31 October 2011

on being a grown-up

A quote for the day, simple and pithy.

One of those short collections of words that makes you say, "Why, yes, that is exactly how I would phrase it, but you beat me to it.  And I will not hold that against you."

“Another belief of mine; that everyone else my age is an adult,
whereas I am merely in disguise.”
Margaret Atwood

30 October 2011

you pierce my soul: a jane austen letter

I read an entire book to get to one letter. It was 234 pages in Persuasion before I got to—
Miss A.E—

I can listen no longer in silence. I must speak to you by such means as are within my reach. You pierce my soul. I am half agony, half hope. Tell me not that I am too late, that such precious feelings are gone for ever. I offer myself to you again with a heart even more your own, than when you almost broke it eight years and a half ago. Dare not say that man forgets sooner than woman, that his love has an earlier death. I have loved none but you. Unjust I may have been, weak and resentful I have been, but never inconstant. You alone have brought me to Bath. For you alone I think and plan. —Have you not seen this? Can you fail to have understood my wishes?—I had not waited even these ten days, could I have read your feelings, as I think you must have penetrated mine. I can hardly write. I am every instant hearing something which overpowers me. You sink your voice, but I can distinguish the tones of that voice, when they would be lost on others. —Too good, too excellent creature! You do us justice indeed. You do believe that there is true attachment and constancy among men. Believe it to be most fervent, most undeviating in


I must go, uncertain of my fate; but I shall return hither, or follow your party, as soon as possible. A word, a look will be enough to decide whether I enter your father's house this evening, or never.

Emphasis mine, all mine. And were this letter mine.

There is something so rewarding in getting to this letter from Captain Wentworth in Persuasion. I can't believe I'm about to say this about Jane Austen, but there are some clunky, mediocre sections of this book, but I push through those because I know this letter is at the end.

Yeah, I totally just critiqued Jane. To atone for that {someone with Jane Austen in her blog name, digging into her beloved idol!}, I'm going to offer this praise and hope I don't get kicked out of the I Heart Jane Austen Society {that I don't actually belong to}: No one else can so exquisitely create insufferable relations like Jane Austen, and she showcases that in Persuasion.

With a completely quiet and straightforward delivery, she gives us characters so laughable that we can't help but thank our lucky genealogy that they aren't in our family. I think her genius lies in never allowing Anne Elliot, our lovely heroine, to mock her father or her sister, no matter how much they warrant an eye roll or a derisive snort.

Jane does the same thing in Pride and Prejudice: Elizabeth knows how ridiculous her mother and most of her sisters are, but we see that she knows how to deal with their emotions and dramatics and self-centered drivel. In Elizabeth's position and given her verbal prowess, most of us would take every opportunity to cut and dice and remind her mother that the world does not revolve around her and her hypochondriac histrionics.

But Elizabeth doesn't do that; instead, she guides her silly sisters and sets a good example and tries to cover their social gaffes.

In Anne Elliot and Elizabeth Bennet {and Elinor Dashwood; I can't leave her out of this list}, we have examples of how we ought to act, and just reading about them makes you feel like a better person, like someone who can handle tricky co-workers and meddling mothers {not talking about you, Mama!} and people who are more concerned with the latest fashion than with what's happening in the big world.

Thank heavens for Anne Elliot's example and ability to manage her preening, egotistical, out-of-touch father: that and the letter from Captain Wentworth at the end of the book are what keep me reading Persuasion, even as I roll my eyes at some sections.

{I may have read Jane Austen's books repeatedly, but I have yet to learn her heroines' ability to not roll their eyes at silliness.}

Take the big drama section when Louisa Musgrove takes a tumble on a pier at Lyme. It's written in a "this happened and then this happened and then this happened and after that, there was this" style that doesn't lend itself to getting emotionally caught up in the moment—as clearly all the characters are.

I mean, it must be shocking to see someone smack her head against a stone walkway, but when I read this section, I mostly think, 'Was it really that bad? Or are these people overreacting? This is the time when they believed that if you had a cold, you should be kept in bed for three weeks. And they believed in using leeches to suck your blood to make you better. They clearly were not health authorities; maybe Louisa just needs some smelling salts and then the story can move on.'

