Getting Crowded

April 22, 2014

For the past few weeks, my trips to the park have been very peaceful. That changed a couple of weekends back when the cherry trees blossomed. Just after that, I started writing this post, but the priority of finishing it dwindled, and here it sat, tab open, unfinished. Roughly 10 days later, I am finally finishing the piece I started.

The weather was perfect that weekend, and the expected crowds arrived in drones, as did the bees. (pause for pun groan). It was the weekend of April 11th. I headed to the park on Friday night (the 11th), to catch a glimpse of the cherry blossoms, even knowing I was planning on heading back in the morning. A couple of people had tied hammocks between some trees and were just chilling in the grove. There were photographers, some professional-seeming, some much less so (like me), and then there were the folks taking snaps with their phones.

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I didn’t quite capture the awesomeness of the cherry blossoms with my camera. Never could quite catch the light how I wanted. On Saturday morning, the park wasn’t quite overrun with people, yet, but it was starting to be by the time I finished taking my final snapshots.

I don’t much care for the park when it’s crowded. I prefer to go there early, while most folks are still asleep. Selfishly, as I walk through the gardens, I like to think of it as my park. It’s a nice feeling, especially walking through the gardens, basking in the hard work of keeping them weeded and gorgeous, without having to have lifted a finger to make them so. And still, there’s the decay. Currently, decay gives way to new growth, which slowly turns into fresh decay. Which keeps me coming back to the park to observe more nature. So I took a few snapshots of some of my favorite things at the park.

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This is the garden surrounded by magnolia trees. On the day I took this photograph, the petals were beginning to fall, and the smell of them in random states of decay was overwhelming, so much so that I thought I might actually have to stop and take a puke break in the nearby shrubbery. The moment passed, and I got used to the intoxicating perfume of the flowers, and then moved on to other sections of the park.

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I call this shrub “the sweetgum catcher,” as it has managed to snag a few sweetgum fruits from the nearby trees and keep them save in its branches all winter long.

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Here, I saw two daffodils that looked as though they were about to have a swordfight.

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This is at the top of the pavilion, flowers growing in between the stones of the steps. This, I admire in the plants, a meager attempt by nature to reclaim the pavilion.

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This is hard to see quite what I was taking a photograph of. I really do need to upgrade to a better lens for taking closeups. And a better lens for far away shots, for that matter, but I am saving up for one at a time, like a smart, thrifty person. I saw this interesting growth on several of the Ilex (Holly) trees in the area, and tried to get a few photos of it, as a reminder to look into whether or not there is some kind of blight on this tree.

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Lastly, as I walked through the “Garden of Old Trolls,” I spotted this two-toned flower. I thought it was lovely, and again, enjoyed the balance of decay and new growth in this little scene.

The next time I went to the park, it was later in the day than usual, and it was so crowded, I felt almost uncomfortable, so used to the silence and having the place to myself. So I decided, on a whim, to check out the nature trails before doing a quick walkthrough the gardens. Next time, I won’t do that without my fancy hiking boots on, and I’ll remember to bring water as well, and to apply sunscreen to my pale, white Irish/German flesh. Until then, I shall decay at my current rate, and watch the world as it spins the same.

Closed Doors

April 11, 2014

At my work, we have three doors that lead into our lobby area. The middle door is always closed. The door I sit across from is usually open and says “EXIT” on it. The door to my left of the closed door is always open and says “ENTER HERE” on it. There’s even theater-style roping that also says “ENTER HERE.”

The number of people who try to go in the closed door is kind of amazing. It’s not an insignificant number of people. The EXIT that I sit across from is often used as well, usually when we have longer lines and people are trying to circumvent having to wait.

So, basically, all day I get to watch people making these choices, trying to enter closed doors in favor of already open ones, or trying to skirt around the rules of the establishment.

I have looked very closely at the office doors, upon first arriving outside, and the closed door doesn’t look particularly inviting. Yet, people still make that choice. They pull on the handle, and it doesn’t budge. But if they push the accessibility button, the door will swing open.

