In the country--there is an odd continuity to the stars and the lights of houses on the hills

It is strange to think of light making something invisible, but, clamorous and jealous, it does. Please don't make yourself sad imagining hordes of star-deprived city girls, though. The silent-heavened cities are hardly starless. It would be more accurate to say that night's traditional hemispheres of light and dark are somewhat reversed here, the bowl of the sky having long ago scattered its contents to the earth, where they fell in neat gridded patterns and currently experience greatly shortened lifespans(streetlights flicker because they remember a time when they twinkled).

And Massachusetts is one place I have seen

Having successfully crossed the country to spend a week and a half in New England, I am now happily back at school outside of Chicago, sort of settled in and mostly in one piece. Notable:

- A gorgeous old library built by robber barons

- Being surrounded by New Bedford/Boston accents

- The view from Mount Monadnock, and greedily combing the wild blueberry bushes on the way down

- Breakfast in a library-turned-café

- Unbelievably yummy fresh juice on the Dartmouth (College) Green

- Wandering around old New England graveyards

- Spraining my ankle practicing a slip jig step in a parking lot the morning before my flight home (and consequently getting the wheelchair treatment in the airports on the way back to school)

- Getting skipped ahead of two dozen surly New Bedforders in the ER and fearing for my life when I walked through them in the waiting room again on my way out (srsly, the guy across from me looked like he could kill someone with his bare hands)

- Frolicking in a creek with my roommate's half-wild little sisters

- Feeling like the sickly city girl in Heidi who goes to the mountains to be transformed into a sturdy, rosy-cheeked non-invalid

- Getting my bag stolen, and my camera, cell phone, wallet, and checkbook along with it

- The Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum in Boston

- Seeing humpback and finback whales on a whale watch

- Said ninety-minute whale watch actualy being a four-hour trip

- Plymouth turning out to have amazing fudge, even if Plymouth Rock is "the most anticlimactic thing ever" (to quote my friend the local). As well as the oldest church in the U.S. and an absurd number of salons.

- Cooling my feet in the Atlantic Ocean

- Watching Secret Window in an old house in the middle of the woods

I shall try to find some good pictures of the museum, the mountain and the library for my next couple posts.

3/3/08

I did this as a freewrite (read: i'm calling it that to provide me with defense against any and all criticism. jk) in March, trying to get a handle on the strange and addling taste of spring and the way I experienced it in high school.


Spring. Things fall together and apart. I shed friends and walk in a new skin, in deepening shades of loneness. My eyes return to the horizon over the sea and my mind floats defiantly into realms of daydreams and books and faraway places and paralysis. Obligations and realities are not quite heavy enough.

The season of failings and yearnings. I write, Another beautiful rotting spring. Living in spring is strange vividness - tears, cool sunlight, sharp moments of joy. And always a sense of journey, of something waiting, so big I can't even see all of it, so big it swallows me whole.

So I turn my eyes to the distance and walk with certainty. I copy poetry into my trigonometry textbook. I tear up and down hills on my bike under the deep young sky. I make my escape in a multitude of small ways.

A brief definition from Miss Dickinson

I heard this jewel from a friend of mine. Brilliant and brilliantly succint, don't you think?

Love -- is anterior to Life --
Love -- is anterior to Life --
Posterior -- to Death --
Initial of Creation, and
The Exponent of Breath.

- Emily Dickinson

Round-up at Read. Imagine. Talk.

Sophomoric advice on freshman year



It would be pretentious to call this list anything like comprehensive, so I shan't. All I've done is think of the things I didn't read or hear before my first year of college that I wish I had. Without further ado — a little foolish wisdom from me to my bloggy freshman friends. Take it for whatever it's worth.

• Mandatory orientation events? Not all of them actually are that. Consult an upperclassman if possible, because some of them are good, but if you think you've got something better to do — one last dinner with your parents, a trip to Target at a less busy time, or just the bonding experience of cutting a boring event with some new acquaintances — you probably do.

• Don't be inhibited when it comes to approaching the other new students. They are all just as lost as you are, and no one wants to go through college without friends, even if meeting them means looking a little awkward. The first few weeks of freshman year may be the only time in your life when you are surrounded by people your age who are all just as desperate as you to make friends and secure social happiness for the next four years. Take advantage of that opportunity.

• The same desserts that look so luscious the first few weeks will keep getting cycled through again...and again. You've got four whole years to eat your fill of them, so why rush?

• Don't let your high school identity cramp your style. If some aspect of the way you present yourself displeases you, then change it! Now that no one around you remembers that you were ever otherwise, it's a great time to try being what you've always kind of wished you were.

• Get to know your professors. Often said, but not so easy to do. Why? Adults that erudite can very easily be intimidating, but you have so much to gain from talking to them that you really owe it to yourself. If you don't get the opportunity in class, make a point of introducing yourself to them at the beginning of the semester. Office hours or lunch in the dining hall is good for when you have questions or ideas that didn't fit in the class discussion. When they invite groups of students over to their houses, accept and go!