By the end of the scene, though, you realize that this is a pivot point in the story—from this moment, something changes in Anne and Captain Wentworth's relationship—and you find yourself needing to re-read the last few pages to try to get into the drama.

Or at least I do. But the second reading leaves me cold still and I blame it all on Jane's prosaic, practically bullet-pointed presentation of the drama.

Eh, I think. At least there's that letter at the end of the book to redeem this.

After spending 234 pages with insufferable relations, self-centered people, and blase descriptions of action, when you get to this written declaration of love, you stop breathing, just as, I'm sure, Anne Elliot did when she read this letter for the first time.

And that is why I keep reading Persuasion: to get to the point where I don't breathe.

29 October 2011

the ribbon of stars

I flew over the Grand Canyon on Sunday, and looking down at it, the memory that came to me wasn't of the times I've spent there.

No, looking at the gash of earth, I remembered camping in the Paria Wilderness with my family—not exactly the Grand Canyon but a back country swath of red rock and canyons and a river running through it all in Arizona and Utah.

We were on a five-day backpacking trip through the Paria Canyon, and we slept under the stars every night. Because we were in a canyon, it was a thin strip of stars above us. Skinny and deep blue, like a ribbon for a little girl's dress at Hannukah.

There were more stars in that ribbon than in the whole night sky above New York City, I bet.

Isolated in the canyon—at parts of the hike, you could touch both canyon walls by standing with your arms outstretched in the middle of the river—it was hard to imagine civilization and the light emanating from millions of homes and buildings and street lights.

All of that illumination of humanity blocks out the stars so that when we do get to a place where there's no other light competing for our attention, we all tend to stare at the massive reminder of our smallness.

In that ribbon above me in the Paria, there were more stars than I could imagine or see.

I read once that stars are most visible to us with our peripheral vision. It's something to do with the rods and the cones in our eyes, and it's why you always see a shooting star just over there, out of the corner of your eye. It's not because you're unlucky and never see them straight on; it's because of rods and cones and how your eyes work.

On those nights in the Paria, I was flat on my back, legs aching from the hike that day, looking straight up at the star-filled ribbon. If I'd turned to my side, would my eyes have been overwhelmed with the light?

28 October 2011

that's a lot of potatoes

Before coming to Prince Edward Island, I knew two things about it:
  • OH MY WORD, GREEN GABLES {follow that link to read more about Anne and more specifically, more about me visiting Anne. I mean Green Gables.}
  • I would be running a half-marathon here.

And the rest, I thought, was just gravy, not realizing how appropriate that expression is when applied to PEI.

Prince Edward Island is the potato capital of Canada, and in the town of O'Leary in the western part of the province, there's a museum called the Prince Edward Island Potato Museum. As my guidebook says, "Don't be put off by the name; this museum is an interesting stop that depicts the history of Prince Edward Island's most famous crop."

Despite the guidebook encouraging me to not judge a book by its cover {to not judge a potato by its skin?}, I was cautious of that tepid, faint praise word: interesting. I half-expected the book to add: "No, for real, guys, it's a good museum. Not kidding at all. Seriously, you'll love it."

And then the book would snicker, if it could.

An interesting potato museum would probably be some styrofoam models of potatoes: and here is a new potato, and here is a Russett. They'd be painted with that craft paint you get at Hobby Lobby, the kind that costs $1 for 12 bottles.

A rather interesting potato museum would include some digs at Idaho, the potato capital of America.

Any way you slice it, a potato museum doesn't sound all that interesting on its own, even if you do make French fries out of it.

My mama wanted to go to the potato museum, though, off in Prince County on the western side of PEI, so on an overcast day—and after eating a four-course breakfast at our inn in Kensington—we pulled onto Highway 2.

As a sidenote, directions on this entire Island are given as if you were in a small town: Get on Highway 2—it's the only road that goes all the way across the Island—and when you cross the river and there's a park on your left and a church on your right, veer to the left there. If you reach the woolen mill, you've gone too far, and you can turn around in the building that used to be the Community Centre.

But then we arrived at the potato museum, and I was handed a brochure that read:
Prince Edward Island Potato Museum featuring
The National Amazing Potato Interpretive Centre,
Machine Gallery,
and O'Leary Community Museum

National Amazing Potato!

