Monday, July 27, 2009

Warning: Mushy Anniversary Post

A year today, folks. A year we've been married.

I could do the traditional wedding day pic, but I don't have them on this computer. So instead I give you each of us in a dryer at a little laundry mat in Italy. Why? Because this seems like an aspect of marriage to me: a little cramped, a little silly, not always comfortable, but good grief it's fun.

Especially to be married to Sam. When we were doing laundry and waiting for the clothes to finish in the washer, I turned around and Sam was as you see him here, just to hear me giggle. And giggle I did. Then I climbed in one of my own.

Lately my insomnia has been raging, so I stayed up most of last night working on a video for Sam - an extremely amatuer compilation of a bunch of pictures from the last few years and "our song" - Fiona Apple's version of Across the Universe. (Did I ever think we'd have a song? No, no I didn't. It just sort of happened, honest.) I figure no one would be interested except the two of us, but if you're dying to see it, type "Sam and Deja" into youtube and it should come up.

So that was my present to Sam. His present to me? The most gorgeous suede-bound journal I have ever seen. He bought in Florence when I was sick as a pig, and secretly harbored it all the rest of the vacation and kept it stashed since we've been home. Sneaky man. Anyway, it's softer than anything and the paper is thick and gorgeous with a cool watermark on every page, a sweet note from him inside, and on the front cover there's a red kitty. Maybe I'll post a picture. Anyway, it made me weep.

One more story to illustrate the state of my heart, as I feel compelled to do today.

Last week Sam got some great writing news; I mean really great. He won a cash prize and publication in a fairly prestigious literary journal that he's been trying to get into for years. It was particularly wonderful because the story is based loosely on, well, me. And our relationship. So it was a triumphant, happy moment for both of us. I love seeing him happy like that.

"You know how it makes me feel?" he said. "I'll show you how it makes me feel." And he opened his laptop, went to youtube, and had it play Frank Sinatra's song, "My Way."

I laughed and he took my hand and insisted we dance in our living room. I kept laughing because it seemed kind of silly, but it was also lovely. He kissed me ever so tenderly on the neck, more tenderly than I ever remember being kissed in my life.

And he said, "I couldn't have done it without you."

"Really? You really think so?" I said.

"Definitely not. I think you have to care deeply about something before you can write well."

I don't know how to explain how all of this felt, except to say that it gave me this heady sense of ownership. He is, in a way, all mine. And I am, in a way, his. And we seem to have stumbled upon this thing that we didn't think would work, that we had no hope would work except that we really wanted it to. And, against some odds, we seem to be doing it, building and strengthening and shoring it up, getting better and more in love all the time, finding out love is wider and deeper and stranger and more fantastic that we could have imagined. How sweet it is.

Sam. I love you. I'm looking forward to the years to come.

Thursday, July 16, 2009

We Become Delicate Boats

Several years ago, I watched Balzac and the Little Chinese Seamstress. It doesn't happen in the book, but there's a scene in the movie where these villagers write the names of people they love on little paper boats and send them out onto a lake. The movie is good. That scene was incredible.

I thought maybe the boat thing was just in the movie. But I'm ignorant. Turns out it's a Buddhist ritual to remember the dead. It also turns out that a nearby cemetery participates. Sam and I went tonight.

We had no idea what to expect. As Sam said, "When it's called a Lantern Festival we should have expected a festival." There were hundreds of people gathered around this lake, eating picnics, listening to traditional music, surrounded by lanterns they had decorated for their loved ones. Sam and I neglected to bring a blanket, so we perched by a tree and ate our dinner--falafel wrap for me, cod wrap for Sam--from our favorite little healthy food place.

We got a lantern and I wrote the names of my grandparents and my friend who died last year. Sam helped me think of things to say. We were at a crowded table, everyone drawing hearts and beach scenes and I-miss-yous with Crayola markers, and I was thinking hard about what I would tell these people if I could say just one thing. I won't share all of them, but I will say that I told my grandma--my mom's mom--that I wish she could have met Sam, and then I got sort of choked up.

We wandered around the lake, weaving through blankets and chairs and glasses of wine and tupperwares full of fresh blueberries. We finally found a place to set the lantern on the water. Since we had to get down very low to do it, and my arms are pathetically short, Sam set it off, and we watched it glide away. I wish I could describe how that lake looked with hundreds of lanterns on it. Maybe it looked like the night skyline of a city. But maybe it just looked like a lake with hundreds of lanterns on it, if you can imagine that.

There were mosquitoes and they love Sam (who can blame them?) so he was sort of miserable by that point. He wandered away from the water while I sat in a fancy tree stump carved into a seat. It was dark, and there were little girls climbing the tree in front of me. I liked seeing their silhouettes in the tree, and behind them all the little lights floating around on the water, being blown about by the breeze, picking their paths delicately. Rarely have I seen anything so beautiful, or felt so connected to my dear lost family and friend.

What follows are a few pictures, even though they don't come close to doing it justice.

Here I am with our lantern.

Here's Sam sending it off.

Three of them.

The whole lake.

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Since You're Dying to Know All About Deja's Eating Habits

I haven't wanted to say much about the vegan thing since I got home because I didn't want to jinx it. I knew I was going to have a junk food fling in Europe and boy did I ever. But I was also rather careful, got the smallest cups of gelato and threw them away when I didn't want anymore, ate vegetarian and tried my best to get as many veggies as possible, etc.

