31 December, 2009

new year's resolutions

2010 Resolutions, A Partial List
(Motivated by Grace, who is the most ambitious goal-maker I've ever met.)

1. Read as many books this year as I did last year (67). I was planning on reading 75, but then I got engaged.
2. Reinvigorate prayer life with more focused targets of morning prayer.
3. Memorize the Nicene Creed.
4. Run to the farmers' market every Saturday morning with Kelsey.
5. Work up to running three times a week.
6. Cut back significantly on meat and sugar. (I watched "Food Inc." again last night with the family and it changed my life for the second time. Go see it.)
7. Eat more vegetables.
8. Write a good thesis.
9. Continue the 365 project until Aug. 25, 2010.
10. Get a job.
11. Find a place to live.
12. Be a patient, loving wife.
13. Stop gossipping, especially with housemates.
14. Make all A's in my last semester.

Possibly going ice skating today with Guion, the fam, and the Flemings. Tonight, Guion and I are going to a murder mystery New Year's party with his "Ballers" contingent. Much busy happiness and all that jazz.

"For, Heaven knows why, just as we have lost faith in human intercourse, some random collection of barns and trees or a haystack and a waggon presents us with so perfect a symbol of what is unattainable that we begin the search again." Woolf, Orlando

22 December, 2009

pray continuously

How lovely it is to be home. I have so much on my mind, but I am oh-so-very happy. It's been something of a whirlwind break so far, but every day has been a joyful one.

To my pleasant surprise, it turned out to be a rather successful semester. I'm looking forward to the next one, although I feel like it is going to crash like a wave over my unsuspecting head. Classes + thesis writing + internship + discipleship + pre-marital counseling + wedding planning + finding a job + finding a place to live + saving money + having friends + actually getting to see le fiance = very easily the busiest semester of my life. And the last. So I guess that's appropriate?

"Is there anything I can't do? Well, I can't sing. But I am amazing."--my father, upon remembering that he knew how to tune a piano

The good news is that I am more in love with Virginia Woolf than ever.

Other things to add to the list of wedding don'ts:
* Writing your own wedding vows. (Good call, Chris. I had forgotten about that one.)
* Photos around the Old Well
* Photos in the middle of the road
* Spending a ridiculous amount of money on a dress
* Spending a ridiculous amount of money on stupid things

My darling Sonya sent me the sweetest Christmas package the other day. She filled this cute tin with a bar of soap, amazing spiced tea, a mixed CD and chocolates. I was so utterly delighted with the package and it made me remember that there are a few simple things that you could give me and I would be perfectly happy with if they were the only gifts I received for the rest of my life: tea, bars of pretty soap, and beautiful stationery.

While driving down the monotonous 220 to Southern Pines to visit le fiance + famille, I saw a wooden sign nailed to a pine tree. It read, in red, caps letters, "PRAY CONTINUOUSLY." Unlike most "Jesus signs" you see on billboards, I really liked this one. And it was a perfect reminder. During this hectic season of my life, that's all I really need to know right now.

14 December, 2009

don't list

So, it's been a while since I last wrote, but, believe it or not, I have a lot on my mind. The good news is that I only have one exam left and that I get to finally go home on Thursday night. I can't wait. Home is perfect.

I haven't really made many concrete decisions about what I want in our wedding, but I have made some decisions about what I don't want. I don't want:

* A tiara. For real. Not trying to be a Disney princess.
* Photos of the entire wedding party jumping in the middle of a road. So 2003.
* The garter ritual. I was not purchased with a dowry and this is super-awkward for everyone involved.
* A wedding cake.
* Bridezilla moments.

That's all I've decided for now. More to come. Put the lights on the tree!

05 December, 2009

engaged

Guion and I have a story to tell you...



We are so incredibly blessed by all of you and the affection and guidance you have shown us over the years. We're humbled by your love and really excited about this next stage of life together.

01 December, 2009

no thanks, john galt

This is a photo of my two favorite things about living in the Shoebox: 1) a glimpse of the giant tree that is wrapped in ivy and pressed up against the outer wall of this old shack, and 2) the thin, ancient windows that make the winter light so lovely.

I've never understood--and frankly find absurd--Christians who declare that capitalism is aligned with the gospel. American Christianity is too devoted to its health and wealth doctrine to believe otherwise, I suppose. But the life Jesus lived and the economic practice of the early church could not be further from the capitalist ideals of self-centered gain and every-man-for-himself prosperity. This is what I read this morning in my devotional time:

"All the believers were one in heart and mind. No one claimed that any of his possessions was his own, but they shared everything they had. With great power the apostles continued to testify to the resurrection of the Lord Jesus, and much grace was upon them all. There were no needy persons among them. For from time to time those who owned lands or houses sold them, brought the money from the sales and put it at the apostles' feet, and it was distributed to anyone as he had need" (Acts 4:32-35).

Of course I recognize that socialism doesn't "work" now; there are too many examples of its widespread devastation to argue for that. And I'm not so ignorant to believe that we should ditch the capitalist model, which has certainly propelled America--rightfully or not--to its (fast disappearing) empire status. I'm just tired of hearing Christians rave about Ayn Rand as if she had written the fifth gospel; I'm tired of the prosperity gospel. Jesus never acted like a capitalist. That's all I'm saying.

I'm reading The Color Purple now and it is staggering to read Walker's portrait of the tyranny of men over women. Celie's story actually amplifies many of Woolf's themes: enduring sexual abuse from male relatives, finding sanctuary and subsequent attraction in women, discovering personal strength in the face of enslaving patriarchy, etc. It's strange, but whenever I read African American women writers, I get the sense that they're inadvertently channeling Woolf--only in a grittier, more expansive American style.

I admire Walker for being able to write about the darkest evils of patriarchy (incest, rape, domestic abuse, de facto slavery to one's husband) without anger. Celie just tells it like it is and lets you make the judgments. In "A Room of One's Own," Woolf criticized women authors for succumbing to anger over male dominance and letting it muddy and dilute their writing. Walker lightly evades this inclination and instead writes with compelling clarity and directness of a very hard life.

My mother reminded me on Thanksgiving that I love the idea of yoga, but that I was really built to be a runner, in my father's image.

25 November, 2009

thanksgiving

“The whole trouble is that people think there are circumstances when one may deal with human beings without love, but no such circumstances ever exist. Inanimate objects may be dealt with without love: we may fell trees, bake bricks, hammer iron without love. But human beings cannot be handled without love, any more than bees can be handled without care. That is the nature of bees. If you handle bees carelessly you will harm the bees and yourself as well. And so it is with people. And it cannot be otherwise, because mutual love is the fundamental law of human life. It is true that a man cannot force himself to love in the way he can force himself to work, but it does not follow from this that men may be treated without love, especially if something is required from them. If you feel no love—leave people alone,” thought Nekhlyudov, addressing himself.

-- Resurrection, Leo Tolstoy

21 November, 2009

drive-by evangelism

I read the story of Pentecost this morning and my mind hinged on this: "We hear them telling in our tongues the mighty works of God!" I began to wonder what it would look like for me to learn how to do that--to speak others' languages, to talk to them in a way that actually meant something to them as people. The gospel was suddenly personal and accessible.

Verses like this just further reinforce my dislike of drive-by evangelism. I was the target of one such effort a few weeks ago. A middle-aged man came up to me and asked me if I could fill out a survey for him. I knew exactly what he was doing. I said I would and looked over a check-list that asked me for my name, e-mail, address, and phone number (none of which I gave), and then proceeded with a litany of questions that included "Who is Jesus?", "What are your psychological problems?" (really!) and "Do you go to church and if so, why not?" After I finished checking the boxes, the man asked me if I was a Christian. I told him that I was, and he proceeded to ask me if I "evangelized people regularly." I asked him to define it. He seemed taken off-guard. "Well... it's telling people about Jesus." I said that I did, but then qualified my statement by saying--perhaps too quickly--that I felt that evangelism required real relationships and investment of time.

I told him that I had to go (which I did), but left feeling disproportionately angry. I know he was just out there doing what he thought was right, but I had a hard time imagining anyone coming to know the grace and mercy of Christ through filling out a survey from a random man who accosted you in the middle of the quad. Or, like the poor freshman Emily and I saw a few weeks ago, who was double-teamed by two men and interrogated about why he was Hindi and why that was wrong.

The gospel takes more time than that; the gospel takes more effort than that. It's not enough just to pass out a survey and feel like you fulfilled your evangelism quota for a week. It's not enough to shout at students about damnation and masturbation from the Pit. It's relationships. It's getting to know someone beyond their label as a "convert" or a project. True evangelism is what Jesus modeled and the disciples propagated: it's Tyler Jones moving his family into a lower-class district of Raleigh and caring for his neighbors. It's Betsey asking the socially inept girl from class out to dinner every Tuesday. It's Alex and Emily giving up their Friday nights every week to pick up food donations for St. Joseph's. It's seeking out the unlovable, the ignored, the needy.

