30 November, 2007


So I have this crazy, obsessive idea; it’s all I could think about today, really.

I am getting a beautiful little camera for Christmas and I am so hungry for it. I’ve missed photography in a big way since coming here; I had to leave the camera I used almost every week at home since it didn’t belong to me. Although I took a photography class at the community college, I am not very experienced or talented photographer. But I love love love it; taking pictures is a strange, inexplicable release for me. (Photographing people is the best.) I am so eager for this camera that I would buy it myself tomorrow, if my parents weren’t paying for part of it in lieu of Christmas presents. So I have to wait. Pooh.

Last week I conceived this idea, just picked it right out of the troposphere, and it has been possessing me ever since. I want to take one photo every day for one year.

Weird, yeah, but it’s the kind of challenge that makes me really excited. I don’t know if I have enough discipline to do something like that, but Kathryn told me this morning that I did. I guess I can believe her; she doesn’t lie very much. So, beginning January 1, 2008, I am going to do this. Calling it The Shashin Project (“shashin” is Japanese for photograph).

I think I’m like my father in many ways; all this reminds me of one specific way we are similar. Dad chooses an obsession (I’m not really familiar with his process of selection) and then he becomes one of the best in that field or does the most he can until he tires of it and picks a new obsession. Some examples: when he was in high school and college, the obsession was running. He won scads of races and broke handfuls of records at Purdue University, eventually culminating in winning the Big Ten award. After he blew out his knee, he took up volleyball and surfing and competed in tournaments on the beaches. Then it was tennis. After teaching himself how to play, he gradually become one of the best men’s singles players in the state. Then it was model airplanes. (I have no idea where this one came from.) He built these strange wooden things and flew them in air shows in the Midwest. Then it was piano. He taught himself how to play piano and read music when he was 40; he bought a baby grand. Then it was guitar. He got me hooked on it and now we both play. Today’s obsession is hockey. He plays for a men’s league and coaches several different teams and plays in tournaments all over the place. Mom calls him, very appropriately, her Renaissance man.

Considering all that he’s done, now I realize that I’m not that similar to him. I’m not universally amazing at everything; that’s his and Kelsey’s realm. But I guess the connection is that we both tend to get very easily obsessed with ideas/projects. In middle school, it was dogs (I read every book about dogs in the library; I can still tell you the temperament and weight of almost any dog breed) and writing novellas. I was obsessed with creating good characters, so I read baby name books to find perfect names and, to visualize characters, I kept a notebook full of faces I had cut out of magazines. In high school, it was debate and guitar. I had to become the best speaker in our region and I had to learn to play more songs than you. (I didn’t become the best speaker in our region, but that was the goal. Maybe it’s just a pride thing?) My obsessions now: buying used books, the New York Times Book Review, and writing English papers. I spend an exorbitant amount of time preparing for my papers; really, it’s excessive. I am so inefficient: I almost re-read the whole novel and then take more notes and collect quotations and write about five possible thesis statements until I finally settle on one that satisfies me.

It’s an exhausting personality trait, I suppose. But it also means that life is never dull. It can’t be, not when you have a plethora of absorbing (albeit useless) interests. So, new obsession, welcome to the family. January, come quick!

29 November, 2007

will it make you grow numb

Yesterday I ran into J.Hecht while leaving Shakespeare and it was the highlight of Wednesday. He was dapper and cheery and gave me a hug and said, surveying my clothes, "This is great, this is great. You look so good!" Getting fashion approval from Jonathan is like getting a compliment from Armitage on your essay: these little gems are very rarely distributed, but when they are, you know they're sincere. And so it means that much more.

Because Elizabeth asked: The brief story of what happened to Chuck Norris/Oliver. Apparently, he was not abandoned; he actually belongs to some people down the road and he ran away from home when they got a puppy. The reason why he looked strange and walked crooked was because he was sixteen years old and had a brain tumor and rheumatoid arthritis. Hehe. Oops. (Dad put a splint on him, thinking there was something in his paw. Turns out he’s just old and creaky.) His real name is Rambo, so Sam wasn’t too far off with Chuck Norris. To Dad’s sorrow, he was returned to his joyful family this week. Thus ends the first and hopefully last experience of feline ownership for our family.