Sometimes, the person will take a step back and see the other open doors. Usually, they go through the exit, then, rather than entering through the roping that clearly states “ENTER HERE.”

I think of the symbolism of these choices. I think about times I had made things more difficult than they needed to be, or didn’t see an open door right in front of me. Or worse, the times I didn’t see a rake until I stepped on it <— my favorite pun about my ex-husband.

Again, I think it comes back to something I mentioned the other day: the times we get in our own way, hold ourselves back. Some of this is simply by standing too close to the issue, or not looking at things on a grander scale. With myself, a huge way I hold myself back is by simply not giving myself enough credit for the things that I have accomplished. I fret a bit about the pile of things left incomplete, or the works-in-progress that “I will get to eventually.”

At work, I am one of those people who will absolutely do whatever random request immediately, and once that is completed, I will return back to the regular workload. That way, I am not holding up anyone else’s processes, or I have helped a student out while they are right in front of me, and everyone is happy. Do it now, it doesn’t pile up later. I find this an efficient way to get things done at my day job.

I think that I would also find this an efficient way to achieve my writing goals as well, but I find that I am experiencing a somewhat sad state of disconnect in this aspect of my life. Recently, I think I have devised some creative ways to circumvent my lack of accomplishments in my chosen field. You can’t, after all, have any successes in this field without rejection, but that’s not my problem. My problem is that I don’t know what to do with success.

So I am staring at two open doors, one closed one, and watching people picked the closed door, and I just, I know exactly how stupid they feel when they realize. Because it’s stupid not to try for fear of success as much as for fear of failure. Part of a lesson for the College Survival Skills class I teach even covers this, as part of the reason that people procrastinate or don’t take simple chances. I am going to start taking more chances. I have challenged myself to do this. I am going to start small, by taking chances that will amount to a pile of rejection letters. But you know, I can totally handle that, and one day soon, it will be time to learn to cope with successes, too.

Go Fly a Kite

April 6, 2014

Last year at this time, I decided it would be awesome to go fly a kite. Next, I will bore you with excuses as to why I didn’t. I was in the midst of defending my thesis (the anniversary of that was April 3rd and I passed without revisions, which was quite an exciting feat). At that time, I think I had a bit too much going on to actually take the time to do this thing that I thought would be so much fun.

In July, I went on vacation to visit a friend in Texas, and I bought a Sponge Bob kite just for kicks at a little shop in a tiny town. We didn’t end up getting to use it, and it didn’t fit in my luggage, so I left it behind at the ranch for someone else, hopefully some kids to find and take out for fun.

This year, after a much nastier winter than we have seen in Cincinnati in ages, I once again felt this yearning to fly a kite. Only, I didn’t want to just buy one; I wanted to make one. So I researched a bit online and discovered that all you really need is a plastic bag, some dow rods, tape, and some lightweight string. So I made a kite out of a bag I got when I was in the study abroad trip in London. It looks like this:
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I waited patiently for the weather conditions to seem favorable for kite-flying. One day this past week, they seemed fairly optimal, so I did a search for the best spaces in the area for kite flying. Someone mentioned a place I’d never heard of called “French Park,” so I researched it and discovered that it was right down the road from the gym where I took that Zumba class last weekend. I drove there after work on Tuesday and explored the full length of the park, looking for a decent spot away from trees. I noticed when I turned the car around that I had driven considerably up a slight hill, so this place was going to be even better than I thought, because it was at a higher elevation.

I parked the car in one of the small lots and checked to see where the sweet spot was on the bridle. I tied the line on and set about making the damn thing fly. After about twenty minutes, I realized the knot I had tied wasn’t secure enough for the winds, even though I had thought I did a pretty good job on it. I had a sliding bridle line. But I planned for this contingency, so I cut the line and tied a new one. (And I just realized how much this entire paragraph sounds like a metaphor for my failed marriage- LOLZ.) This new knot was much more secure and had minimal slippage. And after only about ten minutes of playing around with it, this happened, with very little effort from me:
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I was ecstatic. Such a thrill of delight rushed through me as the wind pulled the kite, made it dip and dive and shake a bit. The shakiness of the flight indicated how I can improve on the design, and so I look forward to making new versions of this same design before I branch out into other shapes and styles. It is a pretty neat hobby to have, I think.