Vegan is the wrong word for what I am, anyway. I mean, it's sort of my goal and I like thinking of myself that way because it helps me steer clear of a lot of food that makes me feel lousy. But I'm not in it for the animals. And if I order veggies and don't ask for them butterless, hey, I don't care. I am pretty strictly vegetarian now. It makes me feel sick just thinking about eating meat. I can't handle the texture or something. I ordered a shrimp pasta dish one night in Italy because I really wanted everything else in it and I thought I could handle it. Oh no I couldn't. It didn't help that they were big un-beheaded prawns, so their googly black eyes were looking at me. Sam had to take them away quickly.

Anyway, I was worried when I got home that it would take me awhile to get back to the eating habits I'd been trying to establish pre-trip. But I'll tell you what, my body was begging, just begging for healthy food when I got home. The night we got back I bought a watermelon, cut it up for breakfast the next morning and ate mounds of it. It felt wonderful. Since then, with few exceptions, the healthy eating has come naturally and joyfully to me. Easier than before by far.

Speaking of watermelon and joy, we came across this little watermelon stand in Rome the last night we were there. We were wandering around, trying to decide where to have dinner, but when I saw it I knew it would be my appetizer. I had an defining experience with that watermelon (yes, I have defining experiences with produce). For the whole month I'd been eating exquisite pastries and crepes and ice cream, but I swear that nothing I tasted even came close the sweet, complicated yet simple flavor of that melon. It was perfect.

Oh, and here's Sam doing his David impersonation with the rind. Silly man.

In line with that watermelon stand, I've been discovering all these gorgeous flavors at home. The day after we returned I bought a juicer off craigslist, and Sam and I have been juicing our little hearts out. His favorite is carrot/apple, and that is good and sweet. We juice before dinner and drink it for dessert--yes, it's that sweet. Tonight I made a monster green juice with celery/parsley/green apple/mint/cucumber/beet greens/lemon. For myself--Sam doesn't drink green things, he says. I was worried it would be too green for me, and the color of it was certainly funky, but oh I loved it. Love love loved it.

Also, allow me to recommend Almond Breeze almond milk. While I can tolerate soy and rice milk IN stuff, I've never been able to stand drinking them alone. Almond milk is drinkable, deliciously so. The last few days I've made myself breakfast and dessert shakes with it. For dessert: almond milk, frozen berries, the tiniest bit of stevia. For breakfast: almond milk, berries, stevia, mint, and spinach. I know the mint might sound weird in there, but it's delightful. Even Sam liked the sip he had of it, which is all I was willing to share. It wasn't green because of the berries, so he didn't break his no-green rule.

So here's to beautiful fruits and veggies! They are my friends.

Thursday, July 9, 2009

On the Grass

I'm teaching right now. Sort of. I'm sitting on the grass with my students and they have their laptops open, writing. The sun's setting, light coming through the trees and bouncing off a big map of the school, so that every time I look up it blinds me. The students are lovely here, bent over their keyboards, young brows furrowed. Can I say their young brows are furrowed? They are.

It's not quite as romantic as it sounds. I mean, it's lovely out here, and the sun is well-deserved after an astonishingly gloomy summer. But I think I'm moving back into my depression, old friend. It's arrived fiercely in the last few days, leveled me. It feels shameful. I'm working on kicking it out the door, but who knows how long that could take.

The students and I have had a semi-painful discussion about poetry, in which I had to explain why it's not true that "there's no wrong answer." If you can't support it with the text, folks, it doesn't really exist. I wish that were true: that there are no wrong answers. I wish I could tell them that and smile and nod when they say something absurd. But there are so many wrong answers it makes me ache.

In non-achey news, we found a place to live. In Waltham. Which means we have to leave our ward, but we'll have more money, and we'll be close to the hip/happening Moody street. We'll see if we're hip and happening.

Must go. The chickens are restless. Time to teach again.

Thursday, July 2, 2009

One Picture

A cat in Monterosso, the town in Cinque Terre where we stayed. He was sitting patiently on the windowsill of a fancy seafood restaurant. On the counters just below him were mounds of prawns and squid and eel and floppy fish. He didn't seem to want to get in, just sniff deeply, remember such a world exists. Who can blame him?

Can you see the man in the window? We thought he looked like an aging Popeye.

I Am Buried

Got home Sunday at eight or so, having bickered all day. We're so not bicker-ers. We were tired and ready for non-vacation time.

I had to teach Monday afternoon. I thought my syllabus for the class was on my laptop. It wasn't. I thought it was perhaps on another laptop, which was in the shop. It wasn't. I learned this an hour before class started. Whoops.

Maybe the syllabus never existed. Maybe I'm out of my mind. Maybe all the gelato turned my brain to mucus. Ew.

Anyway, then I had jury duty. They didn't pick me, glory be.

Then I had to write the syllabus that perhaps never existed.

All this to say, Paris? I was in Paris? How very odd. This is a different world, a different life, and I haven't even unpacked yet. My pretty pink shoes are still wrapped in a scarf, tucked in my backpack. It's been too rainy here to wear them anyway.

But I do remember. Our very last night we rode the train into the city and wandered around, bickering, trying to find somewhere to eat. Once we had food in our bellies, we were friends again. We had landed on that little island we went to before, at the same restaurant even. Then we waited in a long long line for one last ice cream cone. I got green apple and strawberry sorbets. We walked along the river, saw Notre Dame lit up, saw teenagers pouring vodka in bottles of soda and a young man in a short black skirt and a curly pink wig. That stroll along the river felt like a big smooch goodbye. Goodbye Paris, goodbye vacation, goodbye little moment out of all the moments.