atlanta. 18th floor. downtown. windows are open and the presence of muffled night noises are in the room. it's a beautiful sound.
i hear jazz.
what a lovely day of serendipitous findings.
we're like rosie thomas: no destination but plenty of vision in mind.
i am a domestic goddess today.
father-like men everywhere (ie my cousin, tom) will rejoice at my list of accomplishments: two new tires, one new headlight, topped-off fluids, and lots of pennzoil.
and to think that one can accomplish all of these objectives at super walmart.
one question: would you buy produce from the same company you can purchase intimate apparel, tires, cleaning supplies, and discount-priced top 40 cds? (if nuclear war ever happens, let's all hope we live near a super walmart, for it will be our home...our only chance for survival, [and rock-bottom prices].)
enough about walmart; on to more about my sublime domesticity: i got my haircut this evening. i've finally figured out that hair stylist schools do not integrate the words "just a trim" into their curriculum. i said quite seriously just a trim, as the stylist nodded, holding her scissors. and i thought i had made myself abundantly clear with the visuals (i demonstrably held my thumb and forefinger precisely 1/2 inch apart) and clarification of vocabulary ("yes, no more than 1/2 inch. the point is to keep it long.")
however, my hair is now between one and two inches shorter.
and i still tipped her. and i always will. because i understand that hairstylists are victims of the lack of "just a trim" taught in cosmetology schools everywhere. this is a widespead problem, and i am all for reform.
next stop on my tour of all things domestic (and progressively girly) was my neighborhood cosmetics counter for a new tube of lipstick. i hate cosmetics counters. i can't look the women with the white lab coats in the eye. i keep my head down until i reach my destination, and hope for the best when i actually have to interact with the counter-women. tonight, clinique-angela was nice, helpful even, as we sampled several colors on my hand. we settled on a color called "whimsy" which felt quite ironic. i then ran to my new-tired car, and drove (with two working headlights) home, where i have since done laundry and room-cleaning, all while wearing my whimsical new lipstick.
so, did i tell you that marlei and i are going to atlanta tomorrow? (hence, aforementioned new lipstick. one cannot go to hotlanta without sassy lips.)
the original plan was to explore new orleans, but this weekend is apparently the gay and lesbian decadence festival, and all the hotels are booked. so, we chuckled at the thought of us and 100,000 of our same-sex-oriented brothers and sisters roaming the french quarter, and decided that atlanta might be a safer bet. as far as i know, we have no itinerary of fun for the weekend; just the big town and annie and marlei: domestic goddess and supermother/director of artist development.
tower records is open until midnight. and, on the nights before street date, you can join the thronging masses at 11:45 to pick up the next day's releases.
and we all know that coldplay is out today.
and. well, as i lay in bed last night, i thought about the recklessness of sneaking out into the dark, dark night, speeding along the abandoned highway (no more than 10mph over the limit, however) in my pajamas, just to get the new record.
good idea, i thought. so, my pajamas and i snuck out (this would have been more effective if trouble could have possibly ensued upon being caught by my mother, who lives 600 miles away) and drove 20 minutes to tower. and the thronging masses were there. and so was my coldplay cd. only, i had to wait in line for 15 minutes, amidst a bunch of kids who were still in their day clothes.
in front of me were three boys with carefully disheveled hair, wearing (carefully) ripped jeans, holding the coldplay cd as well. i instantly recognized them as 3/5 of a prominent ccm boy band. they were talking about various boy things, and trying out their apparently new swearwords:
boy 1: "dude, that band is kickass."
boy 2: "yeah, totally kickass, dude."
boy 1: "dude, have you heard that one song? it's totally kickass.
boy 2: "totally."
(boy #3 is the shy one and had nothing to contribute. he just stood quietly in his no doubt tour hoodie jacket.)
they glanced back at me once, most likely admiring my checked, capri-cut pajama pants, green shirt, denim jacket and adidas with no socks ensemble.
i think they thought i was hot.
