The Fire (a poem)

Some hippie-dippy peacenik moment overtook me this morning while listening to a song called “Lovers in Japan” on Coldplay’s new CD, Viva La Vida. Sometimes music taps into a part of your soul that holds such love for everything and you just feel this overwhelming urge to do something beautiful. I apologize for this momentary dalliance into my overly optimistic side.

There’s a fire inside me
Surging blue like lightening from my fingertips
Jolting souls and hearts and minds
Filling the world with my fervent love.
A desire to fix and heal and forgive
Stirs my restless hands to life.

I want to push mountains aside,
Float upon the winds in the skies,
Sing breathless praises to the stars,
Feel Divine love like the sun on my back
Hold the hands of strangers and hug friends;
I want to do impossible things only dreamed.

An arch of fire spilling forth from my heart
Burns a blazing path of promise ahead
Leading to places where I know should go.
I want to run and spin and dance into the light,
Surrender to the fire that rages in my veins,
Dodge the cold water that threatens to extinguish.

So much potential fuming beneath my skin
So many ideas I’m afraid to begin.
The process of change is slow and I’m impatient;
Fire, inspire and push and move me;
Rage and ignite and enlighten me.
I’m ready for change, I’m ready to try.

Full of ideals and passion and altruism,
I’m lighting chalices with sparks from my heart,
Praying for hope and praying for peace;
I pass the flame from my palms to your fingertips
Hoping to inspire them to good work and actions
Whispered in love, breathed in compassion.

DISCLAIMER: I have not now or ever claimed to be a good poet. I know my work is amateur. As a certain English professor and a few choice friends will tell you, poetry is not my forte. I just dabble every once in awhile and I know the results are rusty. Please forgive me if I have bored you to tears with my bad attempt at expressing myself in my open-form lyrics. This was just the product of a feeling I had in a good moment…

Seriously, I love ya’ll but this has got to stop….

If you are planning on getting married or having a baby in the next year, and you’re my girlfriend or relative or acquaintance in some shape or form, could you do me the very great favor of forgetting my address when you’re making out the invitations to your shower? I just received my third shower invitation in a week, and one of them wasn’t even for a person living in this state, but, of course, Ms. Manners dictates that if you are invited to a shower, you’re supposed to provide a present or monetary supplication even if you can’t attend. Seriously, gals, I’m going broke with all your major life changes!!

I’ve already attended two baby showers in the last few months. I’ve held and admired two babies. I went to one baptism party. I threw one wedding shower (for one of the gals now having a baby shower because she went and did everything all at once). I was invited to one wedding that I couldn’t make due to TOSRV (which, of course, means I had to send another gift). I attended two weddings last year and one bachelorette party. In 2006, I attended three bridal showers and three weddings. For you men folk who don’t understand how the feminine world of marriage goes, I, as a female, am obligated to buy two gifts for every wedding–one for the bridal shower and one for the wedding itself. I won’t even mention how many bridal dresses I’ve had to buy over the last ten years of my life (I’m apparently very popular as a close friend). It wasn’t 27 dresses like that recent movie with Katherine Heigl, but give me ten more years and it will be awfully close! (At least I can say that I’ve never attended more than one wedding in one day as a bridesmaid.)

This is getting a bit crazy. Now all my cousins are starting to get married, so the spiral is doomed to never end. All I can do is promise you all that I will not be hurt if you don’t invite me. I’ve got other things to do with my time and money. I promise sincerely that I will never ask you to attend any future bridal showers, baby showers, or weddings I may throw. I didn’t have a bridal shower when I got married because I believe they are a scam to sucker your girlfriends out of one more gift (and they are!). I had a bachelorette party because, hey, that’s just drinking and carousing with your best buddies–just a regular girls’ night out (I didn’t do the strip club thing). You can spend as much or as little as you desire.

I don’t care what people say–I will NOT have a baby shower if I ever decide to have kids. I don’t need the charity of my friends to procure the proper baby equipment. If I decide to have kids, I expect I will be in the financial situation where I can afford to buy all their accompanying kitch. Besides, the whole girlie event of a shower–baby or bridal–just makes me want to gag. If you haven’t noticed, I’m not too girlie. I enjoy riding my bike with the guys. I like to drink beer. Sometimes I belch loud and uninhibitedly. I’m most comfortable in a pair of shorts, sandals, and a tank top. I like to get my hands dirty and sweat. The color pink makes me want to smack people around. I’m feminine, yes, in my own way; a girlie girl, I am not.

Occasionally, I like chick flicks. But, I swear, that’s it.

If I have kids, we can get together after the child (Aurora if it is a girl and Martin if it is a boy) is born. We can have a bonfire and I’ll pass the baby around for all to ogle. We can celebrate the excitement of motherhood or creation or whatever is so glamorous about children in a nice, informal way that doesn’t require you providing anything more than a dish for potluck. Bring the guys, too, for they are part of the whole creation event. Sure couldn’t have children without their help. I promise it won’t be a hen party!

If I ever am blessed enough to find a man I feel compelled to marry, attendance to the wedding will not be obligatory. Maybe it will be a destination wedding in Vegas (on the Enterprise bridge at the Hilton!) or a small ceremony in a vineyard. Either way, no presents will be required, just the presence of my most cherished friends. It won’t even be that big of a deal. Maybe dinner would be small and informal. I would still buy a nice dress, but I wouldn’t spend more than $100. (The dress from my first wedding hangs in my closet. It was $600. I wore it once.)

