24 November, 2008


The sky turned gray a few hours ago and the bare trees look spidery, unkind. I am finishing up a story in the DTH newsroom now about how graduate students are apathetic about Student Congress (can you blame them?). Keyboards clacking, filtered phone conversations, nails tapping on the desk, wheels of rotating chairs scraping the floor, people talking to themselves, to others. All of the conversations overlapping and running into each other; you can't tell where one voice ends and another beings. Somehow, I like working in a frenetic environment. Not all of the time. Some days it drives me mad; others, like today, I like being in a busy place, even if I'm not particularly busy (as you can tell I'm not now, because I'm blogging. I'm waiting for sources to call me back, chill out). 

I am finally going home tomorrow for Thanksgiving break. I can't wait to see my family, eat at our table, sleep in my tiny, cold bed. I wish I had the luxury to read over the break, but exams are more pressing, and so I will probably have to keep myself from that.

Minutes from today's Monday Snax: A lengthy discussion on every conceivable type of pie; Catherine and I want Emily to give us henna tattoos so we can have an excuse to greet relatives in Arabic at Thanksgiving; today's DTH opinion column made us angry and reinforced previously held stereotypes; Catherine gave a speech about her life and aspirations; Emily ate her marijuana cereal; we all departed promptly.

So happy to go home.

19 November, 2008

family love michael

Two-sentence thoughts...

This has been a week of unusually high levels of productivity. But then tonight I decided to end that five-day success streak by watching five successive episodes of "Arrested Development."

Kelsey turned 19 yesterday. And she was pretty and happy.

You know it's too cold in your room when you have to sit at your desk wearing your coat and scarf. Which is what I'm doing now.

"Go, go, go said the bird: Human kind
Cannot bear very much reality." (Eliot, "Burnt Norton")

I've been working on a new story but I'm not sure whether or not it's actually surviving. I wish Emily would come home from work.

How does one stop worrying about the future? About what happens next?

I like Theodore Roethke, I've decided, even in all with his primordial-slime-and-hyphen obsession. "The Far Field" occupies the poem of the week on our door now.

It is a good thing to talk openly with someone who not only listens well, but also understands keenly. This is one of many reasons I am thankful for Rachel.

Kathryn, Nick and Matt should come home soon. It is strange without them.

"I regret saying some things I shouldn't have said, like 'Dead or alive,' or 'Bring 'em on.'" President George W. Bush, when asked on CNN about the highs and lows of his time as president.

The idea of a publishing internship in New York City this summer is an exciting dream. But does it mean that I would have to walk and talk and dress like that?

I miss my little sister and little brother. I am looking forward to stealing their scarves and ruffling their hair, respectively.

12 November, 2008

i came to this country, 1849

I like watching leaves fall one at a time.

Songs of the week:
"Saro," Sam Amidon
"The Book of Right-On," Joanna Newsom
"Blindsided," Bon Iver

Books of the week:
Out Stealing Horses, Per Petterson
Native Son, Richard Wright

One cup of tea, two apples, three successive errors on the front page of The Daily Tar Heel, four meetings today...

Most days I am not very good with people. But most people are uncommonly gracious to me. More than I deserve. I do want to go home. To sit at the kitchen table, motionless, without having to explain or justify myself.

The floods have lifted up, O LORD,
the floods have lifted up their voice;
the floods lift up their roaring.

The pale yellow apple has gray freckles and two adjacent bruises beneath the skin. It is smooth and still, inviting. I recognize that I do not love most people. There is a shelf of clouds in the space of sky I can see, diffusing the blue into white, easing the day into evening.

09 November, 2008

neither plenitude nor vacancy

The campus reaches a pitch of almost unbearable beauty in the fall. I could sit and look at the trees all day long.

Conversation in our room, just now:

Me: "Do you want some toast?"
Emily: "No, I need some food food food. I just don't want to make make it. What... is wrong with me. Why am I using words multiple times? Emily, use real words. Why does my body look like an old woman's? I am only 20 years old."
Me: "Your body does not look like an old woman."
Emily: "What are you typing? I am WATCHING YOU. (Some Arabic word.)"

And this is the general substance and form of our life together.

F. Scott Fitzgerald makes me nervous about marriage, but I like hearing him talk about parties; I think it's his one leading strength. I finished Tender is the Night this afternoon. I read it before three years ago and it wasn't much more satisfying then. Moral of the story: Don't marry your mental patient; it shall be the ruination of you both! Thanks for that one, Scotty.

(Boy, I should be rashly offensive more often! Okay, not really, but I've never had 14 comments before...)

