April 14, 2014

In the spring, the sky rips open.
Forget coats, forget shoes, we shriek like
chickens and scatter, running on the broken

grass that’s gray shale under our feet. A silent
ocean. We lived ten minutes away once, and

packed up the car daily. I wish I understood.
My sister and I ran to the waves. We burrowed

out tidepools with our small hands and
laid in the sand for hours, collecting shells,

watching them move from the animals inside.
The waves washed over us, warm and white.

A bubble bath, my sister said, and when
my mother looked away, we cupped the

water and drank it, choking on the salt.

April 13, 2014

six is a small age.


You're six years old and live next to your grandparents. Time is a smudged glass in a summer haze. You spend your days without shoes and watch your feet, praying callouses form on your heels. Your mother has a hard brush to rub hers away but you wait for the day when you'll be able to boast, look how far I've walked. Look how many layers I carry.

Six is a small age. Six is sweet plum dumplings in the summer. Six is cold ginger ale cans from a deep basement. Six is red plaid pants and thin cotton t-shirts. Six is leaning against your grandma's knees as she braids your long, wet hair. Six is a singing time.

In the summer, the evening smells like grill smoke and wet dew, burned wood chips and yards of flowers. People stand outside in their yards. Fine day. It is. The tree branches form shade over the yards like a suburban rainforest, and sunlight slips in rings onto the tall grass through the green leaves. You sit in your backyard, on the edge of the sandbox. If you're not careful, you'll get a splinter on the back of your thigh. You're always careful. You make a path in the grass from your house to your grandparents. Home is communal, a haven. You watch for smoke to rise over the brown roof of your grandparent's home. Tuesday, there is nothing. Wednesday, you wait. On Thursday, a puff of white settles into the air, a balloon rising with a halfheartedness like smoke from the hookah's the caterpillars in Alice in Wonderland smoke with a lazy ease.

Hookahs. Alice in Wonderland. You went to the bookstore with your grandma and picked out a large volume. Alice in Wonderland on one side and Through the Looking Glass on the other. You carry it to the register and present it with a proud smile. This is what I want. Later, you struggle through the pages, confused and unhappy by the strangeness. But this comes later.

That Thursday evening, you climb the stone steps to the small backyard patio where you grandpa stands in front of the grill. He has on a cream polo shirt and his hands are in his pockets as he watches the chicken on the grill. Hi grandpa, you say. He gives you a look that means, I know what you're up to, and with the tongs, snips a bit of the skin from one of the wings. Be careful, it's hot, he says, and your fingers burn when you hands you the piece of skin. It melts on your tongue, the fat sizzles and forms a fire in your belly.

He turns a chicken wing over and one drops into the embers. You know what comes next. He picks the wing up with the tong, brushes the charcoal from the edge, and winks. That's your grandma's. It comes everytime and you still laugh. It's tradition, in the smallest sense. He gives you another piece of skin before you walk on the cool stones making up the steps down from the deck. You run barefoot back to your house.

April 10, 2014

Promises and pasta.



Seasons come and seasons go. Winter gutted me in the worst way. The last week has been spring (barefeet, freshfaced) and the most noticeable change besides the absence of snow is that I'm writing again. In the morning. In the evening. I sliced through soft asparagus and had a thought like an earworm intent on burrowing into my skull. The idea wouldn't go away until I tapped a note into my iPhone. We walked around a suburb of Minneapolis yesterday (uncomfortable in our jeans because of the heat, I might add) and I filled pages in the streets. My dad pointed out an apartment building where my pre-marriage, pre-kids mother lived (your parents having lives outside of your own is a strange thought), and I scribbled a note. I attempted to write while walking, but stopped mid-sidewalk to avoid running into little kids finished with soccer practice, or the camera crew filming for the news outside of Sebastian Joes.

Not only am I becoming home with writing again, but I'm making photos. It's exhilarating. I had a terrible fear this winter that any iota of passion or talent I had towards taking images was an illusion. More accurately, that I had pulled off a feat and fooled myself these past years. Instead of being diligent and focused, I burrowed under blankets and became a hermit. I watched the entire series of How I Met Your Mother, baked sweet things, and didn't pick up my camera for weeks. We had over one hundred days of negative temperatures this winter and my mental state reflected the frostiness of my physical home.

I decided that upon graduating, I am going to pack up and move somewhere warm. Permanently. I'd prefer a state without winters straight from The Snow Queen, thank you very kindly. I don't want to jinx the temperatures and be attacked with a last-ditch blizzard, but thankfully, we're at the last leg of this season. Spring is here. The snow is almost all melted. We're exclusively wearing shorts and foregoing sweaters, even if it means shivering under the wide sun. My legs are white and my arms covered in goosebumps but fifty, sixty degrees feels like heaven. The camera isn't quite as unwieldy in my hands as I thought. I don't need an excuse to write, nor an explanation.

