Saturday, December 31, 2005

Last Day of 2005

Well, this year ranks up there with the single worst year in the life of Jessie. However-- it is the New Year and therefore, a time to celebrate. Rather than obsess over what went wrong or what I wish was different about myself or my life--it's a good time to think about what did go right and to recognize the things I actually did accomplish.

So in the spirit of a tradition I started 9 years ago...

My List of Accomplishments in 2005:
  1. Survived teaching the research paper last spring and gained confidence in knowing that I can do it again.
  2. Had an incredibly talented class of writers this fall--and was inspired by them all.
  3. Realized that no matter how bad everything else was--I love teaching, every minute of it.
  4. Sold my house.
  5. Paid off 7 years worth of debt.
  6. Moved...found a place where all of us--Vinny, myself, Anu, and the cats are all happy. And it is exactly the type of place I imagined living in.
  7. Got settled in the new place--almost completely.
  8. Acquired some of the best neighbors I've ever had.
  9. Got active again--perpetual walking. Living in town allows me this.
  10. Finally wrote my thesis proposal.
  11. Had a painting exhibition in the big city of Minneapolis.
  12. Currently have a show hanging in the BCAC.
  13. Attempted (with some success) abstract landscapes. Loosened up my painting style and became more expressive in the process.
  14. Sold a painting for a nice sum of $$.
  15. Wrote several essays and a few poems that I feel good about.
  16. Traveled to Texas to spend time with my grandparents last spring.
  17. Went to Mexico for the first time.
  18. Traveled parts of Canada I had never seen before.
  19. Spend time with my sister's family.
  20. Made artist's books for the first time.
  21. Celebrated 2 years of marriage with my husband.
  22. Gained a few new friends.
  23. Painted my new writing room lime green.
  24. After a year of thinking about it, finally sat down to write my old painting instructor a long letter. I miss her dearly.
  25. Filled a couple journals.
  26. Started spending more time with friends.
  27. Decided to take a year off from school next year--I'm folllowing my heart--something I haven't done in too long.
And in the next couple days maybe I'll think of more to add. But what I'm realizing in making this list is that even some of the hardest aspects of this past year have led to some of the best rewards. Things are funny that way.

Friends and family--Happy New Year to all of you! May you find happiness and creative inspiration in every day.

Here's to a new year and new beginnings!

Friday, December 30, 2005

Another lake walk and more dream houses...

Although I do not fish--I could live here. I grew up in a too large, too fancy house and have ever since been attracted to small, simple, lived-in spaces--yep, even ice-houses.

I heard on the radio a couple years ago of an artists' community that took up residency in the middle of the lake. When the artists converted their ice-houses into studios and started working and living out there the police tried to get rid of them--but the town wanted them to stay. The artists would get visitors from all over--there to see their art and to watch them make it. One guy did paintings on large sheets of ice. It looked like watercolor. He did ice-house landscapes and odd still lives of found items--fish, boots, lures, garbage. Eventually they'd melt (or break)--but he'd make more. There were potters, painters, sculptors...and yes, even people fishing.

Polar Expeditions...

Hangover or not, it turned out to be a pretty good day. I peeled myself off of the floor by late morning and suited up for the outdoors for a long walk with Anu. I was determined to work off any remaining alcohol in my system with physical activity regardless of the drumming in my head. I don't know if it worked or not, but the wind and white was enough to keep me happily occupied. We walked the long way to Diamond Point, then headed out onto the lake. And although I'm a Northern Minnesotan, I was surprised to realize that it had been a long time since I had been on any major (or minor) ice excursions. All the nothingness was refreshing--and did wonders to clear my ever-rattling head. I found an ice cave formed by buckled ice and drifted snow along the shore and decided that it would make a perfect fort for reading. Anu and I crawled in and took a rest inside where it was amazingly silent and warm. If only I had brought a book.