(i could tell by the way they quickly turned away from me, and never looked back for a second glance.)
so. these are my reckless adventures.
all this for $11.99. and a totally kickass cd.
the roommates have gone away for the weekend, leaving me with blackberry jam and toast and tea. so, i'm sitting here on this glorious, lazy saturday morning, in the lazy boy with the keyboard on my lap. toast crust sits next to tea bag, and coldplay is streaming from vh1.com. how long must you wait for it? chris martin sings, and i can answer the question: three more days. august 27 will be fantastic day with the release of coldplay and aimee mann into the marketplace. getting to listen to these new collections of songs feels like prophecy: i'll be listening to these cds relentlessly in ireland, i think, and i'm anticipating the memories soon to be associated with songs like "god put a smile upon your face". it will be good.
i finished etty yesterday. i sat at my familiar table under the spruce tree, with a squirrel and two crows as companions, and i knew her time was imminent: any page now she would be called up to be transported to auschwitz, where she would die. i knew this as i read page one. yet, i was still shocked, horrified when it abruptly happened.
(nobody said it was easy, no one ever said it would be this hard, chris sings.)
we left the camp singing are etty's last known written words.
her life, her hope, her words are a miracle.
oh my soul. how i long to grow into it. etty has given me a new vocabulary.
my friend dave just started his very own blog...very much worth your time. see for yourself HERE.
this week has been heavy on my shoulders. and maybe it's because i am a girl and i shoulder too much. or maybe it's these synapses and seratonin and bad connections: chemical imbalances blah blah blah. but. it still gets heavy. and i still shoulder it. and then i start staring off into space too long and laundry piles up.
i get stuck.
sparrow asked today, as i talked to her with my headset on, if i know what i need to surface. i said i don't know. so she lights her candle.
and the fact that someone somewhere would light a candle for me makes my shoulders feel less heavy.
so i babysat two boys tonight.
i didn't want to. i did not want to be needed by a smiley, climby, towheaded three-year-old, and his baby brother.
harrison climbed all over me, and showed me his new trains. the boy is obsessed with trains, and has many locomotive engines. the new one's name is donald. i played with one called lady. baby sam, with this round, bald head and halfmoon grin, crawled feverishly after us, trying to keep the pace.
the boys (along with their parents) live in the middle of nowhere; their long, windy gravel driveway is a mile off the main road. no power lines. no streetlights. no traffic.
we watched a deer and her twin fawns out in the pasture that will soon be dakota's new home. we watched a bunny chomp blades of grass by the patio chair.
we read o the places you'll go and i about cried as i read aloud the waiting places. (the boys didn't seem to notice.)
and then kisses goodnight. sam and a rocking chair and bottle.
harrison and the three blankets i had to tuck him under.
then, quiet. nowhere to go and surrounded by the vastness of moonlight behind trees and cicadas loud.
i spent a good hour with etty and allison krauss' new favorite.
tonight is what i desperately needed.
and to think i even got paid.
so. yesterday. i was going to write about the oddness of my sunday, my sabbath. i purposely left my cell phone and watch at home as i left for church. i was so tired of being under their thumb. i.e. thy kingdom come, thy will be done and me: i wonder who just called? is it noon yet? for thine is the kingdom, the power and the glory. forever and ever. amen.
i got to church late, sat on the pews with no backs, next to the pregnant woman who had to sit down during hymns. i get so dizzy, she said.
becca preached a shoeless gospel (we were all barefoot) and i smiled. then communion. somehow, the cup passed me before the host, and i was left host-less, with only the blood of christ. how strange, i thought. and then i sat down and giggled. only here, in this shoeless place could this happen and it feel alright.
kristina and i then had a quick lunch, and she asked me to come with her to the intergalactic bead show at the fairgrounds.
phoneless, watchless, i shrugged. sure. why not? so. we went. and there were many beads. and people in purple shirts with bright yellow 'security' on their backs. and very blue cotton candy. and a sign that read: we are now serving cappuccino. i remembered friendship bracelets and safety pins and little beads on denim jackets. i thought of my childhood neighbor, ruth anderson, and her endless beads in the back room: little drawer upon little drawer. stale smoke always hung in the room as i fingered the beads, and she always told me i'd inherit them someday. visions of christmas ornaments and jewelry in my 9 year old imagination strung along into my 23 year old forethoughts, all via an underwhelming intergalactic bead show. we left. and we were fast upon the scattered thunderstorms . as we drove head on into downtown, you could see the wall of rain like fog around the skyline. and then we were pelted. thunderlightning simultaneously. then. over.