"It is like the surfacing of an impulse, like the materialization of fish, this rising, this coming to a head, like the ripening of nutmeats still in their husks, ready to split open like buckeyes in a field, shining with newness. “Surely the Lord is in this place; and I knew it not.” The fleeing shreds I see, the back parts, are a gift, an abundance. When Moses came down from the clift in Mount Sinai, the people were afraid of him: the very skin on his face shone." -- Annie Dillard, Pilgrim at Tinker Creek

On a different note, Guion is here this weekend and that means happiness, particularly now that I've finished drawing 50 costumes for an imaginary production of "A Streetcar Named Desire." I do not want to grow up and be a costume designer.

15 November, 2009

paper dinosaurs

For some reason, this little fleet makes me think of dinosaurs.

After a week of rain and misery, the golden sun finally came out to remind us that there may be no place on earth as beautiful as Chapel Hill in the fall.

To my surprise and delight, my orchid has produced one budding stem. No flowers yet--and none, I expect, for a month--but there are signs of life!

I need to read more. I need to. My dire lack of free time during the week has made me a very poor reader this semester; it's taking me forever to finish Resurrection, even though it's very good and deeply enjoyable. I'm hoping to read Absalom, Absalom! next, and then a non-fiction book--either Self-Made Man or In Our Time: A Memoir of the Revolution. Dillard compels me to read more non-fiction.

There is likely a connection between the historical stifling of women's creativity and men's violence against women.

Guion and I sat on the front porch after church and lunch and read from the Psalms, Proverbs and Ephesians. We're trying to catch up after a long spell of spiritual laziness and I can't tell you how light it makes my heart, to return to this place of belief with someone. I need to be reconciled to God and to make much of him. I need to remember that there are no minor characters, as Woolf has taught me, and that everyone is an image bearer. I need to stop saying catty things with my housemates. I need to return to the basic truth of the Gospel. That's all, really.

10 November, 2009

coming back

West End Bakery in Asheville. The three of us did our respective creative work here.
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Essentially, it comes down to this: Asheville was hard to leave. Rachel was a fabulous hostess. Downtown Asheville is incredibly charming and independent. "Wives and Daughters" was fulfilling in every way that a five-hour BBC epic ought to be fulfilling. Cider has bizarre compulsions. Emily and I conquered most of our costume design work. We talked of many things and pretended to be lovers, although I guess we really didn't have to do much pretending. It was just the perfect escape and exactly what I needed. Thanks again, Rachel; you're superb. (And yes, you should go back and get those round glasses in red. It would behoove you to do so. And then go write around town in your fingerless gloves.)
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I think the Shoebox is about to be blown over by these torrential winds and rains. The spiders are taking refuge with us. (I killed one this morning that was literally the circumference of a quarter. I considered how Annie Dillard would be ashamed of me, and then I smashed it with the toe of my tennis shoe.) Going to class in the rain is such a miserable business.
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Caroline played the role of the Heroic Roommate today by helping me jump the Papa John in the cold rain. It's not working again and that's a pain.
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It is perhaps an unacceptably plain-faced statement for a blog, but my heart is very full of love for Guion.

04 November, 2009

mini-holiday!

I'm off to Asheville this weekend with Emily! We're going to go stay with Rachel and Cider and read and paint and hike and snuggle in blankets and drink tea and watch BBC films. I'm thrilled.

Also, tonight I am full of NERVOUS ENERGY about the FUTURE.

01 November, 2009

women and spatial privacy

This afternoon, I read some criticism on "A Room of One's Own" while sitting in a room of my own. It's like I'm trying to actually live out my thesis. And everything was making rapid connections and I began to consider a few things, which I will meagerly parse out here before Guion and I go on a double date with Kemp and Rose.

Items:
- As I have mentioned before, having this little closet to myself lets me also have my sanity. Without it--a place entirely my own, with a door and a little desk and a hibernating orchid--I would not be able to think, recharge, recuperate. It is essential to me.

- As Woolf mentions frequently, both in "AROO" and her autobiographical essays, women have historically never had a space to call their own. The places that women could inhabit--the kitchen, the drawing room, the living room--were all open, permeable areas. They could be interrupted at any time and were at everyone's disposal--particularly men's. To escape, therefore, women developed the ability to retreat into their minds to experience some sense of privacy. I remember my mother doing this at the table when we ate (something I've written about before); she'd space out in the middle of her sandwich and we'd jolt her back into reality with a barrage of demands.

- But escaping mentally is not true privacy. Actual space is necessary for a person to actually think, to recover, to create. Traditionally, it is not acceptable to let a woman have a space of her own. Men have had their studies and their separate dominions, where they may think and work and write, but such was not the case for women. As the modernists began to insist on a new conception of the domestic, however, women began to demand that they too had a right to privacy.

- What amazed me, however, as I considered all of these things, was how little has actually changed since 1929. I thought of my mother. She never had a room to call her own. She was with us every minute. My father, on the other hand, had a study with French doors that locked and his workspace in the garage. He also had an assortment of hobbies (every imaginable sport, piano, guitar, fishing, model airplanes, carpentry), while my mother had none. We were her hobby. As not only our mother, but our teacher and a businesswoman as well, she literally did not have time for anything else. I'd never thought of this before and I marveled at how she maintained her sanity.

- So it remains that, in 2009, men get to have their hobbies and their rooms. Women, perhaps stay-at-home moms most of all, still don't get that luxury. Why?

- I began to think of other wives and mothers in my life and whether they were allowed to experience any form of privacy. My grandmother had a sewing closet upstairs that she used. I don't know how often she was able to escape there, but at least she had a very small space. I think of Mrs. Steddum, who only recently acquired a room of her own. After years of raising children, she decided to go to law school and has commandeered Catherine's old room as her own. It is very welcoming and clean and inviting. She has a handwritten sign on the often-closed door that reads "Falls Lake Center for Social Justice." She was delighted to show it to us, her little sanctuary.

- The denial of a space to which one can retreat indicates a lack of value for that person's individuality and capacity for expression and creation. It insists that a woman be constantly available, usable to others.

- Can you be a stay-at-home mother, especially one with young children, and experience spatial privacy?

- The older I get, the more I read and think, the more respect I have for women.

"Women never have an half-hour in all their lives (excepting before or after anybody is up in the house) that they can call their own, without fear of offending or of hurting someone." (Florence Nightingale, "Cassandra")

27 October, 2009

disorient

The orchid I am trying to coax into blooming again.

My little study (a room of my own) is the only thing that's keeping me sane right now. At the end of every long day, all I want to do is retreat in here with my textbooks and a cup of tea. Particularly when the weather's been so dismal, as it has been all month.

Registered for classes today for the last time. That was terrifying and sad, but I'm very pleased with what I'll be taking: Diversity in Communication; Place, Space, and Time in Religious Artifacts; Russian Short Stories; and Writing a Thesis about a Topic within Woolf that Remains Woefully Undecided.

In that vein, I am beginning to think I am not smart (or, at least, analytically minded) enough to write an honors thesis. It's a little late to be figuring that out.

Because I hate Hallowe'en, I'm not going to dress up. I will go on Franklin Street for 15 minutes, tops, as I decided with Emily. If I do dress up, I'm going to put on a flannel shirt and call myself Annie Dillard. I've always wanted to go as an obscure female author that no one would recognize.

I feel disoriented this week, but seeing red and yellow leaves splattered on the sidewalk make me brighter.

19 October, 2009

just right

Spent the weekend with Catherine at my home-away-from-home. We made perfect BLTs (with lettuce and tomatoes from Mrs. S's "victory garden"), snuggled on the couch, drank tea and ate candy corn, and then went to see Carolina Ballet perform their interpretation of some of Picasso's works. It made me wish I was even a little flexible. I think their dance on "Guernica" was my favorite. Very dark (spoiler alert: there is a suicide), but appropriately haunting.

So much for thinking I was cool for doing two 365 projects. This woman is reading a BOOK A DAY for an entire year. That's sick. I'm really jealous.

My new favorite photo blog: My Parents Were Awesome. Unlike most popular, snarky photo blogs these days, this one is just kinda sweet and honoring to one's rad parents. But really interesting, too. It's inspiring, to one day be the kind of parent that would be suitable for such a collection. (I know mine are.)

Also, have revived The Unrehearsed Reader. I'm going to try to post every Friday.

I have been dreaming about going home for fall break for weeks and weeks... and now it's almost time! Kelsey and I will be home, at long last, on Wednesday night. Couldn't be happier about the prospect of family dinners around our long table, watching trash TV with Grace, listening to Sam sound better on my guitar than I ever did.

15 October, 2009

until the day breaketh

Lilies that Guion brought me. You can say it. Or I'll say it: He's the best.

I drove to Southern Pines on Tuesday night and relished the pure beauty of long country roads. They were sparsely populated and curved gently around pockets of these tiny towns. Driving alone is rather like walking alone, allowing the mind to untie itself, loosen its knots. I felt this surging impulse to hold it all in; to remember everything--all of the shadows on the sides of brick ranches with car ports, the glint of the sun on the edges of Jordan Lake, the silhouette of the pine trees over the next hill. All was calm, all was bright.

