27 December, 2007

holiday

Best of Christmas 2007

Best food: my grandmother’s famous potato casserole

Best discussion: on Republican presidential candidates and Japanese culture, with my grandfather

Best solitude: praying alone in the field after my run

Best accomplishment: finishing three books (Siddhartha, Me Talk Pretty One Day, French Women Don’t Get Fat) and starting a fourth (Howards End)

Best game: playing frisbee golf with Dad, siblings, cousins Matt and Emily; a course we invented that snaked throughout the field and forest and around the lake.

Best quote: “Glitter is a menace.”—Dad, following Sam’s bizarre freak-out, which was induced by the glitter which had covered his sweatshirt.

Best gifts: long desired and longed for Canon PowerShot SD750 and dark green “poet pants” from Anthropologie.

Best post-Christmas conversation: with Anna, who reminded me about what matters

Best Christmas spirit: youngest cousin, Mary Elizabeth, who opened every present and declared, “It’s AWESOME!” while hoisting the gift over her head and marching triumphantly around the room.

Photos:
Happy Christmas Chaos
Grace: A Photo Shoot

21 December, 2007

winter gray

In my opinion, it's been too busy this week, but I am too occupied with things to care very much. I worked at mom's store MTW, made bearable on M and T because Elisabeth was there and we could ride the bus together and exchange knowing smiles over the counter. W night I got to have dinner at Brixx with Eva, Tara, and Emily and we laughed and marveled at our changed lives: two of us at university, one about to enter seminary, one married. Paul, Patrick, and Troy joined us and ate dinner after we finished ours and then we all went to Barnes and Nobles and walked in aimless, food-heavy circles. I enjoy the safety and comfort of old friends; like Elizabeth said, being around people who know your history.

Seeing "new" school friends is good, too: Elizabeth and I did our Charlotte tour yesterday and it was so refreshing to spend time with her. She's so brave, hobbling heroically on crutches while navigating Tyvola traffic and the madness of I-77. She took me to a spunky bagel shop and a fine art gallery and then we came back here and saw the bookstore and coffee shop and had dinner with the family. I love Elizabeth because she isn't like anybody else I know; she possesses this great spirit that I can best characterize as compassionate eagerness.

I was planning on starting and finishing my study abroad application for Tokyo over the break but I haven't written a word yet. Figures. I'm just really stuck with this one essay in particular, which asks me to write an essay as if I were an ambassador elucidating on what Japan could learn from relations with the U.S. This is especially difficult for me. I think we "North American scum" (song by LCD Soundsystem) could learn a lot from Japan; I can't think of a single thing they could learn from us. If you have any ideas, I'd seriously like to hear them. Because I am clueless.

"Your mind is racing like a pro now..."

I like watching people talk to each other. Blink your eyes like dropped feathers. Smile insipidly. Your eyebrows are listening but your mind isn't. I am so often guilty of these tragic communication lapses. Too self-absorbed!

Best line of the day, courtesy of Michael Scott: "I just hate so much of what you choose to be."

Currently
Listening to: "Peace Beneath the City" - Iron and Wine; "The Other Woman" - Devendra Banhart (thanks, Eva)
Reading: Me Talk Pretty One Day, David Sedaris
Consuming: black tea and an everything bagel
Thinking: what a short winter day

Happy Christmas, friends. I hope you all have great peace and rest; I'm getting there!

16 December, 2007

no pills for what i fear

Coming home is like being recalibrated. All of my emotional levels that I have so carefully groomed and stabilized are knocked off their orbits when I come home. I don't relate to people the same way anymore; I can't. All of my guards are down, all of my fa├žades have been stripped away; they know me too well. It's like returning to your first self, the truest part of you, and often it's not pretty. Not pretty, but necessary. Why family exists. And so I am happy to be back, even if the reintroduction-to-self business is unsettling.

Tonight we are having a Christmas party for the families who live on our street; families whose parents are mostly professors and artists. Even though I don't really know anyone, I am looking forward to it because I like hobnobbing with adults from academia and art; they are always violating common social norms and saying strange things. Simply, they're just more interesting than most of the people I know.

