Friday, May 30, 2008

Tap Dancing Mama

I got these pretty red shoes yesterday at Ross for ten bucks. Yes, I said ten bucks. They're the red shoes of my soul.

I fashion-showed the red shoes and my other loot for my mother while she was propped in bed, watching the news with my dad. Later, when she came out to get some vitamins before going to bed, she stopped in my room, tried on the red shoes, and ended up doing a tap dance for me on my hardwood floor.

I told myself as I watched, as she danced: I must remember this. My reserved, wonderful mama, in her nightgown, dancing in my red high heels.



Wednesday, May 28, 2008

Arches



I'm going for a record three posts in one day. I couldn't resist posting a few of more pics. One of kitties, sleeping. A few of Sam and me at Arches. One of how it looked in my rearview mirror when a cop pulled me over for speeding through a tiny town in the southwest crumb of Colorado. (whoops.)


Tuesday, May 27, 2008

Alpaca Show



Sam was out in Utah with me for a few days, and, while looking for things to do, we came across the national Alpaca show. How could we not attend?

There were hundreds of Alpacas, looking like unicorns, hippies, fraggles, snow owls from space, wookies, hairy hillbillies, poodles with problems, q-tips, you get the idea. You'll have to pardon so many pictures. They delight me.


P.S. In the second one of Sam and me, we're wearing the Alpaca-fur duds he bought for us: winter hat and pretty shawl object. My kitties are suspicious of them (because they smell like another furry creature, I suspect), but I like.

Princess


I was on Ikea.com today, dreaming of how I will furnish my apartment when I move to Boston. I fell in love with the bed you see above. Truth be told, I don't even know if I like the bed that much. I'm probably more into the style of the bed below; that one looks like the bed of a modern woman.
But that's the secret: I don't want to be a modern woman. I want to be a princess. I want to be six-years-old. I like the thought of froofy billowing fabric draped from the top of the four-poster. When I was in the midst of going back and forth between the two beds, my dad came to tell me that my cat, Sprout (whom you see below), had jumped on the roof. He said she had barely made it up in the first place: jumped from the porch railing, caught the corner of the rain gutter and had to claw the rest of way with her front paws. When i came out she was looking over the edge, terrified. My dad got a ladder and I climbed it, tugged her off. I thought she would claw my face off, but she just clung tight to my shoulder. The pads of her paws were cold. She let me carry her around the house for awhile. I told her she was brave.

Sunday, May 18, 2008

Exodus

I'm in Texas, sitting on a hotel bed, having completed the first leg of my voyage home to Utah for the summer. Sam and I didn't get on the road until one this afternoon; we ran into snafus all morning: My laptop AND cell phone broke and then magically repaired themselves by the time I took them in to be fixed. (Thanks to prayer, I reckon.)

We miscommunicated regarding some boxes, which left me in the Hattiesburg post office, trying to lift 67-pound boxes of my stuff, with this woman who kept calling me "shoog" (as in, first syllable of sugar) and dropping my precious packaged possessions into a deep bin in the back. So long, Grandma's rippled blue drinking glasses. (Yes, I know. Shouldn't have packaged them anyway. I was desperate and delirious by the end of packing--throwing out everything: cat food, sweaters, pillows, vacuum cleaners. Chaotic heartbreak.)

Anyway, rough morning. Then, a few hours out, my check engine light went on. We drove through Shreveport, Louisiana, looking for a place to get it tested, hoping it wasn't terrible news. It wasn't; all was well. And we got to see a woman with big gold earrings that spelled out "c-u-t-i-e" and a diner that spelled cinnamon roll "sinnamon roll" on their window.

But none of that's the point. The point is that I'm leaving this place I've lived for three years, and it feels odd. I'm of two minds: this morning, driving around the town, it seemed so beautiful and green. It suddenly seemed I would miss it. I bent down to pet Sam's cat and say goodbye; I smoothed a patch of his striped brown fur, and he seemed to know what was going on, and I felt this little spot in my chest cleft open. For how difficult it's been to live there, I have good memories. I'll miss it.