I don't think I write very well anymore. Particularly when compared to the rest of you. I mentioned this to Nick and he says it's the fault of the DTH. Probably. Journalism is not much concerned with style and beauty; economy above all else!

I hate having to choose schoolwork over people. Like yesterday, when Catherine, J.Clem, and Kathryn were here and we were watching David Blaine spoofs and talking about how we were friendless losers as children. I really wanted to stay and talk with them for another hour but I went to the library to study for tomorrow's geology test (gross). Kathryn and Betsey would say this is not a choice that I should ever have to make, but I don't think I could live with myself if I didn't prepare for these monstrous exams. Balance, balance. It's so hard to find.

"You know how I love demeaning deep theological issues..."--Kathryn, the other night

And that's it. I am fairly empty this morning but this does not trouble me as it ordinarily would. Pressing thoughts burn too many carbs.

24 November, 2007

the heart will always go one step too far

I think we got a cat. Or, at least, Dad thinks we did. Last night, while Grace was putting up the Christmas tree, Dad announces that he found a stray cat living in the basement. He gave it leftover turkey and a bowl of water and then—to Mom’s chagrin—brought it inside. This is not a small cat: it’s a big yellow thing with scruffy long hair and an angry face. He (it looks like a boy, but we’re not sure) has a large frame, but he is very thin and you can see his spine when he moves. The cat was very comfortable with all of us, though, and seemed pleased to be indoors, receiving attention. He sat in the middle of the floor and kneaded the blanket with his paws, looking around at all of us with half-closed eyes.

Mom named him Oliver but Sam said that was lame and renamed him Chuck Norris. Chuck Norris/Oliver obviously couldn’t sleep inside—being “almost certainly infected with fleas and rabies and mange,” according to my grandmother—so Dad said he would go in the basement and make him a bed. “You’ve never made me a bed!” Mom exclaimed. Dad shrugged and laughed. “Why do you love this cat so much?” She asked, knowing he’s not much of a cat person. “Oliver is the only one in this family who’s never been disappointed in me,” he said with a smile, cat in arms.

Who knows if we’ll keep Chuck Norris/Oliver or not. Dad said he is going to pick up some cat food after he gets his chin sewn up (apparently, it got split open today by a puck). This family of mine...

My legs are still whining about what I made them do on Thanksgiving morning. If it weren’t for Elizabeth, I probably wouldn’t have run all five miles, but I did. We hit the four-mile mark and I was feeling ready to quit. She looks at me with a bright smile and says, “We’re almost done. Hope gives energy!” This is true. What would I do without my Shetland pony? (Love you, Elizabeth.)

The Flems gave Kelsey this great little gift for her birthday: it’s a box of cards (called Table Topics) with excellent questions on them—stuff like, Would you rather be smarter, better looking, or more athletic? Or What is your definition of integrity and do you have it? Or What wild animal would you tame and keep as a pet? We were playing at dinner and the question was, “Which family would you choose to live with for one year?” At the exact same time, Grace and I say, “The Hyltons!” That would be a pretty fun year.

Know also that wisdom is sweet to your soul; if you find it, there is a future hope for you, and your hope will not be cut off. Proverbs 24:14

This verse, which I prayed over this morning, implies that there is some connection between having wisdom and having hope. If you find wisdom, you will have hope. It's not even if you "have" wisdom--you have to find it; you have to look for it, seek it, pursue it, chase after it. This makes me consider that I give up my pursuit of wisdom too quickly. The last phrase especially intrigues me: "and your hope will not be cut off." What does that even mean? But if I don't have wisdom, my hope will be truncated? I have nothing profound to say about this verse; just a lot of questions. (What's new...)

The shiny black crows are screaming and fighting over the pecans in the backyard.

Coming back to school tomorrow... (I kind of don't want to.)

19 November, 2007

empty yet cluttered

Home is perfect... listening to a deep, dragging cello, sitting on my bed. Grace painted my nails the color of dark red wine: it makes me feel serious and full of weighty emotions. But I'm always cold when I'm home, even in my new emerald green pashmina, inspired by C.Sted, which I plan on wearing every day for the next two months.