Eventually we resumed forward motion on our polar expedition. Conditions were perfect. The snow was hard and crusted over with enough glare ice to keep us entertained. Runnnn....slide....walk a little...runnnn....slide. I thought of my old dog Abe and about how much fun he would have had. His favorite thing in the whole world (besides tuna fish) was ice. Anu and I stopped for a moment to miss him and honor his spirit before moving on to another patch of ice. I thought about how much I would like to live in a fish house--and spent a good deal of our walk daydreaming how I'd make it work. I figured 4 months of rent free living, close enough to campus to walk and shower at the Rec. Center, a computer lab nearby--what more could I want? I imagined a bed to one side with lots of comforters, a propane tank outside hooked up to an indoor heater to keep the place toasty and warm, oil lamps, cups of hot chocolate, good books, and nothing but wide open sky above us. Oh, to be so connected to my surroundings! I thought about how good the stars look at night in the middle of a frozen lake. I imaged having lawn chairs positioned outside for soaking up sun during the day. Students would look out Hagg-Sauer windows wondering: Is someone living out there??? The whole idea started looking pretty comical--but desirable nonetheless!

We came home hot and tired. But happy. Very happy.
And tomorrow--I think we'll do it again. :)

Thursday, December 29, 2005

Wednesday, December 28, 2005

Dear Writing,

In order to make contact with you I have hereby resorted to the Higher Power of Bloody Marys.
May peace be with you.


Tuesday, December 27, 2005

Self Portrait Tuesday: Dog Face

December's theme for Self Portrait Tuesday is (still) reflective surfaces. The last couple Tuesdays I've posted reflections of myself in mirrors and glass...

But there's one thing that reflects who I am more than anything-- and that is the dogs I love most in my life-- because it is them that reflect my best side.

Happy Dogs...

Ahh...that romp in the woods is what all of us needed.

Anu running at breakneck happy to run free!

Coca's (my dad's dog) happy to roll in the snow. Mmmmm--yeah.

My beautiful wolfie--actually standing still.

And Coca...fat is beautiful too! :)

Action shots: snow dogs playing in the snow!

Could life get any better???

Let's start over.

wow--so that last post is a little more depressing than I had anticipated. I should delete it, but as a general rule of thumb I don't allow myself such mass editing with this blog. If I did I'm pretty sure my entries would be nearly nonexistant.

Anyway, it's another grey day. For some reason it's quiet outside. I have a fresh cup of coffee in front of me from a place I do not know how to spell. This morning I'll write in my paper journal while curled up on the couch with the cats. Then take a quick shower and drive out to the woods with Anu. She needs a good run. And so do I. This afternoon (I promise myself) I'm going to sit down and begin work on my India stories. Vinny will be at work and the distractions few.

This is the day I begin.

Monday, December 26, 2005

I've always been a dreamer... where's my big dream for what's next?

Lately I've been thinking a lot about what we'll do and where we'll go this summer when our lease runs out. Since putting the house up for sale I've been saying over and over "because we have to move away...for school...for jobs....we have to move away...." Occasionally I'll be walking down the street with wolfie and we'll see someone I know, but haven't talked to in awhile. Every time they are surprised to see me in town with my dog. So I explain, "Well, we sold our house. I live in town now..." Then I get a slightly shocked/confused/disappointed look and I revert back to the explanation that "we're moving next" Every time I walk away feeling like shit. I walk away, Anu pulling me down the street, thinking, mumbling under my breath...I had to sell it because I'm a fucking loser and no one's filling my bank account with magic money you fucking idiot. Basically, I walk away feeling a whole lot more depressed than I did the moment before I ran into them and was barraged with questions.

So the thought has been on my mind: Where will we be next year?

After this last year, neither of us is ready to tackle an MFA or PhD. We decided to take a year off from school and collect ourselves. We need to reenergize. We need to: a lot of things.

What we want to do is have mental space to work on our writing. But we all know how easily "life" gets in the way--so we've talked about doing a few writing workshops together or separately to keep us on track and actively writing. We want to use the year to work on getting published. And we also need to work. After graduating I would also like to return to India--and if I have the time, I have a good chance of getting grants to get me there.