Interpretive Centre! {How British, that spelling! Doesn't the -re make it look more dignified?!?}

Put it all together now: The National Amazing Potato Interpretive Centre.

There is no hint of a bland interesting in a title like that.

And it turns out that the Prince Edward Island Potato Museum is fascinating, insightful, educational, and hungry-making.

I learned that:
  • the Incans used to preserve their potatoes by leaving them outside and waiting for the first freeze. Then they'd walk on top of them and squish them down to get all the water out. And bam, freeze-dried potatoes. I'm glad we've advanced beyond that, and I can now pull tater tots out of my freezer and know they haven't been stepped on by anyone.
  • Sir Walter Raleigh is often credited with bringing potatoes to Britain, but that's a total lie. {He did, however, bring back tobacco. It'd be better to be known for potatoes, of course.}
  • 2008 was the Year of the Potato, according to the United Nations. Why did I not know this? I could've celebrated by eating potatoes every day. Maybe it's a good thing I didn't know.
  • The Irish refused to plant potatoes when they were first introduced to the country. They thought they were unholy because they weren't mentioned in the Bible. The Catholics sprinkled some holy water on them and called it good, although if they could've foreseen the Irish Potato Famine, they maybe would've stuck with the whole "of the devil" thing.
  • Antoine-Auguste Parmentier, a French guy, in case you couldn't tell from his name, made potatoes ridiculously popular in France in the 1700s—and whatever was popular in France then soon became popular everywhere because who wouldn't want to be like the fancy French?

    The story is that he ate potatoes while in a Prussian prisoner of war camp, and he was all, "Oh la la, these things are actually good! And here I thought they caused leprosy!" {Seriously, French people at the time thought that.}

    When he got out of prison, he started this personal campaign to get French people to love potatoes, and he went to such drastic measures as hosting dinner parties where the only thing on the menu was potatoes and inviting people like Benjamin Franklin and you know, famous French people.

    He was helped out in his campaign by a famine; potatoes were the only thing that would grow, leaving Parmentier free to say things like, "Even God loves potatoes more than any other crop. You better eat them, or you'll be smitted...smitten...smoted...by God." {Please note, he didn't actually say that. I totally just made that up, but I like to believe that that would've been a convincing argument.}

    It also didn't hurt that he gave a bouquet of potato blossoms to the Queen.

    In the end, Antoine-Auguste convinced the French to love something they had previously distrusted, and now he's buried in Pere-Lachaise Cemetery {where Jim Morrison is}, and if a dish has the word "parmentier" in it, it most likely involves potatoes.

    And that, my friends, is how you change the French language.

I learned more, but everything I learned doesn't compare to the amount of potatoes I ate on PEI, as you can see below. So, so many potatoes. Like potatoes at every meal. I felt like I was channeling my Irish ancestors {before they got kicked out of the country by the famine}.

24 October 2011

vegas and i should break up

I've just returned from Las Vegas. Again.

It was for work. Again.

Seriously, I go years without going to Vegas: I'd been there once in 29 years by my calculations.

And then bam, twice in two months, I'm off to Vegas. These visits ought to cover me until—I'm 87, at which point I assume the new center for the seven deadly sins will be on the moon, or maybe just on a starship zipping around the galaxy making poor choices in music and dress.

In case I needed proof, this second trip to Vegas very much cemented this idea: I was not made for Vegas. And it was not made for me.

To me, Las Vegas is a bit like the guy you go on a date with, even though you're sure from a few minutes' interaction that it isn't going anywhere, and certainly not down the aisle.

But he asks you out to dinner and you say yes because you're trying to be "more open-minded." You put that in quotes because recently, people have started making quiet noises to you that maybe your standards are too high.

To test the theory that "opposites attract" {it was in a song from the 80s, so it's probably true...}, you go out with the guy who considers his iPhone and Fox News as things he can't live without.

Perhaps, you think, your wit, sardonic smile, use of the word sardonic {even if it is an insult}, and references to NPR will cause him to look up from his phone over appetizers at Applebee's. {Yes, he took you to Applebee's, and you tried not to be disappointed in that choice. Must be more open-minded. Must be more open-minded.}

The whole evening, though, is spent in false starts of conversation.