At the library on Tuesday, I hurried straight to the anthology, biography, and memoir section, tucked right next to popular magazines and manga comic books. I walked away with five pieces I'd been waiting to read, and I've started all but two of them. This made me think. Just as some people never re-read books and others continually return to their favorite pages (I'm fortunate to be with the latter group), some people start one book and finish it before beginning another. Others are messy, scattered, and decide to juggle three or so at once. Again, I find I'm part of the latter. At the moment, I'm reading through On Writing by Stephen King (I laughed and cried reading the beginning this morning, both acts surprising me with their suddenness), Tender at the Bone by Ruth Reichl (who I was first introduced to by Food Network), and The Year of Magical Thinking by Joan Didion (a book thought-provoking and painfully honest).

My sister and I made pasta for dinner. We argued about something stupid and seconds later stood mincing garlic and boiling asparagus side by side. I salted the asparagus water and poured peas into the green tinted pot. She separated garlic cloves and chopped onions. In the fridge, next to the chai tea, sat a pound and a half of mushrooms from Trader Joes. "Too bad mom doesn't have any wine to sauté the mushrooms in," Chloe said. We pan fried chicken with a little olive oil, salt, and pepper, and put together our first summer supper. Due to an unfortunately long winter, Minnesota tends to skip spring and collapse into summer, but I'm not complaining.

(here's the recipe we used if you're interested. The entire Martin clan highly recommends it, except for Samuel who dislikes peas, mushrooms, and parmesan cheese). 

All of this is remarkably simple. Painfully disjointed. Boringly honest? Perhaps. But here's what I'm thinking about: Peach light. Singing over piano keys. The green of asparagus in boiling water. Eli humming as he eats dinner. Wind on my skin. Gifts. I'm making and moving again and I'm sore from stretching, but it's a good feeling. Spring, I will keep you (please stay).

April 3, 2014

Loving Your Skin is Never an Apology.

Hannah Nicole
Hannah Nicole
Hannah Nicole
I will tell my daughter, this is
how you love your body:
you step deep into the earth,
and let your callouses line the ground.
Do not weep, tell your skin
you are a poem. Your veins blue
under your skin run like water,
do not break through the surface. You
cannot throw a stone into the center
of a lake and wonder why
the shoreline feels the echo. Love
the round slope of your hips,
and do not regret that you are
soft. If your ribs line your arched back,
a gate where there is no captive, you
protect them. They do
the same. Do not beg for a home
you weren’t born into, do not whittle
away at your frame like wood under
a carving knife. A tree grows,
do not pray for shrinking. Praise your
legs for carrying you,
for holding you when you dance
with a boy and he kisses your small
perfect mouth. A bud. I beg you understand
becoming is not perfection,
loving your skin is never an apology.

also shared on my tumblr

April 1, 2014

on showing up and breaking open.


Here's the thing, I am trying to show up for life.

I am trying to give voice to my days. Trying to break open, as Mary Oliver would say. But right now, my life is in a middle-ground. It's neither here nor there. It's like a perpetual winter stretching our bones thinner and thinner. I want the marrow and thick of life, and right now, I'm in a milk white, blue-veined moment.

Frankly, (how I love that onomatopoeia of a word), I'm exhausted.

Yesterday, I was sick and slept all day. It was the strangest sensation to watch an entire twenty fours slip by and to be an observer of my life and not a participant. Yesterday was a fog, a veiled face and an unassuming moment. I woke up at ten, perhaps I'll feel better at noon. Then it was a quarter to one and I was uncomfortable. I stood up and almost fell over. I went into another room and curled up on a chair. How are you feeling? Better, I said, when I really meant worse. Sickness does something to your head. Mine shook.

I went and laid down on the couch and when I woke up next, it was four. I wasn't sure where I was. I heard voices and couldn't place them to faces. I was going to do yoga this evening, I laughed and moaned and rolled over. When I looked at the clock next, it was almost seven. In a span of eight minutes, the light in the room went from butter yellow to deep blue shadows like the evening was a bruise heavy under the skin. My stomach hurt but my head felt better. I fell asleep again. Then it was eight and afterwards nine and I ate some raspberries, watched reruns in front of a spattering screen, and finished the day like I had started it, asleep.

This morning I woke up and felt better. Not perfect, but better.

Sidenote, isn't that the case with almost everything in life? I feel better, but not perfect. Digressing. And mulling.