I just had another homework-less weekend; I could definitely get used to this kind of blissful living. On Friday, after unsuccessfully teaching a classroom of first-graders to make origami balloons (kid crumples his paper into a ball and says, "Mine's broken." Yes, child, it is, and I don't have the time to help you fix it), and playing a brief game of frisbee, I went to Southern Pines with Guion to enjoy a really lovely evening with his parents. We spent a leisurely morning at his house (waffles and a walk with the dog) before coming back to play tennis with Kelsey and Dad and then enjoy a fancy dinner of grilled cheese and soup. Then Guion and I went to the Cradle to see Mark Kozelek (formerly of Sun Kill Moon and Red House Painters fame). The opening act, an elderly woman with a few missing teeth and a harmonica, enchanted us with songs of her sexual activity, and then we waited 45 minutes for Kozelek to finish creeping around the room and get on stage. His first three songs were good, from what I can remember, but then it all started to blur together and suddenly I was sleeping standing up. It was as if he played one hour-long song; I couldn't distinguish where one began and the other ended, they all sounded so much alike. But I like going anywhere with Guion so it wasn't at all pointless. And then I got to sleep in today, wake up to swap weekend adventure stories with my pretty roommate, and then go to Brunday Sunch (yes, you're right, I'm still doing all that stuff--frisbee playing, Brunday Sunching) where we sang while we washed the dishes. The combination of all of these little events made for a thoroughly satisfying past few days.

There you have the complete log of my weekend, which has likely enriched your life, no?

I need to figure out what to do with myself this summer. I need money and experience; no fun and adventures this time around. Rather, it's time to get serious about the economy and the fact that I am not going to get a job.

The semester swept by on invisible wings and I am fully astounded that we are broaching the second week of November. While fighting sleep during Kozelek's eternal song, I was looking at Guion's profile and thinking about how quickly time escapes us and how eager I am to be very present when I am with him; when I am with anyone, for some day very soon, we will be far apart and I will wish I had been more attentive, more conscious.

Related words of beauty:

Here is a place of disaffection
Time before and time after
In a dim light: neither daylight
Investing form with lucid stillness
Turning shadow into transient beauty
With slow rotation suggesting permanence
Nor darkness to purify the soul
Emptying the sensual with deprivation
Cleansing affection from the temporal.
Neither plenitude nor vacancy. Only a flicker
Over the strained time-ridden faces
Distracted from distraction by distraction
Filled with fancies and empty of meaning
Tumid apathy with no concentration
Men and bits of paper, whirled by the cold wind
That blows before and after time,
Wind in and out of unwholesome lungs
Time before and time after.

- T.S. Eliot, from "Burnt Norton" in The Four Quartets

05 November, 2008

put your arm around chaos

I've done my best not to write about politics throughout this eternally long election, but I think I can be allowed to now that everything has been decided. America spoke up in record numbers and I can say that I've rarely felt such hope for our country as I do now. Welcome, Obama. We acknowledge that you are not the messiah, and that everything will not be rosy now. But we hope! I hope.

The excitement on campus is electrifying. It's the first time our generation has been a part of something of this magnitude; finally, a president that we actually had the opportunity to choose. And choose we did! Emily just told me that she heard on NPR that 73 percent of young people supported Obama in North Carolina (compared with the 60 percent figure nationwide). This is so huge.

One of the many reasons I'm so excited about Obama is the sweeping support he has received from the rest of the world. His selection has created a groundswelling of excitement from countries that formerly had very poor opinions of the U.S. (Contrasted to McCain, 69 percent of those polled in France supported Obama, 73 percent in Italy, 64 percent in Japan, 66 percent in Canada, 65 percent in Germany... the list goes on and on around the world.) This is enormous for our foreign relations. As Ethan Bronner wrote in today's New York Times:

"Wonder is almost overwhelmed by relief. Mr. Obama's election offers most non-Americans a sense that the imperial power capable of doing such good and such harm -- a country that, they complain, preached justice but tortured its captives, launched a disastrous war in Iraq, turned its back on the environment and greedily dragged the world into economic chaos -- saw the errors of its ways over the past eight years and shifted course."

To close with my personal, all-time favorite Facebook status updates:
- "Canada doesn't sound so bad. :("
- "Now that we're going to become SOCIALIST, I'm moving to CANADA!!"

Folks. That's so ignorant it's hilarious. If you are trying to escape socialism, you shouldn't be going to Canada. (That's the ignorance I was referring to.)

Put your arm around chaos, Obama. Put your arm around chaos.