• Do your laundry before you realize that you have to. Granted, the strange looks you get for going to the laundry room in a dressy skirt and swimsuit may make the trip more amusing, but I think most of you would agree that not exhausting all your other clothing options is even better.

• Know what activities keep you sane, and insist on having time for them. I, for example, go a bit crazy without pleasure reading. If I cut it out of my schedule to make more time for schoolwork or time with friends (both good things), I always regret it eventually because then I can't destress as well, and I start getting resentful of the things I gave it up for. And loony cuil is just not as productive as happy cuil. So, I journey regularly to the public library and make sure I'm always reading a good non-school book, even if some days it's only for twenty minutes before I fall asleep.

• Get regular exercise. That's kind of a duh, but a lot of college students look at it as a luxury their busy schedules can't afford. If you can make it a habit (which, remember, is said to take twenty-one days), you'll be so much happier - enjoying the endorphins, destressing, warding off the freshman fifteen, and all that jazz. Take it from someone who took too long to make physical activity a part of her routine.

I'm planning on asking my friends what they would add, and I may think of something else, so I'll prolly have one more post on the topic. But have you any questions, my dear freshies/pre-freshies, or anything else you'd like to hear more about? Any knowledge that I've gained from a year at college is at your disposal, so please feel free to ask by comment or e-mail me at wieeinlied[at]hotmail[dot]com. If I think of anything else I'll stick it in a new post.

Fellow post-freshman year readers, anything to add?

Bodysnatching

Grobanitis is everywhere. Srsly.

My family had a long drive up to the mountains for a short vacation last week. My sisters and I were all listening to music on our mp3 players at one point, when my twenty-one-year-old sister suddenly turned to me and whispered ecstatically, "It's JOSH GROBAN."

I'm pretty sure I blanched and produced a very lame, nervous imitation of a smile.

It was right there, in my own family, all along. I don't know what to think.

Reminds me of an Auden quote:

"Evil is unspectacular and always human, and shares our bed and eats at our own table."
- W. H. Auden

P.S. I've no idea how much internet access I will have between now (when I leave to visit my friends in the northeast) and the 26th (when I arrive at college). I expect I'll be able to keep up posting, if with less frequency, but my reading and commenting time will definitely be more limited than usual.

No, seriously, may Goose preserve us

Just realized that I didn't use any detergent when I did my laundry last night. Hm.

Goose preserve us



Sleep would be nice, but I've really too much energy. I'm not sure I can convey just how hyper I am, but I mean, I couldn't fall asleep until after three and I woke up of my own accord at eight o'clock and was instantly wide awake. That is really, really unusual.

Seeing as I'm leaving in about twenty-four hours, I thought I'd start packing.

This is how I pack:

I look at each of my shelves, hangers, coat hooks, and drawers. Take off/out whatever I think I might want to pack. Throw it on the floor. Think about it. Put some of it back. Go to sleep. Wake up. Put some more stuff back.

Look up all the books on the Wheaton Public Library and Wheaton College Library websites to make sure I'm not bringing any books that I could get over there. Agonize over random useless-but-essential things like the French translation of Franny and Zooey and a vintage semi-formal dress (one of those items of clothing I am positive I'll need if I don't bring it).

Get out suitcases. Start reluctantly putting stuff in them and wonder why the zippered pockets are already full of random crap. Put more stuff back on shelves/in drawers. Suddenly remember San Francisco almanac. Estimate how many journals I will go through between now and Christmas break. Wonder if I left any pens at school.

Et cetera, et cetera, et cetera.

Today I need to pack for the next four months of my life, bake a carrot cake (cupcakes?), make potatoes O'Brian for the breakfast-for-dinner dinner my sister wants for her birthday, return some books to the library (*tear*), get my hair trimmed, head over to Odessa's neighborhood for a superspeedy thrift store run and to get the book that I'm planning on giving away here sometime semi-soon, out to the hippie co-op by the beach to pick up some vegetarian fare before my exile to the Midwestern suburbs, get my sister's birthday present, do one last load of laundry, go to an ATM, finish Magic's Child, wrap my sister's and mother's presents, return some borrowed books to a friend, and exercise.

Probably forgotten something, but there's most of it.

Sorry if I sound a bit crazed, haha.

If "I Left My Heart in San Francisco" comes up on shuffle today, I might burst into tears.

Peppermint cupcakes

Every New Year's that my family is home, we smash up all our leftover candy canes and whip up a batch of homemade peppermint ice cream with them. It's a delicious treat, and I wanted to give the idea a whirl in cupcake form. The result? Super easy and quite tasty.

I just made vanilla cupcakes according to the joyofbaking.com recipe [edit: I now prefer the Amy Sedaris vanilla cupcake recipe], plus food coloring, 1/2 cup smashed peppermint candies (put 'em inside two plastic bags and take up your pounding instrument of choice), and 1/4 teaspoon peppermint extract. You could do the same with that amount of any other kind of flavoring - lemon extract, almond extract, etc.