I drove to Southern Pines to go to the Young Life banquet that the Pratts hosted, but mostly I went to meet Allen Levi, Guion's spiritual and aesthetic godfather. It was well worth the journey. By all appearances, he seems to be a man who has not compartmentalized his life. Everything is music and story and art and community and Jesus; there are no divisions in his speech. He sounds like one who has absorbed the very words of Wendell Berry and Annie Dillard and actually lives them out. He pulled out a little notebook from his pocket and asked me for the five great books he should read. As I struggled to come up with titles he hadn't already read, I found myself realizing that I need to be more like him, more curious, more eager, more... whole.

Grace, since you'll be a licensed instructor soon, I need to practice yoga with you. My tired spine feels so cramped lately. I am very busy, I do not stop moving.

There is an small elderly man in my English class. He is bent almost in half and his back has grown so crooked that his shoulders have risen up to swallow his skinny neck. His face is brown and covered in moles and spots. He wears white linen pants every day and laughs often. He seems well-aware of current events, but likes to make references to the time before all of us were born, the time when he was young like us. I like him. He has the skinniest ankles I've ever seen, about the circumference of my wrists, and he wears a wedding ring. I think, when I see him, his wife must be happy.

I was early to costume design yesterday and so I wandered through the old graveyard before I went into the theater. I love reading epitaphs, particularly here. The graveyard is old and Southern and the lines are almost always drawn from hymns or scripture. The one that caught my eye was for a William McDade, born 1885, died 1947, that said only: "Until the day breaketh."

12 October, 2009

rain and little creatures

Rain like this is infinitely more frustrating than rain that pours. This stuff--this cold, light, whining drizzle--is miserable. But it is making me fantasize about breaking out all of my nearly-forgotten sweaters and thick socks and blankets. I may also be going to Catherine's for a night this weekend and, selfishly, I'm almost wishing for a weekend with weather like this, so we can just snuggle on her big couch and drink tea all day long.

I'm re-reading Annie Dillard's Pilgrim at Tinker Creek because part of me wants to return to the earth and I appreciate her voracious mind. This woman has read everything about every conceivable topic. Everything fascinates her. I admire a writer who can focus and successfully execute an entire book that is not about people. She just spent two pages talking exclusively about the spiders she lets take up residence in her house. She will just sit and watch them spin webs over her coffee mugs and she set up towel bridges in her bathtubs so they wouldn't get stuck in the slippery ceramic basins. I like the idea of being that kind of woman (like Susan in The Waves, I imagine), but I admit that I violently drowned all of the big, thick-limbed spiders I found every morning in the tub at my house in Denver.

I want to give gold stars to people who whistle when they walk down our street. Surely they have happy hearts. No sad people whistle.

I wonder if my orchid will bloom again. Mom brought it back to me when she and Dad came up last weekend and it's sitting in A Room of My Own (henceforth abbreviated ARMO), craning its long, slender body toward the window. Right now, it's just a thin stick with big, waxy green leaves. I'm not sure what I have to do to coax it to reopen, but I'm still watering it once a week, like I was told. I wonder if she is resigned to being a stick forever.

11 October, 2009

observe

I like posting old, awkward pictures of other people on Facebook.

The first half of this weekend was so great (Guion came, we went to a wedding, we danced and laughed) and then it degenerated into stress about all the work I needed to get done. I think I knocked it out, though. I'm feeling more stable.

"Observe, observe in the streets at twilight, when the day is cloudy, the loveliness and tenderness spread on the faces of men and women."--Leonardo da Vinci. I think Da Vinci's been reading Woolf. Or, at the very least, Eliot.

04 October, 2009

like and like


Dad ate his pepperoni pizza across from me; Mom sat at my right, cutting the end off her slice. They told me stories about the people back home, our house, my grandparents, the neighbors. Eating with them reminded me that love happens in such ordinary moments--in the unfolding of a napkin in the lap, in the tilt of the head, in a raised eyebrow at a comment, in the light of attention from the eyes. I am grateful that I not only love my parents, but I also like them.

"'Like' and 'like' and 'like'--but what is the thing that lies beneath the semblance of the thing?" The Waves, Woolf

Also, something Tyler repeated today at church that I really needed to hear:

"If you believe what you like in the gospel, and reject what you don't like, it is not the gospel you believe in, but yourself."--St. Augustine

(A shot from my bedroom art wall. Photo, by Heather of Flickr fame, is framed on pages from The Grapes of Wrath.)

03 October, 2009

curses

For all who rely on works of the law are under a curse; for it is written, “Cursed be everyone who does not abide by all things written in the Book of the Law, and do them.” Now it is evident that no one is justified before God by the law, for “The righteous shall live by faith.” But the law is not of faith, rather “The one who does them shall live by them.” Christ redeemed us from the curse of the law by becoming a curse for us—for it is written, “Cursed is everyone who is hanged on a tree”— so that in Christ Jesus the blessing of Abraham might come to the Gentiles, so that we might receive the promised Spirit through faith. Galatians 3:10-14

The heart rises and falls, rises and falls.

01 October, 2009

totes perf

Just a few things:

- Cristina and Eric got ENGAGED yesterday! Great happiness and celebration.

- Unbelievable. I don't understand how this is even possible. Beijing artist Liu Bolin is about to blow your mind.

- Smells like autumn around here.

- God is the gospel.

- Reports from the New Yorker's Book Bench: The Internets have likely forced 16,000 words in the new Shorter Oxford English dictionary to lose their hyphens.

- Jonathan and I had a marathon two-hour dinner at the BBQ Joint last night. He ate a pound of pork and it was great. Or, in his words, "Totes perf."

30 September, 2009

fabric of spirit

Living in the Shoebox is a little bit like camping. Our walls have the thickness of cork board. Whatever temperature it is outside, that's the temperature it's going to be in here. I woke up this morning and I thought my toes were frozen together. Although my nightgown did have the weight of a handkerchief, I'm still going to be investing in some woolen socks and a space heater.

A male cardinal and a dump truck in the Newman parking lot woke us up this morning. I'd rather it were just the cardinal.

I find it hard to believe that tomorrow starts October. I feel like I should know more things now than I do. I think of Denver, too, and begin to miss it a little.

"It could be that God has not absconded but spread, as our vision and understanding of the universe have spread, to a fabric of spirit and sense so grand and subtle, so powerful in a new way, that we can only feel blindly of its hem. In making the thick darkness a swaddling band for the sea, God 'set bars and doors' and said, 'Hitherto shalt thou come, but no further.' But have we come even that far? Have we rowed out to the thick darkness, or are we all playing pinochle in the bottom of the boat?" -- Pilgrim at Tinker Creek, Annie Dillard

27 September, 2009

in this condition

This Danish woman is my favorite photographer on Flickr. I want to own a print of everything she's done and put them on every wall.

I wasn't able to go to Vintage this morning, so I listened to Tyler's opening sermon for the summer series on Mark, "Wholly God, Holy Human." He began by returning to Eden. "They had this glorious opportunity," he said, "to see God's eyeballs." It was "a magical place where bacon and papaya grew on the same trees."

"There can be no doubt, I thought, pushing aside the newspaper, that our mean lives, unsightly as they are, put on splendour and have meaning only under the eyes of love." The Waves, Woolf

26 September, 2009

struck

Kelsey told me in a message that the big oak tree in our front yard was cut down because a branch fell and nearly struck a woman and her baby. She said there is a great hole where it once was. I feel guilty, because my first thought was not of the woman, but of how much I'll miss that tree.

19 September, 2009

a little room

Up in a Room of My Own, watching the crowds wander back from today's football game. Sky threatens rain. Drinking some black tea, polished off a muffin (I made some more, this time with chocolate). Watching an officer give a motorcycle a parking ticket. My latest reading, "Moments of Being," came in the mail yesterday and I kicked off this afternoon with beginning "22 Hyde Park Gate." It's about to get disturbing.

I also started "The Adventures of Augie March" by Saul Bellow because Fionn Regan told me to, but I'm struggling. Bellow's style is throwing me off.

Not that I'm planning on trying or anything, but it's still good to know what would happen if you printed the Internet.

I want to write again, but nothing comes very easily anymore. I may have already exhausted all my best ideas. I was inspired by the dinner scene in To the Lighthouse, but I can't seem to say anything worthwhile about it. I talked to Angela and Rachel about writing yesterday and they were reassurring in separate directions.

Going home for fall break will be perfect. I go through rhythmic bursts of pining for our home in Davidson.