And what, then, of the park where I first got the idea that flying kites would be fun? Of course, that was Ault Park. And the remnants of kites in the trees inspired me, both to learn to make and fly my own kites, and to choose a location other than Ault Park to fly them. Because this place is vast, but it also seems too have too many obstacles. Here is a photograph I took yesterday morning:
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And here, three of the remnants of kites that I like to look at whenever I go on my Ault Park explorations:
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I guess right now it might seem an appropriate time to say, “You know that thing you’ve been wanting to do? Go do it. Just find a way and go do that thing. Stop making excuses. Be awesome.” I could say all those things, some other things with similar sentiment, and some combination of encouraging words to try to get someone, anyone to just get up and be awesome. But really, is anyone going to really hear what I am saying here? Do I have to expel this many words just to say, “Shake off your complacency and go do great things!” It’s all very assuming anyway. You might already think you’re achieving optimal awesomeness. But you know what? You’re probably not. And that’s really okay. As for me, I’ll be over here, trying to do something more than okay. And maybe that’s not for you, so my response to that is that I’m not judging. I’ll just be over here, trying to make a better kite. Because you know what? That metaphor about my failed marriage kind of works here, too. That entire experience was holding me back, and once it was over, I began to soar.

I think that anytime is the perfect time to assess your situation and see if there is anything holding you back. Maybe you didn’t even see it because you were so entrenched in making a non-working relationship seem functional. Or maybe the stress levels of your day job have filtered into the rest of your life. I know that has happened to me before, and it isn’t a thing I really let happen any longer. Maybe it is something else entirely. Maybe there is nothing. Maybe you are doing everything you want to do, when you want to do it. That’s pretty cool, I guess. As for me, in my current state of mind, the only thing that holds me back is me, and I do that less and less. And I definitely see a correlation between getting shit done and whether or not it is winter. Spring is nigh, y’all. For me, that means it’s time to get to flying.

Being Unique

March 30, 2014

I went to a Zumba class this morning. It was at a Jewish rec center, and offered through a Yelp event to introduce folks to different types of fitness classes in the area throughout the month of March. Out of the classes offered, this was the only one I actually thought I could do. I had to skip out on skating (because that is how I break bones), and aerial silks and rock climbing (simply because I currently lack the upper body strength for such things). I also skipped the yoga offerings, because, eh, yoga, not really my thing. If I am going to bother going to a fitness class, it is going to be dance related, and I am going to shake dat ass.

I noticed a sort of awkwardness around the room when I walked in. The event station had a check-in gift of a free water bottle, so w00t for that. There were the rec center’s regulars and the invasive Yelpers. You could tell the difference not just from the name labels of the Yelpers, but because we all hung out around the periphery of the room until class started. The regular rec center folks were spread out across the room, probably in their usual spaces.

Almost everyone who was there was wearing black or dark grey yoga/workout pants. A few ladies had on shorts. I was wearing bright blue yoga pants, a purple shirt that totally clashed with it, and of course, there’s my bright blue hair. Without the crazy hair color, I would have been a stand-out in this crowd anyway for subverting the apparent fitness class boring-ass dress code. And not even for being the fattest one there. That might have been a tie between me and some lady up front, but whatever, who even cares about that, right? Okay, me, a little bit. Because I like being that fat girl who is dancing her ass off, from start to finish of the class.

A fellow Yelper came over and asked me about Zumba because she’d never done it before. I told her, “It’s pretty fun, I have done it before. Pretty much just aerobics with some flair to it.” I managed to refrain from making an awkward statement about how Zumba sometimes feels kinda racist. Once the music started, I proceeded to dance my ass off. Sometimes, they go too fast or the steps are difficult to follow, but if I have learned anything at all from my burlesque instructor, it is to just keep going with your head held high, confident with whatever moves you are making. And anyway, it all moves so fast, no one will see you when you fuck up, because they are too busy trying to follow along, too. There was a moment during this one song that had a line about taking your shirt off, and the dance move mimed stripping and twirling your shirt around your head. I really, really wanted to just go for it, take my shirt off for real, twirl and toss it, but I thought, “Lauren, no. This is not burlesque class. Be good.” Let me tell you, being “good” feels pretty stupid a lot of the time.