Emily's wedding was so lovely; I was so happy to be there, to see her, to see old friends. She was radiant and joyful; he was dashing and eager. I couldn't be happier for them. (And I'm sure they are having an exciting time in Blowing Rock now...) My photos can be seen here, and you can see the gorgeous professional shots in a slideshow here.

Plus, Kels turned 18 yesterday. Dad surprised her and got a sweet, 1970's limousine and we went and picked up Maria and Sarah. We had to go to his screen test for his potential television show ("Tech Time", to be broadcast on one of the local channels), but afterwards enjoyed a snazzy dessert at The Melting Pot while swapping memories and stories about skinny dipping.

In the limo, Mom was telling me about how my extended family is preparing to excommunicate me because I am supposedly "liberal" now, compliments of my outrageously leftist university. While I was hotly arguing how infuriating I found political labels, Sam touches my arm and says, "Abby, even if you are becoming a liberal, I'm still glad you're home." I have a sweet brother.

"You're so e-mo-tion-nal..."

Tonight we played ultimate on one of the campus fields with Dave. We played every possible pairing among the six of us, but the best team was Grace, Sam, and I. We called ourselves "Sibs in the Crib" and dominated Dad, Kels, and Dave. It was glorious... that last catch Grace made in the endzone: perfect.

I am one vast need:

“Our whole being by its very nature is one vast need; incomplete, preparatory, empty yet cluttered, crying out for Him who can untie things that are now knotted together and tie up things that are still dangling loose.”—C.S. Lewis, The Four Loves

15 November, 2007

so much past inside my present

One of my best friends from high school, Emily E., is getting married this weekend and I couldn't be more excited. And it's Kelsey's 18th birthday. And it's Thanksgiving. And I'm not coming back to school for Monday and Tuesday of class. Things are looking UP!

I did go running yesterday. But Elizabeth and my sisters are still going to kick my butt in that 8K on Thanksgiving morning...

I called mom yesterday while walking to class. "I just want to leave here and never come back," I blurted out. I stopped, surprised at myself, not really sure where that statement came from: I wasn't even prepared for it. I've never felt that way about this place before. She was surprised, too; usually I'm peppy. Usually I'm delighted with this university. I don't get dissatisfied with my current position in life. That's just not me. "Wha... honey, what what do you mean?" She stammered. "I don't know; I'm just so sick of it all. I want to come HOME." But the feeling slides back to wherever it came from. Gradually. I don't even know what I would do if I didn't come back here. I just didn't want to be here. But it gets better. Pockets of sunshine, you know?

How nice it would be to sit back and let somebody else row.

I like being a low-ranking faux journalist. The Daily Tarheel is an exciting place to be.

"Why does journalism have to be so cold? Le sigh."--Eva, in a recent letter

When I walk around this campus, I want to stop people and say, Tell me your secret sorrow. Tell me about the things I can't read in your face. I want to know; I care! I care!

I tried rewriting the 10 commandments yesterday. Not rewriting as in creating new ones, but in rewording to draw out the meaning. Since I've been studying Exodus, it was very helpful to realize that God has high standards. And it's not just that He wants us to live moral lives; He wants us to live in a way that honors Him, so any moral behavior that we exhibit should flow from that intrinsic desire to honor God. Most of the time, it's hard to believe that it's not just a list of rules, but this exercise helped point me in the direction of original intent.

I've been receiving lots of random hair comments lately. Usually positive ones. But I'm not really sure why, because I'm frustrated with my hair. It does not possess any variability. It's curly and either long or somewhat long. That's about it. I have random fleeting urges to shave it.

I am going HOME tomorrow...

12 November, 2007

the last living southern belle

I feel dumb, trying to keep little tears from seeping out here in the bowels of Davis Library. Kathryn and Miguel looked at me and said, “You look really sad,” and then I started to talk about her—Lib—and then on come the tears.