I can't say how much I love these four lines:

And now good-morrow to our waking souls
Which watch not one another out of fear;
For love all love of other sights controls,
And makes one little room, an everywhere.
-- John Donne

12 September, 2009

pleased to dwell

I had such a beautiful morning yesterday. I woke up and walked to Open Eye to meet two of the coolest UNC grads, Christa and Elisabeth, and we laughed and talked. I felt so privileged to have been invited to meet with them; I hope to resemble them even slightly once I graduate. After our fair trade coffee and tea (it's Carrboro; what do you expect?), we went to the farmers' market to buy flowers.
With a bright bouquet in my hands, I walked to Aveda and (finally!) got my hair cut by a kind, almost-graduate from their school. For some reason, I always feel more reassurred when the person cutting my hair has a lot of tattoos and piercings. I don't know why, but I trust them more.
I came back home and made banana-cranberry bran muffins for my magazine writing class (we have to make something that the kitchen-ignorant college boy could make and then write about it). I think they turned out decently well. Baking is such a deeply cleansing, satsifying thing.

On the value of walking: Christa and I talked about this briefly (when Elisabeth ducked out to speak to the fiancee in his native tongue) this morning. Along with baking, it is also a deeply cleansing, satisfying thing. I feel like walking unties things in my head. I used to begrudge long walks and reconsider dinner plans if they were too far down Franklin, but not anymore. Something about living in Tokyo and Denver changed that. (Diane was such a huge proponent of walking in Japan because she was a budget stickler. "No matter what the bus or train costs," she'd tell me as I rolled my eyes, "your legs are always free.") I am happy to walk anywhere--for 20 minutes, for an hour, whatever. I'm not sure if I'll still feel this way once the air begins to freeze, but it's so unbelievably pleasant right now. That graceful transition from summer to fall.

Last night, we had dinner at the Steddum's to celebrate Chris's 21st birthday and recognize the great void in our life now that Catherine is in Benin. Dinner was excellent and the company even more so. I love being there. And I know my mom would love their house; it has such a peaceful aesthetic.
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"But beauty was not everything. Beauty had this penalty--it came too readily, came too completely. It stilled life--froze it." To the Lighthouse, Woolf
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Thanks to Windy and her garage, I now have a room of my own, in the line of Woolf's essay. It's a tiny white room upstairs in the house and I have a little desk and a chair that overlook the street. I come up here to work on my thesis reading and write things. The room makes me feel oddly grown-up and European. (Do Europeans all feel more grown-up? It's odd, I've never been to Europe or been a grown-up. My perceptions, rather, of these feelings.)

Rediscovered song of the week: "Oh, Sister," by Andrew Bird

Guion convinced me to give Regina Spektor another shot. I listened to her almost non-stop freshman year and she quickly wore out. He saw her perform in Ireland, however, and told me to try her new album, "Far." And I admit that it's nice to return to Regina. She's not doing anything very differently, but it's still good. "Laughing With" isn't revolutionary or anything, but it's kind of amazing. And I've been thinking a lot about its spiritual ramifications. Guion usually directs most of my musical habits, it's fair to say. The past week, along with Regina, I've been listening exclusively to Radiohead, Jens Lekman and Neutral Milk Hotel.
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Some mornings I really like going to church alone. This was one of those mornings. I hadn't realized how much I had missed Vintage until the first song began to play. And the calm, the stillness washes up on the shore of my heart and I realize there's no where else I should be in this suspended moment. We started a new series today, "The Gospel Uncut," and Tyler's message was shattering. I feel--finally--like there is nothing else I need right now than to know the gospel. Right now, I don't need New Testament Greek or hermeneutics or predestination or "spiritual" tasks enacted out of mild guilt. I just need the elemental things. The gospel. "You're dead, Jesus is bigger than your death, and He's giving you life," Tyler said. "That's the gospel." The simple and yet inexhaustibly deep truth of Jesus. The fullness of God is pleased to dwell in Him.

04 September, 2009

it was a delight when it came

I realized this morning, walking long distances for our (actually super-fun) costume design group project, that I am very happy.

Possible causes for happiness:

- Not having Friday classes
- This weather
- Reuniting with my favorite people
- Woolf is in my life again. First on the thesis docket: "To the Lighthouse"
- My house is great
- I get to see Guion tomorrow
- MY BIKE
- Burt's Bees papaya lip tint
- Reading Isaiah 58 every morning (a collective effort with my sisters)
- Bringing the 365 project back. I didn't realize that I'd kind of missed it
- Discovering Pandora
- Learning the ebb and flow at UNC Press

I mean, really, how can my life be anything but incandescently happy when I get to read this kind of stuff all day?

"They came there regularly every evening drawn by some need. It was as if the water floated off and set sailing thoughts which had grown stagnant on dry land, and gave to their bodies even some sort of physical relief. First, the pulse of colour flooded the bay with blue, and the heart expanded with it and the body swam, only the next instant to be checked and chilled by the prickly blackness on the ruffled waves. Then, up behind the great black rock, almost every evening spurted irregularly, so that one had to watch for it and it was a delight when it came, a fountain of white water; and then, while one waited for that, one watched, on the pale semicircular beach, wave after wave shedding again and again smoothly, a film of mother of pearl." (Woolf, "To the Lighthouse")

Happy Labor Day weekend, lovers!

01 September, 2009

endless alarm

Oh, right, blogging! I'll think about this later. I am re-immersed in the rattle and hum of casual college madness and can't seem to do anything with much focus or skill.

In the meantime, my super-wonderful housemate Courtney, aka CoCo Granopia, has started a blog of her own and it's sincerely rad.

The beach was just the best, everything I hoped it would be. Coming back to reality hits you like a hammer, though, after three days of sunshine, surf and bliss.

I can't sleep past 8 in this shoebox because of the eternal construction that goes on right behind us at the Newman Center. It sounds like there is a bulldozer in my bedroom. And the mind-numbing "beep beep beep" of a dump truck in reverse! The worst sound ever. It's like an alarm that you can never turn off.

"We need to all be prepared for genocide," Emily told us last night at her first social justice group meeting. "It could happen here." We weren't sure whether to laugh or to take her very, very seriously.

I feel happy and confused. I had a great, long dinner with Jonathan last night at Med Deli and he made this perfect analogy to my current state. It's some trope Hitchcock used in his films to create a vertigo effect, when the camera zooms in on a face in such a way that the focus seems to be moving forward but the background seems to be falling away. Progression and regression all at once. "And so it's intentionally disorienting," he said. "Kind of what you're feeling now."

One of the Clef Hangers is singing in Italian on his back porch right now and I want to punch him in the mouth.

Catherine needs to come home from Benin. Life without her here is not widely enjoyable.

25 August, 2009

it's back

The 365 Project: Senior Edition commenced today. Now you can follow it religiously, Mom!

Did I mention that I'm going to the BEACH this weekend?

24 August, 2009

back in chapel hill

Everything is a blur now, and it all feels so surreal: moving into a house, seeing beloved friends, biking around town, getting ready for classes... classes, right. That's what I'm here for. I'd almost forgotten. They commence tomorrow, as does the 365 Project, Lord willing. I am incredibly distracted and mostly useless for conversation, although I've been having surprisingly good ones lately.

"Middlemarch" was unbelievably good, but now I'm hungry for something else to read. And not an abnormal psychology textbook.

House meeting in 10! A better entry maybe later, but then again, maybe not. I'm going to the BEACH this weekend with the Pratts and I am so excited. I've been talking about it for months.

20 August, 2009

other things

The Great American Roadtrip was a success and passed surprisingly quickly. Thanks to the generosity of a friend and family (Liz, Uncle Joe & Aunt Suzanne), Safeway, 21 burned CDs and good company, it was a swift and pleasant trip. Kansas had an alien beauty and we were mesmerized by the enormous wind turbines, tilling the air as Emiliana Torrini sang "Gun." Prairie Dog Town was horrible and depressing. Kelsey wore fleece pants on a 95-degree day and then complained about being hot. Guion's hair was surreptitiously braided while he was distracted. Tennessee had a very welcome beauty, as it began to look like home. And then we got off 77 and drove into Davidson, with the windows down and "Wake Up" blaring, guiding us home in our own personal parade.

A few photos are up on Facebook.

Speaking of photos: Jonathan, get excited, because the 365 Project is coming back on Aug. 25! Jonathan and my mom are the only ones who will care, but it's happening again, with a twist: 365: The Senior Edition. First day of senior year to the first day of life as a graduate. It's going to be very weird.

It is lovely to be home. Kelsey and I spent yesterday packing for school and while it took us nearly the entire day, I feel fabulous about being all ready to spring into the car and jet back to Chapel Hill. Returning to my beloved university with an inherited sense of superiority; to the brick walks and familiar classrooms; to delightful, much-missed friends; to a charming house that I get to call my own; to wearing obnoxious stickers at Fall Fest; to looking down on freshmen at Lenoir and thinking, "How cute they are,"; to IV; to my jobs; to the farmers' market; to Davis Library. Oh, Davis, I've missed you most of all!

Almost finished with "Middlemarch," my great summer project. About 90 pages to go.

Going to buy last-minute house things with Dad now. Will write more comprehensive things later.

08 August, 2009

dreamgirls

Working downtown makes you realize certain things about people, guiding you toward forming swifter assumptions, I think. For example, interns are easy to spot. They always look fresh, a little nervous, talking too quickly with their hands. Sassy young restaurant workers make me irritated. Businessmen check you out but pretend like they're not. Bus drivers might all be a little crazy and like to stop right on top of the crosswalk. Parallel parking will make you sweat. Don't make eye contact with homeless people unless you want to be followed across the street and asked an assortment of questions.

