28 May, 2008

like sycamore

This morning I was sitting on my bike in our driveway, about to take a spin around the block in the light rain, when I was nearly backed over by a maroon Cadillac. An elderly couple sat inside. The man rolled down the window, leaned out of it and sputtered desperately at me, "They said Caldwell runs parallel to this street, but that just ain't true! It ain't true! Where IS this Caldwell Street?" I had no idea where Caldwell was, having only lived here two years and even then only for a few months at a time. I asked them where they were trying to go and they said the Episcopal church. I was relieved because I knew where that was; I told them to turn left out of Thompson and then take the second right. With wide and grateful smiles they waved and drove off. As soon as they did, I realized I had given them bad directions. The Episcopal church is left out of Thompson and the first left. I hope they found it. I've been feeling terrible about this all day long.

Started packing for Tokyo today. My suitcase is half-full and I haven't even put any clothes in yet. Quite problematic.

Now that I have a pro Flickr account, I have an unlimited number of photos to upload, so I am taking advantage of that by uploading a set I am calling "the ones that got away." This set includes photos from throughout the year that didn't make the initial 366 list. I don't just take one photo a day; usually I take at least five or more, often dozens. Often it becomes very hard to choose the one I like the best, so I decided to pick all of my favorites that didn't get chosen and upload them. I'll post a new month every day or so before I leave.

Really enjoying the John O'Hara novel (Appointment in Samarra) that Dave lent me. O'Hara is like an edgier, more direct version of Fitzgerald. One of the things he does so pitch-perfectly-well is paint a verbal fight. The last sparring match between Julian English and his wife Caroline was so real, so believable; great stuff to read.

The fiery crash, it's just a formality before you get on a plane...

26 May, 2008

it tastes like being poor and small

Curious. It's a state I've never been in before: to have family and friends, everyone I care about the most, spread out across all corners of the world--and myself soon to follow suit. I'm accustomed to having accessible loved ones, and so it is strange--at least for this summer--to have them dispersed across the globe. Grace left for Peru on Sunday and is currently chilling there now with Elisabeth and Sarah; Guion flies to his beloved Ireland tomorrow afternoon; Rachel and Elizabeth are hiking in Alaska; Kelsey is preparing to do the same in Olympic National Park; Emily is in Egypt or almost there; J.Hecht will be across the sea from me in Korea; J.Clem and Chad are living out "The Motorcycle Diaries" in S. America (see their thorough blogs for proof), with Catherine to join them later; and I am beginning to create a packing list, for I am Tokyo bound in a week (June 5). My head feels dizzy and unfocused and my heart is uncertain and distracted.

I had a very anxious heart when I woke up this morning, thinking about all of these people that I love and how far away we are and how helpless I am. God's word brought some peace but I still need to pray for that all-surpassing peace more fervently, more devotedly. And perhaps it is a good state to be in, this helplessness. Keeps one spiritually flexible, I suppose.

I got information about my hosts, the Koyasu family, this morning. They live in Chiba prefecture (about an hour by train from my university) and seem very kind. To my delight, they have three young children: a son, Yutaro (age 12), and two daughters, Rina (6) and Nana (3). I am excited (and nervous!) about meeting them and hope I will be a easy and likable houseguest for two months. I am scared about communicating; I'm realizing more and more how shabby my Japanese is. But it's at least comforting to know that I can communicate with and understand Nana; we're at about the same language level, I'd guess... "Where is the bathroom? This is a red ball. My name is Abby. What is your favorite animal?"

I think I am going to keep this same blog while I am there, so keep checking here for updates. The photos will, of course, be on Flickr (and I'll be posting more than one a day, I'm sure).

I feel like my writing is very formal and dry right now. Don't know why but I don't like it.

One of the things I've been thinking about lately is how ample God's provisions are. I don't credit Him enough with all of the blessings I have been enveloped with these past few months. Everything with this summer in Japan has been so clearly orchestrated by His mercy and providence; how everything fell together, particularly financially, was nothing short of incredible. It is a prayer I hope will be circulating in my heart this summer: Praise the Lord, O my soul, and forget not all His benefits.

Reading: Appointment in Samarra, John O'Hara; A Haunted House and Other Stories, Virginia Woolf
Hearing: "Hand on Your Heart," Jose Gonzalez; "Dubuque," George Winston
Thinking: I may experience what it's like to be entirely broke this summer

15 May, 2008

guess who was reading Woolf today?

Riding the bus home from work.