But with all of these things we want to spend our energy on...where does moving fit into the picture? Does it help? Or hinder? Will it help us get better jobs? Or will a move just cost money? I feel like I've backed myself into a corner by telling everyone we're moving next year. I like it here, but damnit!...(unsorted thoughts go here)...

I don't know--and this is too complicated to blog about. (confusing thoughts go here)

I think I need to learn how to dream again. I used to listen to my dreams--and follow them. I have lived a good life that way--but somewhere along the lines it seems that I lost that talent. I want it back.

Thursday, December 22, 2005

bloggerville updates

I've been keeping an eye on this painter's blog for about a year now. What most impresses me is that he never misses a day! Now that's dedication. I've added his link to my sidebar and in doing so started thinking that my own blog needs some updates. What--I'm not sure.

First day of Christmas vacation.

It's been a slow unwinding, but today marks the first "official" day of break: revised thesis proposal turned in, student grades turned in, evaluations turned in, no more meetings, no more anything until I'm ready for it.

Lastnight, after (honestly) the best meal I have ever had, my husband and I came home; I walked the dog, then laid in bed reading (for enjoyment!) until I fell asleep. It felt like the best sleep of my life. This morning I woke up feeling rested and with a smile on my face. I feel relaxed and satisfied. It's warm out, almost 30 degrees above zero. Later I'll take Anu and Coca, my dad's husky-chow-mutt, for a long romp in the woods. The relaxed pace of the day feels like good nutrition--and every pore of my body is thankful for it.

The things I want to do during break:
  • Since moving I've really wanted to get my sewing machine out. Mostly I want to sew curtains for the living room and my writing room. Something simple and inexpensive. Something colorful. I'd also like to sew a duvet for the bedroom and a couple pillows.
  • A couple months ago my husband picked out a 48"x 48" canvas for me to paint something on for his room. I've been wanting to work on that since the day he got it.
  • Read, Read, Read! Oh, I can't wait to read! Right now I'm working on Jhumpa Lahiri's The Namesake. My reading list also includes: Anne Tyler's Celestial Navigations; A Sense of Place: Great Travel Writers Talk About their Craft, their Lives, and Inspiration, edited by Michael Shapiro; An Area of Darkness by V.S. Naipaul; Karma Cola by Gita Mehta... list continues on forever (how many books can I read in one break?) . I want to read books in preparation for my thesis (books about travel, India or by Indian authors), but mostly I want to read books that inspire my own writing!
  • Unpack the few remaining boxes from the move. Maybe even accomplish a little bit of reorganization.
  • Paint the bedroom dresser (it's a purple dresser in sage, white, and butterscotch room--ugh!)
  • Hang out in my studio doing nothing demanding...just creating--doodles, book making, doing whatever and nothing in particular. :)
  • Enjoy relaxed and extended morning cups of coffee while blogging or journal writing.
And while these are all things I want to do...there is one thing that I really must do: begin work on my thesis. Luckily this is also something I want to do. Somewhere along the line--after moving, after getting settled, after the opening of my art show--writing mind returned. I once again find myself thinking in terms of words, not just colors. There wasn't room for writing before. But now a space has opened. I am--finally--ready to start this project.

I'm looking forward to the the coming winter weeks of break. I think I need it. Don't we all.

Tuesday, December 20, 2005

Little Viscosa

My little cat, Vico, crawled up into my lap and is now stretched out in my arms causing me to type one handed because she looks up at me with such love and trust--purring, purring, purring. I still have to rewrite my thesis proposal and comment on 2 student essays...but she makes me so very, very sleepy. I can feel her heart beating next to mine.

Sunday, December 18, 2005

A good day to make journals...

(sorry-- poor image quality)

Tonight's project included making journals for my brother and his girlfriend. I painted big sheets of nice, thick paper; collaged on some. After tearing the large sheets to size and to give them rough edges I ended up with enough material to make 2 smaller journals as well (a 100 pages each!). They are a lot of work--but will go to good homes. Not to mention, it feels good to get "crafty." Tomorrow I'll bind them and make hardcovers for them. My fingers still have smudges of glue and turquoise blue--hence, it's been a good day.