After the class was over, and I was dripping with sweat, as I walked back to my car, I thought about my unique blue pants in a sea of black/grey ones. I loved that I stood out, that I didn’t match the crowd. That all these other ladies got up and dressed themselves in the bland boring standard workout pants, and I put on bright blue ones. Of course I did the unique thing. And something about standing out against that, made me dance harder, made me more confident, enjoying every moment of this imaginary subversion.

I drove to the park afterwards to check on the progress of growth and decay, and it was more crowded than usual. I wished I had been able to go on Saturday, but it rained all day, and I had to work an event in the morning anyway. I wished, then, that I had gone to the park before Zumba, that maybe it would have been less crowded. But then I also wanted to see the angle of the sun after noon, how the shadows fall a little later in the day than my usual exploration time. So if I had to share that massive green-space with more people than usual just to see that, so be it. Kind of silly of me to wander through it like I am all alone anyway.

The first photograph I took was of a newly budding tree. I really like the way this photograph turned out. It has a somewhat dizzying effect.
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The next photo that I really took time to shoot was of this purple flower. I honestly don’t even know what it is, which, I know, terrible botanist. There was just something that reminded me of me in this flower, a feeling of it subverting nature, which, clearly it isn’t. It is just a flower growing. Poo on me for trying to personify it, for trying to own it.
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The next photo was a study in shadow. Of the midday sun contorting the shadow somewhat, making it pudgy and rounding it out.
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And last, before leaving the park, I visited the “Garden of Old Trolls.” I found a lock and key underneath a shrub while I was wondering around. Pretty sure that is going to help me write the story that my brain is dying to unlock. I observed the sign more closely this week, and discovered that the back and front sides match. Three weeks now, and I had assumed that the back of the sign was flat. Sometimes, being wrong is pretty awesome.
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As I was making my last trip around the “Garden of Old Trolls,” an older lady in a bright peach jacket who kinda looked like Rose from The Golden Girls told me my blue hair was fantastic. That is when I realized I hadn’t brought my MP3 player into the park, that I had observed it fully, not introvertedly in my bubble of my own sounds and thoughts. I also smiled at that lady and thanked her. I thought, “Now that lady gets it.” Whether she complimented me for the reasons I would like to think, I will never know. But I like to think it’s because it is true that when you get older, you truly understand that giving zero fucks and dressing how you want, doing your hair how you want, and being who you want is the best. Life is too short to not do that awesome thing you want to do. I mean, that is what I got out of it. Maybe that lady just really likes this shade of blue. But then again, there is always more to something than its surface layer. I am not just the lady who wore bright blue pants to Zumba class and then shook dat ass the whole time, with a smile on my face. I am confident, I am happy, I am unique, and I am infinitely more complicated than all of that.

Curiosity

March 24, 2014

I was trudging through some work this morning, when I noticed a nearby school had listed a course’s pre-requisite as simply, “curiosity.”

I was feeling a bit grumpy before I noticed that, and it made me happy for the rest of the day.

The other cool thing that happened today was that I signed up for a sculpting class being offered on Tuesday evenings in the summer at the college where I work. Hopefully more people than just me will sign up for it. I am a bit worried at this point that it might get canceled since I’m currently the only person enrolled in it. Then again, silly to worry about it. If it gets canceled, I will try to find something else cool to take. And anyway, today was only the first day of open enrollment, so there’s still time for people to sign up.

What got me interested in sculpture was an event I attended last year with the local Yelp group. There was a gathering at an art studio in my neighborhood, and we got to throw pots, hand-build some things, and paint an ornament. I got added to their email list, and every time they send out an email blast for new classes, I get all excited. Then I see the price, which is a bit out of my range, and I simply delete the email. So when I saw the school where I work offers the class, I thought, “Oh, maybe I can just take it here, with free tuition.” Except it was only offered during the workday, until this upcoming summer session. If I get to do this thing, I suppose posts from art class are to be expected.