Besides feeling better, I also felt panicked. It was irrational but the thought of missing twenty four hours of my life set me into a frenzy. Were those yellow minutes stretching to hold the sum of my Monday simply gone? When my aunt flew to New Zealand, she lost a day. She skipped it entirely. For the rest of her life, she will have a missing Tuesday. I know that time is relative and dates are a construct, but there's a missing twenty four hours in her life that she never held.

Twenty four hours.

Sometimes life is really hard. That's an understatement. Writing about it seems like trying to collect water by pouring it through a sieve. Everything runs through me and I wonder, where to begin? Or, why? What is the balance between over sharing and being honest, and is there a disconnect that lies with the two? What happens when you have nothing to write at all, or what you have to say is boring, underwhelming, inherently ordinary? What then?

Sometimes, it seems like too much. I'm inundated with things I need to say, words that crawl under my skin, moments that leave me open-handed, chasing wind. Other times, I am a dry well, scraped raw and emptied of everything. Then I say to life, pour into me, in all your beauty and pain and joy. That's when life asks, will you give back? And there lies the act of showing up. Morning and morning. Returning to the page. Returning to the camera. Returning to the road, to the pavement, to the poetry, to the music, to the rhythm of your life. So I do and we do and we hope to make something honest, something that matters, in our twenty four hours.

Because, goodness, I don't want to live my life asleep.

March 29, 2014

indeed, I have a beautiful inheritance.

I'm writing a lot lately, except most of it's for me. Which is good but also strange. For the first time, I'm hesitant about sharing the letters and lines that make up the shape of my many, ordinary todays. It's not that they're all precious or beautiful, but they are all personal. Vulnerability is something I never eschew. I am a champion for honesty in everything. But sometimes life hits you hard. A car crash out of no here. A job loss. A heart change. Whatever it may be. And when you're left picking up the pieces, you need space to rearrange them just right. Which is difficult when you're putting them out there asking, is this right? Because that asking leaves little space to figure it out.

I'm tired of putting aside my wonderings instead of wandering through. I'll mess up, but you can stumble into your sweet spot through the struggle. They say you never forget to ride a bike and I believe that's true. However, there's a disconnect between your body and your head. The knowledge, the knowing, is in your bones, but you have to remember where it left you. Maybe that's a little like where I'm walking. Deep down, I'm steady, but this searching is on shifting sand and the light is just beginning to rise. The sun is opening and it's finding me picking up pieces that are a little bit bruised.

I don't know what I want. I don't know if I'm slow and steady or a hurricane. A poem or a song. There's a difference and sometimes I feel like I land in the middle. I call myself an oxymoron. I'm analytical and artistic to my bones, I love the solidity of what we know and the wonder of what could be. I cried in an exhibit at the art museum today and didn't realize it until I couldn't swallow.

There's this piece of art by Matisse that's just a few lines. It's called Nu assis, vu de dos, which translated is just Seated Nude, Seen from the Behind. It's simple and clean. Like you could take a pencil, pull the lead down a page, and you'd have the same piece. I'm finally past believing the appearance of grace is an honest representation of ease. Ballet's roots are snug in my life to this day, and one of the seeds that's grown is an understanding of the process. To make simple the complex, honest the confusing, beautiful the questions -- that is where good art lies.

The drawing was in a exhibition called, Women as Muse in the age of Matisse, and it was fascinating seeing the ways different artists interpreted women as a subject. Something I loved in the end of the description was an assertion that the views of the various painters were only opinions of those men. I wish I had written the description down, but the general gist was that the images were just that, images. Despite the artists best attempts at deciphering women as a muse, the end products were only ideals, depictions of differing thought processes, explanations, and even questions. I think that's beautiful. Some art tries to label reality as black and white, but our realities are best seen through collection of ideas, questions, not facts. Art unifies and connects when it's borne out of, this is what I see, tell me what you see too.

The piece by Matisse made me pause and stare. There's a loneliness in the image, a solitude that's matched the rhythm of my days. I wondered about the sitter. Was she lonely or did Matisse only give her that appearance? What did he see? What did he leave out? Matisse once said to his students, "One must always search for the desire of the line, where it wishes to enter or where to die away." and I've been thinking about it all day. In art and writing and life. I'm searching for the interesections and trying to find solid ground for that line to lay. Meanwhile, I'm meandering and mulling, I'm wondering and wandering. I'm trying to figure out the shape of this life I'm living. Where it's leading and what path it may take. This I can say, "The lines have fallen for me in pleasant places; indeed, I have a beautiful inheritance." That's a promise I believe no matter what waits up ahead.

March 14, 2014

evening light wanes.

Chloe, in her natural habitat. 6:37.