I wasn't feeling the frosting thing that day, so I just sprinkled powdered sugar over the tops through a sieve. The peppermint pieces throughout the cupcake made for the occasional nice gooey, melted candy patch when I ate one fresh out of the oven. Yum.

You know what? I am leaving on THURSDAY and won't be back again until December! Eek.

Holey, holey, holey



I have decided there must be a clause somewhere in Murphy's Law that goes like this:

When you visit a house where you are supposed to take your shoes off when you get inside, you WILL be wearing the pair of socks with a hole in them. Probably right over your big toe, and regardless of whether you could have sworn a day ago that you owned no holey socks.

You may squirm and try to stretch the sock so the hole is on the sole of your foot or under your toes, but it will refuse to be suppressed. It will remain in plain sight, proclaiming cruelly the sheer awkwardness of toes that poke through torn knit cotton.

Bonus certainty if you're at the house of someone you want to impress or don't know well.

And no, this has never happened to me. What a silly question!

P.S. New header  made it last night in a fit of hyper. Like?

A poem about rich people

The Woods Hole ferry is the one going between mainland Massachusetts and Martha's Vineyard, a very wealthy island summer colony.

I'm visiting a friend in the area very soon, and if we visit Martha's Vineyard I fully intend to recite this poem on the ferry.

Woods Hole Ferry
Crossing briefly this mirrory still Galilean blue water to the heaven
of the affluent, the users-up, unconsciously remote
from knowing themselves
our owners and starvers, occupying
as they always have, to no purpose,
the mansions and the beauty of the earth
for this short while
before
we all meet and enter at the same door.

- Franz Wright

Becky of Becky's Book Reviews is hosting this week's roundup here.

I posted two more poems by Franz Wright for the last two Poetry Fridays - here and here.

Bloggy goodness...mm, crunchy


If the fact that I'm blogging about it wouldn't disprove the statement, I would say that this idea is too cool for words.

Through a UNICEF (United Nations Children's Fund) task team on children and HIV/AIDS, five African teenagers are now blogging at Listen to MY Voice about children and HIV/AIDS and other children's rights issues. Pop over and pay them a visit!

The Perilous Gard

The Perilous Gard, by Elizabeth Marie Pope is simply delicious; I loved it through and through. It's about a lady-in-waiting of Princess Elizabeth's who is exiled to a mysterious, isolated castle for her little sister's indiscretion. There she quickly becomes entangled in the strange goings-on of the Elvenwood, and is plunged into an ancient and dangerous world straight out of legend.

Kate was a fabulous character who dwells happily outside the confines of that tired stereotypical YA historical/fantasy heroine, and I thought this book's "fairy folk" were marvelous - they're not the kind of fairies you're used to seeing in fantasy novels, and the author doesn't push anything past the bounds of believable or even possible (quite refreshing), but they really are great. Pitch-perfect plotting and pacing, too.

Please, if you haven't read this book already, don't miss it! It's one of the best I've read all year.

Grade: A+

"Out of the ash I rise with my red hair"

Things that are making me happy (and I really need this exercise this week):

Reading Inkheart in the original German

Hair ribbons

Venturing into an Eastern Orthodox bookstore and talking with the booksellers and other patron for more than an hour about the randomest things. We drank black coffee and ate bread from a nearby bakery, in the gorgeous fumes of whatever kind of incense I wanted to try burning and the sounds of Orthodox church music from Africa. And the bookseller called me Rebecca, because he said I reminded him of Rebecca of Sunnybrook Farm.

Paper cranes and jasmine tea pearls

Therapeutic baking. Baking is such the best when I'm feeling down because it occupies my hands and thoughts, and it can be creative, but it doesn't have to be difficult. I go into the kitchen and blast music from my laptop and mutter defiantly at the recipe when I don't have apple cider vinegar and swear gratuitously when I spill precious Milo. It always turns out to be at least decent, whatever I'm making, and by the time it emerges from the oven the stirring and measuring and pouring and nice smells have calmed my nerves and distracted me from my woes for a while. God bless muffin tins.

My littlest cousin spinning and leaping around the dining table, stopping only to scoop a spoonful of ice cream into her mouth. She is a miracle, that girl.

Virgil hasn't shown up yet

I really haven't got it in me to assemble a commentary on a cupcake recipe right now.

I'm going to go take a nap and hope that when I wake up life is a little better and I'm a little less freaked out.

Do you ever feel like a song was written just for you?



(Every blogger should get an occasional emo post, right?)

"Such beautiful hands"

I love this poem. I just love it.

The German phrase means "such beautiful hands." If you don't know what Chernobyl is, take a moment to read about it here first. The title is a relativity term having to do with black holes, so you should read about it as well (here).

Event Horizon
Children of Chernobyl
on a field trip to the woods
of Germany, where my wife meets them

on a path and one approaches,
takes her hand in his
six-fingered hand, and whispers

solche schöne Hände
How many people can say that
for a minute they knew why they’d lived?

- Franz Wright


I posted another Franz Wright poem last Friday.
The round-up's at The Well-Read Child today.

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