In the meantime, to bring this back to the original point that cheered me up this morning, I will be keeping myself curious, and continue to write, observe, and learn.

The Worst Sentence

March 24, 2014

There are certain turns of phrase that chill my bones. Certain words that ball my hands up into fists, involuntarily. Certain concepts that plummet my heart to the depths of my bowels.

There are worse phrases than my least favorite, for certain. But that much hated phrase is this one: “It is what it is.”

My direct supervisor has that statement printed out on the wall of her office. In the context of her office, it feels like the official slogan of the Defeatist Attitude Society. Though I feel those words would be better rearranged likeso: Society of Attitudinal Defeat, just so they can be SAD for short.

I do not, for any moment in my life, believe that anything is just one thing. There are tons of perspectives, angles, agendas, and so on.

I think, ultimately, I view placing such limitations on things an exercise in futility, and I don’t subscribe to that newsletter, nor do I enjoy associating with people who do. I mean, dang, I spend way too much of my time wasting it, thinking my writing or words aren’t good enough to be published. And maybe they aren’t to one publisher, but would be to another. I have certainly read enough literary magazine submissions at this point to understand how it works.

That almost definitely isn’t all that I have to say about this subject, but I will save further rants on it for another time.

States of Decay

March 23, 2014

I have been wandering around my favorite local park on Saturday mornings, taking photos of the first green shoots of spring. More than that, though, I like to snap photographs of the new growth and the previous season’s decay.

I think a lot about that constant flux, of novelty and degeneration. I think about it in nature. I think about it in manmade structures. I think about it in the workplace. In family. In friendship.

It’s that last one that is getting to me right now. Or maybe not even right now. Maybe it always has bothered me and perhaps it always will. People change, friendships shift, you move on or become better friends. And it’s a tough situation, or it can be, when those things don’t align to what you want. Or when you discover a friend has changed into someone you no longer recognize as an ally in your life. Or maybe you’re the one who has undergone a grand transformation. It could be so many things. I suppose it could be nothing at all besides the decline of novelty.

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The first time I visited the park this year, there was still snow on the ground. There were places the sun hadn’t reached to melt. There were flowers poking through, all the same. Crocuses and winter bells had pushed through the dark earth and brought forth a sense of hopefulness for, if nothing else, warmer weather.

Those first flowers are exciting, like meeting someone new, someone with whom you click. Someone who seems more special than other people you have met. Someone who seems like they are going to matter for a long time to come. And maybe you feel like that person feels the same way about you, that they value your friendship as much as you do theirs. That hope is there, that they care as much for you as you do for them. And if they don’t, then those feelings of insignificance can be a bit overwhelming, until they, too, begin to decay into dust.

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The second time I visited the park this year, there was no longer snow on the ground. Some of the previous week’s crocuses had begun to wilt. Perhaps it was a mid-week snow shower that brought them down. I spied a patch of yellow crocuses with a single purple one off to the side. I felt a kinship to that purple flower, that spoiled the color scheme. I felt a twinge of sympathy for how much it seemed to want to fit in. Then I remembered personification of flowers is silliness. I snapped a few pictures and moved on.

I thought about how hard it is for me to burst through the winter months. The coldness and lack of sun always tear away at the bits of me that are filled with joy and delight. I try so hard to keep myself awake, keep myself interested in anything. I spend so much time fighting myself, there is little time for anything else. Other than work responsibilities and, if I am lucky, a few gatherings with friends to get me experiencing something outside of a tiny apartment’s drab dove white walls.

The third time I went to the park this year was yesterday. I packed my bicycle into my car, which involves taking it apart so it will fit properly. Wrestling it into the car was probably hilarious to my neighbors. At least I hope it was. I pedaled around the road that encircles the pavilion, half uphill, half downhill, feeling the slap in my face of a cold breeze as I sped on. After a couple of trips around the park, I packed the bike back into the car, grabbed my camera, and continued my quest to photograph the moment between novelty and decay.