"Oh, you liked that movie? I did, too." But then there you find there isn't much to say after that.

"Where did you grow up?" A question that leads to three minutes of explanatory fluff.

"How many brothers and sisters do you have?" This is starting to feel like a foreign language class—when you have to practice all those simple phrases in the hopes that an actual foreign person will one day ask you about your brothers and sisters and you can triumphantly say: "Moi, j'ai une soeur and deux freres."

He asks if you like sports, but then talks for 15 minutes about the last Bears game. You don't even have to try to come up with things to say in reply; it's as if he's commentating on Monday Night Football.

Being in Applebee's on this particular night is about the only thing you have in common, you discover over the main course.

Neither of you orders dessert, and you part in the parking lot with some non-committal: thank you for dinner, I enjoyed talking to you, bye.

When he doesn't call again, you don't miss a beat. It's not that there was anything wrong with him; there just wasn't anything there that was right for you. That's a very important distinction.


I tried Las Vegas, and it was not for me. I think we can part amicably in the parking lot now.

23 October 2011

more things i said in vegas

The last time I was in Las Vegas, I made a list of things I said there, all of them saturated in a "I don't think Las Vegas is for me" tone.

This time was no different.
  • If I had to imagine hell, it would be the Forum Shops at Caesar's Palace. Some co-workers and I wandered over there after dinner one night because, as they told me, I just had to see it—it perfectly exemplifies Vegas. And they were right: it's this mall built to look like ancient Rome, except it smells better {I would assume} and there's indoor plumbing {which helps it smell better}.

    Also, ancient Rome probably didn't have an H&M that looked more like a nightclub than a store. I'm pretty sure I saw a mannequin posed as if she were doing a pole dance.

    There are fountains and statues and the facades of the buildings look like stone in the Forum Shops. Look like stone, yes: as with many things in Vegas, where nothing is that old, the Forum Shops are trying to look old when really they're made out of, I'm relatively sure, drywall and creative painting.

    The Forum Shops are in my version of hell because there are about 3 million people crammed into the fake cobblestone walkway {Did they even have cobblestone in ancient Rome? Why is it here? Shouldn't this be dirt?}.

    And all 3 million of those people are not watching where they're going because they're distracted by the biggest copy of the David they've ever seen. Or they're distracted by how the ceiling is painted to look like a dusky sky. Or they're distracted by the pole dancing in H&M. They're just distracted and aimlessly wandering, and I don't like dodging 3 million people while on fake cobblestone streets. Or real ones, for that matter.
  • Vegas makes me cranky. I said this to a co-worker, and she did not disagree with me. She's true and honest like that. And it's hard to miss how cranky I get around too much noise and bright lights.
  • Last night, I took a bath and read Persuasion. To which my co-worker said, "You do realize you're in Vegas, right?" Immediately after she said that, I realized that I'd become a stereotype of myself.
  • Tub does not stop filling automatically. I read the sign above the bathtub in my room aloud. {But no, I did not read Persuasion aloud while in the bathtub, and certainly didn't do that using a fake British accent.} Back to the sign: You know that when there's a sign, that means that someone has done it before, surprising as that may be.

    Someone—WHO has such a smart bathtub at home that it stops filling when it's reached the perfect level?!?!—started the bath and walked away. And then an entire floor of the Paris Hotel flooded. Or maybe just their bathroom flooded. Regardless, there was a flood, and now there must be a small sign above the bathtub warning you to not expect too much from the bath equipment.
  • This room also doesn't have a coffee maker. My room at the Cosmopolitan didn't have a coffee maker, either, which leads me to believe that they're illegal in Vegas. You can drink on the street and smoke indoors, but you cannot—on penalty of being sent to the Forum Shops at Caesar's—make your own coffee here.

    Perhaps I should start bringing one of my own coffee makers to Vegas; I have four, after all.

And the most indicative quote from my Vegas trip: I think Vegas and I should break up. We just weren't made for each other.

