This is the postcard display at the Lobster Shack down at Two Lights in Cape Elizabeth. All but two the postcards feature Jeff’s cartoons.
I have been finding my friend Jeff’s cartoons everywhere around Portland since we got here a week ago – his work is on magnets and shot glasses and pint glasses, coasters, sweatshirts, calendars, playing cards, coffee mugs, and more. I was so excited to find how big he’s hit it, how broadly his products are available now. Jeff creates cartoons about Maine: lobsters, moose, and the stereotypical Old Mainers show up in his panels. I’ve run across items adorned with his wisecracking characters in just about every touristy shop we’ve stopped into.
I couldn’t wait to write to Jeff and just be generally excited in his direction.
My body is having a hard time right now — let me not get into all the details, just stretch into the results, which are that I’m fatigued and somewhat anxious and did not swim in the ocean at all today. Granted, it was a grey and chilly day — there was a walk around the long beach at low tide with dearest friends from way back, and the chill in the air made the water seem warmer. It seems like you’ve gotta swim for sand dollars this year anyway. I should’ve had my suit on, but I think my body would have complained.
Time with friends from school is good and tenderizing in ways I don’t have easy words for. Always, at some point during our time together, I notice myself splitting in a way, peeling apart: one half the self I was when we were regularly in each other’s lives — the just-post-trauma, the just-coming-out, the just-discovering-alcohol, the just-discovering-life self — and the other part the me I have become these twenty-some-odd (ahem) years later. I find myself trying to speak, to engage with them, through both of these lenses/selves at the same time. This makes conversation a disconcerting, vertigo-inducing adventure. No wonder I can get kind of quiet when I’m hanging out with these old friends who knew me When, around whom I become more whole because they carry parts of me — memories, conversations, nighttime walks through deserted streets, drunken and revelatory conversations over empty pool tables or across a candle-lit roughhewn tavern table — that are not complete when I’m away from their company. Perhaps I carry similar parts for them, too.
It is maybe not surprising that my body went wonky. Plus the other thing that I can’t mention. Plus this body’s predisposition. Plus all that sea water. So today I took it easy, piled on the holistic treatments and attempted to cut back on my sugar (which is difficult on this vacation, let me tell you) so that my body could begin to find a way toward rebalancing itself.
(This week’s contribution to the extra:ordinary project (stories of everyday resilience and survival) comes from Jenni M. In her piece, Jenni gives us insight into what it’s like to be a child of a military family, as well as another side of military abuse. So many thanks, Jenni, for your fierce words of survival, recovery, vulnerability and strength.)
The military is wide-open space for children being abused. It’s already Government-sanctioned and employs people specifically to be violent, and for the military-raised children, there is no protection, as the military keeps its own secrets. I am a military brat and I learned early on that child abuse was something to be hushed up, not told about, and never reported. I learned this when my best friend came to school with bruises on her face and I told my own parents, one who was a dad doctor and one mom teacher, about what I saw and they said, that’s a family problem we don’t get involved. They would be legally mandated to report the abuse then, and now, yet no matter what physical signs there were on my friend that they would physically see, they never reported anything as it was well known that the offender would just get a talking to by his commander and then he would go home and beat his family more for causing problems within a military career. This saturated me to the bigger realization that whatever was happening in our own household, this was of no consequence to anyone else either. And there was a lot going on.
I survived my parents craziness, their divorce, their hostility, anger, inability to communicate, and then I became a teenager, then was quickly sexualized by society and my mother.
Good morning — it’s finally beginning to feel like “early” when I wake up. Today the alarm went off at 5, and I started that inside conversation:
you keep saying you want to get up early, come on, now
but I’m so tired. do I really have to get up?
It goes on like that for awhile; I won’t repeat all the parts. Outside, it’s still quiet. Outside, it’s still dark. Here at my desk, I actually need the candle, and even though I’m yawning, I’m so glad to be here. I’ve missed the sense of being at the computer so early that I can barely remember what it is that I’m saying as I type it, and my head says: what are we doing here? and outside the birds are still asleep and, back up in the North Bay, this would be the time that the owls were talking to each other. No owls yet here in midtown Oakland. No deer either. The wildlife look different here.
Still, this is what I know: the earlier I can rise, the more writing I can do in the morning before I have to go in to “work.” Also, the earlier I’ll get tired, so the (ostensibly) easier it will be to get up and do it again tomorrow. Why am I telling you all of this? Because it’s early, and I’m tired. And I’m proud of myself for getting out of bed.
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This morning I am thinking about trauma and community, about intimacy and how we learn to find something like home in others after home turned out to be the unsafest place of all. Last night I went to hear my friend Mattilda Bernstein Sycamore read from her latest book, The End of San Francisco. It’s a novel memoir, wrangling with hope and possibility in communities that crumble, communities of folks who are all facing death all the time– Continue reading
This morning I am all soft song and heartbeat. How do we reckon with all the love we are offered? How do we hold our bodies open into that warm and sticky possibility that not only did we always deserve love, but that we are surrounded every minute by more love than it’s possible for us to hold — we have to let it flow over and through us instead. We have to trust that the flow will continue. There’s nothing to grab onto anyway.