I might have another bachelorette party. It just wouldn’t be one of those crazy things those young girls are having these days. I would have something small and relaxed, representing the pace of my life in my thirties (or forties–it may be a long time before I’m ever married again). Maybe we’d go to an Indians game or sit at a wine bar. Peace and quiet and not a lot of money–these are my vows for my thirty-something life. The party girl I was still likes to party, but at a slower pace these days.

Man. I really want to buy two CDs (The Church’s Heyday and The Wailin’ Jennys’ Firecracker), but now I feel broke with two baby showers and one bridal shower in my future. Ugh. I’m getting waaaaaaaay to old for this stuff.

I forgot to mention that I officially retired from bridesmaiding as of Angy’s wedding. If you really want me as a bridesmaid in your wedding, you must submit a petition including a 10-page essay as to why you feel I should bless your marriage with my devoted witness. Trust me, you need more than my cherished witness to bless your marriage. I’m not sure I provide very good luck. My odds are good; of the nine or so weddings I’ve attended as a bridesmaid, only three have ended in divorce. Never fear–two of these people already have someone better in their lives. Still, do you really think your luck is helped by a woman who lost her husband within twenty months of her marriage? Not hardly! You’re better off to pick a woman married much longer than I have ever known!

I might consider being a godparent again. Though, knowing my amorphous non-specific beliefs, probably most people would avoid that one like a plague (my best friend made me a godmother with the caveat, “I’d rather have an atheist being my child’s spiritual guide than the kind of guidance others close to me would provide.” It was really touching, especially since I knew immediately who one of these “others” she was referring to was.)

Though, being a godmother means more money out the door…. and that commitment is more of a lifelong obligation… Though, I suppose I don’t mind so much. Even if I don’t really feel a big influence of said child’s life.

Update on my garden

Well, my mom came over last night to help me finish planting flowers on the two mounds we built at the edges of my yard. Who am I kidding? My mom did all the work: she bought all the flowers, chose how the flowers were arranged, and planted them. I followed her with a watering can full of plant fertilizer with which I dutifully watered the plants, and then covered them back up with soil and mulch. We both added another layer of mulch to both mound gardens. Even though I didn’t do all the planning or planting, I feel as though I’ve accomplished something and my front yard looks much more loved.

“Next year, you will be able to pick your own plants, arrange them, and plant them, since you now know how to do it” my mom said happily. Maybe. But I’m still a little afraid of choosing the “wrong” plants. (You know, the “wrong” plants–the ones that get the other plants addicted to fertilizer, causing the plants to vegetate their lives away!)

It will be nice to see these plants spread out on the mounds throughout the summer. My mom picked plants that grow and spread. Most of the plants are annuals, but some of the main stuff are perennials with the same “spreading” tendency. We put in a white lilac and a blackberry bush, both of which I’m excited about. Especially the blackberries–yum!

My mom says the plants we put in last time are looking healthy. Right now, I’m trying to nurse these plants I call “tribbles” back to health in one of the gardens in front of my house. I don’t know what the plants are actually called–my mom has said it to me a hundred times, but I keep forgetting–but I like “tribbles” better. I’m calling my project to bring them back among the healthy living “Save the Tribbles!”

I’ve included some pictures of the newly planted gardens. I’m excited to see how they grow throughout the summer. I’m already worried about them getting water in August when I go to Colorado for a week. So I guess there’s a closet gardener within me.

My tomato plants (in the front garden) are looking really good. I sure hope they give me some yummy red veggie/fruit!

Mound by the driveway which now contains the white lilac.

Mound at opposite corner. The blackberry bush is in this area
(towards back of this picture–it’s still very small).

A night with Garrison Keillor

Saturday night, my mom and I attend the live performance of A Prairie Home Companion at Blossom Music Center in Cuyahoga Falls. I bought my mom her ticket as a Mother’s Day/birthday gift this year. My husband introduced me to the show, as well as NPR, back in the infancy of our dating, and I’ve been a huge fan of both ever since. Paying it forward, I played for my mom The Christmas Companion–a compilation of Christmas-related performances Keillor released a few years ago, which I got as my gift for donating generously to NPR that year. She liked it instantly and began to drive my father nuts by playing her dubbed copy of it incessantly for the next several months beyond Christmas. Now my mom listens to the show as frequently as I do.

So we were both really, really excited to get the chance to be a part of the live audience when the show came to town. I watched the website for three months, waiting for the tickets to go on sale. I personally never thought they’d come to a small little place like the Akron area; they always seemed to go to sophisticated places like New York or San Franscisco. Of course, I guess being a show centered in the Midwest (Minneapolis-St. Paul) about the Midwest, I should have suspected they would pay us a visit.

I was really not disappointed at all. It’s amazing to watch these people work–Garrison, Sue Scott, Tim Russell, Fred Newman. The entire show moves like clockwork with everyone flowing naturally through their parts as though it were an effortless activity. Keillor is constantly walking about the stage, even when he’s not performing, having whispered conversations with stage hands and production crew. It’s amazing to see him sing a refrain in one breath, turn to a production crew member to talk off mike, and then return–without skipping a beat–to the song. He’s got the whole stage working like puppets in his hands and it goes off virtually flawlessly.

