing about it online is not how I want to spend my remaining time on the planet. (Writing it all out offline is a different story, and has kept me sane this year.)
In the interest of postponing nothing, here are things I want to tell you today:
Writing from: a quiet study in Portland, Oregon. Listening to: “Follow the Leader” by Foxygen.
Face-down on the operating table, I’m not yet numb. This part had escaped my meticulous mental preparation – not so meticulous after all – and when I realize that the numbing portion of the day’s festivities will involve injections of lidocaine, the familiar effervescence of panic travels across the backs of my arms and into my scalp.
I lose track after the twelfth injection. And you know how I love to count things. I have experienced lidocaine injections before, for dental work, and once for a cut on my finger that required stitches, but nothing compares to the precise, bee-sting pain of multiple injections. My breathing exercises work to a point, but it takes a lot more than breathing exercises for me to sit still while someone hurts me. I wish I had something as cool as Sherlock’s mind-palace. There isn’t even a tropical beach with swaying palm trees waiting for me in my mind. Visual imagination is not a strength of mine, so where I go in my head is a facsimile of a rundown, cramped office of the psychiatric resident I saw twice a week while I lived in Alabama.
I take a deep breath. The nurse says, “You’re doing so well!” and she sounds surprised. “Most people really hate this part.”
I really hate this part, I think as I exhale. But I am also my parents’ daughter, and I know how to put on a brave face when I think my discomfort might put someone else out.
When all of the numbing has taken effect, the part I still can’t fathom happens. It is a routine procedure and yet a piece of my skin is being removed, and my brain hamster-wheels as it tries to square these two things. I feel tugged at in a way that I did not expect; maybe I expected it to be more like opening a handbag, pulling out a glasses-case, and snapping me shut again. My eyes have been closed most of the time but they pop open as the surgeon calls softly to the nurse, and I see him pass a piece of my flesh over to her, settling it gently in a jar of clear liquid. Suddenly I picture a long line of glowing specimens in jars at the Museum of Science and Industry.
“O,” I say, louder than I mean to do.
“Everything okay?” the surgeon asks. He is at least ten years younger than I am.
“Yes,” I say, and it is, and it isn’t. The panic has receded, replaced by boring old nausea.
“We send this off to the lab for tests. To make sure,” the surgeon says. He does not need to finish the sentence.
Pain peels back my manners enough that I ask for more lidocaine during the sutures. It takes so much longer to sew me up that I feel like a sock that is too worn through to be darned, every stitch opening a bigger hole. Eventually the surgeon places a waterproof bandage over the site. My arms and legs are starting to shake when I slowly sit up.
“It’s the lidocaine,” the nurse explains. I’m wound up like a mechanical toy, limbs paddling air, waiting to be let go. She has a piece of me in a jar in a plastic bag. It seems rude to leave it behind but it’s not mine anymore.
Writing from: a quiet study in Portland, Oregon. Listening to: “Cave” by Future Islands. The surgery described above happened two months ago; I’m already healed and everything was benign. Still processing it, apparently.
I hear a piercing cry from somewhere in the house. It’s a small house, but sound carries and bounces and hides. I do a full circuit, glancing in all of the usual places, and get halfway around again before I hear another cry, this time from upstairs.
“Zen? Zen?” She can’t have gone far; she’s almost twenty-one years old, and “running” isn’t in her repertoire anymore.
I reach the top of the stairs but she is not in sight, so I walk down the hall into the bedroom. No, nothing in here. I walk back out and she is standing at the top of the stairs, gazing down.
For a moment, I watch her contemplating her own existence, or staring into the middle distance – it’s not always clear which is which, with cats or humans. But it’s not long before I can help myself from saying, softly, “Hey.”
She looks at me and makes the different sound, the purr-trill that I’ve come to know as, “Where were you?”
I scoop her up and carefully descend. She’ll settle again for a little while, until a chill or the wind or a bad dream or existential dread will rouse her from twitch-ridden sleep. Like she is mourning an old friend, Zen’s cries will rise and slide up the wooden bannister until I, bleary with my own bad dreams, will go and find her again.
Writing from: a quiet study in Portland, Oregon. Listening to: the low hum of the space-heater. Welcome to Holidailies, a free community writing project that promotes sharing your writing and other online creative endeavors during the winter holiday season.
As 2016 ends, so does this round of Project 365. I am relieved on both counts, although I will miss how the act of sharing a daily photo kept me connected with faraway loved ones. Thank you for being here; your presence meant a lot to me during this very challenging year.
I’m excited to refocus my creative energies on my writing in 2017, but I’ll keep sharing here from time to time. Stick around.
I hope that your 2017 is filled with enough light to see through the darkness.
via Instagram ift.tt/2hYnrrm
Writing from: my study in Portland, Oregon. Listening to: the Song Exploder episode about Justin Hurwitz’s “La La Land”.
2016 had one last stomach bug to throw my way. Earlier this afternoon I was feeling dizzy so I went outside for some fresh air and saw this lichen-spotted sign.
A tiny tree sits next to a pine-scented candle, and it is drizzling outside. Zen wanders through the house, pausing to express her displeasure at all of the chilly corners that lack FunkyPlaid’s presence. But soon he will be coming home, and we’ll all be warmer.
You have noticed by now that despite being Day 364 of this project, there are two more days left in 2016. Leap year granted me a bonus Day 366 photo! No pressure …
Writing from: my study in Portland, Oregon. Listening to: the rain. Happy it’s not snow!