One more story of an encounter with homelessness. If you read this at all regularly, you may recall a post back in June about an unsettling encounter I had with a homeless woman. A few weeks ago, I passed a man crumpled up beneath a lamppost, holding a cardboard sign. I made eye contact with him. His sign said, "HUNGRY PLEASE HELP." All I had in my bag was my tupperware dinner (which I couldn't really give him, since the tupperware belonged to my landlord) and a square of Ghiradelli dark chocolate. Remembering the guilt I felt last time, I stopped and pulled out the chocolate and handed it to him with a smile. He took it from me, looked me in the eye and then scowled. And then he threw it in the gutter.

I was so bewildered I didn't know what to do, so I kept on walking. But what I really wanted to do was go fish my chocolate out of the gutter and yell at him. "Beggars can't be choosers, homeless guy! I want my chocolate back!" And now I'm all confused. Granted, a bit of chocolate isn't a huge act of charity, but it really was all I could give him. (And it was GHIRADELLI dark chocolate! Come on.) Instead, his completely disdainful response has only further hardened me to giving anything to panhandlers. I did give a slightly addled woman a dollar last week (she asked me if I had "98 cents"), quite happily, but again, not immense generosity here. What am I supposed to do when confronted directly on the street? It's still the same question I was asking before and now I feel even more distant from an answer. I know I can't make one ungrateful man a general rule for all homeless people, but now I'm just confused.

I find all the best blogs from Grace. I don't know where SHE finds them, but somehow she does, and they're just marvelous. Two that got me really excited tonight: Fresh 365, which makes me super-excited about cooking at McCauley in the fall, and Hearblack, which just makes me really, really want a great camera so I can catch light. When Jackie and I work the same nights, we also trade links with each other. Tonight, she told me about the Cats That Look Like Hitler and I shared Ugliest Tattoos with her (the Patrick Swayze centaur might be my all-time favorite).

Only four more days of work! The Peruvian adventurer comes on Monday and my dear Irish musician comes on Tuesday! I'm so excited about Kelsey and Guion that I can hardly sleep. Angela sent me a big-type, all-caps e-mail about it this morning that concluded, "GUION AND KELSEY WILL BE THERE SOON AND IT WILL BE LIKE DREAMGIRLS!!!"

Exactly.

03 August, 2009

quickly

Kelsey has been in Peru too long. She just sent me an e-mail asking if there were "any bookstores or pharmacies in Colorado" she could go to. No, sorry, Kels. It's really weird, but Coloradans seem to exist without them.

Hiking tomorrow at Alderfer/Three Sisters park with Sonya and possibly Reid, David and Steven. Kinda wish Kelsey and Grace could be with me, because it would be very appropriate.

This is all I have to say right now. I'm clipping through "Middlemarch" at a pleasant pace. Hit page 640 this afternoon before work. Just about 250 more to go! It's so nice to read big books without any idea what's going to happen. So many modern novels are too predictable. Not Eliot. I've also grown increasingly fond of Dorothea; I think she's a wonderful creation and far more complex than Rosamond or Celia. I believe Eliot's talent is most well-displayed in her.

It's fun, having Mondays be your Fridays. It really warps your sense of weeks, but I like it. I believe it accelerates time.

ONE WEEK until Kelsey and EIGHT DAYS until Guion!

As excited as I am to see them, I am going to miss this place. I'm already trying to figure out a way to get back here.

30 July, 2009

the stationery life

The three of us at the Colorado Shakespeare Festival, during "half-time," as Jonathan said
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Jonathan was here for the past three days and I can't say just how lovely it was to have him here. Every day was perfect. We laughed so much. We went to the grocery store; fell in love with downtown Boulder; had the utterly perfect, classic picnic (brie, gouda, grapes, dark chocolate, freshly baked bread and "wine"); saw "Much Ado About Nothing" and barely escaped the rain; made a pizza and a sour-cream chocolate cake with chocolate satin icing; watched MTV with Claire; had many long, happy chats on the couch with Kitteh. I'd forgotten how sincerely wonderful it is to have someone around without having to explain the context for every story and reference. I've missed good, old friends and he was exactly the respite I needed. I was sad to see him go, but glad that he was off to love on the Barge Train in the District before they headed back to Chapel Hill.
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Holden Thorp and the love child of Nicolas Cage and Tom Green also made an appearance in "Much Ado About Nothing."
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Can I name a child Esme? Or at least an Australian Shepherd?
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I want to read so many BOOKS! I cannot read enough! Boulder must have the most independent bookstores within the smallest space in America and it was driving me mad. I was speechless with distraction. Jonathan and Sonya had to pry me away from the stacks. Top of my list for fall: "Lamb," by Christopher Moore, and "Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close," by Jonathan Safran Foer, and "The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao," by Junot Diaz.
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I'm ticked with Sen. John McCain from Arizona. Remember him? Because of his poor decision-making skills, we're going to have to hear about the former Gov. Sarah Palin for the REST OF OUR LIVES. That's such a bummer. We will hear every crazy and nonsensical thing she says from here forward. Because that's her genius; she will not vanish, even though she has no message to give us.

Slate, regarding of her resignation speech, said it perfectly: "Watch it as many times as you like; you still come away feeling you've been treated to a cozy chat with the Mad Hatter. The media are bad. Those ethics complaints are expensive. Alaska was a great idea. She is not a dead fish. Put it all together and what do you get? A born fighter who has given us no sense whatsoever of what she's fighting for."
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Jonathan has told me to start my 365 project again--but with a twist. Start with the first day of our senior year, Aug. 25, 2009, and finish once graduation is over and "adulthood" has commenced, Aug. 25, 2010. I think I'm going to do it. Obnoxious? Dumb? He says he misses it. If Jonathan likes it, it's worth doing again. So, friends, assemble!
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Thumbs down on wearing a tiara on your wedding day. This is not prom.
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Jonathan and I have unequivocally decided that this is the year of GOYA: Get Off Your Ass. Following GOYA, I've decided to buy a used copy of "The Joy of Cooking" and try to make at least one recipe a week. And if not from that book, at least make something new every week. (This is also a subtle plan to make Guion love me more.)
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CAN NO ONE IN THE BLOGOSPHERE SPELL "STATIONERY" PROPERLY? Gosh, cute blogging women, you do NOT love "letterpress stationary." Letterpress is only ever stationary, unless you're actually chucking it at someone or have given it wings.
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How wonderful: 100 salads for summer. Add this to list of new recipes and things to try.
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Yesterday my Uncle Steve, my dad's eldest brother, came to visit and we took a long drive up in the mountains to see the mining ghost towns beyond Black Hawk and Central City. I really enjoyed our time together. Even though the last time I talked to him or even saw him was probably 10 years ago, I kept feeling this sense of the undeniable connection of family. We had this bond because we were related and as he talked, I saw my father in his lips, my aunt in his eyes, my grandmother in his cheekbones. And I was happy, to be with family again.
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Grace has a new blog and it is much cooler than mine.
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The Audacity of Hops! I'm a little dismayed that Obama's beer of choice is Bud Light.
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My heart is so happy in Chapel Hill and Davidson and I can't wait to return to those two places.

23 July, 2009

curiosity

Things I have learned today:

- Making challah is fun
- North Korea thinks Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton looks like a "schoolgirl." Or a pensioner going shopping.
- The famous Spanish Civil War photograph of the soldier being killed may have been faked
- "Middlemarch" continues to be delightful
- I like fresh mango
- I miss my sisters
- Bluebell ice cream is divine (thanks for having a birthday, Mark!)
- I don't want to read another story about Honduras; I'm sick of hearing about "ousted President Manuel Zelaya"
- New Jersey rabbis get busted for trafficking kidneys on the black market. Why is this so funny?
- Living without power for two days makes you more introspective. And feel like Laura Ingalls Wilder.
- I like wearing a bun
- There's nothing better than an e-mail from Guion to brighten your inbox
- Foil yogurt lids may occasionally explode all over your face and shirt
- I think Obama's idea of tying teachers' pay to student performance is a bad idea
- The new nightgown from Anthropologie was totally worth it
- Sometimes people like to cling to untruth and total ignorance. Like Rush Limbaugh, who still insists that Obama is not a U.S. citizen.
- Earl Grey tea with milk is a wonderful thing
- Hiking might be the best form of exercise
- The days pass quickly when you have things to fill them with

19 July, 2009

cue voice-over

I am pleasantly laboring under the illusion that time is passing very quickly here. I met Claire for coffee/tea after having a post-church lunch with Dan and realized, "Wow. I felt like I just did this Sunday routine." It's a rather nice realization. I think I have 22, 23 days left until Kelsey and Guion get here.