Lucky for us, we were sitting in the pavilion because a huge thunderstorm came through right as the show began. I pity the fools in the lawn seats. Too many shows gone wrong have taught me that lawn seats at Blossom are a gamble for any show I actually intend to watch. I don’t know whose crazy idea it was to build an outdoor theatre in wet Ohio where only two to three months a year are stable enough weather-wise to hold an outdoor event. The idea of outdoor theatre is romantic, though completely impractical in a state like Ohio.

The thunderstorm actually added to the entertainment of the show. During a skit between Sue Scott and Keillor where Scott’s character, a neurologist, was making passes at Keillor’s Guy Noir, a loud clap of thunder erupted through the theatre. Scott quipped, in her character’s voice, without missing a beat, “Oh my! It’s a sign!”

After the laughter passed, she continued, “Anyway, the real punchline was…” and proceeded to recite the scripted line. The next few lines between she and Keillor continued the ad libs about the lightening and rain and thunderstorms.

We actually did lose power during the second song of the show. However, at the end of the entire performance, Keillor and his singers came back on stage to repeat the first two songs–a cover of the Beach Boys’ “I Get Around” and a cover of “They All Went to Mexico” (either by Willie Nelson or Santana)– so that they could be inserted into the rebroadcast without the missing time that the power outage caused. None of us were disappointed that we got to stay around for a final two songs after the show to provide the required applause that would make listeners of the rebroadcast believe we’d never lost power at all (though, I think Keillor did reference the power loss sometime during the show).

The crew went off script a few times to make remarks about the thunderstorm. Keillor and his crew just seemed like naturals in the performance of the entire show, which only seems expected since they’ve been working with A Prairie Home Companion for so long. Watching Fred Newman producing his sound affects was like watching a kid waiting about to pull off a stunt he knows he’s going to get in trouble for if he gets caught; there was still a childlike bounce about him as he produced accompanying noises for the skits which, at times, were in rapid fire succession.

It was great to hear all the local references Keillor worked into the show. It’s like a salute to your heritage and you know, since it’s broadcast throughout the U.S. (particularly in the Midwest), that people in other cities are learning special local highlights of your home. I think, too, I’ve been discovering over the last few months a lot of interesting things about the state of my birth–historical tidbits that connect me to this land in some way. Every place has its history, you simply need to uncover it. I’ve had a recent fascination with the Erie Canal as well as the many other more minor canals along rivers in Ohio. I hope to explore the history of these canals further (sometimes I can hear a historical work of fiction brewing in my head). What can I say? Ohio: I love to hate it, though, really, I love it in a dysfunctional parent-child relationship sort of way. I guess I’m never happy!

One of the guest musicians was a group called The WailinJennys. I really liked their music and I think I’m going to look them up. My mom and I found them doing another performance after the show outside on of the other Blossom buildings and we stuck around to listen to them some more. The group consists of three women and a male violinist. The music is folk, which I’m usually not that keen on. However, I really enjoyed it. I probably should have bought one of their CDs, but my mom is so not into looking at merchandise at shows like this. She’s always commenting how things cost too much. I didn’t want to inspire a discourse on this topic so I just left it to myself to find them online somewhere later.

A Prairie Home Companion is one of my favorite shows to listen to on NPR. It hearkens to a time when radio was the main media and actors play-acted scenes to dramas and comedies. There’s something distinctly quaint about it all, about using your imagination to envision the scenes being enacted through only words. I’m in love with the image of the Midwest it portrays because the jokes are familiar to me–they make sense in a way that I understand in my Midwest mindset. There’s something different about our part of the world here in the Midwest. The show just really draws that out and makes you not only appreciate it, but laugh at it too. Keillor is a master at understanding the Midwest psyche–those topics that drive us–and he invites us to laugh at ourselves. His jokes aren’t offensive to anyone, but light-hearted and fun. Even his “political commentary,” though probably tending to liberalism at times, is actually generic enough that Democrats and Republicans alike can share the humor. (One of the best jokes from Saturday was his remark about the discovery of water on Mars, “The best thing to come out of this administration and it happened on Mars!”)

Keillor is very professorial in his speaking style and I always picture myself in a lecture hall at a university, captivated. He reminds me of the best of the professors I learned from at Hiram. I’m currently on two of his mailing lists from the A Prairie Home Companion website, one of which sends me a poem each day. I feel like I’m still actively involved in a literary community, though so far from the place from which I came in this technical writing community. At least, though, for once a day, I can pretend to be an English major again, studying the great works of man under the tutelage of a fun and inspiring professor.

The only thing I missed from Saturday’s performance was a reference to Keillor’s made-up society for English majors called the Professional Organization of English Majors (P.O.E.M–get it?). Occasionally on his show he runs “messages” from P.O.E.M with such themes as “why you should marry an English major” and “the validity of a degree in English” (which usually amounts to working at a made up fast food chain). These little salutes to my own degree make me laugh, for no other form of media has ever paid such respects to my degree, even if only to mock it. I guess the reason it’s actually heartwarming is because it comes from a man who is obviously the product of a liberal arts education and he’s making a great living working within liberal arts. It gives all of us hope. I know that as he mocks it he’s really validating the worthiness of a liberal arts education. His English major characters delve into the questions we all asked ourselves at the end of our college careers, “Now what am I going to do?” when we realized that we probably couldn’t be the novelists and poets we aspired to be if we wanted to move out of our parents’ house.