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Standing high upon the pavilion, I looked out over the park. I counted the sun-bleached kites caught up in tree branches, as I usually do. The trees, barren of leaves, hide little. You can still see the top of the Observatory’s silver domed roof in the distance. I watched a group of boys arrive, all laden down with backpacks, and then I descended the stairs and walked into the garden pathways. I smiled and nodded at a fellow weirdo with a camera, an older asian gentleman, with a much nicer camera than mine. Then I proceeded with my study in decay.

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A branch fallen off a nearby pine was still lying there at the tree’s base, and I snapped a photo of its now wilting needles. I took a photo of where the branch used to be attached to the tree. I took the same photos the week before, a warmer day with a bright blue sky. Yesterday was drab and a bit chilly. As I wandered more, I wished the sun would make an appearance, even for just a moment’s warmth. Eventually it showed up, but did not stick around even long enough for me to snap a shadow photograph of myself. Maybe if I had remembered immediately, but I did not.

I took more photos of crocuses, and winter bells, and a few other flowers as well. This week there were daffodils and a few flowers whose names I don’t even know. I swear I am not failing my botany degree with that confession. Trees were always more interesting to me than flowers. And decay of plant materials more interesting to me than studying living things.

I took a weird note of the contrast of my excitement of the first crocuses of the spring thaw, to noticing new flowers had joined them topside. The crocuses were yesterday’s news compared to the daffodils, and the daffodils not quite as exciting as the crocuses had been.

I feel like I shouldn’t be making this connection between that kind of novelty and friendship. Or decay and friendship. I can’t help the comparison, however. I could easily discard this entire silly notion, I suppose. Though I could not, cannot, so easily push aside a friendship.

I have lost friends in the past, through gradually growing apart. And other ways, of course, though I’m not up for mentioning those, at least not today. Recent shifts I have noticed in behaviors and conversations with certain friends leave me feeling saddened. I am not just mildly dispirited that I sense a shift into failed friendship, but I very arrogantly feel sad for such friends. Because I am entirely awesome, and oh, how they will miss out. But realistically, they probably won’t miss my friendship at all. And that’s quite probably the whole point of the failure.

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One of the gardens in the park is called “Garden of Old Roses.” I shared a picture I took of the sign and an acquaintance said she thought it read, “Garden of Old Trolls.” So now, of course, I call it that. I think, if I were a more superstitious sort, and this was my private garden as opposed to a public space, I would want to bury trinkets of lost and/or “perceived to be failing” friendships there. Not to hope they would grow into something more, but to let them continue to decay. Maybe some of them wouldn’t lose that battle, or give up so easily to rot. Maybe some of them would take root, and grow into something more. They might even propagate, but I would never get my hopes up for that.

Figuratively, for this can only happen in the imagination, I have done this. Instead of watering the grave sites, and hoping every day that something will happen, that exercise in futility that is “wait and see,” I step away, leave it to the Earth, and continue my quest. Because I don’t intend to stop the progression of decay, only to study it, and learn from it, and perhaps become better at future friendships, and choosing ones that will endure.

Born on a Train

March 9, 2014

Posting this tune for some inspiration.
Born on a Train – The Magnetic Fields

The #AmtrakResidency program is officially open for application.

I have been excited about the notion of this program since I first heard about it. I know that most of my writer friends have felt the same way.

This year has been a bit like “The Year of the Trains” for me. I discovered that when I sit by the window in the break room for lunch, I can watch the freighter trains traveling back and forth in the valley below. One of the truly awesome things about this view is that above the train tracks sits one of my favorite neighborhoods in Cincinnati: Northside. There is some kind of magic, for I’ve no other way to describe it, about this neighborhood that drives me to write. I love to chill on the patio at Northside Tavern with a pad of paper, or even my laptop, and just write. Or in cooler months, the back room at Sidewinder Coffee, sipping hot coffee and nibbling at vegan scones. Or wandering through the aisles of Shake-It Records. I could go on and on…

That was a bit of a derailment (har har) from my original intent of this post, which was to talk about what watching the trains has done for my writing. To get back to the point of Northside, the thing about the view is that the quaintness of this neighborhood makes the trains actually feel like you are watching a model train set. You can see at least one of the huge murals on the side of a building, and it gives the town an almost hand-painted feel to it, which essentially is true, with the murals spread here and there throughout the neighborhood.