If you could only see me...

Well, actually, it's a good thing that you can't cuz I look a little like this except I have more energy and the room I sit in is filled with sun (ahh!). My hair, now a good 5 inches long at the top, has somehow morphed into a mohawk during the course of the night with a nice rat's nest at the back. I'm wearing a knee-length flannel nightgown with cardinals and birdhouses at the bottom (a gift from my mom several years ago) and, underneath, a pair of thick fleece pants that I sewed myself (and not very well). I wear poofy, black Hello Kitty slippers and a fuzzy blanket around my shoulders. My eyeliner is slightly smudged, but I have brushed my teeth. My nose is a little runny from playing outside with Anu in -10 degree weather. I think I'm gonna sneeze.
If you could see me could say that you truly know me. Anyone want to come over for coffee? haha.

hmmm--I love Sundays.

You know you live in Northern Minnesota when:

snowmobiles driving past your house in the middle of town are a daily occurrence.

Saturday, December 17, 2005

in this new home

Today, after an hour of hacking at ice and shoveling the sidewalk, I looked up to an orange/blue/yellow/grey/pink sky and realized that I am happy here.
I guess today is the first day that I've had the peace of mind to realize that.

Yes, I like this place.

I'm done, I did it.

No longer enough energy for enthusiasm, but I accomplished the goal of finishing my thesis proposal. I sent it off as an attachment in an e-mail at midnight exactly. Now I'll just wait and see if I need to make any revisions. I can handle that.

It's weird that so much time and energy can go into a measly 5 pages. But those 5 pages are going to be my life for the next 5 months.

The only thing left to do now is to grade essays--and then Christmas break is mine!

Friday, December 16, 2005

still working on the thesis proposal...

I have a cup of fresh coffee sitting directly in front of me. I've just returned from a walk in the snow with wolfie. I have not one, but two paragraphs of my thesis proposal written.

I want to write something here--but I have dedicated myself to finishing a draft of my proposal today. It doesn't need to be this difficult. I wrote 2 paragraphs in 2 days. Let's hope the rest comes easier.

On the bright side, I feel good about what I'm writing. No matter how hard it might be or become. It's time to write this story.

(...need more coffee)

Thursday, December 15, 2005

Self Portrait Tuesday: (oops--it's Wednesday--no, it's Thursday!)

Tuesday's come and gone, a few minutes ago it was Wednesday, and now it's Thursday. Who needs sleep when there's so much living to do?

When I was little people would ask what I wanted to be when I grew up. I wanted to be lots of things, but mostly I wanted to be either a piano teacher or a Solid Gold Dancer. ha! I will never become either.

But sometimes, secretly, I sill wish I was a ballerina.

Tuesday, December 13, 2005

Thoughts on Comfort and Inspiration...

Midnight, and finally I am starting to relax. I feel the tension in my back, in my neck, in my jaw loosening--bit by bit. I still have a thesis proposal to write and one more round of essays to grade, but at this point it is beginning to feel manageable. Ah--*deep breath*--a momentary break in the storm.

Speaking of storms--it is beautiful outside. I just returned from a late night walk with wolfie. The wind is warm enough that the snow has turned into a slight drizzle. By morning it might create more hazardous conditions, but for now, it feels heavenly. It's amazing how anything above 10 degrees starts to feel warm this time of year. We walked slow. Anu stopped often to sniff the air. I stopped along with her because I was in no hurry.

Last week I read a post that's had me thinking all week. And I've been waiting for a short break from the grind to post some of my own musings...

1. What brings you comfort?

scratchy cat kisses, the smell of fresh ground coffee, the taste of fresh brewed coffee, snuggling with Anu, the sound of wind in pine trees, long walks, occasional grey days, puddles of sunshine, the smell of oil paints, carnations, and books; potato chips, quiet mornings with a journal, the sound of 25 students with pen to paper, flannel sheets, new socks, warm water, rain, snow, green olive soup, burning candles and incense, the time to lay around with a good book, slow dancing with V., the smell of sage, deep vibrant colors, sheepskin, the sound of the heat turning on, watching my cats sleep, connecting with friends, samosas, old journals, my red coffee cup, listening to Jackson Browne (don't ask me why), making art, skyscapes, mist, frost, getting my hands dirty, my old red and black flannel, ravens...