I recently bought his 2-CD compilation called For English Majors. There’s a delightful 6-minute Hamlet skit on it that makes me roll in hysterics because in just six minutes, Keillor captures the essence of a very long play with punchy humor. I love spoofs on even the things I cherish most (Hamlet being one of my favorite Shakespeare plays). For those who know the plight of the English major personally, his jokes are especially funny.

Seeing A Prairie Home Companion live was even more fun than I expected. My mom really liked it too and said to me before she left, “If the show comes back to town someday, let me know. I’d like to go again.”

Score one for Mars Girl and her amazing perfect-present purchasing power!!

And, thank you, Garrison Keillor, for a delightful show in my home town on a rainy, thunderstorming, Saturday night. You made me love to fall in love with the Midwest again!

My amorphous beliefs

I am not sure I believe in God. Sometimes I do; sometimes I don’t. It’s not something I have strong convictions about at this time in my life. At most, I can say honestly that I really want to believe there is a god. But I want him to be like the god I envision–non-judgemental, unconditionally and equally loving of everyone regardless of race, gender, sexual orientation, personal religious beliefs. I don’t believe in a judgmental God who sits on a thrown, kicking you out of the afterlife if you don’t adhere to a specific dogma. My god knows who you really are and accepts you for it. I don’t think we can put human ideals of judgment on the Divine.

In line with Universalist tradition, I believe that everyone is saved. I don’t think we have to do anything special to gain access to the collective consciousness of the afterlife (if there is one). I think we’re all a part of the great spirit of life and, as such, we’ll all return to it upon our deaths. God, or the Divine, or whatever else you want to call it, is too good to condemn any of his children. Maybe the souls of the truly evil–those who have fallen from paths that advance humanity, those who have chosen to cause pain instead of breed love–are sent back to live out physical life here on Earth again until they get it right and are capable of advancing to the next level of existence. Maybe that’s the judgment God imparts. Maybe that’s the real message of Eden, not that we are all sinners, but that some of us are. I truly think people are innately good with tendencies and temptations towards bad. These are our primal instincts, the qualities that have kept our race alive but have no use in a cooperative society.

I think that all religions provide some sort of insight on the Divine. I’m most comfortable with Christianity, probably due to having been raised a Catholic, but I also find truth in Buddhism and some of the eastern traditions. I like the practical Mother Earth philosophy of paganism, though the myriad of gods I find confusing and slightly silly. I think that all of humanity has had the group experience of the Divine and, in their uniquely diverse ways of describing it, they have invented multiple religions attempting to explain what they have felt. I am not sure anyone’s got it quite right (including myself, I admit!) so we keep fumbling with these words and inspirations and expressions.

I believe that evolution and creationism are not mutually exclusive. No one knows what a “day” means to God, as described in Genesis. God’s day may be a million billion years, for all we simpletons know. Perhaps the intricate design of life requires science and evolution. Maybe God was the catalyst to the Big Bang. Maybe he started the chain of events to make life and he waited, excitedly, to see what the chemical stew would uncover and here we are! Perhaps somewhere else in the universe, there is intelligent life looking nothing like ourselves. Maybe they breathe methane and excrete oxygen. Do they think that they were made in God’s image too? Maybe “God’s image” is a metaphor. Maybe “image” doesn’t really mean physical image, but more like what comprises our soul is the part that was made in God’s image.

I believe that life is precious. The universe is harsh. We must make the most of our time here, ensuring that we help those who need us and we take care of the planet on which we live. What are we supposed to learn here? Perhaps we’re meant to make paradise on earth. I don’t put stock in the unknown, but I do put all my energies on what I do know. Life is hard, but also beautiful. I appreciate the beautiful moments, try to navigate through the hard moments, and I attempt to give something of myself to the world. I’m sad for those whose only life is one of hardship. I pray that the afterlife is better to them.

Lately, I’ve been thinking hard on the whole issue of God. I battle with the part of me that thinks our intelligence is random chance. It’s so easy to go there. Yet, when I marvel at all that we do and have done, I wonder what separates us from animals (sometimes, it’s really hard to tell the difference). Is there something more to us than what exists in, say, a cat? A bird? An ant? Yet these beings have their place too. Life is a cycle that feeds on itself. We’re at the top of the chain. For now.

Thinking like this also causes me to go into existential quandaries. What’s the point to all this even if there is a God? And where did God come from? And why bother with this whole thing? This is when I get into the heavy area of pondering whether reality is real and if maybe I’m just a dream in someone else’s head. Or maybe I’m sleeping in a cave somewhere while hooked to a virtual reality machine like in The Matrix. I read a book once that stated reality is what you make of it in your mind. In other words, how I perceive the world is what shapes reality so, really, none of this is real at all but made up in my head. I think I’m interacting with other people, but I’m so trapped in my own head, I don’t even realize that I’ve made this whole thing up. If so, you’d think I’d have come up with some better results for my life. I wouldn’t be a widow or sitting here at this crappy job.