(i had a message from constance awaiting me when i got home.)
then. today. (ahem. chapter 2.)
back to watches and phones and headsets and appointments. sales.
what was a blank page of possibility this time yesterday is now a full week of scheduled something or other. nearly every moment is filled up already. i go go go. i don't stop.
and let this be a note to yourself: when you start thinking, hey i haven't been pulled over in a very long time; maybe i'm invisible to radar or you start reconsidering the replacement of your burnt-out right headlight because it's not that big a deal anyway, or you think, it's 11 o'clock and this road is deserted. this song feels better with speed anyway--i think i'll turn it up and step on the gas: you are about to be pulled over. and ticketed, for that matter. doubly fined for your lack of illuminated right side.
where were you headed in such a hurry the cop asked. home i said, and it was a really good song. i'm sorry.
i just wanted to get home.
annie, you've got to slow down. you won't always have the luxury of coplights and fines to remind you.
today is not a cubicle day. at all. i knew it when i first woke up, as i lay under blankets with muffled thunder in the background. i could smell sandy's coffee wafting from downstairs. she had probably left for work already.
my alarm annoyed me more than usual.
beep beep beep be-snooze.
nine more minutes of dreaming.
*i'm in california. is nichole there in this dream? am i trying to get someplace where she is? but all these accounts of mine keep interrupting my mission?*
beep beep be-snooze.
nine more minutes.
*yes, it's california. i remember this hotel room; i stayed in it for a week last month. but why are kim and jim's dogs here? and why are they on the 11th floor balcony? oh, because they wanted to go out. (of course.)*
beep beep beep beep...
nine minutes. staring at ceiling. it's so grey in here. the cosy kind of dark. the thunder is quiet, like it's trying not to wake me up. the rain on my windowpane is the lulling, sleepy kind. i sigh.
beep beep beep... oh for crying out loud, fine! i'm up!
it's one o'clock now. etty and i took shelter from the imminent afternoon storm at starbucks an hour ago. i treated her to a latte and banana loaf and a comfy brown chair. we sat, curled up, under the thunder and still-gentle rain. tom waits, natalie merchant, norah jones, and ella fitzgerald all stopped by to serenade us. it was a nice, though distracted hour.
but damn, only an hour. i reluctantly drove back to work. patty griffin's 'top of the world' was our song for the two mile trek. i could see lightning (simply shifts of light behind hills and clouds) and desperately wished to be watching from the bongo java porch, instead of my car.
but. we'll take the provision, the moments, however we can get them.
(and now, back to our cubicle world, already in progress...)
guess what i did? i wrote a review of blackalicious for relevant. annie, the hip-hop reviewer? apparently so these days. you can read it HERE.
thanks, sco, for giving me the link to heather snow's blog. these, friends, are words worth reading, digesting. they're quite real.
(many thanks, heather.)
so. as my previous blog-entry suggested, i've been spending my lunch hours outdoors lately. i have just over three weeks left at a job i have spent the (thus far) whole of my twenties in. four years may be a drop in the bucket, but when held against the 24 of which i've been alive, the time, energy, and hope i've sown into this place are quite substantial, i think. and so, this transition is hard. everyday, i have to say new goodbyes, tell the story of my leaving to a whole new set of people who are shocked and have so many questions. and it's draining.
lunch. lunch is the hour when i have needed to step away. fill up. and it's been under the spruce trees at the park with etty hillesum lately. ("wow, you are taking your time with that book," sparrow says.) i've taken etty in a few pages at a time, because her words are devastating and true and heavy and freeing and real. sometimes the real is too rich, like that piece of cheesecake i always think i can finish, but never really can...