22 October 2011

a sunrise in vegas

It's not yet 7am, and I'm not yet out of bed, although the alarm did go off at 5:30. I decided to stay here, in bed at the Paris Hotel in Las Vegas, surrounded by chintzy French decor, and write.

A note to the Paris Hotel: putting a fleur-de-lys on everything does not make you more French. Similarly, putting la, le, or les in front of a word does not make it French. Your sign for "Les Show Tickets" will always make me laugh.

So I'm in bed in a fake version of Paris, and the sun is just coming up over the mountains. Las Vegas never looked so soft and gentle and sentimental.

Granted, I'm facing away from the Strip—into a parking garage, in fact—but I'd rather look at something stationary like those parked cars than at all those people moving on the Strip.

Keep going. Keep having fun. Keep smiling. It's Vegas; everyone comes here to be happy. Hedonistically happy, but happy all the same.

The yellow sun slowly scootching up the sky is enough movement for me this morning.

The mountains are gray in the distance, and there are still plenty of city lights between me and the mountains, where I know it's cool this morning and where I'd rather be.
It'd be quiet, no sounds but the red dirt crunch as I walk to the edge of the campsite.

A hiss of propane as I light the Coleman stove to heat water.

I can see my breath as I turn away from the picnic table and face the valley. In the distance, the lights of Las Vegas twinkle like an innocent Christmas tree and I wonder what kind of people are there right now and if they're noticing the sunrise.
I'd rather be in the mountains, but instead I'm in a version of Paris and the clock is now telling me that I should get out of bed and get on with the day. I'm here for work, after all.

At least I had time to notice the sunrise.

16 October 2011

curled up in a chair after a run

I'm curled up in a Victorian antiquey-looking chair in the Shipwright Inn in Charlottetown, PEI.

This morning, I ran a half-marathon past mansions and big box stores.

Down a crushed gravel path that used to be the train line here on the Island.

Through farmland and industrial parks.

And into the maritime wind—I should most definitely point that out.

Whipping off the ocean and zipping up University Avenue, the wind was constant for 5 miles, and it's hard to know how to make yourself aerodynamic.

Head down? Head up into the wind, into the adversity? {Is that reading too much into the wind?}

Is it worth it to pump your arms, or is that wasting precious energy? Perhaps I should just flail my arms?

I considered at one point giving some sort of Tarzan yell into the wind {maybe a Jane yell?}, but I knew it would only whip back in my face, and it probably wouldn't sound as ferocious as I intended.

This morning, it was sunny, and I pushed into the wall of wind with all my force but I didn't give a Tarzan yell. I finished the race slower than my goal time, but a Midwesterner like me is not made for maritime winds. Nothing like today's wind ever whips off the Mississippi back home in Iowa, and there is a great sense of accomplishment in subduing and conquering the wind.

Right now, it's raining out, and I'm curled up in a chair that probably was not designed for curling. The designer of this carved-wood, straight-backed, cream-upholstery-covered chair probably had ideas of excellent posture and crossed ankles and bone china cups and saucers held delicately.

I am ignoring its design and settling in for comfort, French press coffee on the table in front of me and a window to the rain behind me.

A tree in all its autumnal glory is shaking its leaves, and I imagine what it would be like to be sitting in that tree on a sun-bright day, curled up in the branches instead of in this chair. It wouldn't be comfortable, I know, but I like to pretend that it would be.

Pitter-patter goes the rain outside this house that was built in the 1870s. If it weren't for the telephone wire crossing my view, I could also be in the 1870s, although if I were, I would not have run a race into the wind this morning and I would not be sitting very improperly in this antiquey-looking chair. If I were in the 1870s, it would just be called a chair, of course—no need for old qualifiers.

13 October 2011

in which i become anne of green gables

Why, yes, I am wearing red braids attached to a straw hat.*

And behind me is the carriage that Matthew used to drive Anne home to Green Gables from Bright River.**

The carriage is blocking the actual Green Gables, but don't worry: I took approximately 4 bajillion pictures of the house. And I will make you come to my house and watch a slideshow of them, all 4 bajillion of them, and you will love it.