I try to avoid those reality quandaries. They leave me with a strange sense of unfamiliarity with my surroundings and then I can’t communicate with people for hours without thinking about how weird every word sounds and looks (is that the right word? am I saying it correctly? who came up with this word? does anyone understand me?).

I am not sure there is an afterlife. If I was sure, I’d be more sure there was a god. I think there is a good possibility there is an afterlife. In church this past week, the lay leader’s sermon focused on the “ifs” and “whats” of the afterlife. Having done a lot of research on the topic, she still concluded that she was unsure, but that there was a lot of evidence that suggested some strange phenomenon so it was impossible to say there wasn’t an afterlife. I’m waiting to get her reading list because I’m really interested in this topic. Too many people have had interesting “near death” experiences that seem to have been impossible–people who saw things happening in the room where they were being operated on, visions people had while they were flat-lined, overheard conversations from rooms where the person’s body wasn’t. I want to read about these for myself. The lay leader said some of the stories caused skeptics to change their point of view.

I think I have to believe in an afterlife in order to be at peace with my husband’s death. That’s why I always say that I want to believe. I don’t want to believe that Mike is gone from the universe. It’s much nicer to envision his spirit roaming the universe, studying all of the Divine’s creations with apt interest, waiting until the day when he can show them all to me personally. I’d rather think he visits his resting place on Mt. Elbert, that he can really hear me when I cry to him and that he can read those cards I drop at the spot where I left his ashes. It’s easier to imagine him alive in this way than completely dead. If everything he was is gone forever, then I have to ask myself what was the point to his life–all the abusive years he suffered growing up, all the confusion of trying to fix himself after he got out. It seems like an empty venture to live for 32 years and die just at the dawning of your life where everything you ever wanted was about to begin. I’d rather think there’s an afterlife and he’s in it.

I guess my vision of God is more like the Force from Star Wars–a life-creating energy that surrounds all living things. You can use the energy for good, or you can misuse it for bad. When you die, you become a part of it, contributing to the life all around you. I have always imagined–even in my self-proclaimed atheist years–that we as physical beings are in the larval stage of our existence; when we die, we burst forth and fly away like beautiful butterflies. Maybe life is in two stages like this.

I don’t have any of the answers. But this is what I believe. I can’t say I have faith in it–I have so little faith in anything. It’s just simply what I believe when I’m tempted to believe in something.

Something more than this

A friend from several years ago introduced me to this short-lived band called October Project. The female lead singer has a sort of operatic voice and the music is complex. I was listening to their CD Falling Further In this morning on the way to work. The second track, “Something More Than This,” always makes me attempt to actually sound in tune even though I know it’s almost impossible with this singer. This song resonates with me deeply. It may be a simple breakup song, but to me, it speaks to my own spirituality. Here are the lyrics I love best, the ones that give me chills as they are sung so melodically, like a piece of a reverie that is stuck in some fold of my subconscious thought:

In the shadow cast as you were leaving
In the beauty of the ending day
There is always something to return to
Something you allow
To slip away…

In the empty corners of the evening
In the vacant beauty of the wind
There is always something to remember
Something to remember
To begin…

It’s the kind of song I’d love to sing in church because it touches me in that spot where all of my spiritual insight originates. I guess I could get away with the song at a UU. I’m always coming up with music I’d rather use that the standard hymns of praise, something that means more to me. I never know why praise has to always indicate God. Perhaps the Divine can be implied (as it often is in U2 songs).

“In the shadow cast as you were leaving” as always makes me think of my husband (of course). It always brings me back to our bedroom where he lay dying with my figure bent over him. For some reason, I remember this scene not from my own perspective, but from that of a third person in the room, observing. I’ve sometimes imagined that my memory of that day has been juxtaposed with the view from Mike’s “eyes” as his non-body essence watched. I don’t know when my memory of his dying moments changed from my perspective to my imagined view from his, but the image is stuck there now and I cannot rid myself of it.

I always picture the shadow of his soul across the bed, looking down at us in hopeless despair. He knows he’s not coming back and he can’t tell me that. It’s a desperate situation. I’m trying to help; he’s already departed his body.

This song makes me think of that moment. The ending day referred to is the end of a chapter, an era of my life. Endings hurt. Yet, a day ends–no matter how bad it was–with the fading beauty of the setting sun. And though you want desperately to stop the hands of time, you find yourself drawn to admire the beauty. There’s something sad in the setting of the sun, but something hopeful, too.

In the next verses of the song, I feel urged to remember the past but build something new, to not let the emptiness turn into something less than beautiful. Maybe at the moments when we feel the most alone, we are reminded of the preciousness of life. Don’t dwell in the “empty corners of the evening,” don’t let the “vacant beauty” of the wind sweep you off your feet; find that thing that moves you and start it.