There are certain places I have been that inspire my writing. Sometimes it is a local cafe. Sometimes it is simply being around other writers that sparks that fire to create. Other times, I need only to free myself from the restrictions of paper, pen, and even laptop, and simply go explore the world around me, unburdened by the act of creating, merely existing to observe. Watching the trains on my break has provided not only an escape from the mundane working world, but has transported me to many different places. While these aren’t commuter trains that I watch, they still spark stories set in such places. My initiative to write a certain story, the namesake for this website, actually, has been re-ignited by this daily observation.

Sometimes, I write a few lines in the midst of observation. Sometimes, I read a book, glancing at the trains on occasion, as I ponder over things I have just read. A few times, I have rushed home at night, sat down in front of the computer, and began to tell a new story about Scurvytown, one that happens to one of my so-called break-out characters, who has traveled by train, very far away from home. I would love for the opportunity to feel like I am walking in her shoes, writing her experience from a better point of view than my current one.

My commuter train experience is such: round-trip from London to Cardiff, while I was in a study abroad program in the winter of 2011. There are very few things I remember about it. The thing that sticks out the most is Paddington Station. I can still feel each awkward step we took as a class, waiting to board the train. I can remember finding our seats, and settling in for the trip. I wish I could remember the smell of it all, but I was getting over a nasty cold, which is the reason my memory is a bit faded from the experience. I recall the grey skies of the countryside, and stops in other towns, like Swindon. I can almost hear the voice of each announced stop, but I think I might be mis-remembering such announcements from traveling via The Tube. Watching the world move past, while actually being the thing moving so fast, reminded me of family road-trips, from the back of a station wagon that had seats facing each other.

I remember wandering around Cardiff, trying to figure out how much Doctor Who related sightseeing we could squeeze in before we had to head back to London. I recall running in sideways rain to hang out and drip-dry in a pub with the most massive restroom I have ever seen in my life. Seriously, it was like row after row of toilets, in pristine condition. And then, with travel back to London under a darkened sky, I read part of a novel, and caught up on my travel journal.

When we returned to London, I somewhat remember a rather lengthy walk to a tube station. We walked through tunnels that were covered with graffiti, and I wished we could have stopped to get a better look at it, but I think we were in a hurry to grab dinner somewhere, or to get back to the hotel. My mind is a bit muddled about it now, and I suppose I could see if I said anything about it in my travel journal.

I have been thinking, about where I would travel if I received an Amtrak residency. I am fairly certain that the destination is not of importance. The experience of the journey is what I seek, to continue to flesh out the story I want to tell.

I have another idea about what I want to write, however. For Sugared Water’s first themed collection, which I believe I have mentioned here before, we chose to compile “Epistolary” pieces of fiction, creative non-fiction, and poetry. One of the storytelling methods I wanted to use for Scurvytown was to convey my chosen character’s adventures through letter-writing. Since she is on a journey, it makes sense for her to write letters to someone, even if just to herself, I haven’t quite figured out her audience yet… but it also feels to me like train travel lends itself quite well to letter-writing. It’s the kind of travel where you have time to pick up a pen and scrawl a few words, and the journey isn’t so bumpy, that the letter becomes difficult to read. So I am going to take a day to think about this a little bit, and then I am just going to apply. The worst that can happen is not taking the chance. After that, if I am not chosen, it doesn’t matter. I will find another way to take such a trip, and I will find the inspiration I need to tell this story through whatever means possible.

Puppet Theater

March 9, 2014

One of the things that helped get me back into writing when I moved back to Cincinnati in 2008 was a monthly event called Creativa. The website hasn’t been updated in awhile, but a lot of the info is still accurate. It happens every second Saturday, and the location is still the massive dead mall aka The Zombie Mall in Forest Park.