The sky is feathered and folded, periwinkle or almost lavender, no sun in sight but you can sense it pulsing in places. My body is tired but my mind is alert, supple, and I am thinking of the lines of a face and why the poor make me feel uncomfortable. We rumble and whistle down the interstate and seem to be moving much faster than we are. The throbbing city pulls all of these little cars to its center on roads like veins. A black bird flies from the grass to a tree.

The clouds are white on blue and in some places blue on white. To be deep in thought and at peace. The hammer clicks in place. Anxiety sinks down at the end of the day and the rest of life is nothing but a pale canvas flecked with rain.

A woman waits at a bus stop with her jacket hanging on her head, threading the handle of her purse through her worried thumbs.

12 May, 2008

such the conditions of our love

On the way back from the gym tonight, Vivaldi's "Spring" came on the classical radio station and we rolled the windows down and cranked the volume.

While I was running, I prayed for all of you who are going abroad this summer. For some reason, the thought that most of my dearest friends will be scattered all over the globe this summer has rejuvenated my desire for prayer. A good thing. Know that I will be praying for you this summer, wherever you happen to be. Let me know how I can pray more specifically; generalized petitions easily sound stale on my tongue.

Favorite song of the week: "Dirty Knife," Neko Case

This is why Woolf succeeds in making "characters that survive," the fact that she gets this:

"It seems that a profound, impartial, and absolutely just opinion of our fellow creatures is utterly unknown. Either we are men, or we are women. Either we are cold, or we are sentimental. Either we are young, or growing old. In any case life is but a procession of shadows, and God knows why it is that we embrace them so eagerly, and see them depart with such anguish, being shadows. And why, if this and much more than this is true, why are we yet surprised in the window corner by a sudden vision that the young man in the chair is of all things in the world the most real, the most solid, the best known to us--why indeed? For the moment after we know nothing about him. Such is the manner of our seeing. Such the conditions of our love."

The desire to shirk this method of seeing people--as being one thing or another, being so stubbornly black or white--is keen in me, re-reading this passage. (From Jacob's Room.)

"I can't believe we're sisters."--Kelsey, to Grace, upon observing the disaster in Grace's corner of our bedroom

Had three disturbingly vivid dreams last night: 1) I gave birth to two African babies in a mud hut on a dirt floor; 2) Emily E.S. had a baby girl named Sophia who was six months old; 3) I had my heart broken by my sister at a water park. And then I went back to school and all of the stairways in our dorm were blocked with piles of armchairs. I woke up startled and anxious, eager to awake in the neutral-colored morning and convince myself that reality was better. It was.

Geese are basically the only five-letter thing that fly in a flock.

07 May, 2008

an internal vibration

It is deeply satisfying to be back home. Free from classes, homework, Lenoir. This town is just blooming and my family is happy and crazy. It is good to be around them again, to be reacquainted with our insane and hyperactive style of living (even if I am often slow to adjust).

I am sitting on the floor in our bedroom, helping Kelsey compile her song list for her graduation. (A trio of Kelsey-esque choices: George Winston, Sandra McCracken, and Tom Petty.) Sam is rubbing his grody feet on me as I type. We are listening to Bob Seger and Grace is brushing her teeth, getting ready to go to lit. class. Mom is addressing envelopes and making smoothies. Dad is in the treehouse office, pretending to work. Feet up and down the stairs, crunching bags, the ticking ceiling fan. Sounds of a home.

Cleaning the kitchen is a rich and fulfilling activity. I woke up yesterday morning at 9:30 and cleaned for an hour, listening to Arcade Fire and Jose Gonzalez, feeling excessively accomplished. I like doing tasks with immediate and noticeable results. Afterwards, Dad and I biked to the public library and bought 30 books for a mere $16. I came back and spread a white sheet out on the grass and read Proust, Woolf, and Fodor's travel guide to Japan and wrote a haphazard entry in my journal. The sun passed in spotted patterns over the lawn and I was at peace.

"For even if we have the sensation of being always surrounded by our own soul, it is not as though by a motionless prison: rather, we are in some sense borne along with it in a perpetual leap to go beyond it, to reach the outside, with a sort of discouragement as we hear around us always that same resonance, which is not an echo from outside but the resounding of an internal vibration." -- Proust

Watched "Lars and the Real Girl" last night with the family; probably the best film I've seen in a long time.

(My style of writing changes when I come back home. Family activity and movement takes priority over ideas.)

God is gracious to us in our weakness. Light is shed upon the righteous and joy on the upright at heart.

Reading: Swann's Way, Marcel Proust; Jacob's Room, Virginia Woolf; Fodor's guide to Japan
Hearing: "Duettino - Sull 'Aria'" from "The Marriage of Figaro"
Eating: A blackberry smoothie, courtesy of my mother
Thinking: Once upon a time I could write better things