The chorus affirms my impression of the song’s “move on but don’t forget” message:

Whatever you fear
Whatever you hide
Whatever you carry deep inside
There’s something more than this

It’s a deeply powerful urging, backed with glorious music, to not let fears and sadness and all your other baggage suppress you. There’s something more than this. I like the vagueness of that statement–“something” instead of names or ideas. “Something” doesn’t mean the same thing to everyone and for me, with my amorphous beliefs, it is the perfect word. There is something more than this. I know I’ve felt something. I just can’t tell you what. (Maybe, says my skeptic, this “something” is just my own insight, my own feeling of connectedness with myself. I’d like to think it was more than that, but I just don’t know.)

This song makes me gasp in its perfection–music, words, message all merge together to create an experience that moves me to sing/scream at the top of my lungs. I find myself uplifted whenever I hear it.

Reveries not summoned

Here is the house
Where it all happens
Those tender moments
Under this roof
Body and soul come together
As we come closer together
And as it happens
It happens here
In this house
–Depeche Mode, “Here is the House”

2000 was the best year of my life.

I didn’t know it then. That’s the problem with a moment: you’re too busy living in it, experiencing the magnitude of it, and you have no awareness of an ending. I don’t think we have the capacity to appreciate what we have at the moment. We’re enjoying ourselves, but we often hold back the deepest of our emotions in expectation of something better. My “something better” then was moving to Colorado with my husband.

Still, I think I appreciated then the absent complacency of those days.

2000 started with a bang. We attended a huge party at the Sheraton hotel next to the Falls in Cuyahoga Falls. It was an overnight stay at the hotel with a champagne breakfast in the morning. We had the time of our lives, joking about the world ending at midnight. We held our breaths at the countdown commenced. We didn’t think the world would end, but we did worry about the power outages and panic that were described for the months leading up to the Y2K. The new year came without a glitch.

We went back to the Sheraton’s New Year’s party in 2001, but it wasn’t as fun. Somehow, the food wasn’t quite as good, the party was more sober, the music less jazzy. We even got into a fight that night. Everything felt deflated. Looking back, it was like a harbinger of the tragedy to come.

The summer of 2000, we visited Sarah in Portland. We tried to climb Mt. St. Helen’s, but the depth of the lingering snow above treeline held us back. We all had fun regardless. For once, I didn’t beat myself up over the missed summit. The togetherness was the point. Friendship shared.

That year was filled with an obsession with Survivor and Big Brother. Reality television was new back then and we loved every dramatic moment of it. I guess that’s why the novelty of Survivor wore off for me after the first season. The second season happened after Mike died. The show only brought memories of week nights held in suspense as we sat together on the couch, guessing each player’s strategy and taking stabs at who would be voted off next. It was our time together. I just couldn’t face the show again, nor hear the theme music, after Mike died. There was nothing in it for me anymore.

Memories of cold winter Saturdays spent indoors. We made dinner together and drank wine. Made love right in the middle of the living room in front of a roaring fire in the fireplace. Yeah, I know it’s clique. When your happy, you don’t worry about not being original. Every romantic clique feels like you invented it.

Once a month, we watched The Fifth Element. We had a religious attachment to the movie, quoting lines at each other often. We planned to one day show up at my cousin’s annual Halloween Party as Korbin Dallas and Leelu (the main characters and love interest). We wanted to name our son Korbin.

Walks at Virginia Kendall Park in the Cuyahoga Valley NP. We liked to hike in the winter because no one was around. The only noise was the crunch of our boots on the snow. We shared the silence. We went off the hiking path (since you couldn’t see it).

I was reminded of 2000 yesterday when the radio station I was listening to had one of those “guess the year” clips where they play sound bites of the major events of the year. The clip of Jeff Probst announcing, “…And the winner of the Survivor is Richard!” I remembered that moment, Mike and I apt with anticipation. A wave of memories from 2000 crashed to the forefront of my thoughts. For a moment, I could feel something of the aura of that year, as if a part of me had gone back in time for just a moment. I could almost feel Mike next to me, smiling at the outcome of Survivor.

It’s these kind of moments where you realize that no matter what you do, or how much happiness you find in the wake of sorrow, there’s always something that pulls you back to a distant reverie. I’ll never really “get over” Mike’s death. An out-of-the-blue attack to my senses will always be just around the corner, waiting to remind me of who I am and where I came from.

It didn’t make me sad so much as bittersweet. I welcome the memories while hating them. For just a moment, I recaptured something I lost. Yet, the torture of its momentary reality stings, leaving me throbbing and stunned.

I’m famous now!

Akron Life & Leisure magazine featured the Akron Bicycle Club (ABC) this month in an article called “Fun on Two Wheels” (hey, have they seen my blog?? Copyright infringement!). The photographer had shown up on the first Thursday night ride I did this year and, guess what, Mars Girl appears as one of the faces of ABC. I’m so glad I wore my Giant jersey that day so that I could represent for all the thinking cyclists who own the best road bike in the world! (Sorry, Trek owners, but Giant cyclists rock TOSRV; therefore we own the world.)

My good friend and ABC’s newsletter editor, Fred Wise was voice for the article. He pretty much summed the purpose of our club nicely by stating that it’s about “socializing and sharing a love of something with others.” I’m a little mystified, however, by his comment, “It’s a loosey-goosey organization.” Huh? That kind of sounds like we’re involved in some sort of group sex thing. Apparently, I’m missing something on some of those weekend long social trips I don’t attend!

