We've spent the last seven or so weeks doing stuff on the house that we technically don't own any more.

Today, we finally got to do something for the new house: We went to Western Appliance, where they were having a 'we're doing inventory on Monday, please help us have less to count' sale, and while we didn't ultimately get the fridge I'd been looking at with the freezer on the bottom, we did get a nice basic Whirlpool fridge…well, not basic, in terms of features. I mean, okay, no ice maker (not that we'd use one anyway), but it has all sorts of nifty bins, bottle holders, a can rack, and all the shelves slide out. They promise to move the hinges to the left side, too, so it won't open into the room.

And I got the washer and dryer I'd been eye-ing on the web: Neptune. It's a front load washer without an agitator, and uses way less water than any other waster. Yay for not wasting water. The detergent, bleach and softener all have nifty top-load dispensers. Also, the actual part where the laundry goes is tilted slightly up, so nothing can fall out when you open the door. And it's supposedly really quiet. We shall see. The dryer matches. Both have all sorts of nifty buttons and settings I'll probably never use.

While we were there we eyes televisions. Panasonic has one that has an integrated DVD and VCR, and it's under $1000. Tempting. Very tempting. We'll see how many loans I close.

The trip to B&N was disappointing, and the cafe was filled with students. I'm all for bringing a book and reading, but I hate when students use restaurants as libraries. It's not fair to people who just want a place to sit and drink their coffee.

On Natalie Goldberg

I first discovered her during the summer after my first year of college. I'd been working in a funky neighborhood bookstore/cafe, and had been flirting with a local poet between making sales. I don't remember his name, now, but I remember that we had a long talk about the comfort of companionable silences, and how it was nice to be able to share a table and not have to converse, just have the sounds of glassware clicking gently on the tabletop, and the scratching of pens as the only noise.

He let me read a poem, and asked what I was always filling notebooks with when I was working, and there were no customers to serve. I blushed, and told him I was 'just babbling on paper.' He asked if it was a story, and I said no, just thoughts. Even then, I had the strong feeling that, much as I love to read it, writing fiction was not for me.

He went to the shelves in our small-but-eclectic 'writing and reference' section, and brought me back an oversized paperback called Writing Down the Bones. I revealed that the cover had intrigued me – it looked so frivolous – but, he said, it's not.

So I read it. And I nearly didn't realize when my shift was over because I was so entrenched in, entranced by, this book.

Yes, it's essentially a writing manual.
No, it's not like any other writing manual you could ever imagine.

Natalie Goldberg doesn't so much instruct as suggest. She's a great proponent of using notebooks, because handwriting is more visceral and more organic than typing words on a screen. She pushes for writing practice and writing meditation and timed exercises.

But most of all, she's adamant that when you're sitting down, and putting pen to paper, or even fingers to keyboard, you turn off the self-censor, and send the internal-editor to bed.

Her rules are simple, and in a later book, she joked that they apply to everything from writing to cooking to running to sex:
Keep your hand moving. Meaning don't stop to think, to edit, to see how long you've been writing.
Lose control. Let yourself go wild. If it flows, go with it.
Don't think. Just write.

I have never met Natalie Goldberg. One of my fondest dreams is to spend a week in Taos, New Mexico (and if you know me, and know how much of a desert person I'm NOT, you'll understand how much I want to do this), and take her writing classes.

I rarely have time, these days, to take a notebook (paper or plastic) to a cafe and sit and just scribble or babble. But I still want to.

Goal for Q3: Return to writing practice. Write /something/ every day.

On Crayons

Originally posted 5 September 2002

I've been in love with crayons ever since I can remember. The first box I remember having is the child-sized 'basic eight' which were large and long and only half-round, like a bunch of wax logs, split for easy use, and wrapped in colorful paper. They're supposed to be easier for young children, those who haven't yet developed fine motor skills, to handle. You know you're growing up when those fat coloring sticks become too heavy, the tips too large, for the work you want to do. But what I liked about them is that you could fill a page with color in next to no time, and the points never broke.