And my other mind: I may have lived here for three years, but the South is still foreign to me. I was somewhere in a Louisiana gas station and there was this rather elegant black man in bright green slacks and a black shirt. He was looking at the potato chips. And someone else was at the counter, speaking in a drawl, and I suddenly felt like I was in a different country--a place that didn't speak my language, a place I'd never been. This region is not my own. I can feel it as we move more west, and I confess it's a relief to think I don't have to go back.

But that's not the point either. The point that I'm avoiding is about Sam. Right now, he's in the hotel room across the hall from me. I kept wanting to explain our relationship to the girl behind the check-in desk: "Look, we're deeply in love, really. We just can't share a hotel room because ... because." It feels like we're roommates, like siblings. Only not. Really, not.

Today, when I waited in his driveway for him to refill his small bottle of hand sanitizer, I aimed my phone's camera at his door so I could get a picture of him coming out with the wispy white clouds above his roof. And none of it seemed real. I've spent nearly every day for the last two years with that man, and trying to wrap my brain around being without him is like trying to imagine what it would be like to lose an arm. Like trying to imagine playing checkers without opposable thumbs; or eating a sun-warm peach without a sense of smell; or preforming open heart surgery in the dark.

Thursday, May 15, 2008

A Visual Tour of Graduation

I begin with the beach. After I was all graduated, I headed down to the Alabama coast with the folks and Meesha. Oh, it was gorgeous. White sand, blue sky, lots of seafood. (See photo of my delicate, dignified mother cracking a huge crableg.) We walked on the beach, then read books, then ate, walked on the beach, read books, ate, then did it all over again. We did manage to squeeze in a dolphin cruise, so I'll include one of that, too. All of our attempts to capture the actual dolphins on film are pretty disappointing, so I'll spare you.




















So, I graduated. My dissertation committee chair, Angela Ball, stood on this little grey box and hooded me. That was really weird, by the way. Felt ... I don't know, odd. Like I was joining a cult.

Sixteen other people graduated with their PhDs, but they were serious folks and they looked very accomplished, and all in all I just felt like a puppy. I was taking pictures of Sam making smoochy faces while wearing his cap sideways, and they were looking at the chalkboard, sophisticated intellect etched in their faces. (See photos. You'll understand why I felt silly. We were silly. That's not, technically, how we were meant to wear our hoods. Meesha said we look like Mary and Joseph.) All told, it was a lovely day. Sticky and hot in the humidity, but pleasant.


Monday, May 5, 2008

Deja and Sam go to NOLA




A few pics of Sam and I in New Orleans. They were taken by a drunk man by the river. He and his girlfriend were swigging something from dark bottles in brown paper sacks.


Soon after he took them, a man with a microphone tried to take our hands and sing along to a song he was piping out of a speaker. He just wanted some cash, but he acted so sincere about his song, spreading his arms and tossing his head, his deep voice ringing and terrifying.


I hestitate to say anything about New Orleans, because I wasn't there before Katrina and I can't compare. And it's a big drinking town, which means it's not for me. I was on Bourbon street for about ten seconds before I was desperate to leave. It smelled like pee and alcohol and vomit.


But I did see a lovely sight: We were popping in and out of galleries, looking at art, when I spotted a perfect stereotype, folks I thought were only in movies. It was a short, old, pudgy man in a seersucker suit, carrying a white brimmed hat. He clearly had money; his wealth oozed from him. He had a round belly, a bald spotty head, a Southern accent, and an incredibly gorgeous blonde on his arm. His gal was tall and leggy, wearing a tasteful pink dress with a plunging neckline. She had beads and straight blond hair and she was hanging on his arm like he had packaged up Paris and given it to her in a box. Maybe he had.


I couldn't help it: my jaw dropped and I started to follow them like a zombie. I wanted to tug on her thin tan arm or his baggy old arm and ask if they were kidding, if they knew they were walking cliches. Or maybe I wanted to be deft enough to pickpocket him. Lift his seersucker and count his cash. Just count it. Just see what ticked loud enough for that woman to be mincing along next to him in her tiny heels.


