Category: From the Notebook

From the notebook: if I were to write a book

On August 16th, 2016, I started a Google Doc called “If I were to write a book.” I added to it a few times between August and December of that year, and then left it to languish in my google drive until now, a little over a year later. Here, a call and response between me then and me now. A transcription of my very own words, reimagined, rediscovered, grief and truth anew in my reading them at twenty-four instead of writing them at twenty-three. These years have been so WIDE. So wild and wide and fascinating and endless and terrible and wonderful, and I am entirely different than I was in college and just after but so utterly informed by what was planted in me then. Just now sprouting, roots having gone very deep. Original text normal, new text in red italics. Call me crazy, but this secret forgotten google doc may be one of the most true things I’ve ever worked out for myself. I think I was saving it for later, thinking it wasn’t time to share it yet, but I’m not sure what that even means. No time but now, especially given how much things have changed in between (but also how much they haven’t). 75% of me still right in the middle of these words, and the other 25% is confidently sewing on her gorgeous Juki in the woods, sure of one thing but one thing only. 

Things written on different days separated by little dotted lines. My own heart, separated by little dotted lines, all of the versions of myself, all the women I am and have been, each fear and thought spinning still. I am on fire. You can get through the ice. Those are the flags I must wave, and do. That is all I know. 

This, a secret I’m ready to share. 

Me, August 2016, in my favorite chair before it was really, really my favorite in our apartment on Damen Avenue. 

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From the notebook: Magnificat

{An Advent poem, the moment after annunciation, scrawled in journal in bed in Pennsylvania childhood bedroom with sleeping husband beside, 1 am}

 

 

 

 

 

 

My soul doth magnify that which
now is encased
in it. My soul doth–
When did I open my mouth? It hangs ajar.

My soul doth
weep
and scream–contained in pin-point eternity,
the knife of this moment,
slit.
I’ll never leave this room again without being torn in two.
And my spirit doth
hang open like an empty bag,
the fruit having all tumbled out
when over my shoulder I saw
something out of place–moon and stars in full day,
a thick shadow, crack in
the floor where I tumbled too.
I am alone, I am undone, divided by euphoria,
sliced by my own unblinking answer to–

Oh, please come back. I am the handmaiden of
I am that I am that, please. I’ll say yes
a thousand times, don’t mind my trembling if
you’ll only come back.
Regard me more. It hangs ajar.

I’m sitting in the dirt.
I’m sweaty with colors behind my
eyelids and terrible ringing in
my ears and I’ll feel this way forever,
how could I not? An apple, bruised,
rolled far under the table and it’s all I
can do not to crawl to retrieve it and
put it back, to put all of them back
and then crawl out the door with
them–stand up and run.

Or leave the apples to rot. What do I sing?
Where do I write it down, what is there to say with my dry mouth, thick tongue?
Skin soft and inside-out, unrecognizable, glowing.
When did I open my mouth?

My soul, my soul, my soul, my soul doth
open wide, and I don’t know any other songs.
I’ve already forgotten the me I’ve been
because I can’t be anymore. This is
where I live now, in
this body full of fire.

I sit still on the floor the rest of the
afternoon, practice breathing, watch
the sun disappear, see a candle flickering
on the table, a candle I did nothing to light.

 

(Study for a Panel, 1890/1897, Charles Sprague Pearce.)

From the Notebook: Chekhov Class

[I spent the last 7 weeks meeting with 15 other actors and 2 teachers on the 3rd floor of The Den Theater on Sunday nights, holding my breath for 4 hours while some of the most heartbreaking and insightful scenes ever written were slogged through 8 feet in front of me.  I felt sick with fear about class half the time, which sounds hilarious from a distance.  There was a lot of yelling and crying and laughing and we wore long skirts and addressed each other in Russian patronymics and drank a vodka toast before we started.  I found myself praying more than once that I’d get to do a full Chekhov play (or all of them) in my life, and reminded myself over and over again what a gift it is to inherit it at all.  His plays are about people sitting around at tables and talking about love, death, and the meaning of life, which is my ideal Friday night, and when my own writing feels far away and not enough I can only point towards that which I admire.  If I saw him walking down the street in 1904, I’d walk right up to him in a hat made of fur and kiss him on the mouth.  A toast to Chekhov, merman among land-dwellers and High Physician of human longing.]

-The theater is freezing.  For every class so far, the space we are renting has forgotten to turn on the heat.  It is very Russian.

-“It doesn’t matter if you’re allowed to say it, it doesn’t matter if it’s written in the script – your brain has to go there.  It has to go to the full extension of whatever you want, even if the relationship won’t permit it.”

-Don’t cross your arms!!!

-MOSCOW

-I am, once again, the youngest person in the room. That would feel like less of a thing if they would stop mentioning it.

-Meeting up with my first scene partner at a Starbucks on Michigan Avenue where he mansplained all over the place about what the play was about.  I nodded politely, I thought, “You’re wrong.”

-There is a chihuahua downstage left.

“Oh, why can’t people respond to love with love?”

I wonder how many more reminders I will need that this is a noble pursuit for a life (the noblest?)

-Maybe he was just mansplaining because he didn’t know any better. 

-Why are there no good YouTube videos of The Seagull? 