2. What is one quote that has left a profound impact on your life?

"I went to the woods because I wished to live deliberately, to front only the essential facts of life, and see if I could not learn what it had to teach, and not, when I came to die, discover that I had not lived." ~Henry David Thoreau

3. What are 3 things on your life-list?

-to (continue) teaching writing
-to win the Pulitzer (ha!) ok--how about to write (and publish) at least one book
-to return to India

4. What inspires you?

all of the above, people that follow their heart (even when it's difficult or risky), travel, color, good teachers, good music, fresh air, the energy of fellow writers and artists, honesty, determination, my students, coffee!

Ahh--that little break felt good.

Goodnight, and sweet dreams.

The Green Machine

Powering me through the home stretch:

Spirulina, Chlorella, Green Tea, Broccoli, Spinach, Blue Green Algae, Garlic, Echinacea, Barley Grass, Wheat Grass, Apples, Kiwi, Banana, Pineapple, and Mango.

Want some?

Sunday, December 11, 2005

Random thought instead of writing...

Had the house sold just a little earlier, I would have been on a plane to India this week.

Had I been on a plane to India, I would have finished my work already. As it is, I am neither on a plane or finished with my work.


Saturday, December 10, 2005

Feeling At Home

Yesterday was good. And I've decided that it feels pretty good being 31. When I woke up the first thought to go through my conscious mind was that I've reached a plateau in life, a level place--those non-years between the age of 31 and oh, 39. It's those years that you never hear much about. The years that people just work hard, do what needs to be done, struggle, question their lives, work more, start aging, blah, blah, blah.

I imagined this plateau to look like somewhere that I've driven through, somewhere dry and in- the-distance; somewhere that I wished I could climb to the top of and see forever, dissolve into the vastness. But it's also somewhere dusty and beige. It's a nondescript place that looks good in the distance, but is boring once you get there.

However, being fond of open places, I've decided that having reached a level place isn't all bad. A couple years ago I took a cross country bike trip from my driveway in Becida to the Rockies. It required pedaling through hundreds of miles of plains--those open places that stretch out forever and we think of being flat, flat, flat. But what I remember most from the trip is the rolling hills, unexpected contours, the beauty of the landscape. And if the 30's are like North Dakota, then I think I'll take the road less traveled. The one that runs, not straight, but diagonally across the state.

Yesterday V. spoiled me, he spoiled me, he spoiled me. We spent the day bumming around town, ate lunch at the Wild Hare, bummed around some more, decorated the Christmas tree, went out for dinner and then a movie. After midnight we stood outside under a dark sky of fat snowflakes. They drifted down slow. The tree glowed through the window. There was quiet. And for the first time in a long while--I felt comfortable in my own skin. Nothing's changed overnight but, surprisingly, I am enjoying my view from the plateau.

A sense of community

Something I've been thinking about for a few days now is how and why and to what extent we use blogs as a way to communicate. I've also been thinking about community--in the classroom, in my neighborhood, in cyber-world... Oh, if only I had more time to write. We live in a world where we (wisely) keep ourselves guarded--but in the end, how cut off do we become? It is a world filled with strangers, but through blogs I am (recently) enjoying the evolution of community. And I'll admit--I like the change.

Friday, December 09, 2005

All work for the day: CANCELLED

Today ranks right up there with the first day of snow. But for now it's time to get out of my pajamas. Afternoon just started for chrissakes. I love it. Loud music, hot shower, strong coffee. Then maybe go out for a late lunch? Yes.

Thursday, December 08, 2005

Yesterday's Fortune

"Stop searching
happiness is inside of you."