Reading French Women Don't Get Fat is merely an affirmation of all that my mother has taught me about food life. Like Mireille Guiliamo, my mother says you never have to diet, you just need to make the right choices. Choose smaller portions, healthier selections, nothing processed, nothing with too much sugar or starches. Don't count calories or pounds; eat what you like but always in moderation. Food should also be visually enticing; the presentation is half of the joy. Food is consumed with friends and family, sitting at a table, never never standing up and never never on paper plates. Chew slowly. My mother is secretly French, I suppose. The book makes me wish I had more money to buy good food and more time to cook at school. One day...

I realized this morning, listening to Pastor Barber speak about Christ and Colossians, that I think of Jesus as an idea instead of as a person. I haven't seen Him or heard His voice; all of my "experiences" of Jesus are metaphysical, so I suppose it is natural that I regard Him primarily as a concept. But they say you need to understand and relate to Him as a person, Son of Man, Son of God, and have a relationship with Him. How do you carry on a relationship with an invisible Person who also happens to be the God of the Universe? This is a whopping problem to my heart today. I am weary of not having any answers. But maybe this is the question I'll be asking the rest of my life.

11 December, 2007

overheard in chapel hill

This is why sitting outside all day long is beneficial.

Blonde girl: "Why is it a beautiful day?"
Brown boy: "Because I'm wearing shorts. I mean, that's not why it's a beautiful day..."

Former homeschooler: "People go to grad school to obtain very specific careers, Anna. But do you really want to be the Queen Librarian of Arkansas?"

Redhead with piercing: "Let me tell you, medieval prostitution was HUGE. Explosive. All those popes running around, you know."

Hot Asian girl: "When did you see him naked? Wait... are we talking about the same guy?"

Girl: "Girl, you are blocking my periphial vision!" (As opposed to "peripheral"...)

And my personal favorite...

Frat boy: "I get in fights all the time. That's why I carry a knife with me wherever I go."
Frat girl: "Really? Isn't that against the Constitution?"

10 December, 2007

i used to try

This week I discovered (and Catherine and Alex confirmed) that one of my eyes is bigger than the other. This is causing me a lot of psychological distress.

I have the best end-of-the-semester tradition, let me tell you. After classes are over, I walk down to the bookstore beyond Granville and sell my textbooks back. Then I go and spend almost all of the money I get back on used books from the The Bookshop. The lovely Sarah H. joined me today and we had a grand time. I walked away with seven gems: Three Lives (Gertrude Stein), C.S. Lewis's The Great Divorce and Reflections on the Psalms, joined by Sheldon Vanauken's A Severe Mercy, Kafka's Metamorphosis, and two Chekhov collections (7 Short Novels and Collected Short Stories). I am going to save these fresh seven for spring semester, most likely. Winter break reading plan: finish Beloved and The Four Loves and then check out Atonement and Eat, Pray, Love from the library and consume those too. (I'm so excited.)

T.S. Eliot gives me shivers and makes me shriek with amazement and I fully expect him to have the same effect on others. I read "The Hollow Men" to Alex yesterday in the quad while the fat black birds swam through the air. When I finished and it hit that perfect, perfect crescendo
This is the way the world ends
This is the way the world ends
This is the way the world ends
Not with a bang but with a whimper
and I started waving my hands excitedly and exclaiming unintelligble things and he just looked at me and said, "Stop being so emo." Way to kill the poetic fervor, snarky Brit.

Best song of the week: "Only At Christmas Time"-Sufjan Stevens

Deep communion with God in prayer works wonders for spiritual dryness. He does meet you when you are trying to find Him. I usually don't try hard enough. Deep calls to deep in the roar of your waterfalls...

I have two exams on Friday and so I get to laze around and enjoy this quasi-spring weather all week. It's very leisurely and strange but also a little lonely since everyone else is holed up in the bowels of Davis. At least I have things to do--like enjoy Toni Morrison and my music and play guitar and write haphazard letters and eat chocolate. I have productive and highly self-indulgent fits of solitude.