You will love it because every picture will involve commentary such as this:

Oh my word, I WENT TO GREEN GABLES! Sorry for shouting; I really can't help myself. I don't know how I stayed quiet when actually visiting the place. It probably had to do with the busload of retirees who'd just been dropped off. No need to embarrass myself in front of sweet retirees from Georgia, but OH MY WORD, GREEN GABLES. I can totally embarrass myself in front of you.

And this is a picture of the house from the front
east side
west side
side that Anne was standing on when this happened in the book
side that faces the Haunted Woods

Do you want me to re-enact a scene from the book? Do you want me to re-enact me seeing the house for the first time? It went like this: OH MY WORD, GREEN GABLES. I'VE LOVED YOU SINCE I WAS 8..

I have more thoughts on Green Gables and Prince Edward Island in general—thoughts that maybe even LM Montgomery herself {she of the gossamer-lined prose} would be proud of.

But all I can get out now is: OH MY WORD, GREEN GABLES.

* But no, I didn't buy the hat. I may love Anne, but I don't love useless souvenirs. And nothing screams useless like a wig that isn't even a full wig—it's just braids in a hair color that was clearly not made for my complexion.

** Just wanted to reassure you, once again, that I do know the difference between reality and fiction. Matthew and Anne didn't exist, but the carriage placed strategically outside of Green Gables {it practically begs you to take a picture} does. Got it.

Actually, little sidenote to my asterisked footnote here, the Green Gables of today does an excellent job of helping you separate reality and fiction.

You come here dreaming of a bucolic, pastoral, idyllic little hamlet. You come here seeming to remember a past that you couldn't have lived—a one room schoolhouse and when driving to Charlottetown {20km away} was enough of an event to talk about for two weeks.

You come here dreaming all of that, and Green Gables is a preserved slice of that life. But it's a thin slice. Walk five minutes down Lover's Lane and the tree line opens up enough to reveal golf carts zipping along on a path not ten feet away.

There you are trying to re-connect with nature and calm your soul, and there is a man worrying about par on the next hole.

But isn't one of Anne's main lessons that it's possible to find the good in every day and every situation and every person? Doesn't she teach us that if you try hard enough and look close enough, you can see a sprinkling of fairy dust possibilities everywhere?

So I applied Anne's lesson at Green Gables yesterday: my modern-day reality may involve a golf cart zipping through what should be the Dryad's Bubble, but that doesn't mean I can't turn my head and see a clump of birch trees, silver bark curling off and fire-orange leaves clinging to the branches. I can make the most of where I find myself.


10 October 2011

a note about phlegm

Look, I'm going to warn you now: if you don't like reading about phlegm, this is not the post for you. Maybe you could try reading about my nerdiness via Downton Abbey if you'd rather not read about my very unladylike behavior I demonstrated along the Prairie Path in Wheaton today.

Last week, I actually took a half a sick day. I say "actually" because it just doesn't happen all that often, this taking of a sick day. I mostly say things to myself like, 'I mean, really, is it that bad? Can you still sit at your desk? Are you still able to focus your eyes? Could your cough be something of a conversation topic in the office because Lord knows we need something to talk about besides work?'

I have, after all, the constitution of a horse {assuming horses are very healthy creatures} and the work ethic of a protestant {because, well, I am one. Oh my, I just realized that when you talk about "protestant work ethic," you're totally insulting the Catholics who, in my experience, do work hard. I should stick with the "puritan work ethic" because I don't know any puritans I could potentially be insulting. And probably when puritans are insulted, they take it as a sign of God's favor. Persecution = favor, you know.}.

So I don't often allow myself sick days, or, as I cheerfully and judgmentally like to call them, weakness days or wussy days.

One of my fall projects, though, is trying to learn how to be kinder to myself.

I'm pretty sure this "fall project" is going to last FOREVER {who can learn to be kinder to themselves in one season?}, which means that it will be eternally autumn for me and doesn't that sound like bliss? To always have crisp nights and visual reminders of change around you at all times?

When I woke up last Tuesday with an "I can't breathe very well" throat, I decided to act on my fall project and take a half-day—after going to work in the morning to keep some projects moving along.

Stop judging my inability to slow down and just let myself be sick. Fall just started a few weeks ago, okay? Yeah, maybe I should've taken a whole day, but let's just let me celebrate the half-day victory. Sheesh. Cut me some slack here, people.