I started reading "Middlemarch" yesterday and it is reminding me why I love to read. It is SO good. Granted, I'm only 115 pages in (with about 800 left to go), but it's just great. Eliot is funny and insightful and these people are somehow both fresh and familiar. It's playing out like a BBC mini-series in my head. (I even imagine the great background music--the strings begin a feverish rush as Dorothea opens the letter from Causabon! A light opens on her pale face as she begins to read. Cue voice-over...)

Help Sonya, my dear Denver friend, become the next Fanta girl! Check out her great video and give her a vote and a five-star rating! I promise she deserves it. (She should win alone for her excellent video-editing skills. Seriously; her video is better than all the rest.)

Mark Sanford is such a disaster; it's almost entertaining to watch. The op-ed that he had published yesterday was such a greasy, PR attempt at back-pedaling; it just makes everything worse. No one believes anything that he says anymore. This is why politicians should just STOP talking about how moral, noble and "Christian" they are; they will just trip up, as we all do, but they're giving the rest of us a very public and bad name.

I got to talk to Emily last night on Skype and it was so good to hear her voice. Can't wait to see her again.

My morning date with Christa was so perfect; exactly what my week needed. We had divine blueberry pancakes while watching "The Village" (which I had never seen, and really liked. It was great because I knew nothing about it, so none of the surprises were spoiled) and rifling through her prodigious collection of craft materials. She is really fun and her house is unbelievable. We walked through the woods in our skirts to the rocky overlook and got slimed by some mysterious forest goo.

I am so sick of subsisting on organic peanut butter and corn syrup-free preserves. I need to become more culinarily creative. (NOT A WORD I KNOW.)

Grace is back from India! She has a head full of lice and wonderful stories that I can't wait to hear. I miss that kid.

"God is a comedian playing to an audience that is afraid to laugh."--Voltaire

16 July, 2009

let me not be my own life

I am happy, but restless. I am trying to remember that there is joy and contentment to be found even here, even in the absence of Guion and my family. All the letters and cards I've received, however, have certainly helped.

"Let me not be my own life: badly have I lived from myself: I was death to myself: in you I live again." -- St. Augustine

My hike on Tuesday to Herman's Gulch with Reid and Sonya has been my favorite hike all summer. It was just the perfect day. You can see the photos on Fbook or the video of Reid reading to use from "The Idiot" at the lake.

Driving home after documentary night (at Sean, Reid and Josh's; we watched Madonna's film on Malawi, "I Am Because We Are," in honor of Sean, who is leaving for Malawi today!), I was stopped at a light when I happened to look in the windows of a diner across the street. A man and a woman were on a date, sitting across from each other in a booth. She was wearing a red dress and he was in a white polo. She was leaning in, bent over the table, and gesturing with her hands and he was sitting back, straight, his head held up, almost looking over her. And I thought--and so much as said to myself--"Ah, she's much more interested in him than he is in her. But I hope it turns out. I hope they will be happy."

Finished "The Confessions" and the collected poems of Anna Akhmatova and have started Novella Carpenter's "Farm City: The Education of an Urban Farmer." It's confirmed everything Claire has told me about Oakland and Berkeley so far. "Everyone there is crazy," she told me. "And I was wondering why that was the case, but then I realized that people who--in, say, Boston or Denver--would not be crazy, see all of these strange people in Berkeley and think, 'Hm, maybe I'll become crazy, too!' And that's why it's an epidemic."

Things I want to do when I come back to Carolina:

Get a bike
Outfit that bike with a basket/crate
Buy "The Joy of Cooking" and try to make at least one recipe a week
Join Eric and Emily's small group
Join FLO
Bike to the farmers' market every Saturday
Grow herbs
Keep taking yoga classes
Write lots of letters
Become a true friend to my housemates

Pancakes and craft morning tomorrow at Christa's! I'm so excited.

Less than a month! And Jonathan (happy 21st, by the way) will be here in 11 days!

12 July, 2009

today's laughter, brought to you by

"Let me peek out there and see if there’s an open door somewhere. And if there’s even a little crack of light, I’ll hope to plow through it."

- Soon-to-be former Gov. Sarah Palin, in an interview with The Washington Times published Sunday

(It's time to revive the flat-out insult.)

10 July, 2009

100 personalities

I have this theory about people. I feel justified in calling it a theory, because Proust thinks it, too. I don't have the passage in front of me, but when Marcel goes off on a brief stint with his grandmother in "Within a Budding Grove," he remarks how he "met" Madame Swann in a diving instructor; his dearest love at the time, Gilberte, in a Spanish gentleman; and Monsieur Bergotte in the fat lady in a deck chair. It sounds a little crazy, but I've thought this for such a long time now that I was positively delighted to have found external confirmation.

Where J.Hecht has his "100 persons" theory (the idea that there are only 100 people who exist to him in the world), I have my "100 personalities" theory. Wherever you go, the people you meet will only be slight variations of other people. Most seem to be carbon replicas of others. Social assessments come rather swiftly under this schema, and I find myself grouping people into these pre-arranged categories: Oh, that boy acts like X and Y, and this girl is a clouded mirror of Z, and so forth. This was even the case in Japan. It got to the point where I started to think I was seeing old neighbors on the train.

The same has been more or less true for me in Denver. While I still recognize that everyone I meet possesses his or her own unique qualities, I can't help but identify them with previous personality patterns I've met. Everybody follows a personality design that is repeated in a million others. It sounds very Darwinian and cold, but I don't think of it that way. Rather, I find myself thinking of people I meet as just distant copies of other relatives, friends and acquaintances.

One can never have too much cheese. This might be my new life motto.

Despite this, I've been going vegetarian for the past week and a half. It's all Angela's fault, like usual. I find it easier to accomplish when I have entire control over what I'm eating (par ex., not eating at Lenoir, my house, someone else's house). And, so far, so good. I don't really miss meat all that much, although it does take an ounce more planning and preparation.

This just in: Malia and Sasha grill Pope Benedict XVI on stem-cell research and abortion. Not really. But the headline passed through my mind...

Last year, I was a better blogger and writer. I wonder if journalism is to blame? But then I read such brilliant journalists with such skill with language and think, No, journalists can be, and very often are, excellent writers. So what's wrong with me? I think I've fallen out of the habit of writing for pleasure, even though I've faithfully kept my year-long project of writing a (manual) journal entry a day. It has not been a very rewarding venture, but I am trying to make it more fruitful. Somehow.

Today I am reminded of this quote by Walter Brueggeman: "You are not the God we would have chosen."

I can't wait to see my totally cool and world-traveling sisters! And Guion! Laughing with this collection of people is among my chiefest joys in life.

I am really excited about a week from today. Christa and I have set a pancakes-and-movie breakfast date at her mountain lodge in Morrison! It's going to be the best.

Today I decided what I am going to name my three future dogs: Soren, the German shepherd (thereby beating Grace to naming her son that. It's on, G. Either I get a dog or you have a baby. Whoever does it first gets the name); Kuma, the Great Pyrenees (Japanese for "bear"); and Zooey or Piper, the Australian shepherd. I had a dream about a whole fleet of Aussies last night, with their precious little faces pressed up against the backdoor window, and I had to take them all in and protect them from the dark night and the wolves.

09 July, 2009

summit

When I look back at my life, I think I will list this as one of my greatest accomplishments before I was 22. Yesterday, along with Reid and Michael, I hiked my first 14,000+ foot peak. There were many times that I thought I might possibly die, and even times when I thought we would all die. But reaching that summit at Torreys: glory! Elation! One of the best feelings ever.And who knows? Maybe this one won't be my last. As Michael reminded me when my lungs were burning and my legs ready to quit, it wouldn't be worth it if you didn't have any pain. Like most things in life, I'd say.
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It's exciting to have reached the point in my summer where I am legitimately busy, not just at work, but outside of work--with meetings, appointments, lunches, dinners, hikes. I girded myself for another lonely summer this year, but that has not been the case at all. My heart is light here. I am happy and I daresay I will even be sad to leave. I believe, more firmly than ever, that community is such an essential part of a joyful, well-balanced life, and I am inexpressibly grateful to have found it here, in whatever surface pockets I can reach.
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One of the only consequences of my job this summer is that it has made me a terrible reader. I've only finished six books this summer (granted, two of them had more than 600 pages) and still have at least six more on my list (including the whopping "Middlemarch"). But once I get back to school, I will finish those and "Lamb," which God has apparently decreed I must read, since three different people, entirely unannounced and unconnected, have told me I have to read it.
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I am hand-writing my cousin's wedding invitations right now. I've reached a style that I think looks nice; I just hope they do, too.
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I am really hungry most of the time, but I hate spending money on food. This is a really silly hang-up of mine.
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I've been wondering lately what my life will look like a year from now. Aside from a few particulars, I really have no idea. Even though this would have stressed me out last year, I find myself oddly at peace about the unknown. I credit this to Guion, who does not seem to worry about anything at all. The quality of a rock star, I guess...

01 July, 2009

subtle slopes

From today's hike in Elk Meadows park. The air is thin and quiet here; it only barely grazes your skin. It was a lovely afternoon. No day could possibly be otherwise when you spend it outdoors in a place that looks like this.