Cheers to Shelley Blundell (writer) and Ray Saviciunas (photographer) of Akron Life & Liesure for a great article! It was nice to see our club so eloquently highlighted to the Akron reading audience with the familiar faces of some of our most active members. It really paints us in a respectable light and hopefully entices other people to look us up!

And… what a pretty bitchin’ action shot of me (above), wouldn’t you say? I’m not too fond of the picture in the page below. My photogenic magic only lasts for a few good shots. A picture of another club member from that same Thursday night ride also appears in the table of contents of the magazine.

(I apologize for my scanning ineptitude–I know this page is pretty crooked. But you can still read the text!)

Why is everyone so obsessed with clothing tags?

It seems to me that the tag in my whatever shirt I’m wearing is always hanging out. I’m constantly bombarded by people stating, “Your tag is hanging out,” and–worse yet–people who have the gull to just reach out and tuck the tag back into my shirt for me. That drives me absolutely insane because, as much of an extrovert as I am, I don’t really like to be touched by people I didn’t expressly invite to do so. Most of the time, people don’t go around touching people without their permission. They only do it when the tag of your shirt is sticking out of your clothes; only then do they overtaken by this moral obligation to reach out and adjust the tag for you. Even guys will do it to women! The same guys who would look away embarrassed when they accidentally bump your foot under the table during a work meeting.

This morning I’m wearing a summer top with a neckline that bunches like a turtleneck at my throat. Because the fabric is rather loose, the tags are always falling back out. Every time I wear this shirt, I get multiple polite reminders that the tag is out and/or uninvited assistance to fix it. I was on my way to the office “commissary” to buy coffee and a coworker (female) says, “Your tag is out. Do you want me to adjust it for you?”

At least she asked. “No,” I replied gingerly. “And it doesn’t matter; this shirt’s tags always come back out.”

As I made my way towards coffee nirvana (we brew Starbucks at this office, which is one of the only benefits of working here), I began to ponder, why it is that people are so obsessed about the tag of your shirt being exposed. Yeah, I know, it probably looks dorky to have it hanging out like that. But why the compulsive need to fix the situation?

I can’t think of a single time I’ve hassled anyone about their tag being out much less felt at liberty to reach out and touch them to fix it. In fact, I am not even sure I see it that often. Maybe most people remove all their tags. Maybe I just have weird clothes. Maybe I’m just dumb when it comes to putting my clothes on.

Are we such an anal society that just some small little thing out of place causes us to become so focused on fixing it that we lose all sense of social graces (ie, reaching out and fixing it) to “put it right”? What’s so wrong with the tag of your shirt showing? What if I decided to wear all my clothes inside out? What would you do then?

At the same time, I have to admit that I might be a tad oversensitive when it comes to people making comments about my personal appearance. I do get annoyed when people point out other imperfections in my clothes, such as a coffee stain, or a lingering crumb or cat hair, or when someone tells me there is something on my face. Granted, in the end, I’m grateful when someone tells me that a spot of food is lingering on my face or that something like that. I just don’t like being gently reminded at the time because it feels like mothering in the way that instead of pointing out the good aspects of how you look, a mom will only focus on the parts that aren’t right. Like, “I really don’t care for that color on you, dear.” I spend a lot of time fussing and worrying about my appearance that when someone points out an imperfection, I’m flustered. How did I miss that one thing? Why is everyone so focused on it? And what’s the big deal? Why are we so judgemental with each other about how we look? Why does a little thing like a clothing tag put everyone so out of kilter?

It just strikes me as funny. Maybe it’s Monday and everything makes me irate after a night of disturbed sleep (due to local t-storms that kept me from actually falling asleep for an hour). Still, I seriously thinking about cutting all the tags out of my clothes. I’ll no longer know how to wash my best clothes, but at least I won’t have those nasty tags sticking out and bringing out everyone’s compulsive behaviors…

Ten things I love about Ohio

1. Summer. The lush green landscape, the rolling hills of the Northeast and the Southeast. (You can have the flatness of the west, Toledo, Findlay, and the like.)

2. The wine. Despite what drinkers of California and European wines will tell you (wine snobs), Ohio has a pretty respectable wine industry by my selective standards. We don’t do good Merlot or Cabernet Sauvignon, but we can make a descent Cabernet Franc or Pinot Noir. Our white wines–like Vidal Blanc, Pinot Gris, and Riesling–stand up well to white wines on the national level (even wine snobs will tell you that). And, hey, no one can make an ice wine like Ohio (or northern wine-producing states)–we know how to use a good freeze to our advantage. I love wine from everywhere for various reasons. When you’re drinking Ohio wine, you have to take it for the context of where it is from. Sure, the reds can’t be directly compared to something coming out of California. But we certainly don’t make swill like Matthew Fox (which is the grossest wine I’ve ever drank, making it the standard by which I judge all bad wines).

I like frequenting the local wineries. I’m such a lush. A much nicer atmosphere than a bar. Especially in the heat of the Ohio summer.

3. The Midwest attitude. Meat and potatoes, true; however Midwest people are much warmer and openly friendly. I know it often doesn’t seem like that. Spend some time in Denver and you realize that people are a little more private and they tend to keep to themselves more. I think this is the reason I had a lot of trouble trying to make connections and friends out there. My dad, who has only visited but not lived there, also made this observation about Coloradoans.