I just finished writing a eulogy for my great aunt. And it hurts. More than I thought it would. I can’t be at her memorial service this weekend, but I was asked to write something for the service so that is what I am finishing up. We were very close, which may sound surprising, since your great aunt isn’t usually your chum. But she was one of my most treasured relationships. I exchanged letters with her since I was twelve, right up to the present year. She was the relative that I was the closest to, apart from my grandparents. It’s the remembering that makes it hurt. I was composed when I found out that she had passed away. But it’s the digging and resurfacing and shaking up the memories that rakes the wound. I loved this woman. More than I have the skill or ability to say. If I turn out to resemble her in even the slightest way, I will have lived well.

"Abby, dear," she once told me, "You haven't lived until you've had a Yankee boyfriend."

In happier news, Betsey and Emily are the reasons I get up on Monday mornings.

Kathryn and I went to Catherine's house this weekend and it was so peaceful and perfect. We had such excellent food, watched six consecutive hours of "America's Next Top Model" while wrapped up in blankets, made sushi, went to Vintage, &c. On Sunday afternoon, Catherine played beautiful selections from Vivaldi and Bach while Kathryn read and I drew (the first time I've tried to draw in years and it was exhilarating). Ideal, quiet weekends.

Today during geology, uninspired to pay attention to the divergent plate boundaries, I read some articles from The New York Times online about the most recent Palestinian turmoil. Intrigued, I then did some research on the differences between Hamas and Fatah because I didn't know. I like learning new things every day; it keeps life fresh.

My life is very small. In the whole course of it, not many of these things that I currently fret about matter.

07 November, 2007

i wish i was the moon

Today I feel very blank. One of those days where nothing much matters, so I take a long time to do simple things. For instance, I spent about five minutes washing grapes. It could have taken me about thirty seconds, but I was inwardly compelled to devote myself to a meaningless task; somehow it was fulfilling. I was satisfied with underachieving today and it was unusually refreshing. I just wish I had my thoughts back, for they at least amuse--if not entangle--me. If you could read my mind today, it would look like the page of a Samuel Beckett play: short words chasing each other in circles.

"I may get through this semester without dying, but don't put too much money on it."--Armitage, following a fit of coughing during a discussion of King Lear.

My geology professor told us that if we sent him a photo of our Halloween costume, he'd give us a reward. I'm thinking, "Extra credit, score," so I send him the photo of me and my fellow magnetic words. Today there was a vote held in class and magnetic poetry got 2nd place. Woo! But what do I get? No extra credit, but a bar of Toblerone chocolate, which is at least better tasting than extra points (though probably not as enduringly satisfying).

I've been afraid of journaling lately. I'm afraid of the ugly things it brings to the surface.

You hem me in, behind and before;
you have laid your hand upon me.

Had dinner with Catherine on the floor of our room with the big fluorescent light turned off. We ate sandwiches and the meticulously-washed grapes and drank hot chocolate and talked in quiet voices, listening to Feist. "What is your ideal job?" I asked her. She started laughing and covered her mouth with her hands. "I don't know!" she laughed, shaking her head. We tossed around a lot of ideas but came to the conclusion that we have no idea what to do with our lives.

Most days I feel like writing is just acting.

02 November, 2007

don't you know eggs are poison?

Some people never grow up. And that is not a compliment.

For Halloween, a bunch of pretty witty gals and I went as magnetic poetry. We walked down Franklin and stood around while mostly inebriated boys tried to arrange us into coherent verse. It was fun. Kudos to whoever had the idea; it was great, see? See what fun and sketchy poems we make?

George Eliot explains why no one ever writes stories about perfectly happy women (Quote of the Day):
"For the happiest women, like the happiest nations, have no history." - The Mill on the Floss

To the person who sent this to the Kvetching Board in today's paper, THANK YOU. I want to find you and give you either an elated hug or a nod and knowing smile. I could not agree more:

"We all have work, such is the nature of college. Your life is not hard. Neither are your classes. So stop procrastinating, start doing your work and please, for the love of all that is holy, QUIT COMPLAINING ABOUT IT!"


P.S. The deserved points go to Rachel, who properly identified the photograph of the beautiful and the damned: Scott and Zelda Fitzgerald. (I wish I had the face to get her kicky little haircut--both Zelda's and Rachel's!)