Tonight I turned the page to peek at 2017. It looks so clean and new from here. I am sure 2016 looked much the same, last December 28th. Is it foolish to look forward to a symbolic fresh start? Are these merely the first few hours of our darker days?
Writing from: my study in Portland, Oregon. Listening to: Carrie Fisher being interviewed in 1977 about “Star Wars”. In French. She really was awesome.
Here is my first Kaweco, a Liliput Fireblue, which is one of the smallest fountain pens – less than four inches long when capped! Each pen is hand-torched by Kaweco CEO Michael Gutberlet to give it the distinctively mottled steel finish. I’m looking forward to putting it through its paces in future ink tests!
Hopping into my time machine to catch up with some posts from the weekend! Yes, I am wearing a bat onesie pajamas (kigurumi), a most excellent gift from FunkyPlaid.
Hopping into my time machine to catch up with some posts from the weekend! FunkyPlaid and I were together on Christmas Day for the first time in too long, and it was wonderful.
I’m reading Patricia Highsmith’s “The Price of Salt” and enjoying the new fireplace in my inlaws’ living-room. Not pictured but very close by: FunkyPlaid. 💕
Writing from: a cozy home in Marin County, California. Listening to: the quiet whir of the fireplace.
Zen didn’t get up to say goodbye as I was heading to the airport, but that’s okay. She has a new hiding place: right in front of the register, underneath the nesting tables.
I tried to move the tables and put her bed there, but she just folded herself up underneath the tables and looked disappointed. Message received. I’ll miss this little weirdo but I’m looking so forward to seeing FunkyPlaid for a few days!
I had lofty goals to come home and get all of my chores done and pack and take a nice hot bath with custom-made bath salts that a friend gave me … and then I was delayed at work, and all that melted like so much Portland snow. I’m still packing! But in twenty-four hours I’ll be reunited with FunkyPlaid.
When I arrived home, this confused camellia bud greeted me. Happy Solstice!
Writing from: my study in Portland, Oregon. Listening to: a podcast called “LifeAfter” that I am not quite enjoying.
Gift-giving makes me incredibly anxious. I’m not certain where it comes from, but it is pervasive at this time of year, especially when I don’t have my very best shopping pal at my side to talk me out of talking myself out of choices.
I do like giving people things, but I’m always convinced I’ve given the wrong thing. And it sucks, doubly so in a new workplace where I am still unsure of the gift-giving protocol.
It will be a miracle if I can get to sleep tonight.
Writing from: my study in Portland, Oregon. Listening to: my internal monologue.
My immune system collapsed in the wee hours this morning, when I woke up to a coughing fit and severe sinus pain. I haven’t done much today except sleep, but I did manage to put a meal in the slow-cooker so I will have home-cooked lunches this week. I love this recipe for barbecued chicken and cornbread because the cornbread bakes on top of the barbecued chicken like some sort of food sorcery. This is my first attempt with my new favorite gluten-free store-bought barbecue sauce.
Now that I have a car, I sing (badly) all the time, but I was definitely overdue for some fun karaoke times with friends. Courtney, V, and I went to Voicebox and sang our hearts out. About ducks.
Writing from: my study in Portland, Oregon. Listening to: Zen’s snores … making me so sleepy.
Some friends of mine get together regularly to watch romantic comedies and good-naturedly snark about them. Living thousands of miles apart doesn’t stop them: they meet online and sync up their various media players so everyone is experiencing it in real-time. I joined in the fun today and it was exactly the low-key social distraction I needed.
In related news, “While You Were Sleeping” is an incredibly stressful romantic comedy to watch, since it is all based on a ridiculous lie. This is likely true of most romantic comedies, which is why I tend to avoid them.
Writing from: my study in Portland, Oregon. Listening to: only the taps of the keyboard.
After a wearying week of winter weather, bouts of insomnia, and seasonal ennui, I found myself on this path near the end of my morning commute.
I would like to say that I was 100% thrilled to be going to work this morning, but I was not. I was exhausted and irritated and overwhelmed and pretty daunted by all the slipperiness pictured. I can be pretty idealistic about my profession, but I wasn’t feeling so hot about the logistics, not today.
I started to walk anyway, and as I did I heard the satisfying crunch underfoot and saw the glimmer of the sunrise on the slick outlines of footprints. I moved forward. I did it slowly, but I did move forward.
And it was worth it.
Writing from: my study in Portland, Oregon. Listening to: cars skidding out around the corner.
A beautiful box of Christmas cheer from my dad and stepmom was waiting for me when I arrived home. It could not have come at a better time; with FunkyPlaid away I haven’t felt much holiday spirit this year, and last week’s weather foiled two of my planned holiday outings. Then this week’s weather caused the worst commute ever. Today’s drive home was less horrible but still harrowing, and I won’t be taking my car back out on Portland roads in even vaguely snowy conditions without chains. And maybe a cowcatcher.
Writing from: my study in Portland, Oregon. Listening to: some holiday music. I’m trying!
Here’s how my evening commute went today:
Writing from: my study in Portland, Oregon. Listening to: a loud explosion. Uh-oh, power outages are on the way …
Each year my mom sends a thoughtful and creative advent calendar around a theme of her own devising. This year it is a picnic basket with assorted picnic-themed goodies, one to unwrap each day! When FunkyPlaid comes home (and the weather clears up) we will be all set to explore Oregon, one picnic at a time.
Writing from: my study in Portland, Oregon. Listening to: odd creaks and bumps that are probably nothing but are still creeping me out. I’ve been watching too much TV.