As I was driving here today with David and Dan, I realized that I feel like a different person here. And I wondered if this slight shift in personality would follow me back home, back to the familiar scenes and faces and schedules. I'm not sure how to describe it. I think it has something to do with the abatement of fear. I feel open to unseen possibilities, chances to meet people and say things I would not ordinarily say. David said to me, in the car on the drive back, "You seem very active, like you always want to go and do things, and that's nice." This is not at all the way someone would have described me a few months ago, I think. Maybe it's just the subtle slopes of growing up.

And then there is God. God, who seems to be simultaneously silent and provident. Lately, I tend to think he's been catlike and aloof, but then grace and mercy appear when I least expect them.

"Today, if you hear his voice, do not harden your hearts, as at Meribah..."

Last night, I went to watch the documentary "Food Inc." with Claire. Even though it was the visual representation of Michael Pollan's books, it was still a life-changing experience--and I say that plainly and truthfully. I can't think about food the same way anymore. What I loved about the film is that it wasn't just about what agribusiness is doing to our health (although it's doing a considerable lot), but about how America's destructive food culture is affecting public policy, immigration, science, the environment and general societal relationships. It was fascinating. You should all go see it, if only to see the veil lifted from industrial agriculture. And I also loved it to actually see and hear the energetic, pure back-to-nature-polyculture farm evangelical Joel Salatin (whom you will remember from "The Omnivore's Dilemma"). Just love him. He knows what's up. I want to be his best friend and work on his gorgeous, almost unbelievably idyllic farm in the Shenandoah Valley.

I finished "Between the Acts" today and it was pretty crazy. The end was like unraveling thread, but purposefully so. I need to sit down and think about what it means. While I am still finishing "The Omnivore's Dilemma" and "Lapsing into a Comma" (a gift from one of my coworkers), I have three choices for what to start next: "Farm City: The Education of an Urban Farmer" (by Novella Carpenter), "Down to Earth: Practical Thoughts for Passionate Gardeners" (by Margot Rochester) or "Middlemarch" (by George Eliot). I have a feeling I'll opt for Carpenter first, and then, evaluating my progress on Pollan and Walsh, start "Middlemarch." The book itself is very daunting to look at, but I know I should read it. The Telegraph (UK) thinks it was the best novel ever written, and my dear Woolf said of it herself, "It is one of the few novels written for grown-up people."

July!

Jonathan is now officially coming to visit at the end of the month and I couldn't be more thrilled. I can't wait to see him. We are planning to see "Much Ado About Nothing," performed by the Colorado Shakespeare Festival in Boulder, and do many other wonderful, spontaneous things.

"Like quicksilver sliding, filings magnetized, the distracted united. The tune began; the first note meant a second; the second a third. Then down beneath a force was born in opposition; then another. On different levels they diverged. On different levels ourselves went forward; flower gathering some on the surface; others descending to wrestle with the meaning; but all comprehending; all enlisted. The whole population of the mind's immeasurable profundity came flocking; from the unprotected, the unskinned; and dawn rose; and azure; from chaos and cacophony measure; but not the melody of surface sound alone controlled it; but also the warring battle-plumed warrios straining asunder: To part? No. Compelled from the ends of the horizon; recalled from the edge of appalling crevasses; they crashed; solved; united. And some relaxed their fingers; and others uncrossed their legs." -- Between the Acts

She is the reason, if you haven't already guessed, why I use semicolons so liberally.

29 June, 2009

a riddle to myself

Today became a very, very happy day because I got to see and talk to my parents (suspiciously jumping around on Kelsey's bed upstairs) AND Guion, after nearly three weeks without hearing his perfect voice. Skype may rival Google Reader as the best invention of the 21st century.

I think I have become more adventurous this summer. Living alone creates this sense of tenacious self-sufficiency. I say yes to every invitation to do something. I am not afraid of getting lost, because then I might see something I've never seen before. I am willing to befriend almost anyone (except the two very drunk men who harrassed Claire and me at the pub). I am not afraid to go, see or eat things alone. I speak fluidly about world politics. I am more talkative and socially gregarious. I parallel park on the street.

I miss writing news stories, but I'm really thankful I'm not a reporter. Being a reporter stressed me out so much.

You should read this utterly beautiful short story by Salman Rushdie that I read last night. When Junior and Senior speak to each other, you're not sure if they're actually speaking audible words, or simply speaking themselves. I love that. And this plain, perfect line: "Junior's life had been a disappointment to him. He had not expected to be ordinary." And how he calls Mumbai "the legendary bitch-city." He's funny! And brief! Although this is the first thing of Rushdie's I've read, from what I can gather, I love his sense of style; his intuitive knowledge that one need not write flowery prose with long, compound-complex sentences to be a powerful and graceful storyteller. Now I need to read some of his novels.

Top 10 states I would never live in:
1. South Carolina
2. Florida
3. West Virginia
4. Texas
5. New Mexico
6. Indiana
7. Ohio
8. Arkansas
9. New Jersey
10. Kentucky

Also, speaking of South Carolina: Mark Sanford as Jude Law? Hilarious. And, I would like to give Jenny Sanford a high-five. I just really approve of her conduct in general.

My new favorite Web site is Mental Floss. I spent almost an hour there yesterday, absorbing the kind of random knowledge that I love and is only useful when playing old versions of Trivial Pursuit. I thought this quiz was brilliant--Lit Slits. I missed two questions, the Harry Potter one (of course) and another one I don't recall. But check it out.

Jobs I am morally opposed to having:
Broadcast journalist
PR representative
Cheerleader
Beauty pageant contestant
Oil refiner
Tanning salon employee

I loved this, from St. Augustine this morning: "For in your sight I have become a riddle to myself, and that is my infirmity."

27 June, 2009

happy birthday, guion!

All the warmest birthday wishes to my favorite boy, who turns 22 today in the Irish countryside. He brings light and joy to my life and I couldn't possibly have imagined or wished for anyone better.

26 June, 2009

how coolness comes

What will happen to Blanket now? And will the children still wear scarves and masks on their faces?

I really need a good crafternoon with Emily right now. Or at least an episode of "Cranford."

Grace is in India now and we have heard from her, now that she has located the Internets. I am hoping for some great photographs very soon. And Kelsey is having the time of her life in the great mountains of Peru. I got to chat with her on Skype for about an hour the other night. Kelsey's biggest concerns right now are battling altitude sickness and debating which townsman she should make out with. It's a tough life.

I unleashed a torrent of reminiscing with this album, which I discovered yesterday in my down-time before work, leading me to gales of laughter. I have no shame.

Kandyce, I am going to plant the basil you gave me this afternoon. Jackie told me that the dill has apparently died, and so I can replace it with more glorious basil. Excited about this.

I have been writing and receiving lots of letters lately and this makes me very happy. Thanks for taking the time to write on a piece of paper, friends!

Catherine, I watched "In the Name of the Rose" the other night with Jackie. I think you had to watch this in the belly of the UL for a class or something, and I remember how much you hated it. It was pretty bad (Christian Slater does not change the expression on his face for a good hour and a half), but Sean Connery is so endearing in just about anything. It also made me wonder why I don't have more discipline in my spiritual life.

"The view repeated in its own way what the tune was saying. The sun was sinking; the colours were merging; and the view was saying how after toil men rest from their labours; how coolness comes; reason prevails; and having unharnessed the team from the plough, neighbours dig in cottage gardens and lean over cottage gates." -- Between the Acts

I really like drawing on bananas with ballpoint pens. And I miss Chapel Hill. Davidson, too. The faces of familiar, well-loved humans. The sun on our kitchen floor and the patches of sun and shade on Country Club Road. It will be nice, some day, to come home.

22 June, 2009

spare oom

Grace has been here for the past few days before she jets off to India for a month. Here she is being ineffably cool.
We went to the Denver Art Museum for about four hours on Friday and had the best time. She's definitely my favorite person to visit museums with. When we play the game of "Which painting/sculpture/whatever would you rather own?", we always have the same answers.
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I got a really lovely and thoughtful present from Kandyce yesterday: a real, live basil plant! I can't wait to put in the backyard garden. It smells wonderful.
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Other than that, I don't have much to report. I'm trying not to wish my days away. It's so hard being patient sometimes, though. And sometimes I get lonely. But having Grace here for a few days has certainly staved off some of those feelings. And I think I might be going hiking tomorrow with Sonya, an intern from the Denver Business Journal. There are always bright spots.
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Yesterday, we went to a church picnic at Wash Park and played Frisbee, got burnt and ate snap peas. The park was nearly bursting with people being outdoorsy--playing soccer, volleyball, Frisbee, running with their dogs, biking, even rollerblading (I don't think I've seen someone rollerblade in North Carolina since I was in middle school). Everyone seemed so ALIVE.
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At the picnic, we were befriended by a local artist, David Shingler, who later took us to his gallery downtown. Very inventive and labor-intensive work! Check it out. His drawing machines were fascinating; I really wanted to see the one with the live finches in action.
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I am reading "The Omnivore's Dilemma" now, which Angela gave me as a going-away present. Thanks to her, I may never eat beef again. It's absolutely terrifying, what industrial agriculture does to food. And corn! I am also viscerally afraid of corn.
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"Empty, empty, empty; silent, silent, silent. The room was a shell, singing of what was before time was; a vase stood in the heart of the house, alabaster, smooth, cold, holding the still, distilled essence of emptiness, silence."--Between the Acts. How Woolf loves bare rooms!