I Heart Hippie


This is Sam in front of New Yokel, the local health food store and restaurant in Hattiesburg. Oh, how I love this place. Sam and I have gone there for breakfast almost every Saturday for the last year: scrambled tofu or eggs with veggies, banana pancakes, amazing whole wheat biscuits, fruit smoothies, tempeh, quinoa, red bananas and apples, walnuts, iced herbal tea, etc. They fill our plates and hearts with happiness. I always walk away stuffed, but stuffed in that healthy way, the way eating my mom's cooking makes me feel.

The walls are exposed ruddy bricks and decorated with old doors and windows; there's a smiling happy baby who drools on your arm when you hand over cash for your meal; you can buy organic deodorant and toilet paper and tampons, and interesting music plays over the speakers. It's a magical land.

I confess, I doubt I'll miss Hattiesburg much when I move away in two weeks. I went to my last Sunday of church today, and, after three years of attending this ward, I sat alone for the umpteenth time. When I said goodbye, it was (with few exceptions) not really a sad thing. Have a nice life, I thought.

But I will miss The New Yokel. I'll miss the drooling baby and the banana pancakes, and sitting across from Sam when we were both still sort of sleepy, talking about writing. I remember laughing a lot at those tables. Laughing, taking a bite of whole wheat biscuit, laughing some more.

Sunday, May 4, 2008

At the Shoe Store

Tonight, a little girl in a frilly purple dress blessed me with some sort of orange stick. She was dancing to the music blaring over the speaker, and she pointed at me, said, "I wish, I wish with all my heart."

I don't know what she wished. But it seemed like a good sign.

Thursday, May 1, 2008

Tiny Ice Sculpture

Tonight, at dinner with Sam, a sliver of ice from my water glass landed on my shirt. I didn't notice it for a few minutes, but when I looked down and saw it, it seemed so beautiful, like a perfect shiny necklace charm. I slipped it off and put it on the table, told Sam it looked like a crescent moon, or an arrowhead.

"Or a saber tooth," he said. He was right. It looked the most like a saber tooth.

The tooth melted quickly on the table top, and I helped it along by tapping it with my index finger, making small splashes. I kept splashing after it had dissolved, thinking of Rorschach's ink, of petroglyph humans dancing. When I stopped, I read the water spots like clouds: a praying seal, Queen Hatshepsut with extended arms, an angel with giant wings, Stonehenge lintels, and a series of music notes. I wished I'd known the tune.

Baby Blogger

Okay, okay, I give in. Here. I'm blogging. See? I'm blogging! Look at me blog!

Tomorrow's my very last day of classes for my PhD. Insert nostalgic sigh here. I've been going to school for twenty-nine thousand years, and as the last of it ebbs away, I don't quite feel like weeping for the loss of it. I feel the world edging open, like, like ... I'm out of metaphors. I can't even metaphor anymore, that's how tapped out I am.

But it's part of that unmetaphored edging that leads me here, to a blog. It may be time to announce myself. And while I worry my life won't be entertaining enough to merit frequent posts, I'm going to do my best.

For starters, look at Pierre the Penguin. Pierre the Penguin is twenty-five--same age as me, come to think of it. And Pierre, who lives at the California Academy of Sciences in San Francisco, was losing his feathers. His penguin buddies were picking on him, and he couldn't swim because he got too cold without the extra plumage. Can you see his bare bird bum? Poor fellow.
So, this scientist (Pam Schaller, bless her soul) made him a little wet suit out of neoprene. I think of Pierre when I feel caught without feathers, if you get my meaning. Exposed, alone in a nippy world. And right about now, when I'm off for a new adventure, moving to Utah and then Boston, leaving my quiet (but boring) tiny (but safe) Mississippi town, the world feels exciting, but nippy. Oh, for a smidge of neoprene.

For the full story on Pierre, go here.