-During the first run of a scene, I notice a smear of blood on the lower left jaw of my scene partner.  Three seconds pass in which I continue saying my lines trying to figure out what happened and at the exact same moment she, myself, and my teacher realize I am the one bleeding.  My earring betrayed my neck and blood is trickling all down it and my teacher comes over and cleans it up with her own spit and doesn’t even ask if I want to go to the bathroom to clean it up and then we keep going and don’t stop for the rest of the scene.  There is blood underneath my fingernails for the rest of the night.

What other profession do you have to prove you qualify as a person to pursue? 

-I like to think of my father reading Chekhov, and I like to think that he spoke this way before I knew him. 

-Don’t cheat out!!

“Nobody stays in the room with a screaming woman.”

-Why does Saiorse Ronan get to play Nina and also everyone????

I like to watch my teachers as much as my classmates; they mouth along the words to almost every scene, crying at things they’ve seen 19 times before 

-Be specific! General emotion is NO GOOD!

-Last scene of The Seagull.  None of us move. It is no use pretending you don’t love someone when you do.

-“You’ve got mermaid’s blood in your veins, so be a mermaid! Let yourself go at least once in your life, fall head over heels in love with a merman, dive in with a big splash, and leave the Professor and the rest of us standing on the shore, helplessly waving our arms!”

Last night of class, everything is over, and one of my teachers asked me how I feel about my work.  I feel shitty, and more or less tell her so. She holds me in her arms and says, “I would say about two thirds of the time you were swimming in the water, and the other third you were letting yourself off easy.  But you were listening the whole time.” And for whatever reason this makes me feel like a real actor.  

From the Notebook: Sister Moon

[Tuesday night. Me, twenty-four-year-old woman, full of some grace and some truth, full of fear and trembling too, perpetually, sitting on a footstool before an open sliding door at 11pm, husband asleep three feet away. Scrawling furiously with black pen in a cream gridded journal, unable to look away from the moon. 45 straight minutes on the footstool, interposing writing furiously, incoherently, and sitting motionless, eyes upturned. Cold feet but no time to get socks. Light rain throughout, silence otherwise. 50 degrees, open door.]

The moon on october 3rd. A sign. A wonder. 

Bless us anyway.
Bless us anyway.
Bless us anyway.
We need to be healed and blessed.

How is it so silver bright? 

I’ve never in my life seen a brighter moon. Unimaginable moon. Moon better and brighter than I dreamed. Clouds somehow behind. Pure silver light I CAN LOOK AT!!!

You’re not allowed to look at the sun but you can look at the moon. See the sun in the moon, through the moon, more nuanced and imperfect. 

MAKE ME THE MOON. Full and silver. Or crescent or new. Harvest, winter. Reflected in water — clouds passing over. Make me the moon. Making night real and viable. So steady. Such its own color — SO BRIGHT. I can’t look away. I can’t go to sleep. The moon! La bella luna. I cannot attain unto it. It is high. It goes right through me. It is me — or I am it. Pulling tides, ordering months, affecting my whole body — bright. Full tonight! The clouds move so fast, animating it. A rainbow around it in my eyeglass lenses — such rays! The clouds dive at her, but she is not overtaken. Clear and calm. Sure on this shining night. Night isn’t meant to shine, so. She’s going off script! Running away with the plot. Smart and funny — she makes night bright. Can’t describe the color. Can’t describe the feeling. The whole body is affected. So bright. I’m a student of this moon. Disciple. Friend. This moon is my sister. Myself. 

It’s moving, somehow. My view keeps changing. Behind tree branch. Don’t go away, but do go on your course. Please go on. I have to sleep sometime. 

Crazy things keep happening to me. Crazy things like the moon. This moon. Tonight. 

I can’t see it really from my spot anymore because of the tree. Just as well. There’s no hurry. The moon’s here every night. I have to lean off the balcony and get dripped on to see it now. Just as well. Goodnight!

 

 

From the Notebook: The Mechanic

 

Wonder of wonders, miracle of miracles – Synchronized Swim is 5 weeks old!  It feels simultaneously longer and shorter than that, perhaps because the weather in our immediate sphere has gone through a full year of seasons in that time. 5 weeks in, and we still have so many new strains and projects we want to start, so plz forgive us as it may feel like we are throwing spaghetti at the wall to see what sticks.  We promise – it will all stick! (Jk it actually might not because what do we know / who can say where the road goes)

In the spirit of community journaling, sometimes Amy and I will reveal jotted down ideas and musings that have only made it into our notebooks and not into full-fledged works of genius yet.  They will not necessarily make sense – they are simply the notes and mumbles we wrote down at the time, a seed, an impression still waiting to be born into something more. We can all watch them simmer and stew together, seeing if anything larger comes of it later, the gist being to focus on the idea itself and not whether or not it ever really comes to fruition.

This first one took place at a car mechanic shop this past winter, where I found myself after bopping around gas stations trying to get someone to help me check the air in my tires, to no avail.  Through a grapevine situation, I ended up in this small-ish garage near a fire station with 4 men, and waited silently off to the side for about 5 minutes as they checked and inflated my tires. In the interim, my imagination was sent into its ever-ready state of overdrive that took a turn for the sinister.

FROM THE NOTEBOOK: THE MECHANIC

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