I know, all the poets have already said this. But today I am astonished again. Today I can’t believe that I am still worth loving — when I have forced those who love me to prove their love over and over again. Of course, that’s not what happened. I didn’t force anything. They choose to remain steadfast. Still: more than I believe I deserve.Who teaches us these things? Continue reading
(here I am listening to some of the brilliant writing shared on Sunday)
Good morning on a Tuesday. This morning is bright sun, warming my chilly apartment, is homemade oat & oat flour Irish soda bread, is a happy puppy settled into a sunspot, is the steam from the green and mint tea flourishing into the sunlit space before me. This morning is Cheb i Sabbah radio on Pandora, is time for morning pages at sunrise, is settling back into home after three days in Atlanta. This morning is Rumi and Minnie Bruce Pratt — this is a morning for poems.
What is this morning for you, so far?
I want to tell you about Atlanta, about the home-ness of it for me, and about a quiet Sunday morning in one of the last feminist bookstores in the country, and inviting a group of Atlanta writers to ease–through their writing–into their bodies. Continue reading
Good morning this morning. I’ve got a green Earl Grey tea this morning, which is nice and odd. I woke up from a difficult dream that involved my mom, and I only captured the very end of it, where I was in a bed making, spelling out the word AMAZING using my finger dipped in frosting and letting the letters dry on some hard surface. I was looking for housing in Crete, Nebr.
How have your dreams brought you into this day?
This morning I am thinking about other mothers, about teachers, about who we learn from when our parents aren’t able to be the ones who give us the lessons we need to move into and through life.
Anne Lamott talks about this in her book, Traveling Mercies. She describes the women who weren’t her own mother, mothers of friends, who took her in, who told her she was beautiful, who brought her through girlhood and womanhood with a steadfastness and encouragement, people you felt accountable to, whose opinion mattered to you, even when you were going to go ahead and fuck up anyway.
I am thinking about who we learn from.
good morning and happy Wednesday — what’s rustling around under the skin of your morning dreams today?
I’m thinking these days about what it takes for us to be comfortable in our skin, to be comfortable in our selves. There have been years when I felt like I would never be ok, in the world, just as I am, that I’d always be performing some version of myself in order just to engage with other human beings. Does that make sense? But I just came from the 2012 Femme Conference, where I had a very different experience of girlness/femaleness, community, and ease.
Good morning to you, over there. Are you warm enough? Keep that scarf on — don’t catch a chill.
I’m thinking about the people I love who are in the Northeast, who are in the middle of winter already, who have been without power, who are well under this new snow. I’m remembering why I left, and I’m nostalgic for the chill of it, the work of living there, how strong I felt, bundling up against the cold, digging out, stirring the coals in the woodstove and blazing it up each morning when I came down into the kitchen — add paper and kindling, then one log, then three, get it really going. Then I’d pour my coffee, settle at the kitchen table, write into the daybreak. No power meant no electric heat or gas, I don’t think, because those were electric-powered. Maybe the gas heaters would work, but we couldn’t use the fan to spread the warmth around (not that the fans worked all that well, anyway). Not living there anymore, I’m left with the romance of my memory, chapped cheeks, sharp and bright red, coming in to work at Stone Soup or Family Crisis, how I was bundled in a plaid barn jacket and boots, hair shorn, smiling at everyone in our shared burden of cold and ice and snow. I forget the deep depression I fell into every winter, the seasonal affect business, how the cold got into my bones and wouldn’t leave, how I felt I couldn’t get warm, not ever. That part I don’t miss, I don’t even let myself remember. I miss the deep dark of rural Maine, and, too, the way the night spread itself bright through the woods when the ground was covered with snow, how I stood at my bedroom window on full-moon nights and the backyard was as light as midday with the reflection back up from the sparkling, ice-coated white.
Be safe over there, friends. Send me some snowflakes.
Good morning — how is this morning treating you so far? Here it’s rainy and it took me a long, long time to wake up; I think I hit snooze about 20 times.
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What’s going on this morning? I can’t remember my dreams — in the dream I wish I’d had, my grandmother, one of them, or maybe both, came to me. we were sitting in a city park, on a dry bench, and they were holding hands. They looked like I remembered them, washed grey permanents, slightly bent bodies, deeply kind faces, my father’s mother’s face a little more open than my mother’s mother’s face, but still both so very much there. They pat the space between them, want me to sit down there. They tell me things I need to hear, they tell me about the time when I was gone, the time when their families were missing two grandchildren — this is what the holidays were like, they say, this is what it felt like to miss you and your sister. The space didn’t fill in around you, they say, there was just a hole. We didn’t talk about it much, but we all knew it was there.The wind blew against our faces, gentle, and somehow they were sitting next to each other and also around me.The air was blue, fresh, the sky was open. There were other people, far away, walking. My grandmothers explained about their lives, they told me how to go forward in my own. They opened their hands and let me put mine there, they let me see how our hands are so much the same. You see, they said to me, look at our hands. You belong to us. You’re home here.