4. The impressive bodies of water. With a Great Lake to the north and a significant river to the south, Ohio offers water that inspire awe. I missed Lake Erie when I was in Colorado. I guess when you grow up near a Great Lake, your definition of a lake is skewed; a body of water where you can see all the banks is merely a pond. I don’t know what it is, but I’m really attracted to water, even though I don’t glory in swimming in it all that much.

We have some great little islands for vacationing on, as well. Last year, Michael and I spent time on Pelee–which is really in Canada, but I’m counting it since you could get there easily by ferry from Sandusky–and I loved it. My thought of the weekend was, “Why spend all the money to go to the Caribbean when in the summer you have all the benefits of the Caribbean in your backyard?”

I swam all weekend and lazily biked around the island. It was pleasant. And it also had a winery!!

5. Fall. Coloradoans gets excited about its aspens in the mountains, which only turn yellow. Nothing compares to the multitude of reds, oranges, and yellows that collage the rolling hillsides and forests and tree-lined streets of the Midwest. Ohio definitely has its fair share of fall foliage. I know I missed this in Colorado.

6. Friends and family. Let’s face it: my friends and family, who probably will never leave here, are what brought me back to Ohio. In my loneliest hours, I find comfort knowing that most of my friends are a phone call and a half hour drive away. I didn’t realize how much I needed this companionship in my life. I guess when I moved to Colorado, I thought it would be like going to college in that I would make friends quickly and easy. I forgot that in college, we’re all in the same boat–a strange, new place and on our own. In the adult world, people are mostly settled into their lives. They aren’t actively seeking friends as much because they don’t need to. They’ve already built their walls of comfort. It’s a lot harder to get people to connect with you. Especially in a culture whose people are just a tad bit standoffish, ask described in #3.

I love my friends and my family. Leaving taught me how important these people are to me. They were my biggest pull back here. I probably should have mentioned them earlier in the list.

7. Culture–theatre, food, the arts. Cleveland definitely takes the cake in all of these areas. Still very culturally diverse, we have a myriad of authentically ethnic restaurants to meet our every dining pleasure. I never realized how culturally diverse we are until I lived in the mostly-white state of Colorado.

Cleveland by far blows away what Denver can offer as far as theatre goes. Playhouse Square offers off-Broadway shows and has a longer running theatre playbill. Denver’s theatre complex was new and modern looking, which the nouveau decorator in me really liked, but the shows were less attractive. I think the biggest show we had while I was there was Tony and Tina’s Wedding. Having been a season-ticket holder to the Broadway series in Cleveland, I was very disappointed. I didn’t realize how much into theatre I was.

8. History. Settlement of Ohio occurred earlier in the nation’s history. The buildings are older, the towns longer established, and the institutions (such as Hiram College) have an earlier history. Many great people were born in Ohio–the Wright brothers, Thomas Edison, James A. Garfield (who began his presidential resume as president of Hiram College!), John Glenn, and Annie Oakley. Ohio was part of the Underground Railroad, which is another significant chapter in American history. The Erie Canal. Lots of history that I’ve not taken the time to explore in my home state. (Hopefully, I will fix that!)

9. Cost of living. People can bitch about the cost of things all the want, but I’ve lived in Colorado and I know that it is worse elsewhere. I got more yard for my buck here than I did in Colorado. My car insurance is back to a level of sanity at $800/year whereas in Colorado it was $800 a half of a year. Milk, which I don’t drink, was more expensive, and so was meat. That always struck me as weird because there were an awful lot of dairy and beef farms in Colorado. Most notably, Greeley, Colorado is the home to a major meat-packing plant. Shouldn’t we have gotten cheaper beef??

Anyway, there’s something to be said for living in a state that is not seen as a desirable location to live by outsiders. Our traffic is significantly less troublesome, our housing prices reasonable, our utilities (except gas) are fairly charged. Water, for example, was significantly more expensive in Colorado due to the constant shortage of it.

10. The Tribe. What can I say? I’m a true-blue Cleveland Indians fan. While the Rockies suck just slightly less, the Indians are a team with a long running history. Some might say, “a long running history of disappointment and unending lesson in the unjustness of the universe.” I choose to look at it as a situation that inspires a solidarity among all Clevelanders. We cheer together, are brought to false hope together, and we plummet into the depths of depression and self-degradation together. The truth of it is, when the Indians are up or down, it’s the one common desire all share: to see the Tribe win a World Series.

I remember when the Indians were in the World Series in 1997. I was working in downtown Cleveland at the time and I used to commute by the Rapid. On my way home from work, the game was playing through the speakers of Tower City and, then, on the Rapid. Every time the Indians would make a good play, cheers erupted from everywhere. It was such a cool experience to me that a bunch of people commuting from work, who normally don’t even talk to each other, were suddenly cheering their team on as one. It was the first time I ever heard excited chatter among people who didn’t know each other as people commented on the game. We all had one common goal together, one common hope. That, too, was magical.

You may think it’s hokey that I’m moved by solidarity caused by a sports team’s success. But, like it or not, the success of a sports team really shapes how the people of a city regard themselves. This is my theory of why tend to bash themselves and their city quite frequently. We’re all stuck in a collective Eeyore complex.