A quick note about performing at Creativa: As always, it was a pleasure to share a stage with such awesome local performers. As was articulated several times last night, many of us have come a long way in refining our arts over the years. We who live in the Cincinnati area are incredibly lucky to have this safe space to share our varied artworks, and to experiment with new arts in a nurturing environment. Much love to all who call/have called Creativa home.

I hadn’t attended for awhile, but returned to share some work in January. I missed the February event because it was snowy and gross and I didn’t want to venture outside. Still, I was asked to be the featured performer for the March event, and I jumped at the chance.

I wasn’t sure what I wanted to perform. But I thought about performing part of my thesis, which if you hadn’t heard me go on and on about, starred Emily Dickinson as a time traveler. I had performed part of the first act at another event last year, and it was well received. I thought the most fun way to present the piece would be by using puppets. My mom had gotten me an Emily Dickinson puppet awhile back, and I had a few others that I could use as the other characters. All I needed to do was to build a theater for them.

This is what I built, and it only took a weekend. Most of the actually time-consuming portions of the build were related to waiting for paint or glue to dry. I had most of the materials already in my craft stash, I just needed fabric for the curtains, and red felt for the walls and such. It was really fun to make, and other than being so terribly tiny that it is best for very small audiences, the only other issue I have with it is portability. But now that I’ve successfully built a puppet theater, I can see what I need to do differently on future models, in order to make them larger and more portable.

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This is me actually at last night’s performance. I had joked to one of the organizers of the event that I would wear my unicorn suit, and he dared me to do it, so I did. I was slightly disappointed that more friends didn’t show up, but I can easily shrug that off because my mom, brother, brother’s fiancĂ©e, and an old dear friend all showed up. I was pretty tickled to have anyone show up to support me, and I am very grateful to those who did attend.
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On the drive home, I thought a little about the first time I met the dear old friend who showed up. I was painfully shy for a lot of my twenties, at least my early twenties, and on a whim, I had decided to meet up with some ladies I knew from an online music fan message board (RIP WOXY) for a Ladies’ Night Out. It was my first time really hanging out in a bar, first time hearing a live show in a cramped bar (hey Cincinnati, remember Opi Yum Yum?). I felt safe and welcome with these new friends, and it was the start on my path to getting out and experiencing the world. In retrospect, that all could have ended much differently, and could have shoved me further into creepy reclusiveness. Instead, I enjoyed being out in the world, meeting new people, making new friends, experiencing life, and creating new memories. Before that, my writing was fairly stagnant, and centered on characters trying so desperately to be something, anything, and not being much more than desperate. When I learned what it meant to be alive, and to share experiences, I really began to understand how much my painful shyness was just me, getting in my own way. Although it was slow-going, my writing began to mature along with me, and I learned to observe the world around me like a member of it, rather than some boring old video recorder.

I suppose that is how I came to perform puppet theater last night. I wanted to try a new thing, to experiment, to see how it worked, to adapt it based on what didn’t work, and to have fun doing it. Having no idea how to build a theater, I just did it anyway. Having no idea how to then move the puppets, show them interacting, I did it anyway. I split my script into two acts, and after thinking about how the first half had gone, improved the second half, making it more fun, and engaging better with the audience. Learn, adapt, grow. These are just a few of the marvelous things that can happen when you take a chance, make things happen, and don’t let anything silly get in your way.

Body Positivity

March 2, 2014

Lately, I have been working on behind-the-scenes projects. I have mentioned before that I do some editorial assistant work on a friend’s literary magazine, and as one who has been enthusiastic about assisting with it, I’ve been bumped up to editor on at least one project.

One of the projects has recently seen the light of day, and that is a body positive zine called “Love Me, Love My Belly.” We received some beautifully written pieces from our contributors, and the first volume weighs in at a whopping 60 pages. That pun was probably intended.

I am really proud of this collection, and thoroughly enjoyed reading the submissions we received. You can pick up a copy from the etsy store, along with other items such as the first volume of Sugared Water.