{Maybe being kinder to myself is making me less kind to other people around me. Oh my, I hope that isn't true.}

I was back at work on Wednesday morning in such a perky mood that my boss found it necessary to ask, "Are you this perky at home, too, when it's just you and the pug?"

Of course. Of course I am.

Of course I spent my sick day being perky to my pug. It went like this:

"Miss Daisy!" {said in a sing-song voice}

"It's sweatpants and orange juice time! No, baby, don't look so confused about why I'm home in the middle of the day and why I'm singing to you. Let's just cuddle on the couch and watch Anne of Green Gables, or ooh! We could take a nap!"

Yes, perky.

The truth is I was extra perky on Wednesday because 1) I was feeling guilty about taking a half-day {shut up, puritan work ethic!}, and 2) I was trying to fool my body into thinking it was better. As you may have picked up on, I'm going to Prince Edward Island on vacation this week, and I just had to get better. I did not want to be sick and moaning and being bleary-eyed in pictures at Green Gables.

If ever there was a time to be clear-eyed, it's when visiting a house with gables.

My body may have felt slightly better after its sick day, but I needed to marshal my emotional forces—my perkiness—to start feeling all better.

You're probably thinking—that's silly, Kamiah. You can't force yourself to get better, just by chipperness.

And to that I say: I'm all better now, aren't I?

Granted, this may have something to do with the fact that even when I was sick and clogged up, I went running anyway.

You can chastise me for this {how do you run when you can't breathe?}, but my view is that if you're clogged up with phlegm, there's nothing like a autumn morning run to jostle everything around so that you cough it up. What else was a fall morning made for?

Spitting into a pile of orange-gold leaves just feels right, you know? You feel like a real runner and a little bit like a cowboy or like someone who chews tobacco, which sounds like a terrible idea if you're a runner.

I do try to wait until there's no one else around me on the Prairie Path to do this hawking and spitting and coughing, but today, these two college guys snuck up on me. Probably I couldn't hear them because I was coughing.

I was just turning my head to spit this mouthful of phlegm
this expectoration of sickness
this need to be kind to myself

I was just turning my head to spit when they came flying past.

As I spit, I imagined that they were a little impressed with my distance and general rough-and-tumble girl attitude, spitting on the Prairie Path like that.

But then I realized that they're probably 18, and I maybe shouldn't be so worried about impressing them.

And then I coughed a lot more, which most likely decreased any attractiveness factor I'd built up.

But oh, did I ever feel good, spitting and running on the Prairie Path this morning.

06 October 2011

countdown to anne of green gables

Next Tuesday night, I'm leaving for Prince Edward Island.

Enter squeals of delight about Anne of Green Gables.

Or maybe you're squealing in delight yourself, in which case I hope you're somewhere private and not at work or in a library or on the train. If you are, pull yourself together. Think of Marilla giving you a stern look; that always works.

I have wanted to go to PEI since I was a very little girl. I read Anne of Green Gables for the first time when I was eight or so {I'm looking to my mother for corroboration here}. We were on vacation out West somewhere, and so in the middle of the desert and in the mountains, I spent my days reading about this charmed Canadian island and a girl who used words that were too big for her.

And by "spent my days reading" I clearly mean "spent my days pretending to be the girl who used words too big for her."

I acted out conversations with Diana Barry, aka my/Anne's best friend.

I sat next to a stream and tried to come up with a fairytale-inspired name for it, just like Anne would've done. Dryad's Bubble? Excluding the fact that I just stole that from the book, I thought it was a rather perfect name.

I made plans to memorize "The Lady of Shalot" and potentially act it out if I could talk any of my real friends—not just imaginary Diana Barry—into it.