Today, on the other hand, I haven't been looking for anything except to get things done. Luckily there is enough to do that it is an easily self-satisfying goal. Am I talking in English? Last night I dreamt that a strange woman slipped two hits of acid in my coffee. I've been feeling the effects all day--but I think it's actually a cold that I've been fighting all week. Although it is important to mention that I do not get sick. No, never. There's an intricate mind game I play with myself to keep illness at bay and it usually works. This time, however, I feel like I am fighting an uphill battle. Or maybe there's a small part of me that wants it this time--that heaviness, the calm, the excuse to lay down and not feel guilty about it. Oh yeah, but that's the other reason I never let myself get sick. I have an incredible guilt complex that does not allow me to "do nothing." I think I acquired it from my parents a long, long time ago. Chronic workaholics. Nature or nurture? I don't know. All I do know is that my dad never let me sleep in and my mom never sat still. So here I am, at 31 (tomorrow--hint, hint), a horrible, guilt-ridden product of my parents and their parents and their parents...

Good god. Am I floating?

Tuesday, December 06, 2005

Self Portrait Tuesday: (please sing along) ho-ho-ho-home depot is a rip off...

Geez, is it Tuesday again already? Ok, so December's "challenge" is a self-portrait in a reflective surface. So here it is--the Christmas tree! The one we spent way too much money for at Home Depot because we have legitimately become "city folk" and no longer have the swamp to tromp around in to find free "Charlie Brown" trees. Oh, but she's a beauty. And one of these days we might even get her decorated!

Tonight big, fat snowflakes fall slowly, slowly from the sky. Woodsmoke drifts into the yard like incense from someone else's chimney. And the tree...well, she waits very impatiently--and so do I!

Monday, December 05, 2005

I think I might have even missed my office.

It feels like a long time since I've been here. But that's not true. It's just that it's been a long time since I've been in here, not for office hours, but with the intention of getting something done. The door is shut, I have a latte at my side, a nice hot bowl of chili for when I get hungry, a stack of books, papers to grade. This place feels like the most organized and least distracting space available--so here I am.

Until now I've been avoiding my office except for when I needed to be here. I think I over used and abused the space last year with all those 12 even 14 hour days. Looking back I can honestly say: Last year sucked. Maybe all that horrible stressed out energy has finally dissipated from these windowless walls. It actually, I'll admit, feels good to be back.

I spent almost the entire morning outside taking care of my sick pooch and searching for a Christmas tree. And at the moment I am content to sit in this warm, dark office listening to a Christmas CD made by my husband (an early present).

Life feels fine. Things are about to get done.

Sunday, December 04, 2005

art folk photos

my mom and i in the "Fragmented Forest." (er--can you say metaphor?)

fellow art makers

and ashleigh and i at our opening!

Today I'm going to get a lot done.

This is a promise to myself.

This morning I got up (not as early as I would have liked) and took wolfie for a long walk. We went as far as the art's center then back along the lake trail. The snow was deep, but it felt good to trudge through it. I've learned to, like Anu, keep an eye out for squirrels. It makes her happy when I play along. By the time we got home my scarf and eyelashes were thickly frosted over. Anu's chin had icicles hanging from it. After feeding her and playing some more I came inside and made coffee. Oh--the aroma of coffee on a cold winter morning. Perfect. Outside every window, my world is covered in snow.

I find myself wanting to decorate for Christmas more than doing much of anything else. We got lights last night and today we'll get a tree. Whether or not we decorate it today, I'm not sure. There is too much to do. And once we have the tree set up, then damnit, I want to lay on the couch reading books, sipping hot chocolate, and enjoying it. Either way--we're almost to the end. Even though it feels absolutely, 100% impossible to accomplish it all. Miracles DO happen.

Since finishing the show, hanging it, and living (happily) through the opening...I feel a deep sense of calm. It is strange. Even though there's still a lot of stress in finishing out the semester, I have that "going-with-the-flow" feeling. I still miss Abe, and my grandpa, and my home in Becida...but now it's time to move on. Now if I cry it doesn't have to be about something I lost, but about something I was lucky enough to experience.

The rest, well-- the rest will fall into place.