etty and i have sat still together, and i swear i hear her breathing sometimes. she takes her time. inhale. exhale. (i'm trying too.)
today, it rained.
etty and i could not sit under the spruce tree.
so, i decided to go home for my ireland-budget sanctioned peanut butter sandwich. and etty came too. i tried to outdrive the rain; we were right on the edge of it, but it kept catching up. pouring. no rain. pouring. no rain.
etty stayed in the car, i'm ashamed to admit. because we've got cable, and a dating story was on. so. i watched.
still on empty too.
from my afternoon journal:
nothing is natural here. it is my lunch hour. as i left the parking lot a few minutes ago, i watched the overweight women--with their curly perms and matching black dresses and white, white walking shoes--walk in rhythm, like they do every day. blacktop to blacktop. they walk. experiencing a bit of outdoors. i wonder if they lose their bearings ever, walking amongst homogenous buildings. there's no telling what corporation you'll run into around this neck of the woods.
and here, under the shade of spruce trees--a little bit of green between housing developments--the ground is littered with dasani water bottles. yet the cicadas sing, serenading the abandoned sand volleyball courts and me and the landrovers driving by. and here is the august wind. and here am i. nothing is exempt from the presence of God, is it?
sometimes, for friendship, you drive. and sometimes, for connection, you hydroplane through kentucky storms. and the distance and the risk are worth it: you're awake, and bright eyes across the table affirm this, over tea and sprite.
and in this shared, hoped-for, frightening awakeness, she is teaching me the weight of this question: what do you need?
friends: what do you need?
i am in desperate need for some levity here, and i think you, faithful readers, are as well. so, here is what i dreamed last night:
first, the preface: last saturday, my friend, dana and i painted pottery. i was feeling all artsy for a change, and decided to create my own little drawing on a tile. i worked for two hours on this sucker, layering colors and outlining shapes like so, til i had created a van gogh-esque masterpiece. (yes, seriously.) a girl can't get instant satisfaction with pottery-painting, though. i have had to wait a whole week to see my little tile all fired up and ready to be exposed to the world.
today is the day.
so. last night, i dreamed that i went with dana to pick up my masterpiece. the people at the pottery place had broken it! and, to compensate, they had somehow transferred the image to a huge posterboard, which i could purchase for only $150 more. dana felt sorry for me, so she agreed to pay for it. so. here i am with this posterboard of my pottery tile, and though i am happy to have something after waiting a whole week, i'm a bit disappointed that it's not my sweet little six-inch-by-six-inch tile. then, i look a little closer. hey wait, i think, i didn't draw trees on my tile! and why is there a babbling brook meandering alongside a meadow? and where are the stars i painted? oh, there they are, hiding behind snowy mountain caps.
my van gogh tile had been marred by bob ross happy little landscape! and what's more, frollicking amongst the happy little trees, was a troll! i definitely want my money back, i think, and my broken tile.
and then i woke up, of course.
now, i am on my way out the door to pick up my tile in real life. and i'm praying an extra special prayer for its protection...
nothing breaks my heart more than violence against the children. i cry here in my cubicle about a broken child pornography ring. what else can we do but cry and cry mercy?
and what do we do with the evil? how the hell is it ever overcome? where is this kingdom come on earth as it is in heaven?
the more i demand answers, the more they never come.
and so i pray. that's all i can do. (ever.)
etty's prayer is my prayer now, 60 years later.
"it is sometimes hard to take in and comprehend, oh God, what those created in your likeness do to each other in these disjointed days. but i no longer shut myself away in my room, God, i try to look things straight in the face, even the worst crimes, and to discover the small, naked human being amid the monstrous wreckage caused by man's senseless deeds. i don't sit here in my peaceful flower-filled room, praising you through your poets and thinkers. that would be too simple, and in any case i am not as unworldly as my friends so kindly think. every human being has his own reality, i know that, but i am no fanciful visionary, God, no schoolgirl with a 'beautiful soul.' i try to face up to your world, God, not to escape from reality into beautiful dreams--though i believe that beautiful dreams can exist beside the most horrible reality--and i continue to praise your creation, God, despite everything."