I decided this morning that I don't like grad students. Or, rather, I formed a prejudice based on overheard conversations outside The Daily Grind. Could you be just a bit more sopping in pretention? because I don't think you've used enough five-syllable words in that sentence. Remind me again why you are smarter than your parents and all of your professors and Carl Jung and John Stuart Mill, because I'm not sure I caught the jist of it the first six times. The part where I almost laughed out loud was when Grad Student A, who kept saying he wrote this great blog that one of his advisors praised "consistently," ended the conversation with Grad Student B this way: "Yes, it was good to see you, too. If you want to keep up with me, you should visit my blog. I'm sure you'd enjoy reading it. I do my best thinking there. My professor said he was impressed with some of the concepts I've been generating lately, but I'm just spilling out my thoughts... although I suppose they have the tendency to turn into manifestos and theoretical homilies! Haha. Yes... well, shall I write down the URL for you? Do you have some paper?" "Oh... um, why don't you email it to me?" Grad Student B says unenthusiastically. "Yes, capital idea. I will do that. And," he pats him on the back, "I expect a comment from you!" Wry chuckle, limp half-laugh in response. Uuuugh. I'm choking in smarm.

05 December, 2007

when life sank down for a moment

Because my eyesight has become increasingly poor and I only wear my glasses when I’m in class, out of necessity I have developed a new skill: recognizing people by their gait instead of their face. Since faces are increasingly difficult to distinguish at a distance, I’ve learned to identify people by body shape and characteristic movements. I think the way people move is highly indicative of disposition. You’d probably be surprised what I’ve surmised by your gait, courtesy of my happy partial blindness.

For the majority of this semester, I have hated being alone. It is rare that I have wanted solitude, although I’ve found myself more alone this year than I’ve ever been before. However, this morning I went to get breakfast at Lenoir by myself and was distinctly (and unusually) happy about it. I brought a bag of white tea and my Bible and sat in the sunroom watching sleepy students mill around the Pit and I considered how there is a gravity to aloneness. I feel, naturally I suppose, closer to myself. I am so much nearer to my thoughts, which is really the reason why I have tried to avoid to solitude most of this semester, if you want to know the real reason. But on this gray morning I was content to be with myself; content to be separate from people, to live entirely in the mind and the soft, inexpressible observations.

Woolf, of course, describes this sensation of solitude perfectly:

“For now she need not think about anybody. She could be herself, by herself. And that was what now she often felt the need of—to think; well, not even to think. To be silent; to be alone. All the being and the doing, expansive, glittering, vocal, evaporated; and one shrunk, with a sense of solemnity, to being oneself, a wedge-shaped core of darkness, something invisible to others. Although she continued to knit, and sat upright, it was thus that she felt herself; and this self having shed its attachments was free for the strangest adventures. When life sank down for a moment, the range of experience seemed limitless.” -- To the Lighthouse

Kathryn gave me my first ever cup of (black) coffee yesterday. Guys. Why do you drink this stuff. It tastes like battery acid.

CUAB was going to bring M.I.A. to Memorial Hall for a concert but they couldn’t afford her. That makes me awful sad.

Since everyone else is doing it…
My favorite Christmas CDs:
1. December, George Winston
2. Songs for Christmas, Sufjan Stevens
3. Home for Christmas, Amy Grant
4. Behold the Lamb of God, Andrew Peterson & Friends

Are men more inclined to be spiritual loners than women? (Using the term “spiritual loners” to mean they would rather find God on their own, without any assistance; tending to shy away from social functions of religion.) Is it that they are more fiercely independent? And it is unmanly to share something so deeply intimate with others? To me, this could potentially explain the (terrifying) scarcity of men in churches and Christian organizations. Or are there just more Christian women than Christian men? Anyone know the answer? This isn’t even a hypothesis yet. I may develop it more fully later, but I’m still trying to determine if it holds any water. Any thoughts?