I thought way more than I should have about puffed sleeves and pinafores. It's hopeless to think about clothes like that when:
  • a1a) it's the late 80s. Shoulder pads are not the same thing as puffed sleeves.
  • b2b) you're in Utah or Colorado and you've been camping for 2 weeks straight, changing clothes only every third day or so. Why bother? was the family motto. Get one set of clothes as dirty as possible; it's not like you're taking a shower every day when you're camping in a place with just pit toilets. Or no toilets at all.
  • c3c) it's 100 degrees in the shade. I managed to focus all my energy on the puffed sleeves and ignore the rest of the clothes requirements that come with wanting to pretend to be Anne of Green Gables, ie, wool stockings and petticoats and collars up to way-too-high and corsets. Basically, I just wanted to wear a pretty dress and go to a dance. Or maybe recite "The Lady of Shalot." And have Gilbert Blythe clap for me.

After I read Anne, I gave the book to my mom to read. We then had a now-famous* conversation:

*I mean famous in the "we tell this story at family functions" kind of famous. Clearly not famous in the Justin Bieber kind of way. OMG, I can't believe I just mentioned Justin Bieber on my blog with Jane Austen in the title. Now there's a mash-up.

Little Mia: Mom, why are you crying?

I should, before going on, point out that I remember this conversation taking place in a field of poppies. That may not be correct, although I do know that on one of our trips, we stopped in a field of poppies on our way back from an attempted space shuttle landing.

No, not like we were landing the space shuttle. Like—it was supposed to land in California, but high winds or something diverted it to Florida or perhaps Texas. We were not there, in Florida or Texas; we were in California, and my mama had thought it would be cool to show her nerdy daughters a space shuttle landing. And it clearly would've been; by that point in the trip, I obviously needed something to pull me back to present-day America, and nothing says America like space, the final frontier.

So I'm pretty sure that we stopped in a field of poppies on that trip, although now that I think about it, poppies have opioid-like properties, don't they? For all I know, I was drugged by the poppies and now have incredibly muddled memories. Or maybe I'm thinking of The Wizard of Oz.

Let's just assume we were, in fact, in a field of poppies having this conversation.

Mama: [holding a Kleenex to her nose] It's because of this book.
Little Mia: That book? The Anne book? That's not a sad book. There's puffed sleeves! And a little girl with a temper, just like me!
Mama: [pulling Kleenex away from her nose, staring at her youngest daughter with something like, "I'm not actually sure you came out of me" on her face] She's an orphan and no one wants her! That's sad, don't you think?
Little Mia: Yeah, I guess. But that's nothing to cry over, is it? It's not like you're an orphan, and besides, she gets to live in Green Gables in a room with a big window that looks out on to a tree, just as if she were sleeping in the tree.

I should also point out that it was my dream to have a room on the second floor of our house. I was on the first floor, and while it was all right, I felt that I belonged up high. After reading Anne, I was sold even more on the idea of having a tree right outside my big window.

Mama: Well, I'm still sad about it.
Little Mia: Do you think the Wicked Witch of the West is flying over us in this field of poppies?

And that, friends, is when my family figured out that I'm not really a "crier." And started to worry a little bit about the state of my emotions.

Next week at this time, I'll be in Anneland, preferably wearing puffed sleeves and making overly-dramatic statements. Heck, even if just one of those things turned out to happen, I'd be thrilled. My money is on the puffed sleeves thing coming true.

05 October 2011

jane austen, i disagree with you

A quote from Jane Austen: "Why not seize the pleasure at once? How often is happiness destroyed by preparation, foolish preparation."

More correctly, it's a quote from Emma, my least favorite Jane Austen book because I can't work up much sympathy to someone who meddles so much in other people's lives.

So Jane Austen via Emma, I disagree with you.

I realize this is an atypical thing for me to say. Me, the girl who proclaims to have learned lots of things from Jane Austen. Me, the girl who takes it as the highest compliment possible to be told that I'm like Elizabeth Bennet. {Other high compliments include Audrey Hepburn and, of course, Mary Tyler Moore.}

But Jane Austen—in this quote—is not teaching me about planning ahead and careful organization, and I'm a little disappointed in her because of it.

I want to say to her: Why not spread out the pleasure over a long planning period? How often is happiness increased by preparation, glorious preparation.

But maybe that's just me and my attachment to my planner speaking.

Maybe I'll schedule in some journalling time to work through that attachment. And to work through how I'm disappointed in a dead woman and wanting to argue with a fictional character.

I'll schedule it for a long time from now so that I have much happiness and pleasure to look forward to.


Related Posts with Thumbnails