Later, probably beginning in Kindergarten, our lists of school supplies began to include personal boxes of crayons, or, in the wake of budget cuts, teachers would ask every child to bring in boxes of tissues, boxes of crayons, glue, etc., and all would be shared among the community of the classroom, over the year. I never went to grade school in California, except for sixth grade, by which time they tried to wean us away from crayons, and my vague recollection of the schools in New Jersey was that they were very structured, so maybe this was just a Colorado thing – after all, it was the seventies, and it was an open-classroom school.

Now, I'm the proud owner of a 96-pack, which contains the eight newest colors, as well as the eight that were retired several years ago. I've never used it. I might, someday, or I might not, but just having it means I can pick it up, and look at the riot of colors in that yellow and green box of artistic possibility. I can smell the combination of wax and construction paper – it leaves the merest trace of a metallic taste at the back of my throat, and I've never been sure if that's just a trick of the mind, or if it's a faint memory of the times, as a young child, I must have eaten a crayon. (Has any child ever /not/ eaten a crayon?).

I hate to be a brand-whore, but it's really only Crayola® Crayons that have the smell, and the color quality, that pleases me. I know this because once someone gave me another brand, and the blue wasn't blue enough, the red looked pink, and the brown was just disturbing.

On Feeling Like Fall

Originally posted 13 September 2002

It's overcast this morning, and for once I'm the first person out of bed. This rarely happens, and a part of me has to wonder if the overcast morning was somehow calling to me. Not that I don't like sunshine – quite the contrary – but fall, or autumn if you want to be all proper, has always been the season I'm most attuned to.

My latest theory about why I love Fall is that it has to do with being born in August, and that the cooling of the days, the lengthening of the nights, and the turning of the leaves were some of the first things I encountered, outside the circle of love that was Mommy.

Or, perhaps it's just that I know the rainy season will start, and I absolutely love rain. Once, when I was nine or ten, I had a rainy Saturday all to myself. I remember wearing my favorite rainbow sweatshirt, the jeans I'd been given for riding lessons earlier that summer, and my favorite red Keds, adding a very spiffy raincoat, taking my very spiffy bubble umbrella, and practicing the Gene Kelly curb-thing from Singin' in the Rain. I'm sure I must've looked extremely strange, but when you're nine or ten you can get away with such things, and at the most, they'll call you 'creative'. Now, they'd call me 'touched' – or worse.

Rain is the one element of weather that I know I experience with every sense. I love the taste of ozone in the back of my throat, just before the clouds burst, love the way the air seems to still, love the smell of the world being washed clean, however briefly. I love the way it tingles on my skin. Natalie Goldberg wrote once about how she took a bunch of grade-schoolers outside and tried to teach them how to walk between the raindrops – this is something I, too, have tried. It doesn't work, of course, but it's still fun to let go, and pretend. And, I confess, I still love splashing through puddles.

Today, of course, it's much too early in the year to expect actual precipitation. But even the haze of morning brings a hint of that pre-rain tang, and cools the morning a bit. True, it'll all be gone by eleven, but by then I'll be cocooned in my office, with music playing and a macchiato at my fingertips, and the world Outside will cease to exist at all for several hours.

Until then, I'm going to curl up with the fall editions of some favorite magazines, and imagine decorating the new house for Halloween, and pretend that the sound of the water from Zerimar's shower is really rain.

* * * * *

Bright before me the signs implore me:
Help the needy and show them the way.
Human kindness is overflowing,
and I think it's gonna rain today.

On Routing Self-Censorship

A couple weeks ago, in a fit of low self-esteem, I created another journal where I'd intended to post the results of self-imposed writing practices. I have that impulse a lot, really, because shedding a virtual identity is so comparitively easy, and because my moods change I want to be able to change the title, the very username I use, to reflect that, sometimes.

And then this morning, posted a probably-rhetorical entry that had in it the question, “Does anyone have any useful advice about writing,” and of course, I offered the words of my own writing guru, Natalie Goldberg, and that sparked an entry, and a minor epiphany.

This is the entry.

Here's the epiphany: If I'm truly interested in using this as writing practice, I have to stop censoring myself, because none of Ms. Goldberg's techniques work when you have a closed mind.

Does this mean y'all get to read my unsubmitted entry from OD's last sex week? Well, not likely. But it does mean, Calla-Lily is dead and I'm bringing the couple of entries I wrote for that over here.

After all, it's MY journal. I can do what I want.