18 June, 2009

tsk, william carlos williams


From Married to the Sea (click on it to enlarge if your screen is small)

15 June, 2009

oh, hail no

This is where I work: the Denver Post building on the corner of Broadway and Cleveland.
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I visited one of Denver's Acts 29 churches yesterday, Fellowship Denver. As soon as I walked in, I knew I was in a familiar place: a congregation composed of bearded young men in flannel shirts and girls in bright dresses with nose rings? Yep, this is an Acts 29 church. The people there were so friendly and welcoming; that definitely makes a great first impression. I met three young women, who invited me to sit with them, and then we all went out to lunch afterward with the "church crowd." Really cool. Made for a great start to my Sunday.
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One of the great benefits of being a copy editor is keeping up with the world. When your job is to proofread the whole paper every day, you are naturally forced into knowing what's going on. I love that. I love that my job requires me to read the newspaper every day, to know what's happening in the Department of Education, in Iran, in Colorado state government.
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The weather has been batty lately. Every afternoon for the past week, we get torrential rain, some hail and maybe a tornado warning or a funnel cloud. It rages for a little less than an hour, and then the blue skies come back.
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I can't wait to have a house of my own to decorate. I think it's going to be one of the most rewarding life undertakings. And a kitchen! To populate with cooking utensils and pretty food! On Saturday, Simeon kindly let me assist him throughout the day. We built boxes for the backyard garden (my first time using a power drill!) and then spent hours in the kitchen, making a beautiful apple pie (if I do say so myself), pasta from the farmers' market, 18 banana-apple-chocolate muffins (that were killingly good) and three loaves of bread. That was a lot of fun. I also need to buy "The Joy of Cooking." And one of the first things I'm going to make when I come home is challah bread; I grabbed a recipe from Simeon and can't wait to make it; it's divine.
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I finally finished "Within a Budding Grove." It was good, but I'll confess that I'm kind of glad to be done with it. Jackie wanted me to read John Irving's "A Prayer for Owen Meany," and I started that a few days ago. It's good; I like books with characters you've never met before. I'm not a huge fan of the narrator, but I do really like Owen. I think I'll also start my going-away present from Angela, "The Omnivore's Dilemma," later this afternoon.

11 June, 2009

the wrong thing

Eating that same salad again. I find that, to save money, I will buy one thing and eat it for a week. Sometimes this gets tiresome.

I am planning to get one of these bags for groceries. Also, I really like this wild idea from the Israeli newspaper Ha'aretz of replacing reporters with poets and novelists. The results are wonderful!

But that is not what I was going to write about.

I was walking to my car about midnight, had just finished work. I get childishly jittery when I walk alone at night. Even though I was parked about a minute's walk away, I was moving quickly and looking around me like a wild animal. As I walked up the stairs to cross over to Lincoln Street, I was thoroughly spooked by a shady-looking man who stopped walking to stare at me. I kept moving, feeling relieved that I saw a woman walking a dog at the top of the staircase. But when I passed her, she suddenly moved very close to me--I think my heart froze--and began whispering to me. She was very tall, with sunken eyes under the brim of a hat.

She spoke slowly, as if she did not know what she was saying. "I am truly homeless," she said, stepping closer to me. I felt like a rabbit in an open field. "I have nothing. And... I've found women's shelters," she paused again, looking down at the black Pomeranian on the leash, "but they won't take me because of my dog. And I'm not a bum, I'm not..." Feeling panicky, I interrupted her and blurted out, "I'm sorry, I don't have any cash," and fairly dashed off in the direction of my car. But that was a lie. I did have cash.

After I drove for about a mile, still feeling shaky, I had the sudden urge to turn back and find that woman and give her my $20. But I didn't. I think I did the wrong thing. And it's been bothering me all day, the first thing I thought about this morning.

I acted out of panicky fear instead of out of courageous compassion. Part of me hopes that I will run into her again, so I can make amends. But the other part of me hopes I never get confronted by a homeless person again. It's unsettling--facing poverty. And I proved that I'm not big enough or loving enough to handle it. It's a difficult thing. I'm not sure what else to say about it, except that I feel a confusing mix of shame and self-righteous security.

10 June, 2009

an unstable element

Lunch today. Spinach, blueberries and feta (I think goat cheese would have been better, but I couldn't find it at the grocery store here) topped with raspberry vinaigrette. My mother would be proud of me.

About to head out for my second day of work at the Post. Everyone on the desk was so kind to me last night--answered all of my little questions, gave me advice on how to write better heads, what DP style is for this and so on. It's hard to believe I'm actually working there. The newsroom is bright and modern and has an amazing view over the city and off toward the Rockies.

Seeing family this weekend (Dad, brother, aunts, grandmother, uncle, cousins) was just perfect. I needed a taste of that warm, comfortable feeling that comes from the company of relatives--people you don't have to impress or charm. I was sad to see them go, but so thrilled they could be here for a few days.

I like that my shift is from 4 p.m. until midnight; it gives me time to chill in the morning and enjoy the daylight. MK (the cat) sneaks into my room when I wake up and sleeps at my feet while I read or catch up on Google Reader. It's very peaceful.

Simeon offered me a part of the plot in the garden they're starting in the backyard. I need to do some reasearch, but I'd really love to grow basil. I also couldn't find it at the grocery store (lame Safeway) and I've had a hankering for it over the past few weeks. Basil on just about anything is divine, but it's especially amazing on pasta, and I have a forlorn, unopened box of it sitting in the pantry.

A dash of Proust for your day:

"We are, when we love, in an abnormal state, capable of giving at once to the most apparently simple accident, an accident which may at any moment occur, a seriousness which in itself it would not entail. What makes us so happy is the presence in our hearts of an unstable element which we contrive perpetually to maintain and of which we cease almost to be aware so long as it is not displaced. In reality, there is in love a permanent strain of suffering which happiness neutralizes, makes potential only, postpones, but which may at any moment become, what it would long since have been had we not obtained what we wanted, excruciating."

Frankly, I'm struggling through the last 200 pages of "Within a Budding Grove." After eight hours of copy editing, it's very difficult to pay attention to words on a page that are not choppy, journalistic lines, but sentences that literally go on for pages and pages. To remedy my distractions (I am going to finish it, though), I started Heaney's "District and Circle" and Augustine's "Confessions."

What should I do on my day off (Saturday)?

06 June, 2009

dover street

Hello, room! This is where I'll be living this summer. Isn't it nice? The photo doesn't show it well, but it's very spacious. I really love the windows and their panes. The house was built in the 1950s, so it has a lot of cool features. My room is adjacent to the giant lilac bushes, too.

This is Miss Kitty (presiding over a photograph of Guion). She might be one of only two cats I've ever sincerely liked. It's only been a day and we've already bonded.
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Jackie and Simeon, my landlords/hosts, are great. They have been very welcoming and generous. Simeon made an excellent Shabbat meal last night (the bread he makes is fantastic). Jackie took me to Target today so I could buy a cheap phone to use this summer and a few other things. As we drove, I was astounded at the SIZE of these mountains. They would have the Appalachians for lunch.
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Oh, and they're not kidding about altitude here. I went for a run this afternoon. I literally went half a mile and thought I was going to DIE. Jackie warned me about this. But if I can keep training out here, I'm going to be awesome when I get back to N.C.
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Dad is arriving here tomorrow with the car, with Sam, Gran and Aunt Shelly in tow. I'm very excited to see all of them. Orientation starts Monday! I am mostly terrified.
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Also, check this out: my amazing friend Lauren is doing a project she calls "Love + 100 Strangers." She takes fabulous photographs of strangers on the street and asks them to define love. The results are superb! Check it out.

04 June, 2009

denver, here i come

Another brief lull at work. I am flying into Denver tomorrow at 4 p.m. But I'll be in transit for most of the day, since I'm leaving Columbia around 9 a.m., taking the two-hour shuttle to the airport and then flying out of St. Louis around 2. I'm a little stressed about how to get from the airport to meet Jackie and being phone-less, but I keep telling myself, quietly, that it will work out, that it usually does.

I get off work at 6. I'm going to get some vegan food at this super-cool restaurant downtown, Main Squeeze, and then walk back to my room to start packing to the sound of Joanna Newsom and St. Vincent.

Also, I would LOVE to have any of these kitchens.

After lunch today, Aaron and I sat in Peace Park and talked about farming, living simply and the entitlement generation (which he says is mine. I'm inclined to agree with him). We watched the brown finches bathe in the creek and then fly over to the sidewalk to roll around in the dust once they'd finished bathing. It was nice.

I'm excited and scared. I think Denver is going to be lovely.