the days have been cooler. i spent my lunch hour outside with etty and a pepperoni pizza lean pocket (scalded tongue).
etty's words feel different outside. they feel all the more alive, maybe. and i keep forgetting that i can't meet her for coffee after work; that she's been dead for 60 years. because she chronicles the stuff of life, and that stuff does not change. it is timeless. eternal even.
and i spent a long time with my aunt mary helen's family journal the other day, transcribing stories of her people, of her parents' people. eyes and voices--lives--are in her words, and so i'm writing alive these people. grandparents. barbers. uncles and rumrunners.
and soon, i'll be on to ireland, to piece together what it means to write life alive at all. madeleine l'engle says to cultivate your work and remain brave in it, and i must say that this kind of resurrection is overwhelming. life kicks hard against its parameters. it will not be tamed.
(we're all alive here.)
sometimes--all the time--i wonder, how did i get here? how did i ever find myself in the midst of community like i have now? sometimes, i sit back and laugh. or cry. or scratch my head.
tonight i smiled.
julie and i had dinner at la paz. times are good for her: she is getting to be a songwriter! inspiration is present and overflowing, and i brought buckets.
what a great night.
there is always so much to talk about when things are hopeful. we crisscrossed subjects, but the heart of each came back to (surprise, sparrow?) mindfulness.
we spoke of thin places and veils lifted and the sanctity of here and now.
i am awake, julie said.
i yawned and agreed. me too.
we listened to her newest songs (they keep coming, like provision) in my car for an hour...
the music goes round and round, your feet barely touch the ground, julie sings.
nothing was ordinary today. my typical tuesday morning meeting found me telling my coworkers that i will soon be leaving...going to this ireland place, and. well. not selling the next big thing in ccm anymore.
and then i found myself participating in an adopt-a-mile adventure at work, with garbage bags and gloves, picking up passerby trash on a busy street.
and then a sparrow called me and made me smile wider than i thought i could today.
and then i killed a hummingbird, as my niece alyssa and i drove down the highway, en route to blackstone for dinner. nickelback was on the radio; i think that was the real cause of death. we gave him a brief burial in the bushes behind the restaurant. no sewer or dumpster funeral; it was pure ashes to ashes.
and now. at 1:30 am, my firstborn niece is sleeping in my room, and i almost don't want to go to sleep tonight...
for one night, i am absolutely certain that nothing in the world can touch her. she is safe. carefully kept.
(as am i.)
it feels so good to give up, so good to be good to myself... rosie thomas sings like a road-trip anthem.
and her words are mine. because. well. what has been quiet is now to be proclaimed from my own little rooftop (or blog):
annie is going to ireland.
family has been told.
tickets are bought.
notice is given at work.
online classes are planned.
ramen noodles and tuna have become staple budget diet.
and i'm going to write. what? well. something. i wrote, half-heartedly, a month or so ago this: the words, like provision, always come. and provision has come with constant, care-fullness. and so come the words, in their time. and i am beyond determined to be a good steward of them. (gillian welch: everything i ever done, gotta give it away.)
my three nieces (sister, cathy's girls) are 90 miles away from nashville right now, headed toward my home, where they'll rest a night. kissing their heads will be like kissing God. i mean it.
candles are lit now (a sparrow's prayer) and emmylou harris leads worship.
quiet. i am calmly aware that i'm on the threshold of all things new.
friends surpass the call of duty sometimes. as i spent my day celebrating and grieving the birthday of my father, in quiet conversation with karen on a monteagle park bench, nichole was in dallas, singing happy birthday to my daddy whom she has never met.
and then helen called last night from los angeles, leaving a voicemail: i need to know your father's first name, she said, because i've been talking to him tonight. i told him i'm sorry i never got to meet him, but that you'd missed him today, and i'm glad that you're around, because i feel like i get to know him through you.
and then marlei asked for favorite memories with my father, and all i could remember were the wordless kinds: touches, scents, looks on faces. and she cried with me.
i was treated with great care.
and i think my dad would be happy to know i've got such great friends.